Exhibition news and other stuff

Oops, it’s been a while. Spring has sprung, stuff is a-growing and those without lady dogs have probably already mown their lawn a few times (our back lawn doesn’t have much grass left on it these days due to the muddy craters created by piddling pooches).

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Spring has sprung

Last time I blogged I told you about the Canine Partners textile challenge and exhibition. I am delighted to report that both of my pieces sold, along with lots of other lovely work, making the event enough of a success for the charity that they are looking to hold another one. I’ll keep you posted…..

I also mentioned a rather exciting course I was doing throughout February with talented artist Este Macleod . Every day at 9am we logged in to a class room portal where we were given a creative task to do, based on the letters of the alphabet. I found some of these quite testing, which was my main reason for undertaking the course as I am usually more inclined to draw a literal representation of what is in front of me rather than exercise my imagination, but great fun and rather liberating.

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Faces created from letters of the alphabet

I particularly enjoyed the relief printing exercises using cardboard tubes (toilet roll innards but don’t tell the Health and Safety police ;-)), cosmetic sponges (never had any use for these before!) and Golden’s high flow acrylic ink.

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Relief print, acrylic ink on paper

And, as it happens one of the looming deadlines for me last month was the annual Printmakers Exhibition held at the Oxmarket Gallery in Chichester so my experimentation with relief prints during this course was definitely time well spent and inspired the work I ended up submitting to the exhibition. It finishes on 3 April so if you are in the Chichester area there is still time to have a look.

I also spent much of February working on my submission to the Embroiderer’s Guild celebration of the 300th anniversary of Capability Brown. This was a new challenge for me as you will probably be aware that landscapes and gardens are not my usual subject matter. After a few false starts and a couple of knitting tangents (why is it that whenever I have an embroidery deadline I get a knitting itch and vice versa?) I created a piece of work based on Hydrangea Walk at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens where it will be on display in the exhibition room of Jermyn’s House at Hilliers with work from members of the Solent, Andover and Salisbury branches of the Guild from 11 April. It will also be at the Knitting and Stitching shows later in the year.

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“Hydrangea Walk” hand stitch, acrylic, pastel and fabric crayon on calico and vintage lace

And, the final exhibition I am excited to tell you about is taking place at the Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham, Hampshire from 10 to 30 April where I will be exhibiting my knitted life paintings and doggy heads. Talented textile artist Caroline Bell will also be exhibiting her work during this time. On the 10 April the centre is hosting a “Fabrics” celebration with workshops, stalls and demos from local textile artists and makers. I will be teaching a knitted jewellery workshop and also doing a demo of my work processes in the morning. It would be lovely to see you there.

I’ll leave you with my latest knitted life painting created for the exhibition at the Ashcroft Centre. Until next time…..

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“Private Dancer” hand knitted painting

“Aww, Go On!”

People often comment on how slow January can be but quite frankly I blinked and missed it this year! So here’s a little catch up on arty things a foot in my life at the moment. Remember my last post about the Textile Challenge for Canine Partners? Well, not content with creating one piece for this worthy cause I was compelled to do another. This time I left the paints in their pots and worked solely with the fabrics provided in all their mismatched pattern and colour glory, and used hand stitch as my method of unifying them. The result is a reproduction of an expression I see up close (Weimaraners are renowned for their inability to recognise the concept of personal space) countless times a day and the title was a toss up between “And me!” and “Aww, Go On!”, both of which would represent the sentiment behind this face equally well.

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“Aww, Go On!” by Nicky Barfoot.

The result is possibly my favourite piece of textile work to date and I felt a little reluctant to hand it over this morning when I dropped it and “Clown’s Crown” off to the lovely lady who has organised the challenge.

Both of these pieces will be for sale at the exhibition of work created for the Textile Challenge running from 18th to 21st February. Already it has raised enough money to buy a puppy and hopefully with sale proceeds from the exhibition more canine partners can be purchased and trained to provide independence and companionship to people living with disabilities.

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Textile Challenge Exhibition

So, one exhibition deadline met and two more to plan for in February, whilst also participating on a fantastic drawing course that I have started with Este Macleod called Creative Leap where we are being set a challenge for each day of February linked to the letters of the alphabet. No doubt I shall be showing you some outputs from that over the next few weeks or so. But for now I need to get back to making a fishy collage. Until next time folks ……..

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.

Dog Blanket (but definitely not for muddy paws!)

Over the past month I have been a bit remiss in posting here due to the frantic production that has been required ahead of the Open Weekend at the Janice Barfoot Sugarcraft Centre 14 and 15 November (see previous post) and Harrogate Knit and Stitch show at the end of the month (what was I thinking!?)  However, I had to take some time away from stitching this morning as I am excited to share with you one of the things I have been beavering away making.  Remember my ongoing obsession with double knitting? Here is the latest product of this, my Dog Blanket (if either of my dogs goes any where near it there will be trouble!).

"dog portrait blanket by Nicky Barfoot"

“Dog Blanket” hand knitted in Rowan Creative Focus Worsted and Kid Classic

Featured in this collection (and working horizontally from left to right in the picture) are portraits of a Doberman, Boxer, Labrador, Weimaraner, Bull Terrier, Retriever, Spaniel, Husky and Greyhound. I’ve knitted my blanket (definitely NOT FOR DOGS) in a wonderful warm and soft combination of Rowan Creative Focus Worsted (the black) and Rowan Kid Classic (grey) and am now looking forward to relaxing in my chair this Christmas in front of a few films snuggled under my luxurious lap warmer perhaps with a cheeky little glass of port on the side table and a bit of stilton.

I have had the charts for each of the dog breeds in the blanket printed into A5 flyers so if you fancy having a go (they will work equally well for intarsia and double knitting) I will be selling them at Harrogate so do come visit stand TG623. I’m also happy to post leaflets out to any of you who won’t be able to buy in person but would still like to purchase so do drop me an e mail or PM me on Nicky Barfoot facebook page if you are interested.

Right, more caffeine required then back to manic stitching.  Hope to see some of you at the Sugarcraft Centre on 14 and 15 November for an open weekend of art and sugarcraft demonstrations, and at the Harrogate International Centre 26 to 29 November for the textile feast that is the Knitting and Stitching Show.

Ally Pally Knit and Stitch show 2015

The past few weeks have been filled with manic making as some exciting plans are now starting to hatch ahead of Harrogate Knit and Stitch show in November where I will be sharing a stand with the lovely Becca Tansley of Alterknitive.  More on this later.  In the meantime I wanted to share a few pictures from my quick visit to its sister show, Ally Pally, yesterday done in the name of research (and not at all a shopping opportunity!).  This was my first visit as a punter for ages having been on the other side as part of the Knitted Textile Awards in 2013 and 2014 and the Embroiderer’s Guild showcase in 2012 and it was a useful and enjoyable exercise to be reminded of the show experience from the customers point of view.

My first favourite gallery this year was Entwined memories, a beautifully curated exhibition by members of the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland.  I particularly liked this wonderful woven piece by Frances Crowe called Songs sung and stories told.

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Songs sung and stories told by Frances Crowe

Just a little walk up the textile gallery from this inspirational work was stitchmonger Kate Jenkins and her fabulous knitted fish stall.

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Kate Jenkins and her knitted fish stall

Now I’m not normally one to get excited about knitted versions of everyday things e.g. knitted cakes, vegetables etc (just ‘cos you can doesn’t mean you should right?), but I loved Kate’s fish. They manage to achieve a perfect balance between realism and the silliness that only knitting something can truly achieve.  And of course what female can resist the red sequiny bling of a knitted rock lobster?  If a number of household insurances hadn’t been up for renewal this month I would have come away with one of her framed pieces.  Sadly I had to settle for a card version of my favourite, Squid in Ink, which you can just see on the wall behind Kate’s shoulder in this picture.

The last of the three highlights of this year’s show for me which I wanted to share with you was the wonderful work of contemporary basket maker Stella Harding. I was blown away by this gallery which was full of amazing sculptural pieces woven from different materials including natural, wire, and my personal favourite collection, tape measures!

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Stella Harding: Geo-metric

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Stella Harding: “Another Star” and “Bling”

Of course it wasn’t all about research and inspiration. I caught up with some friends who were exhibiting, and there might have been a little shopping done as well.

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Ally Pally 2015 haul

As you can see I was very controlled. From left my Squid in Ink card from Kate Jenkins (don’t expect to receive this friends and family, this is going in my card collection and is not for sending until I can afford the original!), some lovely silk threads from Caroline Bell (definitely Weimaraner coloured!), a cheeky card from Embroiderer’s Guild Education Scholar Helen Dowdeswell, and pinking shears a requirement of one of the new projects I am currently working on. OK there might also have been four balls of yarn purchased but I’ll admit to those when I can show you what I have planned for them.

Overall a good day had, if a little rushed yesterday.  Now back to designing exhibition posters and stitching like a mad woman for the rest of the day (month!).  Until next time….

Stitched at Romsey Abbey

Just back from hanging a new piece of work in the beautiful setting of Romsey Abbey, Hampshire.  I was delighted to be invited by Susan Chapman to take part in a collaboration with Rum’s Eg gallery to fill this wonderful example of Norman architecture with stitch.

My piece, “Piggy in the Middle” was inspired by the weird and quirky corbels which adorn the outside of the abbey, combined with my allocated space of St Nicholas chapel.

"double sided hand knitted wall hanging"

“Piggy in the Middle” hand knitted double sided wall hanging in 100% wool by Nicky Barfoot

When I left this morning many wonderful examples of stitched art were still being hung. I can’t wait to see it when they are all up.

“Stitched” will be open from 30 September until 1 November and more information on exhibitors and their work can be found on the Rum’s Eg website. Hope you can make it.

Flying Solo: Diary of an Open Studios Virgin

Saturday 22 August (day1): 

5am: OK, five hours sleep is probably enough and I still have so much to do. Where did I put that list of last minute labels I need to make and stuff I need to bring? I hope our do it yourself exhibition panels are still standing and I don’t arrive to a floor covered in expensive art glass. At least the weather looks good.

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It’s all still up!

10am: Thank goodness, the only things on the floor are the Please do not Touch notices. So much for removable sticky dots. Shouldn’t the removable bit come into its own after use, not during.  Good job I have a huge wad of Blue Tack as back up. “I’ll be fine darling, thank you. See you later”.

12pm: Right, I’ve been around the room a few times straightening, polishing, rearranging. The door is open, the signs are up, the newsletter has been sent, the leaflets and booklets distributed. So come on people, where are you? At least my sister and nephew are coming today. Oh, missed that E mail: “The weather is too nice and I am too lazy”. Guess they’re not coming after all.

2pm: Yay, a car! Oh, it’s just the wonderful husband bearing coffee. “It’s dead out there” he says. “The motorway is a car park, guess everyone is off to the coast to make the most of this last day of summer weather.  It’s going to pee down for the rest of the week”.

Oh great!

2.30pm: Yay, another car.  It’s Tim and Em. You lovely people come on in. Have a wander. Tim, stop chatting to Marc about sport, this is supposed to be all about ME! Look again, don’t stop at once around the room. Ask ME questions, not him. You can talk bicycles anytime.

4.45pm: Can’t imagine anyone is coming now. Perhaps I’ll call it a day and go home. Oh, hang on, that’s the landlord crossing the road. Yikes, hope he’s OK with what I’ve done to his office. “Looks great in here!” “Your life drawing has come on a bit hasn’t it?”.

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“Little Lost Pup” illustrations, off to a new home.

45 minutes later, my first sale is done and I’m ready for a G&T.

Sunday 23 August (day 2): 

Can’t imagine anyone venturing out in this weather. They’ll all be tucked up at home having a PJ day. Oh well, gives me a bit of time to work out this 1940s fairisle pattern (I wonder when charts came in?). It really doesn’t look right. It doesn’t help that there are bits missing and, b*ll*cks (!) I think I know what is going on here. The pattern repeat in each row isn’t over the same stitches as the repeat above and below. Let’s start again. Where did I put those felt tip pens?

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Reinventing a 1940s fairisle pattern. We got there in the end!

Lunchtime: Young people are hovering around the Studentnofee sign outside.  They don’t look like Open Studios followers. They’re coming in. “Hi, are you here for Open Studios?” “Yes” (great, just goes to show one shouldn’t make snap judgements based on appearance then, although the accent suggests English isn’t their first language). They are looking somewhat confused at the stuff on the walls and realisation dawns. “Are you looking for accommodation?” “Yes!” they exclaim. “OK so it may say that this is a letting agent on the signs outside and etched into the glass on the door, and printed onto the blinds, but actually I’m an art exhibition”. More confused looks. “No houses” I say. “OK” they say. Off they go still looking confused.

Mid afternoon: Ooh, actual strangers who don’t look like students pulling up onto the forecourt. In they come.  “Hello, are you here for Open Studios?”. “Yes”. Result! A b line is made for the knitted dog heads. “These are great. I’m pleased we bothered coming. I’d give you more than a one star review”. Excuse me!?! What review? “On the Open Studios website you’ve had a one star review, so we nearly didn’t bother coming”. WHAT! I didn’t even know there was a review process and hang on a minute, I’ve only had friends and acquaintances in so far. Who would do such a nasty thing to me after they’ve seen all the hard work I’ve put into this? Ah, hang on a minute, maybe it was the Twirler I had in briefly at lunchtime. She seemed very pleasant but I did get the impression I wasn’t what she expected when she stood in the middle of the room and did a quick spin. “We’ll give you a good review” they say as they leave. “That’s if we can work out how to do it”.

An E mail comes in from my landlord. “Sorry, I tried to review you on the Open Studios website and only gave you 4 out of 5 by mistake. I thought you click on the stars and light them up until you get to your intended rating (like rating stuff on Amazon). However, it turns out that once you’ve clicked on a star, that star is the review done and you can’t change it”. That actually makes me feel better. Perhaps the one star review was a mistake. Let’s keep thinking that……….

The sun comes out. A couple walk by and come in. “What’s this?” they ask, looking interested. I explain the concept. “And is this all you?” she asks. “You’re brave!”. What does she mean, BRAVE? OK, let’s just suppress that angst. I’m sure she means it as a complement. They did write a very nice comment in the book after all!

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The “life” wall

Monday, Tuesday: A pattern has emerged. More students looking lost and desperate for somewhere to live. Starting to think the words “Open Studios” might be a bit confusing in context with the words “letting agent”.  Starting to think that instead of turning them away I should drag them in. Perhaps I could sell them a picture to hang on that wall that they don’t yet have, or a scarf to keep them warm while they trudge the streets looking.

Mid week: Where did all these people come from? I haven’t had a moment’s rest. I’ve got knitting to do you know! Look at all of those lovely comments in my book. I’m going to have to restock the greeting cards.  This is actually fun! One lovely lady brought me coffee and muffins, and then bought two pictures! I must be an artist! Go me!

Friday: More chats with worried parents looking for student accommodation. Right, you sir are going to have to walk around my exhibition before you are allowed to leave. It’s your fault for turning up in a car with a dog in the back. I am crazy dog lady and much of my work confirms this so you WILL look at it. There, that wasn’t so hard was it! Now you can go and find a home for your progeny.

The final straight: Weekends are definitely quieter than weeks. Who’d have figured? An arty friend pops in and chills out with me for a bit on the red sofa. “It’s probably because there is no one else around here exhibiting. People like to make use of their weekends with a densely populated area so travel time is limited, or visit group exhibitions where lots of different styles and subjects are accessible in one place”. Yep, that’s how I’d do it too!

Monday 31 August (day 10): Last day but no time to reflect. Much to my surprise I’m busy. A lovely morning spent with three lots of people I had invited and had assumed couldn’t make it. Lots of smiles while looking around and then time with me on the sofa fascinated by my workbooks and sketchbooks.  Then my neighbours turn up. How lovely!

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The view from the red sofa

3pm: Starting to wind down now. I should probably think about how I’m going to pack all this up. A bike turns up and another friend pops in. I am chuffed to think she has ridden her bike here to show her support and tell her so. “It helps that it stopped raining” she says.

5pm: It’s over except for the packing and the slight issue of where are we going to put all this stuff when we get it home. I enjoyed this. I got to meet some lovely people who left encouraging comments, I sold some stuff and I got to spend a week, knitting, surrounded by my art work. What’s not to like? I guess it was a brave thing to do after all, but worth it on a number of levels.

Back to the normal routine tomorrow and I know a certain Weimaraner who will be pleased that dog jogs are back on the agenda. I suppose I should also do a bit of the housework that has been put on hold for the past ten days. But then again I am halfway through an exhibition piece with a September deadline so perhaps it can wait a little longer……………

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I shall report you for Weimaraner cruelty if you don’t get those running shoes out!

Hampshire Open Studios 2015

This year I am very excited to be part of this fantastic tradition where over 200 artists and makers in the Hampshire area open up their studios, homes and other venues to show and sell work, talk to the public and demonstrate their working practices.  I have been beavering away getting work finished, framing and mounting, and of course sorting out my venue which has been kindly provided by Studentnofee Property Agency at 24 University Road, Southampton, SO17 1TJ.

open studios flyer

I shall be in situ daily from 22nd to 31st August, 10am until 5pm, possibly drawing, possibly stitching and probably feeding my current obsession with double knitting, and am looking forward to showing you my work and talking about what inspires me and the various mixed media techniques I use.  Do rest assured though that if you would rather be left to your own devices to quietly walk around without my chatter in your ear I shall have plenty of work to do so can leave you to it if you would prefer!  I am also happy to provide a (free of charge) knitting surgery if any of my visitors have UFOs that they are struggling with so bring your knitting, and can do demonstrations on the WIP I’ll have with me if the techniques I am using interest you.

"Nicky Barfoot mixed media pictures"

Some of the framed mixed media pictures which will be on display

The items I’ll have on display will include mixed media work, prints, textile pictures both framed and unframed, and wall mounted sculptures.

"Doggy Doodle by Nicky Barfoot"

“Bert” hand stitch on calico by Nicky Barfoot

If you are a regular follower of my posts you will already know that subject matter is usually (but not exclusively!) canine, feline or life inspired.

"Nicky Barfoot knitted picture"

“Frankie in grey” knitted picture

I will also have a few hand knitted accessories on display such as this double sided scarf in a cashmere and wool yarn (pink) and a rare sheep breed yarn (green).

"hand knitted double sided scarf"

Nicky Barfoot hand knitted double sided scarf

And of course, many of my designs are available as limited edition greeting cards and these will be available to purchase if any take your fancy.

"Nicky Barfoot limited edition printed cards"

Nicky Barfoot limited edition printed cards

Despite the manic last minute preparations, I’m now really looking forward to this event and it would be great to see some of you lovely people next week. The only downside is that as I am exhibiting on my own, I won’t be able to visit any of the other open studios this year.  Mmm maybe I can employ a stand in on one day?  So if you do arrive at the door and are greeted by a bald, bearded six foot plus male, he has to live and breath my art work (being subjected to it on a constant basis) so rest assured that he probably knows as much if not more about it than I do!

Life in Layers

Firstly apologies for the prolonged silence here this month. Lots going on in the background both in life generally and on the art making front resulting in time running away with me somewhat and before I knew it July was looming and no posts had materialised. Anyway, to make up for it here are three pictures of a new series I have been working on inspired by the techniques and generous teachings of talented artist Emily Jo Gibbs at a recent West Dean College short course.

"hand stitched life drawing on silk organza"

“Catherine” layered silk organza and hand stitch

"hand stitched life drawing on layered silk organza"

“Georgie (2)” layered silk organza and hand stitch

"hand stitched life drawing on layered silk organza"

“Chris” hand stitch on layered silk organza

I will be dropping Georgie off at Eastleigh College later this week where she will be on display at the end of year show as work of past graduates.  Inviting back past students is a new thing for this annual event and I am really looking forward to seeing how the work of the three years worth of Stitched Textile Degree graduates has progressed since their degree shows.  Do have a look if you are in the area.

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Eastleigh College end of year show

So, lots of stuff going on here, mainly involving stitched life drawings of which I have more planned (there is a bit of a stick and prop theme coming through!). But for now it is back to the knitting needles and a commissioned fairisle sweater (“sweat” being the operative word in this summer weather).  Back soon……….