Janet Haigh : Her Work

Textiles: ideas, drawing, design, stitching….

Knitwear – but not as you know it!

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feather collar by Stephanie Wooster

We have a wonderful new exhibition at Heart Space Studios. It is a collection by Stephanie Wooster  ( who conducts unusual knit workshops with us) developed from her MA studies and it concerns itself with wrapping, tying and generally caressing the upper body. the names of the different pieces tell how they are perceived by the maker – Swaddle, Swathe, Shawl, Sheath, Mantle, Shroud. The work is embroidered, felted, machine knitted, plaited and patch-worked together, with feathers, braids and calico. It sets a calm but slightly surreal feeling to our small gallery space.

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Steph starts to set up her exhibition

The first things brought in were  a series of clear plastic torsos which were then dressed in simple calico shifts before being hung on the wall.

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The calico shifts or shrouds?

then Steph started to dress them up; first the dramatic feathered collar was placed to set the atmosphere….

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scarves and stoles begin to be layered

Then out came feathered scarves, stoles and wraps, hand knitted and coiled hanks of wool, even felted knitting with feathers as the motif….

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felted feather design on machine knitted wrap.

the large wraps, shawls or scarves, call them what you will – are made from several different textiles and hand stitched or even embroidered together often using a red knitted braid as a backing, this causes interesting lines to be drawn around the body when draped.

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the feathered scarf with plaited woolen collar

the row of 4 pieces are really powerful and entice people to study them up close and personal…viewers are not quite sure what they are seeing, are these felted woven blankets, some unusual woolen ticking or  simple striped knitting?

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row of 4 pieces awaiting the extra exhibits.

When this group were placed Steph brought out a whole range of very finely machine knitted lengths in different colours and combinations, these can to worn any which way – I like them draped around the neck as an elegant sort of knitted necklace.

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wall of fine knitted necklaces in brilliant colours and pattern combinations.

We like to have exhibitions of selling stuff at Heart Space, and most of these pieces are for sale, but Steph also brought a selection of beautifully refined knitted ribbons, that are carefully joined at the back so that they always behave well when draped! This is  what I like to have for sale in the studios, exciting but wearable pieces with an edge, not fashion but style!

Also seen in far right of the picture is another knitted and embroidered piece ” I am what I am”

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wall mounted scarf with embroidery ” I am what I am..”

this was made for another exhibition and shown earlier in the year , Mending at the Museum, it was really good to see it again with these earlier pieces and interesting to see how new work develops out of completely different stimuli. Steph has also made a series of mixed media hot water bottle covers, developed from her samples at the Heart Space Mixed Media workshop earlier in the year, with more of her hand warmers( it is Autumn after all) and these have specially colour co-ordinated to the exhibition.

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colour-co-ordinated hand warmers – heat them first in the microwave!

This is what intrigues me about many successful textile makers and designers, they can develop many different types of work, from applied art pieces for museum exhibitions, to practical hand crafted things for everyday use. This is the way many of us manage to make our living while finding time and energy to research and develop our own personal work. In fact without the research and development of private passions many new and commercial designs would never see the light of day.

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work book showing stages of making as well as research inspiration for the collection.

Looking through this book lets us see how Steph links all sorts of unusual images and ideas and then literally knits them together to make new and exciting wearable textiles.

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