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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

When we visited Asia last year I was so inspired and awed by the new-to-me culture and decoration of Buddhist and Taoist religious spaces; in particular the use and construction of a variety of temple hangings.

I have had these hangings in mind as I am working my way through all kinds of delicious inspiration from those travels. This first completed hanging is a bringing together of all kinds of interpretation and methods of print and stitch.

I began painting this beautiful illuminated manuscript from the Islamic Arts Museum in Malaysia in a simplified way by isolating the little scalloped shape and flower.

I then developed that into a printable silk screen using flour and water paste – a very simple and easy homespun method.

As you can generally only use the screen once (the paste deteriorates as its washed clean) I printed up a stash of luscious fabrics to use, overprinting one particularly yummy fabric that I had previously batiked and tie-dyed.

I chose to stitch the flowers into each shape rather than hand-print them as I was looking to add texture and colour to the surface. The rectangular bottom section features a simple floral lino-block I developed from drawing embroidery motifs on items in the Textile Museum in Kuala Lumpur.

The elephant print began life as a teaching demonstration for how to using screen filler to screen-print hand-drawn images. I re-drew a section of this beautiful wall decoration from the Wat Chaiya Mangalaram, a Thai Buddhist Temple in George Town using drawing fluid. It is later coated in another filler and later the drawing lines are washed out leaving the space as printable mesh (I don’t have of photo of that – sorry)

Here it is printed onto a randomly dyed base fabric and I added some fabric foiling too (another demo).

I lived with the pieces up on my design wall for a while, visually editing it and adding in sequin trim and a fantastic gold dangly bit I’d squirralled away sometime. I decide to learn a stitch called Cretan Insertion to attach the gold ribbon to the bottom seam and I think it finished it off perfectly.

Now to re-group and begin the cycle again.

This will be my final post showing all the work I completed as Artist in Residence at Winterbourne House & Gardens. This post features the Textile work that I’ve done – not the printed pieces or pattern designs which I’ve already showed you but the embroidery pieces.

These may have started life as printed textiles which were then embellished with stitch but they have come to life as either hand or machine embroidered works of art.

I had grand plans to do much more; Margaret Nettlefold (one of the original home owners) was very fond of needlework herself and so it was very in keeping to follow this line of response.

However if you’ve ever done any embroidery yourself, you’ll know how time consuming it is. The chair featured here is an old oak chair from WH&G and emulates the chair seat cover that Margaret herself made which is on show in the house.

And so that ends this chapter of work for me. It has challenged and inspired me as an artist.

I can’t remember having such a long-standing project before which is a lesson in pace and stamina in itself.

It’s been a real treat to have had this opportunity and whilst I could still do it all again and find I haven’t enough time, I am also complete and ready to focus on new inspiration to work from.

The first print design I made back in Spring 2019 as part of my Residency at Winterbourne HG is also the last I have to show you here.

I had been quietly sketching in the Walled Garden when a mouse felt brave enough to leave one bed, cross the grass and dive into another just to my side.

That mouse made it into the print as did the flowers and birds that I observed around the site at the time.

It’s been test printed up in a number of colour-ways by heat-press transfer printing and screen-printed by hand after I’d exposed a screen but ultimately the details are so fine that it’s only got digital printing in it’s future.

It nearly got birthed as wrapping paper for the shop but in the end the margins for production on it weren’t viable – such is the life of a designer; making by hand is the most satisfying and sometimes also the least! But it remains a firm favourite of mine and I hope one day it can show the world it’s charm.

This time last year a part of Winterbourne Garden was a riot of tall Poppies. It makes me a little sad to think that they are there again this year and we can’t get to see them.

Poppies are a favourite flower of mine to interpret; there’s just something satisfying to my eye about the shape of the flower – and they’re my favourite colour.

They also lend themselves very easily as a shape which is easily translatable into a screen-print stencil.

I was playing around with the translucency of the printing ink by adding in more binder to ‘thin’ the colour (a little like adding water to paint to dilute it)

I was happily printing and drying, printing and drying… when 6 HOURS later I dropped a dirty squeegee on the corner of it destroying the perfect print.

I had to walk away and leave it for a bit to think about how I could save it.  I used freezer paper stencils to finish the center of the flowers but added to the conundrum by using an ink which was very opaque (too much so) which spoilt the effect somewhat.

It sat in a pile in my studio for months. Many times I thought of putting it away for other uses but the colours and shapes just wouldn’t detach from desire to save it.

Eventually, having woken one day in a decisive mood, I cut (cropped) it heavily; fitting it to a pillow infill I had and then put some embroidery stitches to work to enhance the flower centers which needed sharpening visually.

And now I love it and am so glad I saw it through. Here’s to pererverance.

Screen printing is one of my reasons for living. There is something delicious to me about flattening imagery into printable shapes. Add-in some effects which bring texture and then layer up colours over one another and it all becomes a joyful alchemy!

I’ve drawn many images while being Artist-in-Residence at Winterbourne Gardens theses past 18 months – too many to actually use to complete all the designs in my head- but Foxgloves came to full fruition.

On a very hot July day I sat in the cool shade drawing these humble but beautiful flowers (I also came home inspired to sow Foxglove seeds which are now planted up and days away from flowering here at home)

It occurred to me that a print technique I use which utilises talcum powder as a print resist, would make the perfect replication of the spattering pattern found in the interior of a Foxglove flower.

I cut several stencils to overlay each other so that I could build the plant images in 3 colours through 3 screen pulls of colour. Then at the last minute inspiration struck and I opted to mix the colours directly through the action of flooding the screen with ink, resulting in a swirl of colour.

I will often print and pile-up but this pandemic has afforded me the time to stop and assess work already done rather than continuing on the treadmill of making more. And so the Foxgloves have found a final resting place; a resting place my head will enjoy too.

 

This print Alyssum, is one I’ve developed as part of my Artist in Residence work at Winterbourne House & Gardens, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston.

It began with a painted sketch done on site which was then cleaned up on the computer and digitally altered into a repeating pattern. I also played around with colour options settling for white on a colour background as I felt it best represented the flower itself. Using a sublimation printer, I then printed a piece of heat-transfer paper and printed some fabric using the heat-press.

Then I ran up a cushion and added some bobble trim et le voici!

© ClaireLeggett_finished

Here we are at the end of week 3 COVID-19 quarantine and here’s a Stay Home project to share with you. Sometimes my Textile students can’t always see how to get to the next step of using fabrics they’ve made so I thought I’d do a little tutorial showing the stages of creating a fabric and thread picture for anyone who wants to have a go. You won’t find me making a video so it’s old-school text and photos!

© ClaireLeggett2

First find your inspiration – mine was my lovely Mothers Day gifts this year; a cute vintage Booths jug and some joyus tulips and I knew straight away that I wanted to make an applique and stitch picture of them as they had so many elements that lend themselves nicely to that way of working.

© ClaireLeggett3

1. First up was a good sort out and categorise of the pile of dyed and printed fabrics made during class. I sifted through and found these pieces of dipped-dyed nylon and wet printed screen-printing with talc relief – both the perfect colours and textures to represent the tulip petals.

2. Using a 24-hour-fade fabric marking pen, I sketched the tulip petals imagining the whole petal so that I could layer them over one another to build a Tulip flower later on.

© ClaireLeggett6

3. The nylon fabric needed stabiliser ironed onto the back to strengthen it enough to sew it using the sewing machine. The other fleece fabric didn’t need any extra weigh adding.

© ClaireLeggett7

4. You don’t have to have a sewing machine that can do free-motion machine embroidery, you could just use your forward and reverse functions to layer up lines of stitch to mimic the markings on a Tulip petal. I changed colours a couple of times too.

© ClaireLeggett8

5. Then I spent a few hours hand stitching large running stitches of colour to capture the hi-lights and contrast colours in the petals. I even added a little shiny luxe thread to catch the light and add visual interest.

© ClaireLeggett9

6. For the jug I ironed a lovely old piece of cotton onto some stabiliser and then sketched the outline of the image from the jug.

© ClaireLeggett10

7. Then using the free-motion machine embroidery function of my sewing machine I ‘drew’ over the sketch using indigo thread.

© ClaireLeggett11

8. I won’t lie – the 24hr pen did not fade overnight (never happened before) and so I had to gently wash it out.

© ClaireLeggett12

9. Next up was a root through my bag of fabric again – I found this piece of mono-printed screen-print which was perfect for the tulip leaves.

 To make getting the shape nice and easy, I cut one off the now-nearly-dead tulips.

© ClaireLeggett14

10. All they needed was a few free flowing lines to give the texture of Tulip leaves and I used a variegated green-yellow thread on the sewing machine.

© ClaireLeggett15

11. I played around laying out pieces of fabric that I loved or felt would add a nice contrast as the background until I found the perfect combo – the reverse of a piece of stencilled indigo fabric and a jaunty yellow piece of Shibori pattern.

12. After that it was a question of pinning it all into place and working out which pieces needed stitching onto the backing first and then working up a layer as I sewed. The leaves I did on the sewing machine and the Tulip petals I hand stitched on.

© ClaireLeggett_Tulips

I’m pretty happy with how this has turned out – it’s brightening up my studio and adding some colour to my Easter quarantine.

© ClaireLeggett_finished2

I like the overall colour palette and think the yellow Shibori patterned fabric picks up the yellow of the Tulip petals nicely.

© ClaireLeggett_finished1

If I’ve one gripe its that the jug is a bit large and contributes to making the whole piece tall and thin which might be a problem if you want to frame your work easily and cheaply. I’m using a magnetic poster holder to hang mine and it’s working well.

© ClaireLeggett_finished6

I hope that’s given you some confidence to cut into your own stash of fabrics and have a go. Any questions – do email, I’d be happy to help if I can. Do let me know if you make something and I’d love to see what.

Our trip to Southern Asia earlier this year (here, here, here and here) was rich in visual and cultural inspiration.

I’ve honestly felt a little overwhelmed by how deep and far I could go into this vibrant feast of creative stimulus and output – whether to start with painting or stitch or print. And all the while I’m spinning the other plates of my self-employment as an artist: delivery/teaching and all the admin that it takes to run a small business. It can be distracting and actually difficult to get time to be creative some weeks.

So I just began. One day unceremoniously. Just where I was. No fanfare or special time set aside. I just started. I took off simply by doing a little each day – whatever I had time for.

As I teach screen-printing and mixed media textiles twice a week at MAC, I kicked off this intention by focusing my preparation for these classes on my Asia photos – and I have a lot to choose from as I took nearly 7000! inc duplicates for a better shot – you know? So to make that task less anxiety inducing, I split those into files: Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. I currently haven’t got to the end of the 2.243 photos taken in Malaysia!

So if I was demonstrating cutting a screen-print stencil I based it on a motif from of a beautiful textile in the National Textile Museum in Kuala Lumpur or if I was making an example of free-machine embroidery for my Mixed Media Textiles class I referenced a drawing I’d done from a beautiful silk kimono.

Sometimes that was a basic quick line drawing, other times I had paints out to use. On some evenings I have doodled in front of the TV on my ipad pro – not that I’m especially proficient but it’s a great way to easily draw and digitalise your handwork.

It’s true what they say about ‘a little and often’ –  gradually my pile of Asia work is coming to life.

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”

***

Copyright notice 2020

All images, text, and content on this site are the sole property of Claire Leggett and may not be used, copied or transmitted without the express consent of Claire Leggett.

If you wish to link to this site or to a post from this site, please ask first before doing so and then give appropriate credit for content.

Any other inquiries please email me at hello@claireleggett.co.uk

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