I thought I’d write a walk through of how I make mixed media pieces, so anyone who wants to be can be looking over my shoulder while I think out loud (the rest, of course go and do something that suits you better 😉 ) as at exhibitions and in groups I’m often asked about how to relax into the process. There are lots of approaches, mine is much more intuitive/less designed than discussed in most of the books, and relies quite a lot on having previously prepared elements and collected treasure to draw on (aka upcycling my mistakes and other people’s trash 😉 ), so is a lot more maximalist/SABLE (stash acquired beyond life expectancy) than my yarn tagging and garden pieces. It may help you relax about all those lovely materials sitting on shelves in your studio, which in turn will bring them off the shelves and onto the table to be played with 😉

This is paste paper, paper I’ve spread with a mixture of flour and water paste dyed with acrylic paint and brusho, then combed it and drawn lines with the end of a paint brush. One day I had the itch to make, and an idea to try out..which failed…it happens… so coming across this, I took it to the sewing machine and stitched on it (if you haven’t tried this, start with the needle down in the paper and just go very slowly at first with a smallish piece of paper, A5 at most, using an old needle (remember how paper ruins your scissors? same for needles) and use strong thread.) Then I felt like playing with fire! Out with the woodburning tool, following the lines of the paste…change marks, more play…pause for fibro break…

and picked up again another day when the painkillers finally kicked in…giving me a creativity window. So what next? Mmmm, some leaves  I collected walking along the road one day…gathering as many looks from passers-by as leaves!

Once I’d stitched the disintegrating leaf down, I had a name for the piece, killing the thing that flew, and after that I added the feathers…I think when a piece names itself like that it’s really helpful to keep repeating it as more layers build up, so that the original energy remains..

So by now I knew this was an art piece, rather than craft, because the process was now emotional/philosophical as well as technical/formal (yes, I know art can be purely formal, but I’m not making  that kind) and I was starting to see how I might be extending the work beyond the paper, so a stronger support would be needed. Lots of options available, but for now I reached for a favourite of mine, hessian, which just like on blue peter children’s tv, I had prepared earlier, back in Hucknall I think, so MUCH earlier 😉

The hessian was stained with watered down acrylic and dabbed with gold acrylic paint, the children’s kind (less toxic) and the sparkly bits are brusho metallics. I was making a set of fabrics for xmas crafts, so lots of red, gold and green or solstice blue, purple and gold dust were wafting down from papers and fabrics. The multicoloured lace is upcyled from a failed piece made from industrial remnants of lingerie lace fabric (stretch lace for bodies etc). Again, start with the needle down, take it slowly and all will be well:

Remember the machine cords I love making? I have some in these colours… also sequins, beads,    the loose threads I’ve pulled out from the hessian edges, cassia bark, more papers in similar colours   that I can stamp words on, using the alphabet letters and inkpads Cherise gave me for my birthday.

What words…mmmm…

killing the thing that flew

 the wordleaf that was dancing for joy in tumbling winds

 caught in the wrong current;

 swallowed by mud thick apologies,

 too heavy to fly again, sank, heartheavy…

-when I was stitching the big leaf down, what rose to mind was a muddle I’ve made, that I hope will be sorted out, but has that stickiness to it, that takes down butterflies in spider webs…

I haven’t the patience/spoons to concentrate intently against brain fog to stamp all that letter by letter, and this isn’t an illustrated poem, so thank goodness I don’t need to!

Sooo, perhaps :

killing the thing that flew


dancing for joy        tumbling winds

I will add indelible ink/cd writer pen to the lettering to make it more readable, but I really like type/letraset fonts, as my handwriting is italic script at best and spidercrawl at worst 😉  And adding pigment ink means the script will last longer if the eventual recipient hangs it in full sunlight.

I know things will change as placing the stamped letters will set off sparks of connection between what’s already on there and spaces will demand new elements…I’m starting to think about what will be supporting this too, a ready stretched canvas is the easiest and a background of torn images of vegetation appeals..by then it will be almost impossible for me to get a needle through that many layers, so things like sequins and beads need to be worked in soon.

So the next steps will be getting out more possible elements and playing around with placement. A great tip Chris Standen, our tutor on City and Guilds Machine Embroidery gave us was to record layouts with a digital camera so we could compare things side by side, and if you keep a sketchbook,  print them out to refer back to, at a later date you may want to take the other path!

A busy few days ahead,  therapist, home help, chiropractor, lunch with my mother-in-law, coffee with friends, so part 2 will probably follow in a week, but no promises!