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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!

You know what they say about making Cyanotype prints while the sun shines?! Yesterday was a fun Cyanotype printing day but I’ve been prepping for this project for some time. Here’s a little of how I went about it for those interested.

Back in early Spring when plants were just putting out their teeny tiny leaves, I braved the frost to cut and press some of them because I knew the size would be perfect for some illustrative cyanotype prints. The down size was trying to pick them up in a dimly lit room but more on that later.

I used the Jacquard Cyanotype set and coated the fabrics one night once it had got dark. It wasn’t all that easy – all I’ll say is get everything laid out right side up and have plenty of room and plastic to lay them out to dry but expect to be doing it fairly blind. I then put them in a lightfast box before going to bed so that the morning sun didn’t begin processing them before I was ready.

I was also really prepared with what I wanted to create and laid all the elements out on trays in an organised fashion. I began in one of our shadier rooms but as the sun came round the fabric began exposing while I was setting it up so I ended up in our outhouse which has no windows – this did mean that a lot of what I was doing was from memory and not because I could particularly see well.  A lot of the lovelier small or fragile items didn’t get used because I simply couldn’t see to pick them up!

These two photos show the treated fabric changing from green to blue as the sun begins to process the chemicals and the resulting print – this one was a really deep indigo which I put down to it being a 100% cotton fabric.

I tried coating a variety of fabrics – polyester, nylon/cotton mixes, textures, old cotton and linens. My favourite results were the high cotton content fabrics but the nylons do have some winning results such as the shine and the ghostly quality. I intend sewing into mine so I’m happy at this stage if the print isn’t 100% perfect.

I also prepped some acetates of my own hand-drawn elements taken from pattern designs I’ve made. They don’t print as cleanly as paper or solid objects and the acetate edge can catch the light if the sun is at a low angle; but it’s a great way to incorporate your own design personality into your prints.

This is a gold polyester print – a lot of the coating washed out of the fabric so it’s a very pale print. I wouldn’t waste the product on non-cottons again but I’m glad to have experienced the difference.

This is a selection of my favourite illustrative prints. Where there are white empty spaces I intend to fill in with stitches and fabric foiling.

I had a lot of success with vintage doilies and lace and through trial and error realised that the item closest to the fabric prints the strongest which made layering up items interesting (in other words the opposite to the picture below – bird/rabbit underneath doily to print).

This one is going to get framed just as it is as there something perfect about it to me.

The acetate allows some light through (it isn’t as good at masking as black card is) but it does create a blue print rather than a solid white space( see rabbit below)  so that adds an extra layer of interest.

Some of the fabrics with an unidentified mix of cotton/polyester gave up prints on a different scale of blue -these  will have also have their uses as contrasts once I start cutting and sewing. Its a much softer result.

Some even came out a lovely Colbalt blue.

Each print took 30 mins in the UK sun (on a hot sunny day for us) so it was a time consuming activity and I’d coated a lot of fabric so it was a long days work. I believe (from inference) that you can store coated fabrics for sometime in the dark but we don’t often have reliably sunny days so I went for it while I could which was the right call as it’s cloudy today.

 I think I’ve made enough stock to keep me busy for sometime anyway!

So here’s my top-tips for cyanotype sun-printing if you think you’re going to give it a go:

You need to weigh the items down on the fabric to print with some glass or acetate – so measure your fabric prior to coating so that it’s not bigger than your glass. Otherwise you print the edge of the glass.

Once you’ve coated your materials and put them in a dark place try and create a system so that you know which is coated-side up. I got into a muddle and wasn’t always sure I’d printed on the side I’d painted the chemicals onto.

Know your materials before you go into the ‘darkroom’ to place them on the fabric. Maybe even lay them out ready. And I found having things on a lightly coloured tray helped me to see what the shape was in the dark!

If you want indigo prints then stick to high cotton content fabrics.

I’m glad to say I still have another half a bottle of each of the chemicals so can mull over repeating this activity again.

How the time just flies by! There I was preparing a catch up blog post about my work as Artist-in-Residence at Winterbourne House and Gardens and then all of a sudden the weather has changed, the gardens developed and what I had to show you looks distinctly wintery!

This week has been glorious, unlike the preceeding two which rained on and off so much I couldn’t chance getting out to draw or paint without a small soaking. Consequently the gardens are thriving and growing. The Anthemis border looks absolutely stunning at the moment and is top of my list to work on given long enough to do so.

I spent a day drawing arounds the grounds on Monday (and looking at old maps in the archives) getting some visual reference for some print work I’m doing and also some embroidery.

Prior to that April brought a beautiful Flowering Japonica which grew all white and blossomy in a dark corner of the garden providing lots of contrast.

I’m spinning a lot of plates atm on a lot of projects and the only way I can move forward is to do a little on all fronts and wait for the bucket to fill! I’m working in bursts when time allows but importantly, enjoying all the variety. This week in preparation of teaching my MAC Birmingham students how to print in repeat, I drew on Mondays Foxglove studies and printed a nodding row of these lovely flowers.

And if you’re interested in stitching and embroidery, this lovely workshop at Winterbourne is on sale now and you can read about it here – it’d be lovely to meet you in real life 🙂

 

Our trip to Southern Asia earlier this year (here, here, here and here) was rich in visual and cultural inspiration.

I’ve honestly felt a little overwhelmed by how deep and far I could go into this vibrant feast of creative stimulus and output – whether to start with painting or stitch or print. And all the while I’m spinning the other plates of my self-employment as an artist: delivery/teaching and all the admin that it takes to run a small business. It can be distracting and actually difficult to get time to be creative some weeks.

So I just began. One day unceremoniously. Just where I was. No fanfare or special time set aside. I just started. I took off simply by doing a little each day – whatever I had time for.

As I teach screen-printing and mixed media textiles twice a week at MAC, I kicked off this intention by focusing my preparation for these classes on my Asia photos – and I have a lot to choose from as I took nearly 7000! inc duplicates for a better shot – you know? So to make that task less anxiety inducing, I split those into files: Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. I currently haven’t got to the end of the 2.243 photos taken in Malaysia!

So if I was demonstrating cutting a screen-print stencil I based it on a motif from of a beautiful textile in the National Textile Museum in Kuala Lumpur or if I was making an example of free-machine embroidery for my Mixed Media Textiles class I referenced a drawing I’d done from a beautiful silk kimono.

Sometimes that was a basic quick line drawing, other times I had paints out to use. On some evenings I have doodled in front of the TV on my ipad pro – not that I’m especially proficient but it’s a great way to easily draw and digitalise your handwork.

It’s true what they say about ‘a little and often’ –  gradually my pile of Asia work is coming to life.

On Saturday 18th May 2019 The Tutors Exhibition  – at macbirmingham opens and in it will be one of my pattern design pieces and products – would you like to hear the story of how it came about?

I recently watched The Creative Brain on Netflix, which advocated the importance of open-ended play for creativity to blossom and this, is very much a story of that process too.

It all began with a painting I did one afternoon where I textured up a piece of watercolour paper with a lovely deckled edge and then overlaid white paint leaving the negative space to describe birds flying. And that was it – that piece of creativity sparked something else and off I went down that rabbit hole leaving this painting in the plan-chest drawer for a few months.

Then by a series of serendipitous events I found myself a member of the wonderful SteamhouseUK community where I get to play about with the most amazing array of machines and learn techniques and processes that have been invented since I was last in college.

Sublimation printing (or dye sublimation printing as it is sometimes also known) is the process of transferring images onto a fabric (or other substrate) using a heat-press to print the image. At macbirmingham we have a heat-press and we use disperse dyes to paint and print onto paper which can then be heat-pressed onto fabric (if you think that sounds fun come along to my Tues afternoon class and have a go!)

But I had never hoped to ever have access to using an actual Sublimation printer until now! In this case the disperse dyes are in the printer ink cartridges and the computer sends your image to print onto heat resistant paper in wide format.

At Steamhouse the heat-press can print onto fabric up to 175cm in width. The heat-press technique is also great for capturing textures in designs onto fabric. The Tutors show was coming up. All this got me thinking what could I make with the size of fabric that I could print to exhibit for the show?

One morning I woke up with the answer ringing clearly in my mind and it didn’t take long to make it a reality – I’m single-minded like that sometimes – use the Swifts painting to make a pattern and construct a kimono!

The pattern had to be cut down the back and re-seamed in order for all the pieces to fit one at a time into the heat-press for printing and the Swifts pattern was easy enough to put into technical repeat using Photoshop so that I could use the sublimation printer to print an all over repeating pattern.

After that it was a steady job to sew it all together nicely including a partial lining so it looked good hanging up for exhibition.

If you’re local and can make it to MAC to see the show ( – Tues – Sun, 11am – 5pm, First Floor Gallery) you’ll see that kimono hanging on the wall and who knows, after the exhibition is over I may even wear it 😉

Still catching up my blog – back in January I re-introduced myself on Instagram after realising that even my old friends weren’t really sure what I do day-to-day. So here it is for any of you who’d like to know too 😉

Hi friends, family and followers HNY! 🍾
I met an old friend who’d I’d lost touch with and it made me realise that these pictures here don’t fully describe my Work Life and so I’m starting a fresh year with one of those little Insta intro’s people do….
28 years ago I graduated in Textile Design specialising in Printed Textiles.
26 years ago I got my teaching qualification and began teaching Primary-aged kids with a specialism in kids with Additional Needs.
7 years ago I stepped out of the school classroom and into other places and spaces where I can teach people, work with kids and develop my own art practice.
👩🏻‍🎨 I’m an artist at heart and I love to paint. And print. And add colour to things. And meet people and share art and creativity and the good it brings.
📆I hardly have a typical week (which I love) but it might look like this:
🖼 I spend some of my time painting pictures to sell and until May 2020 I have the whole of Winterbourne House and Gardens @winterbournehg to inspire me as I am Artist in Residence there @artist_winterbournehg come and follow that account too if you like!
🌳🏢I work regularly @macbirmingham teaching Mixed Media Textiles on a Thurs night, Pattern-design/Screen-printing and Heat Transfer-printing on a Tues afternoon, running a Baby Creative class (messy/sensory play) and also the cutest Toddler Art Group. 👬👭
Then there’s work that comes in blocks such as delivering a whole range of multi-disciplinary workshops locally at places like @birmingham_mag and @winterbournehg for adults and children, working with local and national social enterprise groups developing skills with a group of refugees and offering paint-therapy for ShelterUK and I also take workshops and demonstrations on the road to art groups as far as my travelling time can take me.
🤫I design patterns commercially using any number of ways; print methods, stitch and all sorts of paint techniques and a local print agent takes them out to the textile fairs to sell them on my behalf. It’s secret work (copyright issues) and not often seen here.
📺 And of a night I still knit, weave, stitch and crochet in front of the telly because I love to.

Thank you for reading if you got this far x

This week I got one of my much-liked London fixes by popping down to see a couple of exhibitions.

First up was Oceania at the Royal Academy which was equal parts inspiring, educating and humbling.

The show is made up of ethnographic collections dating from the 18th century to the present with a free audio guide explaining the thought behind practises which go much deeper than simply surface decoration or use.

I thought it was a clever idea to look at what else was happening in the world when the RA was being founded… the answer was Captain Cooks discovery of the island civilisations from Tahiti in Polynesia, to the scattered archipelagos and islands of Melanesia and Micronesia – all collectively known as Oceania.

The indigenous populations they met came with their own histories and practices of social and artistic traditions. There is a rather sobering (and very well done) video graphic of the impact European adventurers had on these communities that we are now re-evaluating without the assurity and self righteousness of previous generations.

So there is a lot to wonder at, understand and learn in this exhibition and of course there is always pattern to be found!

Just back from a few days away in Portugal – Lisbon and Sintra.

Here’s Lisbon looking moody (read that as bad weather) My umbrella, gloves and hat were the best things I packed.


When in Portugal you must partake of the Pastel de nata – a Portuguese egg tart pastry that it’s famous for.

And of course there are old and new tiled buildings everywhere.

Heaven for the pattern lover here!

This was my favourite tile and that’s no men feat because I probably photographed 50 plus!

And of course one must ride on and also photograph the ubiquitous old yellow tram.

We also went out to Sintra (an hour away from Lisbon) a lovely rich, old town bursting with old palaces and old mansions with beautiful gardens to explore. The stand-out place being this: The Pena Palace.

There are more (and different) photos over on my Instagram account  here if you enjoyed.

 

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Did you notice I’d spruced up the website? New, fresh work samples in the portfolios, updated text and more representational photos of me…i.e. older looking!

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As any sole trader will tell you, there’s a gazzillion things one could do with every hour of working time and for me the thing that slips is the website maintenance. But it’s been worth all the slog as I think it looks great and just like any good clear up (once it’s done) its been cathartic and satisfying.

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Hope you enjoy it too.

I have a ta-dah for you today – a tablecloth I hand-printed recently.

One reason I like to keep blogging is to record such things – when I looked back to see when I started my Fish project, I was surprised to see the date on the upload was May 2017. It takes a long time for some ideas to percolate and evolve and then actually get made.

You can find the beginning of my Fish sketchbook workings here and here although the actual inspiration came back in Summer 2016 whilst on holiday in France when I saw a lovely tablecloth in Fragonard.

I’m very lucky to have the best p/t job freelancing at MAC Birmingham the most brilliant arts center.

And sometimes I can use the space which I needed to for this big print job.

As you can see, the following day I wasn’t so fortunate and was squeezed onto the floor of my studio at home!

It took about 20 hours to print using around 10 colours so I won’t be going into production anytime soon but it’s important to art-play as it releases surprising creative avenues.

And it did – 6 fishy themed surface pattern designs got designed last week to go to market. Now wo’betide anyone who spills red wine on it!

 

 

 

 

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