Starting the New Year

It makes me very happy to hit the ground running in January! I do enjoy Christmas but crave getting back to my studio and creating new work. I had prepared so many painted silk pieces for my Australia trip last October that it seemed a good idea to lay them all out in my studio, and work towards the completion of each one. I use images that inspire me as examples for courses so the intention is always to complete them.

It was interesting looking at them all again, quite a range of subject matter, lots of flowers and some seascapes, also woodlands and dramatic skies. Hard to choose which one to work on first! A lot of the creative decisions have been made by the time I have a painted background, a commitment to colour, image size, shape and composition, so in most cases each painted background was ready for my stitching to add texture, depth and definition.

Working these prepared backgrounds is a great way to get me back into the creative zone. As with many things I do it’s become part of my annual routine. I always focus on producing new work for exhibitions in the first few months of the year. Then a week at Chelsea in May swiftly followed by my Open Studios in June, then the summer ( if we get one!) Finally in October my 6 week teaching trip to Australia…if I am in a rut, it’s a very happy rut! There is of course a liberal sprinkling of teaching throughout the whole year, with courses at my studio and around the UK.

I am always pleased to have a magazine article about my work, there were two last year and one in 2017 already. This time it’s in “Be Creative with Workbox, a four page spread of a snow scene which is the winter project out of my Woodlands book.

 

New work in the M1 Fine Art Gallery

I have some new work in the M1 Fine Art gallery in Greenwich, London this week.
10 pieces in total, a range of colourful countryside scenes, including bluebells, daffodils and poppies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is the Summer Exhibition and I am deighted to have my embroideries included in this predigious show. The opening night is July 15th but the work will be on display throughout the whole summer. Please go along and take a look!

Juggling pictures and a magazine.

With Chelsea Flower Show and my Open Studios event behind me I can now focus on producing some new work. I have a range of colourful landscapes for the Summer Exhibition at The M1 Gallery in Greenwich and also work in the Willow Gallery, Oswestry plus 4 pieces for an art exhibition in Bickerton, Cheshire. The studio is littered with work covered in colour coded post-it notes as I try and decide which pictures should go where! I try to give a mixture of price range and subject matter to each exhibition and just when I think I have worked it all out I realise I need to keep a certain picture with me as it illustrates a course I will be teaching soon!

Behind the scenes my website has had an overhaul,  it doesn’t look very different but it has some new buttons, sub menus and a general tidy up. Apparently a website is never finished it continues to evolve! I get a lot of positive feedback about mine, long may that continue, thank you Myk for all your hard work and technical knowhow.

My courses are filling rapidly for this year and next, always lovely to see students return for more and exciting to meet a few new ones too.

I am still optimistic we will get a summer but it needs to hurry up, I am seriously fed up with all this rain!

This month Border Welsh Life have written a great 3 page article about me being inspired by the local countryside. They have included lots of photographs of my work too. It is good to have some exposure in a local magazine.

Teaching and preparing for Chelsea

The months are flying by as they usually do when there is lots going on. I am trying to get all my embroideries ready to exhibit them at Chelsea in May as well as fit in my teaching. Always a balancing act, but for someone who thrives on variety it’s all good!

I find it interesting that the demand for me to devise new courses leads me to produce work which illustrates and supports them. I taught ‘Up Close and Personal’ for the first this year and in preparation I looked at some of the roses in my garden for inspiration. This is the painting of a climbing white rose I produced to inspire my students. Quite a departure for me, but something I really enjoyed exploring.The course was a great success and I was very pleased with how everyone tackled the subject matter. Here are the students in my studio at the end of the course…still smiling! 

I also had a great weekend at Plas Tan Y Bwlch this month with the North Wales Embroiderers Guild, a lovely group of students at a super venue. The wonderful work both sets of students produced is on my website

My own embroideries continue to develop, especially with exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show as motivation to create a body of work. I have produced a new large landscape for centre stage as I sold the piece from last years show. I have aimed for variety in the work but flowers, gardens and woodlands feature heavily. Here are a couple, the rest of the new work can be seen on the embroideries page and of course at Chelsea. I hope to see you there!

The beginning of the year

I do love the time over New Year, with new beginnings and a fresh start. After a busy year I look forward to the time off over Christmas and enjoy the family time enormously but my desire to get back to ‘normal’ leads me rapidly into the studio to get creative.

It’s a good time to plan new work, try out ideas that I have been mulling over for weeks. Time to experiment a little, take some risks, tackle a big project with no time restrictions. I wanted to make another sweeping vista style landscape and choosing the right image is so important. Last August, on my way from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to Manchester, driving along through the beautiful countryside of the Derbyshire Peak District, I took masses of photographs. I was captivated by the tracery of crumbling dry stone walls creating a network of fields, with distant sunlit hills covered in purple heather, visually stunning! I have often thought of that scene and was keen to make an embroidery that captured my feelings on that day. My aim was to find a composition that conveyed the enormous sense of scale and all the textures, details, colours.

A sketch of the composition on several sheets of A4 paper.

I based the composition on a series of photographs, I played around to get the perspective right, sketching out 2 or 3 versions until I was happy with it. I then draw it out on silk and paint a background wash adding extra detail to the sky.

I work within an 8 in embroidery hoop so I stitch one section at a time until its complete, moving the hoop as many as 8 or 9 times to access all the composition. I do like this way of working, I don’t get overwhelmed by the scale of the piece. It is 26 x 12 inches and focusing on one small area at a time seems to work well for me. Of course it could be because I have always done it this way. If it aint broke, don’t fix it!

There is a real momentum that builds on the success of each stage of the picture. As I progress from area to area working out the colours and stitch techniques I am spurred on to complete it. I call it being in the zone, it’s a great feeling!

Finally, the finished piece, and an enormous sense of achievement.

The first outing for my new work will be exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show in May, its a few months away but I have my centre piece ready!

The Willow Gallery, Oswestry

I really appreciate the very good, long running relationship that I have with my local gallery in Oswestry. The Willow, is a wonderful space, cleverly converted from a former car show room, hence the large windows and fantastic light. Big comfortable sofas and a great coffee shop which serves really good food too.

I always have a selection of my work on display, often invited to put pieces in a current exhibition and my books, DVD and cards are always for sale in the shop.

For the Summer Exhibition I put in several large new pieces including ‘Under a Green Canopy’ which I am thrilled to say they have sold this week. There is something so satisfying to sell so close to home (5 minute walk). I sell my work all over the world but this felt really good!

Between Wisley and Chelsea

The Wild Garden at Wisley

I have returned from my first show of the year at RHS Wisley, nr Guildford. It really was a top quality show in beautiful surroundings. We had 5 days to enjoy the gardens and meet new and valued customers, their response to my new embroideries was really wonderful. The event was also a great a practice run for Chelsea, after being in glorious isolation at home for months since my last exhibition it can be a shock to the system! I returned to see the progress on my new studio. Its a major project with a cloakroom, utility room and the studio room with its 2 sets of bi-fold glass doors. Its going to be ready for my Private View on June 12th…hopefully! I am thrilled with how it looks and can’t wait to get in there with my sewing machine and hang my embroideries on the walls.

Starting to lay the oak floorboards

Preparations for Chelsea are now high on my agenda, with a few more embroideries to frame and plants and pots to organise for the stand its a busy time. The mammoth task of fitting everything into the car is a challenge, we always manage somehow! There is so much to remember, hi-vis jackets, tickets, screwdriver, framing gun, clothes for all weather conditions, etc. etc. It is the major event of my year and demands my full attention before and during the week we are there. This will be my 22nd year as an exhibitor…I should know what I’m doing by now!

My centre piece for the stand at the Chelsea Flower Show ( 23 x 36 ins)

Juggling everything!

Its an interesting time of year when the creative and the admin have to run parallel. There is little point in me creating new embroideries and courses if I don’t let people know about them and create opportunities to exhibit them!

So this month I have been getting my annual promotional postcard designed, (thank you Myk) printed and posted. It features 14 of my new embroideries. My printers have made it their postcard of the month on their website

I have also been busy filling in endless forms for this years exhibitions and shows, listing my new teaching venues and exhibitions on my website. I have designed a whole new set of greetings cards they will be available from my website and exhibitions. I have had 2 magazine articles to write too. One will be published in June in an Australian magazine, Textile Fibre Forum, the other is online on shopper lottie a new blog that has an interesting range of interviews.

I also had my new pieces professionally photographed (thank you Myk) and they are on the website gallery to view. Sourcing new picture molding and clarity glass (thank you Nel) was another job to tick off the list

I quite enjoy the range and variety of tasks but as shows and exhibitions appear to gallop towards me I feel I need to be in the studio making embroideries. There are not enough days in the week! Oh and booking flights and hotels too but who is going to complain about planning a trip to Australia or Prague…not me!

January’s racing by

Approaching Candy Woods

Its been a busy month so far, with wet and windy weather and even a bit of snow the best place to be is a warm studio! I have been thoroughly immersed in some new embroideries. This is a piece “Approaching Candy Woods” which I have just completed. Inspired by a series of photographs I took last autumn walking the dog near home. Working on the piece was bitter sweet, bringing lovely memories of that day but sadness too because our dog, Toby is no longer with us. There he was in nearly every photograph, he is missed by the whole family.

I have enjoyed working on my 2 new Australian influenced embroideries. I had to complete and photograph them in time for the magazine deadline in February. I have written my 1000 words for the article, as my youngest son said ” Easy, that’s not many words”. There speaks a boy in his final year at University with research projects and dissertations to write. It was plenty thank you!

I have some interesting offers of teaching and exhibiting in 2016 and 2017. I can hardly bear to think that far ahead but have to! I do love the fact an email out of the blue can be an amazing opportunity. The wonders of the internet, social media but just as importantly the sales of my book world wide all helps to spread the word about what I do. Long may the exciting new ventures come my way. Otherwise there is nothing to write about in my blog!

Out with the old…in with the new

This will be the last post of 2014, it has been a great year for me with lots of highlights. It is lovely to reflect on it all before moving forward to my plans for 2015. My forthcoming year has a familiar pattern to it, a creative time in my studio followed by lots of teaching, exhibition opportunities and another trip to Australia in the autumn. I will start the year with a commission, my client has waited patiently for several months. I am looking forward to working on it, always a pleasure to make an embroidery for someone. I have been approached by an Australian magazine Textile Fibre Forum, they are going to publish an article on me, featuring new embroideries inspired by my travels down under, it will be in the June issue. So I will be preparing some images and text in the next few weeks.

I have had confirmation of my main exhibiting opportunities. Starting in May, with the RHS, the first one at Wisley and later that month at the Chelsea Flower Show. So I will be planning new work with those shows in mind. I will open my studio in June for 2 weekends, I am looking forward to some warmer weather by then!

I am excited by the prospect of building a new studio here at Highfield. I have been in the attic for 14 years and have decided a larger ground floor space to work and teach in would be wonderful. I will post progress reports when the work starts.

Wishing everyone a Happy Creative New Year!

The Lake District embroidery is finished!

I have finally finished this embroidery. Several weeks of work, a lot of moving the hoop from section to section and eventually it was complete. I am pleased with the end result and I plan to hide it away for a few weeks and then run a very critical eye over it before I stretch then frame it

I recorded each stage and I now have a page on my website where anyone interested in the whole process can see all the stages. The link is also on my home page.

Work in Progress

I am in the middle…no, not quite,  I am a quarter of the way through a large landscape embroidery!
It is a scene in the Lake District based on sketches and photographs from a trip 3 years ago, so I have been thinking about it for some time
The silk painted background is clearly visible with the white lines left from the gutta I used when drawing out the composition. I have started the stitching at the most distant point and will increase the richness of colour and amount of texture as I work through to the foreground
I am photographing it at each stage to make it part of my slide show lecture, so this is a sneak preview. I will post the finished piece in a few days time…just kidding… a few weeks time when I have completed it

It measures approximately 24 x 14 inches and will be my largest embroidery so far (excluding my sci fi sweater!)

Preparing for Chelsea Flower Show

On the telephone, framing pictures with one hand and ironing clothes with the another….not quite, but it feels that hectic in the lead up to Chelsea! The biggest and the best show of my year and only a couple of days to go. So much to think about in addition to all the embroideries, cards, books etc. I will be taking.

It will be an opportunity to show off some of my new work, such as the “As the Sun Goes Down” with its reflected autumn tints, inspired by my trip to Maine last year.

Today was the usual last minute panic buying of the ‘floral content’ for my exhibition stand. This year was supposed to be different but the bulbs my husband kindly planted with Chelsea in mind are long over their best due to the warm weather earlier in the year. The best laid plans…

I will be squashing it all into the car on Saturday and heading to London early Sunday morning. Its a wonderful feeling when I get to Sunday evening and everything is ready for the opening of the show. Then all we need is some sunshine!

My Postcard

My annual promotional jumbo postcard is ready for printing.This always showcases a selection of my new work produced over the winter months. My logic is, if I am exhibiting my new embroideries it makes sense to tell people when and where I will be throughout the year! I will be posting about 600 of them out in the next few weeks. Despite the rising postal costs I still think a large colourful postcard has more impact than an email.

Its rather good to know that people collect them each year and put them on the fridge door or somewhere they can see them.

Creating the embroideries is only the beginning, so a huge thanks to Myk who photographs my work so well and is a whiz on Photoshop, he always does a great job for me on the postcard design, patience of a saint!

Plans for 2014

I am working on new pieces and enjoying it enormously. I am revisiting an idea of using torn and layered paper collage then adding stitching for detail and definition. Its feels like an interesting diversion and I have an exhibition opportunity locally in Oswestry in mind for the work. I am also working on a series of embroideries based on my trip to Maine. The year is stretching out in front of me with exhibitions and teaching commitments to look forward to.

I will be at Chelsea Flower Show in May again this year and June will be Open Studios time at home in Oswestry but before then I am at a Craft in Focus show at RHS Wisley . So lots of my work needed to fill the walls. There is no better motivation!

I am busy planning another teaching trip to Australia in November. The dates and details are slowly coming together. So far it looks as if I will be starting in Perth and then moving on to Melbourne and Tasmania. I will put all the details on my courses page when the course content and dates are finalised

I do like this time of year (apart from cold, wet, windy weather!) with plenty of time in my studio to develop ideas and the prospect of lots of events and trips to look forward to

Back in my studio

This week was all about getting back into the creative process. Its the longest break I can remember away from my studio. With preparations for Australia, the 5 week trip followed by Christmas its nearly 3 months since I worked on my own embroideries! Will I remember how to do it? How can I get back into the process ?

The studio was a mess with my teaching folders and samples, empty frames, fabric and paperwork on every surface including the floor. It was impossible to work in there so yesterday I started to tidy up, it was a gentle reaquaintance with everything and it was lovely to be back in my familiar space with time to think about what to do next.

I found half finished embroideries, photographs, silk paintings and sketches of foaming waves and rocks I had planned to work from. I also had new photographs from my holiday in Maine with fabulous woodlands in autumn colours. I had gone to Australia before I could consider embroideries based on those images. I had ferns, moss covered trees and fast flowing streams in Tassie and the inspiring scenery along the Great Ocean Road. Too much choice and I didn’t know where to start!

Tidying up soon morphed into a bit of sketching, with lots of photos spread out before me. The tree ferns were my first choice and then I realised stitching was what I had really been missing.

So I dived into a picture I had started as a demonstration on a ‘Etched in Frost’ course a few months ago. I stretched up the silk, selected the thread colours, filled some bobbins and I was back in the zone! Bliss!

It probably won’t be the best piece of work I produce in 2014 but its a start and its great to be back. I shall revisit and tweak it into shape later. I need to find my rhythm and the familiar process will follow. Onwards now to new silk paintings and more stitching.

 

Inspiring Vacation

I am enjoying the delights of Boston and Maine. A well earned break between all the travelling, exhibiting and teaching this year. The scenery is inspiring. From the ocean outside the house to the autumn ( or should I say Fall ) colours up into the mountains. I am busy taking lots of photographs and can see what my winter projects will be based on!

Only 4 weeks until I set off for Australia. Still lots to organise but the intinary is set and the courses are full. I am looking forward to it all immensely

If at first…..

I recently completed an embroidery, a sunlit mountain vista. During the process I had suspected the sky was too detailed and would fight with, not complement the landscape. When I had finished the stitching I realised I was right and something had to be done. So on a new piece of silk, I painted another sky and then took brave but necessary action! Here is the story…….

The landscape and the sky part company!

I hand stitched the embroidery to the new sky ( Yes, thats correct, me, hand stitching!)

Stretched in a hoop so I can freehand stitch the pieces together

The back of the work showing the lines of stitching blending in with the existing embroidery

Finished!

Its a view of Dinas Mawddwy, a beautiful part of Wales near Dolgellau.

Too Busy to Blog!

I started this blog to keep people up to date with all my activities but the last 3 weeks have been so hectic I haven’t had time to write anything!
I have been teaching an Etched in Frost course in Dorset with Dennie Rose and then in Devon for the West Country Embroiderers where we did a 2 day Seascapes course. Then 2 days at home before off to France for the Quilt Expo en Beaujoais . This was an amazing 4 day Art Textiles show Nr Lyon with some very talented textile artists and quilters there who I really enjoyed meeting. I am home again now and preparing for the show in Kent which starts next week at Penshurst Place nr Tonbridge. This is one of the new pieces I will being taking with me

Hidden Depths

All Change at The Willow Gallery

I have been to The Willow Gallery in Oswestry today to hang some of my recently completed embroideries. I always have some of my  work in the gallery and try to change the display every month. Currently showing 2 new pieces Ebb and Flow a study of the sea in Madeira and Rushing By inspired by a walk in the woods in North Devon last year. I hope you can get there to see them.

Rushing By a Machine Embroidery by Alison Holt – £595