Today is the launch of Beyond the Festival of Quilts – and online version of the huge event which would normally take place this weekend. I have been part of it every year, one way or another for the last decade or more. I launched my Criminal Quilts book and exhibition there in 2018 and won the Fine Art Quilt Masters competition in 2016, and I have taught so many workshops there that I have lost count. This year I have created an online exhibition featuring some of my pieces from my 2019 solo exhibition Textile Traces. I’ve recorded a talk about the work available alongside the images.
I am hosting a new three-day course at the lovely West Dean College, this June, one of only three workshops I am running this year.
This art textiles course aims to be a relaxed and enjoyable adventure into creative textiles following the studio practice of textile artist Ruth Singer. Over the course of three days you will explore a range of slow, thoughtful textile practices to create cloth with meaning.
The course begins with an exploration of antique and personal textiles, the stories they hold and how you can use them to tell personal narratives. You will experiment with simple, effective hand stitch to add pattern and text onto fabric, as well as fabric manipulation techniques such as reverse appliqué, shadow work and trapunto quilting to add texture and structure. Also experiment with using found objects, scraps, natural materials and vintage haberdashery. You can choose to create samples during the course or keep working on a piece to make a finished artwork, such as an heirloom pin cushion. 8th – 11th June. Book here. £383.00 for the course, plus accommodation.
In recent months I have completed a couple of commissions.
The large panel is worked onto blue linen with scraps of antique fabrics including 18th century tapestry, 19th century embroidery and 17th century brocade. I’ve added lots of hand embroidery details and several found objects embellished with hand stitch and silk threads. The objects include medieval metal detector finds including belt ends and buckles. I love these little details and the historical stories in the textiles, all of which are meaningful to the customers.
Another commission made last year.
This piece is more focussed around textiles and sewing, with thread winders, tape measure, thimble and some of the customers’ own handmade buttons and reflects their love of colour! This one is mounted on cream wool felt.
Commissions like these cost £350-£500 depending on size, complexity and materials (plus framing, I use bespoke, solid wood frames without glass). Smaller pieces are also an option with just one or two elements.
If you would like to discuss a commission please get in touch for a free discussion.
My new solo exhibition, Textile Traces, opens on 25th May at Llantarnam Grange Art Centre, Cwmbran, Wales. The opening event includes an ‘In Conversation’ event with me and Polly Leonard, founder and editor of Selvedge magazine. This event is free and takes place 12-2pm on Saturday 25th May.
The exhibition continues until 20th July 2019.
I am also running workshop at the gallery on Saturday 22nd June to create tiny pincushions inspired by those in the exhibition. Booking details here.
A similar workshop will run in London hosted by Selvedge on Saturday 27th July.
I’m pleased to have had another piece accepted into the Fine Art Quilt Masters at Festival of Quilts again this year.
Tracery will be shown in a large gallery with a lot of other really exciting textile pieces, 9-12th August. I will also be exhibiting my Criminal Quilts project in a gallery of its own too.
Tracery. Machine sewn patchwork. 2017
This piece was originally made for my 2017 solo exhibition Fragments, with the Quilt Association. Tracery is a direct response to the quilts in the Quilt Association collection. When I went 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.
As I develop new work for my Fragments exhibition in the summer, I am investigating and exploring a lot of old quilts. I am continuing to explore my photographs and notes from the research visit to the Quilt Association’s collections in February and creating new technique ideas based on the structures, designs and history of the quilts. I am also investigating the antique quilts and pieces which I own myself and working out ways of incorporating elements from these pieces into new work.
I have also been investigating my own collections of quilts and bits, engaging in Quilt Archaeology (credit to someone on Instagram but alas I forget who). What interests me is not the fineness of the stitching or the patchwork patterns but the textures, the tactility and the reasons these quilts were made and used (or not). I’ve been using drawing, painting, mark making and print techniques to explore my ideas, some of which are very large scale which will have dramatic impact and some much smaller and more intimate, like the quilts themselves, and invite close consideration.
My Criminal Quilts series originally commissioned by Shire Hall Gallery is probably my best known work including the 2016 Fine Art Quilt Masters winner. This winning piece will be exhibited in the Minerva Arts Centre this summer and the patchwork piece will be at Unit Twelve from the end of April. I’m really excited to be starting a new project taking this work further with Staffordshire Records Office in 2017-18. I’ve just received funding from Arts Council England to develop new work, exhibitions and community partnership projects based around the original archive material relating to Victorian women criminals.
To celebrate (or actually, co-incidentally) I’ve got a free workshop on Sunday 26th March at New Walk Museum in Leicester inspired by this series of work.
Inspired by Ruth’s work and using silhouettes of hands, create your own piece with a personal touch. Explore drawing and creating patterns on paper with your own hand outline and embellish with embroidery, fabric and paper collage. No previous experience is required. The workshop is FREE but booking is essential. Call the museum on 0116 225 4900 to book your place.
Small fragments of cloth combined to make a greater whole. Each stitch, each thread, each moment of the maker contribute to a broad canvas of narrative.
I have been invited by the Quilt Association to showcase some work in their summer show and chose to spend time developing new work inspired by their collections. Fragments is a series of work in textile and mixed media developed from my research with these quilts, from years of considering antique textiles and the stories they hold and from my desire to express my thoughts about museum collections through making.
For me, the joy of this collection is that it is mainly rescued quilts – saved from charity shops, from life as dust sheets and from languishing forgotten and unloved in garages. This collection does not aim to be a representative array of fine Welsh quilts it merely (and importantly) aims to save old quilts so others may study and enjoy their making. While the quilts vary enormously in age, provenance, quality and condition, they share a defining characteristic of narrative. Many of the locally-made quilts come with priceless stories about their making or their family history (accurate or otherwise) and those which do not have equally exquisite (to me at least) stories of tragic retirements in sheds and subsequent rescue. The stories which these quilts embody interest me as much as the cut of the cloth and the finesse of the stitching.
The quilts speak of poverty and extravagance, of luxury and desperation, of comfort and of tragedy. They tell stories not just of their making but of their long lives. Some have been repurposed to catch paint or oil spills when handmade quilts had no charm or value. Some were made from the humblest of materials to keep loved ones warm and were never intended to be preserved, admired or studied. Others have had harder lives in the more recent past – badly repaired and hacked about or nearly ruined by machine washing with the best of intentions but with the most damaging effects.
To quilt enthusiasts, my preference for the discoloured reverse, the wrecked by laundering, the oil and paint-spattered and the pieced army blankets may be puzzling. But I am not a quilter, not a quilt scholar (except I admit of trapunto quilting) and I do not look at these pieces of old cloth as a someone who wishes to chart the piecing pattern or pass judgement on the number of stitches per inch. The humbler the better for me. The feel of the quilt is most important to me. What it says about those who made it, bought it, sold it, used it, abused it, preserved it and mended it interests me far more. 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 as a purely 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. I am interested in sharing, through my making, how these quilts make me feel.
I will be sharing the development of this work over the next six months on the blog and social media. You can also keep in touch via my email newsletter once a fortnight.
Alongside this new work I will also be showing my Fine Art Quilt Masters winning piece and other pieces from the Criminal Quilts series. The exhibition takes place at Minerva Arts Centre, Llanidloes, Mid Wales 5 August 2017 – 16 September 2017. I am also running a three-day Summer School on Experimental Quilting 31 August 2017 – 2 September 2017 (full details to come shortly).
Little Selves is an exhibition celebrating the portrait miniature showcasing exquisite pieces from the collections at New Walk Museum Leicester alongside new work by Leicester Society of Artists members and a schools competition. The exhibition takes place 25 March – 25 June 2017.
Although I am no portraitist, I was intrigued by the potential it gave me to create something new. I worked, years ago, on the development of the V&A Portrait Miniatures gallery and have a fondness for tiny, personal portraits. My inspiration for this piece came from this eye miniature of Mrs. Fitzherbert, George Engleheart (1750-1829). Watercolour and gouache on ivory.
“Mrs Maria Fitzherbert was secretly married to the Prince of Wales, later George IV. He stopped all contact with her on his official marriage, but was buried with a miniature of her around his neck. The identity of the single eye was known to the owner, but to no-one else.” From The Story of Leicester.
I am fascinated by personal mementoes and memorials and by human hair and chose to create an eye miniature of my own stitched with hair. Within is drawn from my own eye and stitched with donated human hair on a scrap of Victorian cotton taken from a disintegrated patchwork quilt.