Opening night!

Tonight is the opening of the Hereford Christmas popup shop where I have a few of things for sale. At the moment I am so excited to see what the shop looks like, it is an amazing space in a great location and Karen and Steve of Tea with Bea have such a great aesthetic I am sure it will be beautifully styled. 

However I am sure over the next few hours I will run the full gamete of emotions from self doubt about the quality of what I am selling, to jumping up and down with excitement, to teenage strop, finally ending up in a tizz about what to wear (is a red striped dress far to festive?). I know this is coming and I know it is all just nerves but I apologise in advance to anyone who bumps into me today, please be kind it has taken pretty much all the confidence I have to enter things for this shop and by tomorrow I promise I'll try and be normal again. AND I'll post plenty of beautiful pictures to encourage you all to drop by!

p.s I have just had a terrifying thought, if I am this nervous about the opening of a group shop what state will I be in the for the opening of our degree show in 2013?!?


Sample pics

I was going to post a few more pictures of my quilty samples but Kate has done it for me! Rock over to the Hereford College of Arts Crafts Cluster blog to check out some pictures of my samples, and also to see work from other people on the crafts cluster courses at HCA.


Finishing touches

I do love the finishing touches in life, a beautifully wrapped present, a pretty cosy for my tools, a fabric folder cover, all of these things make me happy. Having gathered all my samples together yesterday I realised that I needed to get them organised and ready to present for my group crit on Tuesday. As a big part of making these samples in the way I have, is so that you can touch them, feel the difference that each quilting technique makes to the cosy factor of the quilt. It is also important that you can see both sides of them so sticking them in my technical journal was not an option. Inspired by my collection of furniture covering sample books I thought a post-bound book would be the best way to go this is what I came up with:
There is a post that the mounted samples are threaded onto, which is then held secure by the rectangular washer/bar and a nut. This was intended to be a temporary solution that I would then revisit once I had all my samples and I could bind them properly. However as I was putting it together this morning I couldn't help but add a few finishing touches, like rounding corners of the metal plates, and as I am never one to pass up some letter stamping, I thought I'd label them while I was at it. I have really fallen for this and I think it has just become my 'proper' solution and not just my temporary solution. 

On one side there will be my quilting samples, and on the flip side there will be my patchwork or quilt block samples. The samples have been stitched onto a folded piece of cardboard at the top so they are 90% free to allow people to touch and feel them. My plan is to write my analysis of each sample on labels which will go on the cardboard mount so all the information is all together. 

A good mornings work, now I'm off to make some more samples to fill this bad boy up!


Stitchy specialist processes

One of the modules I am doing this term is called 3D Specialist Processes. In this module we have to investigate a technique or process or material to develop our knowledge of it and begin to develop the specialist knowledge that we will need as makers. As each person on the course has different interests and materials they work in we have had to write our own proposals on what form this investigation will take. There is a massive spectrum of things people are looking at from enamelling to ceramic slab building to wood carving. I had decided to look at mechanisms, but due to the universe conspiring against me for the last month I had made little or no progress on this project. Last week, following a series of tutorials, I decided to give myself a break and rather than doing two, very different and demanding projects for my practical modules this semester I would combine the two and focus on the technical skills that are needed in my design development project, as the subject for specialist processes. So for the past week or so I have been quilting.

I was taught to sew by Silver Lining who is a wonderful quilter with a home is full of piles of quilts and blankets, where you are never more than a couple of feet away from something to get snuggled in. One of the (many) things she inspired in me a love of quilts, I read a lot of modern quilt blogs, I have made a few quilts of my own and been on a weekend course but I have never really studied in depth the technical side of quilting, so this module is going to be a brilliant opportunity to do just that. As a starting point I am working my way through this book: 

I've been making 6.5" x 8" sample sizes, some are mini quilts to explore different kinds of patchwork blocks;

 The rest are quite boring looking, quilting samples. It might not seem like a rock'n'roll art school time to many out there but having the time to explore exactly what the difference are between a 1" and a 2" interval between quilting lines and what that does to the look and feel of the quilt, but it is a complete luxury and delight to me. You can hopefully expect a lot more stitchy samples here in the next few weeks.


London trip: tea time

Phew. It's been a busy first day in London. We are on an overnight trip to the big city for a whole bunch of culture. Last year trip to London meant 8 hours on a coach and 3 actually seeing things, so far this has been so much better - I feel like there is plenty of time to enjoy the things I want to see while squeezing in a little light shopping!
Today I've been to the power of making at the v & a which was fantastic, 20 years of dazed and confused at Somerset house, followed by a quick British museum browse. Tomorrow is Grayson Perry, Tate modern and possibly the design museum.
Yes. Exhausting, so I am enjoying my tea while kirsten, esther and I crack on with our learning journals before heading out to forage for cheap London fun!


I have stock!

Check it out! Here is my finished, labelled, first batch of stock ready to take down to the pop-up shop tomorrow. After the litany of disasters that seem to have plagued me in this mission you have no idea how happy this stack of books is making me. There are still books to be finished but I am waiting for some supplies to be delivered so I'll have to take those in at a later date.

BorderlineStraggler designed my logo many years ago, back when I first set up an etsy shop, and this week he has been tweaking it to fit all my new products (you have no idea how big the grin on my face is to be able to write 'new products' I made things! multiple things!). 

I'm going to be relaunching my etsy shop with my new range of things in the next few weeks, so if you haven't got a chance to get to the Hereford pop-up shop you can still get your hands on these handmade books. Once I have had chance to take some decent pictures I'll post some info about each of the books


In case of emergency do not collect personal belongings

Yesterday was spent drying things, and hitting things.

Once it became apparent the leaking had stopped and there was little I could do till the landlord got here I needed to get into the workshop and work out some frustration. At college you can always tell when the forge is shut, the blacksmiths roam about the halls looking frustrated and a little bit like caged animals. They love the physicality of steel and the ways they work the metal to create beautiful objects. I've always found stillness in hand embroidery and knitting, the feeling of the yarn or silks as they pass over my fingers and the concentration which blocks out all other niggling conscious thoughts. I've never really understood the cathartic nature of bashing hot metal with a hammer. To me it is hot and noisy and you can't listen to radio 4 or drink a cup of tea while you do it. But yesterday I released my inner blacksmith and beat out my frustration at the farcical litany of disasters which my life has become. And boy was it good. Turns out the clanging, ear trembling noise of the anvil being hit by a hammer was much more distracting than Jenny Murray's dulcet Woman's Hour tones. By the end of my day I had made five copper bookmarks to add to my depleted stock for the pop-up shop:

I'm really pleased with the way they turned out. Each one has a different phrase on it and I love the texture I got on the metal. I'm hoping to make a few more of these and add them to the shop in the next week or so. 

In the evening the repair man finally turned up and after much investigation he can find no reason why we had a leak. The only thing we can do is carry on as normal, keep an eye on the ceiling and hope for the best. Just in case I decided I better move the things that I care most about losing from that side of the studio. We don't have room in the house for me to pack everything up and I need my space to work in, so I spent some time last night deciding what I would 'save'. I've often had idle conversations about what it would be terrible to lose - usually when we are renewing insurance - but when it came down to it I was a little surprised what my boxes were filled with, and what was left on the shelf. There were the obvious things like camera's, laptop, sewing machines (yes, machines I have four including an over-locker) stuff that would be expensive to replace.
 There were books but not as many as I thought. These are mostly vintage craft books that we have found at car boot sales, charity shops or inherited from family members who no longer care how to make macramé; imported american Craft magazines; my small collection of art books mainly given to me by BS; and one novel - a water damaged book called 'Soon I will be Invincible' which I got at a book swap several years ago and I love it. But there are still a couple of shelves of books left that I thought were important enough to take up precious shelf space, but when it comes down to it, I certainly wont lose any sleep over them if they get trashed in another leak. 

The rest of the 'saved' pile is made up of my collection of prints and original pieces of art that I have collected over the last few years. It is a collection which moves with me everywhere I live, and they are the things which make a place mine. And that is what I realised, if it had come down to it and the ceiling had been falling in and I had only time to save a few things it wouldn't have been the practical things, the expensive things, it would have been the little things - the framed beer mat on which BS first designed my Rats logo; the Black Apple prints, the wire lamp drawing and all the other things which hang on my wall. 

Do you ever think about this? What would be in your saved pile?


It wasn't meant to go like this

My post today was meant to be one of triumph. I have very Exciting News that I was looking forward to sharing. After 15 years of harbouring a desire to have my things sell in an actual bricks and mortar shop I was actually getting to do it. With the support of friends, family and a dreamteam combination of my favourite staff at college I had plucked up the courage to send an email to a pop-up shop looking for local artists work. Even better I got a response very quickly that yes, they loved my work and would love to have it in the shop. I began making in earnest. Last night my studio was a shrine to a handmade book production line. I was all ready for tonight's glueing session to finish off all my books, covers all neatly sewn and cut out, grey board in stacks of organised joy. I was not ready to be woken up by BS with the words "Penny, you need to get up there's been a disaster in your studio".


My studio. My lovely place, with all my most precious things (of the non human variety).

Yes. Big bastard leak. The kind of water-pouring-from-the-ceiling-for-hours-soaking-the-carpet-and everything-in-its-path kind of leak. Soaking half the studio. The half where all of my stock was. My boxes of folded pages. My piles of fabric covers waiting to be glued. My stacks of grey board. So now everything looks like this: 

I'm trying to dry what I can to see if anything is salvageable and waiting for the landlord to call me back. Having survived last week which included stomach bugs, hospital appointments, and ended with a car crash which wrote off the car, I was hoping for a quiet week this week. It certainly wasn't meant to go like this.


Musings on being mature

just because a picture-less post is sad
I am a mature student. I'm knocking on 30 (and no I don't have a thing about it. No really. Well maybe a little bit), which makes me about 10 years older than the majority of the people on my course. I am really lucky that there are 4 other mature students in my class which means that there are people I can turn to when I need to raise my eyebrows about my friends teen antics, or if I need someone who will understand just how expensive white goods are. More seriously they are also the people who have given up jobs, or relationships, or made other sacrifices to take the leap and change their lives by Going Back to School, people who understand. In our first year we treated college like a job. For most of us this was what we had come from, we were used to starting at 9, finishing at 5 and working hard in-between. I would come home from college and do my own crafty projects but very rarely would these form part of my 'work'. Textile crafts had always been my hobby and because I approached college as my job I kept knitting and quilting as my after-school hobby.  Now there are obvious differences between college and work, for a start we want to be here, we pay to be here and there is no boss who is telling us what to do.

And that was where the problems start. I was used to having a boss, a job, responsibilities, tasks. A lot of my role was problem solving and convincing other people that my solutions were better than theirs, and I was good at it. I loved it, (well until I didn't, but for those of you who know me in the real world I have ranted about that enough, and for those of you I don't know bitching about evil bosses you don't know in a place you don't work is just boring) I thought I had a lot of transferable skills for this degree - which in theory I do. But I didn't have a boss. There wasn't anyone who would give me a task to do which I could then exceed at, there were no boundaries. Like all people who have had jobs there have been times where I've had to face the consequences of doing something wrong, or more usually not really understanding what the task was, rushing off doing a whole bunch of work just to have to do it again. I had learnt it is very important to spend time requirements gathering; talking with the 'clients' and figuring out what there really wanted, whether that was what they needed, and how much room there was between the two. At Art College there is no client. I spent a long time slavishly trying to interpret the project briefs, talking with tutors and other classmates trying to figure out the 'requirements' so I could make the right things. Have the right sort of sketchbook. Do the right research. Please my 'boss' (assessors). And it sucked. I felt lost and confused. I didn't want guidance and nurturing, I wanted to be told what to do.

It has taken 14 months and more tears, confusion and frustration than I'd like to recall to realise something.  *I* am the client. The project briefs I get are not requirements in the way that I am used to, my tutors are not going to tell me what to make because that isn't the point. They are here to help me make what I want to make. And I am bloody relieved. It finally fits in my head. All the things I make are part of my 'work', I don't have to have an after-school hobby I should use all the skills and knowledge I have from those hobbies and feed it all into the big melting pot that is me.

So this is my advice to any mature students out there coming to college from the world of work, college isn't work. The tutors are not your boss. They are not going to tell you what to do (no matter how many times or how many different ways you ask), but they are going to support you. They are not going to tell you off if you take a risk* and it doesn't work out, in fact they'll be really proud you took the risk. Stop looking for the loopholes or the things that will catch you out, there aren't any. Focus on all the good things work taught you:

  • sometimes you have to do very boring things, again and again and you know this is just part of life, get on with it
  • be committed, just because you don't have classes all day everyday don't use it as an excuse to not come in. Treat each day like a you would work, come in at a certain time and stay till a set time and while you're there work.
  • manage your time. You will have lots of competing tasks and deadlines, just remember how you used to deal with this at work and apply the same strategies - for me this is lists, google calender reminders and a little smidge of manic fear the week before 
  • don't be jealous that everyone under 20 is still in bed with a hangover you've most probably been there and done that, this is a different time in your life embrace that fact and never drink jugs of £5 cocktails through a straw at Gilbie's. It wont end well.

So that's it. Having spent an hour writing this post I better adhere to my own advice and get on with some work!

*taking risks is my tutors favourite phrase, from what I can figure out it means making things you're not sure about just to see what happens. It also seems to be making fuck ugly things that you then never look at again but at least you recognise why they are ugly


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