Showing posts with label work table. Show all posts
Showing posts with label work table. Show all posts



Recently, my man-child has been teaching me how to woodcut. For several months now he's been getting stuck in to it, dumpster diving for bits of old wood to use and cutting his hands to bits with old blunt tools. But, he assured me, it's so much better than my lino, you can really see the hand of the artist, and the richness of the grain is, allegedly, the mutt's nuts.

That's him above in my studio, using some of the scraps of wood a dear friend (another one! I know! So many lovely people just give us stuff) had she thought he would like to use. First you have to paint the wood with encre de chine and draw with a white pencil before cutting. His woodcuts were very cool, involving taps, shower heads and spurting water. Mine, well let's just say they involved hares. And trees.

hare trees woodcut woodblock printmaking
He took his back to Marseille so he could print using the school's presses while I had to make do with a spoon and sore thumbs. But I've hauled an ancient mangle up from the basement that I'm in the process of cleaning off the rust and tightening it to try and use as a press for lino and drypoints...


the blues

I had written earlier about wanting to try working with woad. I had very much liked dyeing paper with indigo but woad, or pastel as it's known round this way seems rather exciting. In my usual fashion however, I bought the woad pigment and the left it sitting there in the large pile of stuff-waiting-to-be-done.
red cabbage paper dye

sage paper typewriter
In the meantime I attempted to dye some silk paper, shibori style with red cabbage. Too purple, too vivid, and not very light fast. Move on, nothing to see here... Next, not wanting to waste the sage bush prunings from the garden I made a dyebath from those. This is more like it. It dyed the silk paper a beautiful, subtle grey-green. Instead of scrunching and folding the paper, I stuck it with masking tape to some acid free paper before dunking. Once it had dried I could then easily put it through the typewriter*

Whoosh! Fast forward a few weeks and a request for some bookmarks. I thought woad might be good for these given the local connection, so made up the dye stock and using some lovely deckled edged, recycled paper, a lot of trial, error and swearing I devised a great method of dip dye. I found out that indigo works much quicker than woad and I needed to keep the paper immersed and still for quite a while. Not to mention trying to keep the temperature up, not allowing it to dip below about 30°C.
I got a large and narrow 500ml/1pt jam jar with a screw lid to make up the dye bath and by making a bain marie with a large pan I could keep the temperature up. I dampened the bookmarks very slightly first just using a water spray to help the dye to bleed. I found if I soaked them completely in water they buckled and warped too much. I put paper clips at the top of the bookmarks and straightened out the ends of some others to make little hooks that fitted snugly over the side of the jar lip. I could then immerse 3 at a time, put the lid on and leave them for about 15 minutes, topping up the pan with hot water if necessary.

Once dipped I flattened them between sheets of kitchen paper under a heavy board to dry, before finally typing on them. My latest (literary) crushes are Jacques PrĂ©vert big time, Baudelaire and Apollinaire in smaller doses. I am SO over Beckett. For now. 
I certainly prefer the woad results over the indigo. The colour is more delicate with an airiness, even fragility to it. It reminds me of blackbird eggs or perhaps even something imperceptible, like lying on your back in a gentle breeze looking at the sky ~ a favourite past time of mine.

I've now bought a packet of woad seeds, this climate here was made for growing the plants but sadly it will take two years before I can harvest and use them.

* If like me you're a typewriter geek, the one I'm using is a beautiful, classic Olivetti Lettera 22 that Joe found in a Marseille secondhand shop for next-to-nothing. The type is tiny, the alignment and the typebar letters are all wonky, which I love, as I love the loud clackety-clack and ting noises it makes. The other night Joe gave me fair warning, when he comes home for a visit next week he's taking it back to Marseille with him. Just knowing this is doing my head in and I already feel bereft. We do have a Lettera 32 but there is a problem with the carriage, so for now I will have to go back to using the Olympia Splendid 33, far too perfect and neat for my liking. 



I fell down a fantastic rabbit hole. There were apple trees and sage plants, onions and cabbages, roses and woad. And a nice glass of red wine.

red wine test strip

blue vegetable dye test strip

apple sage dye test strip

onion skin rosehip dye test strip


new work

Being the awkward person I am, I was not very happy when the lino blocks I ordered turned out to be not the deliciously textured, hessian backed slabs of toffee I'm used to, but this latest grey coloured vinyl.
Still, I set to work with the radio blaring and a big pot of tea
Actually, it's lovely to cut; the tools carve like a knife through butter without blunting. So I grumpily told myself that it would probably make horrible prints though, as I gloopily rollered out the ink. A sound, texture and smell that is just heavenly and transports me back to happy student days.

I tried out a variety of papers. Above is a print on Arches aquarelle paper that worked beautifully, as did the cheap and cheerful paper nicked from Romy's sketchbook and a cotton handmade Japanese paper.
Personally, I prefer to leave plenty of grooves and gouge marks in my block...


stacks and stashes…

Jennifer asked other artist's to share the stacks and stashes of material in their studios. And so here's a peek at some of the things surrounding my table, although less stack-like and more piles of stuff...

 Eggshells; broken, brown, speckled and smooth that eventually become nests, crow feathers with a wonderful blue/black sheen found at the murder scene…

…broken pocket watches and plastic Spanish bulls that I know will one day become something amazing, I just haven't worked out what yet…

…and of course, bones, skeletons and skulls. So many reasons I collect these. Their innate beauty, the delicacy and strength, the inspiration they provide, my morbid fascination.
Please do share your stacks and stashes too... 


what I'm working on

These little drawings have been on my table for weeks; of horses swimming underwater that have been in need of doing something with, but what that something was eluded me. I was imagining what these creatures would be like if their bodies were supported by water, and they had total freedom to move in any way. On top of that I've been re-reading Alice in Wonderland. Today I worked them into an idea for a new book, Pool Of Tears, combining them with torn tissue, watercolour and stitches.

Can I just mention I was thrilled to be interviewed by lovely Anca over on her beautiful blog To Live Poetry, and my work has been featured on the excellent Street Anatomy site too.


felt good

The other day I spent some time being taught feltmaking by my friend Natalie.
She showed me both dry needle-felting and wet felting techniques and gave me lots of helpful information about dyeing with vegetable and plant dyes. I left her with a headful of inspiration for combining felt with my plaster forms. I do so love the contradiction of the hard and soft, the smooth and the textured and I have a good feeling about this. I also left with tons of eggs from her husband (not that he laid them personally, he just has very productive hens) and with my arms full of sheep's wool, some of which is beautifully soft merino, mordant, a needle and no excuses not to get on with it have a good old experiment.
By the way, I've decided Luna must have some collie blood in her; she went completely nuts when she smelt the bags of unwashed wool, I half expected her to start herding them up.


what I'm working on

these are 2 of the 'in progress' things I posted on my facebook page earlier this week. Both of these are sculptures I've never been happy with and keep returning to over and over, the one of the left has especially been driving me mad. This is how it was on Monday morning☝. I originally started it about 18 months ago but since then I've tried re-working it over and over. Now it looks like this:

The original ideas relating to birds eggs sort of got hijacked as it became more and more like a skull, and the text reminds me of the sutures on a cranium. I'm still not sure it will stay this way.
The other one hasn't really changed too much, and I'm happy with it….

and I also {finally} completed this too.

So free from the distractions of having a car, hot water and coffee (my water heater and coffee maker have both blown-up this week) I've been super productive. Fingers of fire, oh yeah!


for my father

Do you remember this book I was working on for my Dad, that I said I would share on my return?
I was reluctant to show it before in the unlikely chance he dropped by here…I have a feeling none of my family stop by actually. (If any of you do, let me know!)
He loved it, by the way.

It is always of interest to me how other artists work, and for me I find these days I rarely keep an actual sketchbook as such. Oh yes, I collect images that I pin on my studio wall or my computer and sometimes thumbnail out an idea but I prefer to allow pieces to evolve and take on a life of their own. I realise this is probably an appalling inefficient way of working and if it's true that time is money then no wonder I'm that typical struggling artist. But I find that things keep changing constantly because I have no final vision and I have to allow that to flow and unfold as I work. For me the process is the most enjoyable part of creating.
Although I don't keep a traditional sketchbook, I do scrawl notes either in my sketchbook, often as mind maps or larger maps and spider diagrams I can stick on the wall that I can add too. It's not unknown for me to leap out of bed in the night and scribble on one.

I am delighted to be interviewed here about my film photography, so if you want to know how I work in that way too go take a look.


books, books, books

I've been invited to exhibit some of my artist's books at the library in the town of Lavelanet. I was given just one week to organise myself; easy enough I thought, the books already exist. But do you sometimes feel that older works sometimes need a bit of a fiddle with? From the time they were originally made to the point I'm at now there have been many new skills learnt, experiences (hmmm) experienced, I've gained a new mac, better scanner, better printer and a studio. So although I was happy with the illustrations, design and content I wanted to tweak them here and there. Big mistake! Got a cold, ran out of printer ink and the right sort of paper and bookbinding thread. Thank you, fate…...
Ah well, got there in the end by the skin of my teeth.