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.

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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 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 9 -new ‘Green Pledges’.

Before I came out to Bergby Konstcenter in Sweden, I had asked people who had visited my studio in Newcastle if they would like to make a ‘Green Pledge’ and I would make them to hang with the others in the exhibition in Sweden.

Here are some new pledges which have been made:

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‘I will encourage bees into my backyard’.

These new pledges have been made using resources I had at hand in Sweden including plastic bread bags (the tassels above) to milk cartons ( the patchwork below).

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I will stop eating beef.

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I will grow my own fruit and vegetables.

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I will turn off the lights.

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This one contains a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.’

All of the ‘ Green Pledges’ are now up in the exhibition, already more new pledges are being made. I hope to go and hang them all up in the woods this weekend! Then I shall send photos to all the people who have been involved in the project so far…

Residency days 7 & 8, at Bergby Konstcenter.

Sunday and Monday have been very intensive sewing days, like all my pieces for my residency, the ‘Sea Juggernaut’ has been very heavily worked.

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Reverse side of ‘Sea Juggernaut’ – a sperm whale.

This piece represents the issues facing creatures living in our seas: pollution (chemical and waste), sound pollution, over fishing, climate change etc. Over the years many whales have died on beaches across the world due to these environmental issues and this year, 18 sperm whales washed up on beaches in Germany. When they were autopsied, they were found to have in their stomachs: 43 foot of shrimp nets, plastic parts from car engines, even buckets inside them, as well as many other unusual objects. They were young whales who had died from heart failure.

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‘ Sea Juggernaut’, beaded, machine and hand embroidered textile hanging at Bergby Konstcenter, Sweden.

The textile piece I have been making whilst at Bergby Konstcenter is heavily beaded and embroidered. It also has lots of ‘found’ objects seen into it, to highlight the disposal of waste from our over consumption. In the textile piece I have sewn in items such as plastic nets used for packaging fruit, items found on the floor such as a tiny ships wheels and anchor buttons!

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Mini ship’s wheel found on the floor outside a local ‘Loppis’.

Within the piece I have embroidered and beaded creatures of the deep, plus also loosely beaded the sea, these are both to represent real and synthetic things found in the sea (like microbeads used in cosmetics).

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Detail showing beaded and embroidered sea creatures as well as stiched poetry.

Each sea creature is unique and took many hours of sewing. One, I have also linked to flowers found in Carl Linnaeus’s garden, as I was keen to make links to this great Swedish scientist who was the first to use the Latin classification system for plants and animals. Within each of these pieces, the animals latin name is also stiched into the picture.

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Detail of beaded sea creature.

Each of the pieces made as part of the ‘Häxors Trosor’ (witches knickers) residency, work on many levels and as part of this piece ( and the others) a poem is stitched through:

Sea Juggernaut 

 

Dive down deep, deep down

Where the nocturnal day or night light

Eclipses the sea juggernaut.

Though, the salty sea stars

Still shine spiral bright.

 

Dive down deep, deep down

In search of balloon bursting, rich tasting

Stringy limbed squid

Sea Juggernaut penetrates past

To wrestling octopus hid .

 

Dive down deep, deep down

To find a pea souper, stomach filler

Of man’s eternal waste,

An all you can eat sea buffet,

Of gut corroding, life stealing bait.

 

July 2016

 

Residency Day 2 at Bergby Konstcenter

The lovely, fresh Swedish country air encouraged a restorative lie in for all! Once we’d breakfasted, the girls and I spent a couple of hours in the studio, the girls painting and I was stitching.

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I am currently working on a larger embroidered and beaded piece of what I call the ‘Sea Juggernaut’ – a sperm whale.

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This piece is heavily worked and I’ve been working on it for a while. Yesterday at the local ‘Loppis’ (a type of second hand shop that you find unexpectedly by the side of the road) I found a very small boat wheel which I have also sewn into my picture!

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Openning up the upstairs of the gallery/studio!

In the afternoon, we popped down to a very pretty town called Norrtalje.

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Norrtalje Old Town.

Besides being a very beautiful town, we also discovered that every year the local council ask artists to create artworks to go in the river, these stay for six months and are taken away, then replaced the following Spring! Such fun! Some very beautiful and some which bring a smile to your face!

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Art sculpture – blame the GPS!

There are also sculptures on or by buildings.

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Whilst also pottering around Norrtalje, I also found some beautiful second hand Swedish fabric, which I might use in my next artwork. Plus on the journey back to the studio, I was delighted to see Marsh Barriers, storks and buzzards!

Late afternoon and early evening was spent in my studio. Such a wonderful place to be creating artworks.

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Life giving bee

The series of artworks I am preparing and making as part of my artists residency at Bergby Konstcenter  in Sweden are part of an interest and a need to make art which makes you question our right to be caretakers of our planet.

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‘Bee’ mini lino print.

I have been looking at the effects mankind has had on many it’s surroundings and the bee is a prime example of the onslaught it faces from habitat destruction, air pollution, climate change and pesticides.

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12 inch square, hand embroidered bee, sewn onto recycled fabric.

The worrying element, besides losing beautiful insects, is that bees are decreasing in numbers rapidly, yet they pollinate 70 of the 100 crop species which feed 90% of the World. If we are talking money, that is 30 billion dollars a year!

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The bee’s wings are made using recycled net from one of my daughters dresses, this is then appliqued on with hand embroidery.

We also need to also consider the knock on effect if we began to lose the plants which bees pollinate. The chain reaction will be felt by the animals which eat those plants and onto the animals/people who eat those animals…

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Detail of the bee with embroidered poetry and flowers. The background has been painted with inks to create a ‘hive’.

In my work, I use traditional textile crafts, to create beautiful pieces which address issues close to my heart. This piece has been made using recycled/upcycled fabrics from children’s dresses and upholstery fabric, painted with inks and very slowly hand embroidered.

As a parent, I feel very strongly about helping the world to be a better place for my children to grow up in.

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Detail of the hand embroidered strawberry fruit and flowers.

My family are coming with me to Sweden and as part of my artists residency, my children and husband are also using it as an opportunity to be creative. They have been testing out their art equipment, planning what size paper to work on and looking forward to just being able to draw. My 8 year old has been researching environmental art and the work of Andy Goldsworthy .

At schools, there is less time factored into the curriculum to allow for artistic creativity, yet it acknowledged that is encourages us to ‘think outside the box’, look for new ways of addressing problems and it is very good for our mental health. Plus, we are not all going to be engineers. I am hoping it will allow us all a freedom to be creative which is rarely given.

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Finished ‘Life giving bee’ pennant.

One last fact to give you, which I found on the Greenpeace USA site, is that a single bee colony can pollinate up to 300 million flowers each day – remember, that’s the flowers of vegetables, nuts and fruit besides the flowers in our gardens and hedgerows!

Life giving bee

 

Pollen detector, avid collector,

Constant in your drive

Frequent flyer, hard wired

To a life giving hive.

Black bold, fierce gold,

From flower to flower descend

Pollen taker, food maker

May this never end.

 

Louise Underwood July 2016

 

‘Peace Talks’ chairs made for All We Are Saying.

Over the past month, I have been working on part of my piece for the Artists for Peace ‘All We Are Saying’ exhibition at the Holy Biscuit. Until, I have finished the whole process and made all the pieces, it’s still a fluid concept. But, the two chairs I have reupholstered in patchwork signify difference, getting together, comfort and talking. I have used many fabrics from different cultures and countries, patchworked side by side.

Wing-back arm chair.

Wing-back arm chair.

A while ago, I bought two wing-back arm chairs from Tynemouth Market, lovely old stable chairs covered in what looks like an old Welsh textile weave. I chose these chairs for the exhibition as I wanted them to be homely, the type of chairs families would sit on if they were having a family dispute and trying to ‘sort things out’ over a cup of tea. As far away from the large, grand, gilt covered chairs that heads of state would sit in to have their ‘Peace Talks’.

Making patchwork

Making patchwork

The two chars were stripped and using fabrics I had (I’m a terrible hoarder), including clothes my children had grown out of, they were patchworked together. Both chairs has a African seed bead square on the front, which can sometimes be found in other pieces of my work.

Hand stitching the cross sections of fabric.

Hand stitching the cross sections of fabric.

These patchworked panels were tacked onto the chairs and cross sections sewn.

Seat back and wings finished.

Seat back and wings finished.

The last stage I really don’t like doing – pipping the cushion! But as it is a free standing cushion pad, it had to be done.

First finished AWAS chair.

First finished AWAS chair.

The two chairs are the same but different. Like we all are, really.

Second AWAS chair with Wilf.

Second AWAS chair with Wilf.

There are a few little fiddly things I need to do to finish the chairs off, but as long as they are ready for Friday 11th September – preview night- then I’m not too worried!

Next, to continue this piece, I plan to redecorate  small ‘pedestal’ side table. During the preview night and during the exhibition, I plan to encourage people to sit in the chairs, have a cup of tea, talk about their thoughts the whole exhibition has evoked in them and maybe document these discussions in a small table book… The ideas keep evolving…

Egyptian Book of the Dead

Egyptian Book of the Dead panel

Egyptian Book of the Dead panel

In the past I have made some very exciting pieces for the Great North Museum, Hancock, many of those linked to their Egyptian collection. To add to the interactive ‘Mummy’, the dressing up clothes and other pieces, I was recently asked to make a large textile panel which showed the ‘Weighing of the Heart’ ceremony – as the heart should be lighter than a feather to reach the afterlife – to be used in school workshops.

Decorative border and gods in place.

Decorative border and gods in place.

The panel shows the Egyptian gods Anubis, Ammut, Thoth and Horus. The panel was painted on fabric, to ensure it could be easily folded and was practical to use for school workshops.

Thoth and Horus.

Thoth and Horus.

When starting to research the different gods, how they were illustrated, the colours they wore, it was quite frustrating to see there was quite a lot of variation – they both have very distinctive faces but the design changes from tomb wall panel.

Thoth and Horus completed, detail.

Thoth and Horus completed, detail.

Anubis completed, detail.

Anubis completed, detail.

One the panel, was to be written in hieroglyphics a secret message from the museum’s Learning Team, for the school children to decode. Again from researching hieroglyphics, I have discovered there is also quite a lot of variation in the standard imagery used – but my 10 year old was able to decipher it last night without a crib sheet from what she remembered learning at school a couple of years ago, so I think the children will be fine!

Anubis and Ammut weighing the heart.

Anubis and Ammut weighing the heart.

Whenever I work on projects like this, I realise just how lucky I am to be able to get involved with such interesting and fascinating projects – for this to be my job!