Students on my workshop [Jenny Leslie] worked very hard yesterday. We used 3 natural dyes, brasil wood, buckthorn bark and woad.
the buckthorn bark vat
brasil wood vat
After dyes some fabric we over dyed with woad and applied after baths to get a very good range of colours.
These are the students results aren’t they great.
Oceania, is one of the current exhibitions at the Royal Academy in London (continues until 10 December 2018). This is a personal reflection of some of the issues and objects I found particularly interesting but especially those linked to textile art.
On entering the gallery you are confronted by an enormous blue cloth – stitched and slashed – made by the artist Kiko Moana of New Zealand. It seemed to me the perfect illustration for an exhibition that was considering the art and cultures of a region both connected and divided by water. As a modern work it was also a reminder that this is not about an art and culture from the past – this was an exploration of Oceania throughout its history.
The second art work was a film, Tell Them, by Kathy Jetnil-Kijna. It begins with a description of a piece of jewellery, leads to a discussion about Marshall Island and its people, and ends with their fears for the future. It was about the links between cultures. It was a reminder that actions in one part of the world impacts on others.
The exhibition continues with a vast array of items – canoes, figures, musical instruments, navigational charts each one telling just a little about a vast array of diverse communities. There were also plenty of textile items. There were many pieces of bark cloth but also pieces of patchwork. The relevance of Samoan fine mat was fascinating in that these precious items were also used in ceremonies of reconciliation.
In addition there were several pieces of jewellery.
The curators of this exhibition were not shy about discussing the problems that began when Europeans, James Cook in particular, first encountered many of these cultures. Equally the curators were keen to highlight that not all of the objects displayed were looted items – many were gifted by their original owners or traded. Curation and display, it seems, was also a big part of this story.
The impressive mourner’s costume was a reminder that many of the objects on display were not originally intended to be static items but were part of a larger picture that would have included sound, scent, movement, etc. It highlights another major theme – that many of the objects are about memory. The past and the present are combined in such items.
Having visited the British Library
‘s exhibition James Cook: The Voyages
(which finished at the end of August), it was interesting to see two such different responses to the same starting point – both exhibitions relate to the 250 year anniversary of James Cook’s first voyage of discovery. Both were very thought provoking and both were reminders of how the actions of the past still resonate in the present.
SPILL festival – finishes Sunday 4th November
These are really worth seeing, inspiring designs and beautifully made!
PROCESSIONS was a mass participation artwork to celebrate 100 years of votes for women.
It was an open invitation to every woman and girl across the UK to get involved by being present on Sunday 10 June in one of the four UK capitals: Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh or London; inspired by the great processions of the suffragettes and suffragists in the years leading up to 1918, who marched to demand the vote.
In this special exhibition for SPILL, 100 banners created around the UK for PROCESSIONS will be shown as a trail at various locations across Ipswich.
Have a look at the link below and even if you can’t get to see the exhibition there is a good video showing many of the amazing banners.
What a lovely way to spend my Saturday this autumnal weekend, learning about dyeing using leaves.
This image is a detail from some silk velvet fabric that I used for one of the samples, showing some of the subtle colours that can be achieved, as well as more dramatic ones.
Jenny expertly guided us through some variations of this fascinating natural dyeing method, and we produced several samples with a range of effects.
I felt totally immersed (no pun intended) in this workshop, and spent much of Sunday thinking how I’ll be using what I’ve just learned in my current project. For the Power of Stitch, EAST’s 2019 exhibition theme, I’m focusing on Caister, on the Norfolk coast, and I think I may have just found the perfect North Sea muddy blue, courtesy of Jenny and some purple carrots … watch this space!
Kay Mullenger, October 2018
The ERTF conference last Saturday was right up my street. Alice Fox talked about her work. I really like the way she concentrates on her theme, often the coastline and really develops it, and of course her work is very environmentally friendly. I hope to use ideas from the talk and workshop in my future work for East.
This is my work from the mini workshop, we were all given four pieces of paper and we stitched them together, it was surprising how many different small works we made.
For my work for The Power of Stitch I am trying to depict the power of nature through volcanic activity, so I wanted a bright red. A bright red is not easy to get with natural dyeing, but fermentation dyeing works well with madder.
I put 100 grams of ground madder in a 4 pint plastic bottle and filled nearly to the top with water.
Every day I removed the lid to let any gases out and gave it a good shake. Madder works better in a high PH and fermentation tends to make the dye acidic so after a week I added a teaspoon of slaked lime.
After 3 weeks I put the liquid into a dye vat and added wetted out fabric. This is a silk cotton mix fabric. I soaked it in the dye vat for a day and this is the result, just what I wanted.
I am working hard on my exhibit for our forthcoming exhibition “The Power of Stitch” which will be at Braintree District Museum to coincide with 2019 Textile Fair. My exhibit tries to show the history of textiles in this country – a hard task and one which took not only a large amount of research but caused quite bit of angst designing.
This detail shows cake wires, couched with grey madeira thread for electricity pylons which makes a reference to power in the title. The background fabric is calico which I coloured during the hot weather. The good weather enabled me to spread the wet fabric out on the grass to dry and consequently the powerful sun fixed the dye. The only slight problem I had was to stop the dog walking all over the dyeing.
I had a great day recently with the lovely Vinny Stapley at her studio on Mersey Island on the Essex coast. We were exploring the Japanese Paste resist technique, Katazame. We were using a simple flour and water paste but I think traditionally the Japanese used rice flour paste. A technique that I had not heard of before.
The first method we used was applying the flour paste straight on to fabric, spreading it thinly with a spatula allowing it to dry and then scratching marks into it. Also applying the paste through a needle nosed bottle. Then applying colour using screen printing inks, not a method I would normally use being more familiar with procion dye paste but the screen inks are more instant.
We then squeezed the paste through a commercial stencil and lastly through a hand cut stencil.
A really enjoyable day learning a new (to me) technique, one I think I will probably use in the future but using my preferred procion dye paste.
Inspired by Hampton Court
I was lucky enough to visit Hampton Court Flower show on Sunday, I had not been for a couple of years and the thing that hit me most was the colour, nothing subtle just in your face a colour explosion. The plant that I found the most interesting were the foxgloves, I have a small woodland area that has the normal pinks and white foxgloves but the new colours ruby glow and cherry brandy are just stunning and will be appearing in a garden close to me as soon as possible. It has inspired me to try to recreate these and similar colours on fabric so I will be spending the rest of the summer with buckets of dye playing happily in the garden trying to produce a colour range in the new foxglove colours.
The Easties decided to have an outing to the Frida Kahlo exhibition last Tuesday – we had agreed the date some time ago and just by chance we more or less chose the hottest day of the year. However, a few of us had a nice ride to and from London in a newish, air-conditioned train and the V&A itself was cool. By the time we emerged from the exhibition the rain had begun to fall and 5 of us could be found sitting in the central courtyard garden balancing trays on our heads as makeshift umbrellas.
The Frida Kahlo exhibition, Making Her Self Up, was more about Frida Kahlo herself and her iconic appearance rather than her art, many of the exhibits being her personal effects which had been locked away for many years. Some may say “would this be what she would have wanted” – people looking at her corsets and her artificial leg rather than her art. I think if you didn’t know much about Frida Kahlo’s art before you went to the exhibition, you wouldn’t know much more about it afterwards.
Nevertheless, despite all the suffering and pain that she suffered in her life through polio and her accident and subsequent amputation of her leg, she had an extraordinary life. I bought a copy of her illustrated dairy some years ago which documents the last ten years of her life. Covering the years 1944-54, the diary contains Frida’s thoughts, poems and reflects her stormy relationship with her husband, Diego Rivera. During her lifetime Diego was the more famous artist but in death I think more people have probably heard about Frida than Diego.
In her diary she portrays herself with a broken classical column for a spine – below is a small Frida Kahlo figure that I made and stands in my workroom.