Thursday, 30 September 2010

Show and Tell 2010

I can't believe it is a year since I blogged about the last Alton Art Society exhibition, "Show and Tell". Where does time go? This year's exhibition kicked off last night with the private view and runs until Sunday.

Since joining the Art Society about 7 years ago, I have always exhibited ceramic pieces that I have made, usually selling two or three pieces. Last year, I decided to take a break from ceramics after many years, to pursue my love of textiles. Last year's entries into the exhibition were half ceramic and half felt. This year, I have entered four felt pieces, two handbags, a felt bowl and a set of felt oak leaves with acorns.

Despite having a whole year to prepare some pieces to enter, I left it somewhat to the last minute as usual. I sent off my entry form a month ago with only a vague idea on what I was actually going to enter. Well, one bag was made, one bag needed altering and the other two pieces were figments of my imagination!

A few weeks ago, I felted a dish from Shetland wool. I wanted to make a piece that gave a nod to my ceramics past and so designed a shallow dish in cream wool with some dark brown streaking to echo previous glazing techniques I have used, as well as Japanese raku. I have to say, I was really pleased with the result.

In the past I have also made ceramic leaves in various forms, so decided to felt some oak leaves. Last year, I entered a large felt sycamore leaf which sold, so I thought I would make something similar. Having made three felt oak leaves, I realised that they just didn't work on their own. They needed more to make sense.

The night before I had to drop my exhibition pieces off, I had a mad plan to felt a couple of acorns. Having thought about it, I realised that three loose leaves and a couple of acorns wouldn't really work either, so decided to try to wire the whole lot together into a more naturalistic form. Amazingly, the whole lot came together and worked really well, so well in fact that the piece sold at the private view last night!

Hopefully I will get some interest in the other three pieces before the exhibition ends. I will definitely make some more leaves, I have a couple of cunning plans knocking around in my head. I really must try to get them made in the next year though and not wait until the night before next year's exhibition to finish them.

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Sunday, 5 September 2010

Treasure Not Trash

Last weekend I had some garden waste and a few other items to take to the local dump, or the Household Waste Recovery Centre as it is now termed!

I have to admit, if you say dump it conjours up images of piles of rotting waste with sea gulls scavenging on it. In reality, our local dump is clean, tidy and very well managed. There are marked recycling skips for metal, wood, cardboard, garden waste (which is composted), household batteries, aluminium foil, mobile phones, car batteries, gas bottles, glass, textiles and even a charity bra bank! There is also a general skip for everything else but even that gets sifted through by the staff for anything worth saving.

To one side is the "shop" which is very popular. You can buy all sorts of salvaged items from books, DVDs and CDs to china, furniture, garden tools and bicycles. I have to admit, I do quite like a poke about when I am there to see what I can find. I've found jewellery which I have broken up for the beads, a brand new lampshade still in its wrapping and various other odds and ends which have found their way onto ebay.

Whenever I go anywhere, I have my fabric radar on full alert and last weekend was no exception. I spotted a corner of some very interesting fabric sticking out of a large bin full of old curtains in the dump shop, so started to pull it out for a quick look. I found that it was a curtain pelmet which, judging by the length, was for patio doors. There was no sign of the curtains to match, so someone had obviously beaten me to them. The pelmet was in really good condition with no fading, so I decided to buy it for the princely sum of £2.50. A bargain!

Once at home, I very quickly ripped off the header tape and lining and broke up the pelmet in fabric widths. Once it was flat, I found I had 5 sections measuring 120cm (46") wide and 40cm (16") long. Best of all, one piece had a name and date stamped on the selvedge. It was a 1989 Laura Ashley print. So even better than I thought. After a quick wash to freshen it up and iron, the fabric has already been put to good use on the latest edition to my door stops. It just goes to show that you can find useful treasure pretty much anywhere if you keep an your mind and eyes open.

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Friday, 3 September 2010

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Zip?

To be completely honest, I hate sewing in zips, to the point that they have become my complete nemesis. When designing handbags, I find myself coming up with all sorts of cunning ways to avoid putting a zip in, even though I know most people prefer handbags with zips - even I do!

In the past I have left the tops of bags completely open, I've designed them with flaps held secure with a magnetic clasp, or I've just used a magnetic clasp at the top. Even internal pockets have just been the slip variety or had yet another magnetic clasp.

It's ridiculous really, I am completely happy sewing a zip into the bottom of my door stops so that they can be posted empty and filled by the purchaser, so why not handbags? In my teens when I made lots of my own clothes, I happily made skirts and trousers with zips in. Somehow over the years though, zips have just slipped off my skills list to the point where I can't quite figure out the best way to deal with them.

Last weekend though, I designed a fabulous new clutch bag, my "La Belle Epoque" clutch. It's black velvet with bead tassels and feathering and it was crying out for a zip along the top. There was really no other way to design it, so I had to bite the bullet. I decided to google sewing in zips and see what I could find and came up with two really great tutorials ....

It was actually the second one that I ended up following but I will certainly refer to the first one in the future too. In the end, putting the zip in was so easy, I don't know why I got in such a muddle in the first place! Zips definitely aren't a nightmare anymore.

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