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Last weekend I visited the Britta Marakatt-Labba exhibition at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. I went expecting to enjoy it but also came away really touched by the deep, unwavering meaning woven into the creation of the pieces and by the obvious beautifulness of the work.

Marakatt-Labba creates “embroidered resistance” art using embroidery to illustrate stories of Sami culture and mythology. The work appears gentle, the materials soft but the stories they tell and the meaning of the pieces is strong, critical and with deep roots.

These pieces use stitches and thread (as line and pen) to illustrate and speak out against colonialism, environment issues and the loss of Sami indigenous lands and ways of life and Sami traditions.

Embroidery is not the first medium you’d maybe think to use for protest art but that is actually where the power in it lies – it catches you unsuspecting through its beautiful and gentle crafting but presents a clear and dissenting message against unfair state management and offences against Sami populations.

Marakatt-Labba grew up in a Sámi administrative unit in Lainiovuoma, Finland and experienced racism and being treated at ‘other’ from a very young age. She has been embroidering these protest pieces with conviction for the last 40 years and we are only now finding her work in the wider world. I find that type of belief and unswerving commitment to ones own style and deep meaning to create, really inspiring.

In addition the work is exquisite – the use of materials is paired back to those that best represent the chosen theme so there is stitch, applique, screen printing, couching and cutwork but used only when it’s the best choice to do so and not as part of a cacophony of methods fighting for attention.

It switched me on to embroider better, use textile processes with more clarity, to become more knowledgable about past & present Sami culture and the impact of colonialism and to be happy staying in my lane creating my work as authentic to me with Britta Marakatt-Labba (now in the 70’s) as a role model.

Back in May I finished my Artist in Residency at Winterbourne House & Gardens but was unable to hold an exhibition of all the work I’d completed due to the pandemic. Life is moving on and although Winterbourne is now open again, it has been reorganised and any possible exhibition still looks a long way off.
So I have set up the work at home and filmed it. It’s part exhibition of works (paintings, print, textiles and embroidery) and part artists talk where I tell you some stories behind the paintings or processes I have used.
I hope you might have a watch – it’s on YouTube here and it’s completely free to view.
I have updated my website to show all the work and a lot of the products I had made which were destined for sale in the shop during the run of my exhibition, if you fancy taking a look www.claireleggett.co.uk

The Tutors Exhibition at macbirmingham is in it’s last week closing on

On Saturday 18th May 2019 The Tutors Exhibition  – at macbirmingham opens and in it will be one of my pattern design pieces and products – would you like to hear the story of how it came about?

I recently watched The Creative Brain on Netflix, which advocated the importance of open-ended play for creativity to blossom and this, is very much a story of that process too.

It all began with a painting I did one afternoon where I textured up a piece of watercolour paper with a lovely deckled edge and then overlaid white paint leaving the negative space to describe birds flying. And that was it – that piece of creativity sparked something else and off I went down that rabbit hole leaving this painting in the plan-chest drawer for a few months.

Then by a series of serendipitous events I found myself a member of the wonderful SteamhouseUK community where I get to play about with the most amazing array of machines and learn techniques and processes that have been invented since I was last in college.

Sublimation printing (or dye sublimation printing as it is sometimes also known) is the process of transferring images onto a fabric (or other substrate) using a heat-press to print the image. At macbirmingham we have a heat-press and we use disperse dyes to paint and print onto paper which can then be heat-pressed onto fabric (if you think that sounds fun come along to my Tues afternoon class and have a go!)

But I had never hoped to ever have access to using an actual Sublimation printer until now! In this case the disperse dyes are in the printer ink cartridges and the computer sends your image to print onto heat resistant paper in wide format.

At Steamhouse the heat-press can print onto fabric up to 175cm in width. The heat-press technique is also great for capturing textures in designs onto fabric. The Tutors show was coming up. All this got me thinking what could I make with the size of fabric that I could print to exhibit for the show?

One morning I woke up with the answer ringing clearly in my mind and it didn’t take long to make it a reality – I’m single-minded like that sometimes – use the Swifts painting to make a pattern and construct a kimono!

The pattern had to be cut down the back and re-seamed in order for all the pieces to fit one at a time into the heat-press for printing and the Swifts pattern was easy enough to put into technical repeat using Photoshop so that I could use the sublimation printer to print an all over repeating pattern.

After that it was a steady job to sew it all together nicely including a partial lining so it looked good hanging up for exhibition.

If you’re local and can make it to MAC to see the show ( – Tues – Sun, 11am – 5pm, First Floor Gallery) you’ll see that kimono hanging on the wall and who knows, after the exhibition is over I may even wear it 😉

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