Wessex Stitchery and charcoal

Wessex stitch patternThis week’s Stitches with Stories workshop focused on another fascinating tale of a type of embroidery developed by a single person – Mrs M Foster of Bath. Not very much seems to be known about her but her wonderfully inventive use of simple stitch pattern has been of renewed interest this century, in no small part due to Gay Eaton’s book Wessex Stitchery.

Wessex stitch patternsThe liveliness of the original Wessex patterns is often due to her subtly, or not so subtly, changing colours as she worked. Today we have the luxury of variegated dyed threads which give us the same effect without the use of several needles and threads at once. Those at the workshop produced some striking patterns using these threads. Gay Eaton’s book has been out of print for some time  (second-hand copies are online) and there is a delightful exploration of Mrs Forster’s work in Gail Marsh’s Early 20th Century Embroidery Techniques.

In contrast to the delights of the delicacy and precision of counted patterns on linen I thoroughly enjoyed myself learning more about drawing with charcoal. A class with Bobby Britnell at Art Van Go saw me drawing large (A 2) and bold and messy! Bobby proved to be a wonderful teacher; challenging and supportive and Art Van Go’s studio was a pleasure to work in. An added bonus was the presence of some friends from my local Embroiderers’ branch – we had a great time together.

Textiles by the sea

Two days in Margate! I have wanted to see the Turner Contemporary Gallery for some time and last week finally went there. The spur to actually arranging a visit was the current exhibition Entangled – Threads and Making.

What a visual treat it proved to be. The basic premise was looking at a ‘specific strand of current practice related to the use of materials, in particular textiles and thread’. This sounds pretty flat and curatorial to me but it resulted in galleries full of exciting, beautiful, thoughtful, well-crafted pieces (though not all adjectives applied to all pieces).

The double-height entrance gallery had a spectacular, very large-scale, three-dimensional work. Three Graces by Kashim Nadif Chaudry and a  community group occupied from floor to ceiling. It was colourful, intricate, graceful and we spent some time sitting almost in and under it marvelling at such a wonderful claiming of space.

The variety of works struck me, how versatile the use of textiles can be. We wandered from the tiny, exquisite forms created from grasses or horsehair by Christiane Löhr and Kate MccGwires‘ structures involving feather spines, to Tatiana Trouvé’s imaginative exploration of the paths of Central Park using large black bobbins wound with coloured threads – yes, really; and it was stunning.

Joana Vasconcelos Crab

The exhibition runs till 7 May and if you can get there, do go and enjoy it, and a good lunch in the cafe overlooking the harbour. Oh, and don’t miss Joana Vasconcelos‘ work which used exquisitely crafted crochet lace to form a second skin on large faience creatures – a metre-long lizard and an equally impressive red crab!

Pictures from websites of Turner Contemporary Gallery and Joana Vasconcelos

Quotation from Exhibition catalogue, Preface by Victoria Pomery, p 4