plastic waste, Louise Underwood, Northumberlandia,

Recent ‘Green Pledges’ made for Northumberlandia Residency

Over the Summer I have been busy working on making individual ‘Green Pledges’ to illustrate some of the environmental commitments visitors to Northumberlandia in June and July have made by making small lifestyle changes.

plastic waste, Louise Underwood, Northumberlandia,

‘We pledge to try and reduce the amount of plastic waste we are using’, Green Pledge.

In a couple of weeks, all of the ‘Green Pledges’ made by local school children, young visitors to Northumberlandia made onsite and those I have made to reflect visitors environmental commitments, will go on display within the woodlands at Northumberlandia.

Here are some photos of a few of the finished pieces, with brief information about the environmental commitment that inspired the piece.

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‘Reduce plastic waste’ Green Pledge.

The ‘Green Pledge’ above, illustrates some quite shocking statistics:

  • Over the last 65 years, more than 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic has been produced.
  • Plastic can take over 500 years to fully decompose.
  • But only 9% of that plastic has been recycled (12% incinerated, the rest landfill/litter).
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‘To use no more plastic folks’, Green Pledge.

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‘To recycle more plastic items’, Green Pledge.

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‘Planting bee bombs in our garden’, Green Pledge.

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‘No more nappy bags’, Green Pledge.

The above piece reminds us that over 3796 disposable nappies are used by babies up to the age of 2 1/2 years old. I tried visualising that – not a nice vision, and all that to go to landfill. The materials used in disposable nappies are extremely slow to decompose. Many children will use more…

vegan, green pledge, Louise Underwood, Northumberlandia,

‘To follow a Vegan diet to help save the planet’, Green Pledge.

I admire all the people who have been involved with this project and set themselves a challenge to improve things for the their local environment and, often, themselves. There are many statistics about the positive benefit to the planet if more people have days where they follow a vegetarian/vegan diet instead of meat – a big reduction in carbon dioxide reduction would be one benefit and the use of land purely for food production would be another, to just name a couple of things.

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‘Planting flowers in our garden for the bees’, Green Pledge.

One thing I must highlight is that the majority of all the pieces of work made for the residency and the Green Pledges, are either made from recycled, vintage materials or from ‘found’ objects, which I have then further worked on – some in great detail. A great deal of my work is made this way. I collect vintage fabric from markets and charity shops, often I am given textiles that are still lovely but are of no use to the owner. I also ‘find’ things on my walks and recently, I have been bringing home plastic bottles etc that I have found littered whilst walking the dog in the park.

One piece I have made for this residency is made from just ‘found’ pieces like bottles from the park, cardboard dumped in our back lane, recycled wood and yogurt pots our council will not recycle. This piece is my ‘Gull’ which you can see below – I hope you like him!

gull, seagull, plastic, recyled, art, Louise Underwood, Northumberlandia,

‘To do a litter pick every time we go to the beach’, Green Pledge.

 

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Portrait to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Death of War Poet Isaac Rosenberg

This weekend is the sees the 100th Anniversary of the death of war poet and artist, Isaac Rosenberg. Over the last few years, I have been working on a series of portraits of poets who died during the First World War: Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, Edward Thomas and here are photographs, with a bit of background about my portrait of Isaac Rosenberg.

Isaac Rosenberg

Isaac Rosenberg hand stitched portrait.

Rosenberg came from a deprived, working class background. His parents were pacifists who had fled from Lithuania so that his father could avoid conscription to the Russian Army, first moving to Bristol then onto the East End of London. He was the eldest son of Orthodox Jews and “for his part Rosenberg claimed that Jewishness gave him and his fellow Jewish artists ‘that which nothing else could have given’”. (Jean Moorcroft Wilson, ‘The Making of a Great War Poet’, page 3.)

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‘Daughters of War’ detail.

Rosenberg was a painter and a poet, he attended the Slade School of Art and trained as an engraver. Due to his background, he was automatically enlisted to the 12th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment (a Bantam regiment) as a Private rather than as an Officer, he therefore found that doing jobs such as a stretcher bearer gave him more of a gritty reality of war and this is reflected in his poetry.

Isaac Rosenberg - Daughters of War.

Daughters of War

Within this portrait, I have used hand stitched references to his poetry and his life. A number of his poems I found very pictorial and as I was reading his biography by Jean Moorcroft Wilson as preparation for the portrait, I was noting ideas for imagery. One such poem was Daughters of War, which drove my I need to find a way to illustrate these ‘spirits’ taking the souls of the dead and dying soldiers to be their partners. I stitched frenzied figures dancing, with a section of the poem hand stitched around them.
The figures of the Daughter of War, also symbolise the soldiers who also dance around a flame in ‘Louse Hunting’. This poem depicts some of the terrible issues the soldiers had to put up with day to day, besides fighting in a war.

Isaac Rosenberg

Detail from portrait of Isaac Rosenberg.

‘Break of Day in the Trenches’ and ‘In the Trenches’ were two poems which I have also used to aid the composition of this portrait. ‘In the Trenches’ talks of a poppy at the top of a parapet, not far from the barbed wire of no man’s land, and the terrible aftermath of a shell with the poppy strewn on the floor.

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Detail from portrait, poppy on the parapet of the trenches.

I have also included imagery of Whitechapel Library where, before the war, Rosenberg spent many evenings with his fellow artists and poets, in this portrait Whitechapel Library is positioned in the place of no man’s land, where he would die.

Isaac Rosenberg, framed portrait at the Sage Free Thinking Festival, March 2018.

Framed portrait of Isaac Rosenberg at this years Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival, at the Sage Gateshead, March 2018.

Rosenberg died at dawn on the 1st April, 1918 during a German raiding party but his body was not recovered until the 16th April near Arras. His war poetry is now considered to be some of the finest from the First World War.

The Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt, finished.

In 2016, I was asked to work on a lovely, large community project to help the Shipley Art Gallery celebrate their 100th Anniversary in 2017. The Shipley Art Gallery has a fabulous collection of the decorative arts and a very long, established link with the traditional technique of patchwork and quilting. Within their collection they have hundreds of hand quilted pieces, which have either been wholecloth designs or made using English Paper Piecing.

The project took over 9 months and was ready for the anniversary celebrations in November, 2017. We had over 100 patchworked squares made by members of the community, some local and few were posted from different part of the UK. The pieces which didn’t form part of the finished quilt (not because of quality as the standard of the finished, hand paper pieced squares was fantastic), have been made into pieces which can be used with schools, community groups and general visitors to help explain the process of hand paper piecing.

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Planning the final position of the patchwork squares for the centenary quilt.

Once all the squares were collected in and registered. A small group of people who had worked closely with the quilt over the last nine months, came together to help with the very tricky job of deciding where to place all the finished pieces. At this point, the paper templates were still in the back of the squares. Members of the group took a couple of rows away to join the individual squares together, then two rows together.

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Reverse of the centre panel for embroidering, with it’s paper templates still intact.

During this time, I worked on the centre panel, which was made up of cream and white self patterned ‘Grandmother’s garden’ hexagons, which would become the area to embroider the text upon. This section was then sewn into the middle of three rows of squares.

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Detail of the embroidery onto the central panel. The silk was hand dyed and hand spin by one of the members of the group.

Once all the rows and the central panel of the patchwork were sewn together, it was then placed, pinned and quilted to an organic cotton wadding centre and cotton backing. It took a long time to just pin the three layers together, accurately, as the quilt by this point was 200 cm by 220 cm.

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The finished patchwork ‘top’ being pinned to the organic cotton wadding and cotton backing, in preparation for hand quilting.

I decided to use a new tool, called a basting gun, which I bought from Cottonpatch to ‘pin/tack’ the three layers of the quilt together. A bit like the tools used in clothes shops to attach price labels to clothes, which can delicately keep the layers together but also quick and easy to remove. It made things much quicker and cut out the damage pins could do. It also allowed me to use a large hoop to quilt with, as it was too large for my frames.

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Binding the edge of the quilt.

The quilt needed to be finished a couple of weeks before the centenary celebrations, as it had to go in the large freezer at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle. This is something which the museum and gallery service will regularly do with new items to their collection to ensure that no new contaminates are brought into their collection.

Throughout November 2017, there were lots of different events at the Shipley Art Gallery to celebrate it’s centenary and the quilt was at the centre of this. People from the local community including the women of the Jewish community, women from the local Syrian community, plus local craft groups, the Shipley Quilters and all those who had individually made a square, were invited to a lovely afternoon of celebrations at the Shipley.

Local Syrian ladies community group

Some of the women from the local Syrian community who worked on the quilt.

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Finished Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt on display.

The Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt, 2017.

The Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt, 2017.

The Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt update

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100 finished hand patchworked squares positioned for sewing together.

Over the last five months I have worked with and meet with people from all over Gateshead, the North East and the UK to encourage people to be part of the Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt. We have now received over 130 squares which have been made using traditional hand sewn,  hand paper piecing technique known as English Paper Piecing.

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Designing and making individual squares.

As part of the programme to make the quilt, there has been a weekly class held at the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead. Attending were a mixture of people who had patchworked before and people who hadn’t stitched.  This was a really vibrant and supportive group of people, who within a couple of weeks were advancing very quickly in their skill development and very confident in using the new technique they had learnt to create their own designs. There was also a great opportunity for skills sharing and even the embroidery silk which will be used to stitch the lettering was hand spun during a skills sharing moment by one of our very talented group.

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The Shipley Art Gallery proved to be a great inspiration for our designs.

I have also worked with local craft groups, visitors the the Radio 3 Free Thinking Festival, members of the local Jewish Community and a Syrian Women’s support group. This has been a lovely opportunity to talk to people about how sewing,  making and craft has played an important part in their family, community and culture.

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Just a few of the 130 squares made!

Members of the patchwork class have been helping me over the last couple of weeks to sew the 100 squares together into rows and then the rows together.  This has been a fantastic help, as I am working on the central panel which is white and cream hexagons sewn in the ‘Grandmother’s Garden’design. This will then be embroidered with hand spun silk to create the lettering. Next month, October, I will then start to quilt the piece ready to be hung in the Shipley Art Gallery for the 22nd November, 2017.

 

 

Get involved! The Shipley Centenary Quilt Project

The Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear will this year be celebrating its 100th Anniversary, after being founded following a bequest by local solicitor Joseph Shipley (1822-1909). The gallery holds a beautiful collection of European Old Masters, to Victorian and more modern paintings. It now is also extremely well know and highly considered for its collection of decorative art including ceramics, textiles, wood, metal and glass by local and national makers. The Shipley Art Gallery has an amazing collection of whole cloth and patchwork quilts, which the North East has a long and strong tradition in making, either for private use or as a way of making money.

As part of the celebrations, I have been asked to work with and encourage creative people to work together to make a new patchwork quilt. As traditionally, patchwork would have been made using English Paper Piecing, this quilt will also follow in the tradition. To make this quilt, we need 100, 20 cm square (plus seam allowance) hand pieced panels.

 

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One finished 20 cm square patchwork panel for the Shipley Centenary Quilt.

 

If you would like to get involved, the individual patchwork panels need to be returned by the end of August, either to myself or the Shipley Art Gallery. The finished patchwork quilt will be on display for the centenary celebrations towards the end of November. So, this allows a couple of months to piece all of the panels together and to quilt it.

Final Day of Artist Residency at Bergby Konstcenter

The past two weeks, working as Artist in Residence at Bergby Konstcenter, has been very inspiring, productive, thought provoking and down right good fun! As you will have seen through the last 13 posts, the arts centre itself is a beautiful and inspirational place, based in an idyllic part of rural Sweden but also in easy access of Stockholm, Uppsala and other fantastic places to visit.

Visitors to the exhibition were welcomed with cake!

Visitors to the exhibition were welcomed with cake, as part of an afternoon tea party!

The last day of the exhibition was busy with visitors, many taking part and making ‘Green Pledges’ for me to sew into mini pennants when I return to England – written in Swedish and English.

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Afternoon tea party to celebrate the final day of the residency, organised by Helen and John.

As part of the residency, it had always been planned to parade the larger pennants up into the Bergby woods and hang them with the ‘Green Pennants’ as the closing part of the exhibition. This seemed only fitting, as it is an environmentally charged work about the planet and our job as ‘caretaker’s’ of it.

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Getting ready to parade the pennants to the woods…

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On parade.

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Deeper into the woods…

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‘Sea Juggernaut’ pennant.

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Hanging up the ‘Life giving bee’ pennant in the trees.

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‘Life giving bee’, ‘Haxors Trosor’ and ‘Sea Juggernaut’ pennant hanging in the trees at Bergby woods.

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Me, about to start hanging up the ‘Green Pledges’.

Once the larger pennants had been hung, we then hung the ‘Green Pledges’ which had been made so far as part of this environmental art project. Most of these pieces had been pledges by people from Newcastle, but there were also a few new ones from Sweden.

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‘Green Pledges’ hanging in the Bergby woods.

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More detailed view of some of the ‘Green Pledges’.

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‘Green Pledges’ blowing in the wind.

Besides fueling and developing new ideas, working as Artist in Residence at Bergby Konstcenter, talking to Helen and John,  and to the visitors to the exhibition, it has made me realise that I don’t want to finish this project but to continue with the ideas and ethos which has evolved from my time in Sweden. I have always fully intended to finish the now 50 plus ‘Green Pledges’ and to exhibit them in other places but I also wish to encourage more people to be part of this project and to either in writing make a pledge and/or make it into a textile piece which can be hung side by side with the others. Within each of these pledges, people – young and old – have raised important environmental issues and thought about how they can help address them in a small way.

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‘Green Pledges’ flying from a Suffolk bridge following my return to England.

I would like to thank Helen, John and their lovely family, who made us all for so welcome and comfortable in their arts centre and home, and for giving me this fantastic opportunity to be part of their work.

Artist Residency Day 13 at Bergby Konstcenter, Sweden.

In the last few days whilst my ‘Häxors Trosor’ exhibition has been open, many of my Swedish visitors have also been keen to make their ‘Green Pledge’. During this time I have also been busy making more from the list of pledges I brought from Newcastle.

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Visitors to Bergby Konstcenter making green pledges.

I have been using local resources to make some of the pledges, including milk cartons, plastic bread and chocolate wrappers. Helen and John the artists who run Bergby Konstercenter have also made a pledge to be hung with the others.

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‘I am making a compost in my garden’.

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‘Here I write my solemn pledge to grow and eat organic veg.’

Visitors to the exhibition seemed to really enjoy looking at the craftsmanship in the environmental textile pennants, from the heavy embroidery to intensively worked beading and the sentiment in the poetry. It was extremely heartening to hear the very sincere feedback.

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A local bee keeper and her daughter looking at the ‘ Life giving bee’ embroidery.

Talking to the visitors, asking them to also make a ‘green pledge’ has made me really think about taking this project so much further. The exhibition of the work produced during the residency is going to Gateshead Old Town Hall in September and October but I feel I would like to continue encouraging people to make pledges, so that the number of pledges made grows past the 50 we have so far.

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‘I will eat less dairy and milk.’

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‘I will recycle more’.

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‘I will try to raise awareness with my friends about the issues of sea creatures’, by Rosie age 13.

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Visitors to the exhibition.

If you would like to be a part of this project, please get in touch. You can just write a green pledge which I will make for you or you can make your own to form part of the growing numbers of green pledges made so far.

Residency Day 12 – Digital Detox

Coming out to Bergby Konstcenter in Sweden for a two week artist residency, has been an amazing experience and opportunity for me. I have absolutely loved the arts centre, the enthusiasm of Helen and John who run it and it’s beautiful locality.

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Painting together.

But, it has also provided a creative and interesting experience for my three daughters, aged 13, 11 and 8 – through a ‘digital detox’. This has encouraged intensive bursts of drawing, painting, sewing, reading and 3D art using the natural environment.

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Tablet free zone !

The girls embraced the idea of a Digital Detox, occasionally there was a bit of a wobble,  but overall they enjoyed it. My middle daughter has also read six books in the two weeks – reading some twice!

The girls have been taking their sketchbooks with them on their days out, too.

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My youngest daughter sketching with her Dad.

The ‘Young Artist’s’ exhibition wall includes the work by the young children who live here, who also really enjoyed drawing and painting.

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Young artist’s exhibition.

Sharing, learning new artistic skills and learning new words in English and Swedish has been a great bonus – especially when learnt with friends!

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I can’t say that when my girls are back in the UK they won’t be straight onto their electronic devices, but the two weeks without them has taught the girls that they can not only enjoy themselves without these devices, but  they  have learnt again to entertain themselves, regained their love of reading, and that boredom is a great way to ignite a creative imagination. They have also all said how lovely it is to play freely outside, to be able to run around with no socks on, feel grass rather than concrete and just play.

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Residency Day 11 -exhibition openning day!

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Bergby Konstcenter.

After lots of work, the ‘Häxors Trosor’ exhibition is ready to open. With over 36 ‘ Green Pledges’ made so far by over 20 people, three large textile pieces,  4 environmental sculptures and 4 painted artworks, plus the ‘Young Artist’s’ gallery with over 40 pieces on display. All responding to the challenges which face the environment today.

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Häxors Trosor embroidery.

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‘Life giving bee’, embroidery.

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Green Pledges.

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Green Pledges.

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Green Pledges.

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Green Pledges.

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Green Pledges.

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Green Pledges.

 

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Optical Telegragh – Imaginary Messages.

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‘ Sea Juggernaut’, embroidery.

I shall blog the ‘Young Artist’s’ gallery separately as it is part of the two week ‘Digital Detox’ the children have been having!

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Watercolour and pen pictures of local birds.

 

So far, the exhibition has been very well attended but I must get around to taking photos!!

Residency Day 10

Tomorrow my exhibition is opening at Bergby Konstcenter and there was a few fun things I still wanted to make! Firstly, John had found an old shop sign at the local Loppis and we had chatted about using it to put out on the main road to show visitors we were open.

I spent a good part of the day collecting materials to decorate it, as I wanted it to reflect what the exhibition was about  and Helen found me some wool to create a ‘loom’.

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Finished woven sign for the exhibition.

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I also made a couple of mini hangings for the gallery using similar materials.

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I have also been working on some pen and watercolour pictures of some of the birds I have seen locally. In the spirit of recycling, I have used an old Swedish copy of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ I bought from the Loppis, torn the pages and rewoven them to draw on.

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Black bird

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Buzzard.

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Heron.

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Swallow.