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Sunday, 15 July 2018

Inventive Sketchbooks at Cloud 9

Set up ready for the workshop

If you've read this blog before you'll know that I love running workshops, I love that each time I run a workshop it's different and I learn something new, even when I've run the session many times before. Yesterday I ran my 'Inventive Books' workshop at the lovely Cloud 9 Studio Gallery in the centre of Dumfries. I had three great participants and we all had a productive, creative and enjoyable time. The gallery is a lovely place to visit, there are lots of lovely things to look at (and buy!) and Julie, the owner is really friendly.

Making pages for our folded books

Making pages for our folded books

Making pages for our folded books

It's unusual for me to have such a small group, hosting workshops can be expensive so generally places need a higher number of participants to make it work financially. It's a very different dynamic working with a small group and it was a nice change. The participants were all very creative people as well so that also changed the dynamic, throughout the day I had to remind myself that I was working as it was such a relaxed atmosphere it was more like a creative conversation than teaching.

Folding our books

Folding our books

Folding our books

I shared my processes for making my favourite folded sketchbook and envelope sketchbook and everyone had a chance to make one of each using a selection of papers that they felt inspired by or drawn to. One of the reasons I love making my own sketchbooks is that I can select the papers I use and make it personal to me. I like to draw on a range of different papers so making my own books means that I can pick out the papers I like and use them to create a sketchbook I know I'll want to work in.

Making covers

Making covers

Beautifully finished folding book

We also discussed ways of working in sketchbooks. Like many things, I think that for most people getting started is often the hardest part. As a starting exercise I gave everyone a word or phrase to get them going, I kept these deliberately vague so that lots of different ideas could be generated, it doesn't matter if these ideas don't lead to a final piece the important thing is to get going and start the creative process both in terms of thinking and making. Over the years I've backed myself into a corner (creatively speaking) so many times by getting overly focused on finding the 'right' idea to work on. Over time I've learnt that it's better just to do something, anything as the thoughts and ideas will flow much more easily.

Starting to work in our sketchbooks

Starting to work in our sketchbooks

Starting to work in our sketchbooks

Sketchbooks are very personal things and I love that each one made on this workshop is so different and reflects the personality of its maker. I finished the workshop feeling inspired by the conversations we'd had and happy that I was able to share some of my favourite techniques and hopefully inspire my participants to carry on their creative journey.

Finished books

Finished book

Finished book

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Pictures with Fabric and Thread at The Eden Workshop

Building up an image of wildflowers using fabrics, lace and stitch

Recently I ran a new workshop at The Eden Workshop called 'Pictures with Fabric and Threads.' I had five lovely participants on my course, several of whom had been on workshops with me before. It's always nice when people come back for more, it's a good confidence boost! I'm always pleased to be asked to run courses at The Eden Workshop, it's a lovely friendly and relaxed venue and my participants and I are always well looked after and fed. There is also a great supply of materials and bits and pieces to satisfy my inner magpie.

My sample: layered fabrics, trims, beads and hand stitch

My sample: Lace, fabrics and machine and hand embroidery

Creating texture with layers of fabric and 'stitch and slash' techniques

Stitch and slash sample

The session came about as I'd already run several workshops here and Jane and I were thinking of new ideas. I really love playing with fabrics and textures so that was the starting point; a workshop that would give people an opportunity to experiment with different fabrics and threads to create a unique piece of textile art. When I'm teaching my main aim is to help people discover their own creativity and style, I hope I can give people the confidence to try something and follow their own ideas as well as teaching them specific skills.

Creating a plan to work from

Creating a plan and selecting materials

This workshop was a good chance for me to experiment and test a few techniques out too. Much of my work, particularly the bird portraits, focuses on one element (usually a bird) and rarely features backgrounds so for this workshop I looked at creating work that covered the whole of my base fabric. I take a lot of photographs, often of landscapes, as colour references and I decided to use some of these as inspiration. It was good working in a slightly different way as it allowed me to take processes I'm familiar with, such as layering sheer fabrics, and use them to create different effects. I was also very proud of myself for managing to create some smaller scale work!

Building up texture with different fabrics and layers

Building up texture with different fabrics and layers

Building up texture with different fabrics and layers

I also used this session as a chance to experiment a bit more with the sewing machine, looking at creating different 'stitch and slash' textures with layers of fabrics and trying out some of the more decorative stitches that I rarely use but which I thought would be good to incorporate into our designs. I thought this would give participants a chance to get to know their machines better and make use of more of the stitches available.

Building up backgrounds

Building up backgrounds

Building up backgrounds

During the workshop I encouraged my participants to pick an image and look at slightly abstracting or simplifying it by creating very rough sketches. Once we'd done this I then encouraged them to get stuck into the fabrics and materials and to pick a selection that appealed to them and suggested the textures they wanted to create; such as layers of fabric and lace for water or tweeds for fells. We then worked up our pictures in layers and added details with yarns, trims, beads and other embellishments.

Adding detail with yarn and beads

Adding detail with yarn and beads

It was a really enjoyable session to run. Everyone had different ideas and it was great seeing the pieces come together over the course of the day. Everyone had a go at the stitch and slash technique but because of the different materials they'd chosen and designs they'd created we got really varied effects. I always find this the most exciting thing about workshops; how people can take the same materials and techniques but use them so differently. I find this very inspiring and always go away from workshops full of ideas and eager to try new things!

Building detail with different textured fabrics

Adding detail with trims and beads


Sunday, 1 July 2018

100 Hearts War Stories: The Embroiderers Guild

Sacrifice
Felt, hand embroidery, beads and feathers. 2018

In a continuation of my series of posts about centenaries, this is a post about another participatory project commemorating the end of the First World War 100 years ago. This project is run by The Embroiderers Guild and will comprise of a series of exhibitions throughout the UK, each of 100 Hearts created by Guild members. As regular readers know I do like a good participatory project so I signed up earlier in the year to take part.

Closing up the heart with beaded blanket stitch

The project has two main aims, firstly to create a body of work for exhibitions commemorating individuals, events and stories from the first world war and secondly to raise the profile of textile art and the Embroiderers Guild. When registering you could chose which size heart to make (15 cm or 30 cm) and what colour (red, dark blue or light blue.) The Guild provided templates and fabric and some guidelines and ideas about how to decorate your heart but the emphasis was on creating something personal and something that showcased the breadth and scope of modern embroidery.

Pigeon feather detail

Hanging loop detail

As I knew I had a busy year coming up (when don't I?) I decided to go for the smaller size heart and although I would normally choose cool blue colours over reds I decided I would go for a red heart. I've been adding touches of red to my work for a while now to represent blood and life so it seemed like a good opportunity to further explore working with this colour. I sent off my registration form and eagerly awaited the arrival of my fabric.

Embroidery detail

Tassel detail

A few other people from Cumberland Embroiderers Guild (my local branch) have also been taking part in this project and at our meetings I was inspired by the work they'd done. Some had chosen to make their hearts for a particular individual from their family and it was lovely to see their stories embroidered onto the felt hearts. I wanted to create something a bit different that would be a more general memorial rather than about one person.

The back of my heart

Back detail

A couple of years ago Prism Arts were commissioned by Cumbria's Museum of Military Life to create a community quilt to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. For this commission I designed a project that we were able to make in stages, with each participating group creating patches which I then  joined together to create a 46 metre long 'roll call' quilt. To engage participants on this project many of the images we pulled together involved animals and I'd personally become particularly fascinated by the story of pigeons in WWI.

My pigeon patch for the Somme 100 Quilt

At the beginning of the war many homing and carrier pigeons were killed and their owners interrogated, as it was suspected they were being used to send messages abroad. Under the Defence of the Realm Act of 1914 you had to have a permit from the police to keep pigeons and the shooting of pigeons was actively encouraged. Later in the war, however, officials realised that these pigeons could in fact be quite useful and homing and carrier pigeons did go on to become an important part of the war effort. By 1916 the Defence of the Realm Act had been amended to make it illegal to shoot pigeons.

Tassel detail

I've called my heart 'Sacrifice' and incorporated pigeon feathers into my design as a homage to these birds. I wanted to recognise and remember these smaller lives and the human lives they were connected to. I've used feather stitch in different red threads to create texture and added gold thread embroidery, to represent value and the gold of the sun in the sky. It's been an interesting project to work on, particularly in connection to the other remembrance projects I've been involved in and I'm looking forward to seeing the hearts exhibited.


Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Remembrance 100 at Cumbria's Museum of Military Life

Flow: Memory
Naturally dyed fabrics, feathers, shells, beads and hand embroidery. 2018

With 2018 marking 100 years since the end of the First World War there are, unsurprisingly, a lot of exhibitions and events exploring remembrance. One of these is 'Remembrance100' at Cumbria's Museum of Military Life. As WWI starts to slide out of living memory it is an important anniversary to mark and is an interesting time to look at how the way we remember changes.

Remembrance100 Exhibition

My work (top left)

Remembrance100 is an open art exhibition curated by Jamie Barnes. I think having an open exhibition to explore this diverse area is a really good idea as remembrance is something that belongs to us all, it's great to have an opportunity anyone can apply to so that a range of interpretations can be seen. I submitted and had accepted one of my small textile banners. This piece is entitled 'Flow: Memory' and is part of an ongoing series looking at the concept of flow and part of a wider body of work exploring memory.

Flow: Memory (detail)

I am fascinated by memory and the way how we remember can change. We have a tendency to think of memories as fixed and unchanging but this is not the case. Our memories, both personally and our memories (or remembrance) as a society, are constantly changing and evolving. They are affected by the physical and biological changes that occur within our own bodies as we age and they are affected by the changes that the society we live in goes through. Our experiences and constantly changing emotions also change our memories. Memories are fluid, ephemeral things that ebb and flow like the tides; each time a little different.

Flow: Memory (detail)

This idea of change, ebb and flow is something I'm really interested in exploring in my work. By creating a piece of work about memory I'm trying to fix in a tangible way something that is intangible, I hope by using layers of naturally dyed and sheer materials I can capture an element of this or at least provide something to get people thinking about memory and the nature of remembering.

Flow: Memory (detail)

The exhibition is on until 2nd September and features work by lots of excellent artists, both professional and amateur. If you go before 8th July you'll also be able to see the incredible 'Weeping Window' ceramic poppy installation at the castle.

Weeping Window

Weeping Window

Weeping window