This group of work is inspired by historic quilts, much of it created or planned in 2017 when I visited the archive of the Quilt Association to develop new work for my Fragments exhibition. These pieces are also in my Textile Traces exhibition, 2019. The Patchwork Prints series also developed from this research.
Stretched. Silk including naturally-dyed. Lead weights. Machine sewn. 2019
Textiles, like humans, change over time. The softness and undulating ripples of an old, worn quilt reminds me of female flesh, the comfort of our mothers’ bodies and our own changing shapes. This quilt was inspired by an old quilt which had drooped and distorted to become something quite new and sculptural, far away from the neat, flat patchwork of competition quilts. It is a celebration of the joy of growing older and changing shape. 65cm square
Tracery. Machine sewn patchwork. 2017
Tracery is a direct response to the quilts in this collection and on display alongside my work. When I came to view the quilts I was entranced by the damaged ones and chose to make work which reflected this. Tracery has been made and unmade to create a quilt purely of seams holding the remaining threads together, just like the quilting stitches holding together quilts which would otherwise fall to pieces. To quilt lovers, my preference for the discoloured reverse, the wrecked by laundering, the paint-spattered and the pieced army blankets may be puzzling but I love the stories held in damaged or ordinary cloth. The humbler the better for me. I am interested in what it says about those who made it, bought it, sold it, used it, abused it, preserved it and mended it. My training in museum work taught me to look at objects from every angle, exploring every possible story to understand the thing as a whole, not purely as a visual object. As an artist I choose to look from one very specific angle and to explore that rich seam of narrative in as much detail as I can. 100cm x 100cm
This piece was shortlisted for the 2018 Fine Art Quilt Masters exhibition.
Stained Squares, Vintage cotton sheet, natural dye, machine pieced, 2017.
I love of stains on cloth and often use found marks (such as tea stains on old linen) in my own work. Many of the quilts I studied in developing this exhibition had suffered from damp, spillage or more dramatic mis-use and carry the stains and stories of this history. Stained Blocks is made from a double-size cotton sheet with CC41 Utility label. I chose to use this sheet because of its inbuilt history of domestic lives during wartime. This reflects some of the functional quilts seen in this collection, particularly the one made from army blankets which partially inspired this piece.
After cutting, I dyed the cloth with weld, an ancient natural dye plant which I gather on wasteland and building sites in Leicester where I live. After dyeing I stained each piece with iron mordant which turns the yellow weld into khaki green. I then reformed the sheet into pieces of patchwork, matching up the stains and creating new found shapes from the random splashes and blotches I created with the mordant. In this way the stains become both pattern and camouflage. The construction, with raw edges and seams showing is inspired by the reverse of an unfinished log cabin patchwork piece from this collection. 9 pieces, total width 1.5m.
Quilt Blocks, Recycled quilt, natural dye, wooden blocks, 2017.
When researching the stories behind some of the quilts in the collection, I found histories of quilts as a commercial enterprise, made to sell and put food on the table. There are also quilts made purely for keeping warm using the limited resources available. There were stories about the homes of the families who made the quilts which made me think of quilted houses and the idea of quilts as protection and security. Quilt Blocks takes this idea further by making building blocks out of pieces of recycled quilt. I used a modern second-hand machine pieced quilt, reworked with tea dye and rust stains wrapped with care and attention around scrap wood from my own wood store… which I may come to regret in the winter when stocks are low!
This piece is interactive and visitors are welcome to play with the blocks and create a new design. Size variable. Blocks each approx 12-20cm long.