Last of LCA pottery and an interesting exhibition locally

Last week my bowls were a bit too wet to turn properly – altho’ I tried – but would obviously not have been worth saving anyway . Unlike every other pottery class I have attended it is impossible to check on the dampness/dryness of pots between classes to catch them for work at the right time or to modify the wrapping to change the drying rate . I guess I will have to wait for my own wheel – Habib has ideas on how to construct one – and practise everyday until I ‘get it’ enough to repeat at will . And all the end of year exhibitions were over ! So I never did get the names or see the BA Fine Art people .

Yesterday I went to this –


This was at Inkwell Arts a local space that runs art&craft workshops and other non-clinical services for people with mental health problems . Exhibitions are put on in the café – which will be worth a visit when Ramadan is over ! Amanda Burton has a wonderful line as you can see and I probably liked her ink drawings and mixed media pieces more than the paintings ,

BurtonAEden              BurtonAmother-and-child

On the left is ‘Eden’ in acrylic ink and on the right is ‘Mother and child ‘ in acrylic paint . The ink and mixed media pieces reflected her scientific background in being meticulous biological patterns – which is absolutely up my street of course ! She says she is consciously trying to work differently , less “self-indulgently” . I hope this is not the puritanical abstract imperative winning over feminine decorative weakness ! A tiresome theme .

She also works in jewellery which is clearly related stylistically , see her Facebook page for it here .

I was unable to take pictures because it was in an almost empty café – and her new work is not up on her Facebook pages yet ( the other one , for Fine Art , can be seen here ) . It is however on her informative website here .

Posted in ceramics, Drawings, other artists, paintings | 6 Comments

Leeds College of Art end of year students’ exhibitions & some more pottery

I missed last week’s class from exhaustion but was early this week and accompanied by Habib so he came in to see some of the exhibits with me . The BA Visual Communication students were the most impressive . Habib picked up a card of Zoe East who was showing short videos of manual processes in leatherwork , pottery and metalwork . Extremely well filmed , maybe we will be able to hire her for publicity if the joint workshop project goes well ! Then there was the work of Lucy Banks , illustrator/printmaker/musician :

BanksLcard                    BanksLucypyr

The first photo is of a laser cut card and the second is surely pyrography – or printed to look like it . We also liked Sophie Kirk’s jewellery :

KirkS2         KirkS3

I could imagine wearing these – despite being rather destructive to necklaces ! Habib’s favourite was :


2 pieces I didn’t find artists’ cards for (and didn’t note the names) :

IMG_20150616_191816          IMG_20150616_191523

The first is a miniature stage set by a set designer and the second is an embroidered world map with extra wooden labels giving information on working conditions & wages . I will have to get their names .

Once at my class I found that my press-moulded plate had dried completely without any cracking – and still didn’t crack when I took it out of the mould .

IMG_20150616_191302While waiting for a wheel I found my mobile and took the above pictures as well as this one from the BA Art&Design (Interdisciplinary) exhibition :IMG_20150616_191408I am not sure why she had been a student on this course rather than VisCom since the rest of the students’ work was pretentious , unoriginal and irritating/boring i.e. very fine art . I’ll have to see the actual BA Fine Art work to get a feel for the differences between the 3 courses .

I had more wheel attempts resulting in 3 possible bowls which I am not convinced are centred but I should have fun next week trying to turn them . I like turning anyway (despite Bernard Leach’s disapproval) . With any luck I should be able to mask some of the imperfection !

Meantime for further information about the artists above – for Zoe East see here , for Lucy Banks see here & for Sophie Kirk see here .




Posted in ceramics, Drawings, other artists, Plates, Textiles | 1 Comment

More pottery – it’s the real thing

This week after 3 weeks of utter failure on the wheel – I don’t think I just had 3 bad days , I think I’ve lost it – I lugged a very heavy large press mould to the class . I made 2 – bisque not plaster – years ago but have not used either yet . This week it was the hexagonal one’s turn ;

IMG_20150602_195955 IMG_20150602_203014_2

I did it in my favourite white stoneware and arabesqued it in blue slip . I did trim it a bit more than is shown so it has a chance of not cracking as it shrinks . I tried to make the mould so that it could do 2 sizes of plate – which is why you can see a kind of ripple on it .

Overall my idea was always to make plates from press moulds , taller-than-they-are-wide pots from coils and learn throwing to do bowls . I guess this is yet another failed attempt at learning throwing – the one bowl I made is just a fluke . However much the tutor tries to be encouraging – it’s her job – lots of other people in the (only weekly) class have progressed considerably on the wheel .

IMG_20150603_110217 IMG_20150603_110236

The double spouted effort now out of the kiln . I quite like the ‘crayoned’ effect with cobalt slip but I think I should have improved the coverage so that the sgraffito showed up more .

Posted in ceramics, Plates, Vessels | 6 Comments

Eileen Agar exhibition 27 May – 30 August 2015 : Gallery 4 , Henry Moore institute , Leeds

The exhibition was called “Natural Readymades” and was clearly built around the following piece which is a kind of 3d collage or assemblage comprising the top of a Greek amphora found caught in a fisherman’s net , a starfish , a skeleton and a ram’s horn found in a field . It does look good .

Marine Object 1939

Marine Object 1939

However there are only 6 other pieces in the exhibition and the attempt to put them all in the same category is a bit strained !

Untitled Box 1935

Untitled Box 1935

Collaged Head 1937

Collaged Head 1937

Here are : another assemblage featuring bits of coral and a seahorse , and a collage using an underwater picture or wallpaper . Maybe by ‘natural’ the curator really meant ‘marine’ ? If so then the 4 black&white photographs completing the exhibition do not fit – only 2 are clearly taken on the shore .

The real problem is that Eileen Agar was so prolific , did such a variety of work and was so long lived (1899-1991) that almost any argument could be made about her work if you take such a tiny sample . The Tate archive of 861 photos includes eg domestic snaps of her cat , Bella . Her assemblages and collages include all kinds of non-natural components eg her many decorated heads . And the natural components are often non-marine eg leaves . Are they  really ‘readymades’ ? Why isn’t Georgia O’Keeffe’s skull with artificial flowers called a ‘natural readymade’ ?

I find Eileen Agar’s work so fascinating that I was looking forward to this exhibition but it was so disappointing . I suppose the curator has ‘provoked a reaction’ but it was not about Agar’s work . So if you do go and see this then afterwards do yourself a favour and look her up online or in any book on the Surrealists – she was the only woman invited to take part in the 1st International Surrealist Exhibition 1936 .

Posted in non-figurative scupture, other artists | 4 Comments

Pottery at last

There wasn’t a class last week because the tutor was ill – we will get an extra to make up . In the meantime my glazed pot was finally fired :

IMG_20150512_191701          IMG_20150512_191712

Apparently I don’t have to pay for it – unusual since everywhere else I’ve had to pay a firing charge including at school !

I also glazed my one wheel made bowl –


after grinding off some of the blue slip which seeped under the paper stencils .  And I completed the arabesques on the double spouted effort . It now awaits its first firing .

IMG_20150512_191455I went home early because the 2 wheels were occupied again and I thought if I started another coiled pot I would have to work on it next week and might miss a wheel opportunity yet again . I love handbuilding  but I came to this class to learn wheel technique ! Besides I’d rather build with my own choice of clay , using my own coloured slip and glaze recipes .


Posted in ceramics, Vessels | 4 Comments

University of Leeds International Textiles Archive – Indian embroidery

I like ULITA very much . It is housed in St Wilfred’s Church which is entered from the Business School next door . I haven’t been for a while and now the first thing you see is Alison Mitchell’s 1978 5 panelled tapestry hung in Bodington Hall until 2013 .


Apparently it was inspired by trips to Ghana & Mexico where she learned strip weaving .

The Indian embroidered textiles were no earlier than the 19th century , partly because textiles never last as long as works in other traditional media and partly because the collection consists of individual collections from various donors who were largely commercially interested . Which is why there are many samples for the export market . I haven’t got much detail on the pictures I took because there is as yet no leaflet available and I was assured that all the information would be on the website . I could not find all the examples there however .

Punjabi boy's jacket

Punjabi boy’s jacket

I loved this – remembering what it felt like making a child’s clothes . The style is like that of Moghul court tunics I have seen at the V&A , including the suspended pocket on the left . On the right , at the bottom , is a carved wooden block used for printing an all over design on fabric as a guide for the embroiderer .

'Suf' counted thread work

‘Suf’ counted thread work

‘Suf’ counted thread embroidery apparently tends to patterns made up of triangles . This piece also has some small mirrors – ‘shisha’ . I don’t care for sewn on mirrors partly because they come off easily and are then dangerous .

20C 'Chikan' whitework

20C ‘Chikan’ whitework

19C/early 20C 'Chikan'

19C/early 20C ‘Chikan’

On the left are cotton kamiz embroidered in white on  muslin , the pastels with some shadow work . I have 2 similar but  shorter & mine are Fairtrade whereas those pictured are from an Indian organization which started in the 1950s to do something similar . The other example is from a border sample of a Kashmiri shawl , probably silk on wool .


I can’t remember what this kind of pictorial embroidery is called – and it isn’t a very good picture with the windows reflected in the glass – but I like this imitating the Moghul painting style .

Detail of machined all over chainstitch

Detail of machined all over chainstitch

Chainstitch covers a lot of ground fairly quickly even by hand with a needle , more so with a tambour whose working I finally understand (or ‘ari’ – I don’t know in which language) . This was my favourite example there and is actually done by machine – I used to have a toy sewing machine that only did chainstitch .

Metal thread embroidery

Metal thread embroidery

getimage.asp getimage.asp-2

I was thrilled to find these handbags in the metallic embroidery section (my favourite) because my mother used to have a black velvet one embroidered with silver which matched a sari belt she wore when younger . I know it was real silver because it tarnished .

Embroidered Kashmiri shawl sample

Embroidered Kashmiri shawl sample

Finally there was a section on Kashmiri shawls embroidered to look like the woven kind . They began to be commissioned by British merchants at the beginning of the 19th century in order to evade the import duties on the woven ones and subsequently became popular . Surely they must have required much more work ?

The exhibition is on until the 9th of July ; open Tues-Thurs 9.30-4.30 , Fridays by appointment (ring 0113 343 3919)



Posted in other artists, Textiles | 2 Comments

Memory cloths and other unfinished business

I first came across memory cloths last year in Helen Klebesadel’s blogpost here about Leslee Nelson’s work itself inspired by a 2005 exhibition of South African women’s textile pieces ; and finally got round to starting work on machine embroidering some of my mother’s handkerchiefs this week , more than 2 years after her death . I chose 3 with recognisably Spanish touristic-type scenes hand embroidered on them and arranged them with 3 plain ones like this : –

6 handkerchiefs

6 handkerchiefs

She loved Spain and admired the superb counted thread work found on so many Spanish sewn pieces , even (then) souvenirs .

I planned to machine embroider because I am better at that – and maybe I wanted to avoid trying to write on them . Leslee Nelson refers to a Hawaiian family healing mantra – “I love you , I’m sorry , I forgive you , Thank you” – which she stitched on one of her pieces . I had it at the back of my mind this week (not so clearly) as well as Oscar Wilde’s “Children begin by loving their parents ; after a time they judge them ; rarely , if ever , do they forgive them .” The problem is it seems the most colossal cheek for me to be forgiving my mother . And so I can’t help feeling I won’t be forgiven myself . Well when words fail me I do some work with my hands and sometimes that clarifies things .

White and 2 reds

White and 2 reds

  White and 2 reds (detail)

White and 2 reds (detail)

This is as far as I have gone – I was planning 2 shades of gold thread further . The machine stitching has puckered the very fine fabric , maybe particularly because I was doing loops ? I’m not sure what I will do with it when it is finished . I couldn’t sell it – not least because I didn’t do the fine cross-stitch ! – and can’t imagine hanging it up . Anyway I will have to do the 2nd piece I have planned which involves 4 handkerchiefs of different sizes – 3 featuring blue and 2 with her initial . She hated her name Khadija , although like most of us Muslim women she admired the 1st one . I think it was because English speakers could never pronounce it . She also disliked the colour blue but late in her life told me it was because her mother had said it was only for white people with blue eyes and blonde hair .

As to the pottery I have nothing new to show ; it seems to take a long time for stuff to be fired and I am still carving the arabesques into the double spouted pot . One of the other students asked me if I had copied the idea from someone I had not heard of which underlined for me how very old and unsuccessful I am ! He must be after my time and yet well-known . In 28 years as an artist I’ve just become nameless history .

Posted in ceramics, other artists, Textiles | 4 Comments