It Could Be Worse

I still have Valentine's on the brain. I have quite the extensive 50s/60s kitsch Valentine's card collection, which originally I'd hoped to cover a bedroom wall in.

Most of my cards came as job lots, but the one I've adapted in this drawing I had to buy as a single card, because, well... look at it. Originally it bore the legend "Need-le Valentine? SEW be mine", but I just wasn't going to let a pun that diabolical stand, so I've paired the imagery with a phrase I've been trying to find adequate imagery for for a while. I'm not entirely sure it works, but I'm going to plough this furrow for a while and make more altered Valentine's images.

Oh, and does the little lady look familiar? I just couldn't resist getting the chance to stab a heart with my needle...

Sensitive Plant

It's Valentine's Day, and I am about to have a romantic meal with my mother.

On the off-chance that there's a cutie out there wishing I was wining and dining with them instead, I have outlined my ~dream date~ below. Of course, we would have to wait until April at the very least, but that's ok, I'm fine with being my own Valentine for now (drawing on that theme to follow).

Bad Plant Mama

My colleagues got me a fancy Magma sketchbook for my birthday, and I've been filling its pages with some speed. It's a revelation to me how quick sketching is compared to the labour of love that is embroidery.

I've been feeling a little glum this past week. First and foremost, I hold the weather responsible; it has been grey and drizzly most of the time.

A symptom of depression which I didn't expect and which I didn't experience before I entered the world of work was feeling constantly tired. It is increasingly difficult to get up in the morning; the thought that gets me through the day is the possibility of sleep soon.

There are other side effects; over the last few weeks my bedroom became what I can only describe as a "depression pit". It got to the stage where I knew there were things I needed to use in there somewhere, but where they were was another question, as was summoning the energy to find out. I didn't want to see friends (especially of an evening, when doing so would take me away from the bed base camp), yet felt intensely lonely.

This was by no means a very serious depression, only impinging slightly on my life, but I thought it was best to be mindful and act. I took a duvet day on Thursday, went back to bed for an hour or so, then tackled the detritus of my room, and felt considerably better.

My plants don't seem to be enjoying the dark days either; several are rather droopy. To turn this on its head and avoid depression-exacerbated feelings of guilt and inadequacy as a #plantmama, I did a little drawing in my sketchbook.

I might do a series of related drawings; this one could be a good fit for several zines in the works. For now though, it's back to embroidery.

Self Care Series

My brother got me Posca Pens for my birthday and I got straight to work with them.

The first little sketch I completed was an idea to be embroidered and eventually wind up as a t shirt design. I may still do this, but with Valentine's Day coming up, I began to think of other ways that you can show yourself a little love (I fully intend to buy myself some roses and eat something heart-shaped on Valentine's Day, by the way).

WP_20170124_21_30_37_Rich.jpg
WP_20170129_16_13_53_Rich.jpg
WP_20170129_20_27_03_Rich.jpg

It's so easy to be a workaholic or put all your time, energy and love into relationships with others. It's so easy to not extend that care to yourself. This series is a little riposte to that. I might make a slightly personal collage/illustrative/stitched zine featuring the series called "Quiet Enjoyment" after a covenant of tenancy which tickled my fancy... I'm collecting unusual phrases and intriguing etymologies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wallflower


I have read the clickbait phrase "25 is the hardest year of your life" at numerous points over the past year. I can only speak personally, but I would tend to disagree; I got my quarter life crisis out of the way early (at the age of 19).

I think I know who I am and what I want... it's just a question of how to get it.

That's not to say things haven't been, and aren't, difficult - they are. But I'm willing to do the work and I know that things will get better. Life has been busy and hard and so I haven't posted on here since July (wow), but I have been making and doing and I want to share all of it with the world more.

And so, here is a piece harking back to my eternal occupation with language around flowers and negative connotations.

To find my wallflower, I literally typed "plant that looks sad" into Google. It came up with this rather pathetic looking hydrangea. I translated it into a pen and ink sketch and then this embroidery/pencil hoop art.

If you would be interested in purchasing the piece, it is £50 posted to the UK, and is backed with black felt, and can be hung on the wall straight away. Drop me a line at katerolison@googlemail.com if you'd like a wallflower for your wall.

Next will come a fungi-themed hoop in a similar style.

After my lengthy absence (and only NINE blog posts this year compared to 78 last year, crikey) I really would love to write more often, but I don't want to put any pressure on myself, either. Attention spans, including my own, have become so much shorter in the short space of a few years, and it's so much easier to Instagram everything than be considered and exploratory and think things through. I think it might be helpful and fulfilling to begin doing so again, though.

Plans for blog posts in my inimitable old 1000 words+ style include a post considering poet and lunatic John Clare and his incarceration and escape from the asylum that is incidentally now my mother's place of work (though no longer an asylum!), and round ups of a few work shops I've run of late.

Watch this space; good things are coming. I write that as much for me as for you.


"Hypnoid States"

My favourite quotation happens to be by one of my least favourite historical figures. Sigmund Freud wrote that "Hypnoid states often grow out of the day-dreams which are so common even in healthy people and to which needlework and similar occupations render women especially prone." I am a woman, a daydreamer, and an embroiderer; I must be more "prone" to "hypnoid states" than most!

"Hypnoid states", but of course, lead to symptoms of hysteria, that peculiarly female malady.

Compare Freud's quote with this one, by a contemporary female, the writer, editor and publisher Flora Klickmann; "And after the breakdown, when I couldn't bear the sight of books or the sound of music, I found myself actually doing needlework, and liking it too; and the fascination of it grew upon me very rapidly, till now - I really don't know what I should do if I hadn't needlework to fall back upon, as a recreation, when I get over-done with the wear and tear and strain of work in our great city.

I would tend to agree with Klickmann that the meditative, contemplative act of embroidery can help suture and sooth; we can stitch our shattered psyches back together again.

As an act of (hysterical) anti-patriarchal rebellion I am hand stitching a meticulous illustration of Freud's quote, using embroidery techniques which Flora Klickmann, and possibly even Freud would have been familiar with. Here is my progress so far.






































Complimentary

I am trying to draw/collage in my visual diary more. Partially this involves continuing to design labels for #secretsofselfpreservation, but I have also included sketches from the Daily Life Ltd Expert Advisory Day, below:



Pip and I have taken a shine to a pink-boothed greasy spoon down the market, and I have visited with my dear friend Ruth a couple of times, most recently on Monday. The cherry pie is particularly special.


My friend Rohanne gave me a "complimentary" ticket she'd stashed from working in the box office. I love the simple, bright design, and wanted to surround it with the sorts of compliments I like to give and receive.


We all went to see Belle and Sebastian play in Westminster a couple of weeks ago. It felt like we were the only people dancing in the venue. The fox paw prints are to signify Fox In The Snow, and my general love of foxes. The sketch of the pram is very very old from when I was first taking antidepressants and thought it was hilarious that they were called citalopram. I've always liked its metaphorically and literally sketchy quality.


Last but not least is the label to accompany my I need art like I need God potion. I have recently got myself a fancy sketchbook and sketching pencils, and will be getting back to more "trad art" soon.




The Illustrated Embroiderer

If you know me, you'll know I'm fond of a frock (or seven). My room is currently groaning under the weight of 60s dresses, and the surplus has started seeping out into other rooms too. But when it comes to dresses, I firmly don't believe in too much of a good thing. Particularly when it comes to the gorgeous details of my two most recent acquisitions.

Both are not only lovingly hand-crafted, but also feature illustrations by the designers themselves. 



First up is a delightfully atomic-era-esque number by Supayana. I've followed Supayana(aka Yana Gorbulsky)'s work ever since my teens, when I had misguided dreams of becoming an indie fashion designer. Back in the day, Yana spliced and recycled cute thrifted tops to make her own creations. Her green fashion credentials continue to this day, when she makes use of old and unwanted vintage fabrics, and eco-friendly materials in her designs. Her pieces are now much more refined and elegant than they were at the beginning of her career, when the mishmash of her designs could be said to be an acquired taste (it's certainly one I like, though!)

In recent years, Yana has collaborated with artist Olivia Mew, incorporating Olivia's illustrations into her Spring/Summer 2012 collection of children's clothing and womenswear. I couldn't pass up on one of her illustrated fox tops back then, and I couldn't pass up on a foxy dress now, with a sweet illustration designed by Yana herself, of leaping foxes and bunting.



I've followed Caitlin Shearer's work since my teens too (though I suspect initially that had something to do with us both being mildly obsessed with Patrick Wolf!) Over the years I've seen Caitlin's paintings and illustrations mature into an utterly idiosyncratic and instantly recognisable dreamy aesthetic, echoed in her gorgeous Instagram snaps of bouquets of flowers and her own enviable collection of mid-century dresses. If you've never encountered Caitlin Shearer's work before, I urge you to go check out her Etsy shop. Go now.

In 2012, Caitlin began to introduce a line of dresses and textiles illustrated with her original watercolour paintings to her Etsy shop. A delectably tempting plethora of sweet, slightly puff-sleeved, 50s inspired sundresses are available, with illustrations ranging from pastel biscuits to girl scout badges. The Mermaid dress, however, is the one I've had my eye on since then, and after many months of saving pennies, it recently landed in my letter box.

It's even more dreamy in person; though perhaps a little risqué to wear to School! These mermaids are certainly sirens.




Both these dresses are perfect for the sudden Spring weather we're having (I spent my lunchtime today on a picnic blanket in the gardens of Hampton Court Palace, soaking up the sunshine). I'm certainly feeling much sunnier, too.

"I am worn to a ravelling"


My favourite of Beatrix Potter's tales has always been The Tailor of Gloucester. As a small child I imagine the appeal was the cavorting, singing animals and the sumptuous snowy Christmas setting. Now that I'm grown, I am enthralled by the needlework and the tailoring itself, and the industrious little tailor mouse and his helpers above all.

Whilst I was in Scotland my best friend popped a little card with the tailor mouse printed on the front through the letterbox.


The mice must complete the coat and waistcoat for the Lord Mayor's wedding, for the tailor has no more twist; no more cherry coloured embroidery thread!


Last Christmas time I spent an entire day watching the BBC's Beatrix Potter adaptations and embroidering (what else), only leaving the house to fetch some red ribbon. It was bitterly cold and snowing outside, and I felt exactly like the Tailor of Gloucester!

I knew that I had to use the tailor's deliciously sewing-specific phrase, "I am worn to a ravelling" in an embroidery somewhere down the line, and with the Big Teeth project the chance has finally come.

As you may remember from my earlier post, the heroine of Big Teeth, conversely to many fairy tale protagonists, is afraid of being tied down by love. Therefore I wanted to express her frustration at being finally "caught" with the tailor's phrase (particularly since all the contents of the pockets relate, in some way or another, to textiles).

For that embroidery's "sister", I used an equally delicious terrible pun, "Girl Afrayed" (I just couldn't help myself; it marries two of my favourite things, needlework and a Smiths song!)

These two little doilies will fill the penultimate and final pockets of Big Teeth.





Feel Better: An interview with artist Chelsea Dirck


I've followed Chelsea Dirck's work for years; as an angsty adolescent I was comforted by her confessional, diaristic drawings, and now that I am an adult (ha) I deeply appreciate her lo fi, compassionate, analogue art.

I feel like I have somewhat grown up with Chelsea's work (and seen her mature as an artist in turn), and it's possible that her creations have had as much influence on me as, say, Louise Bourgeois.

I hope that my enthusiasm for Chelsea's work translates in the questions I have posed in this interview, which Chelsea has so kindly and thoroughly answered here.

 A great deal of your work seems, at least from an outsider’s perspective, to be an attempt to ameliorate, to console oneself after/during a bad situation and make the best of things. Would you say this has always been/is a constant in your work? 



All of my work comes from a personal viewpoint and I guess, at some point (which could have been very early on) it became very much about trying to make myself and/or other people feel better in some way.I was just writing and drawing for myself and at the time I probably didn't realize that I was as sad or confused as I was. I was just writing about what I knew. 



The diaristic tone of your drawings, celebrating both the good, but not flinching from the bad, the sheer honesty, is encouraging to me. From your LiveJournal days when you shared what seemed to be your innermost private thoughts, to cataloguing those thoughts in zines for public consumption, you seem very willing to lay bare your soul; do you feel this does help to make one “feel better”?

It can be very scary to "put it all out there," but I feel like it is important. It is what is most interesting to me about art and being an artist. I want to be as honest as I can and in that honesty connect with other people. I think that in creating the work it does make me feel better  in some sense. It is cathartic to sit down and make something out of nothing. 



Sharing is a word I often think of when viewing your work, and a mode of operating which seems essential to your practice; sharing hurt, whether personal or public grief (as with the “Feel Better” banners you made to commemorate and ameliorate in the aftermath of the Boston bombings), sharing new artists and music, sharing your gallery space in informal get-togethers, sharing a space similar to your living environment in gallery installations. This may be a trite question, but why is sharing so important to you?



I'm really happy to hear this, because it is exactly the word I want you to think of. Sharing is important to me for so many reasons.



I spent my formative years in a punk community with "do it yourself" ideals that formed the way I lived my life then and now. I think that being a part of punk made me very aware of my community. I was (and still am) always surrounded by very supportive people who encouraged me to make art. It feels very natural to turn around and share that art with those very same people. I don't think that art should exists merely to be bought and sold, to hang on a wall or exist in a museum. I believe that art, like most things, should be made to share with the people who love it or need it. I am a strong believer that if you are interested in something than it is likely many other people will be interested in it- you just have to show them. Similarly- if you feel something, it's likely that other people feel it too. 



Recently there seems to be more of a community feel to your work. Is public art and community engagement something you wish to develop?



To me the idea of community is an extension of the idea of sharing. I am interested in public art to the extent that it reaches a broader audience. I am currently working on "The Feel Good Project" with a friend at work. This project is an effort to use the company's resources to create public art projects that make people feel good. I like the idea of posting things online and how many people can relate and re-blog and add their own commentary, but it feels equally important to go out in to the community I am a part of and actually hand someone an object that they can keep

I've been thinking a lot about gifts. I think that is where I am headed with my work. Giving vs. Selling



When and why did you turn to fibre as a medium? How do you construct your quilts and banners? Do they start as drawings, scribbled words? Could you describe for us your creative process (in as little or as much detail as you like)?



I have always been really interested in fabric and sewing, but I never knew how to do it. I was just drawn to it for some reason so I started taking some classes while I was in school and ended up landing in the fibers department. I liked how at home I felt there. (I have since realized that a lot of my work references the idea of home and comfort, which fiber somehow naturally lends itself to). 



Most of my work starts in my notebook and then becomes something else (or just stays there forever). So, in the beginning I was doing a lot of drawings with the idea of turning them into embroideries. As time went on the embroideries (still coming from journals) turned into just text, much larger scale than anything else I had been making. I use a simple satin stitch (in and out like regular sewing, nothing fancy) to follow the shape of some text I've written across a large piece of  fabric. It takes forever. I like that about it. When I draw it is quick, there is this immediate satisfaction that sometimes I really need. Embroidery, on the other hand, allows me to slow down and spend a long time with just a few words. It makes the text somewhat like a mantra or something that I live with for as long as I am working on it and then, at the end, it has become monumental in some way. 


I have toyed around with painting large text, but it loses something. With the embroidery you are faced with the scale and it becomes much louder than a small drawing- but it is still soft. It is still quiet and sincere and honest.

(I have also made quilts and banners with appliqued text, but most of the time I am just using the simple satin stitch). 

How does music influence your creative output? Do you see your band, Fleabite, as another artistic medium, another string to your bow?

I don't really think about playing music like I think about making my visual art. I think that it is very similar for some people, but for me playing music has been much more about learning a new skill and connecting with friends in a new way. I don't actually write the music (my other band mates usually do) so it isn't as much of an artistic expression for me. It's just a fun way to spend my time. 



Do you set aside time to work on your observational drawing skills? I ask because a lot of your drawings pair wry or humorous text alongside rather mundane (and I don’t mean that in a negative sense) drawings of interiors or household objects. Do you feel this makes the work more grounded or relatable?

I don't really practice my drawing, but I should. I often draw mundane or household objects because that is what is in front of me. I can't make up something and draw it, I'm terrible at it. I have to look at something so if I feel like drawing I am usually limited to what is in front of me. The drawings with an object and text are usually a result of whatever I am thinking at that moment and whatever is sitting in front of me. To me, it is a record of the moment and the pair makes sense to me, for others it may be more confusing. So, I don't really know if it makes it more grounded, but for me I suppose it does.


Art in Awesomestow: The Summer Show at Penny Fielding


I promised my Tumblr followers a post on my latest exhibition, at Penny Fielding's, quite a few days ago, and so here, finally, is a photograph of Pip and I being smug in our sunglasses in the gallery garden.

And I did have at least one thing to be (slightly) smug about; one of my embroideries was displayed slap bang in the centre of the window! My Melancholyflowers were placed directly beneath a rather charming little crown, which I take as a sign of good fortune.




My other embroidery was ever so slightly more out of the way, but still very visible; over a doorway leading to an interesting little nook of the gallery/shop. I'm afraid these are the best photographs I could take of it; it seemed very far up from the point of view of my (brand spanking new, it's very exciting) smartphone!



Here's a better, close up photograph of the piece, entitled Plathitude:


Mine weren't the only textile pieces in the exhibition, or the only familiar ones; this exquisite machine embroidered quilt by Gilli Haqqani previously featured (alongside some of my work) at the Soft group show at The Mill last year.



This colourful illustration put me in mind of Grayson Perry's playful illustrative style. The gaudy yet down at heel carnival scene is quintessentially British.


This photograph doesn't do it justice, but this thought provoking painting by socially conscious artist Alke Schmidt. At first glance it seems obvious that the machinists are working in an Asian clothes sweatshops. But with closer inspection, more layers to the painting are discovered. The painting is overlaid with a textiles pattern, which I read in two ways; it is a traditional Asian design, or a cheap and cheerful design for the mass market. It seems to have seeped into the women's skin; they are unable to escape their cultural heritage, which now includes manufacturing cheap high street clothing for Westerners. Their face masks could be to protect them from their unhygienic working environment; it also reminds me of the hysteria, which seemed particularly concentrated in the East, following the outbreak of SARs and then bird flu, and the wearing of such masks, which I remember was common amongst Asian tourists at the time. Finally, the black mass of cloth waiting to be sewn to the right of the machinists is redolent of the drudgery of working in such a sweatshop, and the murky business practises of the multinational companies overseeing such work.


This whimsical piece put me in mind of sideshows at the carnival or circus; surely that cat shouldn't have wings?! The rough but realistic charcoal strokes give the drawing a naturalistic, endearing quality.


Similarly endearing was this piece; I couldn't decide if it was in pastels or some kind of print, but I do know that I love a good cup of tea, especially when it's served so beautifully!


I feel cruel for writing this, but this dreamlike piece by Two For Joy is very reminiscent of Rob Ryan's work. He certainly seems to have cornered the market in whimsical papercuts! This piece definitely has a charm all of its own, however; the detail on the wings/feathers is particularly gorgeous.



I assume this dramatic print is a linocut, a medium I am hoping to experiment with soon. If it is, it's certainly s masterful one; just look at the detail in that spider's abdomen.


This print of identical twins reminded me of a painting my best friend won a national art prize for when we were twelve, and it's just as sweet!


I love dioramas, but unfortunately couldn't get a better picture of this dinky little one inside an old lamp; it, too, was very sweet.


Much as I love Awesomestow, there are days when it seems a bit grey and gritty even for me! So this bright and cheerful treatment of the borough definitely put a smile on my face.


The exhibition is on until August the 25th. I urge you to get down there if you can. As well as all the wonderful art, there's plenty of beautiful homeware and jewellery on sale, and you're bound to bump into some interesting local characters!




Protect The Wild Flowers

I came across this image on Tumblr (via the lifestyle blog The Thinking Tank) and immediately felt compelled to turn it into a sketch for blackwork. As I found it on Tumblr I've had difficulty locating it on the blog that originally posted it, and so I'll never know if there's any more information about such a captivating, whimsical image (with such an important message).



I may not have rendered the children's faces perfectly in stitch, but I am mostly pretty happy with the results (and with my choice of ivy-embroidered handkerchief!)

I think of this as a companion piece to my Melancholyflowers:




Secrets Are The Things We Grow: An interview with artist Lily Cuyler

That line from Some Velvet Morning pops into my head unbidden whenever I look at Lily's work. As Lily rather modestly writes herself, "i'm lily and i draw flowers" (how serendipitous that her name is that of one of the most beautiful flowers!) Of course, Lily doesn't just draw flowers; she makes heartbreakingly honest confessional drawings, lino cut patches of famous artists' and writers' quotations, motivational fortune tellers, altered and embroidered photographs, typewritten poetry, and more. And she's still in high school. Once again, I've stumbled across the work of a young but staggeringly talented artist, and it's reminded me to pull my finger out! Her art is definitely a big inspiration for Treasures For Your Troubles, with its themes of self care and the daily struggles of life.

Thank you Lily for taking the time to answer my questions so thoughtfully. I can't wait to see how your next project unfolds.

How long have you been making art, and how did you get into it?

I started really realizing that I liked to make art two summers ago. I was more into collaging than anything else then. My mom is an artist, so there's always been creative energy around me. That's probably how I got into it, just thinking that it was a natural way of expressing yourself and spending hours away from everyone else just to finish this one project you're working on is completely normal. 


In your “Other People’s Secrets” project, you juxtapose (or compliment) presumably anonymous confessions with delicate floral-based illustrations. How did you make the call for submissions for this project? Was it difficult going through with it at points on an emotional and empathetic level? (I’m thinking in particular of the confessions about suicidal thoughts and self harm). Is your use of “twee”, delicate imagery an attempt to soften the sometimes shocking confessions, to prettify them? A sort of metaphorical bandaid? It seems to me that the imagery itself, with its muted colours and natural themes “whispers”, just as secrets themselves are told. How did you decide on the imagery for each piece? Did you select a number of confessions to illustrate, or illustrate all the secrets you were told?


I actually started asking people to send me anonymous confessions one day because I had drawn all these pictures, and they needed words on them, and I thought this would be kind of a nice and therapeutic way for people to get something off their chests. It was definitely difficult going through some of the secrets because they really touched me emotionally, especially the ones about contemplating suicide and self harm. My imagery definitely softens the blow of these intense human emotions. You can feel this way but have a pretty outside, the flowers can still be blooming. Some of my pieces have dead flowers, which to me represents being defeated, the beautiful colors have faded and died. I didn't illustrate all of the secrets I was given, some of them were very difficult to put into drawing-form. Some were too personal, some not secrets at all.



Are the photographs you use as backgrounds for embroidery your own? Are they picked at random, or do they have significance for each piece? How did you come to embroidery, and what do you like about it as a medium?

2 months on Flickr.

Most of the photographs for my embroidery are my own. I will actually take pictures on my roll of film imagining what kind of things I could embroider onto them. My photo embroideries are a chance for me to put more bluntly the things I need to get out of my system. Things that I feel are too intense or too long or too complicated to put on my simple drawings. The last photo embroidery I did, none of the pictures I took to use in this project developed, so I ended up using old film photos of my boyfriend's. Ones that didn't turn out quite right and just had a beautiful yellow color in them. I really like embroidering photos because whatever I do, even if I mess up significantly, it still looks okay. That fox, on one of my photos, did not start out as a fox. 
anti anxiety on Flickr.

Is there an element of art therapy to your practice? Is this something you have ever considered pursuing professionally? I say this ecause of the confessional, cathartic quality of your work, both in divulging other people’s secrets and your own, your use of inspirational and motivational quotations, and your gorgeous little hand drawn fortune tellers that come with sound and reassuring advice such as “Tell them you love them” and “Don’t be anxious”.



There is so much art therapy in what I do. It's therapy for me, specifically, and I am just coming to realize that it's also affecting other people in a therapeutic way. I get messages on Tumblr like "your art touched me tonight and helped me not self-harm." That makes me feel so good, both in the ways of knowing something I made helped someone, and knowing that someone else out there feels the same way I do. I definitely am committed to pursuing art professionally. I am almost done with my junior year of high school and I am looking at many art institutes to attend, it's the only thing that makes me happy and the only thing I feel like I'm really good at. If that ends up in an art therapy practice, then I'm happy with that. 


Sylvia Plath patch 
Own your own!

You touch gently on themes of mental illness in your work (and indeed, gentleness is what I think of when I look at your work, even when you use the word “fucking”). Is this something that particularly concerns you?




Mental illness concerns me to no end. About a year ago I was suffering from pretty severe depression, and I still get bouts of it from time to time. I have so many friends with mental illnesses that really affect their lives, and I think it's important to put these topics out in the open. I think it's important to connect with people on that level if they're needing help getting through something, anything. Flowers are the disguise to these pretty shitty feelings. 
The fear of suffering on Flickr.

Do you have many creative projects on the go at the moment, or plans of creating more in the future? Would you be willing to share a few of those with us?

There is always a project I'm working on. Right now I'm focusing on making a book of famous poets and their houses, which should be up on Etsy and Tumblr in a day or two. I'm really excited about it. When I get an idea for a project that I'm really excited about, sometimes I can't sleep until I at least start it. 



Two features on embroidery blogs in two days!

(Well, almost two days!)

Since coming back to the Flickr and Blogger folds, my blackwork commissions of treasured childrens' storybook illustrations have been getting rather a lot of love.

First they were featured over at the &Stitches blog on Sunday:

And today they were featured on Mr X Stitch's "Too Cute Tuesday" post by the wonderful blogger Olisa Corcoran (aka cocoaeyesthestitcher):


The response to these pieces has just reconfirmed for me that delicate blackwork is what I should be focusing on right now... I'm working up a little series, and will hopefully exhibit them in the summer. Here's the first of the series:



Nothing But Flowers

 



After weeks of stitching (and distractions), my Melancholyflowers are finally all stitched up! They're based on an illustration from the turn of the century childrens' book Land of Play - Verses, Rhymes, Stories, first published in 1911.

I've so enjoyed embroidering these delicate little flowers, although their intricacy did make it a frustrating process at times! I shall have them framed soon and look for somewhere to exhibit them along with the other embroideries in the blackwork series I'm working on. But for now, back to work on The Constellation Quilt.



No-vember


No sun – no moon! No morn – no noon - No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day. No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease, No comfortable feel in any member - No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! - November!
This (abridged) poem by Thomas Hood seems to encapsulate the way many people feel about the penultimate month of the year. I’ve been having some conversations with friends and customers recently which would certainly seem to suggest so! Some friends have suggested that everything always goes wrong in November, and one customer in the café where I work wondered if it was in human’s mammalian nature to want to hibernate through the winter months; if perhaps the human race collectively has a mild form of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
In (dis)honour of this miserable time of year, I am currently working on an altered book. What To Look For InWinter, written by E.L. Grant-Watson and illustrated by C.F. Tunnicliffe, was first published in 1959 by Ladybird Books. It invites young people into the wintry natural world and reveals for them the surprising activity and vivacity of the winter months, beginning with the end of autumn and ending with the very onset of spring.
By today’s standards the book is rather quaint, but nevertheless utterly enchanting. It’s made me stop and consider the wonders of winter as well as the hardships.
Therefore, I am embroidering my own texts on winter on to some of the illustrative pages, taking care that these have an interplay with the images, and with the words which go alongside them. I see this as a collaborative effort between the original writer and illustrator and myself, to create a work which is almostpsychogeographical.
The book itself has been weathered (and indeed, looks wintered) over the years; one side of the front cover has been chewed up (whether by mould or an animal I’m not sure).
I feel as if there is a real dialogue opened up for me, and hopefully for readers and viewers, by this book; is “what to look for in winter” what to look out for in winter – sickness, depression, and doldrums, or is it what to look hard for in winter, in spite of this – the strange beauty in all its sparse desolation, and the promise of spring?

Commission Pt. II




Here is the second half of the embroidery commission I have been working on, finished this very night.
This second illustration accompanies the 1930s children’s story The Dawn Shops, in which Jessy takes a dose of soaring pills:
I’m very happy with the figure and the left hand side of the image, but less pleased with the cat; in fact, cats seem to have been intent on giving me trouble today; a big fat fluffy ginger puss kept sneaking into my garden when I wasn’t looking this morning.
Still, this has been a good learning process and the customers seem very satisfied with the result! I’ve really enjoyed stitching these gorgeous, delicate images, too.