Sunday, December 18, 2011
Thursday, December 01, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
I admit. I get cranky from time to time. I am not perfect. But at least I am not secretive about it on top. Let me share.
Today was the day the builder, finally, after many broken promises started to build the bespoke islands for my studio. One for cutting, one for pressing, on castors so they can push together. I had a detailed conversation about my requirements and at his request I drew a detailed picture with precise measurments and instructions...... On the left a 500m base unit, on the right a 1000 one. Side panels on each side? On top worktop 160 cm length. Four castors and all made to the same height as the kitchen island in the kitchen. No problem he assures me. And I am sure you crafty people agree: not a complex and challenging design.
I get home. The cupboards are the wrong way around, the worktop is 164 cm and the whole thing is 4 inches higher than requested with the effect that it is too high for cutting and too high to sit at with the bar stool which I left with them as they were constructing it. Like I said.Cranky.
So I ring the builder. Oh no problem he said. He told Dennis it might be too high. He knew it was too high but it was easier to do it that way than to cut the side panels down. But he did tell Dennis he can alter it.
Very Cranky. I mean,why build it knowingly wrong only to have to re do it?
I go and relay the conversation to Dennis. He denies that any such conversation or any conversation capable of being construed as possibly being akin to such a conversation took place. One of them is flat out lying to me and I am not betting it is the one I have known for nearly twenty years who didn't decide to knowingly build it wrong in the first place.
Past Cranky now. It is for times like this I have a design bath with bubbles. I go and soak. And wash my hair, finishing a shampoo bottle in the process. I get a new one out of the storage cupboard and notice that the label has changed. It is the same in all respects save that the new one is missing the words : 100% satisfaction guaranteed.
WHY????? What have they done to my shampoo that they know in advance I will not be 100% satisfied? I mean what does a shampoo have to do in the first place to make me 100% satisfied? Clean my hair that's what. How hard can that be? Oh and not wind me up again after my relaxing bath. So I guess it was a self fulfilling prophecy to remove that label. What stupid brand manager / PR person came up with that one then?
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
I wanted to wait until my studio was all done and perfect before I showed more photos. But I could not wait that long to get in and start working so I thought I'd do the slow blow by blow account for you over the coming weeks. As you will see the studio already has interesting features. Some permanent, some definately not.
The wooden desk came from my Chambers when I was a barrister and is now my sewing desk. The glass desk is my writing and computing area and came from John Lewis. The black drawers are supposed to hold all my fabric and threads. Of course they don't. But there is other storage space so that's OK. The boxes under the desk will be tidied away too and either an inspiration board or a set of narrow shelves will go at the side of the desk in the eaves. I have not quite decided yet.
In front of the desk you see my innovative design towel. This low cost work area is at optimal height for maximum backache and is also of optimal uselessness as a cutting surface. It will be replaced by a kitchen island type worksurface made from kitchen cabinets on castors on Monday. Or on whatever day the builder thinks counts as Monday. I am not saying he lies, but let's say he does not have perfect timetabling skills. That island will have an overhang,hence the bar stool, so I can sit and do design or fusing work there. The artistically embellished ( with rips and burns) ironing board will be replaced by an identical ( save for being slightly narrower) island. This means i can push the two togther if I ever need a large surface still. My main design wall will go between the pressing surface and the desk and extend over the side of the desk. Being a loft conversion, wall space is not in good supply so the design area is maybe not as big as is ideal but it is big enough.
The one straight full height wall there is will house the shelves that match the cherry desk. The books currently on the window seat will fill about half the shelf space so there is plenty of room left and on top I plan African baskets that my friend Magie is going to go and pick for me on her next trip to Ghana. My wadding roll and scraps boxes will go in the window seat, on which there will be cushions, of course.
To the left of the desks area are the stairs and the reading nook area, which will have low bookcasing all around and an arm chair and foot stool.I am debating between a deep pink and a green colorway in a stripe fabric. I am going to go back to the shop on Friday to choose. I may put a secondary design wall at the foot of the stairs. Also to the left of the desk you can see the door to the bathroom.
Now, I have to tell you about my design bath. First of all, I can see the design wall from it, perfect for seeking inspiration. Then, it is an air bath. No nasty chrome outlets. Just tiny pinprick holes.
But press a button and you get this:
AND... Lets say I run the bath and then decide I need just five minutes more quilting time. I can press a button and my bubbles will come on in exactly five minutes time. And if I keep doing that so that my quilt gets bigger but the water goes cold I can press a button and it will heat up the water that is already in the bath without me having to add more. I love this bath. I bought it with the last cheque I got from the freelance lecturing work I used to do and everytime I use it I have a moment when I remember the fun parts of working in London on expenses, the hassle of travel, the joy of making large groups of people laugh and the misery of being ill alone in a hotel room. This bath makes me both proud of what I achieved in my day job to be able to buy it and inspired to achieve (albeit with different criteria) with my art.
On the other side of the bathroom is the toilet. The seat remains in the hall down stairs and you will see that we have a leak. Sigh. The builder came out tonight to isolate the water and is coming first thing tomorrow to sort it out. Frankly, I am amazing myself with my patience these days.
Monday, October 31, 2011
You will excuse me not blogging last weekend but I was busy decorating my studio. It's nearly ready!!! It needs a little more paint and stain and some cabinetry building and some furniture ordering and some cushions ordering but only the paint and stain will stop me beginning to move in and thats a matter of days now. Yipee!!! I am so excited. Photos of the moved into studio will follow in due course.
And now for the shameful confession. I have never done any decorating. Ever. Bar painting a bit of furniture. Mostly because if you casually say to my Dad ," I'm thinking that the dining room might need decorating soon" his usual response is ," I can't get down to do it until Tuesday". He loves it. And all my life I have been under the impression that he had special super-skills and that he clearly changed into his decorating pants in a phonebox. And due to my failure to ever decorate in my life I think my parents thought that my practical abilties were such that I'd struggle to work out how to open the door of a phonebox.
But here's the thing. Decorating is fun. Lots of fun. And cutting in is not some high precision engineering task. It's painting in a straight line with a brush. I did I think seventeen or so hours at the weekend and didnt want to stop. Turns out its like dyeing fabric. Start with boring, add colour, get pretty. What's not to love?
So tell me, what else have I been missing out on? This splitting the atom stuff... Just like unpicking a seam, right?
Friday, October 28, 2011
Today was an exciting day. Look what was waiting for me when I came home. Aren't you jealous just because of the packaging alone? And I know its not November but it came earlier than expected.
Mrs B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath has made one of my blogs before as the first shop where any member of the Twelve by Twelve group spotted a copy of our book in a proper bookshop rather than a quilt shop and subsequently as the shop where I was filmed for the BBC news. So it is fair to say I am predisposed to like it. But, I have to say I was a little sceptical of its latest innovative gift offering - A Mr B's Reading Year. In effect this is a postal version of their Reading Spa only it lasts for longer and you have to supply your own cake. ( Although, now I have said that it would not suprise me if a 'with added brownie' version of the gift is launched soon.) The idea is that they spend sometime getting to know you and your taste in books , either in person or by telephone or email. Then, each month except January, when you are presumed to have Christmas books ( and I assume the staff to be too knackered after the Christmas rush to be bothered) you get a personally chosen book with a note explaining why it was sent for you, written by your own personal bibliotherapist.
Now, the idea is great but I did wonder whether it was possible to know enough about the content of enough books and to know the reader well enough to get eleven good matches. But when I was in Bath this time I read three books I would not have picked up had they not recommended them and loved them all. And I am half way through one I did pick up all by myself but, as it was hardback, I would probably have put it back and awaited the paperback, had Ed not enthused about it so much, by the time he had finished, I was cradling it like my child, lest anyone abduct it from me. So I decided to let them challenge themselves on me and bought myself a gift.
This is what was inside my package.
Initial reaction: Doubt. The cover makes it look like a knock off of Angela's Ashes. Which, as a book was great. As the precursor of the misery memoir genre it was not great. But when I turn to the back cover, I understand. Although I have to say, it does not seem that they have had to try very hard. The blurb uses all the key words I would say I, liked in a book iin two sentences : love, friendship, community, race, faith, music, barbecue and the language of rabbis. Actually, on second glance, the Jewish connection turned out to be my mistake. It is about the language of rabbits. but thats quite intriguing too.
It says it is a debut novel ( good because if I like it there is no great expense of getting all the back catalogue) and that the author is in the ranks of chroniclers of American Life such as John Irving and Garrisson Keillor ( not good as those are two authors I have not read but always knew I probably should and if this book is good I will probably have to buy the back catalogue of TWO authors. And Mr B, if you are reading, no you can't send me those authors the next two months. That's cheating.) Dennis gets a spoiler email to check I do not already have a book they intend to send. His first impression of this book was the same as mine: that it looks like a Fried Green Tomato at the Whistlestop Cafe type of book, which is like saying it is a Helen Mirren type of actress.
So, I just have to finish The Submission by Amy Waldman and I can tuck into this one with good expectations. I read but rarely blog about what I read so I plan to blog my package each month then later tell you what I thought of it. You could buy a copy and read along if you like. If you want the packaging as much as I did Mr B's ( a shop in which incidentally my only financial interest is that they stay open so I can part with money in their premises) now have an internet shop.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Dennis is on a Charles Dickens kick. He has read two biographies of him, has declared that he is going to read all his novels in the next twelve months, went to see Simon Callow perform two of his plays last week and today decided that he really did need John Foresters biography as well. Which is the official one, is reprinted in three volumes and costs over £65. Or, if you buy it on Kindle £2.82. There is, I think a point at which every staunch 'I prefer a book over the evils of Kindle' person reaches their conversion point. Dennis just reached his.
So I began to teach him how to download his book. Twenty seconds later, it downloads. All 900 pages. He is very impressed and has a read of the first few pages to get used to turning pages on the Kindle. So then I show him how to download it from archived items on the Kindle app on the ipad. ( Because someday I might not be such a nice patient wife and I might reclaim my Kindle just when he wants to know what Dickens had for tea the day he finished Little Dorrit.) Of course the Ipad version opens at the place he was at on the actual Kindle. His eyes grow wide.
" So it knows what page I am on?"
He looks at the Kindle and looks at the ipad with renewed respect and then says,
"So, these Kindle and Ipad things. They are female then?"
Sunday, October 09, 2011
Monday, October 03, 2011
We are in Bath at the moment and a visit to Bath means a visit to the wonderful Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights. Well, thats not quite true. It means several visits, first to pop in and say hello and just enjoy the fact that we are close again, then various visits to buy. We joke that once we have popped in and Mr B knows we are there he and his staff will begin to plant books that are to our tastes that we swear were not there the day we first went. He and his staff talk knowledgably and enthusiastically about books so you can't help but add a few to your pile.
But today their tactics in getting me to buy was unparalleled .... They filmed me reading for the National BBC News!! Here is proof I was on the TV.
Of course I had to buy the book I was reading when I was on national TV. Which was the Victoria Finlay book Colour by the way. We can only blame the excitement for the others that ended up in our bag. And this was not even a buying visit!! Poor Dennis was also filmed but was cut in the editing stages.
By the way, if you are starting to think about Christmas presents for readers you might want to consider a Reading Year gift ... Who would not want to receive eleven packages like this a year?
Monday, September 19, 2011
1. Graphite tint pencils are lovely to draw with.
2. There are only so many positions into which you can put and hold your own left hand withiut getting cramp.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Thank you to all who left quick responses on my last post. It was indeed three roses in three vases. This is the story. I have decided to learn to draw. This is a big thing as there was a lot of resistance there to overcome. I have been readng the first few pages of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and I have been loving the videos of Danny Gregory and Tommy Kane tonight. It made me want to try. Not aiming for the Royal Academy, just something I might enjoy doing in a travel journal.
So I got out some watercolour postcards I bought becuase I decided it was not possible to be intimidated by a postcard in the same way as a new sketchbook and had a go at the roses in our lounge. Four and a half minutes later, this. (Bear in mind its an ipad photo on my carpet so not the best reproduction of colours!)
I show it to Dennis. " You have a go."
"No, I can't."
"Neither could I until five minutes ago. I bet you can."
I went on enough that he, under much protest took card and pen drew a few minutes and thrust it back at me.
" See. I can't."
" Whats wrong with it?"
"You can't tell what it is even"
Hence the question as to whether you could tell what it was.
I told him that you could. He shrugs. " Well, you could guess at a vase."
" ROSES man! They can tell what kind of flower it is."
A slow boyish grin spread over his face.
" Oh. Well I might try something a bit more complicated."
So thank you.
I had another go trying to be more gestural like his style
Then I got brave and tried the Kremlin. I accidentally lopped off a section of tower but hey, how many frills does one tower need? And its not my fault they seem to have a subsidence issue in Red Square these days.
I am not saying that there is not a lot of room for improvement, but I think I might have started something hard to stop!
Oh, and in answer to Brenda's comment that they looked like three roses in a vase but knowing me there would be somting deeper. Nope. Just three roses. Bought at a petrol station because they were pretty.
Of course each rose represents the life of an African woman subjected to FGM, rape and forced marriage
No, only kidding.
Although now I think about it..... :)
Could you please help me help out a friend here. I will explain what this is all about in my next post but could you please leave a comment and tell me what this is a drawing of? it is not a trick. My friend says it is not recognisable. I say it is. So I need to find out who is right!!
Sunday, September 11, 2011
I am a rugby widow. The World Cup has started and Denns is now living on New Zealand time.
Which means that he had to get up at three am his time to go and watch live rugby at his local club.
This lasts until October 23rd and so we have had to plan our October holiday in Bath to start in a motorway motel en route so that the middle of the night ( My time) matches can be watched and he can still get to Bath in time to watch the middle of the night ( his time) match between Bath and Leicester.
Do I mind.? Nuh huh.
Widows get to look at other men. What's to mind?
Sunday, August 28, 2011
I am pleased to annouce a new blog which Diane Hock and I hope you will enjoy reading.
It is entitled Tea and Talk for Two: A creative conversation across two continents.
We recently spent time together in the same country and enjoyed just hanging out in coffee shop (preferably attached to pencil shops) and discussing creative matters. It was in one such coffee shop when were lamenting our imminent separation that we came up with the idea of continuing the conversation via a blog and letting you eavesdrop.
It will not be a subsitute for our individual blogs and will not be about our non- creative daily lives but is about us considering the creative process. We aim for one post each a week. We are very partial to listening to the conversations at other tables so if you have something to say about our topics why not add a comment and we may well incorporate that in to our chat. There are several posts up already so now is the idea time to come on over and sit with us before there is too much back reading to do!
Friday, August 26, 2011
This is my Crazy Daisy china cupboard. Not a full dining set because you can have too much of a good thing, but just enough for me to have pretty breakfasts or afternoon tea with. But now there is only one of the big plates. They have to stand up because they are fractionally too wide to lie flat. Since the kitchen went in they have been just fine but a couple of weeks ago one slipped and shattered as it hit the surface below leaving several tiny gouges in the worktop. I confess that my first thought was whether I could attach the resultant shards on a quilt. Because you know how I like to use things in unexpected ways.
The second thought was that the blemishes on my new kitchen were going to drive me mad. The third thought was that Dennis was not going to be happy when I bought a new worktop
Tonight my Dad who is staying and is happily prowling the house looking for things to with his tool box came into the kitchen and said "Show me these gouges then". I went to do so and they were no longer there ( but Dad was looking like the proverbial cat in cream).
"How did you do that?" I asked incredulously
He shrugged . "Just put in a bit of woodfiller. But it dried a bit light so I tinted it with your watercolour pencils."
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
and I had a girly -geek day today. We took two ipads, one laptop, two kindles and a mobile phone which provides a back up mobile wifi mobile hot spot and went and claimed our place on the sofa at Cedar Farm coffee shop for a good few hours.
There we engaged in serious ipad app research, purely for your benefit you understand.
Our aim was to find a single app or if necessary a combination of apps that would allow us to
1. Blog surf for images and information for information, clip that information and sort it into subjects for easy retrieval
2. To be able to add our own notes and sketches inspired by that research
3. To be able to retrieve that material and collate it in a visual collage type display
4 . I also wanted to be able to access the material from my work computer which is so secure I am unable to download programmes and also my itouch so I needed web based services which with cloud based synchronisation.
5. I also wanted some project management functionality for time and cost recording and to do lists, preferably with one visual overview of all projects.
I cannot guarantee we hunted down every possible app but we had a good go. Your needs and preferences might differ if you have similar needs and want to spare yourself several hours you might want to try the following apps which we concluded were as good as it was going to get ...
This programme allows you to set up notebooks for an individual topic. The notebooks can be collated in stacks of similar topics. In your notebook you can put text notes and images and can create to do lists. You can email notes to your notebooks or can write direct in the app. Images can be annotated with comments The App is free and cloudbased. In a full web browser you can get a web clipper to install which allows you to clip web pages and pop them in your notebook. On ipad however, this clipper cannot be intalled in the safari browser. The solution is with the MEMCLIP app (also free) which fulfils this function.
So that got us a single source to store and organise all that inspiration. But evernote notebooks give you a list of notes one at a time. It does not appear to easily allow you to combine the material.
For that we turned to
I found the App for this fairly useless and deleted it. However, the programme works perfectly well on ipad from the web browser. Pinterest allows you to set up ' boards' - basically virtual pinboards on which you can pin images you see from the web which you like. The site automatically records the original source of the images. Others can follow your boards. It is a good free site on which to combine visual images by topic. However, it does not facilitate added Text documents other than the captions added to images.
An alternative visual display which does allow notes ( and arrows and the like) is
The Lite app is free but limited athough t is enough to play with and get the idea. The full app is a fairly hefty £6.99 but allows unlimited boards on which you can display images and notes in a very decorative way. Diane has it and her verdict, when asked whether it was worth the price, was "I'm not sure. Not yet but I want to play with it more." I personally will probably stick with Pinterest.
For project managment I like
This app allows you to make as many projects as you like and on the same screen to show related to do lists. Even better you can link NOZBE with EVERNOTE and DROPBOX ( a file storegage service which I already use to store my files and photos so nothing is vulnerable to loss if a hard drive crashes. It offers some free storeage and more at a low monthly cost). So in NOZBE I can have, on one screen, to do lists, notes and files including images all together. It does not link to Pinterest but because Pinterest is web based you can clip your Pinterest boards with MEMCLIP, pop it in an EVERNOTE notebook and then it will come up in NOZBE too.The NOZBE app (£10.49)will allow you to have as many projects on the ipad as you like for that one off payment, but in order to synch them to NOZBE on other devices or the website you must have a paid account. The exception is that you can have a free account limited to five projects only. Now for business use or for coordinating all aspects of you life I can see that five might be enough. But, if used only for Quilting projects a limitation of Five works in Progress at a time might well be a good restraint!
And it fits in neatly with the
E ) LEANKIT app
which is all about a Japanese method of work flow control called Kandan. Basically you write your intended projects on cards. The are stacked up in a to start pile. As you start to work on projects they can be moved to an In progress and then a Completed pile. You can set limits on how many cards go in each column and you can make it all rather more sophisticated with sub columns and categories. Thats not the best of explanations but it provides me with sn excellent visual representation of what work I have at what stage. Very helpful. Diane found SCRUMBOARD which seems to do much the same thing although I found the graphics less crisp and the options less sophisticated.
for the Time Recording I turned to
F) TASK MEASURE.
Free and dead simple. Put in the name of your project, press start. It records tme. press stop. It stops. the difference to a stopwatch is it retains the records so you can see the cumulatve time each quilt took. Excellent for figuring out profit margins or answering the inevitable "How long did it take you?" question.
So, there we were. Information collated and organised. Tasks to doable and timed. Now we wanted to pull it all together, to sketch next to the information and colour in. We ordered more tea and set to. We played with various notebook options which allow you to use your finger or a stylus to hand write and draw. ONENOTE ( Full Microsoft on laptop programme good, app only for iphone and useless) and MOLESKINE ( seductive cover app limited) being but two. None provided good enough control on the handwritng and sketching front. We were getting frustrated when suddenly we broke the barrier and found the perfect solution :
The onsite art shop sells really beautiful journals.
We concluded that much though we LOVE our ipads we also love paper and pen and that the ipad cannot match the use of a sketchbook for the actual work. We believe that the collation of information is fabulous on the ipad but when it comes to using that information we vote for printers, pretty books and real scissors and pencils!
Of course havng spent all day looking at productivity apps we have spectacularly failed to actually produce anything. Except this post of course. Which was written in the BLOGSY app of course......
Sunday, August 07, 2011
First we went to stay with my parents in the Lake District where we took in a ceramics fair at Hutton in the Forest.
More on that in a later post. Afterwards we went to Carlisle to wish my now nonogenarian Granny a Happy Birthday.
Fortunately this downpour came just as we sat down for afternoon tea. Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain....