Janet Haigh : Her Work

Textiles: ideas, drawing, design, stitching….

Africa and England in Print

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Batik effect hand block printed African cotton

When I think of African cloth, block printed or woven strip cloth is what I imagine; bold colour in figurative prints or geometric woven designs…

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So it was with real delight that I saw and met with Magie Relph the owner of the African Fabric Shop  recently. Initially I met her at a quilt show last year and was introduced to her by a colleague, Liz Hewitt, who thought we should connect; then about a month ago she came and visited us at Heart Space Studios to talk about selling some of her magical fabrics and beads through the shop.

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selection of African glass beads

I remembered her stall at the show so clearly, lovely fabric prints of all descriptions,

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subtle batik resist dyed cotton lengths

  as well as baskets and beads made from all types of recycled materials….

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hand-woven baskets on the African Fabric Stall

I really like sea glass – broken glass that has been dulled by time spent in the sea – nature’s perfect re-cycling system; the milky colours and softened shapes are really appealing and looking at this selection below I am wondering why I didn’t buy any if not all of them?

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sea glass bracelets

Then just after Magie’s visit, another piece of Africa found its way to Heart Space Studios; Marina Harvey, a South African designer and pattern cutter, came and talked to the Thursday Evening Knit and Stitch Club about her printed fabrics that she made several years ago on the ‘MA in Print’ course,  at UWE, Bristol.

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Heart Space Knit and Stitch Club, Show and Tell with Marina Harvey

Marina has written a course for Heart Space Studios to make and decorate a skirt in a series of evening classes, using some of the techniques she developed on her MA, (this will run later in the year) but I asked her to take part in the ongoing programme of “Show and Tell’s” we hold occasionaly at the weekly Club sessions, as it is a chance for local makers to bring their work and talk about it to us.

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Marina printed and patched fabric swatches, based on African batik fabric scraps

Marina talked to us about the idea behind her MA collection: when she came to England to teach and study she was fascinated by the archetypal British fabrics notably woolen tweeds and in particular the cloths worn in traditional sporting pursuits, hunting, shooting and fishing but for dressage in particular …… we were all very surprised by this choice, but of course woollen tweeds in South Africa would be a novelty. Marina set about blending the differences between the cultures by using fabric as her medium, the Queen and her Majesty’s interests as her subjects!

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sketch book with paper print featuring brollies, herringbone tweed and Queen Elizabeth 2nd

 Marina used African printing systems, block prints, batiks and discharge screen printing to pattern the tweeds, and she patterned them with tea cups and saucers, she was very generous in bringing all her research materials, work books and fabric samples for us to study closely.

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printed tea-cup tweeds with African batik samples

Designing her textiles to make into clothes for her degree exhibition, she chose to work in the 3 colours only, indigo blue, red and dark brown, predominantly found in sishweshwe  or shwe shwe – the traditional South African fabrics of the Zulu and Lesotho nations.

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colour strike-off sample print in brown and blue

The combination of British imagery,’ Pheasants Flying for Cover’ which is printed in the traditional shwe shwe colours is a perfect combination very successfully in keeping with both cultural traditions.

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red block printed design for tweed jacket

the resulting fabrics are subtle blends of African colours and British icons, T.pots look like African flags are printed on traditional gamekeeper’s woollen drab,

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red T pot print on tweed

and the ultimate indigo shwe shwe inspired print of miniature T.pots for elegant court shoes

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tiny T pot indigo printed shoes

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