Saturday, 13 October 2007

Holiday souvenirs

You may have noticed a gap in posts - I've been on holiday, and then came home to a new job. Craft activities this week have been reduced to thinking of things I've no time to do, and knitting a sock.

I don't get out and about much and rarely take holidays, so I made the most of my week off. A trip to visit friends and relatives in the south of England also fitted in with calling at a couple of art shops, a second hand book shop, and returning home via Uppingham Yarns, in Rutland. I discovered they have more stock gets on their web site, and came home with a little cone of glow-in-the-dark nylon thread(!) as well as a variety of shades of Shetland wool and soft cotton yarns for weaving. They are pleasant and helpful people, and the shop is in a very beautiful old town, so I was glad I had taken the time to get there.

I had a day at home before setting off again, and then I drove northwards to stay with an Aunt in Edinburgh. My Aunt is a fine art painter and we had a lot of interesting discussions about art, form and composition, and the design process, etc.

Other highlights of my trip to Edinburgh were seeing the work of Edinburgh basket and tapestry weaver Anna King in an exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, and calling in at the studio / shop of Joyce Forsyth, a knitwear designer / maker.

Anna King's exhibition astounded me. I had no idea that basket weaving might be used to produce fascinating and beautiful art, until I saw Anna's work. Her baskets incorporated materials you might not expect - such as feathers and nails, and were simply beautiful objects. One particularly attractive piece, shaped rather like a pear, was woven from pine needles. Anna's work has given me a new concept of "basket"!

Her tapestries were also works of simple, harmonious beauty. There were abstract pieces and simple landscapes. I learnt so much from just looking. One thing I learnt is that tapestry can be made with the finest or the coarsest of yarns and anything in between. The skill is in the design, colour and yarn choices and careful working. Having tried tapestry weaving once myself, I found the warp tension difficult (on a fixed wooden frame) and the piece inclined to distort between sections in different yarns. I saw no indication that Anna has such problems! The weaving was immaculate, I was most impressed, and inspired.

I first discovered Joyce Forsyth about 5 years ago, she has a little shop on Candlemaker's Row, close to the famous statue of Greyfriar's Bobby. I have one of her jumpers which I treasure and save for special days. It is, like many of her garments, knitted from Shetland yarn in a Fairisle pattern. This sounds very traditional, but all Joyce's garments are strikingly different, modern and original. My jumper has the most beautiful cuffs, collar and bottom edge, that I can best describe as like corded waves in different colours. Items I saw on sale last week included many with wonderful flounced edgings. The colour choices are superb - there are brightly coloured garments using oranges and reds, or blues, greens, purples, and then there are softly coloured garments in beige & browns or greys. Although her shop is small and her stock is small, I would be surprised if anyone did not find one or two garments in the colours they most like to wear. The prices are higher than chain stores, they are comparable (or cheaper) than production machine knits on sale in other Scottish knitwear shops and the more expensive high street shops, whilst from Joyce you get something far more individual for your money and have the satisfaction of supporting the career of an artist. I took a fancy to a lovely cardigan at £125, I didn't have the money, but will save up to get something another time. Joyce wasn't there herself this time I called in, but I have met her before, working at her knitting machine in a corner of the shop and happy to talk about her work.

...thanks to Janet for suggesting I write about my visit to Joyce Forsyth! (Janet is another fan of Joyce's work).

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