Monday 31 January 2011

Visit to the hub 2

The exhibition of Vivienne Westwood footwear was a great part of the visit. It is the collection of one man, (who wishes to remain anonymous) over the last fifteen years and shows examples from the 1970s onwards. You can see how fashions of different eras have influenced the designer, but then she has added, changed and modified elements to create something new and original.
I particularly liked the Pirate collection boots and shoes, but couldn't help being drawn to the knee high fuchsia pink stiletto boots (even though they are not something I would ever wear). The brocade shoes in the Animal collection also appealed to me through the use of textile, but the indentations for the toes slightly unnerved me - they made the shoe look too much like an animal paw. As Chris said, we are conditioned to shoes looking a certain way, and when they don't, it bothers us (although he said it in a much more erudite way!).

The shoes were all beautifully crafted with intricate stitching on some and amazing patterns on others. There was also a range of colours and styles, and though predominantly female, there were some excellent examples of men's shoes - Chris particularly liked the snake shoes shown above, where the pattern appeared to have been painted on.

I would definitely like to go again, and as the exhibition is on until 2nd May, hopefully I'll get the chance to.

Trip to the hub

Last Saturday, Chris and I ventured into the wilds of Lincolnshire, (well, Sleaford) to visit the hub (the National Centre for Craft and Design) as there were some new exhibitions which we were both interested in. Shown above (from the promotional material) is an installation by Suzi McLaughlin called, How does your garden grow? which shows her use of paper cut sculpture, incorporating laser cutting and origami. The garlands were placed in the stairwell areas, and were fascinating. There were also sculptures displayed in cases, using books as the starting point and creating beautiful bouquets of white flowers from the pages.

The roof gallery exhibition was by the Contemporary Crafts network (based in Lincolnshire and surrounding counties) and was called Green. This incorporated many different interpretations of the word and included ceramics, metalwork, felt, glass and paper. I particularly liked the metal flowers (and it helps that I know the maker!)
We also visited a Vivienne Westwood shoes exhibition - more of that in a separate post.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Inspiration in the depths of winter

I just had to get out into the garden today and spent a little while sweeping up some of the leaves and other detritus which had accumulated on the path. While I was taking a break from all this activity, I had a good look around and found some encouraging signs. Snowdrops are on the way as can be seen from the photo above. This clump is in a pot and I seem to have most success with those in pots even though snowdrops are not supposed to be happy kept in this way. The above clump will need dividing this year, once they have finished flowering.

My winter flowering jasmine is flowering away happily at the moment. Yes, it is a straggly shrub, but I can't help loving the splash of colour at this time of year when we all need it most.

And finally, more brave little violas, daring to flower and providing yet more colour and encouragement to us.
I also noticed my scillas growing and various leaf buds on hydrangeas and roses and clematis too. All is not lost and I am starting to feel (albeit tentatively) a little more positive about the plants. All apart from my poor hardy fuchsias, which at the moment, resemble dead sticks. If there is no sign of growth on them by May (some take a long time to get going), I shall be having a bit of a clear out.
While pottering outside, I couldn't miss the scent of the Christmas Box either - a rather odd mixture of honey and a hint of cat. I find a little of that scent goes a long way!

Monday 24 January 2011

More reading

Here is the latest book (apart from Moonshine by Victoria Clayton) I have on my reading list. I was inspired to rush out and buy it this morning (from a charity shop) after hearing the first part of a new radio adaptation of it on Radio 4 yesterday. I love 'The Woman in White' by the same author so am expecting good things from this one - described as one of the first detective novels. Both the books seem to have the story narrated by several different characters which encourages the reader to put the various parts together to make the whole. Although this can be frustrating, it is also exciting and I can remember being so involved in The Woman in White that I found it hard to tear myself away and come back to the real world. I hope I have a similar experience with this one.
The story centres around a cursed diamond which has been stolen from a statue in India and has been given to a young lady on her 18th birthday. However, she has put it away and overnight, it has been stolen again. Enter Sergeant Cuff, who has the unenviable task of solving the mystery.
My eldest sister hates this book with a vengeance (I'm not quite sure why, unless it is to do with having to read it at school as an exam book) and I am taking this as an added incentive to read it. If it is like the radio dramatisation, it will be great!
The information below is from the Radio 4 iplayer site.
"Doug Lucie's dramatisation of Wilkie Collins' detective masterpiece from 1868, starring Eleanor Bron as Lady Verinder and Kenneth Cranham as Sergeant Cuff, Paul Rhys as Franklin Blake and narrated by Steve Hodson as Betteridge.
Described by T.S. Eliot as the first and best of English Detective novels, The Moonstone, involves a huge diamond stolen from the forehead of an Indian deity, plundered in a siege and finally given to Rachel Verinder on her eighteenth birthday. It is said to carry a curse and mysteriously disappears on the night of the celebrations.
Are the Indian jugglers who were at the house earlier to blame? Why are they hanging around the property with a little boy they appear to be able to hypnotise? When the local police get nowhere, one of the new detective police is called for from London, and quickly finds a clue, but what is it going to tell him? Has the curse of the Moonstone brought with it suspicion and superstition to poison the happy Verinder household on the Yorkshire coast?
Cast: Lady Verinder ..... Eleanor Bron Rachel Verinder ..... Jasmine Hyde Betteridge ..... Steve Hodson Franklin Blake ..... Paul Rhys Sergeant Cuff ..... Kenneth Cranham John Herncastle ..... Stephen Critchlow Rosanna Spearman ..... Alison Pettitt Godfrey Ablewhite ..... Mark Straker Penelope ..... Clare Corbett Mr Murthwaite ..... Paul Battacharjee Khan/Indian..... Narinder Samra Housemaid ..... Carolyn Pickles Boy ..... Alex Miller
Recorded on location by Lucinda Mason Brown Original Music by David Chilton Dramatised by Doug Lucie
Producer: Janet Whitaker A Goldhawk Essential production for BBC Radio 4."

If all this has whetted your appetite, the link to episode one on iplayer is below:

Sunday 23 January 2011

Latest felt inspiration

The photo of the parrot tulip was on a calendar that came free with Gardener's World magazine, December 2009. I particularly liked the rich colours in the petals and decided to investigate some of these colours by creating a grid in Photoshop. This was something we had to do during my Art course at College and I like to keep practising so that I don't forget the steps involved. I was curious to see what colours it would find in the tulip itself, not the background. Some of them were very surprising! I could identify the blue bloom (as on a purple grape) and the plums and purples are obvious, but the pale greens? However, all these colours are in the image, along with many others in the peach colour range. As the ink dropper tool picks just one individual pixel in the image and finds that colour, the eye isn't able to distinguish that amount of detail, unless with a microscope. I really enjoy this process, because you can never tell just what colours are lurking in an image.
So, having found some interesting colours, what, you may ask, am I going to do with them? Well, I think that I shall take a cross section of the image so that it becomes more abstract, and then, using some of the colours in the grid, try and replicate this in felt. I don't know how it will work out, but it will be fascinating to try.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

...and more

Yes, dear reader, yet another foray into contemporary literature for me. Again encouraged by the same friend who recommended Victoria Clayton, this time, Jude Morgan. The author has written these in the style of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen, so I didn't feel I could go too far wrong with them. He has also written novels based on Shelley and Keats and The Brontes, but I prefer biographies about real people, so I don't think I shall rush to get those (despite the good reviews). Anyway, I am reading Indiscretion first and am enjoying it. It has a slightly more 'knowing' feel than Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen, and is very definitely a modern view of characters from the nineteenth century, but it moves along at a quick pace and contains lots of humour. I do want to know what happens to the heroine, so that shows that the story has successfully drawn me in!

I found this info about the author:
"THEY say that everybody has a novel in them, but one Peterborough man has proven to be the exception to the rule.Tim Wilson (43), who writes under the pseudonym Jude Morgan, is currently watching his 26th novel, Indiscretion, fly off the shelves – his 27th, Symphony, is due to be published later this year. He read "obsessively" as a child and from an early age he wanted to be a writer. He said: "I learnt to read with Dr Seuss, like most people did. The joy for me was finding the first book that I couldn't put down. It was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe."
Tim also broke another rule of writing – when the first publisher he approached snapped up his book, The Master of Morholm, a historical saga set in the Fens. He said: "I was in my third year of university and I had been writing all through my teens. A friend read what I had been working on and said I should go for it. "Before then, I didn't think it was something I could ever do. I thought it was like being a pop star. I didn't think you could just become a novelist."
Tim has a contract for another two novels with publishers Headline, but this doesn't bring the trappings of fame.
He said: "It is my main job but it is not a high-earning profession – unless you're JK Rowling."
Tim lives in an unassuming house in Brookfurlong, Ravensthorpe, with his wife, Mary-Anne (38) and their two-year-old son Adam. Born and raised in the city, he has been writing for 20 years.
His latest book, Indiscretion, is inspired by the works of Jane Austen and is set in Regency England. Tim said: "One newspaper described it as an homage to Jane Austen and I suppose you could also call it a romantic comedy." He added: "Emma, by Jane Austen, is a book I could go back to again and again. I suppose that is the test of a really good book – if you never tire of it."
His most successful novel, Passion, followed the romantic poets, Byron, Shelley and Keats.
The book was critically acclaimed, with best-selling author Joanna Trollope describing it as "compellingly well written and stylish with it". Tim said: "Indiscretion is very different to Passion, it is pure fiction. Passion is my favourite, it was a labour of love."
Although Tim writes full-time he is also a tutor at the Peterborough College of Adult Education.
His forthcoming novel, Symphony, is based around the composer Hector Berlioz. It follows the life of Harriet Smithson, an Irish actress who became his muse for the Symphonie Fantastique". (Interview for Peterborough Today in 2006).

Monday 17 January 2011

...and some new acquaintances

Yes, I have finally torn myself away from my classic literature and have chosen to join the more contemporary world, if only for a brief moment. Victoria Clayton was recommended to me by the very same friend with whom I discuss Jane Austen every time we meet up. She said I would enjoy the humour as well as the writing. So, I trawled the bookshops in town with no luck, then the charity shops also with no luck and was eventually forced to try amazon, where I found a great number of her novels, so I ordered three. I have come to the conclusion that they are so popular, people keep them rather than donate them. 'Moonshine' was the one particularly recommended, but that hasn't arrived yet, so in the meantime, I have read the ones pictured - 'Past Mischief' and 'Clouds among the Stars', both of which I enjoyed a lot. Past Mischief is about a woman coming to terms with the death of her philandering husband (and I, for one, was pleased to find he was dead as he was a horrible person!) and I enjoyed the humour as well as the intelligent writing and many quotes which sent me off to the Dictionary of Quotations. The author is obviously very well read and this comes through in her books - not just (and I don't like this phrase) 'chick lit'. There are sex scenes, but not gratuitous, over-described and cringeable ones and there is some use of swearing, but not done just for effect. The author does create some very lovable characters, although I do wish they weren't always beautiful. It would be nice to read about an ordinary looking heroine. The story had a lot of twists and turns, some of which came as a complete surprise, some which didn't. Clouds among the Stars was also a good read, with lots of characters and plot twists, lovely descriptions, and a mad theatrical family where the parents constantly quote Shakespeare and expect to be given the correct play the quotes are from by the children. It is also a detective story and has some supernatural elements in it. I am looking forward to starting on Moonshine.
Link to more information about Victoria Clayton:

Tuesday 11 January 2011

An old acquaintance

As I have been reading the Jane Austen Pocket Bible, it has been taking me back to the books and I have re-acquainted myself with Miss Emma Woodhouse. I realised that there are many more clues in the book than I had discovered, and in fact, I had been almost as blind as Emma herself! In fact, it is like a detective story, where Jane Austen gives subtle clues to underlying action, so subtle that it is very easy to miss them altogether. A discussion with a fellow Jane Austen fan consolidated my thoughts that these novels are complex and well written and repay many re-readings.
As an additional thought, I would like to put in my vote for Mr George Knightley as the best hero in the whole of Jane Austen's novels. Yes, I know there will be howls of derision from all the Mr Darcy fans, but I stand by my choice. Mr Knightley is the sort of man you can depend on. He is caring, sensible, attractive but not outrageously handsome, and just the sort of man to help in any circumstance. Some readers may feel he is a little dull, but I think that is just because he is more of a quiet presence throughout the novel than Frank Churchill, or Wickham in Pride and Prejudice or Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility, and behaves as a gentleman should. He is selfless, and not afraid to offer an opinion. (Oh, and being a major landownwer with a large house and money helps too!) Captain Wentworth (Persuasion) comes a close second, but is let down by initially having his head turned by a young woman's flattery and Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility) also deserves a mention although as my friend pointed out, he does wallow in his feelings a little too much. Having a sort of Mr Knightley of my own (except for the landowner bit and money, yes Chris, I do mean you!) perhaps makes me biased, but it seems to work for me.

Monday 10 January 2011

Sketchbooks exhibition

Yesterday, Chris and I visited the Usher Art Gallery (part of The Collection) in Lincoln, to see "The Moment of Privacy has passed" exhibition. The website has the information below:

"Sketchbooks are usually private and personal, a creative space in which thoughts and ideas are noted by artists, architects and designers.
These inspirational first thoughts; embryonic artworks, buildings or products, offer a fascinating insight into the creative process.
The exhibition features sketchbooks from contemporary artists Grayson Perry and Simon Faithful as well as historic sketchbooks from the Usher Gallery’s collections.
The exhibition not only explores the way in which sketchbooks are used but tackles the challenge of exhibiting books; how can we view the pages? In the special ’Library zone’ you will be able to select, take off the shelf and browse through over 200 sketchbooks which have been loaned in response to an open invitation. Sketchbooks have been contributed by artists from all over the country and from the USA and Europe. "

It was fascinating to be able to pick up the sketchbooks and look through them. There was a large variety of styles and standards to be found, from Foundation students, to undergrads, MA students and working artists. There was a lot of Fine Art work and drawing to be seen, and one artist's work I particularly remember is Jill Gibbon, who had contributed a sketchbook filled with fantastic ink drawings of people in a market place in Russia. Each sketch had so much life and conveyed the character of the person with just a few very well placed lines.
As a craftsperson, I would have liked to see more textiles/mixed media/colour in the books, but that is a very personal opinion. I would have liked to see more of Grayson Perry's sketchbook too as it really appealed to me, but it was displayed in a cabinet. However, leafing through the other sketchbooks has inspired me to use my own more often, even if it is just to jot down ideas.
The exhibition runs until 6th March 2011 and I thoroughly enjoyed the couple of hours I spent there.
The very small photo above is from the above website.

Saturday 8 January 2011

One goal down... winter thoughts

Following on from my thoughts for this year, I have achieved one of the list items, namely, a calf length dressing gown. OK, not very exciting, granted, but definitely useful for when lounging about whilst drinking several cups of tea and trying to force yourself to face the day. I would have really liked a cotton one, but have had to settle for a lilac fluffy one instead. It was quite a bargain in the sales, so I was reasonably pleased.
Going back to work this last week has been a shock to the system and, after discussing this with colleagues, we came to the conclusion that having to get up when it is still dark, and having to be prompted by an alarm clock, has messed up the natural order of things. Once the mornings are lighter, we'll all leap out of bed with renewed vigour. (I can't say that I ever leap out of bed with vigour, even in the summer months, but we can always hope!)
My garden is looking incredibly battered and sorry for itself. I am itching to get out there and have a few hours sorting things out, but I know that while it is still deepest winter, it is best to leave well alone. I am contenting myself with gardening books and plant catalogues and am being tempted by all sorts of lovely things. Spring seems a long way away, but in a couple of months, things will look very different and the daffodils will be out. (The photo is one I took this morning when I went out and noticed this rather bedraggled but brave little viola, valiantly trying to flower despite the cold - that's the spirit!)

Sunday 2 January 2011

Latest Christmas Reading

I am currently enjoying reading one of my Christmas present books from my parents, "The Jane Austen Pocket Bible" by Holly Ivins. It is a veritable treasure trove of facts and trivia about Jane Austen, her life, novels, social world, TV and Film adaptations and much more. (There are a few spelling mistakes in the text, but it is fun discovering them! It gives pernickety people like myself something else to do). There are discussions about characters, plots and themes and plenty of things to make the reader dive into the originals again. It is also the sort of book that is easy to read either as one continuous book, or one to pick up and put down. All in all, thanks to Mum and Dad for a great present.
(Thanks to my sister for the very posh beaded bookmark too!)

Saturday 1 January 2011

New Year Thoughts

It is 1/1/11 - an auspicious start to the new year? I haven't made any New Year Resolutions because as we all know, no-one ever keeps them! Instead, I have some New Year thoughts.
  • To try and be a bit tidier. This is a huge issue for me (as anyone who knows me, knows). I had a major clear out in May 2010 and was very pleased with my efforts, but this hasn't lasted and the stuff has accumulated with alarming rapidity. I am not going to change, but I can try to get rid of things and perhaps deal with paperwork more efficiently.

  • To sort out my website. I know what I would like, so it is a case of sitting down and getting on with it (with lots of help from Chris).

  • To continue felt making.

  • To continue reading interesting books. This will be easy to do as I love reading and it is one of the things that I really do make time for.

  • To exercise more. Exercise is a bit like housework for me - I don't enjoy it so only do it when absolutely necessary. However, having an office job is not conducive to keeping fit, so I shall have to make a bit more effort there.

  • To buy a dressing gown that is calf length as opposed to knee length. A major goal, but an important one for me!

  • To complete at least some of my on-going craft projects.

That is definitely enough to be going on with.

(Photo is one of my felt pieces and a bit of Photoshop magic to create a repeating pattern.)