Saturday, 2 January 2021

Not all treasure is gold...

‘The Keeper’


She had an eye for the discarded, the lost and unwanted...

Things that were no longer part of a whole but were still beautiful in their own right.

The sad demise of a bird leaves behind a legacy of delicate, scattered feathers on the ground; each one a miracle of creation.

A perfect, spent leaf in autumn hues, cast from a mighty oak to make way for the new season’s growth.

A mussel shell of the most beautiful blue, encrusted with barnacles...once a home, now washed up on the sand bereft of life within.

A garden yielding treasure once the flowers have faded...seed pods, skeletons, sculptural stems and dried petals.

An old key, found; a lone brass buckle glinting on the path; a piece of pottery peeping from the earth on the edge of a field.

She felt the need to gather, to collect and delight in these things; to stash them away in a pocket until home...reminders of a walk, a moment, a season, of the wonders that surround us if we only care to take the time to look.

She is the keeper of all things lost, faded and forgotten...
...for not all treasure is gold.






I have a few fabric patches purchased from Mrs Bertimus (do check out her website mrsbertimus.co.uk and social media pages) and during lockdown I created this wall hanging with one of them, combining hexagon piecing, vintage fabrics and naturally dyed scraps, buttons and quilting. It has a little pocket to store nature’s treasures.













I have quite a collection of feathers, shells, pebbles and pottery shards picked up from walks as well as old buttons, keys and bits and bobs found lying around.  They’re all precious and beautiful and I loved the idea of displaying some of them in some way...and so this piece just sort of evolved around that thought and the little story of ‘The Keeper’ in my head. It’s not perfect, but that’s ok...I quite like it as it is.  The hanger is an old french carrier bag handle (I think!) purchased from an Instagram account that sells a lot of antique french ephemera and fabrics...I bought them on impulse (a failing of mine!) and I’ve had a couple of them for a long, long time...BUT, I always knew I’d find a use for them eventually! My other half sometimes says I’m a bit of a hoarder, but I prefer to look at myself as a ‘keeper’, much like my story above.  Do you ‘keep’ little treasures like shells, pebbles and feathers?

I feel that I already appreciated the simple pleasures in life, but even more so after the last twelve months; treasuring things that are neither gold or sparkly or that cost lots of money...feeling grateful for things that money can’t buy like my health, family and friends. Most of our greatest riches are held within ourselves - kindness, patience, love and gratitude. 

New Year Plans?

So I hope the start of this New Year finds you well.  In view of ongoing pandemic restrictions, and as a way of lifting my mood,  I decided to sign up for an online course in March to hopefully help me develop my felting which is exciting. I feel sure that it will be a useful investment - there is always more to learn and I’m not sure I’ve found my preferred ‘way’ of felting yet...there’s always that feeling that there’s a certain something that I haven’t quite got yet. Or maybe that’s how I will always feel! Looking back, I know I’ve improved so at least it’s progress. I just feel the need to organise something positive, something to look forward to in the near future that I know I will be able to accomplish regardless of restrictions...there are so many online courses available, have you done any you would recommend?

What have you got planned creatively...have you signed up for any courses or workshops? Anything you’re hoping to achieve in the coming months? Do let me know.

So here’s to a happier, healthier, creative year...take care until next time.

Best wishes

Tanya xx

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Inspiration from nature...and song lyrics!

Hi everyone!

Hope you're all keeping well...is it just me or is time flying by?  It's hard to comprehend in a way, you'd think time would drag whilst going through these lockdown periods wouldn't you?

Speaking of 'flying by' I thought I'd share the inspiration for my latest picture.At first, the owl hadn’t really come into it...it was all about the big ‘ole moon.






I keep a little book where I jot down things I hear,  such as lines of poetry or song lyrics that just make my ears prick up. A line of a song can conjure up an image in my head and that can sometimes manifest as a title for a picture, or as the image itself.  Often what I write  down doesn’t become anything...I just love the words!  I have music playing a lot when I’m in the house...my most common playlist is one with artists such as David Gray and Ray Lamontagne who have GREAT lyrics (in my humble opinion!).  One line I had written down was from David Gray’s ‘Shine’ :

‘Through the window of midnight, a Moon Full of Silver...’

These few words just brought to mind those nights where the moon is big and bright and you can easily go for a walk and see perfectly well without a torch. I’ve had a few late night dog walks where that’s been the case...there are no street lights where I live so it’s almost other worldly; that strange, silvery light illuminating the landscape.

The magic of being outside at night when it’s so quiet and still and moonlit...you almost feel smaller and a little insignificant (which of course, in the bigger scheme of things, we are).

I used this inspiration as a starting point and chose a limited colour palette...green, turquoise and gold with black and white. I blended these colours so that the overall look was harmonious...the turquoise is mixed with black for the sky and is also blended into the greens and gold of the fields. 



I created prefelts with these colours to use in the layout for the piece which worked well. I also used a resist for the moon and snipped a circle out of the sky to reveal it after felting.

Once I had the landscape laid out, I could see that maybe it needed a story...this could be the thing that stops my work becoming more abstract, because I generally end up putting in a bird, or too much detail in order for it to ‘say something’! However, I went with it...




I have been lucky enough to encounter a barn owl...I don’t think it will matter how many times I see one, it will always be a magical thing.

To catch sight of a barn owl in flight, it just makes you hold your breath. To see the ghostly shape of this beautiful bird gliding from a tree on silent wings and across a field has just stopped me in my tracks and, just for a moment, I have felt like the luckiest person alive.

And so my felted landscape seemed the perfect setting for a barn owl, which I needle felted in together with the foreground.




So what title to use...’A Moon Full of Silver’ or ‘On Silent Wings’ (isn’t that a song title too!?). I think I’m going to go with my original inspiration and call it ‘Beneath a Moon Full of Silver’...I’ll bank the other title for another time! It’s tricky to capture, but the moon does actually have silver angelina fibres felted in, so there is a subtle sparkle.

Do you get inspired by poems or songs? I’d love to hear what helps you start a new piece of work...

Reaching out...

I had a lovely email from a lady in Minnesota,  US who chanced upon my blog during an online search (Hi, if you’re reading this!). It’s amazing how small the world becomes sometimes isn’t it, and it was just so nice to be in touch with someone who enjoys their art and craft as much as I do. I think it’s become apparent that many people have turned to the arts in some way as escapism during this very unsettling year...finding creative outlets should never be underestimated, it really is a powerful thing.  It doesn’t matter how good or bad you think you are at something, it’s just immersing yourself into an activity that allows you to relax and focus your mind on something other than the latest news flashes, social media pressures or just any sort of stress.   If you haven’t tried it, perhaps it’s time you did...grab your glue stick and colouring pens and release your inner creative!

Until next time...

Take care and stay safe

Tanya xx





Monday, 26 October 2020

Revisiting, Reworking and Comfort Zones...

Well, with October coming to a close it’s a couple of months since my last blog post, and I ended that with an intention to work on a picture focusing on the hydrangeas from my garden.

I had been experimenting with some different techniques and wanted to incorporate some paper into the felting process.

With one attempt thrown into my recycling basket, I started again and this was the result.  The paper inclusions did work and they have added some (very!) subtle effects in the petals, so kind of a success,  but still more practice required on the paper felting to really get a handle on it!





I had the perfect frame for ‘Hydrangeas and Stripes’ and I’m very pleased to say that it sold fairly quickly which is amazing.

Reworking...


‘A Bowl Full of Cheer’ is one I did a while ago...it’s one I’ve had hanging on my workroom wall as a reminder to myself to show a little more restraint. I inwardly groan looking at it sometimes because it’s obvious that I just threw too much at it in the excitement of creating surface textures without thinking about the overall composition, which is a bit messy. No wonder it didn’t sell šŸ˜€.





However, I’ve always kind of liked it, or at least the idea of it!  There was scope to felt it a little more which meant I could make some subtle changes to the flowers and the background colour by needlefelting wool fibres through from the back and then wet felting.

After a little more shrinkage and tightening up of the fibres through the felting process, I gave it the chop...getting rid of the distractions on the right hand side and cropping in on the bowl.  





I think it looks much better now in its cropped format, the refocusing  and reduced ‘background noise’ have simplified the image.  Less is definitely more in this case! I hope you agree...


Revisiting...

So here’s another one that I did way back in 2016 I think...it sits in its little frame here as another reminder about composition. This one was inspired by a photo I took locally, and I called it ‘November Sun’.  The thing that keeps shouting to me is the fact that the road ended up in the centre of the picture, and I’ve always thought it would have been a much better composition if the road was off to one side...nothing really leads you around the scene.




So I found the original photo as my starting point and I’ve created a new, bigger version...with the road most definitely off to one side! 


So after wet felting and some needle felting, this is how it’s looking...I think it’s pretty much finished, just a little tidying up in places and the birds need a bit of tweaking but I’m much happier with it. It’s a much bigger format than before, and I’ve resisted using stitching just trying to use the layering within the felting process to create the surface texture. It’s a dull day for taking photos, so it’s been hard to capture it properly.





I’ve quite enjoyed revisiting work and trying to improve things second time around. I’m becoming more aware of the importance of composition...and whilst I still won’t get it right every time I feel more able to evaluate where I may have gone wrong.

Comfort Zone...

Well, my personal intention to try a little more abstraction in my work appears to have fallen by the wayside, and I seem to have continued with the usual ways and themes.  Just because I’m drawn to semi-abstract doesn’t mean I’d be any good at actually doing it, but it’s still something I’d like to explore even if it’s just for my own amusement!

Why abstraction? A little more freedom perhaps? Creating a sense of something rather than getting hung up on the details, particularly with landscapes?

I certainly like the idea of it but I know it’s not easy to approach things in a completely different way...abstraction is not easy! I think I’m at that place where, because my ‘drawing skills’ are not amazing, my pictures end up somewhere between realistic and semi-abstract and perhaps a little ‘whimsy’ at times. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and those type of pictures have been selling, but it’s not always about sales is it?

Is it okay to do both styles? I guess so - once I’ve finished and framed these last few and going to carve out some time to play with the abstraction idea and fight the urge to slip into my comfort zone, although at times my so called ‘comfort zone’ actually feels a little tight and tense in the making process. Maybe that’s what I’m looking for, more of a loose and free way of working for a change...even if it’s just a temporary break from the usual. And I still want to experiment with incorporating paper...I will not be beat!!

This little sample square that I’ve shared before is in my sight line on my work table, and there’s just something about it that makes me want to try more...



Or maybe it goes this way around...





So that’s it for the minute...I fear we may be heading for another national lockdown as I type this...wherever you are in the world I wish you health and happiness until next time.  Stay strong and stay safe...and stay creative.

Tanya xx


Monday, 24 August 2020

Surface Texture Explorations

Hi!

How are you doing?  I can hardly believe we're marching towards the end of August...and the end of summer!

If you follow me on social media, you will see that I've been finishing off some pieces and getting them framed so that they can go out into the world.  Framing always takes more time than I bargain for, but it's worth it as often a piece can be transformed just with a well placed mount and a nice frame.




Always learning...

Although I don't have many 'new' things to share, I have been spending more time in an exploratory way...trying new things within felting (new for me anyway!).  I've also been reading a lot of 'art' books to try to help me with use of colour, line and composition - sometimes great things happen intuitively, but other times I really need some starting points to get me going.  The book I seem to be referring to most is the following...it’s not too big or overly wordy, has lots of pictures and is laid out well and personally I’m finding it really useful.  Have you got any favourites to share?



I can be guilty of throwing too much of everything into a picture, so I need to exercise a little more self control, no matter how seductive all those textures and colours might be!

I guess not having what might be described as an educated art background, I do sometimes need to be reminded of basics - other than that I've always felt that rules are there to be bent a bit in exploration and learning.  

Felt exploration...

I've been having a good rummage in my stash and trying different materials within felting to see what works well and what effects they might give...I absolutely love surface textures, so it's a great exercise to have a record of what can be achieved before diving straight into a main piece of work.

I even dug out my embellishing machine, which I hardly ever use. It was one of those purchases that I researched at the time and thought I would utilise a lot, but as it turns out it has been collecting dust on the shelf. I always seem to favour working by hand rather than machine, however it was time to remind myself of some of the effects that can be achieved so I dusted her off, switched her on and revved her up! 

In short, my embellisher needle felts with 5 needles, so mashes away at layers of fabric, wool...or whatever you dare use...to embed the fibres and create a ‘new’ piece of material.  There are a number of models on the market...mine’s  a Janome and if it’s something you are interested in finding out about, there are lots of tutorials on YouTube.  It will do the job quickly, thoroughly..and noisily (I’m in an upstairs room and it seems to reverberate through the house, ha)!  However I don’t have as much as control as I do when needle felting by hand.

After doing a few samples using fabrics that wouldn’t easily be usable in wet felting, I quite liked the backside of the fabric where the little loops and subtle shading occurred...here are a few photos of the just some of the results of using the embellisher and wet felting.



The scraps of fabric were laid on top of some white prefelt and then put under the embellisher, which basically ravages the surface slightly but meshes the two layers together.  You can needle just from one side, or from both...different effects are achieved each way.  I like the little loops that appear...I can see how this could be effective in a landscape picture.  The top picture is a shot silk, and you can see how the different colours are revealed.



The top blue picture was wet felted first...I attached it to the prefelt with wool stitches and then felted it which worked quite well - a way of incorporating ‘tricky’ fabrics within wet felting - the wool stitches felted in and gathered the fabric.



Different effects viewed from the top and bottom.



The top blue fabric wet felted in quite well, but I then partly put it through the embellisher as well once dry...I like the subtle blue shades that appear underneath. The pink yarn wet felted in just fine as it was...the mohair type fibres were good for felting.



I also tried wet felting with different sorts of paper...paper and water and agitation don’t really go together, but there was some success depending on the paper type and this opened up the possibility of printing/writing/painting on top...hmm, imagine the possibilities!  More trials needed to perfect that one though...and a fair amount of patience!

I’ll keep these little samples to refer to...one of those might be just the effect I’m looking for in a future picture.


What’s next...

So that’s some of what I’ve been up to...moving on to a new piece I’m always inspired by the beautiful flowers I’ve been bringing in to the house from our garden to enjoy, particularly the hydrangeas. I’m using this photo as a starting point and will aim to use some good composition and colour mixing without getting too carried away...fingers crossed!



If I’m feeling a bit down, these blooms always bring some cheer...in fact just being out in the garden has proved a great antidote to what’s going on in the world. What have you found to bring you some calm amongst the chaos?

I’ll see you in September...hopefully with a new finished piece to share!

Take care and best wishes 

Tanya xx



Monday, 27 July 2020

As time flies by...

So, we are nearing the end of July already as I type this...what is turning out to be a very strange year is also passing by at the rate of knots!

There have been other things going on here that have taken me away from my felting for a little while - making time for family, the allotment and garden and just generally keeping on top of the day job...oh and making masks/face coverings!  Never thought that would be something I would be sewing, but I've made a fair few over the past few weeks so that everyone's got a good supply.

The sewing machine is not my natural environment, but with the enforced practice I think my skills have improved...slightly!!  The upside is that it has been a good opportunity to use up some of my substantial fabric stash!

Not wanting to dwell on anything pandemic related in this blog post, I will move on to other things...

Since my last post, I continued with my hare wall hanging which I enjoyed making immensely - it's finished and on the wall in our sitting room.





I also managed to fit in a little needle felting and created a couple of small pieces which just need framing up before being ready to put up for sale.  These were made on the surface of some thick off cuts of handmade felt that I had here - it was really nice to work into.









Now that the sewing machine has been put away, my table has been freed up and I can't wait to get felting again - I'm really looking forward to experimenting with a few ideas and did this little sample to see how some of my eco-dyed silk would work during the felting process.





Wet felting involves a lot of hot water, soap and rubbing and rolling, so I really wanted to check that the colours would stay 'fast' with all that action!  Really pleased to see that the colours didn't run or fade at all which is great because I love the effect given by the variegated colours on the silk created from flowers and leaves...and look at those scrummy textures šŸ˜.

I actually really like the little square piece as it is...

Encouraged by the results of the sample square,  I have done some more eco-dyeing so that I have a slightly bigger stash of  silk to use.  I have some pieces in solar jars in the garden, and I steamed some silk bundled up with leaves, flowers and onion skins in the aga.







I will need to wait for the solar jars a few more weeks I think, but the hollyhock flowers will give a lovely purple shade - I've also got jars containing verbena, red onion skins, white onion skins and coreopsis.  Just need some more sunshine and let nature do its thing on the threads and silks stuffed inside the jars.

The steamed bundles have given me some great results - I'm hoping to use these in some abstract landscape ideas I have.





So, before the week is out I hope to have a few more felting experiments on the go...I've been making lots of notes and sketches and trying to be honest about the the type of work I WANT to produce rather that the pieces I feel I ought to be making, because sometimes there's a bit of a difference!  Thinking about the type of art I’m personally drawn to,  I am currently being pulled towards a slightly more abstracted approach, and I'm quite excited about the possibilities...and felt is a really versatile medium in which to explore the ideas I have, particularly in terms of surface textures.

It's going to be a case of playing, exploring and trying a few new things...which may work well, or they may not...but I won't know unless I try will I? 

Garden update...


Just a little update on the garden pond and new border we created during lockdown - I can't believe how well it's all taken off!  From bare ground and little life to being absolutely stuffed full of plants (from a cheap box of seeds) and life seemingly appearing from nowhere in the pond!



That’s my lovely mum in the picture above...probably thinking we’d gone a bit mad!





There are LOTS of dragonfly and damselfly nymphs in the pond, as well as water beetles, pond skaters and water snails.  There are also other tiny, swimming things that I have no idea what they are...but it's all good!  We have more bird visitors, some of which like to have a little bath in the shallower water - before the planting took off, I even saw a swift swoop down to have a drink from the pond on the wing - fantastic!



The whole border is buzzing, humming and fluttering constantly with bees, hoverflies, butterflies and moths.

So it really is true - just plant the plants and create the pond, and the wildlife will find it.

Have you been creative in the garden? Would love to hear about it...or any pond tips you might have?

So until next time, keep well, keep safe and find some joy in the simple things in life.

Tanya xx






Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Sow and Sew...

So we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s pretty rare for something awful to be touching the lives of everyone around the world at the same time isn’t it?




How are you all doing?

It’s a really strange time isn’t it...very unsettling.

As I write this we are still in lockdown in the UK...our own and countless other businesses are affected by COVID-19 and so many lives have been lost..it is a big worry. Unless you're a keyworker (huge thanks to all) the best we can do is to look after ourselves, our neighbours and more vulnerable members of family and community as well as support local businesses and charities as much as we can...sometimes it doesn't seem enough. But it is.

I read a very truthful way of describing our current situation..it basically said that we’re not all ‘in the same boat’. We are all sailing in the same storm, but all in our own individual boats...some boats will be shipwrecked and some will not...some people are in little rowing boats and some are in tankers.  

Our little boat is managing to ride the storm so far - we get the occasional wave coming over the side, but nothing we can’t bail out.  I truly hope you are all okay, and that we will all find ourselves in much calmer waters very soon.

It has been weeks since I’ve  posted anything anywhere on social media and having a break from online activity has actually been good for me.  However, whilst I foolishly thought this lockdown period might mean I could create huge bodies of amazing felting work...that just simply hasn’t happened. 

But that’s okay.

Gardening for the soul...


The weather has been lovely and we have immersed ourselves in being outdoors in our garden and allotment...I am so very grateful for our outdoor space, especially at the moment. There’s just something about growing your own fruit and veg and bringing on your own plants and flowers that is very therapeutic.   

It’s also reassuring that, whilst many of us have our lives on pause, Mother Nature carries on regardless...the other day we heard a cuckoo and the swallows have started to arrive, the bluebells are blooming and we already have some fledgling wagtails bobbing about in our garden; wonderful.



I’m a bit of a ‘have a go’ gardener...not an expert at all.  I’ve always wanted a wildlife pond in the garden, and we’ve cracked on over the last few weeks, cleared an area of lawn and dug one out...I’m really pleased with it and can’t wait to get some plants in and around it...and hopefully some wildlife too!  We’ve recycled lots of things that were just lying about, like the stones and the edging that we’ve now reused as a path...it has been a really satisfying project.




I even made an insect hotel...guarded by a couple of very worn out gnomes I uncovered! 




Areas of the garden are starting to bloom...




Our allotment is slowly being turned and planted...the potatoes and onions are already showing and I’ve sown lots of flower seeds that are all germinating.  Gardening is a very optimistic thing to do isn’t it? Isn’t there a quote: ‘to plant a garden is to believe in a better tomorrow’? 








The apple blossom smells delicious...

Stitch therapy...


Well, you were maybe hoping to see some creating of a different kind in this blog post...I have been stitching, but only a few things for our own home - things I've been meaning to do for ages but have never quite managed to find the time for.  Firstly, I made a cushion for our kitchen...I used a magpie fabric patch from Mrs Bertimus  which I absolutely love and used scraps and raw edge appliquĆ© to put it all together.

If you don't follow Mrs Bertimus on Instagram, I'd recommend her page - I love her paintings and she often shares works in progress on her stories.










With the cushion finished, I wanted to dive straight back in to make something I’ve had in my mind for a long time, and again I’ve used a Mrs Bertimus hare (from one of her printed tea towels) to create a wall hanging which will go in our front room.  It’s not finished yet, but here’s a peek of how it’s coming along. The hare has been carefully cut from the tea towel and then appliqued on to an antique plain tea towel, which is a really lovely thickness.



 Quite a few blogposts ago, I shared how I had eco dyed lots of fabrics using plants...




...and I ended up with lots of scrummy, unique pieces of cotton and silk.  I remember loving them, but wasn’t sure how I was going to use them and just put them away in a box. Well, I have been putting them to good use in this wall hanging by using them for the hexagon patchwork pieces...I just love them all together like this and it all just blends in perfectly. The vintage flowers had been dyed with onion skins.







I am so enjoying doing this...I actually can’t wait to spend an hour or so on it in the evenings.  It’s totally absorbing, and the rhythm of hand stitching is very calming - it has become my place of escape.

I haven’t quite decided how I will edge it yet, but I’m sure that will come to me at some point (exercising my 'make it up as I go along' method). I’ll share the finished wall hanging next time, all being well!

So that’s it for now...the quilt is all I wish to be doing for the moment, but I’m sure the wools will be out soon for a spot of felting...hopefully some more inspiration will come my way, maybe as the garden takes shape and starts blooming!

Just before lockdown, I did make a rather apt sale of 'Home to Roost' - I was due to meet up with the new owner to give it to her in person, but that didn't quite work out.  So I'm keeping it safe and hope to deliver it as soon as local travel restrictions are relaxed a little...never has a title of a picture been so fitting!

'Home to Roost' - now sold x

Looking forward...


There is much to look forward to, and I think (and hope) that we will all have learned to cherish the more simple things in life as we come out on other side of this pandemic together.

Personally, I’m looking forward to giving my son a proper big ‘mummy hug’...though he may cringe at the thought! It’s been hard not being able to see family.

What are you looking forward to? Have you managed to achieve something positive during lockdown, no matter how small? Or are you a key worker and have experienced the front line of this pandemic?  





Here’s looking forward to better days, because they ARE coming...best wishes to you.

xx Tanya xx