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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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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.

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What a room!

In the summer we visited the wonderful Knightshayes National Trust house in Devon. We knew nothing about the house or its history, it was just a place to stop and have a coffee on our journey home from our summer break.  What a treasure we found!

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‘In 1869 Sir John Heathcoat Amory commissioned the design of Knightshayes from one of the most extraordinary architects of the 19th century, William Burges.  His designs were extravagant, lavish, hugely ambitious and all too much for the family.  The designs were covered up by successive generations off the family from the late 1880s right up until the 1960s’.

‘Knightshayes was the family home of the Heathcoat Amory family for 125 years.  From a farming family in Derbyshire they grew, through their industry, to become the owners of the largest lace-making factory in the world’.

John Heathcoat, after completing a number of apprenticeships within the textile and weaving industry went on to complete the model of his first bobbin net machine.  This machine, which was patented when he was still only 25 years of age transformed the lace making industry.  Prior to these machines lace was made using  the very slow, hand made ‘pillow and bobbin’ method.

His machine transformed both his life and the lace making industry.  He became one of the largest employers in the Midlands when he moved to Loughborough to start his factory.

Life took a dramatic turn in 1816 when Luddite wreckers, angry bands of English craftsmen attacked his factory, demolishing 55 lace frames with axes and hammers.  This event, rather than destroy him and his business made him stronger and more determined.  He decided to move to Tiverton in Devon where he converted a disused textile mill to a state of the art factory.  Many of his previous 200 employees, who had lost their jobs after the attack followed him to Devon and worked in this new successful factory.

He repaid these workers loyalty by building houses, school and churches for them, these are still distinguishable by their grey painted doors.  From industry to local government, John became Member of parliament for Tiverton in 1832.

This house is a real gem but, the most stunning room in my opinion is the Burges Room – the following description is taken from the National Trust guide book.

‘When the National Trust acquired Knightshays, the room was painted a neutral colour and, apart from a fireplace, it had no architectural features whatsoever.  In 2001 it was decided to arrange and decorate the room as Burges had intended.

The upper walls are painted with birds perched on stylised branches and identified in Gothic script, a similar theme to that used in his Buckingham Street house in London.

In total 87 native and exotic species of birds and one monkey are depicted, each different – with the exception of two geese and two magpies.  These have been faithfully reproduced from Burges’ design for the room.  the room was opened by Jimmy Page, the lead guitarist of Led Zeppelin, on 28th May 2002.  A passionate collector of Victorian Gothic furniture, Jimmy lives in Tower House in Kensington, Burges’ former home’.

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Altogether, Knightshayes House is a stunning National Trust house and I would highly recommend a visit.

 

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Long Tailed Tit & SAW

Following on from a late May post, my Long-tailed Tit piece is now complete and at the framers ready for Somerset arts Week.

This piece was based on a stunning photograph by Carl Bovis.  Carl is a Somerset Photographer who has a great blog that you can link to here.

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This piece will be one of 6-7 originals that I will have on view and for sale at venue 19 during Somerset Arts week (23rd September – 7th October).

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As well as originals there will be a selection of giclee prints and greetings cards.  I am exhibiting as part of a group alongside Casey Jon, Scarlett Martin, Suzy Parker, Angie Rooke, Sarah Truscott and Hannah Willow.  The art includes, textiles, weaving, ceramics and paintings.

Venue 19 can be found at North Wootton Village Hall, 5 Pilton Rd, North Wootton, Shepton Mallet, BA4 4ET

We are open everyday between Saturday 23rd September until Saturday the 7th of October 11am – 6pm.  I hope to be there as much as possible but will not be there everyday.

Hope you can pop along and see us.