Canine Partners Textile Art Challenge

At the back end of last year I found out about a textile challenge that was being put together to raise funds for Canine Partners, a charity which trains and provides (free of charge) assistance dogs to people living with disabilities in the UK.  These amazing dogs help their human partner with everyday tasks such as opening and closing doors, taking the washing out of the machine, picking things up from the floor, pressing switches and fetching help when needed.

Dogs and textiles for a good cause, well it would have been rude not to don’t you think? So the challenge is to buy a pack of 25 fabric squares from the Textile Challenge facebook page and create a piece of textile art or an object using at least part of every piece.

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My original pack of fabrics. 

Sounded easy until I had a good look at the fabrics supplied and realised just what a variety of weights, colours, materials and patterns there were (I should have realised by the word “challenge” in the title, huh?). So two days of standing at the ironing board rearranging, I came up with this.

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Trying to respond to the fabrics and coming up with this, mmm………

As you can see a few of the squares had foliage of some sort as a pattern so I thought I should use these in the final design and had some kind of stitchy flowering thing in mind. And then purely by chance I read an interview with the fabulous Grayson Perry who urged me to respect my muses and my techniques (my interpretation of his advice, not his words as such) and “what were you thinking?” came to mind. At the same time I decided that I couldn’t cope with all of those colours, textures and patterns (way too busy for me) and a bit of unifying was required so the paints came out.

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Now I’m getting excited but let’s move those leaves

So the leaves were replaced with, yes you guessed it, a dog! A free machine embroidered sketch of my usual Weimie muse followed by more paint and a few words hand embroidered on the top and this is the final piece.

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“Clown’s Crown” machine and hand embroidery on painted fabrics

All of the entries to the challenge will be exhibited at the Angel Inn in Midhurst (South Downs National Park) from 18 February for four days. The work will be for sale to raise further funds for the charity. Do check out the Textile Challenge facebook page to see what other people are making and there is still a bit of time left if you fancy having some textile fun yourself for a good cause.

Getting noticed in the digital age (or how to take a decent photo)

 

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Hand knitted Dog Blanket

The digital age can make getting one’s work seen by others so much easier in many respects as we no longer have to rely on an intermediary such as a magazine or gallery to promote us. While this is not good news from their point of view with so many galleries sadly closing down in recent years, it does mean that without the significant commission payments to the gallery from sale proceeds (usually about 50%), pricing work from the artist’s point of view is more straightforward (although never easy as how does one factor in the time to create a piece of work when that includes a lifetime of education, experimentation and training while getting to the point of being able to create said piece?) and the customer can often get a more affordable price.

However! In my personal experience I have found it is so much easier to sell a piece of work when someone can actually see it in the flesh (so to speak). I think this is partly due to a kind of image numbness one gets these days with the constant bombardment from social media streams and marketing campaigns. Any one who has sat in a coffee shop and observed the activity around them from the other customers who are rapidly scrolling down their i phone screens whilst trying to hold some kind of conversation with the person sat opposite them will understand what I mean by  this. But, I can’t deny that it is also largely due to what has been described in the past by the editor of a knitting magazine as my “terrible photographs!”.

So how do we get noticed in this environment? (Any one who knows the answer to this question please tell me). On the basis that good photos must help (and my 10 year old basic digital camera combined with a cluttered and poorly lit house just can’t do my work justice), last week I booked a professional photo shoot with the lovely Rob Fry  who took some fabulous shots of my work, including these of the dog blanket.

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Dog Blanket charts available from my Etsy shop

Now this is a luxury that I can’t afford on a regular basis but then I don’t have the funds to buy the equipment or training to do it myself either. So, after seeing the output from the shoot I’m afraid my response to my title “how to take a decent photo” has got to be (for me anyway), pay a professional 😉

Until next time…..

 

Pooch Portrait, hoighty toighty style

Forced into a major clear out over the past few weeks, I have had to throw away my collection of arty magazines.  This, as some of you will appreciate, has resulted in much distraction leafing through said treasures prior to deciding which should be saved and which should be thrown.  Whilst embarking on this long winded filing process, I came upon a picture of William Larkin’s “Portrait of Lady Anne Clifford” (1618) and inspiration struck!  All I could see in place of the non smiling, slightly smug face gazing at me with unblinking eyes was my Weimaraner’s snooty stare and I just had to pay homage to it with a hoighty toighty, mixed media pooch portrait.

"mixed media Weimaraner portrait"

Portrait of Lady Saskia: stitched water colour and mixed media on cotton rag paper

I now can’t wait to get going on an homage to Cornelis Johnson’s “Portrait of an Unknown Gentleman” (1631) featuring Alf the ridiculous Cocker Spaniel in place of the ginger bearded man in his lace collared jacket.  First things first though, where did I “file” the rest of my vintage lace………..

Pickle and Pongo: New homes required

Now that the Knitting and Stitching Shows are over for another year and the 2014 UKHKA Knitted Textile Awards have been announced, Pickle and Pongo’s jobs are done.  While I will be sorry to see them go, there are far too many dogs in my house already (apparently, according to the Husband though I can’t see it myself) so I have just listed them in my Etsy shop. Do have a look and feel free to share with anyone you think might be interested in purchasing a unique, hand crafted gift.

“Caught on Calico”

Apologies to those of you who don’t “do” Christmas until December, but I couldn’t wait any longer to show you my 2014 Christmas card designs.  These three hand embroidered doggy doodles all show dogs (and cats in two of them) caught doing something naughty (hence the name of the series “Caught on Calico”) in a Christmas setting.  The names of the cards are: “The Christmas Party”, “Wreck the Halls” and “The Night before Christmas”. No prizes for guessing which title belongs to which doodle.

"embroidered Christmas doggy doodles"

Nicky Barfoot 2014 Christmas card designs: “Caught on Calico”

These embroideries have been transferred to printed cards for me by Moo on their lovely 340gsm paper.  They are for sale and are proving to be so popular I’m on my second print run.  If you have doggy mad friends or relatives who would appreciate a limited edition art card for Christmas, I’ll have them with me at the Harrogate Knit and Stitch show (20 to 23 November) so do come find me on stand A600 where I will once again be exhibiting my knitted dog heads as a finalist in the UK Hand Knitting Association’s Knitted Textile Awards.  Hope to see some of you next week.

Knitted Textile Awards 2014: Ally Pally

Wow, what a week! I had an overwhelming response to my knitted dog heads at Ally Pally from the thousands of lovely visitors to the Knitted Textile Awards stand. If only I could have captured on camera the smiles they provoked, particularly Pickle the fluffy terrier.  I got lots of interest in commissions, was shown lots of pictures of people’s dogs and even got to stroke a little chihuahua who had been smuggled into the show in a handbag!  Probably the funniest comment from viewers was a lady who laughed out loud at Pickle stating “that dog has eyebrows just like my Dad!”.

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Pongo, Biffa and Pickle welcoming visitors to the Knitted Textile Awards at Ally Pally 2014

The stand looked fantastic this year, thoughtfully curated by Sam Elliott from Kingston University, and it showed off the work of the finalists beautifully.  In the Open Category we had plenty of knitted sculpture to keep my doggies company including a full size brown bear by Heather Drage of “Born to Knit”, a cheeky seagull enjoying a feast of fried chicken by Claire Sams, and the ENTIRE cast of the Hobbit (minus the dwarves as there wasn’t enough room!) by Denise Salway.

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“Herring Gull eating fried chicken” by Claire Sams

In contrast to the sculpture there were some lovely crochet baby shoes with sparkly soles by “This little”, a striking picture by Tina McCara, a wonderfully wearable asymmetric jacket by Becca Tansley, Babsi Cooper’s sculptural crochet dress inspired by the Yorkshire countryside, a colourful crocheted unisex T by Matthew, aka one man crochet, the cutest kiddy colourwork clothes by Anita Joyes, and last but by no means least some gorgeous hand knitted cushions by Oksana Dymyd.

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Hand knitted cushion by Oksana Dymyd

And this was just the open category!  The graduate competition was also amazing in its diversity, managing to be both inspired, technical and wearable all at the same time.  I didn’t envy the judges their job and many of them told us afterwards how difficult they found it.  We await the results at Harrogate.

There was also some inspiring work on display at the Knit and Stitch show by other artists and makers this year.  I think my favourites were Renate Keeping and Jean Bennett.  More on them in another post. That’s it for now.  After a week away being looked after by my Mum, real life and the day job now beckon.  Firstly though a wet and muddy run around the woods with a hyperactive and neglected Weimaraner.

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Way too much energy!

Packing three dog heads into a trolley!

This wet and windy Monday morning I have mostly been packing.  As usual, I have left it all to the last minute and after a frantic few hours trying to locate postcard and business card holders and the other paraphernalia that goes with exhibiting (now where did I leave that hammer!) I have succeeded.  I now know why there is a product called “No more nails”.  I thought the name was a reflection of its superior ability to stick things to exhibition panels but actually it is more about what it does to your finger nails while you try to scrub off the remains of its adhesion from the last exhibition.

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Minimalist exhibition packing achieved!

So once I have decided on the most appropriate footwear to pack for the week (comfy AND waterproof is not the easiest objectives to meet!) I will be embarking on a damp journey around the M25 to hotel Mum and Dad where I will as usual be spoilt rotten.  Note to self: remember to take a big enough handbag to accommodate Mum’s packed lunches this year!  And I don’t feel too bad about leaving the husband on his own for the week as I have left him with the huge roll of bubble wrap for entertainment.

If you are planning to come to Ally Pally Knit and Stitch show this week please drop by the UKHKA stand TG Q13 in the Textile Gallery located in the West Gallery, and introduce yourself to me.  It would be great to put faces to names.  Hopefully see you there.

More Doggy Doodles and my new Nicky Barfoot Etsy Shop is now up and running.

I’ve been quite productive since my last post, utilising the luxury of a couple of lazy weekends in revisiting the embroidery threads and pointy needles.  The result has been more doggy doodles, with the finishing touches put to this doodle, “Tune”, this morning.

"hand embroidered doggy doodle on painted calico"

“Tune”: Hand stitched on painted calico, decorated with vintage lace and mounted on Khadi paper.

“Tune” is currently available to buy and has just been listed in my new Etsy shop.  Do have a look.  More items, including knitting patterns as pdf downloads, will be added to the shop over the coming weeks.

Can a Leopard really change his shorts?

OK so my title is a little misleading but you know how much I like my Terry Pratchett quotes and I have spent a weekend working on spots so it seemed an opportunity too good to miss.  My spotty weekend was the result of a commission I received a few weeks back to create a knitted dalmatian doggy head sculpture and here is the result: “Floss”.

"Knitted Dalmatian dog head sculpture"

“Floss” hand knitted dog head sculpture by Nicky Barfoot

It was challenging but also rewarding working from old photos (you remember, the type that needed developing and you didn’t know what they looked like until you got them back from the Chemist) of a beloved but long departed furry family member (she was born in the 1970s).  I also asked her owner to give me an idea of the doggy personality I was working with and was given a wonderfully moving account of a dog who was part angel and part devil (aren’t they all?).  I hope I have captured some of her endearing and fondly remembered characteristics in this 3’d’ portrait.

And while we are on the subject of dear departed furry souls (in a fondly remembered not sad way I hasten to add!), I have also recently finished my second Weimaraner (remember I mentioned in a previous post that there was unfinished business here?).  This is a representation of my old male Weimie, Biffa who was my constant companion for nearly 14 years, the most laid back alpha male you were likely to come across (apart from my husband that is!).

"Weimaraner knitted dog head sculpture"

“Biffa” hand knitted 3 ‘d’ doggy portrait by Nicky Barfoot

As usual with Weimaraners the challenge (and the fun bit) is trying to represent a dog which is described as grey but is actually a mixture of brown, green and purple. While this colouring is perfect camouflage for the New Forest, it isn’t easy to find in a knitting basket!

If you fancy seeing Biffa in the knitted fur so to speak, I will be exhibiting him, along with Pongo and Pickle at the Ally Pally and Harrogate Knit and Stitch shows as I have once again been selected as a finalist in the UKHKA UK Knitted Textiles Awards (Yay!) Do come find me and introduce yourself if you are coming to either show.  I look forward to meeting you.

New doggy doodle for sale: “Bff”

Faced with a wet and gloomy Bank Holiday Monday and confined to the house to supervise an injured but still hyperactive Weimaraner, I have just finished a new doggy doodle.  Hand stitched on painted calico and cotton rag paper, and decorated with vintage lace, the theme and colour scheme is unashamedly girlie.  This unframed piece is for sale (£39 including UK postage) and measures 29 by 23.5cm.  Please E mail me if you are interested.

"hand stitched doggy doodle by Nicky Barfoot"

“Bff”: hand stitched doggy doodle on painted calico and cotton rag, decorated with vintage lace