Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Machine Embroidery and Applique Workshops at The Eden Workshop

Puffin with Sand Eels, 2017
Machine embroidery and Applique on linen

As you will know if you read this blog regularly or have met me 'in real life' I love running workshops. I really enjoy sharing my technical skills and experience and seeing other people take it in a new direction. I find it so satisfying when I can show someone something and see them understand it and make it their own. I'm really passionate about what I do and I want to share that with people; my workshops aren't necessarily highly technical but I hope that I can give people the encouragement and confidence to have a go, enjoy themselves and hopefully create something they're proud of.

Sewing machines set up and some of my pieces 

Practising machine embroidery

Choosing fabrics

Using bondaweb to make pattern pieces

Recently I've run two Machine Embroidery and Applique workshops at The Eden Workshop in Plumpton. This is fast becoming one of my favourite workshops to run, although I think I say that about all my workshops! It's a real pleasure running workshops at The Eden Workshop; Jane is a great hostess and keeps everyone well supplied with tea and biscuits and always produces a lovely lunch. She is friendly and welcoming and has a great fabric stash too! She has recently renovated the workshop space and it is a lovely place to work, light and airy with views out over the countryside. The groups are small too so that everyone gets plenty of attention and support. Jane hosts a whole range of workshops so do have a look at her website; I'll be doing some more sessions there next year, including running this workshop again.

Fabrics applied ready for stitching

Stitching!

Stitching!

Stitching!

I love machine embroidery. Since I first tried it as a teenager it's something I've come back to again and again. It's like drawing with the sewing machine and I love the quality of line that can be achieved and how quick and expressive it is. I also love the fact that it's very accessible, almost any sewing machine can be used and often the less fancy the machine the better it is for this type of work. Machine embroidery is adaptable to all levels of experience; complete beginners can achieve great results just with a few lines and more confident embroiderers can try out different techniques such as using thicker threads in the bobbin. On the second workshop one of the participants had only one hours previous sewing machine experience but still produced a beautiful finished puffin portrait.

Results from the first workshop

Results from the first workshop

Results from the first workshop

Results from the first workshop

Results from the first workshop

Results from the first workshop

Results from the first workshop

I chose to combine applique with machine embroidery for this workshop as it's a way of working I've been experimenting with myself and also because, particularly for beginners, it makes it easy to build up a picture quickly and effectively. I produced some templates for the workshops as one of the things most people struggle with is a lack of confidence in their drawing and design skills. Using templates still allows for plenty of experimentation with colour and fabric choice whilst allowing people to get stuck in and learn the skills without worrying. Almost everyone chose to use one of my templates and what I love is that in spite of this each finished piece is unique and has it's own character.

Stitching!

Stitching!

Stitching!

In my workshops I want to encourage people to be creative and make their pieces their own. I want to be able to give people the skills and confidence to create something that they can be proud of and that is unique. I also hope that it's an enjoyable experience and that they'll want to carry on experimenting with the skills they've learnt. I do warn everyone at the start of this workshop that this a highly addictive process...

Results from the second workshop

Results from the second workshop

Results from the second workshop

Results from the second workshop

Results from the second workshop

Results from the second workshop

Results from the second workshop

Friday, 13 October 2017

Sky High: Exhibition at Farfield Mill



Around about this time last year I was busy working on my first solo exhibition 'As the Crow Flies' at RSPB Geltsdale. It was a really good experience for so many different reasons. It gave me an opportunity to focus on my personal practice and an incentive to see ideas through to finished pieces and it had a huge effect effect on my confidence; creating the work and putting it all up showed me that I could create a professional exhibition on my own and the feedback I got was so positive, the exhibition was extended as it proved very popular with visitors to the site. I also sold quite a few pieces of work which is always a good confidence booster too! It was also a good opportunity to bring my work together and see what I'd done and where I wanted to go with it.



As the Crow Flies, RSPB Geltsdale 2016/2017

As the Crow Flies, RSPB Geltsdale 2016/2017

Following on from the success of 'As the Crow Flies' and feeling inspired and positive I made an enquiry at Farfield Mill in Sedburgh about the possibility of exhibiting there. Farfield Mill is an arts, crafts and heritage venue based in an old Victorian Mill. I always enjoy visiting as they have a good range of exhibitions (with a strong focus on textiles,) lots of artists studios and an excellent cafe! I was delighted to hear back that they would be interested in displaying my work and would be in touch. Not long after they got in contact and asked if I'd be interested in exhibiting this Autumn. I was a little hesitant at first as it was not long away but I really wanted to show my work at the mill so I said yes.

Farfield Mill, Sedburgh

Installing (along with work from previous show!)

I went down to visit the mill and met Anne Mackinnon who as well as being a talented artist organises the exhibitions at Farfield Mill. It was interesting talking to her, especially as we had both done the Embroidery degree at Manchester Metropolitan University, albeit at different times. It was good talking about our work and looking at the different spaces. The space that the mill wanted to house the exhibition in is the Howgill gallery, a lovely big open space with lots of light. As it was quite short notice and it's a big space Anne suggested sharing the gallery which I thought was a good idea; it takes some of the pressure off but is also a good chance to work with other artists and see how my work interacts with theirs. We looked at several artists and decided that the beautiful, moody landscapes of Daniel Cooper would be perfect. Luckily, Daniel was happy with this idea to and so we set about getting the show organised.

Exhibition Views: Cyanotypes

Exhibition Views: Cyanotypes and banners

Exhibition Views: Banners

Having an exhibition to work to is both exciting and stressful, it is very good for focusing the mind and makes you really prioritise what you have to do, especially if you are working in a limited time frame. Daniel made a beautiful poster for the show and I did something I hate doing but which is quite useful; making a spreadsheet. I catalogued all my work with dates, dimensions, prices and lots of other information, I can't claim to have enjoyed it but it's a useful thing to have!

My Magpies in the windows...
Curiosity 2016

My Magpies in the windows...
In the Shadows 2015

My Magpies in the windows...
Hail to the Thief, 2014

Installing the exhibition was surprisingly easy. The people at Farfield Mill were really friendly and helpful and the hanging system is very easy to use. The downside to the system is that it's not always easy to get pictures, particularly smaller ones, to lie flat against the wall. What I like about it though is that it's easy to rearrange and there's no banging of nails and drilling of screws.

Exhibition Views: A Drop in the Sea, 2015

Exhibition Views: Sky Collar, 2017

Exhibition Views: Flight I and Flight II, 2016

I'm really excited to be showing my work at Farfield Mill and I'm really pleased with how my work looks up in the gallery. It's also very exciting to be exhibiting with another artist and I think our pieces complement each other well. I think it works well because although our subject matter is different we share similar colour palettes and are looking at similar ideas; the natural world and our place in it and our response to it.

Exhibition Views

Exhibition Views

Exhibition Views: Daniel Cooper's prints

At the end of the month I'm running a Mini Textile Banners workshop alongside the exhibition, which can be booked through Farfield Mill. If you go and see the show I'd love to know what you think!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Circles and Spirals: Round and round we go

Stitched spirals; work in progress

My last couple of posts have been going into a bit more depth about my work; how it's created and some of the reasons and meanings behind it. Continuing that theme this post is vaguely about recurring motifs, specifically circles. Throughout human history and across cultures there are certain images, ideas and motifs that regularly recur, albeit in different forms. One example is spirals which are found decorating the artefacts of many civilisations across the millennia. The spiral is frequently seen as a symbol of life and evolution, I like this symbolism and find I can relate it to my own life and experiences.

Stitched limpet shell sample, Westray 2017

Stitched limpet shell sample, Westray 2017

Stitched limpet shell sample, Westray 2017

I've always been drawn (literally and metaphorically) to circles and spirals. At school my books were covered in spiralling patterns, expanding to fill every available space. These shapes and forms have continued to appear in my doodles, drawings and textile work sometimes as background pattern, sometimes as the form of the work itself, such as my 'nests.'

Sketchbook page, Westray 2017

Sketchbook page, Westray 2017

Sketchbook page, Westray 2017

Sketchbook page, Orkney 2017

When we were away in Orkney earlier this year we visited several museums and I found myself repeatedly drawn most towards the Pictish artefacts and some of the earlier Viking pieces. One of the recurring motifs was small circles which appeared on all sorts of artefacts including pots and combs. Similarly the carved stones and rocks with circular and spiralling patterns intrigued me. There are many good examples in Orkney although they are also found across Britain.

Fly to the Sky (Dusk)
Stitched textile banner 2017

Stitched spirals; work in progress

In my current work these spirals and circles continue to make an appearance. I've been working a lot on hand stitched banners; small scale textile pieces composed of hand dyed fabrics, threads and feathers. These banners are held together with meandering, often spiralling lines of running stitch which represent our journeys, both physical journeys and emotional/spiritual journeys.

Fly me to the Sky
Cyanotype and hand embroidery on cotton 2017

Circles to the Sky
Pen on paper 2017

Sky Feather Collar; work in progress.

Continuing with the feather theme I've also been working on a series of drawings and textile pieces based around feathers in circular formations which relate to collars and capes. The druids, amongst others, believed that birds had a direct connection to the heavens and the spirit world and wore capes and cloaks made from feathers in order to channel the birds spirit and to be able to transcend to the heavens. This is something I've been exploring in various ways and has led to some of the pieces I'm most pleased with.

Felted Nests, 2017

Felted Nests, 2017

Felted Nests, 2017

I've also been working on small felted vessels, nest-like forms that I want to explore further. I have an exhibition opening at Farfield Mill on 5th October which I'm really excited about but which has meant a certain amount of my focus has been on completing pieces and getting organised rather than exploring new ideas. Once the show is up I'm looking forward to developing the felted nests a bit further and possibly working more with hand made paper.