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Mongolian Horsemen

My hooded Golden eagle is finished and ready to deliver to Midsomer Quilting for their annual 12 x 12 fundraising charity auction.  This will be just one of approximately 150 entries that you can bid on to raise money for Dorothy House Hospice.

All entries will be displayed at the shop every day from Friday, November 24th, until Monday, December 18th, click here for directions.

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To read about the inspiration for this piece and the 12 x 12 challenge click here to read a previous blog.

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Where in the World MQ 2017 Challenge

I have spoken about Midsomer Quiltings 12×12 customer challenge in previous blogs but if you would like to read more about the challenge and what it was based on click here.

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This years challenge is ‘Where in the World”…..

It will not come as any surprise to know that mine is based on a bird!  I recently watched the fabulous BBC series ‘Tribes, Predators & Me’ with nature photographer Gordon Buchanan.

All three parts were fabulous but I loved the story of the Eagle people of Mongolia.  These Kazakh nomads hunt on horseback with Golden eagles in the Altai mountains of Western Mongolia.

The aim was to set the bird into a backdrop that gave an idea of the tribesmen’s life.  This backing fabric helped to set the scene of a barren land of mountains and snow capped peaks, whilst also giving a subtle backdrop to the bird. A rose gold gilded sun added more interest to the backing.

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I have painted a shadow outline of a distant horseman with his eagle on his arm, ready to hunt.

This is quite a different challenge for me as I love trying to capture the birds power and intensity through its eye and reflections.  On this occasion though I wanted to show the bird resting in the foreground with its hood on.

I chose a selection of fabrics to create the leather hand made hood.  I have started to hand stitch areas to help create the hand pieced effect.

I have started to stitch the bird and look forward to finishing the piece after half term.

As always the entries will be for sale via a secret auction to raise money for Dorothy House Hospice.  Its well worth a visit whilst the show is on.

All entries will be displayed at the shop every day from Friday, November 24th, until Monday, December 18th.

I look forward to posting images of the finished piece before delivering it to MQ for the exhibition.

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Who’d have thought it: Teaching!

I have blogged about the importance of a challenge before and the last year has continued to prove this to me.  So much has happened since Chris and De at Midsomer Quilting asked me if I would like to have an exhibition at their shop on the Mendips.  This time last year I was unsure about putting my work on display and would never have considered teaching the techniques I use!

For the exhibition last November I challenged myself to make 12 pieces, these would hopefully show the creative journey I was on and how my techniques and confidence were growing.  I bought a tiny little pack of red dots in the vague chance that I may sell one.

I sold 7 of my 12 pieces and met so many lovely people over the 3 weekends and there I thought it would end for a while!

Before the exhibition started Chris (a former Head of 6th form at a local school) asked me to consider teaching with them at MQ.  Now this did seem a step too far, its one thing showing your work but quite another demonstrating  your self taught (probably slightly unorthodox  techniques).

Well, the first date was set after much persuasion and I hoped no-one would be interested and all would be well.

 I taught the first class in January, a lovely group who hopefully learnt something from my techniques.  I taught the second class last Sunday.  I learnt so much on that first course and thoroughly enjoyed the experience yesterday.

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I designed a picture for us to work on and was so pleased with the progress everyone made, they were such a lovely group and I really look forward to my third class on the 5th of June.

On the back of this exhibition I have also undertaken my first commission piece and been asked to speak at two Quilting groups locally.

Sometimes it really pays to be pushed or nudged out of your comfort zone!

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A New Website.

Its been quite a journey since last November….

I know have a new website at  http://www.carymade.co.uk/

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If you have been following my story, you will know its taken me quite some time to find my style and gain enough confidence in my work to start trying to sell.

My husband read a while ago a book called ‘The One Thing’  by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan – he would constantly quote it and nag me about reading it for myself.

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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’

What I took from this book was that if the small decisions I made each day were well chosen then slowly but surely I would start moving in the right direction.  Pieces of the jigsaw would start to fit together and these small dominos would start knocking over larger, previously impossible dominos.

Starting with a 12×12 ‘Music’ challenge at Midsomer Quilting back in November I found an outlet for my love of nature and particularly Birds.

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The Blackbird was the first small domino.  From this starting point I started to experiment and discover new skills using new threads and fabrics.  Suddenly, through playing and learning I find myself with 9 pieces of work, all of which were in their own way challenging.

By taking the journey a piece (or bird) at a time but and setting myself small but manageable goals each week, I started to see the dominos fall, each slightly bigger than the previous.

This book and the time put into social media, particularly Twitter has paid off in so many ways.  I would have thought it impossible 6-7 months ago that I would be a member of two textile groups (where I meet amazingly inspiring textile artists), have an exhibition ahead, a workshop to teach in the new year and a feature in Be Creative with Workbox magazine –  All of these things have been built slowly thanks to the list of ‘things to achieve’ each week.  My youngest daughter bought me a lovely sewing notebook for Christmas in the hope of inspiring me.  At the top of each page I write the date and  what I would like to achieve that week.  Some weeks they are all crossed out, others they get carried over to the next.  I don’t worry if this happens because I’m not in any huge rush, it just keeps me focused and un-clutters all the information that is otherwise stored in my head

So, I am now finally at a point this week of having my own website.  Its been very exciting to see it build.  I shall continue to blog on this WordPress site.

I really hope you will continue to follow my story and that it helps you start or continue yours.  You could even read the book!

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‘Out of the Blue’

The Barn Owl (Tyto alba) has a magical quality that has fascinated me since I first saw one as a young child, it glided silently through the air with an almost ghost like quality.

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Owls have such fascinating faces, so varied in shape, colouring and expression.  There are believed to be 216 species of owls in the world.  Of these 18 belong to the Barn Owl family (Tytonidae) and 198 belong to the typical owl family(Strigidae).

Having tried a small, delicate bird last time, (a Goldfinch) I decided to try and capture some of the strength of a Bird of Prey or Raptor.

An ideal opportunity arise when the lovely Claire Passmore, who I had met through Twitter told me of a Readers Challenge in the Quilting Arts Magazine.  The challenge was called ‘Birds of a Feather’.

This was the perfect opportunity to embrace another bigger challenge and see where it took me.

So, with this challenge in mind I started selecting appropriate fabrics to build my Barn Owl.

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A simple sketch started the process.  I decided that I would like to ‘frame’ my subject in a quirky, off-centre position giving the background fabric a large proportion of the finished piece.  The blue, slightly sparkly fabric seemed ideal and was an easy choice.

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The fabric shown above was the perfect Barn Owl material.  I had used it once before in a modern take of an owl and  couldn’t wait for an excuse to use it again.  The whole piece, including the background used only five pieces of fabric.  Simplicity at this stage definitely made the final piece stronger.

I had learnt lessons from the earlier Goldfinch and thus avoided using small fragments of fabric.  I concentrated on larger blocks adding details with stitch instead.

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Building up the blocks.

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Adding details ready for stitching with heat removable pen.

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Stitching circular details onto the fabric on the top of the head.

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Back detail

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By adding the reflections to the eyes the bird starts to come alive. I had not consciously thought of the order I was quilting this piece in but will, in future always start with the eyes – a piece can be won or lost at this stage.  If the reflections or outlines are wrong the piece is definitely lost…

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A detailed close up of the face, using seven different coloured thread.

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I decided that I did not want a strong quilting pattern in the background sky, so I made a small test piece to find a thread that did not show.  I tested out a few quilting patterns and selected the one below.

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Following a recommendation I tried using a pair of quilting gloves.  These really helped me manoeuvre the piece in a controlled way and also eased a certain amount of aching I can experience when working solidly for a few hours on a piece.

Referring back to the Readers challenge requirements I cut the quilt to a 9″x9″ square and zig-zag stitching around the piece 2-3 times using the same thread as the background.

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The final piece called ‘Out of the Blue’

A limited edition Giclee print of ‘out of the Blue’ is available from my Website shop , please click here to view.

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I was not unfortunately one of the 11 selected for the Readers challenge from over 200 entries.

That said, as in previous challenges the opportunity has sent me off on a new path and with new skills.

I look forward to sharing another piece with you soon.

Thanks for reading.

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Finding your creative Identity

Finding your Creative Identity…..

Without doubt the most difficult stage of being an Artist.

I have been creating things all my life, some good, some bad but only recently have they truly been all mine.  In sewing terms I have enjoyed creating for 6 years but can honestly say that I am only just finding my style.

As humans we want to learn, practice and master new techniques.  Artists are the same, however, unlike learning to do maths well or wanting be a good plumber you want to be different and tackle things in a new unique way.  There is a correct way to get the answer right in maths as there is a right way to plumb a kitchen.

As an artist you do not want to look like everyone else, you need to be different and have your own style…

The down side of this is that in the process of learning and building up our skills etc we go on courses and read lots of books with inspiring creations that we also want to make.  But, the result is we make a picture ‘like’ the one in the book, not initially with our stamp on it!

I adore attending quilting course and learning new techniques from artists I admire and wish to emulate.  However it has taken me a good two years to realise that you have to stop mimicking these artists and find your own style.  Its not however just the style of your work you need to discover, its also finding a  technique that suits you.

Don’t get me wrong, its scary, you doubt that you have it in you etc etc, You believe that without these artists inspiration you cannot create.

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Crofters Cottage (33 x 33 cm)

The first course I went on at Midsomer Quilting on the Mendips in Somerset was with a fabulous Textile artist called Effie Gallety.  I love her work and she was utterly inspiring, however the best pieces I did at the time all looked like a form of her work.  The same colours, landscapes and techniques, anyone seeing these pieces would have said “Oh Angela’s been on Effie’s course”.  I knew this was happening but it was like a safety net, whilst I produced these pictures I felt I was creating good art.  However, what I was creating was a copy of Effie’s work.

The pieces Effie produces and the technique she employs require absolute precision, your points have to meet.  If they dont it shouts out at you and you can see little else.

Since being a child I have loved working in tiny detail, creating small pictures with little freedom of expression.  As an adult I still love detail but this technique required me to work on a larger scale (avoiding pieces less than 5cms).  Effie told me I needed to scale the image up as the pieces were just too small to accurately work with!

I found this almost impossible and when I did produce a larger piece, I gave still added lots of small details which utterly missed her point.  Eventually I realised that this type of work was not going to work for fine detail pieces.

As time went on I wanted to try other techniques that were less rigid in terms of piecing intricacy.  I met K3N (Kathryn Chambers) at Midsomer Q and loved her free approach to creating textile art.

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K3N

Kathryn’s two courses blew my mind as she seemed to throw out the rule book and gave me permission to really experiment.  Her work focused on the free-machine embroidery stage, adding detail, colour and textile with thread.  I could finally add lots of details…. this was the beginning of an answer!

Yes, I came away from the first course with a picture in the style of her work BUT knew that I needed to make it my own.

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My piece after attending K3N’s course

Her course on Free machine embroidery made me…”take a thread for a walk’ as she put it and I seemed to find my love of sketching again (but with the sewing machine).

I have not looked back……

Since this course and with her enthusiasm I have taken aspects of what I have learnt from both these artists and started to experiment.  No amount of inspiring books or courses can give you your creative answer but they can motivate and inspire you to start practicing and experimenting.  Its obviously scary, as you can and do produce some rubbish along the way BUT occasionally you see a glimmer of what you can achieve.

The Midsomer Q “Music” 12×12 challenge allowed me to experiment.  I love ‘Blackbird singing in the dead of night” by The Beatles.  I wanted to use the striped Landscape technique K3N had taught me and added a bird in the foreground.  This was the start of an obsession to create birds, sketching them, choosing fabrics and threads and playing.

Blackbird Singing in the dead of night.

Blackbird Singing in the dead of night.

The fact I am no longer copying the work of the artists I admire has finally given me the confidence to set myself up on Twitter (@AngelaKnapp10) as I want to start showing MY work/ journey and getting feedback.  Scary, as there is no-one else to hide behind but far more rewarding than being praised for replicating another artists work.

So since November last year I finally feel I have started to find my own creative identity, I know it will not be my final one but for now I’m loving it.

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Above is the unfinished study of a Pheasant.  I am also working on some Barn Owls and a Goldfinch.  I look forward to sharing this new work in my next Blog.

So since November last year I finally feel I have started to find my own creative identity, I know it may not be my final one but for now I’m loving it.

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The Importance of a Challenge – 3 Little Birds

The Importance of a Challenge – My Three Little Birds

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The annual Midsomer Quilting 12×12 exhibition has become an important part of my year and very inspiring.  Now in its fourth year (just gone).  223 Midsomer Quilting (MQ) customers entered the exhibition, this year on the theme of ‘Music’.  Previous categorie have been ‘Fruit’, ‘Books’ and ‘Films’.  I have written about the second and third exhibitions in earlier blogs, unfortunately being away and missing the first year.  The event is run to inspire and challenge customers and raises money for Dorothy House Hospice. This years quilt sales have raised £3,300 to date.

It is funny looking back at what events have inspired you and get you to this point in your creative journey.  These exhibitions plus being a part of the Midsomer Quilting community have been vital to my journey.

Have you heard of the 12 x12 quilters in America? www.twelveby12.org  If not its well worth a look and even better buy the book which tells the artists stories of working on each of the 12 art quilt themes.

I am really lucky to live so close to Midsomer Quilting, a quilters haven on the Mendips. Having built up a relationship with the International quilters De, Chris and Birgitta decided to hold their own exhibition for shop customers.  The entry ‘Cherry tomatoes from California’ by Diane Perin Hock is totally stunning and has made me want to experiment and challenge myself.

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I have been quilting since I moved to Somerset in 2008, I had left the NHS where I had worked as a Radiographer running the Breast Cancer Mammography Department with my friend Mary.  The relocation due to my husbands job was a chance to start over, but, to do what?  Fortunately the move away from the Hampshire/Surrey area allowed   me to take a break from the NHS and I had a chance to reinvent myself.  The children were young so, school hours permitting I started experimenting with different craft courses.  I loved working with fabrics and for 2-3 years made bed quilts and memory quilts (written about in earlier blogs).  I loved it but you can only own or give away so many quilts and they are not cheap to make.

Discovering the exhibitions at Midsomer Q opened my eyes to what I could try.  A wonderful mixture of my love of art and fabrics.  An idea was born…..

So if you have the opportunity to get involved in something like this, an event that is not judgmental (on the contrary supportive) or competitive, GO FOR IT…..  Who knows where it will take you.

Below are a selection of some of my favourite entries from this years ‘Music’ exhibition.  Hope you like them and are inspired to give it (or something creative) a go…..

Purple Haze – Olga Cottle

‘I was inspired by a piece of purple fabric. The original image was in red but, to me, the pattern on the fabric expressed the nature of the song – In my innocence I did not know what Purple Haze meant.  I also wanted it to be an art quilt and had a go at painting the face’.

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Carnival of the Animals – Fiona Wollaston

‘Chris (Midsomer Quilting) is “to blame” for these nine quilts depicting Saens suite Le Carnavel des amaux!”  Saint-Saens, himself, thought it was “such fun” (“….mais c’est si amusant!”) but he insisted it was not published in his lifetime as he felt it detracted from the seriousness of his work.  The exception was the famous movement depicting The Swan. In all there are 14 movements but 9 is all that would fit in both the space at Midsomer Quilting…. and the time available.

The movements shown are: Introduction and March of the Royal Lions, Aviary, The Swan, The Elephant, Tortoises, The Cuckoo in the depths of the Woods, Fossils, Aquarium and Wild asses: Swift animals &/or Personages with Long Ears.

As ever the biggest challenge was building in the shadow background figure of the conductor so everything lined up. Next year I will use a 12 x12 square.  Also remind me never to do Trapunto in a hurry ever again, though this was definitely a growing experience!  Pointed scissors aren’t the smartest for trimming, though miraculously, I managed to avoid cutting where I shouldn’t.  Netting the Elephant, Tortoise and Wild Ass surprised me by working, but the two that were most fun to do were the Swan, choosing the colours and tight corners.  The Lion was a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle and was incredibly good fun but also time consuming to make sure the colours worked and didn’t end up side by side.

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Hotel California – Angela Thomas

‘Music, like a sense of smell evokes memories and this album conjures up some of my happiest times.  I use Jane Greenhof’s iStitch programme to help convert the photograph into a cross stitch pattern’.

This picture cannot do this amazing two piece entry justice, it was truly outstanding!

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Making Music – Debbie Halfind

‘Maybe because I am not very musical this quilt was inspired by the beautiful shape of the violin, rather than the music that it makes.

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Peter and the Wolf – De Pickford

This was the first piece of classical music I was introduced to at the age of seven and I apparently bored everybody with the story for weeks.  The musical instruments associated with each character and shown here were made by Dorset soldiers and very kindly donated by John Staniforth’.

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 American Pie – Olga Cottle

‘This is a collaboration of a quilt artist (me) and an art critic (my husband, an engineer).  This time I skipped cutting and piecing, to avoid discussions about seams not meeting in the centre.  I am aware that the writing is not straight and the paint is splashed free hand.  My husband still likes it and calls it a “pizza” and wants to keep it.’

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It started with a kiss – Lexie Bray

‘………….Never thought it would end like this’

So simple a concept but it made me laugh out loud.

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Synaesthesia – k3n

‘Synaesthesia’ is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sense engenders an automatic response in another.  It has many forms, the one illustrated in my quilt is chromesthesia where on hearing sound such as music, the synesthete ‘sees’ the sound as colours.  The history of synasthesia in art is at least as old as greek philiosphy and continues today in the work of contemporary artists such as Carol Steen’.

Kathryn’s work is fabulous and she is so damn clever, her scientific knowledge is outstanding and its worth going on one of her courses to learn about something stimulating in addition to quilting etc.  Love the colours and the concept behind it.

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So, my Three Little Birds….

I entered three quilts into the exhibition but, as always did them very late and can honestly say I was only pleased with one.  However, in my new optimistic January state I can see they were all worth creating as there are techniques I learnt that I will use in pieces again.  There is a strong Bird theme in the three entries which has continued into my more recent work since the exhibition.

The first quilt allowed me to experiment with painting on fabric and then sewing definition over the top, picking out details of wings and feathers. I look forward to trying this out again soon.

1. Lark Ascending – Ralph Vaughan Williams

‘At a fundamental level, all birds represent freedom in flight; in mythology and literature the Skylark more specifically denotes a daybreak and a sense of spiritual aspiration. You seem to experience the beauty of the countryside far more intensely when you hear the Skylark, as it ascends it makes the countryside below it appear more vivid and alive.  I have tried to convey this in the quilt, the path the Skylark travels is intensified compared to the surrounding countryside’.  The Lark Ascending was written by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1014 and 100 years later was voted number one in the Classic FM Hall of Fame.  It is also the UK’s all time favourite Desert Island disc.

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Lark ascending

2. Woodstock Festival 1969

I love the music and the whole idea behind the 1969 Woodstock Festival, however being only one at the time I came to it late.  I love the simplicity of the original poster and it allowed me to try out new quilting techniques for the background, I think its called ‘Pebbling’.  This inspired me to then use the technique in my Christmas Robin pictures below.

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‘Woodstock, in 1969, was a music festival billed as “Three Days of Peace & Music”.  Thirty two acts performed outdoors before an audience of 400,000 young people.  It is widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history.  Rolloing Stone listed it as one of the ’50 Moments that changed the history of Rock & Rull’ and this quilt depicts the poster and logo that still symbolizes the event’.

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Woodstock Festival

3. “Blackbird Singing in the dead of night….” – The Beatles 1968

This is my very favourite Beatles song, it makes me feel sad but hopeful.  The piece below that I wrote up for the entries explanation explains a lot that I had not realised about the song.

This piece has been a turning point in my work.  The background uses a strip piecing technique that was demonstrated on the ‘Fabric Collage Landscapes’ course by k3n (Kathryn Chambers) at Midsomer Quilting back in October.

Kathryn is a tremendous tutor, who makes you feel the quilting rules are there to be broken and/or adapted.  The technique allowed me far greater freedom than classic quilting where the corners should meet etc…. It was truly liberating as my corners rarely met which frustrated the hell out me!

I had dabbled in free machine embroidery occasionally but her course in September called ‘Free Motion Quilting Workshop’ allowed me to just go for it.  I loved her expression ‘We are going to take a thread for a walk….’  Being able to draw and use my imagination was wonderful and the Blackbird came about thanks to that new found confidence.

“I was in Scotland playing on my guitar, and I remembered this whole idea of “you were only waiting for this moment to arise” was about, you know, the black people’s struggle in the southern states, and I was using the symbolism of a blackbird. It’s not really about a blackbird whose wings are broken, you know, it’s a bit more symbolic”.

Paul McCartney (2002) .

Blackbird Singing in the dead of night.

Blackbird Singing in the dead of night.

All the 2014 entries can be seen here Midsomer Quilting  and are well worth a look. Some are technically amazing others use fabulous imagination to interpret the Music title.

A Giclee Limited edition print of ‘Blackbird singing in the dead of Night’ is available from my website shop, please click here to view.

Next years category will be ‘Poetry, Verse or Rhyme’.