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Do you take commissions?

Do you take commissions?

This question sends a chilled shiver through my heart. 

 

My first felt picture commission was about 4 years ago for a friend who wanted a view of a mountain in France for her husband’s 60th birthday. They have a house there and love the views. I really didn’t know what to do. It was very different from the pictures I had made to date and not somewhere I know or have ever been. After some soul searching I agreed to do it. I think I let the flattery get the better of me. 

 

        

The request was to do something similar to this but ‘a bit snowier’.   

Things really did not go at all as I’d hoped. Firstly, the time I’d set aside to do it was taken up when my parents, who were staying with me, both became ill. Fortunately everyone recovered but I had to do lots of hospital visiting and home caring so wasn’t able to do any work on the commission. 

 

Then I realised as I was working on it that I really didn’t understand the mountain from the photographs I had. Which bits were shadows and which bits ravines? Normally I felt local birds and seascapes that I know and love.  I struggled. To cut a long story short I delivered the picture but so close to the deadline I don’t even have a final photo of it. This was it nearing completion ……

I really didn’t enjoy the process & I wasn’t that happy with the result. Fortunately my friend liked it & her husband loved it but I vowed never, ever again to take a commission…….I had learned my lesson…. hadn’t  I?, 

 

A little while later another friend who was travelling sent me a photo she’d taken of a pair of African penguins and asked if I could make a felt picture as a birthday gift for her partner. “OK”, I thought, “birds and a beach, I should be ok with this.” 

 

 

Learning from my first experience, I allowed loads of time. I made samples and did lots of planning. I looked at a lot of penguin pictures online as the penguin on the right was at an odd angle and I felt it needed a clearer head. I made lots of prefelt. It took a long time but I enjoyed it and was pleased with the result: I thought it was true to the photograph.  I was there when the gift was presented. There were happy tears; probably some of them were mine. 

 

 

Then came an email. My friend’s husband, who’d been so happy with the French mountain he’d been given: it’s now her birthday one year on and he’d like to commission a companion picture for her of the local valley view in France. “Noooo” I thought. “I vowed never, ever to do another commission after that one”.  I tried diplomatically to explain that I wasn’t sure I could do it justice but agreed to look at the photos and let him know. 

 

 

More soul searching and much wringing of hands. I really didn’t want to refuse, but I really didn’t want to go through the same thing again. On balance, I decided I probably could and should do it, so I said yes.  

 

 

 

I was happy with the outcome and my friend, and her husband, loved it. So, maybe commissions were ok. 

 

Next, someone locally saw a picture of a little egret I’d made for my mother’s 80th birthday and wanted something ‘similar’. 

 

 

My Mum’s picture was based on a bird she and I had enjoyed watching together at a Yorkshire nature reserve. I didn’t want to copy it. The commission would be based on another little egret I’d seen just up the coast from where we live. I quizzed the woman in great detail about what she liked about my Mum’s picture and what she wanted her picture to include. I described what I was going to do. But it made me realise how difficult it is to understand what someone else sees in a picture and whether I can understand it enough to translate into something I can make. Previously I at least had reference photos but there was no photo for this one. 

 

I decided to give this client the option of not buying the picture if she didn’t like the finished image. It was, after all, a picture I would readily have done anyway. It was the best way I could think of of getting round the struggle of making what I can and want to do and meeting someone else’s expectations. 

 

 

The client seemed very happy with it and did buy it though I’ve really no idea if it’s what she had in mind. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another local woman saw at an exhibition a more abstract sea picture I’d made.  She’d like something similar but smaller. Surely I could do that? 

 

 

Well, you would have thought so but I guess I took my eye off the ball. I’d been thinking a lot about how small waves break and although I used similar materials, it really didn’t come out very similar at all: the original being semi-abstract, the second being more realistic.  I’d allowed my own interests to take over and really hadn’t met the brief. I decided to show her the second picture anyway, explaining it wasn’t that similar to the first one, but I’d be happy have another go if she wanted. 

 

She thought the new picture was ok but preferred the original and decided just to buy that one instead. A fortunate outcome and I’ve since sold the waves one but it all felt a bit precarious. For me, commissions are tricky. I’m flattered by the request but not necessarily comfortable in the execution! 

 

I’ve asked three painters if they take commissions.  One absolutely does not on the grounds that she wants to pursue her own creativity and doesn’t want to be influenced by others’ ideas. She does give the potential client an early view of her new work but that’s as far as she will go.  Fair enough.

 

The second  said, “I do, but I don’t really like it. It’s so difficult to understand what’s in someone else’s head.”  I’m with her on that.

The third does take commissions but he charges more for the work, to reflect the fact that he’s working to their brief. He takes a deposit and, when pressed, said if someone decided they didn’t like the outcome he’d keep the deposit but not insist they buy the picture. Fortunately that has never happened. 

 

For me commissions raise a lot of issues. Does the client have to buy what they’ve commissioned? Would I want anyone to buy a picture they’re not happy with? How do I know what they are imagining? Do I enjoy making them? Does it matter? 

 

So, do I take commissions? Um, sort of. I’m still not sure. I’ve realised that when I watch my local sea birds and look at the sea, water and beaches there’s a lot going on. I look at where the birds are, how they stand and move, what they’re doing.  I try to capture the colour, light and movement of sea water and waves.  As I create the felt I have images, sounds, smells and feelings about the scene that I hope in some way influence the picture. I do work from photographs but I rarely copy them. So, if someone wants a particular view, location or bird that I know and can experience then probably, yes. Otherwise, I’d like to think I’d say no.  But then I don’t have a very good track record of saying no, do I?! 

 

What do you think? Would or do you take commissions? If so, how do or would you manage them?

Around the Web

Around the Web

This is post of links to interesting and or useful sites around the web.

http://www.soraiyu.com/work/index.html

https://www.facebook.com/Pulliswoollies

https://www.feltforarchitecture.com/portfolio

 

http://www.sheep101.info/sheepbreedsa-z.html

 

 

Homepage

 

https://www.embroidery.rocksea.org/reference/picture-dictionary/

http://www.pburch.net/dyeing.shtml

 

http://www.martinacelerin.com/

https://www.facebook.com/sarahzonadesigns

 

Spin like your Scottish

spinning on a pendulum wheel

 

https://www.hernmarck.com/about

https://www2.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/books.html

https://www.carolingianrealm.info/PatternGenerator.php

 

http://www.knittingonthenet.com/stitches.htm

https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/1940s-knitting-patterns

 

 

 

 

 

ReConnect

ReConnect

Happy New Year!

I have my fingers, legs and toes crossed that, at some point later this year, we might actually be in the position of being able to safely congregate once more in large groups. Zoom has been, and continues to be, a great way of keeping in touch with family and friends but it’s also proving invaluable for many creative groups allowing us to carry on meeting, have our regular show and tell, exchange ideas and generally stay together.

Another creative positive from last year was online shows and exhibitions. Ok it’s certainly not the same as actually being there but it has allowed artists an outlet for their creativity and, in turn, provided inspiration for those of us who have visited, albeit virtually. In some cases it may be that, having seen a body of work online, we might be all the more likely to make the effort to travel to see it in the flesh once things return to normal. For me, the most inspiring work I saw online last year was the Hinterland collection created in 2017 by Gladys Paulus and featured in the 2020 video Hinterland by Gladys Paulus – a film by Chris Chapman. Gladys’s work is incredibly skilful in its design and execution and I’ve been in awe of this body of work since it was first made public but not had the chance to see it on display. With this film we are privileged to not only see but also hear the story behind this collection, as narrated by the artist. This takes the viewers experience to another level. Its a very personal and very moving story, if you haven’t already seen this film please take a look.

Another “positive” that some of us were able to take from last year was a “reconnect” with nature. Prior to lockdown my morning routine with Maddie was a short walk to the local park where I would throw her ball for half an hour while chatting to other dog walkers. On days when I was working this would sometimes feel rushed and I would be constantly clock watching to ensure I wasn’t making myself late.

Lockdown meant my days had no time constraints, it was also no longer socially acceptable to stand around in groups in the park chatting, and the government were encouraging us all to get fit……Maddie was about to discover doggy heaven! The lengthy weekend walks, anything from one to two hours across the fields and through the woods, now became our daily routine. When we return to work I’m going to have to set my alarm a lot earlier as this is one routine I’m not prepared to give up!

Country walks are always a great source of creative inspiration and, if you’re like me, you’ve got hundreds of photos saved “just incase”! Someday you might get around to starting that felted/textile project on weeds, lichen, frozen puddles, frozen leaves, dried leaves, tree bark, tree skeletons, fungi, seaweed, stones, bracken, insects……..the list goes on!

One thing I hadn’t particularly noticed, and hadn’t deliberately photographed, prior to last April was shadows. I’d not given them a thought in the past but with time on my hands, and what seemed like never ending sunshine, I found myself noticing them. The most interesting were on a tree lined stretch of the Viking Way. I’d walked this path hundreds of times before but only now was I seeing these wonderful lacy patterns and thinking they could be the starting point for an abstract wet felted Wallhanging.

I didn’t sketch or design my layout or colour scheme, it simply started out as a white Merino background with clouds of pale Viscose. Several layers of “shadows” were built up randomly on top, the first was green Viscose, the others Merino. After felting I added detail with free motion stitch and lots of Colonial Knots – my favourite hand stitch! The addition of texture started to move the piece away from “shadows” more towards bark/fungi but I was happy with that as it was keeping the tree connection. The finished piece is approx 42cm x 58cm.

Due to ongoing restrictions the International Feltmakers are holding a virtual AGM on 27th March and to coincide with that they will be launching their second online exhibition of members work. This years exhibition title is ReConnect and any work submitted has to be less than a year old. I’ve chosen this piece as my submission as its creation back in June was sparked at a time when a lot of us were reconnecting with the natural world, taking the time to notice things that have always been there but which we may have previously overlooked. It’s world’s away from the imagination and expertise of Gladys but we all need someone or something to aspire to…..fingers crossed it gets selected!

I wonder which feltmaker/textile artist you find particularly inspiring?

Fingerless Mitts or maybe they are Gauntlets or Wrist warmers

Fingerless Mitts or maybe they are Gauntlets or Wrist warmers

I am super busy getting ready for our last farmers market of the year. We sold so many meat pies I will be frantically trying to make as many as possible for this Saturday. I thought you might like this fingerless mitts post I did a few years ago.

 

I decided I want to sell some fingerless mitts this fall. Or maybe they are gauntlets or wrist warmers? Does anyone know what the difference is?

First I have to make a pair of resists. I traced my arm from knuckles to almost my elbow.  then measured around my arm to see how much I had to add for depth. then I figured on 30% shrinkage.

fingerless mitt resist

Naturally, I picked purple wool. I used about 60 grams for the pair. mostly because that is what was in the ball of wool I grabbed.

100_7131

 

 

fingerless mitts ready to felt

Here they are finished

fingerless mitt finnished

They turned out fine and they fit me and my much thinner daughter so sizing is good.  I may add some stitching and beading.  I think they are a little heavy or thick. I was going to put a thumb hole in but I think it would be uncomfortable with the thickness. Next time I think I will use 40 grams of wool and see how that goes.  I may try making the part over the hand pointed too. I think it would look nice.

 

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Happy New Year Everyone.

I hope you had a great time ringing in the new year and are enjoying the first day of a new decade.

Time to think back to what I have done and what I want to do.

Last year I did some experimenting with pots.

Did some more artwork

Took a few classes

And taught a few classes.

I took on organizing my guilds annual sale and exhibition with the help of an amazing group of people.

Next year, I am not really sure. I am chair of the sale and exhibition again this year.  I know I am doing more teaching (LINK) and I need to update and sort out my website.

Plans early this year are to get the pictures done for an online class. Jan is going to help with this so I have to get felting to have different stages so we can film more in one day. I am sure Ruth has lost hope of me ever getting it done.

I want to do more artwork with hand stitching. I really do enjoy sitting and stitching. It looks so nice on the felt. To that end, I made a few picture blanks between Christmas and new year. Sorry Its not a great picture I just did it quick while writing this.

Beyond that, I really haven’t planned much. Do you have plans for the year, big or small we would love to hear what they are? We would also love you to share pictures and chat about what you are doing over on the Forum. (LINK)

 

Knitting & Stitching Show 2019

Knitting & Stitching Show 2019

One of the highlights of my calendar in November is always the Knitting & Stitching Show at Harrogate. I’ve never thought that the title does this show any justice as it’s so much more than knitting and stitching!

The event, held over several halls in the Harrogate Convention Centre, features a wide range of exhibitions, most of which have the artist in attendance so you get to meet and chat to them about their work. There are also a number of artists in action (literally), workshops, lectures, demonstrations and a huge variety of craft retailers as well as artists selling their handcrafted items.

I’m guessing there will be a lot of our readers who didn’t attend this event due to location so I thought I would show what to me were some of the highlights.

Marian Jazmik “Beyond the Surface”

Marian Jazmik is a mixed media textile artist who uses a wide variety of materials, often heat distressed, to create stunning highly textural pieces of art. I was particularly drawn to her work by the wonderful neutral colour pallet. Depending on which piece you are looking at, close inspection might reveal sisal, plastic straws, packaging, cotton buds, scrim, beads and free motion stitching. She often uses heat treated Dipryl, a spun-bond fabric similar to Lutradur.

Marian Jazmik “Beyond the Surface”

Catherine Kaufman aka the “Woolly Queen” is a Feltmaker working with locally sourced fleece which she needle felts to create life size sculptures celebrating the female form. It was the scale, and again the colour scheme, that made this exhibit stand out for me. Also hearing how the figures are worked on at home on her kitchen table! Catherine begins by making a wire armature which she then covers with fleece. I felt the most powerful figure was Rapunzel and, learning that the hair for this figure was Catherines first attempt at spinning, I’ve been inspired to have a go myself!

Rapunzel by Catherine Kaufman
Catherine Kaufman

Daisy Collingridge explores the potential of the human body and celebrates its physicality through her textile sculptures. The human form is so unbelievably varied, despite us all being built from the same components. Daisy has a strong fascination with human endeavour and the extremes the human form can take, dictated through genetics and choice.  These soft sculptures came from a desire to push the traditional craft of quilting to the extreme. The technique used is no longer recognisable as quilting in the traditional sense but the fundamental idea of sandwiching fabric is the same.

Daisy Collingridge

The figurative work has a grotesque element and body image and body transformation are obvious narratives through which to view her work. Each piece is a “body suit” and as part of the installation viewers can watch a film of the figures in action.

The Artists in Action area is always an interesting space with Textile artists and Feltmakers creating their work and demonstrating to the public. It was nice to meet Lizzie Houghton and watch how she creates her beautiful hats.

Artists in Action – Lizzie Houghton

Angie Hughes, one of my favourite Textile Artists, was also there demonstrating surrounded by samples of her beautiful work.

Artists in Action – Angie Huges
Vivienne Morpeth

In a different part of the hall I came across Vivienne Morpeth, a fellow Lincolnshire Feltmaker who specialises in fabulous Nuno felted garments.

Vivienne Morpeth – Nuno detail

CQ London, a subgroup of The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles, have been meeting since 2017 in Camden Town, London. It is an eclectic group, whose members possess a wide range of skills and interests. This was their debut exhibition and it consisted of two themes, London and Notan, a Japanese design technique featuring positive and negative shapes in a harmonious balance of light and dark. The following two quilts were standout pieces for me. The Southbank building was instantly recognisable and very dramatic in its simplicity. The fabric was painted with acrylics before bonding and stitching.

Southbank 14 by Sabi Westoby

City Textures by Connie Gilham was another favourite. Depicting St Paul’s, Roman walls and the Thames it was created using painted and dyed silks, cottons and sheers, again a very striking image.

City Textures by Connie Gilham

On a smaller scale, but equally beautiful, were these exhibits in the Embroiderers Guild area. Out on Tiles won the Beryl Dean Award for best hand stitching.

“Out on the tiles with a crumb of comfort” by Patricia Blinco

Alyssa Robinson won the Val Campbell-Harding prize for best machine stitching.

Alyssa Robinson

This piece by Jane Dexter titles Wood Grains was also one of my favourites.

“Wood Grains” by Jane Dexter

This is just a tiny snapshot of the show, there was so much more and I came away with my head full of inspiration and my bag full of goodies! If you live in the UK and haven’t been it’s well worth a visit if you get the chance.

Silk Threads Road Map

Silk Threads Road Map

I’ve been taking the same two pieces of silk to the well being centre for months with the intention of using them. Last week, I took them out and started tidying them up by pulling off the loose threads. Once they were neat enough to use, I decided I’d rather use the threads! I laid out a couple of layers of Yellow Merino, then started adding the threads. They were similar shades of greeny blue, so it felt like it needed something else. Luckily, I had a bag of red silk threads with me that I bought years ago, and they really made a difference once I added them:

It reminds me of a road map. I always like to take a photo on an angle, often it shows the sheen or texture better:

The threads have an interesting texture from where they were woven:

I don’t know what the red threads were waste from, they look like sewing threads, but are all short lengths between 6 and 12 inches.

One of the silk pieces had areas of a deeper blue, and even though they’re darker, they added patches or flashes of brightness:

I usually use black as the base for projects like this, but we’d run out, I chose yellow mainly because it’s one of the colours that shows well on camera, but I think it worked out well.

More Bits

More Bits

This week I did a few things. I put hang tags and price stickers on all the dryer balls, bags, soap and ruffle neck scarves that go to the Log Farm for sale. At shows I usually just use signs when I have groups of things that are all the same price. I delivered those and almost immediately got a call from the Museum store saying they needed more soap and dryer balls.  Yesterday I made up the dryer balls and popped them into the washer today.

I would show you what they look like done but my dryer died. Thats a job for tomorrow now.

I did however get some soap felted.

The other thing I got started on Friday(I think) was some slippers for samples for a class I have on Dec 1. I didn’t have a sample of the ear template style.

I only got as far as laying out.

They will also be a sample of Finnish wool. We use Corriedale for the class. Its a good felter without being to fine like merino and it comes in lots of colours. People seem to want colour. This will show them what another kind of wool felts up like.

That was my week. I hope you managed some felting done too.

 

Finished Needle Felting

Finished Needle Felting

I finished the needle felted piece I showed in my last blog post, and with some nice, bright weather I managed to get a good photos of it too!

I also finished another piece that I made using the same wools from Cathy which I showed in a wet felted piece previously:

The natural dyed fibres look far less ‘harsh’ than the acid dyed ones, I think. This is the same Turmeric dyed locks I used on the wet felted piece:

And, I don’t know what this was dyed with, but I think it’s Alpaca:

And one last needlefelted piece, I had forgotten all about this one! I was looking for a box to use and found one on top of a bookcase, it didn’t seem to have much in when I shook it, I was surprised when I opened it and saw this! I’m not sure if I’d considered it finished or just forgot all about it. I made it using scraps I’d saved, I think I got concerned about some of the threads which had got mixed up in the ‘wool for birds’ tub, after reading about how threads and long hair are responsible for pigeons losing their feet. It’s really soft and lightly needled:

I think I’ll be making felted soaps this week, we made one at the well being centre on Monday and I didn’t hate it! What are your plans for this week?

Shibori Shrug Jacket

Shibori Shrug Jacket

Heres another throw back post. I thought if I do not remember doing this maybe you won’t either. I hope you like it.

After seeing Ruth’s jacket it reminded me I had made a small one for one of my daughter’s dolls years ago. I thought I should give it another try but life size this time. I thought about doing it seamless but decided that it would make something that is a simple design into something complicated. Although I am not a great sewer I was sure sewing 2 straight seems on my machine should not be beyond me.

There are quite a few pictures so I have put them in a gallery for ease of viewing. If I could figure out how to post pictures side by side or in groups I would but that is beyond my skill level.

First I made a large piece of nuno felt. I used silk gauze and merino wool. After it was finished I put it in a red dye bath. It came out quite nice. It’s hard to tell from the picture because my camera did not like the red at all. The one you see was the best of a bad lot.

The next thing to do was the shibori. I finger pleated the middle of the piece starting at one short end. I very carefully held it flat and tight while I tied it. The first tie is the hardest one. After that you just pleat it up tying every couple of inches. You don’t want to be too neat about it. If the pleats are to perfect you get straight lines. You want your pleats to be tight so some of the material will resist the dye in the second bath. This type of shibori is supposed to make a bark like pattern. I put the tied up piece in a purple dye bath hopping for a nice red purple to appear on my cloth. It came out black. After it was dry the gauze side had more of a purple look but still very dark.

I sewed up my jacket. I made the material far too wide so the jacket ends up long. The short sides overlapped a lot when folded up. I had to have long “lapels” to make it work. It is not a mistake it’s a design feature, just ask me :O) It is still to long for me. I think it may look good one someone who is tall and thin. Two things I am not.

All in all not a bad try. I’ve made another piece of nuno felt to try again, I made it narrower this time. Now I have to find the time to sew it up.

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