Planet Textile Threads

April 19, 2014

Terry Grant

A little break in the rain

There are times when it is cold and gray and the rain seems endless, and I wonder why we chose to live in all this rain. But then I remember what it gives us. Glorious spring and summer, for starters.  It has been raining off and on today— gentle, fragrant spring rain that makes everything sparkle and seems to pump up the color saturation. This view out the back door made me think of Impressionist paintings. (The "Glaze" app helped the illusion along.)

So many parts of the country are in drought. Alarming. I wish we could share some of our rain. 

by Terry Grant ( at April 19, 2014 05:56 PM

Olga Norris

Two blue sleeves

It has been a sunny holiday weekend so far, with interesting blues in the skies.  My thoughts have turned to two blue sleeves which I very much admire:
Titian's man with a quilted sleeve (from here) is glorious - that expanse of blue, I'm sure feels just like the silk I am quilting at present.
I am so attracted to Vuillard's women's clothing.  I can feel all those crisp blouses, this (from here) being a bright well ironed cotton, I'm sure.

by Olga Norris ( at April 19, 2014 03:27 PM

Marion Barnett

The Straight Debate.

Here's the first of the pieces I talked about yesterday, waiting to be worked on ;

And here it is, finished ;
I think it's rather fun.  The cat button was part of a set by Button Mad, which my sister gave me for Christmas, while the boat and duck buttons were left over from clothes I made for my son when he was wee.  A family piece...I think it'll end up with Cara, my granddaughter.  Unless someone makes me an offer I can't refuse...

I showed it to Robin who said, it's nice...but the edges aren't right.  To me, the edges are Just Fine.  Most people, he said, would want them to be straight.   Now, I can get them to do flat, which is important, I think...but I'm not so sure about straight.  I like the country, primitive, sketchy feel that the frayed edges if this piece was a fragment of a larger piece.  It adds texture and visual interest.  What do you think?

by marion barnett ( at April 19, 2014 12:04 PM

Margaret Cooter

Watching paint dry

Yet another layer on "the landscape" - it wasn't meant to be a landscape, in fact it started in portrait format but quickly got turned round.

This is one of three pieces I'm adding paint to, day after day. Half an hour is about the right amount of time - enough time for deciding what to do next, and then doing it. And not thinking about it between times. Though  I'm noticing more when looking at paintings ... along the lines of "oh that would be something to try, a shape to add, a colour to use".

The idea is to start again completely when it gets stuck, and to enjoy mixing colours and loading the brush and dabbing the paint here & there. To get used to handling these things. To notice what happens.

Some days I take several pictures, some days just the one. It evolves -

Bad little habits I'd like to shed: (a) being mean with paint; (b)getting fiddly; (c) being dull.

Hmm, let me rephrase that! I'm trying to be liberal with the paint squeezed onto the palette, and any moment now BOLD things will appear.

by Margaret Cooter ( at April 19, 2014 09:44 AM

Cynthia St. Charles

Work in Progress - 10 x 15"

Here is another work in progress.  I am really not happy with the silver marker lines, but I am sure I can turn it around.  I just need to work intuitively and not overthink it.  Stay tuned!

by Cynthia St Charles ( at April 19, 2014 06:00 AM

Rayna Gillman


Leaving for home  tomorrow after a lovely time teaching, dining, and being treated to a visit to the Boston MFA to see the Pilgrim Roy quilt exhibit.

First, I promised a few class pix.  One of the exercises was to use a visual as a jumping-off point to create a piece that captured the feeling/essence without replicating the original.  Rita picked this picture by Leger
and interpreted it like this.

Marla based her piece on a phrase she picked that said "up the walll."

There were lots more, but no room to show them all.  Today, students were free to bring in non-art quilts they had started and wanted to turn into art quilts, or at least less tradtional looking pieces.

This block became something else more interesting.

And the rest of them will follow suit.

The above beauty is on the way to beecoming sometthing better.  Here is a very preliminary look at a  bit of progress:

Tomorrow, I leave for home and will post pix of the don't miss exhbit of the Pilgrim Roy quilts.
Nite - I am going to gear up for tomorrow's drive back to  NJ

by (Rayna) at April 19, 2014 03:05 AM

April 18, 2014

Marion Barnett

Negative Thinking...

affects us all, whether we admit it or not, whether we're depressed or not (though depression does make it rather worse...).  One of my favourites is that I'm lazy, that I don't work hard enough.  And then, as I did today, I go to tidy the studio and realise that it's not strictly speaking true... I just get diverted a lot.  There is, however, a lot of work around...  I picked up these five pieces that had been kicking around the studio (out of a Rather Substantial Pile), waiting for something... In this case, I think they had been waiting for me to get back into hand sewing.

Clockwise from top left is a piece of silk, with yarns and other pieces of silk needlefelted onto it.  Then there is a piece of Evolon which has been printed using one of my hand cut lino blocks, then transfer dyed, then stitched.  Below that, there is a piece of transfer dyed lutradur, fused onto crinkled paper (I think that one is probably upside down in this image).  Fourth, is a piece of shibori painted nylon beneath a piece of transfer dyed lutradur, with a lot of stitch, and finally, a transfer dyed monoprint. All of these pieces need more stitch, except the fourth one, which needs embellishment, I think with tiny lutradur flowers, and maybe some three dimensional leaves... we'll see.

I like all of these pieces, but have a sneaky preference for the first one...though I'm fond of the monoprint, too.  Guess that's my Easter weekend sorted out....what with warping up the peg loom, and starting the rug, and possibly buying a couple of plants (well, it's traditional, right?).  If you celebrate it, have a very Happy Easter.  And don't worry; a girl (or boy) really can't have too much chocolate!

by marion barnett ( at April 18, 2014 03:29 PM

Olga Norris

Blink, and you are missed

Time is interesting.  Listening to the radio the other day I heard the theory that we experience time speeding past when we are older because we are familiar with what we are doing.  Time seems to travel more slowly when we are younger because we are exploring through unfamiliar territory.  And therefore the way to slow down time in later life is to try something new - plunge into the unfamiliar.  Nice idea.
I like to take time.  I like an art or craft magazine for instance to present articles which provoke thought, contemplation beyond what is there on the double page spread.  I am not fond of magazines which dazzle superficially with luscious photographs which sell a kind of blink bling.  Show but no tell.  No time.
I like the way I work because time is taken.  Ideas percolate, drawings show different sides even after the first use in one setting - with time and contemplation they sometimes demand many more settings.  Ideas persist, but are sometimes incomplete until time brings more ingredients - and it often takes time to realise that they are incomplete.  The physical making takes time, stitch by stitch, and now that my hands begin to ache from gradually increasing arthritis, longer is taken.  But I love that I can think, I can listen to the radio, I can even watch some television while stitching.
Changes over time can be delightful, especially in observing the plant world - but we also seem to be drawn to a beauty seen in the gradual disintegration of buildings, paintwork, the fabric of our surroundings ... the quaintness of rust.  The rusting takes time, but our cameras blink at it, just as we blink at our friends and ourselves with our phones. Next!
Yellow Hickory Leaves with Daisy from here
This week I received a card from a friend who knows of my passion for the work of Georgia O'Keeffe.  This appreciation has lasted over time - from before a time when so many greeting cards of her work were available, and it was wonderful to be brought back to that joy again, to think once more about the quality of that persistent attraction.
We may take time to produce our work, but we makers seem to live in a world of blink, of the fleeting: we decide instantly, subliminal brand recognition rules, and in competitions we are afforded but a glance of time to catch the good opinion of the gatekeepers.  Hey ho.  Time to take out my glorious big Georgia O'Keeffe books again for some savouring.

by Olga Norris ( at April 18, 2014 02:39 PM

Margaret Cooter

Kwang Young Chun's wrapped accumulations

They are presented framed, like paintings - but a more accurate description is paper sculptures. The irregular shapes (foam blocks) are wrapped in Korean mulberry paper, tied with paper string. Some works on show at Bernard Jacobson Gallery, Cork Street, were small - you could just about tuck them under your arm, had you been allowed - but most were large -
and the wrapped parcels were set in various configurations and colourways. These are details -

The New York Times said: "Chun’s preference for using natural dyes and handmade mulberry paper was born from childhood memories of his uncle’s pharmacy, where small medicinal herb parcels that were similarly wrapped with paper and hung in tight clusters from the ceiling in order to protect them from insects. ... [he said in interview] "When I started the Aggregation in late 1980, I wanted to express and take forward the spirit of Korean traditions using mulberry paper, which used to be indigenous to every Korean household ... Then in 2004, my work started to look more like lunar landscapes and dry desert as I wanted to express my anger and criticism toward modern society and how it is destroying environment.""

Outside, the one in the window takes its context - reflection of the building across the street - to make an inadvertent "criticism toward modern society" -
His website is

by Margaret Cooter ( at April 18, 2014 09:58 AM

Cynthia St. Charles

Three Square 9" Collages

Here is another group that is a work in progress (I think).

This group began with the a torn strip of foil from a chocolate bar wrapper.  If I turned all these pieces a quarter turn - the foil strip would line it's way across all three boards.

Next, I screen printed the recipe in black.  Then, I printed the circles, bubble wrap, and more recipes in gold.  After that, I painted the red lines and circles with crimson paint.  Lastly, I washed the boards with fluid acrylics.

Are these done?  I am not sure.  These are waiting for a decision.

by Cynthia St Charles ( at April 18, 2014 06:00 AM

Rayna Gillman

!New England warmth

The weather may be chilly, but the New England hospitality is warm and the class group had a very busy, intense,a and fruitful day.

We started with exercises designed to stimulate those creative juices and give us a  springboard for talking about color and composition.  One of the exercises was to make a small piece based on a phrase picked randomly.  Another was to use a visual as a takeoff point. Etc.   how is this for a visual takeoff point? Anybody care to capture the essence without reproducing it?  

Will have pix of class work tomorrow.

by (Rayna) at April 18, 2014 02:01 AM

April 17, 2014

Margaret Cooter

Poetry Thursday - Rising Five by Norman Nicholson

"We never see the flower / but only the fruit in the flower"
(watercolour by Katrina Small, via)

Rising Five 

I’m rising five” he said
“Not four” and the little coils of hair
Un-clicked themselves upon his head.
His spectacles, brimful of eyes to stare
At me and the meadow, reflected cones of light
Above his toffee-buckled cheeks. He’d been alive
Fifty-six months or perhaps a week more;
_____________Not four
But rising five.

Around him in the field, the cells of spring
Bubbled and doubled; buds unbuttoned; shoot
And stem shook out the creases from their frills,
And every tree was swilled with green.
It was the season after blossoming,
Before the forming of the fruit:
_____Not May
But rising June._____

And in the sky
The dust dissected the tangential light:
_____Not day
But rising night;
_____Not now
But rising soon.

The new buds push the old leaves from the bough.
We drop our youth behind us like a boy
Throwing away his toffee-wrappers. We never see the flower,
But only the fruit in the flower; never the fruit,
But only the rot in the fruit. We look for the marriage bed
In the baby’s cradle; we look for the grave in the bed;
_____Not living
But rising dead.

Norman Nicholson (from Complete Verse, Jonathan Cape, 1999)

This poem came my way via the BBC iPlayer, perhaps on "Something Understood" but more likely on "Words and Music" - both are eclectic and always interesting programmes. In an engaging, vivid way, it reminds us to pay attention to today, rather than always hurrying ahead to tomorrow.

Norman Nicholson (1914-1987) is known for his association with a town on the edge of the Lake District, Millom - and for four books of poems, two novels, four verse plays, criticism and an autobiography, Wednesday Early Closing (1975). His work is characterised by the simplicity and directness of his language, and deals with "ordinary" things, whether the industries in his area, religion and faith, or quotations from everyday life. He worked outside the poetry mainstream, and is also known for his social awareness as a champion of the working class.

by Margaret Cooter ( at April 17, 2014 09:33 AM

Cynthia St. Charles

Works in Progress - 10" Squares

These two are works in will give you an idea of my process. 
Steps shown here:

1. gesso the illustration board surface and edges
2. screen print text (Grandma's recipe) in black
3. block print circles with metallic paint
4. collage found images
5. collage tissue paper
6.  ? 

I am not sure where these two are going, either.....I know I will figure something out.  I will be sure to take pictures as I proceed and will post them here.

by Cynthia St Charles ( at April 17, 2014 06:00 AM

April 16, 2014

Margaret Cooter

"Boro" underfoot

After yet another visit to the Boro exhibition, I'm seeing "mending" everywhere -
Stair boro
Path boro
Pavement boro
Road boro
Window boro
Wall boro
More wall boro

by Margaret Cooter ( at April 16, 2014 02:22 PM

Virginia A. Spiegel

In the Studio: All About the Stitching


First up today is a salute to the changing of the seasons.  I have this artwork up all winter in the bedroom, but have taken it down for something lighter. It’s HEAVILY machine stitched and was created from a variety of materials including velvet, a tweed-type fabric, black felt topped with polyester fabric and burned out, commercial zebra print, my painted fabric, duck cloth, and more.  It is 24×36 inches.


Second is the hand-stitching I am doing this week for the Intentional Printing Java Art Exchange.  This is one of the 6″ square printed and stiched artworks I will be exchanging.


And, of course, stitching continues slowly on Shagbark.  It’s especially slow because I am bit-by-bit taking out all the stitching I did in the beginning which now seem to be going in the wrong direction; e.g. the blue stitches in the photo above.  Taking out handstitching is really a bit heartbreaking, but I just couldn’t ignore something that no longer fit my vision for the artwork. More and more I am learning that I am an artist who continues to evolve an artwork as long as I’m still working on it.

by Virginia at April 16, 2014 11:58 AM

Marion Barnett

The Helpful Cat

...always knows when  a job is boring, and tries to help.  Mollie being who she is, meant a lot of leaping up and down, trying to catch the warp pieces as I cut them.  Given that they are twice the length of a large, three seater sofa, and there were, at the end of it, twenty six of them, she had a very happy time catching and attempting to chew them.  Sigh.

Now, all I have to do is thread each one of the twenty six onto a peg, ready for the fabric strips I tore up earlier.

This afternoon, though, I'll be out in the garden, collecting these fellows (no, not the insect, the flower). They are scattered through the grass; a better gardener than me would dig them up, but I want the flowers for dyeing.  You can use the roots, too, so doubtless a bit of digging will be done later.

I've got a list of plants I'd like to add to the garden this year, purely for dyeing purposes, starting with a eucalyptus.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, will know that at one point, there were several full sized trees in the garden, but high winds brought them down.  My intention this time, though, would be to keep chopping bits off, to dye with the leaves.  I'd like some St John's Wort, mainly because I like it as a plant, but it is useful too... not that I'm obsessed... yet... or much...

by marion barnett ( at April 16, 2014 12:50 PM

Margaret Cooter

Versatile garments

Traveller's friend, the Kooshoo shawl can be worn in 12 ways. Made from Tencel and sourced from sustainable eucalyptus trees, it's very eco-conscious.

Even more bang for your buck - the Versalette has 30 configurations! It also has an instruction video, and an interesting story of how this idea led to formation of a company,, that makes all its garments from deadstock fabric, ie. fabric discarded by other manufacturers.

by Margaret Cooter ( at April 16, 2014 09:13 AM

Cynthia St. Charles

Mixed Media Steens Wild Horses - Work in Progress

This one includes photographs I took of the wild horses in the Steens Mountain Herd.   This piece is not finished and I am only showing a portion of it here.  More to come, as I make progress.

by Cynthia St Charles ( at April 16, 2014 06:00 AM

Rayna Gillman

speechless, but not wordless


Do you believe this?? Yesterday I had the a/c on in the car and the windows wide open in the bedroom to let in some air. In about 10 hours I am leaving for New England -- by car. Yahoo weather assures me that it will  be sunny and 50F degrees. But not where I am going.

by (Rayna) at April 16, 2014 04:35 AM

Terry Grant

The Crow

Maybe you remember the birds I made a few years ago? I started making little stuffed birds, then I tried some more stylized birds using paper and/or fabric fused to a stiff backing and hand-sewed. I have had an idea of trying to design a crow, using the second technique, and I finally started working on it last week, and finished the prototype yesterday. Here he is.

I started with a flat drawing, working from crow photos found online as my reference. I pulled out one of my earlier, unfinished birds to refresh my memory of how I had used contour lines to start building components. 

Using those preliminary pieces I started giving the body dimension by slashing and spreading the pieces and then using bits of blue masking tape to fit the pieces together to create a three dimensional model. 

The masking tape is easy to remove and reuse as the pieces need adjustments. Little by little the paper model takes shape. 

When it finally looks right I carefully remove the blue tape and trace each pattern piece onto heavier paper. I keep a stack of old file folders for patterns—just the right weight. Then I trace the pattern pieces onto my fabric, which I have fused to a stiff backing. Here are all the pieces (except the wings), cut out and ready to assemble.

I sewed the pieces together, using a decorative joining stitch, by hand.

I need to work out a better stitch for this step, as this one allows the pieces to gap and move, so I had to add some hidden whip stitches on the onside. It was a lot of difficult stitching. 

In this photo you can see the legs and feet, made from wire, wrapped with florist tape. 

This is my prototype, from whom I have learned what worked well and what didn't. I'm looking forward to making another one. I have some changes in mind. Thinking the beak might need to be a separate piece from a different (shiny?) fabric. 

by Terry Grant ( at April 16, 2014 12:01 AM

April 15, 2014

Virginia A. Spiegel

Last Day! Sign-Up for Intentional Printing Java Art Exchange

JavaLoveStitchI love hand-stitching with threads from Laura Wasilowski’s Artfabrik!

Today’s the last day to join an exchange of java-themed art based on Lynn Krawczyk’s new Intentional Printing book published by Interweave/F+W Media. It is available as an e-book also with both version currently on sale.

All the details of the Intentional Printing Java Art Exchange are here.

The Exchange group, as of this morning, with participants from the U.S., Canada, and Australia:

Lynn Krawczyk
Virginia A. Spiegel
Jamie Fingal
Janice Novachcoff
Bethany Garner
Mary Ann Van Soest
Rhonda Baldwin
Von Biggs
Jay Dodds
Gisela Towner
Deirdre Abbotts
Michael P. Cunningham
Gordana Vukovic
Anne McMillan
Marissa Vidrio
Gwen Maxwell-Williams
Marie Z. Johansen
Eileen Hallock
Sylvia Weir
Sally Wescott
Liz Berg
Jeanette Thompson
Rebecca Buchanan
Margaret McDonald

by Virginia at April 15, 2014 01:17 PM

Sarah Ann Smith

On the Glorious Color Blog

WOOT!   My quilt for Joshua caught the eye of the Glorious Color Blogger, so of COURSE I said yes they could include it in a blogpost!  Glorious Color is the source of all things related to the Kaffe Fassett collective, so you can buy fabric (and more fabric), books, and all sorts of goodies.   Anyway, they’ve done an entire POST on diamonds, starting with Marilyn Monroe–check it out here (PS…you have to scroll down a LONG way to see the quilt!).  Here’s a photo I took and shared not long ago:

It's a's not even a full year after Joshua graduated and got his GED and his quilt is DONE!

It’s a miracle…it’s not even a full year after Joshua graduated and got his GED and his quilt is DONE!

As you might guess by my silence, I’m madly working away on a quilt for a deadline.  As soon as I surface I’ll be back.

Thanks Glorious Color for liking my quilt enough to feature it on the blog!

by Sarah Ann Smith at April 15, 2014 10:54 AM

Cynthia St. Charles

Four Five Inch Squares

These four five inch pieces might be done, but I am not sure, actually.  The picture is kind of funky because it is possible to see the surface between these small pieces.  I am thinking I may do some ink work on these - I feel like the circle block prints need a bit of emphasis. 

by Cynthia St Charles ( at April 15, 2014 06:00 AM

Terry Grant

Digital Drawing day - Snack Time

For the first time since we started this we missed our Sunday deadline. Or, more accurately, I missed the deadline. It was a brutal week, is all I can say.  To give ourselves a little breathing room, we are skipping a week and will be back on Sunday, April 27 with our next challenge. Now, on with this week's theme, Snack Time.


My favorite snack—a glass of wine and a handful of almonds. I started with a photo of the background cloth and gave it the Glaze treatment. It seems a little like cheating, but is such a slick way of creating a complex background. Once again, those semi-transparent shadows on their own layer proved the unifying piece. 

iPad, Sketch Club and Glaze apps, New Trent Arcadia stylus



Terry is determined I will do still lifes. It does not come easily to 
me, particularly when I'm hurried. Nevertheless -- I would call these 
healthy snacks: an apple, grapes, pear brandy.

I didn't control my layers, although I'm getting better. I'm learning 
how to blend without using a smudging tool. I haven't actually found one 
in ArtRage yet.

This was done in a great hurry, ill-advised when one is doing still 
lifes. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the grapes. And the brandy.

ArtRage, Laptop, Wacom stylus.

Next week's assignment: "Put a bird on it."

by Terry Grant ( at April 15, 2014 12:35 AM

April 14, 2014

Carol McFee

Alice Fox course

I was lucky enough to get a place on the Alice Fox course on our annual weekend with the North Wales Embroiderers Guild at Plas Tan Y Bwlch, Maentwrog.

To see what we got up to, go take a look at the Croesew Blog

It was one of those weekends when you wish you could be on all three courses at once.

Plas Tan Y Bwlch is a wonderful venue, lovely food and the legendary bread and butter pudding with our Sunday lunch.

by Carol McFee ( at April 14, 2014 08:33 PM

Olga Norris

With added pompoms

This piece has a story, and continues to create its own story.
Patched pastime (56 x 104cm)
Once again you see my juggler.  This version was a drypoint print with chine collé; one of my carborundum experiments.  The chine collé is a sheet of crumpled tissue paper which I had then covered with soft pastel, and I very much enjoy the 'accidents' that take place as the whole goes through the press. 
In this case the tissue has been pulled across the carborundum body, making folds.  I love this effect, and was delighted to see last week at Compton Verney a glorious draped torso by Henry Moore.
Henry Moore: Draped torso, from here
I thought that this juggler would look good stitched, and so sent her away for printing on a sheet of several images.  At the back of my mind I had an idea.
My jugglers and acrobats represent figures of leisure, and I'd been thinking recently about the fall of Rome and wondering how similar our civilisation is to the situation at that time.  I started thinking about the images of acrobats, dancers, and folks enjoying their leisure occur in classical art.
Parallel to those thoughts was my ongoing downsizing: getting rid of life's accumulations (while, of course, with fully appreciated irony I make even more!).  So much has no immediate use, but I'm reluctant simply to throw away.  Into this category fell strips of machine knitted silk yarn.  (I used to design and knit garments - but that's another story.)  I'd been pleased with the patterns which had been inspired by classical sources, and somehow my back burner put everything together.
It all seemed to be combining well, and I was rather pleased.  I thought it would be perfect to enter for the European Art Quilts exhibition this year, but unfortunately the size is just below the minimum perimeter size - 360cm - even with the pompoms.
Ah yes, the pompoms (thank goodness I had held onto the rest of the silk yarn, and the same two yellows are involved here) - well, when the rest was put together, it just obviously needed pompoms!  Seven, to match the juggled balls.  And despite the size disappointment, I really like the result - and how pleased I am to have been able to make use of the knitted silk.

by Olga Norris ( at April 14, 2014 02:31 PM

Margaret Cooter

Monday miscellany

Work by Korean-American artist Kyoung Ae Cho, from her solo show (13 April till 13 July, Lynden Sculpture Garden, Milwaukee, WI) -
M-a-r-k-i-n-g, 2013
24 pieces, 30 x 24 inches each
Hair (collected from April 2011-March 2013), silk organza, muslin, thread, mixed materials Hand felted, hand stitched.
Kyoung Ae Cho presents recent, or recently completed, work. Much of it involves the painstaking collection of things over a long period of time, as in M-a-r-k-i-n-g, which references a Korean custom of collecting one’s own hair as it is shed in the course of daily life; or the slow accretion of small objects to produce a whole, as in her 10-foot-square quilt of artificial flowers. Cho’s practice is never far from nature: she collects fallen leaves and twigs for her hangings and closely observes the flowers and insects in her garden, recording their behavior in startling, almost voyeuristic photographs.(photo and text from

Delightfully small -
Itty bitty books in itty bitty bottles - by Rhonda Miller, shown at 
Halifax Crafters Spring Market (wish I could have been there!)
See more of her work at


"The designation of quilts as ‘decorative art’ has undoubtedly made it harder for them to be given the same consideration as paintings or sculpture. First of all, I find the term ‘decorative art’ to be a little misleading. To label objects that have their origins in utility ‘decorative,’ doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Meanwhile, I think it could be argued that other ‘high’ art forms like painting and sculpture are, in many ways, more purely decorative than objects like textiles and pottery." - Virginia Treanor, one of the curators of the innovative display, Workt by Hand, showcasing 35 historic quilts from the Brooklyn Museum’s renowned decorative arts collection; read the rest of the interview at


Last week was Coffee Week in London - here's a list of 10 recommended independent coffee shops throughout the city - a mere tip of the iceberg:  (My local made it onto one of their other lists...)


Not many miscellaneous items have come my way in the past week (not enough computer time!), so I'm including some of my own photos, from the archive -
Still Life in a Traditional Caf (2011)

At the Steam Museum (Rainy January) (2011)


by Margaret Cooter ( at April 14, 2014 10:56 AM

Natalya Aikens

unexpected abstraction

Quite unexpectedly I created an artwork of abstraction. I've done this once before (and realized that for some bizarre reason I never shared it here), but it was much more deliberate last time. This time it just kind of flowed out of me. They do say that art is therapy, so perhaps I work working on my inner demons... heh..

The challenge was to create a work of opposites for an exhibit with my fiber arts group. Wide ranging subject that can be interpreted in a myriad of ways and I can't wait to see what everyone else has done. I chose what I thought was the straight and narrow interpretation - black and white. I wanted to create an architecturally inspired grid and do it in black on one side and white on the other of this reversible piece. The grid got more and more complicated. And then I was compelled to fling some paint on it. OK, not fling, but use vigorous movements with my hands and a sponge. Thus the sides got reversed. Is it still black and white? Which side is black and which side is white? I don't really know.
black detail
black detail
Black. Natalya Aikens©2014
white detail
white detail
White.  Natalya Aikens©2014
Oh and in case anyone is wondering about my materials, it is all recycled plastic shopping bags and rayon thread. Black and white of course. Measuring 52" inches tall and 18" wide. See it in person at the Northern Star Quilt Guild special exhibits section on May 3rd and 4th in Katonah, NY.

by Natalya Aikens ( at April 14, 2014 09:55 AM

Cynthia St. Charles

Work In Progress -" Rocks and Water" Mixed Media

 This piece is unfinished at this point.  It is sized 10" x 15".  The layers to this point have been:
1. seal illustration board and edges with gesso.
2.  screen print text (Grandma's recipes)
3.  print with bubble wrap and metallic paint
4. paint layers of Golden fluid acrylic, and letting the paint drip down the board to create linear details
5. collage a mountain scene onto the board at the horizon line
6. collage tissue paper using matte medium (diluted)
7. screen print a mountain scene sketch with gold metallic paint
8. collage another layer of found imagery - water overflowing a lot of rocks.
9. collage over with another layer of painted tissue paper.
10.  Rub with pastels to emphasize wrinkles
11 - ?  I am at a pause on this piece.  I really like it so far and I am not wanting to ruin it.  I am waiting for final inspiration. 

by Cynthia St Charles ( at April 14, 2014 06:00 AM

April 13, 2014

Marion Barnett

My New Toy... proving to be great fun, and incredibly easy to use.  Several years ago at a craft fair, I tried out a peg loom, but did nothing about it.  Now, I am the proud possessor of one of these wee beauties, and I'm having great fun with it, as I expected.  Just goes to show that procrastination gets in the way of fun, right?

This is one evening's weaving, about an hour's worth.  I watched a couple of YouTube tutorials, and they both suggested starting with a scarf, so here it is.  It's remarkably easy to use a peg loom.  This is worked with sari yarn, and it's really very firm; I think I should have used the other set of holes, which are slightly wider spaced, and made something less stiff...but you learn every time you do something.  I worked it with all the yarn I had on the ball, and produced a collar sized piece which I'm quite pleased with.

Given that I'm a texture fiend, I love the textures this loom produces, and am already thinking about how to use it with all kinds of things.

Part of the reason I'm doing this now is that I want to use these at the Hub.  For those of you who don't already know, I volunteer two mornings a week with adults with learning difficulties.  It has been a real learning experience for me, both as a giver of workshops and as an artist.  Some of the people in my group have issues with manual dexterity, so I'm always looking for things that would be easy for them to do.  The premises we work from aren't the best decorated, so the plan is to make rugs using this loom to cover the worst bits of the carpets, and to cheer the place up a bit.  If anyone locally (or not so locally) has any fabric scrap they would like to donate to a really good cause, this is your chance...please leave a message or email me for more information.  We would all be really, really grateful.

And maybe now I'll get the other loom set up, the floor loom in the studio... procrastination is the thief of fun, right...?

by marion barnett ( at April 13, 2014 01:14 PM

Margaret Cooter

Painting, engraving, authorship, and meaning - Magdalena de Passe

It's hard to imagine, from our image-saturated present day, how rarified access to art was, 500 years ago. Paintings were displayed in churches, and in the homes of the rich; such images were accessible elsewhere rarely if at all.

So it was collectors, and those involved in producing art, who had the most access to "pictures". And what were the pictures about? Religious themes (often including donor portraits), and depictions of myths. Starting in the 15th century Northern Renaissance, portraits of patrons became an important subject.

In the 16th century, Northern artists, mainly from the Netherlands (which by the way was being over-run by Spanish conquerors), brought back from Italy their own work influenced by the great Italian painters and currents in Italian art.

One such painter who went to live in Rome was the German Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610). He painted small-scale works on copper, and his influence comes from their translation into prints. The lighting effects in his work are remarkable, and Rubens struck up a friendship with him.

Another friend, at least at first, was Hendrick Goudt, who established his reputation with seven prints after Elsheimer at the start of the 17th century, and thereby publicised Elsheimer's work in northern Europe.
Elsheimer's Apollo and Coronis (26 x 32 cm): large-scale composition on a miniature level
Goudt must have shown his engravings, or possibly the original painting, to Magdalena de Passe, who produced her own engraving of a work known since 1951 as Apollo and Coronis. It is based on a story from Ovid's Metamorphoses, and was formerly thought to be of Cephalus and Procris - both stories involve jealousy and wife-killing.

Magdalena (1600-1638) was taught engraving by her father, Crispin de Passe, along with three of her brothers. The family was rooted in artistic circles - the mother was the niece of the painter Marten de Vos (d.1603; he had spent six years in Italy and brought the Venetian style to Antwerp). As Mennonites, Crispin and his family had had to move from Antwerp to Cologne to escape the Spanish and then to Utrecht. However, work they all did, producing more than 1400 engravings and 50 illustrated works.
Magdalena de Passe's engraving, 21 x 23 cm, with added text
The subject of painting and print (and hence their "meaning" or interpretation) had been contested, and the inscriptions below the image add further meanings, rooted in history. This work "bears all the characteristics of [the] singular and specialized mode of production [of engravings "after" paintings] ... she credits the painter in an elegant italic formula ... she includes a set of verses in Latin to sum up the moral implications of the scene ... she includes a dedication to a prestigious figure" says Stephen Bann in Nelson and Shiff, Critical Terms for Art History, 1996. "The work is enmeshed in a close texture of relationships which make it virtually impossible to separate out the stake of an individual authorship."

Bann compares literature and art - in literature, says the critic Harold Bloom, "there are no texts, but only relationships between texts", and the art historian Norman Bryson has extended this: "in the visual arts, tradition has an even more constraining effect because the image maker 'lacks access to any comparable flow (at least before the mass dissemination of imagery).'"

In the bottom left corner Magdalena put her own name and that of her father: "Magdalena Passaea Crisp. F. Fecit." Above that is a high-sounding dedication of the print, to the prince of Flemish painters, Rubens. The most significant northern exponent of the baroque, Rubens made Antwerp and Flanders the center of northern Italianate painting. The dedication is appropriate, as Rubens valued Elsheimer highly.

A 17th-century German painter, Joachim von Sandrart, warned of the limitations of engravings: by their very nature, they cannot achieve the "excellence" of paintings. (Around the time he wrote, engraving was being demoted from the "artistic" stratosphere, but that's another story.) Stephen Bann makes a case for Magdalena misinterpreting the painting. She has included four lines of Latin verse in a stylish italic hand, and these point out the dangers of ill-directed zeal and draw attention to the "unhappy Procris", who perished at the hands of her husband, or rather, by his javelin (which had been her gift to him as appeasement after a jealousy-producing incident). This is a confusion with the Apollo and Coronis story - Coronis perished from Apollo's impulsive act, again after a bout of jealousy, killed with an arrow - but Apollo, a healer (gathering herbs in the painting), saved their unborn son, who became the god of medicine, Aesculapius.

What is interesting about this mis-reading and mis-naming is that, in the light of the Latin verses, this engraving falls into a class of images espousing wifely virtue, and thus becomes appropriate for a marriage gift. Was Magdalena taking Goudt's title at face value, not bothering to check the details of the story, or was she looking to improve the saleability of the print among her Calvinist compatriots?

Bann hesitates to speculate on "the stake of this dutiful daughter ... in a representation of femininity which differs significantly from the one which Elsheimer intended ... the skillful craftswoman effaces herself behind the scene which she has patiently re-created in another medium."

by Margaret Cooter ( at April 13, 2014 09:42 AM

April 12, 2014

Margaret Cooter

Starting the painting project

"A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step." Don't know how far I'll be travelling with this notion of spending half an hour a day dabbing and swooshing various colours of paint here and there ... but the thing is to start, and then "que sera sera".

Out of the archive came this glued-up thing, about 12"x16" - I covered it with white (using a wide foam pad, and then a 1/2" brush to get into the cracks) and added other colours. It's as simple as that.

Various edges lifted and needed sticking down with blobs of paint. When it had dried, I sanded it a bit with coarse sandpaper, and it's ready to be transformed some more.

As for spending half an hour -- I got so caught up in "mending" the surface that an unknown amount of time passed...

by Margaret Cooter ( at April 12, 2014 07:27 PM

Olga Norris

Two completed pieces

My work takes an incalculable time to complete from initial idea to photography.  In the latest batch for photographing are these two, the first of which has been developing for years, and the second came about relatively quickly - in a year.
The piece above, Mixed messages contains elements which I have gathered over decades: much of the lettering and numbers in the left section is from tombs on the floor of Winchester Cathedral - photos taken when I was taking part in an exhibition there in the early 2000s.  Greek lettering in the right section was from photographs taken in a museum in Corfu.  Other elements include one of my childhood patterns for cross stitch, a piece of graffiti on the front door of my cousin's building in Thessaloniki when I was staying there with my mother just after she had her stroke, the For Sale sign on a house that we coveted on the sea shore in Bexhill, and my photo of the poster for the brilliant exhibition Unpopular Culture showing in Bexhill in 2008.
The coming together of all these elements into the initial design for this piece of work began in 2011.  In 2012 the design was complete enough for me to seek permissions from both subject and photographer of the Unpopular Culture image.  Both were granted and I then sent off the file for printing with a batch of other work.  Finally, it's turn came round for stitching and the next queue was awaiting sufficient work to make a decent pile for photography. 
One of the advantages of taking such a time to get to the end is that I really appreciate the piece after so many different viewings at various stages, and in between other work.  I enjoy my work.  (I had hoped to accelerate the making of this piece in order to enter it for a SAQA show, but it was not the right size, so, ... once again....)
One reason why Silkie, waiting was much faster is not only that the concept is simpler, but also I printed it myself onto an A3 sheet of silk prepared for inkjet printing.  The initial scribble pattern was made on a tiny piece of tissue paper (about A6), then scanned and the digital collage with the figure completed.  In this case also the stitching did not take that long (relative to my normal stitching times for individual works.)  It has spent more time in the photography queue.  But its companion piece, Silkies, waiting is indeed still waiting for the stitching to begin, and is also now competing for attention with the designs from this year's scribbles of the Cornish sea.

by Olga Norris ( at April 12, 2014 02:56 PM

Virginia A. Spiegel

“Intentional Printing” Java Art Exchange – You’re Invited!


Love java? Love art?  Love Lynn Krawczyk’s new book, Intentional Printing:  Simple Techniqes for Inspired Fabric Art?  

Please join us for the Intentional Printing Java Art Exchange.  Important Dates:

April 15, 2014: Deadline for commitment to participate
May 2, 2014: Deadline for completion of art
May 5, 2014: Artists will receive the e-mail of the artists to whom they should ship their java art. Artists will contact the new owners for a shipping address. You may need to ship your artwork outside the continental U.S.
May 9, 2014: Last day for artwork to be shipped by artists to the new owners.

All the details are here.

These are a few of my 6″ printed squares for the exchange – yet to be hand stitched.

by Virginia at April 12, 2014 12:06 PM

Margaret Cooter

More boro

More from the exhibition at Somerset House. Click on the images to enlarge.

by Margaret Cooter ( at April 12, 2014 12:33 PM

Pretty is as pretty does

Still thinking of making "something pretty" ... and wondering what "pretty" actually is. OK, it might be epitomised by pastel butterflies ... but those aren't what I have in mind ...

Going round my flat looking for pretty things, I found these patterns on bowls, quilty items, Persephone bookmarks -
Birds fit easily into my prettiness comfort zone. Colours ranging from the pastel to the strong but somewhat muted brights. A sense of space, of lightness. Orderliness, though not necessarily in a regimented way.

A focus group of female friends identified that pretty has to do with the feminine - they mentioned pastel colours, rounded shapes, petals, small or detailed patterning.

What does the dictionary say?
pretty: adjective - (especially of a woman or child) attractive in a delicate way without being truly beautiful;  pleasing to the eye or ear (from the Oxford Dictionary)


adjective, pret·ti·er, pret·ti·est.
pleasing or attractive to the eye, as by delicacy or gracefulness: a pretty face.
(of things, places, etc.) pleasing to the eye, especially without grandeur.
pleasing to the ear: a pretty tune.
pleasing to the mind or aesthetic taste: He writes pretty little stories.
(often used ironically) fine; grand: This is a pretty mess!" (via)

Note in 4. the conjunction of pretty and little! The word "pretty" seems to embody a diminution - "not truly beautiful"; colours diluted to pastel; shapes safely rounded.

"Pleasing to the eye" - that's not a bad thing. All too rare, some would say!

A related exercise is to find words for not-pretty art. How about: strong; immediate; raw; overworked; vivid; chaotic; frenzied; intense; dark ...

by Margaret Cooter ( at April 12, 2014 09:59 AM

Cynthia St. Charles

Circle Printing Blocks

 I am working a lot with circles and horizon lines these days.  I have created a lot of printing blocks for this series - using the blocks on postcards and working up to larger pieces. 

by Cynthia St Charles ( at April 12, 2014 07:28 AM

Carrot People #4

This piece is also finished and is the largest of the "Carrot People" series.  It measures 20 x 15" 

by Cynthia St Charles ( at April 12, 2014 06:00 AM

April 11, 2014

Margaret Cooter

Boro - words and details

The Boro exhibition at Somerset House till 26 April is well worth a visit. The textiles, of which there are many, are attached to stretched fabric on the wall, though in Japan they've been shown in folded heaps on the floor.

We were lucky to chat with Gordon Reece, who was instrumental in setting up the exhibition and indeed in collecting the works, and heard of how disregarded these textiles are in Japan - they are an embarrassment, a sign of poverty (as were the Canadian Red Cross quilts sent to homeless families in WW2). We value the frugality, and the abstract patterning - there are parallels with Gee's Bend quilts.

Click on the photos to enlarge them - it should make the words easier to read. A catalogue is available, but these texts aren't in it.

by Margaret Cooter ( at April 11, 2014 04:54 PM

Marion Barnett

Being Away From Home...

can be wonderful, but also a pain... the latter, when you forget your sketch book.  I had gone to the bus station to meet my friends Alison and Michael off the Inverness bus, had some time on my hands and...aaargh... no sketchbook.  Usually I have two or three in my bag.  Fortunately, I did find a card blank in there (no, I have no idea what it was doing there either).  That, a pen, courtesy of WH Smith, and fifteen spare minutes on a bench, produced this;

I've been mulling about shapes like these ever since I got back to painting.  Working in this format, though, made me wonder about making a book.  And some quilts.  So, an idea was born.  Notice that I write all over my sketches, just to remind myself of what the thinking was at the has moved on a bit from there, now.

I love the simplicity of sketches, and would like to make some stitched sketches in a similar vein... watch this space.  The series seems to have a title; 'Linescapes'.  These ones clearly tie up to landscape, but I think that overt marks like these will not last long; they come from one of my quilts, Norfolk Fields.

Although there is definitely a connection between the two, I think Linescapes is really about space, not about landscape per se.  It might be argued that there is no difference...but it feels like there is.Now to clear the decks so I can Get On With It.

by marion barnett ( at April 11, 2014 02:32 PM

Natalya Aikens

folk couture

Run! Don't walk, to see this totally fab exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum at Lincoln Center. It's only up until April 23rd. Here are a few of my favorite images to entice you. For a very thorough review go read Vivien's blog.
Ronaldus Shamask hanging from the ceiling
Fabio Costa
designers sketches - Gary Graham
more designer sketches (Fabio Costa)
I just love this little gem of a museum, wish it's bigger space didn't close....

by Natalya Aikens ( at April 11, 2014 01:24 PM

Margaret Cooter

Men at work

Great excitement at 136A, a dwelling often afflicted with shaking and rattling as buses speed down the road outside, hitting the dips and bouncing up again. It gradually gets worse, and there comes a point when you notice the cracks are getting wider...

This time, such a speedy response - less than 24 hours after the situation was reported to Islington Council, the repair team brought asphalt and filled in the dips - well done, guys!

And the bonus is: the bus passengers are getting a smoother ride.

by Margaret Cooter ( at April 11, 2014 11:17 AM

New in the notebook

This came out of nowhere one evening when I was listening to catch-up radio, a programme called "500 years of friendship" in fact. Seeing a nice blank page, my pen started writing down words and it developed from there, with the words written in all directions, concentrating on grouping words of the same length and starting new groupings here and there, now and then.

This leaves you with only the vaguest idea of what the programme was about (because you're concentrating on catching the next usable word, and thinking where to put it) - and reading the finished item isn't much help, because the words have been put all over the place rather than in sequence.

But it gives you the illusion of paying great attention, and not leaving the hands idle. Those were 15-minute programmes - The Verb is 45 minutes -
Looking at the negative space, I'm seeing ... not a house plan ... more like a maze ...

More "constructive doodling" - while hanging on the phone trying to get a PAC code, with music playing (9 songs) that I'd rather not have been listening to! After a while it got almost interesting - a chance to extend the mark-making repertoire -

(This post is linked to Off the Wall Friday - where you can see what lots of creative people are up to.)

by Margaret Cooter ( at April 11, 2014 11:06 AM

Doll-like objects

These are children's dolls made by the Nenets tribe in north-western Russia -
What do you think their heads are made of? The label at the Polar Museum in Cambridge reads: "Dolls are made from the upper bill of a duck or goose, with the beak representing a person's head. Along with carved wooden reindeer and miniature sledges, children use beak dolls to enact scenes of everyday life such as lassoing reindeer or migrating to a new campsite. Beaks are obtained in May during the spring hunting season when ducks and geese from southern regions (including Britain) fly to nest in the tundra. There they constitute the main diet for herders at a season when reindeer meat is scarce, as reindeer are not slaughtered in the calving season."

Less exotic are these figures seen recently in Selfridges -
They're designed by Alexander Girard (1907-93), who designed much else, including textiles for Ray and Charles Eames. He had an extensive folk art collection (now housed in Santa Fe), and obviously loved colour and pattern. The year before his death, he gave the contents of his studio to the Vitra Design Museum.

by Margaret Cooter ( at April 11, 2014 09:27 AM

Cynthia St. Charles

Carrot People Mixed Media #1, 2, 3

I have been working with mixed media the past several months.

 Because the process involves adding layer after layer - with lots of drying between layers - (usually at least half the day), I decided to work in series - keeping with similar color families and design elements for the entire group.  To do this, I cut my 15 x 20" illustration boards into smaller sizes.  This group of three is sized 9" x 5".  I did not take any pictures of these in progress, so you are seeing the finished pieces here.  At least, I think they are finished.   The final layer - the screen print of the carrot people petroglyph gives them their name - "Carrot People #1, 2, 3.

by Cynthia St Charles ( at April 11, 2014 06:00 AM