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First steps on a locally inspired project

The Common Crane Grus Grus

Despite not posting a blog in months, lots of things have been happening in the background.  Despite my life being consumed by 6 months of building work at home I have, slowly been working on a few new projects.

One of the projects for this years ‘Work in progress – Unfolding Stories 3’ at UWE will be based on the reintroduction of the Common Crane to the Somerset Levels.

Back in March my husband and I made a very early start to Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust in Gloucestershire.  We had booked onto a walking tour of the area with the aim of seeing some Common Crane (Grus Grus).   We were able to see a number of cranes in the wild around the site and then a few in captivity (ideal for someone like me who does not have a very powerful camera lens).

I so enjoyed researching the vulture and swallow pieces I made last year that I have decided to base a series of work for the 2018 exhibitions on birds with an interesting back story, whether that be reintroduction into the UK, threats of extinction/habitat loss or just a story that makes us marvel at what  their life involves.

The Common Crane seemed an obvious choice due to us living so close to an area that has seen the reintroduction of the bird onto the Somerset levels as part of the Great Crane Project.

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My aim is to create a full body study of the Crane for one of the final pieces (not sure yet whether they will be in flight or on the ground) but I’ve started small and made some watercolour sketches of the head and neck.

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Scott Petrek was our fabulous expert for the morning.  If you are on Twitter I recommend you following him.

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Rather than start with my usual technique of piecing fabrics to build the basis of the bird structure I decided to experiment with fabric pens.  Using a very small number of colours and nib width I created a simple picture ready to stitch.  I enjoyed the freedom and speed of this technique but didn’t like the ink spreading gradually on the fabric and felt limited by the number of colours I had.

I have been encouraged by the members of the Contemporary Quilters West to experiment and try new techniques.  I’ve loved having a go, but have to say I love the piecing stage of my work a little too much to change yet!  That said, the end product of this quick experiment shown at the end of this post is so heavily stitched I do wonder if you could tell the difference!

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Machine stitching over the painted outline.

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I have enjoyed experimenting with a different foundation technique.  I look forward to creating the same picture using fabrics and comparing the results.

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In the meantime I need to start sketching some outlines of the whole bird ready to start the larger piece over the coming months.

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Our group will be at the West Country Quilt & Textile show from tomorrow until Sunday, this year, rather than having a gallery of finished work you can view our working studios, where a number of us will be demonstrating some of our techniques.  I will be there tomorrow morning, it would be great to meet you if you are coming along.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to updating you on progress.

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The Power of the Peregrine

It was only a matter of time before I was going to have to tackle one of the British Birds of Prey.  There features are so strong and following on from the success of my Barn Owl I wanted to stretch myself.

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Rummaging through my large fabric stash there were  a lot of brown batiks, their patterns and colours seemed to lend themselves to the colours and textures of the feathers of a large bird.

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Flicking through my numerous Bird books and magazines, the juvenile Peregrine seemed to meet the brief.  I drew a basic outline and started selecting fabrics and threads.

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Although I had a great selection, sometimes you just do not have the exact fabric for an area.  This is when you have to improvise!  Reaching into an old pile of fabric paints that the girls had used to design T-Shirts I found a black that was going to have to be the solution.

Using a heat removable pen I drew where the marks needed to be and started painting small areas of chest feathers with a reasonably fine brush.

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There were moments that I thought I had done the wrong thing but, using a dry brush and very little paint I achieved the result I had hoped for.

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This was the stage where I realised I would have to go shopping…..

I have a large assortment of threads but I had seen at Midsomer Quilting a large selection of Hand-Dyed machine threads, with subtle colour changes running through them.  These Oliver Twist threads were perfect.

Feathers are not flat and dull, they have texture and almost reflect light.  This fabrics helped bring the bird to life.  I am slowly buying all the colour combinations on sale.  Money very well spent….

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This piece has been challenging but so enjoyable.  I think my love affair with the British Bird of Prey may be blossoming.

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

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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.

Crofters Cottage (33 x 33 cm)

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.

K3N

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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My First Blog Post

Welcome to my Blog, such a short sentence but its been a long time coming and I’ll be honest it feels scary!  Finally fingers have been pulled out and I’m entering the 21st century.  The blogs published will be collections of my experiences and ramblings.

They will be a journey, a voyage of discovery, so bear with me if the direction is not obvious.

My quilting journey and fabric passion began in 2009.  We had moved to Somerset from surbaban Hampshire and life took on a whole new and relaxed pace!  I had worked for the NHS as a Radiographer for 20 years and the move was like a breath of fresh air!  Rural Somerset offered no local large hospital to continue my first career and frankly I was ready for a change.  Since the birth of our eldest daughter I had worked part time and by the time our second daughter was born I was down to one day a week.  Priorities had changed and I had retrained as Garden Designer, a far more flexible career option!  I loved the creative process, designing  very geometric outdoor spaces for many a local Microsoft employee!  I love gardens but I adored the drawing board stage more than the planting process.  The move to our new home in rural Somerset took me away from the wholesale nurseries I had used and I threw myself into the beautiful surroundings and artist groups prevalent in the area.  Somerset arts week opened my eyes to everyday people creating work and ‘getting it out there’!

The town of Frome started the journey off for me and i gave many a craft a go, wire sculpture, ceramics and a number of textile courses.  I had never sewn by hand or using a machine (except an unfinished year 3 school skirt project).  A course at a fabulous shop called Millie Moon in Frome started the fabric affair!

After a 6 or 8 week course I had a quilt to give to my daughter, I had been obsessed with the process and was at the machine in any spare moment.  It grew at a rapid rate and as it neared its end I was dreading not having it in my life any more….

So followed quilts and cushions for all my relatives, whether they wanted one or not!  I needed to change what I was creating though because I ran out of people needing quilts and they are expensive to make with no known home to go to.

Another downside was that those asking for quilts did not necessarily choose fabrics I liked and I quickly realised that I needed to love the colours and patterns I was working with to create my best pieces.

So, in the search for smaller projects that harked back to my original love of painting I stumbled on a course at the friendliest most supportive Quilting shop in my life,  Midsomer Quilting. Flicking through their course brochure an image by Effie Gallety jumped out of the page.  I booked myself on and have never looked back!