On Saturday I went to my local Embroiderers’ Guild annual lecture, this year with Gina Ferrari. I’ve followed her lively blog for some time and had been looking forward to meeting someone I’d only known virtually. She did not disappoint!
Her talk, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, was a fascinating insight into a series of works exploring women’s stories. Historical and fictional characters had beautifully crafted corsets created for them that in their design reflected Gina’s take on aspects of their story.
We learnt about the elements of character or story that had significance for her and also the techniques she used to interpret them. For instance, Anne Boleyn’s garment had ivy leaves as a motif, representing the clinging entrapment that Gina felt characterised her life story at Henry’s court.
As expected the craftsmanship in the works contributed to their beauty; Gina has years of experience as a machine embroiderer. Unexpected, to me at least, was the knitting expertise used for Marie Antoinette.
For me it was most interesting finding out about the artist’s thought processes in developing her theme. Her acknowledgement that the stories we ‘know’ about the historical figures can be as constructed as those in fiction. Was Cleopatra really beautiful? Probably not. Was Anne Boleyn a scheming young woman with ambition or a pawn in her family’s power game? Do we even know what she looked like?
I always enjoy hearing how artists work, why they choose the themes they do and what motivates them to continue. Gina’s series began as part of her formal learning, assignments in her City and Guilds course. It continued to inspire her for many years afterwards, and still does – Frida Kahlo still hovers around waiting for her winged bodice.
Gina spoke of the importance to her of being part of a group, Prism, of having that engagement with others and the impetus to produce new work that comes from exhibiting. Thank you Gina, for coming to us despite having cracked your ankle! It was a real pleasure to meet you and learn more about your exquisite and thoughtful work.