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.

Quilt 5

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.

Quilt 6

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.

Quilt 3

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.

Quilt 2

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.

Quilt 4

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.

Quilt in situ 22.11.17

Finished Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt on display.

The Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt, 2017.

The Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt, 2017.

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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:

WP_20150501_010

‘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.

Crow 2

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!

Crow 3

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!

 

 

 

Hook a Portrait: Marilyn Monroe

Line drawing onto hessian.

Line drawing onto hessian.

This weekend I am teaching a workshop on Saturday about using the traditional technique of ‘Hooky’ matting or Rag Rug to make portraits, at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle. I have used this technique before to create the portrait of my Mum, Nan and Great Aunty in my ‘Matriarchal Trefoil’. So I decided to have another play with a new portrait, using much bolder colours and blocking of fabric – like a Pop Art screen print.

I decided to make a portrait of Marilyn Monroe, as it fits into the style I was wanting to play with: Pop Art and it’s the 90th Anniversary of her birth next year – so why not!

Rather than to sew the hessian onto a mat frame – as this would be quite restrictive for a one day course – I decided I would recycle an old wooden frame and staple the hessian straight to the back. I then free hand drew the portrait on to the hessian – though for the workshop I will show fellow makers how to use a cheating method of using net and printed portraits.

'Line drawing' with hooky.

‘Line drawing’ with hooky.

Hooky mat technique can be a little like creating stained glass windows and that was how I approached this portrait. I ‘drew’ a line with the hooked black strips of wool – I will create a video/photographic ‘How To:’ sometime soon…

Filling in the colours.

Filling in the colours.

The next stage is to start filling in the colours. I wanted to keep it very much in the genre of the pop art screen print, so used blocks of colour rather than attempting shading. I have used recycled blankets, velvet children’s clothes and old dresses.

Completed background.

Completed background.

The fun part was choosing which colours and fabrics I wanted to use, with what I had at hand and I wanted to keep the colour palette small.

Painting the frame.

Painting the frame.

Now, this may seem like I was painting the frame at the wrong point in making the portrait but, in my defence, I was hooking straight onto the frame and was worried I would damage the newly painted wood with the hook; plus, until the picture was finished, I really didn’t know what colour the frame needed to be to enhance the picture.

Finished Marilyn Monroe 'hooky' mat portrait.

Finished Marilyn Monroe ‘hooky’ mat portrait.

A couple of coats of paint are needed to completely finish the picture so that I’m happy with it. but this has been such a brilliant, fun project to do. The finished picture is about 70cm square, framed. I am so looking forward to seeing what the the workshop participants create!