I have several things I hope to write about–but in the meantime, a little bulletin from the studio. I uncovered the sewing machines on the weekend for the first time in two months and made two small pouches. This is great kiwi leather, a bright shot of spring in your world. These pouches are perfect for cosmetics or other small gear or can be carried on their own for a night out. One has a small pocket inside for credit cards. 8.5″ x 4″ and 7.5″x 5″. They will be in the online store later today.
Yesterday we travelled to Galt, a great old Ontario town, to do some sketching, but it ended up being foggy and rainy. So…we sat in a lovely café with views of some of the city’s historical buildings. Before we left in the morning I sketched a new mug in my favourite colour. This is the second turquoise mug I have from Dundas potter, Scott Barnim. They make morning coffee a feast for the eye.
Even in the rain, Galt’s historic buildings were beautiful. Made mostly of limestone, they seem to be everywhere, imposing public buildings and old mills. Some have been converted into condos or awaiting a new life–but some are still functioning as designed 150 years ago. We hope to go back soon on a better day.
At night we attended a sketching workshop–but more on that in the next post.
My bouquet of tulips is drooping and I’ve been sketching them in their decline. Quick impressions, mixing my greens from Hansa yellow and ultramarine blue. The colour of the leaves has changed even more than that of the petals–the leaves are now yellow twists. The petals from pink to purple. I bought some new colours in Amsterdam and I’ve been changing up my palette. Will draw it soon. And I hope to get back outside to sketch now that the temperature promises to go above freezing.
I’ve been using the Stillman and Birn Alpha book for daily sketches as well as for notes and clippings. I love the size and format of the pages and I like having one book for everything. I’m trying to sketch everyday and do some experimenting. Tomorrow I’m going to try the tulips again, but mix my greens rather than use greens from the pans. I have a Sennelier Vert Olive which I tend to overuse. I love it going on, and then wonder what I was thinking when I see the finished sketch. All three of the sketches in this post were done with a Sailor pen and I like the looseness its upturned nib brings.
I sat in my car today for an hour for this one below, with the afternoon sun pouring in. Another favourite Belleville house. Today I was just trying to get the angles right, with all its dormers and verandahs. I want to go back and sketch it again, orienting it better on the page, including some foreground. I’ve been watching Paul Heaston’s class on Craftsy. It’s worth checking out. While I will never draw in as detailed a fashion as he does, I want to incorporate his well-explained concepts to help plan my sketches and the design of the page.
I spent four days in Amsterdam on my way home from Kenya. Amsterdam is one of my very favourite cities and I love to have the time to walk, to visit the museums and to sketch. It’s all there in such a small radius, long-surviving architecture from 1600′s to the latest in art and design.
The Van Gogh Museum was particularly exciting for me this time as VG’s sketchbooks were on display. It was such an eye-opener–you could see his process and his thinking by digitally paging through his sketchbooks. Below is the real thing in a view from one of the showcases.
I did some sketching too. It was +8 degrees when I was there so it was warm enough to sit out for a little while and sketch. The exercise, for me, is getting to know the buildings, exploring the curls and corners. And my concentration and struggle for the whole time there, was how to follow the angles while keeping the drawing loose. And how to convey those windows, how to keep them from looking like black holes.
I was staying right on Dam Square, so this wonderful building was in my sights regularly. And below that a few pages from my sketchbook.
I learned so much from the rug hookers in Matangwe. I learned about dignity and perseverance certainly, but I also learned about colour and design. I learned that it’s not about materials, having the best wool or the perfect colour, but about how you interpret your world using what you have. These hooked works have brought me to see Matangwe in a new way. Below are some pieces that stood out for me and the stories behind them.
Esther and Irene were new hookers this year. They walked two hours each way, five days a week, to get to the community centre for their hooking lessons. They were quiet and dignified and we exchanged only a few words. However, their work demonstrates a bold use of colour and shape that belies their shyness. These were their second pieces of hooking, ever. I love the energy in them and am intrigued by the way they see their world.
Tabitha arrived every day with her four month old daughter. A second year hooker, Tabitha produced more pieces than I was expecting anyone to make. She was resourceful, hardworking and creative. During the first week she completed the test assignments quickly, using materials from home. She then went on to make chair seats and table mats of her own design. Everyone loved the first piece below,hooked with wool and t-shirts, and it sold quickly in Matangwe. Clearly it resonated with the people there. The following two pieces are of her own design as well, begun at home and finished using t-shirts, stockings and wool. The material seems to be a determining factor in the design–the last piece using stockings is finer and more whimsical that the other two which use a combination of wool and t-shirts.
And like Tabitha, Everlyne was on fire producing pieces of her own design. Here is a photo of her on the last day with yet another piece, done entirely with t-shirts. She has incorporated her own version of one of the local birds with design features she saw in Rug Hooking magazine.
Jill commented on the last post that it must be ‘quite an adjustment returning’ to Canada after a month in Kenya. It is. And I will write more about my 5 days in Amsterdam after Kenya, a key part of the adjustment for me. For now, I have been mulling over the achievements of the 14 women who spent three weeks hooking and, in addition, their impact on me.
Above are pictures of our sale on the final day of the course. Employees at the local medical clinic and the local school came to admire and purchase. We sold several pieces. There were more pieces in addition to those pictured, including an order of six chair seats. This is a remarkable achievement for 14 women, half of whom had never hooked before.
A few words on the process: I brought a large duffle bag full of donated linen, t-shirts and woollen strips. While in Nairobi, I was able to purchase 10 additional yards of burlap and some cotton jersey remnants from a t-shirt factory. After the second week, we went to the local market in Bondo and purchased a large bag of second-hand t-shirts, especially in the colours of sky and grass–we were running out of materials!
There were two classes, morning and afternoon. Everyone began hooking a small mat, either a flower or a heart, to establish standards both for hooking and for finishing. Everyone then went on to hook one of the local birds from a photo, tracing the image on to the backing, using the window as a light box. From there, once the first two pieces were completed to an acceptable standard, the rug hookers designed their own mats and chair cushions. The experienced rug hookers–those who had hooked last year–took to the challenge quickly and some completed five or six pieces in the three weeks. And there were a few new rug hookers who completed wonderfully creative pieces, while others stayed with the original two pieces.
I loved sitting hooking with these women. Some sang quietly as they hooked, others chatted and laughed, but there was always an atmosphere of cooperation and achievement. As the time went on, they became more daring in their designs, drawing their interpretation of the world around them. I would often be surprised when one of the rug hookers would arrive with an almost completed piece which she had begun at home. Tomorrow I’ll write about what I learned about design and colour from these wonderful rug hookers.
Below, buying t-shirts at the Bondo market. Vendors often have their wares spread on the ground on a tarp. Bondo is a 7 km boda boda (motorcycle) ride on deeply rutted, dusty roads. Three adults and a couple of baskets on a boda boda is commonplace–and I am always relieved when we arrive safely.