Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Meeting the Beatles

While we were in England, one of our "must-do" items was going to Liverpool to see the Beatles sights there.  Roger is a hardcore Beatles fan from way back, and I was happy to see what there was to see.  For Beatles fans, Liverpool is pretty much Beatle Mecca.

So off we went to Mathew Street, an alley of a bunch of small bars and pubs and clubs. Here, at The Cavern, was where the Beatles first played regularly and were "discovered."  By the way, I think I took this shot at about noon.  By 4pm, there was music blaring out of most doorways, the strong smell of beer permeating the place, people spilling out of every doorway with drinks in hand and cigarette smoke clouds above their heads, and mobs of people passing through.

Here's the entrance to the actual Cavern --

but wait, we learn that it has been rebuilt, albeit with the ORIGINAL Beatles-soaked bricks.

Everywhere you look on that street has a Beatles reference.

There were some funky artistic tributes...

And of course there were shops for Beatles merchandise...

(Disclosure:  Certain T-shirts may have been purchased.)

Around the corner, out of the alley, was The Hard Day's Night Hotel which took the Beatles theme from funky/seedy to posh and expensive.  We roamed through, looking at the photograph-covered walls inside, but to my mind the best thing about that place was its logo:

It was said to be an image of the guitar frets and finger positions for the first, great chord of "Hard Day's Night" AND also the position that the Beatles stood in when performing.  (That'd be Ringo, back there.)  A clean and appealing logo, don't you think?  Not obviously Beatlesy but referential nonetheless. 

Our day in Liverpool inspired my response to the current Twelve by Twelve challenge, which is "Orange."  It will be revealed on Thursday, Sept. 1 on that blog, so you'll have to pop over there to see how!  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Print Play

I'm rather a novice in the surface design department.  Sure, I've bought a lot of books, and I've got a lot of supplies -- but I don't get in there and actually DO it all that often. I chalk that up to laziness, really:  I don't have a convenient set up, so I have to store everything in the garage, then pull it all through the house outside to the back patio when I want to experiment.  So the spontaneous "I'll just print up a quick piece of cloth" doesn't happen around here.

(And yes, I KNOW there are industrious artists who are making exquisite pieces of cloth in their bathroom sinks with 4 square inches of counter space.  So I am glad to have the patio, even if it means that a few garden plants take on the cast of whatever colors I'm working with for a few days.)

So.  Last week at Festival of Quilts (just last week!) I bought a few thermofax screens for screen printing.  I've done that once, and it was, as they say, dead easy.  And I've got this orange quilt to make for Twelve by Twelve, and I'd been thinking about background fabric, and it dawned on me that I could PRINT the background fabric... et, voila!

I was experimenting with printing a big-textured screen and then over printing with a small textured screen.  It looks weird here as a piece of cloth but I think it could have interesting possibilities cut up.

My happiest surprises involved printing on fabric I'd dyed previously and hadn't liked all that much.  I had a batch of weird maroon-ish shades and I screened some Decolourant on that, then set it out in the sun for the afternoon ... and I really like the result.

They are still not colors I'd be inclined to use, but at least they are now in the category of "might use" instead of "Yuck - never." 

I even discharged onto some old dye prints I'd done last summer, and they turned out well, too.  (The only one I photographed looks a little weird, but you get the idea....)

All in all, it was worth the hauling stuff back and forth.  And it might even make me want to do it again.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Introducing Alice Fox

I can hardly believe that I was at Festival of Quilts a week ago ... give or take some hours that I gained flying back to California.  I'm still dazed from the whole wonderful experience.

One of the things that was quite different from American quilt shows was the existence of gallery stalls for artists and fiber art students.  They were about the size of vendor stalls, but they were constructed of clean white walls which defined the art gallery space beautifully, and in each stall an artist displayed work, showed sketchbooks or sold books, and was available to chat with visitors.

One of the galleries I couldn't stop staring at belonged to a fiber artist named Alice Fox.  Mark that name, because she is amazingly talented and her pieces were unusual and stunning.  I think the work that she was showing in her gallery space was the work shown on her website as "Fabric of the Building."  The pieces there were mostly in neutral colors -- soft creams and whites and greys with touches of black, and they incorporated stitch in a lovely, restrained but always necessary way.  The work was understated but compelling.  I just loved it. 

I didn't realize until I was reading Alice's blog after Festival that Alice had a miniature quilt which was awarded a "Highly Commended" rating in the show, and that she also won (as co-winner with another student) the Graduate Showcase bursary.  She won a hunk of money to further her work and a space at next year's Festival.  I am not surprised.

I wish I could be there to see what she shows then.  I still can't stop thinking of the elegance of her fiber work.   

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Cumberland Pencil Museum

You may recall that I have a thing for pencils. In fact, I've used them in quilts from time to time, as here in a Twelve by Twelve quilt (the challenge color palette was purple and yellow)

and here, in this quilt (which I apparently never photographed finished, so you are seeing the top here) called Daily Detritis:

So you can imagine how excited I was to learn that when we were in England in the Lakes District, we were near the Cumberland Pencil Museum, "home of the world's first pencil!" Helen happened to mention that there was a pencil museum in the area and I suspect she is still puzzled about why I was so eager to go there.  I guess you have to have the school supply/stationery store obsession to understand.

In any event, on one rainy day when we'd planned to visit Castle Howard (where Brideshead Revisited was filmed), we abandoned an afternoon of walking around sodden gardens in pouring rain in favor of an indoor visit to the pencil museum. I was thrilled. 

I will apologize now for the poor quality of the photos.  It was dim enough inside that I had to use the flash and although there are probably some Photoshop tricks for removing those horrid flash glare spots, I don't know them.  But look past the bad photography at the exciting PENCILS!

There is something about items lined up that appeals, too -- so this display of a variety of very old pencils just enthralled me.  The museum had exhibits about how, in the Cumberland mines, they discovered graphite and started using it to make pencils, and there were exhibits showing the machinery that formed it into tubes, inserted it into wood blocks, and carved it all into an actual pencil.  You can read about how pencils were made here, on the Pencil Museum's site.

If you are now thinking, "this woman is a weird pencil geek!" I understand.  And I agree.  But that's okay. 

But back to the pencils.  They was a wall showing pencils from different periods.  It's kind of astonishing how little pencils have changed over the years, isn't it? I guess a good, functional design is worth keeping.

And look: pencils "thought to be" the world's oldest colored pencils!

And those nifty flat pencils:

and old advertising signs:

and displays of vintage pencil tins, including one produced to commemorate the marriage of Charles and Diana:

There was even a display of pencils arranged like a quilt block, don't ask me why.  (I looked for the explanatory placard and didn't find it.)

As this is the company that makes Derwent Fine Art Pencils, there were art displays featuring the uses of Derwent colored pencils - even a limited edition colored pencil portrait of Will and Kate that came with a beautiful wooden box filled with all of the types of pencils Derwent makes, for the low price of about £500.  (I was tempted, but I resisted.)  

I learned that one of my favorite Christmas books and movies, The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, was drawn with Derwent colored pencils.

And then there was a gift shop, with discounts and pencil seconds. After much consideration (and contemplation of the baggage weight allowance issues), I purchased a very nice box of Derwent's Inktense pencils.

The other item I couldn't resist was a necklace made out of colored pencils.

It has a very pencilly smell so when I wear it, I flash back to that very fun day.  Isn't it funny how the oddest side-trips can turn out to be vacation highlights?  I loved this quirky place, and my family and Helen and Dennis all admitted that it was more interesting than they thought it would be.

Even if you're not quite as pencil-obsessed as me, you might find this an entertaining outing if you're nearby.  There were lots of great kid activities there too, with a hunt-for-information game and a drawing station so they could try out all of the supplies.  Oh, and there was a cafe for tea and cake!

Honestly, what more could one want?  History.  Technology.  Art Supplies.  And cake. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Home after Festival of Quilts

I am home from the amazing experience of being at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England with the Twelve by Twelve quilts.  Click HERE to read and see more pictures on the Twelve by Twelve blog -- I'll write more soon but I am too jet-lagged today and am headed to bed!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

To Festival of Quilts, hurrah, hurray

At some point, probably once I am back home in California, I will get a chance to catch my breath and calmly summarize all of the wonderful things I have been doing here in England. But that time is not now, because I am headed down to Birmingham where I will be at Festival of Quilts.

This is down right exciting for a host of reasons. First, all 144 of the original Twelve by Twelve quilts will be on exhibit there. Seeing them online is very nice indeed ( if I do say so myself) but is nothing compared to seeing them in person. So if you are in the vicinity, do pop in.

Second, I will be there with two other Twelves, Helen and Fran├žoise. I have not met Fran├žoise in person before so that will be a highlight of the trip for me. And we will be hanging out at our stall at the show to meet people and sign books. How fun will that be?!

But wait, there is more! I will get to meet, finally, my City and Guilds tutor Edwina MacKinnon. She has been a lovely and encouraging tutor by email and I am enamored of the work she shows on her blog. So that will be quite nice.

I have tickets to several talks which promise to be interesting and inspirational. One is by Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably about working in Kaffe's studio.

Another is by my idols Linda and Laura Kemshall, who will talk about their creative process.

And another is by textile artist Fiona Wilson, whose work mesmerizes me. Helen and I happened on one of her quilts in an exhibit at the Quilt Museum in York last week, and I could have stood there all day gazing at it.

Oh, and there's a quilt show going on the whole time too. So that means lots of quilts to look at and vendors' stalls to visit.

And all of that fun goes on for FOUR WHOLE DAYS.

After that, I will spend a day in court with the Honorable District Judge Helen Conway which, for an American lawyer like me is no small thrill.

Then, I shall drop into my seat on an airplane with happy exhaustion and head for home. So if you don't hear from me for a bit, you will understand why.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

More fun in England

I can't even begin to describe the wonderful time I have been having here in England. Helen and Dennis have been delightful and patient hosts and have arranged to show us a number of their favorite places. We've been on the go so much that I've not had much time to fully absorb it all. Before falling asleep each night, I've made a quick list in my journal of the various things we've done and places we've been, which is a good thing or I would surely be mixing things up already. But I've taken a lot of pictures and once I'm home I'll be able to organize it all.

In the meantime, here are a few photos to show what we've been doing:

Helen and I went to a pottery festival on the grounds of this gorgeous stately home, Hutton-in- the-Forest.

While in the lake district, Helen's mum and dad toured us through the hills.

Having realized how close we were to the Scottish border, Roger, Caroline and I took the train to Edinburgh for the day. What a gorgeous city with ancient buildings in every direction. We'd walked the Royal Mile to the Edinburgh castle and along the way I took this picture of the Governor's House.

We took a side trip to the city of York for a few days where we found more gorgeous old stone buildings.

While in York, as part of Helen's birthday celebration we had a deluxe afternoon tea at Betty's, where they apserved the most perfect raspberry tarts I've ever seen.

Which brings us to today, where all of us are camped out on lovely squashy couches at a cafe called Cedar Farms Cafe. Here is Helen on the couch beside me, reading a bit of the Sunday paper.

And now we are off for more adventures. AND after all of this, Festival of Quilts next weekend in Birmingham. I am a lucky, lucky woman.