Meet the artist…

I will be at Knit Nottingham on Thursday, 5 – 7pm, to discuss art, community politics and guerilla/ public knitting/ fibre street art and to encourage newbies to have a go at freeform crochet. If you want to bring in your work for us to ooh and aahh at, I love cheerleading  too😉 I even have the pompoms 😀

Here is a vlog from EleanorTV – she knows me as Dee, Vita and Singing Bird, so they all get a roll call😉 but it’s all me, with one pair of hands!

Never assume a hook, yarn and sparkles can’t change the world, we just have to keep on keeping on with the positive message that one person at a time, one conversation at a time, things can be turned around. The big problems are huge, but they all stem from the massed little problems, that people can be turned against others when they do not know them, when they fear them, when they have stopped talking to each other. This is so depressing, so oppressive to live under… but the flipside is that then, anything, any one thing can make a difference, the ripples go outward. When we can open minds with humour or appreciation or even astonishment, we sneak past the prejudice, and then things can change, we can start a conversation that isn’t shut down by fear. And gradually we can make a difference. There are so many people of goodwill, wanting change, but because the big changes are intricate and require huge momentum, feeling powerless. When we take on the little problems instead, we can build a tiny part of that momentum…

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Diversity is Our Strength

diversity online

I’m so  happy to announce that the fibre art installation Diversity is our Strength is now on show at the fabulous new Knit Nottingham at 9, Trinity Walk, Nottingham, until 12th August! Eleanor asked if she could have it for the month of Pride, which in Nottingham falls on the 30th, which made me sooo excited, as it feels like I haven’t shown any art since Peace Week 2014. The Trans-ally quilt flag has been strutting its stuff at some protests, and sadly at the vigil for those killed and wounded at the Latinx night at Pulse, Orlando. I’ve added some delicate ‘spinner’/ twizzels in red,orange, pink and purple with sequins to DIOS to commemorate those whose lives changed forever that night. I have PTSD and fibromyalgia brought on by PTSD, so my thoughts are very much with the survivors who will be needing support in a country that charges enormous amounts for therapy as well as physical medical aid.

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Tonight, I’ve been reading about the third death in 48 hours of a black man, killed in front of his partner and children, by US police officers acting without cause. Tomorrow is 3 weeks since the British referendum result was announced, where a crucial 3% more voted to leave the European Community [and thereby capsize the British Economy, unsettle thousands of longterm/permanent EU residents, lose Britain thousands of necessary workers, and bring armed borders back to Northern Ireland] than to remain… because many of them believed this would stop immigration by asylum seekers from wartorn Syria !!!

 

DSC_0030The level of racism, anti European xenophobia and financial lying that the Leave campaigners used has become the backbone of a campaign by lawyers, scientists, economists and generally people of wider understanding to make sure the exit isn’t carried through. As a disabled person, exit would be a disaster, as a person who considers herself European and a global citizen, I am so ashamed of the level of belief in flawed media and election lies, and now, the wave of racism, xenophobia and just plain nastiness of so many. Leave has promoted racism as ok, and now every day, ‘minor’ incidents of verbal abuse through to smashed windows and most worrying, arson, have been happening. DSC_0039

Diversity was made thinking about the different strands in our DNA, the many fine threads it takes to make a thick rope, the 108 ethnic minorities within the community of Nottingham, the need for unity within the LGBTIQA communities… I’m bi, and I remember being asked to leave a lesbian night in Newcastle because of that, even though I was there with my girlfriend; I never assume gay men will understand underclass politics because so many of the ones I have met have pink pound privilege and old boy network contacts that mean they feel insulated from prejudice; I was spat at by a lesbian for defending transwomens’ right to access Nottingham Women’s Centre. However, I try very hard not to hold grudges, and I will always work towards unity where I can, and it baffles me when people don’t see through the mischief-mongers, trying to divide us while they literally Queen it at the top [her Maj earns as much from her properties as the UK Parliament awards her, and more from so many other sources, why ARE we funding her?] or coast along in their £2million cruisers bought from BHS pension fund plundering… etc etc. The Murdoch Media Empire is very much to blame, the weak opposition allowing so much bad policy to slide through unchallenged, but even so… why are people so willing to believe anyone other than the top elite are to blame?

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I make beautiful pieces in a freeform process because I MISS beauty and integrity in everyday life dealings, I grieve that we are served so poorly by the MPs who mostly forget their constituents [honorable exceptions being the shining lights Jeremy Corbyn, Carolyn Lucas and Mhairi Black] and I work slowly because of my disabling conditions. I spend a lot of spoons on making art, quite a lot of money, [all those bargain queen tiara buys add up!] and call in favours when I am installing – thanks Sam!- and all because I want the results of that process to remind people better things are possible. Inequality is not inevitable, it is the result of choices all of us make, informed by our skills in deciphering what is around us. Some things are just plain wrong [racism, any xenophobia, any bigotry, any abuse of others] but what tools do we have to pit against them?

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I feel arguing shuts others down, I would rather catch their mind, as I catch their eyes in a riot of colour that turns out to have an internal order that accepts and honours DIFFERENCE. There are quotes on posters around the work, part of its site specific installation this time round [it’s been at Nottingham Pride in the Arboretum and in London for Loudest Whispers 14] and they make concrete that message of DIVERSITY IS OUR STRENGTH. We’ve never needed to hear that more, to take heart that we are not alone knowing that it is a truth we must live by, and that it carries great beauty with it, great comfort and harmony and a place to heal, a home truth that places us at the edge and the centre, all at the same time.

 

the blues that make me happy

 

One of the surprises of immersing myself in quilting/patchwork has been finding which fabrics call me: I was an abstract painter for 10 years, then had to take up installations again, this time made with fibres…but still very abstract. The fabrics l like for quilting include a lot of ornate Jacobean style fabrics, paisleys/ botehs, and lately, Delfts and Chinese Blue ware, and even Willowplate:)

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The postie has been bringing me parcels of celestial blues and today I finally get to cut into some! Ebay has been very useful [ahem, as long as I stop now!] for bargains, feature fabrics and a couple of days ago the perfect backing material, a Prestigious Textiles Ginger Jars pattern in cobalt blue on white.

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It’s taken me a long time to settle on a pattern…partly because the fabrics are so beautiful – it’s much harder to cut into expensive and powerfully patterned materials. Laying some splashes and a wash helps ‘break’ a pure white canvas, but there’s no real equivalent for fabrics! Part of the problem was feeling I wanted to handsew, but cutting the hexagons at the same size I’ve used before wouldn’t display some of the picture fabrics well.

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Choosing an enlarged 9cm per side hexie for those, and then interspersing smaller hexies with the extended 1/2 hexie frame solves that, but oh my, that took a long time to figure out! There are so many possibilities for quilt patches, blocks and patterns, choosing can give you decision fatigue!

Due to fibrofog, I need to keep the pattern simple – I stitched some rosettes together last night and saw this morning one is upside down, grrr. I either unpick 5 seams or live with butterflies and trees upside down to each other.. avoiding that sort of mistake would be good😉

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Again, because the fabrics are so beautiful, the pattern can be very simple – these blues are singing!

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stumbling on is still progress

Working in small and steady efforts has never been my longsuit, I only really got the hang of it after a couple of years on my derelict allotment, when big blitzes failed to turn it round but exhausted me for weeks [mainly mentally/emotionally, coping as an organic/ permaculture agoraphobic with everyone stopping in to advise me to spray it with petrol and burn everything off… omg… there were car batteries and all sorts in there!]

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I’ve been working away on the handsewing for the ‘spring rain’ duvet cover, the quilting for the volunteers quilt and some gifts… I’m delighted that Eleanor has been able to achieve her dream of expanding Knit Nottingham into more central premises that are over twice the size, and wanted to make her a present, so this is one of 2 big cushion covers [2’/ 65cm squares] that now adorn her shop sofa:) Her colour scheme is green/teal and white, and to my chagrin, there is now a sheepy knitting fabric in those colurs, but when I searched only reds and greys seemed available, sigh.

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I’ve also made her some organza totes for shoppers to use now they have to walk up and down, to tide her over till her own design comes through ;)  I feel really proud of/for her, I feel she has done something really amazing in this dismal financial climate to create such goodwill and build such success from a tiny shop a bus stop out of the centre to now be in a central arcade of homemade/ quality/ ooak shops… a link – cos after all, you might want to buy online from her rather than some faceless multiple:)

http://www.knitnottingham.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/knitnottingham/?fref=ts

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Anyway, other progress includes FINISHING the quilt for WorldwideTribe/ other volunteers at the refugee camps in Europe and Syria. It’s a flimsy stitched to fleece, not the full wadding sandwich, but even that has been very hard on my back, so I’ve been working weekly for about half an hour at a time, with a lie-down in the middle… It’s now ready to go with the semi-industrial machine I am donating. I used the automatic stitches on my small machine to make leaf patterns instead of binding and used wavy lines to make a ripple effect. It’s very cosy and the spring colours bring some sunshine:)

The duvet cover I have been working on most nights, sewing a few hexagons before turning my lights out. I started planning it in February and have been stitching hexies for weeks, but have now made the first two rows of machine patches, 15 cm squares. That gives me the ‘edges’ to sew the 6’/1.95 x 18″/45cm block to, and release the side templates of thin card. At that point I may wash it as Nonie has slept on it, washed herself with full generosity of sharing maximum black fluff, and clawed it when annoyed by my lack of attention! It also suffered when a pack of wet wipes spread dye from the brown fabric onto the alstroemerias… sigh… but finishing that big block has been really pleasing, although stitching the two machine rows in less than 20 minutes made me understand why some people could never imagine hand sewing a quilt!

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What next you cry? more hexies to handsew as I machine the duvetcover patches, that night time routine is really soothing – and productive, I now know. So, an impulse buy from Ebay plus a mishap from an online store are now turning into a new cushion cover… mishap? Those teacups are a LOT bigger that I thought😀

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saying thank you

CONTENT WARNING: PTSD, STATE VIOLENCE, FLASHBACKS ETC

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Like most of you, I have been following the news from Calais and Lesvos with great gratitude to those brave volunteers who are out there helping. They know what they are giving up in the moment, but I find myself worried at what they may be storing up… PTSD is horrible, and I’ve been suffering with it for over 30 years now. I saw activists being kicked down a spiral staircase to the cellars at a blockaded conference centre by the West German police and 2 other women joined me in smashing the double glazed window, showering glass all over the stairs. I’m a follower of NVDA, non-violent direct action and even careful about property, so it had actually been an accident, we were beating a rhythm on the window, saw the glass moving and stopped – which caused it to shatter…Later the [activist] guy on the stairs told me how scary it had been facing being kicked down and how after the glass showered down the police had to pick their own way…and stopped beating the guys up until they were in the cellar😦 A week later he was still seeing the stairs in flashes and nursing a broken thumb, nose, and 2 broken ribs. 10 years later I was still seeing and ‘feeling’ the policemen with guns pressing us in on each other in our human chain. I still can’t cope with loud shouting, crowds, and men with guns.. I have a lot of other reasons to have PTSD, but this is the closest to what I fear for the brave volunteers, doing good but acquiring unwanted memories which will haunt for years, helping people, but also pulling dead bodies from the water, burying babies..seeing French police teargas people already traumatized before they even set off on the escape to ‘safety’ as they’d hoped and deserved…

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Last week Worldwide Tribe  https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/theworldwidetribe mentioned on their Facebook page how useful sewing machines would be. Now I have a midarm /semi-industrial sewing machine that I got in a sale, got a donation towards from a friend making a professional commission and have used for a couple of quilts, see the Lakelight Quilt slideshow [button on top right] and then haven’t even been able to lift, never mind use it for 2 years… So I’ve contacted the Tribe and luckily they can collect it:) I’m so happy about this!

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And then it struck me, ooh, a chance to get a quilt to the volunteers without diverting from refugee support… so this last weekend I have been working hard and got the quilt top pinned to a fleece back by a friend [thanks Onni!] so now I can take the quilting slowly – hopefully!

At 1.5m/5′ square I can manage it on my ordinary machine, 20 minutes at a time…DSC_0097

Thinking about what has comforted me most in my journey with PTSD, being outside in nature, by the sea or moving water for choice, gardening, colour and art, spring have all played their part, knowing that someone cares, and wants to help… So I got out the spring/ crocus coloured fabrics I won on eBay a couple of weeks ago, and set to:) My corners don’t meet cos my squares turned into oblongs somewhere along the way, but I doubt this will be a problem…being washable does, so a fleece backing and no wadding means it’s cosy without being too heavy for a machine.

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Comfort quilts are traditionally given to victims of crime, the bereaved.. but I think the same principle applies, a sense of how the world works, that it ought to be more fair than it is, is what gets broken when trauma is induced. When there isn’t enough acknowledgement of how one has been affected and feelings are pushed down to keep going… that’s when trauma becomes PTSD… so that someone cared enough to make a quilt for the volunteers may strike them as odd, it’s the refugees who need help…but maybe somewhere that seed of care and love has been sown, that their needs should be acknowledged too, that I am grateful for what they are giving, and hundreds more send love with it…

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new directions

I’ve been having a flare, brought on by filling in the ESA benefit form: telling unsympathetic people how impaired your abilities are now  for 20 pages is not good for morale. PIP forms are even harder and should be filled in with the help of a welfare advisor so you tick the right boxes, phrasing can make a big difference!

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Getting over the side effects of withdrawing from Venlafaxine was easier than I expected, probably because I managed to make a good care plan, but also a dollop of good luck😉

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One of the tactics I used was a new craft project: handsewn patchwork. New…although I have very fond memories of sewing at middle school where a group of us gathered to sew at lunchtime…I used to be able to sew with either hand and can still sew in either direction, though I tend to sew right to left. Perhaps from the Jewish tailors in my grandfather’s family! I like to think so, I’m certainly a lot neater stitching by hand than by machine where art takes over😉

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I discovered just how relaxing it is to scroll through pages of fabric remnants on eBay, and how much less relaxing it is running through my budget at the end of the month to see if I can pay PA after rent day! EEK! I definitely have a slight problem there… the trouble is none of it is undirected, no buyer’s remorse, I love everything I chose and have projects for it all, I just need to regain my trust that other equally beautiful fabric will be available later… an abundance issue… not helped by that demoralising ESA form, or by friends being very busy, therapist away on training, chiropractor away on a visit etc etc but meanwhile any stress was easiest met by looking at all the lovely fabrics. I had a breakthrough when a search needed me to go via Pinterest and I finally opened an account there. Now I understand why friends find it so therapeutic! I can save all the lovely images there, and NOT on the watch list!

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There is recent research showing looking at beauty in nature or art is very healing/creates a very positive mindset*, so I comforted myself that at least I was filling my mind with lovely ideas, and as long as I actually made/completed things, all would be well – trust the process!

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So finishing my first project has been great, and then having to choose between 3 new projects less so, but getting settled into the next one has been lovely.

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And then yesterday I started seeing lots of possibilities for integrating these very beautiful, very finished fabrics into mixed media collages. They could start with a quilted or patchwork base and then free form out with feathers, beads, my usual ‘more is more’ embellishment approach ;)  I’ve always found it very hard to integrate large patches of very finished cloth or paper into my collages, it seems like stealing or relying on other’s skills, appropriationist… but I am starting to see how the art of the quilter is to harness and enhance and balance those different forces, to make a cohesive whole out of those wild horses, pulling in all directions…One of the reasons I have bought so much I suspect is that my stash was of fabrics still too strong for me to tame😉 It will be much easier to start with florals, paisleys/botehs**  and abstract tie-dyes than very stylized/design heavy pieces covered with another artist’s stamp…

Meanwhile Nonie has no problems expressing dominance😉 I should take notes!

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gold lining

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I’ve been having a lot of luck recently – bad luck with med change and detaching my knee cap from its tracking [ow!] but also good luck with crafting supplies. I mentioned to Cherise the quilt I admire [Passecaglia, drool] but could never make because it takes an immense amount of cutting out, not just ordinary or frugal quilting where you trim, but ‘fussy cutting’ where you find particularly pleasing parts of the design and centre your template on them. You don’t have to waste the rest of the fabric, but you often cut in a long way to get a small piece, several times, and that becomes a lot of repetitive strain if you’re susceptible, which I now am. There are amazing cutter gadgets you can get, but they start at £100, which is a lot to pay when l’m not sure how much it would get used.

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A few hours later, Cherise messaged me that a local crafters Facebook group had a secondhand Sizzix Plus on offer for £25!! I immediately messaged the seller and she kindly dropped it off the next day – happy dance! Now this was the weekend before Xmas, and I knew I’d need cutters as the seller was upgrading, not abandoning making. The mangle bit is fed a sandwich of cutting buffer sheets, a VERY SHARP cutter in the shapes you want – and for paper, some of these are amazingly complex – and the paper, card or fabric. So I betook myself to the tintanet and with Cherise’s expert help [she used to do classroom support at a crafting place] chose hexagon cutters for the paper templates and separate ones for fabric.. and then, cos, well, they’re amazing, I got these:

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to make pretties with:)

They all arrived before Xmas, and when Cherise could show me how to use them! So I was all set up for my quilty retreat, I’d found free downloadable graphpaper for hexagon quilting and we printed off a dozen sheets.

http://incompetech.com/graphpaper/triangle/

the link takes you to triangles, but they offer music paper etc.

The fabric company I buy from regularly gave me a £10 voucher for my birthday, and the parcel had been delayed, due to lazy or stressed delivery peeps ignoring the directions [access via is a BIG clue when you can’t find the address on the top line, sigh] but I had finally collected it without the delivery card [takes soooo much proof when they put the postcard somewhere you can’t get it!] so, I was all set!

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but when I was buying the hexie cutter, I saw this charm pack, a set of 30 different fabrics in 10cm squares, and suddenly I wanted to make a quilt based on the the cloisonne/ Kona Bay style Japanese fabrics…

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drool!

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Perhaps because I painted in a very abstract style, I’ve always had a ‘guilty pleasure’ feeling about liking this style so much… I don’t wear jewellery now except my wedding ring and a jade necklace Andy gave me, but when I had my ear pierced I wore enamel star and moons in this style…

So, by now I was feeling very abundant with this feast of good luck and good timing, and an exciting new project, but it kept rolling! For the first time I went on eBay, and found some lovely fabrics in this style, and even tentatively placed bids [ what, with no adult to supervise?!]  which promptly won! One of the colours was way out, it showed black and arrived green, but that’s screen resolution for you, one of the photos I took of it reads black. Anyway, at a quarter of the normal price, not a problem:)

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All three parcels, even the one from Thailand arrived on New Years Eve, which was a lovely sunny morning here, and I had the loveliest time stacking the fabrics for tone and colour matching, and feasting on all that gold lining…

 

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Yes, more than a silver lining in my clouds, I have gold, kintsugi.

I have a cracked knee that hurts like you wouldn’t believe, because it has triggered a neuralgia/sciatica ‘burning wire being dragged through my leg’ pain, but I also have a pile of 105 hexagons, cut in 25 minutes with effortless ease… and paper patterns to colour in and plan …and finding a way to make things easier builds hope that there may be other bits of luck just waiting around the corner…

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and the best way to help painkillers to work is to find a distraction, and so… they are..

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