Monday, 21 March 2011

Blocked up!

This past week has been difficult. It has been fraught with problems at home due to two teenagers at large! They have nearly finished their punishments and have settled back down as far as I can tell.

But this had all taken it's toll on my creative juices, I suffered a massive block of ideas and a crisis of confidence last week which was very unpleasant and unsettling - this may have been in part to do with my crazy family who took up literally all of my time. But I also think I was exhausted anyway without their 'help' and so despite a promising start with two friends at the beginning of the week ( making chocolate and admiring needle felt animals) once I arrived home I was devoid of all ideas and even doing relatively simple things which I usually enjoy as part of unwinding in the evening such as knitting and needle felt drove me nuts!

It was fairly stupid of me to try and start assignment 6 which is the final piece of this assignment and is a piece inspired by one of the methods previously used in the module.

I had really enjoyed the photo transfer method and have actually produced a piece which I have now framed of my husband and daughter. So I was confident that using this method it would all flow seamlessly.

This is the original photograph. I photo transferred it on to a piece of linen which is by Cabbages & Roses with the black Hatley, roses design.
The finished product looks like this :

Spurred on by this successful piece I decided to make my considered final piece using photo transfer images using my eldest son in 'photo booth style photos. I was then going to Machine embroider or make a lino cut print of a photo booth shape around the four photos which would be placed one under another.

I drew masses of sketches but none of them particularly leapt out at me. I wasn't deterred at this stage though as I was confident that once my pictures had finished transferring I would be away with the ideas. Then disaster struck. I had made several photo transfers of Hayden onto a White brushed cotton. Together with these I had staged and transferred several photos of two bears that I had knitted, they were posed in all kinds of ' photo booth' poses which had taken ages as they were most uncooperative !

Anyway, the disaster was not the misbehaving bears but the photo transfers them selves which just sort of dissolved and rubbed off of the sheet completely.

I was so upset and disheartened and together with all the other real life stuff I was dealing with I felt overwhelmed. Trying to work out logically why it had not worked I decided it was probably the brushed cotton so I fished out some linen which had previously been so successful with the other transfers including the one I had proudly framed of Matt and Anna. I was still undecided as to what form they would take next and was also panicking about the fact that large amounts of the module had steered us towards minimalism and simple abstract shapes. Would this photo booth idea be way off the mark? Was it neither minimal or abstract and so would my tutor think I had disregarded all that we had learned? I needn't have worried as this set of photo transfers was also a complete disaster.

They were extremely blurred and most of them had great lumps that peeled off. How disheartening. I had left them for well over 24 hours and had dabbed and dabbed so gently, reminiscent of an archaeologist, with a damp sponge which was definitely not too wet. It was so upsetting as I really liked the images and even though I was unsure whether they met the criteria I liked the idea of a machine embroidered 'booth'!

Well. That was my brick wall. I tried to console myself with some knitting but this just went all tight and fussy and made me panic inside about the insurmountable mountain I had to climb with finding ideas for the final piece. Finding ideas with a blank mind. Blank and black.

I tried to throw myself into needle felt but this too was becoming a chore. Maybe I should just forget the whole thing. Who was I kidding anyway? Was I actually pretty rubbish at this whole creative thing and had I wasted all that time and money when the elephant in the room was that I was simply hopeless and to top it all I had taken my eye off my teenagers and they were running amok now too.

So I took a couple of days off completely and waited to see if the creative urge would find me.

I was so fortunate that my sister and friend Andrea raced to my rescue on Friday. My sister took Anna off to play school and Andrea swept me off to Cambridge for coffee and an inspiring look round the shops. It was just the tonic I needed. I felt as if I had been on holiday for a week by the time I returned. Yes, I may have made a few little purchases, but it was mainly the opportunity to laugh and talk honestly with a friend without the distraction of my darling daughter! Before we left I did have a final wobble about going saying "I should be doing my college work!!" But since my mind was a whirling black hole it would have been a pointless exercise. It felt so indulgent having a whole day just wandering around the shops but it was exactly what was needed to spur me back into the creative process.

The city of Cambridge is very inspiring in itself with it's architecture and cobbled streets, not to mention the bicycles everywhere and the constant hum of vibrant people. The shops are full of inspiring new ranges for summer, the colours, patterns and shapes everywhere are wonderful and immensely cheering. I loved The White Stuff clothes shop especially for vibrant colours and inspiring patterns. Also Orla Kiely 'home' range in John Lewis was very welcome. In fact most of John Lewis was pretty uplifting - even the bedding department where Andrea and I sourced some new sheets!!

Following this wonderful day out I came home and did masses of needle felting which flowed beautifully and felt my confidence creeping back slowly.

Sunday morning dawned and I was struck by the beautiful image of a chair I saw in the style pages of a magazine. They were vintage Ercol Quaker style chairs and were just stunning. I decided there and then that they would be the focus for my considered piece. I also decided that lino cut prints would be the way forward. My tutor had been very encouraging about my earlier lino cut prints and I had enjoyed the whole process considerably.

I drew my Ercol style chair on to lino. And began to carve it out.

I printed lots of prints on paper. Slightly tweaking the lino cut at various intervals until I was happy with the consistency of the print.

I also made lino cuts of a cup, jug, window, brick wall, bicycle and teapot.

I also made a reverse transfer of the chair.

I then decided to incorporate some machine embroidery as I really like the look of it with loose threads hanging down. It made the chair shape have movement and look looser than the lino cut shape which is rigid.

That was as far as it got yesterday. I was really happy with how it was all going and felt very positive.

Today I began the printing process on White cotton and used black fabric ink. The gaps are where I am going to insert the machine embroidered chairs which I will embroider straight onto the cotton using black embroidery thread.

Hopefully I will finish the piece tomorrow and will post a final picture then. This evening has been another eventful evening but from the younger age group this time as Anna has an awful cold which is preventing her from sleeping. I am slightly apprehensive how I am going to fit in the work required for the degree course although she will be older then, and so will the wayward teens!!!! Deep breaths. Take one module at a time. Goodnight.


  1. It happens! *Even* I have the odd blip, and I don't have anywhere near the amount of things and people to worry about as you do. It always, as you have found, comes back, especially if you remember to take just a little bit of time out for yourself, as you have done. Last year I spent the first 6 months working on my two books AND a large collection of ornaments for Gisela Graham at the same time, and I often had weeks when I barely left the house except to go to the Co-op.I almost had a break down and when I'd finally finished, I did have a collapse, from sheer exhaustion of body, brain and soul - rather frightening as like you I had no desire at all to create anything or even think about it. For a while I was scared that I'd never get 'it' back again, but then I did and promptly broke my arm, which stopped me working until early this year, so I learned many lessons from all that, not least of which is that I am jolly glad it's all over! And to be kind to yourself. X

  2. I love the chair fabric. Looks great and will be amazing with embroidered chairs in too. Did you notice these are my kitchen chairs, although mine are slightly old and bashed? Beautiful design though.

    Sorry if we made Anna poorly. I had three off sick in the week. That sent our week down hill a bit too. However, better this week with sunshine, second pottery lesson today and I did a fun chocolate lesson for 42 kids at school!

    Glad your creative flair returned and look forward to seeing your beautiful creations.

  3. Thanks Gretel. I know you were so miserable with your broken arm, I am very much a " pull yourself together" kinda gal so it's so frustrating when you can't. Better now though and totally addicted to felt!!

    Jess - I do remember they are your chairs. I love them. I hadn't linked them with the ones in the magazine as these were plain wood. What a week that was last week. Don't worry about Anna, she has got The Cough but so have most of our friends children - it's not so bad now. Glad you are enjoying your pottery, I'm sure you are wonderful at it. And chocolate for 42 - yum!!! I still have my egg ( just!!) proudly displayed - might start nibbling from the back!!!