Painting

Mixed Media Crochet Art

Argh, I can't believe I forgot to take my camera to the crochet workshops I ran at Laldie Haans... And the work produced was so good too! Thinking back to when I first started trying to learn to crochet, the things I made were terrible - huge clumps of nothingness that ended up in the bin (they were such a mess that it wasn't worth keeping them even to look back on to document my progress). It wasn't just me that was surprised with how quickly the students took to crocheting in the round - the students themselves were shocked at how much they managed to get done in three hours. One selkie was completely finished and the rest were well on their way to completion. In the afternoon, I had a lefty looking to learn the basics of crochet. It was a learning curve for both of us; I'd heard that crocheting with the left hand is challenging and couldn't be learned by simply flipping a technique, but I assumed it would be as simple as just holding the hook in your left hand and yarn in the right, and moving your hand the same way you would as a righty. Now that I've experienced the difficulty of trying to crochet using your non-dominate hand, I'm determined to sit down and "figure out" exactly how to crochet left-handed so I can enhance the content of future workshops.

So what else have I been up to recently, other than the workshops? Well, I've just finished a mixed-media painting:

I did the freeform poppy quite a while ago, but didn't really know what I wanted to do with it besides incorporate it in a painting of some sort. Recently, the Weeping Window installation has been opened, and being just along the street from me, it's a poignant source of daily inspiration. Made from a number of the ceramic poppies that formed the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London, the Weeping Window has been erected to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Jutland. Having such an influential and emotive piece of art on Orkney (and my doorstep) was just the inspiration I'd been seeking, so I cracked out the paints and this is what I came up with.

The canvas is 4" square so there wasn't a lot of room to work with. However, "detail" was not something I wanted to aim for in the application of the paint. The poppy was constructed using a variety of crochet stitches (bullion, surface, increase and decrease to name a few); the intention is to hide the detail of the crochet in an overall image, where you need to stand close to the piece to see what's going on. I didn't want the crochet to look "stuck on" either - it was important to make both the paint and the crochet look like a single image, and not two separate features that jar against one another. It meant applying the paint as thick as possible, even straight onto the canvas from the tube in some places, and then manipulating it in place.

I'm quite happy with the overall effect of the paint and crochet. I have a couple of other freeform pieces ready to be painted onto larger canvas - playing about with placement and scale is an ongoing experiment, and finding new ways to use crochet in art is something I'm excited to be trying.

What I Want in 2016

At the start of the year, I like to sit back and (literally and figuratively) take stock of the progress, if any, I've made over the past twelve months. 2015 was a pretty productive year for me. I started off determined to pick up spinning and ended up with three wheels by the time Autumn rolled 'round and my spinning has come on leaps and bounds, going from a chunky hot mess of scrunched-up fibres to smooth and consistent cobweb-weight thread. I picked up knitting again after years of neglect and invested in a set of HiyaHiya interchangeable needles that have become my go-to, jumping into lace and colour work without the reluctance I'd felt in the past. I even had a crochet pattern published (with another one upcoming this month), which was the highlight of my creativity in 2015, so the question is now, where do I go from here? Here's some of my personal wishes for the upcoming year:

Spinning

I've found myself suffering from the common affliction that can only be described as "threaditus". Spinners will know this - it's when your hand automatically drafts the fibres into a consistent, thin yarn which looks great, but is actually quite restrictive in terms of creativity. I look at some of my first spun yarns with its interesting features, and then I look at the cobweb threads I spin now, and I sort of miss being able to create something totally unique and full of random characteristics. So, one of my aims in 2016 is to sit down with the copy of The Spinners Book of Yarn Designs I was given as a gift and really try to work out some of the more difficult yarns in it. I'm totally in love with beehive yarn - it's my end goal for the year. Oh, and we recently got a microwave too, so I'll be able to dye fibres a lot easier from now on too! Trying to dye yarn on the cooker is an absolute nightmare of mess, frustration and hit-and-miss results.

Painting

Another thing I want to do more of in 2016 is paint!

These are the most recent of my paintings and they're a good year-and-a-bit old now. I found myself focusing on spinning in 2015, with my visual art being put on the back burner. I found a large blank canvas in a charity shop for a couple of quid just before Christmas, so I have no excuse to not get painting. There's a couple of interesting ideas that have been nagging at me for a few weeks, so I may blog on the process of a painting from sketching to the finished thing.

Crochet and Knitting

Finally, I want to keep pressing on with making my own crochet patterns and items. Picking up spinning and knitting last year gave me the confidence boost I needed to take the step into concrete designing. I keep sketchbooks now in a way I haven't in the few years it's been since I stopped doing so much illustration work. Like most of my sketchbooks, only around 5% of it ever makes it to a complete, realised project but they're always full of useful ideas when I look back on them.