I have a thing about spirals; I’ve been collecting spiral images for as long as I can remember, many of them in a sketchbook dating back to 2002, but for far longer than that: ammonites, periwinkles, new ferns, wrought iron gates, staircases, fractals....
Did you spot the spiral of stones that crept into the blog a couple of weeks ago? I didn’t know at the time what this week’s blog was going to be, I can’t help it, I’m just drawn to them. And I have my own stone spiral, which I made long before I discovered Kettle’s Yard.
Courses and workshops at InStitches are all about building up people’s confidence in their abilities and one of the things that many people are often really underconfident about is the D-word!
People can’t draw: or at least that’s what they think.
But actually, we can all draw. We can all make marks on paper (did you have a go at the mark-making challenge in #institchescreative2020 week one?). As children we made marks on paper without thinking about what they looked like or whether they were realistic, and without listening to that inner critic. When did we lose that?
Musicians do it; mindfulness practitioners do it; we all do it in so many aspects of our lives (our morning routine, walking the dog, taking the kids to school) – so a daily art or stitch practice is not such an odd concept.
Many people find that at times of high stress or extremely busy periods their creative juices dry up – usually just at the time when we need them most! Daily practice is a simple, non-threatening way of getting back into creativity again.
I've waited and waited for this exhibition to come to the UK after seeing it featured on a friend's Instagram feed last year (she'd seen it in Paris) and this Monday was an ideal opportunity for a mother-and-daughter day out! Unfortunately, I'd forgotten it was half term but even a 50 minute wait in the members queue did nothing to dampen our enthusiasm and eventual enjoyment.
The V&A exhibition spans from 1947 to the present day, and traces the history and impact of one of the 20th century's most influential couturiers, exploring the enduring influence of the fashion house, and Dior’s relationship with Britain.
And because it was a V&A exhibition you were allowed to photograph and encouraged to share....so here's some of my favourites: enjoy!
Some of the designs from Dior who came after the untimely death of Christian had a more challenging focus. I wonder what he would have thought? Colourful yes, but wearable and flattering? Not always!
One of my favourite rooms (and there are many in this exhibition) was the one based on the atelier. The simplicity and clean line of the calico toile was stunning.
Dior designed the whole look and an important aspect was millinery .
Could this be the perfect hat for me I wonder?
The penultimate room is one for you to linger in. Walk round, admire the dresses and then sit and enjoy the light show. A magical end to a truly stunning, and unmissable, exhibition.
The V&A exhibition runs until 14th July but, except for a very limited number of daily tickets, is sold out. However I am sure that, due to the popularity of the exhibition, its run will be extended. More information can be found over on the V&A website. And of course, if you are a member you can visit the exhibition free at anytime - if you don't mind standing in the queue!
Hazel & Terry (who's a bit miffed at not going...)
Regular readers of the blog will know that a couple of weeks ago I'd tried, and got waylaid, to see the Tate Modern's new exhibition on weaver Anni Albers. However, a dreary Monday this week was a good a day as any to rectify this so I hopped the train up to London and visit the exhibition; in fact it was the perfect day (trains cancelations not withstanding) because Monday afternoons in mid November look to be very quiet days in Tate Modern.
I spent 5 years learning to weaving when I lived in Finland in the 1990's; rugs, runners, bags and wall hangings, I've had a crack at them all, and one of my hand woven bags is still in regular use 25 years on! Last Christmas I also very lucky to received Anni Albers' seminal book, On Weaving (confession: I look at the photographs rather than read the words...)and so I was more than a little intrigued to see how Tate Modern would portray this artist and her work.
The first thing to note is that this isn't just an exhibition of Anni Albers' work but rather an examination of her process as a designer, artist and teacher. It charts the way she transformed weaving from the domestic to a medium for art, design and architecture.
Anni Albers had enrolled as a student at the Bauhaus, Germany in the 1920's and after a general preliminary course was required to chose a specialised workshop. But despite the ideals of equality at the Bauhaus, women were not actively encourage to join some classes, however weaving became a popular class for women, so much so it became known as 'the women's workshop'. Anni Albers said that she 'went into weaving unenthusiastically, as merely the least objectionable choice' but 'gradually threads caught my imagination'.
When I read that I knew instantly what she meant: a passion born.
Not Anni's loom, but a replica and just like the one I used to learn how to weave. To see what is involved watch this short video, How to weave like Anni Albers made by the Tate in collaboration with weaver Rosa Pearks.
The designs for weaving needed to be meticulously planned and calculated before the loom could be warped with the required number and colours of threads. These grid-like designs were painted in water colour using four or more different tones and were exercises in colour theory.
Artist, Paul Klee taught at the Bauhaus but Anni Albers said that she was more influenced by his paintings than by his teaching! Following Klee's exercises in composition and colour and tonal variation combined with his mixing of layers of watercolour on paper influenced Albers's own designs.
I was so taken by these studies made on the typewriter (remember those??!) that once home I was straight upstairs rummaging around until I found my ancient one, blew the dust off and started pounding the keys.
Now there's an exercise workout for the fingers; quite forgotten how much effort is required to thump the keys down. Oddly satisfying though, it has to be noted... Now, where can I get a new ribbon from?
Unlike so many exhibitions these days, photograph was allowed in this exhibition so it's very tempting to wander around snapping away. But here's my advice: if you only have the one chance to visit the exhibition, put the camera/phone away: weaving isn't a process to be rushed and neither is this exhibition. Take the time to explore Anni's creative world, marvel at her use of colour and development of techniques
and then sit in quiet contemplation of the Ark Panels woven by her in 1962 for Temple B'nai Israel, Woonsocket, Rhode Island. After all, you'll need all the stillness and calm you can get before the madness that is Christmas arrives next month!
Besides which, there's plenty of merchandise outside the backdoor waiting to tempt you. Alternatively why not ask Father Christmasoppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppl (heee, hee, hee: Betty cat has just jumped on the keyboard to embrace her inner Anni....) for a Tate membership so you can visit this and many other exhibitions (in all the Tate Galleries up and down the country) as many times as you want, without booking or queuing?
The Anni Albers exhibition is on from now until 27th January. See you there (again!)
Hazel & Terry
Does this happen to you? You finally admit it’s now autumn, cold enough to warrant a proper coat being worn, and on putting a hand in the pocket you find your fingers caressing one of last year’s conkers. You then also realise it’s time to start lashing on the hand-cream and wearing gloves - looking at my dry hand I realise I should have started that regime a while ago!
This week Debbie Lyddon has been teaching her Exploring Place workshop in the studio and one of the things students have been doing is collecting and recording things found on their local morning walk.
Outside the studio there are huge oak trees so there are plenty of acorns,
down the lane pheasant feathers were found
and, of course, conkers were everywhere!
But what to do with all these things we collect?
Debbie has made a series of vessels
While the grasses were twisted and woven into a series of small balls.
Terry walks and collects too, usually by the sea.
Usually, Terry records what she finds, such as the lovely sea glass above.
But, sometimes Terry isn't able to actually 'collect' the items she finds, like the beautiful ammonite pavement on Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis. That's where carrying a camera and a small sketchbook comes in handy and back in the studio she was able to do a series of studies on paper, from which a thermofax screen was made. The quilt, above right, shows where this screen was used to discharge a piece of hand dyed fabric.
The line of oyster shells were 'drawn-without-looking' and eventually became a free motion quilting design which Terry has used several times, above is Walking on the beach and below they feature on one of the long Narrative: walking strips.
Look carefully and you will find other images of collected items!
More of Terry's work can be found on her website.
Are you a collector of random 'stuff'? If you are do tell us what you collect and how you use it in your creative practice.
Hazel & Terry
Yesterday we had a day out in London, first to catch the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A and then we headed over to the Tate Modern to hear the curators talk about the newly opened Anni Albers exhibition. It wasn't raining, so we decided to walk from Blackfriars Station, across the Millennium Bridge, to the Tate.
And quite a nice walk it was too. I always like crossing the Thames on that bridge, it gives you a marvellous opportunity to stop and look at London - with out being mown down by traffic.
But how many of you ever look down and see where you are actually walking? I don't usually, but today I did and I'm glad, because I found something really quite amazing, and puzzling.
I've been over the bridge many times before, but never spotted them; have you? They're all over the entire span.
So there we both were, staring at the floor and wondering what they were, and more to the point, who had put them there. Was it some subversive form of advertising, a promotion for a Tate event or a new form of lovers declaration (remember the locks on bridges?)?
Then I spotted this chap, so I asked him - 'is it you who does these?' And do you know what? - it was! How about that? Apparently he works all over the world making street art, so what were the chances that we'd see him today? Pretty slim I'd say!
Chewing-Gum Man is actually Ben Wilson, an outsider artist. He creates tiny, and often intricate works of art by painting chewing gum that's stuck to the pavement, or in this case, a bridge. Ben creates work out of other's discarded rubbish all over the world, from London to Helsinki via the USA and Serbia.
His art hasn't always made him very popular with the authorities, but he's not breaking any law because he's not defacing private property but merely painting rubbish! There's lots about him on t'internet if you Google him, I'm quite late to the party it seems!
And the Anni Albers exhibition?
We never saw it, by the time we finally reach the Tate Modern the gallery had shut. So that treat will have to wait for another day!
Hazel & Terry
If you went to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC or The South West Quilt and Textile Show in Bristol you may have joined us on one of our ‘take two stitches’ workshops, where we explored the potential of just two stitches - the straight stitch and a French knot.
This lady enjoyed the class in 2017 and had brought her sampler with her this year to show me and to buy some more of our thread so she could finish it. When I asked her what it was she had enjoyed so much she said it was having the encouragement to start and the inspiration to continue; she enjoyed the slow rhythm and peace that hand stitching brings.
Terry also enjoys hand stitching and often combines it with machine stitch and this year two of my quilts featured dense hand stitching.
My Contemporary Quilt ‘InPrint’ entry ‘Pink Floyd, this way’ and
my entry for The Fine Art Quilt Master, ‘the space between the moments’ both featured a lot of freestyle cross stitch to build up layers of texture to suggest a decaying old wall (Pink Floyd) and pine trees and snow ( Moments). Like the lady who came to show me her sampler, I too find this type of hand stitching very contemplative and soothing: I have to slow my mind and develop a different rhythm.
Through the winter evenings I can sometimes even be found knitting woolly socks on 4 bamboo needles - got to have something pretty to keep those toes warm! Knitting is rhymical and soothing too - and given their size I have a good chance of finishing them as well!
I always like to keep some hand stitching on the go as well, this little blue study was done on a piece of vintage table linen. Can you spot the exquisite darn in the middle? It was that which inspired me to join in with #1yearofstitches2017 over on Instagram.
I kept the daily hand stitching up for a good few months, even as I cycled round the Mekong Delta and Myanmar. Obviously not while I was actually cycling, but when I was having my restorative G&T in the evening! I always mean to keep an art journal when I go off on my adventures but some how it never happens, but last year the stitching did. Secretly in my room at first (I didn’t know what my fellow travellers would think) but then down in the bar and at the dinner table whilst we were waiting. I needn’t have worried - everyone was fascinated and as the days went by the whole group were keen to ensure not one event went unrecorded in stitch! By the time I came home I had a whole stitched account of my 3 week adventure on two wheels.
This autumn the socks are coming along at a pace so I’m thinking that I’ll need another hand stitch project. I don't have a quilt on the go at the moment, but like a pianist I need to keep up with my daily practice, so I’ve looked out some stitch books for inspiration,
collected my hand sewing equipment,
and started to select my threads. I thinking a piece of vintage table cloth or maybe some old linen for the fabric, I’ll need to have a rummage through my stash in the morning.
Or I might continue stitching on this. I put this together a couple of years ago from an off cut of wool wadding and some of our cotton fabric from the studio. It’s a couple of metres long already, so I could piece on another section and carry on! I intended it as a stitch sampler, a place to try out new combinations and threads, but sometimes I struggle to come up with something different.
Which is why I’m really excited to be welcoming Richard McVetis into the InStitches Studio this autumn. Richard is a British artist known for his meticulously embroidered drawings and sculptures and his artistic practice centres on his training as an embroiderer through the use of traditional hand stitch techniques and mark making.
If you feel inspired to pick up needle, thread and fabric why not come and join us on the 12th and 13th November? If you want to know more about the two days then take a look at the workshop Richard has planned for us. All you need to bring is your hand sewing kit - all the other materials are provided as well as homemade biscuits with morning coffee, a delicious light seasonal lunch and a pot of tea and a slice of homemade cake before you head off home after a day of creative stitching. What are you waiting for? Come and join us, I for one can't wait!
Hazel & Terry
By now you will have seen or read about the huge galleries of Nancy Crow’s experiments with monoprint in thickened dye on fabric. The scale and sheer determination was arresting and I particularly liked the effect of the massed pieces and those with a wonderful sense of depth.
But we’re going to show you glimpses of some of the smaller galleries. First of all, a disclaimer!: as we were very busy on our stand for the four days these photos have been snapped quickly on a phone, and are just intended to give a flavour of the incredible work involved. We’d certainly recommend that you follow the orange links to the artists’ websites or visit their exhibitions elsewhere if you get the chance.
The Button Box by unFOLD took inspiration from the book of the same name by Lynn Knight and explored different aspects of women’s lives and their changing role in society over time, an apt subject for the centenary year of women’s suffrage. The works, all thought-provoking, sometimes appearing frivolous, highlighted a serious message and evoked powerful memories and feelings of nostalgia, complete with Grannie’s button box to riffle through.
The gallery was dominated by Christine Chester’s piece #neverthelessshepersisted, illustrating the distance walked in one working week by a fustian worker in the 19th century (91 miles – the equivalent of Manchester to Stoke-on-Trent and back). I didn’t know what fustian was till I spoke to Christine: apparently it was a fabric similar to corduroy, woven with looped ridges in the weft thread (up to 40 ridges per inch across the width) and once woven women had to cut the loops and raise the nap by hand by walking up and down the length of the cloth laid on an extremely long (up to 150 yards) table. I think Christine said that the length of thread she used represents the miles walked, with red bars for significant distances (sorry Christine if you’re reading this, I’ve forgotten exactly what you said!).
Sara Heatherly’s pieces reflected the early years of the 20th century, and the journey from ‘never being me’ to achieving the vote via suffragettes and munitions factories. Other artists explored the importance of maintaining appearances in the days before modern toiletries and cosmetics, marketing aimed at women and using the mending as an excuse not to come to bed! In all a diverse and entertaining gallery on many levels, and one of my show favourites.
A complete contrast, but another of my favourites was Alexandra Kingswell’s More than the Sum gallery. Alex is a former graphic designer who loves numbers, pattern and colour, successfully combining them all into her bright, uplifting, geometric pieces. Based on specific numbers or mathematical sequences such as Pi (the number we all encounter in maths when calculating the area of a circle - an infinite string of never-repeating digits, starting 3.14159265.... ) and Fibonacci’s sequence (1,1,2,3,5,8,13 etc - each number being the sum of the previous two), she makes herself increasingly complex sets of rules governing fabric selection and placement and the results are striking.
In the images above the top two pieces are representations of Pi, the first a combination of four experiments using different groups of colours eg warm colours for prime numbers and cool for non-primes, and the second using two colours for each digit, taking Pi to 675 decimal places. In each the button is the decimal point. I'm guessing that this is quite mystifying for many, but for those of us who like numbers and patterns it is fascinating, and I'm still trying to fathom out how she does it. Either way, the results are beautiful. Visit Alex's website for a fuller explanation of her process – I could never do it justice here (and her images are much better)!
Janet Twinn also makes large colourful quilts, but they are quite different. The author of Colour in Art Quilts (Batsford), Janet dyes and screen-prints her fabric to create a complex palette from which she makes her quilts. Her gallery, Lost in Landscape, explores garden flowers and the Cotswold landscape in the changing seasons, starting with simple drawings which become more complex as she adds layers. Predictably, I have only photographed the blue ones (!), but if you want to see more visit her website .
Art Textiles: Made in Britain is another group of UK artists whose exhibition WILD was very diverse, involving figurative and abstract work, 3d installations and a mix of quilting, embroidery, mixed media, garments and book-making as a means of expression. Unfortunately I didn't take many pictures, but these are three of my favourites - and there are loads more over on their website.
Finally for this review is leading Japanese quilt artist Shizuko Kuroha’s gallery Indigo and Sarasa: Pieces of my Life. She uses antique indigo-dyed textiles contrasted with traditional block printed sarasa fabrics in large quilts with complex patterns formed from strips and carefully arranged log cabin blocks. Hazel and I both love log cabin piecing and Shizuko is a master at this. And these are no ordinary log cabins, with precise colour placement to achieve secondary patterning and, despite the rustic, country-style nature of these fabrics, some of the tiny blocks had ¼” strips! The designs draw you in, the antique fabrics providing texture and added interest and a wonderful depth and calmness. I can't find a website for Shizuko but there's a great article about her on this link.
There were so many other galleries which we didn’t manage to take pictures of including Unfolding Stories 3 by Contemporary Quilters West, which had some interesting work by this large group, and which you’ll get another chance to see at the West Country Quilt & Textile show at the end of the month; SAQA’s Concrete and Grassland exploring the juxtaposition of the natural landscape and the human constructed cityscape; Fly me to the Moon – a collection curated by Susanne Miller Jones, inspired by the Apollo moon missions and all things lunar and the exquisite work of Gulnara Polyanskaya’s Serendipity club students inspired by world architecture in the Russian Textile Gallery. And, of course, the prestigious Fine Art Quilt Masters, into which Hazel’s quilt The Space between the Moments was juried – but more about that in a future blog post.
So next time you visit a quilt show, make sure you save time to visit the galleries, alongside the competition quilts and the shopping. There's so much to see all gathered into one place!
That's all for now - thanks for reading!
Terry & Hazel
When we were in Helsinki we visited the Kamppi Chapel - a beautiful organic wooden building which could have been inspired by an egg. Inside there were some felt floor cushions inspired by pebbles.
I’m one of those people who always has pebbles and pieces of beach glass in my pocket, who walks along a beach, head down, looking for stones with interesting marks and shapes. I love their tactility and the comforting feeling of a smooth, warm stone in my hand.
The beaches of the south coast of England are my usual hunting ground, from the golden sand and rugged cliffs of Cornwall, to the pebbles of Sussex via Lyme’s fossil beaches. I’ve got piles of pebbles, shells, glass and small fossils on most surfaces at home (none of them from Chesil Beach I hasten to add) and they often inspire drawings and stitched work.
I suspect felt maker Sarah Waters is also one of those people, only her stones are not going to fit in anyone’s pockets. Her solo exhibition at The Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace last year entitled Stone was an in-depth study, in felted wool, of the textures, marks, mythology and superstitions of standing stones and hagstones. And the pieces were huge.
In her blog she says she had a vision of using British wool to make large scale wallhangings that looked and felt like stone. Her aim was for the textures of all the different fibres to be felt, and she positively encouraged people to touch the exhibits. There are more photos of her inspirational work on her website.
So you can imagine that we are excited to be able to welcome Sarah to the studio in May to teach us how to make nuno felt in the form of beautiful gossamer scarves.
They'll be a bit of a contrast with her exhibited work but still wonderfully tactile. So whether you have never felted before or if you wish to extend your skills further this would be a great workshop to explore the touchy-feely world of felt.
Welcome to our blog! Here you'll find out what's been going on, plus plenty of ideas and inspiration and the odd cake recipe!
Check back often to see what we're up to - it's great to have you along
Hazel & Terry
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