The next felt 1.

I had lots of ideas for more felts (spring flowers , pink arabesques on grey , sun colours , another go at pearls or mother of ) so first of all I tried to find something to make which needed no new colours . The idea was to keep me busy until the next order came from Adelaide Walker . I reckoned I could do sunrise and sunset colours with what I already had both in wool fleece for the initial felting and silk scraps for decoration . This has turned out to be more difficult/complicated than I initially thought…

My plan became to try and differentiate between sunrise and sunset colours by doing a half circle of each and joining them along the straight edges . Maybe then each half could be a possible top ? Actually such colours are not really all that dissimilar so I thought I would rely more on the background sky as well as trying to keep the sunset for cooler colours and (thus the sunrise colours warmer) . So I used Black Welsh fleece as the base layer for sunset and Wensleydale (a creamy white) as the base layer for sunrise . Unfortunately the sunset half circle was not tightly enough rolled and black fluff ended up all over it , most noticeably on the cool pink I had used . I intend to machine embroider on it , I hope to modify the colours a little . The sunrise colours have worked better but I made another elementary mistake which has entailed extra work ! Instead of a half circle (180deg) I managed to produce a fan shape more like 170deg ! Note to self : felt does not stretch except when you do not want it to and under its own weight . Therefore always aim for overlaps (ie a more than 1/2 circle or about 185+deg) .

Sunset colours , unfinished

Sunrise colours – finished









The sunrise one has therefore needed inserts of flame pink silk dupion and a suitable turquoise nylon organza-type ribbon . This was tricky but has worked.

Both are a bit long and shallow for 1/2 circles so I aim to join them with a strip of gold coloured silk embroidered with metallic thread to represent the Sun . That starts tomorrow once the sunset piece has been improved .

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Finally some results….

Pearls –

Pearl Oval

Pearl Oval – detail

OK this is the final result of my attempt to translate pearl/mother of pearl colours into felt . The detail illustration is more accurate as to the colours .


As I said before I made the base felt too thick which caused me endless trouble in the machine embroidery and I probably spent more time trying to peel off the base layer to prevent the needle breaking than actually doing the embroidery or silk appliqué ! Never mind I will try a second time – and in order to incorporate more of my original ideas .

Opals –

This was easier because the pieces  were the right thickness for machine embroidery and it was fun trying to balance the red & green . It is still an oval though . My next will have to be circular or I will never have the confidence back !

Black Opal – detail


Black Opal Oval

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Return to felting : Part 3


Here are the 2 slightly wonky half circles on Black Welsh fleece – one of my all time favourites .


Cut up and rearranged we have another oval . I plan to do some embroidery on this and finish off with some acute-angled triangles of red silk . This is the piece inspired by staring at black opals in antique jewellery shops – online images just do not have the depth or wow factor .

As to the pastels piece here are the silks I am planning to appliqué .  A very pale pink satin circle and some cream dupion . I will probably have to use a slightly different shade of cream dupion to get enough pieces .

I do hope I have more time tomorrow !

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Return to felting : Part 2


This is the previous felt cut up and re-pieced together to make a fairly even oval rather than a very uneven circle . This now needs to be stitched together (on the back) and then appliquéd and embroidered on the front before putting on a protective lining for the stitchery at the back . Felt is a heavy fabric and so tends to stretch out of shape precisely because it is not woven .

I have also put 2 half circles of decorated black pre-felt in the machine overnight . It will wash at 90 degC and then rinse in cold which produces enough heat shock to felt it with ironing dry completing the process with some friction . Tomorrow I will plan out the embroidery &/or appliqué I will probably deem necessary on both circles . I have been delayed by spending hours today and yesterday obsessively trying to remove all that damn’ moorit from the back of  the otherwise pastel coloured circle !

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Returning to Felting : Part 1

So I decided in the circumstances to order some felting necessaries and have a go at an idea at the back of my mind for a new circular piece . Needless to say I then found quite a bit of leftover fleece of various breeds from the last time I was felting – ? 15 yrs ago . Due to my husband’s efforts in the cold garage I now also have my old technical file with the notes and even samples in from when there were so many firms selling fleece – both dyed and undyed .

On the left is a half circle before felting and on the right is both half circles after felting . I won’t join the 2 halves as is – usually I divide each into 3 and arrange the 6 ‘slices’ to improve the circle . Then comes some hand and machine embroidery perhaps incorporating some pastel silk pieces . I was thinking of pearls and the colours you see in mother of pearl – which may well not work since I have never worked with pastels before – in anything ! I even bought some new machine embroidery iridescent threads from Gillies Fabrics nearby . They are shut of course but the manageress delivered the threads and special needles by hand after we arranged a bank transfer . It is a wonderful shop if you sew at all and I unreservedly recommend them if you are ever here in normal times .

I haven’t been able to get on with the embroidery or start my next idea – from black opals – because I put down the first wool layer from some kind of ‘moorit’ fleece which I had not labelled . It has shrunk so much it has almost ‘gathered’ and so stiffened and made the beautiful cream shiny Wensleydale overly thick and uneven . I had forgotten (if I ever knew) that it had that tendency . I think I used it before as a very thin top layer where it had a pleasing lacy effect . Anyway I spent a lot of time today cutting it away at the back . This was not too difficult because in places it has gathered so much that it is not very well attached to the Wensleydale layers and so shears away with a scissor blade .

I guess really I got started on this because I had prepared a presentation for my Spanish lesson on how to make felt for last Thursday but didn’t give it because no one remembered – they all wanted to talk about the bloody virus !

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OK I haven’t used it yet but here are some pix .

New window & kiln controller

External width 812mm/32″ , height without castors 890mm

Lid screwed down                                                          


Internal height 686mm/27″ Internal ‘diameter’ (octagonal) 648mm/25.5″                                                     

Shelves – diameter 590cm


Some of the quoted measurements don’t seem quite right according to mine but I can reach in to the bottom without falling over so that is ok . I still have to do a 1st firing before firing work . Because of the controller you cannot fire manually  but must programme it in so I will have to programme in the (strongly) suggested 1st firing schedule , flip the switch and let it do its thing . Once it has cooled down I can delete that programme and input the 3-4 I will actually use in future ie bisque , high earthenware glaze , stoneware glaze and maybe onglaze enamel/liquid metals .

On the other discipline I have updated my post on felt from 2/2/2016 “Felt:how I used to make it & will I again ” . (WordPress doesn’t tell me how to link to it I fear !) . I hope to use that blog in my Spanish lesson as a basis for a presentation .
















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Some actual work & future possibilities

OK so I finally had both cats asleep on our bed and planned to colour in the pencil drawings I had done ages ago . First I couldn’t find my watercolours so I thought I’d manage with watercolour crayons . Believe me it looked more like him (Karnak) before I scanned this ! Then Memphis worked out I was going to do her next and so endlessly changed position , yawning etc – which was why the original drawing didn’t look like her in the first place . I should try to find my charcoal which is truly the fastest drawing medium .



More excitingly with Donald  & Habib building a dispensary hut for herbal preparations (see the last few months’ posts I have argued to spend a bit on sorting out our double garage so that about half can be used for my ceramics workshop . Habib did the work of replacing the garage door with a proper wall and door and we will have to finish the painting…..

The first photo (interior) shows the new wall made of 2 layers of strips of wood sandwiching insulation boards with a gap where the new door was to be . The previous door was wider than standard double garage doors and metal so both a lousy insulator and increasingly difficult to move ‘up and over’ . I never could . The second photo (exterior) shows the new door in place . The third (exterior) shows me trying to paint the door in the dark with extra lighting ! At present darkness descends before 4pm and we have had a week of hard frost so finishing the necessary protection for Habib’s work is tricky .

On matters of what other bloggers call ‘housekeeping’ ; wordpress tells me I now have 33 followers so firstly – thank you ! Secondly investigating blogs which I myself follow I have found that wp does not always notify me of new posts by email . So if you remember me and then find I have apparently not posted anything for 6 months do check either my Facebook artist’s page (Rukshana Afia – Visual Artist) or LinkedIn under my name where I share them . On Fb I can’t reply because I can no longer log in but so far I can share from other platforms .

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Exhibitions – home and abroad

There was a National Gallery touring exhibition in York earlier this year featuring Poussin’s “The Triumph of Pan” (1636) along with various other works to show his influence on & by other artists . Poussin isn’t my cup of tea exactly but at least I learned that he was 17C and not 18C , also that almost all his landscapes are Italian because he lived most of his life there . This photograph is a bit faded – looking , his colours are actually vibrant .



Very recently we came back from a week in Madrid . I have been before as both a small child and an Art student – mature so I saw plenty unlike the youngsters on the same trip ! This time we didn’t really have time to visit Toledo but went to the Prado , Museum of America and the Archaeological Museum . For me the Prado is only about Velazquez & Goya – I am not a fan of Spanish painters generally and dislike the obsession with torture and death so obvious in the religious works . Remembering last year in the Uffizi there is a national contrast , I think – and it isn’t just the Paganism of a lot of the quattrocento paintings ! Anyway here are the Velazquez and Goya works worth seeing again and again .

First , one of Velazquez portraits of the Spanish Royal family in 1652 . This was during and just after Van Dyck had been doing the same for the Stuarts in England . The surface treatment of the textiles is wonderful but cannot make up for the Hapsburg chin and the exaggerated hairstyle and farthingale which had gone out of fashion even in England at least 20 years previously !

Secondly the famous ‘Las Meninas’ which still fascinates although it is hung a little low – you have to take your turn at the front . No reproduction is good – you should go to Madrid just to see it .

As to Goya :

This is the Maja clothed (1800) which I think is the better painting . The nude version is reproduced everywhere and everyone wants to guess who she was . This is so luscious when you see it – all that silk and gauze . Yes of course I saw his black or dark paintings but I don’t need to reproduce nightmares . The etching series “Caprices” & “Disaster of War” are easily seen in reproduction and are , to my mind both more subtle and more hard-hitting .

Previously I went to the Museum of the Americas and the National Archaeological Museum because of the pottery – so I dragged the family to these as well . Here is a collection of New World stirrup pots –

They are slip-painted (strictly speaking it is burnished terra sigillata) but unglazed . Even those which are not stylized animals or human heads are handbuilt , not made on a wheel . So I was inspired to make several at one time . Time I made more perhaps ?

As to the archaeological museum , because of the climate and landscape , stuff which in the UK would be just a stain in the earth is likely to be complete or only slightly damaged in Spain . Thus the enormous number of examples on display – all Stone Ages , Phoenician/Carthaginian , Roman , Byzantine , Gothic , Arab , mediaeval Christian…. But why they had awful 19C junk I have no idea !

Initially I went to see the Islamic Art , especially the ceramics . It still didn’t disappoint this time round .


These are some of my favourites . The 2 big winged jars (jarrones) are pre 1492 since they are from Granada which was the last Arab kingdom to fall to Their Most Catholic Majesties ie Ferdinand & Isabella . Arab style pottery continued to be made however until 1640 when the last converted artisans were expelled to Morocco , both converted Jews and converted Muslims . Before then there was what was known as ‘Mudejar’ (Hispano-Moresque) art & craft . The above lustre plate and painted bowls exemplify the interesting incorporation of Christian elements – the keys , the castle , the animals which is characteristic of Mudejar work .

Maybe I’ll go again but time is getting on .


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“The Storm Cloud” & “50 Works by 50 British Women Artists 1900-1950”

York Art Gallery have an exhibition of Ruskin’s drawings of the Lake district , Switzerland and Venice compared with Turner’s paintings of the same places . There is also a small selection of some of Ruskin’s later daguerrotypes of Switzerland . Interestingly there are also some contemporary commissioned ink drawings and cyanotypes by Emma Stibbons RA of the same places in Switzerland showing the increasing effects of climate change .


Showing 2 ink drawings


Glacier des Bossons – cyanotype

Ruskin did some quite good drawings and water colours but it isn’t quite right to call him an artist alongside Turner (” two major artists…”) – he never described himself as one and apparently didn’t sell anything . He was a critic and what would now be called an Art theorist , that is he had firm opinions on what was or wasn’t any good and was quite happy to tell artists what they should be doing  . I think it is often forgotten that in his time gentlemen and ladies were taught drawing as they were taught handwriting – and a very good thing too ! Here are some watercolours from Ruskin & Turner to compare :

Ruskin ‘Near Interlaken’ 1870

JMW Turner Lake Constance 1842








Ruskin of course famously wrote ” The Stones of Venice” after “Modern Painters” and carried on the tradition of loving the decay etc . Of the buildings he only liked the Gothic by which he meant 14C & 15C – maybe he mentions later or earlier (St Mark’s !) in the book but the excellent hand drawn illustrations shown don’t feature any . Apparently although he visited twice with his wife he studiously avoided the opera , masked balls , firework displays etc. No wonder she left him .

Venice: Santa Maria della Salute, Night Scene with Rockets circa 1840 JMW Turner

Another Turner in this exhibition which I liked :

Evening – Fountains Abbey

You can’t see at this size but it contains 2 figures , a painter and a fisherman . Apparently they are both Turner himself , at work and at play .

All the Turners here are either watercolours or fairly early oil paintings when there were still visible buildings , people , mountains . I had been more familiar with the more abstract &/or ‘Impressionist’ paintings so I appreciated the different opportunity . This exhibition is on until the 23rd of June .

The 50 British Women Artists are showing until 27 July at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery of Leeds University . First here are most of my favourites :

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004) Studio Interior (Red Stool , Studio), 1945

Mary Adshead (1904-1995) Portrait of Marjorie Gertler 1931

Ithell Colquhoun (1906-1988) Tree Anatomy 1942

Phyllis Dodds (1899-1995) Prudence on Pegasus  1937-8










Amy Gladys Donovan (1898-1984) Self-portrait , 1926

Winifred Knights (1899-1947) Edge of Abruzzi; Boat with 3 people on a lake , 1924-30









Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981) Amy , 1928


Edith Grace Wheatley (1888-1970) The China Cupboard , 1910









I should say that there were some sculptures , mixed media, drawings and quite a few prints using various techniques as well as paintings . There was very little information other than in the catalogue so I had to buy it . £10 is not an unreasonable price and it was full of biographical & historical information , extra illustrations , and very individual appreciations of each work – I only wish it had been a hardback when I could have more easily scanned pages ! 2 things I had not really considered before ; that women who had been to Art School in this era (however talented and acknowledged as such) could not teach in them so had to teach in primary or secondary schools instead and secondly that men’s surnames were a curse . Note that Winifred Nicholson was married to Ben Nicholson and Nancy Nicholson (also in this exhibition) was his sister . Barbara Hepworth also married him and is better known – was this because she had a different name ?

I am going to see both of these again – they are quite wonderful .

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Leonardo da Vinci & Renée So

More exhibition reports :

The Royal collection of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci are being toured round Great Britain – well some of them in some galleries . Apparently they were bought by Charles 1 – so he was also a good collector but a bad king (to paraphrase…) Unfortunately the dim lighting necessary to help preserve these does render them very difficult to see and if you want to read the lengthy explanations of what you are peering at it is even worse . I gave up quite soon with sore eyes . I recommend an illustrated book eg  The Folio Society’s new 3 volume edition of Leonardo’s notebooks 

Renée So is an Australian trained artist now based in London who currently has an exhibition (8 March – 2 June)at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds called ‘Bellarmines & Bootlegs’ .













The top 2 pieces are in unglazed clay . The bottom left piece is machine knitted & the one on the right is a tile panel .

The title of the exhibition (other than being alliterative) refers to a few of her sculptures and a knitted piece where the figure has a boot for a head . Bellarmines were a type of saltglazed stoneware jug or bottle with male faces or figures stamped at the neck which were commonly made in Europe in the 15th-18th centuries . There are a lot still around and even in use as they resist breakage more than earthenware and cannot wear out in a mere few hundred years or be corroded by what is put in them .

The exhibition write-ups all say that her work is influenced by them as well as by Assyrian portrait sculpture – with rather fanciful parallels to the Ishtar gate of Babylon . Of course they also say she is influenced by advertising & cartoons – without such mentions she would hardly be exhibited in such a prestigious and consciously contemporary gallery . Or so says this aging cynic .

I do like her work and would like to see earlier textiles of hers but I did wonder how a ceramic and textile exhibition made it into this gallery at all . And contrariwise I wondered if her work would or could ever be seen in the appropriate ‘craft’ spaces eg the Knitting & Stitching show or a Crafts Council exhibition . From what I could find out she certainly does the knitted pieces herself  – with a 1970s machine & by hand . I assume she does the clay pieces by hand as well since most are unglazed with a few apparently painted with metallics . Or since most of the unglazed ones are black she could have fired them on reduction with the metallic effect produced afterwards by liquid lustres at a low temperature in an oxidising fire . Certainly none are saltglazed which requires a high temperature kiln with a special chimney and permission to release chlorine gas into the atmosphere !  This is the sort of detail which interests potters and also means we would not see her work as overly influenced by those jugs . The bearded men turn up on every type of European ware of the time including blue & white Delftware or English slipware . Their use in magic is made much of but many clay vessels are broken in such rituals and so would not survive whereas these would not be used for that role (see above) .

I definitely recommend it and will be seeing it again .









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