Janet Haigh : Her Work

Textiles: ideas, drawing, design, stitching….

Surf,Turf and Sky: Master class materials

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Fish skin, reindeer leather and feathers are the weird and wonderful materials that went into the making of first Master Class at Heart Space Studios -hence ‘Surf Turf and Sky’. This was  a 2 day workshop conducted by Basil Kardasis, an international designer and lecturer who specialises in using ethically produced and sustainable leather and fur and who reiterated again and again in this workshop how careful we had to be not to waste these precious materials which, for this workshop are the waste materials from farmed foods.

showing the start of the panorama research document in Heart Space

We had a ‘Meet and Greet’ session the evening before the workshop where everyone could informally get to know one another and see the ideas he had for the days ahead, a wonderful portfolio of images was shown which gave a panorama stretching 10 metres….all through the studios, the dining room and out of the door.

Turf section of the panorama

the next morning we unfurled it again to start the workshop with a myriad of inspirational images of animals, seas and skies.

start of the 2 day workshop in the studio

The people taking part were from many different backgrounds; we had 2 corsetiers/ dress designers; several university lecturers; an ‘academic quilter’, textile designers, embroiderers and a sculptor who worked in various materials from fish skins to precious metals. All were lured to the class by these unusual materials, but Basil told everyone they were not to think of their own practice – they had to react to the stimulus of what he and Heart Space provided. But first he showed ‘something he had caused to be made earlier’ a piece of sheer silk with appliqued squares of fish skin and fur. This beautiful but essentially simple fabric had been made at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden where he regularly teaches. This piece of work has tiny rectangles of salmon skin on one side and sheared Gotland sheep on the other (I thought I would be very specific in the spirit of research). This sheet of stretch chiffon fabric proved to be inspirational for several people.

leather and fur  side of the appliqued fabric

salmon skin side of the fabric

He showed several more ravishing dressed skins, not just to whet our appetites, but to explain how design can develop useable fabrics from usually discarded pieces of skin, like ” mink armpits”. The message is that we must sustain, make safe, and waste nothing at all when we use animals for our own appetites, whether food, protection or delight.

reverse of the fur to show construction

‘armpits’ of mink made into interlocking sheet of fabric

Then he introduced us, or should I say seduced us by showing the materials that he and his Swedish colleague, Eva Alfredson, had spent several months procuring from Scandinavia. The whole room was transfixed by the treasures he unwrapped…..

dyed and gilded salmon and Nile perch skins from the Scandinavian company Kust Skinn, kindly supplied by Karin Mattsson

Nile Perch dyed and gilded.

gilded and dyed salmon skins

shimmering salmon skins

wonderful sheets of pieced and dyed eel skins provided by  Saeed Khalique, who owns the London-based company Alma Leathers.

sheets of pieced and printed eel skins from Alma Leathers

stunning silvered and gilded fox furs sent by Roberto Tadini from Italy, just for us to marvel.

silvered fox furs from Italy

then the softest reindeer leathers in glowing colours from Finland, courtesy of Carita Pontio of Ahlskog Leathers

reindeer leathers from Finland

I teamed all these materials with sheer silks and linens from Whaleys of Bradford….

silk chiffon and linen scrim from Bradford

and also a small but beautiful selection of feathers from Buy Feathers, England.

feathers from England

After all this wonderful introduction we had to break for lunch to gain energy to face an afternoon of trying to start to do justice to these materials; everyone was nervous but raring to get going…..and I will show the results on the next post.

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