Seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness


Now that I've started at the Royal School of Needlework, I'm always on the look-out for visual inspiration. I'm particularly drawn to natural forms, and so I took the opportunity to go on an early autumn walk with my family.

This star moss had intense green tendrils and was springy underfoot, buoyed up with the rain

Autumn is my favourite season, visually (if one discounts truly wintry days); mist and dew descends over the landscape, brightly lacquered leaves line the earth, and nature's harvest swells.

These incredibly sculptural bracket fungi were almost as large as chairs


I got the idea that I would stitch a wild mushroom for my silk shading (essentially photo-realistic painting with threads) module, and so I got out my camera and scanned the forest for interesting fungi.

This little cep mushroom was the specimen I felt most inclined to stitch


There had been a heavy rain just prior to our walk, and water droplets hung from all the plants, and polished the mushrooms.

Sumptuous beefsteak fungus

The tannins and reflections in the leaves below turned these water droplets caught in a spider's web into liquid gold and bronze

As autumn continues and turns into winter, I must make the time to take these walks, observing, recording, and enjoying the season...

Softer at The Mill

I'm just back from dropping off a couple of framed embroideries at Penny Fielding's for the E17 Art Trail Summer Show (which opens on Thursday), and I thought I would finally get 'round to uploading some photographs from another little exhibition I'm participated in, which opened a couple of weeks ago.

Some of you may remember the Soft exhibition at The Mill that I blogged about around  this time last year. Well, after the success of that show, The Mill decided to reincarnate the exhibition as Softer. There's a very different feel to this year's exhibition (it's jam packed to the rafters, for one thing!), with more varieties of textile art/craft and a slightly more political slant. Everyone from established artists to infant school students are represented; it's truly reflective of the wider Walthamstow community!

Unfortunately, with all the other exhibitions I'm preparing for and submitting work to, I ran out of time to create something new for Softer. Thus my contribution was one of my early embroideries for The Cure for Love, which was exhibited in its entirety at The Mill in December 2011. 

The embroidery I submitted was my "Love is no mythical creature" narwhal (my favourite animal, don't you know; I frequently dream about them!)


He looks quite sweet nestled in amongst the crochet and quilting!



These "stained glass" crochet granny squares were one of my favourite exhibits. I love how each square is unique, yet each compliments the others. Definitely got me hankering after a granny square blanket (if only I could knit or crochet!)




Work curated and created by my old colleagues at Significant Seams was also featured; cushions spelling out "Softer" were hung up in the front window, inviting the public in. The cushions were made as part of Wood Street Welcome, a community art project for Wood Street, Walthamstow.


In addition to the Softer exhibition, there were also a number of inventive oversized animals on display (including my second-favourite animal, a downcast looking fox!)

This exhibition was entitled Wildlife Reworked, and was comprised of animal sculptures made from recycled objects by local families with the help of sculptor Michelle Reader. Although a separate exhibition, the sculptures could easily have been included in Softer as many were made with large quantities of fabric. There was obviously a lot of attention to detail given when selecting the materials to construct the animals; the texture of the fox's fur in particular was spot on.





This piece has inspired some of my hand stitching and hand quilting idea for Big Teeth. Lovely warm colours and homespun, handcrafted textures!



It wouldn't be a textile exhibition at The Mill without a few of Harriet Hammel's signature pieces. She contributed a Campbell's "PopArt" Soup can and a jar of (my favourite) Marmite. Though why these incredibly life like provisions were displayed in a wire cage, I'm not quite sure! They shared wall space with a knitted or crocheted (forgive my ignorance) faux-taxidermy moose head, which very much puts me in mind of one my housemate hung on our living room wall at university.




This cactus was one of my favourite pieces in the exhibition, and I'm very sorry to say I didn't get any better photographs of it. Just imagine how much more practical knitted house plants would be than their living counterparts!



This quilted duffel bag by Significant Seams stalwart Heidi Beach puts me in mind of William Morris's beloved leather satchels; I can certainly imagine him using this bag if he was around nowadays!


I was enthralled by the texture of the undulating seaweed in this piece; I don't know what the textile technique is, but the artist has caught their essence just right.


Unfortunately the photograph of this knitted item doesn't do it justice; it was a riot of colour and texture.


This bird reminded me of both William Morris's original designs, and Nicola Jarvis's drawings, paintings, and embroideries inspired by the famed Walthamstow-born master craftsman.


I loved the intricate volcano design of this quilt; just imagine how long it must've taken to piece it together!


Finally, an incredibly sweet addition to the exhibition was the "Needle Club" book created by young primary school children. It showcased the magic of children's imagination, and both put me in mind of my soft sculpture book On Being Soft, and inspired me to persevere with Big Teeth














At home in the universe


Every now and then, I need a little respite from making. I feel that being in nature is really important for the creative process, and helps me breathe. I've been kayaking a lot recently, which is a really novel and relaxing way to experience the city.

Now that spring is (finally) well and truly sprung, Pip and I took the opportunity to go on our most gothic date yet; a long overdue trip to the famous Highgate Cemetery, burial place of Karl Marx and many other thinkers, writers and celebrities.

The Cemetery really is "a haven of beauty and tranquility" as its website says; strolling around the graveyard one couldn't help but feel at peace, and sitting by the firefighters' memorial surrounded by birdsong and inquisitive, fearless robins was the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon.

 The Cemetery is teeming with life; many graves are more like flower beds, covered with planted daffodils, primroses and pansies. I find the intersection of life and death inspiring and life-affirming; to know that we continue in the form of natural beauty when we die. A number of tombstones had been laced with ivy which had died back, leaving veinous patterns to add to their marble design.


Human design, too, was very inspiring here; there were many witty examples of gravestones the deceased or their families had chosen, from the tomb designed to look like a Penguin Book cover, to  pop artist Patrick Caulfield's sculptural grave, which reads, rather dryly, "DEAD".







When I was doing my A Levels, the topic of one of our Photography modules was "Links and Connections". I chose to look at the links between life and death, and, more specifically, at graveyards.

I also photographed a whale's spine decomposing on the beach of the tiny Highland hamlet my grandparents live in.

The vetebrae sticking up into the air put me in mind of the tombstones I was also photographing at various graveyards in the North West Highlands.

Visiting Highgate Cemetery reminded me of this, and it was a shame I didn't bring a better camera than my everyday digital one! I did, however, snap merrily away, and got many pictures of the profusion of flora and vegetation in the Cemetery, and the varied examples of design in the tombs, ranging from art nouveau to art deco, Sorry this post is so picture heavy; I did get slightly carried away:



I thought this was a particularly lovely epitaph.




Douglas Adams's grave, complete with an offering of pens to the writer

This woman had such a beautiful name; I wonder what her story was?


Blooms covering a "flowerbed grave"
...and luscious ferns


Patrick Caulfield's acerbic tombstone
Pat Kavanagh's art noveau-inspired gravestone


Jeremy Beadle's tomb was judged to be the one with the most books!


This woman is buried with her dog, Emperor




Somehow the erosion of statues like this one only adds to their romantic beauty


George Eliot's tomb




As it is perhaps the first week of tightsless weather this year, I couldn't resist dressing up for the day out in my new imitation-fifties frock (complete with petticoat), and genuine-fifties Polaroid sunglasses.



Now it's back to stitchin' for me; I will try to have my Melancholyflowers up on here this week; it's just that all that foliage is so fiddly (but I do love sewing it!)

The Girly Gang

The other night, while idly surfing Tumblr (yes, I have one of those now too... my social networking problem really is blossoming), I had the most wonderful surprise; I came across a young artist who has utterly inspired me.

Clitoris Patch on Flickr.



Hannah Hill is a seventeen year old textile artist and illustrator from North London. Most of her artwork deals with feminism and female experiences.

Unsure

There's often a wonderfully biting sense of humour to her work, but it's also shot through with a tender, naive vulnerability.

Textiles Worshipping Cult on Flickr.
(I reeeeally want this one on a t-shirt)





Hannah's style reminds me of another, older favourite: Scarlett Barry.

Scarlett seems to have dropped off the (online) radar for the moment  (and I do miss seeing her breathtaking work), but she was a major inspiration for me, particularly when I first turned my hand to cross stitching.



I was particularly drawn to Scarlett's immediate, honest, and simple style.

This is reflected in her drawn work, with its clean yet overlapping lines, often in brown gel pen:


She also cannily uses found objects in her work, in a way which seems almost natural:

Did I mention that she's also gorgeous and a brilliant writer? You can check out Scarlett's highly original art here.
Another fem(me)ale artist whose work I first came across on the online community Livejournal is Jenee Larson.

Jennee's work perfectly straddles (ooh-er) the line between twee and erotic art. And if you don't believe that's possible, check out her Flickr photostream.

Personally I prefer her earlier work to her current haunting (or haunted?) portraits of saucer-eyed femmes fatales, but she is certainly a dab hand with glitter! 

baby moon by meme

Jenee's work is whimsical and strange, as proved by her series of weeping and love-making unicorn-people(not both at the same time, hopefully!)

artosity:

I can dig it

hey i drew this! too bad it didn’t have a credit :(

Around the same time I discovered the work of Scarlett and Jenee, I was sucked into the whimsical world of Joanna "Bunny Mitford". Joanna is another artist of this generation who has completely dropped off the face of the internet, but she always was a mysterious girl, and I imagine this was a carefully concerted part of her charm. The small glimpses of her life that she gave us led me to believe she was as magical as the girls in the children's stories which she used in her art.




Her photography and sense of light was warm as twilight.

Just like Scarlett Barry, Joanna's writing was captivating, perhaps even more so.

She loved the arts, music, paints, nature. Hans Christian Anderson, Van Gogh, Tchaikovsky. They were her favourites. She loved Tchaikovsky because he made his sadness into warmth, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Symphony No.6. She loved Vincent because she felt his loneliness in his paintings. But she couldn’t look at his sunflowers for too long, the yellows stung her eyes. Feeling too much Feeling is too much sometimes. She told me how she thought it was weird you know, that all these people who created such beautiful things were so sad. How sometimes the sadness was so strong that they ended their own lives. Their last work of art.
She said she thought that most geniuses were lonely. I said I thought everyone was lonely. That even the Moon is lonely, and that’s why it pulls on the tides.

I miss her, much like you might miss a friend you've lost contact with over the years. Which is strange, because I never really knew her. 

The final member of "the girly gang" is a bit of a departure from the others.

Chelsea Dirck, at the tender age of 22 or 23, is a veteran of the American punk scene. Her zines, scribblings, type-writings,textile art, and illustrations are a  visual diary of a life lived state-hopping, missing friends and loved ones, listening to music, and having her heart broken.







I've bought quite a bit of Chelsea's work and I urge you to do the same. She's a lovely person and very generous; you may find a little  extra gift or hand-written note in your package.

Why have I introduced all these ladies to you? Because I hope their art will inspire you the way it inspired (and continues to inspire me). All of these artists are young women at the start of their careers, but I believe that each of them is truly "one to watch".

I see these women as my contemporaries, and would be honoured if even one of them felt the same for me.