Planet Textile Threads

May 20, 2018

Margaret Cooter

New River Walk (London N1)

A shallow stream, shadowed in the heat of a sunny day - it's a hidden green sliver through already-leafy Canonbury. Shade, birds, reflections on the moving water ... "a green thought in a green shade".

Even when you're on the way to somewhere, it invites pausing - and a few photos.

Under the fountain


Tucked away

 Abstraction -

 Patterns -

"This charming linear park is landscaped along the river. There are several graceful weeping willows dipping into the water and many other trees, both junior and mature. The narrow path winds intriguingly enabling the pretence you're in the actual countryside and it's a delight to linger ... There are ducks, coots and moorhens even in midwinter and birdsong rang out from the treetops. ... The walk is rarely busy although a favourite for locals in the know and there are strategic benches along the way for when it's warm enough to sit and doze." (via)

One such bench was occupied by a young man, stretched out in the sun and supporting a book on his raised knee, lost to the world in it.

by Margaret Cooter ( at May 20, 2018 09:15 AM

May 19, 2018

Marion Barnett

Cara's Leaf

We're grandparenting this weekend, normal service will eventually be resumed after I've recovered... Today, we took Cara to gymnastics, then had lunch out, wandered round a garden centre, followed by Serious Cake for Cara and Grumpa (who knew a child that small could eat that much meringue...?).  And then we topped that off with a play park, in the Kinneal Estate.  On the way back to the car, Cara really wanted a leaf from one of the many trees surrounding us.  Grumpa obliged (Granny did try to put her off til autumn, but with no success). 

So, I thought, what can I do with this?  Pressing it, of course, would have been a possibility, but I've never really got my mind round what you do with leaves that size once they're dry.  So... I drew round it.  My initial intention was to let Cara colour it in, and I will still do that (she's pleased with the idea), but I'm thinking, applique.  I'm thinking cushion.  Or memory quilt (though there would need to be a lot more memories than just one leaf to make a quilt...maybe it needn't be all that large,though...).  Or just a singled blocked applique quilt.  Yes, okay, I'm wondering what got into me, too, it's so not my kind of thing....clearly the granny genes are kicking in...

And here it is.
And that's as far as it's likely to go, this weekend anyway.  I'm exhausted already, and there's a day and a half left... so won't be playing with the idea any time soon.  I'll keep you posted.

Finally, thank you to everyone who was so supportive after my last post.  I really appreciate it.  Blogging is a bit like talking to yourself, sometimes, hearing other people talk is lovely.

by marion barnett ( at May 19, 2018 03:01 PM

Olga Norris

Quick proof prints, and a fascinating book

I did some quick proofing to check what still needed cutting away from some lino plates-in-progress.
Also, I wanted to try out some colour/background combinations.
Still quite a bit of work to do on all counts.
And yesterday I finished an excellent book: Who Built Scotland: A History of the Nation in Twenty Five Buildings.  The 25 buildings start with Kathleen Jamie's poetic imaginings of the prehistoric life, and end with a consideration of The Bothy Project which aims at sustainably leaving nothing ultimately to tell the kind of story from which we learn so much about the past - in some ways a perfect circle. 
Sweeny's bothy, Isle of Eigg (image from here)
I found the book to be engaging, informative, and thought-provoking.

by Olga Norris ( at May 19, 2018 12:59 PM

Giving a fig

I have been inspired by Mags Ramsey's post on the current exhibition of Kurt Jackson's work.  The first image alone transported me to my childhood.  My favourite summer fruit was the fig (and my favourite winter fruit the pear), and I have not eaten a really ripe tasty fig since I was in my teens, some fifty years ago.  Sigh.  I remember well reaching up and gently pulling the warm ripe fruit from the tree.
Kurt Jackson: Fig yellow, olive green (image from here)
Reading Mags' post, and looking at the images from the Olive and Fig: Provence exhibition on Messum's website I was filled with a desire to make a figgy picture myself to commemorate my lost fig-eating days.
Adrian Paul Allinson: The Fig Tree (image from here)
First, however, I had a quick google through some other figgy art.  Here are a few that caught my eye.
Heather Mackinlay: Fig tree abstracted (image from here) 
Paul Klee: Fig Tree (image from here)
Catherine Forshall: Figs II (image from here)
Xchristakos: White fig tree (image from here)
Image result for Dee Schenck Rhodes fig tree
Dee Schenck Rhodes: Fig tree (image from here)

And this is my first pass scribble towards a working doodle for Giving a fig.

by Olga Norris ( at May 19, 2018 12:21 PM

Margaret Cooter

Rachel Howard at Newport Street Gallery

The series, "Repetition is Truth - Via Dolorosa" includes 14 paintings, in parallel with the Stations of the Cross, and standing in front of each does make you pause. The colours are subtle, the content is abstracted, the finish is extraordinary. And the connection to violence, horror, atrocity isn't immediately obvious.

But the subject matter is based on a famous photograph, The Hooded Man - showing the torture of an Iraqui detainee at Abu Ghraib prison in 2004. 
Study, 2005

A small painting that started a large series
Walking between the paintings in the large rooms in the gallery is rather like visiting a cathedral...

Howard's method of creating these works involves a process stretched out over time. She uses household gloss paint, and allows it to sit in the can so that pigment and varnish separate. Standing on ladders and scaffolding, she pours "vast swathes" of the pigment down from the top of the canvas "before using the varnish to add weight and momentum to the medium, pushing the paint down the surface to produce a veil-like effect". Each layer is left to dry for a month. Sometimes she applies a layer of acrylic paint before the gloss, "giving rise to occasional glimpses of fluorescence".
Shiny, glossy, smooth, subtle
The layers of paint and the veil of varnish create a subliminal surface, catching the internal and external lighting in subtle ways -
More glimpses of under-layers at the edge

Howard became fixated by the box the hooded man was standing on - an interplay with the cross in the crucifixion - which emerges and dissolves in some of the paintings -
The fascinating box - with "glimpses of fluorescence"

 The information leaflet offers a fuller explanation -

Showing till 28 May.

by Margaret Cooter ( at May 19, 2018 08:33 AM

May 18, 2018

Olga Norris

Working in threes

I've been swept up in my figgy inspiration to progress on not just one but three designs to leave to mature over the weekend.

by Olga Norris ( at May 18, 2018 02:05 PM

Margaret Cooter

The "new" Royal Academy

After much hoo-haa the enlarged Royal Academy has officially opened, expanding into what was once the Museum of Mankind, where I spent many a happy hour and where, thanks to an all-day free event about Palestinian costume, I rediscovered "the itch to stitch" ... and that made all the difference ...

What was different at the RA, apart from the fresh paint and extra space (high ceilings!) was the incorporation of bits of "history", such as these fragments mounted high on the walls of the bridging section between the buildings -
 We went to see Tacita Dean's "Landscape" show - gorgeous drawings on slate -
cloudscapes roiling at low level...

... and hanging high up in the sky...
I was delighted by her collection of four, five, six, seven and nine leaf clovers -
1972 to present

A large gallery contains important historical works - some enormous paintings and smaller things like these amazing engravings -

And tracings (!) of costumes, research for medieval paintings by Millais -

A lovely little courtyard, a rest for the eye -
but perhaps the opening day came just a bit too soon? -

by Margaret Cooter ( at May 18, 2018 08:04 AM

May 17, 2018

Marion Barnett

Look Before You Leap

I've been spending a bit of time getting ready to teach several it came as a surprise to get an email today telling me that I was no longer required.  Apparently nobody wants to make cute little cushions, and someone else has been lined up to do the linoprinting workshop we'd been discussing, which is unprofessional, but without a contract, there's nothing I can do.  Wish I'd known that before I bought the soft cut for it.  So...that was something of a waste of time... and money...and materials... I now have three wee cushions made up as samples.  Oh well, they'll be useful for something, I suspect.  It was suggested that I rent the space, but given that I'm not welcome to do workshops for the shop, I don't think I'll bother renting the space.  My idea was to support a new local business, and meet a few new people into the bargain, not to become a workshop provider.  Yes, I'm offended.  And upset.  Won't be leaping before I look in future.

The image is pure eye candy, dyer's chamomile from my Norfolk garden.  Reminds me that I want to try growing it here, too.

by marion barnett ( at May 17, 2018 02:27 PM

Margaret Cooter

Poetry Thursday - Everything is Going to be All Right by Derek Mahon

"The sun rises in spite of everything"

Everything is Going to be All Right - Derek Mahon

How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.

Derek Mahon (b1941) was born in Ireland and made literary friendships at Trinity College Dublin. After a time at the Sorbonne and working his way through Canada and the US he taught school in Dublin and worked as a freelance journalist in London. He now lives in Co.Cork, Ireland. Since 1965 he has amassed a raft of publications and won several poetry prizes. A biography by Stephen Enniss details the life context of Mahon's poems.

Encountered in the "Reconciliation" episode of BBC Radio 3's excellent "Words and Music" programme (12 days left to listen at time of writing).

by Margaret Cooter ( at May 17, 2018 11:40 AM

Woodblock Wednesday - reconsiderations

Opening April Vollmer's Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop at random as I sat down to breakfast, I found myself reading about papermaking for mokuhanga and how washi differs from Western papers. Then, thinking to invest in a decent brush (mizubake) for wetting and/or sizing paper, I found myself reading about papers again (at and, seeing the range in results obtained, determined to try a few of the papers on hand here, just to see what happens.

In the "proper" process, there are so many nuances for each aspect ... quite beyond me at this point and maybe forever ... but I'm not averse to using the process "improperly". At the moment, it's a matter of making lots of prints so that Just Doing It becomes easier and the results better, and some sort of control of the desired results develops.

So, into the studio, get a block soaking and choose a colour or two, and search out some papers.


Things don't always go as planned (do they?) - looking back through what I'd already printed, and thinking about the "two page book" project, I got caught up in "using what's there" rather than extending the field of operations.

These two had been stitched together, trying out various covers -

The alignment of the blocks isn't right - it should work as a totality, as in some of the traditional japanese books I so admire, these for example -

An improvement, but still not there - the proportions are awkward -
 and here are some more waiting to be put together -
Thus the morning went on, consideration and deliberation mainly, but also realisation of the quantity of "stuff" already on hand, hastily (but enthusiastically) made. Rather than printing more, I decided to finish the things on hand - as a number of successful artists have said, "take it to the end", don't abandon a project just because it's not meeting your expectations: there is much to learn on the way to "the end".

These pages, for example, were intended to have overprinting. I worked out a plan for "Sunrise/Moonrise" and got as far as deciding placement of the separate elements, but haven't decided on colours yet.
Just when you think it's sorted, you have a better idea ....
Now it can slush around in my subconscious for a week, and probably will be changed again. Just a little.

The subconscious will be looking out for suitable colours, too.

by Margaret Cooter ( at May 17, 2018 09:23 AM

May 16, 2018

Dijanne Cevaal

Vienna, Stitching, Dyeing and House Sitting

It was an extremely long journey home from Austria as I had a seventeen hour layover in Doha. Did try and book an hotel but Qatar Airways have changed their system so i could not be sure if I could book a hotel for the time period of 5 am until 7 pm at night- so I sat in the airport instead and stitched. The airfares I travel on don't allow hotel accommodation for long layovers, and even entry to the Oryx lounge was going to cost $55US for 6 hours- I am beginning to wonder why I am a frequent flyer with Qatar Airways- as there seem to be yearly reductions in any benefits that you might accrue for using them several times a year for long haul flights. Thankfully the flights were not full and I arrived at around 6 pm Oz time- which means after eating dinner you get to bed at a reasonably normal hour- which seems to allay the jet lag to some extent.

 Since arriving it has been  hurtling and skirtling- and now I am housesitting- my usual menagerie ; 4 dogs, 3 cats,  a dozen sheep, 15 odd chickens, 6 bantams, 2 puddle ducks ( who thought tonight was a good night to try out a puddle for their night sleep and took some persuading that the chicken house is ultimately the safer place) and some lorikeets . The animals seem to  know my habits better than I do myself, especially the dogs who are now happily ensconced on all the couches and who occasionally nick a ball of thread if they think I am not looking.

As the housesitting is close to where my mother lives I go and hand dye fabric at her house, as well as visit my mother ( as I have no running water or electricity in Gellibrand which means dyeing fabric is a little difficult). I am hoping to solve one of those problems soon. I seem to have solved the rat problem, at last, in the shed ( I am still not sure if they are rat rats or native rats, but the dead rat I found looked too big to be a bush/native rat, which are not truly native to Australia as they came across the waters on a boat some thousands of years ago), but was also hit by a millipede invasion whilst away. Most of them end up on the slab floor rather than other surfaces so a good sweep seems to get rid of most of that problem!

Meanwhile I am stitching and stitching on the traveller's blankets, and have fallen a bit behind, which means  days of 12 hour days of stitching once I am back in Gellibrand- it's the only way I will finish what I set out to do for the Craft & Quilt Fair in Sydney from 20-24 June, where I will be one of the guest exhibitors for their 25 year celebration . At this stage I feel like I need an parallel life that does not include sleep as I have also had ideas about making a small accompanying  booklet after I write and overdue article about the Waste Not Want Not indigo  traveller's blanket.

The teaching in Austria seems like weeks ago but in actual fact was only last week. It was a real pleasure to work with some of the women for the entire 7 days of the workshops. We covered lots of techniques but it also allowed them to build little bodies of work. Other people came for only a day or two as their time permitted. Having seven days really allows you to push a bit further and really develop new work. The venue Seminarhof Schleglberg in Rottenbach ,was also excellent with good food , friendly staff and good amenities. I loved the home baked bread that was available!

 The owner, Mr Fritz unloading the  bread oven. Their enterprise is centred around organically and sustainably  grown foods, which they now also sell in a store in another village, and they employ a number of people to help achieve this. They grow their own vegetables and grain.

Thank you to Karin Felbmayer for organising the workshops and finding a wonderful venue and  stopping at your town on the way to the train to Vienna so I could buy a snow globe for my daughter ( which she loved) Some of the work by students:

And a close up of the birch tree inspired piece which was developed in the trees trees workshop and added to. Tanya made this particular piece  and the other pieces in the photo above.

The following piece was from Breaking all the Rules- it was large 2.2 metres ( if I don't mention students names it is so at their request) Made with all recycled and redyed fabrics and denim offcuts- the squares are going to be embroidered and some printed.

 Below are some images of linocutting- Frieda made this lovely  abstract kind of village scene and amazing achievement seeing she had limited mobility for using the tools in her hands.
And after creating a turtle Ingrid was not sure linocutting was for her but then went on to make the village scene below!

 On the Monday I returned to Vienna as my flight left form Vienna on Tuesday night.  On the monday I arrived after one but my hotel was right across from the main Bahnhof   ( Motel One- I highly recommend it as the amenities are good , you can check in early, the price good for the amenities which are a bit upmarket, but as it  was one night and my suitcase very heavy it suited my purpose and right across the Bahnhof, and Vienna's public transport system is not difficult to use at all- there are more emerging across Europe).

 So i took the metro into the centre of Vienna,walked and walked and walked and spotted the same old designer shops you see in every city ( boring boring boring) and decided on a visit to the Leopold Museum in the  Museum Quartier. They had a retropsective of Egon Schiele's work as it is a hundred years since he and his pregnant wife died form the Spanish flu ( make sure you get those flu shots) and what an absolute delight the exhibition was. There were many pieces I have never seen in any books including city scapes from shortly before his death and off course some of his iconic pieces.

 A very early drawing, and of course later pieces. I was so happy I went, it was enthralling seeing so many of his pieces and I would have gone back another day had I had the time. Would have loved to buy the catalogue ,but alas my luggage already weighed 29 kilos although in hind sight it probably weighed less than a kilo ( but I didn't know my lugagge weighed less than 30 kg at that time)

On the tuesday morning - I stitched and stitched and then checked out of the hotel around noon and was able to leave my luggage until later in the day and made a foray into the area where Hundertwasser decorated an apartment building and communal area. I had intended to see this  way back in 1990 when I visited Vienna but it was so cold we went to Sicily instead so I never got to see it

Unfortunately you cannot go inside the building but he lived by the premise of trees everywhere and no straight lines. It was a delight to see all his works in Kunst Haus Wien and the building  that had been built to house his collection as well as host other exhibitions. No photographs inside- but his work is well documented.

by Dijanne Cevaal ( at May 16, 2018 07:57 PM

Marion Barnett

Pacing Myself

You may  have noticed it's been quiet on the blog this week.  My sister had a party at the weekend, and I'm still paying for it in reduced energy, so very little sewing.  I thought you might like to see how the Borderlines piece is progressing (I talked about it here), so...

Regular stitching, irregular sizes, round and round, I hope it suggests a field.  And then some much more intense stitch in the lighter area of paper.

I hope it supports the texture of the paper, which sadly, you can't really see clearly from the image.  It's really quite fragile, though it has a rough look. 

The real challenge, though, is the background.  All that white.  I really don't like white, don't use it much at all.  My original intention was to use a dark blue/pinky purple hand dyed thread as the background, in a similar fashion to the yellow stitches in the image above, but now I'm not so sure.  Maybe a variety of different colours, grouped in different ways; rectangles, or circles.  Rectangles are more reflect the idea of a patchwork of fields.  If that isn't enough, I dare say I could use a wash of either a herbal tea or a watercolour paint... but I think I'll wait to see how the stitching turns out. 

Ideas tend to shift and change, to develop, as the work goes along.  I like that.  Art is a living thing, in its way, a relationship between the maker and the thing he or she is exploring.  It ought to change as more is learned, more uncovered.  It's all part of the process.

by marion barnett ( at May 16, 2018 02:35 PM

May 15, 2018

Natalya Aikens

stuffing it

Expanding on an idea. Or rather expanding my explanation of an idea.

In the last post I mentioned that I was stuffing undesirable bits and pieces of plastic and styrofoam into containers and making building out of them. I thought that this needed clarification. For the latest set of buildings that I made, I spent the time photographing the items that I stuffed them with.

Here is the collage of my documentation:
stuff that got stuffed
Then, while I was all set up for photography, I continued.. Here are my containers, patterns sketched out on scraps of upholstery fabric. Then layered with scraps cut off from other art, stitched for texture till my hearts content, and glued onto the containers. Then the edges were all hand stitched with a nice, satisfyingly thick thread.
the how to
 And now the results:
Urban Tower 5 © Natalya Aikens 2018 (3"x3"x9")

Urban Tower 7xs © Natalya Aikens 2018 (3"x3"x5")
This one's insides were not photographed because I realized that I still had scraps left, but was already out of time to photograph the stuffing ephemera. But it's basically the same bunch of stuff.
Urban Tower 8xs © Natalya Aikens 2018 (2"x2"x5")
 And here are all three together. Don't they look swell?
Urban Tower family? ☺︎
I enjoyed the photo documenting process so much, that I created a tiny little book of it. Just photos, no words.
I decided that if someone buys all three of these little Urban Towers, they'll get the little book as a bonus. That way they know exactly how it happened. And knowing feels good.

by Natalya Aikens ( at May 15, 2018 04:19 PM

Margaret Cooter

Drawing Tuesdays - getting up to date

One of the good things about being back from holiday is getting back to Drawing Tuesdays. While I was away, Sue documented the group's work on her blog -
1st May
8th May

I did some quick - and really rough - sketches while hurrying through old buildings on Tuesdays while I was away, so as to "look harder and see better". Works of art they are not, but they take me back to the object and to the moment.
Polychrome saint ... St Peter - in Villalcazar de Siguera

Leon cathedral - one of the many beautiful 13th century stained glass windows,
and a little corner of a wall paining

"Travel lines" on the bus from Leon to Oviedo, and
a bit of mountain scenery on the way back to town after visiting a couple
of pre-Romanesque buildings (9th century)

San Miguel and San Lorenzo, 13th century, in the
wonderful Asturias fine arts museum in Oviedo,
and some "portable art" carved on bone before 11,500BC,
seen in the archaeological museum in Oviedo

Column heads (12th century) and a 13th century Madonna
and Child from the archaeological museum - it looks like she's
holding a potato!

The flimsy, floppy but light notebook I took along - A7 size

by Margaret Cooter ( at May 15, 2018 09:26 AM

May 14, 2018

Marion Barnett

Relative Normality

Well, you didn't really think it was going to be tidy for long, did you?  Note the strategic placing of the coffee cup, and the small photograph waiting for stitch which has nothing much to do with anything... oh well....

The reason for the relative chaos is the creation of a sample for the class I'll be teaching at Fabric And More in Bo'ness, called 'Patchwork Without A Pattern'.  I have thought for some time that when we teach basic patchwork, we really ask a lot of beginners.  We want them to line up corners, get points right, choose fabrics that work together, make blocks that look similar and fit together, all sorts of competing priorities in a skill that's new to them.  If you take away the need to line things up and fit together properly, then learners can practice the whole quarter inch seam thing along with the suitable fabrics thing, and still produce something that's worthwhile.

So...I took some scrap, and fiddled about with it... the panda was a pure fluke, a strip that someone had given me...I think he's rather cute, despite semi decapitation...
The deal was that I'd make a small wall hanging, but when I assembled it...

It shrieked cushion... so that is what it became.

Ideally, it should have lavender in it, but my lavender went the way of most craft things in the great move, and I've no idea where to get it locally. I'm going to play with this idea a bit more, see what I end up this space.

by marion barnett ( at May 14, 2018 10:20 AM

Margaret Cooter

Additions to the reading list

Wandering past a bookshop on a Sunday morning, I saw several books in the window display that might have come home with me if the shop had been open. (Narrow escape!)
So English!!

"exploring themes of Britishness, identity, craftsmanship and the art establishment"

How - and why - are women's self-portraits different
from men's?

"A spotter's guide to the British landscape"

The "medieval" book is wonderfully illustrated,
and I love reading essays

(Still re-reading His Dark Materials....)

Words by Robert MacFarlane (from his Landmarks), visuals by
Jackie Morris, who spent two years immersed in this "book
for all ages"

by Margaret Cooter ( at May 14, 2018 08:30 AM

May 13, 2018

Marion Barnett

Something To Refer To.

We went to visit my sister yesterday, to celebrate, a tad belatedly, her 30th wedding anniversary with the rest of the family.  Being half an hour early, we detoured to Leven, meaning to enjoy watching the water sparkle in the sunlight, which we did.   On the way to the house, though, Robin stopped to buy some rolls from a particularly good baker, and I spotted this...

I admit, it's not an obvious photograph to take, but then, I'm the girl who used to get down on her hands and knees to take photographs of roots and stones... There's a lot of texture in this image, and, sadly, more reflections than I wanted; didn't think to roll down the car window.  What I was after, in actual fact, was the cracks in the stone underneath the sign, the one to the left of the image in particular.  That said, I like the whole of it, it's interesting, I think, though I'm unlikely to do anything with the whole thing, really.

The main problem is that this was taken using a phone: you never have your camera with you when you need it.  Given that I have two, perhaps I should take to keeping one in the car.  So the image is small to start with, and it starts getting a bit hairy when I try to crop down the image to study the crack itself:

At this size, they're okay....ish... a tiny bit of pixellation.  Smaller, though, and we get this:

Still fairly adequate.  But looking at a smaller area, the bit I'm really interested in...

well... I dare say a photographer would just delete it.  I, on the other hand, think it's fab.  Firstly, it suggests ways of rendering it, like pointillism, that I wouldn't have thought of otherwise.  Secondly, it isn't my only reference; I can look at the larger images to get a crisper look at what's going on.  Finally, I didn't take the photograph as a photograph, an end in itself.  I took it as reference, to remind me of what was there, to use as the basis for textile work and/or drawing.  As such, the smallest of them, and the one we might usually discard, is probably best.  

by marion barnett ( at May 13, 2018 12:57 PM

Margaret Cooter

Giorgio Griffa at Camden Arts Centre

The exhibition finished in early April; I went several times, the work really grew on (?in) me. A video in which the artist talks about the work, and his relationship to the materials, is here.

Lines and shapes of colour painted onto, or rather, into, unprimed fabric, which has been folded and retains those fold marks. Many works are large and fill the rooms of the gallery wonderfully. It was hard to stop taking photographs: each new angle was another spatial revelation.

Frammenti, a work from the 1980s, was reconfigured in response to the
architecture, atmospherics, and light of the gallery

The number used in these works from the early 2000s is the Golden Ratio

 Details -

When I revisited, just before the exhibition closed, I spent some time in the Reading Room, where books about Griffa's previous exhibitions were laid out.
This collage (?montage) of marks on transparent paper, exhibited at the XXXIX Venice Biennale (1980) caught my eye and imagination ... how, if at all, could it be done in stitch (and: why?) ....
Other works had been exhibited in a medieval palazzo in 1995 -

One of the books had text on the right-hand page, and a tantalising flutter of careful marks and colours on the left -
 In his studio! -
 A happy conjunction of fragments -
 Larger works, fitted onto the page -
 Fragments and overlays -

"Griffa sees painting as an unmediated experience of the physical world. Though often minimal from afar, his works invite intimate attention to the exacting behaviours of their materials, to consider the experience of pigment on canvas at a molecular level. ... The modest appearance [of the creased canvases] reaffirms their reality in material and temporal terms, while underlying each work with a geoetric grid."

by Margaret Cooter ( at May 13, 2018 08:24 AM

May 12, 2018

Margaret Cooter

The fullness of time

(Looking through the Drafts folder on this blog, posts written but unfinished, unpublished, I found this had been written almost a year ago. For at least a year I've been sorting and sifting and revisiting and binning and liberating and regretting, mostly on a micro level ... all those little bits of "important" papers...)

Taking time and having time and spending time - these and similar ones are phrases that we use without thinking, and perhaps we shouldn't think about them too much - especially when pressed for time.

This morning I have a pressing task which relies on finding some information, just a name or two jotted down ... where? Not where I was sure it was (though I keep looking in that notebook, just in case I missed seeing it the first half-dozen times I checked!) - but I'm sure it's written down somewhere....

You know how it goes - self-recriminations of "I should have done this last week/last month/last year"; "I really don't have time for this today"; "this happens to me all the time!" - not very useful when you're running out of time.

Going through heaps, drawers, files, and bags and finding handwritten notes with snippets from the past brings on the meditative mood. How much time has passed since hearing this story (and who told it??): 
"There are things I don't touch - teddy bears for instance. Teddy bears are a minefield. I was at a sale in Suffolk when I saw a teddy bear literally torn apart by two bidders - one of them a vicar."
Whereas this snippet is quite recent, taken from a TED talk, the seven rules of successful artists [can't find the exact reference]:

1. work every day
2. volume (not perfection)
3. stealing from your idols
4. conscious learning
5. rest
6. seek criticism, get feedback
7. create what you love

Snippets du jour
Just one desk drawer has yielded 

- "memorable tickets" - from Art of the Stitch at the V&A, Friday 15 and Saturday 16 March 2002 (cost £56);
   -Mum's the Word at Kings Theatre Glasgow (my cousin Barbara Pollard is one of the writers and performers), also in March 2002 [and I took the sleeper to Glasgow to go see the performance];
   -and from 2001, Chelsea Flower Show - £12.00, "no babes in arms or under 5s admitted" - hmm, the price has gone up since then!

- a bundle of poems from 2002/3 (oh my, she was not a happy bunny!) - though this made me smile:
baggy maggie is gone
her bottomless bags are empty!
maggie hops skips jumps
hands free
maggie was baggy;
now maggie
- a notebook from 2010, 'twixt art foundation course and starting the MA at Camberwell; it includes notes from courses on star book binding and cross structure bindings (neither of which I've done since) and these desiderata/advice -
-finding the essence as quickly as possible
-pursue to end of idea - don't let these things interfere with each other

Also, ever useful and never to hand, the drawer yielded some pads of blank, small sheets of paper - just the sort you want for jotting something down, but never have to hand. But but but ... current experience shows that it's best to write EVERYTHING in just ONE notebook... jots, scribbles, and all... consecutively on dated pages. Saves so much time when searching for the info later!!

Let us halt the digressions and get back to the title of this post, and consider "the fullness of time" - at this time, when I have little enough time to wallow in the memories that are being turned up, sifted through, recontextualised, whatever - just now seems the right time to do this. It's hard to get started, I need to trick myself into starting. It's hard to be at home, though I love my flat and its tranquility, that serenity is on the surface, there's still something troubling that makes me want to escape, to be Out Of The House. Most of all I want to escape this kind of sifting, but the fullness of time has led me to think that now might be the right time to face up to this. And gradually it gets easier, the burden gets less, the bags get emptier. The fullness of time lets you be in the moment.

by Margaret Cooter ( at May 12, 2018 08:30 AM

May 11, 2018

Olga Norris

A morning stroll round the garden

This is such a lovely time of year in the garden.  The greens are still widely differentiated - they grow more similar as Summer comes along.  So many flowers are blooming, and more are in bud waiting to burst open.  After several warm days and much sunshine the scent of the wisteria is overwhelming.  
I went out this morning while there were deep shadows to breathe it all in and take some snaps before coming to do some work.
The view at the top of the post is the back of the house taken from the seats above, which remain cool in the early morning.  I love the long view south from those seats, the lovely old hawthorns and across next door's land.
A closer view of the leaning hawthorn which fills my view as I sit at my computer.
The close view to the left of the shady seats is of the pittosporum with the most delightful almost black tiny flowers.
Elsewhere there are many greens, and colour combinations galore.
There is a gusty wind today, so the newly built fruit cage looks as if there is a monster slug in it!  The loganberry is now protected from the birds but not the bees - and it looks as if there will be a heavy crop this summer, if the weather behaves!

by Olga Norris ( at May 11, 2018 11:56 AM

Marion Barnett

Reverting To Words...

,,,because sometimes, only words will do.  This week is ME awareness week; read more about it here.  There are a lot of events happening across the country, across the world, in fact, including Millions Missing, where shoes are set out, labelled with their owners' stories, to indicate the way in which they are missing from the event, and indeed, to some extent, from their own lives.  I can't go to the Edinburgh event (at the Mound, if you want to go along), so I thought I'd mark it with a poem.

Wasting My Energy : A Poem For ME Awareness

You. Yes, you. You who can dance
Whenever you want.  Stroll
Unconcerned wherever you
Wish, run for a mile, or a
Bus without thinking.  Work, laugh or play
Without consequence.  
You really don’t get it, now do you?
Here sit I, wheels for feet,
Buses a distant memory.  Oh yes,
My legs work, and the rest of me: I can
Stand up, point a toe, take a few
Careful steps, then sit down hard
Gasping for breath.
And that will make me
A fraud in your eyes;  that is,
If you see me at all.  Invisible,
That’s me.  (It’s got something to do
With the chair).

Humour me, just for a moment.
Imagine a world filled with pain,
Every action carefully planned, consequences
Weighed up and measured, that is
If just rising from bed can be managed..
Imagine your life without action,
Interaction, meaning: you’re imagining
Mine.  Nobody asks for ME; it just
Happens one day, irreversible,
Misunderstood.  No testing,
Diagnosis or cure.  No treatment.
No sympathy.  Just judgement,
And the shaking of heads. It’s no
Way to live. It’s all there is.
You still don’t get it, do you?

I really tried.

by marion barnett ( at May 11, 2018 11:55 AM

Margaret Cooter

"Golden Words..." for a golden anniversary (1997)

How differently I would do this now! Better bookmaking techniques; less brashness in the gold of the cover; a less "medieval" looking script ... but back then my calligraphy consisted of just the one script (since forgotten, and the hand more shaky now, alas). I hadn't yet learned the value of understatement, nor had practice produced finesse in making books.

The work that went into the object was appreciated, and Mom put it carefully away.

by Margaret Cooter ( at May 11, 2018 08:30 AM

May 10, 2018

Marion Barnett

Stitch Sabotage?

So... I thought I'd start the stitch on this piece, Borderline...well, okay, continue the stitch. Except... I couldn't remember which threads I'd used.... but I did work it out, eventually.

And here they are...

So far, so slow.  And it got worse.  Much worse.  

I had a clear idea what to do with that upper right hand circle...this, to be precise...

And this is where it all went to hell in the proverbial handcart.  Texture in the centre, I thought.  French knots, I thought.  Wish I'd left it well alone...  Turns out, I used to be able to do French knots...and the first one turned out fine... but it was all downhill from there.  I looked up my favourite stitch book, and followed the instructions and got another one out of six attempts.  Then it was joy.  Yes, I could see the woman demonstrating, doing beautiful stitches.  I did exactly what she did, and got damn all.  By this time, I was incandescent.  Had the piece not had so much potential, I would have thrown it out the window and been done with it.  However.... 

So I thought somebody might as well have a laugh out of it, and posted on FB.  Yes, they laughed (and I'm very happy for them, I'd have laughed as well, had it not been two hours of my life I won't be getting back again...).  And then someone said, Colonial knots.  Three different someones, in fact.  Reader, those kind women have changed my life.  I will never again mess about with the French version.  Here are the instructions I was sent to; do yourself a favour, go and have a look.  

So... I now have a collection of knots...looks better in real life, to be honest, but hey.  I wish I had put more space between the individual stitches, but it took so long to get the end result, I'm rather loath to unpick it.  And when there was space between them, I'm not convinced it looked any better.  Sigh.

But that's not all.  I did a bit of work in another section...and then put the work down, so I could have a rest.  Apparently that was an invitation to Merlin...
And this was bad enough...but this annoyed me...
Dammit, that paper is fragile. I remembered too late that it's easier to handle paper if it has a light interfacing attached (though not necessarily easier to hand sew, admittedly, which is why I didn't do it).   And then, to add insult to injury, he started playing with the thread.  Reader, I chased him.  I've come to terms with cats sitting on my work, but that was a paw too far.  
He got his own back, though.  I must have left the thread on the sofa that night, as in the morning the ball was on the other side of the room...he (or Mollie, perhaps) had clearly had a great deal of fun winding it round the scratching post.  Cats?  Can't live with 'em etc.  

More on this piece as it develops. 

by marion barnett ( at May 10, 2018 11:14 AM

Margaret Cooter

Poetry Thursday - Mornings Like This by Annie Dillard


"Give me time enough in this place
And I will surely make a beautiful thing"
- this is something I say to myself quite often, as a way of paying attention to where I am and spending enough time and care to take in all that it contains.

The book "Mornings Like This", containing "found poems", was sent to me in the 1990s sometime by my much-missed friend Rita, kindred spirit and writer of prize-winning short stories ... and many cards and letters, which I have still.

"So brief - our best!
Give me time enough in this place
And I will surely make a beautiful thing."
- the same words, a different thought altogether... about where we are, and what is missing.

by Margaret Cooter ( at May 10, 2018 08:30 AM

May 09, 2018

Margaret Cooter

"Out of the Closet" (2002)

One-sheet book, from an A4-sized piece of paper; tissue paper collage and stamping - the stamps were made with lines of PVA on wood block.

by Margaret Cooter ( at May 09, 2018 08:30 AM

May 08, 2018

Marion Barnett

A Little Light Shopping?

I had a visitor, yesterday, my first in this house, not counting family.  I'd like to think she came to see me. you understand, but I think she was really tempted by the fact that there's a new fabric shop in Bo'ness, Fabric And More.  Their website is still under construction, but here's their FB page.  The owner is the lovely Fiona Paterson, a skilled maker in her own right (more about that tomorrow), as well as approachable, friendly and helpful.  Just what you need in a fabric shop.
Those of you who are looking carefully will notice the six Brother sewing machines at the top of the shop.  Yes, there are workshops.  Yes, I'll be running one.  Or three (watch this space for dates and more details),  I like small groups, and this is an ideal space for six learners and wee me, because the layout is flexible; we can have it like this, or in separate work stations.  And for all that I'm a Bernina girl, I do have a Brother machine, and like using them, so I'm pretty happy about that, too.

Yeah, I know, less of a post, more of an advert...I apologise.  I'm a bit over excited.  I really miss teaching, and this gives me the chance to do more of it, more or less on my own doorstep, in a nice space, with cake.  Actually, I might have to provide the cake... but hey, I don't mind that... you so know that all of my workshops feature cake, you can't sew without it!

by marion barnett ( at May 08, 2018 09:26 AM

May 07, 2018

Margaret Cooter

"Forest Scrumpy" (1998)

This recipe makes a much nicer drink than elderflower cordial (imho) and you also get the pleasure (imho) of picking the berries.

This book evolved within minutes in an illustration class at London College of Printing, as it was then. It was my first experience of how art could "just happen" - but of course it didn't just happen, there had been subconscious preparation: the learning that was happening on the course, my experience of making the drink and of making other books.

What was instantaneous - and fortuitous - was the scrap of yellow that seemed to need a hand on it (ie, wearing Marigolds to pick the berries rather than staining your hands). And the rest dropped into place.

Later the pages became potholders, made with applique and embroidery, but never used in the kitchen - and I still have a few of the resulting postcards -

by Margaret Cooter ( at May 07, 2018 10:42 PM