Saturday, 24 June 2017

Working at the New Carnival Company: Part 3!

On thursday and friday this week we mainly worked on a set of costumes representing the Delhi Durbar, including red, white, blue and gold tent skirts and a giant elephant puppet!
The main part of the skirts had already been made last week, so we just had to decorate and finish them with the Equals group (who will be wearing them next saturday).

The first part of this process was to finish the decorative side panels by covering them with fabric:
And cutting them out with the most ginormous pair of scissors I've ever seen!
Then goldifying them:
Then adding wire inside so that they can be bent into a 3D effect (this will make sense later):
After that they were all hand printed with a stamp Gina had made from foam and gold paint:
Everyone in the group had a go at printing which was another fine example of teamwork; I did the first couple of prints, then I showed the next lady how to do it, and she showed the next and so on! Then when they were dry, we stuck these panels onto the main skirt part along with the bunting that the Equals ladies had made and finished the whole lot off with plenty of gold braid:
Very tent-like and patriotic! A lot of work went into the making of these and they're going to look great on the day, especially accompanied by the elephant that Gina's been working on:
Ellie Skellie
For most of the week he was just a wicker skeleton but on thursday he started to come alive as his outer coating was added:
Here he is lying on his side - that's one of his ears sticking up in the air. This is his trunk, which is detachable:
I am very excited to see what he looks like when he's finished! Meanwhile, I am also making slow progress on my peacock costume. After using some of Helen's handmade embellishments for inspiration:
I created my own 'peacock feather eye' embellishment:
I'll be repeating this motif in other parts of the costume too. That's it for this week, I'm enjoying my weekend exploring Ryde and also doing some homework (watching Rio 2).

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Working at The New Carnival Company; Part 2!

Today I started working on some of the big, exciting carnival costumes at Carnival HQ. The first job of the day was to spruce up an existing peacock feather backpack; mending bent feathers and tidying it up a bit using special industrial glue:
We're planning to add a few more feathers to it so that it can be worn in the Mardi Gras... if all goes to plan it will be me wearing it! This is really exciting because I will have helped design and make my own costume, something more fabulous than I've ever worn before (and I've worn some pretty fabulous stuff)!
After the peacock, I started on this little red and yellow number:
Again mending loose feathers and adding a couple more in. This one had been rained on at last year's event and needs a bit more TLC; we'll be adding more red feathers when the delivery comes in. Here's a picture after I'd started mending it:
It still needs a little more work. I've never worked with feathers before so this was a bit challenging at first, especially with so many layers it's hard to see what you're doing under all the fluff!

After that it was time to start work on my peacock headdress. Gina had a wire frame she'd made previously that was quite peacockish:
So I started by covering the 'fan' part in paper mache (using that same special glue) and winding shiny silver braid around some of the wire parts to pretty it up:
There was originally talk of me designing my costume completely from scratch, however because of time restrictions it's much more achievable to piece something together from existing parts.
In the afternoon it was time to make a school visit to see how the kid's costumes and dance routines are coming along. The school we visited today are making lotus flower costumes and have a lotus flowery dance that we all practiced together!
After that it was back to HQ and I started to cover my headdress with blue fabric and sequins... no picture yet but I'll update when I have another chance to work on it and make it look picture-worthy. Eventually it will have sequins all over and a fabulous plume of feathers!
I'm having a lot of fun so far on my trip; it's lovely to see how excited the kids get about their dancing and costumes and to see how everyone pitches in to make this a real community event. I'm really looking forward to the day of Mardi Gras and seeing everyone dressed up!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Working at the New Carnival Company: Part 1!

This week I began my volunteering / work experience stint at The New Carnival Company; regular readers will remember my recent day trip there to meet them. Their 'flagship event', the Mardi Gras will take place on July 1st so I'm here to lend a hand getting ready for that - primarily in the costume department. Monday was all about travelling down to the Isle of Wight from Bournemouth and settling in, although in the afternoon I helped with prepping for Tuesday's school session. This mostly involved a lot of cutting up ribbons:
And making belts / waistbands with double-sided tape and ribbon. Very sticky tricky indeed!
After that Gina and I prepped some chest pieces for 'spice' themed costumes made with fabric printed by some of the carnivalers with foam stamps and acrylic paint which turned out really nicely:

After that it was home time, but also time for a little explore:

Today (tuesday) Gina, Jenny and I went to do a school visit, helping the kids with learning their dance routines and working on their fabulous peacock costumes which they had started last week. We had all the components drawn out ready:
So it was just up to them to cut it all out and assemble it. Jenny and I helped them make the chest pieces, here was the example Jenny had made:
Lovely shiny card and fabric-backed card, sequins, sparkles and pipe cleaners! I'm enjoying learning how to make simple craft-costumes for the kids that they can work on themselves and am hoping to use this time to inspire some of my future craft workshops at Walford Mill Crafts.
Here are some of the chest pieces made by the children:

They seemed to really enjoy our sessions today, especially the dancing and despite the heat and some tricky cutting out! The kids worked really well and got a lot done, so that was great. After we'd finished we had another dance and I managed to meet some of the lovely animals that they keep in the school including some lovely chickens and lovely rabbits!
lovely chickens
lovely rabbit
After school we had a presentation on general carnival health and safety and then it was time for home. That's it for today; more updates on my adventures soon!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

A True Monsterpiece

Last week I had the chance to decorate a couple of cajóns for the current exhibition at Walford Mill Crafts. I was allowed to do anything I wanted, but I only had a week or so to come up with ideas and finish them off, so big projects were out and considering this I came up with a theme using what I now consider my 'signature colour pallet' and some materials that I already had available.
This was the cojons to start with:
Pretty darn boring. I gave them a sand with sandpaper to tidy them up a bit and then painted them with a bit of leftover paint... and I had a little helper too!
Despite this futile attempt to sabotage me I finished the painting:

They only had to be painted on three sides as the other two sides are for banging and making noise. I seem to have forgotten to take any more 'in progress' photos and skipped straight to the finished drums so here we are:

I used some leftover fabrics with different textures and patterns to create a 'scaly' sort of look on the green one, and some laser cut mirrored acrylic with paper scales for the other one. The mirrored acrylic was a sample from my second year of uni that didn't quite do what it was supposed to do but I held onto it anyway with the intention of using it for a future project; this seemed like the perfect time! I sort of wanted the cajóns to look reminiscent of sea creatures or monsters, or perhaps like they had wings and I really like how they turned out; colourful and fun and happy! I finished them with some glitter tape and they were ready to be put into the kid's corner of the exhibition:
Our sensory activity corner aims to teach children about some of the senses: touch, sight, smell and sound and I think my cajóns fit in well with their differing textures and playability!

That's it for now, but some exciting news will be coming soon!

Monday, 1 May 2017


Yesterday I took part in a lino cutting taster class at Walford Mill with resident printmaker Robin Mackenzie. Robin specialises in illustration and printmaking of the wood engraving and linocut variety and is just an all-round tip top bloke and jolly good egg.
We started off the class by flipping through some print books for ideas of texture and mark making. Robin welcomes complete newbies to his classes (which is just as well as we nearly all were!); I've done a little bit of lino printing before but nothing to get excited about. Everyone brought a photo or sketch to work from but we were provided with all the other essential equipment we needed:
I had an original sketch to work from:
I wanted to do something fun and in my own unique illustrative style; although I knew that all this detail might be pushing it for a 2 hour class I was up for a little challenge!
Once we'd all sketched out our compositions and were happy with the design, we proceeded to draw it onto the lino with marker ready for cutting. As it dried, we used small practice pieces to try out different marks with the cutting tools, here was mine:
You don't have to press very hard at all to make a mark, which is in one way good as your hand doesn't ache too much and in another bad... because of course if your hand slips whilst cutting you can make crazy lines you didn't want! To that end, it pays to be somewhat flexible in your design idea; thin lines sometimes have to become thick lines and short lines sometimes end up a bit longer... oops! At first I didn't want to accept this and frustrated myself, but by the end of the session I resigned to my fate. Here's the finished block:
This, of course, had to be a reverse image of my original drawing so that when printed it would come out the right way. And finally, the finished print:
I am really pleased with it and the best part was after all the designing and carving away to see the magical reveal when we inked up the design and used Robin's original 1854 cast iron Albion hand press to make the print. I can see some definite areas for improvement in my block, but on the whole I love my print and am proud of what I made in only two hours! I especially like the moon, the trees and twinkly stars the most. Everybody in the class came away with a print they were happy with, and personally it's renewed my interest and joy in printing, so I hope to experiment more in the near future!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Textile Textures: The Grand Opening

Yesterday was the official opening and Private View of the Textile Textures exhibition at Walford Mill Crafts, which some of my work is featured in. I feel very pleased and privileged to be included amongst some truly talented and established names in the world of Textile Art and this has given me a great lift, personally and professionally. Sometimes as a graduate you feel a bit lost out in the 'real world; but being included in an exhibition is an undeniable step in the right direction! Here's some pictures from the gallery:
An overview of my zone:

The 3D beadwork sampler I wrote about previously:

Another strange, alien landscape textured drawing:
Deep Sea Viper hand embroidery with audio reactive LED circuit (I program and install all the lights and circuitry myself):
Hullo, I eat batteries
Some hand embroidery n fluff n stuff:
A framed textural drawing / investigation:
Laser cut bugs in the window!
Note to self: make more of these
Sketch book!
Here's another angle:
Here you can see Heather Collins' finely detailed felted apple / woodland work (bottom left), Valerie Wartelle's moody felted landscapes (top left) and some of Lisa Earley's work (top right).
One of my favourite pieces in the exhibition is Lisa Earley's 'Bad Fairies':
Lisa Earley
It's delicate looking but has a dark subject matter, which I find appealing. When you look closely, all the colours and detail in it are really beautiful too.
There was also a group of first year students from AUB who collaborated together to create some work for the show:
AUB Students
Their theme was 'decay' and particularly the way in which nature interacts with architecture. Their work has turned out really fabulously and I particularly like their drawings and sketchbooks with all the little details they put into the work.
Also in the exhibition are Jen Goodwin (resident embroiderer at Walford Mill and teacher at RSN, who just released her first book), her speciality being incredible photo-realistic animal and bird portraits and Carol Naylor, whose machine embroidered landscapes have plenty of movement and gorgeous colour:
Jen Goodwin and Carol Naylor
Another personal favourite is Amanda Wright:
Amanda Wright
Her large hand embroidered pieces have wonderful texture and also give great narrative.
Here's some people 'milling' around at the opening; we had a great turn out and I got some lovely, positive feedback on my work:
I was especially charmed by Charlotte the Dog, who looking decidedly dogged, deserves a round of appaws as she stayed fur at leashed an hour:
Well although I've given you a good few pictures of the show there's still a lot more to see and as with all textiles they have to be seen in the flesh to be believed, so get down to the exhibition - it's on until June 4th 2017.