Work done for City and Guilds Level 3 Certificate in Embroidery with Distant Stitch.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Certificate Module 5 Chapter 3

In this chapter, we were asked to select six of our photographs of texture in the landscape and interpret them using just white paper on a white or black background.  This proved to be an interesting and enjoyable challenge.  In the following images, my photograph is on the left and my paper and glue interpretation on the right.

In 5.3.1, I was interested mostly in the contrast between the long, fairly straight stems and the small leaves.  I simplified this so as to emphasise this more.

In 5.3.2, what interested me most was the contrast between the fainter horizontal lines contrasted with the strong, dark verticals and the more organic loose and messy foliage.  The horizontal lines I obtained by gluing strips of tracing paper onto black paper and then layering a sheet of tissue paper on top.  I was a bit puzzled as to how I could achieve the stronger black verticals without being able to use black paper.  I tried, while the glue was still wet and the layer of white tissue still a bit soggy, to scrape away with an old craft knife to show the black beneath.  (I quite liked that what had been foreground in the photograph was now the background!)  A bit of scrubbing with the craft knife also gave the effect of the more organic foliage.

In 5.3.3, I used white on white to try to show the three different types of texture in the photo.  For the large pebbles on the right hand side, I screwed up balls of tissue paper of different sizes and glued them onto the background.  For the ripples in the water, I used tissue paper again, gathered up in ripples. For the gravel on the left hand side, I glued on several small bits of tissue paper at random before distressing them with the old craft knife.

In 5.3.4, I again used black paper as a background.  I glued on torn white cartridge paper to portray the background.  The edges I distressed with the good old craft knife again to give a more organic feel.  I then constructed branches of cut tracing paper which I glued on in spots so that they were not completely glued down all along their length.


5.3.5 was my favourite of all the images.  I used a black background again for this.  I covered the black paper with glue and then glued down a sheet of tissue paper that was cut a good bit bigger than the background and pushed it into random folds while the glue was still wet, to portray the background foliage.  For the hanging branches, I twisted long narrow pieces of tissue paper and knotted them at intervals to portray the buds/shoots.  This was the second try I had had for this image as I had used it for the cover of my sketchbook as shown in 5.3.5(a) below.

5.3.5 (a)

5.3.6 was perhaps the simplest of all.  I was intrigued by the interesting patterns made by a random collection of pine needles gathered at the side of the road.  It is so hard to produce something truly random and I felt that placing the paper strips individually would make it so hard to produce a random distribution, since the human mind tries to produce patterns and organisation.  Instead I covered a sheet of black cartridge paper with a fairly thick layer of matte medium and then sprinkled on the paper strips from above.  Perhaps if I had used thicker paper, I would have managed to portray better the depth and layers of the original.  I am looking forward to trying this one in stitch later and, when I have time, I might try it again using perhaps some thick hand-made paper for the strips.

While this has been a most enjoyable couple of chapters, it will be a welcome relief not to have everything (including me and my clothes) covered in glue!  Also I am keen to get on to fabric and stitch and am looking forward to the next chapters.

Certificate Module 4 Postscript

Module 4, Chapter 12: Study Three Artists


“With making comes meaning.”  (Cas Holmes in Stitch Stories)[1]

Narrative is an important part of Cas Holmes’ work.  The stories encapsulated in found objects, particularly the everyday and commonplace, are an important part of her work.  Every found object or scrap of cloth has a story to tell.

“Having a story to tell often starts and underpins a work of art’s design process.”
( Introduction to Stitch Stories by Cas Holmes.)

Cas believes that all artists need to find their own unique voice, so that they can create work which is meaningful to them.

“Your artistic take on the world could be sparked by your daily journey to work, seasonal changes in your garden, family stories, local history or even an intuitive response to the feel and history of a piece of cloth.  Such things provide a rich resource in developing your own narratives, or what some may call a personal vision.”
(Stitch Stories by Cas Holmes.)

Cas Holmes Lace Shadows

Her environment and a sense of place are also an important part of the narrative in Cas Holmes’ work.

Cas Holmes Spring Verge

I bought a copy of Cas Holmes’ book Stitch Stories, about the same time as I started to research her work in order to write this essay.  I felt an immediate bond and connection to her approach to her art, particularly the intensely personal and intuitive response to her subject.  I had a tremendous struggle with Module 4 – my work wasn’t satisfying me and I had reached an almost complete block in trying to progress.  This culminated in a decision to start the piece of work again and this time, I did find a topic that told a meaningful story to me, one that I very much wanted to share with others through my work.  It was so satisfying to me that I could use the century-old family photos which I found so meaningful, and that I could incorporate my husband’s fascinating stories (which I never tired hearing) of an industry now vanished.  The photographs of the young women, who travelled around the country to gut and pack the herring, were so evocative to me that I almost felt that they could speak through my work and make their long-dead voices heard once more. 

This is true also of Cas Holmes’ work.  Through her, these discarded and unwanted objects have a voice again and speak to us through her work, telling their stories.



“Trained in sculpture, basket making and product design, I am a designer and maker of, baskets, furniture, and art works. These artefacts combine the techniques and often the forms of basketry with the detritus of consumerism and the natural materials of my immediate environment.”

Like Cas Holmes, Lois Walpole uses found objects in her work, finding value in something which has been discarded by others.  Indeed her latest exhibition[2] is entitled “Precious Waste”.  In her work she uses a wide range of waste materials such as old ropes, plastic packing tape and wire as well as a range of natural materials.

Lois divides her time between Shetland and Charentes in south west France. 
Her family connection to Shetland is a strong undercurrent in her work.

A recent exhibition of Lois’ is entitled “Weaving Ghosts”.  Ghost gear is the term used for discarded ropes, nets and other floating waste, which cause problems for both shipping and marine life.  Large quantities of this ghost gear are washed up on the beaches of Shetland, and Lois has a love/hate relationship with it.  On the one hand, it provides a useful free resource for her work, whereas on the other hand, it causes a great deal of harm to the environment. However she uses these materials in her work in order to draw people’s attention to the problems which they cause.  Care for the environment is a strong ethic in her work.

:Wanting to make something out of nothing has always been a driving force for my work. Maybe I inherited this from my Shetland family, though for them it was a necessity rather than a choice. If my great grandfather Laurence Moar Tulloch had found some of these ropes washed up on Brekkon beach I feel sure he would have been as excited as I am to find something so strong, colourful and useful.”[3]

Lois Walpole is another artist to whose work I feel a real connection.  In particular her exhibition “Weaving Ghosts” strikes a particular chord with me. 

“But the 'Ghost' bit of my chosen title is not just about these materials, it is also about the lost tradition of basket making in the Shetland  Islands. Basketry once played a critical role in survival, now there are only a handful of people who remember how these tools for life were once made. The centuries old tradition of making  containers, traps, brooms, mats and chairs  from indigenous natural  materials died in the space of 50-60 years and by 2000 could officially be declared dead and buried.”[4]
(From Lois’s blog, see below)

Like Lois, I too was trying to reflect a lost local tradition.  Another thing I noticed in which Lois Walpole’s work relates to mine is in the preponderance of circles in many of her pieces.  Here is a selection of my favourites.

Lois Walpole Scooby-doo

Lois Walpole Honey Trap

Lois Walpole Satellites 3
Lois Walpole Log Basket

A further way in which Lois’s work relates to the content of Module 4 is that she often deconstructs found objects (for example, pieces of old rope) and then weaves them back to form a new structure.  This relates to the drawn thread work of Module 4 in which a fabric is partly deconstructed and new threads woven in to make something new.  In some ways, Lois’s work (as well as Module 4’s drawn thread work) could also relate to Module 1, where the theme was “growth and disintegration”.

Both Lois Walpole and Cas Holmes are artists with whose work I was fairly unfamiliar, but it has been a joy to explore their work and thoughts and to find such a connection to my own.


Hedi Kyle

Hedi Kyle teaching

Until I started on Module 4 of the Certificate with Distant Stitch, I knew next to nothing about bookbinding.  I had loved books for as long as I can remember, but I had been interested only in their content and was quite oblivious to how they were made.  As part of Module 4, I had to do some simple bookbinding and it was love at first sight.  As well as the content of books, I now loved also the vessel in which these thoughts, ideas, pictures and stories were held – and I was keen to learn more.  Serendipity stepped in at this point as I found a second hand book, “1000 Artists’ Books: Exploring the Book as Art”.  This opened my eyes to a whole new concept – that of the book as not just possibly containing works of art, but being a work of art in itself.  It was mindblowing and I spent many hours pouring through the book and admiring the work of the incredibly talented artists whose books were pictured.  One image stood out in particular for me: a flag book made of thin sheets of mica. 

Hedi Kyle Mica Flags

The transparency and the fascinating shadows cast by the pages fascinated me.  I found it was by Hedi Kyle, an artist previously unknown to me.  I researched on the internet and found that she was a pioneer of the concept of the book form as art and that, by sharing her ideas through her teaching, she had enabled this concept to grow and flourish.  She has indeed been described as “a rock star in the book art world”.

Hedi Kyle is a German-born American book artist and educator.  She was born in 1937 in Berlin and the family later moved to Poland.  The Second World War led to an unsettled period for Hedi and her family.  With her father off to war, Hedi’s mother and grandmother cared for Hedi and her three siblings, until they were forced to flee with only the clothes they stood up in.   It was a stressful and frightening time for the family.

Eventually in 1946, her father returned.  His work as a marine biologist took the family to Borkum, an island in the North Sea, north of the Dutch province of Groningen.  She was very fond of reading – anything and everything she came across – and eagerly awaited each edition of the Reader’s Digest which arrived by post.  She also spent a lot of time on the beach, collecting driftwood and other objects that washed ashore and making things out of her finds. After high school, Hedi attended an art school in Wiesbaden.   She worked for a while for an advertising agency as a commercial artist.  On turning 21, she went to Greece for a year to paint.

By the 1970s Hedi had moved to the USA, where she studied in New York with bookbinder and conservator Laura Young.  She was an imaginative and innovative student, constantly questioning and challenging her teacher. (“This can be changed: why do you have to cover the spine?”)

Hedi got into education when she was offered a job teaching at the Center for Book Arts in New York.  Later she moved to Philadelphia to work as a conservator.  This work fostered in her a great love for and familiarity with book structures.  She was interested in the old traditional techniques, but did not want to stick only to that, as her lively and inquiring mind led her to experiment with making her own books, adapting and adding to traditional structures.  As Hedi once wrote, “The book as a mechanical device is basically immune to improvement, it is not immune to change.”  She enjoys sometimes using completely new and modern materials such as Tyvek and plastic.

Hedi was invited to teach at the Philadelphia University of the Arts.  Through her teaching she has been able to pass on to her many grateful students her innovative ideas and the new book structures she has invented.  She does not mind when people copy her ideas (and even sell the instructions for book structures that Hedi has invented).  She says that when you teach you are giving ideas away, which means it can’t be copyrighted.  She says she has plenty more ideas!

Hedi’s spirit of playfulness and transformation has led to some iconic book structures.  One of the best known, almost her “signature” book is the widely popular flag book, a variation of a simple concertina fold.

Hedi Kyle April Diary

Another well known and popular structure is the Wunderkabinett – a book with wonderful surprises hidden within.

Hedi Kyle Wunderkabinett-1

A useful and intriguing structure is the “blizzard book”

Hedi Kyle Construction diagram for Blizzard Book

Above is a diagram of Hedi’s instructions for how to make a blizzard book – a book structure which, by clever folding of a single sheet of paper, makes a book in which each page becomes a pocket.  It got its name from the fact that Hedi came up with the idea for it while snowed in at her studio.

Hedi Kyle Blizzard Book

Hedi’s “Mica Flag” book was a direct inspiration to me in my work for the final assessment piece for this module.  I had simplified my response to the images and information I had on the herring industry, interpreting it symbolically as a circle.  I decided to show the embroidered panels as a series of drawn thread work circles.  I wanted to display them in book form, but I wanted the empty spaces to be as important as the stitches, to symbolise the fact that this industry is now gone.  The memories of those times is now fragmentary and will be even more so when the last of the people who can remember the days of the “silver darlings” have died.  Inspired by Hedi’s work, I thought of mounting each piece of embroidery on acetate.

It has been a great delight to find out about Hedi Kyle and her work and I am grateful to her for her friendliness and generosity in allowing me to write about her and use some photographs of her work.

[1] Stitch Stories by Cas Holmes (Batsford 2015 ISBN:  9781849942744)

[2] Precious Waste

14 May 2017
Solo exhibition 'Precious Waste' now on at Cesta Republica in Madrid until 8 June 2017.


Saturday, 7 October 2017

Certificate Module 5 Chapter 2

It's taken a long time of lots of little short bursts of work to get this one chapter done.  With my husband's health giving increasing cause for concern, not to mention a visitor from the USA staying for two weeks and a couple of short trips away, time seems to have been at a premium.  However, here at last is chapter 2.

5.2.1  Folding various papers

5.2.2   More paper folding experiments

5.2.3   Scrunching various papers to fit in a particular space
1. tracing paper
2. waxed paper
3. vintage (1950s) copy paper
4. printer paper
5. cartridge paper
6.  paper kitchen towel
7.  a commercial craft paper (translucent and stiff)
8.  tissue paper
9. 250 gsm mixed media paper

5.2.4  playing around with tissue paper

5.2.5  gathering and folding tissue paper by hand

5.2.6  gathering tissue paper by machine stitching

I enjoyed this chapter more than I had expected to.  The exercises could be fitted into short spaces of time that I could snatch during the day or evening and were a fun and welcome break from caring for my much loved spouse, domestic chores and taking care of our guest.  Early morning and late at night were my favourite times to do this.

I've been doing a lot more walking in order to try to improve my fitness (and spreading waistline!) and I keep seeing texture in the landscape everywhere I go.  I couldn't resist adding a few more photos to Chapter 1 as more inspiration.

5.1.supplemental 1
a piece of birch bark I found lying on the ground

5.1.supplemental 2  the reverse of s1 above

5.1.supplemental 3  a tiny but exquisite beech nut husk

5.1.supplemental 4  beautiful patterns in a stone wall

Another day, when I've more time, I'll convert them to greyscale and play about with Photoshop filters but now it's 7 pm and I'd better think about starting to cook dinner!

Friday, 1 September 2017

Certificate Module 5 Chapter 1

This new beginning is very refreshing for me after having been so bogged down in Module 4.  I go out walking regularly with several groups and these woodland walks near my home gave me inspiration for lots of photographs.  I seemed to see texture in the landscape everywhere I looked.   I took the photos initially in colour, using my mobile phone's camera.  Later, I transferred them to my computer and used Photoshop to convert them to greyscale and sometimes to resize them, crop them and play around with the brightness and contrast so as to accentuate the textures.  Here below is a random sample of some of the many photos I took.
























I played around with some of these images, drawing and making some lino prints in order to find out just what it was about these images that made me photograph them.  I find that working with an image, drawing, painting or printmaking helps me to isolate what it is about the photo that drew me to that particular image.  I have been particularly interested in printmaking recently, particularly lino printing and monoprinting and am finding it fun to explore my images in this way.  When time permits, I hope to make more lino plates from other photographs.

5.1.23 lino print of ferns


Images 24 and 25 above are both monoprints of exposed tree roots on a grassy bank.  The first was done by rolling ink onto a glass plate, carefully laying a sheet of paper on it and drawing the shape of the tree roots with the end of a thin paintbrush.  27 was done by rolling ink onto the glass plate, drawing the shape of the tree roots into the ink using a cotton bud, laying a sheet of paper over the image on the glass and rolling over it with a clean roller.

5.1.26 monoprint of foxglove flowers
5.1.27 lino print of tree branches

5.1.28 print of tree branches made by pressing the clean lino plate used for image 28 onto a Gelli Plate which had been rolled with black paint.  A print was then taken from the Gelli Plate.

5.1.29 a lino print of ferns
5.1.30 a Gelli Plate print of ferns produced by the method described above

5.1.31 two of the lino plates used

I am interested in trying Maggie Grey's idea of casting water soluble paper as described in her book: "Long Diaries, Tall Tales" (d4daisy 2015).  I think that my home-made lino plates might be suitable for this.  However, domestic duties have recently made increased calls on my time and I have not yet managed to try it out.  I am looking forward to a couple of weeks when I will have more free time to explore this further.