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
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.
This spring we're looking forward to welcoming embroiderer Linda Miller to the InStitches studio. Her densely stitched pictures have held a fascination for me for a log while and I can't wait to have a go myself!
For over 28 years Linda has been sewing one-off, framed and unframed machine embroideries and her work is exhibited throughout the UK, Europe and the USA with pieces held in the Southern Arts collection and within the permanent textile and dress collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Over the two day workshop Linda will guide us through creating an original design from a drawing, picture or a photograph that provides inspiration. Then the fun starts when we start stitching, using a sumptuous array of threads in a variety of colours and thickness and working with the sewing machine, to translate our original design into own very own picture of stitches.
As you can see from the picture, Harry and Betty have already decided that they'll make fine subjects for my embroidered picture!
So, who/what would you choose to stitch, bossy cats notwithstanding? If you'd like to join us, and we hope you do, hop over to our web page to find out more details.
Hazel & Terry
Hot on the heels of Lin Kerr's workshops, this week we had the pleasure of a two-day workshop with Arleen Wild. For those of you who aren't familiar with her work, Arleen is a mixed media artist, and her work is an energetic mix of painting, free motion stitch and fabric. She produces stunning landscapes, seascapes and flowers some of which are huge! You can see more of her work on her website.
Arleen is a very generous tutor, with a wealth of knowledge and tips about the media and processes she uses. We started by priming the canvas and while it was drying Arleen helped everyone select a suitable image or elements from several images as a jumping off point. The idea was to produce a unique piece of artwork, and not a slavish copy of the photograph. Next we added a subtle wash of paint to form the background. Hers is a very loose style and I think one of the things that most people took away was the message that less is most definitely more! The tiniest amount of paint, or fabric and thread used in a painterly way, can really lift a piece. The day was all about layering materials to achieve the desired effect and give the work energy and focus. A dab of paint here, a couched thread there, then perhaps a tiny piece of fabric, caught down on one edge only, all the time paying attention to composition, and definitely no straight lines!
Don't you agree that all the work looks amazing? Some aren't quite finished yet but all are well on the way.
and there was cake . . .
You will have spotted that there are scones and home-made jam with clotted cream in the picture. Well we couldn't let all these lovely people work so hard without some kind of reward, so over the two days there were raspberry muffins, banana and pecan loaf and chocolate oat biscuits and the aforementioned scones. Recipes will follow!
If you have been inspired by the work shown, and fancy a creative day out with friends (and cake!) why not check out our Textile Adventures workshops. There are three left this year and we will soon be adding next year's programme.
That's all for now - thanks for reading!
Hazel & Terry
Both Terry and I love text: in books, on quilts, in letters, as fonts, in stitch and as marks made by pen and brush. So we were delighted to welcome artist and calligrapher Lin Kerr to run a Guest Tutor workshop for InStitches the other week.
This was no ordinary calligraphy class though because after a brief introduction to letter shapes and forms Lin had us busy learning how to use a round tipped Brause ornamental nib. We then prepared a piece of watercolour paper with a watercolour wash background before setting out our chosen text and committing nib to paper!
Unfortunatly I didn't take a note of who did what...but I think we all really well especially as none of us had used this nib before.
But here's Becs with her cycling inspired quote!
Lin will be back with us later this week when we shall be exploring writing in the style of David Jones, can't wait! If you would like to see more of Lin's work then visit her web site: www.linkerrdesign.co.uk
and there was cake...
We do like homemade cake and the one served on this workshop was a new recipe - to help use up the glut of beetroot from Hazel's allotment! Apologies for the lack of photograph, I wasn't quick enough and there were few crumbs left!
This recipe is from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls book Veg every day! The original recipe was for a pumkin and raisin loaf but he suggested using beetroot instead – it gives the most amazing purple/pink colour! The loaf itself is rich and sweet but also light as it doesn’t contain any butter or oil.
Beetroot & raisin tea loaf
Preparation time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 1 hour
200g light muscovado sugar
4 large eggs, separated
200g finely grated beetroot
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
100g ground almonds
200g self-raising flour
a pinch of fine sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
A generous grating of nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas mark 3. Lightly grease a loaf tin, about 20 x 10 cm, and line with baking parchment. Using an electric whisk, beat the sugar and egg yolks together for 2-3 minutes until pale and creamy. Lightly stir in the grated beetroot, lemon zest and juice, raisins and ground almonds. Sift the flour, salt and spices together over the mixture and then fold them in, using a metal spoon. In a large clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Stir in a heaped tablespoon of the egg white into the cake mixture to loosen it a little, then fold in the rest as lightly as you can. Tip the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and gently level the surface. Bake for about one hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.
Here's the final instalment of photos from the galleries at the Festival of Quilts this year (from me at least - Hazel may have more when she is back from Scotland!).
First today is Contemporary Quilt's Elements gallery. Each year this special interest group of the Quilters' Guild has a juried challenge open to all members, with a theme and a set format. The interpretations of the Elements theme were wide ranging, and really illustrate the breadth of contemporary quilting, as you will see from the pictures.
Unfortunately I didn't note the makers of the quilts in my general views above - if you know who they were do leave a comment. You can read more about the setting up of this gallery on Claire Passmore's blog. Below are some close-ups of some of the quilts (click to get the whole image). There will be a book available later in the year from Contemporary Quilt's website.
And finally the Fine Art Quilt Masters gallery. An international juried competition open to all, celebrating 'those quilts that transcend craft and achieve art status', the gallery showed the seventeen shortlisted quilts. The winner was announced at the awards ceremony and as usual attracted comment and controversy (well it wouldn't be a worthwhile competition without controversy would it?!). Here are some that attracted my attention. Do leave a comment to let us know what you thought if you saw the quilts (or if you didn't).
Susie Koren's winning quilt was striking in its simplicity. The maker used monoprinting with soya milk and raw pigment and minimal stitch to illustrate the repetitive force of the sea. It was inspired by Newton's explanation that the ocean tides result from the gravitational attraction of the sun and moon on the earth.
Karina Thompson's The Leper's Skull is one of a series of pieces made after spending time with the collection at the Biological Anthropological Research Centre in Bradford, where there were artefacts from a mediaeval lepers cemetery in Cirencester.
The next three quilts appealed to me because of their colour, the techniques used and the subject matter. I love the effect of breakdown printing (where a silk screen with dried procion dye on it is printed with wet medium resulting in a serendipitous, never-to-be-repeated, gradually changing pattern of marks. The skill is in how these fabrics are then used in composition. Leah Higgins employs a beautiful colour range and machine quilted detail in this stunning quilt inspired by what we leave behind.
Using the same technique, this time combined with discharge printed fabrics and dense machine and hand stitching and a subtle colour palette, Audrey Critchley's piece was inspired by a challenge to dye a palette of pale fabrics.
And Cherry Vernon-Harcourt's hand-drawn and painted piece was inspired by the landscape of North Norfolk. I love the spareness of line in this - and the subject matter of course!
The final two quilts on our tour of the gallery contain another of our favourite elements: text. Claudia Helmer has used laminated paper screen-printed text to convey her feelings about the empty words spoken by politicians and the corporate world. The central panel was cut out and hangs in front of the main body of the quilt. Simple, dense machine quilting completes the work.
Sara Impey takes machine quilting to another level with her meticulously free motion stitched words, this time on 'tapes' which were woven together. A former journalist, what she writes is as interesting as the way she writes it, and makes for fascinating reading. This piece explores the meaning of the concept of the stitch.
Well that is the last of my photos. We hope you have enjoyed our perspective on the Festival of Quilts for 2015. If you have, please leave us a comment.
Bye for now
Terry & Hazel
Continuing our round-up of all that was good at this year's Festival of Quilts, first comes a mention for the Quilters' Guild In the Spotlight gallery. This gallery appears biennially and aims to celebrate talented quilters form the regions and specialist groups of the Guild who are not (yet) well known. Makers are asked to follow a theme: this year it was Adventures in Wonderland to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll's book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Submissions ranged from depictions of scenes from the book to much wider interpretations. Here are three of the more unusual ones. The first is Jane Varrall's Down, Down, Down, Would the Fall Ever Come to an End? which uses Jane's own silk painting together with digitally printed fabric from Fingerprint. Jane writes:
On the subject of the Tenniel illustrations, we were captivated by Hilary Drake's collection of miniatures. Appropriately styled as bookmarks, she managed to reproduce the drawings by sewing machine (hand-done, feed dogs up, not programmed) in black thread and minute stitches, complemented by her favourite Liberty fabrics; and they were stunning.
She says: "I looked through the book for inspiration. What immediately caught my eye were the original black and white drawings dome by John Tenniel. The line sketches reminded me of small stitches so I decided to make these the centre of my work."
Click on the images for a close-up.
Very different to the others and intriguing with it (although very difficult to photograph) was the piece by Christine Chester. Entitled The Dark at the End of the Tunnel it was a comment on the link between the conscious and the unconscious mind and 'stream of consciousness' writing. Building on the thought that Lewis Carroll used his own experiences as a migraine sufferer as inspiration for parts of his book, it was constructed from three (possibly four) machine stitched sheer layers hanging off the wall to achieve a 3d effect. Christine writes: "My hanging suggests the links between the conscious and the unconscious mind and the development of writing from a stream of thoughts and experiences. Words link the layers of consciousness together, creating a tunnel of unconscious creativity."
One gallery I wish I hadn't missed was that by Linda Barlow: Searching for the Invisible Woman. Her work is based on research with women in 'middle age' and explores the sense of invisibility felt by many in this group. This gallery has provoked a raft of extreme reaction on the web by those much more eloquent than me, some angry that (they feel) she has chosen to depict this aspect of (some) women's lives, rather than a positive, empowering one (see Helen Conway's blog) and others in agreement that the sentiments expressed are real. I must admit that my initial reaction on reading about the exhibition (as newly part of that age-group) was 'who says?' and 'why are they not doing something about it?' but I have also to admit that I have thankfully not had that experience so am not qualified to comment. By making her thought-provoking art and starting the dialogue I suspect Linda has achieved what she set out to achieve. If you missed it too, why not visit her website to see more of her work. Her blog post from March 2014 explains the thinking behind the exhibition, and reveals that her aim was also to explore the positive opportunities seized by many women as they reach this stage in their lives. You may not agree with all the sentiments, but I guarantee it will set you thinking about the issue (image below borrowed from Linda's blog).
Well since this has turned into a longer post than I'd planned, there will be more galleries later in the week
thanks for reading
There is one place guaranteed to get ALL my family out and walking and that is a trip to the YSP. We love it. Always have. And being from Yorkshire, we also love the fact it is FREE!
Unfortunately the day we chose to visit was in the middle of an exhibition change over, Emily Sutton's exhibition was being taken down and Henry Moore’s being put up: but that didn’t spoil the day. The sun was out, the day was crisp, the air bracing, and there was masses and masses of snowdrops in flower. Perfect really.
We stopped by the historic and newly-restored St Bartholomew’s Chapel to take in 'Song for Coal', an immersive audio-visual work by Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, which coincides with the 30-year anniversary of the UK miners’ strike. Once you have adjusted to the dark and tuned your senses in to the music it was just amazing. What initially sounds like Gregorian chant is the song of coal, and the kaleidoscope of images which makes up the rose window is quite hypnotic.
Out side the Chapel is Ai Weiwei's Iron Tree (2013), the first project by the artist in a British public gallery since Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern in 2010.
Whatever the season, there is always something to see at the YSP, with at least 60 works on display across the estate at any one time. Artists featured in the open air include Roger Hiorns, Sol LeWitt, Dennis Oppenheim, Martin Creed, Anthony Caro and Magdalena Abakanowicz. But one of my family favourites is Anthony Gormley: One & Other (2000)
Although the local free range highland cows are quite impressive too!
But no mater where you look, there is always something to capture the eye at YSP!
If you want to know more, or plan a visit to YSP take a look at their web site by clicking here. Enjoy your visit!
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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