We are launching the new book, Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique, on Tuesday 15th September at the American Museum, near Bath. Things are a tad hectic here, even my old dog Boysie is getting in on the act posing in the Heart Space Studio window for the Ribbon book display….and all of us who are working hard on this part of the publicity keep laughing and saying to one another – “it’s a tough job…….”
Meanwhile other people have been posing in this window – all in my efforts to publicise the book
But to start at the beginning, the books have finally arrived in the building, boxes and boxes of them.
We have a small UK edition and are selling copies at various book and craft shops and galleries and of course at Heart Space Studios. The first opportunity to advertise came in the form of a photo-shoot for local press featuring the neighbouring businesses in Coldharbour Road, organised by Sue Fyfe-Williams. To make the best use of the fashion models on offer, we made masses of ribbon beads – I mean masses….
and One Solitary Earring……
So when we saw our model Patricia, in a lovely tailored jacket by The House of Sheldon Hall, with her severe hair by SK109 – we just knew that the combination would make spectacular images
the most amazing thing about these beads is that they are made of all the left-overs of ribbon scraps from the other projects in the book – and they are the most popular item in it – we have sold out our launch Making Ribbon Beads workshop at The American Museum , but of course we are running them later this year at Heart Space.
But that’s not all – off we went this week to mount a display for the launch at the museum. Jane- Marie Mahy, Ilaria Padovani (2 of our amazing volunteers) and I arrived at the very cool and elegant Gallery Shop.
what would our hotch – potch of brilliantly coloured Kaffe Fassett inspired projects look like here?
We needn’t have worried – perfect colour co-ordination with Kaffe’s section of the shop…..was it Ruskin who said that only the noblest minds concerned themselves with colour?
eventually everything was in place
and then the gals took piccies….colour co-ordinated or what?
now all that is left to do is make the ribbon packs for the Museum to sell alongside the books; sort out the bead workshop materials and pack, get some workshop leaflets printed, organise guests to get into museum with the invitation, bring extra blue tack just in case…oh and turn up on the day in time for the launch itself……….
Shaun the Sheep – the popular cartoon character from Aardman Studios, Bristol’s world famous animation company is being celebrated with a series of decorated sheep statues being deposited in a trail throughout Bristol (and London). The local high street community, including Heart Space Studios, has sponsored a sheep sculpture and he arrives in the first week of July….meanwhile Heart Space have decided to welcome him with a knitted yarn bombed lamppost and bunting.
We recycled an old length of knitted bunting by giving it a really good wash and then Paula made lots of crocheted flowers which I stitched into place to liven it up; we are really pleased with our efforts and all our neighbours are delighted to see our new bunting, they keep photographing it…..the local children come and hug the lower area of the lamppost and we made this particular design as all proceeds for Shawn go to the Bristol Children’s Hospital
So to add to the funds we once again, by popular request, ran a children’s workshop this time to decorate bags….Paula also helped out with this – I kept well out of the way, just occasionally took the photographs….it looked very lively in the main studio..
we had provided sheep patterns for the sheep, prepared fabrics with bondaweb, found buttons beads, eyes and all kinds of stuff to play with.
as soon as the children – boys and girls – arrived they started to trace around our specially drawn templates, and using special fibre pens coloured,
stitched and appliqued….. Mothers helped as well – with the pressing,
we also had boys making their own characterful versions of sheep …..
choices, choices choices….the children’s imagination knew no bounds when it came to decorating the simple drawn outline.
after refreshments – provided by Ilaria and her mother, who was visiting from Italy,
the bags were finished
and everyone had to be photographed as they left the studios.
we had lots of happy people leaving with their own very personalised bags….
‘Wings and Things’ is the working title for an exhibition being developed for the local community’s annual “Westbury Park Festival”.…last year we hosted a drop-in making felt flowers – this year we are show-casing the talents of the staff and tutors at Heart Space Studios – so no pressure!
Each of the 11 people who opted to work towards the theme have committed themselves to attending up to 3 research sessions when we all work together to make a mixed media exhibition – by mixed media I really mean any materials that can be connected to textiles, either physically or metaphorically. ‘Things with Wings’ was an idea proffered by Debby Bird (who else?) who is a busy tutor at the studios and a major force for developing new ideas for classes. We are working together to make an unusual and hopefully amusing exhibition
It is always fascinating to see how each person responds to any given the brief: we had asked for any ideas and drawings/ samples of work ready to be discussed on the day – we wanted everyone to participate in helping one another develop ideas, otherwise working in a group can be really distracting.
Steph Wooster brought several real birds wings that she had been given by a local game butcher, plus some tiny drawings in the goes-everywhere-with-her-sketchbook. She placed the book open at a pigeon drawing next to a bag of – to my mind – Pigeon Coloured materials….
Ilaria Padovani, brought a couple of samples specially prepared for the day – one a pair of collaged wings which was bright and busy, but another patchwork made from a pattern that her grandmother had made for her as a child it was her favourite winged thing – the dragonfly – and it is full of flight!
We immediately advised her to just make lots and lots of them in all sorts of different colours and to exhibit them flying randomly across the walls. I had brought in several frames to establish various sizes of each piece – Debby and I needed to have an easy hanging session prior to the exhibition opening. It was decided to wrap the dragonfly patches around small stretched canvasses and so keep them light and airy.
Many textile artists, regardless of name, work with bird imagery; Mary Bishop has made several pieces of bird related embroideries and so she brought a few of her early samples and an open mind, as it was her first tutor’s making group attendance. She is really taken with the idea of Magpies – after all they do like bright shiny objects and we always have lost of those at Heart Space.
I thought she should start with the nest – I mean she can easily do the birds at home alone – but the nest and it’s contents could be found in the studio stash….I asked her to just find lovely things a magpie might steal from us and then to make a nest from them, later she can choose to use parts of it as a sort of grounding for the birds or develop other ones from other materials….the ideas are endless here.
Some people had already started making flying things from textiles, Sophie Bristol has carefully cut wings from a length of vintage lace..the ways ahead were obvious, lots of different wings from different laces just needs to sort out the bodies – rich ground for playing with all sorts of media. However……
during the introduction when everyone had to show and talk about their own ideas she liked the idea of making a cage from a sample made in an earlier workshop.
She set about making a prototype in card and tape to ascertain the sizes and shapes required – but what will the cage contain?
One way to use a themed exhibition is to try something new or an idea that has been on the’ back-burner’. I think Kirsten Hill-Nixon thought this way. She arrived with lots of well organised materials, books and ideas – lots of drawings in her research book and a firm grasp of what she wanted to achieve…it’s a tall order!
Kirsten wants to make a series of exhibits of ‘natural’ objects trapped under glass domes…she is making different types of what look like fungi and cast off chrysalis shells. She is making them out of all types of fabrics, waxed and “preserved” – I found these curious things near a batik kettle – where are the winged things that maybe emerged form them?
Ilsa Fatt had already designed and made several beads that were based on hearts with wings but the general consensus was that she should make bigger beaded wings –
Debby Bird had made lots of tiny wings and insects using twisted silver wire and she suggested Ilsa make some and by the end of the session when the red beaded winged thing emerged we all wanted to wear it, either as a brooch or worked into a necklace.
Debby Bird always has lots of different media to develop into new and desirable objects and images…she excels in hunting out amazing new products and manages to incorporate them into her work…unlike the rest of us! She had made several different samples prior to the session but the thing she settled down to was an idea from her paper cutting experiments.
the results of a long time piercing the paper with a needle was ethereal and beautifully nuanced when see against the skylight. I am looking forward to seeing how this essentially simple idea is developed into further work….all sports of light fitments and holders could be made – I must give her some vellum to sample.
Sitting next to Debby, who by piercing paper was working with one of the most primitive way of making a mark, was Ceema McDowell, busily using the most modern of research tools to develop her peacock design…the strands of random dyed woollen yarn is reassuringly traditional.
And to me – what did I get to do? well not a lot on the day but I have had a frivolous idea for this project – it is not at all what I usually concern myself with, but it would not go away….so I told the group to see how they would react – they laughed but said it could be really interesting.
One of the daily chores of running a workshop -based studio is sweeping the floor before and after every workshop – and there always seem to be tumbleweeds of threads and fabrics under the tables and in the corners…
as well as spilled beads or left over buttons…….it was the buttons that made me ponder: why are there always masses of Beige Buttons left unused in any button collection?
I started to imagine where all the unused beige buttons will eventually go; will they fly off to a beige button heaven? Will they then become pearl buttons when they were beatified? I also thought of the threads and the fabric scraps…what would become of them if they flew to heaven – how would their wings look and what’s more – what would their eventual version of heaven look like?
I have been getting out and about recently and have been taking a workshop at the American Museum in Britain, which is situated just outside Bath. I have been asked to deliver 2 day long workshops by their education officer, Zoe Dennington (who found me via this blog). Zoe asked me to use Crazy Patchwork techniques for classes to run at the same time as the current vibrant Kaffe Fassett exhibition being held at the museum for several months.The second class is in October to make a crazy patched and beaded heart.
Luckily I was given a batch of cotton samples of fabrics designed by Kaffe Fassett to use in my workshop by a friend, Susan Berry ( who produces his very popular patchwork and knitting books) and they certainly livened up my Heart Space Studios fabric stash….I had designed a special project for this session, a simple design of a fan and one of the most popular motifs used in traditional of Crazy Patchworks.
I reasoned that if I provided patterns for the patches then things might go quickly and everyone would finish – well that was the idea! We started off by choosing the fabrics for each fan – there are 7 sections in the design that I had created for the class, which means less embroidery than my sample.
I had also asked people to bring whatever they liked of their own materials as well. The fabrics chosen were quickly organised into many different striped bands – I explained about balance of pattern to plain fabrics and crucially for a small colour scheme, to separate a few colours from the patterned fabrics and use them as plains or solids to show up the patterns. And not to worry too much about getting the colours perfect at this point as later the coloured stitching over the seams would help with the colour co-ordination of the whole piece.
organising the fan sections is much easier and quicker than for usual odd shapes of crazy patches. The sections were laid over one another and then pinned and using running stitches held section by section till the fan was complete. The complete arrangement was then pressed onto the special heat activated fabric backing
. Once the fan had been pressed and trimmed the next task was to find the coloured ground to applique it onto…I find that this is quite a good way to get people to appreciate the difference that different coloured grounds can make to the overall piece.
Sometimes soft colours can be made bolder if placed on very dark grounds and brilliant colours more muted if placed on a toning ground. It is also a chance to reassess the colours prior to embroidering the seams which also fix the fan to the background
Now to start embroidering – I had chosen to demonstrate 1 basic row of herringbone stitch and then show how to add extra stitches or I should say decorations…it is my favourite decorative embroidery stitch as it can be developed so that it looks almost like a braid. But to begin just a couple of well spaced rows…and then the extra colours can be added.
I like to use contrasting coloured stitches on the seams – they are very obvious but then I do not think it worth doing any decorative hand embroidery if it isn’t to be noticed!
although up close and personal the colours are very vibrant the more colours added to each row of stitching the softer the colours will appear more subtle
when soft colours are used to not much affect then the herringbone variations allow for extra emphasis – this is why I really like this particular stitch – it gives a lot of opportunity for invention
At the end of the session we put all the unfinished patchworks together on a table to assess them for further additions…. you can now see the affect that the Kaffe Fassett fabrics had on the works – but you would not think by looking at this picture of some of the group around the table that they actually liked what they are looking at !
. Everyone faithfully promised me that they would finish the fans and send me photographed results – watch this space…….
The small but delightful exhibition that the Heart Space Studios staff made in the mixed media session are all framed and ready to go on the wall ….
the first to arrive through the post was a box of stitched printed paper hearts from Susie Bancroft – so I set about mounting rows of them on Japanese hand-made paper or crumpled tissue papers ready for framing
the cotton threads just going every which way – I think they look like tiny heart shaped kites…….-
the tiny hearts are somehow the most appealing, they came in all manner of materials and techniques….
I must admit that I did take a few liberties with the mounts before framing… the more impact we can give them the better chance to sell them – and this is a selling exhibition
Jane- Marie Mahy Heart Space’s display guru brought hers in already perfectly framed, as did Debbie Bird – her teeny tiny paper printed scraps look very vintage when heavily framed in black
but for something completely different we have knitted copper wires to join paper and fabrics…with a flights of swallows scattered above a nebulous clear pill-case heart
true to her discipline as a designer, Steph sent in 3 variations on her birds and hearts theme,
the third piece is an intricately cut applique of shredded bank notes, paper and woolen blanket stitched and knitted with copper wire…now that’s what I call mixed media.
the beaded paper heart by Libby Butler is at last padded and applied to a dark blue fabric ground.
and right at the last minute this evening a lovely folksy map heart came form Kirsten Hill-Nixon…really worth the wait.
To celebrate my return to posting my blogs I am showing a small selection of decorative arm slings – yes dear readers I have a broken wrist, my right wrist; so there has been no writing, stitching and perhaps worst of all no drawing/doodling/scribbling for more than a month now. But I determined to make something visually interesting for HER WORK from the whole unhappy event as soon as I could manage to use my Mac beyond typing/tapping with my left hand
Sensing a dressing -up opportunity I got rid of the NHS white cotton sling as soon as I could – like the next day, and instructed my husband, Steve, to take pictures each morning of mt slings. The commercial alternatives for the longer term support were in dreary colours – as if you wanted to hide the injured limb – I want everyone to see clearly my affliction and Keep Clear! So I determined to find alternatives from my stash of both vintage and modern scarves, let’s face it any excuse to dress up !
in fact I welcomed the opportunity to wear these old scarves, using them as slings affords much more are pattern to seen, tied around the neck only a small area is glimpsed if you have long hair.
the really wide slings hide my new bright pink cast when it doesn’t tone with the clothes.
I am especially pleased to be able to wear the original art deco head square, very dynamic and such unusual colours and pattern clash.
and last but not least my actual ‘bling sling’ which is a length of vintage black beaded net, that I had previously stitched to a length of velvet ribbon in order to wear as a belt. I went to a party, the only party of the season that I had managed to attend; and I apologise for this bleary image but this was taken after the party had finished and we were both a bit tired and emotional,
Crazy Barcelona – crazy patchworks everywhere, but not in fabric – in ceramic, stone and marble. OK then, crazy mosaics, but whatever you call them there is no better place to appreciate them than at Parc Geull, designed and built by Antoni Gaudi in the first 14 years of the 19th century. I have seen images of these mosaics before but never appreciated the size and the sheer exuberance of the patterns.
I was delighted to see broken plates, tiles, and rounded roof ridge tiles put together in a myriad of ways, some where just pretty with sections with large flowers that had been broken but kept intact when cemented together and then surrounded by all shades of one background colour. Here is inspiration indeed, but immediately I thought of the Crazy Embroidery classes that I teach at Heart Space Studios, lots of new ideas to create crazy samplers.
I started to see how the sustained patterning of the whole site didn’t just merge into one long visual porridge; there were sections of patterns with plain areas between them and the way that the patterns started to drift into plain areas was really brilliantly handled…
Sometimes the crazy patches were confined to simple shapes and surrounded by a sea of broken ceramics in a wide range of whites, the use of white ceramics when fired and glazed to produce many different variations is a major feature in this garden.
there were other more fluid shapes contained by the white ground….
I also really enjoyed seeing patterns within patterns,
I really like these wonky squares set in a sea of crazy patterns; the makers must have had such a good time doing this work. Transitions from patterns to solid colours was just masterful in places
in fact the single coloured sections were simply beautiful – here is a range of crazy blue patterns
while most of the ceramic patterns are traditional in flavour there were also some more abstract patterning to be found,
but this whole set of designs is made from re-cycled materials, apart from the abundance of beautiful old and broken patterned tiles from the Spanish ceramic factories, I was happy to see this poorly fired plate used to good effect.
After an hour of my visit I started to see evidence of Crazy everywhere..
looking down at the sandy pathways I saw crazy patterns impressed by the soles of many different shoes, and once out of the park, everywhere I looked was Crazy Heaven.
So now I have decided to try to develop some of these ideas into new Crazy Patchwork designs for cushion cover designs to show Hugh Ehrman at Ehrman Tapestry company for their future collections.
We have a wonderful new exhibition at Heart Space Studios. It is a collection by Stephanie Wooster ( who conducts unusual knit workshops with us) developed from her MA studies and it concerns itself with wrapping, tying and generally caressing the upper body. the names of the different pieces tell how they are perceived by the maker – Swaddle, Swathe, Shawl, Sheath, Mantle, Shroud. The work is embroidered, felted, machine knitted, plaited and patch-worked together, with feathers, braids and calico. It sets a calm but slightly surreal feeling to our small gallery space.
The first things brought in were a series of clear plastic torsos which were then dressed in simple calico shifts before being hung on the wall.
then Steph started to dress them up; first the dramatic feathered collar was placed to set the atmosphere….
Then out came feathered scarves, stoles and wraps, hand knitted and coiled hanks of wool, even felted knitting with feathers as the motif….
the large wraps, shawls or scarves, call them what you will – are made from several different textiles and hand stitched or even embroidered together often using a red knitted braid as a backing, this causes interesting lines to be drawn around the body when draped.
the row of 4 pieces are really powerful and entice people to study them up close and personal…viewers are not quite sure what they are seeing, are these felted woven blankets, some unusual woolen ticking or simple striped knitting?
When this group were placed Steph brought out a whole range of very finely machine knitted lengths in different colours and combinations, these can to worn any which way – I like them draped around the neck as an elegant sort of knitted necklace.
We like to have exhibitions of selling stuff at Heart Space, and most of these pieces are for sale, but Steph also brought a selection of beautifully refined knitted ribbons, that are carefully joined at the back so that they always behave well when draped! This is what I like to have for sale in the studios, exciting but wearable pieces with an edge, not fashion but style!
Also seen in far right of the picture is another knitted and embroidered piece ” I am what I am”
this was made for another exhibition and shown earlier in the year , Mending at the Museum, it was really good to see it again with these earlier pieces and interesting to see how new work develops out of completely different stimuli. Steph has also made a series of mixed media hot water bottle covers, developed from her samples at the Heart Space Mixed Media workshop earlier in the year, with more of her hand warmers( it is Autumn after all) and these have specially colour co-ordinated to the exhibition.
This is what intrigues me about many successful textile makers and designers, they can develop many different types of work, from applied art pieces for museum exhibitions, to practical hand crafted things for everyday use. This is the way many of us manage to make our living while finding time and energy to research and develop our own personal work. In fact without the research and development of private passions many new and commercial designs would never see the light of day.
Looking through this book lets us see how Steph links all sorts of unusual images and ideas and then literally knits them together to make new and exciting wearable textiles.
This is a sad story with a happy ending. My favourite cardigan that was included in my first ever post, Make Do and Mend, where I proudly showed the careful darning that I wore with pride, sadly, got lost. When I eventually found it pushed to the bottom of my laundry basket (don’t ask) it was totally ruined even beyond my restorative darning powers.
I decided to felt it by boiling it twice. The colours are so vibrant that I just had to try to find a use for it and I found the perfect solution when designing with some lovely felted woolen blanket flowers that Kirsten Hill-Nixon had brought along as a new idea for a class at Heart Space Studios.
Kirsten will make the flowers in the morning class and I will develop the design and make session with them in the afternoon…but first I had to design something with what she had brought me, and she had brought me a whole selection of disparate flower heads – just as I has asked her to.
I made 2 colour sets of flowers. the neutrals were really soft and wooly, very tactile and I thought first to just make a heart out of them – well I would wouldn’t I? and in fact this is a really nice idea I may go back to…..
But then I imagined them as adorning a woolly winter jumper or cardigan, they aren’t heavy but they are bulky and a brooch seemed better than stitching them to a piece of clothing. But I had been given so many flowers that I soon decided on a necklace….
I set to work but when stitching them together without a backing fabric, soon realized that I needed just a few more roses….then I remembered my old ruined cardigan. I cut the sleeves into ribbons of different coloured stripes and stared to stitch the rose buds by simply rolling and folding the strips to suggest overlapping rose petals.
I had used this system many times as it is so easy – you just need to stitch as you go and control the folded edge, I found the way to do it in a vintage dressmaking manual from the 1930’s; the natural affinity to roll for cut knitting really helps the rose petal effect. I was starting to see a new life for all my old felted woolens.
I inserted my knitted roses between Kirsten’s more substantial felt blanket ones, ( I really like her use of the blanket stitched edge for a fat rolled rose). She had provided leaves as well so they helped make the reds even stronger. Then I simply stitched 2 suede strips for ties onto the last roses and there it is – now for the neutral necklace.
this time I added wooden beads by threading them onto the leather strips to make a more decorative finish. Kirsten had filled some of the centres of the flowers with soft glowing beads so I added some wooden ones as well, the soft tones and texture of the wood feels just right for this sort of fabric.
I was really getting into my stride, and now I just want to make more of these simple flowers pieces and I didn’t use the lively red tartan rose – so now I need to pluck up courage to felt my tartans and paisley scraps to use with my old washed out jumpers……