A denim bag panel and reflecting on my boroinspired quilt

Over the last five years I have been art journalling or working on ‘A’ sized paper. I have been working intuitively but thinking in rectangles. When I started sewing I loved the newness of the method and the feel of the material (though my fingers and hands are rebelling at the repetition and the skin on the top of my right thumb is rough and pitted where I clip it with the needles) .

I really enjoyed starting my big quilt. It is a rectangle, but I am struggling with being intuitive on such a large scale.

I sewed a bag panel and then started an A4 sampler. I realised I might kid my self that I work intuitively but I am always assessing the design….

I saw a couple of denim bags on social media and wanted to have a go at a boroinspired panel.

I found a denim bag in a shop sale which was decorated on the top 3rd – some of the design was heavily machine stitched – so I covered that section of the panel with patches and stitching. It needed more.

Boro is the Japanese term for mended cloth with sashiko stitching -I read that it was built up with layers over years. To make cloth stronger and warmer.Maybe working so fast over a couple of days means that the fabrics don’t have time to bed down or build up any sense of history.

Anyway, I didn’t like my panel as it was. When I am art journalling- or working in other pieces I have found my self in the mind set – that if it doesn’t look like it is working, I set it aside for a bit or add another layer…..

I looked back at the bags that I liked on social media – a stripy design appealed. So I added another layer to my panel

This ability to assess a design – look at the balance of texture/ pattern / shape is lost for me on my quilt. I am enjoying working on such a large piece and can see that there will be a huge sense of satisfaction when it’s finished, but the assessing, control freak is not a happy bunny. 😂😂😂

I’ve got a thing about derricks

Wandering around Bristol wharf today I realised I have a thing about derricks.

I like the size, the fact that they move, the solid tapered shape

The mechanical nature- that we made them? It’s making me smile – how can I have a thing about a wharf side crane?

I like their reflections, that you can walk around them – underneath them – though the view isn’t much when you look up at the wooden cab. I was hoping to get a look up through the arm…….

I like them from all angles.

May be it’s because I like the knowledge that they refer to a time past for Bristol? They remind me of the Firth of Forth Bridge which I love travelling through on the train – that’s Victorian engineering (1882)

Derelict derricks – these were built in 1951 and still work. There is an older one somewhere that has been restored. It was built in 1878. I will have to back and have a look.

There’s something that reminds me of the Star Wars ‘All Terrain Armored Transport’ as if they are left behind by some science fiction film ………. still smiling

I also like the size of the various metal knobs that are on the quayside near their bases and the metal tracks

The tips of my toes left in for scale ….. yup still amused at my self that I am writing a blog post about derricks 😊

I’ve also got a thing about manhole covers, bridges, stairwells and scaffolding ……….

Developing a style – ‘Still life’ 

Since I started being an artist full time 3 years ago, I have been trying to find a style or way of working that is my own. The layering of mandalas and tea dipping is very therapeutic, but the wanted to work towards something more concrete. I want to incorporate these images within other pieces. 

I love flowers and enjoy creating 3D designs that you can achieve with  a ‘still life’. My hubby and I are both a bit allergic to flowers and pollen so I have bought a range of different artificial examples. 


I have a couple of white jugs and a favourite over decorated piece that belonged to my step grandma. I thought it would also be fun to use jars and bottles which are currently in fashion as vases. I also visited the National Museum of Scotland looking for different shaped vessels 



When I start a project – I do lots of preparation and thinking , but then procrastinate about actually starting the work….. 


these are my first efforts – I have prepared lots of mandalas on cartridge paper and printer paper. The printer paper is too thin and buckles and creases too much but is good to practice layouts and composition. 

I used some water soluble powdered pigment  ink in some of the mandalas and this seems to leak into the acrylic, causing the circular effects you can see in the last picture above. 

I like the way the negative shapes of the flowers work well with the flat background. I thought The fowers and vase need to be drawn simpley  to contrast with the mandalas. I have been playing with different tones of blue and thicknesses of pen. I think each mandala needs me to be more intuiative with the back grounds rather than mixing up a vat of colour like I did yesterday 


I hav been trying to draw as realistically as possible and have been posting  on Instagram to see what reaction I get from my friends.  I was surprised when I posted the picture below asking for feed back – I was unsure about the white and felt that the jar was a bit clumsy – it received more positive feed back than some of the more neatly drawn careful designs 

I have tried different colours in the back ground and I am particularly fond of the shapes created by my artificial seed pods 


When I posted the image of the step by step below I was also interested in how people appreciated the contrast  of orange and mandala top left and the thin layer of orange bottom right- when I had been striving to achieve a flat opaque finish 


Larger fleshy flowers are not as effective – because there is not enough negative shape to play with and the thicker line looses definition 

This background is too simillar to the flower- not sure what it is supposed to be really….. the stems and flowers appear to be a climber but the rigid stem is a bit incongruous 


My real cycleman didn’t really work either – I think the flowers and the petals are too close together and the pen line too thick


I will keep at it …. 

Messing about, mixed media and digital manipulation 

One of the things I like doing  best as a time waster and ‘a lets not do the housework/ cook dinner exercise ‘ is producing mixed media images and then manipulating them in my iPhone Apps 

My favourite go to doodling is pen and ink flowers 


I am working in a letter journal at the moment and the theme is flowers so I reproduced this image and added colour 


I used Gelatoes , babywipes and teal acrylic through a stencil – the pen ran a bit with the baby wipe 


So I needed to work ontop of it a bit more – I wasn’t really satisfied with this either 


So I edited the warmth and saturation in the iPhone photo app


I reflected the image , tried layering and fiddling with the filters in snapseed – but it wasn’t doing what I wanted 


Until I only layered part of the image and made a stronger tonal panel down the middle 


I rotated and reflected it and then zoomed in on a smaller section to get something I liked a lot more – I like the patterns the lighter sections make in contrast – it’s just a shame the resolution isn’t very good. When you manipulate to this level 

Messing about with my IPhone Apps 

I always wanted to know how to use Photoshop – but I don’t find it easy to use and some of the tools require you to use a lot of numbers. I play on my IPhone and have a great time manipulating and layering images. I thought I would show you an example of what I do. below is a finished piece I made recently. 


This started off with a poster I found on Brick lane in London 


I started off layering it in Image Blender 

You choose 2 images and can add filters and decide which image you want to be the most dominant by moving a slider 



I chose to keep the slider at 50/50 and I used the filter called difference 

Stage 2 – I like mixing images with manipulated versions of themselves – I decided to make a new version of the girl – mixing her with an other image from brick lane 


I added  the two images to Image Blender 


This time I used the mask tool that  allows you to rub out areas of one of the images 


This time I used the filter called ‘plus darker’ and I slid the dot between the images over to the left 

Stage 3 

I opened this image in the Reflection app by ‘Big Blue Chip’ 

This reflects images simply along an axis which you can choose , you save the image and then re open the App and choose the reflected image to get more complicated patterns 


My image reflected once 


My image reflected 3 times 

I decided that there was too much red in the middle so I used the editing tool and cropped the image and reflected it again 


I like to rotate images to get more kaleidoscopic effects. 


Rotated and reflected 


Reflected again 

Stage 3 – I put this image and the image from stage 1 back into Image Blender 


I used the mask tool again to remove parts of the pattern to show the face 


It’s quite a long winded process – but I like it because it’s intuitive and I just need to save and touch the screen to change things