Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Peacock blue

Posted by Helen
Welcome to Sarah and Twisted Sister as new followers of the blog. It is nice to know you are enjoying the blog but please do leave comments-they make my day. :)

I am very excited as I am dyeing a lovely range of colours using indigo sulphonate. Enys when she arrived for her gardening stint - in this case cutting down the Cosmos and lots of cups of coffee, said to me that the colour was peacock blue. I had said it was a dark turquoise but in fact I think she is right. Where is it you might ask? Well the problem is the difficulty of photographing natural dyes. It is often a problem but is particularly so when I have used more than one dye as I have in this case- indigo sulphonate and persian berries. My first attempt at photographing looked a dingy blue. I put it alongside some indigo dyed fibres and it looked even worse. I tried it bracketed with green and with blue -still no good. another friend suggested putting it alongside a cochineal red. This is better and is the one you can see above but the real beauty of the colour does not come across. This is so frustrating. I tried on my website putting up a photo of some merino dyed in madder and logwood and it simply looks dark blue whereas it is the most beautiful dark purply bronze. I have been told by some people who come to my workshops that the colours on the website simply don't do justice to the colours in the flesh as it were and I agree. It seems to be something to do with the complexity of the colours. So for the moment you will have to take my word for it the colour I have got from my indigo sulphonate is fantastic.

I am happier with my new book covers , made with the paper I painted with my new bronze and blue inks. I think they look striking and Iam happy with them.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Light,landscapes and trees

As a child my mother took me to see the Vermeers ( we lived in the Hague then), the Impressionists in Paris when I was 12 and Turner on the return to the UK. It is only very recently that it dawned on me that I responded to all these with an inner excitement I did not recognize at the time because of the light and how it falls.
As I have surfed the blogging world I have loved the blogs which show landscapes as well as art work as this shows the light that the blogger are living in ( if that makes sense). This is particularly true of the Australian blogs such as herewitht or India Flint's blog as the light is so different to the light here but also recently Leigh in the USA showed the autumnal trees near her. How much do people think the light and the colours around them effect their work either consciously or unconsciously?
Well here are some pictures taken to day and in the space of a half hour morning walk ( about 9am) with the dog . You can see from at least one why I wanted blue and bronze inks!

Welcome to new followers of my blog Patrica, FontaineFleurie and PepperJulies who have joined in since my last post. It is great to having you all here, keeps me on my mettle and it has definitely increased links as I always look at the blogs and often the other blogs a follower follows.

I am busy getting ready for 21/2 days of workshops at the Harbour Gallery Jersey next weekend. This is the first time I had to go by air to a workshop destination. As I dye all the fibers and make up packs for all my workshops this has been an interesting exercise. Two boxes with the packs for the main workshop went off last week now I am packing a large suitcase with more packs, extras and a small shop. I am hoping that I can get most my clothes into my quite capacious overnight bag which will go in the overhead locker in the aircraft. Enys, who always travels light says you just need one change of clothes and enough knickers to last! I am not sure I can travel quite that light but I definitely will have to restrain myself from slinging in extra pairs of shoes just in case and one or two extra sweaters.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

New Natural Dye Inks: blue and bronze

Posted by Helen
Welcome to some new followers of my blog Yvette, Willington Weaver( Hi Alison) Mollys and Martine.

I have been busy making new ink colours. The inks have been a bit quiet or rather the sales of them have been quiet but have suddenly started to pick up. Every time I ran a workshop someone would buy a set of 5 or 8 and people have been coming back for more and like ripples in the pool they have been getting to a wider audience. Two local artists , amongst others, have been using them; David Brightmore and Jan Gardner. It was David who started me off on the journey of actually making inks rather than concentrated dye baths, which I had been using and tells me that he has sold some of his pictures painted with my inks and he has also been back for more.
Last week Debbie Bamford went off to the original reenactors market at Coventry taking with her my medieval inks; a medieval black, yellow and red, the black and the red being new. She sold a few and says that there was a lot of interest, but it takes time for people to buy something new: it is seems so odd to hear my medieval inks described as something new as the very name makes them sound antique and you would expect re-enactors to leap on them with cries of joy, especially as Debbie sells quill pens, but apparently not, apart from a discerning few. In the meantime having a few days free between the end of one set of workshops and the next series in Jersey I decided to bite the bullet, gird my loins and face the challenge of blue. The reason for the girding of the loins part is that I thought the only way to make a good blue was by going via saxon blue. Saxon blue is in fact indigo sulphonate which is indigo dissolved in concentrated sulphuric acid. I was a bit concerned about using this as my memories of A level Chemistry were rather in a dim and distant past , but one of the people who came to my last workshop on mitten making is Pam who teaches Chemistry . She went through safety procedures with me so on Sunday I made some indigo sulphonate wearing goggles, face mask, vinyl gloves and old clothes., stirring finely ground natural indigo slowly and carefully into a measured lot of concentrated sulphuric acid. It had to be left for two days but today it was ready for use so I experimented with making it up into an ink and here is the result.

The first is a weak concentration and the second a higher concentration . The texture on the surface is the paper's (I think) which is a heavy weight rough textured paper 425not- i.e paper that has not been either hot or cold pressed to give a smooth surface. However I was a little concerned about the look of that ink so when I made up the full amount I made sure that the thickener was very well dissolved and smooth.

My next ink is a bronze. I have long been wanting a bronze. The recipe I have for bronze ,which I found in Dominique Cardon's book Natural Dyes, and which apparently was designed for the Marquis de Pompadour, the husband of the courtesan Madame de Pompadour mistress to Louis XVth. The recipe was for brazilwood and weld and I used a variation of it for the fibres for the felt bronze bell which I made with the children of Bodfari school. I was really pleased with the colour . I have been trying to replicate this in ink but it had not worked but after a lot of experimenting using a combination of three dyes I made a bronze I liked. I am not going to say exactly what the dyes are -a girl's got to have some secrets- and after all I do sell them, but above you can see the result . The painting in the blue and bronze is a sheet of watercolour paper destined to make five covers for my dye books which continue to sell steadily. One of the things I really liked is the interaction the blue and the bronze, sometimes it went a very gorgeous green , but a tiny bit of blue on the brush made the bronze go into different bronze colours. Quite yummy in fact!

I noticed that India Flint describes herself as a mark maker which description I like very much and wished I had thought of-sigh- It occurred to me that what I do when I make my dye book covers is not painting but making marks and above is another also in bronze and blue but using different brushes and marks. Finally I have put in one of my pictures- a design for felt which never happened as when I tried to translate it into felt it did not work, but I like the painting.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Tagged and colours

I have been tagged! I have been tagged by Tumbleweed. I did not know what I had to do but apparently I have to list 7 little known facts about myself and pass the baton on towards 7 others. It seems a bit of mild fun so with apologies to the next seven victims I decided to pick up the challenge

Now I have found some more rules for this elsewhere and here they are:
The rules of this Tag are:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.

2. Post the rules on your blog.

3. Write seven little known facts about yourself.

4. Tag seven people at the end of your post and link to them.

5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog

6. Let the tagger know when your entry is posted

7 little know facts about myself

  1. My favourite hand stitch is a french knot but I am too lazy to hand stitch much
  2. I am 4ft 9 inches and my eldest son is 6ft 2"

  3. I feel colour.

  4. My eyes are hazel

  5. If I am feeling tired and down I will retire to bed with a Georgette Heyer -writer of regency romances or Dick Francis's racing thrillers

  6. I have a dog called Walnut and here is a picture of her on the sofa with her head on an expensive cushion inspired by Miro we bought at an exhibition at the V&A on surrealists.

  7. I have always secretly wanted to be a helicopter pilot

    Here are my seven, Leena, Bettina, Anne Robin, Sue Nina Cedar

The merino's below have been dyed in golden rod overdyed with indigo, golden rods, green extract, madder, logwood, cochineal and cochineal /madder exhaust

I have also posted photo of all the fibres I dyed for my most recent workshop, Felt Mittens, I dyed dyed a range of merino ,merino/angora cross and merino/silk The merino in this case being 18.5 micron ( ie very fine). The swirls of fibres have silk cap layers stuck in the tops. I fully intended to show you a picture of the finished mittens alongside but alas for my good intentions I was so busy rushing around and helping a few at the end to finish their mittens it did not happen. As it was one of the students made tea and handed around chocolate cake. It is the story of my teaching life, I never have a chance to take pictures ,or if I do they are hasty snaps which tend not to do justice to anybody. So you will have to just take if from me that the some fantastic mittens were made. One lady made a very long one in lime green that came nearly to her elbow. It looked just like one of those evening gloves people used to wear with long evening dresses. It was so finely moulded on her hand I thought we might have to cut it off but no she managed to pull it on and off. Another was a pair made with cochineal dyed merino and silk. Enys was made up because she made a bright green pair to go with her green velvet coat.

The red photo is red teeswater which a patient customer has been asking me to dye for her for the last three months. The really bright red is cochineal /madder, the red is brazilwood/madder cochineal extracts which as you can see has given some rather pink shades.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Back from Paris , Picasso and thank you

Thanks to all of you who took the time to pop in or send congratulations to me. :) very kind. Welcome too to the new followers of my blog, Blythe and Vali.

I am just back from a visit to Paris to see Picasso et les Maitres where DH and I went to celebrate our( gulp) 35th wedding anniversary. Seven or so years ago DH and I reached a compromise. I agreed to go visit Picasso's antiwar picture-La Guernica- while DH agreed to be dragged around the Prado. Since then we have both enjoyed going to art galleries together and I have , to my astonishment learnt to love Miro -later in Barcelona and DH fell in love with Fra' Angelica, Goya and Velasquez in the Prado. This time he suggested visiting the Picasso exhibition in Paris. This was Picasso's ( no and he is not my favourite artist either) take on the old masters. For example Picasso took Manet's Dejeuner Sur l'herbe ( the one with a naked lady sitting between two clothed men with another lady in the background bathing) and did his own thing, this included what were my favourite ,his lino cuts, but he also played around with the positioning of the figures and the colours to0. The main exhibition ( there are three) in the Grand Palais was fantastic and very well curated. The Musee D'orsay had the Manet and Picasso canvases inspired by it and the Louvre had Delecroix'sLes Femmes d'Algers which I did not know and Picasso's pictures of it, which in the Louvre looked quite astonishingly out of place but also very alive and vibrant too. Delacroix's three ladies of the harem in Turkish clothes and their servant made a lovely delicate and romantic picture which Picasso gave a sexual edge too. One of the women Picasso turned onto her back with her legs entwined in the air above her. I have no photos of these as they were not allowed although photos are otherwise allowed in the museums in Paris which is very intrusive. In the galleries showing all the impressionist at Musee D'orsay two women went point, click, point click around the whole lot without once apparently ever looking at a single picture. Why? What is the point? As for the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, well here you would not be able to see it properly for the number of people posing in front of it. I am so glad I saw it thirty years ago, although I thought it overrated. The Virgin of the Rocks is much better. However if you get a chance to see the Picasso exhibition do go as it make a stunning visit. Even if you are not a Picasso fan there are the old masters such as Manet, Rembrandt's, Velasquez, Murillo and more more more! Canvases have been brought from all over the world so giving a chance to see work never normally seen together outside books. And it is fascinating to see how an artist's mind works even if the end result is not your cup of tea. However his drawings and his Lino cuts and his still life's are quite quite fabulous. Go if you have a chance. Just writing about it make some realise how very lucky I was to be able to go. I wish I could show you some of the pictures of it.