Monday, 5 September 2016

Gaining inspiration and new experiences

asm's 'Paper-Cloth' collage
Sometimes, BDEG members want to expand their boundaries and follow specific inclinations. Apart from all that we individually gain from or Branch evening talks, workshops, and even sharing techniques through our sewing days, there are often opportunities to attend workshops organised by outside organisations. A small group of us met together at Oxford Summer School at the end of July 2016, each gaining an insight into new techniques. This is a particularly well-run and friendly organisation with many participants returning regularly - sometimes to courses available in the Spring and Autumn.

Waiting for its treasure
Jan Weedon undertook a new and unusual course recycling old books: "From discarded library to delightful treasures” tutored by Heather Hunter. Participants used specialist cutting equipment to cut through the pages. Jan says that bit was quite difficult as it didn't take long for the blades to become blunt! 

Jan's old library book in progress

The space cut away would depend on how much depth would be needed. Some people used various items, one was a little boat. “We were shown many ways of decorating pages also different techniques with the books. One such technique made folders within the book, these were very technical! Some did turn out splendidly. There are some wonderful ideas on line - try googling “altered books”; which will result in some lovely images!”

Not your usual patchwork!
Ann Lowe (along with Elaine Langer and Margaret Wilmore) experienced textiles with a difference. Ann writes: “The workshop I did was entitled ‘Patching and Piecing’ with tutor, Lis Mann. A few people attended  thinking it was going to be traditional patchwork and it certainly wasn't!  I already knew Lis's work and knew it would be different and definitely push the boundaries which is what I wanted and I wasn't disappointed.

Scary to achieve, but an interesting effect
We started the first day dying and painting assorted pieces of fabric moving on to printing with blocks and other items such as string corrugated paper etc. Lis then gave us a choice of the techniques she uses for us to start sewing the fabrics together. The first step was cutting a piece of cotton to the size required (mine was approx A3 size); we then choose our colour pallet and cut pieces placing and pinning them randomly onto the cotton slightly overlapping the edges. These were then machine zig zag stitched in place, which for those of us used to more formal piecing and working with bondaweb to hold things in place was quite a challenge! My blue picture shows this first stage. 

Once stitched it was then cut up and re-sewn approx 4-5 times!  Although scary the effect was really interesting as it blended the colours together. We then printed onto the fabric and added a sheer over the whole piece, free machining it into place. The swirls on my orange piece were printed on and I have free motion stitched swirls onto sheer fabric (shown next to my orange piece) which will be added at the next stage. The orange piece is near completion, but I still have some printing and maybe more sheer layers to add. I found it a very enjoyable few days and Lis Mann a tutor who encourages you to find your own direction with gentle encouragement.”

One of the easier techniques, though this is far from perfect!
Ann Somerset Miles had always wanted to learn bookbinding so jumped at four days with tutor Janina Maher at a new course, ‘Bookbinding for All’. So much to learn, and what magnificent results were obtained by the diligent students. Unfortunately, Ann was not one of these! She writes: “I was ill throughout the four days but still wanted to attend. Janina was so kind, helping me achieve something. Illustrated is a little book I managed on my own! Bookbinding is a very physical activity and I quickly discovered that I do not have the strength in my hands for these skills. Once back home, I was determined to achieve something, and resorted to some collage backgrounds I had made at another workshop with Janina on ‘Paper Cloth’ at the Spring OSS in March. 

Actually using something I had created and turning it into a finished piece has given me a tremendous boost. I photographed the mixed-media-paper-cloth base (see top photo), printed it onto an A4 sheet of 45gsm layout paper, then scrunched and ironed it. Fused to muslin and machine-stitched around the component ghostly floral images, it became the perfect background for an A4 panel  - a piece now framed and awaiting display at the end of September in an art gallery in Todmorden, west Yorkshire, where I exhibit much of my work. This is just one of five pieces celebrating William Shakespeare and his work. This panel is from A Midsummer Night's Dream - I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows.”

Next year will see Oxford Summer School in a new venue just off Oxford’s Eastern Bypass. Log into their website so you can be kept informed of the many and diverse courses and other activities, which run from 24th-29th July, 2017.

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