Yet another first for me – I have been invited to make a piece of work for an exhibition in the Select programme for Stroud International Textiles . I have often visited the Stroud textile festivals and even posted my observations last year and the year before. For about a month the whole of the town of Stroud in Somerset, England, is taken over by textiles to be viewed in exhibitions, talks, workshops or bought at specialist markets, generally a must-go-to see show every spring.
I have been invited to make a piece of work for an exhibition called Pairings, where several partnerships of makers have been put together to develop work. This is a result of the Stitch and Think project that was the major part of my research post at UWE. Bristol, Alice Kettle, a Senior Researcher Fellow and applied artist using machine embroidery has been conducting a similar project at MMU ( Manchester metropolitan University) and she invited several members of the research group to join in this fascinating project. Over the past several months I have been preparing work to make a combined textile based on the idea of Metamorphosis. My partner, chosen by Alice, is Rachel Kelly, a textile designer specialising in Wallpaper and an associate lecturer at MMU. Rachel has been asked to incorporate new technology within her making processes – this should very interesting for a hand embroiderer.
Rachel interacting with wallpaper
When we first discussed the work I explained about my ideas around metamorphosis; we would have to change our ways of working to develop this work and as her work incorporates lots of motifs to make your own interchangeable wallpaper designs the idea seemed a perfect fit – Rachel agreed – luckily. We decided also to make a joint piece of work – not easy when we live and have our own studios more than 200 miles apart. We discussed what we had in common, she read the blog and I read her website. she thought we should concentrate on drawing and I recognised that she was an avid colourist – so we set to work. After some initial difficulty getting started, I suggested that we make work by the game of “consequences” one person draws something folds the paper down and the next person draws the next bit…..you can follow this interaction on our joint blog that starts this weekend.
So to begin – I sent Rachel 2 images of a tree I had seen in the local wood, it looks like an animal stretching upwards with a rump for a tail from one side and from the other, a side view of a voluptuous woman. I have been observing the tree for about 20 odd years now and I call it the Daphne tree, I take visitors to see it and I never pass it without an acknowledgement. I kept thinking I must do some work with this. I really feel that the Greek myths of metamorphosis, mainly observed by the poet Ovid, are true parables of the human condition; how often do we wish to change ourselves in some way or another – it is the hardest thing to do – and as the saying goes, “be careful what you wish for
I started by drawing the tree from either side, quick pencil sketches just to make a start by recording what I could see and the camera couldn’t quite capture. The dogs got bored quite quickly and it was very damp, my paper was really limp and my drawings extremely scribbly, I sent them to Rachel via email.
They were enough to get me started though, I next asked Sophie, my administrator at Heart Space Studios to pose for me from the tree images that I showed her.
then I drew from the photographs as the pose was really difficult to hold for her.
I really did not like this drawing, too beautiful, too glamorous; she looks like a glamour model …yes Daphne was a nymph but this needed attention so I drew over a photocopy and got rid of the breasts…
but she is still too lovely, too refined, this won’t help the feeling I want to establish and what is that? – Below is a Ted Hughes poem, from his book ‘ Tales from Ovid’ published in 1997 this is another woman turns to tree story – Myrrha, from the poem ‘Venus and Adonis’ – Myrrha calls to the gods to help her and her prayer was answered…
The earth gripped her ankles as she prayed.
Roots forced from beneath her toenails, they burrowed
Amongst deep stones to the bedrock. She swayed,
Living statuary on a tree’s foundations.
In that moment, her bones became grained wood,
Their marrow pith,
Her blood sap, her arms boughs, her fingers twigs,
Her skin rough bark……
I have never forgotten that passage of sheer terror when I first read the poem, and some of this somehow needs to be conveyed…so back to the drawing board. So if you wish to follow this developing project go to the joint blog that Rachel and I have set up, www.haighahdkellypairings2012.wordpress.com where we are posting our ongoing work and immediate reactions to one another..