My new exhibition at the Dochas Gallery in Lochgilphead opened last night. At one point I really didn't think I was going to get them all finished but managed it by the skin of my teeth!
After a little over 3 hours of taping frames, at 10pm on Friday night all the shades were still flat! So, I pulled an all nighter and managed to get all but 6 finished. At 10 am I sent Mr B to drop off all the shades at the gallery and went to sleep for an hour. When he came back I went to collect the lamp posts and shelves then went to the gallery to set up. Once I was happy with the way it looked I headed back home, finished the last half dozen got changed chivied Mr B out the door, and was very grateful for that first glass of wine!
Now I have to tidy up the chaos that I have created just about everywhere ... the kitchen, my studio and the Studio Barn, the house has generally been neglected as Mr B hasn't been able to do very much, and I need to 'mend' the vacuum cleaner, which probably just means finding the blockage in the tube...
Work starts for the Handmade Fair on Tuesday!
Easter weekend dawned bright and blue and sunny and I was out with the Homestyle Argyll girls at the Tayvallich Inn with our first pop-up shop.
There was no missing us underneath Catherine's bright purple gazebo! I do enjoy displaying our wares together, although our work is very different individually, we are able to create a harmonious collectionnn.
I have recently started to make cards to tke to an event in May, and thought I would put them out this weekend as a trial run...
Small, slightly abstract landscape images, painted on fabric with some stitched detailling, then mounted onto 100% recycled paper cardstock. I have made a conscious decision not to buy plastic cellophane bags (even compostable ones) but printed a small paper wrapper to keep card and envelope together.
Some more debut pieces, a seasidey muscles and scallops appliqued lantern & a printed and painted spring snowdrops one.
Tomorrow it's back to lamp & lampshade making for my exhibition which starts next week.
And I have already started counting down to the Kirsty Allsopp Handmade Fair at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire in May!
I was full of good intentions this time last year, then they fell out of my ears and I got distracted and busy. People went in and out of hospital, workshops and courses were worried about, then got booked up, were attended by lots of happy people and lampshades got made, LOTS of lampshades were made, and sold! I was going to blog about it all. Only then I didn't.
And now its March 2018 and I'm up to my ears in lampshades. Beyond my eyebrows in fact. Lampshades for an Easter event.... Lampshades for a new exhibition.... and Lampshades in waiting for the biggest event I've done in years.... the Kirsty Allsopp Handmade Fair, at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire .... in May ..... eek!
These photos are of tealights I made a month or so ago and I'm really pleased with the way the photos I snapped the other day have turned out. Who knew that a dry and dead piece of ragwort could be so photogenic!
Taynish Mill is now the most obvious evidence of historic human habitation in this area, at times you can pick up a fleeting feeling of the lives lived in this area. Of the human essence still caught up in the trees and set in the stones.
My proposal was to illustrate the catching and trapping of the memories, words, feelings and the domestic history of the area, so that it is no longer lost to the wind. A collaborative piece with Artmap Associate member Alexander Hamilton, combining art and literature.
To link the land to the sea, the natural environment to the built environment, I wanted to create a large net-like banner with words, poems and imagined quotes & memories printed and stitched on to fabric entwining it through the ‘net’.
The piece would be situated in the trees at the far side of the picnic area between the mill and the sea, capturing those fleeting moments, preventing them from being swept out to sea.
Quite a lot of research was done about the area and I spent some time looking up images of adverts and newspaper articles of the era to help add to the sense of time and history, to highlight the transience of time.
We had a few difficulties with fixing the fabric banners to the net. I had envisaged, stitching then on but it wasn't a feasible option when it came down to it. there were several trials and errors, and many a method discussed, in the end simple saftey pins were the most effective - lots of them!!
Half way through constructing this piece I lost focus and couldn't work out how it was going to work, what it was I was aiming to achieve, how was it going to look. However, after a bit of brainstorming and dummy layouts, on a very rainy day so we had to suspend the net from the roof of the barn, it started to come together again.
It was exciting to see it in situ, and we were able to finish fastening things in place and adding some of the smaller items.
It's generated a lot of discussion and I am fascinated to hear about the various reactions to it. Incomprehension until the explanation is read and then the understanding that follows and the sharpening of interest as the banners are read.
This has been a very interesting project to do. I haven't done anything as large as this before nor have I done 'concept art' before.
I'm really pleased that I stayed up beyond dawn to get the submissions written and entered in time. I would be being cross with myself now if I hadn't.
The last Bank Holiday in May saw me heading to Fife and South Queensferry again for another wee workshop at the Harbour Lane Studio. This time it was Lino Printing. Last year for my birthday mum and dad gave me a lino printing kit, which sat in its box, all pristine and clean, until shortly before Christmas when I decided that I would lino print my Christmas cards. However, although I produced a creditable design/card, I wasn't entirely happy with it and really needed a bit of guidence.
In the Harbour Lane gallery you are surrounded by inspiration, boats, fish, prints, jewellery, lampshades and pictures abound. Almost too much when you have to think of one image. I had thought that I wanted to carve an artichoke image, however after drawing one out I realised that for a 3hour class it was going to be too complicated to carve out in the time. So it was a quick sketch of what I later described as essence of heron!
Getting inky and printy
With a little extra time to spare I very quickly sketched and carved out this rather lopsided wonky headed puffin!
Inspite of my heron being at bit bosomy, and my puffin being a little wonky, I had a great afternoon doing this workshop and can really recommend it. I picked up lots of hints and tips and my creative m ind went 'wheeeeeee' with excitement and into overdrive at the possibilities, so I am really looking forward to getting into my studio to do a bit more soon.
Fresh from the excitement of the Cambridgeshire weekend, I was off again the following weekend to another workshop. I went to tinker, or perhaps that should be tinkle, with glass.
This time though, it was local so I was able to travel from home. It was a beautifully sunny, cold and frosty morning as I crossed the Moss.
Kirsty Brady of 'A Touch of Glass Studio' started her Beginners Stained Glass panel making weekends, and I was fortunate enough to take part in the first one. I’m rather enjoying this weekend workshop malarkey & am wondering what I can do next weekend! Starting with a cup of tea in Kirsty’s comfortable home we were introduced to glass cutting tools and techniques. After looking through books for some ideas, we sketched them out, then drew them up full size, creating the ‘cartoons’ we would use as patterns for cutting glass pieces.
Then we were allowed to dive (carefully) into treasure chests of glass. It was so difficult to choose, Kirsty has such a wide variety of colours with swirls and sparkles. When eventually we had whittled down our colour choices the cutting (& swearing!) began! After a final chat and cup of tea, we left our layouts and workstsations neat and tidy, ready to begin cutting lead the following day.
After the sunny day there was a fabulous sky on the drive home.
Sunday morning began with the ubiquitous cup of tea then Kirsty showed us how to stretch lead and cut it to size.
Shiny new horse shoe nails help to hold our pieces in place, there is something terribly satisfying about a shiny, new, elegantly tapered, nail!
Eventually our panels were pieced together with lead, and now the real fun begins (actually it was all fun, but I do love a gadget!) – soldering all the joins, then cementing, cleaning off the excess cement, and polishing. It’s dirty work but someone has to do it ….. if they want a colourful leaded panel at the end of the day!
It was a great weekend of cake, chat, cutting glass & cups of tea!
The day before my exhibition preview evening I went to a local beautician to have my nails done. My hands were in a bit of a state, skin stained blue black from all the sea and sky I had been painting, nails a bit chipped and out of shape. I had won a raffle prize at Christmas, a £20 voucher to use at Lush Thirty Three and this was the perfect time to use it. I had a lovely couple of hours as we chatted and came away with beautiful deep red nails. One of the things we chatted about was how hard it can be trying to run a business on your own. A mutual friend (Kirsty from A Touch of Glass Studio) had relaunched her business at the start of the year and was also finding it hard going. Bells started jangling in my head. and how lonely that can feel, however much we love it sometimes you need another eye to look something over, someone else to bounce an idea past. We felt that a social/networking group would be useful, to share stresses, strains, & successes, contacts, general support and advice with like-minded women. It can be isolating working for yourself, especially if you also live in an rural area. One's partner isn't always the best person to run things past, however supportive they may be!
This isn't my first foray into women's networking groups. Once upon another lifetime When I lived on the other side of the country I went to Fife Women in Business, then moving over to Argyll 15 years ago I wanted to go to something similar, I was put in touch with the WEA, the Workers Education Association in Inverness and I started running their group called Women @ Work here in Lochgilphead, they paid me to organise the group, paid for the hire of the meeting venue, and for speakers & travel costs. After five years or so, mostly due to family health issues, I wasn't able to continue to run it and the organisation side passed on to someone else. I also ran for a couple of years a group we called MAGI Mid Argyll Green Initiative, we met monthly at Kilmartin museum and had volunteer speakers on a range of eco issues. I had to stop running that at about the same time as W@W. I have found networking groups helpful, useful, supportive, informative, and inspiring.
So, maybe, it was time to start something along those lines again. I sounded a couple of ladies out to see what they thought, got the thumbs up, dreamt up the name in the shower, created a Facebook page, decided on the day, booked the room anad bang! WRENS was in business. Women's Rural Enterprise Network Scotland.
WRENS is going to be slightly different to W@W, in that there isn't any funding or monthly subscription at the moment, it is simply an opportunity to meet other women in Argyll running their own businesses, whatever they may be. Who is doing what, where, and how. There’s an opportunity to take it in turns to do short presentations about our businesses, perhaps we can invite speakers or demonstrators, maybe it will just be an opportunity to have a cup of tea and talk shop & make contacts.
With Facebook groups & pages, it is easier than ever to belong to a group 'virtually', but sometimes it's a face to face, real people thing that's needed, especially if they are in the same locality and thereby have the same trials and tribulations as each other even though each business is unique.
I came up with the name whilst in the shower a couple of weeks ago! Usually these things float in to my head whilst walking the dog, but this time it was the shower. I wanted to create a name that would describe what the group was - ie female lead, business orientated, rural-ly located - but that also became a useful acronym that could be easily remembered. I know the 'Scotland' on the end sounds a bit grand and nationwide but I couldn't think of another useful 'S' word! Whilst rolling it around in my head I realised that Wrens (as in the bird!) might be little, but they are very noisy and punch above their weight, which I felt was entirely appropriate for the group I envisaged.
So, I have set up two Facebook pages, one is a page which everyone can see and you just need to 'like' to see the information, https://www.facebook.com/WRENscotland and the other is a secret group which you can join and only members of the group will be able to see posts https://www.facebook.com/groups/WRENscotland . This page is for asking/giving advice or recommendations etc. and will be confidential. On the main page I have been sharing useful info and inspirational quote, so do follow it if you don't already.
I also created a board on my Pinterest account
https://uk.pinterest.com/Needlesmiths/wrenscotland/ of interesting business info, inspirational quotes or TED videos.
We meet at the MS Centre in Lochgilphead at 7pm on the first Monday of the month. There will be coffee, tea, biscuits/cake. There isn't a charge but a small (as in £1 or £2) donation to cover coffee and as a donation to the MS Centre who aren't charging us an actual hourly rate rental.
There were eight ladies on that first evening.
Cunningly I was behind the camera for our first group photo!
But then everyone insisted I should be in front of it too, so here's our first group selfie!
The lovely evening was rounded off nicely with this beautiful sunset photographed from loch 13 on the Crinan Canal on my drive home.
Having enjoyed the workshops at the start of the year, when a friend said she was going to a couple being run in South Queensferry I said sign me up too! They were being held at the Harbour Lane Studio in South Queensferry. It is a really lovely little gallery that is a rather like the tardis, it is stuffed full of lovely art and crafts all handmade/painted/produced by Scottish artists, but then stretches to include enough space for half a dozen students. Owned and run by Tori Grey and enthusiastic illustrator, artist, and tutor, there is a fabulous liveliness about the place and a great vibe.
I arrived an hour early for the workshop - excitement getting the better of me - but it meant I had time for a cup of tea and wee wonder about South Queensferry, stretching my legs after the long drive from Argyll. I have crossed the rail bridge many times over the years, it's such an iconic bridge.
And I took the chance to put my feet up and enjoy the breeze and study the new Forth Road bridge.
The screen printing workshop was taken by Ellie from East End Press, (who also brought along little Frida, her five-month-old fluffy puppy, who had a taste for licking my bare toes and ran off with my fitflop!)
She explained that we were to do a simple drawing of something we would like to print. There was a lot of inspiration about, and we quickly decided on our images. Then we drew our designs out on to the paper back of sticky backed plastic/fablon. Using a scalpel, we cut out our patterns then stuck them to the center of a silk screen, covering over the excess screen with parcel tape.
Then we got printing … a tea towel, cotton bag, a cushion cover and a couple of feet of calico. I was really pleased with the way mine came out, and hope to use this technique for future projects. Especially as completely coincidentally the lovely mum of one of my Junior Needlesmiths gave me a couple of screens and a squeegee that had belonged to her late mother-in-law and wondered if I could make use of them! I think that Tori could have heard my squeaks back in South Queensferry!
Once my exhibition work was completed, the show was open, and I was back from having been whisked away to Edinburgh for a surprise birthday weekend. I could get started with a few more of the commissions that I had had to put on hold for a while.
One of them was to include Alpacas. This was from a friend in my knitting group, following a general chat and 'joke' about making furry alpacas for her lampshade, she provided me with a couple of wee bags of fluff. I can take a hint!
These are the photographs she supplied for me to work from, and the only other thing she asked was if they could be looking over a wall.
So this is what I came up with: Alpacas, chickens and a wee black cat. Painted, needlefelted, with hand and machine embroidered details. I'm pleased (& rather relived) to report that she was delighted with it.
My submission for this piece said that I wanted to create a collaborative piece working with my father, combining art and literature, the stitched and the printed, the written and the spoken word.
Already identified as a wonderful spot for sitting & looking, standing and staring, it inspires the writing and sharing of poetry and stories, with someone’s ingenious idea of the poetry book box and notepad, I am drawn to tie all this together. Although there isn’t a lot of boat traffic on the loch I would like to reference ‘man’ in ‘nature’ and to create a sail shaped windbreak with an original poem, or perhaps the legend of the Loch Sween monster, stitched and printed on to it, so that adults and children can sit, sheltered from the wind and read the words aloud.
I used to live in the village of Tayvallich and as a dog owner I would regularly walk them down to the mill and on to the loch as all three dogs loved playing in the water. I would sit on the bench over-looking the loch or walk along the shoreline throwing sticks for the dogs, picking up driftwood, pebbles or shells, looking at the view, wondering who else had walked before me. What lives had they lead. I would watch the occasional boat sail or motor down the loch, becoming an insignificant speck on the horizon, dwarfed by the vastness of sky and sea.
Revisiting this area recently I was conscious of those same thoughts and feelings, but this time sitting on the Poetry seat. My father and I, with the dogs snuffling around, sat for a while contemplating the history and the landscape. Then he started to tell me a story, as he did when I was a child, leaning against his shoulder listening to his voice, feeling it rumble through his chest, this one was about the Loch Sween monster the tale began to unfold…
Another time, another place, another child, another father, another story…