Wednesday, 30 January 2019

A special commission to start the year.


I have been very fortunate to have my work for sale at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter for a couple of years. Its very apt as their beautiful butterfly room was one of my inspirations when looking for a new direction in my embroidery.
 
You cannot fail to be creatively fuelled when you see such beauty.
 The shop at the RAMM is really lovely and better still every purchase helps to fund the museum.
So I was thrilled to be asked to create an exclusive butterfly to coincide with the Criminal Ornamentation exhibition this January. This is a touring Arts Council exhibition curated by the artist Yinka Shinobare, exploring decorative art and craft, it brings big names to Exeter, including the work of Alexander McQueen, William Morris and Timorous Beasties.
My first stop was the online collection where I was drawn to the splendour of the Queen Alexander's Birdwing butterfly. Found in Papua new Guinea, though extremely endangered, the female is the world's largest butterfly with a wingspan of up to 30cm.
So using various source photographs I first sketched out my design, this helps me to select the colours of silk and thread.
The drawing is then used as a pattern, there are four layers of silk in each wing which are stitched to reveal the colours underneath. A final layer of shot organza is placed over the whole piece, I stitch again and then I cut away small areas before stitching again. The final stage is hand beading and adding tiny sequins to catch the light. The body of the butterfly is wet felted and then stitched into.

I have created a large wall piece and a smaller wearable version.
 
Available exclusively at The shop@RAMM.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Reflecting and looking foward.

Happy New Year !

As January dawns I always find myself looking back at the year gone by, reflecting on the highs and lows and planning for the next 12 months.

For the purpose of this blog it will definitely be highs and I'm so lucky that their have been many.
I've had my work featured in some lovely magazines including this one, Be Creative, its a really beautiful publication and seems to be going from strength to strength.

I was fortunate to exhibit my work at Made in Cheltenham and it was here I met Andy Poplar from Vinegar and Brown Paper. This sparked an idea for a collaboration and one of my favourite ever pieces was the result. It sold very quickly. I do hope we can do more.
 
New work was a theme for last year too, I created new pieces for an exhibition at Unit Twelve in Staffordshire. Based on a kitchen garden theme these were embroidered seed packets with visiting creatures. I will be back to this lovely venue in August to teach some workshops.

In October I was delighted to be accepted as a member of the Society for Embroidered Work this organisation promotes embroidery as an art form. Take a look at their website, so inspiring.
The year ended with another order from Liberty London, my husband and I delivered in person and enjoyed a smashing day taking in the Christmas atmosphere.

2019 will bring lots of workshops and an exciting collaborative launch, please sign up to my newsletter to get all my latest offers and events. I'm really excited to see what this year has in store.

 

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Teaching workshops .

 

 

I have been really fortunate, recently, to have been asked to teach workshops by many different organisations. This is continuing into 2019 as well. 

In the past I have delivered teaching at The Contemporary Craft Fair, at various branches of The Embroiderers Guild, Royal Horticulture Society, West Country Embroiderers and in smaller venues such as the quirky Magpies Nest in Bideford and Make at Monteray near Exeter. 
 

I was a teacher at Primary level for over 17 years, so the transition to adults was not too difficult. It is so rewarding to see attendees enthused and enjoying a class. Just as in teaching children, I always thought it was a successful lesson  if I could stand back and observe the learning or the doing. 

 

'I even ordered some bondaweb today! I have some ideas for some small evening projects. I learnt so much from you, it's lovely to have that buzz of inspiration' 

A quote from a recent workshop. 
The teaching space at RHS Rosemoor
 
View from the window.


 

My most recent workshop was at RHS Rosemoor in their purpose built education building. What a beautiful space, so much light and room to move about. The view was spectacular too, from glass doors running the full length of the studio you had a lovely patio filled with raised beds containing vegetables and beyond a forest of pines. I even had a visit from a Painted Lady butterfly. 
Inspiration everywhere


 

With my courses I like to provide an idea, teach techniques and then let the students experiment. I love it when at the end of the day you have individual results which express personality, rather than 6 or 8 replicas of my work. 

I'm really lucky to have people who return to my classes and those who send me pictures of their latest work. 


 

I have a couple of exciting new opportunities coming up, my first ever 3D butterfly workshop at the aforementioned Make at Monterey and in 2019 I'm teaching two courses at the fabulous Unit Twelve in Staffordshire. 

All the latest dates are on the workshop page of my website or sign up to my newsletter to receive notification of up and coming events. 

So if you are a hand or machine embroiderer it would be lovely to see you for an inspiring stitchy day. 
 

Saturday, 30 June 2018

A piece just for you - commssioning work.

 
 
 Out and about and fairs and events I'm often asked about commissioning work, the options, the process the costs involved etc.
I've been very fortunate to have made work for some lovely occasions; weddings, Christenings, special birthdays and a house warming.
The wonderful  thing about butterflies is that to many people they have sentimental meaning and they can also be attached to specific locations. They are a symbol of the fragility of life, rebirth  and remembrance.


Any bespoke piece starts with a conversation about the intended recipient, do they have a favourite butterfly or is this to be location based ? I then start to research species and their specific habitats. Some customers want the butterflies to have this level of accuracy, others just love a particular butterfly.
There are lots of discussions at this stage, I may send you photos or sketches of ideas to choose from. With location specific commissions, where I mount butterflies on their map locations, I may need your postcode to find the appropriate vintage Ordnance Survey map.

 
I am happy to supply the butterflies framed or unframed. I can also offer a limited number of beautiful antique butterfly cases, these came originally from the Natural History Museum.

 Any size of piece is possible from a 25cm frame to 50cm and everywhere in between and beyond.

As well as vintage map backgrounds, butterflies can be mounted on original artwork. I always add an embroidered linen label with the species Latin name. There is an artist label on the reverse of the work which has an individual serial number.

So please do not hesitate if you have any ideas, I will be happy to start a conversation.
Prices start at £150.

Friday, 4 May 2018

How to hatch a Swallowtail.

 
Hello everyone, I thought it might be a good idea to show you the processes that go into one of my pieces. One of the questions I get asked most when I'm out and about with my hatchlings is 'how long do they take ?'  

So here goes.....  Making a Liberty Swallowtail.

Each butterfly begins with a drawing, either from a specimen, book illustration, photograph or a combination of all three. I create a line drawing which simplifies the wing patterns .
 
The next stage is to break the patterns down into colour layers, these can be any number but usually about three or four. These are then traced onto bondaweb. I then select the fabrics that best match the colours of the particular species.
 

Each of these layers are then applied to individual fabrics and cut out. I use a very sharp pair of scissors. On the Swallowtail the black layer is fairly complex, this can take well over an hour.

The layers are then fused together and placed on a background of silk with another one of interfacing. This creates a stable base for embroidery.




I can then begin to stitch, looking very closely at my original source material, I satin stitch the edges of each wing part.

Next I cover each piece with a voile or organza and stitch the veins on the wings.
Using my very sharp scissors I then cut away parts of this layer to reveal what's underneath.



This creates iridescence and depth.

 
I then apply more free motion embroidery to add interest, it's this stage where the piece can come to life. The separate wings are stitched together to complete the butterfly's shape.

Hand stitching tiny beads and sequins adds texture. I then felt a body from pure wool, referring to photos, sewing bead eyes and antennae of hemp string.
And he's finished.
 
To answer that familiar question, about three and a half hours, without the sketching stage.
 


Saturday, 24 March 2018

Made By Hand Cheltenham.

 


It has taken me a little while to write about being part of the new show Made By Hand Cheltenham, organised by the brilliant team behind The Contemporary Craft Festival http://www.madebyhandengland.org.uk/

Helped by my lovely husband, we had quite a stressful journey to Cheltenham, the weather was awful and there was an accident on the M5. But the stress disappeared as we were greeted and directed to our pre-timed unloading spot. there were even porters to help carry in boxes. We unloaded, and armed with a drill we set about assembling the display.
A really welcoming cup of tea and friendly neighbours meant that set up was done by about 7pm.  I resisted further tweaking. So onward to our Purple Palace, what my hubby calls the Premier Inn.
The next day after a good night's sleep and a lovely breakfast, I walked down to the town hall. Last night I hadn't realised how beautiful the building was and the work on display, just amazing.
 

It was a fabulous two days, with brilliant fellow makers, customers and visitors.

I was also  thrilled to be featured in a lovely interiors blog called Home Relish
https://homerelish.com/our-highlights-from-the-made-by-hand-fair-cheltenham-2018/
Use the link to pop over and see more fantastic images from the event.

We also came home with a new member of the family, thanks to the superb Fauxdermy https://fauxidermy.co.uk/
Meet Hartley, who will always remind us of a brilliant event.

I have heard that the event will continue next year, so hopefully I may see you there, it is well worth a visit.
 


Saturday, 17 February 2018

Another fix of Liberty Magic.


Well another fantastic day, even though it had a very early start, up at 5am and then a drive to Tiverton Parkway, my train was delayed so this added another forty minutes onto my journey. Frustrating but not the end of the world.
 

I arrived at Oxford Circus and made by way to the Argyle Street exit, I love ascending the steep steps and seeing beautiful Liberty ahead of me. I never fail to have a flutter in my stomach at the sight of the gorgeous facade. Making my way round the back to Little Marlborough street , the less glamorous side of the building. I had a delivery to make, a new collection of bees and ladybirds. Safely handed over to a gentleman who seemed slightly bemused by my concern over the box and it’s contents. Maybe telling him they were like my children was rather extreme.
 
 

 

With half an hour to spare I went into Arthur’s Restaurant for a quick drink. Lovely though the new booths are, with an Art Deco feel, I think I preferred the old cafĂ©.
 

 

Then onwards to the haberdashery, I love this section of the store with its vintage feel. Beautiful cutting tables, old Singer sewing,machines and cute chairs upholstered in tapestry. I was made to feel so welcome as I set up my little display. Without exception the staff are delightful and so enthusiastic about my work.

I was filmed for social media and my hatchlings appeared on the Liberty Instagram feed.
 

The customers were from all over the world, I had a great chat with a blogger from Puerto Rico, her blog is called Sew, Sew Easy. There were visitors from Japan, Sweden and Germany, what an opportunity to talk about my work.

I was only in store for a short time, just two hours this time,but I loved the experience.
 

My fix of Liberty will keep me going for a few more months, until I can once more climb those step out of the underground  and catch my first glimpse of the most beautiful store in the world.