In these strange and troubling times I have found it difficult to focus on my creative practice. The shifting situation and alarming news sent me reeling. Expectations to adapt and change working practices overnight were draining and I felt in turmoil. Not being able to visit my studio has left me with an extremely limited range of materials and equipment, but I see this as a creative opportunity, a limited palette which nonetheless offers potential and challenge.

When I finally started to pick up materials, I started work without much thought apart from to be gentle on myself and see what happened. I was soon reminded that textiles hold such a wealth of metaphors that can be applied to mindful approaches and ways of working through difficulties. My first explorations in textiles since C19 lockdown involve;

Unpicking… teasing apart layers of cloth, taking things apart, unpacking ideas…

Re-grouping as a way of thinking, organising thoughts, laying out materials ready for stitching.

Stabilising - Holding things together. A temporary tacking stitch to stop things falling apart.

It feels good to have started something.

a fruitful year

It’s been a really great year for me and I thought I would share a few highlights with you all by way of saying thanks for all your support.

Early in the year I was quietly putting the finishing touches to my book, which at the time was top secret so I could share. But working with photographer Michael Wicks and the team from Batsford was fascinating, if a little stressful working to tight deadlines.

I also visited the National Centre for Craft & Design in Sleaford, to hang The Sampling Project in the touring exhibition Ctrl/Shift.

In February I spent some time with my dear friend, portrait and lifestyle photographer Carolyn Mendelsohn. She took some wonderful photos of me in the studio and on location, which was a lot of fun.

April saw me making a return trip to Australia to teach with FibreArts Australia in Toowoomba and Ballarat. It was great to catch up with friends and meet lots of new people from all over the world. I was also fortunate to see some wonderful art in Brisbane and Melbourne before travelling.

I spent late spring and early summer working on a large installation [De]Constructed Cloth for the 62 Group exhibition Construct. This exhibition was a special one for me because Sunny Bank Mill gallery is very close to where I live, so I really was over the moon when my work was selected for the exhibition in July. It also gave me the opportunity to teach a couple of workshops at the mill during the summer.

2019 was a great year for collaborating with friends and I was pleased to have my friend Darren at Do Creative help me with some branding and logo design (as seen here on my website).

In August, and after a long wait, my book Poetic Cloth was published by Batsford. I’ve since had such lovely feedback about it. Thank you everyone.

September saw my book launch at Sunny Bank Mill, followed by workshops and book signings at Salts Mill and the Knitting & Stitching Show, London and later in Harrogate. I also had a lovely article about my work by June Hill published in Embroidery magazine.

During the autumn I was engrossed in a project with Claire Wellesley-Smith, called Mr Gatty’s Experiment Shed. The project, part of The British Textile Biennial, was a reimagining of an experimental dye chemists workshop. I had a lot of fun exploring print processes with madder dye.

In December I visited 20-21 Visual Arts in Scunthorpe, the final location for the 62 Group’s major exhibition Ctrl/Shift, to hang my work. The exhibition continues there until 29th February 2020.

What a year it’s been! I wonder what 2020 has in store?

Ctrl/Shift - final cut

Last week I visited 20-21 Visual Arts in Scunthorpe to hang my work ‘The Sampling Project’. The gallery and nearby Scunthorpe Central (twin venues) are the final locations on the tour of the 62 Group Ctrl/Shift exhibition, which previously showed at MAC Birmingham and The National Centre for Craft & Design, Sleaford.

It was interesting to see the work again after months in storage. Handling and hanging I reacquainted myself with each sample piece. The colours, the materials, the handle of the cloth. It was quite pleasing to work with it during the day and to see the complete installation.

I have learnt a lot from the process of hanging the work at different locations. Working alongside curator Liz Cooper, the exhibition hanging teams and also seeing how other pieces are displayed has been a brilliant insight.

Ctrl/Shift: New Directions in Textile Art  continues: 14 Dec. 2019 - 29 Feb. 2020.

The book to accompany the exhibition is available to buy at the gallery or online.

Experiments in madder

During the last couple of weeks I have been doing some research and testing, exploring printing with natural dyes and specifically with madder. What at first seems a fairly simple and straightforward task becomes more challenging as you realise the very many variables at play; different base fabrics, different mordants (and methods of applying mordants), thickeners and additional ingredients added into the mix, finishing and fixing. I can see how it could become all consuming.

The results of my experiments have been varied, many much better than expected but also some spectacular failures. A print that simply disappears is a very sad thing indeed!

If you are interested in madder printing and dyeing you might like to visit Accrington to see ‘Mr Gatty’s Experiment Shed’ as part of the British Textile Biennial.

Dates: 25 & 26th October

Venue: Elmfield Hall, Gatty Park, Accrington

Opening times:

Friday 25th October: On the hour from 10am until 4pm.
Saturday 26th October: On the hour from 10am until 4pm

Entry: Free, no need to book

Mr Gatty’s Experiment Shed

I was recently invited to assist with some work on a fascinating project with my friend and previous collaborator Claire Wellesley-Smith. Claire is an artist whose practice involves community projects involving making and wellbeing. Her current project has been running for two years and is based in Accrington at Elmfield Hall, the former home of an experimental dyer and chemist, Mr F.A. Gatty. The project has developed all kinds of interesting strands of research and making, including growing madder dye plants, which have been used to dye cloth and yarn, and creating a printing press made from a repurposed mangle.

A couple of weeks ago I visited the site with Claire, including what is believed to be Mr Gatty’s experimental dye laboratory. The building is in a state of disrepair and yet there is something so evocative about the cobwebs and the crumbling walls; if only walls could talk…

This autumn Mr Gatty’s Experiment Shed will be reimagined and opened to the public as part of the British Textile Biennial. On the run up to the event I will be working with Claire to help curate the space as an evocation of past and present responses to site, material and colour. As part of this work I have also been researching some aspects of printing and dyeing with madder and looking at historical dye techniques. It’s a really wonderful opportunity to combine my interests in textile research, history, art and practical making. It will be fascinating to see how things come together in the space.

You can read more about Mr Gatty’s Experiment Shed and Claire’s wider work here.

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