I spent most of last week on a workshop in Devon at the studio of Susie Gillespie. I do quite a lot of teaching now and I feel it is really important to be on the other side of that sometimes too. The workshop was all about growing, processing and spinning flax into yarn and then weaving with it. It was a really stimulating workshop in a lovely location and I felt very lucky indeed to have had the opportunity to be there.
There is a lovely vocabulary that goes with this activity: retting, rippling, combing, breaking, scutching…
It is quite an involved business to get this small hand full of fibres ready to spin. I quickly developed a huge respect for peoples of the past whose only way to have cloth was through this series of processes.
I’ve not done any spinning before, although I do have my Granny’s spinning wheel in the cellar. I’m hoping to use it now I’ve had an introduction. The linen yarn I spun was very hairy and more like rough string than beautiful linen thread, but it is a start and I am looking forward to improving my spinning skills.
It was also good to see a little of the surrounding landscape with walks along part of the River Dart and a windy bit of the coast at Man Sands.
We did some natural dyeing, ending up with a lovely colour palette of linen threads to play with and incorporate into our weaving. I was asked to lead a stitching session on one of the days: we used the dyed threads and a host of items we collected on our walks.
I will be teaching with Susie in April and August this year and I’m really looking forward to returning to this lovely pocket of Devon.
Leaf Stitching is showing this week in London and I’m enjoying being back in the calm space that is the Society of Designer Craftsmen Gallery. This exhibition is all about detail. Most of the pieces are intimate in scale and they draw you in to notice their intricacies. Small careful stitches punctuate the natural leaf material; the colours and surface qualities of the leaves invite close inspection.
I have a flurry of workshops at the moment for various groups, which is getting me out and about around the country. In between those and the preparation for them I am making final touches to work for my exhibition Leaf Stitching at the Society of Designer Craftsmen Gallery, London in a couple of weeks. It seems very fitting to have this exhibition as autumn is upon us and I hope it will be a celebration of the leaf at a time when we become particularly aware of these wonderful objects.
As well as pieces featured in the book I published earlier this year with the same title there will be some more recent leaf stitching I have been working on, including 2D and 3D pieces. The Oak leaf Quilt I made a few months ago will be there, and some panels made from eucalyptus leaves that are still work in progress…
I was thrilled to be invited to be part of Meticulous Stitchers at Unit Twelve Gallery, Stafford, alongside artists whose work I really admire. The two pieces I have made for the exhibition are part of my Rust Diaries series and have involved hours and hours (and more) of stitching.
The exhibition opens on 4th June and runs through until 29th August. I will be teaching a couple of day workshops at the gallery in July and there is a ‘stitchers soiree’ on 27th June, a mid-exhibition event (open to all) instead of a private view. You can find more details here and on the Unit Twelve website.
My Leaf Stitching books have just arrived, hot off the press from the printers. The book is now available here. This book forms a photographic record of a series of experiments with leaves and hand stitch that I have been playing about with for a couple of years. As it says in the afterword: This book illustrates a line of inquiry, the following of a thought process.
Some of the pieces that feature in the book, and others that don’t, will be exhibited this Autumn at the Society of Designer Craftsmen Gallery, London.
Just as the new buds are unfurling in the woods I am using last years leaves. I am working on my largest leaf stitching piece so far. This is a sort of experiment, just to see what happens when I try to scale up something that I’ve been doing previously on a hold-in-the-hand scale. These leaves are pretty fragile, although they were collected at a point when the winter hadn’t completed its job of weakening and breaking down the fibres. Pressed and dried flat they are generally doing what I want them to and I am learning all the time what the boundaries are. As I work on this piece in the studio my Leaf Stitching book is finished and at the printers. I hope it will be available in the next couple of weeks.
I’ve spent some time updating the project pages on my website today. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for ages, but it is the kind of job that always falls off the bottom of the list. Today I can tick it off and it is good to see some of the recent projects I’ve been involved in, or that are ongoing, summarised. I always have a number of different things on the go at the same time. Sometimes it can feel like I flit between them and never really progress, but there are small steps forward all the time. And of course there is always planning for the future going on, things that aren’t yet at a stage I can share my thinking on but that are bubbling away in the background. It can be misleading to have to present things as discreet ‘projects’. In reality each thing leads to the next and all of the things I am working on are inter-related, part of a continuum of thinking and exploring.
One of the newly recorded projects is Leaf Stitching. This is not a new activity, but one that has been going on in spare moments for quite some time. This is an adventure in playing with materials really: materials that are sometimes fragile and sometimes surprisingly robust. It is an exercise in treating those materials with care and precision and really getting to know them in the process. There are other leaf stitchers out there producing some beautifully embellished pieces: Christine, Hillary and Susanna.
The summer holidays are almost upon us and with them the mix of relief (I could do with a break!) and dread (how on earth do I fit in all the work I need to do whilst also enjoying time with the family?). I know I’m not the only one to feel that way about school holidays and it really will be lovely to have some time away from the normal routine.
Yesterday I delivered Tide Marks to Artlink in Hull ready for them to put it up for my exhibition which opens on 26th July. There is a preview on Friday 25th from 6-8pm so if you are in the area do come along. Each time an exhibition goes up in a different gallery there can be different hanging requirements. As I’m not hanging it myself this time I decided the best way to deal with the little woven pieces that make up Tide Line was to mount them onto a piece of wood so that they are effectively one piece. This took far longer than I thought (each one is sewn to the wood) but I’m pleased with the result and I just managed to squeeze it into my little car to take it over to Hull. I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks next week when I go back for the preview.
I’ve been working on my contribution to the Shirt Collar Project and it has taken me in a direction I didn’t expect. Pictures of the final pieces from all ten artists will be revealed over on the project blog but here are a few images of my process as it unfolded (or folded!). I didn’t expect to make book forms but having printed from my collar on to both paper and fabric I then tested various routes and this was the one that I ended up following.
I’ve been stitching away for a few weeks in between other things. I’m experimenting with different ways to stitch with and round the various rusty bits and pieces that find their way into my pockets on a daily basis – a kind of rust journal. It starts out white and I’m enjoying the crispness of white on white, but it will change.
These ones are being trapped and stitched round. They will then go outside in the weather to see what marks the rust will make on the cloth and thread they’re embedded within.
This is a different piece, one that is now living in the garden and has started to develop marks.