Roll out the red carpet for the premiere of my new Criminal Quilts film!
This will also be shown at Festival of Quilts and most other exhibitions, technology-permitting.
Made by the lovely R & A Collaborations, filmed at Staffordshire Record Office and University of Wolverhampton, with thanks to Jan, Jan, Jan and Ann. Yes, I got all three Jans on one film!
Criminal Quilts book is available for pre-order for another week – the advance copy discount ends 8pm Friday 20th July. The book is just £10 for pre-orders and includes a free bookmark and the chance to be included in the supporters page. Buy now!
The first five pieces of the collaborative Criminal Quilt have arrived! Thank you contributors. There are another 95 to come – hopefully. If you have one to make, please make sure it is back with me (or to Staffordshire Record Office) by 9th July. Full return details in this document collaborative quilt return form
Criminal Herstories is a local history display for Staffordshire libraries related to Criminal Quilts. The display contains a large book based on a prison photo album, of images and information about the prison photo albums and our research about the women appearing in them. It also includes a patchwork made by project volunteers and a new piece of work by me.
There will be a small launch event at Stafford Library on Thursday 31st May 2018 5-7pm. All welcome. The display is then at Stafford Library until 28th June and is free to access during normal open hours.
I will be giving a FREE talk at Stafford Library Tuesday 5th June 1- 2pm and another at Stone Library (where the display moves to in July) Tuesday 17th July, 2-4pm.
Talks and other event details here.
Display tour dates
Stafford Library 1st-28th June 2018
Stone Library 29th June – 3rd August 2018
Burton-on-Trent Library 14th August – 25th October
Wombourne Library 6th Nov 2018 – 10th Jan 2019
One of my Garment Ghost pieces will be shown in an exciting exhibition during FAB – Fringe Arts Bath 26th May – 10th June.
Biography In Cloth is curated by Carole Waller and Joanna Wright. Exhibition open 10am to 6pm daily – 26 May to 10 June. FaB @ Milsom Place, Unit 26 upper level Milsom Place, Milsom St & Broad St, Bath, BA1 1BZ
Garment Ghosts are created from badly damaged and irreparable antique clothing, to which I give new life by remaking. My first career was in museums and I am intrigued by our reverence for objects and the power of objects both to fascinate us and to embody stories. I am also interested in exploring how we feel about textiles and how we create stories around them.
Tying in with my interest in history and museum practice, I am also interested in exploring and challenging established ideas about preserving and displaying art textiles. I find stained, torn, worn and weary old fabrics full of stories. I am continually drawn back to old cloth and how it is loved and preserved or discarded and how my own artistic practice acts as a counterpoint to museum practice. My work with old cloth is a thoughtful and considered interpretation of conservation and preservation.
With Garment Ghosts, I unpick clothing and textiles beyond repair and the fragmentary cloth is brought back to life through trapping the disintegrating garment between transparent layers, keeping the outline of the piece but also opening up seam allowances and pleats to take the fabric back to its original form. Garment Ghosts aim to make you think about how we preserve and present textiles and who inhabited the garment in its previous life. This piece is made from parts of a late Victorian beaded bodice – the silk lining and the deep lace cuffs and flounce. The remaining, still intact parts of the garment remain in my studio, awaiting another life.
I’ve got several Meet the Maker days coming up this month alongside two different exhibitions. Next week 9-12th May is London Craft Week and I will be showing my Precious Objects collections with Design Nation in a studio in south London. I will be around all day Saturday 12th May 11am – 6pm to talk to visitors. This event is completely free so please do pop in. Full details here.
Later this month I will be in residence in my Emotional Repair solo exhibition in National Trust Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire. You can find me 12.30-4.30pm in the exhibition space on Saturdays 19th and 26th May. I will be working on adding more names to my Forget-me-not memorial sampler, to which so many have kindly contributed.
My Makers In Museums symposium is only a month away now, on 6th June. This takes place at Gawthorpe Hall alongside my exhibition and includes makers and curators talking about working with museums collections. Find out more here.
The exhibition masterclass is now sold out, and my Festival of Quilts masterclass has just one space left but there are still a few places left on my one-hour quick and easy workshops. I will soon be announcing a couple more workshops in the autumn in the Midlands and in south Wales. And there’s still space in my West Dean weekend workshop at the end of August.
I’m running a symposium for textile artists and makers at Gawthorpe Hall, part of my Emotional Repair exhibition programme.
The event on Wednesday 6th June is designed for makers, particularly textile makers, who want to develop their work inspired by and in partnership with museums and heritage. Tickets for students and artists are just £12* including lunch! (*National Trust entry fee also payable, please bring cash on the day or your membership card).
Full details and booking on Eventbrite
I am currently working on a new exhibition at Gawthorpe Hall Textile Collection which is in an amazing National Trust building in Lancashire. The textiles there are a private collection assembled by Rachel Kay Shuttleworth (1886- 1967) who lived in the house and opened it up to share her collections and her knowledge.
I first visited the Gawthorpe in 2015 to look at their pincushion collection as inspiration for Memorial Pincushions, which celebrate the life of my beloved aunt. The first half of collection were included in my Narrative Threads exhibition in 2015 and some in Salisbury Textiles Open in 2016. Emotional Repair will be the first time all 46 (each one representing a year of her life) will be displayed together and alongside the original inspiration pieces from Miss Rachel’s own collection.
Late in 2016 I began talking to Jenny Waterson, curator of contemporary exhibitions and learning at Gawthorpe Textile Collection about showing this piece and others in a solo exhibition which is now confirmed for 28 March – 24 June 2018. Over the last year I have been developing new pieces of work and groups which will form this exhibition. I also returned to Gawthorpe in the autumn to look at more textiles, this time selecting pieces about mourning and remembrance, as well as unfinished pieces which I consider very poignant and full of potential stories of loss.
Emotional Repair covers a wide range of personal and emotive subjects focused around loss and remembering and includes work made over the last two years as well as brand new pieces currently in development. Much of this work is deeply personal and touches on subjects which are hard to talk about so it may seem strange that I want to share them in this very public way, but we all know just how healing and cathartic it can be to make things when having a tough time. Textiles have such strong associations with domesticity, personal lives and family memory that they are the perfect means to express emotional stories. For me this works so well with the Gawthorpe Textile Collection, although Miss Rachel didn’t collect with this emotional response in mind, it is still one woman’s personal selection and it is displayed and preserved in her family home which brings an intimacy and personality beyond most museum collections.
The exhibition opens 28th March and continues until 24th June 2018.
In between archive visits I have begun working on a sketchbook to gather my thoughts and ideas for the new work I intended to make for the Criminal Quilts exhibitions starting in summer 2018 – which is suddenly really quite soon!
I’ve created a sketchbook for sharing with people when I do talks about the project and during archive workshops starting in January. It is very much a working sketchbook; a gathering of ideas, inspiration, notes, thoughts, colours, textures and details but it is also intended to be shared, used and probably included in exhibitions so I have taken care to make it look really nice!
I’m working in a large format spiral bound sketchbook with brown kraft paper pages which is robust, easy to display, has capacity for expansion and the colour fits with the project. As I discussed in a previous post, I am finding the photo albums themselves very inspiring – the layers of papers, the damaged leather bindings and the marbled endpapers which feel like a little incongruous in their luxurious feel.
I’m also working on colour palettes to bring through the work, much of it inspired by sepia photos, cyanotype prints and my early pieces taking colours from the Shire Hall court buildings themselves and most recently I have been working on ways of creatively interpreting the data which the research is uncovering. My next post will explore the growing data collection in more detail.
You can keep up to date with the project on Twitter @criminalquilts or on my personal Instagram feed (which also includes a lot more besides!)
During November I went through all eight photograph albums from Stafford Prison to record all the women featured in the photographs. The photographs begin in 1877 and continue until early 1916. The style of photography changes dramatically during this period as does the clothing worn by the women. The first set of images 1877-81 are all pasted alongside a written record giving details of each individual and a little information on their crime, trial and other convictions. The women are shown sitting down with their hands in their laps or enveloped in a large shawl. Many of the women in this album are photographed wearing a medallion with their prison number. Apart from the prison number medallion, these images look more like informal portraits than any of the later images. There about 100 records of women in this album. All the later albums just have photographs with a name, prison number and date of photography with no further details.
The album covering 1883-1887 contains the images which I used as inspiration for my previous Criminal Quilts, focussing on the hands, which in these photos are placed on the chest. It seems that hands were included prominently in prison photographs for a few years as hands, particularly damaged or missing fingers, could act as identifying features. This album has 12 photos per page including about 130 women in total.
The 1893-1896 album shows a change in the way prisoners were photographed. The early photos are taken face on but with a side mirror intended to capture the woman’s profile, though this is fairly unclear in most of the images. Their hands are still shown but by the end of the period this album covers a new style of photography has taken over with a profile image alongside the facing front photo, without hands. These photos, although less intriguing and personal than the ones with hands, still show clothing, and particularly hats with great clarity. These are black and white rather than sepia so also show a change in photographic technology. In most of the later (side on) images, women are shown without their hats and many are wearing prison uniform as shown below (arrow showing on her shoulder in the profile image).
Two albums cover 1897-99 and only contain 21 photographs of women. Why there are so few remains to be discovered as I do more research. These images are similar in style to the previous album although most of them are wearing hats.
Moving into the early 20th century the style of profile and face on images continues and the wearing of hats varies. In the last album 1911-1916, the hats are so impressive and stylish it is easy to be distracted by them and forget these are prison photos. A number of women are wearing similar outfits of gingham apron and mid-colour shirt with white collar and checked neckerchief which is surely prison uniform. A few older women are still wearing a Victorian bonnet rather than the modern large brimmed hat.
In all there are around 500 photographs of women in this collection of albums. I had initially intended just to focus on the earlier, Victorian-period albums where the hands are shown but I have decided to extend the research to all the women in these albums right up to 1916 as they are so intriguing and fascinating. A handful of women also appear across a number of albums and add depth to the stories I am aiming to tell with this project.
In the next post I will be showing the other side of the project – my own creative work developing alongside the research. You can follow the project research on Twitter @criminalquilts where new blog posts and snippets about the project will be shared.