Everything’s gone cone-shaped

So Autumn has arrived at last … and after another wonderful Summer of quilling-related events, it’s time for me to settle down to some quiet productivity once again. Over the next three months, I plan to finish work on my book – a comprehensive, practical guide to quilling techniques which I have been commissioned by a publisher to write. If everything goes according to plan, the book should be printed and available for purchase in the closing months of 2019. It’s an exciting prospect. So, too, is the opportunity that has recently arisen for me to market my quilled jewellery through a high-profile contemporary jewellery gallery. Both these activities look set to shape the path my life will take in the months to come.

If you follow my blog, you may recall that back in the Summer I was ‘adopted’ as an artist by the Polkadot Gallery in Taunton, Somerset, as part of this year’s Taunton Live Arts Festival. This amazing opportunity allowed me to showcase a specially-created collection of quilled and paper bead jewellery in the gallery’s shop window throughout the month of July, and during that period I was successful in achieving several sales.  At the end of the month, I was delighted to be invited by the gallery owner to leave my remaining pieces there so that they could officially be taken into stock! Not only that, I was asked to make more and also to supply further items to Polkadot’s main gallery in Exeter, Devon.

One of the great benefits of working with the Polkadot team is the guidance they have given me in terms of developing jewellery styles which reflect current trends and are therefore most likely to sell. In particular, they have encouraged me to focus on developing cone-shaped beads which incorporate spiralling text within the design, alongside an unusual range of quilled solid coil and ring coil pieces which make innovative use of colour and metallic finishes. Sterling Silver chains and fittings also play an important part.

My cabinet at Polkadot’s Taunton gallery now contains the fruits of this collaboration, and I will be delivering further newly-developed stock to Exeter during October.

Development of the conical beads has involved me in a great deal of experimentation, as it certainly is not easy to get text correctly distributed and spaced when you roll and expand the paper being used.  Trial and error played a big role in the special promotional beads that Polkadot asked me to try and produce, but the successful result of this work can now be seen in the earrings pictured at the top of this post. I am particularly proud of them!

 

 

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A First at last!!

For the past four years, I have been making quilled competition entries for the fabulous Taunton Flower Show which takes place during the first weekend of August in Taunton, Somerset, UK.  The competitions marquee at this major event is huge, with classes ranging from high level floral displays (assessed by judges from the Royal Horticultural Society) to arts, crafts, photography, baking and even giant vegetables!

I always find it a real buzz to take part, and over the years have managed to gain Second and Third Prizes for various entries plus a Highly Commended award … but a First Prize always eluded me – until 2018!

This year, I entered the class for ‘A hand made greeting card for a special birthday’ which required every element to have been created by hand, with no commercial/kit components. You can imagine my delight on entering the marquee after the judging had been completed, to find a ‘First Prize’ sticker beside my entry! Here it is:

For those who like to read about techniques used, here is the text of the notes which I submitted to accompany my entry:

“Two squares of purple card have been cut by hand and matted. The lattice border was created by crimping narrow strips of bronze-edged paper and gluing the peaks of the crimps together. The numerals 6 and 0 were drawn on white paper and cut out by hand, then distressed with gold ink. The oval decorations were created from tightly-rolled strips of coloured paper, which have been wrapped around with gold-edged paper. The flowers at the four corners were made in a similar way. Lengths of gilt-coloured 0.8mm jewellery wire were coiled at each end using round-headed pliers and hammered flat in the centre. The inside sentiment was handwritten, and the filigree decorations made by hand using paper quilling techniques. The gift box for this card was measured and cut by hand.”

I have been enjoying experimenting with jewellery wire this year, after discovering that it can be manipulated into spirals reminiscent of those we use in quilling.  It’s a VERY different process from working with paper, however, requiring the use of pliers and a not inconsiderable amount of manual strength, but I believe it complements paper filigree creatively in very interesting ways. Regular readers might recall that I also used wirework in this piece which was displayed recently at the Taunton Live Arts Festival and has been much admired:

As a postscript to my previous account of the Festival, I’m delighted to say that I have now sold two of my framed pictures plus several pieces of the quilled/paper bead jewellery that I have had on display in the prestigious Polkadot Jewellery Gallery in Taunton. So, once again, it’s been a truly fabulous summer in Taunton … and I have a sneaking suspicion that the best is yet to come!!

 

 

Beware free range artists ….

… so said a sign alongside the Artists’ Quarter at the Big Saturday event of the Taunton Live Arts Festival 2018, where I was privileged to be able to stage a drop-in quilling workshop for a steady stream of  keen participants.

I  was kept busy all day long helping children and adults alike learn the basics of quilling, alongside a talented ‘free range’ creative team of painters, print-makers, glass fusers and a sculptor.

It was great, and my most cherished moment occurred when I witnessed a young girl successfully explaining the quilling process to her brother using EXACTLY the same steps that I had taught her earlier!

Here are some pictures of the event, kindly shared with me by fellow creatives Mark Adkins, Anthony White and Adam Grose:

I’m delighted to say that my ‘Adopt An Artist’ placements at the Festival have been a great success too. My new ‘Insignia’ series of quilled collage pictures have been well received in St Mary Magdalene church, while my quilled jewellery has actually been selling well in Taunton’s Polkadot Jewellery Gallery.

The opportunities that Taunton Live has brought me are absolutely fantastic, and I am so grateful to the organisers Jenny Keogh and Liz Hutchin for enabling me to get involved.

The Art Of Storytelling

In my last post, I reported on the video interview that was filmed by documentary-maker Owen Nutkins featuring me and my quilling, during my recent residency in Taunton.

The finished documentary containing this footage has now been released and you can view it here:

 

Its title, ‘The Art Of Storytelling’, reflects the content of the video which examines ways in which a group of different artists – myself included – endeavour to tell stories through their art.

It was a privilege for me to be involved in this project, and it was great to have the opportunity to speak publicly about quilling in a way that may, hopefully, help to bring it to the attention of a wider audience.  The other participants represent a wide variety of artistic genres, and so we all had very different ideas to contribute.  Storytelling through art is certainly a very interesting topic to explore.

I have managed to collect a few ‘screen grabs’ from the video, and am posting them here because they provide an excellent record of the exciting two weeks that I spent in Taunton.  Here they are:

The interview at Hestercombe with an inset photo of me teaching quilling

 

Quilling at Hestercombe in a biting easterly wind!

 

Quilling outdoors on your lap is certainly not easy!

 

At work quilling during my residency at CICCIC

 

Quilling a new design using pins on a board

 

A selection of my quilled pictures on the gallery wall at CICCIC during a meeting of the local Creatives Club

 

All these moments have taken on a somewhat dream-like quality for me now, but fortunately it will not be long before I am back in Taunton once again to play my part during the forthcoming Taunton Live Arts Festival 2018, whose organisers – Jenny Keogh and Liz Hutchin – are also featured in the documentary.

I hope to have plenty more news from my activities in Taunton before too long.

 

 

What’s my story?

I have just returned from a memorable two week stay in Taunton, Somerset, where I had the privilege of being ‘Artist in Residence’ at the vibrant Creative Innovation Centre gallery in the town centre. It was a wonderful opportunity to get a lot of quilling done and talk to visitors whilst doing it …and I also offered workshops at which visitors could come and learn the basics of paper filigree art. A rewarding experience indeed!

At the beginning of my stay, I was interviewed on camera by a local film maker, Owen Nutkins, who is making a documentary entitled ‘The Art of Storytelling’. The focus of Owen’s film is to be an investigation into different ways in which artists tell stories through their creations using many different types of media, and it was a great pleasure for me to talk to him in this context about me and my quilling.

The interview took place in the beautiful surroundings of Hestercombe Gardens, and you can see a complete uncut version of it here:

Owen is going to select some of what I said and include it alongside other artists’ comments in his documentary, which will form part of a wider initiative called ‘What’s Your Story?’ on a website of the same name.  I hope you’ll agree with me that this is an exciting collaboration, and a great opportunity to spread the word about quilling as an art form.

I was filmed at work in the gallery, too, and it is possible that this footage may also be included in the documentary, along with various still photographs which Owen took.  I will publish further links as and when they become available.  Meanwhile, here are some other photos of my space in the gallery taken during a memorable two-week stay:

My quilled pictures can be seen displayed on the far left.

Some happy workshop customers:

One of the best things about the residency was that I got LOADS of quilling done! I took the opportunity to start work on a new project for a very special purpose: I’m creating an abstract piece which is going to appear on the front cover of a book that I have recently been commissioned to write – a comprehensive practical textbook on quilling techniques.  If all goes to plan, the book should be published and available for purchase early in 2020 or maybe even sooner … watch this space! As you can imagine, I am very excited indeed about this new challenge, and will publish updates on my blog as the work progresses.

 

Artist in residence

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Insignia #4 – Metallica

Intrigued by the possibilities of rolling spiral shapes with jewellery wire, I have recently attended some workshops to learn more about the different techniques involved. After investing in a few jewellery-making tools (three types of pliers, wire cutters and a special hammer), I have found that it is actually not that difficult to create rings and spiral shapes (both open and tightly coiled) – but the process is VERY different from that of working with paper! Paper can readily be shaped and coiled in your fingers, whereas wire (particularly in a gauge of 0.8mm and above) requires strength and a very firm grip to pull it into the desired shape – and it is all too easy to ‘kink’ it inadvertently in the wrong direction!!

For my next ‘Insignia’ piece, I wanted to have a go at incorporating wire work with quilled shapes within a heraldic-style design. (You can read about the other pieces I have already made for this series here, here and here.)

I have called this latest piece ‘Metallica’ because it uses a combination of metallic background paper (gift wrap), copper-edged and rose gold-edged quilling strips and copper wire which I believe go quite well against a purple backdrop.

The crossed ‘implements’ at the top feature wire-wrapped loops (as more commonly used when linking beads together in jewellery), finished on opposite sides with simple spiral flourishes. Because I have not yet found a satisfactory way of gluing metal directly on to paper, I have supported them with little black ring coil collars through which the metal shafts pass, and tucked the ends of the wire into two little expanded paper cup coils, all of which are secured to the background in the usual way with PVA.

Below that segment is a tight coil made from a crimped ivory/rose gold edged quilling strip, set on some lovely patterned paper which I found on the inside of a mailing envelope. Below that is a trio of copper wire circles which I threaded on to a black paper ring coil that was later ‘squashed’ to provide a secure ‘glue-downable’ fixing.

The left hand segment features ogee shapes and a twisted pixie-hood loop fashioned from lilac and copper metallic quilling strips glued back-to-back. This is complemented by a little bit of filigree in ivory/rose gold. The right hand segment is lined with a dramatic piece of metallic gift wrap paper as mentioned earlier.

For the edging, I used three batches of copper-edged purple 3mm quilling strips sandwiched together. A flat central section is bordered on one side by a crimped triple strip layer and on the other by a double strip layer passed through a ‘ribbler’.

Like the other ‘Insignia’ pieces, this one is destined to be displayed at St Mary Magdalene Church, Taunton, in July 2018 as part of this year’s Taunton Live Arts Festival under the excellent ‘Adopt An Artist’ scheme.

Insignia #3 Only Connect

Those who have been following my previous posts here and here will know that I am currently working on a series of quilled collage pictures based on shields which are divided ‘heraldic-style’ into sections containing graphic symbols of various kinds.

Here’s the third in this ‘Insignia’ series, which I am calling ‘Only Connect’ in recognition of the television quiz programme of the same name which is broadcast in the UK on BBC2. This is because the symbols I have used in it are some of the same ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs which are used to denote category choices on the show: Twisted Flax, Eye of Horus, Water and Two Reeds.

I wanted to add some textural interest to this particular shield, so have incorporated embossed papers in the backgrounds of two of the ‘quarters’.

The hieroglyphs were interesting to create. In each instance, I worked with double thickness quilling strips which I had glued together in pairs along their length for extra ‘mouldability’ and strength. The water was created quite easily courtesy of a wide-gauge ribbler tool, while the others were formed manually by trial and a fair bit of error along the way!

I have made extensive use of metallic-edged quilling papers in this piece, to lift the overall appearance and catch the light from different angles.  In particular, I utilised the newly introduced Ivory/Rose Gold quilling strips from JJ Quilling Design in the outer border and corner filigree work to deliver what I consider to be a refreshingly different bright appearance. The filigree is structured around some of my favourite ‘quilled tracery’ arcs.

I hope that this unusual picture may appeal to someone when I display it along with the others in Taunton’s St Mary Magdalene Church as part of the Taunton Live Arts Festival 2018 in July. The Church has generously offered to ‘adopt’ me as an artist once again, and I am keen to deliver work that is worthy of such beautiful surroundings.

My next Insignia piece will incorporate wire as well as paper! Watch this space …

 

 

Insignia #2 – A Rural Patchwork

Continuing with my ‘Insignia’ series of quilled collages inspired by heraldic shields, I am very pleased to present the second piece which I have entitled ‘A Rural Patchwork’.

As I explained in my last post, I love the idea of dividing up shield shapes into small compartments, and with this one I have tried to echo that colourful ‘patchwork’ of fields and enclosures that can be seen in rural landscapes – particularly in Somerset, where the views from the hills seem to me to have their own very individual character, quite different from their equivalents in Devon and Cornwall.

I began by selecting different papers and card for the backgrounds to the compartments inside this shield, ranging from the bright yellow of rape seed fields to the varying greens and browns that typically adjoin them. I used Decopatch papers for the forest and parched earth; a photo from a glossy magazine for the flowing blue river; an envelope from a mailshot for the small patch of black ‘mud’ and various other materials from my ever-growing ‘stash’ of scrap paper.  The exterior border and compartmental ‘hedges’ are multi-layer ‘sandwiches’ of 3mm wide quilling strips, some of which are crimped and feature metallic edges.

Once the background was in place, I selected some ‘symbols’ to quill: a tree, an ear of corn, grass, wild flowers (poppy, buttercup and daisy), plus a bee without whose efforts the countryside as we know it simply could not exist. These I have placed inside selected compartments, creating an image which – I hope – is pleasing to the eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I plan to make at least five quilled collage pictures for my ‘Insignia’ series, and am delighted to announce that they will be placed on public display during the forthcoming Taunton Live Arts Festival 2018 in July. I am privileged once again to have been ‘adopted’ by the magnificent church of St Mary Magdalene in Taunton, which will be hosting my work as part of the Festival’s excellent ‘Adopt An Artist’ scheme.

In a separate but equally exciting development, I’m delighted to say that I am also going to be ‘adopted’ by the Polkadot Gallery jewellery showroom in Taunton for my quilled and paper bead jewellery … I shall hope to publish a further post about this in due course.

It looks like being another very busy year for me in Taunton, which is now firmly established as my true ‘creative home’. I am excited and honoured in equal measure …

Insignia #1

It feels so good to be creating a new blog post about a new project on this, the first day of a brand new year … and I’d like to start by sending warmest New Year greetings to all my loyal followers!

2017 was a hectic year for me (in a thoroughly good way!) and there were times when I thought I’d never get back to creating larger pieces of quilled artwork again – but the dust has settled, sanity has returned and I am itching to move forward with a new collection of framed pieces that have been assembling themselves in my head for some weeks now.

My new collection will be called ‘Insignia’, and the idea is loosely based around the shapes and symbols I have observed in heraldry and armorial shields. I love the idea of shield shapes being divided up into geometric compartments where quilled motifs and icons can be displayed, especially when executed with gold, silver and other metallic-edged quilling strips which are so readily available today.

I have just finished working on the first piece in the series, which will serve as a prototype for what is to come:

I had originally thought that I would embellish this piece with some ‘specimen’ quilled motifs such as a complex alternate side-looped husking or ring of pixie-hood loops, making the shields a bit like a sampler – but then I stumbled across another idea which seemed particularly suitable to be working on at Christmas. If you follow my blog, you will know that I am very proud of my artistic association with the magnificent parish church of St Mary Magdalene in Taunton, Somerset, and was fascinated by the beautiful range of iconic symbols which have recently been used to decorate the church’s Christmas tree. These are called ‘Chrismons’, which are Christmas decorations which incorporate traditional Christian symbols – you can read more about them via this link here.

Chrismons are traditionally made in gold and white, and I could see that they would fit perfectly into the first ‘Insignia’ design that I was creating. I picked three of them – the triquetra:

the heart:

 

and the herald angel:

all of which I quilled using white and gold.

The triquetra (or trinity knot) was made using three simple ring coils in gold. I pinched the first coil into an ‘eye’ shape for the centre of the knot. Then I did the same with the second coil, but cut it in half to form the two side loops of the shape. Then I cut a small section from the third ring to complete the ‘knot’ shape inside. Having glued these sections together, I wrapped the whole triquetra shape around the outside in white.

For the herald angel, I reduced an image of the shape to the appropriate size, placed the outline under cling film on my work board and wrapped a parallel stack of two gold and two white strips around the shape using pins. To hold the shape, it was necessary to rub glue between the strips on the reverse side whilst the pins remained in place, and manipulate the angel just a little after it was removed from the board. I was relieved to find that it fitted perfectly into the square I had reserved for it in my upper shield!

Wintry light (or lack of it!) has made it difficult to photograph the finished piece with accurate representation of the colours.  The background is dark navy blue, which complements the other colours of gold, red and light blue (plus white in the Chrismons) very nicely.

The outline for the shields was created using my trusty ‘sandwich strip’ technique which I described in an earlier blog post here.

Now I am keen to move forward with another ‘Insignia’ piece, for which I plan to use ‘sunnier’ colours in the background. Maybe I will use some more of the Chrismon shapes, or perhaps some other icons – all will be revealed in due course. Hopefully I will have a complete series of these pictures ready for exhibition at the Taunton Live Arts Festival in July, and will endeavour to blog about them individually as I go. It’s so good to be back in production once again!!

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