Thursday, 30 October 2014

October postcards

We swapped postcards again this month. We love doing it, because it makes us make something, even at the busiest times, and it's a fun way to try out new techniques.

Nola's postcard, Okavango1
Nola made her postcard to reflect the reed beds she saw recently in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.  She wanted to give the sense of enclosure, almost of oppression, that she felt going through the reeds in a makoro, a canoe poled along like a punt.

She painted a piece of card with silver paint and then drew over it in layers with Inktense pencils, washing some areas down as she went. She made holes in the edge so she could give it a buttonholed edging, in stranded thread, with a second layer of dark picot stitch for definition. It was quite hard to photograph - the slight reflection of light from it kept confusing the camera!

Carol's postcard has a felt background, with areas of silk paper and metallic fabric, with embroidery thread and knitting yarn. She edged it with a machine zigzag stitch.

Carol's's postcard
Yvonne began her postcard  by painting on Vliesofix/fusible web with fabric crayons and ironing it onto fabric. She added hand stitching and beading and edged it with buttonhole stitch in perle thread. 
Yvonne's postcard
Last time we met, we talked about whether our postcards had to be rectangular. It's mostly just convention but some of us store them in particular ways that make odd-shaped postcards a problem. Maz is one of those people, but she decided to experiment with a shape that did fit our storage options.
Maz's postcard
 She layered strips of organza, chiffon and muslin, and added muslin flowers and hand stitching. It's edged with short-and-long stitch in perle thread.

Our last postcard swap of the year will be in November. Do you realise we have been swapping postcard monthly for almost four years, since February 2011? In that time, we've made and swapped 142 postcards!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

September birthstones

With all our comings and goings, not many of us had time to consider birthstones in September.

Cindy had a great time creating a double page spread in her sketchbook, because sapphire is her birthstone.

She was fascinated to learn about different kinds of sapphires - male, female (speckled with white), water (a light colour) and cat (very dark).

Nola also created a double page on sapphires.
She became interested in medieval amuletic brooches, of which there are many examples using sapphires, especially with religious motifs. These brooches had a dual function; utilitarian for holding clothing closed, and symbolic. In the medieval lapidaries (works on the significance of gems), sapphires were valued for curing envy, detecting fraud and witchcraft, curing snakebite, protecting from assassination and poisoning, curing many illnesses and reducing lust and impure thoughts.
So now you know... a sapphire is pretty much essential.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Challenge No 3: Drawing inspiration

After our break in September, we're back refreshed and raring to go! It was Maz's turn to supply us with a challenge, a drawing exercise. Like most people who work in textiles without a fine art background, we're not proud of our drawing skills! But this wasn't about producing beautiful works of art or even recognisable images; the aim was to create a set of lines from which we could create work.

Maz set up an amazing conglomeration of unrelated objects for us to draw. We each had an A3 sheet of cartridge paper, which we divided into 16 rectangles. And we were off! We were instructed to draw a section of something into any rectangle on our page, as quickly as possible. Then another... and another. By the end of the allotted time, we had pages filled with squiggles like this:

Nola's drawings
Maz's drawings

Amazing, huh? Nothing any of us were terribly proud of! Then we started to play with the drawings.

One strategy was to use  a pair of small mirrors to generate reflections. These are from Nola's master drawing.

We also traced interesting sections of the master drawing or isolated small parts and enlarged them.
Carol's drawings
Carol traced main lines on her master drawing with black felt tip pen and connected them.
When we found sections we thought were promising, we worked on them some more, sometimes even adding colour.

Helen's drawings
Cindy's drawing

Nola's drawing

Nola's drawing
Nola's drawing

Nola's drawing (she says it looks like a fat ballerina!)
Our challenge is to make at least a postcard from our drawings, for our second meeting in November.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

August birthstones

Over halfway through the year and we're still going on our birthstones theme. In August, we had a choice between peridot and sardonyx.

Cindy decided to work with peridot.

She was particularly interested in the mythology relating to the stone. She ragged the background colour to make it look like stone.

Maz also became fascinated with peridot, first with its history. Peridot was mined in Roman times on an island in the Red Sea called Topazos (modern Zabargad), and again in more modern times. It's believed that peridot was originally called topaz, from this island. The origin on the name peridot is unknown; perhaps it comes from a Latin word for a kind of opal; perhaps from an Arabic word meaning gem.

 Like Cindy, she was also interested in the gem's supposed mystical properties...

... but she also became interested in the famous Hapsburg peridot parure, dating from around 1825. (A parure is a collection of matching items of jewellery, in this case a crown or tiara, earrings, brooch and choker necklace.)

It's made from diamonds and peridots and Maz found images of Princess Isabella, great granddaughter of Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor, wearing the whole shebang.

It's believed that the first owner was Archduchess Henriette of Austria, who was her grandmother. It was auctioned off in the 1930s and subsequently worn by Joan Rivers to the Golden Globe awards in 2004.

Nola chose sardonyx as her August birthstone, because "it sounds like the birthstone of the perpetually sarcastic". She was interested in its formation, as chalcedony deposits on the surface of amygdala, holes left in lava when gas is trapped inside the molten rock. Because of this build up of layers, sardonyx was often carved into cameos to create areas of colour contrast. It was used in ancient societies like Egypt and Minoan Crete and in Greece and Rome.

The most detailed cameo she found is known as the Great Cameo of France, although its origins are Roman. It was carved in 23AD to demonstrate the right of the emperor Tiberius to rule Rome. It shows his Julio-Claudian ancestors and his designated heir.
It's believed to have come to France via the Byzantine Empire, before 1279, when it first appears in the records of the royal family. It's held in the Bibliotheque Nationale.

Nola also did some pages on Ruby in her journal, even though we had made artworks on the theme. She wanted to record the book she made and the way she made it.

September's birthstone is sapphire. That should be interesting!