I find myself with a little time on my hands….

If you can remember the last blog the builders were in; they expected to finish in November. Here we are in MAY and once again we are away and we are hopeful they will almost have finished when we get back, at which time I will post amazing photo’s of my new studio and maybe the new kitchen.

Since the last blog my tapestry ‘Cecil – The Uninvited Guest’ has exhibited at the RBSA in Birmingham and I was honoured to win The Gane Trust Award for it. That was really nice and it made me think about the whole serendipity thing, after all if it had been accepted for Artapestry6 or the Cordis then it wouldn’t have been available for that exhibition and I wouldn’t have won the Gane Trust Award.

Just to remind you this is what the diptych looks like:

each tapestry is 1.5 metres square. I am still considering a third that is all red but am not sure I can bear to do it. Also I was not so happy with these, they were double warped and I think my warps were generally too far apart and the weft was not thick enough but if I do a third they probably have to be at the same sett which fought me every inch of the weaving.

Anyway I am on to the next venture now.

Heallreaf 4 has just gone up for exhibition in Farfield Mill in Cumbria. I assume if you are interested enough to follow this very spasmodic blog then you probably follow me on Instagram and there will be images there. The PV is tomorrow and then we head home for a rest (hoping the builders have finished, it was mainly the electrician who was tardy).

This is the work that I have in Heallreaf 4:

It is called ‘The Alchemists’s Dream’ and is about 90cm square. It is an odd piece, a bit Marmite as they say – some hate it – I don’t think the Heallreaf jurors liked it much and recently it reduced someone to tears – in a good way I think. The eye is quite powerful I guess. I am pleased with it but I wove it on wool warp which has made the finished piece very soft which I don’t like.

The name, ‘The Alchemists’s Dream is because I have been thinking a lot about alchemy lately. As a qualified herbalist and someone who dyes their own yarns I guess I am marginally qualified in that area. I am also about to embark on a research project about the differences between natural and synthetic dyes, for instance we always say natural dyes are less colour fast and that you can’t get repeatable colours but is that true? I know the old tapestries fade terribly but they were treated pretty badly, there are lots of tales of them being found on compost heaps and all sorts, I’d fade under those conditions. I just wonder whether natural dyes and modern scientific methods could create good repeatable results. What this space, but not too closely you know how slow I am at updating this blog.

After the PV at Heallreaf 4 tomorrow – Farfield Mill – 2-4pm – if you are in the area, all welcome – we head home, via Salts Mill for a quick look round and visit to the Early Music shop. There I will gaze longingly at a serpent and wish I had the skills to play it. We will also see some David Hockney as well, it would rude not to.

Oh nearly forgot. Emma and I wove this at West Dean. It is from a design by Eileen Mayo and is about 1.7 metres high and 1.3 metres wide. It is being exhibited at The Towner in Eastbourne until the 3rd July. It’s lovely but very much of it’s era but if you are about Eastbourne it is well worth a visit as is the rest of the show on Mayo’s work.

We are on to the next commission at West Dean now but that is all secret squirrel until the artist exhibits it and goes public.

As usual……..

my endeavours to blog regularly have failed.

My excuses are myriad. There’s Heallreaf Post that was on in July, an SDC (that’s Society of Designer Craftsmen) exhibition I curated in August, starting to work 3 days a week at the professional tapestry studio at West Dean and the fact builders are pretty much destroying the house at the minute. Today the builder said ‘the plasterer has been delayed so instead of arriving on Monday he won’t be here til next Wednesday so if you could move out for a week or two that would be so helpful………….’

It is pretty much impossible to get holiday type accommodation at the minute unless you are willing to pay thousands of pounds for it, so I am not sure what we will be doing. But as everyone keeps saying ‘it’ll be worth it when it is finished’, which allegedly won’t be til mid November and that was before the plasterers delay. Apparently they are also having to beg for bricks as they have used all they have, recycled the ones they took out and are still a few short and the builders say bricks are as rare as rocking horse poo at the minute. We have acrow props holding up the back of the house as the kitchen is being extended in that direction and on the side of the house I have a new studio. It is still quite small as studio’s go but will just contain weaving in progress whilst my current studio will be turned into my office, yarn store and dye room as it has an industrial extractor fan in there just for that purpose. It will be good to have an office as we are both fed up of me organising exhibitions from the dining room table.

So in answer to those who are asking, yes I am still doing my blog, or meaning to do my blog. So where shall I start?

Heallreaf Post. The exhibition in Chichester of postcard sized tapestries went well, although I only got 94 pieces entered which was less than I had hoped so the fourth wall included larger work from a few artists who help me organise the Heallreaf exhibitions and another artist who organises other tapestry exhibitions. We sold 31 postcards and two of the larger pieces. None of mine sold (she said grumpily). At least the exhibition paid for itself and in the art world you can’t ask more than that at the minute.

The SDC exhibition followed a fortnight after Heallreaf Post in the same gallery. It went well, they sold lots, some people liked my curation others didn’t although I must be doing something right as they made me a Fellow of the Society, which was a great honour but I am still not sure the Society of Designer Craftsmen is the place for me. They are all so focussed on selling, which is a great business model but not suitable for an artist/tapestry weaver. One member said they had spent two weeks in the studio making speculative work and it wasn’t a good thing to do economically. I laughed to myself and thought only two weeks, try spending six months or more on something and then find no-one wants to exhibit it. This is a sore point as I still have the diptych ‘Cecil – the Uninvited Guest’ sitting around waiting to be shown to the world.

Anyway, I did enter a piece for the Kate Derum Awards and have been shortlisted so Great Uncle Antonio is off to Melbourne (Australia) in the next few days.

Here he is. I might have posted a photo of him before. When the Genealogist investigated my Mum’s family she found this photo which is taken from his Metropolitan Police file.

Apparently the man was an habitual drunkard, hence the police file. We all thought he looked very sad and I am so happy with how he came out in tapestry, the soulful eyes have translated really well. I am not sure about the nose but there you go, nothing is perfect. The moustache was quite difficult too, I am still not sure if it comes across okay. The Tapestry is 30cm (12 inches) square which is the maximum size for the Kate Derum Awards exhibition.

I have also entered some work into the Cordis Prize in Edinburgh and will find out on the 14th if it has been accepted. I have entered the ‘Cecil’ diptych and also the latest version of the 3D piece. I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t get in as in my head it should have had a beautiful video and the soundtrack should have lots of bass but neither worked as well as I would like.

My latest news is that on the 22nd September I am participating in an ‘In Conversation’ with the lovely organisers of Nearly Wild Weaving. The link for tickets is here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/166633319745 and we will be talking about all things tapestry, my QEST Scholarship and where the Heallreaf exhibitions are heading in 2022 so it should be a great evening. I just love talking about tapestry.

I will not be promising to blog more often as life will not be getting quieter in the near future. I have this vision that once the extension is built I will waft around my new studio and kitchen and be calm and everything will get done just as it should, no crisis management or anything like that. Let me hold that thought, it is a complete fiction but humour me for the time being!

Happy Christmas

Here we are on Christmas Eve and looking forward (!) to tier 4 come Boxing Day. I haven’t done enough weaving to warrant a photo but recently Weavers Bazaar kindly asked me to write a short piece for their newsletter entitled ‘A Day in the Weave of…….’ and one of the results is that I have more blog followers.

So I thought it is a good time to say ‘Happy Christmas’ to everyone and lets hope 2021 is a much better year, although PJ is still in doom and gloom mode and thinks things will get worse before they get better. But then he is a grumpy old whatsit.

We have friends coming for lunch tomorrow so there will be just the 4 of us and we have a house full of food, although I have just realised no mushrooms – that’s a disaster no mushrooms – I must send PJ out to queue in the supermarket for mushrooms. No just kidding but I do love mushrooms and not having any in the fridge is quite rare. I am in the middle of making vegetarian sausage rolls, which might have had mushrooms in but obviously not now. Is it me but ‘vegetarian sausage rolls’? An oxymoron surely, don’t get me wrong I have no problem with ‘vegetarian savoury rolls’ but why are they called ‘sausage rolls’? Sorry this way lies madness, back to the thing this blog is supposed to be about.

The latest tapestry is moving on, we did have a bit of a worry as when I tried to roll it round and the scaffolding frame got a bit sort of stuck and twisted so we had to use an extra pulley affair to get it moving. My own fault, that’s the trouble with setting up these things, you don’t do it very often so you forget the lessons you learnt last time. The upshot was that PJ did his back in helping get it sorted but he’s fine now so I’ve stopped feeling guilty.

I hope to get some serious weaving in over the next week. (I think I might always say that). It has got a bit sidetracked as I wanted to finish knitting a woolly (is that one l or two?) jumper for the cold weather (there is some talk of snow next Tuesday but I don’t believe it) and also finish sewing a warm dress. Those are done now so it is back to focussing on the weaving and soon I will need to do some more dyeing as well. I hope the next blog will have a photo of the tapestry, at least flat and cut off if not pulled into shape.

Happy Christmas and a happy New Year.

It’s not Christmassy as such but is red!

In need of flexibility?

It was suggested to me after the last blog (about my bendy life) that maybe the world was trying to tell me to be more flexible and less rigid. Alternatively another friend who does bodging asked her bodging teacher about the bendy bobbin and he said it was because the grain of the wood was not put in the lathe straight hence it has moved since. As I may have mentioned I have two other bobbins in this wood and whilst neither of these have bent in the same way the balance feels wrong when I use them so I am thinking maybe the grain of the wood was wonky generally.

So maybe problem solved but let’s face it we all have much more important things to think about at the minute rather than my bent bobbins.

My latest news is two interviews. Well, one was supposed to be included in my last blog but I forgot!

Deborah Blakeley from zoneone arts contacted me out of the blue and asked to do an interview, so here is the link:

I am not sure where she got my details from but it was an interesting process, she sent me lots of questions and I sent her answers and images of my work. There are some other very interesting interviews on the website too. Have a look if you have time.

Then, yesterday I did a podcast interview with Creative Coverage:

https://anchor.fm/creative-coverage/episodes/Didgeridoos-and-weaving-en1o8d

I am not sure why I have such a large gap above but the link should work. Technology eh! Anyway let me know what you think of the podcast. I haven’t listened to it myself as I am too embarrassed so close to recording it, I am sure I will listen sometime soon.

I am also about to write ‘A day in the weave of…’ for the Weavers Bazaar newsletter. I am not sure anyone is that interested in my day but I was asked to do it so that will turn up in their newsletter sometime in December. It has made me think about my days and how I structure them, or try to structure them. As I lay awake at 4am this morning (I don’t often have sleepless nights but last night was one) I was thinking about my days and how I listen to a lot of audio books whilst weaving. The latest is Mythos, written and read by Stephen Fry. I had to stop listening because I got very fed up with all these Gods fornicating and smiting each other, I mean haven’t they learnt that if Zeus is being nice to you then he is probably going to stab you in the back tomorrow. This got me thinking that maybe they were like that because they were bored and had nothing better to do and although I had done classics at school I had never thought of these tales as allegorical before. The goddess Demeter for instance seemed far too busy to be involved in all this bad temper as she was too busy keeping the crops growing etc. So, to cross my religions, maybe the devil really does make work for idle hands.

There, that’s got that off my chest. Todays pictures are not very exciting. Because the frame is so wide and the studio so small I have to take 2 pictures, one of each end and cannot stitch them together due to the angle. It is very plain weaving and boring to look at. I will be winding it down soon but am not sure how the cardboard inserts will take to such winding. Note for the next lot of spacers, make sure you cut the corrogated cardboard the other way around so it will wind down happily when the time comes.

At the far end you can see some little swirls, these have red included in the blends of blue and green. As I mentioned last time it is difficult to get a good photo down there it is so dull, hence the mention of weaving with the light strapped to my head. The glamour of the life of a tapestry weaver!

Bendy things

So my life has gone ‘bendy’, well only a little. I went to the bobbin box the other day and pulled out this:

I am not sure how it happened, none of my other bobbins have done this, although one in the same wood looks and feels like it might be following suit. A year or so ago I cleared out PJ’s woodturning workshop so I could use it as a studio and we ditched all his wood and machinery as he didn’t use it anymore (woodturning’s loss but photography’s gain). Anyway there were some lovely woods which had been hanging around for nearly a decade so I sent them off to Ian the bobbin maker who lives on the Isle of Wight and asked him to make bobbins for me. I suspect this must be one of those bobbins although all the wood was so old I really didn’t think it had any movement left in it.

And as if this wasn’t enough as I was leaving the studio the other day I turned around to look at the frame and saw this:

It made me think of Archimedes and his ‘Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.’ Only in this case it should be ‘Give a woman enough warp yarn and she can bend anything’. I mean this is a scaffolding pole, they use it to build structures to stand on so they can mend roofs and build houses for goodness sake. And to think I had considered getting aluminium poles instead because they would be lighter for me to heave about.

Moving on. The weaving is going okay, it is very difficult to photograph as it is 2.5 metres wide and there isn’t the room in the studio to get far enough away to photograph it, in fact at one end (left hand side of the picture) there is barely enough room to weave it. I took this photo using the panoramic setting on the phone but it is very distorted, I might try with some ordinary photo’s and stitch them together.

There isn’t much point taking a detailed shot of it either as 95% of it is woven in a blend of 4 strands, 2 x brightish green, 1 x very dark green, 1 x dark navy so it all looks the same and is very boring. On the right hand side you can see some black swirls on the cartoon, there will be some maroon strands added in there to suggest the swirls but not anything with hard edges, there are some more swirls a bit higher up as well, I might be able to take photos of those as there will be more light up there. Lighting is proving a problem and I have woven some of it with a head light strapped to my forehead, it isn’t very comfortable but gets me past the really dull bits.

So we are back into lock down next week. Not such a bad thing I don’t think, yes I understand that many people may lose their livelihoods but perhaps the alternative is that they lose their lives? At least there is some semblance of normality with the schools remaining open.

I am participating in some zoom courses at the moment, one on Natural History Drawing – the flowers and bugs are fine but I just can’t draw a landscape to save my life, and then two short weaving courses, one with Michael Crompton and one with Alastair Duncan. Alastairs is about using sound with weaving and that’s going to be a steep learning curve. Watch this space for the results.

Drat.

Unfortuntely Artapestry6 did not want my two latest tapestries, here they are:

Which is a bit of a pain as I now have 3 linear metres of tapestry with nowhere to go.

I shall put them into something else at the end of the month and if that isn’t successful maybe The Cordis in January.

The exhibition locally at The Oxmarket went well, the footfall was amazing, over 100 on some days but not huge sales. Of course I did not sell anything but didn’t expect to. I really don’t expect to sell a £6k or £7k tapestry in a small venue like that. However ‘The Way of All Flesh’ looked amazing on the wall, it is the first time I have seen it up and it looks lovely over Andrew Lapthorn’s beautiful coffee table.

Now I want to buy the coffee table but I do see it more as a bench and maybe I will have the perfect place for it once our kitchen extension is built. Well, not this particular bench but one a bit smaller. Andrew’s work can be found here: https://www.lapthornfurniture.co.uk/

But going back to the exhibition and selling, I always think if I don’t get my work out there I will definitely not sell anything (if that makes sense). There was some beautiful work at the exhibition apart from Andrew’s coffee table (bench – sorry Andrew). Simon Jewell’s boxes are absolute jewels, see his website: https://www.theartofcontainment.com/

I might also have a place for a lovely bit of architectural glass by Fabrizia Bazzo: https://fabriziabazzo.co.uk/

In fact if you want to gaze in wonder and awe at some very beautiful work just headover to the Society of Designer Craftsmen’s website.

So what’s next for Jones The Weaver I hear you ask.

Well, I have to admit not getting the pieces into Artapestry6 was a bit of a blow. I absolutely know there is no reason why I should get in just because I have had work in the two previous exhibitions – both of which I thought were not as good as the diptych you see here. But you just never know what the jury is looking for do you? I once had a very odd email declining my work for one of the ATA biennials which sort of implied the writer really liked my work and thought it should have got it but had been out voted and maybe it just didn’t ‘go’ with the general sensibilities of the jury or the exhibition.

This and looking at the general lack of sales at the Oxmarket exhibition (not just my lack of sales) has made me think I do need to make some smaller work which can be sold for around £50-£100 and maybe something that is a wee bit more commercial. But it is difficult to make stuff that you want to weave that is saleable, I mean I could just weave different breeds of dogs and that might well sell but I don’t really want to become known as the dog weaver. Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs – well – most dogs – but that isn’t what my work is about. There was one piece years ago which sold before the exhibition even opened to the lighting man and I am wondering about some similar work. Here it is, I finally found the photo:

Although looking at it now it isn’t as good as I remember. It is very pale and elegant and very ‘interior designy’ and I guess that is why it sold, it had a simple black frame on it. It is just woven in undyed yarn and just not quite white cotton so the light is the thing that gives you the image, maybe that is why the lighting man liked it.

So I am considering doing some ‘life drawing’ type poses in a similar manner and I have already done some postcards ready for ‘Heallreaf Post’.

BUT:

that will be after the next big 3D piece which I hope to enter for The Cordis and maybe it will even get selected – you never know!

This has however been a bit trying as the 3 metre scaffolding poles have been on order for two weeks and haven’t yet arrived and I am currently trying to dye the right green for it, or one of the right greens. I never seem to have the right colour no matter how much yarn I have or dyes samples I have kept:

So back to the drawing board for a bit, will keep you updated with any exhibitions or the like and by January should have a photo of the big 3D piece – hopefully, if the scaffolding arrives I am not still trying to dye the right green.

Finished.

Here is the latest tapestry still on the frame but finished.

MFJ Textiles 200712-1-Edit

Unfortunately it got twisted a bit on the winding down so became more of a parallelogram. I was really happy with it (yes, I know it is unusual for me to be really happy with work) until I realised this.

This should not happen anymore as I know have these things fixed to my scaffold frame:

MFJ Tapestry 200626-5 closeup

There is one each side so I can wind it down without it twisting – fingers crossed.

I am hoping to block it square but it is so out of kilter I am not sure it will work, it is currently sitting under damp (wet) towels at Weavers Bazaar. They are not using their teaching studio at the moment due to Covid 19 so I have hired it to block out the tapestries, not having that much space at home.

I do have work going into an exhibition at The Oxmarket Gallery in Chichester at the end of August. It is being organised by the Society of Designer Craftsmen of whom I am a member. It should be a good exhibition. I have also booked The Oxmarket Gallery for next July – yes July 2021 – for the next Heallreaf exhibition, this is a smaller than usual exhibition of just postcard sized tapestries and I am hoping to get lots and lots of work entered, there is no entry fee and no jury but work is being sold at a standard price, quite a low price to encourage people to buy tapestry. Then the big Heallreaf 4 will be in 2022 assuming I can get galleries interested and the Arts Council willing to fund it. I have proposals out with several galleries at the moment but none have come back to me as yet. I know 2022 is a long way off but I would very much like to have dates and funding sorted by the end of 2020.

I feel this blog is a displacement activity as I need to put on the tape and back the big pale tapestry and I don’t like doing that – at least that blocked out well, I am a bit happier with it now, I was muttering about re weaving it. yes, I have lost my mind, 300 hours of weaving to do the thing again. I might yet but not just now, there is also a third tapestry in this series but I will take a rest and do something else before embarking on that.

What’s next then? A large 3D thing for which I need to get 3 metre scaffold poles for the frame, trouble is my studio isn’t that big, the frame will have to be at a jaunty angle across the room, I may have to climb in through the window to weave!

 

 

Getting on

So we are starting to come out of this lock down thing. We are fortunate that we live in a very low risk rural area but you just never know what Covid 19 is going to come up with next do you?

Obviously I am still weaving away. I started with a good routine but after about 9 weeks it sort of fell to bits. I was doing boring stuff in the morning and weaving in the afternoon/evening, however I found the boring stuff – housework and gardening, (although I like gardening) – was extending into the afternoon so am now starting weaving in the morning and getting on with the boring jobs in bits and pieces during the day as I do find my back is not happy after 3 hours solid weaving so it needs a rest.

Here is the latest piece:

IMG_1880

That was just before I wound it round and here it is now.

IMG_0293

I am just about half way so there is another 70 odd centimetres to go. This bit looks less interesting but I guess there is less to see, once there are another 12 inches/30 centimetres woven it will look more exciting (hopefully).

Small Tapestries

In spite of lockdown I haven’t managed to post lots more, but then tapestry grows very slowly.

I have images of two small tapestries I’ve recently finished.

Firstly is one that started as a photo of graffiti when I was stuck on the train waiting to get into Waterloo station last October. It doesn’t look too much like the original but then the photo was taken through a very grimy South Western train window.

Graffiti

Actually I think it might be upside down! I am sure the pink was originally at the top, which reminds me of when I went to see the nice man at the Lurex factory, he said the abstract piece of modern art hanging on the wall behind him had been hanging upside down for a decade or more before anyone noticed. I guess that’s the trouble with abstract work.

The other piece of weaving is a sample I wove as an example of blending, it isn’t necessarily my sort of image but you always learn from doing these things.

Waves

I have just warped up for the next large piece and had to do some emergency dyeing. I guess it is one of the problems of not sampling before I start, I realised the weaversbazaar dark grey was not dark enough so I had to dye grey that came between that and the black.

When I have woven a bit more I will post a photo.

Finished

So here it is:

Final Tapestry - Cecil - Pale - Small

I haven’t cut it off yet as I will have nowhere to hang it to photograph, hence the light is a bit bright on the bottom left. Not a bad photo though bearing in mind I had to take it through the studio window. I now have to find a space 2 metres square or more to block it out. Maybe when this Covid 19 thing is over I will have to hire a workshop space for a week and block this and the next piece out at the same time.

The face does show on the right hand side, just, which is good, I wanted it to be subtle, it may show more once I get the resident photographer onto it. Equally the shiny yarns in the red will show up better in the right light.

This is the poem that goes with it, it may change a bit but probably not much:

Cecil – The Uninvited Guest

You arrived out of the blue

initially insidious

potentially terminal

uninvited

unwelcome

you stayed a year

you flaunted yourself

you burrowed

like a twisted broken skein

drawn taut inside

you oozed

you flowed

you fought

but eventually

you failed

leaving scars

and a

memory

good riddance

we say

the

doors

are closed

do not return