Saturday 9 January 2021

New work for 2021

triptych of phoenix’s

 So 2021? Let me show you something I’ve just completed. Sometimes I’m led by the textiles I have found, can’t help thinking that there was also a symbolic force pushing me to use this rising Phoenix in my latest work. Not original but it’s not often I find a exquisite vintage embroidery of one! Regeneration and renewal is also reusing antique textiles and when I find something good, I like to let it shine again.

The Phoenix and other parts of couched metallic embroidery were from a seriously tattered Chinese wall hanging that had disintegrated apart from the embroidery. No idea unfortunately, what it’s original meaning was for or it’s true age. The metallic thread was tarnished so had some age to it.

Antique Chinese wall hanging

I had an idea to make a panelled artwork for sometime. I love Chinese and Japanese screens that are beautiful works of art with either ink paintings or paint on gold leaf. I have used imitation gold leaf (not the real gold!) in other work so it felt fitting with the subject that I should use it. 

working out the three panel sizes

placing motifs onto background closeup of Phoenix embroidery being stitched onto fabric

work in progress, gold leaf background

The photos show some of the work in progress, even initial ideas change through the process as trying to find balance in the composition causes adaption. I started with a antique linen sheet which I dyed with coffee, tea, rust and even walnuts to achieve a gently aged look as a backdrop. It is then about working out the elements together, which ones work, which ones don’t. I decided to add the gold leaf on to the two outer panels to “ground” the embroidered appliqués so they weren’t floating around. The appliqués are a combination of early 19th century chenille foliage and some of the metallic embroidery from the original Chinese wall hanging. All the appliqués were hand stitched onto the background, a labour intensive task as the metallic embroidery was fragile in places.

The final piece measures 28” height and 34½ wide as three panels. The central panel is 18” wide and the outer panels are 8¼” wide.


Tuesday 6 October 2020

New work with antique quilts

new artwork made from antique quilt and Indian embroidery with kantha stitching.
A perusal through my stash of fabrics inspired a pair of works with a touch of poetry.

Victorian quilt pieces hand pieced with initials of the original maker stitched in the corner, were reversed to give me a blank canvas. I have to say that these quilts were cut up long before I acquired them and common for damaged and worn pieces.

I also used the reverse of old Indian embroidered textiles that were also greatly damaged, the front side were stitched in brightly coloured thread.

Keeping the same colour palette and kantha stitch brought a similarity that made the two works a pairing.

On the first picture shown, a couple of lines from the poem by John Keats "On the grasshopper and cricket", are free machined stitched onto the background.

"The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run."

The second picture has an excerpt from the poem, "Generation to Generation" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. 

"We live, not by things, but by the meanings
of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords
from generation generation."

This particular excerpt is very apt for the choice of materials, all antique with their own story to tell.

Both works are approximately 40x40cm in size and have now been sold, one journeying to the USA and the other Denmark.

Initials stitched on corner of antique quilt

Monday 22 June 2020

Next stage - sampling

Sample:Gold leaf with stitching
In this posting, I'm going to be writing about the next stage of my newest textile work which is sampling. I don't tend to do that much sampling unless it's to try out something that can't be reversed. As I use antique textiles, it's not a case of starting again if I don't like the result. I experimented with using gold leaf as a background and embroidering on top to see the effect.

What I learnt was that it was tough to stitch through and it would need a few coats of glue on top to stop it flaking off. I also painted over the gold leaf to knock back its shininess and also to see what adding a bit of colour would look.

I've used gold leaf as I'm a great admirer of Japanese screens where gold is often used as a background. I wanted it to look slightly worn and cracked not shiny new. When the gold leaf is applied, it also looks textural as the grain of the textile shows through.  

The stitching of course, is to represent the light from stars radiating out.


Sample:Painted into the gold leaf

Sample:Embroidery on top of gold leaf

A backing cloth of an indigo dyed old linen sheet was prepared with patches of red cotton (originally from a Victorian quilt). The patches of red match up where the holes and rips of the furoshiki cloth which I am using as the top cloth. The red will peak through these hole to suggest hint of another dimension. 

Next posting will be about the final application on the top cloth.

Underneath the main cloth, a backing cloth

Friday 29 May 2020

A look ahead and behind!

Contemp Textiles Fair 2020
As 2019 comes to a close, I look forward to new events for 2020. On the horizon from 20-22 March is the annual Contemporary Textiles Fair at the Landmark Arts Centre, Teddington  which is always a great fair for the textile lover.

Over the past year, I’ve been making textile pieces of all sizes and budgets to sell at this event. If anyone is interested in coming along, I will have 2 for 1 tickets to give away nearer the time. Some of the pictures I will be taking with me are shown below.

Textile picture with bird

Textile picture with flower and butterfly

Textile picture featuring a flower


Earlier this month, I took part in my first in person selling event in two years. After having a “tidy up”, I found many cyanotype prints that I had made so looked for a Christmas fair in my area. I took part in the EtsyLocal fair in South London at a lovely venue in Peckham that had lots of natural light and a cafe/bar! Above is the display of my table. It was interesting to see the difference in visitor spending habits with the recent economy in the UK and events affecting it. I have been selling at fairs and markets since 2010 and have definitely noticed the change, the exhibiting fees go up but customer spending has gone drastically down!

For any budding artists and designer/makers looking to sell their work this way, I would visit first and really think if it is the right audience for your work. You will find it, just investigate and that will save time and money in the future. There is definitely an audience for textile art but not every event is right for it which is why I chose to only show my prints here.

I want to thank you, my audience for your continued interest and support. It is very much appreciated. Textile lovers are niche lot but our reward is great!

Have a wonderful festive time and peaceful New Year where ever you are in the world. 
See you next year for more textile adventures. 

Anatomy of a textile piece

Nice and holey!
Hello again! 

My next blog posts will be about my latest textile artwork which I am currently making while on a enforced break from my full time job. While it is worrying times and an uncertain future, I can’t help but see this as an opportunity for personal development. A chance to work on and explore areas that interest me though never quite found the time including a regular exercise routine! 😆

I thought it would be interesting to post about the making of a textile piece and the thought process that goes with it. I like to see other artists working and the progress of what their making, it’s interesting to see the stages, what works, what doesn’t and the idea behind the work.

I keep a little book, not even a sketch book as such, that has ideas, designs, things that interest me even shopping lists of what materials I need to buy! From a seed of an idea through something I read or seen, I do a little research. 

My latest piece came about from a number of sources. With some exceptions, my overall work is influenced by a interest in cosmology and have always had a fascination for the night sky.  I was rewatching the recent version of the science documentary Cosmos, a spacetime odyssey (I loved the original Carl Sagan version!) and there was a episode called "A sky full of ghosts" a poetic description of stars. The episode was about the speed of light and how the light we see from stars are from billions of years ago when we observe them on Earth. It is amazing to know that the light we see now is like looking into the past. A spark of an idea formed...

Detail of the Furoshiki cloth.

I looked through my extensive fabric stash and picked one bought a few years ago that's been waiting for the right purpose. It is a antique Japanese Furoshiki wrapping cloth originally to bundle belongings together before plastic bags became more the norm. Dyed in deep indigo it is pieced together from three strips of cloth and has wonderful sashiko stitching in a fan design on each corner. The stitching would have originally cumulated into a plaited braid to then tie together to make a bundle. These have worn away as has one of the corners. 

There are rips, holes, patches, fading and stains, lovely! I do not want to hide these elements, they are highlighted and used in the design, the textile's history is part of the finished piece. This is what attracted me to it in the first place so why hide it? The final design was dictated by the dimensions of the textile and the sashiko stitching in each corner that is quite dominant. 

My next step was to try sampling some ideas which will be my next blog post.

Close up of sashiko stitching.

The whole background fabric.

Wednesday 29 April 2020

All change..

30cm square artwork using 18 - 20th century textiles
 A lot has changed since my last blog post but we can never be certain our future and have to adapt to what comes our way.

I was busy preparing for the Contemporary Textile Fair at the Landmark Arts Centre for the end of March which has now been postponed until end of September. Here's a preview of some of the works that was to be exhibited that I've been making over the last couple of months.

I have built up a considerable stash of wonderful antique textiles so had plenty to play around with. I don't have an idea as such to create with each piece, its more instinctual as I'm sure creative types will understand. It can be a colour palette or a print or stitch on the fabric itself that leads to an idea. All one of a kind and I had fun making them. 

In the meantime, while we all wait until our routines and hopefully jobs resume and we stay well and safe, I am using this unexpected free time to start a new major work, update my website and write new blog posts. My complicated DSLR camera is also being explored after years of neglect, time to brush up on learning better looking photography...

Hope you and all of your friends and family have been spared this terrible virus and are coping with the change in our lifestyles.

Stay safe and well.

30x40cm artwork using 19th century textiles
30x40cm artwork using 19th century textiles

20cm square artwork using antique textiles and embroidered motifs
20cm square artwork using antique textiles and gold work motifs

20cm square artwork using antique textiles and embroidered motifs

25cm square artworks using antique Japanese textiles

Detail of a larger work (30x50cm) using Japanese textiles

40x80cm artwork using 19th century and antique Japanese textiles

Wednesday 2 October 2019

Some Wabi Sabi spirit!

wabi Sabi style picture
Wabi Sabi bird

Wabi Sabi style picture
Wabi Sabi floral
Two of my recent works made completely from antique textiles. I have quite a collection now of old fabrics and look for ways of using them as they are amazing in their own right. The main background of these two wall hangings are from an old flour sack that’s been patched and darned many times which gives it a wonderful texture. You can still faintly see the printed writing of the flour sack.

Sometimes I take apart items and clothing to reuse the fabrics, the gold metallic braid running up the right hand side is from a 19th century rug. The printed fabrics are also from a 19th century decorative border. I have worked in free machine stitching, repeats of the antique print patterns.

Running up the side on top of the metallic ribbon, are finely embroidered European braid in lovely faded cotton.

Stretched onto wooden frames, they are 40 x 70cm sized.

Different from my other work I've produced (no indigo!) but with the same ethos of reusing antique textiles and celebrating its imperfections and beauty.