A couple of weeks ago I was in Manchester and made the opportunity to go to The Whitworth Museum to see the Thread Bearing Witness exhibition and it was awesome!

 My first contact with it was through the Stitch a Tree Project where anyone could stitch a small piece of fabric with a tree to show their support for refugees. This project grew from work done in a Dunkirk refugee camp with children using the Tree of Life as a motif to think about strength and resilience.

 

Our stitched tress were collected and stitched together to make a forest as a symbol of support and togetherness for all displaced people around the world. It’s just a photo here but it has a big impact in real life. It makes a statement and in the under-stated way that only fabric, textiles can because it appears so domestic and unthreatening but then you consider the strength of it’s message.

Not a brilliant photo of me but unbelievably one of mine was at eye level so I could spot it! And it meant something to have taken part and put my voice to a chorus.

There were also 3 big panels Sky, Ground, Sea undertaken by Alice Kettle- huge machine embroidered works of art made with refugees contributions in the form of drawings mostly translated into stitch.

 

Big sweeps of stitch and fabric expressing the broad big spaces that refugees have to cross and inhabit to survive.

These can be view in purely aesthetic way as they are simply beautiful pieces layered with lustrous stitches, colours and pattern.

One can also feel good work has been done giving people creative inclusion and opportunity in the workshops that the project supported such as Pipka camp and elsewhere.

But I think the message broader and stronger and more urgent and seen most in Sea.

  This had the biggest impact on me;  this is not just art, occupation, awareness raising –  the floating bodies ethereal in gold thread spoke very clearly of life and death.

The brochure begins with this beautiful writing by Choman Hardi which says it all and says it very beautifully;

“I have come to learn your pain,
fill me up with your words, I have not been gassed, nor imprisoned, nor mothered children to watch them starve or wither away,
don’t know what widowhood feels like.
I have not lived in a shack, nor worked hard in fields to bring food back…

I want to document your suffering, make sure your voice is heard.
I cannot promise redress or direct help.
But I promise to listen with all that I have, stay true to your story, not distort or edit your grief”

***

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When I was in London this week I also went to see the Anni Albers exhibition at Tate Modern.

Anni Albers (1899-1994) was one of the first to move weaving on from being for purely practical purposes to being seen as an art piece for itself.

I found all the technical diagrams as fascinating as the finished pieces.

And enjoyed seeing what can be made with only a few colours when they are manipulated in certain ways.

I loved the hand painted design sketches made in preparation before weaving – just as an artist would sketch a quick study.

And I am determined myself to master some of these twists and turns into actuality.

This piece is almost where weave and embroidery meet and so effective with just 2 colours.

Thoroughly inspired and if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I just started my first big weave pattern so I am stacking up the possibilities now and can’t find weaving-time fast enough!

This week I got one of my much-liked London fixes by popping down to see a couple of exhibitions.

First up was Oceania at the Royal Academy which was equal parts inspiring, educating and humbling.

The show is made up of ethnographic collections dating from the 18th century to the present with a free audio guide explaining the thought behind practises which go much deeper than simply surface decoration or use.

I thought it was a clever idea to look at what else was happening in the world when the RA was being founded… the answer was Captain Cooks discovery of the island civilisations from Tahiti in Polynesia, to the scattered archipelagos and islands of Melanesia and Micronesia – all collectively known as Oceania.

The indigenous populations they met came with their own histories and practices of social and artistic traditions. There is a rather sobering (and very well done) video graphic of the impact European adventurers had on these communities that we are now re-evaluating without the assurity and self righteousness of previous generations.

So there is a lot to wonder at, understand and learn in this exhibition and of course there is always pattern to be found!

I thought I’d just pop in today and update my blog on my first three weeks of residency at the University of Birmingham Winterbourne House and Gardens.

I have been blessed with great weather and tried to make the most of it by painting outside as much as possible.

I have a room on site to call my studio and it leads out onto a flat roof with a magnificent birds-eye view of the walled garden (you can see where in this photo below)

I threw myself in lock, stock and barrel with a huge painting which is taking many hours and many layers to bring to fruition. I find there is a magic to painting outside ‘en plein air’ – the way I perceive colours in the daylight is brighter and more vibrant and I can see other colours in the shadows as the light changes during the day. However good a photograph is it doesn’t beat reading real colours and textures from an actual scene in front of you.

That said I’m not a massive fan of painting at an easel, preferring a desk, and I feel that this piece is about ready for a finial bout of finish which I find easier to achieve at home in the studio on a table.

This was the first piece I finished – the Urban Veg Plot – started above on site and finished from photos. There is so much inspiration around I can barely keep up with all I want to do!

If you like, follow along in real-time on my Artist in Residence Instagram page – click here  -where I post more regularly.

I am absolutely delighted to share the news with you that I am Artist in Residence at the University of Birmingham Winterbourne House and Gardens until May 2020.

 Winterbourne House and Gardens was a charming family home built in 1904 in the Arts and Crafts style. The last family to live in it bequeathed it to the University of Birmingham who used it for accommodation, offices and to teach botany from. In 2006 it got a new lease of life and has gone on to become a Grade II Garden of National Importance and now the house has full museum status. It is a treasure hidden away in the center of urban Birmingham.

 I feel very lucky and privileged to be able to spend the next 18 months walking the public and private paths painting and drawing what I see. I am trying to ease into the project without giving myself too many restraints on what I make of it (painting, patterns, textile work) there is abundant inspiration – but for now I’m seeing where the work leads me by letting the grounds inspire what I do first .

And this was the first little plot that made my heart beat faster – this cute little shed hidden away from public access (unless you study with the RHS) It was used by the BBC for a gardening programme years ago.

Yesterday I sat in the sunshine and got most of this piece sketched in – the hardest part is always beginning, so that’s done now!

My residency will evolve to include all kinds of offerings at Winterbourne during the 18 months and finale with an exhibition in May 2020.

I will be sharing this journey on my new Artist in Residence (artist_winterbournehg)Instagram page : www.instagram.com/artist_winterbournehg/ 

 and also on my personal Instagram page: http://www.instagram.com/claire_leggett/and here on the blog

I’d love you to join with me in this exciting chapter; I will be working on site regularly – so please come up to the studio above the bookshop or say hello if you spot me around the grounds – below is my Artist Statement for good measure.

Claire Leggett Artist in Residence 2018 – 2020_Statement

 

 

 

Yesterday I got to meet my absolute painting hero – Jean B Martin when she did a talk at the opening of her exhibition in the Cotswolds. She has much to teach me as a painter and in real life she is both full of advice and new approaches and also witty and down-to-earth in a unstarry way which doesn’t belie her huge talent.

I discovered her work quite by accident when on holiday years ago – there was a beautiful jewel of a painting propped on the floor waiting to be framed (we were in a frame and exhibition shop)  and we loved it so much we bought it and that was the beginning of my discovery and subsequent adoration.

She also brought along her beautiful charcoal laden sketchbooks and I spent a long time getting grubby fingers and memorizing as much as I could! It was very special and I hope to put some new things into practice really soon.

Currently at the Midlands Art Center, Birmingham, UK is a wonderful Textile exhibition by The 62 Group called Ctrl/Shift. It’s on the theme of changes and shifts in the artists way of working whether that be by using new technology or a change of understanding or personal practice.

The 62 group has become one of the most prestigious Textile groups to be a member of and now has both international membership and a strict activity requirement to stay a member of and in doing so it keeps this prestige.

Here’s a few snaps of just a little of the exhibition.

Joanna Kinnersly-Taylor is an innovative fabric print maker from Glasgow.

Recast represents the change of light and space as you walk through a space.

Sue Stone uses machine or hand embroidered stitches (or a mix) to create amazing textures which are true-to-life of the object represented. She draws on the past and present, often in a portraiture style and her pieces are very close to a drawn/painted image but done with thread, fabric and dye.

Caroline Bartlett is based in the UK and produces tactile works involving pleating and fabric manipulation and which also often incorporate ceramics.

Jane McKeating   is an avid drawer – see her sketchbook film in the artists processes area of the exhibition and her instagram page.

This love of drawing translates through into printed and hand stitched embroidered art.

These pieces are found handkerchiefs which represent aspects of old age pertinent to her own experience of caring for an ageing parent.

They were my favourite pieces – so intricate, patterned and colourful yet sombre and emotive and intricately executed.

Come along and see it all before it closes.

I made the most of the recent sunny weather to do some messy dye projects in the garden.

This is some Shibori fun- the Japanese method of clamping and twisting fabric prior to dying.

It is so simple but effective but in the past it hasn’t always delivered the results hoped for until this time when the sun rendered me more patient than usual!

I’m planning some projects of things to make and stitch with these beautiful fabrics if I can bear to cut into them.

A week ago today we were soaking up the sunshine in Giverny, France, visiting Monet’s house and garden.

I think it’s a sign of ageing that I enjoy the nostalgia of a place such as this,

that and it’s cute, old world french-ness.

He lived here for forty-three years from 1883 to 1926 and I love theres still the sense that (however romantic and untrue it may be!) that he just sat here, or ate there…


The original house was very small and Monet enlarged it on both sides making it not very deep but very wide, which is kind of nice as there are now lots of windows all looking onto the garden.

The barn next to the house was adapted to become his studio although it was mostly for storage as he painted in the open air.

Above it’s the product of patience – below the reality! People everywhere.

Monet chose all the colours in the house and particularly wanted the blue kitchen to show through to the yellow dining room.

If you visit and happen to arrive when the queue to look around the house is small, then my advice is do it before the garden. We couldn’t resist the garden first and ended up with a long hot queue in the sun.

Hope you’ve enjoyed an armchair tour – here’s some fun facts I happened across if you want more 🙂

 

This past weekend we nipped over to Normandy, France to visit Monet’s garden in Giverny.

It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for years and HB had a spontaneous moment of birthday gifting and made it happen.

I’d heard a lot before I went about how small it was, how many visitors crammed in to see it, how it was the wrong season for this and that…

Some of that may be true – here’s a ‘truth’ photo of the constant crowds getting the bridge shot!

But generally I found that most people seemed to be storming around as they only had limited time on their coach/cruise ship excursion and so if you just linger and wait a quiet spot does open up around you.

The planting is unbelievable – whether you’re a gardener or a painter (or neither!) you can’t fail to appreciate it.

The borders are planted up in great long swathes of tonal groups – all yellows, reds and oranges or pinks or a quiet harmony of all-white plants.

It’s hard to get a really good photo of that as you are only allowed to walk the perimeter paths and not actually in and through the garden.

To get to the water lilies you use an under-the-road tunnel as Monet bought a plot of land across the road from the house and garden and landscaped it.

It’s much quieter in both its planting and because of the tranquility that all the water brings.

You can also paint in the gardens after hours Mon – Fri (not the weekends) by buying an artists pass at the ticket booth on the day you want to paint – buy the ticket between 5/5.30pm and then wait for the gardens to close and go back in after 6pm till 8pm.

If you want details I think the press office was the best source of information (details here)

It’s also worth knowing I think, that even if you print out your e-ticket and take it with you still have to stand in queue to go through with all those buying their tickets at the door. We had  a false sense of security that we would get flagged through an express queue -no! so we were glad we’d gone early on in the day.

I’ll do a another post showing the house soon.

Copyright notice 2015

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