About Me

My photo
Denman Island, British Columbia, Canada
Jean Cockburn retired from her professional career as an academic librarian in 2008 to become a textile artist living on Denman Island, British Columbia. She draws, quilts, embroiders, knits and crochets, makes wearable art, weaves baskets, dyes fabric, and paints watercolours. Her work has been exhibited locally in juried and group shows on Denman Island, in Courtenay, Comox, and Duncan on Vancouver Island, in West Vancouver, and across Canada with the Surface Design Association.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Watercolour painting group on a Tuesday afternoon in the summer

From May to August, the Denman Island Arts Centre hosts the Summer Art Gallery and the Readers and Writers Festival.

That means that the Tuesday afternoon watercolour painting group meets in members' homes/gardens during the summer. Today was the first such occasion and we met in Linda Mather's beautiful garden.

Flowers from Linda's garden.

The thyme walk.


Annie and Brenda (in the back) painting.

We all worked on a picture to give Carol as a going away present when she leaves to return home to Britain.

My painting today.



Sunday, May 29, 2016

Friday, May 27, 2016

Art quilt in progress

Pelka Wiltshire and I will be having a joint art show at the  Denman Island Summer Art Gallery from July 22 through August 2, 2016. The show is called "The Colour of Water".

I love english paper piecing and am using it in several pieces for the show. Here are a few close-ups of hand stitching some hexies to background fabric. Tomorrow I may post a pic of the entire piece in progress.



Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sitting at the Art Gallery this afternoon

I spent a lovely sunny afternoon sitting for our watercolour group show at the Denman Island Summer Art Gallery.

Lots of folks came in, and three paintings sold.

I did a wee watercolour in my notebook during the afternoon.


I got to meet the lovely young woman, Flora, who won the Houses quilt that I made for the affordable housing initiative, last summer.

And on another note, yesterday I sold my Chorus Frog embroidery.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Comox Valley Art Gallery show in June 2016 - Dragonfly Dream Self-Portrait

For the month of June 2016, the Comox Valley Art Gallery in Courtenay, British Columbia will be hosting a group show called Sooner or Later: Representations of Contemporary Self-Portraiture.

I decided to pull out all the stops and created my most ambitious work to date. My self-portrait is a 3D soft sculpture, one-half life size, with a surreal beaded face and dragonfly wings. She is inspired by Jungian theory of an archetypical dream, in this case of flying, a larger-than-life dream that feels more intense than real experience.

Called Dragonfly Dream, she was a challenge to create and called upon many of my various maker skills.


I want to acknowledge the inspiration and technical guidance of the book Creative Cloth Doll Beading by Patti Medaris Culea that I borrowed from the Vancouver Island Regional Library. This book provided me with the basic body pattern which I enlarged and adapted, and with the technical guidance for beading the face.

To make the face, I started with a pastel self-portrait that I had done as a class assignment in my college art class. I photographed it and printed it out in black and white to give the basic position and proportion of the features. I used that design to apply the beads. The features are a bit oversize, because she is an insect, after all, and I wanted the features to "read" from a distance.
This is the original self-portrait in pastel chalk. I have since added highlights to the eyes and softened the shadows, so she looks rather more cheerful than she does here.
Working on beading the face. The fabric is natural coloured linen, backed with stabilizer.
Here is the complete head and face with hair and earrings.
After the face was beaded, I made the body from linen/cotton fabric, stuffed with raw wool from a local farmer. My neighbour helped me to pick and card the wool for stuffing. I stamped images of dragonflies and a few bees and butterflies on the body in brown ink. I sewed the beaded face onto the front of the head, and stitched the head to the body. Wow, I had a person! The limbs are attached with big buttons, so the joints swivel. I covered the buttons with fabric after they were stitched on so they would look natural. The fingers have wire in them.

The body under construction. Note the slightly dumpy figure - verisimilitude!
I love the legs and feet. My feet are 10 inches long, and these feet are 5 inches long, so half size.
The arms under construction, with the book by Patti Medaris Culea in the background for reference.
To make the hair, I first crocheted a cap which I stitched to the back of the head. I used a crochet hook to loop in three strands at a time of fine brown sock wool, pale mauve mohair and lace weight grey wool. I think that I mimicked my greying hair rather well! The ears were a challenge, and I had to do them twice. That they are partially covered by hair which is a good thing. The ears are pierced, as are mine, and she is wearing a pair of flying bird earrings that my nephew gave me years ago.

The crocheted cap is sewn to the back of the head and the strands of wool for hair are attached in a circular fashion with a crochet hook.
I love her dress, made from gold sequinned fabric that I lucked upon during a hurried visit to Fabricland, and adapted from a child's dress pattern that I had previously used for my granddaughter. The fabric drapes beautifully, fits in with the dragonfly theme, and is opaque enough to be discreet while still sheer enough to mysteriously show the shape of the body underneath.

Here is Dragonfly Dream, swaying in the breeze on the back deck of my studio, with my design wall as a backdrop.
Making the four wings was a major challenge, but they turned out so well. After referencing the book Bugs of British Columbia, I drew a shape on newsprint, then used armature wire to create that shape. Chicken wire was cut to shape with wire snips, then each prickly end of the chicken wire twisted onto the wire armature. I wrapped the edges with strips of cotton fabric bias; that a was two afternoon effort. I cut layers of fabric, pale gold tulle and rainbow coloured organza, in large rectangles, and stitched the two layers to each side of each wing, so four layers of fabric for each wing, stitched onto the cotton bias and trimmed. Finally I used pre-made folded satin trim to edge each wing, securing with tiny blue beads, then put another row of larger random beads around the outer edge of each wing.
Here two of the wings have been bound on the edges with strips of bias cotton.
Now I had my döppelganger and I had the wings, but how to present? I knew that I wanted her to be flying, so I researched marionettes. She did not need the complicated framework for a puppet that will be manipulated, so I built a simple square wooden frame, painted it blue like the sky, and stamped the wood with gold acrylic images of small dragonflies. The marionette research told me where to attach her limbs, head and body with 20 pound fishing line. I used hooks and eyes originally, then dispensed with the hooks on her wrists and ankle, threading the fishing line directly through the eyes for a more discreet attachment. I kept the large hooks and eyes for the wings, so they detach for moving and storage.
The hanging frame from the topside. I have since covered the exposed screws with beads. Note the swivel hook at the top so that she can move with air currents.
I have since removed the hooks from the ankles and wrists, and simply doubled the fishing line through the eyes.
The ball of the foot.
When she was finally attached and flying, with the patient help of my husband, she came to life. It was truly magical.


In addition to the books mentioned above, I researched so much on the Internet, and used inspiration, information and techniques from so many places, that I wish that I could acknowledge and thank all of them. I spent hours reading and trying things out, but I did not keep notes.
Some sites that I can recall are noted below:
http://dollmaker.nunodoll.com/girl/
http://agosiaarts.com/
http://dollmakersjourney.com/Tips-and-Techniques.html
http://whileshenaps.com/2011/02/elements-of-soft-toy-design-12-gusseted-button-joints.html
http://www.misterfinch.com/portfolio/
https://thepalerook.com/
http://www.ehow.com/how_5635113_sculpt-chicken-wire.html
http://www.thefairiesnest.com/2009/01/wing-tutorial-at-last.html
All About Marionettes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-KL58zcabo
http://www.puppetsinprague.eu/instructions/stringing_puppet.html
https://www.weircrafts.com/doll-hair-yarn/crocheted-cap.html
http://www.figandme.com/blog/wool-as-toy-and-doll-stuffing-why-how-and-where
http://www.figandme.com/blog/dollmaking-tips-how-to-make-doll-hair
Labeled diagram of marionette controllers https://www.pinterest.com/pin/16958936069817156/




Friday, May 6, 2016

Affirmation of my work

Remember the frog art from a previous post?

Here are photos to remind you.




Well, the pieces won prizes! Read this from the local press. I won in three, count them, three categories. Best Legs is very exciting, that must have been for the embroidery, Kermit look-a-like must have been for the stuffed frog, and Fuzziest ????