Tuesday, 20 January 2015

There are brains splattered all over the wall...

...not to mention a dead body on the carpet. 

My enthusiasm for the digital fabric-printing (and wallpaper and giftwrap) service Spoonflower has bubbled over into this blog several times, notably for enabling me to transform my late aunt's painted textile designs into the real thing. Similarly, I have sung the praises of Dover Books, which provide oodles of copyright images to be used in whatever way takes one's fancy. 

Here, then, is an example of how well the two can come together (with a little help from me as the digital go-between) to produce pictures on fabric. Even though the images are magnified enormously - the black and white brain section at the top is 67cm wide - they are remarkably sharp and the colours are fantastic, a tribute to the quality both of the original pictures and the printing. I can claim no credit for this.

Although I am a scrupulous adherent of copyright I am the first to acknowledge that it can be a pain. Try doing a Warhol-style picture of Mickey Mouse or Superman now and hanging it in a gallery and you'd be in court faster than a speeding bullet. When I bought a fabric featuring said superhero it stated that it was not for commercial use. (Some big-name craft fabric designers have tried to impose a similar restriction, and although this is a grey area, test cases seem to have established that it is not binding.) And don't even think of knitting a Doctor Who monster.

Collage in art is a tricky area, and the work of even the most successful collage artists often suffers from the necessity of using only out-of-copyright source material.

Here, though, I like to think the "vintage" look works to my advantage. Imagine using contemporary graphics - or even, shudder,  photographs - of cut-up dead bodies. Not at all what one would like to look at. A few centuries' distance makes these images not only palatable, but beautiful. I have grown very fond of these three noble, dignified, long-deceased men. I hope they don't mind that I now intent to embroider all over their brains. 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Putting in the brain work

My brain. Yes, really

This is my brain. It's an MRI image (god bless Bupa - you get a nice little CD to take home with you afterwards as a memento of your visit) with a little added excitement courtesy of the picture editing site PicMonkey, my favourite toy of the moment.
Let me explain.

After completing a bed quilt as a Christmas present, it's back to the serious stuff: a textile piece on the theme of Lines of Communication for the Prism exhibition in May.

My brain has been working on how to interpret the theme since the subject was set back in April last year, and now it has come up with a solution by looking in at itself. Ten months ago, I began getting pins and needles, which got worse and worse until my physio decided action was needed and I embarked on a battery of tests: nerve function, spine X-ray and MRI, brain scan, lumbar puncture, flashing lights, electric needles... The doctors have ruled out anything "dangerous" but are still puzzled. But hey, I have my theme: Paresthesia (Pins and Needles).  I like the pun. And I now have a medical file bulging with visual inspiration. Do a simple Google image search for "nerves" and be amazed and dazzled!

Here is a definition from the NewsMedical site: "The nervous system is a complex network of nerves and cells that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord to various parts of the body."

Nerves: the most essential lines of communication.

The nervous system.
Picture from Dover, edited in PicMonkey

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Borrowed from Bloomsbury

"Bloomsbury" bedroom and quilt inspired by Charlestone House

With a few extra days off over Christmas, I came over all Blue Peter to revamp the wardrobe and cupboards in my Bloomsbury-themed bedroom. Not quite sticky-backed plastic, although sticky-backed double-sided Sellotape played a big part. For the wardrobe and bedside cabinets, I removed the wooden panels, covered them in two colourways of a linen fabric from Sanderson's Bloomsbury range then replaced them, held in place with a few tacks. The built-in cupboard needed a different tactic, as the panels were rendered immovable with numerous layers of paint, so I simply covered some thick card, which I stuck on with Blu-Tack. Simple.

Wardrobe panels covered in "Angelica" fabric by Sanderson
(left-hand top panel to be completed!)

Like all my best ideas, I stole it (thanks Diana). The bedroom itself, of course, is a total rip-off from Charlestone House, the now restored home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and any passing intellectuals, from Vanessa's sister Virginia Woolf to TS Eliot to Maynard Keynes, who dropped in for a sneer at the lower orders and some bedhopping. I'm sure an evening in their company must have been pretty ghastly, but I would have put up with it for the sake of the wonderful, gorgeous, jaw-dropping house, every inch decorated with murals, painted furniture, needlepoint cushions, rag rugs, mismatched curtains, handmade pottery, stencilled wallpaper, broken flowerpots and mosaic paths. All of it slightly shabby and slapdash, which gives me the excuse to see my own dusty shelves, piles of books and fading curtains as bohemian rather than slatternly.

Bedside cabinet and cupboard with fabric panels in two
colourways from the Bloomsbury collection by Sanderson

The bedroom has evolved over many years, starting with a painting. Which inspired a quilt that took 18 months to make (excluding the quilting - I sent it to be long-arm quilted long before I bought The Beast) and which now, about a decade since I finished it, is somewhat faded - but in a very bohemian way of course.