Catching up, Craft fairs & Colours (oh my!)

At last I have time to write this long overdue catch-up post! The last month or so has been a whirlwind of non-stop activity/work for me, but in a good way. In June I re-entered the world of local craft fairs after a break of more than 2 years. I was somewhat swamped with preparation – stock was easy, but signage, packaging & presentation are a whole different kettle of fish from selling online. With a lot of work, though, I managed to get everything straight and had a really good day (including many conversations about stamp collections!).

Following on from the first craft fair, I had a busy week of collaging to replace sold stock, talks about a commission for a local independent restaurant (I’m designing & hand-binding their new drinks menu!), contact from a UK magazine about a couple of spots coming up over the next few months (more on that to follow later), plus top-up preparation for a local Vintage & Arts Market yesterday. Here I am in situ:

craft market 050714

It’s a lovely courtyard venue and we were very lucky with the weather (a fine, dry day, after very wet evening & morning preceding). Had lots of interesting conversations with customers & stallholders alike, and various possibilities have arisen from the day, so definitely another worthwhile (ad)venture. As you can see from the photo above, my display so far is largely of the make-do-and-mend variety, using display materials I already had on hand (spot the toast rack, camping plate & dishes!). It’s a work in progress, though – I’ve learned something useful and new from each fair I’ve attended so far – and having now made the decision to continue with local fairs as well as selling online, I will be continuing to work on signage, as well as swapping in a few more purpose-built props for future events (although I’m pretty sure the plate & dishes will stay!).

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Are you based anywhere near Derby/shire?  You can keep track of my upcoming events here!

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As it’s such a long time since I last posted, here is a little gallery for you of my new range of notebooks:

(Find the above notebooks & more in the TangleStore!)

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I’ve been creating ‘imaginary landscapes’ and discovering that however hard I try, there are always certain colour combinations that I’m drawn back to. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how different colours speak to us in different ways? Interesting how not only do we simply have different taste in what appeals to us, but how we can each perceive exactly the same colours from a different perspective, and draw a different inference entirely. In fact the ‘palette’ a particular artist uses is entirely a part of what makes their work recognisable.  I used to think I was somehow ‘failing’ by not catering to every possible colour preference one of my customers might have; but I’m now pretty well convinced that actually it’s more important to work with the colours that inspire you. Push yourself sometimes, of course, and try out something different just to see what happens; but mostly, I say go with the flow. 🙂

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Don’t forget to stop by the TangleStore to see what’s new!  The above is just a sampling, and although it’s a while since my last post here, there are new additions to the store regularly.   You can also follow me on Twitter – @TangleCrafts – for daily updates & other snippets that catch my eye from day to day.  And in case you missed it, be sure to check out my previous post for a special July discount coupon!

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Crafting on a rainy afternoon

Britta's mini envelopesBritta (see JaguarSnail section of the TangleStore) popped round yesterday on another miserable, rainy day, which we brightened up with lots of junk food & an afternoon of crafting.  Britta made (almost) the teeniest tiniest envelopes imaginable, measuring just 1″ x 1.5″ and embellished with a handcarved stamp of even teenier tinier faux postage, postmark & ‘handwritten’ address (she also made pandalopes from a poster salvaged from her erstwhile teenage bedroom).

Collage postcards by TangleCraftsMeanwhile, I collaged 2 postcards which will be hopping into a postbox near me today.  The colours used for the postcards were based on the preferences of the individual recipients, and blue is not my favourite colour, so I struggled with that one a little bit.  (Only peach is worse.  Peach literally makes me shudder!)  After a bit of a false start & a composition which did nothing for me at all, I started again, this time mixing in some teal and turquoise (the acceptable face of blue for me!), and all was well. 🙂  And it turns out I love the combination of both postcards together, like a wet, sandy beach leading into the sea, or beneath a summer sky (which was especially cheering given the damp & dismal weather outside)…

Postal Patchwork Prisms

This post is really more of a ‘show-and-tell’ for one of the notebooks I included in my last post’s mini gallery.  I was so pleased with the way it turned out that I decided it justified having a little more of a showcase:

Rainbow Postal Patchwork Pinwheel (large)
Rainbow Postal Patchwork Pinwheel (large)
Rainbow Postal Patchwork Pinwheel (mini)
Rainbow Postal Patchwork Pinwheel (mini)

The pattern began as an expansion of the pinwheel motif on the mini notebook shown right, but when expanded it takes on all new qualities.  The pinwheels combine to produce new illusions – diamond shaped colour-blocks, and an overall prismatic effect.  I realise quilters (etc) are probably quite familiar with how this process works, but it’s a lot of fun to see in action, especially when you don’t know in advance what the overall effect will be.  I love the way the colours play/bounce off each other; would be interesting to experiment with multi-tones of a single colour family, too…

Progressing in Postal Patchwork…

Now THIS was fun!

Purple Postal PatchworkWhen I first started dabbling in patchwork-style collage with postage stamps, it was enough for me to see a variety of tone-on-tone colours in serendipitous side-by-side placement (left).  Today, however, my attraction to creating more collages using this style of stampification was definitely on the wane – lots of stamps everywhere around me, but somehow not quite the right level of inspiration…  (I have been in a state of what might be called overdrive since stampifying my first notebook and so this was a natural & perhaps overdue decline in enthusiasm.)  Then – out of nowhere! – I was motivated to return to my old favourite Machins and…start cutting them up!

Diamond Patchwork ExperimentAfter spending a little time pondering the absolute sameness of the Machin stamp design – each issue identical in size and image, the only variable being in the colour – I just wanted to see what would happen if I took one half away and replaced it with an identical half in a contrasting colour.  I’ll tell you what happened, it captured my imagination!

The diamond pattern notebook (above right) is the result of my first experiment, but I suspect an investigation into quilt block patterns may not be too far behind.  This postal patchwork technique has real possibilities!  As you can probably tell by my overuse of exclamation marks, I am genuinely caught up in enthusiasm for this idea.  Will post some more pics once time allows further experimentation…

I found more poetry

craft of weavingFrom ‘The Craft of Weaving’ by Irene Waller (c) 1976

we are astoundingly blind
and really do not look at
and see properly
the world around us
which is the source of
everything

The next step on from finding poetry within fiction was to start flicking through  my ‘archive’ of vintage  weaving books.  I felt sure there must be poetry in descriptions of this wonderfully repetetive and meditative craft.  I wasn’t wrong, but what I found still surprised me, erring towards the philosophical and the abstract, rather than a simple appreciation of craft and colour.

Anyone who has read Telaic Fantasy 1 will already know about my dichotomous feelings towards Irene Waller – on the one hand so creative, on the other, with such a frightfully upper-class, scarily no-nonsense attitude (can’t you just see the attitude oozing out, even just in that cover photo above?).  If there was one author I didn’t expect to find poetry in, it was Irene Waller, yet there it was, all the same.

I also wanted to share another idea I found in the above book.  It’s possibly not entirely original (although you must remember it was written several decades before the likes of Keri Smith’s fantastic ‘How to be an Explorer of the World’), but I really like it:

A marvellous way to break down any inhibitions you may have about colour is to have several large glass jars on your shelving and to drop into them fragments of anything, colourwise, which you find pleasing – beads, glass, paper, yarns, fabrics.  Have a jar for blues, another for greens and so on.

This is just supposed to be an exercise in developing a greater understanding of colour, but I think a jar crammed with miscellaneously textured colour would make a fantastic ornament, or if not ornament exactly, source of inspiration, in my workroom.  I don’t think I could put yarns inside, though, as I would just have to fish them out again, when inspiration struck.  Could get messy.

I really need to overcome my resistance and look out Irene Waller’s other books…

More ideas

5.  Haiku Tins (photo to follow).  I found a good source for tins with aperture lids recently, and have woven several freeform pieces to fit the different sizes.  For the smallest tin (pencil box-sized),  I tried something a bit different.  Using beautiful yarns in graduating variegated shades, I wrapped the yarn, rather than wove.  This is a ridiculously simple thing to do, but because of the blending and shading in these particular yarns, really very effective in the end result.  I think of them as meditations on colour, which led me circuitously round to haiku.  After reading quite a lot of haiku, and being aware of them as a source of strong natural imagery, I decided that they suited these wrapped tins perfectly.  So I have bought some recycled fibre paper, onto which I will print individual haiku, and a little collection of these printed slips of haiku will fill each tin.  (Obviously if someone has an alternative use for the tin, they are welcome to remove the haiku, once they have bought it!)  If you like haiku, can I strongly recommend ‘Clear Light’ by Alan Spence?   The Haiku Tins will contain a mix of traditional and contemporary haiku.

Night swallows dew-damp meadow / casting velvet shadows / that will pass
Spring evening

6.  Meditations.   I’ve woven a few freeform pieces for the craft fair, and while they evolve quite naturally, I also find that after weaving one, I tend to want to go back to basics, back to the basic, essential flow of weaving.  The wrapped Haiku Tins gave me the idea to just weave a very plain block, allowing the colours of the yarn to do all the work for me.  This allows me to really get lost in the rhythmic, soothing process of weaving, and becomes a meditation on both the process and the random evolution of the colours.  The pieces you see to left and right are examples, unframed thus far.

Muddy fields
Muddy fields

My idea is to frame them, individually, in very plain, simple wooden frames.  Within the frame will also be a handwrtten haiku, composed by me, relating to the images evoked by the weaving.  I love the clarity and economy of haiku, the condensed images retaining a simple appreciation of the mysteries of the world around us.  I think they work perfectly with the meditative process involved with the weaving of these pieces.  I’m in no way claiming that my own haiku compare with the masters of the genre; but the pieces are personal to me, and using my own poetry makes them even more so.  I guess it gives the viewer of the work an insight into my own perceptions, whether they agree or not.

Fading autumn sunlight,
glowing
over muddy fields

Night swallows spring evening,
casting shadows
that will pass

Colours and crafts

Colours are a hugely personal experience, and while in design terms there are rules and reasoning why some combinations work and others don’t, it’s still true that two people can experience the same colours in entirely different ways.  I found the poem below on a website called Plant Dyed Wool which runs courses on dyeing wools with natural dyes, as well as weaving and felting the results.

I’ve tried dyeing my own embroidery threads before and loved the results, but found it too time consuming to keep up (if I wanted to do any stitching/designing, too).  There’s somehing very appealing about natural dyeing, though, and I’m going to get around to trying it out one day.  I love tapestry weaving (my header above is an extract from one of my small pieces) but have just in the last couple of days started hankering to go back to basics with some ‘pure’, solid, traditional weaving on an old-fashioned peg loom – nothing fancy, just simple, cleansing ‘zen’ weaving, for its own sake.

[I find that I go through phases of stitching then switching back to weaving, then back to stitching again.  They’re very different crafts, but have the reassuring familiarity of working with threads, fibres, wools etc.  There’s a project coming that will combine weaving, needlework, music, and possibly some fiction, too, once I’ve completed this exploration of bargello.  There’ll be a break for a while from the appearance of new designs, but I am looking forward to putting my time and energies into it, and I think the results will be worth it.]

It was on the search for a peg loom that I stumbled across the Plant Dyed Wool site.  Theirs are the only peg looms I have found with character (click here to see what I mean), made out of gorgeous grained, knotted natural wood, rather than wood with the life planed out of it.  Anyway, to return to the point, it was on this site that I discovered the poem below, written by Skye, the daughter of the dyeing-weaving-felting lady, Jane Meredith.  I love the vivid colours that streaks through it, and found it very evocative.

Blue fingers planted this garden

Where there is gold in the petals and leaves

Where green breathes

Then turns blue

Blue softly turns pink

As it dies by the river

And wool white as a swan

Is dipped

Kingfisher red