Sunday, 26 September 2010

Journaling at Malvern, plus purchases

It is so cosy playing with journal pages in our motorhome cab - I just love my mini-studio, but it's not so good for taking photos as all is on a skew. Above is the first of three 'spreads' coloured with acrylic inks and with paper-napkin motifs waxed into place. The title text has been stencilled and all that is now needed are the words which will be added when the acrylic wax has fully dried and the surface is suitably hardened. Double click on the image to see it as full size. I meanwhile will cut out motifs for the other two spreads: apples, pears and a few more vegetables. This Show really was all about a 'harvest in the hills', though today you might have been forgiven or thinking it was a gigantic car-boot sale!

It worked to my advantage however, for I browsed along with all the rest of the crowd and am so pleased with what I consider to be astute purchases. The first: one of those dangly metal windcharms - I loved the bird shape; if I remove just one, it will act as positive or negative stencil or a pattern from which I can cut paper or fabric birds for all manner of projects.

Next to a stall selling necklaces - which I never wear; indeed I buy them only to take them apart for the beads. I'm a sucker for doing this and either purchase for a specific project, or on spec in case I never see the like again. These today incorporated flat wooden discs, perfect for a natural history or seashore project, depending on which colour I use, interspersed with large marble-like globular beads that will be just right for the dangly crocheted chains I make for my paper or fabric books. Nothing will be wasted, for the rest of the necklaces - chord and clasps - will also be recycled. I've photographed them over the journal pages to give an idea of their chunkiness and size. I have a much wider collection of beads of all shapes, colours and sizes by buying this way - and it's far cheaper than selecting little packets and jars in the craft shops. I do stick to natural materials though - wood, horn, metal, shell or glass.

And now to the strangest purchase and one I may come to regret. I hovered repeatedly (sorry for the pun) over a silk moth stall, captivated by the insects' beauty and by the fact that the larvae are not harmed when unravelling the silk cocoons. Yesterday, I came away with an information pack: literature on the types of moth, the resultant silk, what they eat, actual samples of two kinds of moth, silk and a cocoon. Making silk paper (in small quantities) for textile projects must be a great adventure I thought. Today - now what have I done - I bought two containers of live silk worms! One type feeds on hawthorn, the other on privet. The only snag, well maybe just the first of many snags as yet to be discovered, is whether they will spin their cocoons and hibernate before leaf drop and their food supply ceases to exist. 

I am assured they will. I am also assured that they will not migrate around the house! Time will tell, and I must chart my progress, or rather the worms' progress, for I feel duty bound not to let them die. It's 65 years since I first kept silk worms (the mulberry-leaf-eating sort which we school children were told could survive on lettuce instead). I'd never seen a mulberry tree and being during the second world war, I ran out of lettuce .... or perhaps my mother thought our food needs were greater than those of the worms! I know they never reached maturity. One thing for certain, it's going to take an awful lots of cocoons to make a tiny bit of silk paper .....

Friday, 24 September 2010

On the move

two pages from my 'travel spill' journal

Dear Reader, first I must explain my journaling blog for those who may be mystified at my hopping from one project to another, or appearing to do so. Looking back, I find I tend to post the start of a project and then maybe a stage or stages during its progress. This does not mean I never finish anything; usually what I am doing is connected to some travel article or garden magazine feature, or just pure playing. And I also tend to post my experimental work and explanations of the processes involved. If I didn't, I would never remember what I had done when I return to complete what may have been begun weeks or even months before.

Or I run out of time blog about what I am working on. Right now, I have time to spare (magic) and am sitting on the Malvern Showground ahead of the opening tomorrow. I have my mini-studio set up in the motorhome cab. I have pruned my required supplies down to the minimum but find it is essential to prep papers or fabric in advance of coming away. I cannot slather acrylic inks or paints in so tiny a space; well it's not actually the space but the fear of getting paint on the upholstery!

I have two forms of travel journal now: one is planned and structured and has to be finished at home for we do not always take the printer away with us; it depends where we are going and the nature of the journey. The other - my travel spilling journal - is a hotch-potch of play-as-you-go pages. If they go wrong, it doesn't matter. I have just posted a pic on my wild child blog of the page prepared last night before coming away - it's at the end of the Back to Malvern post and is in autumnal colours to suit the seasonal nature of the 'Celebration of Nature's Harvest', which is why we are here.

The photo above on this blog started as a colour slathering and was completed exactly a week ago when we were down in Dorset. I think if you double-click on the picture, you can see it full-size. I always bemoan the fact that when I am away, I never manage to work on a travel diary, but this way - travel spilling - works so well; it only takes a relatively short amount of time; and the travel-journal-proper awaits the planned layout and photos on our return. I have to say that the idea for journal-spilling is not mine; I was given a brilliant book by Diana Trout on the subject by my dear friend, Kristin Steiner. Her gift has unlocked my fear of playing; previously, my travel diaries were all words and occasionally a few poor sketches.

More travel-spill pages to follow but my laptop needs charging ....

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A new dimension

I've never done anything like this before - carving a lino block and then printing it on fabric I had coloured myself

Yesterday came like a breath of fresh air - a day in between travelling when I could forget schedules and play. I attended another workshop; it was more than play, it was a revelation and added a new dimension to my creative endeavours. Tutored by the gifted Rachel Anne Cronin, the theme was 'Making Sketchbook Techniques'. It was so well structured, planned so that materials could be drying whilst we got on with something else. I learned so much that I can now incorporate into what I do already - in fact more than one new dimension.

Book cover number one: left (back cover), right (front cover with image transfer); the back cover is hand-painted over the furnishing fabric and  now awaits stitching and embellishing. It will be backed by the 'green leaf' printed fabric below which I also made in the workshop yesterday.

We added image transfers to plain and printed fabric, experimenting with gel medium which gave a much better result than the method I had previously been using. We used decorator's acrylic primer to 'gesso' the surrounding fabric (much cheaper than gesso) and then - for me - the two highlights of the day: first colouring plain polycotton in shades to complement our chosen theme, for which I used thinned down acrylic paint with splashes of acrylic ink, screwing up the wet fabric to amalgamate teh colours; then secondly cutting lino blocks (we used 'Easy Cut' which is so much easier than the hard stuff I used back in school) and then overprinted the by-now-dry and coloured polycotton using not sticky printing inks but acrylic paint. Magic (well it was for me).

A close-up of part of the green-leaf print I made from the leaf block I carved.

The image transfered fabric piece, once embellished, will become the outside cover, whilst the backing will be the decorated polycotton, the two fused together and edge stitched. I prepared two covers and two linings. Then papers of various sorts, or other transferred and decorated pieces, will be hand-stitched into the covers to complete my books. I came home full of ideas for incorporating what I had practised into my many mixed-media projects; now to create the time to do so! Have a look at Rachel's blog on for inspiration and some of her own finished covers.

My second book cover created from an image transfer for the front, and badly painted topiary trees for the back. This needs a lot doing to it to embellish it! It will be backed by the 'pink' more Autumnal leaf fabric as shown in the first picture.