Janet Haigh : Her Work

Textiles: ideas, drawing, design, stitching….

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nexus – meetings at the edge: exhibition



The night before the private view I had a dream that a giant version of the work featured on the poster ( see above) was writhing around the gallery walls and flashing strobe lights, while all the other pieces of work in the exhibition were equally massive and glowing while moving to – for want of a better word –  ‘disco’ music: I thought –  oh no! my poor flat patchwork!

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reassuringly  static ‘ Entangle Tiles ‘ by Lynne Maclachlan

The featured work by Lynne Machlachan was on display with her other wonderful constructions in blends of strong colours they undulated around the walls and in the air. A panel of photographs showed them  being worn, I hesitate to call them jewelry…

On reflection I feel that this work set an atmosphere for the exhibition; clear, strong, flat colour, immaculate attention to surface detail, and a definite sense of playfulness were qualities I enjoyed throughout the rooms. The only strobe effects were caused by overlapping patterns on a smaller scale in many exhibits.


strobe effect in metal in tiny scale by Andrew Lamb

Whether  by intention of the makers or sympathetic lighting on the part of the curators, the play of light and shadow were fascinating.  I constantly returned to view the works of 2 makers who collaborated to show small woven metal constructions, Jonathan Cleaver and David Poston,

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views of the woven metal works from different angles with metal jewelry work by

Even when I viewed  larger scale works that had became almost installations in the way they were exhibited, the same themes of flat brilliant colour and clean elegant construction were apparent – and the use of this singing yellow and metal together.


Rajesh Gogna metal appliances with attitude

colour and pattern throughout the exhibition links very disparate materials and ideas

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machine embroidered coat by Jacky Puzey echoes the metal sculpture beyond

The machine embroideries of Jacky Puzey echo both colour and form when seen against the metal sculptures. Her large dramatic panel of birds is a real master class in placing together disparate materials and media so that they flow easily one into the another.


machine embroidered parrots in thread and feathers. Jacky Puzey


detail of embroidery and fusion with feathers – harder than it looks here!

The degree of skill on view within the exhibition is made apparent in different ways, certainly to change or add new materials to your original practice makes you concentrate on the “joins” and here nearly every piece of work combined either 2 or more materials or the makers had transferred the techniques of one discipline to another…or they made juxtapositions of natural with man made found objects – never easy.


3 Sea Thimbles by Romilly Saumerez Smith

Ancient bronze thimbles carry coral and sea urchin spines, like tiny offerings to the goddess of stitch! And there were boxes made from a metal shield mount, still with tracings of old patterning mounted with diamonds.

One of the major themes of the exhibition is the transformation of one material to describe another and there were many examples including my own.

One of the advantages of Private Views is to meet up with other exhibitors, I often find that talking to people work who work totally differently to me are always stimulating. I was introduced to Valeria Nascimento and we spent some time together discussing our very different work. as we walked we both stopped and gazed at the work of Anna LorenzannalorenzIt is intriguing; you just can’t guess the material ( well I am a maker and stimulated by materials) It looks like unglazed porcelain or paper porcelain, or unfired porcelain, or paper or felt or…. or….but it is news print; and it is perforated, but how? Valeria and I were looking behind it, inside its layers and I took this image of the gradated shadow it threw – so much a part of its complete and compelling mystery.

Arriving at Valeria’s work I realised that I had photographed it as soon as I walked into the gallery, drawn to the far wall of what looked like bleached shells and sea creatures.

valeria sea

porcelain ruffs and spirals

Her table of porcelain jewelry in stark blacks and whites really intrigued me, the fluffy neck pendants and the massive rings and brooches are not to my personal taste but their presence and implication of natural forms through simple and sympathetic use of her media, just made me want to hold them – and that’s why we go to exhibitions isn’t it – to extend our imaginations and ideas.

sea creaturesSea creatures emerged as inspiration in the beaded work of Wanshu Li, translucent and iridescent tentacles of colour made up large rings and bracelets.

sea photo

photographs of jewellery by Wanshu Li

and accompanying her work were high contrast photographs underlining the quality of deep sea beings… looking at this work made me see a fish in an adjacent vitrine.


strange fish emerges from the glass work by Kate Haywood

Every once in a while you see work that just makes you jealous and wishing that you could have made  it – the work of Zoe Hillyard really stopped me in my tracks. First it was beautifully thought-through and formed, second it reminded of work that I had made previously, and third – I wished that I could have used it for an exhibition I co-curated some years ago – Mending at the Museum.


broken ans mended jar using fine fabric.

I had actually tried  a similar exercise when I was working on ‘mending’ ceramics – but it did not look like this; here are elegant breaks, refined textiles wrapped and stitched to perfection and the soft colouring entirely at one with the materials –  it is patch-worked!

I really appreciated this work, especially her dense stitching on the inside of the pieces, used to draw the fabric tight against the curves, she managed to make this as decorative as it was functional. Just so desirable and a perfect transference of materials and ideas – and she made the jars then smashed them herself!!

I cold go on and on about the ideas, images, thoughts and provocations elicited by this exhibition – but now show that finally, after months of work, the Patchwork Enamel was successfully  transported and hung and here it is complete with shadows…



Mending = Art = Exhibition

Darned Heart Sampler – vintage linen, vellum,vitreous enamel, silk mirror

This is a first for me and I want to share it with you – I am, from today, exhibiting in America. I have 2 pieces of work in an exhibition called Mending = Art showing at the  Gershman Gallery in Philadelphia and this evening I should be at the private view, but instead I have just returned from Heart Space Studios having run a birthday party, making beaded brooches with ten 9 years olds – and very enjoyable it was too. But how I would love to be seeing my work in an international exhibition at such an amazing event as the  Philadelphia  biennial textile art festival FiberPhiladelphia 2012.

the inspirational wood cut from the Berlin Museum-  Frau Minne’s way with Mens’ hearts

The call out came early last year, from American textile artist( she of the wonderful brilliant red website)    Diane Savona,  for textiles made around the theme of Mending…this must have been the universe answering my call. I had several things on offer, as looking at the ‘ Ongoing Work” section of  this blog will show you. But unusually she also asked me to send her an image of the inspirational early woodcut that has inspired at least 10 years of textile and enamel work, and mending was the subject of my first post in this blog.

counterpane/counter-pain – vintage cotton and cotton thread

and above is the other work that Diane chose to represent my mending embroideries, a real heart-felt cry now that I look back on it, I can remember every stab that contributed to this image but then yoga certainly reaches the parts the needle can’t.

So this is the shorted post I have ever written, but now I am off to celebrate with a glass of something chilled and pink and fizzy……

OK so it’s the day after the night before day and here are the pictures from the exhibition sent today from Diane Savona.

from left: Amy Orr (organizer of FiberPhiladelphia) Miriam Shapiro (curator at the Gershman) Dorothy Caldwell and Libbie Soffer, as Amy says a few words in front of the Japanese boro from the Liao Collection.

and very glad to see a video work from one of my colleagues Amy Houghton,

then there is my work hung together with Frau Minne keeping count in the middle of it all….

mine all mine!

something tells me that that red and white is the new black, white and grey of studio art textiles…..

Ilaria Margutti in front of her work

and again….

Wolfie Rawk in front of her work

and yet again…..well mending seems to = blood red for a whole lot of women.

Erin Endicott in front of her work……ooooh!!!!!!


Lost In Lace

hand cut paper lace and shadow.Piper Shepard

“Lost in Lace – transparent boundaries” curated by Lesley Millar is the current exhibition at Birmingham City Museum, on till 4th March; I went to see it recently with colleagues, Hanne Rysgaard and Basil Kardasis, who are part of the Stitch and Think research group. Hanne and I had decided to make a large porcelain hanging based on lace for the group’s exhibition at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery which takes place later this year, thankfully a lot later. Basil came along for the pleasure of a day spent looking and talking.

Atelier Manferdini - Inverted Crystal Cathedral.

The first thing that really got me excited was the scale of the work on view. The Gas Hall where the work is housed and much of it is designed to fit, is massive and the lace exhibits certainly inhabited the space and made a monumental but ethereal impression. My own impression after my first walk around, was of a silent shadowy cathedral; but it wasn’t silent and it wasn’t gloomy, but it was majestic.

Juxtaposition . Cardboard Jaquard punch cards woven together:Suzumi Noda

I became fascinated by the light within the space and also how the unusual materials used to construct the pieces still acted as lace, you can see it but you can also see through it. trying to assimilate the whole exhibition on my second  journey around I sought out this now you see me now you don’t aspect, as seen above.But I had come to try to take away some aspect that I could develop in the work that Hanne and I are about to embark on. We actually didn’t look or speak together for about 3/4 hour, then she said “light” and I said “shadow”.

shadow cast by 'Juxtaposition'

Cosmos Series paper and paper thread: Naomi Kobayashi

I became obsessed by the shadows cast (or not) by the ‘lace’ so this is post is now about the  shadow experience. I now wanted to see and capture shadows, but this wasn’t as easy as I had hoped, which gave rise to a long conversation on the train home to Bristol, about how will we achieve large-scale combined with strong shadow….Annie Bascoul talks about shadow in her pages in the excellent catalogue, she mentions the “eroticism of the thrown shadow” I like what she wrote but I couldn’t find a good shadow to photograph ( but this may be due to my ineptitude with the camera)

Installation of Moucharabieh, cotton Ffbre: Annie Bascoul

A not very erotic shadow – sorry
Some of the most fascinating shadows were from the smaller pieces,below is a detail from 2 edges of Diana Harrison’s ‘Time Line’ a broken,small in scale but very long length of polyester thread. cotton cloth and dog hair. I really wanted to stay and draw the with crisp complicated meshed shadows formed by the fabric and it’s fine black pins that anchor it in position.
The best shadows  obviously were mad when the wall or floor was close to the surface casting it …and the refreshingly bright blood-red piece by Micheal Brennand-Wood gave crisp grey snowflake patterns as an extra bonus.
Lace the Final Frontier, painted and stained aluminium :Micheal Brennand-Wood
and in the children’s activity area beyond the main hall there were lovely paper snowflake patterns hung on a washing line.
And it made the most ethereal and unusual shadows
But my favourite shadow was the strange almost mottled fish skin appearance cast by the unbelievable hand – cut paper lace panels, by Piper Shepard, that made a sort of triumphal arch between two tall and elegant pillars in the museum.
and here is the panel that made this shadow…
And if you feel that I have just not done justice to this exhibition, because I haven’t talked about the philosophy of either the artists’ or the curator’s decisions to make and show the work and I have missed the whole point – good. Go and see for yourself or if not, buy and read the catalogue :-Lost in Lace, written by Lesley Millar,  published by Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, ISBN 978-0-9570494-0-6 and let me know what you think.

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Inspirational Indigo

inspirational burnished indigo damask coat

Heart Space staff went on a jolly last week, to Glastonbury for an antique textile sale. It was held in a beautiful refurbished medieval barn which although toweringly beautiful was ffffffreezing…….

Stall holder Martin Conlan and Sophie Bristol - Heart Space's super-volunteer trying to keep warm

After rootling around, trying on hats, sighing over Edwardian wedding dresses and ball gowns, we eventually ended up buying all kinds of small affordable things. I always try to find either useful fabrics I can work on, got lucky and bought 12 matching linen handkerchiefs for my Make it Through the Night project, or totally Inspirational Objects – which can mean anything at all that just gets me itching to work. We  all eventually gravitated to one particular stall, Slow Loris – an oriental textiles and vegetable dyed clothing stall selling wonderful embroideries and traditional  ethnic indigo fabrics.

traditional Miao pleated and embroidered skirts

Martin Conian is a fascinating and knowledgeable dealer in wonderful things. I have scant knowledge of these textiles except that they come from a group of ethnic Chinese peoples living on the borders of Thailand, Burma, Laos and Vietnam in south East Asia, known as the golden Triangle so I am just showing you what I liked and eventually what I bought for inspiration

hand embroidered braids and purses

Martin has spent many years visiting, collecting, trading and working with the people who still make these costumes, books, fabrics, jewellry and boots…I got particularly interested in the boots.

embroidered silk boots and shoes

as did Sophie, our volunteer organiser who loves everything vintage, especially textiles.

examining the shoes

We were both fascinated by the embroidered boots

embroidered silk boots

But the real delight was when we turned them over and discovered……

Embroidered Soles!

But what I really really wanted to buy – and if I could have found one to fit me I would have gone onto debt for – is a pleated burnished indigo skirt.

pleats please

 What I did eventually feel able to afford on the grounds of Inspirational Object was a metre of beaten indigo cloth; apparently the indigo is mixed with many other active natural additives to get particular effects and colours. I can only recall Martin listing egg white, persimmon, urea, amongst the different lists of ingredients he quoted to make up each different dye.

one metre of burnished indigo cotton

And why did I buy this simple cloth with all the wealth of other desirable things?  Well suddenly I saw a connection with some other things I am wanting to work with – when I get some time- to try to make some type of collaged/appliqued/stitched/ enamelled/ threaded leathers, metals and fabrics that will be combined on such a way that I can develop an entirely new set of work.

Below is a selection of the fabrics and objects that I will now start to think about again – watch this space – but don’t hold your breath!

Inspirational objects - burnished indigo cotton, pewter leather, embroidered enamel with silver leather and vitreous enamel panels.


Open Studios

I have not been posting blogs for some weeks and above is the reason. I decided to do this open studio for North Somerset Arts Week early last year when life was less hectic i.e. before I opened Heart Space Studios. So for 2 weeks I have been playing catch up. In fact I am still so busy that I am writing this between meeting and greeting visitors on the second day of open studios event.

small section of enamelled sculptures in my spring garden for Arts Week

I have an enamelled garden in situ all year round but it needs bit of repositioning for the open days – so the first thing I had to attend to, well not me exactly – my niece Julie Dunn (who runs Trug, a garden design company) was happy to come and help me – she spent the whole of Easter tidying and replanting my winter ravaged garden into shape.

Julie hard at work in the ravaged garden

The other more major concern was that I had no new work to show for the Severn Sea Artists group – I had intended to make a series of enamelled panels of the coloured skies of the estuary – but time was running out – but I just had to get these made somehow.  So I set to work, first I made some simple striped embroideries to get me thinking about the colours again and from these flowed the enamels skies.

embroidered silk evening sky

embroidered silk dawn sky

I started work using the samples I had done but informed by the 8 or so silk embroideries I have made to date. Back in the enamel studio I assembled some large strips of copper and drilled them so they could be strung by 2 wires not exactly stitched but much quicker to make…..

strips of copper annealed ready to be enamelled with one I made earlier

working out the colour striations against an embroidery on the floor of the studio!

I decided to liven up the stitched areas with beads, this has made me rethink how I may make some larger pieces in future.

beading the wires to connect the panels

The finished pieces are small and irregular as I made them out of random off – cuts of copper I had left over from other projects. I had intended to show these in the garden but I decided to show all the other work with them including the early research drawings.

the finished enamel panels in the exhibition in my cleaned up enamel studio

meanwhile back in the garden the larger enamel panels are displayed, I would really like someone to commission me to make a sky on this scale…….

larger patchwork enamel panel and flowers

enamel pots of flowers and topiary

But the main part of my exhibition is inside my tiny conservatory

inside the enamelling studio/conservatory

view through my husbands exhibition into the enamel room

I am sharing the open week with my husband Stephen Jacobson who is showing his paintings of the estuary and we are members of a group of 7 artists who use the estuary as inspiration, called The Severn Sea Artists we have made a trail from one venue to another and I made textile banners to advertise us, I am hoping that they withstand the gales that are blowing down the estuary this week.

I have actually managed to sell an embroidered sky between the times I  have been writing this post this morning – way to go!


Snow Lace


snow lace with catkins looking exactly like picots.

Although the whole of the British Isles is suffering from snow this winter, here in Portishead on the Bristol Channel, it is a rare and entirely delightful presence. I have lived here for over 20 years and this is only the 3rd fall of snow which has stayed for more than 1 day. When I looked out of the bedroom window this morning this is the view I saw.

snow covering the salt marsh at Portishead

So at just past 8 o’clock  we went out to see the woods  – I walk in the ancient local East Wood almost every day, this time Steve came with me – no hope of getting the car up the hill and off to work in Bristol just yet. The dogs behaved like mad things, running, eating, dancing around in the snow.

Daisy and Boysie climbing the East Wood

Looking above me I could see the different patterns that branches made against the sky, laden with snow they look like lace – heavy crude needle made lace (my favourite lace). I had noticed this last winter, on the second time it had snowed here. Walking in these woods the rhythm of the branches are starkly shown;  swooping ash trees against nubbly oaks, spiky thorns and elegant maples with still some leaves left on the branches. I couldn’t help thinking of the different qualities of lace patterns, the flowing loopy patterns of Ash trees remind me of  early Brussels lace

ash tree branches

17th century Brussels lace


whilst the stubby oak trees with their short branches

remind me of  17th century needle lace with picots and wonky patterns – maybe I will find an animal shape in the trees if I look hard enough.

French Argentan lace 1680

the snow laden trees overlapping as we looked down on them are rich and varied in their patterns

a view looking down through the woods

Point d'Espagne 1660

I am being very fanciful but I did think of the wonderful old Venetian needle-lace with their heavily encrusted stitched worms and wiggles.

Turning the corner of the woods we headed back home, down hill all the way and getting slippy underfoot – by now the sun was out and the sky bright blue, the snow was thawing. One last look across the Severn estuary to Denny Island, a tiny outcrop in the middle of the channel, home for a big boys’ breakfast.

Denny Island from East Wood - the Welsh hills beyond