Dog Days are happy days

I have recently been prompted to return to my pathetic attempt at sharing my world by a very good friend. I cannot believe it has been a year since I last wrote anything or shared my photos, it could possibly be longer! This is what the long summer holidays were made for.

The dog obsession has continued to grow. Drawing and stitching dogs amuses me and is obviously some form of replacement therapy for not actually owning my own pooch.


I do re-visit the same dog and make different renditions. I guess I am still exploring what I would like to make and define my style. Here I have scanned the original watercolour painting and heat transferred the image onto fabric. It is not ideal as the image retains a slight shine.


  
Batik is a good starting point to embroider over. It is hard work to keep the balance between batik and stitches. I feel it is a waste to totally obliterate the characteristics of the batik with stitching.


Blue whippets have been quite a feature this year. I love the slightly surprised expression on there faces. This lovely chap has proved to be very useful as a sampler of stitches for a Year 10 Textiles class.


A return to my textile roots has prompted a more decorative, patterned approach. It may not be immediately apparent but I have also been greatly influenced by the amazing Agnes Martin exhibition at Tate Modern fairly recently. Her beautiful, meticulous work was going through my head as I stitched and sewed organised rows of sequins.

Textural stripes and painterly effects combined with neat rows of metallic sequins and machine stitched lines.

Once a dog has been painted I am confident in stitching without guidelines and just go for it. I can sense where each feature needs to be.


I have also returned to my sequin collection and finally found a good use for them. Everyone needs a little sparkle in their lives. Disco Dogs have arrived.

It is always much more enjoyable when a friend supplies a photograph to work from.

Poppy is an adorable 10 year old King Charles Spaniel that is the cutest bundle of joy.

I kind of have an idea of how I am going to make a piece look but often make it up as I go along. I then hit on an idea and run with it for a while. Agnes was in my mind again.


Everyone loves a cheeky Chiauhaua.this little chap is approx 12 X 18cm.

By contrast his friend is 40 X 40cm. This is actually a close up. The dog is quite small in the bottom left corner in this composition. A inky, bleached textural mix with metallic over painting. The dog is a mix of watercolour, acrylic paint, ink and gel pens.


Dog days are never ending, so many to choose from, I could go on for ever! Just one more cheeky chap, the characterful Jack Russell Terrier.

Feeling blue…….

……but not in an under the weather kind of way!
One of my summer projects back in the sweltering hazy days of July was to set myself up for the winter months with a series of Cyanotypes that I could use as backgrounds for embroideries. I have the ideal spot in the back garden to make full use of the mid day sun to lay out my pre treated papers or cloth. Thankfully we had some good hot days this year.

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The process is really very simple. I found the instructions from http://www.alternativephotography.com were the most successful. Two chemicals are needed which are simple to buy online – Potassium Ferricyanide and Ferric Ammonium Citrate ( green ) 10g of the first mixed with 100ml water and separately 25g of the second mixed with 100ml water. Then you mix equal amounts of each together and it is at this point the cocktail becomes light sensitive.

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I paint this onto watercolour paper or linen fabrics in a darkened room where I can leave them overnight to dry. Once dry I keep them in a double layer of black bin liner in the cupboard under the stairs until I am ready to use them. Natural materials such as dried grasses and freshly cut leaves are my objects of choice as they are most appropriate backgrounds for my bird embroideries. One thing you have to be careful of is any sneaky breezes that might move the delicate grasses and twigs. This is where a sheet of glass comes in handy to weight everything down. In the very strong, bright mid day sun I find you only need to expose everything for 2- 3 minutes. You can see the feint silhouette emerge as the exposed area changes colour slightly. It is not until you rinse in cold water that the true blue cyanotype emerges as if by magic.

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The technique is very similar to Photograms made in the dark room. In this case the chemical in the areas not exposed to the sun can be washed out leaving a very pale silhouette of the leaves or grasses against a sumptuous blue ground. Rinsing the paper or fabric in cold running water increases the oxidisation process resulting in the magnificent blue. Once dry I believe they are permanent though I have never tried washing them again!

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Although it is always great to start working into them straight away and adding machine and hand embroidered birds or even painted versions it is even nicer to bring them out in the bleak winter months and remember the heat of summer with a distant fondness.

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Birds of a feather

I inherited two dusty old volumes of Cassell’s Book of Birds from my Dad. He was an HGV driver all his short life and it can be said he did have an eye for the birds. Quite why he parted with hard cash for them when the only thing he ever read was the racing pages remains beyond me to this day!

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There is a very sweet message in the front from the owner, George Denney dated 1872 asking for their return if you borrow them.

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I have to be honest. They were stuffed up in the loft for many years as I didn’t quite know what to do with them. I have never treated them with respect and actually pulled out the pages of the birds I liked because it was a real pain leafing through the entire book each time I searched for clues and inspiration to make them work for me.

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The illustrations are mainly black and white etching style which is fine. The colour plates dotted throughout are very sweet.

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I practically forced myself to do some sketches from them one day out of the blue. I like working in sketchbooks as I am fearless and what I produce has a certain character about it. I prefer inks and dyes to build up layers of tone. Especially Quink ink as it creates fabulous effects when you splatter bleach over it. I then work on top with black fine liners or metallic sparkley gel pens to add detail and feather textures. I quite like the fact that the birds I am drawing from are black and white as I can then make up the colour as I go along. Sometimes I read the descriptions in the text to give me a few realistic clues.

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Then followed a series of more finished artwork type pieces. They were quite small really. No bigger than A4. Quite fun to do but very time consuming. I love adding pattern in the backgrounds and creating the sense of multi layered effects. Brown parcel paper is great to paint on. Layer some household emulsion on first, paint a bird and a a bit of branch of top in ink and gouache finished with a layer of varnish to make the wee bird glisten. Add a few runs of machine embroidery and voila……. Alternatively paint a bird on a page from the actual book, add a ditzy geometric pattern and create a more retro effect.

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Then my defining moment came. A flash of inspiration. I scanned the bird called The Whiskered Fantail and superimposed it over a photograph I had taken of dried grasses and twiggy bits then printed it out on transfer paper. This I ironed on to fabric and the rest is sort of history. For some unknown reason I embroidered the feathers and detail into that bird and I have never looked back! Miss Jackson starts her sewing!

20140904-193726-70646299.jpg This was then photographed and it became my Christmas card for that year. The embroidered original lives very happily in a lovely desirable property in up and coming West Norwood.

You can teach a dog new tricks

I own a very fine collection of ornamental dogs. Some might disagree and dismiss them as dust catching tat. Some have mentioned the term ‘mid-life crisis’ I don’t care. I love my dogs.

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There is a good explanation for their existence. A number of years ago the chance to study A Level Photography with our new cohort of Sixth Form students arose. I jumped at the chance. Could my job get any better!? I worked my socks off. There was no way on this earth that any students sketchbook was going to be better than mine. Competitive. Yes. But such fun. Jumping to the final exam the theme was ‘Passion & Obsession’ which I embraced like a woman possessed. Early research explored the things people are obsessed with and I settled on quirky collections and animals.

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Hurrah! Another excuse to trawl round junk markets, charity shops and vintage establishments, as if I needed one!The collection grew quite quickly due to the obsessive nature of my searching. It is amazing how addictive one can be when on a mission. It is only when you start delving into certain themes you unearth a myriad of resources and artists who at one point or another have produced work along a similar theme. David Hockney’s daschunds are some of my all time favourite. I was surprised to find Charlie Harper dogs, I know him only for his birds. Stella Vines portraits with dogs are quite amusing.
I did not know at this point where I was going with this theme and did explore parallel passionate obsessions such as shoes which was possibly a little too obvious. However I did end up with a fabulous sketchbook that continues to be a source of inspiration.

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I even took the dogs out and about on my travels and photographed them in a variety of locations. The tourists up on the embankment probably did think I was crazy but it is good to reinforce the preconceived notion that we British are an eccentric kettle of fish! I was also responding to the work of artists and photographers in each case. The dogs in amongst grass and flowers relate, in my world, to Pierre et Gilles. The atmospheric black and white shots are based on Giacommo Brunellis Dead Animals series. There is always method in my madness.

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We participated in a film camera workshop practising the techniques of black and white photography. I dug out my old faithful Olympus OM19 from art school days. That was a great investment. Still works like a dream but give me new technology and a DSLR any day.

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As it turned out the dogs did not play a major part in the final piece though they looked very splendid displayed on a slim shelf as part of an installation based on the many vintage markets I visited. A David Hockney style joiner collage that took up a huge section of wall. So now my canine babies reside with me at home. My favourites check on me from the kitchen window sill as I wash the dishes.

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To earn their keep even further and to justify their existence I started sketching them. It’s good to keep drawing and painting. I work on the principle that the more you do the better you get.

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Yes, as with my dolls I began naming them. I believe Gilbert and George were 2 of the first dogs in my collection, they are so camp!

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Then the inevitable happened. Sketches turned to fabric interpretation and behold an appliqué poodle apron was born. A bonus in life is being awarded first prize for your efforts in the local Horticultural Society crafts show. Whoo hoo! My association with dogs of the ornamental variety has not run its course yet. I may not be able to find any new acceptable additions the family but I can turn my hand to exploring new variations.

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Just in case you are wondering I got an A* for my Photography. Oh happy days.

It’s not just all about me, 1

I am happily employed as an Art Technician at a local Secondary School. I love it! I have survived for 8 years, still pinching myself that I get paid for doing something so enjoyable.
Textiles is my first love but I also dabble in art and photography, supporting students and teachers in GCSE classes. I am often referred to as ‘The Oracle’ for all the stuff I know or find out about. My head is stuffed full with an amazing array of ‘stuff’…….
Recently I have had the privilege of inspiring a young man from Eritrea who had never studied an art based subject.
He joined us after an amazing journey and is the politest most willing student who is excelling in everything he does. He had never drawn a picture in his life, but boy can he sew!

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The project was for an Alice in Wonderland inspired apron. After scanning and printing his drawings onto heat transfer paper we applied them to his chosen fabric background.

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After learning the basic stitches in the previous ‘Beetle Workshops project’ each week he came back to lesson to show us his latest achievement often from tutorials on You Tube, sometimes from embroidery books I had lent, each element of the apron adopting a more complicated technique.

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He may well have used up an entire years Art Department budget on embroidery thread already!
Towards the end of term it became apparent that he was making gifts for myself and the lovely Ms Hurst. At this point he did not know Ms Hurst was leaving us for a new life in Australia so this made a beautiful reminder of a perfect student. Identical pieces of a bird and a basket of daisies were each handed to us on the last day of school. I immediately knew what mine was destined to become – my first project of the summer holidays. The Gabs/Jackson Collaboration piece……

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The very neat and intricate stitches had been completed on a simple piece of white fabric. I backed them with Bondaweb, cut them out and ironed them onto a beautiful ditzy print vintage apron I have been saving in my drawers for some time. To incorporate the motifs into the floral print background I ‘doodle stitched’ a meandering pattern of simple stitches to blend the stark white fabric and soften the cut edges. I am rather pleased with the result!

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Tools of the trade

I have a long history of rummaging around markets and junk shops with my good friend Helena-Queen of all things vintage. I have a number of favourite haunts I visit regularly and a great one is on my doorstep. It used to be housed in my former Butchers shop once the aged owner retired after something like 60 years of trading. It has since relocated to the other side of Roseberrys Auction House but has retained the name.

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I have this fabulous establishment to thank for the day I bought a tin of threads for the unbelievable bargain of 15 quid!!

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I guess this was the start of my embroidery obsession and I have never looked back.

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There were an awful lot of threads in there and wherever possible I add from vintage sources but occasionally have to succumb to the delights of Liberty up in town.

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The doilys are a little bit more difficult to source, but hey, where there’s a will there’s a way! Regular trips over to Shoreditch and Brick Lane are usually fruitful as are trips up the road to Crystal Palace.
I will maybe do a special on all these places when I can get round them and take some decent photos.

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The dolls collection began with thanks to my absolute favourite Brixton shop in The Village called Brixty. I will save her story for another time……. This little lady is my latest and was found at The Feast, a monthly happening in my home town of West Norwood. I think she is a ‘Marion’ not sure why!

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I am still working on her but will show you at some point the finished piece.
Although I am not enamoured by the tin my first threads came in I have felt obliged to keep it as a mark of respect to their previous owners. One tin I am especially proud of is my ‘Tit Tin’ given to me on a significant birthday by my dear friend Kat, who also happens to be a huge fan of my work!!

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I sometimes use buttons especially when I incorporate hand made embroidered flowers. Often I can’t bare to part with them as I get so much enjoyment rifling through the tin and unearthing the treasures within. Reminds me of my Nana who did have a tin of buttons but never seemed to use them……..

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Hello world!

My first attempt to share a passion for all things that I love. Everything eventually becomes textile related because that is what I do. Embroidery and fabric is my world and here I show what I create, am inspired by and let you into the world I inhabit…………..

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A recent obsession for inspiration is vintage dolls. This brings me to a second obsession – charity shops, vintage markets and junk shops. I have my favourites but will save that for another time.

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It’s a pleasurable process finding the most beautiful, adorable girls that will live happily in my home. A sketch follows in my current old battered Moleskin book followed by drawing the guidelines onto fabric with my trusty old New Home sewing machine.

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China Doll is worked from a tiny 10 cm beauty that my lovely ex neighbours brought back from a home visit to China several years ago. She lives on my kitchen window and watches over me whilst I do the washing up!
The embroidery will soon move to her new home in Edwardsville, USA.

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A strange thing happens between sketch and thread which I can’t quite explain. The dolls are often young child like creatures but when I transform them to fabric they take on a more worldly wise characteristic with complete personalities of their own.
I also give them names then forget and re-name them and that gets a bit confusing! As here in the sketchbook I clearly thought she looked like an Ethel………..
She then transformed into Florence Flower Girl and became all grown up surrounded by hand made and embroidered flowers with a beautiful pre-loved black vintage frame.

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At this point I should mention, as if you may not have noticed, my love of lace doilys. The regular trawl of vintage shops yields many treasures, passions and obsessions. There are more, you will learn this as I master the art of blogging!
The very first embroidery that incorporated the doily touch was of my beautiful daughter at aged around 1 year, a piece I will never part with titled: Golden Child.