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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!

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.

One of my favourite ways to work is with a gelatin plate for mono-printing.

The process itself is messy-fun and the result, although not always what you expected to get, is always something interesting and useable.

When we’d been to Amsterdam a few years back, I did a lots of gelatin plate printing of the cute houses found there.

You can make effective stencils by cutting photographs directly – the gloss coated paper is great for this kind of printing.

I like to sew and applique into these prints to add details, further colour and visual texture and interest. But you can print effectively onto paper or fabric and they are a great source for any printmaker, scrapbooker or artist who might like to print and use texture, pattern or imagery to paint with, collage with or work further into with textile treatments.

If that’s got your interest and you’re within reach of MAC Birmingham then I am running a gelatin plate printing class on Thursday June 21st – tickets here.

If not then have a ‘google’ and give it a go – it’s a lot of fun 🙂

 

 

I have a ta-dah for you today – a tablecloth I hand-printed recently.

One reason I like to keep blogging is to record such things – when I looked back to see when I started my Fish project, I was surprised to see the date on the upload was May 2017. It takes a long time for some ideas to percolate and evolve and then actually get made.

You can find the beginning of my Fish sketchbook workings here and here although the actual inspiration came back in Summer 2016 whilst on holiday in France when I saw a lovely tablecloth in Fragonard.

I’m very lucky to have the best p/t job freelancing at MAC Birmingham the most brilliant arts center.

And sometimes I can use the space which I needed to for this big print job.

As you can see, the following day I wasn’t so fortunate and was squeezed onto the floor of my studio at home!

It took about 20 hours to print using around 10 colours so I won’t be going into production anytime soon but it’s important to art-play as it releases surprising creative avenues.

And it did – 6 fishy themed surface pattern designs got designed last week to go to market. Now wo’betide anyone who spills red wine on it!

 

 

 

 

Jo Smith

These photos are from a recent exhibition by Prism on at the RBSA (which has sadly now ended) but I wanted to share them none-the-less.

Dorothy Tucker

Called ‘Another View’ it aimed to demonstrate just how broad Textiles can be and it delivered on that and some – it was both ingenious and thoughtful.

 

Claire Blackburn

Members of this Textile group are international but until now their exhibitions have been London-centric  – and it was so refreshing to see Textiles on at the RBSA and to see such a considered, well curated, quality exhibition.

Susie Vickery

The range of applications was very wide but I am always drawn to colour, pattern, stitch and print.

Prism felt

And the thought and development behind a lot of the pieces was very inspiring – lots of inspiration to be had.

Maria Boyle

MAC Birmingham also has two Textile exhibitions running atm so it’s a good time to be a proud Birmingham textile-lover!

Anita Bruce

Angela, this one is just for you 🙂 Thanks for asking 😉

Some more snippets from the pages of my Fish Sketchbook (see previous post) showing bits of pattern exploration, a little painting, rust dying, block printing, collage, string printing, applique and free motion embroidery.

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I’ve been Spring cleaning of late – you know all those little jobs that you put off but need resolving eventually. So I’ve cleared and filed my desktop…dating back two years! collated all my pattern designing files into one place which was a major task and I’m making inroads into clearing out iphoto.

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Which has prompted me to show you what i’ve been working away at over the last few months alongside other painting and design work.

Every 3 months I get a new group investigating textiles at MAC and I like to have a theme to demonstrate the techniques to and to show how you can develop ideas along an idea.

I was inspired by all things fishy when we were in the South of France in the summer and so that was my theme with my last group.

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Above is a demo of open screen direct dye printing – fish scale style.

It’s always good to play around in a sketch book and I generate so many samples that I find it helpful to theme them into a book.

Students seem to appreciate looking at them and getting their own ideas of what to do.

And I love looking at students sketchbooks – one of the best things about textiles is that there is always something new to try or a new way of seeing or applying a technique.

We use a wide range of approaches in Mixed Media Textiles at MAC Birmingham and so I set myself the task of including a piece of all those techniques into one final piece.

An underwater scene lent itself nicely to the many layers of textile applications.

Hope you had an enjoyable Bank Holiday weekend whatever you were doing x

Over the last few weeks I’ve been inspired to have a go at making a lampshade.

It’s based upon the woods that we live opposite from and can see from our front windows and it’s also where we walk the dog everyday, so of course she features too!

I began by measuring (and measuring again) and making a patchwork textile picture of the right proportions for the shade using colours to suggest the passing of the seasons and some of my favourite rare Liberty scraps.

Then I lino-printed the trees on (regretted using a dark purple but it was too late) and then the fun and time-consuming part was to embellish it with embroidery.

I tried to make the trees show the movement from Spring through to Summer and through to Winter as the shade curls around.

I used French Knots for blossom, diamond-shaped leaves and couching with the bobbin thread.

And of course a bit of free-motion machine embroidery with my new toy*

Still reflecting on what colour to keep the lamp base but I’m pleased to have tried this and it’ll be a whole lot easier now another time – watch this space!

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I get to dream up lots of fun projects for kids and adults alike as part of my job at MAC which in turn challenges me to keep things fresh, re-visit techniques long forgotten or delve in and learn new ones.

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And as a part of my Mixed Media Textiles teaching, I played around with some potato printing which I hadn’t done for as long as I can remember.

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It’s often the simple, childish things that are the most fun to do but can be brought to a new level as an adult.

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One thing I’ve rediscovered is my love of drawing with threads – either by hand or free-machine stitching. It’s just another form of colouring in and mark-making.

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And all of that play has got developed into a one-day course Print, Sew, Make on Dec 15th where you can use simple fabric printing methods and stitch and leave with a drawstring bag if you like.

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