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Journal

Posts tagged artists life
Going round in circles...
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going round in circles

well, stitching in circles...and visiting a few...

Well, how time flies when you’re having fun!

Apologies for the long absence, I’ve just had the craziest six weeks I can remember, with so much packed in that until now there’s been no time to sit and collect my thoughts.

If I tell you that since my last entry I’ve visited three Scottish Castles, the island of Tiree, Callanish on Lewis, Jarlshof on Shetland, Avebury, West Kennet Long Barrow, Bath, Oxford, Leicester, Hay on Wye and Hereford, you’ll begin to get a feel for the dashing about that’s been happening.

In between the trips there have been birthdays, school-leaving, three days over in Bedford for the Bedford River Festival, helping at The Workhouse and the occasional frantic loading of the washing machine.

And throughout it all, it’s been hot! The best summer for weather since 1976 (and I do remember that summer very well), which has simply put the cherry on the top.

It’s been amazing and to be honest I’m only just beginning to slow down long enough to appreciate everything I’ve seen, but I’ll admit to being pretty exhausted too.

So here I am now, back with both feet on the ground and looking forward to spending time mentally processing some of the wonderful things I’ve seen and thinking about how I’ll incorporate them into future art pieces.

Circles in the landscape...

My fascination with stone circles, ditches and ancient earthworks is a fairly recent thing. I suppose there was something tickling the back of my mind, but it's really only been in the last ten years or so that I've fallen under their thrall. But this year has been the great unfolding for me and I've been so excited to visit sites that are full of mystery, places that speak directly to the imagination.

Pictures from this summer's adventures; the Rollrights - Oxfordshire, Callanish - Lewis, Jarlshof - Shetland, Avebury - Wiltshire.

The circle was clearly of deep significance to our ancestors, it’s there in the neolithic, bronze and iron ages. It’s significance is something I’m sure you could spend a lifetime considering.

 Circles have been finding their way into most of my work for some time now, I couldn’t tell you exactly why, it just seems to be something I need to explore (although I'll also be honest and say that there are more now that I use less needlepoint. Have you ever tried to stitch a circle in tent stitch?). But I do wonder where the human love affair with the circle begins? Once you start to look, they are everywhere. 

Circles in hand...

Unsurprisingly, the piece I'm currently working on includes circles - at least three of them.

It's still at an early stage - as you can imagine, there hasn't been too much time for stitching recently, but in case you're interested, here are a few close up photos to show how it's developing.

The canvas is a linen scrim which I painted with acrylic paint and pens. I then attached (glue and stitch) fragments of fabrics and couched sari silk thread to highlight the lines. I began adding running stitch to sections of the piece, these somehow give it movement and hold everything together. And then I decided (possibly rashly), that the circles would include some tent stitch. Here I'm using a DMC metallic thread which has the thickness I needed.

You can see a little more of the development in the three pictures above. Still a long way to go but I'm over the initial feeling of marginal overwhelm and now it's beginning to feel exciting. I'm still posting updates to Instagram Stories on the days when I make progress with this piece, so if you follow me there you'll see it coming together.

In Other News

The dry, hot weather has parched the countryside, bleaching the fields where the only green is random patches of docks. The thistles haven’t appeared this year. The few surviving nettles that line the lane and usually trim it in green are all brown and limp. Everything looks tired - in fact it looks like late August, which is how it’s been feeling. There are sloes on the blackthorn and crabapples beginning to drop into the lane. No blackberries for us yet, but on Twitter I’ve seen people picking them - too soon, I’m not ready for the onset of autumn, and that’s what blackberry picking is for me.

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It’s good to be back. I’ll be picking up the reins again now. I may even put together the occasional gallery from my travels…(only 2058 photos to process...x).

 

Best wishes and happy stitching

Anny x






 

Why creative communities are the best!

Hello from a not entirely convincingly springtime in Bedfordshire. (I’m writing this while it's snowing again - I can only hope spring is having a ‘bit of a laugh’).

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why creative communities are the best!

But it’s good to be able to sit and write, there’s been so much stuff happening recently that I just haven’t got my act together. In fact, if I’m honest I’ve really been in danger of losing the plot a few times lately. Do you go through periods like that? I’m sure most of us do. I think my problem is that every time I manage to achieve a period of calm and stability I assume it’s going to carry on indefinitely, whereas in fact a mild chaos is much more the norm around here and I’d do better to try and roll with that than berate myself for failing to maintain order. Oh well…

Observations from the gallery floor...

Anyway, as many of you will know, since October last year, I’ve been helping out a couple of times a week at a new gallery in Dunstable, called The Workhouse. (I wrote about it here if you missed it previously). It came into being because of the passionate will of my friend Joanne Bowes who realised that there were many talented people making art locally, some professionally, many others dipping their toes into the art world tentatively or creating as a hobby, for whom there were very limited opportunities to exhibit or sell their work.

Joanne created The Workhouse to give those creatives a space to show their work and at the same time to provide a welcoming, friendly and approachable gallery experience for people in Dunstable, a place where everyone is welcome to come in, browse the work, chat with artists or just relax in a creative environment.

You can imagine that this is an enormously brave undertaking (even in a buoyant economy, galleries are notoriously tricky businesses) which is one of the reasons those of us volunteering there are keen to help it flourish and we’re happy to contribute as much as we can.

But over the last few weeks, a couple of things have really struck me as important which I doubt I’d have understood so completely without having spent time in the gallery.

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making art is good for you

 ~ for all of us ~

The first thing that really hit me was how important making art is to so many people, many many more than I’d previously have thought. I’m not necessarily talking about making saleable art or even good art generally, just the actual process of doing something creative for the sake of it.

I’d guess that almost every time I’m in the gallery we get a new visitor who comes in, slowly walks around and eventually as we gently chat to them, tells us that they used to draw/paint/stitch. We’re beginning to get really good at spotting them, they have a certain look.

And our job is to encourage them to take it up again, because for the majority, that's what they really want. Since October a number of our 'lapsed artists' have actually gone on to bring in work that’s been exhibited and sold. But that’s not really the point. The important thing is that people need to feel that it’s ok to make art, to feel that there are other people just like them and to feel part of a creative, supportive community, whatever their skills. 

People stop making art for lots of different reasons and that’s a terrible pity because clearly it brings joy and happiness to the makers. Having a means of creative expression is not just a nice thing to have, for many of us, it’s essential to our balance and wellbeing.

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creatives need the community of other creatives

 

The other, related thing that struck me, was how vital it is for creatives to meet up with other creatives.

And as a lifelong introvert with extremely flakey creative self-confidence, that was quite a realisation. But it’s true, finding your tribe, discovering people who think like you, understand you and know what you’re feeling, is massively liberating.

For years I was just too shy about my stitching to show it to anyone, but once I did, and once I then found an artistic community to be part of, everything changed and I was eventually able to start being me.

For a great many of the people we talk to in the gallery who've stopped making art, it was because they had no one to encourage them. They weren’t taken seriously, or they just didn’t have the support network of people around them who understood them, or didn’t know anyone who could help point them in the right direction to progress.

It takes courage to express yourself and very few of us are strong enough to stand up against the crowd alone without support, without having creative friends on-side to cheer you on.

ways to help...

Taking the first steps to finding other creatives doesn’t have to be as daunting as walking into a gallery might sound. These days there are lots of ways to find people to support and encourage you.

Perhaps the softest way is by searching online for people doing the same or similar creative things. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are full of arty types and a bit of browsing will bring you to people you feel comfortable with. And then of course there are the bloggers… (hello!).

For me, this online community is one of the greatest joys of modern life. To be able to see the work of other artists around the globe is simply marvellous. To be able to have real time conversations with them is something that never ceases to amaze and delight me. I guess that having been born in the pre-internet world this connection will always be truly wonderful in my eyes.

But wonderful though online connection is, having flesh and blood contacts and being part of a ‘real life’ community of arty people is equally valuable - perhaps more so.

Here you do have to be a tiny bit braver and raise your head above the parapet, but there are friendly people out there ready and waiting to welcome you. Whether it’s a knitting and nattering club, an embroiderers’ guild, a painting club, life-drawing group, local artists’ network, one-off workshops, quilting circles or whatever, if you look, you’ll find them. And the joy of finding your own tribe is indescribable.

Your creative community gives you friendship, encouragement, inspiration, advice, technical assistance, reassurance and feedback and the occasional kick up the proverbial. And what’s more, you give the same back to the group.

So, if by any chance you're someone who's been suppressing your creativity, I hope you’ll be brave and take a few steps to get back into practice. If you’re feeling all alone in the creative world, please don’t, wave at the people doing things you like the look of and I’m sure they’ll respond. And if they don't, shout louder!

And for those of us already happily ensconced in our own creative community, let's remember to keep a lookout for other people who would like to join in, maybe they're a little shy to ask, but we know there’s plenty of room for everyone and in the end we all benefit.


IN OTHER NEWS

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  • The pictures in this post are details from the piece I'm currently stitching. It's almost finished, just a little more strengthening in the circles and some running stitch texture to the background needed. I was hoping to have it ready for the next exhibition at The Workhouse, but I don’t think I’ll quite make it in time so it will have to wait a while before it goes public.
  • If I manage to stay on track (possibly a big IF, but let’s hope), I’ll be sending out a new edition of ‘Loose Threads’ around Easter time, so if you haven’t previously subscribed and would like to receive a copy, simply fill your details in the box on right or click here.
  • And finally, I’ve been asked if I’d run a short programme of workshop sessions on the theme of Contemplative Stitching. If anyone has any experience of similar workshops or has any thoughts on what you’d want this type of workshop to include, I’d be really grateful for your thoughts/ideas/experience. It’s something I’d like to do, but I’d want to make useful and enjoyable and I'm not sure how to express it - perhaps you can help? Many thanks. Until next time...
     

Happy Stitching

Anny x















 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Week The Snow Came...
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the week the snow came...

and experiments in black and white...

Well, we've had snow, properly, not just a cursory sprinkling but a full-on blanket job. It's been a while since our last encounter with the white stuff and inevitably it's caused a few problems, like not being able to make the get together with my big brother. But the good thing about serious snow is that you can't really do much about it, you're forced to slow down whether you like it or not, and who wouldn't welcome an impromptu stitching day (alright it's true that most days are stitching days here, but an unexpected one is special).

I'm a little bit scared to admit it, but I think I may actually be enjoying the run up to Christmas this year. I can still feel a mild panic hiding away in a corner of my mind, but on the whole it's not coming out to ruin things. Instead I've been to two Christmas parties and thoroughly enjoyed myself (unheard of), and in a total departure from previous years, we've already bought a tree and decorated the house a whole two weeks earlier than normal.

Which I'm sure made the whole snow-day thing much more relaxing. The word hygge almost entered my vocabulary yesterday (by the way, the autocorrect wants to call hygge higgle - which I prefer, do you think the Danes would mind if we renamed it?).

Before the snow came, I'd just embarked on the Seven Day Black and White Challenge on Instagram. I'd noticed other people doing it and was beginning to wonder about having a go when I was tagged - something that I wouldn't normally bother with - but this challenge interested me.

I've occasionally played about with black and white, I like it more and more for the website where it seems to be able to tell a story in a way that is perhaps harder in colour, but I wondered whether it was something I could deliberately use in day to day photography. I don't know any of the technicalities for black and white so it seemed like an opportunity to try something different for a few days.

If you haven't seen them on Instagram, here's a selection of the pictures I've been experimenting with...

A Miscellany in Black and White

What have I learned in the process? Well for me it seems to work when there's good contrast, it helps to emphasise shapes and structures, it creates a moody effect, subtle, perhaps a little nostalgic, a touch of melancholy. I've had a lot of fun trying out all the various editing options in Snapseed (well some of them at any rate). I'll definitely continue to experiment with monochrome, I feel as if I'm just beginning to scratch the surface of what it might reveal, but I'm really looking forward to getting back into colour. 

The lane in black and white isn't the same place that I experience every day. Without colour it's as if you're missing a dimension, a texture and a vital part of the story. 

In other news...

  • The extra time at home this week has been put to use on the current work in progress. It's getting closer to being finished, I suppose it all depends how much time I can find for it this week. I'd really like to have it completed before Christmas.
  • I'm still enjoying reading about Henry IV curtesy of Ian Mortimer.
  • The house is filling up with fairy lights. I might not be able to cook like Nigella but I can definitely give her a run for her money on the twinkling lights...
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So there you have it - what do you think? Nicely higgle?

Stay warm. Happy stitching!

Anny x

In The Workhouse...

I've learned something since last week's post - I've discovered just how much work goes into launching an art gallery and I can tell you, it's not for the faint-hearted! I think it's safe to say that on Wednesday last week there were people who doubted whether the gallery would open as intended on Saturday, but of course I'm delighted and proud to announce that not only did it open on time, it also looks magnificent and is a wonderful testament to the ambition and vision of the lady whose dream it is, Joanne Bowes.

Joanne has a particular vision of what she wants from her business. As an artist herself she realised how difficult it can be to find a good and suitable space to show your work. She also appreciates how intimidating it can be for people wanting to buy art. So The Workhouse is designed to be a friendly and welcoming space where artists and art buyers can mingle and get to know each other.

I'm delighted to have some of my work in The Workhouse right now. I'm particularly pleased that with the gorgeous lighting my twinkly metallics are looking very good indeed. They certainly come to life under the lights.

I'm going to be over at the gallery doing some stitching a couple of days a week, which I'm really looking forward to - it's always exciting to show people how you work and to hear their reaction and for someone whose default setting is to be sat at home alone with her needle, it can be good to get out and meet people.

I'll leave you with a few pictures from the opening weekend. 


 

Happy stitching!

Anny x

A Stitchery Spellbook first entries...

Hello and thank you so much for joining me here.

Welcome to my Stitchery Spellbook.

I'm a slow-stitching textile artist who divides her time unequally and unpredictably between stitching, walking the dog, visiting old places, reading, writing, mucking out teenage daughters, cooking, cleaning and generally trying to prevent too many spinning plates hitting the floor.

Why A Spellbook?

Many artists keep sketchbooks to record their ideas and experiments, but I've never really been able to settle into a sketchbook practice. What works for me is to take lots of photographs of the things that set my creative juices bubbling, things like hedgerows, woodlands, country lanes, old ruins, castles, standing stones, stained-glass windows, gothic cathedrals, country churches, weathered stone and wild landscapes and let them all stew in the melting-pot of my imagination.

Also thrown in for good measure will be snippets of poetry, facts, thoughts, ideas, words, meditations and colours.

What the process is that takes these various ingredients, stirs them about and eventually turns them into inspiration for a piece of stitched art, well, I couldn't say. Everyone I think has their own way to describe inspiration. My particular favourite is the druidic concept of awen, but you will have your own. Could we agree that it's magic? Or at least magical...

So instead of a sketchbook, this is A Stitchery Spellbook. A place to keep those photographs, words and ideas, a place to record the events, thoughts and pictures that have slipped into the imagination and a place to show the results of the stitchiness they provoke. Perhaps they in turn will be an inspiration for you or other people to express something that's important to you too.

Whether you're a stitcher, history-junkie, wildlife-lover, wordsmith, art-lover or simply happy to dream, you are very welcome here. Please dip in and become part of the story. You can find me here, on Twitter or Instagram and I'm always delighted to say hello.

Very best wishes and happy stitching.

Anny x