Doggy Doodles 1: Gaspode and Fifi

Last weekend marked my 10th and final short course in the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at West Dean College.  My original reason for embarking on the FDAD journey was to further my skills in the Fine Art disciplines, primarily drawing and printmaking, with the aim of using these to inform my textile work.  For the final three courses however I decided that I would give in to my true nature, choosing them from the mouthwatering textile section of the short course brochure with the final one being a hand embroidery course with RSN tutor Shelley Cox.

The structure of the course was tutorial based.  Everyone was encouraged to bring their own project with the aim of using Shelley’s vast expertise to further our progress and stitching skills. I had decided that this weekend would be the ultimate in indulgence.  Not only would I use a felt pen doodle of dogs as my inspiration, momentarily leaving aside the serious “artiness” of Life Drawing, I was also going to throw myself into colour.  The result of these three wonderfully meditative days is “Gaspode and Fifi” the first of a series of embroidered Doggy Doodles.  I smiled all the way through stitching these guys and I loved the way that they induced a similar reaction from everyone who walked past during their construction.

"hand embroidered doggy doodle"

Gaspode and Fifi, hand embroidered doodle on calico

I kept as true to the original drawing as I could finding that embroidery stitches translated very well into doodle patterns.  I love the way this turned out and can’t wait to get on with Doggy Doodle 2: Boris, which is currently on the hoop impatiently waiting his turn on my to do list.


Sheds, beads, cartoons and a bit of bashing it down

I had a tutorial at West Dean College the other weekend with talented print maker Jane Stobart (one of our two wonderfully knowledgeable and generous tutors, the other being Frances Hatch whose job it was to steer me in a sensible direction at the beginning of the FDAD).  The end of my Foundation Diploma in Art and Design is fast approaching, and during this final tutorial we discussed how my work has been evolving and sensible ways to move it on.  It was agreed that following on from my knitted “paintings”, and with my obvious yarn obsession, tapestry weaving might be a medium that I should explore.

I had taken an introduction course in Tapestry Weaving a number of years back and remembered it as being rather complicated.  However, I was keen to give it another go (not least as West Dean is widely seen as a worldwide centre of excellence, think Tracey Emin, Stirling Tapestries etc, so it would have been rude not to) and after chopping the dusty remnants of my previous attempts off my frame and locating my bobbin, I headed off down the M27 in anticipation of another wonderful weekend of total immersion in the creative arts (and real puddings!).

"tapestry weaving sample"

Weaving diagonals and a circle

We were lucky to have Philip Sanderson, Creative Director of the tapestry studio, as our tutor for the weekend who’s combination of relaxed teaching and obvious enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject suited my learning style perfectly and by the end of the first full day of working out whether my shed was open or closed (!) I had dabbled with diagonals and created an almost circle (with far less pain than last time around!)

"tapestry weaving sample"

Tapestry Weaving sample, half passes

On the second day I tried out a simple cartoon.  You might be forgiven if you are trying to find Bugs Bunny in the above sample, but a cartoon in tapestry weaving nomenclature is a drawn or traced map of a design which you hang behind the warps as a guide.  I then re-tried the circle just to prove that my first attempts were not a fluke, adding in a blending effect called half passes (nothing to do with horses Mum!).

Tapestry weaving has so much in common with hand knitting i.e. a mediative, slow, binary method of textile construction, that I wasn’t surprised that I am now well and truly addicted.  However, Philip did make a point of telling us that no stitches are involved (not sure if you can use the term row or not).  I can’t wait to get the current WIP finished so I can warp up and full speed ahead (Captain) with all the ideas that I now have buzzing around my head.  Look I already have the yarn ready and waiting…….


In search of the perfect torso

Regular readers of my musings will be aware that a common theme in my work so far this year has been exploring form, both how to effectively depict 3d in 2d, as well as 3d work itself with my textile sculptures.  The Blackwork Rabbit embroidery workshop the other weekend got me thinking about the use of pattern as a tonal medium and has started me on a series of experiments using one of my charcoal torso drawings as the starting point.

"charcoal drawing of a female cast"

Charcoal drawing of a female cast

I have just finished experiment number one which uses patterned fabric, hand pieced together (quite therapeutic but sooo fiddly) and some hand stitching through three layers (I won’t offend any real Quilters out there by calling it quilting!) to give the torso form.

"patterned fabric torso"

Patterned fabric torso

I am happy with the end result although lots of colours and patterns makes it somewhat busy for my personal tastes.  I would have preferred a black and white version (maybe next time).  Overall though, lots learnt during the making of this piece:

1. U tube is your friend when you have no idea what you are doing

2. An ironing board is not just something that sits in a cupboard providing hanging space for dog leads

3. Don’t put the nose of an iron too close to your fingers when you are pressing, that steam is HOT!

4. Freezer paper has nothing to do with food or freezers (i.e. you can buy it in Hobbycraft but not in Sainsburys)

5. A hanging sleeve is not the latest feature of fashionable sweaters

6. Those magnifying lenses that you can buy to clip onto your glasses are not just for comedy effect

Overall, I quite enjoyed this brief foray into “quilting” and woven fabrics but will be happy to return to the far less dangerous sport of knitting (the needles are less pointy and the ironing less fiddly).

And while posting, just to let you know that I have recently started a Facebook page where I post more regular updates on work in progress, along with links to exciting stuff that inspires me, so for any of you who use that particular form of social media please do give it a visit.



Weimaraner’s noses are longer than you think!

It took a few weeks for my bloodied fingers to heal after my initial adventures into textile taxidermy with my Jack Russell head.  However, once the skin had calloused over it was time to start again, this time with Sas my Weimaraner, as model.  The first challenge was to source appropriate colours.  She is sort of pinky, greeny, silvery, purpley, grey, a colour not stocked by many yarn and fabric stores.  After some disastrous attempts at beetroot dyeing (the water went a lovely colour and the kitchen got good and steamy but not a lot stayed in the fabrics) I remembered a Rowan Kidsilk Haze sweater that I made a few years back and rarely wear.  While way too fluffy for Weimaraner hair (they are actually quite silky and greasy) it was at least a reasonable colour match so would have to do.

"Lengthening the nose and ears turns a Staffy into a Weimaraner"

Lengthening the nose and ears turns a Staffy into a Weimaraner


Bemused that my first attempts ended up looking like a Staffy I took a tape measure to a wriggling model to find out that Weimaraner noses are much longer than I thought.  Luckily I have no shortage of felted knitwear and was able to create a nose extension and Sas began to appear before me, particularly after I found a couple of buttons which colour matched the trademark Weimaraner spooky eyes.

"Textile Weimaraner Head by Nicky Barfoot"

Textile Weimaraner Head by Nicky Barfoot

The end result is a pleasing caricature of Sas.  While way too fluffy (but that could also be a statement of her character as she has often been labelled “blonde”), I think I have captured her permanently surprised (the Husband calls it gormless) expression rather well.  However, there is no doubt that this is Sas version 1.  Once I have found a merino/silk blend yarn in the appropriate colour and have worked out how to do the complicated folds and pleats that make up a Weimaraner ear, Sas version 2 will be born.

"Weimaraner and textile scuplture"

The model views the sculpture

The model was a bit non plussed when she saw the finished likeness but she also didn’t think it was a toy.  Hopefully that means I won’t find Sas Version 1 disembowelled on the lounge floor at some later date.