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Little Lion – in the wild

[whispered, in the style of David Attenborough]

Little Lion

Here we can see the most juvenile member of the Misericordia Mansions Menagerie. This young female appears to prize physical contact above all other stimuli and will frequently spend hours in the same position in a more senior Menagerist’s arms. At only two weeks old, she will eventually open her eyes and start to interact with other members of the group, especially the junior male.

nappy change

To demonstrate his new position in the Menagerie, the junior male brings gifts and watches the mid-ranking male and female as they care for the new arrival.

Small scuffles have been observed between the most senior female Menagerists, but these rarely lead to violence and are probably part of a complex ritual to demonstrate their joint status in the hierarchy.

The Trials and Tribulations of a Nearsighted Photographer

When people ask me how I came to do a photography degree, I have to admit that the answer is ‘by accident’.

My intention was to do costuming or something textile-y, because that’s what I’d always been interested in. But as I worked my way through the first year (where we got a chance to try out different departments), I always seemed to have the most interesting conversations and projects in the photography department.

Once I started in the department properly it became apparent that I was at a bit of a disadvantage on the technical side. My eyesight hovers around -8.50 with an astigmatism and what my optician once apologetically called ‘pretty rubbish rods and cones’, so even when it’s corrected my manual focusing skills are a little patchy.

(My parents tell a story about the time when I was learning to read and they pointed to the side of a massive cargo ship and said ‘What’s the name of that ship?’ and I looked where they were pointing and said ‘What ship?’)

Embroidery makes some of this easier, I can go and bury my face in my work with relatively little difficulty, but when it comes to product photography, I have to make extra efforts to get my photos as crisp as they need to be.

Recently, I’ve started to use tethered shooting, which is where you take control of the camera through a computer. This makes it much easier to fine-tune the auto focus and check the results on a larger screen than comes on the the back of a camera.

The downside is that it takes a fair bit of time to set up a shoot – something I need to remember when working against the combined deadlines of Northern Hemisphere daylight and nursery pick up time.

It’s definitely improving my product photography, and even reminds me of shooting in large format with a black cloth over my head, the pleasing kthunk of the Polaroid back and the slightly terrifying frisson when taking the dark slide out of the back of the camera.

Plus ça change…

Holiday Happenings

I think I’m slowly starting to embrace the festive atmosphere.

After last weekend’s slightly manic dash from craft fair to teaching night out to craft fair, Dragon and I decided that it was time to break out the Muppet Christmas films (we’re holding off on Muppet’s Christmas Carol for another week) and try to relax properly.

We’re having a rare holiday at home, which I’m really looking forward to, Dragon is at the age where traditions really start to stick, so I’m hoping we can create some good ones. (The Star Wars ornaments bode well, I think.)

Of course, I have four commissions to get through before I can really consider myself on holiday, and I should probably unpack the craft fair boxes and bags that are lurking at every turn, but I have a cunning plan on that front…

I’d like to offer you 20% off anything on the website until 31st December, just to save me putting everything away! Use the code ‘holiday’ at checkout and you’re away.

I’m making a concerted effort this year to buy exclusively from local or handmade sources for my gifts, and it would be lovely if everyone could at least buy one more thing from a friendly face than they did last year.

I hope you’re all managing to stay toasty wherever you are, I’m slowly adding layers of legwarmers, cowls and shawls as the weather dictates!

Craft Fair Crazy

Or – No Goats at Debenhams, a cautionary tale

This weekend  is chock full of craft fairs for me!

I’d love to see you there, it’s an especially good way to support Small Business Saturday (and I’m sure we can stretch it out to Sunday without too much trouble). Plus, Out of the Blue and Gorgie Farm are absolute treasures of Edinburgh.

I’m sure you’re all thoroughly convinced of the benefits of supporting locally run projects and businesses over endless chain shops, but if you need any more convincing, I guarantee that M&S will never run aerial dance classes in their food hall of an evening and no matter how much of a bargain you find at Debenhams, you will not be able to feed a goat on your way out (and I can tell you, it would make shopping with a small child much easier if there were more goats in shops).

So there’s my weekend all lined up, and I hope I can help you knock a few things off your list in the process.

Just a quick reminder that this weekend is the last date for taking commissions for postage within the UK, so please let me know if you’re wanting to bespeak something.

Greener on this Side

We’re pretty big hippies here at Misericordia Mansions and so I face a little conundrum, how do I make art (which is more or less a luxury) as kind to the Earth as possible?

I know that it can be a little overwhelming navigating the various ethical merits of organic, fairtrade, local and recycled, so I sat down and tried to make a list of what was most important to me, in order of preference. (This comes in handy when I’m stuck in front of the coconut milk section of a shop prevaricating wildly between four brands!)

This applies to my everyday shopping just as much as Misericordia supplies.

  • Second hand – charity shops, eBay, beg, borrow or lift from a skip
  • Independent – small businesses or makers
  • Local – shops in my local area, the UK, Europe etc
  • Fairtrade – if it has to come from overseas, it needs to be fair
  • Recycled
  • Organic

That’s why my frames are upcycled from charity shops (with Auro plant-based paints), my hoops and mini canvases are from the fabulous Fred Aldous in Manchester and my jewellery findings are from a new discovery, Jasmine Studios in London. When I feel I can be trusted, I take myself along the road to Edinburgh Art Shop with a very strict list.

frames and paint

I’m even hoping to change my fabric to organic muslin someday.

Do you look for any particular ethical qualities in your art (or shopping basket)? Any top tips for greener living, we’re always keen to try new things!

Morningside Makers Market this Saturday

Someday, Gentle Reader, I will be so organised that I will have time to photograph all of the pieces I’m taking to a craft fair before I do my practice set up.

But, as they say, it is not this day! Even my camera is against me, the batteries died just as I took the first photo for this post…

Perhaps it’s a good way to heighten the excitement (yours, not mine).

At any rate, here are a few sneaky peeks (courtesy of my phone) at what’s coming with me to the Morningside Makers Market this Saturday.

You can see all of my upcoming fairs here, but don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted!

Back to work…

Crepuscular – active at twilight

What’s your favourite word?

Here’s mine:

Crepuscular - hand painted and embroidered hoop art - Misericordia 2014

HaggardHawks (otherwise known as Paul Anthony Jones – author of Haggard Hawks and Paltry Poltroons) put out a call for favourite words for World Dictionary Day and it gave me a chance to make a piece I’ve been wanting to make for ages.

Crepuscular means active at twilight, and it mainly refers to animals…and children. It was a rather weary refrain from my mother when I was a child, and I have to say that I have found myself sighing it to myself in similar circumstances at the moment. As if that weren’t enough, Kipling has a bit of a crazy half hour around bedtime too, so we have a full house of crepuscular creatures!

I thought you might like to see how hoops get turned from flat embroideries to hoops, so here’s a little factory tour, enjoy!

 

An Illustration in Watercolour and Embroidery

I thought I’d put together a tutorial showing you how to use watercolour with embroidery. I used this technique to make a present for my dad and I enjoyed it so much that it will shortly be making an appearance in more of my work.

As a starter for ten (as they say), I copied an illustration so I only had to think about being faithful to the original, rather than worrying about composition and colours and balance.

Choose your image:

I chose the William Steig illustration from Amos and Boris below. It had a lovely wash-y sea and not too many colours to work with. I also thought that I could recreate the skips and skitters of the pen marks in embroidery quite effectively.

Trace:

Work out how you’re going to present your piece when it’s finished. I framed mine, which gave me an idea of the size it needed to be. Watercolour doesn’t stand up to frequent washing, so keep the item’s final use in mind (not so good for a baby blanket). I had to make some adjustments to the illustration so that it would fit into the frame, but the nice thing about working onto tracing paper is that you can try things out before you commit to drawing the final lines.

Copy onto fabric:

I use a super high-tech method for transferring my designs onto fabric. Pin your fabric to the front of your paper (if you used pencil, it’s a good idea to go over the lines with a dark pen). Tape the fabric and paper to a window and trace in light pencil, stopping for a rest when your arms go numb.

Mix your colours:

For this piece I pre-mixed my colours, I knew I had a lot of sea to colour and I didn’t want to end up with half the piece a slightly different shade than the other. I was also a little worried about getting just the right colour of sea-turquoise.


Fabric, even when it’s been pre-washed, absorbs watercolour differently than paper, so play about with a scrap to get used to it. The paint sits on top of the fabric for longer, so there’s time to dab off mistakes with a clean rag, but remember that some of the paint will wash away when you wash it, so err on the dark side (in this instance only).


Tape your fabric securely to a firm surface. It takes a few hours for the paint to dry, so make sure you have a flat surface to keep your board on while the paint dries.

I was surprised at how long it took to cover the surface with paint, so make sure you leave plenty of time and don’t rush yourself.

Set the colours:

Once the paint dries, iron it to heat-set the colours. Use an iron which is as hot as the fabric allows, but make sure to put a white sheet of paper between your fabric and iron, in case a little paint transfers. (In the interests of science, I have to admit that I haven’t tried a control piece where I didn’t iron the fabric, but fabric paints are generally heat set, so it makes me feel more secure.)

Stitch:

Now it’s time to get the threads out. Play with stitches, thread thickness and colours until you get the feel you’re after. If you’re using a lot of outlines or shading, look closely at how the artist used thickness and direction of marks to ensure you keep the feeling of immediacy that can sometimes be lost in the translation between drawing and embroidery.

One more tip, consider that sometimes a very dark brown, gray or blue will look better than black against the watercolours. Be brave!

Wash, starch and frame:

When you’re done stitching, it’s time to give your piece a wash and a starch before framing it. Use the coldest water you can, add vinegar or salt to the water and if it looks too light in places, you can always touch up the watercolours once the piece is stretched.

wamos book
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial, I’d love to see any pieces you make with it and please let me know if you have any questions.

Coming Over All Matrimonial

I love a wedding, do you?

Mr & Mrs hand embroidered hoop - Misericordia 2014

I’ve got a few friends’ weddings coming up and they’ve made me feel all nostalgic for the excitement and fevered planning that went into our wedding.

Mr & Mrs hand embroidered hoop - Misericordia 2014

(Although I must admit, I find great relief in being well through that stage. It was fun while it lasted, but matronhood suits me quite well.)

Mr & Mrs hand embroidered hoop - Misericordia 2014

I have a variety of visions for these pieces, ranging from a gift for the work colleague who you wish well but don’t fancy buying a lone dinner plate off the uninspiring gift registry to a rather sweet bridesmaid’s gift to an ironic gift for the couple who are passionately devoted to their cohabitative state.

Mr & Mrs hand embroidered hoop - Misericordia 2014

I must apologise for the rather traditional wording, I’m desperately awaiting my first Dr & Mr or Ms & Ms, so please get commissioning!

Mr & Mrs hand embroidered hoop - Misericordia 2014

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