NATURE NOTES: Starting the Finishing Process

nature notes banner

Here I am, finally, at the beginning of the end of this project.  Now, you might think, after a year of following me making mixed media and textile art pages that there can’t be much left to do, and I wish that was the case, but you’d be wrong…  There’s quite a lot left to do.  In fact, the more I think about it, the more things there seem to be on the list!  So, in this post I’ll tell you all about it, make a plan and then potter on with it in between a few other projects I have in progress.

SO WHAT’S LEFT TO DO? 

At the very least, there are sixteen things left to do.  They consist of: 

Designing and making the front and back covers, which I envisage as being a sort of raised textile bark with creatures crawling on it.

The front and back endpapers need to be designed and made up.

Two pages with stitched nature-related quotes.

The reverse of those pages.

A title page.

A copyright page.

A dedication page and something for the reverse side.

The reverse of the very last December page.

Print out my nature observation pages which accompany my art work.

Apply and stitch these to the reverse of the art pages, then finish all the edges neatly.

Make a clamshell box.

AND WHAT’S MY PLAN?

I am starting with the design for the endpapers.  I am planning a William Morris-esque design, but haven’t yet decided if these will be painted and stitched, or just stitched.

Then I will stitch the quote, title and dedication pages, and the reverse pages.  I will also check each art page for anything that might need a little more work (I can already think of a couple of things!).

Next will be the covers.  I think these will have a raised surface with stumpwork creatures and leaves and some stitched lichen.  I want them to be quite textural, like bark.

Then I will print out all my notes and apply and secure them in place with machine stitching.

The book will then need to be hand bound with linen thread, and I am going to insert tracing paper separator pages to prevent any problems with paint or colour bleeding between pages when the book is stored.  I am planning to bond a fabric strip to the binding side of each tracing paper page to prevent them from tearing out over time.

The clamshell box will come last.  I have never made a clamshell box, so it will be interesting to learn a new technique.

Here’s hoping it all comes together nicely.  I’m looking forward to having the completed textile book in my hands, and to turn the pages, this year and for years to come.  I think Nature Notes will be a valuable comparative resource as far as Climate Change is concerned, as it documents what Nature has presented over the course of a whole year.  I noticed in Spring this year that some plants were three to four weeks behind on last year, which is odd, considering the endless cold, snow and ice we experienced over the winter of 2017/18.  But, I suppose, Nature is the master manager, in a permanent state of flux dealing with whatever existence throws at her, so I shouldn’t really be surprised…  Now, without further ado, I’d better go and get on with that list!

Stack of fabric pages from textile Nature journal 2018
Nature Notes 2018

Nature Notes 2018 – A Journal of Flora and Fauna in Textile, Paint and Stitch

grey wagtail mixed media

During my One Year of Stitches project, around late summer to autumn 2017, I found myself looking ahead to 2018 and thinking about a stitching project that would keep me engaged every day. Whilst stitching my Celtic Wheel of the Year piece, I’d often wished I’d constructed it in some sort of book form, rather than as a two dimensional artwork that would be framed. Being a long-term lover of Edith Holden’s The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady and Nature Notes, I started to wonder if I could create a modern-day textile version that would illustrate my Nature Notes for a whole year, and thought it might be a worthy challenge. I decided at this stage that I would hand bind it, so I cut out lots of pages from some plain calico fabric and made a start on January 1st 2018, documenting the whole year on my Instagram page.

nature notes january title page with snowdrops leaves fern bracken and ivy
January Title Page – Nature Notes

I am, like lots of people, spellbound by Nature and turn to it constantly for inspiration for art, writing or relaxation. I am very blessed to be living in the Forest of Dean. It is an area that is rich in wildlife and has a diverse range of habitats, so I’m rarely short of being able to find something inspiring.

In winter, the woods here have a peaceful serenity about them and offer shelter from storms and deep snow to all sorts of flora and fauna. The frosted boughs and branches of the trees seem to reach up and draw like dark ink upon the sky, while last autumn’s seed heads stand proudly, displaying their crystal ice coats. Everything waits patiently for the coming of spring, which lets life loose again with bright yellow celandine stars shining alongside the cheery faces of the primrose and speedwell. Migrant birds return gradually and bluebells bloom en masse, delicately daubing their own impressionist artworks throughout the Dean.  In the background, ferns are busy unfurling.  In summer, the woods are filled with life – butterflies, bees, dragonflies, birds, wild flowers, ferns and, later, the first glimpse of sloes,  hazelnuts, tiny acorns, elder, hawthorn and blackberries. The air is warm and smells green and fresh. Autumn brings a spectacular turn in the colour of the mantle of the broadleaf trees and an explosion of fungi and fruit. The scent now is primarily of the forest floor – that rich, musky, earthy smell… Before we know it, we are back into winter and able to catch sight of deer through the bowing bracken, while inky, bare trees allow brief glimpses into the lives of squirrels and resident or winter-visiting birds. There is so much life here, and this description covers just a tiny portion of the woodland. The Forest of Dean area has many habitats and a rich history, ripe with inspiration for a lifetime of work.

 

My Nature Notes project, as I said at the start of this post, documents the flora and fauna spotted during 2018, both at home here in the Forest and in London, the Lake District and Scotland. Basically, wherever I went and encountered nature, I recorded it in mixed media or textile on the calico pages. The year tracks from January through to the end of December and will have my accompanying nature notes attached on every opposite page. These need to be applied and stitched around to secure the page edges. There is a lot of ‘finishing’ work to do, such as constructing the endpapers and textile covers, and I plan to make a clamshell box to keep the journal in. This is totally new territory for me, so I envisage it will be a bit of a journey. Nature Notes was, in itself, a huge journey of discovery about many things, and I plan to document the rest of that here and share it with you. I hope you enjoy it.

A Welcome and a Why

roseate tern seabird in flight

Trying to decide how to start a new blog is tricky. There are so many questions. How should I introduce myself? Should I start with ‘Hello’? What should I write about? Should I concentrate on one subject or embrace everything I love? Do I really need to ‘niche down’? How often should I post, or more to the point, how often will I be able to post? Should I follow one person’s advice, or another’s? There’s so much information out there about the rights and wrongs of blogging that it can all get a bit bewildering. Then, there’s the process of choosing a provider, a platform, a theme, learning how to use it, and let’s not even mention the software updates that seem to change everything from time to time… I’ve concluded, after much thinking and pacing, some over-thinking and general procrastination, and then a bit more pacing, that it really is best to just dive in and start. So, here we go. Let’s see what happens, and let’s start with that ‘Hello and welcome’…

It seems ‘taking the plunge and starting’ is the key to beating most things that dredge up that old foe most of us call fear – you know, the inner critic that masquerades under the veil of self-protection when we think, or worse, believe, that we might not be ‘good enough’ at whatever is we are trying to do or achieve. It is all to easy to wonder if anyone will be interested in what we do, or, in the case of a blog, what we have to say, but I’ve come to a point where I believe that if we communicate honestly, if we are authentic, if we truly care about and love what we do, someone might just be curious and feel drawn to read it…

Stack of fabric pages from my Nature Notes textile art journal on my studio desk with the January title page on top
Nature Notes 2018

This blog will follow my creative journey, my ‘creative way’ if you like, through art and textiles, and will document my experiments, successes, failures and discoveries along the way. I hope it will be of value to readers, and that it will illustrate my core belief that ‘Practice Is Key To Progress’. I believe ‘Doing’ is all-important. So many of us find ourselves thinking, ‘I wish I could do that’, and time slips by while we think, assume, or convince ourselves that we can’t. The truth is, we can. We just need to put in the practice. Practice produces results. Everything we do, whether a success or a failure, teaches us something. We just need to be open to recognising it, and then, keep going. The more we do something, the better we get at it. The better we get at something, the more we believe in our ability. The more we believe ‘we can’, the more ‘we can’ and the better we get at everything…

Some of you may know me from my Instagram account which I started in 2017 under the name of Habitual Stitcher (@habitualstitcher – now @valeriebirdart) with the One Year of Stitches project, or from my previous blog of the same name, which has now been archived. I’ve decided to re-brand under the name Valerie Bird Art, purely because Habitual Stitcher felt a bit too limiting. Yes, I am a passionate life-long stitcher, but that’s not my whole story. I love to draw. I love to paint. I love messing about with fabric. I have always been a creative soul. I think most of us are when we’re young – we just unlearn the creative freedom we had, then, as we ‘grow-up’. Now I’m not saying I feel ‘grown-up’ by any stretch of the imagination, but you know what I mean! According to my mum, I started stitching when I was three at a weekly sewing group my mum attended. Apparently, I wanted to have a go, and the leader of the group duly gave me a piece of fabric and a needle and thread – brave woman! I’ve been stitching and art-and-crafting ever since, but my favourite things are mixed media art, stitching, and writing. Here, hopefully, I can combine all these things, and more.

Tiny brown-haired girl sitting on top of a reel of green cotton with a needle, thread and fabric, learning to stitch
Little Me Stitching

My mission is to explore and cultivate a deeper connection with the world through my textile and mixed media art practice and experiments. My main passions are Nature, History and The Arts. I love a good story, and adore costume drama and poetry. At present, and for the last couple of years, the natural world around me has been the focus and inspiration for my work. 2018 saw the development of a textile journal – a diary of my year in Nature, produced in mixed media art and stitch – and although it has been documented on Instagram, I will be writing about that journey here, as although the artwork for the year is done, the journal needs to be completed and hand-bound, and possibly exhibited. I have recently completed an embroidered piece for the Endangered Species Act-SOS Flag project in the United States, which I will document here (you can find it on Instagram if you scroll down my feed and under @sewtheseeds and the hashtag #esasosflag), and I am a member of The Embroiderer’s Guild and The Society for Embroidered Work. I firmly believe embroidered work should be viewed as ‘Art’, and not labelled as ‘craft’ or ‘women’s work’ as it has been historically and still is, in some arenas. Looking ahead, I plan to release pieces of my work for sale periodically, including prints and cards etc., and will set up a shop for that purpose.

Finely detailed and hand-made embroidered artwork of Roseate Tern for the Endangered Species Act  SOS Flag project in the USA
Hand Embroidered Roseate Tern

I hope you find my ramblings of interest and enjoy the journey with me, and please feel free to comment and start a conversation. I would love to hear from you.

April 2019