Monday, 13 August 2018

Festival of Quilts

It was the Festival of Quilts at Birmingham NEC last weekend.  I didn't go last year so as I had no plans for the weekend, I thought I'd take myself off there.  It's only about an hour and a quarter drive - but it gets expensive.  The ticket is £16, but then they charge an additional £12 for parking!  Add to that all the shopping you end up doing...

I took loads of pictures of quilts, but I can't show you any of them as I didn't take pictures of the name of the maker...  I'm afraid you'll have to go elsewhere if you want to see quilt pictures - I'd try instagram.  

I am, however, going to show you what I bought.  It wasn't much compared to usual show hauls for me!  I couldn't really justify buying much as I have done almost no crafting recently!

This is a half metre of bicycle fabric to make a new strap for Z's bag.  Long overdue!  I had ordered some online, but when it arrived the bicycles were about 4" tall, so too big!

I've been itching to embroider recently, but everything is still packed away (news on that next week).  I thought I could remedy that with a piece of fabric and some nice threads for a simple embroidery.  The fabric is Riley Blake something or other (sorry, I'm rubbish at knowing what fabric is!).  The threads are: (left) a sparkly rayon by Stef Francis, a Finca pearl 12 in variegated pink, a green silk from a stall whose name I have forgotten.  I looked at some DMC embroidery cottons, but thought I knew where my boxes of threads were at home.  I had a look.  I don't.  

This meant I needed a small piece of muslin to back the embroidery.  The olive oil soap is for felting which I've been itching to do for a while.

A couple of pretty fabrics.  The one on the left is very familiar but I forgot to pull it out and look at the selvedge.  The one on the right was a possible contender for embroidering.

Pre-printed Sashiko fabric which I'll do with normal embroidery cotton, probably in a rainbow.  

And this teddy-bunny kit.  I could not resist it.  There was a sample on the stall and I fell in love - so I splashed out.  Ah well, teddy-bear making is on my list of things to try, so I might as well!

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Copper Embossing - craft class

A short walk from my house is an old wholesale market.  It has been regenerated and boasts a pub, a brewery and tap room, cafe, Vietnamese cooking school, artisan chocolate maker, a shop full of hand-made goods (where I did the lampwork class) and a coffee roaster, among other things.  It's a lovely area and a great destination as they've been hosting a lot of events.  I've been to night markets and outdoor cinema there recently.  Anyway, there is also a craft shop.  It's called Curious? and although I've seen it, this was my first class there.

The tutor was Dawn Feeney who I have seen around at craft fairs and admired her work.  We were doing copper embossing.  

We were given a mouse mat, a selection of tools and a small piece of copper to practice on.  Dawn did a demonstration and showed us what kind of textures can be created using the various tools.  We got to work experimenting.

Then we had a go with the colours.  These are faux enamel paints - Pebeo Fantasy Moon and Pebeo Prism.  I have had a go with these before when I did a mixed media class at the Bead Shop, and I have some at home.  

The paints sit nicely in the little wells made by embossing from the back using a metal stylus and then flattening down the front with a wooden tool.  This was just a trial piece, so I tried a few colours out and experimented with running the colours together or layer blobs of one colour over the other.

Then we got to work on our main piece, which was a copper blank about 20cm square.  I'd sketched out an idea.  Being crap at drawing, I had to stick to patterns!  I started with a heart (I drew round a paper template for that) and filled it with boxes to put paint into.

Some radiating lines to section off the background, and I experimented with different patterns.  The line based patterns are embossed from the back and debossed, by embossing on the front.  I love the texture this creates, with three different depths.

For the circles, I embossed from the back, and then went round them from the front to make the stand out more.

Time for the colour!  I wanted to use teal/turquoise/blue/green as these are my favourite colours.  I added in a bit of pink for contrast.  Originally I only painted the one section in the heart pink, but then felt it was a bit unbalanced, so added pink in some of the circles too.

I took some close up shots, but I didn't think to take a picture of the finished object framed.  In a lovely touch, we each got an IKEA box frame to take away!  Dawn lightly mounted my picture with masking tape, but as the paint was still wet, I have to re-mount it more securely before I hang it.

You can make out the different textures of the paint in some of these pictures.  The Fantasy Moon looks like the surface of the moon with tiny craters, and the Prism is more abstract - the pink paint is Prism.

I thoroughly enjoyed this class.  Great venue with coffee and cake provided, and Dawn was a good teacher (much better than my last craft class experience!).  I'd love to take another class with her, but alas, there's not really much more to learn!  It's more a case of practice and experimenting.  You can also cut out the images and shape them, but that's something to try at home.  She did say she could do a class at her home using heat to create colour effects (there's a great example here on her home page, scroll down).  We weren't allowed to do that at the venue due to health and safety restrictions!

I can see me doing more of this, it was relaxing and enjoyable.  I just need to get some more work done on the house (studio nearly done!) and finish off summer really.  There are too many festivals/gigs/events to go to during the summer for me to get much craft done!

Friday, 20 July 2018

Craft class - Pottery throwing

A very photo-light post today as it's about the pottery throwing class I went on, and being covered in clay is not conducive to handling your phone!

I threw a pot at the Manor House Hotel back in 2014 when I had a fab week there with my mum.  Since then, I've wanted to try it again, but could never find a class.  There is a regular class near to where I live, but it's at the same time as silversmithing so I'd never made it.  Then I noticed you could book a one-off class on a Sunday.  So I did.

10 of us gathered round a table and learnt how to wedge clay.  At this point, I was already a bit mistrustful of the teacher as she seemed rather rude.  As it turns out, it did not bode well.  Clay wedged, we went through to the throwing room where the teacher gave us a 10 minute demonstration covering everything from centering the clay to bringing it up, taking it back down, making the hole and drawing it up, then cleaning it up and cutting it off.  Then we were let loose.  Great, my favourite way to learn.

This was my workstation.  An electric wheel and a stool.  My first fight was to switch the machine to left handed.  The teacher had asked if anyone was left handed, just me, then told me I would try to throw right handed.  Having watched the demonstration, I knew I couldn't.  I just don't have any control with my non-dominant hand.  She was very pissed off with me.  Turned out that throwing left handed involves nothing more than pressing a switch on the side to change the direction of the wheel and moving the foot pedal to the left (which I did myself) which she also fought against me doing!  Years of sewing on a sewing machine meant that I KNOW I can't control speed with my right foot.  But what do I know?

So we began. At first there was much laughter, but then things started to go wrong.  No problem.  We were a room full of beginners, of course things would go wrong.  When they did, the teacher said, very aggressively I might add, "that's not how you do it!  Do it how I showed you!".  Hmmmm....  After being yelled at a few times, people stopped asking...

I was having trouble making my hole.  I could centre the clay and draw it up, but as soon as I put that hole in the top (to make a pot), it went off centre.  She refused to believe me.  Said the problem was it wasn't centred at the start.  So I showed her it was... then she'd walk off and not watch the bit I was having trouble with!

I threw 10 pots.  9 of which collapsed.  The survivor (which is crap!) is in the middle of the photo above.  At that point, I went home!  She said I could throw some more, but what's the point?  I was unable to solve my de-centering problem myself and she just gave me abuse if I asked for help...

(Mine is the one at the bottom).  NOT a good class.  I will NOT be going back.  I don't think pottery is my "thing", but I do think I could do better than this.  Maybe I'll try again with another teacher, if I can find one.

I have chosen not to name the teacher or the place I went to learn as I realise this is a very scathing post.

If my pot survives the kiln (which I doubt!) I will come back and show you the pot.  Oh, another thing!  She said they'd be ready in about 3 weeks.  I asked if she'd email us and she said she doesn't have time to email us and we have to email her to ask if it's ready.  So she doesn't have time to send one group email, but does have time to answer 10 people asking if the pots are ready (and if they're not, these 10 people will email again)... customer service??

Friday, 13 July 2018

Silversmithing - end of term

Silversmithing ended for the summer last week.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go to the last class as I fell down the stairs at work and badly sprained my ankle!  At the time, I actually thought it was broken, luckily, it wasn't, but it did mean I couldn't walk or drive.

There were three pieces I wanted to finish before summer.  The chain necklace I've been making for months which just needs to be cleaned up, I'm more than half way across.  This I could actually do at home, then just pickle and barrel polish it in September.  Secondly, the spinner ring which is a replacement for the one that didn't spin which was a replacement for the one that became too big!  And finally, a silver pendent using gold from my mum's wedding ring.

The pan-ultimate lesson brought some disasters.  See that raggedy bit towards the top left?  I melted it.  I heated it too much whilst annealing.  I had to file the whole things down.  I filed for about 90 minutes.  Ouch.

I took this picture about halfway through the filing!  You may notice that the join also split.  Oh dear, not going well!!

This is a new piece.  Sorry for the sideway-ness of the photos.  Apparently you can't rotate in Photobucket without it making a mess of the photo.  The bars are argentium, which I used in my brother's ring.  This makes it easier to attached the tiny gold circles which are cut from mum's wedding ring.  I used a hydrolic press with a set of circle cutters to cut such precise circles.  The idea was to attach them, then run them through the rolling mill to make an inlay, but I decided I liked them standing proud.  I just need to add tube to the back and clean them up and this will be ready.  Sadly, it will have to wait til September now, thanks to the fact I'm so clumsy!

Friday, 6 July 2018

Craft Class - Screen Printing

Last Sunday I went to a craft class at Two Little Magpies. You may (or may not) remember that I've done craft classes at this lovely little handmade shop before.  Once again, the standard of the class was high and it was great fun.

I usually just take photo and whack them in my blog.  This time, a lot of them were taken sideways on, so I tried rotating and cropping a little.  They're looking very odd in this post as I write... I'm hoping they publish ok!  If not, I'll try to redo them.

We were learning to screen print using paper stencils.  We each had a handmade frame.  I thought this was genius, I may just have to make my own!

We cut stencils out of paper and placed them on top of a sheet of paper, under the frame.

Then we squeegeed paint on.  It was acrylic paint with a paint medium mixed in.  I didn't think to take any photos of this stage.

Ta dah!  I used copper paper and a turquoise paint.

You can use each stencil several times, so I added some metallic copper paint into the mix.  I made several more after this, adding a different colour in each time, including a bright pink, but they didn't come out great.  I put the excess paint into a little tub and it made the most amazing metallic purple colour!

Next we were let loose on the shop's stack of paper stencils.  Some hand cut, some cut using a die cut machine.  I found this circles template and picked out some little images to put in each "window".

I printed in silver on black.  I love this!  I'm so chuffed with this stencil/picture/paint and paper combination.  I did a couple more, then started to experiment.

Silver paint on red.  I'm also pleased with this.

Silver on grey, this didn't come out so well.

Possibly my favourite of all.  I used bright pink on orange paper.  Because I couldn't wash the screen between uses as the stencils were stuck to it, some of the silver from previous prints bled through.  I love the effect.

I had a vision of a train of dots in my hand mixed metallic purple on top of the black print.  I got a hole punch and some scrap paper and made a stencil.

I practiced first on the failure print.  I didn't like it.  Experiment over.  I'm glad I tried it on the print I didn't like!

The screens have to be washed between stencils, but it's a quick job, so I thought I'd have a go with some more of the stencils.

One negative gem, one positive.  A mixture of copper and silver paint.  Not exactly sticking to its own side!

I printed these triangles and balloon intending to print over the top, but ran out of time.  Actually, I did another and I DID print over the top - looks like I left that one in the shop as I don't have it!

This was a fantastic workshop, I love Two Little Magpies as a workshop venue and I really enjoyed screen printing, I just wish I were a bit more artistic.  Maybe when I've finished decorating my craft room (yes, still ongoing!), I'll have time to make a frame and experiment some more.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Craft class - Felted pod

Earlier in the month I went to a workshop at Needle and Thread in the deepest, darkest countryside of Lincolnshire.  It wasn't dark at all actually, it was a beautiful sunny day.  This was a new workshop destination for me, I'd seen they were doing a class on felted pods and fancied having a go.  I'll definitely be going back, lovely workshop, very friendly staff and amazing food!

The tutor was Robyn Smith, a lovely lady who was very knowledgeable and had devised a great class.  There were only 2 of us students, so we got a lot of attention.  The idea was to make a 3d wet felted vessel, using techniques to add 3d elements.  We started with the vessel.  A layer of merino was placed over a resist (a piece of plastic table cloth), then felted.  Wet felting involves soap, water and lots of rubbing and rolling.

We folded the wet edges over the resist, then added another layer of merino on this side and felted it.  I didn't take a photo of that.  We then put it to one side to work on the embellishments.

Above is a rope, this will be added to the vessel to give some texture and dimension.  It was made by laying out small pieces of merino, then rolling them up, adding water and soap and rolling more.

This is a spike, to go on the base of the vessel.  I wanted a few, so I tried a few different things, here I twisted two colours of merino roving together before felting.  The outcome of these two-coloured spikes was very hard to predict, well for me anyway!  The base of the spike is left unfelted so it can be attached to the vessel later.

Here you can see the rope, three spikes, and three balls.  The balls were not fully felted so that they will attached to the vessel.  I made another 6 spikes after this.

We also had a go at making pre-felt to add cut out shapes to our vessels.  I made a thick piece of felt by piling up lots of layers of roving.

A bit of wet felting later and I was left with this which I could then cut into.

Then came the fun bit - layering and arranging the embellishments.  I started with my spiral - the centre of the spiral will be where I cut the hole later.  I put the spikes around the edge as equidistant as I could and put the other embellishments in between.

On the left is one of the balls I made, then a little stack of the pre-felt, finally a few tufts of merino, then a piece of packing tape cut into a circle.  This will be removed later and is to form a crater.  I didn't add a fin which was another embellishment we could have made.

I put some bright pink merino over the packing tape circles to provide a coloured lip to the crater.

Then it was time to make the batt for the top of the vessel.  Of course, we could have used one colour of merino, or stripes, but we were offered a go on the carder, so of course, I had to have a go!  I have used one before, many years ago when I learnt to spin, and I have to say it's still as much fun!  You push bits of merino in a variety of colours in at the front, it is grabbed on the spikes as you turn the handle.  

This is what it creates - a batt of a mixture of colours.  You can then tear it up and put it through again for more of a blend.

Two layers of the batt were put on top of the design

I also added some of this curly fleece and a few strands of silk - the fleece is the white, the silk is the dark green.

It was all gently covered with plastic, then we rubbed and rolled and rubbed and rolled and rubbed and rolled...

and rubbed and rolled some more!

We cut our holes, mine was centrally in the spiral.  Out came the resist (with surprisingly little effort), then we had to do some pulling and pushing and rubbing inside to get the shape we wanted and make sure the inside and edges were well felted.  I stuffed it full of plastic carrier bags to keep its shape whilst it dried.  You can also see in the picture above that I'd cut the holes for the craters and removed the resists.

It took several days to dry, and this is what I'm left with!  You can just make out the rope spiral towards the top.  It was not as pronounced as I'd imagined.  I perhaps should have started with a thicker rope.

The small purple patch is the stack of pre-felt with the colour coming through.  To its right, you can see a pink circle - that's the crater.  They worked pretty well.

Unfortunately, the balls all but disappeared.  I perhaps didn't work the final layer of felt over them well enough, or maybe they also weren't big enough.

Here's a view of the inside.  It's blue as that's what I started with, the base layer underneath my resist.  

And for some reason I took a picture of the bottom!  I thoroughly enjoyed this class and was chuffed to bits with my "alien" at the end of the class. I'd definitely take a class at Needle and Thread again, and a class with Robyn.  I also want to try out some other ideas I have for wet felting... just got to get that damn studio finished!!