Over the last couple of years I have been working as a consultant for Creative Leicestershire, researching the future of the role of Made in Leicestershire, a network of local artists. Since this work has now finished, I have decided to try and take some of my recommendations forward through working in partnership with another Leicestershire artist network, The Leicester Society of Artists (LSA). In early October I put myself forward as Chair with the hope of taking some of my learning from Made in Leicestershire into this thriving, well-established group. I picked the busiest time of the year to do this, just before our Annual Exhibition opened in early November. The last few weeks have have been intense, with my focus being on the exhibition judges and prizes, the preview event, working with the museum staff and then some PR and marketing activity while the exhibition is open, as well as future planning with our President Lars Tharp and the LSA Council. The exhibition continues until 7th December and is open seven days a week. I have three pieces in the exhibition too and was awarded one of the prizes as well. But the best part so far has been handing over prizes to other artists, which is a joy – and can result in hilarious photos with Tim Fowler!
Earlier this month Creative Leicestershire was awarded a grant from Arts Council England to enable us (me) to do more on my Made in Leicestershire development project. I’ve been working on research and consultation for Made in Leicetershire for about 18 months and this grant has allowed us to extend until the end of September and run some exciting new programmes for Leicestershire and Rutland visual artists and makers.
We are piloting peer mentoring for artists, beginning with training next week and then facilitated meetings over the next month. Those taking part will also have the chance to have a professional photo taken of them with their work and apply for a small professional development bursary. There’s still time to sign up to the peer mentoring programme which takes place on Monday 19th August.
We are also hosting a larger networking event on 24th September, where I’ll be launching a new printed report which will showcase some of the finest creative talent in the city and two counties. There will also be professional development talks and business support 1:1s for new and established artists. Tickets are just £5 and can be booked here.
I love working with artists and it is great to be able to provide development opportunities and work on ways to make the network stronger in the future. It would be great to be able to expand this area of my work into other counties and regions and to work with agencies to create support networks. Hopefully Made in Leicestershire will take flight in the next few years and be the brilliant showcase I want for this creative county.
Two of my recent artworks have been purchased by museums this year. I started my professional career working in museums, after doing a Masters Degree in Museum Studies. Museums are still my favourite places to spend time, particularly in textile and social history collections. I left my museum career aged 30 in 2005 to pursue my ambition to make a living out of textiles. Over the subsequent 14 years, I have worked in partnership with museums and heritage collections many times and still get a thrill of excitement when I discover new objects, collections, personal and community stories and buildings. I have created commissions using archive materials for Harefield Hospital Centenary Quilt, made textile collections inspired by my own family history and used antique textiles to tell the stories of how we do and don’t treasure historic clothing in my Garment Ghosts series. Museums and heritage suffuse my work, they are inseparable to who I am as a person and as an artist. Having work in museum collections, to be preserved forever and accessible to researchers and historians and textile enthusiasts is a real honour.
Memorial Sampler: Gawthorpe Textiles Collection
I am particularly delighted that Memorial Sampler has been purchased for the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection. I have spent time at Gawthorpe doing research in their collections several times and exhibiting there in 2018 was a highlight of my professional artist career. The Memorial Sampler is a deeply emotional piece of work, gathering the names of loved ones who have died. I started with a couple of my own and then asked on social media for contributions. I added these to the piece during the exhibition when I worked in the gallery on Meet The Artist days. I also asked for contributions from visitors to the exhibition over the 3 months it was on show, and after the exhibition I slowly stitched in all of those names too, adding up to over 100 personal memories. It has been an honour to be trusted with these precious memories and to be able to bring together all those lost loved ones. It seems fitting that this piece will be preserved in the collections which inspired it.
Criminal Quilts, Repeat Offender; The Brampton Museum
Criminal Quilts is a textile and heritage project created by me in partnership with Staffordshire Record Office. The project is centred around the stories of women photographed in Stafford Prison 1877-1916. Our research project gathered together over 500 mugshot photographs of women and I created a series of textiles inspired by the stories. This project grew out of an earlier commission for Shire Hall Gallery which has also been purchased by Staffordshire County Council museum collection.
Repeat Offender is a screen-printed textile piece, printed on vintage cloth, created with the support of University of Wolverhampton Textiles and Fashion team. Purchased by Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council for the collections of The Brampton Museum, Staffordshire. This piece is part of Criminal Quilts and was purchased for this collection because the woman featured, Agnes Herrity was from Newcastle-under-Lyme. Agnes quickly became one of the stars of the Criminal Quilts project, as she features several times in the prison mugshots.
This quilt is made from screen printed cloth using an image created from this 1897 photograph of Agnes Herrity. She was photographed (on release from prison) five times between 1897 and 1910. She lived in Newcastle-Under-Lyme. Agnes clearly had a hard life, living in slum housing and making a meagre living. She was convicted regularly of drunkenness, theft and assault. I have used screen printing because it uses photographic process which reflects the historic photographs. The use of repeating images refers to Agnes’ repeated prison sentences. Screen printed by hand on modern linen, antique printed cotton, vintage cotton and new cotton hand printed with marbling design taken from the endpapers of one of the prison albums. It is backed with an old shawl, reminiscent of those seen in many of the photographs.
I’m really chuffed to have articles about my Textile Traces exhibition in both Selvedge and Embroidery magazines July issues.
Selvedge (below left) is a short review article while Embroidery magazine is a 6-page feature (detail below right).
I’ve got a couple of copies of Embroidery to give away to a newsletter subscriber so join my mailing list here ( or on the top right of my website) and follow the instructions in the next newsletter to be in with a chance of winning one – UK only.
The exhibition continues at Llantarnam Grange Art Centre until 20th July. I am looking for galleries to tour the exhibition to in 2020 so please do get in touch if you know somewhere suitable for a large textile show.
My Textile Traces exhibition opened last weekend (25th May 2019)at Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre. It’s a real joy to see so much of my work up on the walls in this lovely gallery, and to have so many people come to the exhibition opening. On the day we held an ‘In Conversation’ event with me interviewed by Polly Leonard, founder of Selvedge magazine. You can listen to this 45 minute interview below in full. It can also be found on Soundcloud.
Some of the works referred to in the interview:
Biography in Cloth
Visual artists and makers networking in Leicester, Friday 7th June 2019, at LCB Depot. Book on Eventbrite. Please note this is for professional makers and visual artists living and working in Leicestershire and Rutland only.
Alongside my studio practice, I am also currently working as a consultant developing plans and proposals to develop the Made in Leicestershire brand for Creative Leicestershire. I have been working on this for 15 months and will be producing a report and proposals in July. Its been a delight talking to makers and galleries, running networking events and exploring what Leicestershire has to offer. I also put together the exhibition Tacit last year showcasing some of the finest artist-makers in the county. I will also be interviewing two artists this year for the Webinart creative business development programme.
If you are Leicestershire or Rutland-based maker, please fill in this short online survey to have your say about the future of the programme to support your work. And come along to the networking event.
Please join Creative Leicestershire for networking, artist talk and discussions. This event is for professional visual artists and craftspeople based in Leicester city and Leicestershire.
The event takes place alongside Lucy Stevens’ exhibition ‘Birdskins’ and she will give us a short introduction to her practice and the exhibition. Ruth Singer will be facilitating the networking and gathering your thoughts on future networking activities.
I’m running a professional development day for artist and makers at Llantarnam Grange Art Centre on Saturday 20th October. 10am-3pm. £20.
Join artist Ruth Singer to explore research-led craft making; about creating original work with a meaningful narrative behind it. Find out about Ruth’s research and development process; explore, develop and test your own ideas and take part in creative planning and group making activities. This workshop will also include ways of working with museums, heritage and archive collections. This session is designed for makers of all levels of practice who want to stretch their creative horizons and develop new ways of working. Ruth works predominantly in textiles but this session is suitable for all makers, whatever material or method you use.
The workshop runs alongside Suffrage exhibition which includes a newly commissioned piece made for this exhibition. The workshop is just £20 for the whole day 10am-3pm and can be booked online here. Please note: We regret that due due to the nature of our building the artists workshops will be taking place in our first floor workshops rooms which do not have disabled access.