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ReConnect

ReConnect

Happy New Year!

I have my fingers, legs and toes crossed that, at some point later this year, we might actually be in the position of being able to safely congregate once more in large groups. Zoom has been, and continues to be, a great way of keeping in touch with family and friends but it’s also proving invaluable for many creative groups allowing us to carry on meeting, have our regular show and tell, exchange ideas and generally stay together.

Another creative positive from last year was online shows and exhibitions. Ok it’s certainly not the same as actually being there but it has allowed artists an outlet for their creativity and, in turn, provided inspiration for those of us who have visited, albeit virtually. In some cases it may be that, having seen a body of work online, we might be all the more likely to make the effort to travel to see it in the flesh once things return to normal. For me, the most inspiring work I saw online last year was the Hinterland collection created in 2017 by Gladys Paulus and featured in the 2020 video Hinterland by Gladys Paulus – a film by Chris Chapman. Gladys’s work is incredibly skilful in its design and execution and I’ve been in awe of this body of work since it was first made public but not had the chance to see it on display. With this film we are privileged to not only see but also hear the story behind this collection, as narrated by the artist. This takes the viewers experience to another level. Its a very personal and very moving story, if you haven’t already seen this film please take a look.

Another “positive” that some of us were able to take from last year was a “reconnect” with nature. Prior to lockdown my morning routine with Maddie was a short walk to the local park where I would throw her ball for half an hour while chatting to other dog walkers. On days when I was working this would sometimes feel rushed and I would be constantly clock watching to ensure I wasn’t making myself late.

Lockdown meant my days had no time constraints, it was also no longer socially acceptable to stand around in groups in the park chatting, and the government were encouraging us all to get fit……Maddie was about to discover doggy heaven! The lengthy weekend walks, anything from one to two hours across the fields and through the woods, now became our daily routine. When we return to work I’m going to have to set my alarm a lot earlier as this is one routine I’m not prepared to give up!

Country walks are always a great source of creative inspiration and, if you’re like me, you’ve got hundreds of photos saved “just incase”! Someday you might get around to starting that felted/textile project on weeds, lichen, frozen puddles, frozen leaves, dried leaves, tree bark, tree skeletons, fungi, seaweed, stones, bracken, insects……..the list goes on!

One thing I hadn’t particularly noticed, and hadn’t deliberately photographed, prior to last April was shadows. I’d not given them a thought in the past but with time on my hands, and what seemed like never ending sunshine, I found myself noticing them. The most interesting were on a tree lined stretch of the Viking Way. I’d walked this path hundreds of times before but only now was I seeing these wonderful lacy patterns and thinking they could be the starting point for an abstract wet felted Wallhanging.

I didn’t sketch or design my layout or colour scheme, it simply started out as a white Merino background with clouds of pale Viscose. Several layers of “shadows” were built up randomly on top, the first was green Viscose, the others Merino. After felting I added detail with free motion stitch and lots of Colonial Knots – my favourite hand stitch! The addition of texture started to move the piece away from “shadows” more towards bark/fungi but I was happy with that as it was keeping the tree connection. The finished piece is approx 42cm x 58cm.

Due to ongoing restrictions the International Feltmakers are holding a virtual AGM on 27th March and to coincide with that they will be launching their second online exhibition of members work. This years exhibition title is ReConnect and any work submitted has to be less than a year old. I’ve chosen this piece as my submission as its creation back in June was sparked at a time when a lot of us were reconnecting with the natural world, taking the time to notice things that have always been there but which we may have previously overlooked. It’s world’s away from the imagination and expertise of Gladys but we all need someone or something to aspire to…..fingers crossed it gets selected!

I wonder which feltmaker/textile artist you find particularly inspiring?

Knitting & Stitching Show 2019

Knitting & Stitching Show 2019

One of the highlights of my calendar in November is always the Knitting & Stitching Show at Harrogate. I’ve never thought that the title does this show any justice as it’s so much more than knitting and stitching!

The event, held over several halls in the Harrogate Convention Centre, features a wide range of exhibitions, most of which have the artist in attendance so you get to meet and chat to them about their work. There are also a number of artists in action (literally), workshops, lectures, demonstrations and a huge variety of craft retailers as well as artists selling their handcrafted items.

I’m guessing there will be a lot of our readers who didn’t attend this event due to location so I thought I would show what to me were some of the highlights.

Marian Jazmik “Beyond the Surface”

Marian Jazmik is a mixed media textile artist who uses a wide variety of materials, often heat distressed, to create stunning highly textural pieces of art. I was particularly drawn to her work by the wonderful neutral colour pallet. Depending on which piece you are looking at, close inspection might reveal sisal, plastic straws, packaging, cotton buds, scrim, beads and free motion stitching. She often uses heat treated Dipryl, a spun-bond fabric similar to Lutradur.

Marian Jazmik “Beyond the Surface”

Catherine Kaufman aka the “Woolly Queen” is a Feltmaker working with locally sourced fleece which she needle felts to create life size sculptures celebrating the female form. It was the scale, and again the colour scheme, that made this exhibit stand out for me. Also hearing how the figures are worked on at home on her kitchen table! Catherine begins by making a wire armature which she then covers with fleece. I felt the most powerful figure was Rapunzel and, learning that the hair for this figure was Catherines first attempt at spinning, I’ve been inspired to have a go myself!

Rapunzel by Catherine Kaufman
Catherine Kaufman

Daisy Collingridge explores the potential of the human body and celebrates its physicality through her textile sculptures. The human form is so unbelievably varied, despite us all being built from the same components. Daisy has a strong fascination with human endeavour and the extremes the human form can take, dictated through genetics and choice.  These soft sculptures came from a desire to push the traditional craft of quilting to the extreme. The technique used is no longer recognisable as quilting in the traditional sense but the fundamental idea of sandwiching fabric is the same.

Daisy Collingridge

The figurative work has a grotesque element and body image and body transformation are obvious narratives through which to view her work. Each piece is a “body suit” and as part of the installation viewers can watch a film of the figures in action.

The Artists in Action area is always an interesting space with Textile artists and Feltmakers creating their work and demonstrating to the public. It was nice to meet Lizzie Houghton and watch how she creates her beautiful hats.

Artists in Action – Lizzie Houghton

Angie Hughes, one of my favourite Textile Artists, was also there demonstrating surrounded by samples of her beautiful work.

Artists in Action – Angie Huges
Vivienne Morpeth

In a different part of the hall I came across Vivienne Morpeth, a fellow Lincolnshire Feltmaker who specialises in fabulous Nuno felted garments.

Vivienne Morpeth – Nuno detail

CQ London, a subgroup of The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles, have been meeting since 2017 in Camden Town, London. It is an eclectic group, whose members possess a wide range of skills and interests. This was their debut exhibition and it consisted of two themes, London and Notan, a Japanese design technique featuring positive and negative shapes in a harmonious balance of light and dark. The following two quilts were standout pieces for me. The Southbank building was instantly recognisable and very dramatic in its simplicity. The fabric was painted with acrylics before bonding and stitching.

Southbank 14 by Sabi Westoby

City Textures by Connie Gilham was another favourite. Depicting St Paul’s, Roman walls and the Thames it was created using painted and dyed silks, cottons and sheers, again a very striking image.

City Textures by Connie Gilham

On a smaller scale, but equally beautiful, were these exhibits in the Embroiderers Guild area. Out on Tiles won the Beryl Dean Award for best hand stitching.

“Out on the tiles with a crumb of comfort” by Patricia Blinco

Alyssa Robinson won the Val Campbell-Harding prize for best machine stitching.

Alyssa Robinson

This piece by Jane Dexter titles Wood Grains was also one of my favourites.

“Wood Grains” by Jane Dexter

This is just a tiny snapshot of the show, there was so much more and I came away with my head full of inspiration and my bag full of goodies! If you live in the UK and haven’t been it’s well worth a visit if you get the chance.

More from the Knitting & Stitching Show in London

More from the Knitting & Stitching Show in London

The last time I wrote I shared some of the artwork I loved at the Knitting & Stitching Show. This time I’m sharing a bit more, with a special focus on my favourite artist this year.

*** Please note: this post will have verbal references to eating disorders in the context of an art exhibit, which some might find triggering; none of the artwork has any explicit imagery related to this mental health issue. ***

Remember Libby Vale, the artist with the “Ironing Bored” in my last post? She also created a doll that reflected our modern human self-absorption. Note the bag full of Stuff You Don’t Really Need in the her hand. This doll was posable and each day would look different.

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I love seeing textile art in 3D so these textures drew me in. I forgot to record who made them.

The next artwork reminds me of Zed’s creations. Do you agree?

More 3D art. I’m always drawn to wire creations, they look so ethereal.

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Now comes the exhibit that touched me the most. As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder in her teens, this was very powerful to me. The work of Caren Garfen gives voice to her former self and to those who can see themselves reflected in her words and creation.

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This size 0 dress tells the story of Anna. It was painstakingly stitched with human hair.

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A reflection of mood.

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The angry voices of the loved ones who don’t know how to deal with an invisible illness

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Caren created a dollhouse reflecting the mood of an anorexic. Everything inside it has a relation to eating. In the middle sits the artist, underweight, with a food-related unfinished artwork, looking lost.

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Finally, a piece of her handmade patchwork blanket. Knowing when to ask for help is what people with a mental illness struggle the most.

I hope you enjoyed this post, even if the last theme was a little heavy. Art isn’t just about the positive side of life, and its role needs to also be one of awareness about what surrounds us. If sometimes you feel you’re struggling – you’re not alone.

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