Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Alchemical Curiosity Cabinet - Interior

I spend many hours experimenting with my chosen 'alchemy script' photographs to get the look I wanted for the interior of the storage bookbox.
The original photo's and documents are quite grey in appearance, as you can see here below.

I had something different in mind, more sepia or brown. So I changed the picture in PhotoScape, a program on our PC a bit like Photoshop, to create a Sepia look.

I then created a digital collage from several pictures with the idea of creating my own designed 'scrapbook' paper.

Although it looked alright on the screen when I printed it out it was more like pinkish brown, which I didn't like. It also seemed to lose the kind of authenticity I was after. I really liked the inked script of the original 17th century documents, written with a quill.

During one of our meetings at HALS we were introduced to the Archives Conservator Jeff Cargill, an incredible knowledgeable guy, who explained us a lot about how they conserve the documents.

One of the things he showed us was a document in which the ink had created a chemical reaction 'eating' the letters out of the paper. (When you click on the photo, you can see it better)

Although in itself a fascinating topic for further textile/stitch exploration I wanted to do something with ink.

A while ago I had bought a bottle of Walnut Ink Crystals for staining and distressing fabric and paper, giving them an antique look. I still hadn't used it, so I started some experiments with that and liked the look of it.
I ended up inking several A2 size good quality paper, which I then cut into a series of A4, ready to put through my printer. It sounds really straight forward (and it is) but I spend quite some time working out how many papers needed a horizontal/vertical orientation of ink movement on the paper.
Think wood grain in relation to the script fitting in the cabinet - all becomes clear in the end....

To get a 'pure' walnut brown I needed to get rid of the 'colour' of the original photo's, so I manipulated them in PhotoScape into 'grayscale' with further enhancements of sharpen, brighten and contrast,

 so they looked like this.

 They were then printed onto the walnut inked hand cut A4 papers, ending up like this.

After that I sprayed them all with hairspray and left them for a few days.

In the mean time I prepared the bookbox by lightly sanding it on all surfaces and applied a primer (Colourfix). I also cut two 'shelves' from mount board and primed these. I further cut some balsa wood square strips and died them with walnut ink.   Then came the scary fun bit of cutting the papers to size and gluing and sealing them with ModPodge into the box.

Et voila

an 'alchemist' cabinet containing pages of alchemy documents written by someone of the Wittewronge family in the 17th century

Curious for more?
Watch this space.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Threads of Time - my personal Alchemy

Finally another post.
I have been working on and off on my Threads of Time project amongst other things.
So here is a little update on my progression.
During one of our meetings for the project we visited the archives storage rooms at HALS.

Lots of storage boxes and interesting old looking books.

This got me on to the idea to use a 'storage box book' I bought at TK Maxx and alter it into something 'alchemical'.

I purely bought this box because of it's picture, as it has such a powerful and emotional meaning to me. Any picture with a bicycle on it reminds me of my daughter Kiama. She loved France and was planning to cycle with her friends from London to Paris, after their graduation in 2012. As she sadly died a few weeks before, her friends decided to do the bike ride in her memory and scattered some of her ashes from the Eiffel Tower.

Although the box will be fully covered and no one will see the original decoration I know it will be there, like a secret message from my daughter telling me to keep on transforming my grief into something creative. My personal alchemy, if you like.

The inside is full of text, which prompted the idea to somehow use the pictures I took from the handwritten documents on alchemy and astrology and line the box with it, like this page.

It is written in French and refers to the 'Elixer of Life', an alchemical solution equivalent to the Philosophers' Stone, which would bring eternal life.
I will show in another post the process of what I did with the photographs.

I had decided to alter the inside into a kind of Alchemical Curiosity Cabinet, so I spend a considerable amount of time searching charity shops, my own 'found object' draws and keeping an eye focused on 'alchemy' where ever I went.
Here are some of the curiosities which will be included:

I love keys, especially old ones, they are such a strong symbol for keeping or unlocking mysteries. They can be precious and you are very fortunate when you are giving one that opens doors to the most unimaginable spaces, where you can discover the secrets of life itself.
I was given this one as a present from my friend Kate, who is very talented and successful as an artist/maker/illustrator. For me this key symbolises friendship and unlocking my own talents and creativity.
The cute little bottles I found in a bead shop in Covent Garden will be filled with things representing the 7 metals, used in alchemy: lead, tin, iron, copper, mercury, silver and gold.

Some vintage bottles I found or actually bought in a lovely vintage barn shop at Battlers Green Farm near Radlett. Well worth a visit if you are in the neighbourhood.
I also want to create a few miniature old looking books to go onto a shelf in the cabinet. The little book here belonged to Kiama and is full of 'Positive Thoughts', which may have, in part, inspired her 'My Bucketlist'. I want to give the cover an 'old' makeover to fit the overall look.

The little Balsa wood cabinet was a 'must have' from a craft shop, a cabinet within a cabinet, it will present my spiritual journey through meditation, for me the true alchemy.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Threads of Time - project Alchemy, Astrology and Medicine

Last October I saw a leaflet at the 'Needlecraft' shop in Hemel Hempstead, inviting textile and mixed media artists to take part in an exciting project organised by the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies library. I really needed a new creative challenge, so I signed up for the first meeting at the Local Studies Library in Hertford. The project involves documents from the Wittewronge family collection as inspiration for pieces of textile art to be exhibited at HALS in June 2014. 

Needlelace from the Wittewronge collection DE/Lw/F32

I was surprised to see that over 30 women had turned up for the meeting and another date was planned for the people who couldn't make the initial meeting. We viewed some of the old documents, which included some old maps and beautiful handwritten scripts.
Being a Dutch expatriate myself I was particularly interested to learn that the Wittewronge family originated from Flanders, part of The Low Countries which was occupied by the Spanish in the 16th and 17th Century. Sir John Wittewronge (1618 – 1693), the grandson of Jacques Wittewronghele who fled Ghent with his family in 1564, even altered Rothamstead Manor, which he bought in 1640 to include Dutch gables.
I love a bit of history, especially if I can bridge time and discover connections to myself. So I was quite keen to have a look at some of the other documents in the Wittewronge collection. After looking on the website of the National Archives I discovered to my surprise a series of documents entitled 'Alchemy, astrology and medicine' (see here for a link).

This made me very curious and excited as I have a life long interest in these subjects which inspires my artwork on many occasions. So I arranged to come and view the documents whilst my friend Jackie was attending the second initial meeting. I have never been to the archives before, let alone handling old documents. I couldn't help to be excited when I imagined that someone almost 400 years ago wrote these documents and studied the subjects I am interested in.

Documents on alchemy, astrology and medicine.
 Ref. HALS DE/Lw/Z6

Apart from 3 printed almanacs from the 1640's the other documents were all handwritten treatises in French, Dutch, English and Latin. Difficult to read and understand but with some interesting marks, doodles and pictures.
Doodles in a treatise on alchemy Ref. HALS DE/Lw/Z6

There was one page with an alchemical formulae drawn on it. It contains 2 female names, one spelled exactly as mine. How intriguing, but what does it mean? Perhaps the owner tried to work out which of the 2 women were most compatible to marry him. A recipe for a love potion!
Alchemical formula for marriage? Ref. HALS DE/Lw/Z6

I love the mysterious looking alchemical symbols and definitely like to incorporate these somehow in my project.
I also like the look of old manuscripts and books, antique and yellowing pages, disintegrating book-covers and so on. I haven't really started to design or work on anything yet, but I am collecting lots of ideas on my Pinterest boards, which you can follow by clicking on 'here'.

I have been fascinated for some time in mixed media as used in 'altered books' and assemblage art, but I have never made anything myself in that manner. I have signed up for a workshop with Paula Watkins at the Embroiderers' Guild on altered books in February and hope to use this towards my project.
So watch this space.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Happy New Year for all ye Stars

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Chorus.-For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne. 

First a very Happy, Creative, Inspirational and Healthy New Year to you all. 
Brilliant Universe - a close up from Labour 12 - Pisces

If there is one thing about blogging that bothers me, it's inconsistency. When I like to follow someone's blog and there are no posts appearing for weeks or months on end without any explanation I start:
  a. wandering if the Blog-person is alright.
  b. imagining all kinds of scenarios and reasons of what is happening in that person's life.
  c. eventually giving up checking them out, unless it is a friend.
  d. finally come to the conclusion that perhaps there is more to people's life then blogging.

So apologies to all of you who have been checking me out, whilst I wasn't there. I hope you skipped a., b. and c. and arrived quicker to d. then I normally do. My intention was and actually still is to blog at least every week, but as you can see I am not very good in keeping up with the regular practise of blogging. (If you subscribe to my blog Blogger will let you know when I post something, so it is less disappointing to be faced with my inactivity).

Lucky Star - a close up from Labour 9 - Sagittarius

Apart from keeping busy I have of course a perfect astrological explanation for my inconsistent blogging activity, as the stars or better the place of the planets at the time of my birth can tell.
If you think astrology is all gobbledygook then you may want to skip this post, but for anyone interested in astrology here is a little explanation of my erratic behaviour in communication.

Beaded Universe - a close up from Labour 10 - Capricorn

Of course astrology itself was/is classified as a science depending on your definition of 'science' and many top businessmen, high society members, celebrities and ordinary folk will consult astrologers.
Astrology is an enormous subject to study as it has many different applications from psychological, financial, relationship to mundane/world affairs. I have studied astrology for over 30 years now and I still feel I am scratching the surface.

Purple Trilogy - a close up from Labour 12 - Pisces

The planet Mercury in anyone's birth chart says something about the way you think and communicate. At the time of my birth Mercury was found in the air sign of Aquarius, which does like communication and also related technologies. Some of the character traits of Aquarius are unconventional, (can be shocking), unusual ideas, love of freedom (of speech), group orientated and erratic behaviour. People born with Mercury in Aquarius have a quick and original mind which can be challenging for when they speak their mind, especially when you are Dutch like me!
Some say that Mercury in Aquarius produces a mathematical and scientific mind, I can't say that's the case with me, but I do love numbers and I am interested in various scientific subjects, especially the unusual occult sciences. I occasionally buy a Science magazine and to top it all off my husband works in the Space industry as a microwave engineer, designing devices for satellite communication systems. A very Mercury/Aquarian job.

True Love - a close up from Labour 9 - Sagittarius

Years ago I studied the book The Labours of Hercules - an astrological interpretation by Alice Bailey and gave several talks about it to meditation and philosophy groups. I promised myself at the time that one day I would create a visual interpretation of my study and the subsequent insights I gained from it. In 2007 I was finally able to make the time (it took me 9 months) and created 12 panels presenting abstract landscapes/countries ruled by the 12 astrological signs through which Hercules was travelling on his spiritual journey. The series is called Tracking Hercules. The photo's in this blog are all close ups of a few of the panels, some you might recognize as the banners for my blog and facebook page.