Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Mazey Day

Saturday was Mazey Day in Penzance.  This is our annual community extravaganza, now celebrating its twentieth year as a 'modern' festival.  It is timed for the feast of St John (23 June) who is the patron saint of Penzance.   Midsummer was celebrated all over Cornwall and there seems to have been a lot of emphasis on fires as these continued  the celebration of the pagan festival of midsummer. It was very big in Penzance but   it all got rather out of control  with the usual 'louts' setting fire to things they shouldn't have, so in 1877 it was banned.  The idea of a chain of hill-top fires was apparently revived in 1929 but I have only ever heard of these happening on very special occasions such as Millennium.Eve.  However, more recently Penzance has revived the customs with a week long festival called Golowan (from the Cornish word for midsummer which drives from Gol Jowan meaning John's feast.  The fireworks are confined to a display by the harbour at 11.15 pm on the Friday.  Fond though I am of fireworks I am of an age where I just listen to them!

However, I do join most of the population in spending Saturday in Penzance.

This year we were blessed with wonderful weather but someone told me on Saturday that in 1991 the inaugural parades were ruined by rain.  No-one knew that you needed to protect the constructions and their clothes by sealing them with acrylic so everything was ruined by paint pouring down.  Mazey Day is a great occasion for photographers which includes me but I had a slight disaster this year.  After only a few shots my camera had something of a nervous breakdown and proceeded to photograph everything in black and white. I didn't discover this until I got home and reviewed the photos and I still cannot work out how it happened since that command is buried deep in the menu. As the main attraction of the day is all the colour I am afraid the photos to illustrate this posting are not what I had planned and I have cheated by including a couple from last year.  You will have to Google to see other people's efforts.  (There are hundreds of sites so too many to put a link)

The main focus of the day is a series of parades involving all the schools and community organisations.  Each year there is a theme (this year it was the Wild West) and each school/organisation makes the most incredible 'floats' that are held aloft by fathers and others.  I was glad that I got a coloured photo of the one I think was this year's best.

These blue horses were made by Mounts Bay Secondary School.  The children carry hand held versions of butterflies, fish (always lots of these) insects etc. to illustrate the topic they have chosen.

Here is one of this year's floats which was bright green and covered in various insects.

 And here is the Mousehole Cat in 2009.

 In between the school entries there are bands, groups from voluntary organisations

 and a number of 'characters' such as this clown

The Mazey Day band leads the parades

and there are a several dance groups that perform around the town during the day and also join in the processions.

In between the parades there is a traditional street market to enjoy.  The streets are decorated with banners and there are live performances at various points.  This is Chapel Street, the oldest street.

A traditional funfair spends the weekend down by the Jubilee Pool so that it is also there for Quay Day on Sunday.  Quay Day used to be a fair in olden days and was apparently more for the rural people than the townspeople but now it is a second day of fun with many of the same performers and activities such as toy boat races.

There is a 'tradition' of banner making with banner making workshops in the weeks leading up to Golowan.  In addition to banners across the streets, others, usually made by children, are pinned to the railings.  I liked this image of a mother leaning into the area where the parade was assembling, trying to see her child.

This was the scene as the third and final procession assembled outside St Johns Hall.  I left after that and I am afraid that this year I did not make it to Quay Day so there are no photos of that.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Traditional quilts

I almost never make anything that would qualify as a traditional quilt but while the builders were here I needed to be around the house a lot of the time.  It seemed a good opportunity to complete the top of Zelah's quilt and I am glad to say I have done it.   It is a Katherine Guerrier design from Patchwork and Quilting magazine in 2009.  The house and tree blocks were relatively easy but she then said to use old leftover blocks as fillers.  Some of us don't have any of those!  So I had to set to and make some.  It seemed to take forever.  The arrangement is what makes the quilt individual but I found it very time-consuming.

Zelah is going to have a cabin bed which I know has a full size mattress but people tell me you can't tuck things in.  So the quilt is a bit narrower than a full size single.  I originally had four rows to be joined horizontally but as the bottom row had slipped when I stitched it on, I unpicked it and then realised that the whole thing was too long!  So I took it apart and put the small blocks at the top (you can just see them at the top of the photo below).  I think it needs an inner border and then something that will pull the millions of colours together, possible a Fossil Fern.  Fortunately I don't have a particular deadline so I think I may wait until the Festival of Quilts to buy the fabric for the borders and the backing.  Commercial fabric seems to have rocketed in price since I last bought any but I realised this is partly to do with the state of the pound. So here is the pieced top.

Then I turned my mind to the wedding present quilt.  Ashley very sensibly sent me three photos to show the colours she would like: one is a sunflower and she has said warm greens and yellows and I think there will be some blues.  I tried out a Churn Dash block from Cut Loose Quilts by Jan Mullen  http://www.stargazey.com/ which is an ideal book for those of us who don't like making accurate blocks.  I have used the book before, for a lap quilt for myself

and for the quilt I made as a wedding present for Jeremy's brother Alastair.  This one was butterflies which I made in batiks and it worked really well.

  I have decided the Churn Dash block is too wasteful of fabric.

You end up cutting off largish pieces at each step and although these could all go for use in other projects I think I will try out a couple of the star patterns in the book and see if they are a bit more economical.  In the meantime I am back to journal quilts and have had another go at rust dyeing.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

What I got from Cornwall's Open Studios

I don't think when I did my last posting that I realised how time consuming having builders would be.
Our routine was somewhat changed while the new conservatory was built and then again this week when we had the outside of the house and the sitting room painted.  Having to move the two cars out into the street as soon as I got up, provide a certain amount of tea and coffee (although I left the conservatory people to do their own thing  using the studio) and generally keep things ticking over all took time.  But we now have a lovely conservatory which doesn't leak!  It is also much brighter as the roof of the old one was corrugated plastic.  We had to wait until last weekend to get the doorstep and decking installed but now the only thing still to come is the arrival of a small sofa to replace the old garden chairs that we have used since we moved here.

And the house and garden walls look much better for new white paint although you can't see them on this side of the house.

While all this was going on it was Cornwall's Open Studios which run for ten days over half-term week.  I have never been tempted to take part as I don't consider myself a professional and we do not have a suitable space here, but this means I am free to go to other people's.  Interestingly the whole event is concentrated in West Cornwall, underlining the fact that this is a very creative corner of the country.  St Ives artists do not usually take part because they have their own Open Studios in September as part of the St Ives Festival.  I usually start by getting the official guide, making a special note of people with the word 'textiles' in their entry and then sorting out a couple of half day trips where I can visit two or three studios.  Finding them is often the main problem since artists tend to live in the middle of nowhere down lanes that are small even by Cornish standards.  But once you get there you often find wonderful gardens (and houses/cottages) and make lots of useful contacts.

This year I found someone living in this village.  Chema Cruz www.chemacruz.co.uk is a Mexican who paints on a range of fabics which he does not prime so we had an interesting conversation about the properties of different surfaces.  I then struck lucky when I went to Trewidden Studios which is a complex of artists' studios that opened last September, only five minutes drive from here.  There are about fifteen artists based there, several of whom are now beginning to offer courses and workshops.  This is great as most teaching has been in St Ives and the problems with parking really put people from this side of the peninsula off.  I signed up for two courses, one of which I did last weekend.

This was a drawing course taught by Mark Spray. www.markspray.com  There were only three of us on it and we all knew each other already.  The first day was spent sketching in Nanquidno Valley near Lands End. I know this valley well but the other participants had not been there.  Mark once lived near it and had done a whole project on it which meant that he knew all the places to stop and draw the many rock formations.  I failed to take any photos until lunchtime but these will give you an idea of what it is like.

This was taken looking up the valley.  There are old mine workings in the middle distance on the right which were interesting to draw as they contrast with the granite boulders all around.

And this in Nanjulian Cliff at the bottom of the valley.  You can just see Sennen Cove in the background and the path is the South West Coast Path.  We spent the afternoon here, having made sketches as we walked down the path in the morning.

Here is my attempt at drawing the beach which is all rocks but has interesting colour changes.

And here, I hope, are the main elements of Nanjulian Cliff.  We experimented with different tools including using oil paint stick which is wonderful for portraying the mass of granite boulders.  As you can see from the photos we were extremely lucky with the weather.  It was a really perfect way of spending a day.

Sunday dawned rather cloudy and after lunch there was a torrential downpour but it did not matter as we were working in Mark's studio.  We worked on larger versions of our sketches and each of us interpreted them in different ways.  I realised that I tend to be a bit design based and I did not achieve as much as the other two but I had chosen to do the course in order to get myself back into practice after a rather unproductive year.  As I am not an artist I sometimes fail to recognise that producing a good drawing or painting takes a long time and means going back to it in the same way that I do with textile work.  I need to go back to the drawings I began (before house painters took up my week) but in true textile style I cut up one that had worked in parts and stuck the good bits in my sketchbook.  Now I need to make notes beside these bits so that I can remember what I did.  I also want to think about whether any of the techniques I learnt might work on fabric.

I have also signed up for a collograph printing course in September with another of the Trewidden based artists, Peter Wray www.peterwrayre.com  runs short courses in printing and also has a drop-in system for people who have done the courses and just want access to a press.  This is ideal for me as I have no intention of buying one!  I have done some printing and am really keen to do more.  I find it appeals to me more than painting and it is so quick compared with textiles!