Looking for a change of direction I have been visiting some exhibitions lately in the hope of finding inspiration.
A recent visit to the NCCD at Sleaford with Lorna where we met up with Mary Sleigh to see two exhibitions, the first of some wonderful weavings. Sadly no photography was allowed so no pictures here to show you. The second exhibition – ‘Soft Engineering: Textiles Taking Shape’ showed some wonderful skill and artistry, Alison Ellen’s creative knitting, Ann Richard’s wonderful woven Jewellery, although maybe better described as body sculpture. Ann uses a variety of mediums in her pieces metal, silk,linen and polyester to name but a few. She uses the different way each material reacts to wet finishing to create the twisted, pleated finish. Deidre Woods weavings, using a narrow loom to weave braid-like pieces which she then combines with folding to make complex forms.
My second outing was to attend Jane Callender’s book launch at the Warner Textile Archive in Braintree. Jane is an acknowledged expert on Indigo and Shibori dyeing. I have been making some very inexpert attempts at Shibori recently, particularly attending a class with Jude Kingshott using stitched Shibori on previously Procion dyed fabric which is then overdyed with Indigo, and find myself fascinated by the technique. So maybe this is the way to go.
The final image here is pole wrapped Shibori on fabric pre-dyed with Pottasium Permanganate and then Indigo.
In order to improve my drawing skills I have been going to watercolour classes(!) and while everyone else has battled with colour I have focused on light and shade with pencil, charcoal, pen and ink. Some of my efforts have reached my Following a Thread sketch book whilst others, although I have kept them, really should be binned.
The skill on which I have tried to focus, is to look at how the light falls on the object. It seems fairly obvious really but I haven’t always found it easy to void areas and then work around them. When I first began the City and Guilds course (quite a while ago) we did lots of mark making exercises using different media and I found it a lot easier when the marks didn’t have to resemble anything. Now I am expected to recreate nature’s bounty in two dimensions.
As you can see from the pictures below, a rose and a shoe made it to the sketchbook as did a hollyhock and a dried poppy seed head.
This close-up of an acorn has yet to find a home.
Last weekend I spent three days – well two and a half actually because I had to look around the Textile Gallery – on the Embroiderers’ Guild stand at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show.
The Guild exhibited in the King’s Suite, a gallery which was opened at the show for the first time and turned out to be a large, wonderful space. Anyone visiting the Learning Curve had to pass by, and there was a lot to see: the Graduate Showcase, the Capability Brown project, items from the Collection, small pieces from old textiles and books and magazines to buy. There was also the opportunity to join the Guild and several members of the public did so.
I spent most of the time encouraging the passers by to add to the longest embroidery which stands at six hundred and five metres in length and was begun in 2003. Needless-to-say only about eight metres was on show at any one time but people were able to find plenty of space to add their stitches. One fourteen year old girl reckoned she had never sewn before but she produced an immaculate line of straight stitching roughly twenty centimetres long which she wove through. I managed to persuade a couple of husbands to add some stitches and the boyfriend of a stitch enthusiast added some marks in recognition of an earlier weekend with his girlfriend at a motor show.
I know that many of the EASTies are members of the Embroiderers’ Guild attending different branches in the Eastern Region, and like me, I’m sure, would have been impressed by the display presented, due in no small way to the hard work and commitment of Anthea Godfrey, the Artistic Director of the Guild and, of course, our mentor. However, she wasn’t alone. Pat Tempest, Annette Collinge, Alex Messenger, Amanda Smith and Liz Smith from the Guild also gave their time and enthusiasm to make it a very successful weekend.
I had a brilliant time and I have posted three images – one of the White Walker who spent the weekend in Hall C and I helped to dismantle, and two from the Capability Brown Project – a detail from work by Sian Martin and Diana Springall.
and a detail from Sian Martin’s and
Yesterday Carol, Libby and I ran a stall on behalf of EAST at the Braintree Museum’s Christmas Fair. The event was run to coincide with turning on the Christmas lights in the town but that wasn’t going to happen until it became dark. In the meantime there was a choir, two groups of Morris dancers, one male, one female, and some stalls in the centre of town.
There were eight tables in the Learning for Life room at the Museum of which we were one. Several sold food and the remainder were displaying crafts. One interesting stall was run by two newly qualified graduates who had set up a company called Boxford Candles and made scented candles in tins and chinaware which they had bought at auction. Carol and I smelt their wares and Carol spent some money.
Unfortunately for us all, the weather was extremely cold and the town fairly quiet. Towards the late afternoon the Museum filled up a little with young families because there was a children’s workshop and a face painting event. However, the clientele were not really interested in our beautiful, handmade decorations and present ideas.
We did sell a few items but only to ourselves, so we packed, up early and got home before it was too dark.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
Last week I was able to attend this amazing exhibition. I could not believe that two years had passed since the last one. Yet again this collection of artists provided a show that exemplified the wide range of ceramic art today. From huge crates and structures to tiny porcelain forms, the work was exciting and inspiring. It seems that the variations in this field are as vast as those within the area of our textile art.
What was noticeable this year was the inclusion of many video installation art pieces. One image showed a woman lying on her back having liquid clay poured into her mouth. Weird and mesmerizing! The recordings all had a ceramic theme and added an interesting dimension to the show. I wonder if this might also become a feature of textile exhibitions of the future?
I have included just a few of the images that caught my eye.
For further inspiration take a look at the museum website, www.eretzmuseum.org.il
It seems a little out of context that a blog about textiles should mention two of Shakespeare’s comedies but I’ve just returned from Chichester where I saw Love’s Labours Lost and Much Ado About Nothing performed by a superb cast from the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The reason for quoting the plays here is because, in this production, they are set at a time which bookends the First World War and although we are now Following a Thread, I couldn’t help but be transported back a couple of years when all my energies were focused on work about that conflict.
Loves Labours Lost was written in 1595, Much Ado just four years later, and there is no evidence that Shakespeare marked them out as a pair. The first play isn’t performed very often because the use of some very Elizabethan wordplay makes some of the text particularly hard to understand. However, four young men take an oath to foreswear the company of women, to eat frugally and to spend their time studying. Needless to say, this is impossible for them and many silly incidents take place before the end of the play when the women dispatch the men for a year and a day to prove the seriousness of their love. But, the period is Edwardian and the atmosphere light hearted until it is obvious that they are off to war – a war to end all wars.
Much Ado About Nothing opens in the same stately home, now set with hospital beds, and the return of the young soldiers. The men now appear more sober and aware of their responsibilities and the whole courtship of Beatrice and Benedict unfolds with greater emotional maturity.
What struck me most about these productions was first how the atmosphere of Loves Labours Lost evokes the hot summer of 1913 when the British were supremely content with the status quo and how the atmosphere changes as the men go off to fight. Then secondly, as Much Ado begins, the characters return in a more complex form, portraying greater sophistication in their understanding of life and love.
I highly recommend these productions, both full of fun, and music, which are due at the Haymarket Theatre for the winter season. Even if Shakespeare isn’t really your thing, the productions highlighted once more the changing landscape of the early twentieth century which we all highlighted in Between the Lines.