The sound of silence…

has been because I’ve been in a creative slump – the muse has definitely gone on holiday, and unfortunately I haven’t gone with her. I couldn’t work out what to do with the masks idea, the 3D explorations were sabotaged by problems with my sewing machine and a lack of enthusiasm on my part, and the knitting has become predictable and boring. 

See photograph above of boring knitting. 

So I have gone back to basics. I am going to do some ordinary knitting – using a pattern! – written by someone else! – which will require very little thought, though I did have to unskein a couple of skeins of wool before I could start. 

And, inspired by an exhibition of Diana Harrison‘s work, and rereading Helen Parrott‘s book ‘Mark Making in Textile Art’, I decided:

1. To go back to embroidery,

2. That the sort of embroidery I like best is reliant on colour, and stitch as mark making,

3. So I needed to start exploring mark making through drawing and stitch. 

Which I did, and it was fun, because I started by taking lots of photos – until the printer started playing up. Still, that seems to be fixed now, so fingers crossed I can print off some photos and start work. 

The wedges below are not cheeses, by the way, but firewood stacked up at Mottisfont.

It’s been a busy week.

I knew it was going to be, but when the VHC went down with a tummy bug and had a couple of days off school, it got busier. (He’s better, I’m glad to say.)

Despite that, I seem to have got quite a lot done. There has been wire knitting – the beginnings of another vessel, and some earrings I will probably never wear.

So why make them? Well, the current MSED prompt was about ears, and I couldn’t think of anything except earrings. Except I’ve made a lot of earrings in my time (and I rarely wear those either). So rather than repeat myself completely, and as I’m experimenting with knitting wire, I decided to knit some. I cheated and found a pattern on Knitty, and after lots of mistakes (not the pattern’s fault) I quite like the result. If I was 30 years younger and less grey, lined and haggard I might wear them.

Other knitting has taken place. I can’t knit wire and read subtitles at the same time, so I had to cast on some conventional knitting as well. This is a sample of Sequence Knitting in the round, quite small, but I like the look of it, so I will probably add a base and felt it.

That’s a bit conventional, but I have just finished two SKO’s.  Both experimental, both due to be felted. I’m not sure if thecream  vessel will work, but you never know till you try. The long thin scarf will have the edges wired and it will then coiled up in some, as yet unspecified way.

And finally…

a homemade, largely recycled sketchbook. The cover is the cardboard from a book order, the pages are mostly flyers, painted with emulsion and Brusho. 

And that, plus a very helpful discussion about art, life  and everything with my friend N. made up my week.

Progress report

As you can see, one of the bits of papier-mâché has dried out. The other remains pretty damp, despite bringing it into the house and having the heating on. 

I’m not sure what to do with the half-balloon,  though. Isabel Hall couches stuff on to hers, which is a possibility, if I can find something which is a) thick enough for it not to take forever – this thing is quite big – and b) long enough not to run out before I get to the end. I have some single hanks of Collinette which may do, although they are mostly purple, and that doesn’t feel right. These 3D things tell me they want to be neutrals. I spent an afternoon earlier in the week attempting to make machine cord with some chunky brown wool left over from mammoth gloves, but after about 3 hours gave it up as a bad job. 

Despite that, it’s been quite a productive week. I have Made Something (almost) Every Day – plus the paper mache which was also MSED. 

You will have noticed that some of these are circular, which means I can use them for the 100 days project as well. 

I have painted the wire and plaster SKO as well, but no point in photographing that, as I painted it white.

And I have started making a small embroidery (almost) every day – if child care doesn’t get in the way. I started something similar after I’d read ‘Slow Stitch‘, but I made the mistake of making it too elaborate, so it ceased to be relaxing and contemplative. 

So now I make one tiny piece at a time, using scraps, and aiming to finish it in around 30 minutes. Well, that’s the aim! I’m more or less following the rules set up by Liz Kettle in this video, but I’ve added an extra one – the first piece of fabric must be picked from the box of scraps with my eyes closed, and whatever comes out I have to use. After that I can pick what to use with it.

Now you know where I get my chocolate from, if only when I’m feeling in need of emotional uplift. 

Where do I go from here?

Over the weekend, I had one of those moments (would it were only a moment) of self doubt – where am I going?  What am I doing? Is it the right thing? If not, what is?

I decided that the little gloves/hands weren’t going anywhere – on a conventional scale they just look like gloves – and that the masks which I had got excited about after making one for MSED, weren’t going anywhere either. I still like the knitted vessels, but as the lovely Dr James Fox said in his excellent programme about conceptual art last night ’Art without ideas is merely decoration’. 

After a discussion with Wensleydale, who is my best critic (he isn’t afraid to tell me when something doesn’t work, or I’m talking cobblers, which is what I need) I decided:

1. What I want to make is 3D stuff,but it doesn’t have to be knitted, and it doesn’t have to be seamless. (It was a desire to make seamless 3D shapes in fabric which led me to knit them in the first place, but I’m over that now.)

2. So I should just start making 3D things (what sort of things to be decided) in all sorts of fabric techniques and see where the journey takes me.

Hence the wire SKO you see in the image. As an extra touch of weird I dipped it in plaster. Of course the plaster falls off when you move the thing because the wire knitting is very flexible, but ‘it’s only a sample’ – and probably ‘merely decoration’as well. 

I also, regrettably, decided to have another go at papier-mâché. This was a mistake. (You can read more about why over on my other blog.) Papier-mâché and I do not get on.

Two days later the things are barely any drier than they were, although the weather hasn’t helped.

However – they are ‘only samples’, and ‘a learning experience’, although I don’t seem to have learned that papier-mâché and I don’t get on, because I bought one of these in Poundland yesterday.  Not to fill it with a strange green drink to ‘share with  friends’, (I’m not that weird), but because I thought it would make a good mould for papier-mâché. 

So, that was where I was this morning. No more gloves, no more masks, just playing with 3D techniques and enjoying the journey. Well, the bits where I didn’t get covered with paste and bits of paper,  anyway.

Then, despite my decision to give up mask making, I went to the Russell-Cotes Gallery, where they currently have an exhibition of masks and puppets. Which of course reawakened my interest in masks. Now masks are 3D, but in the heavy engineering, carved wood, moulded plastic or, heaven help me,  papier-mâché  sort of 3D. Plus, the masks I found most interesting were the African and Mexican ones, and I try to avoid cultural appropriation. The European comedia del arte masks were lovely but very 3D, and didn’t really inspire me anyway.

So what to do? I’ve had another conversation with Wensleydale, and we’ve come up with a few ideas about masks. The trouble is they don’t involve 3D work, and I was really looking forward to exploring those techniques.

An SKO and Two MSEDs

Above is the SKO (Strange Knitted Object). This is a sampler of all the unlabelled yarn in my stash that I might want to use for the structures I’m making. I need to know if they felt – or in the case of the paper yarn in the middle of the sample, fall apart when wet. So tomorrow this will meet the washing machine, and we will find out what happens. I may be picking shredded paper yarn out of the washer, which will make a change from shredded tissues.

Below are the two latest MSEDs – (Making Something Every Day). No. 50 on the top, No.49 underneath. (I like being confusing.) Neither is terribly original for me, I’ve made cut paper mandalas and button necklaces before, but I was stuck for ideas, and I’d decided I needed a more colourful button necklace than my existing black and brown ones.

I’m now working on another SKO, this time with slightly odd ‘yarns’, like raffia, machine cord, and  string. I know these are unlikely to shrink (apart, possibly from the string), what I want to know is whether any of the colours run.