Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Great Tapestry of Scotland

Sometimes luck is really on your side! Driving down from a week in the Torridon area we had decided to stop off to see the New Lanark World Heritage site. A stunningly presented, and incredibly preserved example of an early Industrial Revolution community with housing, school, factory and mill buildings on the Clyde. It just so happened that at this very time they were hosting The Great Tapestry of Scotland! I was thrilled, what serendipity!
The Tapestry tells the story of Scottish history in more than one hundred and sixty embroidered panels stretching for one hundred and forty three metres in length. Stitched on linen in wool yarn they each followed a layout and style that gave the whole display a homogeneous feel. The panels were designed by.   Who was also responsible for the Prestonpans Tapestry. Each panel was then stitched by volunteers from Scottish communities, from the cities to tiny hamlets and individual Islands on matching background linen and in approved colour yarns. Each panel is credited to the Stitchers involved and tells one tiny snapshot of the Scottish story. I didn't actually have enough time to do the exhibition justice!
Here are a few of the panels which particularly caught my eye:

If you ever get the chance to see this, in the flesh, so to speak, grab it with both hands, it's well worth it!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Lutterworth Embroiderers' Exhibition

Months ago I visited this annual exhibition and was again stunned by the quantity and quality of work this talented group produce each year.
In addition to the general display of members work, three areas were of particular interest to me:
 A wide ranging display of World War 1 themed pieces demonstrated the wide range of skills members have. I was, however, completely struck by one small machine embroidered piece which seems to sum up the misery, the waste, the hardship and the the loss of the conflagration. 

" For King and Country " is by Sue Townsend, and the content's very ordinariness makes it the more poignant. The skill in the stitching is wonderful.
I was also interested to see a selection of workshop pieces from Isobel Hall. Creating wonderful textures from simple stitches and unusual threads. This one is by Kate Jacklin.

One technique I'd like to master next year is Kantha and there was a charming elephant by Sue Hanger.

Each year the group have a 'Chairman's Challenge' and the skill and workmanship in Josephine Cade's piece "Giverney" was outstanding.

Finally I wanted to highlight a tiny section of one of Mary Hart's pieces to show a very effective use of tiny pieces of sweetie paper used to good effect.

This group' annual exhibition is always worth a visit in August and I have come away again this year with some lovely cards made by Sarah Adcock.


The missing months........

Apologies for the absence. I suffered a period of anxiety attacks during September which triggered a collapse of creativity and loss of interest in textiles for the first time in my life. It has taken be quite a while to return to something like my old self! Hence the silence. I'm explaining this as problems inside our heads seem to be the Cinderella complaints and we need them to be talked about and better understood. 
I have a backlog of textile artist's work to share with you in my next post.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Art Textiles - Made in Britain

Still cogitating about all the quilts that I saw at Festival recently. I was particularly interested to see "Identity - Art Textiles, Made in Britain." The group of artists working for this show have all developed clearly identifiable styles yet are very different from one another. They are all fascinating in their own right so it was fascinating to see how each had interpreted the theme of identity.
For this blog post I am concentrating on three artists who I have taken courses this year or have worked with a little.
Christine Restall:
You will have seen from earlier posts that I was absolutely entranced by my short one day course with Christine. All my abstraction experiments have come from this experience. Her pair of quilts in the "Identity" exhibition were restrained and elegant and restful. Hanging as a pair, it's the type of work that you would enjoy living with. Beautifully crafted, I loved them.

Sandra Meech:
I was very lucky to spend three days on Sandra's "Less is More" course at The Minerva Gallery in Llandidloes in July.(more of this later)  Having heard her talk about the pieces in the "Identity" exhibition I was keen to see it in the flesh. Her techniques for working with images, use of photo transfer and three dimensional elements are fascinating and very different from the general run of pieces at Festival.

Jenny Rolfe:
I was in the same group as Jenny for a year (Contemporary Expressions) she was the most meticulous quilter I had had the privilege of working with. Her approach to this exhibition was particularly interesting in that it dealt most directly with the theme "Identity".
Nature v Nurture is a clever piece with many of the hallmarks of Jenny's stunning work. Thought provoking!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Embroiderers' Guild "Kickstart" Exhibition

The East Midlands Region runs an annual programme to encourage members to create and exhibit embroidery. This years the theme was Flowers. The key thing about the Kickstart programme is that it requires participants to take a one day course related to the theme. Only with attendance at these can a member exhibit work. 
The downside of this is that there is so little notice of the dates of the day courses that if your diary is busy you miss out. I was very sad not to have been able to take part in one of the two run by Alysn Midgelow Marsden which were very well receive by participants and which concentrated on simplifying and abstracting elements to create a design.  So having heard such good things about the preparatory days I was a little disappointed when I went to the exhibition in Daventry. I don't know if this was the sum total of the entries for the region or a section of the entries. I hope it was a section! The venue did not do the entries many favours. 
There were some stunning pieces of work among the entries, the following stood out among the selection. My apologies to the artists that I have lost the sheet with their names and work titles so they are here, unattributed.

In a very image conscience world I do get very cross when organisations fail to display work to its advantage and in a way that is sympathetic to the artwork. When Jo Public sees an exhibition like this it's not that surprising that folk go away describing the work as "homemade" which is such a put down. Voluntary groups are their own worst enemy in this respect.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Ann Johnston' Exhibition

I was really struck by Ann Johnston's quilts. I have travelled in the Sierra Nevada on several occasions and found myself transported back there. Huge in scale and graphic in quality these quilts speak of the wide open spaces, the rocks and their hold on you when you are among them. It's a part of the world I enjoy visiting, and Ann's art gives me the same feelings.

"After the Ice"
The sense of scale and the grand swathe of the landscape are there and man's insignificance.

"Eureka Chimney"
Craggy and raw, the fabrics and stitching convert the rugged nature of this area.

"Nevadan Orogeny"
This whole cloth piece showcases the folded, stretched rock formations of the Sierra Nevada so well I almost felt I could touch the rough, hard surface.

I am not usually drawn to the representational or pictorial in quilts but was persuaded by this exhibition that, in the right hands, it works. I am now even more keen to revisit the western USA again and add in areas I have still to see for the first time. I know I won't make work in this genre but have so enjoyed seeing these pieces.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Festival of Quilts - Dislocation

I was very interested to see what had been juried into this exhibition having had my quilt rejected! While  I thought that there were some stunning and interesting pieces I was a little disappointed with the whole after the success of the CQ10 show. This collection didn't hang together in quite the same way. I felt the outside walls of the gallery worked better than the interior. It's easy to criticise, and I realise that it must have been very hard to make choices from such a large entry. I'm not worried about my piece not being selected, more that the very high standard CQ set was lowered a little this year, in my view!
Having said that, I now want to highlight some of the pieces that I was very struck by. Each of these was eye catching at a distance and drew one in to see what was in the detail.

Terry Donaldson's piece "Black across the sea" was effective and I loved the mark making in the quilt.

Sally Hutson's "Faded Memories" was painterly and full of interesting elements so it worked at a distance and drew you in.

Sue Turner's dislocated self portrait " a sLIGHT Shift" was eye catching and very cleverly constructed.

   "Letters to the Demons" from Sandra Wyman contained interesting mark making and an eye catching rhythmic linear motif.

"Organised Chaos" by Jill Packer was an eye catching, graphic piece that I loved.

Cathy Hensman's piece " Dislocated Woodland" was richly textured and painterly in style.

What a fantastic opportunity being a member of CQ is, and how fierce the competition is to be exhibited! Thanks to the organisers who set us a tough challenge. I look forward to what is next!

More the Festival soon.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Seaweed embroidery

Our Travelling book project continues and my next project has been to try and interpret seaweedy shallows. I found some images of seaweed, a watercolour art work and graphic image of seaweed.

I also found a piece of linen that I had indigo dyed and have used this as my background.
I started with space dyed scrim, pulling and teasing it out  and shaped some felt pieces to give me a ground to work on.

I have then added layer upon layer of stitch to try and achieve that tangled look. So the stitches are large and uneven.

At this point I also realised that my felt shapes were an unconscious use of shapes that Angie Lewin uses in her work!

Oh how influenced we are by the hundreds of images that we have looked at over time and absorbed in our brains. They come, unbidden , into designs and then become instantly recognisable as someone else's work. I suppose that for most of us there is no such thing as a totally new idea or design!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

White village abstraction part 2

The white village theme has really gripped me and I am so enjoying playing with the colour and shapes. I'm quite perplexed by the fact that it has taken me so very long to realise how to use colour and shape to give the essence of things, places and feelings. It's made me even more aware of the importance of a proper Art and Design education and how valuable it would be to find a tutor who would take me through the basics, but with reference to textiles. You have to know a bit to realise that you need to learn more!
This time I have isolated one small area of the photo with its range of colours and created this as the focal point in a cream tile. It was hard to simplify the section of the photo and yet retain some of the sharpness of the angles and colour differences there are within a small area.
I enjoyed the freedom to quilt the background freely echoing the angles of the piecing.

I'm looking forward to working on the next stage but have a piece of embroidery I must do first!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Matisse Cut Outs

I was really please to have made it down to see the Matisse exhibition at Tate Modern this week. My research was limited so I was stunned by the sheer scale of some of the pieces and their vibrant colours all these years later.

What also chimed with me was that the technique had been employed ,initially, as a stage in his creative process only to develop into the art works themselves. Here I find my lack of proper art education a difficulty as I always feel a distinct lack of vocabulary ,properly employed, to discuss what I have seen.
I was also aware that work which close to had a rough quality to it, when viewed from a distance lost that. 
In Oceania I marvelled at the totally simple lines that created the image of swallow or swift and it's freedom of the air.
I really loved the impact of the Vence studio wall recreation in Room 5 with all those amoebic shapes filling the wall. Their organic, restless movement and continuous lines a little like water in that the eye was always moving to see a new set of relationships between the positive and negative spaces created. I bought a print for my studio  so I can enjoy the brilliant colours and sense of fun which it brings me, I smile when I see it!

 The technical feat of drawing with charcoal on the end of a long pole was interesting as I find it difficult even with a long paintbrush!
What a creative mind was on show with these images, even more so when one recalls all his earlier works and the wonderful use of colour in these. I loved the show and came back smiling and happy!

Out on the millennium bridge the views of London were stunning but my eye was caught by a more modest scale building beside the Thames which looks like the start of a quilt design!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

White Villages Abstraction

I am finding these little forays into design abstraction really rewarding. I am so grateful to Christine Restall for setting me off down this path. I feel that each time I begin with another image I am progressing my ability to really LOOK at the image and try to see the essence of the picture or place.
I've decided to move into the built environment this time, taking several photos of the white villages in  Andalusia in Southern Spain as my starting point.

With the previous two sets I have just started by collecting together fabrics as close to the colours in the image as I can, pondering what I might try and then diving in! This time I tried to spend rather more time on the ideas before I started with the fabric.

Sample one started where I had left off with the bluebells. I created a background made up of rectangular cream to beige fabrics and stretched a layer of us dyed plasterer's scrim over to tone down the considerable differences in tone within the background.

I then created a small "quilt" from the roof colours to sit as a tile over this background and created two diagonal lines of interest again in the roof colours.

I'm now really looking forward to trying my next ideas out!


Thursday, 19 June 2014

Bluebell Abstraction pt. 4

This version has tested me, I have had to make two attempts before I was satisfied with the concept.
I wanted to try "floating" a tile of bluebells in it's own environment.
I tried two methods of creating the tile. The first by setting the tile in strips of one colour. 

The yellow was far too bright, the pieced strips too regular for my taste and I feel the the green ground is too olive.

I started a second version. This time I faced the edge of the tile and applied it to a quilted ground. I was very comfortable with this methodology.

The yellow on the right is still probably too bright but I do like the simplicity of this  JQ. I'm going to use the methodology again on other pieces.

Sunday, 15 June 2014


CQ have challenged members to create a quilt on this theme for Festival of Quilts this year. I have decided, far too late really, that I want to interpret an astonishing electron microscope image of a nano particle dislocation I came across on the Brown University web site. 

The dislocations are the ribbon like structures.
With time in short supply I have chosen to use commercially produced fabrics and have already created the base structure of the quilt.

I have spent this evening hand stitching and beading the top third.

Tomorrow I will be experimenting with the ribbon like structures. So, watch this space!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Bluebell Abstraction part 3

I have long admired the work of Rayna Gillman, especially her abstract creations, her free form quilts. I love the sense of movement and the ebullient colours that are present in much of her work and have taken a tentative step towards experimenting with this style of work.
I say tentative, because having completed this Journal I am only too conscious that I have only begun to scratch the surface of working in this way. It was interesting to try out ideas, and I had a bin full of discarded strips by the time I'd finished this small piece!
With the benefit of hindsight there is too little green in this piece, and the predominant fabric is too dark. I'm going to try again just for fun!

The balance is not quite right either, yet again I'm aware of my lack of grounding in design education!
I've got some more ideas for this and will try again tomorrow!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Bluebell Wood Abstraction part 2

My CQ Journal Quilts this year are all going to be attempts to progress my ability to abstract a design from images that inspire or interest me.
I have decided to explore the strip approach again but this time with narrow, torn strips and a lot of surface decoration. I used the same collection of fabrics that I had gathered for the first Journal on this theme and have decided that I will try two further JQs on bluebells using the same collection of fabrics.
I'm happy that I have a colour palette that is beginning to reflect my image but am not sure whether I should be trying to maintain the same balance of colour or just going with the flow. This is where I suspect a proper design education would come in handy!
This is what I have come up with.

I like the effect in small doses but would not consider it for a whole quilt.
Now I need to set to and think about another way to interpret this. Oh how pleased I will be to have my workroom back again!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Abstraction - Dunstanborough Beach resolution

Having explored the four mini abstractions from the beach photograph I wanted to produce a resolved piece based on this source. I say resolved, but as I now realise what seems resolved when I set out to make it becomes just another set of steps along the way! So this piece is finished but I now know there are further ways to explore this inspiring image. I just need some more time to explore it.
I've done this piece without the use of my workroom, which is the repository of all the spare bedroom furniture while it is decorated- oh so frustrating.
This is the completed piece.

You can now see why I think there are more aspects to explore!