Although I have never had the pleasure of meeting "Chomsky", from his photographs I would say that he has shed loads of personality and I absolutely loved the photo that his owner and I decided should be the one I worked from. Apparently he is a cross between a Siamese and Tabby cat and he's also slightly cross-eyed.
His owner requested a background of purple and green Harris Tweeds similar to the one I'd used in a previous picture of "Blossom" the angora goat. I also decided to use a grey/black herringbone Harris Tweed as the background for his fur and a pale yellowish green Harris Tweed for his eyes.
Although I loved the photo I was working from and ultimately I would say that I enjoyed doing this picture, I think it will be my last animal portrait as they are just so very challenging. I'd say that overall this picture took me twice as long as a picture of this size (12" x 12") usually does (35-40 hours) and it was easily the hardest thing I have ever done because it was just SO difficult to get his face right. I am really pleased with the end result, as is Chomsky's owner. But my husband Keith will tell you there was much bad language and talk of giving up half way through, when I just couldn't get the nose and eyes right. Anyway he's done now and so onto more pictures for my Bakehouse Gallery exhibition next summer.
Thank you to everyone who came to see us at Yarndale last weekend. We had a fantastic time and it was great to see so many people, old friends and new. The dates have been announced for next year's Yarndale, so make a note in your diary -
Saturday 29th September 2018 : 10am - 5.30pm
Sunday 30th September 2018 : 10am - 4.30pm.
Yarndale - Skipton Auction Mart, Gargrave Road, Skipton, North Yorkshire. BD23 1 UD
The above new pictures are all destined for an exhibition to be held at the Bakehouse Gallery, Alnwick in late summer/early autumn 2018.
It would be fair to say that I wouldn't be where I am today without the help and support of Fiona Stanley, the owner of The Bakehouse Gallery. Fiona had faith in me in the very early days, when I was too shy to show gallery owners my work and I made Keith go on my behalf. Fiona was also the first person to exhibit my Harris Tweed rag rugs and she encouraged me to have my first exhibition of my needle felted Harris Tweed work in her gallery back in 2011. Fiona has continually exhibited my work since those early days, and it will be great to have a full exhibition in her gallery again.
So now I need to really knuckle down and produce at least another 8 pieces of work for the exhibition. This will be a bit of a challenge as I have to be careful not to work too long at any one time since I injured my right arm through overworking. So what with this physical limitation and being busy with the business side of things, it can often take 6 - 8 weeks to finish a picture.
I will show these pictures and any other new work destined for the exhibition on my Tweed Originals page, but they will not actually be for sale until they go on display as part of the exhibition.
I'm really excited as issue 163 of Be Creative with Workbox magazine is going to feature one of my pictures ("Left Bank Kirkcudbright") in the magazine's gallery pages. The magazine goes on sale on August 11th so I shall be rushing out to get my copy! I've also been told that the magazine will be publishing an article about me and my work in issue 165. I'm a very happy and very lucky girl!
Summer is a really busy time for us and I realise that I haven't posted anything in a while. Can't complain about being busy though as it's all good stuff, with lots of orders coming in for cards and prints. I'm also trying to build up some work for another pop-up exhibition with the Left Bank Gallery at the Harbour Cottage Gallery in Kirkcudbright next June.
As well as being busy with work, we often get friends and family coming to stay in the summer when it's not too cold on our lovely Northumbrian beaches. One group of guests were even brave enough to swim in the sea. They did wear wet suits though. As well as all this, I finally managed to get the roof on my studio replaced, as it's been leaking for some time.
I work in a small conservatory attached to our house and it is absolutely rammed full of stuff, all of which had to be removed and stored elsewhere within the house. I would say that an artist's workroom can almost be considered as a work of art in itself, as it's such a personal accumulation and display of stuff. So I was quite sad about having to have to dismantle mine, as I knew it would never be the same again. For all it's limitations, small, freezing in winter, scorching hot in summer, it's a lovely room and it's full of daft little things I've collected or been given. Anyway I decided to preserve it for posterity by making a little video.
Typically the cats loved the adventure of the room being dismantled and watched the builders with great interest from the bedroom windows. Audrey decided to take up residence on my tweed stash for the few days it was stored on our kitchen table. Everything is back in the studio now, except for quite a few disgruntled spiders, cobwebs and dust. The new roof is definitely watertight as it's been stress tested by the recent torrential rain and even an August hail storm. Dean and his team from The Roof Doctor did a grand job. So I can now stop worrying about my leaky roof and what a very clean and tidy studio I have now!
I'm so proud and excited as my work has been featured in the May edition of Homespun magazine.
Homespun is an Australian magazine that bridges the gap between classic crafting and contemporary edge. Each monthly issue brings inspiration, ideas and step-by-step projects from the world’s best textile artists and makers. Homespun takes a modern approach to textile crafts and provides the perfect blend of contemporary and traditional projects, which has landed the magazine with two major publishing awards. Homespun appeals to both the new wave of young crafters keen for ideas-driven ingenuity as well as traditional stitchers. Their motto is “Your Heart in Your Hands”. And that just about sums it up!
To find out more visit www.homespun.net.au or on facebook at www.facebook.com/homespunmag
In this video I'm adding the details to my latest picture of Sanderlings, not Sandpipers as I say for some reason!.These are small sea wading birds that live on the coast near where we live in Northumberland. They tend to run along the shoreline in small groups dodging the waves and feeding on the wet sand. I needle felt the details using a wide variety of wool yarns, some of which you can see in the photo below.
For this particular picture there are 3 very special wool yarns that I could have not have managed without. Firstly there's 2 very pale grey yarns, 1 made of Shetland wool and 1 made of Suffolk wool that I got Jenny Howes of Sky Blue Pink Designs to hand spin for me. Then there's the hand dyed blue boucle yarn made from Herdwick wool that I bought from the Wool Clip in Cumbria. If you're interested in wool related crafts and you're in the Lake District, The Wool Clip is a fantastic place to visit as they "grow it, sew it, spin, weave and dye it, knit, crochet and felt it, hook with it, tuft with it and stuff with it."
The picture isn't quite finished yet but here's a bit of a rubbish photo of work so far. I've really enjoyed working on this one as I just love a seascape. I'd just like to point out that the photo was taken at a bit of an angle and the horizon is not really tilting at an alarming angle! It should be finished in a few days and then it's off to the printers to be scanned for prints and cards.
This is the story behind my latest Harris Tweed painting of snowdrops.
The main feature of Rock Village where I live in Northumberland is the mill pond, which is surrounded by woodland and in February these woodlands are covered in a carpet of snowdrops. They are such a welcome sight as it means that winter will be over soon and this year I was inspired to do a picture of them. I spent quite a bit of time lying flat on my stomach amongst the snowdrops, as carefully as I could to avoid causing too much damage and took lots of photos and the above video. I got a few strange looks from dog walkers.but never mind.
In the end I decided to create a composite picture based on what it was like to be right down amongst the snowdrops, rather than standing above them and looking down. This is the line drawing I came up with.
I always start my pictures with a line drawing. I cut this line drawing up and use the pieces as you would a dressmaker's pattern, pinning them to the tweeds to make sure that I cut them all to exactly the right size and shape. I then often stick the picture back together again to use it for reference, which is why some of the pieces in the above picture aren't exactly in the right place.
This is a photo of the finished Harris Tweed painting. Although this is a very small picture at only 23.5 cm square, it has still taken me about 25 hours to finish it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the white tweed I've used was woven specially to make a wedding dress and so it's a bit finer than most of the Harris Tweeds I work with. This means it's also a lot more prone to fraying as a result of being needle felted. So I've had to be really gentle with it and go carefully. Secondly, my design turned out to be extremely complicated to make up as it was very fiddly to cut, fit and felt so many small and delicate pieces of tweed together. Never mind, it's good to give yourself a challenge. Now that it's finished it will be sent off to the printer to be electronically scanned and I'll get a print proof back and an electronic image, which will then get sent off to the greeting card printers.
It's Saturday morning and I'm home alone, which is quite rare. I have been meaning to write this blog for about 10 days now, but ironically I haven't had time. The reason it’s ironic, is that this blog is about not having enough time or space.
I am very, very lucky to be able to earn my living as an artist working from my home in rural Northumberland. But it can get a bit lonely and I find that I need contact with other creative people on a reasonably regular basis, or else I get a bit down and de-motivated. So I try to meet up with friends with similar interests fairly regularly and it just so happens that they are all women and all self employed.
Recently I have been struck by the fact that the conversations we have together often centre on finding the time and space to do it all. I should say at that point that they all have it far worse than me as they all have teenage children, which appear to be almost as big a time suck as toddlers. Anyway, I am not moaning about the lot of women here, but I have been reflecting a lot about how self employed women manage their time, space and roles, especially when working from home.
I know that not having enough time is an issue for most people, but when you are working from home it can be hard to be strict about good time management. For women this can often mean that their time is continually drained away by managing their home and the needs of their family. So they end up snatching brief moments to run their business, often when they are tired and not at their best.
Also when you work from home your work space and living space become one. So not only do you continually see all the domestic chores that need to be done, but you also see all the business chores that need to be done as well. For some people, this can mean that it becomes very difficult to give yourself permission to have down time, where you do nothing.
Finding enough physical space to work at home can also be a problem. I am lucky as I have a lovely little conservatory to work from (pictured above) and I can close the door on this. Mind you there are 3 other rooms in the house that are now full of greetings cards, prints and packaging! One of my friends who works from home has no designated work area and has to work on the kitchen table and store her stuff where she can around the house.
Finally, I want to talk about head space, which in my opinion is also vital if you are an artist or run your own business. I think you need head space in order to think creatively and by head space I mean taking a break from thinking about day to day life and worries. Although I really do not like winter, this is the time when I am at my most creative these days and I think it’s no coincidence that this is the quietest time for us as a business. Getting into the zone takes time. But you also need to be able to physically get away from the demands of your day to day life, either by leaving your home/workplace or shutting yourself away in a room of one’s own. In my opinion head space is the trickiest space to find of all. Now I really should be getting on with last night’s dirty dishes......
This is a lovely local craft fair organised by Alnwick's very own Bailiffgate Museum. The museum is very much a people’s museum, where fascinating stories of the past are told about the town and district of Alnwick. The museum is independently run and housed in a beautiful old church in the town's historic quarter. In addition to the shop and museum displays downstairs, there is also a large gallery area upstairs where you can see a variety of exhibitions throughout the year.
The museum supports local artists and makers by selling their work in the museum shop and putting on regular art exhibitions. As the museum have hand-picked the all the stall holders you can expect the items on sale to be high quality and locally made. There'll also be tea, coffee and lots of homemade cakes. We'll be there selling our cards and prints and hope to see you there.
I am a Northumberland based textile artist and I create needle felted paintings with Harris Tweed and wool yarns.