jigsaw, Gosforth Carers, wall-hanging, Louise Underwood, textile artist,

‘In Our Space’ – Newcastle Carers Artist Residency

It won’t be long now until my residency at Newcastle Carers , funded by Newcastle City Council Arts Team, comes to an end. I have been based with the organisation since October last year running weekly/bi-weekly sessions at the different ‘cafe’ groups run at Byker and Gosforth. These sessions are open to carers of all ages, but there are also groups specifically for Young Adult Carers and Young Carers.

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Using text from a vintage typewriter, typed onto special ‘fabric’ paper, to add to our textile books.

We have been working towards making pieces for an exhibition, with it’s opening on the 29th March. The different groups have been working on their own piece. At Gosforth, the group has been working on a textile hanging which takes it’s inspiration from jigsaw pieces, how they interconnect and support each other – just like the group. Each jigsaw piece is painted, using inks which has given us very rich tones and then they are added to using textile glue paints which have a beautiful iridescence. Some of these pieces are then further decorated with stitching, beading, knitting and crochet.

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Jigsaw piece, decorated to reflect how the group feel about the group at Gosforth Carers.

“I feel better when I have been to the sessions – very restorative.” 

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Jigsaw pieces made for the Gosforth Carers wall hanging.

At Newcastle Carers in Byker, they are making two (if not more) pieces for display. The first is a large ‘tattoo’ style heart which I am having cut in wood and the group are knitting and crocheting squares to cover it, like a patchwork blanket. Blankets are traditionally made for those we love, to warm and protect and this reminds me of a quote from one of the group recently about how coming to the ‘Carers Cafe’ makes them feel:

“When I first started coming it was like putting on a comfy pair of slippers or a blanket on.” 

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Using typed text to add to the fabric pages of the textile books the carers are making.

The outside of the heart will be decorated with knitted and crocheted flowers, symbolic of the flowers we would give someone to say ‘Thank you’. This we do not do enough – especially to people who give their time, love and energy to keep us safe and well. Through the middle of the heart will be a ‘swag’ with a phrase or a saying which sums up how the group feel about the support they get from each other and the carers organisation.

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Decoration ideas for the Gosforth Carers hanging.

At Newcastle Carers, some members of the group are also working towards a collective textile book or a personal one. Some group members have also been making pieces for our project at home, which has been really inspiring to see.

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Additional pieces made at home by one of the carers for her own textile book.

I am also working with a group of Young Adult Carers, who have been very industrious trying out lino printing, batik, fabric painting, weaving and writing. They are also making couple of pieces for the exhibition, including a textile book and possibly their own large ‘tattoo’ heart – but worked in a very different way.

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Pages for the textile book.

As part of the residency, I am also very fortunate to have a third year art student from Northumbria University working alongside me. He has been extremely supportive to myself and the carers, encouraging people to try different techniques, suggesting ideas and he will be taking the lead on the larger piece made by the Young Adult Carers. We are also hoping that we will be able to take this group to visit Northumbria University, to look at the art department and the art students studios.

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Evan, Year 3 Art Student at Northumbria University and Student in Residence, working alongside carers to create a textile book.

 

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‘Life has Layers’

Newcastle Carers – Artist in Residence


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From October 2018, I have been working as Artist in Residence at Newcastle Carers an independent charity which supports young carers, young adult carers and adult carers across Newcastle upon Tyne. This is a six month residency as part of a larger project by Newcastle City Council Arts Team to place artists within the community. I was so delighted to be picked to be part of this project as I passionately believe in the benefits of creativity on wellbeing.

One of the aspects of the residency I felt very important, was that the people involved would be able to learn new skills or rediscover old ones, and that resources would be put in place that they could develop the skills further after I have left, rather than the skills stagnating and being lost.

Over the first few months, I have been meeting with the different groups which meet as part of Newcastle Carers, from cafe’s at a number of venues across Newcastle where people meet to have a cuppa, chat to friends they have made through this support network and talk to the workers and volunteers who are able to provide the detailed information and support individual carers need.

As part of the residency, there will be an exhibition at the end of the project and we have planned to make a number of pieces which will hang in the main building on Shields Road, in Newcastle. Each group I am working with are making a different artwork for display but as we are still at the development stage, trying out techniques that the group haven’t tried before or would like to develop further.

One of the groups has decided on a direction of their artwork, which will take the shape of a textile jigsaw approx. 1.2 m x 1.4m. It came about through our initial chats about what people enjoy doing, what they find relaxing and one person mentioned jigsaws and suddenly there was a lovely long discussion about it.

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On reflection, the symbolism behind the design of a jigsaw stands for a lot of things the different groups as part of Newcastle Carers mean to the people who come along: giving support to each other, making links to other resources available, without each other the picture wouldn’t be so clear. Twenty fabric jigsaw pieces have been cut out in a finished puzzle shape, which people are individually painting with images that maybe important to them or an abstract design, These will then be further decorated with beads, stitched words, found pieces etc and made into an individual mini work of art which will be stitched back together with the other jigsaw pieces.

In the New Year, I have planned to start working with the Young Adult Carers on a more regular basis and they have asked to try batik painting and lino printing during their first sessions. Another group has started creating personal pages for a possible memory book they would each like to develop and you can see some of the backgrounds for these pages above.

Over the last three months, we have had a lovely time trying out new techniques, learning new skills and enjoying each others company. I have been given great feedback from the carers who have attended the sessions, who found the opportunity to loose themselves in their creativity a chance to relax and forget about things that may have been worrying them, plus giving them something to be thinking about outside the sessions. I have also been told, that people who may not regularly attend the sessions have been coming more often and that Newcastle Carers feel that the residency has been ‘beyond their expectations’ – which I am so glad to hear as it is a lovely project I am really delighted to be part of.

 

 

Needlecase community workshop

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Needlecase project and ‘maker’ essential equipment.

Last year I worked on a large project to create the Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt, whilst doing that I worked with a small, lovely group of women who were part of the ‘Syrian Family Group’ who met up regularly in Gateshead. The women made about 10 of the hand stitched patchwork squares for the quilt that is now on display at the Shipley Art Gallery.

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Hand stitching a needlecase.

Recently, the women have asked if I could work on developing some other projects with them, to help them get back into sewing. We decided it would be helpful to make up ‘sewing maker packs’, so that everyone had the essential equipment to get them going back at home. The pack included and pair of scissors, needles, thread and pins. So it was decided to make a needlecase as the first sewing project, to keep the needles and pins safe.

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Sewing flower designs onto the needlecase.

The needlecase was made with felt, so that it was practical, versatile and gave a lovely finish. The cases could also be further embellished with buttons and extra stitching.

We meet this Saturday at the Shipley Art Gallery and had a very busy afternoon. When crafting in groups, I always love the social aspect of it: lots of nattering, laughing and cups of tea!

Here are some of the finished hand stitched felt needlecases made by the group on Saturday.

 

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.

 

 

How to: English Paper Pieced Patchwork

Patchwork has a long tradition of using precisely cut, paper pieces to ensure that the complex geometric designs fit neatly into place, ensuring fewer mistakes and more economical use of fabric – which was and can be expensive.

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Finished, hand stitched Pinwheel design.

Follow these simple instructions below to help you with your own English Paper Pieced patchwork.

Patchwork 1

Stage 1

  • Pin the backing paper to the ‘wrong’ side of every fabric patch.
  • Fold over the seam allowance and pin it so that the paper and fabric are the same size.
Patchwork 2

Stage 2

  • Tack around this edge – contrast cotton works well as it can be easily removed later.

TIP: When sewing the corners, use your nails to ensure you have folded the fabric neatly to the points, then create ‘wings’ in the excess fabric, which will remain on the underside of your patchwork piece – giving you a neat sewing edge on top.

Patchwork 3

Stage 3

  • Place two patches, ‘right’ sides together, line them up carefully so that each corner you are going to sew from matches.
  • Pin along this line.
Patchwork 4

Stage 4

  • Then sew a very small whipstitch/over stitch, sewing this edge together – try not to sew through the backing paper.
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Stage 5

  • Continue placing new pieces together.
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Right side of English paper Piecing.

  • Looking at the ‘right’ side of the fabric, you should be able to still see the hand sewn whipstitch you used to sew the two pieces together. This gives it it’s authenticity and adds beauty to the piece.
  • The tacking stitches you can see around the edge (and the paper inside) will eventually be take out, once all of the patchwork/quilt has been pieced together, before the backing fabric is placed on.
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Finished, hand stitched Pinwheel design.

 

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.

Day 1 of my Haxors Trosor Artist’s Residency at Bergby Konstcenter, Sweden.

After leaving Suffolk at 1 am, yesterday morning, we were all happy and excited to arrive at Bergby Konstcenter, where we shall be spending two weeks creating, making, demonstrating and displaying artwork produced during that time.

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Bergby Konstcenter

As part of the residency, there is lovely on-site accomodation provides by Helen and John who run the arts centre and gallery.

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After arriving yesterday, I set up the studio and gallery space, hanging up the ‘Green Pledges’ and the pennants made in preparation, plus emptying the two suitcases of art and textiles equipment I had brought.

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Environmental art pennants.

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‘ Green Pledges’

Already, my three girls are also getting into the digital detox, creative spirit and have started using the art materials that have brought. This is a piece below by Kitty, age 11 who has used pastels to draw this lovely picture.

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Pastel picture made by Kitty, age 11.

 

 

 

 

About ‘obsesivcreativ’

Rupert Brooke poet

Hand and machine embroidered portrait of war poet Rupert Brooke

Louise is a Newcastle based textile and three dimensional artist making unique pieces, working with traditional north east techniques such as hooky and proggy matting, as well as spinning, quilting, patchwork, embroidery, felting, batik as well as upholstery and lino print.

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Hand and machine embroidered portrait of war poet Rupert Brooke

Louise is particularly influenced by nature and environmental issues. Inspiration and influences include the Arts and Crafts movement, costume of all eras (but particularly military, late C20 and theatrical), contemporary quilting and fibre arts in the US, subversive crafting and textiles.

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Hand and machine embroidered portrait of war poet Rupert Brooke

A constant maker, Louise sources materials from across the country. She is keen to react against mass production and uniformity.

Recently, Louise was very pleased to be involved in the exhibition of Grayson Perry’s ‘A Vanity of Small Differences’ at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. Louise worked with local community groups to create three large textile wall hangings in response to his work, these hung alongside the exhibition.

'The First Aspirational Tea Party' made with young mums for Grayson Perry's  'The Vanity of Small Differences' exhibition in Sunderland.

‘The First Aspirational Tea Party’ made with young mums for Grayson Perry’s ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’ exhibition in Sunderland.

Louise believes that passing on skills is very important and welcomes commissions involving school and community work, teaching textile crafts in formal and informal settings.

'All We Are Saying' blanket for Peace.

‘All We Are Saying’ blanket for Peace.

This year, with her family, Louise is heading to Sweden for a two week artists residency at the Bergby Konstcenter. The underlying theme for her residency is about the environment and she have come up with the working title of ‘Häxors Trosor’ for the residency. This is Swedish for ‘Witches Knickers’! This is a humorous term for the shreds of plastic bags stuck in trees and bushes which are such a common sight in our landscapes.  These are symbol of the sad condition of our planet, much of which is a result of a throw-away culture, with rubbish found dumped in beautiful landscapes, plastic floating in the seas and chemicals seeping into the planet’s ecosystems. Watch how the project develops here and on instagram.

Portrait project with Hadrian Primary School

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This picture is made by an extremely talented Year 4 pupil.

 

As part of the Drawing? exhibition at the Customs House in South Shields, Illustrated Stitch I was asked to work with a local school looking at the way I work, developing my portraits using drawing and stitching.

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I worked with 12 children aged between 5 and 11, who had been chosen as they all needed extra help developing their communication skills.

Through the discussion about the artworks in the exhibition, looking at how my portraits also used words and imagery drawn from a persons life, the children were encouraged to think about themselves and how they would like to be represented, what images they would use.

The two pictures above are made by young identical twins, one was interested in nature and bugs, the other robots.

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We worked together during two, one hour sessions, working with six children at a time, to ensure each child felt they had my absolute attention and I could help them throughout.

The children had photographs of themselves to work from. We worked on natural calico, drawing out the portrait, looking at scale, then discussing which areas the children would like to hand stitch to create extra detail.

On the second week, the children added more colour using pastels and painting parts of the fabric with tea.

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Once the children had completed their portraits, I finished they off by hand quilting sections of the portrait and creating a ‘frame’ with the stitching.

The portraits have all worked out beautifully, the colours and tones they have chosen, as well as the lovely lines they have used to draw out not only their wonderful portrait but also little key images which tell you a little bit more about themselves, are delightful. Such a fabulously talented group of very young people!

Current projects

Currently, I am trying to juggle a number of projects, which in an ideal world I’d be able to finish them all asap!

Final 'layout' decision on the Peace Blanket - ready to be sewn together.

Final ‘layout’ decision on the Peace Blanket – ready to be sewn together.

The ‘All We Are Saying’ Peace Blanket is coming on well. Today, I finished hand sewing all the knitted and crocheted pieces together – which we decided will be placed on the first row. All the other fabric rows have now been sewn together, so tomorrow I can piece all the verticals, ready for it’s backing and tabs for hanging.

W. G. Grace portrait- work in progress.

W. G. Grace portrait- work in progress.

I am also hoping to crack on with my portrait of W. G. Grace this week, too, as he was put on hold for the World Mental Health Day hanging (below). As you can see, I have been having a great time with his beard – very different (hadn’t noticed the different ‘textures’ beards had until now!!) to William Morris’s which I completed earlier this year.

W. G. Grace's beard!

W. G. Grace’s beard!

On Friday, I ran a workshop as part of World Mental Health Day in Cullercoats, North Tyneside. The day was for all members of the community and I was working with people to create a large hanging which will be used for similar events in the future. Everyone was invited to sew or design a square to go in the hanging, expressing their thoughts and feelings. It was a really great event and over the next month or so, I shall be taking the finished squares and envisaging their designs, to make the hanging.

World Mental Health Day 2015

World Mental Health Day 2015

The creative process, as many of you will know, is very good for relaxing the mind, reducing blood pressure, for meeting and making like-minded friends and stimulates the brain’s synapses.

World Mental Health day 2015

World Mental Health day 2015