I constantly gather photographs to inspire my textile work particularly textures of decay and growth. I find beauty in these and I know many others are attracted to this, so much so, that the Japanese invented a word for it wabi sabi. I have a collection from my visit to London Road Fire Station prior to its renovation and an ever growing collection of moss, lichen and coastal textures.
While laid up with a broken ankle, I have finally started to upload these to a couple of print to order sites; launching a Society 6 shop and updating my Red Bubble shop to include products featuring these textures from basic prints and cards, to homeware such as cushions and duvets, and even to clothing and accessories including bags, socks and masks.
I am pleased to announce that my photography and textile work will be featured in this upcoming exhibition as part of Manchester Histories Festival alongside some of my fellow MA Design students at Manchester School of Art.
Cost: £8, includes a hot drink and all materials No booking required, Suitable for: ages 16+
This month I am guest host at Salford Museum and Art Gallery craft social. I will help you create a beautiful fabric apple to use as a paperweight or pincushion. Encase a secret message at its core and embellish with embroidery and beads.
The craft socials are an opportunity to have a chat with fellow crafters and try your hand at a new craft. Cost includes a hot drink and all materials. Check out the Salford Museum website for future sessions.
Time to stop, Time to notice, Time to remember, Time to appreciate, Time to reflect.
January feels just the right time of year to be holding this exhibition. Over the festive period, once we get actual Christmas day out of the way, we do stop and take stock of the year just gone. Hasn’t it gone fast; haven’t the kids grown: we’ve still not got the bathroom floor done.
This January feels particularly poignant as we lost ‘Uncle Alan’ on New Year’s Day following a heart attack on Christmas Day. It was a shock to us all. He was a seemingly healthy man with a big heart and a big personality. He wasn’t my uncle but my partner’s but he was the closest thing my kids had to a granddad and as his own son was yet to have kids, they were the closest thing he had to grandkids. They filled the void for each other; filled it full of drawings and laughter. He kept all their hand drawn cards and when asked, my kids said their favourite memory was sitting chatting and drawing with him. He was no great artist but that time spent together was what was special. The image on the Time exhibition poster is from my piece How Do You Like Them Apples? ; a series of textile apples looking at ageing. Unfortunately not all get to run the course, becoming compost before their time.
January is the traditional time for resolutions following the stopping and reflecting. Health & wellbeing is often high on the agenda. Better diet, more exercise, less stress. Making time to see friends and family more often is another. This year cutting down plastic waste seems a common resolution as plastic pollution of our seas and beaches has been regularly reported in mainstream media and is becoming of widespread concern rather than just the eco-warriors.
Much of my work explores waste and finding value and purpose in the old and the discarded. In my Beached series, I use old office wear as a base to create work inspired by the coastal textures created by the juxtaposition of erosion and decay and the new growth of lichen, seaweed and colonies of shellfish. The title refers to both the location and the state of being washed up, left behind. The most recent work I have been developing is a collection of textile and concrete sculptures created by casting plastic waste and embedding the embellished recycled clothing. There is an accompanying series of photographs depicting the similarities of natural forms and coastal debris discarded by man.
This is a new series and I look forward to sharing it for the first time at the exhibition at Arc.
So may I please add, Time to take action to our list of provocations: say no to a straw and go see your gran.
At the end of January, I will be teaming up with fellow textile artist Simone Frater-Russell for an exhibition at Arc – Arts for Recovery in the Community in Reddish entitled Time as we both explore change over time, be that physical shape and appearance or the fleeting, ethereal and sometimes unreliable way individuals recall events or people. Simone’s work documents the nature of memory, while mine encourages the viewer to stop and look closer, to find beauty, value and purpose in the old and discarded.
There will be an opening event on 27th January where we will both speak about our work plus there will be family friendly making activities to get involved in. For more making, you can book a place on our Hygge panel workshop where you can have time to reflect on your happy place and create a fabric collage response embellished with embroidery to take home.
Through an opportunity offered by Jenny Walker to students at Manchester School of Art, I have been part of a project developing work inspired by London Road Fire Station, an iconic Manchester landmark saved from demolition but about to be redeveloped so a unique moment in time to record the lost grandeur and celebrate the history of the place. We were privileged to be able to explore and photograph areas beyond those on the public heritage tours. We had access to the archives at Rochdale Fire Museum and first hand insights from Bob and Les who run the museum. Jenny has been recording interviews with past residents and employees onsite to help inspire the memories and get their reactions to how it is now. These recordings have given an added dimension and richness to the project.
I was naturally attracted to this project as it covered the redevelopment and new purpose for a historical old building but also the enjoyment the beauty of decay. I took many photos of flaky paint, faded signs and peeling wallpaper on my visits as did many others from looking at hashtags on Instagram.
While up at the Fire Museum in Rochdale, Les took me down to their workshop to see the ladder they were restoring and by chance passing a store room filled with old uniforms. I enquired what was happening to them and discovered that they had been decommissioned due to too many repairs or change in uniform design. With my penchant for using old clothes as my main material, this felt like serendipity. I asked Bob if it would be possible to have a couple to work with and he happily obliged and gave me several.I did insist that he gave me the worst ones, the ones destined for the tip rather then being sent abroad to continue to be useful garments.
Once back in the studio, I deconstructed a jacket. I discovered they were made of 3 layers:
outer made of heavy canvas with reflective strips and the FIRE logo
inner core made of fireproof gortex
The stitching on the lining reminded me of the wood-chip wallpaper that had been used the cover over the bold patterns of the past around London Road. The damp had stained the wood-chip and caused it to come away from the wall, falling in twists and folds. I used the embellisher, stitching, wire and paint to try to capture these qualities in this jacket.
The gortex fabric was pale and lightly textured, reminiscent of old plaster walls. As it was light in colour, I felt this was the best one for printing some of the old photos onto. I attempted gum arabic but it it failed to take as the inks could not penetrate the fabric. I asked the printing department for advice and they pointed me in the direction sublimation printing which was more successful as even though manmade, the fireproof quality meant it was able to withstand the heat of the printing process. I have been sampling both black and white prints at different sizes. The clarity of the images are still quite low but this gives a ghostly quality. I also explored the texture of mould, crumbling walls and flaky paint through free motion embroidery. As I preferred the texture to the colours achieved, I then experimented with painting onto the gortex prior to stitching which I liked more. This jacket celebrates the people and the love of mould.
The FIRE logo on the outer jackets were in different stages of the process of peeling off. My favourites were the ones that were slightly flaky but could still make out the word. I stitched into these to secure the flaking pieces, leaving my threads hanging on purpose. As this was the smoothest layer, I felt it was the most appropriate for screen-printing. I chose to use the original plans for the ground floor and then stitched over them with elements planned for the redevelopment. I also experimented with screen-printing photographs of old signage but although happy with the images, I did not like them in combination with the plans. This jacket represents the building its redevelopment.
I am now refining these as a set of three re-engineered jackets as my piece for the group exhibition in October.
Just over a year ago I applied to Manchester School of Art to do the Textiles in Practice MA. I had an interview at the end of August and started a few weeks later. I am doing it part time alongside my work as a theatre designer and community artist so will take me 2 years to complete with a final exhibition in September 2018.
The purpose of my MA is to build up a portfolio of personal practice to support applications for collaborative & community projects as many briefs now demand a high artistic end result alongside the community output in the form of an exhibition, public artwork or publication. I feel the central themes within my range of work can be linked to community, ecological, heritage and regeneration projects. This will also provide a body of work that can be submitted for exhibitions.
I am also using the MA to find my focus for personal making i.e. when not directed by a brief or collaboration, and discover what I make when I am ‘under-employed’, to keep developing my skills, my voice and maintain my sanity.
Through the creation of three-dimensional textiles, I explore at how we find beauty, value and purpose in things that are old or discarded. I investigate ageing and how things change appearance & shape over time, not just eroding or decaying but also new layers of growth, giving interesting juxtapositions of structure and colour.
Generally, I use found materials particularly old clothes and scraps, continuing my appreciation of the old and discarded but also making my practice more sustainable. I add new layers using both print and embroidery and shape them using both stitch and casting techniques. As well as using waste for inspiration and as my main material, I also use waste materials in my print techniques and as formers to dictate the shape of my structures.
I have been researching into opinions on recycling/upcycling and into people’s love of the old and their fascination with ruins and other artists making work around these themes. I have assessed the print and stitch methods that I use and explored other print and stitch techniques new to me to develop the most appropriate methodology for my work.
I have continued to develop the ‘Beached’ series which has developed on from my She Sews Seashells series plus creating work within the framework of the London Road Project, looking at my core themes but within the context of a building.
The Manchester Craft Mafia were invited to create an exhibition of members work for their Make Anything series of windows. We were given the themes of typography, neon & geometric. I chose geometric with a slight nod to neon. My piece is entitled ‘Groynes‘ inspired by weathered beach defence posts.
Please check it out if you are around the Northern Quarter in Manchester.
As part of the PUSH festival at HOME theatre in Manchester, Mothers Who Make held a day celebrating the creativity in the group. The morning was a skill share where I took part in playful games, creative writing, ceilidh dancing and led the group in making fabric apples that gave them a new skill while considering their on skills & gifts.
The afternoon was entitled Over The Kitchen Table, a reference to where creative mothers often end up working to maintain their creative lives. 10 of us each had a table to present ourselves. It was a fabulous, inspiring afternoon of art, music and writing/theatre. I discovered new artists, particularly connecting with Sarah Greaves embroidery work into objects – her fabulous door (see photo) and her collection of stitched actual pomegranates made with the Armenian community in Manchester exploring her own heritage. Clare Cameron’s emotional performance brought tears and really connected with the writings of Felicity Goodman. Susan Swanton’s growing series of portraits “Invisible Woman” featured several members of the group. It was good to hear the accompanying interviews having seen the photos on Instagram.
I shared my textile work. I was originally due to be doing a live freehand embroidery demonstration but found out last minute that they required my sewing machine to be PAT tested so just displayed and spoke about my work. I burbled about the journey from Theatre Designer to unemployed new mother to my recent growth as a textile artist and going back to college to do the Textile Practice MA at Manchester School of Art. It is probably the most I have spoken about my textile work outside of tutorials & college presentations so thank you for listening. Of course I spent the evening remembering all the things I forgot to say which will help improve my next presentation so thank you to Mothers Who Make & HOME for giving me the opportunity to share in such a supportive environment.
Following the successful tour of “Following The Thread”, DIY Theatre company has begun devising another original touring show for audiences with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities. This time the theme is ‘Space’ and I have been in running creative workshops intermingled with their drama sessions to use design to help generate ideas and boost the devising process.
Week 1: Journey using Puppets
In the drama sessions, they had been looking at packing for the trip and take off & landing. Together we made lists of what we might see out of the window once we took off. Firstly from take off to leaving our atmosphere then once in space.
In two groups, they made simple two-sided stick puppets of some of the ideas. In the afternoon, they continued to work in their groups to draw backdrops using more thing from the lists. We put the backdrops on the wall and started to add the puppets. The following week in drama, they continued to work with these to create little stories and puppet shows adding sounds and movements.
Week 2: Texture & Colour through Planets
One of the highly successful elements in the previous show was the audience being able to handle some of the props. We thought it might be good to create some planets of different sizes and textures that could be passed round. In order to explore ideas, everyone made a textured planet using their own choice from a wide range of materials with different qualities, glued onto pizza bases. We looked at what these planets might be like to visit; climate, terrain, life forms?
Knowing that in films when they visit other planets they often just stick a coloured filter over images of Earth, we explore the room, each other and the planets they had made while looking through different coloured cellophane. How did this make us feel? How did this change our assumptions about a place?
Week 3: Aliens through Mask Making
In my final session this term we looked at who might live on the planets they had made. The group had been exploring and consolidating the character of their planet through drama. As a warm up, we passed around my inflatable alien head, taking turns to put it on and make an alien sounds for the group to copy. This connected with the drama exercises they had been doing exploring emotion & feelings through sounds and actions.
We made a list of characteristic to think about when designing their alien: eyes, ears, mouth, skin, colour etc. They each made and decorated a flat card mask but with all the additions, they were anything but flat in character. I took a series of photos of each of them wearing their mask and holding their planet. It was really interesting to see them together and the relationship between them whether intended or not.
I am looking forward to working with them further on this project in the new year.
I had to do a Pecha Kucha as part of my MA. At Manchester School of Art. The design disciplines work together so although I am doing Textiles Practice, I would be presenting & feeding back on a broad spectrum of designers. My group contained graphics, illustration & sculpture. It was good to have critical feedback from fellow designers but as not necessarily specialists in my field, the need for clarity was important.
For those who don’t know, a Pecha Kucha is a presentation of 20 slides, each shown for 20 seconds. Simple, right? I had seen people present in this way at Pecha Kucha Manchester events at Manchester City Art Gallery but never done one myself.
First I created a grid of 20 boxes, a sort of storyboard to tell my tale. The first act my journey so far, next my current work and finishing with those I aim to be viewed beside. At first those 20 boxes looked daunting but in the end it was trying to work out what to drop that became the problem.
I received really constructive feedback. People were engaged & interested in my work but from the questioning after the presentation, it was clear that I needed greater clarity both in my descriptions to others but also for myself. After my Pecha Kucha, I felt it was important to clarify what it wasn’t as much as what it is.
Please view the slides from my Pecha Kucha below. Of course you don’t get my accompanying waffle but I hope you get a sense of my inspirations and direction my work is going.