Janet Haigh : Her Work

Textiles: ideas, drawing, design, stitching….


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Kantha Club

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Susi Bancroft stitching her suspended large Kantha piece in Heart Space Studios

Autumn is here and the new term started for Kantha Club – run by Susi Bancroft for Heart Space Studios. We all wanted to swap summer experiences and stories and show what we had been up to – or not!

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Kay at the back of the Kantha sheet – the light shining though the colour was lovely, showing up the rows of stitches.

Susi had embarked on a very large piece ( I meanwhile had put my first attempt at a large piece aside). She had dyed the fabric in Turmeric and Tea to get this very subtle yellow. She finds it easier to hold the needle at the eye end to keep the cloth steady – so each stitch requires 2 hands on the needle, standing to work on such a large-scale fabric she says ” I am surrounded by beautiful colour with the light behind you, like being cocooned in colour ”

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closed hand with thumb kept into palm = the narrow band

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wide open hand = the wide band of stitches

Explaining how she made decisions for spacing the stitching bands by using simple hand measurements she said “I used the fact that I couldn’t see the whole cloth working so close up so the hand spans were the measurement I adopted”

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hand spans for the gaps between stitching lines

to enable her to keep stitching rhythmically while standing up, she threaded several needles at a time in different colours, using each as she felt that she wanted them – relying on her instinct for the colour striations, she enjoyed  the feeling of  the fabric being “just being out of my reach’ whilst she worked.

Kay Swancutt showed us some dying samples that she had stitched , she had exhibited these recently at Nature in Art and used many natural materials to make the different patterns and colours

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samples of natural dyed fabrics by Kay Swancutt

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more of Kay’s experimental samples

Steph Wooster brought several examples of her earlier drawn textile work that she has now worked with a kantha stitched ground…these were  also exhibited at Nature in Art and I feel that they could lead to even more intricate background stitched patterns – I am thinking animal skin patterns, leaves, grass..

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Steph Wooster’s Biro drawing of animals from the Bristol Museum, augmented with ripples of stitching

I particularly like the combination of the stark elegant drawings and the tone on tone rippled grounds.

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Biro drawing of animals and kantha stitched ground – Steph Wooster

she also brought a new piece fabric that she wanted some feedback from us – it was a parachute silk sheet, very old and damaged,

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choosing coloured threads to mend the fragile silk sheet

she wanted to mend it – we suggested she start with the weakest area.

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carefully searching for the weakest points ot start to mend using Kantha as a technique

Meanwhile Naomi Clarke has been having fun just using Kantha technique to stitch the patterned cloth and also appliqueing it to the tie- dyed ground – as a technique this could really be developed to make lively fabrics

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Naomi Clarke’s Kantha applique

I had started another project in the break – a quilt based on a painting by Alfred Stockham, an old friend and ex colleague, it is a small painting that had always called to me to be made as a patchwork…

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oil painting by Alfred Stockham

starting in the top right hand corner I ripped some pieces of shot cottons into squares and strips and stitched them down onto a red cotton ground…the coours of the threads made for the nuance of his dragged brush marks

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starting the squares of painting patchwork

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completed square of kantha stitched patchwork

 

 

 

 

 

 

during the last few hectic weeks of launching my book it has been a relief to get back to simply stitching these square transitions from paint to cloth

I am interested to see how each square is in itself a small complete composition

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I am fascinated by this work but it may take some time to get finished

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the start of the first row of patches for the painting quilt.

 

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Best in Show – Ally Pally

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Alexander Palace – the Knitting & Stitching Show entrance

And so to Ally Pally for the annual Knitting & Stitching show, attentive readers of this blog will realise that this is where Heart Space Studios headed to advertise our new book at the invitation of The Cotton Patch, the home of all things patchwork and quilting in Birmingham. For a week I worked at this amazing show – and looking at textiles for so long, I now feel well able to select my personal ‘ Best in Show’ awards to several outstanding exhibitions and commercial stands.

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Kate’s Place blackboard

In no particular order – ” Kate’s Plaice the Stitchmongers’ ” was by far the most amusing, the concept or rather – to use a literary term – “the conceit” was completely thought through, it was highly technically proficient  and the most entertaining piece of textile work that I have ever seen at this event.

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the fish stall

The installation was designed specially for the Knitting and Stitching show by Kate Jenkins, Everything on the stand was completely in keeping with the joke…from the dressed shop assistants that like all good fishmongers knew their subject inside out and wanted to share their delight and knowledge with you, to the stunning array of ‘ seafood’ on offer…

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detail of the central fish counter

below are the details of the counter of fish, the use of material and the shapes and colour are perfectly chosen – you really did want to order and eat what was on offer…..

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For those, like me, who prefer their fish cooked and served, rather than making the dish themselves, the fish platters definitely looked good enough to eat.

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fish and seafood supper

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tabasco and oysters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the hand written sign below, perfectly in keeping with the whole fish shop ethic, was written to deter a fellow exhibitor, an embroiderer, who pawed the little sequined morsels as they were being arranged, and was extremely rude when he was asked to stop! This is such an unusual occurance  – stall holders being rude to anyone, let alone one another that I feel it deserves reporting.

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thee sparkly lobster and the necessary notice!

Among the exhibition, chosen from recent graduates by the Embroiderer’s Guild, was this enigmatic large photographic  hand embroidered panel by Susana Borobia, part of an small body of work called ” Awaken Threads…this spoke ro me on lots of levels – it reminds me of my own work developed through a fascination with White Work techniques and the difficult transition from cloth or fibre to other materials…here is it managed elegantly and artlessly.

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stitched photographic print by Susana Borobia

 

 

 

 

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Detail of the stitched white work on the photograph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ihave to admit that I chose to ignore  the notice not to take photographs; it was early in the morning, I couldn’t find the student to ask and thought that she may prefer it to appear on this blog than me to ignore her work.  I have had this problem of no photography before …but it is a odd embargo now in the age of instant imagery and social media and who can possibly copy this ??????…that’s my excuse anyway.

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Robert G Ely, the perfect example of ‘ if you’ve got it flaunt it ‘  wearing his woven silk braces and bow tie

It is difficult to show a range of different work in such a small space as a booth in the fair – but here Robert Ely has managed to do exactly that – he shows his woven ribbon design work, such as braces and book marks  with his more art based weavings of sea and landscapes – the ribbon dimensions are shared but the colour depth and small scale pointilism is also evident in both sets of work – seen below are the 2 types of work on display

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woven ribbon seascape – by Robert G Elybelow are the 2 types of woven work that Robert was exhibiting

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braces, book marks and other finely woven sauciness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the seascapes exhibited made me think that he must live near me on the Severn Estuary, in fact these images are taken from much further down the estuary at Devon, Start Point.

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this image I mistook for my local headland and lighthouse, Battery Point in Portishead, Somerset in fact it is form further down the estuary in Devon

what everyone goes to these fairs of is to stock up their stash! So 2 specialists who always show wonderful collection of the real things…first my old favourite importer of real Japanese fabrics, Euro Japan Links, a Japanese husband and English wife team who have been in business for years- long before their was a fashion in Japanese fabrics; their pieces of fabric neatly folded into colour co-ordinated  ranges never fail to fascinate me.

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Japanese patchwork cottons

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Japanese kimono prints

My other favourite company exhibiting and selling mainly tribal Chinese fabrics and clothing is Slow Loris. I  have written about this marvelous collection for sale before but do so again as Martin Conlon the owner is a fund of knowledge and is really enthusiastic to tell you the stories behind the garments. There always new things to see – well old new things.

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The Slow Loris stand of ethnic Chinese /Tibetan textiles

The other exhibition I liked for its sense of space and calm and truly sumptuous colour was ‘The Other’ coloured work by Vivienne Prideaux paired with the white and neutral work of Amanda J Clayton. They made a handsome area of beautiful controlled textile hangings and panels. I thought that these these glowing panels by Vivienne Prideaux were just so desirable, the depth of texture and range of nuanced colour that this artist builds up with her various tie dyed and gilded grounds is so inspiring – makes me yearn to return to my own studio again.

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small dyed panel by Vivien Prodeaux

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shibori dyed and gilded panel – Vivienne Prideaux

 

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the neutral and range of white fabrics shown by Amanda J Clayton were perfect partners

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Shifting sheets of fabrics installation in “The Other” exhibition.

 

So enough of what I like – what about my exhibit…i was given a space on The Cotton Patch stand, to show and sell my new book, Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique – comprising designs based on Kaffe Fassett’s ribbon collection for Renaissance Ribbons

several people helped me to set up and run the stand during the week …

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Setting up the stand with Cotton Patch ‘s Nik Sewell sorting out the Kaffe Fassett books and Jane- Matie Mahy organising the Heart Space section

several people helped to run the stand with me for the 5 days of the show….

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Ilaria Padovani form Heart Space Studios demonstrating how to make a ribbon yo yo on the stand

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Susan Berry who had the idea of the book in the first place

The Ribbon beads have proved to be most popular things we show how to make in the book, see the next post down!

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Stuart from the Sewing Bee programme and Jane- Marie Mahy  with the ribbon beads – sort of says it all really!

 


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Making Ribbon Beads

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One wonderful wrapped ribbon beaded bead by Debbie Cripps

And so to Bath, to launch the Heart Space Studio book, ‘Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique’ at the American Museum, with a workshop in the morning to show how to make ribbon beads. I made these originally as a way of using up all the small ends of Jaquard ribbons made by the American company Renaissance Ribbons left over from the other projects in the book – but  also to show off the wonderful floating threads that form on the backs of the ribbons.

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contents of a ribbon pack given to each student for the workshop

As the workshop was conducted for just the morning before the launch, we had only 3 hours to make beads, and knowing that choosing the ribbons and felts takes a long time, decision decisions….we had made packs of small pieces of ribbon and the felt strips – enough for 12 beads, added tiny glass beads for embellishing and some gold thread for wrapping and stitching, plus a small wooden skewer on which to assemble the beads. Each student was first asked to choose a package.

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wrapping the scrap of Jaquard Ribbon wrong side outermost around the felt.

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wrapping the felt to make the bead base

 

 

 

 

 

 

constructing the beads is easy peasy – if you can stitch neatly, I showed how to make 3 simple beads with variations.

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three beads wrapped and stitched in gold thread and different ribbons

everyone  quickly got wrapping and sewing and inventing different colours and patterns, fascinating to watch so many variations happen at the first ever class I have given in this technique.

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colour co-ordinating beads with clothes

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stitching the ribbons to the felted bead – a blur of activity!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

just simple plain coloured thread cross stitch when repeated looks lovely..

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embroidered bead by Naomi Clarke

when all the ribbon beads are strung together with glass beads onto an elastic cord the effect is simply lovely.

 

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the finished necklace by Naomi Clarke

After this came the launch party,  so we all made our way to the Gallery.

Earlier in the week, we had designed and re-packaged the basic Renaissance Ribbon packs that the gallery had in stock to sell with the books,

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in the heart space studio making fresh sets of ribbon packs

we were really pleased with the effect….

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our packs of ribbons displayed next to the new book in the gallery shop

lots of other people joined us for the launch…the heart Space tutors and friends all enjoyed a good time together

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rare picture of me with my friends – I’m the one with the ribbon bead necklace

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colourful Heart Space gals busy chatting together

 

 

 

 

 

All in all it was a good day, and lots of other guests have blogged it as well, most notably, Rosemary Murphy on  one of her blogs for September 2015  http://storiesinwood.blogspot.co.uk/

 

So that’s the Launch sorted,  what next?

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new ribbon version of front cover embroidery for Knitting and Stitching Show

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new design for Cotton Patch stand F27, at Knitting & Stitching show at the Ally Pally, London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been invited to the Knitting and Stitching show in London by Nik Sewell the owner of The Cotton Patch to demonstrate how to make several  simple projects from the book on their stand, F27.  And to sell the books as well as lots of Renaissance Ribbons and Kaffe Fassett’s lovely shot cottons that are used throughout the book. So I am now busy developing new combinations as shown above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique: the Story behind the Book

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opening the package of the advance copied of Heart Space Studios’ first book

Here it is, my very first look at the proper printed books – Heart Space Studios’  Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique,  inspired by and featuring Kaffe Fassett’s wonderful ribbons. And this is the English edition, and it is published by Heart Space Studios…But oh the hopes and fears were in equal measure when I saw that neat white package of the first 10 advanced copies of the book…

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all the angst and problems of getting the UK cover perfectly coloured have paid off

Originally the book was commissioned by the American publishers, Taunton Press ( and uses American terms and measurement – bliss – I was educated using inches and yards) and then I was offered the opportunity of producing a small UK edition and this is it. And as a consequence I have spent a large proportion of the last 9 months working on this and other publications involving Kaffe Fassett’s ribbons and fabrics……

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the 5 original reels of ribbon I designed with

I was first asked, by Susan Berry, a book producer concentrating on textile crafts (whom I have worked with for many years) if I had any design ideas for using the beautiful Jacquard ribbons designed by of Kaffe Fassett and produced by Renaissance Ribbons. Susan advised me to see them at his exhibition at the American Museum in Britain, that took place in 2014. Then I was sent a few reels of ribbons to ‘play’ with and this is what I came up with in the first few days….

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single and double ribbon yo-yos

I have a vintage – quilt hanging on my studio door and I immediately thought that this system may translate to the ribbons; so I just cut some random lengths and using running stitch gathered them up to form these pretty circles…some worked and some didn’t  – see above; but it is a designers task to make them all work beautifully – so lots of samples later I made this, below, which I intended to grow into a huge throw or curtain.

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yo-yo hanging – sadly this failed to make it into the book – it proved too complicated to show how to stitch together simply….

Then of course I thought of crazy patchwork, and this eventually became the heart-shaped cushion on the back of the UK edition cover

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crazy patchwork with ribbons hand embroidered into position between the patches of shot cottons

of ribbon with the loose yo yo’s, easy -peasy as these ribbons have been designed to work together – a rich mix but what else would you expect from Kaffe Fassett?

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ribbon and yo-yo strips – first ideas

I just took lots of photographs as I researched, and sent them off with rough ideas for a book of small patchworks made of ribbon and plain fabrics – but the journey from playing with ideas to a finished book has been long and let’s say  problematical –  ideas are always easy for me to come up with, making them work for inclusion into a “how to do it” book is not easy at all.

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new ribbon combinations

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getting the new ribbons into colour combinations – here are the brights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first thing I realised was that I needed to put some other ribbons and fabrics with these intensely patterned Jaquard ribbons. So I included the Grosgrains, or Petershams,  fine ribbed ribbons that come in many sizes and colours, Renaissance Ribbons have many different versions – and they duly sent me some and more of the new ribbons from their Kaffe Fassett range; and then I needed a ribbon that could be used to tone with the 2 brights – I chose my old favourites – tartans. Tartan ribbons are universally available now on-line, and they conform to the clan colours so I felt sure that most buyers of the book could get hold of them easily. But then which fabrics to use for the patchworks particularly the crazies?

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my stash of shot cottons selected to tone with the ribbons toning ribbons

I am a fabric hoarder, like most textile designers, and I found some small pieces of ‘shot’ cottons – the warp and the weft of the fabrics are different shades or even different colours from one another so the woven fabrics are subtle colours and so more easily used with other materials; and by chance who were these shot cottons designed by? Kaffe Fassett. So that was an easy decision as well and I sent off to The Cotton Patch, (who have the best user – friendly, on-line ordering fabrics service) for more samples of these lovely fabrics. I started designing approximately 20 different samples of ribbon patchworks and appliques.

But I fist made myself some new fabrics – out of the ribbons themselves….

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designing ribbon combinations for ribbon fabric

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trying out different ribbon fabrics for crazy patchworks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

what I needed to realise is that when you are making your own ideas for a book, it is important to be able to demonstrate by using photographs, drawings, diagrams and words how someone else, who has not got your knowledge and may even be a complete beginner, can easily follow the instructions …a lot of lovely ideas and more complicated designs got thrown out in this process.

But here are some examples of 20 samples that made it, from first ideas, through to illustrations of the steps involved and finally the 20 projects that I made with the samples. There are 4 types of patchwork and applique techniques in the boon, strips – see below, crazy, squares and yo-yo’s.

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putting several ribbons together onto my work top, trying to make up a new ribbon fabric

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designing another variation of ribbon stripes for a heart shape applique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

from the work table to the finished book in one bound!

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illustration to make the ribbon fabrics

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page from the book to show the heart shaped applique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and eventually this design turns up on the contents page as well….

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content page of finished book completed with the same Ribbon Fabric

the yo yo designs quick and fun to make and design with, within the book they come single, embroidered….

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hat band yo yo with button stitching ribbons

 

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embroidered double yo yo square patchwork

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

halved and giant.

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half yo yo bands

 

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and one very very big yo yo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

in fact I could have written another book about making and decorating with yo-yos

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project section of the book – with lots of different things to make

I could write for days about the book and all that it contains – but then why would anyone buy it? As I write I am waiting for the large consignment of books to arrive from the printers….it is a small edition but I have plans to advertise it, it is being launched on September 15th at the American Museum in Britain, well it is full of the American Kaffe Fassett’s ribbon designs… and for this I am giving a special bead – making workshop. ( more of which in a  later post )Then the book is being sold with special packs of ribbons and fabrics on the Cotton Patch stand at the Knitting and Stitching Show in October; but meanwhile we have a lovely display in the shop window of Heart Space Studios, devised by our style guru, Jane- Marie Mahy, please see below and I have devised a whole set of classes to complement the book – go to http://www.heartspacestudios.co.uk/workshops/ribbon-patchwork-hearts-half-day-class/. for more information. And eventually we will be selling the new book on our website – watch this space

 

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Heart Space Studio window display by Jane-Marie Mahy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Kantha Club

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Indian modern Kantha fabric – from Liz Hewitt’s collection – wonderful patterns to start us all stitching

New to Heart Space Studios – Kantha Club; started as so many people who have been to our day classes, tutored by  Susi Bancroft,  have become fascinated by this simple method of hand quilting. We have 3 trial sessions being held once a month – each meeting is 3 hours long – enough to get re-acquainted with the technique and start something to take home to develop further.

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3 different Kantha pieces from  Susi s collection demonstrating the different types of fabrics, colours and patterns afforded by this  technique

susi kantha introSusi, had brought lots of different pieces from her own work, the most interesting for me are the tiny patches of patterned fabrics all held together with simple rows of running stitches  and by allowing frayed and ripped fabrics to be caught in place, dense and rich cloths have been developed.

One of the things that I find interesting in Kantha is that each side of the cloth looks different depending on the choice of fabrics – so a simple ground will show up the stitches but a patterned ground is given another layer of pattern – the fabric below shows this very clearly.

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Kantha strip showing back and front of the stitching – intriguing

Several people had brought in their own samples, some from earlier classes that they now wanted to develop….others already used the technique for their own practice and just wanted to meet up and develop and discuss the work with other people – we are hoping that the new textile clubs we are planning at Heart Space, will enable like-minded people to develop new work together….the 2 pieces below are by makers who has studied Kantha previously,  Kay Swancutt, and Liz Hewitt , 

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beautifully simple stitching by Kay Swancutt

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detail of Liz Hewitt’s densely stitched Kantha hanging

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but some people although used to stitching, came along for a new experience – they brought other types of things – the different types of work were really interesting, I am looking forward to seeing how everyone develops in the coming months.

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small perfectly stitched quilted heart – but enough to get a maker to the next stage of developing new ideas and techniques

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beautiful etheral embroidered and lacy fabrics combined with Kantha stitches by Nicky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the introductions we all started to work on our own projects

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the club gets down to real stitching, and Nicky is stitching the piece  above right

I have joined the club as well as I want to develop new work using this technique – I have played with this way of setting up rhythms across fine fabrics  and I brought in several pieces of old work to demonstrate how I wanted the work to develop – I want to make a stitched sea/sky/land scape – very large using images from my  photographs of the views of sunrise and sunsets from my windows at home.

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series of my sky photographs from over the Bristol Channel

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my first attempt at putting the sky fabrics together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am layering transparent fabrics so that many subtle colours are made to represent the sky, then held held in place by rows of running stitches. As my home view includes a stretch of the Severn Estuary and the Welsh hills, the textures and rhythms of the water, mud flats and tidal salt marsh in front of the house, could successfully be rendered using this technique, we will see…

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the layers of transparent fabrics are eventually held in place by massive tacking stitches

when everyone got to working Susi provided us with background fabrics and a wonderful array of her own threads, as well as books and a variety of other materials to help us help ourselves.

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Susi’s own stash of threads; and just visible my “kantha bible” The Techniques of Indian Embroidery by Anne Morrell

Several people started developing different motifs as samplers, using the books that Susi provided..

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continuing older work using new inspiration

 

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 working a sampler directly from the books provided

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we ended the first week with everyone having a piece of work to develop (or not!) for the next meeting…there were a few surprises in store.Some people had started new pieces and developed different techniques….

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embellishing a ready printed fabric is a really good way to get started…

some really adventurous samplers have been started..

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Vibrant Kantha motif sampler on hand dyed base – Naomi Clarke

then there was this perfectly ordered piece of quilting on top of a traditional Indian fabric heart

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Heart Kantha by Jo Hurst

Others continued to develop their own work – I do like the ancient next to the modern in the image below – traditional stork embroidery scissors, hand made pin cushion and mobile phone!

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continuing to develop the first colourful sampler – Jo Hurst

The motifs seem to be very popular but, like me Anne is trying some new colour background fabrics strips – really looking forward to seeing this develop

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strong coloured ground strips for experimental work by Anne Harrington

I hope she has more luck than I did! Eventually I want to make a large piece of work – at least 1 metre wide – so I had started off using wide strips – but found that the rhythms of the stitches started to develop a mind of their own, which I couldn’t get to grips with – so I chopped my original work into smaller segments and really let the running stitches go where they would – it is very exciting to work with…..but where do I go from here?

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my tiny but wayward stitched sampler of sky and sea kantha

Well  – where else but back to the third Kantha club meeting to see how everyone else has developed and if they all feel that they want to carry this experimental approach forward into a functioning club, with membership, regular meetings, guest speakers, exhibitions and all the other benefits joining a club entails….watch this space.

 

 

 

 

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Things With and Without Wings

folded book sculpture

folded book of flowers and butterflies – Ilaria Padovani

The world is full of surprises. You invite a group of people to develop ideas together in a studio in order to make work for a themed exhibition over a period of 6 weeks, then they go away and come back 3 weeks later with something completely different  – Hey Ho! BUT sometimes the things they bring back are so different and you realise that they have taken a new direction because of the theme  – what could be a better result?

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folded book with moths- Ilaria Padovani

So when Ilaria Padovani, who is a volunteer at Heart Space Studios, arrived the day before the deadline with 4 folded and paper sculpted books, I could only gaze in amazement (she was making a flight of patchwork butterflies last time we spoke)! I had asked everyone to write a few sentences about why they had done the work, knowing from experience that most people engage more easily and trust the words they read, rather than the images they view – I have the opposite point of view but that’s anther story!

 ‘VERBA VOLANT, SCRIPTA MANENT…Spoken words fly away, written words remain…’

  “This was my big sister’s reply to a letter I had written to her pontificating on how to raise her child. Although my intentions were good I had been arrogant and hurtful to someone I love dearly. After her phone call, I stayed up all night thinking of a way to show her how deeply sorry I was for my inconsiderate missive. I had wished the words I had written could have flown away from the page like a flutter of butterflies.

I started folding the pages of a book she used to read to me as a child. I folded a kaleidoscope of butterflies and arranged them soaring out of the pages. The making was cathartic to me and so was her forgiveness on receiving the book”.  

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stitched and printed air mail letter – Steph Wooster

Writing was a theme for many of the pieces in this mixed media exhibition. Steph Wooster, was researching ideas about carrier pigeons, doves and messages of peace, so this old airmail letter has been printed and then embroidered in cross stitch with a the one thing that you can’t give up when waiting for news. Steph’s images are truly mixed media, she prints, knits and embroiders onto papers and fabrics of different densities – layering the multiple sheets of images and text together.

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multi-media layered image of pigeons and laurel branches – Steph Wooster

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multi-media Hope dove – Steph Wooster

 

 

 ” I have an ongoing interest in mixing media, materials and processes. Attending workshops at Heart Space has introduced me to paper-cutting and patching processes that I have explored further with my knitting, stitching, printing and sketching. Making work for Things with Wings I immediately thought of pigeons. I love pigeons, grey, common, mundane and overlooked. Their invisibility and homing instinct led me to layering maps, graphs, envelopes, knitting, photographs, feathers and tracing paper. I wanted to show the humble pigeon as cousin of the dove who brought Noah the olive branch, embodying hope for the future.”

Mary Bishop has  used her own  hand-writing to inscribe poems and rhymes that have been illustrated by embroidering into papers and fabrics. I always recite this rhyme when I see any magpies – its an old English saying. Mary has condensed and enriched her first sample idea that she was working on in the studios to make these encrusted applique and collaged pieces.

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Magpie’s nest – Mary Bishop

My inspiration for this piece was my workroom which is like a magpie’s nest, full of bits that glitter and are pretty, things that cry out to be reused.  I really enjoyed reflecting it in this nest

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ladybird, Ladybird – Mary Bishop

I love ladybirds, so pretty and attracted to colour, I was really inspired by my many colours of threads to build up this flower bed and the cobweb to illustrate this lovely poem.

Keeping with framed pictures, Debby Bird made some really popular (and fast selling) beetle things, some with wings but the main interest for all the viewers was the materials she used, interference foil that distorts the light rays into rainbows of different hues being the most fascinating. The free machine-stitched insect boxes illustrate her idea that many insects are as precious and beautiful as jewellry displays.

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Things With Wings – Debby Bird

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Flying and Crawling Jewels – Debby Bird

“Despite being overlooked and under-loved , Insects are the most successful of the worlds’ species . They are so varied and often more beautiful than the most precious gems, yet they can take off and disappear before you get a proper look.

My free-stitched specimen boxes are representing the energy of live bugs just gathered for a quick inspection before they fly home!

There are classes is this technique by Debby in the new Heart Space Studios Autumn programme of workshops

Sarah Dennis cuts paper by hand and the results are stunning, she conducts her very popular workshops, both day and evening sessions, for Heart Space Studios. The 2 large pieces of work attracted a lot of admiration, people can’t believe that they are looking at a hand made piece of such simple means. I like her simple explanation for the genesis of her things with wings…..

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Deep Blue – papercut – Sarah Dennis

 I love nature; these pieces were inspired by watching a David Attenborough documentary.

Deep Blue was created after watching a scene where the ocean and the sky met together watching a bird dive from the sky and the whale swam around the surface of the ocean in a circular motion, the fishes sprung out of the waves into the sky. I wanted to capture the movement and life of that moment in paper.

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Flamingoes, paper cut – Sarah Dennis

Flamingos is a response to how astounded I always am by the incredible journeys that animals make to survive. I try to exemplify the beauty of nature through the delicate detail of paper.

Some people are really good with the words that they use to describe how they developed their imagery – Sophie Bristol, our administrator – studied History of Art for her BA hons. degree at the Courtauld Institute, so I was not surprised by her eloquence when she wrote about the piece that, at first glance, looks to be just a highly decorative triptych.

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gilded triptych – Sophie Bristol

 One of my greatest past-times is exploring flea markets, making chance discoveries of overlooked gems, which might not be particularly valuable, but are lovely none-the-less.

I recently stumbled across a pack of playing cards at a market, and was drawn to the gilded image of a bird on the reverse. The picture fascinated me because it was both beautiful and slightly sinister. I decided to incorporate the cards into a piece for the Wings and Things exhibition, using hand-embroidery skills, beading, and mixed-media techniques to continue to explore the tension between the beautiful and the macabre.”

Alas, my own framed pieces are very conventional – I had to make them relatively quickly at home in any spare time I could find, so relying heavily on my stitching skills, I made what I hope are amusing images of the ends of things….

“One of the daily tasks of running Heart Space Studios is sweeping the studio floor. Things found on the floor though, are often lovely – scraps of silk, ravels of multi-coloured threads and scatterings of beads; but as they are so small and dusty they usually get binned.

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the Apotheosis of the Embroidery Thread Ends – Janet Haigh silk hand embroidery

Buttons are another matter, they get used here for eyes and noses for toys made at children’s parties; but after a few months only the brown and beige buttons are left in the tins. I suspect that most homes harbour a tin of odd brown and beige buttons….

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the Apotheosis of the Beige Buttons – Janet Haigh, silk hand embroidery

I got to thinking “Ideally, what would happen to the beige buttons that no-one wants, or the teeny scraps of ragged fabric and threads? Where would they go, what would they become”? 

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the Apotheosis of the Fabric Scraps – janet Haigh, silk applique and patchwork

So now we get to the things out of the frames – I feel that out of the frame is perhaps a better way to develop work like this – so we had  a flight of dragonflies from Susi Bancroft, rather difficult to photograph, so here is just one; he looks kind of menacing – but as Susi says……

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One imaginary winged creature – Susi Bancroft. wire and beads

 “ inspired by my delight in watching dragonflies in flight whilst walking by the river. From pale green delicate ethereal things, to flashes of bright iridescent colours skimming the water, I caught my breath watching them. These creatures are an interpretation, a play on ideas. My mind wandered around the real as well as imaginary – the beauty of nature and the fantasy of invented things with wings – from fairies to surreal stinging insects! These may hang indoors or outdoors – catching light and breeze and hopefully raising a smile!

Made on the sewing machine from wire wrapped in glittery metallic thread with seed beads I pre-threaded on the wire – a somewhat exciting technique which requires some nerve!

But where are the things without wings? Well for a start there are lovey simple feathered heart shaped hangings form Jane- Marie Mahy, our display manager.

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Feathered Beaded Heart – Jane-Marie Mahy

” I was inspired by the work I have done in the past for Heart Space Studios simply decorating willow hearts which are rustic in texture against different found objects lovely old beads, buttons and lately clock faces. Feathers were the obvious things to add to the hearts for this project and making them into these angelic hearts”.And unusual beaded necklaces made by Ilsa Fatt, who teaches beaded jewellry making and often using her own lamp- worked beads as inspiration..

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black and white necklace _ Ilsa Fatt

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Re Necklace – Ilsa Fatt

 “The seed for the idea of Spirit-Bird necklaces came not from a bird, but a beetle.  I was thinking about the sacred Egyptian scarab beetle, which led me to thoughts on the strange Egyptian bird-headed gods.  These were in my mind when I first started making glass beads for the Heart Space exhibition.

As I worked, I became more and more drawn to the idea of the bird totems of the Pacific North West coast, such as the thunderbird that can shape-shift into human form.  The little glass birds that finally emerged are things-without-wings, but for me they embody the idea of wings, and of the power of imagination’s flight.

 

And now for both things with and without wings from Kirsten Hill-Nixon, who works with us teaching felt-making but has many other skills to be developed. she really took flight (sorry) with her imagination for this project.

 The image below does not do justice to this piece – it lives under a vintage glass dome so is very hard to see with reflections everywhere – It is made up from some dyed and embellished real chrysalis –  and the strange beings that have escaped from them…the twig is felted wool but everything else is metal and glass, with found objects like large beads and parts of domestic plumbing as well.

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Curious Chrysalis – Kirsten Hill-Nixon

 “What a Great Title ‘Wings and Things’ ‘Things’ could be literally anything! And with winged shoes, aeroplanes, sycamore seeds and half the animal kingdom to choose from what should I do?
I spread out all my shiny objects, threads and fabrics on a large table, things I have been hoarding for years waiting for an opportunity to use them – and here it is.  

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detail – Dragonfly, embellished chrysalis, tin foil, wire and beads – Kirsten Hill Nixon

 There is always a moment of great excitement finding a shiny beetle in the garden; that unexpected flash of sparkling wing on the dragonfly so Bugs it had to be. Small and precious like jewels, my winged things would need the protection of a glass dome just like the exotic specimens in a Victorian museum collection

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butterfly detail – copper, chrysalis, wire and beads – Kirsten Hill-Nixon

I spread out all my shiny objects, threads and fabrics on a large table, things I have been hoarding for years waiting for an opportunity to use them – and here it is. 

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sheer invention – Bugs  – Kirsten hill-Nixon

and just one more from this set of Things with Wings

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copper, wire and washers – Kirsten hill-Nixon.

 


 

 

 

 


9 Comments

Construct: Stitched Exhibition

 

Caryn Geffyn

Starter – Don’t make a Meal of it – Caren Garfen

I seldom feel that my work fits easily into contemporary textile exhibitions –  it often looks too colourful, or too decorative, or even too old fashioned in its simply stitched narratives…but recently I have work exhibited in a group exhibition that feels like I belong. “Construct – eight textile artists explore identity” is showing at the Ruthin Craft Centre in North Wales.  Much of the work is expressed in the form of stitched domestic textiles: tablecloths, curtains, quilts and some clothes, and so my own embroidered counterpanes, bolsters and pillow cases of dreams feel very much at home.

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Hand embroidered Dream Pillow from my ‘Make it Through the Night’ series

I was invited to submit work earlier this year by Dr. Melanie Miller whom I met when we both gave presentations at the Textile Society’s annual conference, Embroidering the Truth in 2013. Melanie’s presentation was an up to the minute resume of textiles by recent graduates from MA courses; mine was an overview of my embroidered narrative commissioned works over the past 40 years. Melanie worked with June Hill to quickly bring a  focused exhibition together and also developed with Lisa Rostron, at Lawn Creative, an excellent and beautifully produced catalogue – well worth buying for a stand alone document even if you don’t catch the exhibition.

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printed patchwork bed cover – Caren Garfen

Walking into the exhibition space the large and airy gallery looks fresh and the work on the walls looks clean and tidy  – it also looks resolved. I often feel that much modern art textiles look like work in progress, like they have just been snatched out of the hands of the maker – full of possibilities and open to suggestion…  but here is a varied range of  ideas on identity, simply expressed with a rare degree of intent.

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Don’t Make a Meal of It detail. Caren Garfen

The work of Caren Garfen has many overlapping concerns with my own; she uses popular phrases and she employs a sly humour to subvert. Caren meticulously hand stitches screen printed images with messages found in advertising aimed at women to conform as thin glamorous domestic goddesses

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Wafer Thin – a study on the role of fat – Caren Garfen

Several of her pieces depict ranges of domestic tasks that usually fall to women to manage; the relentless repetition of her imagery, whether patched, printed or embroidered, echoes the repetitious nature of all domestic work, after all – a woman’s work is never done. The roll of fabric  printed and hand embroidered for ‘Wafer Thin’ is 10 metres long!

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Sarah Puts her Lipstick on – detail Naomi Ryder

Repetition is also a device used by Naomi Ryder – she records a daily task for many women – putting on make-up; for some a chore (me), for others a delight. By repeating the same but slightly varied image over a length of fabric she shows the time and energy spent on getting our public ‘identity’ in order before we go outdoors.The continuous daily tasks that women are expected to devote their time to – cleaning, ironing, shopping – she depicts by machine embroidering acutely observed small-scale line drawings onto lengths of sheer fabrics that recall net curtains.

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detail of Katherine’s Day, Naomi Ryder

Women’s work undertaken to construct an acceptable public identity is a subject shared by these 2 makers – but what of the men? Interestingly Nigel Hurlstone, I know, takes extreme care over his own personal presentation but as yet has never chosen to reflect on this in his work.

 

 

 

 

 

Nigel’s powerful group of stitched photographic portraits of men who have been very carefully costumed, create an ambivalent atmosphere – half jolly japes and half menace. The 9 pieces of work shown are based on a set of portraits of young men, taken between 1918 and 1950, in what could be construed as ‘fancy dress’  but presumably dressed up , or down, for the sexual delight of the photographer.

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machine embroidered photographic imagery – What Pleasure by Nigel Hurlstone

The men were dressed either as street urchins or soldiers and they were apparently picked up on the streets and then posed to conform to a sexual identity desired by the photographer…to my mind they look to be highly amused by the proceedings…..

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machine embroidered phot0graphic print – Nigel Hurlstone

However – the tight rows of machine stitching make the fabrics look like moire or water-marked and obscure the almost life-sized photographic images. I think this makes them initially more easily accessible to the viewer as we aren’t exactly sure of what we are seeing. The actual fabric is compelling, you can’t ‘read’ it easily and this allows the viewer an excuse for deeper scrutiny – close up and personal. The original subject matter was never meant to be for the public gaze,  at first glance the men look happy though not exactly innocent, but somehow when we are closer we are aware of an undertow of  sleaze or is it menace?

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Curtains to Independence – Women’s Auxiliary Service uniform made from vintage curtain material – Val Jackson

War and its effect on women’s change of identity is clearly a personal issue for Val Jackson. Her work deals with reflections upon her mother’s life – the uneasy transition from performing vital and fascinating war work in contrast to the traditional role of  wife and mother. Inheriting her mother’s effects, including her correspondence during the war, made it clear to Val that this transition had been difficult. The arresting burnt -orange curtain fabric uniform very neatly combines the 2, opposing? halves of a woman’s working life – the professional and the private.

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fabric figures ready for stop motion animation by Linda Barlow

From my own observations of friends and colleagues, the pull between motherhood and making your own work as an artist is a major modern predicament. Linda Barlow uses humour and cartoon representations to depict the complexities of managing this situation. Based on interviews with 8 such women she has made a short animated film – ‘Artist Mothers: a series of observations regarding the frustrations of being an artist and a mother”. It does what it says on the tin – refreshing not to have a punning title – I am guilty of the over use of puns myself…note for later.

Women artists often choose to who work within a community – I always think that this is half way between being a social worker and an artist and a really decent thing to pursue. Two such people have this type of work exhibited; Deidre Nelson,who has chosen to work around the world, using textiles as a means of defining the social history of an area, often working with local groups of people, and Lyn Setterington – who makes quilts based on the Kantha technique.

 

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Signature quilt – Lynn Setterington

Lyn also works on textile based projects within communities; quilt making is historically a community based production, so her own interest in the history of her chosen medium makes a natural lead to this activity. She has recently become fascinated by Signature Quilts and I share this interest – Crazy Quilts – which fascinate me, often contain signatures and messages and they do make the mind start the journey to who exactly made this. There is at present, in artists’ textiles, a fascination with writing as evidenced here – and as part of the education programme at Ruthin Craft Centre I have undertaken to teach 2 workshops for different styles of hand stitched writing while the exhibition is still showing in July.

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family names quilt detail- Lyn Setterington

Lynn sees the signature quilts as a form of social networking, as she brings groups of people together to make to celebrate their local community. A richly embroidered quilt stood out in the exhibition, the Streepur Quilt

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I enjoyed the wealth of embroidery that was evident on the quilts. Rich in many different stitches they are a testament that decorative embroidery is alive and well somewhere in the world. I can see pattern darning, running stitch, chain stitch, back stitch and coral knot just in these 4 samples as well as crochet and Broidery Anglaise even if machine made. I also like the change in “taste” that this quilt brought to the exhibition, they had so much energy and joyfulness – but maybe that is just a reflection of my identity as an embroiderer at heart.