Janet Haigh : Her Work

Textiles: ideas, drawing, design, stitching….


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Beading Exhibition

detail of lamp-worked glass beads based on fossilised dung –  Ilsa Fatt

The intricate hand made beads shown in the detail above are based on Coprolite –  icthyosaur dung, or more simply – fossilised poo...Ilas Fatt has developed these beads as part of a collaboration with Lyme Regis Museum where artists have been asked to work from specimens from the museum’s collection to be shown in an exhibition in 2013 – so a sneak preview at Heart Space Studios

Ilsa brings in her exhibits to the empty exhibition wall at Heart Space Studios

We have concentrated on bead work to advertise the next Master Class given by Ilsa – she describes it as being in ‘Freeform Sculptural Peyote Stitch’ I describe it as an absolutely amazing jewellry – making opportunity where using a variety of bead-work techniques a densely embellished bracelet will be formed – with integral fastening – my favourite aspect of Ilsa’s jewellry – she really has designed elegant and workable fastenings for her bead – work – for this alone, it would be worth taking the class.

A table full of gold and black beaded exhibits

Putting together this beading exhibition was fascinating, seeing  how different designers had managed to make such contrasting pieces by using simple beadwork techniques. Ilsa Fatt uses Peyote stitch  and Janis Taberner and Kristina Ferron use square stitch. When all the pieces different pieces were assembled they looked wonderful just draped and jumbled together over the tables – I was in favour or showing them draped on the wall, but when we saw the hangers for the Janis’ scarves we realised that formality would reign… but how to place all the disparate work together for a successful exhibition?

Blue and turquoise colour story

Sophie, Heart Space’s administrator and general genie, thought we should colour co-ordinate them – well I wasn’t going to deny that so we grouped everything together in ‘colour stories’. This made life much simpler and meant that at least the different types of work would hang together well

gold and bright colour story

First we placed everything on the floor in the colour groups.

the black and gold group on the floor

the long scarves made perfect borders for the boxes of necklaces. The rich colours of each designer’s work really enhanced each other.

hand made Lamp-worked glass beaded necklace based on Coprolite – Ilsa Fatt

black squared scarf – Janis Taberner

black and grey squared scarf – Janis Taberbner

detail of Carnival necklace – Ilsa Fatt

Ilsa is offering students her own lamp- worked beads as part of her Master Class ensuring everyone makes a unique piece of work.

blue group with deco necklace by Janis Taberner and ethnic inspired pieces by Kristina Ferron

The Blue grouping was easy-peasy – we used small stands and simple boxes to show the work, the brilliant blues and turquoises of Kristina’s ethnic necklaces, Kristina explained that she really likes “Big Jewellry” – a woman after my own heart.

blue square stitch scarf – Janis Taberner

strings of beads necklace – Kristina Ferron

The next group along the wall is in brilliant colours with gold; 2 scarves and a necklace that is based on the tumbling blocks patchwork design – Janis’ background in embroidery shows in her wide range of textile inspiration for these works.

Brilliant gold group – Janis Taberner

detail of the tumbling blocks design

detail of edging on patchwork design

and the last group is a series of different items in gold and autumnal colours made by all three makers, including  another collar this time in what appears to me to be a hounds-tooth check pattern.

autumn gold group by all three makers.

plus a beautiful frilled pendant by Janis where she has also braided the cord and tassell using a Japanese technique.

frilled pendant – Janis Teberner

beaded bag – Kristina Ferron

and also this sumptuous and subtle necklace by Ilsa.

autumn colours and gold beaded necklace – Ilsa Fatt

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Plaiting Master Class.

Dail Behennah’s collection of personal and traditional plaited forms.

Dail Behennah recently conducted a fascinating 2 day master class developing 3D structures out of paper at Heart Space Studios. She brought with her prepared strips of black and white paper to get everyone started quickly so that they could move swiftly onto the really wonderful papers we had collected for the group to experiment with; however the group had different ideas!

Dail’s collection of small plaited paper samples.

I feel that these exquisite samples swayed most members of the group to stick with the simple black and white theme, but also they each confessed to not wanting to waste any precious time cutting up the experimental papers into strips.

starting to plait the paper strips.

Dail also gave everyone a set of miniature clothes pegs, they were all intrigued..

the miniature clothes peg in action

It transpired that these pegs are perfect for holding the paper strips in place once a corner has been turned from the flat woven base, and once a corner has been turned the 3 dimensional shape starts to develop.

4 corners folded and pegged

Although Dail had said to everyone to feel free to plait the square base in any order, most people did a simple alternating black and white placement…it now became clear that the initial placement largely controlled the resulting pattern for the structure’s ‘walls’…..

silence reigned as the structures emerged

the patterns of black and white started to be developed on the sides of the 4 cornered shapes…

differently patterned ‘walls’ begin to emerge

another ‘wall’ pattern..

eventually fresh strips were added to interweave with the basic plait structure – red seemed to be the favoured colour.

embellishing the vessels with slim red paper strips

However when these basic structures were viewed they revealed wonderful geometric patterns from this simple 4 cornered structure.

first precise shape – an inside view – from mathematician Heather Lucy

Next the class were given free reign to just start off again, now knowing how to build up from a simple solid foundation and turn a corner –  where would they take this new knowledge?

a book like form emerges – Liz Hewitt.

And here we started to see the preferences of the different people in the class; their own practices stared to influence what they made; so Liz Hewitt, who amongst other things is a book binder and textile, plaited a concertina form that was reminiscent of pages of a book opening up…..

a triangular hat from 4 corners – Shirley Paskes

Shirley Paskes, who is a an enameller and felt maker made a small hat to wear, she also makes felt clothes. The only person to get away from the black and white range was weaver, Deborah Paul, who chose to remake a smaller version of the original shape in a new material –  grass green plastic.

green plastic ‘grass’ plaited form – Deborah Paul

On the second day Dail introduced the group to another structure,  Hexagonal Plaiting, this looked remarkably Japanese to me, although it was explained that these structures are universal and timeless – found on everything from fishing creels to engineered steel structures and it is the plait that is known also as Shaker Cheese Basket

So following Dail’s elegant diagrams everyone started to make another plait either in  pure white paper…or dramatic black and white. Once the hexagonal base has been turned more strips are woven in to grow and strengthen the shape.

looking at the hexagonal plaited black and white base

Eventually a firm rim is plaited in to finish the structure.

finished plaited form

For the final session of this master class, everyone was given a choice to continue making these open-ended forms or to attempt Dail’s signature object, a  plaited ball made of steel rope…

plaited steel ball small enough to be worn as a necklace

Several people wanted to try the steel rope ball,  but others attempted the closed structure in alternative materials…and some with alternative plaiting patterns – let’s just call them free – form.

the free form ball released from its pegs

It appears to me that if you have not got a strongly developed left- brain grasp of spatial mathematical awareness, the convoluted plaiting is a really difficult thing to attempt – I say this as a totally right- brained maker. However, free – formed or perfectly symmetrical, the moment the pegs are released from the plaited structures is a moment of truth for everyone…

Interestingly a couple of people went  back to their own practice and plaited the balls using knotting and stitching to secure the structures.

interlaced free – form structure

I think that these samples are starting to develop lace like structures and I suddenly saw a way that I could possibly stitch into these shapes with a needle and thread. The interlacing stitches cast intricate shadows from the final structure. This very delicate structure made by Debbie Paul  is made in string and straw ribbon.

However the steel ball proved to be the ultimate challenge, and it was interesting to see how the were formed. I had thought they were made from a single length of stainless steel wire – but in fact the wires are all cut to size first, curiouser and curiouser.

bundles of stainless steel wire cut to size for small plaited balls

the following images show the slow and strong construction in progress :-

Liz Hewitt attempts to follow

Dail starts demonstrates the starting process

slowly the shape strengthens

almost there after nearly 2 hour’s hard work


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Weaving in 3D = Plaiting

stainless steel and aluminum plaiting – Dail Behennah

I have a confession to make – I am a 2D person;  I work best on flat surfaces, paper, fabric, copper plate. Basically I draw, stencil or stitch images  onto stable sheets of material. Occasionally I take the images for walks round bodies or vessels, but although I studied, taught and worked in both fashion and textile design, my strength is in surface decoration, and the flatter the surface the better……so it is always perplexing but fascinating when I work with makers who are sculptural.

plaited containers – Dail Behennah

Dail Behennah, is a 3D maker at heart, although she does work in several divergent materials ranging from cane, through enamelled steel and copper, via stone and fabric. And for Heart Space Studios she is conducting the next Master Class using re-cycled paper for a 3D plaiting technique. “Plaiting is a way of weaving in three dimensions in which all the elements are active. (In most weaving techniques there is a passive set of warp threads and active weft threads weave between them). The thin-walled elegant forms which result may be viewed as vessels or sculpture.”

plaited forms – traditional baskets and hat with steel wire ball and triangular basket by Dail Behennah

The technique is common throughout the world wherever flat, ribbon-like materials are available. These include palm leaves, grasses, rush, bark and split bamboo. It is used to make flat mats

plaited leaf mat from Zanzibar.

and 3D structures

Cut the Woven Circle 1996 – Plaited Bamboo – Ueno Masao

ranging in scale from tiny shoes

Birch Bark shoe

to huge dams…..

Bamboo dam in China

as well as baskets designed to fulfill a variety of functions.

cane linen basket – Dail Behennah

The 2 day workshop will cover the basic techniques of bias and hexagonal plaiting and “corners may be turned wherever you wish. The aim is not to make a conventional basket but to push the technique as far as possible and see where it leads moving from 2 to 3 dimensions and back again…..

For dressmakers the process may be seen as similar to making your own fabric with integral darts. Each corner turned makes the material go off in a different direction, creating hollows and bumps.”

This idea has got me thinking about a plaited corset….imagine some of these cinched waist pieces in plaited ribbons or leathers….although Dail is using re-cycled papers as her main material it is expected that the participants will bring their own materials to experiment with as well.

The idea behind the Heart Space Studios Master Classes is for makers to expand their own practice by being introduced to a new technique or material by a tutor who is an acknowledged expert in their own practice – so sparking off new ideas and possibilities for other makers.

And to prove a point here is a 2D piece of work that has been inspired by this technique – 2 paper maps have been intersected by intricate stranded patterns for a water-coloured collage.

Hebrides/Manhattan(detail) – Woven Maps and Watercolour 1996 – Chris Drury.


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Surf, Turf and Sky : The Works

Kari Furre, tiny sculpture of fish scales, vellum and feathers

The strange tiny sculpture, shown above combines all 3 elements of the Surf Turf & Sky master class recently run by Basil Kardasis for Heart Space Studios in Bristol. In fact looking through all my 120+ images  taken throughout the 2 days, this is the only piece of work that uses the 3 materials together. The participants came from several disciplines, but whether, professional or amateur makers, all were highly skilled makers in their chosen craft. They were tasked with creating 3 samples using any of the materials on offer, in order to develop them further to enable them to be exhibited at a later date.

Kari Furre’s black chiffon and feather fabric.

On her web site, Kari Furre describes herself as a sculptor and metal-smith, but took to making textiles readily; the results of her research in the workshop look decidedly sculptural and incorporate 3 dimensions even in her initial fabric based work

I know from my own, hard won, experience that when faced with strange and challenging materials the mature maker will often instinctively return to the core of their own experience and utilise familiar techniques to explore the new materials…resulting in imaginative samples and ideas. This is the main reason why I wanted to develop master classes for Heart Space Studios, to introduce new ways of thinking to mature makers through unfamiliar materials ( rather than the more usual workshops that teach new techniques). And Kari certainly made completely different fabrics and samples for the group to wonder at.

Kari Furre – cut and jointed feather pieces

The same behaviour can be seen in Ann Rippin’s embroidered collage of silk, beads and, as far as I can see, anything but leather, fish and feathers for her first day’s efforts. To see and read a more insightful record of her experience, click here Ann Rippin’s blog. But even though Ann didn’t use much of the unusual material provided by the workshop she certainly became inspired to develop wonderful work from things she had stashed away not knowing how to develop them.

Ann Rippin – scrunched, pleated linen silk and beaded sampler

On the second morning Ann came in with a half made sample which she had unearthed with ideas for its development very late the night before….

Ann Rippin – making and stitching beads to resurrect an old piece of work

She became fascinated by making leather and thread beads after seeing one of the research books I had brought in for everyone to delve into. What is interesting is Ann is primarily a quilter , or patch-worker, but here she has made and applied 3D objects to her work, perhaps a new way to develop? She spoke of her work being “excessive” and a good exampler of how to escape the atmosphere of parsimony engendered in the present economic situation – a wonderful reason for making any work.

inventive rolled leather beads to augment the ethnic ceramics for a new piece of work

Another stitcher, Sally Sparks, found a way back to hand stitching after experiencing several years working with other materials and techniques, and said her first day was “a disaster”; she has recently been developing much of her textile work from her own inspirational photographs of rust…. but now her work was pale and subtle in its colouring as she rediscovered some of her old materials. She was very nervous of using the fish skin, like everyone else she found that the very preciousness of the material was a barrier to experimenting with it.  Realising this in advance Basil and I offered card and other fine leathers for people to work with.

Sally Sparks – leather and chenille applique sample on her own hand made paper.

Another textile maker Debbie Bird , felt  “out of her comfort zone” because of the preciousness of the materials  – she she decided to try sampling all the materials systematically on a small scale as she didn’t want to waste anything – but one of my my making mottoes is “you have to  break eggs to make cakes” ……

Debbie Bird makes tiny leather mosaics pieces with a reverse of feathers

nevertheless Debbie made several interesting samples that she can develop further when she has had time to assimilate all the ideas offered by the experience.

more small scale samples of feathers and leather

Several people became immersed in weaving and folding card to develop leather and skin fabrics, Sue  James, a technical lecturer at Glamorgan university began a fascinating small scale interwoven series of samples using card, as did her colleague, Tom Clulee, the Award Leader in Fashion at Glamorgan, who made a good start with developing an interlocking star shape in cardboard like Islamic patterns…unfortunately he was called way from the class after the first day so Basil and I sent a “care package’ to him to help develop his ideas in his own time, we can catch up with him on a later post.

Susan James woven paper samples

But Sue persevered in finding ways to make sheets of viable leather ‘fabric’,  the beauty of which lies is the fact that each side has a different pattern, especially when gilded..

Susan James snakeskin and leather samples showing the same pattern on the reverse of a fish skin with gilding.

Her main aim now is to make a fabric that will be molded to ‘sit’ on the body as a garment without it being cut and stitched in the usual manner – so her technical expertise has come to aid her development for these unusual materials.

Dawn Mason makes a complicated folded and woven piece

Dawn Mason, who is the Award Leader of the Drawing and Applied Art programme at UWE, Bristol is a textile maker currently working with hand stitched papers who also decided to weave card to develop new ideas. She worked by referencing traditional fur cutting techniques that Basil had shown in his introduction;  several samples of cut and woven leather were shown at the end of the session and she is now intrigued by the articulation achieved – she also stated that she had made a determined effort to change the way she usually waoked and to just experiment with “something that feels alien” .

Dawn Mason showing her samples and experiments at the end of the workshop.

Sitting next to Dawn and dealing with alien ways of working was Jules Tenebrae of Lux Tenebrae and if you go to her fascinating website you will see how far she travelled from her daily working life ..

side by side: Dawn Mason’s woven paper and Jules Tenebrae’s feathered chiffon

Well maybe not, we are still in the realm of fantasy and femininity.

  Jules, a corsetier, made the most diaphanous fabrics, weaving and stitching soft feathers and leathers together, and she also gifted the class with extra snake-skins, leathers and seudes from her own workrooms for the second day. She said that she felt liberated as we were not “allowed to produce a product” and this was initially very difficult( I agree, once a designer always a designer). She worked from the idea of ‘Treasures on the Beach’ and started a long wavy piece of work that flowed and undulated when she hung it up, in fact all her fabric samples where very floaty and at the same time organic, at complete variance to the usual rigid corseted and structured leather clothes she sells. And now I look at her final sample I see that she also has incorporated the 3 materials, she has strips of snake and fish skins, fur, leather strips stitched with feathers onto silk chiffon.

And next to Jules was another corsetier, Lisa Keating – a Heart Space tutor with her own designer business Bespoke Bridal Lisa immediately    designed 5 fabric samples and embarked on trying to make them – a tall order but she really was inspired by the gilded leather…

Lisa Keating prepares leather with metal leaf and lace.

split and turned gilded leather

and the small chiffon fish skin piece from Swedish students, which really was inspirational for many of the other people in the group. Lisa made a simple and delicate spotted fabric using the iridescent fish skins like sequins.

Lisa Keating -appliqued discs of fish skins to silk chiffon

It is a seemingly simple technique but requires a great deal of precision and patience. The cutting and sticking of the fish-skins to the front and back of the material is really labour intensive. Libby Butler, a textile maker who  makes truly for the love of it –  became interested in working with the Fibonacci spiral and came on the second day with a storyboard from which to work a series of samples.

Libby Butler – storyboard of the Fibonacci spiral

she set to work knowing that she is in for a long time consuming period of developing this intricate idea into a viable fabric.

Libby Butler making her first card on linen sample collage for the spiral pieces

Meanwhile, textile maker Anne Harrington tried to simplify the making process by gilding the back of the leather using  adhesive that could be permeate through the chiffon.

Anne Harrington …gilding the back of the leather mosaic at the same time as adhering it to the silk chiffon ground

with really interesting results that beg to be developed further…..

showing the successful finished gilded sample back

These experiments are the first samples in an ongoing process to an exhibition in London later in the year; we aim to help the makers develop new works inspired by and exploiting the qualities of these unusual materials….for Basil Kardasis’ next class he is working with Vellum .