exhibition

David Hockney – The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020

I was very excited to go to my second art exhibition of the summer – The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 by David Hockney at the Royal Academy, London. I’ve been a fan of Hockney’s work for quite a long time after seeing another exhibition several years ago and was inspired by two of his pieces in particular when I began to create my own artwork; Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica (1990), and The Road to Thwing (2006). I really liked his use of mark making to give the impression of these landscapes and the way the paintings can be appreciated from both far away and close up. 

This exhibition was a collection of 116 works created between 11th February to 4th July 2020 with the express purpose of exploring the changing of the Normandy landscape as it moves from winter into spring and even summer. Hockney began using an iPad to create artwork back in 2010 and produced all the paintings included in this collection using an app that had been developed and adapted for his specific requirements. The exhibition itself felt quite small, covering only three rooms of the gallery, but the paintings were hung close together and not always in chronological order. Some had been placed in groups all showing the same view allowing a direct comparison between the stages of spring. 

No. 316, 30th April 2020

For me the enjoyment of each painting was two-fold, firstly enjoying it from a distance and appreciating the scene as a whole and then getting closer to each one to really see what kind of marks had been used to form each element of the piece. I particularly liked all the different ways Hockney depicted the grass whether it be long, short or freshly mown. 

No. 323, 13th May 2020

Another technique I really liked was the paintings in which it was raining. The straight lines Hockney uses across the top of the painting to represent the rainfall seem so basic and almost child-like, but are actually really effective and the paintings showing the rain falling into the pond made me smile. 

No. 346, 22nd May 2020

I think the ones of the pond were my favourites because I found it very impressive the way he managed to capture the reflections in the water. They really brought the painting to life for me and gave the impression of depth and perspective. The other thing that Hockney managed to capture well in all the paintings were the skies. No matter if they were clear blue, heavy cloud or somewhere in between it gave you a strong sense of how that day or night felt and you could tell if it was a crisp early morning or a blazing hot afternoon.

No. 340, 21st May 2020

The exhibition is on until 26th September, so if you are in London I would highly recommend it. The Royal Academy is on Piccadilly so is very close to other things to see and do and as it was such a small exhibition it only took us around 45 minutes to look round. We’ve got tickets booked for the Summer Exhibition in September and I already can’t wait!

exhibition

Sophie Taeuber-Arp at Tate Modern

In September I’m going to be starting a foundation diploma in Textiles, which I am very excited about. In preparation for the course we were given some homework to do over the summer. One of the tasks to complete was to visit a gallery or museum that exhibits Art or Design, so last week I visited the Sophie Taeuber-Arp exhibition at the Tate Modern

I had never heard of Taeuber-Arp before and only came across this exhibition because I was specifically looking for one to attend. I’m so glad that I found out about her though as she sounds like my kind of lady! She was a crafts professional (a title which I think I may have to adopt!) and specialised in many different aspects of the arts, crafts and design including wood-turning, sculpture, jewellery making, and performance art as well as editing and producing work for several arts and crafts publications of the time. The majority of her work was produced across the time period spanning both the world wars during which she lived and worked in Switzerland (her home country), Germany, and France. 

Wood-turned marionettes commissioned for an adaptation of Gozzi’s play King Stag

The majority of her early work was exploring abstraction within the grid structures of textiles and featured spaces created within horizontal and vertical lines. She then translated these images into textile pieces such as cushion covers, rugs and wall hangings, as well as beaded bags and jewellery.

It was really interesting to see the progression of Taeuber-Arp’s work throughout her lifetime as you progressed through the exhibition. Towards the end of her career (and life) her work began to include more free-flowing organic forms, although strong linear structures were still very much in evidence. It was clear to see how she had developed her style and artistic expression over the years.

I’m so pleased that I went to this exhibition and if you are in London in the next couple of months I would highly recommend it. Taeuber-Arp was a fascinating lady who knew her own mind and what she wanted to achieve. 

subscription box

Craft Box Club – Bargello Tea Lights

I’m still playing catch up with all my subscription boxes, but I feel like I’m getting there at last! I’ve just finished the latest from Craft Box Club; another eco-friendly project creating Bargello tea light holders. 

Included in the box was:

  • Glass jars x3
  • Jute ribbons x3
  • Soy tea lights x3
  • Blue yarn
  • Green yarn
  • Yellow yarn
  • Needle
  • Needle threader

I really like the use of the jute ribbon as the canvas. It’s loose weave is perfect for doing the long stitches of Bargello to create a uniform pattern. At the link for the video guide there was also a step-by-step picture process included with written instructions, plus the stitch pattern for the triangle shapes. The video was well paced and showed how to do both the stitches used clearly. I liked that it showed how to use the needle threader at the beginning as well. For this project I did prefer the photos to follow rather than the video.

The only deviation I made from the instructions was sewing the ends of the jute ribbon together. In the video the ends were sewn together around the jar to ensure the correct fit, but I found this a bit tricky so instead I measured the ribbon around the jar and folded it to mark where I needed to place my stitches.

This was such a great project to have on the go if you don’t have the time to dedicate to a sit-down-for-hours project. Although it looks like quite a simple craft it does take longer than you think it will. I completed mine in several sessions over the course of a week. I just left it on the table and picked it up whenever I had a spare half hour, which I think was a good way to do it as the Bargello stitch can be a bit repetitive. The end result is another lovely eco-friendly piece of home décor! 

subscription box

Craftiosity – Gathering Knot Placemat

I feel like I’ve fallen behind again with all my subscription boxes, the next Craftiosity box came in the post before I’d even started the last one and I’ve got several more from other companies lined up too! I’ve been quite busy recently with life in general, but after next weekend I’ll have the whole summer to craft away before starting my Textiles diploma in September, which I’m very excited about! I have now finished the ‘Gathering Knot Placemat’ Craftiosity box and I’m very pleased with the end result.

Included in the kit was:

  • Cotton rope
  • Cotton yarn x3 (grey, dusky pink, sand)
  • White sewing thread
  • Needle
  • Thimble

The placemat design was created using a gathering knot, which I have come across before when doing macrame projects. It’s a really secure way of wrapping yarn around a core material without worrying about it coming loose or tying off the ends properly. It’s also a very easy knot to learn, especially when you are doing it over and over again! I’m glad the instructions said to cut all the lengths of yarn before starting the knots as having them all measured and ready to go made it really easy to get into a rhythm with the wrapping. There was a point where I thought I would definitely have spare lengths of yarn because I would get to the end of the rope before using them all, but they fit perfectly in the end.

I accidentally went a bit astray from the instructions, which is why you should always take time to read them all before jumping in to the project! You were supposed to wrap about a metre of the rope and then begin the coiling process, then return to the gathering knots to the end of the rope before finishing off the coiling. I got so engrossed in the knots that I wrapped the whole rope before I realised I should have done some coiling half way through. Ultimately I think this suited my style of working better though. I prefer to complete one process before moving onto the next, rather than chopping and changing between the two. I think doing the coiling all in one go worked particularly well for me as I think I would have found the half done coil a bit cumbersome when trying to finish the knots.

The coiling of the placemat reminded me of basket weaving, placing the stitches at even intervals on the underside of the mat and making sure to catch some of the rope with the needle to secure it properly. I’m so glad that the thimble was included in the kit, it was a definite thumb-saver! It really helped with getting the needle through the rope properly, something I have struggled with in previous kits of a similar nature. 

The estimated time on the instructions for this kit was 4-5 hours and I would say that is about right. It depends how fast you do your wrapping really. It is a really mindful project and the repetitive nature of it allows you to really get into a zone and is perfect to do listening to relaxing music or a good podcast. Now, straight onto the next kit!

subscription box

Craftpod – Wild Rose and Strawberry Embroidery

I’ve been enjoying the summer Craftpod this week with two lovely projects to complete; the wild rose and strawberry embroidery, and the Liberty fabric bookmark.

Included in the box was:

  • Embroidery hoop
  • Printed fabric
  • Liberty fabric
  • Interfacing
  • Embroidery thread x7 
  • Card bookmark template
  • Notebook
  • Postcard
  • Teabag

One of my favourite things about Craftpod is that the projects always seem to have a very tranquil vibe and the wild rose and strawberry embroidery definitely made me think of lying in a sunny meadow, picking and eating wild strawberries straight from the bushes…or maybe that’s just wishful thinking as we’ve been having such dreadful weather so far this summer! Either way, this was a really relaxing embroidery to complete, especially the larger wild roses as you could really get into a rhythm with the stitches. The majority of the piece was completed in statin stitch, but I liked the use of the French knots for the centres of the flowers to give a different texture and the long and short stitch for the strawberries gave them a nice raised effect.

Whilst the embroidery was a slow, mindful project, I found the Liberty fabric bookmark a nice quick make to fit into a Sunday afternoon. I think the whole project only took me about an hour to an hour and a half to finish. The interfacing was ironed on to the back of the fabric and then the shapes for the bookmark cut out using the card template. The two sides were sewn together with blanket stitch and then a hole was cut and blanket stitched ready for the tassel.

I found the instructions for making the tassel really clear, although I wish I’d used a slightly longer piece of thread for tying up the top of the tassel than the instructions recommended. I also found that the suggested metre of thread didn’t give enough body to my tassel so I added a second metre, but to be honest I could have used more. Now I need to give my Kindle a rest and find a real book to read so I can use my new bookmark!

I was actually a bit sad when all the projects in this box were over because I was enjoying them so much. Autumn feels a long way off still before the next Craftpod arrives, but I definitely don’t want to wish the summer away and I hope we get some sunshine to enjoy before that!

subscription box

MakeBox – Alice in Wonderland Cross Stitch

I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last few weeks completing the Alice in Wonderland cross stitch from MakeBox. Alice is a universally loved story and there are so many themes and elements to relate to. The release of this box coincides nicely with the ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ exhibition currently running at the V&A museum in London. I haven’t been yet, but it looks fantastic and is open until the end of the year, so I will definitely be booking tickets. The cross stitch design brings together lots of the elements that make up the story including the white rabbit, the Queen of Hearts’ crown, roses, a flamingo and the Mad Hatter’s hat. The only thing missing for me is the Cheshire Cat!

Included in the box was:

  • Navy blue Aida
  • Navy blue felt
  • Embroidery thread x7 (green, red, pink, yellow, blue, and white x2)
  • Needle
  • Rectangular wooden effect embroidery hoop
  • Blue velvet ribbon
  • Stitch chart

I thought the section at the beginning of the instruction book with techniques about the Aida fabric, using a cross stitch chart and how to do the stitches was very informative and would be especially useful for beginners to this embroidery style. The section about putting the Aida into the frame made it sound quite easy but because of the stiffness of the fabric and the unusual shape of the frame I thought it was rather like wrestling an octopus! I found it very difficult to get the fabric to bend into the frame and even harder to make sure the squares were lined up horizontally and vertically. Mine was at a bit of a slant to begin with but I managed to shuffle it round without popping it out of the frame. 

The instructions also said to cut off the excess fabric leaving a one inch border. I decided not to trim mine as I know this kind of fabric can fray a bit. I’m glad I didn’t in the end as I found that the design was actually too big for the frame. It went right up to the edges of the outer frame, which meant that the inner frame at the back didn’t allow access to that area of fabric to stitch on. I decided to take my embroidery out of frame and I actually found it a lot easier to work on after that. I also found it easier to get back into the frame straight once the cross stitch was complete.

I also deviated from the instructions whilst stitching the design. I started with Alice using the centre point marked on the chart. Once Alice was finished the instructions said to count up from her head to do the crown, but I’m always a bit unsure of myself when counting on blank canvas so I decided to go down to the toadstool which was attached to her feet and then work my way around the design in a clockwise direction using the rose stem to join each section so I was never stitching in no man’s land. I also tried adding the hand stitched ‘10/6’ to the Mad Hatter’s hat, but I couldn’t get it neat enough so I left it off.

When I was finished I compared my one to the picture in the instructions and noticed that the design didn’t seem to go quite so close to the edge in the picture and it looks as though a couple of the elements had had a design change, most notably the brim of the hat and the flamingo’s head. I’m not sure it makes a difference to the overall design, but just like Alice I’m curious as to why the changes were made! 

Finally the felt was cut to size and sewn to the back. Once again I went off piste with this! I decided to use blanket stitch rather than running stitch to attach the felt to the back as I think it looks a bit neater, but again it doesn’t really make a difference what stitch you use as it is on the back.

Also included in the box was a recipe for Queen of Hearts jam tarts by the ‘Great British Bake Off’ contestant Alice Fevronia. They were super simple and quick to make, and tasted delicious! The pastry was lovely and of course they wouldn’t be the Queen’s without the heart shape on the top!

subscription box

Makerly – Sunburst Sun Catcher

I absolutely loved the most recent box from Makerly! I haven’t done any work with beads and wire wrapping for ages and it was so nice to spend time doing one of my first hobbies on such a beautiful project, the Sunburst Sun Catcher.

Included in the box was:

  • 25cm metal hoop
  • 8cm metal hoop
  • Glass seed beads (red, orange, and yellow)
  • Mixed acrylic beads (red, orange, and yellow)
  • 4cm sun catcher crystal
  • Snips
  • 0.4mm jewellery wire
  • Glue dots

The first step was to anchor the smaller hoop to the larger one with the wire and then create the first ‘ray’ of the sunburst from the top of the smaller hoop up to the centre point at the top of the larger hoop to hold everything in place. I was surprised at how effective the glue dots were at holding the wire in place. I thought the wrapping would be enough, but it was quite a fine gauge and the glue dots were a definite must to keep each ray where it was meant to be. Despite the fine gauge of the wire I found the snips a bit useless for cutting through it. I would normally use these kind of snips for yarn or thread and proper wire cutters were much better for the job. They did get through the wire, but not cleanly in one go like wire cutters would. 

The rays were left loose on the hoops until all of the beads had been strung on each one and then there were secured with the glue dots, allowing them to be positioned evenly around the hoop to create the sunburst design. I followed the design in the picture, alternating rays of larger beads and seed beads and graduating from yellow in the centre through orange to red at the edges, but there was plenty of scope in this kit to use the beads to create any design you liked.

The last thing to do was to secure the crystal in the centre of the small hoop and create a wire hook at the top of the sun catcher so it can be hung in the window. This kit was really straightforward to complete and didn’t take long to do at all. I’m so pleased with my finished sun catcher and I can’t wait for the rainbows to come pouring into my house! 

subscription box

Craft Box Club – Pink Beach Houses

My second painting project this month, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, was the Pink Beach Houses kit from Craft Box Club. I liked the nostalgia around the theme of this kit as it brings back memories of trips to the seaside when I was little.

Included in the kit was:

  • Wooden house shapes x3
  • Brush
  • Sponge
  • Earth paints
  • Twine
  • Glue
  • Wooden decorations
  • Strip of fabric
  • Sandpaper
  • Paper house template

The first step was to sand down the wooden houses to ensure they were nice and smooth round the edges. As always every effort has been made to keep the kits as eco friendly as possible and the houses were cut by Love HeartWood, a wood turning business specialising in sustainable wooden gifts and toys using FSC wood. I love that a small business has been used to supply these crafts kits to support the creative industry, rather than purchasing them wholesale from a huge supplier.

The earth paints come as a powder and you mix them up to the right consistency. The pink colour was created by mixing the white with a tiny bit of red and it was really easy to apply with the sponge and still let the grain of the wood show through to keep the rustic look. It was very important to let the paint dry between each layer, otherwise it would have smudged together. One of the good things about earth paint is that when it dries out you can just grind it back down to a powder and rehydrate it with a little water again. I smudged my black when I was adding some of the window details, but I revived the white and pink paints and managed to hide the mistake. I’m still not a huge fan of earth paint, I find it still comes away on your hands when you touch the painted pieces even though it is dry, but it does give a nice effect for this project and is of course eco friendly!

Once all the painting is complete the finishing touches were added. I liked the way the twine was used to give the effect of a roof texture and the addition of the bunting was really cute. I definitely felt as though I needed to sit on the beach with an ice cream after finishing them!

subscription box

Craftiosity – Marbled Candle Holder

I haven’t done any marbling for a little while so I was quite excited about the Craftiosity marbled candle holder kit! I thought it was a really clever idea to add a unique design to a something that would make a great centrepiece for a table or mantelpiece.

Included in the kit was:

  • Wooden candle holder
  • White acrylic paint
  • Paint brush
  • Marbling tray
  • Marbling inks x2 (black and blue)
  • Disposable gloves

The first step was to paint the candle holder with the white acrylic paint to act as a base for the ink and also to be the third colour of the marbling pattern. The actual making time for this project is actually quite quick but there is quite a bit of drying time involved too. The instructions said that the paint would be dry after 30 minutes, but I actually left mine overnight because I had other jobs to get on with, which made it quite a good project to fit in between other things. I was also painting another project at the same time (see my next blog post!) so it was quite good to have this to alternate with!

Once the paint was dry it was time to get marbling. Using the marbling tray filled two thirds with water you could create your design using drops of the inks. I actually added some extra drops after I swirled my inks with the end of the paint brush but I think I used too much in the end because my finished candle holder took a very long time to dry. Restraint is definitely key here and I think it would still have made a nice pattern, I was just a bit over enthusiastic!

After dunking both sides into the marble pattern on the surface of the water and making sure that all the sides of the candle holder were covered and that it didn’t touch the bottom of the tray, all that was left to do was to let it dry. As I mentioned, mine took a little while to dry completely, but now it is done it looks great. I love with marbling that you never quite get the same design twice so every piece is completely unique. 

I also liked the suggestion of using the inks to marble some paper as well and experimenting with different patterns. It’s always nice to have ideas of what to do with the leftover supplies from craft kits. Now I just need to buy some candles to go in my nice new holder! 

craft kit

Inner Canvas – Abstractus

As you probably know I am currently subscribed to quite a few monthly craft boxes and have been considering cancelling some and swapping them for others to make sure I’m trying out a variety of things and not just getting stuck in a rut. It’s hard to cancel any of them though as I’m always excited to see what will come next and I do feel as though I’m sampling a good range of crafts. However, on the hunt for new craft subscription boxes I came across Inner Canvas. I had a look at the website and scrolled through the past boxes to see what kinds of things were included. Most of the crafts I had tried before, but the designs looked unique and the kits looked well curated. The thing that made me do a happy dance was that you could buy past kits on a one off basis! I love it when subscription box services do this as it means you can dip in and out of the kits without committing to a full subscription, which comes with the danger of receiving crafts you aren’t that interested in. I have several boxes stacked up down in my studio that I haven’t got around to making because I’m just not that excited about the contents.

I was attracted to Inner Canvas via Instagram where Nadia, the lady who runs the show, was posting about their latest box, an embroidery entitled ‘Abstractus’. The design is inspired by geodes and features embellishments of Czech glass beads and Aventurine beads – a semi-precious gemstone.  

Included in the kit was:

  • Embroidery hoop
  • Aventurine gemstones
  • Czech glass beads
  • Calico fabric
  • Embroidery thread
  • Embroidery needle
  • Beading needle
  • Carbon paper
  • Paper template
  • Metal keyring blank
  • Metal hook (for hanging embroidery)
  • Care package (tealights and a tea bag)

Also included was a ‘Therapist Approved’ journal that included some self-reflective exercises to help reduce anxiety and improve the mindfulness associated with crafting and creativity. I haven’t had a chance to complete any of the exercises yet (to be honest I find crafting mindful enough), but they do look good and a journal is included with every kit.

The instructions that came with the kit were quite basic, just a paper template for transferring the design over to the fabric using the carbon paper and a photograph of the finished piece with a key to show which stitch and colour embroidery thread, or beads should go in which section. The photograph was really clear and easy to use. More detailed instructions were provided via a video link sent in an email. I was really impressed with the video, the steps were demonstrated well and the voiceover was well-paced and easy to understand. Although I already know how to do the two stitches I thought the step-by-step instructions showed how to do them both clearly, especially the two options for getting the satin stitch to go round a curve, which is sometimes tricky for beginners to get to grips with. 

There was a second instructional video for the bonus keyring project that was just as well created as the main video. The keyring was made first so you could ensure you would have enough fabric for both projects and it was nice to have a practice go at the satin stitch and attaching the beads before moving onto the main one.

I thought the design of the embroidery was really unique and I liked how you could really feel where the inspiration came from. I was also impressed at how what is a fairly simple design using only two stitches and the addition of the beads can have such an impact as a finished piece. It just goes to show that less definitely can be more!

I thoroughly enjoyed this craft kit and am keen to see what projects Inner Canvas bring out in the future. I will definitely be keeping an eye on their Instagram feed and will be ordering any kits that look exciting. I have already ordered another of their past kits, the Abstract Air Dry Clay Ceramic kit. I’m hoping to get the chance to have a play around with that one very soon as it’s been a while since I did any clay work and I’m hoping that I will enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed this one.