New interactive pieces for The Sill, Northumberland.

The Sill, is a new landscape discovery centre in beautiful Northumberland, very close to many of the famous Roman sites along Hadrian’s Wall. The Sill helps visitors to look deeper into the landscape, culture, history and heritage of Northumberland.

View from The Sill roof

View from The Sill roof

Last year, whilst The Sill was still being built, I was asked by the Education Team to work with them on creating some interactive bags for schools and community groups to use whilst visiting their building and galleries.

Inside The Sill

Inside The Sill’s gallery, which explains many of the uses of the landscape, materials and habitats found in the area.

A large part of last year I spent working on the Shipley Art Galleries Centenary Quilt but as soon as that was finished, we started planning in more detail what interactive materials The Sill would benefit from first and how they would like them to look. So the first two interactive bags I worked on was the Moorland Curlew Bag and the Geology bag.

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Curlew Children’s mask

The Moorland Curlew bag was great fun to make. The bag itself is large enough to carry all the interactive pieces in plus room for teachers notes. I always find children love as much opportunity to dress up – so any chance to make wings and masks is great!

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Curlew wings, child size.

The Curlew bag also had a crochet nest, with eggs plus worms for the Curlew to eat!

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Curlew nest and eggs.

Habitat bags always need a predator and what better than a fox – great fun for interactive role play!

Fox mask

Fox mask.

The Moorland Curlew bag itself had two sides, as the curlews nest in the moorland building their nests on the floor and they also spend their time at the seaside amongst the mudflats – which you may have seen, with their long, curled, distinctive beaks.

Using bags in the Sill

Moorland Curlew (mudflat side) and Geology bag being used at The Sill.

The geology bag looked at how the stone and the Whin Sill had been created over thousands of years. The bag itself illustrates very simply how the stratigraphic layers in the area have built up to create the landscape and stone in the area.

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Geology bag cover, textile illustration of the stratigraphic layers in Northumberland.

To help illustrate to children visiting with schools and community groups, small textile panels were made to show how the local stone is used in Hadrian’s Wall, making roads, sandstone walls and limestone kilns.

This bag was also quilted so that rocks and stones, plus other materials could safely be placed inside.

Interactive 'stone' pieces

Four textile panels illustrating the use of stone in the area: top left – road building, top right – sandstone walls, bottom left – limestone kilns and how limestone enriches the ground and bottom right – Hadrian’s Wall.

These bags have now been delivered and I am now working on a ‘Dark Skies and Mythology’ bag plus a large, layered map which will be used up on the grassed roof, to assist discussions about how the landscape has changed over the last two thousand years.

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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 6 – visit to Uppsala.

As part of my residency, I was keen to visit Uppsala where Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) lived, studied and worked. Linnaeus is famous throughout the world as the person who started using the classifying system in Latin for plants and later animals. Within my work for my residency at Bergby Konstcenter, I have incorporated the Latin names into my textiles, linking it to this part of Sweden.

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Beautiful flowers found in Linnaeus’s garden.

The flower seen above, I have used since as part of my inspiration for the last sea creature I was to sew on my ‘Sea Juggernaut’ textile – which I shall blog about over the next day or so.

Uppsala is a very beautiful city, with a large cathedral and famous university. Like Stockholm and Norrtalje, we found it was also a city full of art, from public outdoor work to great galleries. In the Domkyrkan, Scandinavia’s largest cathedral, besides being the most beautiful stained glass windows, frescos and tapestries, there is also some beautifully simple pieces of modern art.

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From the cathedral, we walked on (lots of walking today) to the fantastic Museum of Evolution, which is within the university area. It is very much a traditional museum, which holds a wonderful collection of dinosaur and early human fossils.

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Bror Hjorths studio.

Our last visit was to Bror Hjorth’s house and studio. Bror Hjorth (1894-1968) was a mondernist painter and sculptor. He is considered to be one of Sweden’s greatest artists.  The museum we all found very exciting and inspiring.

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Bror Hjorth’s studio.

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Sculpture by Bror Hjorth in his garden.

Häxors Trosor (Witches Knickers!)

Over the next few months I am preparing for a very exiting project I am working on in anticipation of a two week Artist’s Residency in Sweden, this August. The residency is at the Bergby Konstcenter, an art run institution in rural Sweden, which welcomes artists from all over the world.

In preparation for the residency, I am continuing with the values and themes that run through a lot of my personal work which reflects upon the environment, destruction and our responsibilities as ‘Caretakers of the World’. I am also aware that travelling to Sweden from the UK, will mean that I need to restrict the type of materials and equipment I will be able to physically take to work with. So, using traditional mat-making which I have often used on this type of work, is out! Two such pieces are illustrated below:

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‘Caretakers of the World, UNITE!’

The artwork above, was made for an exhibition to celebrate the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to the North East. It represents an illustrated carpet page, created by the monks. Using this imagery, I ‘hooked’ a world map within the cross with flora and fauna, representing the natural world we need to take care of.

R.I.P Mother Earth & Lindisfarne mat

‘R.I.P Mother Earth’, seen also with ‘Caretakers of the World, UNITE!’, in an exhibition at The Holy Biscuit, Newcastle.

‘R.I.P Mother Earth’ is a textile work coffin, the ends and lid of which are ‘hooked’ using a traditional mat-making technique using recycled fabrics. This piece reflects the way we are treating the world and what will become of our planet if we don’t start to radically change our ways.

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‘Moral Compass’ which was exhibited at Gateshead Civic Centre as part of the ‘All We Are Saying’ exhibition and at The Holy Biscuit, as part of their ‘Your Deeds Don’t Define You’ exhibition.

A more recent piece, which is a link between ‘R.I.P’, ‘Caretakers’ and ‘Häxors Trosor’, is ‘Moral Compass’, a piece I wrote about in January. It reflects upon my desire as a parent to ensure that this is a world my children will want to live in and be happy – a world of peace, respect and love.

I 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.

Inspiration struck me whilst walking my dog; I saw a crow acting in an extremely defensive manner over what turned out to be a piece of plastic bag which it wanted to use to ‘feather’ it’s nest.  I found this very upsetting.  It not only represents  overconsumption and irresponsible littering (which according to Defra costs £10 million a year to clear up in Britain).  As well as the aesthetic degradation of natural landscapes, these plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade and they are dangerous to fauna in many ways.

This has informed the work I will undertake during my residency: a series of pieces which reflect upon the different ways nature is fighting and loosing the war against overconsumption, greed and waste. As I am travelling to Sweden and working in a lovely rural studio and gallery space, I hope to use recycled fabrics and try to be restrained with the resources I take and use to create artworks which show the devastating issues at hand but in a beautiful, reflective manner of textile arts.

Crow 1

Machine stitched crow

So, a couple of weeks ago, I started working on the ‘Crow’, the inspiration for the start of this project. By playing with and developing the piece, it has given me time to think about  how the project will develop and the work I wish to create in Sweden. I started by simply machine stitching him, in a pose ready for the time I put the häxors trosor in his beak.

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Crazy patchwork framing for the crow, using scraps of fabric and clothes my children have grown out of.

As I continue to work on the crow, I can see new elements I want to add to him and his surroundings, layering up and using found pieces of fabric, like embroidery anglaise from a pretty dress my daughter once wore and using crazy patchwork – which is always good fun!

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Further layering using tweed, old shirts and stitched embellishments.

Crows are traditionally seen as harbingers of bad news, which these environmental issues certainly are. Eventually, I aim to turn this piece into an heraldic pennant (which got me thinking about a penance). It also could be tied in with the double meaning of the word ‘standard’: heraldic standards and our possibly unobtainable ‘standards’ needed to improve environmental issues.

This is just the start, I am hoping that over the next few months and during the time I spend in Bergby, Sweden I can create a series of thought provoking and visually exciting pieces.

My young family are also very excited about our time in Sweden and are treating it as a family artists’ residency with a chance to leave tablets, phones and TV for a fortnight and focus on more creative pursuits.  My three girls and husband thrive in a creative atmosphere and they will be keen to create work for visitors to see in the residency space and talk about their work, too. For them it is to be a digital detox and full of creative intoxication!

 

 

 

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!

Moral Compass (Loving you, I need to make a difference)

Happy New Year!

Many apologies for the radio silence over the last couple of months but I have continued being busy, busy, busy…

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Machine stitched World map and compass, painted with tea.

Today, I was working with a number of AWAS (All We Are Saying, Artists for Peace) colleagues hanging a new exhibition at Gateshead Civic Centre. The star attraction is the Peace Blanket but there are some fantastic pieces in the exhibition and photos will follow over the next week or so of the new hang. the exhibition is running from 15th January until 26th February 2016.

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Hand beaded compass.

As I was unable to use my original AWAS pieces in this new exhibition (as my three war poets have been at the Customs House Drawing? inspired exhibition), I have created a new piece over Christmas called Moral Compass.

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Compass painted with fabric inks and seed stitched.

My new piece is inspired by my children and the need to care for them, as any other parent and carer across this mad World. As you will all be aware of the terrible positions many desperate parents have been put in trying to keep their family safe and the measures they will take. We would all do the same to protect those we loved dearly.

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Compass further seed stitched, including gold and silver threads.

Starting with a play on words, I was drawn to the idea of navigating the World geographically but also spiritually and emotionally.

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Detail of the hand embroidered poem.

Once I had decided on the composition of the piece, it was a fun and relaxing piece to work on.

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Moral Compass detail.

The text on the piece reads:

Loving you, I need to make a difference

Make a World for you to grow up

A place of joy and happiness

A World where people care.

 

Loving you, I need to make a difference

For a World as beautiful as ours

Where life is sacred and respected

A World for us to share.

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Finished compass internal beading.

I look forward to showing you soon, the full exhibition shortly, once the last pieces are hung and the labels placed – it was looking fantastic when I left today and the many people walking through the exhibition seemed to really enjoy interacting with each of the pieces.

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Moral Compass finished and on display at Gateshead Civic Centre as part of the new exhibition.

 

 

 

 

Loom Band workshop at Gateshead Library.

Last week, as part of the school holiday Family Fun workshops at Gateshead Library, I ran a ‘Creative Loom Band’ workshop for local families. Although it was a lovely hot day outside – quite rare at the moment – it was extremely well attended and we had such fun!

Families creating loom band creatures!

Families creating loom band creatures!

As many children have been madly loom banding for over a year now, we looked at making things a little bit different to the norm and using other elements such as beads into the process.

Well prepared for the workshop!

Well prepared for the workshop!

Children as young as five joined in and they had great fun making things such as sea monsters, lights sabres, all sorts of fruit, groovy bracelets and even an ‘Elsa’ from Frozen!

Beaded loom band bracelet.

Beaded loom band bracelet.

'Elsa' from Frozen.

‘Elsa’ from Frozen.

'Teddy' loom band pencil holder.

‘Teddy’ loom band pencil holder.

Before and after last weeks workshop, my three girls have all seemed to have had a loom band resurgence and everyday, something new has been created during the summer holidays!

Octopus, made by mini obsesivcreativ.

Octopus, made by mini obsesivcreativ.