Precious Objects

I’ve got some new work for sale on Made by Hand including embroideries of my grandad’s gardening tools as well as a saw, a spoon and a couple of lovely plastering trowels. Prices start at just £41.

Other pieces from this collection can also be purchased from my solo exhibition Textile Traces in Cwmbran, South Wales (until 20th July), and in the group Thread: Contemporary Textiles in Penrith, Cumbria (until 30th June). I also make to commission using your own treasured tools or rusty heirlooms, or can source something specially for you. Find out more about the Precious Objects collection here.

Fragments – Researching a new series of work

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).

Ruth Singer Criminal Quilt

Harefield Centenary Quilt

The centenary quilt I made for Harefield Hospital last year is now on permanent display in the hospital’s main reception area.

harefield-quilt-in-situ

 

The quilt was created during a number of workshops for staff, patients and local community to celebrate 1o0 years of care on the Harefield Hospital site and uses archive and donated photographs, nurses uniforms, patient quotes, natural dyes sourced from the grounds, digital and screen print and lots of hand stitching.

Urban Growth Project Launch

My collaboration project Interlace was recently commissioned to create a new public artwork with young people in Leicester.

Bethany and I worked with 8-13 year olds in January and February this year to design and make a set of concrete and cloth tiles inspired by the urban environment to be displayed at Makers’ Yard studios in Leicester. We are launching and celebrating the project on Tuesday 7th June and all are welcome to join us.

 

Launch poster

 

 

Criminal Quilts at Shire Hall Gallery, Stafford

My first series of Criminal Quilts is now on display at Shire Hall Gallery, Stafford. These pieces were inspired by photographs from the Staffordshire Archives of women criminals (below), commissioned by Shire Hall Gallery and later purchased for the museum collection and display outside the historic courtroom.

 

The six Criminal Quilts in Stafford are shown below. I am continuing to develop the series of Criminal Quilts for my solo exhibition Narrative Threads.

 

 

 

Original photographs courtesy of Staffordshire Museums and Archives.

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.

Daily Make (17)

This week I’ve started a new commission for Harefield Hospital

.

 

and made some dye bundles at the first community workshop

 

The patchwork continues to grow (on the cat, as usual!)

View this post on Instagram

Puss & patchwork. My usual evening. #dailymake2015 #missmayacat

A post shared by Ruth Singer (@ruthsingertextiles) on

 

I rarely get a day just stitching, so attending a workshop on Indian embroidery was a real treat this week.

View this post on Instagram

My first ever shisha mirror! #embroidery #dailymake2015

A post shared by Ruth Singer (@ruthsingertextiles) on

 

Some preparation for my artist residency day

 

and some stitching stains during the residency day