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…..

 

Harrogate Knit and Stitch Show 2015 (Yikes! What was I thinking?!)

I’m back! And what a fabulous week I’ve just had exhibiting at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching show sharing stand TG623 with the lovely Becca Tansley of Alterknitive.  It may have been wet and windy but I still enjoyed my third visit to this picturesque spa town in North Yorkshire, possibly helped by the warm welcome and award winning breakfasts provided by Andy and Tracey at Wynnstay House, and according to Mr Barfoot, THE best coffee shop in the UK (and anyone who knows my better half realises that this is a well researched accolade) Hoxton North, which conveniently turns into a champagne bar in the evenings!

Anyway I digress, so back to the show.  After a 4am start last Wednesday morning (Mr B still hasn’t forgiven me for that!) and only a 1 hour delay sitting stationary on the M1 whilst a broken down lorry took up two out of the three lanes (rude!) at rush hour, we arrived at Harrogate International Centre to this.

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Photo credit Becca Tansley.

You can imagine what went through my head at this point? Yep you got it. Yikes! What was I thinking!?  But by the time we left at 6pm, thanks to the expert help and advice of Julia Neal of Velvet Beacon Ltd we had transformed to this.

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This was me

And this.

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Becca’s half of the stand (photo credit Becca Tansley)

Looking at my 2m by 1m share of our cubby hole now it is hard to believe the amount of effort that goes into putting something like this together. However, it is also difficult to describe what a buzz I got from seeing nine month’s worth of preparation (and panic) displayed professionally like this.  As a maker the opportunity to see a series of work in all its glory doesn’t happen that often and standing back it is extremely gratifying to be able to say to oneself, “Blimey, did I do that?”  And even better than that was the overwhelming appreciation both myself and Becca got from the thousands of lovely visitors who came by and came in.

So enough about us.  One of my favourite things about these shows is the other exhibitors.  We hadn’t been there five minutes on set up day before Kevin Powell came by for a catch up. I spent the previous two Harrogate Knit and Stitch shows as part of the UK Knitted Textile Awards on a stand next to the Spellbound Bead Company and had many an entertaining chat with Kev, mild mannered bead shop owner by day and Punk Rock star with the band Skimmer by night, usually about music or sharing anecdotes about our furry kids.  He also gave me a copy of Skimmer’s latest album, Baby Dinosaur, which if anything like their previous output will no doubt become my new favourite driving album.  After his comments that it is probably their best to date (and they’ve been around a while!) I’m looking forward to getting in the car later and having a listen.

Situated opposite us in the Textile Gallery was the Nicola Jarvis Studio, The Art of Embroidery. The stand was huge and when we got there they were busy putting up wallpaper and furnishing it with the most amazing wooden furniture.  The end result was a haven of calm in the midst of the show frenzy not unlike being in the drawing room of a large country house.  This impression was further enhanced by the wonderful Brian Hunt, a past student of Nicola’s who, despite the bustle and chaos of a show set up, sat tranquil in front of an embroidery loom engrossed in his technically superb stitching for much of the day.

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Brian Hunt stitching in the Nicola Jarvis Studio

I found out later in the week that Brian isn’t the only expert stitcher in his family.  That fabulous sweater he is wearing in the picture is one of his wife Helen Hunt’s creations. I saw the inside of that sweater folks, that lady knows her fairisle!

In another part of the Textile Gallery I discovered the work of talented felt maker Michala Gyetvai.  Not one usually attracted to landscapes in art, this has got to be one of my favourite pieces in the show. The title of the stand was Enchanted Landscapes and this one summed that up for me, invoking all sorts of fairytale esque narratives as I was drawn into its depths.

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“After India” by Michala Gyetvai 2015

Another piece of work that stopped me in my tracks to have a better look and more in line with my usual tastes was this winner of the Art Quilts category at the 2015 Festival of Quilts by Susan Orchin.

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See how these quirky quilted characters, winners of the 3d festival of quilts category, are also mesmerised by this piece.

And no trip to the Knitting and Stitching show would be complete without a little bit of retail therapy.  I didn’t have to venture out from the stand for some of my Christmas present purchases, but obviously I can’t say any more about those as the recipients may guess who they are after reading this and it would ruin the surprise.  I have had a couple of orders for the dog blanket in recent weeks so I also had the pleasure of sourcing some yarn.

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My new favourite yarn

And look what I found (and yes it feels even better than it looks!) The lovely ladies from the Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop guessed I might be a repeat offender as I came past most mornings for another look and a squidge, and gave me a shade card.  Good move ladies!

Right, that’s enough putting off the unpacking.  I also have a dog to pick up and all of those jobs I postponed until December to plan for.  Not to mention the other business to run.  But then I also have some lovely new yarn to play with.  Mmm, maybe there’s time for just one more coffee and a quick cast on before I get back to the real world.  Until next time……..

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“Do we really have to get the other dog back Mum? I quite like being the centre of attention”.

Dog Blanket: Hints and Tips for making up

A number of you lovely people who have bought the set of dog portrait knitting charts have asked me for some guidance on how I made up my blanket.  So if that is you, please read on for hints and tips on how I put the portraits together.

I used four balls of Rowan Creative Focus worsted (100g) (black) and seven Rowan Kid Classic (50g) (shade 885, cloudy).  Using 4mm needles and working on 48sts and 61 rows my portraits came out at 26cm square.

Please note that most of the charts are 48sts wide by 61 rows high. However when working out your tension be aware that the Retriever and Spaniel charts as printed are 49sts wide (61 rows high) and the Greyhound is 62 rows high.

My cable bit was worked separately on 12 sts as follows using 4mm needles:

Row 1: P1, k1, p1, k6, p1, k1, p1

Row 2: K1, p1, k1, p6, k1, p1, k1

Row 3: P1, k1, p1, C6F, p1, k1, p1

Row 4: K1, p1, k1, p6, k1, p1, k1

Row 5: P1, k1, p1, k6, p1, k1, p1

Row 6: K1, p1, k1, p6, k1, p1, k1

Repeating the above, I created six cable lengths that fitted the height of the portraits and attached them to the inside borders of the edge portraits and to either side of the central portraits.

I then made two more long cable borders to fit the entire inside width of the blanket and attached them.

I put a moss stitch external border around the whole blanket as follows: using 4mm needles and the black by picking up and knitting 48 sts per square and 7sts per cable band along the top and bottom of the blanket.  I worked 4cm in moss stitch, knitted a garter stitch turning row on the WS, changed to the grey and continued in stocking stitch for 9 more rows.  The side edges of the blanket were then picked up and knitted as per the top and bottom, adding in an extra 6sts at either end for the top and bottom border bands and completed in the same way.

Hope this helps, and I’ll leave you with the latest double knitting portrait: Kitty Cushion. Who says I don’t listen to feedback 😉

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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.

Seeing Double (or perhaps, tangle free intarsia?)

Have I ever told you Chaps how much I enjoy gift shopping for Mum? It gives me the perfect excuse to “research” knitting books, gadgets and textiles for an obsessive yarn addict other than myself, the only concern being that she might already have got one of those (think blocking mats, carbon fibre knitting needles, stitch markers etc and you get the idea). Of course it also presents an opportunity to get a trusted review on whether said book or gadget can change a life for the better (how on earth did we ever survive without it?) and if so, well you can guess the next instalment.

So while perusing the latest books on Amazon, sifting through all of the mouth watering delicacies that have probably already been digested from cover to cover by the intended recipient, I came across this little gem.  While the front cover photo would normally have put me right off (embarrassing memories of 1980s knitting patterns and how many hats does one really need living in the south of England?), what competitive nature could resist the title!?

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Also, being a big fan of Nini and Wink‘s cheeky double knitted scarves (and do check out their wonderful knitted faces, they make me chuckle every time!), I have been intending to give this technique a try for quite some time.

Nini and Wink double knitted scarf (photo credit Nini and Wink‘s facebook page)

So, as one can never have enough books, I gave a copy a home and have been obsessively double knitting ever since.

Between you and me, I have to admit that after skimming the first few pages and finding the rather dry narrative too much to bear for my enthusiasm to just get on with it, I quickly skipped to the how to cast on section and haven’t really dipped into the book since (don’t tell the Long Suffering Husband this, as far as he is concerned I am working my way methodically through it, just like I do every other book that takes up all available shelf and floor space in the house).  But the seed of inspiration has well and truly been planted so I say it was a purchase well made!  The most exciting thing about knitting a front and back of a two layer fabric at the same time is that two or three colour intarsia becomes a piece of tangle free cake! No more twisting bobbins dangling off the back of the work as you go. The downside is how many scarves and blankets does one really need and of course, knitting two sides of everything is a little time consuming.

“The two sides of a Spaniel” double knitting in Rowan Cotton Glace

I am currently obsessively working my way through portraits of various dog breeds, some of which have come out a treat, and others have failed to meet expectations.  Currently I have a Jack Russell, Weimaraner (of course!), a Spaniel and a Pug. More terriers are on the way and a gauntlet has been thrown down by a labrador! I was thinking Andy Warhol when I started these but who knows where (or in what) they will end up.  A Dog Blanket, probably.

“What are you looking at?!” Double knitted pug in Rowan Cotton Glace

Anyway, I have a French bulldog in mind that needs charting and a rummage through the cotton glace stash for two suitably contrasting colours is required (not as easy as one would think after the blue, green and orange combo I tried for that pesky labradog just didn’t work!). I am also keen to experiment with a bit of texture in double knitting too so until next time…….

Turn up the Volume!

Apologies for being a bit remiss on the posting front recently.  This isn’t a reflection of a lack of productivity, in fact, quite the opposite.  I have been extremely busy making over the past month driven by commissions, a number of internal and external factors, and inspired by everything from the weather, exhibition visits, recent workshops, my usual doggy muses and exhibition deadlines.

“Jess the Doodle” recent commissioned knitted doggy head

Perhaps it is the volume that has created the problem in searching for an interesting sharing experience with you. A bit like driving into a supermarket car park and finding too many spaces to choose from? Anyway, rather than just post pictures of “stuff what I have done” which probably only interests my Mum (sorry Mum, I’ll post one of those soon too!) I thought I’d share two inspirational experiences that have really added to my productive drive.

The first was a video from Ira Glass, the host of “This American Life” radio show which a friend had posted on her facebook feed. In the clip Ira talks about how creative people are trying to be good at what they do but due to their inherent sense of good taste (as per their creative nature) they are continually being disappointed by their output.  At this point it could be easy to quit as one invests so much time and energy knowing that the work being produced just isn’t up to one’s own high standards.  He urges us instead to keep going and in fact create a huge volume of work with the aim of closing the gap between our ambitions and our output.  Thanks Ira, that was just the excuse I needed to drive on!

The other source of huge inspiration I wanted to share with you today is this book.  I picked it up at the Tate book shop a little while back and nearly missed my train stop on the way home as I just couldn’t put it down.

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In it the author asks 50 successful artists in various media a number of questions regarding why they do what they do, where they get their inspiration from and particularly how they deal with creative blocks.  This is, of course, accompanied by mouth watering pictures of their work.  At the end of each interview the artist is asked to set a task for the reader to help boost creativity and work through a creative block.  One of the really interesting things for me was to see how even these successful creatives have huge amounts of self doubt (I thought it was just us aspiring types!) so I guess this links in with the taste thing that Ira was talking about.  In particular, US illustrator Sidney Pink came out with a fabulous quote which has burrowed into my subconscious and I’m sure will keep surfacing in times of need: “Any thing of value comes from hard work and unwavering dedication.  If you want to be a good artist you need to look at other artists, make a lot of crappy art, and just keep working” (ref page 88 of Creative Block by Danielle Krysa).

So readers, yet again we are faced with the dilemma of not enough hours in the day (and storage space!) and I am feeling the need to get the inks out and create an illustration triggered by my Jack Russell’s antics this morning. I also recognise that there are not enough pictures in this post and far too many words so I shall leave you with an image of an illustration I finished a couple of days ago inspired by Sas and Alfie on a recent Sunday dog jog.  Get creating!

“The Hunters” ink on watercolour paper by Nicky Barfoot

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.