Portcullis

Portcullis

My favourite hotel in Taunton is The Castle Hotel – an historic building whose elegant facade is graced by a magnificent wisteria that bursts into flower in late April each year. At one end of the building is a tower, beneath which is an archway spanning a cobbled street. Set into the archway is a wonderful portcullis – a suspended wooden lattice which, in medieval castles, would have been raised or lowered for the purpose of access control.

I wanted to make this the subject for my latest quilled collage, which is destined to be displayed in the town during this summer’s Taunton Live arts festival.

The central image shows the hotel tower, looking its very best with the wisteria in full bloom. I constructed the shape for the collage using two different types of arch: the outer one is called a ‘shouldered arch’ whose square top allowed me to accommodate the whole of the tower and its castellations. The inner one is a simple curve echoing the shape of the real arch on which the tower is supported, giving me the opportunity to try and represent the portcullis using quilling strips.

I cannot look at the portcullis without being reminded of a garden trellis, which is why I have used it as a supporting structure for some climbing quilled wisteria. A fitting tribute, I hope, to the beauty of this lovely hotel in springtime.

Portcullis will be placed on public display at various locations in the coming months. Should you be interested in purchasing something similar (custom-made), please contact me by emailing quilliancemail@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

Advertisements

Onward and upward … my Accreditation story

I launched this new blog of mine back in July 2014 with the momentous words: “It’s FINISHED!!!! The huge quilling project that I’ve been working on for the past 7 months is finally complete, but I will not be able to post anything publicly about it for quite a while yet …”

Quite a while indeed. Only now, almost two years later, can I finally reveal that I had in fact been working on my submission for The Quilling Guild‘s Higher Level Accreditation scheme … an immense personal challenge which has at last resulted in success:

Quilling Guild announcement

As explained on the Accreditation page of The Quilling Guild’s website, “The Higher Level of Accreditation demands a standard of quilling knowledge and ability which can only be achieved after many years of practice.” To enter, I had to produce a sampler folder comprising 190 different variations of recognised quilling techniques, all of which were subjected to stringent examination by a panel of experts during the assessment process. To accompany this, I was also required to submit up to five pieces of original quilled artwork to demonstrate a broad scope of expertise in different types of quilling. Wanting to give the process my very best shot, I opted to submit the full five.

It was a massive task. The sampler alone took months to complete, as I strove for perfection one shape at a time. For the Accreditation, all the sampler shapes have to be glued on to black paper, which is guaranteed to show up any accidental blobs of glue you leave behind. Needless to say, the assessors will deduct marks if your shapes are not neat and regular, and also if any glue is showing.

You are supplied with a comprehensive information pack which describes in detail exactly what the assessors are looking for in every technique – and you have to dig deep into your own quilling experience/knowledge to come up with additional variations which not only conform to the guidelines but also differ significantly from each other.

The samplers are divided into six technique categories: Closed Loose Coils, Wheatears, Open Coils, Alternate Side Looping, Tight Coils, Fringed Flowers/Pom Poms and ‘Other Techniques’ such as zig-zagging, bandaging and crimping which have their origins in antique quilling. In order to pass, you have to score at least 50% of the possible marks in each category. Accreditation cannot be awarded if marks for any one technique fall below 50%.

I did not pass first time. I fell short of the required mark in one of the categories – Closed Loose Coils – so had to re-submit that section. But, far from being a disaster, there were actually two very positive aspects to this. Firstly, I was able to ‘bank’ the marks I had already attained in all the other categories, so there was no need to do those over again. Secondly – and perhaps most important – I had learned so much and gained such a lot of valuable practice in tackling my first batch of coils that I knew I could do better second time around.

So, I re-submitted my Closed Loose Coils, and opted to repeat my Open Coils, too, because I was confident that I could improve on my original mark.

As any quiller will know, Closed Loose Coils and Open Coils are essentially similar in terms of the rolling technique that is required. For the Accreditation, you need to create spirals which are perfectly round, begin in the perfect centre, and have ‘spiracles’ (the ever-increasing circles which form a coil) that are perfectly equally spaced. Easier said than done, especially in the case of Closed Loose Coils which have to be made using 22.5 cm (9 inch) strips and must turn out no less than 13 mm (half an inch) in diameter.

If you can discern the difference between the two coils below, you are well on your way to appreciating what a perfect Closed Loose Coil should be:

Coil 1Coil 2

The coil on the left was my first attempt (glued down with trembling hands at the height of a storm, just at the moment of a power cut – but that’s another story!!). The coil on the right was my re-submitted version, and turned out much closer to what the assessors were looking for.

My ‘light bulb’ moment occurred, not as you might expect during the power cut (!!), but afterwards when I realised the true meaning of the words “a perfect spiral must begin in the perfect centre”. From that moment on, I saw the light and began to perfect my finger-rolling technique.

Now, I know that the question of whether or not to use a quilling tool has always been a controversial one. Personally, I have never used a slotted tool, as the kinked appearance of the centres of the resulting coils has always been unacceptable to me. I approached my Accreditation challenge as a firm believer in the needle tool, but even this did not give me the means to produce “perfect spirals that begin in the perfect centre”. So, kicking and screaming, I reluctantly converted to the ranks of those quillers who roll with their fingers. I have never looked back.

I learned that if you condition a strip thoroughly with your fingernail (on both sides) before rolling, and then roll it up roughly just to get a basic degree of curve in it, you can then unwind it, form a proper centre, and re-roll gently between your fingers to form a true spiral. I learned to roll and re-roll coils repeatedly, adjusting the tension as necessary. Eventually – and it did take practice – I began to witness the miracle of near-perfect coils forming themselves in my hands.

Absolute perfection is, of course, impossible – but I learned that if you have a clear picture in your mind of exactly what you are aiming for, significant improvements are absolutely within your grasp!

Applying this approach to my Open Coils, too, I managed to increase my Accreditation marks to the point where I actually achieved a Pass with Distinction!!

Make no mistake: the whole Accreditation process was very, very challenging. However, looking back on it all, I can honestly say that it was very, very, very rewarding too!

Of course, the samplers were only part of my Accreditation story. I also had to submit my five pieces of artwork which, although accounting for 20% of the overall marks, were crucial to the overall success of my submission. Without telling you what they were for, I have already featured some of my pieces here on the blog.

Here they are again:

SeahorsesYou can read more about this piece, which I’ve called “A trio of seahorses”, here.

Bordering on Antiquity

You can read more about this piece, “Bordering on antiquity”, here.

Black pearl montageI wanted to include a 3D piece as well as quilled pictures, so created this little paper sculpture called “Black pearl” – more details here.

%22Zentangle%22

Plus I also included this piece which was my attempt to translate Zentangle™ patterns into quilling, using ‘on-edge’ graphic techniques.

 

%22Quilled mosaic%22

Finally, you’ll find details of this quilled mosaic on my old blog here.

I am very proud to say that my Accreditation work will be placed on show at The Quilling Guild’s forthcoming Annual Meeting in York on 17th September 2016.

After that – who knows? I plan to focus on raising awareness of quilling as an art form and passing on what I have learned to others through demonstrations and workshops. I am very much looking forward to demonstrating quilling as part of the Taunton Live 2016 arts festival in July, where some of my quilled pictures will also be exhibited. Plus I have another exhibition to prepare for in Spring 2017 at Gallery 55 in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire.

Some may say that I am a glutton for punishment, but I couldn’t be happier. Quilling is now an integral part of my life, and I am more proud of this Accreditation achievement than anything I have ever done. Onward and upward indeed …

Tudor Timbers

 

Tudor Timbers #2

The title of this collage – Tudor Timbers – refers to the picture at the top of the arch which shows one of Taunton’s most iconic landmarks, dating from the 16th century.  This lovely half-timbered building stands right in the centre of the town, and always used to be known as the Tudor Tavern. Today it is a coffee shop, but I remember it back in the 1970s as a Berni Inn (oh happy days!!), with a separate room at the back called the Hangman’s Bar. The hangman in question was the infamous Judge Jeffries who presided over the so-called ‘Bloody Assizes’ in Taunton in the late 17th century. This followed the suppression of the ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion at the Battle of Sedgemoor, in which many local citizens had unfortunately been involved. Despite this somewhat grisly association, the Tudor Tavern remains a potent symbol of Taunton’s history, and seemed to me to be the perfect centrepiece for a Tudor-style collage. I like the way the steep roof of the Tavern zig-zags down towards the right hand side of the arch, highlighted by a subtle patina of moss on the richly coloured roof tiles.

Like my other collages, this piece is divided into brightly coloured black-bordered sections reminiscent of a stained glass window, with quatrefoil tracery shapes positioned on the inside of the arch. The tracery is constructed from 3mm pastel yellow/silver-edged quilling strips, crowned by my quilled interpretation of a Tudor rose. Two of the window panels contain typography: look closely and you will see that the one positioned towards the lower right includes the opening words to the famous Tudor song, ‘Greensleeves’. I decided to decorate this particular panel romantically with a folded paper rosebud. The interlinked silver spirals in the gold panel above it were made with a punch – I had to insert the paper first forwards and then backwards into the punch to form each pair, because the paper I used was only coated in silver on one side. (I’ve had to learn how to think both upside down and back to front when making these collages!) The serrated decorations on the left hand side of the arch were made by cutting paper with pinking shears, and I’ve also included numerous tight pegs made from gold and silver edged quilling strips throughout the design. The borders for the arch were created using the quilling strip ‘sandwich’ technique described here.

DSCF7393I promised to share the pattern for my Tudor rose, so – for the quillers amongst you – here it is:

I worked with 3mm (1/8 inch) wide quilling strips, cut into lengths as detailed below. These lengths are necessarily short, since the main body of the finished rose measures only 30mm (just over 1 inch) across – yes, be warned, it’s fiddly to make! However, the pattern could easily be scaled up if required.

Make 10 closed loose coils out of 26 mm (1 inch) lengths of crimped white paper, and five tight pegs out of 26 mm (1 inch) lengths of grey paper. Create five pairs of white coils by gluing them together side by side. Then add one grey peg to the base of each pair as shown in the photo. Glue these three-coil sets together in a ring, working over circular graph paper.

Use a yellow strip to create a tight peg big enough to fit inside the ring, and glue it in place.

Make 5 teardrops from 3 mm (1.25 inch) lengths of dark green paper and glue these in position between each pair of white coils, pointing towards the centre of the rose.

Make 5 crescent/bunny ear shapes (refer to photo) from 225 mm (8 inch) lengths of dark red paper for the rose petals and glue these in position above the white coils, separated by the dark green teardrops. Glue the tips of each petal together.

Make 5 teardrops from 3 mm (1.25 inch) lengths of lime green paper and glue these in position as shown in the centre of each red petal.

Voila!

If you use this pattern and post a photo of your Tudor rose online, I’d be grateful if you could please include an acknowledgement to me and a link to this blog post – thank you.

Tudor Timbers will be placed on public display at various locations in the coming months, including the Taunton Live 2016 arts festival. Should you be interested in purchasing something similar (custom-made), please contact me by emailing quilliancemail@gmail.com or leave a comment below.