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
Yesterday it was 24 degrees in my garden and as I sat in the beautiful autumnal sunshine eating a salad lunch, after a morning spent gardening, it felt like summer could go on forever.
How deluded was I.
Today has been cold, damp and quite frankly miserable. True, Saturday looks a bit perkier, but there’s no denying, autumn is definitely on its way. Not before long some may say, but I have so loved these long warm summer days. Now it’s time to move back indoors and start thinking about some serious stitching projects.
After the flurry (and I have to note, some success) of the three quilts I made earlier this year (if you missed them you can read all about then here, here and here!) I've been a bit lax on the sewing front it has to be said: too many cycling adventures, a lot of gardening, getting ready, setting up and taking InStitches to shows, and the knitting of socks (yes...really, doesn't everyone?!)
Also taxing my brain was a certain tell-tale line slowly rising up my study wall. It certainly has put a dampener (#allpunsintended) on creative thought - take a look...
How can such a 'tiny' leak create so much havoc?
The whole of my study has spent weeks in the garage,
Harry and Betty have been, quite rightly, flummoxed at times.
But the plasterers finished today. Now there's 'just' a new floor, woodwork and full decorating to go and finally I shall have my study back. THEN I can begin creative work - surely??
True, I could have, of course, gone up to my workroom. But as you can see, the state of affairs in there isn't much better. In fact it's worse - only I can sort that mess out (actually, that's what happening, we all know you have to be messy in order to tidy up - don't we?)
I know I also have a whole studio to play in...but quite frankly over the summer it hasn't looked that great in there either...if we'd been burgled I think they would have felt duty bound to tidy up for us!
The new studio is progressing slowly, despite all the edible brides and encouragement. But all good things come to those who wait... (note: this picture was taken a few weeks ago and there's been a lot of activity - you'll just have to trust me on that one!)
So there's nothing for it, I can't procrastinate anymore; no more excuses, I'm going to have to do what I'm always telling our students to do: get the sketchbook/workbook out, set an intention, make some notes and start exploring! I just need to begin... Carpe diem!
Hazel & Terry
Dutch orange, saffron, amber, ginger, minium and nude. Coral, terracotta, peach, apricot and tangerine. Call it what you will, orange was described by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) as 'warm red, intensified by a suitable yellow'.
But I've had a love-hate relationship with the colour orange most of my life - is it because I'm a child of the 70's I wonder? Just like with blue cheese, red wine and olives though, as I've grown older I'm finding myself, however, willing to dabble with the odd flash of orange every now and then.
It's autumn here in the UK, and at this time of year there's a lot of orange about, as Terry found when she visited Forde Abbey in Somerset to see the pumpkin and squash harvest ripening in the sunshine.
Here in Hampshire the garden still has plenty of colour, with orange coloured flowers, leaves and berries galore.
The colour orange is named after the fruit, which was probably first cultivated in China before spreading west across the world. In Sanskrit it is narangah, naranja in Spanish, orenge in French and of course orange in English; but it wasn't until sometime during the sixteenth century that orange was used as a name for the colour, up until then English speakers referred to yellow-red (geoluhread).
Orange is a secondary colour, sitting between red and yellow and above brown in the colour wheel and seems forever in danger of sliding one way or another and often down below. Until relatively recently, no doubt due to the advent of digital mixing, it was difficult for the colour to appear 'pure' and in its own right.
When paired with blue, its complimentary colour from across the colour wheel, the colour scheme is zingy and never dull - although I don't think the Buddhist monks were concerned at all about that when they hung their freshly washed robes out to dry in the court yard underneath the blue shutters!
Just look at the stunning colour scheme of this traditional wooden house on the island of Suomalinna, just a short ferry trip from Helshinki, Finland
and again here on a canal side tin shack of a shop in Kerela, India.
Orange cloth, often associated with Hinduism and which would have originally been dyed with saffron, has been worn in parts of India for over 2000 years. The Hindu festival of Holi to celebrate the coming of spring sees children and young people throwing coloured paints everywhere. Originally the colour orange would have come from natural plant-based sources such as turmeric but nowadays it is increasingly a water-based commercial pigment; and hopefully washable!
From the cheerful orange marigolds piled high on rugs laid out on the roadside, rows of bright orange plastic jugs strung across a market stall to the huge namaste hand gesture of greeting on the terminal wall in Delhi airport - the colour orange is everywhere across India.
It's in many other far eastern countries too as I found out last year, as I cycled around Myanmar- it is also the traditional colour of Buddhist monks' robes.
Festive, fun, happy and joyful. Optimistic, balanced, ambitious and energetic. Always flamboyant, warm enthusiastic and generous, vibrant, expansive and organic: orange is a versatile colour.
It's the national colour of The Netherlands and their royal family is the house of Orange-Nassu; in Thailand it is the symbol of Thursday.
And it's the colour of a perfect sunset.
So let's raise a glass, perhaps a Seville Gin garnished with a slice of fresh orange?, and toast the colour orange - have a happy weekend!
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
The little Victoria plum tree at the bottom of the garden has given me a bumper crop of fruit this year.
Planted about 10 years ago, to provide fruit to make my husband's favourite jam, it has had a mixed track record and quite frankly I was beginning to think its days were numbered!
But as you can see, Mother Nature came out trumps this year!
When you grow your own fruit and vegetables it's lovely to be able to share; although I think my neighbours still haven't recovered from the glut-to-end-all-gluts of courgettes a couple of years back... So I've given lots of the plums away and frozen, poached, baked and crumbled many more, but there are still some left.
This weekend we are taking part in the Wokingham Arts Trail.
In the InStitches Studio we are hosting artists David Cotton and Nina O'Connell and jeweller Machi De Waard as well as showcasing our own work and the InStitches courses and workshops.
We will also be offering tea, coffee and (of course!) homemade cakes, with donations going to Macmillan: an excellent opportunity to convert the excess plums into baked goods!
In the end I made 4 huge sticky plum Bakewell tarts using a 2013 recipe from Waitrose, with the addition of a generous layer of homemade plum jam on the bottom of the pastry case before I topped it with the almond sponge and dropped in the stoned plum halves. To save you Googling to find it, here's my adapted recipe:
Sticky plum Bakewell tart
250g shortcrust pastry
150g butter, at room temperature
150g golden caster sugar
75g ground almonds
75g Self-Raising Flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp (homemade) plum jam (optional)
400g Ripe plums, stoned and quartered
2 tbsp flaked almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC, gas mark 4. Roll out the pastry thinly on a floured surface and use to line a 23cm deep, loose-bottomed tart tin. Chill for 5 minutes. If using, spread the base with the plum jam.
2. Meanwhile, place the butter, sugar, eggs, ground almonds, flour, baking powder and vanilla extract in a large bowl and whisk until well blended.
3.Spoon the filling into the tart case then press the plums evenly into the mixture (they will sink into the centre as the tart bakes). Scatter over the flaked almonds and bake for 40 –45 minutes until risen and golden brown.
4. Leave to cool. Cut into slices and serve.
I think I was a bit generous with filling the pastry cases so a couple of mine overflowed slightly, but that just provided a cook's treat for me to nibble with a cup of coffee - happy days!
The weather forecast doesn't look too brilliant for this weekend, but if you are free and fancy a day out why not pop in and see us at Venue 10? All the venues on the trail are open 10.30 - 5.30 each day, and if you do manage to visit all 11 over the weekend be sure to have your trail card stamped each time to be in with a chance of winning one of 5 bundles of prizes donated by WAT artists.
Hope to see some of you this weekend,
Hazel & Terry
It may seem a bit odd to start a new mini series called tools of the trade with a non-sewing item, but when you find a simple tool that does what it’s intended for (and does it so well!) then it’s an item worth telling folk about!
We both like making books, from new paper or from found or ‘scrap’ papers, to use as sketchbooks, notebooks, recipe books or just to have and to own. I think I can safely say that each of us have as many unused handmade books as those we have in use...we just like making books!
Having the correct tools does make a job easier and our favourite book binding tool is a bone paper folder - that’s the tool with a faint ‘HR’ on the end in the photograph below.
Made from genuine cattle bone, a bone folder is often the only type of folding tool acceptable to bookbinders and conservators; this essential tool is used for making strong sharp creases in paper and other materials. It is also brilliant for burnishing, smoothing adhesives and tapes: it is a must for book binding and repairs.
I find that mine is so satisfying to hold, nicely weighted and
the slight curve means that it fits my hand perfectly. Over time it has become beautifully polished and very smooth.
But what about if you are a vegetarian or vegan or just don’t like the idea of using a genuine bone? There are plastic versions available but quite frankly they won’t last the course, however Terry has found a great alternative.
Teflon bone folders are an ethical alternative to the traditional bone folders. They are non-stick PTFE which makes them ideal for conservation, separating papers, burnishing, creasing and all the steps in involved in book binding!
These and the traditional version, as well as other book binding supplies can be found here https://www.preservationequipment.com/Catalogue or from many other suppliers.
So, what’s your favourite tool?
Hazel & Terry
With quilts selected and rolled, everything made, packed and priced, it's time to load up the car
which seems to include everything but the kitchen sink. And before you ask, no we didn't take the vacuum cleaner!
Loading the car ready is like a game of Jenga in reverse and Terry has become quite the expert. I just carry and hold, I know better than to make 'helpful' suggestions...
Over the years our essential kit has become quite impressive and this year we splashed out on our own cordless drill. We're women who clearly know how to have fun!
See the festival trolley? It comes into its own at times such as these and I did notice that a lot more smaller stand holders have realised the benefit too. We tend to dump everything down in a heap and then get started. We do have a plan, even thought to the uninitiated it probably doesn't look as though we do.
Build up is a long day with little time for tea and cakes, but I'd like to think over the years we've developed a good system. Being the taller one Terry gets to wield the power tools, spirit level and hang the quilts. I'm a dab hand at dressing the tables, sorting stock and handing up the correct length screw when required. I also take the photographs - well, one of us has to step up to the plate!
It all takes time, but we do like everything to be 'just so' and judging by the comments I over hear visitors making I think we get it right most of the time.
Our stand is colourful, bright and definitely well stocked. As our signs say 'Everything on the stand was white until we dyed it'!
Once we've straightened and tweaked, fiddled and poked the stock into order it's time to cover it all up and go to check into our hotel
and , of course, we definitely deserve one of these at the end of build up day!
The next morning all is revealed: thread...a festival of stitch! at Farnham Maltings
or in the Quilting in action area of The Festival of Quilts at the NEC Birmingham
and just this last few days, at The West Country Quilt and Textile Show, UWE Bristol.
Don't you just love our shelves? We were very please with ourselves...thanks IKEA! In fact, where would be without IKEA for equipping both our studio and stand?!
At shows we love catching up with old friends and students and making new ones too. Helping customers select just the right colour fabric or thread,
demonstrating and sharing our passion for fabric printing with all manner of junk, as well as
teaching a variety of workshops and sharing the delight of learning a new skill. In fact 14 year old Millie even ran a poll on her Instagram feed afterwards so her friends could vote on who had made the best brooch - her or her mum. Millie won!
This year I was thrilled at the Festival of Quilts when one of last year's workshop attendees brought back her sample to show me - and buy more of our thread so she could finish it. We had such a lovely chat and catch up - she said that the workshop had awakened a love of hand stitching and now she was hooked. A teacher can't ask for a better endorsement than that!
Of course, we need help manning our stand at shows so we can go and teach workshops and have a sneaky look at the show ourselves! So here's a big thank you to Neel and Gill for helping out at this year's Festival of Quilts and of course the fantastic Christine who also came down and helped in Bristol as well- she also keeps us fed and watered with sandwiches and the occasional gin-in-a-tin(after the show, of course !) We couldn't manage without you. And of course not forgetting my Mum, who for the last 10 years or so, has come along every Saturday of the Festival of Quilts and brought us lunch - thanks mum x
But we can't please everyone all of the time, Morgan-the-Pirate has clearly had more than enough of accompanying his mum and gran around the quilt show and now has other things on his mind. Still at least InStitches could provide him with a chair!
We have just one more show to go before we resume our teaching schedule and that is when we open the doors of our studio and invite you all to come and visit us as part of the Wokingham Arts Trail on the weekend of 23rd/24th September. Pencil it in your diary so you don't forget - we'd love to see you and...sssh! there may be a HUGE surprise, no clues....you'll just have to come and find out for yourself!
Hazel & Terry
Both children in this blog appear with the permission of their parents.
Have you enjoyed visiting a quilt/ textile show or Open Studio this summer? I’m sure many of you have, but have you every given a thought to what goes on BEFORE to get everything ready?
This year we started early with thread...a festival of textiles at Farnham Maltings, then in August, which is far from being a holiday month for InStitches, saw us start with the The Festival of Quilts at the NEC, Birmingham and close with The West Country Quilt and Textile Show at UWE in Bristol and at the end of September we shall be taking part in the Wokingham Arts Trail.
So, what exactly do we have to do to get ready for a show?
Through out the winter and spring we can be found winding thread skeins when we watch tv, that’s nearly 1000 (so far) this year, which is equivalent to 31 miles of thread! They are then scoured (to remove the winding oils from the mill), washed and soda soaked before being dyed. After that they are rinsed, washed and rinsed again - all by hand, before being hung out to dry. Then it’s back to the tv and box sets to re-twist the skeins, label and price.
All the while we are trying to avoid...
...threads of despair!
Under the threads we put metres of cotton scrim (which also needs to be pre-scoured and washed!) which are then cut and tied into bundles before being piled high into baskets.
Sari silk ribbon and vintage wool blankets also receive the InStitches touch of colour before being cut and packed ready for sale.
Metres and metres of fabric are also dye and print, washed and lovingly ironed (!) before being cut up and folded to go into our themed rolls and stacks. Hazel puts the colour/pattern combinations together and then Terry comes and re-arranges them...team work!
More teamwork is involved in making up the workshop kits for all the teaching we do at the shows. InStitches' friend Ruth comes into her own at times like these - she colour co-ordinates all the fabrics and threads which she then matches to the handmade labels - no mean feat when you consider how many kits we require!
Last year's printed fabric stash was turned into cushion kits: more ironing, cutting and folding, a coordinated hand-dyed thread selected and an instruction leaflet written, printed and folded...
And if that wasn't enough Hazel had the bright idea that some of the indigo fabric would be great made up into tops ready to wear at the shows...
All this and we haven't even got to set the gallery/ booth up yet; so don't forget to come back and join us next week to see how that went!
Hazel & Terry
The Festival of Quilts has many competition categories into which any quilter can enter a quilt, and providing it isn't provocative, indecent or dangerous, it will be hung - and judged! The Fine Art Quilt Masters category is also open to all, however where it differs is that it is a juried competition. There were over one hundred quilts submitted this year from which the panel of 5 judges, leading figures from both the art and textile world, chose just 23 for the 2018 gallery.
The aim of TFAQM gallery is 'to celebrate those quilts that transcend craft and demand equal billing with work shown in an art gallery' The judges were looking for a fully-resolved composition and powerful artistic impression. The design also had to be original, but other than that anything was possible!
On the Festival of Quilts site you can see images of all the chosen quilts, but I this week I'm sharing with you a little bit about my entry, The space between the moments.
No one was more surprised than me to receive the email letting me know that my quilt had made it onto the 2018 shortlist. Sure, I had filled in the entry form and sent it off: but I didn't expect to get in (who does?) It's a bit like the National Lottery (or whatever it's called now) - winning (or in this case, being shortlisted) is what happens to other people, not to me. But to be in with a chance you first have to buy a ticket...or in the case of TFAQM, make a quilt and send in the entry form!
So how did The space between the moments come into being?
I lived in Finland with my husband and children during the 1990s and fell in love with a country, its people and its way of life: it felt like home. I also learned how to cross country ski and would spend hours out alone in the snowy forests. Skiing was such a joy, and I relished the freedom and peace which came from being absolutely alone in a pure white, crisp landscape; for the last 20 years I have longed to capture that feeling again.
If you've been following this blog for awhile you'll know that I finally returned to winter Finland this February - all the way north to just below the artic circle. I'm a lot older, not as flexible (was I ever?) and a tad more risk adverse these days but gradually as the week progressed so did my ski legs. It was far more challenging than the routes I had been used to in my 'home' town of Hyvinkää, but it wasn't any less exhilarating,
and I even managed to ski out along the Russian border - at minus 22 we didn't stand still for long!
Everything needed for a day out on skis had to be carried with you, so my bulky Olympus camera stayed in the cabin and I used my Android phone to take photographs (fact: android batteries carry on working in sub-zero temperatures unlike certain other types!). I love the panorama function on phones as it's so quick and easy to use - a definite plus point in those temperatures.
After a long day out on skis and on the way back to base camp our guide stopped each of us in turn and asked us to wait until the skier in front was no longer visible. Only then, when we could no longer see or hear the other skier could we set off.
Finally, after two decades of waiting, I could once again capture the freedom and peace in a pure white, crisp landscape. The sun was all but gone and the moon and stars were out so on I skied, trusting my instincts and letting the tracks guide my skis. The only sound was the crack of a branch as it finally snapped under the weight of the snow and the rhythmic swish of my skis on the frozen snow.
By the time I crossed the frozen lake it was too dark to photograph the way I'd come, so the following day I went back just before sunset. I wasn't disappointed and I whipped out my phone and snapped a few panoramic shots before the light faded.
As soon as I saw the image on the phone screen I knew it would become a quilt - it just asked to be made.
So, how did the quilt come into being?
Fortunately I still had some vintage linen fabric, in the right proportions (the finished quilt is 1.98m x 49 cm), left over from making my daughter some curtains (the things we end up doing for those we love!) This went into a bucket of pale blue dye. Obviously not pale enough because it came out looking like a Caribbean afternoon. So I moved on to using screen printing inks. They are more fluid than regular textile paints and as they are translucent I can build up layers of colour. Which is just what I did! The blue colour still looks a bit perky in some of the photographs, but in 'the flesh' it's just about right.
Once the paint surface was dry and heat set it was time to layer up the quilt and start stitching. The sky and snow were quilted using my Bernina Q20. The sky first had relaxed free flowing lines which were then infilled with text. Annoyingly my hand guided text is very neat and tidy - not at all the look I wanted for this quilt, I was after something much scrappier. So I had to put in many hours trying out different styles, not sure I quite achieved it, old habits are hard to kick. I also needed to brush up my angular meandering pattern as it isn't one which comes naturally but it was so right for the snowy section.
With the machine quilting done it was time to relax and enjoy the hand quilting. I used to be a dedicated quilting hoop / tiny stitches kind of quilter. Not anymore. These days I just tip all the possible threads I may need, never mind about the weight, into a basket, grab a selection of needles and settle comfortably down for some relaxed hand stitching. I still use a thimble though. Can't hand stitch without one.
I only used a very relaxed cross stitch for the hand stitching, building up the density in greens to give the impression of the tree line and in white/off white for the snow.
Hardest to represent were my ski tracks. In the end I smudged some Derwent Inktense pastel over the surface, but that looked like a river. So as very pale lavender thread was back-stitched in to show the way. Even after the stitching was done I tweaked the paint, a dap of white here, and bit more dark green there.
But there comes a time when you've just got to stop; my time was as I knelt on the floor in tears. I could do no more. I was done, exhausted and drained. No other quilt has required such an emotional commitment.
So I took the required photographs and sent off the form.
The quilt was rolled up and put it away. I went out and did some gardening.
You know the rest.
The space between the moments
It was in the space between the moments that I missed you the most:
the silence falls, the breathing pauses, the eyes close.
In the space between the moments I remembered: you’re not here anymore.
But then, as I crossed that vast cold, white landscape, I turned and looked back from where I’d come
and I finally realised:
it’s in the space between the moments that I can find you.
That’s where you are.
So now I pause awhile and be.
Be there with you
in the space between the moments.
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
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