english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Chen Man exhibition at the Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester

Me and Phil spent the weekend in Manchester, visiting galleries, shopping & generally wandering around. One of the reasons we made the trip was to see the Chen Man exhibition at Chinese Arts Centre. Chen Man is a leading fashion photographer within China, but this is her first solo exhibition in the UK. I wasn’t previously familiar with her work, but knew it as for me when I saw the exhibition advertised! Chen Man’s work has a very kitsch, stylised look – with her images heavily edited in post-production. I found some of her work, in particular the second image below, reminiscent of Liu Ye. The exhibition is only small (as is the gallery as a whole) but includes a mixture of early and more recent works, including the following:

From the Double Mickey series:

Chen Man Exhibition at Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester

From the Young Pioneers series:

Chen Man Exhibition at Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester

From the Vision magazine cover series:

Chen Man Exhibition at Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester

Chen Man Exhibition at Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester


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Made in the Middle

Last Tuesday me and Phil went to the MAC after work for a valentine’s day screening of Brief Encounter. Prior to the film we visited the Made in the Middle craft exhibition which is currently located at the MAC prior to going on tour. Going to a craft exhibition after work isn’t Phil’s first choice for an evening out but as it was valentines day he couldn’t really say no:) Plus he had a film screening afterwards to make up for it.

The Made in the Middle exhibition features work by regional artists working in various crafty mediums, which this year included paper, textile, jewellery, and pottery. My absolute favourite pieces were by Clare Willard who creates amazing images which have a print-like quality and boldness by laser cutting and laminating wood:
Made in the Middle at MAC, Birmingham UK

One of the key themes of the exhibition was the background of the artists and how they had gotten into craft careers. It was really fascinating to see the number of artists who had moved into artistic careers through evening courses.

Below are a handful of images of pieces from the exhibition.

by Madana Thompson:
Made in the Middle at MAC, Birmingham UK

English Hedgerow by Andrew Tanner and Unanico:

Made in the Middle at MAC, Birmingham UK

Made in the Middle at MAC, Birmingham UK
Made in the Middle at MAC, Birmingham UK

Disembowelled White Goods by Laura McCafferty:
Made in the Middle at MAC, Birmingham UK


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Good Fortune (福) in Linocut

I attended a linocut printing workshop at the Barber Institue today (there was an old fashioned gender divide in our house as I did some chores and went to a craft workshop, while Phil went into Liverpool to watch football!).

This is the second printing workshop I’ve attended at the Barber. They’re more relaxed than other workshops I’ve attended, as they allow time for an overview of the art form, a gallery tour and time sketching within the gallery. Having said that, once the actual crating starts they’re less serene (for me at least) as I tend to create designs that take a while to cut-out so need to put my head down and work fast to finish on time.

Alex Jolly who runs the workshops uses basic/low cost tools and materials so that it’s easy to purchase the same supplies and carry on at home. I’m thinking of ordering some supplies and having a go at printing onto fabric. We don’t really have any space in the house where I can risk making a big mess, so I might take over some space in the shed (traditionally Phil’s domain) for a printing workstation. I’ll have to wait until it gets a bit warmer though as I don’t fancy sitting out there for many hours at a time at the moment.

To give us some ideas and inspiration we went on a tour of the gallery’s Chinese artifacts, which include a jade cup and wooden box created for use by emperors. Apparently the Barber has had the artefacts in storage for years but, no doubt due to the recent boom in the Chinese art market, has recently re-evaluated their worth and realised their significance. Personally I can never help thinking about the ransacking of the Summer Palace when I see imperial treasures in British museums. Not that that affects the beauty of the artefacts themselves, but it’s an important part of their history & personally I think galleries ought to make more effort to acknowledge it.

For my print I decided to sketch a 福 (fu) character, which means ‘good fortune’ in Chinese and is commonly displayed in homes in paper cut form, especially at Spring Festival time. It’s usually displayed upside down, due to a play on words: fu dao le means ‘good fortune has arrived’, but ‘upside-down’ in Chinese is also pronounced ‘dao’ so displaying the character upside down is a play on words and also implies that good fortune is on it’s way. I actually have two 福 paper cuts stuck to my landing window, and I used the style of these as a model for my print. Around the character I printed some prunus blossom, which is featured in Rossetti’s ‘The Blue Bower’ which the Barber own and which I sketched during the gallery tour.

Below is my original sketch. I drew over the outline in pen to give a nice solid line, and then traced the image onto a piece of easy cut lino.

福 Linocut Print - initial sketch

Here is the lino with the image transferred across and carved. This is post printing and you can see the lino has  taken on some of the colour of the ink used in the printing process.
福 Linocut Print - printing block

And here are the resulting prints, in black ink on red and white card.

福 Fu Chinese character linocut print
福 Fu Chinese character linocut print


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Lost in Lace

This weekend me and Phil went to see the Lost in Lace exhibition currently on at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG). It included a really diverse collection of works inspired by lace, by both UK and international artists.

Enclosed below are images of three of my favourite pieces from the exhibition. These give a good idea of the variety with which the artists featured interpreted the ‘lace’ theme.

The exhibited pieces are almost entirely large-scale, with quite a bit of interaction (lace doorways, and samples of lots of the pieces to touch) which makes for an involving show. More information on the exhibition and featured artists is currently available from the gallery site.

After the Dream, Chiharu Shiota. A video of the installation process is available online from the Crafts Council.
Lost in Lace exhibition at BMAG

 

Lace the Final Frontier, Michael Brennand-Wood. This had a military theme, with lots of soldiers, skulls and planes.

Lost in Lace exhibition at BMAG

 

The Latticed Eye of Memory, Liz Nilsson

Lost in Lace exhibition at BMAG


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Embroidered art by Stewart Easton & a trip to the garden centre

Most Saturdays me and Phil go shopping in Birmingham, but this week we had a bit of a change.

First we went to the MAC (Midlands Arts Centre) to watch a screening of My Neighbour Totoro. We were supposed to be getting to the MAC in plenty of time prior to the screening to view the various current art exhibitions  & have a stroll in the park where MAC is located. However, what actually happened was that we had a lie-in and ending up getting to the MAC with only enough time to grab a quick breakfast in the cafe and then dash into the screening. After Totoro we just had time to get a quick look at one of the exhibitions currently on at the MAC, Four Tragic Tales by Stewart Easton, before having to get back in the car and head to Coventry to collect some picture frames we’d had made.

A number of pieces in the Easton exhibition were embroidered, which made them particularly interesting to me. His technique is to digitally print onto fabric and then hand embroider elements of the image. It results in very professional and stylised works, and allowed him to achieve a very high level of detail in quite small pieces – which can be difficult (and certainly time consuming) through embroidery alone. I’m definitely going to give the technique a try myself.

Pictured below are two of the embroidered pieces, as well as an ink drawing from the exhibition.

Stewart Easton: Four Tragic Tales
Stewart Easton: Four Tragic Tales
Stewart Easton: Four Tragic Tales

Having travelled into Coventry to collect picture frames, me and Phil also popped to Ryton Gardens, to have a nose in the gardens and shop. I really want a wormery at the moment but was preventing from splurging on one today as they didn’t have any in stock. I think I may be best waiting until the winter is over before I buy one as I know worms aren’t too fond of the cold so won’t be composting very quickly at the moment anyway. Below are a few photos of the gardens at Ryton, mainly of features rather than plants as the gardens are inevitably a little bit bare at this time of year.
Ryton Gardens, Coventry, in January
Ryton Gardens, Coventry, in January
Ryton Gardens, Coventry, in January
Ryton Gardens, Coventry, in January
Ryton Gardens, Coventry, in January