Janet Haigh : Her Work

Textiles: ideas, drawing, design, stitching….


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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!!!!!!


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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.


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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!


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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

 

 

 

 

 


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Heart Felt Forum

enamel heart complete with paper label

I have just made this broken and mended vitreous enamel heart for an exhibition, Heartfelt Bristol, which is being held between Friday 19th and Wednesday 24th November at the Centrespace Gallery, Leonard Lane, Bristol. The Heartfelt exhibition has been co-ordinated by Bristol textile maker  Jan Connett and she has been working on this project for the last 9 months. Each exhibitor has been asked to make a heart to commemorate their own heartfelt moment and complete it with a label that tells the story that inspired it – so far Jan has over 500 hearts complete with their messages.

I have made this in the nick of time in response to a notice given at the last meeting of the steering committee of Textile Forum South West, which I chair. Jan is a member of TFSW and her work can be seen with many other members on the website. A group of us set up the Forum several years ago when some of the delegates and speakers at the Brunel Broderers‘ conference “No Man’s Land” sat down and talked together over lunch. We enjoyed meeting and speaking to fellow enthusiasts so much that we decided to continue to discuss and meet together in the future and try to include as many other textile practitioners, historians, lecturers and students as possible in the region. Sonja Andrew was the major driving force behind this move; she has since left the area to return to her native Yorkshire, but continues to keep in touch with us.

At the quarterly meeting recently held at rooms at Bath Spa University, Corsham Court, I looked round the room where 8 of the regular steering committee members were discussing our next conference “Mapping the Future – Where are you now?” to be held in March next year. I thought how totally different we all are in our own practice, but we all pull together because we just love textiles..not matter what our discipline we can’t talk enough about the “stuff”.

  • hedgerow.buds.turning.pink. paint and thread on organdie Liz Harding

     

    From the original group who formed TFSW there are 3 of us left and 2 of them were originally part of the Bunel Broderers group, Liz Harding who is currently studying for a PhD in at Bath Spa Uni and Brenda Miller who has recently completed an MA in Textiles at Goldsmiths University, London. Liz is at present the committee secretary and Brenda is heading up the exhibitions committee. The next exhibition later this month at the Centre for Contemporary Arts and the Natural World, and is called Material Actions which TFSW developed with  Plymouth University Arts.

    digitally knitted panel from video installation. Brenda Miller

    Also at the meeting and studying at Bath Spa for their doctorates, were Kay Swancutt, our strict treasurer, and Alison Harper. Alison had her work selected for the Material Actions exhibitions and it is shown here, she made lengths of “yarn” from discarded crisp packets – those sheeny-shiny coloured ones, winding them into skeins all ready for working with and to quote her in an email to me – “I am currently researching the ways in which textile art and processes can contribute to an ethical dialogue between art, materials and social and cultural change ! so there”

    "Pass Me Another Crips Packet" skeins of prepared crisp packets ready for knitting - Alison Harper.

    I have featured Kay’s work before in an earlier blog, she is looking at the whole idea of re-working patchwork – it’s getting very organic – I share with her the fascination of the written pattern papers still held in old English mosaic patchworks.

    Patchwork in progress. Kay Swancutt

    Jo Beal working in her studio.

    We are constantly looking for ways to sustain the activities of the forum and recently had a grant from the South West branch of the Arts Council – ACESW – where we have been assessing the audience and/or members’ requirements to grow and develop the Forum. Jo Beal is the person in charge of the bidding for grants and she oversees all our applications, we were having to give an account of the money in a written report and this meeting dealt with it. However her own work is varied, she  stitches but she also draws and has her own pages on Flickr.

    This just leaves me with 2 other members of the committee at the meeting, Jan Truman who works in beaded metal wire, I think she would term herself a knitter – but not as we know it.  The image below is ” just one of several projects on the go at the moment. This is part of my 2010 jewellery collection for the Barbican. I exhibit there, with the Designer Jewellers Group each year, so make a special pearl range for the show. Our exhibition this year runs from 11th Nov 2010 to 5th Jan 2011″.

    The "creative clutter" in her workroom - Jan Truman

    And then last but not least – Liz Hewitt  who does a whole lot of different things for the Forum. Her title is membership secretary but she also keeps us all up to date by sending out masses of news clippings and opportunities available between the bi- monthly newsletters posted by the Forum – a round up of everything going on in the textile world – it is worth being a member of the Forum just for these services alone. Also at present Liz is co-ordinating our next conference, as well as showing her dyed and stitched work in  many exhibitions, throughout the country.

    Hand dyed and stitched cotton cloth - Liz Hewitt.

    And Liz and I are meeting together at my studio later this week to talk about the possibility of running workshops in stitching and drawing in the Bristol area, so watch this space….

    But I am leaving you  pictures of the sampling session in the lunch break, where we tried out an idea of Alison’s to make pom poms as an idea for a workshop at the Mapping conference  – the Yarnpomming project. If you are interested in joining TFSW – out of area members welcome as well please go to the website and check in with us.

    Liz hewitt, Brenda Miller and Alison Harper making pom poms

    up close engaging with the "stuff"

     

     

     

     

     

     


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    Stitched Enamelled Skies

    variable size sample

    One week on and I have finally finished stitching the sky samplers. The work has made me reconsider my initial ideas and now I am thinking how to develop this new work. I have envisaged these pieces for several months and thought that I knew how they would look, but these samples are not working as well as I imagined. I am not sure if this is just a matter of scale, they are quite small – one is 15x60cms and the other 15x90cms, other enamel panels I have made using this stitched technique are much bigger and have more presence. So I probably need to leave them alone and view them in a few days/weeks time to gauge my reaction. But I did make several decisions that I am certain about.

    same-size sample seen against an evening estuary sky

    I decided to keep the stripes in different widths, as opposed to the same size blocks as in commercial  colour charts, but I am not sure that I need so many stripes as more interesting effects may be gained by the gradation of the colours in one stripe – so the yellow sky stripe would be wider and go from rich coral pink through apricot to yellow to cream. but I will loose the lovely slinky movement of the strips, I will need to sample further…..

    recipe on the back of each colour

    But these samples are successful in giving me the technical information I need:- an initial colour gamut to work from – I made the same size sample into a the colour reference with each recipe on the back. The glossy surface of the enamel has been chemically treated to make it matte, this also softens and distances the colours.

    different insertion stitch patterns

    copper wires same insertion stitch

    I decided that the actual stitching will be uniform throughout as in the sample on the left, and to use only copper coloured wires, from pale to dark, to unify the stitching; and I tested to find the best gauge of wire to use. So I ordered  more wire from the Scientific Wire Company web site and it came in time for me to complete the work within my self imposed deadline of a week.

    delivery of copper wires in a range of different shades

    When stitching the pieces with the wire, I did consider whether I was actually stitching or threading – but why do I want to stitch this particular work – is it because I just want to make enamel fabric to this format again? The original stitched strip enamel hangings can be seen in the Gallery section of the blog.

    needle stitching patterns into wire interlacing.

    By chance I have just received a new paint chart, the idea that first made me see a way of using my original sky drawings, and  I realised that what is so alluring here are those perfect rectangles of pristine colour, whether in paint, silk or woolen threads they give us a sense of order and are in fact complete entities in themselves.

    So how will my simple strips of colour give the impression of a whole sky and why do I want to do this? to contain it? to claim it? to make a version of it for myself, in a size I can manage? The sky is limitless, I am trying to convey the beauty of the colour in a tiny fragment -or does it need to be big – on the scale of a window? Maybe I should make a whole series of different striped skies and hang them side by side as in the chart layout?

    So here it is – the dilemma of  making your own work from your own ideas – do you allow the work a life of its own and let it lead you where it will or do you stay faithful to your original idea and ignore all the possibilities that making affords you?  At present the sky samples fall between these 2 options, which is why I am not sure how to continue just yet. And significantly it is being developed just as an idea, not a product as yet. I have heard writers talk of the characters in their novels who suddenly take on their own life and guide the story, is this what I need to let happen?

    Anyone got anything to say to me about this?