Friday, August 24, 2012

Starting to Stitch Surfaces

 The first stage of the embroidery course I'm doing with Karen Ruane is working with scrim (or cotton gauze) and paper to create surfaces suitable for hand embroidery. This is done using a sewing machine, which took me by surprise, as I was expecting to be doing only handwork.

I dusted off the Elna Lotus SP which was my mother's and hadn't been used for some 20 years (really). I learnt to sew on this dear old machine and I've been so surprised and pleased that the old girl (the machine, not me!) works at all, let alone coping with having the foot removed and doing FME (Free Machine Embroidery).

The grids and circles above are all about creating a more robust surface to hand embroider. While others stitched fabric scraps for added interest, I of course, felt compelled to use old book pages. (These are old books I bought specifically for artwork, but I do confess to hesitating quite a while before I managed to pull out the page).

Below are some pictures of sewing on paper. 
This top one is the back, but I like it better than the front.

Paper has so much potential for use with light.

I haven't mentioned my first trial of eco-printing, which I did just after arriving home. A friend had left us a bunch of roses as a welcome home gift. We enjoyed them for a few days and once they began to fade a little, I put them to creative use. I more or less followed this tutorial.

I'm still thinking about how I want to use the results,  so I experimented with some stitching on this example. This is the view from the back again, and illuminated, below that.

I've really been having so much fun with all of this and now I'm ready to add some hand stitching to these pieces.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Permission to explore

I've been keeping to my goal of minimizing advance commitments and going out more than usual, but of course I still want to somehow fit in some work. It seems that as soon as I have some work I want to do, I become quite driven, and if I am not able to get cracking, I start to feel both pressured and crabby!

I've two main projects to finish by the end of the year - a wedding album and my contribution to Book*Art*Object Edition 4. And of course, I'm feeling that I should be getting on with these, but I'm really keen to work on something entirely different.

Just before I arrived home I signed up for an online course, Extending Embellishment with Karen Ruane. Yes, as I said, something entirely different - embroidery. I discovered Karen's work on Ersi's blog, so thank-you Ersi! (take a look at Ersi's gorgeous embroidery ledger pages here)

For a few years I've been feeling drawn to embroidery. It's something I haven't done since I was a teenager, but I often feel I'd like to have something to do with my hands when I am sitting about.

It feels like it could be a way of creating that would be easy to pick up and put down, and good for times when energy is low because it wouldn't require setting up a space and dealing with loads of different bits of equipment, or anything wet and messy.

I see myself using embroidery as a type of drawing, with all the benefits of beautiful fabrics, gorgeous threads, lovely colours and textures! Mmmm!

To start us off, we were asked to make Moodboards (collections of images or objects that inspire us). I decided not to use  embroidery examples. These are mostly my own photos, plus some Japanese papers. I've also started another in a "gallery" over on flickr, using other peoples images. You can see it here.

I feel it could really work for me! Or maybe I'll give it a go and realize it's not "me", but I when I saw this course, I thought it might be a good way "in", allow me to learn a few things, and maybe to judge whether I'd like to go further. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time at all, you'll know that I love to experiment with different media and techniques. Sometimes I worry that all this exploration is a weakness, but I am starting to understand that it keeps me fresh and I suspect that I will never become a one-medium artist.

All the resources included in the embroidery course will remain available to us after the course finishes, so in a sense there is no need to work along with the class. However, it makes sense to do what you can, I think, as now is the time to ask questions.

So I'm trying to give myself permission to make the course my creative priority and simply assemble things so I'm ready to go with the next project, the wedding album. The deadline for that is late November. And that's ages away. Isn't it??

Monday, August 06, 2012

Home again! (And What I Learned From Travelling)

Well I've been home in Brisbane for a little over two weeks now and this photo shows one of the best things about being here. Little Mia seemed to enjoy her holiday at the "Cottages" but there's no place like home.

It's taken a while for the fact that I'm back home to really sink in and I haven't actually re-established a routine yet. This has been intentional because I can easily feel quite pressured by routines, and I really noticed the difference while I was away.

This trip was long enough and varied enough that it allowed me to see more clearly some of the things that work for me, and some that aren't so helpful. I don't just mean in regard to travelling. Of course, I had a great time while I was away, but for us, its not just about being on holiday or having a break from work/the routine. It's a bit more complex than that and in some ways, it's amazing we can manage travel at all, let alone find ways that work better for us than in our everyday.

I've been thinking that there must be some lessons I can take from these trips and apply to how my days are organised back here in Brisbane.

Some of the differences that seemed positive:
  • very few commitments set for particular days: this allowed me to do what felt most inspiring on the day. Also, I was much more aware of choosing what fitted with the energy I had, rather than feeling as if I had to do something and pushing on, regardless of how I was feeling.
  • getting out of the house almost every day of the week: I guess it's obvious why this is good for me, but here at home I can go days without leaving the house. I become so fixated on getting some artwork done that I always choose the option of staying in.
  • more social contact: yes! even in a country where I barely speak the language or know a soul. The question of social contact is a tricky one for me, on a few levels. Firstly, I do like quite a lot of solitude, but I also really need enough social contact. When I've done those personality tests, I always sit exactly 50/50 introvert/extrovert. Since being sick I've especially found that socializing can be very tiring, but nevertheless, I really need it.
  • surroundings that I found incredibly inspiring: I really noticed the difference when it came to reviewing my photographs. I always enjoy taking photographs, but the end results never feel as satisfying to me as when I've made some other sort of artwork. For the first time on this trip, I felt a number of my photographs (especially with my new camera) were quite exciting and expressive, and I'm planning on taking them further.
  • limiting my activity to about 3 hours each day: This really relates to the question of pacing and is something that is really key with ME (as it's now officially known in Australia, not CFS). For some time I've known that 3 hours of "active" activity* is my limit, if I don't want to overdo things and find myself unable to do much of anything at all for a day or two after. It's not a bad length of time, but it is very easy to stay longer. While I was away, because I was very motivated to be well for as many days as possible so I could do and see as much as possible, I became pretty disciplined about sticking to this. I think it was also made easier by the fact that I wasn't trying to match the energy of healthy friends, or not to let anybody down by leaving early. 

And over all I was able to be much more active, and I saw and did so much! 

My studio looking towards the window

So now I'm back home and I am champing at the bit to get into the studio and have some creative fun with all the great inspiration I've absorbed, BUT I don't want to isolate myself too much. Somehow I want to find a balance between doing enough creative work to feel satisfied, achieving some goals, and still getting enough of all those other good things that I discovered make me happy. It's going to be tricky, but the good thing is that I do have the freedom to make adjustments as I see fit. I just need to stay aware enough to see what is needed. Wish me luck!

Studio: looking back the other way

*By active activity, I mean something that I have to engage with - intellectually and emotionally (not physically of course) in contrast to passive activity - like watching TV or surfing (the internet, that is!)