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Cuckoo

If ever there is a bird with a tale to tell its the Cuckoo!
Inspired by Nick Davies book ‘Cuckoo – Cheating by Nature’, the book explores and unravels the complexity of  this notorious bird.
Its trickery is truly astounding!
The Cuckoo migrates to our island from Western Africa and is an iconic sound of spring. Unfortunately recent population declines have now seen them placed on the red list and you now consider yourself lucky to hear one anymore.

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The RSPB describe the “cuckoo is a dove-sized bird with blue grey upper parts, head and chest with dark barred white under parts. With their sleek body, long tail and pointed wings they are not unlike kestrels or sparrowhawks. Sexes are similar and the young are brown. They are summer visitors and well-known brood parasites, the females laying their eggs in the nests of other birds, especially meadow pipits, dunnocks and reed warblers. Their recent population decline makes this a Red List species”.

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Having never seen (only heard) a cuckoo I am very thankful to Jack Barnes for giving me permission to base this piece on his stunning photograph.  Jack is a very talented Bird photographer and I really recommend taking a look at his work here.

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Above, the bird pieced and paint details added as a stitch guide.

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Early selection of possible threads, including King Tut and Oliver Twist.

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Having read Nick ‘s book and made notes on the key points I eventually reduced the story down to 31 words – no mean feet as the book was crammed with the most fascinating facts!

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I stitched the grid with a walking foot following the iron removable pen outline. The letters were stitched free hand on the machine.

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Above, Starting to build up the colours and textures of the feathers with stitch.

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Finally it was time to stitch the Cuckoo onto the completed background, adding the final third of the stitch details to the piece.

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The Cuckoo’s Tale completed!

Without doubt the most fascinating bird I have researched to date……

AKnapp'ACuckoo'sTale'

 

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Slender Billed Curlew Part 2

 

This is the second piece based around the  plight of the Slender billed Curlew.  I rarely do two pieces on one bird in such quick succession, but this story fascinated me and I wanted to experiment with a few techniques and improve the story-telling in my backgrounds.

I initially made the first curlew as a ‘show’ piece to take to galleries and talks but very quickly someone approached me about buying it, I was over the moon and decided to start a second study.  You can see the earlier piece here.

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Above and below, you can see the bird pieced with early stitching.  I increased the use of painting with fabric paints, adding the more intricate details with a very fine brush.

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Below, replacing/adding additional layers of fabric to abdomen area before painting details as guide for stitching.

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The previous piece successfully incorporated maps of the areas that had lead to this birds demise within a stone it was standing on.  The maps had told a powerful story and had, as I hoped caused people to ask questions about what the piece meant and the relevance of the countries illustrated. For this second study I had an idea of the maps building up the birds reflection and so I  sketched out the reflection and fitted the areas into each individual piece.  This bird is almost certainly extinct so the temporary nature of a reflection seemed a suitable way of telling the story.

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Below, stitching the backing fabric, reflection and edging ready to be stitched to mountboard.

 

 

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The finished piece off to the framers.  I am hoping to show this at the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in August on the Contemporary Quilters West stand and also at The West Country Quilt & Textile show at UWE in September.

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These pieces were inspired by Horatio Clare’s book ‘Orison for a Curlew’, a book I highly recommend reading if you are interested in nature and our human impact on the planet.

 

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‘Chorus Line’

With the first of three exhibitions with the Contemporary Quilters West fast approaching all the pictures are now complete and at the framers!

Following on from the earlier blog about the creation and inspiration of this Starling piece I finally have the finished image.

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‘Chorus Line’ Starling

This piece included lots of small painted details and hand stitching.  I really enjoyed the hand stitching, though it was a struggle to get the needle through some of the very heavily machine stitched areas – great to try some new techniques though.

You can see this piece plus three others at Harbour House Gallery in Kingsbridge, Devon, TQ7 1JD between the 27th of April and the 3rd of May 2018.

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Starling – ‘Chorus Line’

Murmurations are one of nature’s wonders, as they pass overhead you have to stop, listen and watch.  Living near the Somerset levels they are part of our seasonal cycle.

Starlings are not a particularly popular bird, greedy on our feeders, intimidating smaller ‘prettier’ birds.  However, the beauty of their feathers can be seen in bright sunshine, iridescent, detailed and glossy.   As a large group they fascinate us, reconnecting us with the natural world on our doorstep.

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To read more about Murmurations click here.

The beautiful photograph above taken by Carl Jones was the starting point for this piece.   Carl takes the most wonderful photographs and I would like to thank him for giving me permission to use this photograph for inspiration.  A quick watercolour allowed me to consider the colour and textures of the bird ready to start selecting suitable fabrics.

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The startling feathers contain so many colours, the fabric choice produced quite a variety.  The outline sketch allowed me to colour block the image ready for fabric selection.

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Fabrics selected and cut to size, the bird started to emerge.

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We get thousands his starlings in this area and one of the ways I regularly see them is gathering in huge numbers on overhead wires – ready to take off at a moments notice.

Trying to capture this scene took a few attempts but this final version started with a backing fabric which contained waves of block colours and tiny dots – similar to a murmuration.  I then painted and stitched the tiny details of the birds on the wire.

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The tiny details at the end of the starlings feathers required lots of hand stitching on top of the free motion embroidery.  My hand stitching skills are gradually improving with each piece and make a really enjoyable break form the machine work.

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Below, he is almost complete, just the legs to add and final stitching details when applying him to the background.  I am awaiting the finished scanned and colour balanced image but will post as soon as I receive it.

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He is hopefully the third of four pieces to be shown at some of the Contemporary Quilters West exhibitions this year, to read more about visiting these three venues click here.

Thanks for reading.

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‘Standing Out’ Pheasant

I’m a little shocked at how long it has taken me to finish this piece and then blog about its progress.  The first post was back in May last year – I knew I was a little behind but thats just ridiculous!  Anyway the final image is now complete.  I have absolutely loved the challenge of this piece, playing with the colours has been wonderful.

The initial post about this piece and its inspiration can be seen here.

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Above, the first tentative steps, starting as always with the eye and its reflection.

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Pheasant – in progress

 

I have learnt so much over the past few years, my techniques have changed and almost certainly improved.  This pheasant is radically different from the first pheasant I made back in 2015.  The thing I love about keeping this blog is looking back at how I have progressed and how the work has developed.

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It is so easy as an artist to be self critical, thinking that you have not achieved much or that you are not improving – at times this is true BUT when I look back over the last 3 years even I am amazed by what I am prepared to try now and how many pieces I have sold.

I blogged about reading a book  called The One Thing back in 2015 and this piece reminds me of where I started and allows me to see that even tiny steps can eventually turn into big life changes!  Its too easy to only look at where you think you should be/what you should be achieving.  Instead we need to spend time looking back and seeing what we have actually achieved!

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Its an great book that I cannot recommend highly enough.  In Chapter two ‘The Domino Effect’ they say –

‘Getting extraordinary results is all about creating a domino effect in your life.  Toppling dominos is pretty straightforward.  You line them up and tip over the first one.  In the real world, though, it’s a bit more complicated.  The challenge is that life doesn’t line everything up for us and say, “Heres where you should start”.  Highly successful people know this.  So every day they line up their priorities anew, find the lead domino, and whack away at it until it falls.  Why does this approach work?  Because extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous.  What starts out as linear becomes geometric.  You do the right thing and then you do the next right thing.  Over time it adds up, and the geometric potential of success is unleashed.  The domino effect applies to the big picture, like your work or your business, and it applies to the smallest moment in each day when you’re trying to decide what to do next.  Success builds on success, and this happens, over and over, you move toward the highest success possible.  When you see someone who has a lot of knowledge, they learned it over time.  When you see someone who has a lot of skills, they developed them over time.  When you see someone who has done a lot, they accomplished it over time.’

‘The key is over time.  Success is built sequentially.  Its one thing at a time’

Below, the final piece.  This is the second of 4 pieces I have had accepted for the Contemporary Quilters West exhibition this year.

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‘Standing Out’ Pheasant

 

Thanks for reading.

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Unfolding Stories 3 – CQW Exhibitions

For the past 3 years I have been a member of the Contemporary Quilters West.

We are a group of contemporary and art quilters based in the South West and Wales.  The group is affiliated to the the British Quilters’ Guild and many of us are members of the internet based Contemporary Quilt Group.  We meet six times a year in Saltford, between Bath and Bristol, to discuss ways of increasing our professionalism and promoting our work.

Every two years we hold a major exhibition which presents work from our members under the ongoing title ‘Unfolding Stories’.

Each artist presents a small collection of new work, capturing a point in time in their own creative story.  The exhibition is the unfolding story of their work.

You can read more about the artists here.

Our next exhibition
 Harbour House Gallery, Kingsbridge, Devon.

Contemporary Quilters West Unfolding Stories 3 Exhibition Poster Harbour House, Kingsbridge TQ7 1JD

Click to enlarge
The exhibition can then seen at:
Festival of Quilts, 9th – 12th August 2018

West Country Quilt & Textile Show, UWE Bristol,
​30th Aug – 1st September 2018

We look forward to seeing you!

 

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Osprey Continued & completed

I have been really busy the last 2-3 months producing work that I hope to have entered into a number of forthcoming exhibitions around the country.

The workshop, even with the fire and another heater has been incredibly cold but finally work for this first series of work is complete.  Blog posts and housework have been thoroughly neglected!!

The Osprey below is the first off four pieces I have had accepted on the Contemporary Quilters West ‘travelling exhibition’ this year.  You can read more about its inspiration on an earlier blog here.

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Osprey- watercolour

The watercolour above was the starting point for this piece.  I used my technique of building up fabrics to create a similar image prior to stitching using both free-motion embroidery and hand stitching.

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I start to choose possible threads as this process begins to take shape.

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15 different fabrics were used to get to this point and I was now ready to move onto the next stage.

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The imagine above shows the Osprey’s stitching, at this point about two-thirds of the stitch detail is complete.  The final important details are added when I apply this piece to the completed backing.

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I always check I am absolutely happy with the final colour combinations of the bird with the backing prior to stitching.

 

Below, the final piece.

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‘Home in sight’ Osprey

This piece can be seen at Harbour House Gallery in Kingsbridge Devon between Friday the 27th of April – May the 3rd 10-5pm.

There is an opening view between 11am and 2pm on the 27th when you will be able to meet many of the makers in our group.  I will be at the exhibition on the Friday the 27th and Saturday the 28th.

It would be lovely to see you if you are in the area.