Coastal Inspirations

Living on the south coast of the UK it is difficult not to be inspired by the wonderful coast line.  I particularly like the wilder, less visited areas where you can look down from windy cliff tops onto a lively sea (I am a Pisces so I guess this is the Romantic in me).

"Lee on Solent"

Lee on Solent

It was easy therefore to use this wonderful scenery to inspire three hand knitted cushion designs (recently exhibited at Rum’s Eg Gallery in their “Out of the Blue” exhibition).

"Nicky Barfoot One of a Kind cushion"

Nicky Barfoot One of a Kind “Blue Cable” cushion

The Blue Cable cushion uses a lovely variegated wool yarn in a simple cable pattern and is bordered with more cables to give it a frame.

"Nicky Barfoot One of a Kind hand knitted cushion"

Nicky Barfoot One of a Kind “Beaded Zig Zag” cushion

The Zig Zag cushion uses glass beads and moss stitch zig zags, separated by garter stitch stripes for its textural interest.  Knitted in Pima cotton and wool-cotton blend yarns, it also feels fabulous to the touch.

"Nicky Barfoot hand knitted cushion"

Nicky Barfoot One of a Kind “Blue Bead” cushion

And once I’d got my bead stash out (Debbie Abrahams beads are wonderful for knitted projects) I couldn’t help myself with this one.  I love mixing yarns and textures, and beads just add another dimension to the fabric (and OK I admit it, perhaps a little Bling to satisfy the Girl within).

I have just added these three cushion covers to my shop, so do have a look if you have the perfect chair to complement them.


A tale of two Tates

Don’t you just love that rare morning when you wake to the realisation that you have a Saturday ahead of you with nothing planned (or in my case wake in fear of no diversions to take priority over responding to the gentle reminder from the accountant that the end of year has passed and books are now due!).  This morning was such an occasion and after blowing the dust from my Tate membership card and briefly explaining the plan to the dozing husband I set off for the station.

My first stop was Tate Britain’s oasis of calm and the Richard Deacon exhibition.  A big fan of this talented artist, I particularly like how Deacon mixes engineering with nature, combining laminated wood and galvanised steel (and in the case of his 1986 work “The Back of my Hand”, linoleum) to create his large scale, entwining, organic forms.

"Richard Deacon's "After""

Richard Deacon’s “After” (photo reference

In many the steel is cut and folded over to form the 90 degree joins (there is probably a technical name for this, apologies for my engineering ignorance) much like one would fold paper or fabric over, and rivets/bolts are used both for structural integrity and decoration.  One of the sculptures almost filled an entire room and standing inside its undulating forms felt somehow comforting, almost like receiving a big hug.

The other exhibition at Tate Britain was “Ruin Lust”, which explored how artists are attracted to ruins seeing both a new beauty in their changing form as well as a warning perhaps, that nothing lasts forever.  The exhibition was certainly diverse featuring everything from the drama of John Martin’s “Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum” which itself underwent near ruin from a flood at the Tate in 1928, to atmospheric Turner landscapes, to Laura Oldfield Ford’s gritty depictions of modern day ruin.

My favourite piece of work from this exhibition however has to be Eduard Paolozzi’s “Michelangelo’s ‘David'”.  To me it is a humorous reminder of the fragility of life.

"Michelangelo's 'David' ?1987 by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi 1924-2005"

Eduardo Paolozzi “Michelangelo’s ‘David'” (photo ref

So, after a thought provoking and inspirational couple of exhibitions and a quick visit to the Tate shop (it would have been rude to leave without a few new books and postcards after all), I set off for Tate Modern and the much publicised Matisse paper cuts exhibition.

Foolishly I hadn’t realised quite how popular the Southbank would be at lunch time on a bank holiday Saturday so the walk took somewhat longer than anticipated due to a few gridlocks caused by queues at vendors and entertainers along route.  However, it gave me a chance to appreciate the view along the way.

"palace of westminster"

Palace of Westminster

In contrast to Tate Britain, Tate Modern was heaving, in particular the Matisse exhibition. I had seen some of his paper cut work when it came to the Winchester Discovery Centre a few years ago but this was a much bigger exhibition.  My favourites are still the Blue Nude series partly due to their perfect composition and partly due to how Matisse has managed to simplify the female form into a few crucial shapes.  Many of the other pictures looked more like studies for pattern design and would not have looked out of place adorning ceramics or fabrics.

My day of two Tates finished with a quick whizz around the Richard Hamilton exhibition.  I think I had probably exhausted my creative concentration by this stage and sadly I didn’t really appreciate most of it.  However it did give me some idea of the huge scope of this influential artist’s work and I did like the experimental way he evolves his ideas creating numerous pieces of work for each (a man after my own heart in this approach!).

So overall a most productive and enjoyable day and as usual I am left inspired and buzzing with ideas and hopefully have the excuse to spend tomorrow with my sketchbooks rather than my spreadsheets.  Long may the diversion tactics continue………

A Right Royal Stitch Up

Yesterday, after weeks of excited anticipation and a super early start, I packed my handbag with embroidery snips, hoop and some knitting for the journey (sadly forgetting the sarnies), and set off for Hampton Court to spend a day at the Royal School of Needlework.  The task was mastering the basics of blackwork, helped by the unflappable Flo Collingwood and her appropriately seasonal Blackwork Rabbit design.

"Hampton Court Palace"

Hampton Court Palace

Despite living within a few hours of London all of my life, I had never visited this important historic site before and was struck by it’s grandiose and deserted calm at 9am on a Saturday morning.  Luckily we were given detailed instructions on how to find our allocated meeting room as the vastness of the grounds and building would have made self navigation a near impossibility.  Apart from a lone security guard at the entrance gate it felt like I was the only person there so asking for directions would not have been an option.

"Hampton Court Palace leaf decorated gateway"

Hampton Court Palace, just a side gate, nothing special!

Our workshops for the day were within the palace itself and walking through the building it struck me just how cold inside life would have been for Henry VIII and his wives and staff living in such a dark, stone lined building.  Luckily our workshop was modern, light and airy, perfect for a day of stitching.

Time flew by (as it has a habit of doing on such days) and when we finished at just after 4pm I had a nearly finished rabbit and loads of ideas of how I might incorporate this embroidery technique into my artwork.  I love its graphic quality and the way it uses pattern to create form.

"blackwork rabbit design"

Nicky Barfoot’s interpretation of Flo Collingwood’s Blackwork Rabbit Design

So all in all a thoroughly enjoyable day in lovely surroundings and thanks to my friend Liz who fortuitously packed two bread rolls for lunch, and the ice cream vendor in the gardens, I didn’t even go hungry.  With a long bank holiday weekend coming up I can see myself spending a bit of time leafing through my life drawing sketchbooks poised with thimble and stranded cotton in hand, probably humming “Bright Eyes” to myself as I do it.

Painting with Charcoal

After another challenging session at the Real Art Academy today, I think I might have reached a new stage in my resolution to get to grips with the craft of drawing.  Our ever  patient tutor, Martin, refers to charcoal as a painting medium and I think I might finally understand what he means.  The last two sessions I have had there I have been trying to break the habit of a lifetime making a conscious effort not to draw any lines and throwing myself straight into the shadow shapes once I have the proportion points on board.

"Charcoal drawing of hooded female cast"

Charcoal drawing of hooded female cast

This was the drawing from my March session, unfinished despite allowing myself three hours on it.

"charcoal drawing of a female cast"

Charcoal drawing of a female cast

And this is today’s drawing, and yes unusually for me it is pretty much finished (although I did have a whole morning and three warm ups practising it!).  Hoping this aha moment is a turning point in my drawing journey.  I guess we’ll see in a couple of weeks……