Step By Step

One day at a time

Not too long ago I had a wall planner diary for the whole year, I was waiting to hear about a 12-month project so I could fully schedule in my 12-18 month work plan around my holidays, teaching away from home, deadlines and exhibition touring schedule. I always have teaching and exhibition plans up to 2 years ahead in my diary and a plan for what work I will be doing from month to month, usually quite detailed for 6 months or more ahead. I like planning. I love knowing what’s coming up and what I need to do to keep up to speed with both the work and the time off. Obviously that’s all had to change. Instead of long-term plans I have a blank diary with some pencilled-in possible things later in the year if things get better and an income planner which is less encouraging every day.  Like all self-employed artists, I’m having to rethink a lot of what I do and how I do it. I am incredibly lucky to have some ongoing paid work which will keep me afloat while everything else is in chaos, and I have a safe home to be in and the great blessing of a home studio.

 

Over the last few years I have travelled thousands of miles for teaching and exhibitions and spent far too much time away from home and it was my 2020 plan to spend more time at home and get on with some self-initiated projects. Not all of those are going to work out so I am still doing ongoing rethinking about what I can do to keep my business afloat, even as I ‘celebrate’ 15 years as a wholly self-employed artist / writer. I am incredibly proud to have made it through 15 years, including the last hard 10 years of Tory austerity which has radically cut arts funding alongside so much more. Part of this year’s plan was to figure out how to pivot my practice so my work would support my social justice values whilst still making me a living. Some of that thinking work is still ticking over, some of it is going into (modified) practice and I am exploring new routes to making that happen. However, I was turned down for 3 lots of funding for this work in January which has made it even harder to see the route through, and which is only getting more difficult now. But the work itself, using art to make lives better for those most severely disadvantaged, is even more important now that the inequalities in our society are being shown so starkly.  This will continue to develop, but at the moment I need to focus on supporting community action where I can and concentrating on making a living so I can still be ready to rise up and work for and with other people when the time is right. At the moment I am creating resource packs for Criminal Quilts work with women on probation, in place of workshops I was due to run in May. I will be doing a lot more like this I think, finding ways to get creativity and self expression into the lives of people who need it the most without being able to meet with them in safe, creative spaces.

If you would like to support my work, you might like to take a look at my Patreon membership where for just $10 a month you will get a digital mini magazine about my work, textiles and whatever interesting things catch my eye. You could also get a monthly print of my work – this months are just about to go out and May’s will be ready soon. Subscribers are a vital life line for artists and creatives who normally rely on teaching income or public-facing work which we just can’t do at the moment, and every single one of you makes a huge and very real different to me at the moment, and always.

Creating Community

I’m always being asked what inspires me, where I get my ideas from, how those ideas go from thoughts to textiles, how I create exhibitions, what my next project will be and so much more…  With this in mind, I have come up with a behind-the-scenes mini magazine where you will be able to find out just those things, and even see inside my studio every month. I’ve created  subscription community in Patreon where you can join up to get monthly updates about what is going on in my studio and in my working life and support my creative practice at the same time. I hope to create a space where I can share more about what I do with the people who are really interested. You can ask for particular themes or stories in my posts and in the magazine. The April issue will cover the development of Criminal Quilts and where that project has come from and where it is going. There’s a sample mini magazine section here to download {patreon news sample} and much more to look at on the Patreon page itself.

There are three different membership levels including a monthly art print posted directly to you as well as the mini digital magazine at just $10 a month and the Cotton supporter level at only $5 a month. This is open to anyone in the world so I hope it will inspire you too.

 

 

 

Libraries Live Artist Residency

I’m almost at the end of my two-month library artist residency. For the last few weeks I’ve been in the village library / community hub of Newbold Verdon in rural West Leicestershire. I’ve been talking to volunteers, running workshops for over 50s and getting a feel for why so many people volunteer and why they love it so much. I’ve focussed my sessions around pattern-making; simple, everyday creative activities. We’ve had great time doing village walks collecting patterns through rubbings and photography, cyanotypes in the sunshine, drawing, stamping and simple embroidery, and have visited the local WI and run a session for the Forget Me Not dementia cafe.

Early next year I will be working on a commission for the library to keep, using digital patterns created from the drawings, printing and photos created during the workshops and some other ideas I am working on about volunteering and the sense of community the library creates.

Criminal Quilts collaborative quilt

Information regarding returning your quilt square including the address is all in the document below. Thank you

collaborative quilt return form

 

 

CLOSED!

Thanks for your interest but I’ve now had over 100 people register which already makes an enormous quilt!

I am hoping to re-open this later in the year for exhibitions in 2019, so please keep in touch by signing up to my mailing list, following this blog or my social media including Criminal Quilts Twitter

 

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Craft for Solidarity

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In a small but meaningful gesture of solidarity, hope, diversity and community, I am gathering knitted hearts to yarn storm public and community buildings in Leicester. Leicester (narrowly) voted Remain, of which I am enormously proud, but still many people from our wonderful diverse community in Leicester are feeling distressed and vulnerable this week, and many others feeling the need to do something to show our support for them and fight against the racism we are seeing in our country. We hope that a little knitted / crafted  love will help.

We welcome any contributions of handmade hearts in any material, craft or technique, although ideally not paper as we will probably be putting them outside.  There is now a Facebook group for discussion and co-ordination of hearts and links with other groups around the country doing similar things.

We are having a first Craft for Solidarity event on 7th July  6-8.30pm in Leicester city centre. Please message me (below) for details (limited spaces).

If you would like to contribute / collaborate please use the form below to email me, contributions until the end of July would be very welcome.

Pinterest board for ideas

Knitting & crochet pattern suggestions:

Crochet Hearts

Domino Knitted Heart

Simple garter stitch heart

LUV heart (we have permission to distribute this pattern for free)

Heart Attack Heart 

 

Narrative Threads workshop for Gifted 15

Precious objects

Join me for a free, drop in workshop for adults during Gifted 15 at the National Centre for Craft & Design on Saturday 28th November 2015 10am-4pm.

Bring along an every day object or piece of junk and transform it into a precious amulet with some simple textile techniques.

 

Narrative Threads community projects

Part of my Narrative Threads exhibition artist residency has been to work with local communities around Sleaford and the National Centre for Craft and Design. I built this into my Arts Council funding so I could experiment with new ways of working with different audiences, continue to build my community arts CV and try and engage the local community with my work and the messages around it.

A lot of the work created in these workshops and events will be displayed as part of Narrative Threads.

Earlier in the summer I worked with a Sleaford primary school on a project exploring amulets and objects with stories. In the first session we investigated words and symbols which have significance across cultures and in different time periods. The children made tags with special messages, images and symbols. For the second session they brought in special objects and collected natural materials to use to make their own amulets. We used printing, sewing and wrapping to make the amulets and each child wrote about their amulets and why it was special.

 

Sleaford Alzheimers Society

It has been particularly rewarding to work at the Sleaford Dementia Cafe run by the Alzheimers Society. In the first session we created Memory Collages, using fabric scraps and felt to build up pictures of special places or hobbies.

For the second session I took along a reminiscence box of old clothes and textiles to spark memories and stories similar to my textile memories project. These will be embroidered onto a cloth for display in the exhibition. I had hoped it would be engaging for the participants and their carers to reminisce about textile memories from their families. Many people talked about their childhood, their mother’s embroidery skills – or lack of them – and their own sewing for their children. It was a fascinating and absorbing day, and I hope to do more of this kind of work in the future.

I have also run workshops for families during school holidays, making painted and embroidered pincushions and other drop-in craft workshops.

Ruth Singer community project

 

Yesterday I ran a workshops for Arts NK’s community wellbeing event at Waddington, Lincs making memory tags- a decorated luggage label telling a story of a happy memory or something important in your life.

 

I am currently working with A Level textiles students who are creating work inspired by mine as part of the assessed portfolio. Their finished pieces will also be in the exhibition.

Once the exhibition is open I will continue to work with groups including a GCSE group and community sessions for a local sheltered housing scheme. I have also set up Crafts for Relaxation, a free monthly workshop for people who might not be able to afford or attend normal workshops, with the idea of participants meeting new people and getting some time to themselves. This programme has taken some time to get up and running and it has been a challenge to reach the right audience but it is a useful process for me in working out how to self-run community projects in the future.

Harefield Hospital Quilt Commission

I recently completed a really enjoyable commission for Harefield Hospital NHS Trust to celebrate their centenary. There’s a brief background on the project here. This quilt is inspired by a 1915 quilt made as a fundraiser for the first hospital on the site and the new quilt tells the story of Harefield Hospital since the First World War to the present day. Throughout June 2015, I worked with communities, staff, patients and volunteers to create this quilt full of details about the hospital. The quilt is made from traditional hexagon patchwork with over 400 individual pieces including the techniques of hand and machine embroidery, digital printing, screen printing and natural dyeing. The pieces are all hand sewn together and the quilt is hand tied.

The pieces used in the quilt were made during a series of workshops at the hospital, starting with screen printing and natural dye to create patterned fabrics to use in the patches. We used plants from the hospital grounds to colour the cloth and images from the buildings and archives as screen prints. Later workshops included digital printing, embroidery and making the 400+ hexagons used in the finished quilt.

Many of the patches are made from digitally-printed images using photographs from the hospital archives and photos I took of the grounds and buildings in Spring 2015. We have also used logos, plans, documents and photographs of recent events at the hospital.

Blue and grey fabrics used in the quilt are old and current nurses uniforms from Harefield. Written quotes include oral history testimony from staff and patients, as well as comments from the hospital’s Facebook pages. Regular contributors have hand stitched their names onto patches and some contributors gave photographs of family members or documents which refer to their relationship to Harefield Hospital and to social activities related to the hospital. Hand stitched outlines of leaves refer to the wards named after trees growing in the grounds. We have also included details of the red and white ANZAC quilt and photographs of the ANZAC cemetery at Harefield Hospital.

The quilt was entered into the Festival of Quilts open competition in August and will be on permanent display at Harefield Hospital from mid-September.

Harefield Hospital centenary quilt commission

I’ve recently been commissioned to make a centenary quilt for Harefield Hospital. The NHS hospital began its medical life as an ANZAC hospital, during the First World War. The then owner of the 18th century house and estate was an Australian and gave over his house and grounds to create a facility for his countrymen. The hospital continued to grow and in the 30s became a TB hospital and eventually an NHS hospital specialising in lung and heart treatments.

Harefield archive photo

Harefield archive photo

In 1917 a quilt was made to fundraise for the hospital and this quilt has inspired the new commission from Royal Brompton and Harefield Arts.

Harefield Hospital Anzac Quilt

Harefield Hospital Anzac Quilt

I’m running a series of workshops for staff, patients, former patients and local communities at the hospital in June to create elements of a new quilt which I will be creating for permanent display, alongside the original quilt, in the hospital.

We had our first taster workshops at the Anzac tea party last week and talked to lots of enthusiastic people about the workshops and commission. I’ll be blogging regularly about the development of the quilt and the project in general over the summer months up to the launch in September.

Harefield Hospital commission first workshop (Ruth Singer)

Harefield Hospital commission first workshop (Ruth Singer)

 

Darning and Mending

This October, Leicester Footpaths group are running a Green Festival Of Making and Mending and I am helping with the sewing aspects.

During the Festival on 31st October 2015 I will be running a stall sharing ideas on how to do more complicated mends and revitalise your clothes and household textiles including replacing elastic and invisible zips, reinforcing weak fabric, added faced hems, fixing knits, mending delicate fabrics underwear and vintage clothes. I’ll also be able to help out with mending bags, rucksacks and other practical items. I will also be selling tools and materials for repair including lingerie elastic and darning wool as well as zips and buttons.

Mending volunteers required! Can you already darn / mend or would you like to learn and pass on the skills?

I’m looking for volunteers to be part of my mending circle at the festival. Please get in touch if you can help out for an hour or two on the day.