Thursday, 28 April 2011

3 Tins - part 2

I had intended to create containers to mimic/echo the tins. Lutradur or pelmet vilene could have created the necessary stiffness. The more I thought about it the less enthusiasm I had for this approach because I felt it would not add anything to the ideas in the work. I wanted something to look old like the pieces in the museum, but to have more unexpected contents relating to modern times.
So I looked for some ready-made tins I could adapt and scavenged these:

First I sanded them then painted on a layer of gesso:

Finally I painted with acrylics and a layer of matt medium to seal. Labels were created in PaintshopPro, printed on paper, sealed with matt medium and stuck to the tins with transfer adhesive.

That’s the containers done. Needless to say none of this was as easy as it appears when I summarise it!

Next up the contents. This is taking a while to get right but here are a few scribbles from my sketch book to show how messily I work and how verbal my approach is! I really admire the sketchbooks some artists create so beautifully. Masterpieces in their own right. Guess I’m a back-of-an-n-v-lope person.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Back to the Doll Corsets

I rather reached a stopping point with the piece I was doing for the Slough Museum Project. But now that the deadline is nearing, I just decided to get a start and see what happens.

One of the problems was that I had sprayed walnut ink on the lutrador base I was using. I thought it would give it a more aged look. then I left it to dry. I blotted the excess with a piece of white muslin. But, even after some weeks, it hadn't actually dried. If you touched it, it rubbed off on your hands.

So, I gave up eventually and ran it through a rinse in the washing machine. (I wasn't sure what even a quick wash would do to the lutrador.
here it is laying in the tree to photograph because I didn't want it to get on anything else in the house!)

The plus side of washing it was that it was at least more of an off white than a pure white, which suited me better. The white muslin was still stained after the rinse, too. It basically looked dirty not aged.

So, that was where I left it for sometime. Although I had ordered a range of natural/skin coloured viscose rayon embroidery threads.

At last I thought I better get on with it. I had meant to use white muslin to stitch through, but now hadn't enough of it. I did have enough cream muslin and found that would suit. And having decided that, I proceeded to tear strips and make patches to cover the lutrador. The lutrador could just be more like a support for the inside. It is still more of a fragile feel than interfacing would have been used in the same way. I also realised the stained white muslin wasn't as bad as I thought and would make a good backing.

And so now I am listening to audio books and doing the stitching. I like the raw edges of the patches peeking through the stitching. I may still add some frayed strips like I did with my sample, but I will see what it looks like when it is all stitched.

I had thought to use sticks through the 'boning' channels to make it into a 3D piece, but since there is already alot of 3D work being done, I may go ahead and make it to hang on the wall. I will see what it looks like.

Monday, 25 April 2011

3 Tins


In the boxed collections a tin of Mentholum appealed. This healing cream could be used for all sorts of ailments. The reverse of the tin reads: DIRECTIONS APPLY TO THE PARTS AFFECTED. (Sorry about the out-of-focus photo.)
I like the idea of a cure-all. It's an understandable human desire despite the scepticism it can arouse. Thinking of conditions it might treat, words such as 'cuts', 'strains', and 'bruising' reminded me of the current economic climate. Mentholatum was manufactured in Slough 1900-1940s, a period that also included hard times.

From these associations came my idea for a UNIVERSAL SALVE which could treat the painful consequences of our current situation and government policies.

Also in the boxes was a Band Aid tin which had cost 2 shillings. This linked to the Mentholatum in being used to treat the body too and manufactured in Slough during the 1920-1940s. Thinking of the body as a metaphor for the world I could imagine the plasters patching up the evils released from Pandora's Box. Suffering is brought to our attention daily via the media. We want to respond but are often helpless when faced with the enormity of the problems.

AID will be my resonse to these thoughts and maybe question whether aid is the most effective means of addressing poverty, conflict and vulnerability.

Tins must be chiming with me because I also liked the one from the Cedar Mop Company holding a mop head. The smell of polish was evocative of my childhood.

(Does anyone polish these days?)

The accompanying polish was a bright orange concoction in a bottle.

Manufactured around the same time as the Band Aid tin, it claimed to clean and polish just about every surface - floors, cars and furniture. Another all-purpose product! It made me think of superficial shine, making something look more attractive, covering up the unappealing.

POLISH will focus on political spin.

Really enjoying reading about the ideas and processes of others on this blog. Thanks for posting.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Dream Shoes - Making the Pattern

So having established what the finished item would be I decided to make the shoes from organza, a fabric as ethereal as a dream. First I need to create the pattern and so I used calico and a polystyrene mould used in feltmaking.

Having pinned the pieces together I stitched the sole to the upper while it was in place on the mould .

The next stage will be to print the fabric and use the calico pattern to make a pair of shoes in organza.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Working on the actual item.

Having decided what I wanted to do and having done some stitched samples it was time to begin the actual item for display - always a difficult moment; there's that prestine piece of fabric looking so lovely! I decided that I'd sketch it out on the actual fabric using a soft pencil and a light box to trace off the design. Then followed many, many hours of hand stitching; starting with using applique to attach different coloured pieces of fabric.

Here are photos of the different areas that are worked in different ways:

Foiled fabric applied in a rouched manner;

Gold fingering thread couched over string;

Piece of gold foil from a christmas chocolate coin, embossed on a stamp;

Gold Jap couched over fabric;

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Victorian flat irons - continued

I decided I wanted to make a number of quite realistic ‘portraits’ of the irons, picking the ones I liked best from my photos, from a couple of different angles. I wanted to paint or draw them. The drawings would be slightly larger than life.

But the first question was, what sort of background to show them on? My feelings for the old houses I remembered made me think of old distempered walls, faded, peeling, overpainted and so on.

So I took some quite coarsely woven white cotton duck, cut it into roughly A4 sizes and painted these pieces in various creams and greys, overpainting until I got a faded, peeling look. I liked these pieces a lot.

After I painted about 20 pieces of background fabric, I started sketching the irons I liked. I made simple outline drawings from my photographs, large enough to fit nicely on to A4 sized pieces of cloth. The first picture shows 2 of my drawings.

This took me quite a time, and I finally made 8 drawings that I thought were good enough.

By then transferring these on to tracing paper, I could use them the right way round, or in reverse - which gave me lots more images. You can see my black-pencilled, reversible tracing in the second picture.

Having made the tracings of my chosen irons, I then transferred these on to the background painted pieces of cloth. The first picture shows a whole tracing, and the second shows a detail in close-up.

The tracings could then be used to make real, ink line drawings. I used artist’s felt pens for this, and with slightly varying colours I sketched in the lines of my tracings . The third picture shows one of these line drawings completed.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


Jane said 'Do not take just one idea'. I think that I am living proof of this axiom. My contribution started with the idea of stacked boxes (very difficult to execute), a joined hanging (not pursued - I can't remember why!) and a collection of pseudo Slough 'Stamps' (not enough time). From somewhere, I don't know where, the idea for handmade books came into my head. I kept returning to two constants. These were the Slough coat of arms and William Herschel. I am an historian and have always been fascinated by heraldry and its meaning so it was an interesting line to follow. The old (on the left) and new Slough arms are shown below.

Also shown is Herschel's own coat of arms and these three sources provided the basis for my work. I originally wanted to make separate books about each of the elements in the devices i.e. the discovery of Uranus , the swan, the dianthus plus the Cox's apple but eventually decided on the discovery of Uranus and the swan. I have always enjoyed researching a subject and then translating it into a viable idea. I like the experimentation and the trying out. Sometimes the actual making can seem secondary.

I investigated Willam Herschel and comets linking them with the heraldic devices. I found out some interesting facts along the way e.g Uranus is the third largest known planet, the moons are named after characters in Shakespeare's plays - many from 'the Dream' and also 'The Rape of the Lock'. One moon has cliffs over 9 miles high and it is the only planet to rotate on its side. It is also the only planet to be named after a Greek, not a Roman god and in 'The Planets' is associated with the Magician.

A comet on an Egyptian wall relief

The cover took shape gradually. I attached various hand-dyed and painted cotton, muslin and scrim strips to resemble comet streaks with my favourite Suffolk Puffs for their nuclei. This was echoed inside the cover. The innards of the book just emerged as I wrote an imaginary populist newspaper article on the discovery of 'The Blue Planet'. This was embellished with stitched comets and painted streaks.

The other page derived from constructing a repeat pattern from the Uranus symbol. I chose two out of several versions and printed these in the gold of the old coat of arms and blue for the planet and sky.

Crocheted cords were used to close it.
A 'Swan' book is under construction as well - more later.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Victorian flat irons

There were quite a few interesting things in the museum, but the ones that I had the strongest reaction to were the Victorian flat irons stacked on their chimney from the laundry. I took a lot of photos, and after thinking about all the exhibits decided that my initial strong reaction was the right basis for my piece.

The irons in particular reminded me of my lovely Grandfather’s kitchen range, which I knew in the 1950s. My Grandmother had died before I was born, and she was a conservative housewife and had never got an electric iron. And my Grandfather left things as they were. The kitchen range had survived from their early married days around 1905, and had several flat irons like the museum ones stacked on it, for actual use.

The names of the irons in the museum are deeply evocative too, a litany of lost industrial confidence -
Ilvester’s Patent, Salter,

Crane 6,

Clark’s Stove Co Ltd (Fairy Prince! What a brand name - the amazing green gas iron)…

As it happens, my other Grandfather, less well-known to me, died in Slough, and now it is too late to find out why he was there. I have been thinking of both the grandparents I knew.

I am making ‘portraits’ of the irons, drawing on fabric, from my photographs, and how to do them has been quite a challenge.