Category Archives: Workshops

Nakshi Kantha

On a visit to Cardiff M.A.D.E. the owner Zoe showed me a part worked quilt and invited me along to the communal stitching of it. On Saturday afternoons the quilt is brought out along with the threads, very long needles and scissors and people can stitch as much or as little as they like.

I learnt that this is a long term project; it took months to draw the traditional Bangladeshi designs onto the plain white fabric. There are three layers in total, in the past old saris would have been used for the middle layer – a great way to recycle textiles. The colours of the thread also seem to have been handed down from generation to generation. But even in Bangladesh a quilt would have taken months, if not years to complete as it was worked during the odd spare minutes the women had between their day-to-day work.

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I enjoyed my time so much as the afternoon proved to be a relaxing one – a chance to dip into and out of conversations with the other stitchers, a great way to connect with the tradition of communal quilt making which can be found in most places around the world.


Tilleke Schwarz workshop

I participated in a one day workshop at Craft in the Bay run by the Dutch textile artist  Tilleke Schwarz who had an exhibition of her work in the gallery.

We started off by making a collage on an A1 piece of paper. Tilleke invited us to answer a couple of questions… What do you love? What do you hate? And to include our name on the paper. Using magazines I initially found images that appealed to me rather than looking for any thing in particular. Soon I was tearing, arranging, re-arranging scraps of colours then pasting them onto the large sheet. Each of us in turn explained our collages; I found it a much more interesting way of introducing myself and learning about my fellow participants than the usual round the table type of introductions – there’s always one who tells her life story!

The next stage was build a design for the piece of embroidery by selecting a few elements used in the collage. I found an image of an acorn so that had to be included seeing I’d been using the motive in my print-making classes.

I also found a list someone had made but instead of it being linear the person had written it in a spiral form so  I decided to use that format for my text. “I am setting out on my journey but I have no plan, I have no map, I have no idea where I am going or how I ‘m going to get there. Will I know when I’ve arrived? I hope I never stop travelling.”

After lunch Tilleke showed us some of the methods she uses in her work. I’ve taken her statement from her website.

“All my work relates basically to one theme: the oddities of life. I include anything that moves, amazes or intrigues me. Daily life, mass media, traditional samplers and cats are major sources of inspiration. The result is a mixture of content, graphic quality and fooling around. The work can be understood as a kind of visual poetry. Every work contains narrative elements. Not really complete stories, with a beginning, a storyline, and an end. On the contrary, the viewer is invited to decipher connections or to create them. This way it becomes a kind of play between the viewer and me. Textiles I love textiles because of the tactile looks.”

Using one or two strands of thread from her stash of over 2000 colours Tilleke couch stitches her text – sayings, notices or anything else that catches her eye. This is interspersed with traditional cross-stitch motives, (she sources the patterns from old books), found pieces of previously worked embroidery and images of her own making. Tilleke stitches onto fine count linen which she may dye, according to her whim. She was very generous in giving us information such as how to mount the work  – after washing and pressing the work it is placed on acid-free card which is covered with another piece of fabric so that the embroidered piece doesn’t sit directly onto the card. The Embroidered work is stretched over the card and using large zig-zag stitches backed onto another piece of fabrice. For ease of transporting her work Tilleke uses loose frames – that is the work is removed from the frame and transported separately.

Tilleke gave us a demonstration as to how she stitches her text and then we were off stitches for ourselves.  We discussed whether to hoop or not to hoop our work – after trying both I prefer to work with one as I can see my work better.

Soon it was time to tidy up and we had another short talk from Tilleke when she told us, whilst showing us images, a little more about her Jewish Dutch background, her family and her cat – a repeating figure to be found in her work.

We then went downstairs to look at her work. Magnifying glasses were given out so we could really appreciate the fine stitch work.

Again these images are taken from Tilleke’s website.


This is a very early piece made in 1980

tilleke-schwarz_count-your-blessings-2003 tilleke-schwarz_count-your-blessings-2003-detail

Count your Blessings 2003tilleke-schwarz_free-recovery-2010 tilleke-schwarz_free-recovery-2010-detail

Free Recovery 2010tilleke-schwarz_playground-2008 tilleke-schwarz_playground-2008-detail

Playground 2008

I have no desire to copy Tilleke’s style but the workshop was an opportunity to free myself from the ‘rights and wrongs’ of stitching. I thought  Tilleke was well practised in running her workshops, she has found her style and I imagine maintains a consistency in the delivery.

I enjoy the humour in her work and several aspects of it reminds me of Greyson Perry with his messages on his pots and tapestries.

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Printmaking course 2015 – Drypoint

I’ve decided to keep to my theme of the acorn – this way I can appreciate the different methods and results of print making.

I taped a piece of Rhenalon over an image of the acorn then scratched the out line using the end of a pair of compasses. I quickly became absorbed in the process and found it far more satisfying than the lino cut, it was almost a meditative process.

Using a soft piece of old t-shirt I rubbed ink into the grooves on the plate then carefully wiped round the outline. I’d missed marking some lines so scratched them in, then played with colour and the amount of ink on the plate.


Missing marks added.P1000417

Too much black on the cap – should have wiped more away….should have also checked the newsprint paper I placed on the top was clean!P1000420

Wiped the plate clean and re-inked using a dark green for the cap.


More green on the cap (still not enough) and the bottom left.P1000423

Cut another image of the acorn and placed it on my plate, over the scratched image – inked with a roller a piece of embossed wall paper – placed over the plate – ran through the press.P1000419

Then ran the plate through the press again – without re-inking the acorn.

Wiped the plate clean again – re-inked the acorn – laid the cut-out acorn on top then rollered the plate.


This was done a real hurry – the paper was too wet and the ink not wiped correctly.


On the reverse side of the plate I ran this image made from sandpaper through the press.


It was difficult for me to see where the edges were so I’ve missed inking at the top – I think it would be better had I used this as a base for my print rather than a stand alone print.


The first thing I did was to make another sandpaper acorn so I could etch the texture onto the side of the plate I’d etched last week.

P1000477This gave the print more texture – this was my first print and one of my favourites for this week.
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Experimenting with different colour combinations.P1000480

I deliberately left some wipe marks after inking the acorn – would be improved with more ink wiped from the cap,


Too much ink left on – I think I was being influenced by other people’s moody results….. but a moody acorn?


This was the same technique I’d used last week – rollered textured wallpaper – laid it onto the plate after masking off the acorn – then removed the wallpaper and the mask and took a print.


A print taken from the rollered wallpaper.P1000485 P1000486

I used someone else’s ink to roller my plate… I took her meaning of ‘thin ink’ to mean very light – the 2nd one taken without re-inking but neither are a success.

Another enjoyable week. I’ve decided I prefer to ink my plates then wipe most off before taking a print. I like to see the etched detail rather than the mono print effect gained from leaving ink on.

Printmaking Course 2015 – Lino cut

Firstly I traced a simple image of an acorn onto the lino. I’d managed to work out the reverses and mirror images by using photoshop so I was confident but the lino was hard, I tried various tools to cut into it but I laboured in vain. I had time to make just one black and white print.


My tutor suggested I cut the lines wider to give more definition so during the week I made alterations but wished I’d added more smaller lines to the cap.


In spite of the disaster I had with the yellow ink when collagraph printing I was assured that the original  black on my plate would knock the colour back – thankfully it did. P1000292

I inked up the plate again with blue – a small amount of the yellow showed through but nothing exciting.

P1000297I decided to cut out the acorn shape so I could ink the background a different colour.


On the one above I used the back of a wooden spoon but unfortunately the acorn wasn’t fully aligned with the background so I ended up with a white halo.P1000294

More colours added – by this time I’d learnt not to roll so much ink onto the plate, if any at all at times.


Sometimes I’d ink just the acorn.


At other times just the background. By this time the rollers were becoming a confusion of colour so giving a softer finish to the prints.

In all I made 17 prints and felt it was one of my better days in the studio in terms of experimentation.


Printmaking Course 2015 – Lino-cut Research

Lino-cut is going to be difficult for me because not only have I to cope with the negative and positive but also mirror images. Unfortunately my two hour class doesn’t allow much  time for explanations; I’m usually in there making prints before I’ve had time to absorb the principles of the techniques. This is why I need to research before I go into the studio. Also I don’t work figuratively – instead I use abstract concepts in my work. At the moment I’m thinking about my g+grand mothers and so far  I’ve not found my way forward.

I’m thinking about doing a sampler as Will Karp has done.z_pr_111_480


Then there’s these two by Charmaine Watkiss.



Natasha Rusell‘s work is exceptionally fine.


Maybe I should be a little more ambitious!

I’ve come up with a couple of images I may investigate further.





Printmaking Course 2015 – Colour Collagraph

A beautiful walk to the studio today – cold with bright sunshine.

I’d made a plate yesterday – working on the theme of my ancestral mothers – the lace knitting represents my grandmother who taught me how to knit; she often wore lace patterned cardigans and the leaves are for my mother who loved gardening.

P1000056 I don’t know what possessed me to use the yellow ink – maybe too much sun on the way in!

However I liked the image left on the roller after I’d brayered it across my plate so I inked up a piece of paper with it


I added more colours but too vibrant.


Gradually I removed the yellow.P1000061 P1000063 P1000064

At last I felt I was getting somewhere with the colour – more muted shades.


Then I turned the plate over and used the reverse.


A few scratches into the cardboard and a light touch of ink.


Someone else was using paper doilies so I pinched a bit and laid it on top.P1000067

Another doily layer.

Then I printed twice on the same paper – firstly using the back of the plate then the front.

I still struggle working in 2D and with colour; again nothing here that are worth more than reminders of experimental samples but I had a fun morning.

Printmaking Course 2015 – B&W Collagraph

Thankfully the class went much better for me this week and I enjoyed my time in the studio.

Firstly I made up my plate by attaching materials to a piece of grey-board.I’d knitted some small leaves in fine cotton thread and had brought along scraps of lace-like fabrics  Due to time constrains the plates couldn’t be made up in the conventional manner, that is sticking down materials then sealing them with waterproof varnish. I had to use glue stick, masking tape, parcel tape and sellotape.


This is the plate but after modifications. The first print (below) held too much ink for me. On the left hand side I’d used brown package tape over the crocheted fabric and details was lost; on the other side was masking tape so I replaced the brown tape with it. The sellotape holding down the knitted leaves (top middle) also covered some detail. I removed the ric-rac.


After the alterations I inked the plate again but this time with a piece of cloth – much better definition.


Then i wiped away even more ink – the knitted leaves under the sellotape have come out better on this one.

Next I inked up the Renolon plate I’d used for mono printing and placed some pieces of fabric onto it. The plate was then put through the press.


I carefully lifted the pieces of fabric off the plate, onto a damp piece of paper and through the press once more. The result reminds me of the illustrations found in old knitting manuals. I can see me using this technique when I explore the word eidolon.


Lastly I took a ghost print from the Renolon plate – another result worth exploring.