Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Threadbare Bugs go to the Movies!

For the last couple of months our computer has had a bit of a melt down. Weird things kept happening to the screen and it would randomly shut itself off. Gary finally got to the bottom of the problem and discovered the graphics card had gone kaput. He found a way to keep it all working but compromises had to be made in terms of the quality on screen and some programmes were no longer usable. (Hang in there, this story is going somewhere)

So thanks to my lovely techie geek I could still write and post my blog without having to leave the house to borrow someone else’s computer. I did have florescent green stripes across my screen and all the fancy fancy programmes were gone so it was back to basics for us.

When I finished the Threadbare Bug section of the blog I wanted to show you this little short I had made but Gary told me that, unfortunately the graphics card was a must for using the movie maker programme I had used to put it together. I was very disappointed but moved on to the next phase of the blog anyway.

Gary got a graphics card as a Christmas present (lucky boy!) and finally installed its shiny goodness and we are back in the game. There are no more green pinstripes and most importantly, the computer is back to its all-action self.

By now I think you will be familiar with the bugs and, indeed, the photographs of them that I have used in this little three minute movie I made. But I thought it might be interesting to see them from a different perspective.

A few years ago, a friend of mine was thinking of going back to college to study film. She asked me if I could give her some advice about putting a portfolio together since I had successfully been through the process myself. I readily agreed and we worked and talked together over a couple of weeks.

She showed me an editing programme she was using to cut the film together that she was using to apply to the course. It was a whole new world to me in terms of transitions and effects, sound and visuals. I discovered we had a similar programme on our own computer. Gary went to work one morning and I think I sat at the computer all day playing with this new toy. By the time he got home I had made my Threadbare Bug movie and I was thrilled with myself.

I think I used every wipe, pan and fade-in that was available just through the sheer wonder of experimentation. I don’t think I’ll become a famous director anytime soon but I still love it because I had such a good time making it.

Gary studied animation in college and he contributed a couple of tiny creations of his own to bring it all together. The music is by the composer Claude Debussy and it is called Suite Begamasque Prelude. I think the twinkling notes sound like tiny insect feet scampering across the screen. I was also able to incorporate text into the film, so I used small excerpts from the pieces I wrote for the bugs to add that other dimension to the work.
So if you have a few minutes (3.12 minutes to be exact) maybe you would like to have a look at my Threadbare Bug movie. I don’t think it is long enough to bother with popcorn but maybe a cup of tea would be nice.

Welcome to the New Millennium

 I am delighted to say that, over the weekend, I reached 1,000 views on this here blog. I am absolutely over the moon with my readership figures and I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to you all for looking, reading and liking my posts since I started. I really appreciate the support you have all shown and I hope you will continue to stop by here at Too Folk to be Cool.  

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A Lonesome Cowboy No More

Well, hello there cowboy. This is Obadiah. He was Gary’s Valentines Day present a couple of years ago. He was actually started to be his 30th birthday present but life was hectic and I didn't finish him in time. He received him on the following Valentines Day instead.

Obi, as we call him, is the opposite in process to what SomeBunny (who I posted yesterday) was. SomeBunny was created from a flash of inspiration; he was made quickly and without great detail. He was a gesture of a feeling, a little bit of humour and love to brighten Gary’s day. I really like him for this reason.

Obi is the opposite because I was very considered in his creation. Gary had spotted the pattern for a cowboy doll in the ‘Dream Toys’ book that I also mentioned yesterday. He loves toys and continues to be very connected to the five year old within himself. He still gets toys for Christmas and loves looking at them. I think it’s the animation/cartoon obsessed part of him, fascinated by this form of creativity.

He had dropped a couple of hints that a cowboy might be kind of nice to have around the place. I made all the necessary noises about being too busy to possibly make anything as time consuming as a knitted cowboy for him, to throw him off the scent.

I secretly got to work behind his back. I got the wool I would need and I bought felt and the little buttons for his jumper too.

I knitted while Gary was in work and never pretended once that I was doing anything special for him. For once I followed the pattern obediently. I had never really made anything like this before so I wanted to make sure I got it right.

I printed out the templates for his hat, trousers and gun. All the clothes and accessories are hand-sewn. I deviated from the finish in the book in two ways. Firstly I knit a piece the same size as his head with a strand of dark plain wool and a strand of that hairy wool I have used in other projects. I wanted him to have a full head of hair and in the book the doll just had strands of wool sewn into place. Secondly, I gave him a much more detailed face. I gave him eyebrows, buttons for cheeks and a felt beard. I love a man with a beard and I wanted Obi to slightly resemble Gary.  I cut a square of blue patterned fabric for a neckerchief and tied it around his neck.

His chaps are made out of denim (always worthwhile keeping that old pair of jeans) and maroon felt. I knit his miniature jumper with relish; I don’t think I have ever knit a real jumper before, never mind one for a doll. I love how it turned out.

It seemed to take an age to make all the different elements and to pull them together into the cowboy you see before you. I can’t imagine setting about making one every week or even every month for that matter. I think that is what makes him so special. You have to get involved with him; you have to commit to the process.

Gary received him with great surprise and Obi sits beside his drawing table in his studio to this day. We had great fun taking him out and photographing him for this post. Happy Valentines Day everybody, Obi and I send you warm wishes of love and friendship.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

……And They Called it Bunny Love…..

This is Somebunny. Many moons ago I was out shopping for a Valentines Day card for the old ball and chain when I saw one that had “Some Bunny Loves You” inscribed across the front with a lovely illustration of a rabbit underneath.

As I walked around town I couldn’t get the phrase out of my head and at some point I decided I would make a bunny as a Valentines gift for Gary.

I have fortunately gotten a lot of different knitting, sewing and crafting books over the years as birthday and Christmas gifts. I have mentioned “Jan Messent’s Knitted Gardens” already and the basic pattern for Somebunny came from a book I have used repeatedly called “Dream Toys” by Claire Garland. It is printed by Mitchell Beazley. The original pattern was designed for a fairy baby but it is so basic and straight forward, I have been able to make small changes here and there to adjust it for many different projects.

I knit the basic body all in white. I made up a pattern for the ears; I gave him one white and one black to add some personality. I didn’t want to over complicate his face. I chose two different sized classic black buttons for his eyes and I embroidered a broad sweeping smile across his loving visage.


I had some small fabric hearts from an assorted accessory pack that I sewed on to his left paw and onto his butt. As you can see, I tied a red ribbon around his neck and he was ready to go.

Oddly, I didn’t end up buying the card that inspired this little guy. I think at the time I settled on a card that had badges on it; Somebunny now wears them proudly on his chest. It was after purchasing that card that the simple tag line of the other lodged in my brain. It just goes to show that you never know when inspiration will hit and how one person’s ingenuity can influence the creativity of another; from card design to knitted keepsake. Fabulous!

I asked Gary this morning about how he felt about receiving Somebunny and he said he was chuffed. He said he liked his crazy eyes and the small details of the hearts. He liked that I had made it just for him for a day that represents LOVE.  

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Guess Who's Coming to.....

Hello, Gary (Dartagnan) Gowran here, writing the first guest post on Too Folk to be Cool. It’s slightly intimidating, very flattering and mostly stimulating to be the first person other than Sadhbh to post here. What I’d like to write about is how I perceive Sadhbhs work, from both working alongside her in some cases and just sitting back and watching the magic happen in most cases.

What I’ll state straight away is; I’m a nerd. I love thinking about and examining the minutiae and history of art-pieces, and Sadhbhs pieces do offer me that opportunity. Take this Snug (but not really, because someone owns it) or Snugs in general.

For me, the Snug as a range is upheld by a good foundation of strong design. This foundation is my favourite part of them, it is the simple division of the knitting pattern from hairy wool to regular wool with a couple of eyes on the top part, just that. It creates a solid base character on to which personality is added by the choice of embellishments, accessories, colour, stitching and other techniques.

So Sadhbh has a canvas onto which to place a personality. Not so much a blank canvas though. I've seen a good few Snugs now, sitting idly on a work surface, just knitted and eyes in place, waiting patiently to be outfitted with lace or ribbon or buttons or beads or all of the above. And there is a personality there already; I can just catch it out of the corner of my eye. By some alchemical process, leaden wool has been transmuted into golden pattern. Now I will say I don’t always like the personalities, some I could take or leave, but I do have to respect that they come into being and I have to share my living space with them (think about it, coming down the stairs on a market day to be confronted by many pairs of eyes staring at you from woolen bodies, not so cute now eh? What are they thinking, what are they thinking?).

My mother is a seamstress so I fooled myself into believing I had a good knowledge of the world of cloth, wool, ribbon and the various accessories of working with fibre materials. But nothing could prepare me for the sheer variety and number of beads, buttons, clasps, ribbons, wools, feathers, jewellery, stones, felts, threads, wires, glues, fabrics, papers, paper flowers(!) and patterns that I have come to know. I’m used to working with a pencil and paper and then colour, it is with these that I make my choices as an artist and this is what makes me the artist that I am, my choices with these tools. And I am comfortable with these. I once had a go at working with the materials that Sadhbh uses, I cut out a bee shape (not a Fat Bee!) and went to work then on beading it and embellishing it and that’s when it hit me, all of these materials, all of these varied colours and shapes, threads and fabrics and I have to somehow find the pieces that correspond to the vision in my head. It is a blessing and a curse and I don’t know how Sadhbh does it sometimes.

But that’s what makes Sadhbh the artist that she is, her choices. Presented with infinite possibilities, how do you find the right combination to create the piece that you imagine? And as she has written in these posts, sometimes she’s more successful than at other times. The Snug images in today’s post, I think, represent one that succeeded. It was a commissioned piece and in the mixture process of real-life information and artistic inspiration, Celestial Blaze was born. A piece of beauty and complexity.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Love. Self-Expression. Rejection. Compromise.

As Valentines Day is just around the corner, I thought I would show you another Snug that was commissioned for a wedding present.

This cosy was designed as a kind of keepsake or reminder of the day itself. The colours I chose to use were the colours used in the wedding and I made small figures out of felt to represent the couple. The groom, in this instance, is a Steeple-jack and I depicted him climbing a ladder to reach his lady love.

The making of this Snug turned out to be quite an interesting process. The photographs I am showing you here are not how the finished piece was delivered to the client in the end.

I guess I am alternative in my own tastes and when I approach something I can’t help but bring that to the table. I am not married myself and I have never had a wedding but I think if that day does come for me I will probably approach it with a non-traditional attitude also (as this is how I live my life).

When making this cosy, I decided to give the figure representing the bride a black dress. I did this not because I’m trying to enforce a Goth lifestyle on anybody. I did it because I thought, that in the long term, the cosy could be a reminder of the day but it didn’t have to be a literal depiction of the wedding itself. I made a design decision based on what I would like for myself.

I finished the Snug, it was delivered to the client and I moved on to other things. A couple of days after it was delivered I received a request to change the dress from the black one into a more traditional white wedding dress.

In my experience, it is always a little upsetting when you have made something and the customer is not 100% satisfied with it. I hate the idea that the brief wasn’t properly fulfilled or you didn’t deliver in some way or another. The customer here couldn’t have been nicer about it though. When they saw the piece, they would have preferred a more traditional look. In this situation it all came down to personal tastes.  As I said, I know my motivations for making it the way I did but the customer wanted something different and I can completely respect that.

I made the changes that were requested and even gave the bride a tiny veil to complete the look. Unfortunately, because of the changes and the time constraints caused by them, I never got to photograph the new finished tea cosy before it had to be posted back for the big day.

In my experience, there is no harm in things like this occurring. It is a good opportunity to observe yourself and your process in these situations. As an artist, you are of course attached to your vision and I think that is healthy. But there can be another side, which is, the satisfaction of the commissioner who is paying for the work. It is a difficult line to tread between personal expression and client expectations. You don’t always get it right.

I think different projects fulfil different needs. A work of art expressing your beliefs or personal experience can be totally from the self with little influences from outside sources. A work of art commissioned to express something about the patron or their loved ones can be openly discussed and a compromise can be struck between artist and client.

The trick is learning when to fight for your vision and when to be open to input and constructive criticism of your work. When I was just starting out, I got a commission to do something that was way beyond my experience at the time to deal with. I made an attempt at it but it was rejected rather cruelly, the memory still stings. With hind sight I can say I think the commissioner had his part to play in the out come of the project. He wasn’t offering me enough money for the standard and look he wanted to achieve. He thought he was being clever by saving money through hiring an inexperienced artist right out of college. By the end of it, the whole situation left a bad taste in the mouths of everyone involved. I learned then, that if someone is trying to cut corners, the art work will ultimately suffer. In that situation the customer was also entitled to name his dissatisfaction. But I would now, with some life experience on my side, ask him to take responsibility for setting the budget so low and not being clearer in his brief. Experience really is the teacher of all things.  


Monday, 4 February 2013

A Love Story: Coats, Carrots and Cake

I was commissioned to make this Snug as a wedding present. As with the last piece I showed you, there was an array of information that I was given about the happy couple in question that was to be included in this new tea cosy. This time there was not one but two people to consider in the overall design.

The bride is an avid baker and a lover of clothes and fashion. The groom is outdoorsy and a grower of vegetables. I wanted to make these things the centre of my design for this Snug. Red, cream and brown are the colours of their kitchen and I was asked to make these the base colours of the piece. I knit the body in broad stripes of each colour. The stripes were to act as an individual background to each of the couple’s interests.

I had been given an amazing book for my birthday from a friend of mine. It is called “Jan Messent’s Knitted Gardens”. It is published by Search Press. As is suggested by the title, it is a whole book of different garden patterns. It is full of everything you can think of, from plants, trees and flowers to the gardeners themselves. It has knitted cottages, greenhouses and even bee hives. Luckily for me, there is a section on vegetable patterns. I don’t imagine I will ever knit a full garden but these kinds of resource books are great for little gems like knitted radishes. Who would have thought you could get your hands on such a thing. I could happily look at this book for hours.

I picked a selection of vegetables from the patterns provided and got my knitting needles out. I was delighted with the outcome of my garden experiments and when they were all finished I added beads and sequins to the woolly veg to bring them even more to life.

For the fashion stripe I made miniature clothes and shoes out of felt and again, embroidered them with extra details to make them stand out.

I am a baker myself so I took great pleasure in making the tiny cupcakes that decorate this last section of the tea cosy. I looked through my own cookery books for inspiration in colours, shapes and sizes. I love to sew and embroider things in miniature. I love picking the coloured threads and waxing them to help stop them tangling as I sew. I love trimming the ends and threading the needle. I love how the piece can be transformed by using the needle and thread to “draw” on your fabric, to create definition and tone and to add detail to these small creations. I love to tell the story of the piece with long and short stitches.

To complete this Snug I decided I would add a little romance; this was a wedding present after all. I settled on a pair of love birds to nestle on top of the cosy; a symbol of the couple coming together to bring two lives into one new home. I am very pleased with these two little fellows. I feel they bring the love and the heart to this striped design.

There is a lot to look at on this tea cosy. Your eye tends to jump around, trying to take in all the different elements and details. When something is this busy sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. But for me, this Snug is lively and full of character. It is a Snug that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is a gesture of love, of friendship and of well wishes for a happy and fulfilled future.