Recently I was advised to watch Kirsty Allsop’s TV programme, Hand Made Britain, in order to immediately offer a special class in whatever she had made that week in textiles; a new idea for attracting new students toHeart Space Studios. So this week I did just that – watched the programme that is all about making things for competition at County Shows, which I was delighted by having spent many happy days in marquees up and down the country gazing in amazement at the things that people produce for competition.
The local Portishead flower and produce show, even inspired an entire body of hand embroidered work, The Flora Embroideries.
I watched with growing fascination as Kirsty, aided by textile designer Claire Coles, made a pretty paper collage that was then machine stitched to produce a greetings card with a bird and flower design. She was obviously enjoying every minute of it .
OK, I thought – I can do that – and then I will make another version of the idea adding textiles to the papers to run as a short workshop, easy – peasy……
That’s what I thought until I started to make my sample. Looking in my plan chest I found some old presentation boards from my book, Crazy Patchwork, lots of lovely images and scraps of fabrics all ready to be re-cycled into new and glamorous greetings cards.
It was when I was trying to make a loose and airy design from my tiny scraps of fabrics and old flower pictures that it all seemed to go a bit wonky – but not wonky in the right way or enough to be quirky – which was the look I was aiming at. I eventually found that working on a coloured background was easier than all that white space glaring out between the collage ( I had been so busy writing my ideas down when watching the TV that I really hadn’t paid that much attention to the actual nitty-gritty of the proceedings) now I was paying the price of over confidence.
I am not a great machine stitcher so even with the embroidery foot in place, the card was quite difficult to stitch in a fluid line; using metallic thread didn’t help either but I often use metallic thread as a neutral tone for busy designs, plus the scale was very small for my level of skill.
For once I actually think that I preferred the back of the card as even though the stitching is really bad – it is a quirky drawing – I may work with this idea a bit more in future. I was beginning to admire Kirsty’s effort more by the minute. It took me about 2 hours to get to this stage, but it did look a bit sad – beads will cover a multitude of sins – like the holes in the middle of the flowers….
Eventually I got something I thought I could develop – I really liked the addition of lace to the paper and had to resist use all fabric instead and I like the odd combination of different materials so the next day quickly made another card to photograph for the Heart Space website to advertise the class. From these 2 samples I now need to develop a system to enable people to make their own versions simply and easily. So now I am off to source and organise papers, pictures, fabrics, glues, beads, threads and cards so that the students who come here can have a relaxed and enjoyable time creating something new from something old.
Back to Kirsty and the programme; she entered the card into an embroidery/hand craft competition at a show in Wales but won no prize with it – fair enough, it was her first attempt. What did win was a traditional embroidery made into a card, it was very precisely stitched – in fact the prizewinner carried off the ‘best in show’ award for what looked like a large – scale cross stitched alphabet; I suspect it was made from a commercial kit or someone else’s design.
For this reason, I generally find the craft displayed at most county shows dispiriting (unlike the produce which I love) all that seems to be rewarded is careful craftsmanship, but I suppose that is what the shows were originatedto promote. But I prefer to see things that people have had tried to fashion for themselves – some personal quirky things made up out of what is available which is why I always prefer seeing the children’s competitions that are often much freer in spirit, and originality is always rewarded, now what does that tell us?