Textile artist

Flower Head – Narcissistic Butterfly

This year our local branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild is excited to be welcoming Michael Brennand-Wood as the speaker for our annual lecture. I have long been fascinated by his work; sometimes really liking it and others – not so much. It always makes me think though, which is a Good Thing!

Stars underfoot radiate


Brennand-Wood is, and has been for decades, an internationally acclaimed visual artist, working in the textile sphere but integrating other media. One of the aspects I most admire is his combination of solid historic research and technical skill with an adventurous conceptual approach. This may sound a bit dull but his work dances with colour and form and often seems purely joyful.

I know you – I wish you’d tell

I am very much looking forward to the lecture, which is on Saturday, 28 April at 11.00am in the Auditorium at Firstsite, Colchester. Tickets (£10.00) are available on the day or you can email e.g.colchester@gmail.com. Do come, if you live nearby, it’s a rare opportunity to listen to the artist talk about his work.

All pictures are from Michael’s website.

More snow – and quilting

After my last post I thought Spring would gradually creep up on us and longer and warmer days were ahead. Hmm.  The Quilters’ Guild had its ‘Spring’ Regional Day for our area on the Saturday the snow returned.  The start of the day was not promising (unless you wanted a snow-filled day!) but most braved the early morning elements and, despite what looked like a blizzard outside most of the time, the roads were clear for our homeward journeys. We were amply rewarded with meeting many friends, patronising the traders and being treated to two excellent talks.

Heather Hasthorpe showed many of her stunning quilts whilst debating what constituted a Modern Quilt or a Contemporary Quilt.  Generously she showcases many on her website here so do go and enjoy! I think my favourite was Red Dragons but there were several contenders.

In the afternoon, with the snow still swirling outside, we were transported to a hot and dry Ghana by Pat Archibald’s account of her visit there, encountering many craftworkers. Weavers, dyers, basketmakers, bead makers – all working with the meagre resources available to them, recycling, repurposing and investing huge amounts of time and labour. One walked two or three hours to gather wood to fire his small kiln which he balanced on springs taken from dismembered car seats.  Her lively and humorous talk gave much food for thought as I surveyed the abundance of ‘stuff’ in my workroom later.  Pat has produced some stunning work based on her African experiences; you can see it on her website here.

The blocks at the top of this post are waiting for me to decide what to do with them.  Our textile group’s most recent challenge involved each of us being given a piece of a beautiful Nancy Crow fabric, to do whatever we wanted.  It graded from light to dark, with a subtle range of greys and misty purples, and I immediately was seized with a desire to make small log cabin blocks (I have no idea where that came from!). In a way it’s wasteful of a precious fabric as so much is hidden in seam allowances, but I do just love the colour movement you can get with this technique.  So I have eleven 3 1/2″ blocks to play with.  Watch this space!

Exquisite embroidery

Last week I indulged in a visit to the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow. I’ve been before, to learn about the man himself, and his influence on the Arts and Crafts  movement and textiles in particular.

This time I went because there are now three rooms devoted, until January, to an exploration of his daughter, May. I’ve known about her role in the Morris and Co Embroidery Workshop, as manager from the age of 23, and some of her wonderful embroideries. The Gallery has gathered  some truly exquisite works, over 80, together with photos and other memorabilia documenting her significant role in the development both of active socialism and the arts and crafts movement, with women artists particularly.

A delightful, and enlightening, glimpse into the life and work of someone who has been too long neglected, in her father’s shadow. We were fortunate in the unseasonal warm and sunny weather and ate lunch on the veranda overlooking the park and very good day. There’s a good website here. All the pictures in the post are from the Gallery’s website.

‘Threads’ and the design process

A break in posting as I have been on holiday and also very busy! I managed to complete and mount two additional pieces of work for the local Threads exhibition. A bit last minute as I was actually stitching the final work to its canvas half an hour before going down to setup. Still, I always work more effectively right up against a deadline.

There seems to be a growing interest in textile-based art; this is the second exhibition in Wivenhoe this summer. The six of us had very different approaches. Eliza’s art features simple appliqué and stitch; Lesley is a fantastic milliner; Annie’s landscapes shimmer and glow; Beth’s fabrics are bright and enticing; Janet creates her life drawings in machine line and transparent appliqué; and my pieces feature hand embroidery and machine piecing and quilting. It was very exciting to be asked to be part of this, and a challenge.

On Saturday there was Design to Stitch in Swaffham, the Embroiderers’ Guild Eastern Region’s annual get-together. Well worth the long drive. There were exhibited embroideries  to enjoy, many traders to patronise and two great lecturers. Jane McKeating explored for us the design processes of several established, and not so established, artist/makers. A fascinating insight into the many different ways it’s possible to move from idea to finished piece. Sian Martin continued the theme in the afternoon by asking us if we were ‘sat-nav or road atlas’ designers. Sat navvers have a starting idea and a definite end point, following a thought out route to their destination. Road atlasers take the opportunity to explore side roads, alternative routes and places of interest (and their destination may change as well!). We had all written our names in bright fabric pens on a sheet at the beginning of the day and now each was handed a random small square from this to stitch on in any way we felt. A fascinating exercise in trusting one’s intuition when stitching and responding to all the ‘what-if’s’ that come to mind. The final array was impressive and will be stitched into a banner to be used in campaigning for the restitution of creative arts and textiles in schools. A great idea.

Textile exhibition

Recently I was asked to put some of my work in a textile exhibition. Gulp. I was very flattered of course but also a little intimidated. Does anyone not feel nervous about putting there work ‘out there’?  I know I do.  Somehow it’s easier to submit a piece to a juried exhibition because any rejection happens in private.  No-one will know my work was not considered appropriate. I won’t say ‘good enough’ because the piece would not have been submitted if I hadn’t felt it didn’t meet my own standards, therefore for me it was good enough.

So I’m now in the next stage of trying to decide which pieces to hang and get some pieces completed in time. I included a pair that I started and left unfinished before I had to take a break, so at least two years ago. I’ve very much enjoyed getting myself back in touch with the theme I was working on and seeing it through to finished pieces. Giving a title to work is tricky isn’t it?  I thought long and hard about that and finally decided on Stone Stories 1 and 2.  Of course this might change before I actually type up labels… The images came about from my thoughts on old buildings, specifically Romanesque churches, and how the stone still stands as witness to a time and society that has vanished and that we find hard to understand.

Details of some pieces in the photos; I’ll post full pictures once the exhibition is open.  If you live locally to Wivenhoe do come and see ‘Threads’ at the Nottage Maritime Institute on the Quay from  8 to 23 July on Saturdays and Sundays (please check opening times on the website).

Below is the information from the website – I feel very much a newcomer in such illustrious company!

The exhibition showcases the diversity of ideas and range of  techniques used in working with fabrics and textiles.  The exhibitors are all residents of Wivenhoe.
Beth is a freelance textile artist who makes designs for printed fabrics.  There will be printed samples of her designs for sale.
Annie is known for her framed silk stitched collages and her work reflects her love of the sea and the timelessness of landscape. She uses highly decorative techniques crossing the boundary between fine and applied art.
Janet’s love and understanding of colour and geometry are evident in her abstract works while her ability to draw and her imaginative use of fabrics enliven her more complex figurative pieces.
Eliza is a highly regarded textile artist working with words in her hand stitched and embroidered artworks.
Trained at Kensington and Chelsea College of Fashion and Design under Noel Stewart, Lesley produces exquisite bespoke head creations in all materials.
A member of the Embroiderers’ Guild Susan is a teacher of traditional hand embroidery but is also an expert in new techniques.