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This will be my final post showing all the work I completed as Artist in Residence at Winterbourne House & Gardens. This post features the Textile work that I’ve done – not the printed pieces or pattern designs which I’ve already showed you but the embroidery pieces.

These may have started life as printed textiles which were then embellished with stitch but they have come to life as either hand or machine embroidered works of art.

I had grand plans to do much more; Margaret Nettlefold (one of the original home owners) was very fond of needlework herself and so it was very in keeping to follow this line of response.

However if you’ve ever done any embroidery yourself, you’ll know how time consuming it is. The chair featured here is an old oak chair from WH&G and emulates the chair seat cover that Margaret herself made which is on show in the house.

And so that ends this chapter of work for me. It has challenged and inspired me as an artist.

I can’t remember having such a long-standing project before which is a lesson in pace and stamina in itself.

It’s been a real treat to have had this opportunity and whilst I could still do it all again and find I haven’t enough time, I am also complete and ready to focus on new inspiration to work from.

Here in no particular order of date painted or size, are the 12 paintings I have completed as part of my Artist in Residency at Winterbourne House and Gardens, Birmingham University.
I like to work in many styles as a response to what I’m seeing to paint.
Most are gouache watercolour layered up with texture and washes of colour. But there are also a couple of mixed media pieces with acrylic.
I started out with grand plans to document the seasons passing or the same plants at different points in time but actually I was quickly over whelmed by how much growing goes on and how much there was to document in so many valid ways.
In the end I opted for a simple formula – I painted whatever brought me joy, whenever, wherever it did.
This project has stretched and challenged my ability as an artist to capture landscape, light, the feel of a place and working to represent a lot of visual information even in smaller works.

The first print design I made back in Spring 2019 as part of my Residency at Winterbourne HG is also the last I have to show you here.

I had been quietly sketching in the Walled Garden when a mouse felt brave enough to leave one bed, cross the grass and dive into another just to my side.

That mouse made it into the print as did the flowers and birds that I observed around the site at the time.

It’s been test printed up in a number of colour-ways by heat-press transfer printing and screen-printed by hand after I’d exposed a screen but ultimately the details are so fine that it’s only got digital printing in it’s future.

It nearly got birthed as wrapping paper for the shop but in the end the margins for production on it weren’t viable – such is the life of a designer; making by hand is the most satisfying and sometimes also the least! But it remains a firm favourite of mine and I hope one day it can show the world it’s charm.

This time last year a part of Winterbourne Garden was a riot of tall Poppies. It makes me a little sad to think that they are there again this year and we can’t get to see them.

Poppies are a favourite flower of mine to interpret; there’s just something satisfying to my eye about the shape of the flower – and they’re my favourite colour.

They also lend themselves very easily as a shape which is easily translatable into a screen-print stencil.

I was playing around with the translucency of the printing ink by adding in more binder to ‘thin’ the colour (a little like adding water to paint to dilute it)

I was happily printing and drying, printing and drying… when 6 HOURS later I dropped a dirty squeegee on the corner of it destroying the perfect print.

I had to walk away and leave it for a bit to think about how I could save it.  I used freezer paper stencils to finish the center of the flowers but added to the conundrum by using an ink which was very opaque (too much so) which spoilt the effect somewhat.

It sat in a pile in my studio for months. Many times I thought of putting it away for other uses but the colours and shapes just wouldn’t detach from desire to save it.

Eventually, having woken one day in a decisive mood, I cut (cropped) it heavily; fitting it to a pillow infill I had and then put some embroidery stitches to work to enhance the flower centers which needed sharpening visually.

And now I love it and am so glad I saw it through. Here’s to pererverance.

One of my favourite plants at Winterbourne is the Ginkgo biloba tree. It’s a lovely green through to yellow and then when the leaves fall they dry nicely and are sturdy enough to last a few rounds with an artist.

I wanted to create a fabric that reflected the fall of leaves by printing one colour upon another. Not to spoil the punchline but in choosing to do this through heat-press printing I think I stacked the odds against myself. But I did choose that method and here’s why it was the ‘wrong’ method for the outcome. Heat reactive dyes don’t paint out in the colour they will print to be – you have to mix it up using 25% knowledge and 75% hope. You can see above that I wrote out colour recipes and did little test samples but even that didn’t act as a reliable repeat receipe.

Heat reactive dyes transfer their colour from paper to fabric in a heat press (or under an iron if its hot and heavy enough) I made several papers from the colours I’d mixed up and painted the dye on using brush techniques witch would emulate the fan shape of ridges on the Ginkgo leaf.

 

The tricky part in my project was thinking and working from the base layer up – I knew what I wanted to do; which was to print pale tones of the leaves at the bottom and then do several more layers of colours becoming stronger each time. What happened was that the dyes were either mixed to be too strong in tone or variations in the temperature or time in the heat press caused some of the base layers to come out shouting ‘look at me!’

I did persevere and got some nice areas of overlaying colour. The rhythm of the leaves as they fell on the ground got lost a little because of working in reverse and the tricky job of laying all the pieces out and getting them into the heat press without moving them at all. I had painted some ridges in using what I thought to be a pale tawny brown but was in fact almost black – to counter balance that I used fabric foiling to knock them back; doesn’t a bit of glitter away distract the eye!

 

In the end I stopped once this sample piece was completed and called it a cushion cover. I didn’t want to persue it enough to make an actual fabric length of it. It has an aesthetic all of it’s own and not one I recognise as being mine! But in the round, process and reflection are great learning markers and when the day comes to try and capture those leaves again I will employ screen printing techniques which will make the process easier and more controllable and the outcome perhaps closer to what I’d intended. Until then here is a finished sample which is also a work in progress.

Historically an C18th Toile du Jouy is a pattern depicting some kind of a complex country/farming scene, usually a single colour (pink, coral, black, blue) printed onto cream or white linen.

I wanted to capture something of the life of Winterbourne House & Gardens- it’s workers and visitors and so I opted to translate some photos and sketches into a modern-day Toile du Jouy.

I appropriated the icons of the house and gardens such as the chinese-style bridge, the four-bed walled garden, one of the many greenhouse, the house itself of course and people I witnessed reading, working and enjoying the grounds, to link all the little islands of places in the fabric design.

Summer Border was one of those easy designs that came about when I least expected (or planned) for it.

When I remember back, I was feeling the need to just sit and paint quietly and re-balance my equilibrium. So I did just that, looking at reference photos I had taken I simply let the flowers fill the page.

There was just something that hit the spot about the flow of shapes and colours and after a minimal amount of cleaning and duplication of elements, I had it in technical repeat. You can see the repeat below.

It’s always fun to then play around with the background colour but I came full circle back to the original white as all the colours work on it and it keeps it fresh.

With the best will in the world there’s no way I could print this by hand using a screen – I shall use a digital printer to reproduce this when  it’s time to exhibit a length.

 

 

This print gets its name and colour from one of the flowers featured in it; the Dianthus or Pink. It’s one of my favourite flowers both to paint and draw and to grow at home.

I used a screen printing technique called screen filler; a thick blue gel which is painted onto the screen to keep the mesh free and printable once the whole process is completed. Once this gel is dry another red solution is squeegeed over (as seen above) and once that’s dry you can wash the gel out leaving the pattern you painted in as step 1. It’s a great way to create prints that capture a real hand-painted feel.

I made things a little more complicated for myself by painting the screen imagery design in repeat and then registering each screen (and there were many as it was such a diddy sized screen) on my table top in my home studio. There’s a fun little time-lapse video of the process here. Many print pulls and a lot of drying time later, it did need a few hand-painted elements filled into gaps that has appeared through inaccurate alignments but you’d never notice so I won’t say anymore 😉

Screen printing is one of my reasons for living. There is something delicious to me about flattening imagery into printable shapes. Add-in some effects which bring texture and then layer up colours over one another and it all becomes a joyful alchemy!

I’ve drawn many images while being Artist-in-Residence at Winterbourne Gardens theses past 18 months – too many to actually use to complete all the designs in my head- but Foxgloves came to full fruition.

On a very hot July day I sat in the cool shade drawing these humble but beautiful flowers (I also came home inspired to sow Foxglove seeds which are now planted up and days away from flowering here at home)

It occurred to me that a print technique I use which utilises talcum powder as a print resist, would make the perfect replication of the spattering pattern found in the interior of a Foxglove flower.

I cut several stencils to overlay each other so that I could build the plant images in 3 colours through 3 screen pulls of colour. Then at the last minute inspiration struck and I opted to mix the colours directly through the action of flooding the screen with ink, resulting in a swirl of colour.

I will often print and pile-up but this pandemic has afforded me the time to stop and assess work already done rather than continuing on the treadmill of making more. And so the Foxgloves have found a final resting place; a resting place my head will enjoy too.

 

This print Alyssum, is one I’ve developed as part of my Artist in Residence work at Winterbourne House & Gardens, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston.

It began with a painted sketch done on site which was then cleaned up on the computer and digitally altered into a repeating pattern. I also played around with colour options settling for white on a colour background as I felt it best represented the flower itself. Using a sublimation printer, I then printed a piece of heat-transfer paper and printed some fabric using the heat-press.

Then I ran up a cushion and added some bobble trim et le voici!

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