Sunday, 27 November 2011

Musician Gillian Welch supports traditional crafts...

I recently had the huge pleasure of seeing one (well, two really) of my favourite musicians play at the Manchester Apollo. I always struggle to describe Gillian Welch and her partner David Rawlings to other people, because you really have to hear their music to appreciate what they're all about.

This is a 2004 video of the song that they ended the main set with in Manchester (introducing it by saying: 'we're going to end with a good killing song...')



Caleb Meyer is one of my favourite songs and gives you an idea of Gillian and David's amazing skills as singers, songwriters and performers. Dave's guitar playing is just incredible! :D

Although I love all the albums, listening to them at home is nothing compared to seeing and hearing the songs performed live. The sound Gillian and David produce is so rich and full, especially considering its just the two of them. Also, because they're so in tune with one another (to the extent that their performances merge into one on the albums), its nice to be able to clearly see who's playing/singing what.

Its definitely the best gig I've ever seen and it seems that lots of people feel the same way - there's a great review of the Manchester gig on the Guardian website here. The set-list from the Manchester show (accompanied by lots of great comments about the gig) is on Facebook here. I really hope that at least one of their shows from this tour has been recorded and will be released either as a CD or DVD! :)

The tour was to support the most recent Gillian Welch album, The Harrow & The Harvest, which was released this year (a whole eight years since the last album!) and its easily the best yet.

Gillian and David played a couple of tracks from the new album on Later with Jools Holland, including 'The Way it Goes' (although I think the version they did at Manchester was better!)...



But that's enough about the music, what I really wanted to talk about is craft-related! :D

When I bought my copy of The Harrow & The Harvest album, I was initially a bit flummoxed by the thick piece of printed card in the CD case where there is usually a little booklet (I'm a lyrics geek and love it when they're all in the booklet!) but a bit of research on the internet revealed it to be a hand-crafted letterpress printed piece of artwork.

And very impressive it is too...
Gillian Welch album cover

I already had Gillian and David pegged as the kind of people who appreciate things being done in a traditional, non-digital style, so it didn't surprise me to discover they were keen on traditional, handmade crafts like small-scale letterpress printing.

I was really pleased to find this video about the process involved in printing 100,000 little pieces of art for an album cover...



And then I found that Gillian and David had made a little video about how to coffee-stain your CD insert to make it the 'antiqued' darker shade that they'd initially hoped the card they used would be!



I never thought I'd see a Gillian Welch and David Rawlings craft video! :D

Anyway, another craft-related discovery came when I got my hands on a signed copy of The Harrow & The Harvest poster at the Manchester gig (I only just nabbed one, they were sold out by the interval!).

The poster is another lovely letterpress print...
Gillian Welch Harrow and Harvest poster
(The photo of it on my sofa doesn't really do it justice but I haven't had the chance to get it framed yet!).

This print was done at a different American company and I think I've tracked it down to one called Hatch Show Print in Nashville, which has been going since 1879.

This is a video about how they print these traditional-looking posters (Ade thinks they look like 'wanted' posters like you see in Westerns!) at Hatch Show Print...



I love the fact that cats are a big part of life at Hatch Show Print! :)

All the care and attention that went into the artwork for this wonderful album makes it worth waiting eight years for! :D

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Feltmaking courses at Hesta Scene...

I recently went on a couple of feltmaking courses with a lovely friend from work called Sue and we had a great time! The courses were held in the studio at Hesta Scene, a craft shop/gallery in Caldbeck, which is roughly north of the middle of Cumbria. 'Hesta' is a Cumbrian dialect word meaning 'have you', so 'Hesta Scene?' is a variation of 'have you seen?'.

The studio is a lovely space (I always love being in a studio surrounded by wool!) and the other ladies on the course were so friendly. My friend Sue (on the right) had that happy smile on her face for the whole two days!
Felting workshop
:D

The first course was beginners feltmaking... making a felted picture and a scarf in a day. I'm not really a beginner feltmaker but I'd seen photos of this kind of thing on the website...
Poppy felted wall hanging
and knew I'd be able to learn a lot from a tutor who's able to make such lovely felted pictures!

I took along a postcard for inspiration that I bought at an exhibition of Maggi Hambling's amazing wave paintings at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge last year. I was blown away by the paintings (many of which are HUGE and full of incredible colour and texture) and wished that I could have spent some time spinning or felting in the gallery, taking inspiration from the pictures. As it was, I just bought all the books and postcards that were for sale at the exhibition and felt slightly sad that none of them came close to reproducing the experience of seeing the paintings in real life :(

Anyway, enough moaning, this is the postcard that I took to the felt course...
Wave postcard
Its an oil painting called 'Rising wave'.

I laid out my fibres, mostly dyed Merino wool but with the odd bit of silk and a few Bluefaced Leicester fleece curls...
Wave picture before wetting
I loved how it looked at this point... it seemed a shame to get it wet!

But I carefully sprinkled it with hot soapy water and rubbed it through a net curtain so that the design didn't shift about. And then rolled and rolled and rolled it some more in the bamboo blind until I had this...
Wave picture after wetting and rolling
Its still quite wet in the picture above and I haven't got a decent dry photo of it yet. I'd like to get it framed so I'll get a picture of it then.

What I have got is a picture of it winning second prize at Lowick Show last Saturday in the 'item in any other craft not already specified' class!
Class number 79

Second place felt picture
I was really impressed that it got placed because I thought the judges might not know what it was, let alone think it was any good! :D

Anyway, back to the feltmaking... when we'd finished for the morning, me and Sue went to the Watermill Cafe just up the road for a delicious lunch and then came back to work on some felted lattice scarves.

Here's mine all laid out ready to cover with a net and sprinkle with hot soapy water...
Laying out a lattice scarf

And here's Sue doing the fun bit that comes after the rolling...
Sue throwing her felted scarf
The flinging! Very therapeutic! :D

Here's my finished scarf...
Lattice scarf
(Scarves are so hard to photograph well on a flat surface!)

All four of us on the course had such a great day that we wanted to do some more feltmaking as soon as possible, so we pestered Julie, our tutor, into putting on an extra nuno felting course especially for us! She was very obliging and organised one to take place just a few weeks later :)

In the morning we did some nuno samples on cotton muslin and silk chiffon so that we got an idea of how the wool bonded to the fabric and what the effect looked like.

Here's my cotton muslin sample...
Making a muslin nuno sample
I experimented with circles and lines made with some of my handspun yarn and areas of fleecy curls.

My silk chiffon sample was similar. Here are both finished samples (the silk one on top)...
Nuno samples
The crinkled textures in nuno felting are lovely. The wool fibres work their way through the weave of the fabric and then the fabric crinkles up as the wool shrinks during the felting process.

After another delicious lunch with Sue at the Watermill Cafe, it was time to make scarves. I must have been concentrating too much to take photos at this point because I only have one of my finished scarf, being modelled by one of the dress forms in the studio...
My nuno scarf on the dress form

I took another photo of it when I got home but it doesn't look as exciting flat...
Nuno scarf
Maybe scarf-making is a good excuse to invest in a dress form?! :)

Monday, 5 September 2011

Woad balls!

I've been meaning to blog about our visit to the woad centre in Norfolk. I'd read about Woad-inc in Selvedge magazine a long time ago (and wanted to check it out) but had forgotten about it until I saw it mentioned in one of the leaflets I picked up during our Norfolk holiday. Once I realised that we could take a little detour on the way home to call in, there was no stopping me!

Woad centre sign
Whoo! That's my kind of sign! :D

Woad is a natural dye plant that produces a lovely blue colour. There were some large self-seeded plants in seed outside the buildings (a good clue that we were in the right place!)...
Woad plant in seed

Inside the exhibition area were some beautiful woad-dyed yarns and fabrics and examples of finished articles of clothing dyed with woad (which I tried not to photograph closely because they are specially commissioned designs)...
Woad dyed yarns and fabric

There were lots of lovely shibori dyed silk scarves...
Woad dyed silk scarf
The silk seems to take the dye really well... each scarf was different but they were all stunning.

The people who run Woad-inc grow their own woad and make it into a dye powder using their own special method. They also make woad balls, which are intriguing looking things, a bit bigger than a tennis ball...
Woad balls

Woad balls were created as a way of preserving the woad leaf harvest for use when fresh leaves weren't available or just to store the woad conveniently until it was time to use it. In order to use them, the dried balls must be broken up (they're quite hard), dampened with water and then left in a heap to ferment for a fortnight. Apparently you only get the blue colour if the leaves are dried in a ball shape. Loose-dried leaves don't produce the colour. It must have been a real breakthrough when the woad-growers of the past found that out!

I was fascinated by a display of old photographs showing the stages in traditional woad ball production...
Traditional woad production display
Apparently the photos were taken in Lincolnshire, as quite a lot of woad was grown there.

This handsome horse with a cart-load of woad leaves is standing outside a thatched roller house, where the leaves were crushed using kind of rolling chopping machine, which was powered by another horse...
Horse and cart of woad by roller house

The balls were formed by hand from the crushed leaves and then stacked on racks, where they fermented slightly and then dried out...
Placing woad balls in drying houses

There's nothing like a bit of Lincolnshire-based textile-related history to get me enthused, so I bought some woad balls in the shop and was given a basic instruction leaflet and a website to check out for more information.

The website is Jenny Dean's Wild Colour, which is a great resource for natural plant dyeing. A quick search for 'woad balls' on the website pulls up several posts about Jenny's experiments dyeing with woad balls... I just need to have a read and then I'll (hopefully) be ready to carry out my own woad ball dyeing! I'll keep you posted on my progress! :D

Monday, 1 August 2011

Windmills and wildlife in, er... Norfolk!

I've already done a blog post called windmills and wildlife in Lincolnshire, from our recent holiday to Norfolk, via Lincolnshire... but it must have been a theme for the holiday because we had a day of windmills and wildlife once we were in Norfolk too!

This time the windmill was a wind powered water pump rather than a flour grinding mill like the one we saw in Lincolnshire.

Horsey Windpump is a National Trust property overlooking Horsey Mere in the Norfolk Broads national park...
Horsey Windpump 2
Sadly (in my opinion) it seems to be pronounced 'Hor-zee' rather than 'Horse-ee'. Its a nice enough place though and you can walk right up to the top to take in the views across the broads.

Inside the windpump there were some great old photographs of local people from the past, such as this reed cutter...
Gathering reeds on Horsey Mere
Apparently there's currently a drive to get people cutting reeds in the traditional way again, and apprentices are being sought to learn the trade on the Norfolk Broads. It'll be a nice new career for someone, although the job sounds like very hard work and you probably spend most of the day with wet feet.

I got myself a nice Horsey Windpump tea towel (my second windmill-related souvenir tea towel!)...
Horsey Windpump tea towel

Once we'd checked out the windpump, we went for a wander around Horsey Mere and saw several amazing Swallowtail butterflies! They were huge! Flapping around the reeds and going about their business. I'd only ever seen one passing by briefly last time we were in Norfolk so it was a treat to be able to watch them for longer and really appreciate them. No photos unfortunately... they were a bit too far away and didn't stay still for long!

Next stop was Hickling Broad national nature reserve, which is managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Most of it looks like this...
Boardwalk view
Mmm... reed-beds! :)

There was an interesting selection of thatched bird hides...
Long thatched hide

And the Wildlife Trust runs guided boat trips around the reserve, so we booked ourselves on one of those and had an educational ride in a lovely boat...
View from the boat pick up point 2

We saw some other people out on the water, enjoying the sun in their impressive yacht...
Yacht on Hickling Broad
But I bet they weren't learning all about Egyptian geese like we were!

:)

Friday, 15 July 2011

The people inside The Book of Forgotten Crafts Part 3...

This is the last of my posts about a book I bought called The Book of Forgotten Crafts. When I bought the book, I realised that I knew some of the people inside it (which was a new experience for me!) so I decided to blog about each of them.

Part 1 was all about local oak swill basket maker Owen Jones and part 2 was about wooden bowl maker Robin Wood. This third instalment is about Jane Meredith, who is a multi-talented fibre artist living in Herefordshire.

Here are some of Jane's pages from the book...
Dyer and felt maker

Jane runs plant dyed wool courses from her home by the river Wye and also teaches feltmaking, hand spinning and weaving using a peg loom or a Brinkley loom. I was lucky enough to go on one of Jane's three day workshops with my Mum in July 2007 and we had a great time playing with rainbows of lovely naturally dyed wool!

On the first day we dyed up mountains of fleece in an array of bubbling dyepots, many of which were full of plants from Jane's amazing dye garden (I'd love to have my own dye garden one day!)...
One of the other flower dyepots

We labelled each piece of fleece with a peg, which was marked with the mordant used and the name of the dye plant...
One of the flower dyepots
This helped us to identify which combinations produced which results and we each put together a sample card to take home.

The dyed fleece looked lovely hung out to dry...
Dyed wool drying line 1

Jane also prepared an indigo dyebath for us to try, which resulted in a lovely washing line of blues and greens...
Indigo drying line

On the second day we used some of the fleece we'd dyed to weave a woolly mat on a peg loom. Peg looms are very simple, but can produce lovely results, especially if you're weaving with beautifully textured, curly fleece...
Peg looming in progress

Wool on the peg loom
Mmm... curls! :)

The third day was spent doing a variety of things. We could have a go at feltmaking in Jane's kitchen...
Making felt in Jane's kitchen

Or weaving with a Brinkley loom, which is another simple-but-effective kind of loom. The main element of this loom is the ingenious heddle, which is turned over after each row of weaving to raise and lower each set of warp threads so that the weft threads can pass between them...
Mum's shed

Putting the warp onto the Brinkley loom is great fun... it's fast, energetic and involves the use of a broom handle! I love the results you can get from this kind of loom. You can go for a full-on, fleecy texture sensation, like my friend Liz did with hers...
Close up of Brinkley loom scarf

Or use yarn for the weft, which results in a more sedate, lighter and smoother fabric...
Close up of Brinkley loom weaving

A few people also had a go on a drop spindle and I think it was through watching Jane spinning alpaca fibre on her spinning wheel in the evenings that I became interested in learning how to spin :)

The venue for Jane's courses is so lovely, right next to the river Wye...
Basket of curly grey wool

View from my bedroom window

It was a fantastic few days! :D

If you'd like to see some more photos from the workshop I went on, the full set is on Flickr here.

If you're interested in trying a plant dyed wool course, check out the workshops page on Jane's website. Or if you're at a fibre festival of some kind, keep an eye out for Jane's colourful stand, where you're likely to find her demonstrating how to use a Brinkley loom, like she was at Woolfest this year...
Jane Meredith weaving
(Jane's got a handy list of diary dates for shows and talks on her website here).

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Royal Norfolk Show 2011...

I love a good agricultural show, so when I realised that the Royal Norfolk Show was on during the week we were on holiday in Norfolk, I didn't want to miss it! We'd been once before, about five years ago (although we can't remember why we were in Norfolk at the time...) so we knew it was a good show and the 2011 event didn't disappoint! :)

We entered the showground right next to the sheep area, where some Norfolk Horn sheep were being judged by a smart looking man in a bowler hat...
Norfolk Horn sheep line up 2

Some of the competitors had smart headgear too (the handlers, not the sheep - although the sheep's horns are pretty smart-looking!)...
Showing Norfolk Horn sheep

I really like Norfolk Horn sheep and they're a very rare breed, so it was great to see so many of them on show in their native county...
Norfolk Horn

While we're on the subject of sheep, I'll share some pictures of the various different breeds that were on display (you knew there were going to be lots of sheep photos, didn't you?!). I always seem to gravitate towards certain breeds... such as longwools, primitive breeds, naturally coloured and rare breeds. Texels, Beltex and other more commercial breeds don't usually get much of a look in from me!

I tried to photograph some breeds that I'd never seen before, such as these Shropshire sheep in the Rare Breeds Survival Trust tent...
Shropshire sheep 2

And this cuddly-looking Hampshire Down sheep wearing a rug...
Hampshire Down sheep in a rug

There were also Oxford Down sheep, which were very friendly...
Close up Oxford Down sheep face

Lots of coloured Ryelands...
Coloured Ryeland in a rug 2

And the friendliest Greyface Dartmoor, who came over for a tickle from Ade and stood there being stroked for ages with the happiest look on it's face!
Greyface Dartmoor tickle 1
What a sweetie - we didn't want to leave it! I think Greyface Dartmoors always have a friendly and/or slightly comical look about them :)

My disorganised photography means that I can't remember if these sheep are Castlemilk Moorit or Soay...
Soay sheep 2
I'm ashamed to say that I can't tell the difference even after looking in all my sheep books! I'm going to say these are Soay though, because I don't think Castlemilk Moorits come in such a dark colour. Let me know if you can shed some light on the differences between the two breeds!

This one's definitely a Wenseydale...
Wensleydale baaa

But I'm struggling to tell apart my photos of Leicester and Lincoln Longwools. These two could be either... or both!
Longwool sheep 1

Longwool face

I'm very interested in Lincoln Longwools (since I'm from Lincolnshire and I like sheep, especially ones with long curls!), so I enjoyed seeing the display of woolly produce that had been put together using fleece from the Risby flock of Lincoln Longwools...
Lincoln Longwool products on display
There was a basket full of colourful balls of yarn, some bunting knitted from the yarn, felted flowers made from dyed fleece, an impressive felted union jack flag, a lovely sheepskin and bags of raw fleece and processed fibre.

The people who own the Risby flock seem very inventive in the ways that they use their sheepy products and promote the breed. You may have seen the amazing Lincoln Longwool wedding dress that they made using fleece and wool from their flock in the news a couple of years ago. Maybe we'll get over to visit them sometime when we're in Lincolnshire... I'd like to have a play with a Lincoln Longwool fleece! :)

Anyway, there was life outside the sheep tent, so I dragged myself away to check out the rest of the show. We saw rabbits...
Pink eyed rabbit

Interesting looking chickens...
Fancy chicken faces

Traditional looking chickens....
Black and white chicken

Chickens with scary looking legs...
Intimidating chicken legs
These were HUGE and had very intimidating looking spurs on!

There were some stunning Arab horses...
Black Arab

Some handsome heavy horses being shown in-hand...
Grey heavy horse 2

And lots of heavy horses in harness...
Chestnut heavy horses and carriage

Bay heavy horses pulling waggon

Including the Co-operative Funeralcare team...
Co-op horses getting ready

There was a fantastic vintage fairground with a carousel...
Vintage carousel

I love carousel horses...
Carousel horse head 1
I'd like one of my own if I had space! :)

In the woodland crafts area we saw Owen Jones, the oak swill basket maker who lives just down the road from us in Cumbria!
Owen's stall 1
I blogged about Owen a few weeks ago and mentioned how I most often bump into him at shows and events, rather than in the area where we live. The Norfolk Show will take some beating for the furthest flung place we've seen Owen - I think it confused him for a moment when he saw us! :)

Also in the woodland crafts area were some people from nearby Holkham Forge, doing a demonstration of blacksmithing...
Holkham Forge demonstration

The things on display at their stall were very well designed and beautifully made, such as this metal railing...
Holkham Forge railings

And all the smaller items, like hooks, pokers and pieces of artwork...
Holkham Forge stall 2
I fell in love with the patterned hare at the top of the picture and had to bring it home with me!
Metal hare 1

It's really beautiful...
Hare ears
I just need to find a home for it on a wall somewhere now!

If you'd like to see all my photos from the 2011 Norfolk Show, check out the full set on my Flickr page here. :)