My inspiration for our next East exhibition The Power of Stitch comes from a trip in 2016 to Yellowstone Park USA, from that trip I have got very interested in the Power of Nature and how to interpret it through Stitch. I am sure you will have seen Volcanoes erupting recently, my ideas have morphed into lava flows very hot and cold.
Another inspiration has been shibori, which I do with natural dyes and then leave it to dry so all the creases and wrinkles stay put.
These are supposed to look like tree stumps or branches.
and this is a shibori vase.
So I have been trying to interpret lava with natural dyes and shibori. Its not easy to get a strong red with natural dyes, in the picture you will see fabric that is a silk cotton mix dyed with madder and also quite a lot of greys and blacks that I got by mixing log wood with iron and tannine.
At the moment these pieces of fabric are just placed together, so I shall be playing with them and rearranging them, but there are more things to try, I hope to get a 3D effect so watch this space!
On Saturday I visited Norwich Castle Museum for a lecture that was part of the Women of the World (WOW) festival. It was all about the samplers and stitched letters by Lorina Bulwer delivered by Ruth Battersby-Tooke, senior curator of costume and textiles at the museum. I was treated to over an hour of (almost) non-stop information and analysis about the letters with close views of the exquisite pieces. The stories and facts about the Lorina Bulwer work are fascinating and entrancing. I was totally captivated.
Ruth’s enthusiasm, despite the number of times she has spoken to groups about Lorina Bulwer, was such a pleasure. She picked out parts of the text giving explanations but also throwing as many questions. There are many theories and suppositions around the text Lorina chose to use, how she was able to produce the work and how they managed to survive. Given that a lot of the text was very rude about (seventy) named people it is possible that other pieces she made did not survive, the recipients having thrown them out in fury. However, had the letters been written conventionally on paper it is unlikely that these fascinating pieces would have been kept.
Lorina’s anger and passion come through immediately in her use of strong and forthright language. Written as stream of her consciousness even though the pace of the stitching would not be as fast as her thoughts. Repetitive, song-like words tumble and pour out, ‘AMY NANCY TICKLES MY FANCY (ref Billy Boy folk song). Words all sewn in capital letters nowadays, in the digital age, gives the message a shouting voice but would have been easier to sew. Her spelling was excellent throughout her work except for three noteworthy words; eunuch, hermaphrodite and majesty.
The technical discussion interested me too. How Lorina made the stitches so uniform (generally) and on different types of fabrics pieced together like a patchwork. Fabrics may have been donations to the workhouse for rag books and a mixture of institutional fabric, ticking, velvet, silk and cottons. The bindings around the edges differed, sometimes small pieces of fabrics patched together or longer lengths with more words stitched on top bordering around the main body of the letter. Many words were underlined with contrasting coloured stitches to emphasise them and some words have a shadow that make them stand out more. ‘O’s were sewn by pulling through a loop of thread and couching it, helping with speed. It has been calculated that for the 12-foot-long piece it would have taken about six months.
The act of stitching can be such a therapeutic activity for many people, used over centuries and particularly in times of stress and trauma such as soldiers convalescing. Looking on the www at the links nowadays one gets links to stitching and mindfulness, giving time for reflection, recovery, peace. When the medication route doesn’t seem to be working for many troubled minds nowadays why isn’t therapeutic stitch not used more, nor promoted more as part of the cure in mainstream healthcare? “Stilling the mind by busying the hands”.
Alternative Arts Education
As a result of tuition fees and the restrictions of current art education there is an increase in the emergence of alternative arts education.I’ve been really lucky that an alternative MA has been set up in Southend.TOMA is a postgraduate level course now in it’s second year that is artists led, for a small monthly fee we have developed a course of critical theory, group crits,, visiting lectures exhibitions and practical workshops. that are suggested by all students making each year really bespoke to the members of that year.It’s been brilliant for my practise, the development of collaborative pieces within joint exhibition.I’ve recently worked with Pottery Richard Baxter to respond to each others work I gave him a Co op bag full of burnt beer cans while he gave me pots with holes and slashes for me to work into.
collaborative working and amazing guest speakers such as Grizelda Pollack, Richard Wentworth and Bruce Mclean my work has developed and taken some surprising turns. I’m currently working on Sculptural pieces, the stitch is still maintained but in some cases deconstructed to a point where the mechanics of stitch are there but the term of stitch could be questioned.
TOMA has been lucky to receive Arts Council funding and the amazing Emma Edmonson who conceived The Other MA, will be taking up residency with the 17 TOMA artists in the Royals shopping centre in Southend where we will have studio space, a shop and exhibition space.
On Saturday we will be opening a drawing show, please come along if your in Southend.
Like the whole population who live in eastern England we have snow. Not just one downfall which will disappear in a couple of hours – it has been snowing on and off, and mainly on, all morning.
For me, Wednesday is the one day of the week when I get all the boring household jobs done with a weekly sortie into Bury St. Edmunds to shop but today the only sensible thing to do is raid the freezer and hunker down for twenty-four hours.
There’s no point in clearing the path to my workroom because the footsteps that Briar and I made when we went off for the morning walk are completely covered, so I thought I would write an EAST blog.
However, I’ve not done anything particularly noteworthy recently except continue with my design work for Power of Stitch and make the next square, or in my case, book for the Suffolk West Embroiderers’ Guild March meeting tomorrow which has just been cancelled. The colour this month was indigo so my book contains some indigo patterns which can be achieved with dyeing.
One of the members of SWEG discovered this proclamation and duly circulated it. I thought it would be a good place here to remind ourselves of the correct sewing procedures which we all observe!
Hope it gives you all a chuckle: it certainly did me.
Does anyone have any spare French chalk?
Modigliani – more than just the nudes!
Even though I am past counting candles on a birthday cake, I am not past “insisting” on an enjoyable day out to celebrate another year. I was sure the Modigliani exhibition would be an appropriate treat and I was not disappointed!
Modigliani is a complex character. Born in Italy to a Jewish family, he spent most of his working career in Paris, including the years of WW1. This and a prolonged childhood illness greatly influenced his art. At times during his life Modigliani’s art was scorned as unsophisticated and simplistic. Yet when you enter the first room of this exhibition, that opinion is completely overturned. The colour palette is both sensual and absorbing, the images distinctive and engaging.
Most people are familiar with the distinctive wide eyed, narrow – faced nudes that Modigliani perfected during his short turbulent lifetime, (he died aged 36).
However, like many artists, Modigliani went through various periods and changes. The work I was least expecting was a room of his hypnotic sculpture heads. Whilst living in Paris, Modigliani had an intense two-year period where he focused almost exclusively on sculpture (1911 – 1913). The figures are both beautiful and powerful, many resembling Caryatids (the classic female figure), which reputedly had a “religious” like meaning to Modigliani. African art played a huge influence on Modigliani and his fellow Paris contemporaries, such as Gaugin, Matisse and Picasso. Sculpture had been an early passion of his and it is unclear why he so abruptly abandoned this medium. Poor health is the most likely explanation plus a growing confidence in his 2D work.
By the time of his premature death, Modigliani was a confident portrait painter. However, like so many other renowned artists of the C20th he too is mostly preoccupied in capturing the “essence” of the person rather than tight representation or likeness of character. Modigliani sits securely in an extensive line of artists who have been interested in non-European sources, (e.g. African) that has inevitably extended and developed the western canon of art
At the end of this exhibition I felt privileged and grateful to have seen such an extended array of Modigliani’s work. It was both exciting and thought provoking particularly as Modigliani died so tragically. To leave such a legacy is awe inspiring and moving.
The exhibition continues until April 2nd, so you still have time to enjoy this “must see” exhibition at Tate Modern.
It was such a momentous occasion – all the EAST members, and Anthea,
were all present at our January 2018 meeting – so we had to have a group photo.
(Back row) – Felicity, Lorna, Libby, Janette, Margaret, Julie, Jenny and newest member Kay
(Middle Row) – Ellen, Anthea, Carol and Melinda
(Front Row) – Liz, Susan and Tricia
We are also pleased to announce that we now have an Instagram
account – so hopefully we will be able to share some of our work in progress. You can also find us on Facebook
– don’t forget to “like” our page to keep up to date with exhibitions and events.
A couple of years ago I joined the newly re-formed branch of the Suffolk West Embroiderers’ Guild. During this year (2017-18) the branch is running a project where each member embroiders a square in a specified colour – “Rainbow Squares”. The colours progress in the same sequence as the rainbow so the first square was red.
I wasn’t very excited by the prospect of decorating a square with red stitches but I soon realised that I could make an eight square centimetre, four page booklet and attach that to an appropriately coloured square.
I made the cover from torn scraps of fabric bonded to some felt, then integrated them with machine embroidery. I covered this with a piece of muslin which I had coloured several years ago when EAST had a weekend with Ruth Issett. I folded the cover in half, then added four pages inside which had a love poem, “Echo” by Carol Ann Duffy, embroidered on them.
The next square, for November, was to be orange. I made a list of orange things – a colour, a drink, a fruit, a principality, a butterfly etc. – and embroidered these onto scraps of orange silk which I applied to a zig-zag book. This I put inside a cover which had been made as before except with scraps of orange fabric.
The December square was yellow. I didn’t realise until I began to sew what a difficult colour yellow is to work with and how few fabrics and threads I owned in that colour. Nevertheless, I had decided that the book was to have images of shells inside so I raided my supplies.
The square to make for January is green so, hopefully, I will have more items to play with and the book will probably contain leaves – unless I get any better ideas.
I wish you all a very happy, healthy and productive 2018.
In May I posted pictures on our trip to Morocco and samples and ideas for a textile piece based on the wonderful Islamic tiles there. I was experimenting with natural pigments that can be found in the souks in Marrakesh.
So after 6 months I have finally finished two pieces of work block printed with natural pigments and then stitched in places… I wanted to suggest a gradual disintegrating of these ancient patterns. The top piece is almost twice the size of the second.
This one is a detail.
Producing work for an EAST exhibition is not just about research, trials and samples, making the item and putting it on display. Sometimes the work can have a life after the last exhibition is packed away. I find it particularly gratifying to hear that something EAST created has become the inspiration for someone else. For the work made for Between the Lines it is particularly pleasing to hear that the research itself continues to be useful.
This has been the case with regard to the information sheet I produced on the Lady Smith-Dorrien’s Hospital Bag Fund. I had used this to make my work, shown above when the exhibition visited Landmark Arts Centre, Teddington. Now the research is going to be part of a museum display.
From 4th December this year, and for six weeks only, Bath Medical Museum will be recreating a WWI war hospital – looking at how the inpatients (soldiers) were ‘entertained’ over the Christmas period. Instead of focusing on the grimmer aspects of war the exhibition will use anecdotal stories on the themes of food, entertainment, gifts, decorations, celebrations, etc. They will look at how local people provided plum puddings, knitted goods and filling crackers.
In addition, on the opening day (6.12.17) there will be a lecture by Dr Roger Rolls on the history of the Bath Mineral Hospital during the war. The exhibition continues until 6 January 2018.
For more information visit the Bath Hospital Museum website. Please note that the museum, which is run entirely by volunteers is open Mondays to Wednesdays (2pm to 4pm) and Fridays (10am to 12 noon).
More information about Lady Smith-Dorrien’s Hospital Bag Fund can be found by following the link from my page – HERE.
At the end of October I went to London to see the Prism exhibition ‘Another View’ this was first shown at the RSBA in Birmingham then in London at Hoxton Arches.
This was a very interesting exhibition as usual, many members of Prism took part exploring “different ways of looking, seeing and understanding; a chance to visualise the complexities and possibilities of people, places, events and the world we live in”. It was very interesting to see how members had interpreted their ideas from the title into textile.
I thought Jo Coombes’ work was really outstanding exploring human motives, both for individuals and nation states when values diverge and beliefs become irreconcilable. I was also drawn to Dee Thomas’s ‘Underfoot, showing the many small items on a beach which are trampled underfoot when out walking. Paulene Cattle’s work which showed, in black and red felt pieces, her impression of an unused and dilapidated post box. Dorothy Tucker’s mixed media landscapes showed a lovely mix of digital printing, paint and stitch while Jackie Langfeld’s decorated teaspoons were a delight.
Many pieces showed a wonderful interpretation of ideas, others were beautifully worked, so in all a great exhibition that was well worth the trek up to London.
Above image is of Jo Coombs’ piece
Above image is of Dee Thomas’ piece
Above image is of Paulene Cattle’s pieces