Putting up Christmas

bunting wall at Heart Space

I am not a big fan of Christmas, I prefer New Year with its promise of a fresh start and better times ahead…but here at Heart Space Studios everyone expects us to do a Christmas window at least. But with a refurbished shop to launch, the powers behind my shaky throne decided to put out all the flags – well bunting to be precise – and go for it….hot mulled wine, mince pies and a late night opening party. Added to this was an idea for an exhibition of bunting.

animal mask by Jenni Joule

But, first things first – find the inspirational object – I always do this when starting something new, search for an image or a piece of fabric – anything that gives me lots of ideas or gives a very strong atmosphere…Sophie found it on Facebook in the guise of a head – an animal’s head, 3 animals in fact, by artist Jenni Joule, who brought wonderful things in to a meeting about a month ago – we were away, a spooky-wooky frozen forest

Debbie Bird being very precise and technical
rejected heart bunting

Meanwhile all the tutors set about producing bunting…Debbie Bird held a class on making it and so Heart Space admin, ( Sophie Bristol and I) turned up to find out how to do it.I made several attempts at heart shaped bunting in very tasteful fabrics…they were soon abandoned.  What I needed was a contrast to the white spooky windows..I realised I was trying to reconcile 2 different atmospheres in one space – so the only way to go is complete contrast, the more extreme the better. We would have one red window and one white. So I found an old and very crude Russian shawl in my stash, I hand painted the mustard coloured roses with some pink and purple dyes and then cut it up; next I went for glitz – why stop now? then I added tartan, I do love tartan and paisley – I couldn’t bring myself to cut up any of my old woven paisley samples – far too precious, but I had at last found a use for this old neglected shawl.

tartan and Russian Shawl bunting

I didn’t bag-out the pieces  but just cut them and left them, as they are cut diagonally to the straight grain they shouldn’t fray too much, and hey it’s only bunting…..I set about making 5 lines to sell.

But then we had to start stocking the shop. The first thing was to get one area working properly to set the tone for the whole place. An old and true saying is ” you can’t sell from an empty shop”;  so we piled it all in, colour co-ordinated of course.

Teresa Searle’s felted and embroidered bags, mittens and cases look wonderfully colourful, setting the standard for the rest of the shop, my hand embroidered felt letters look strong and clash nicely with the work beneath.

the first stand of textiles sets the tone

And the pile of scarves hand knitted by Sarah Thorpe go happily with Janet Clarke’s beautiful soft coloured felts. For real winter warmth, the  knitted and felted Hot Water Bottle Covers and neck warmers made by Steph Wooster all mingle together.

felted hot water bottle covers and knitted scarves

The shop starts to look like it is in business.

shop taking shape
the shop takes shape

But what about those windows? The winter white one came together very quickly, it is now stocked with cream and white  woollen goods for sale, with the 3 headed animal standing sentinel.

spooky white window

But the other window was more of a problem, the costumes that had been brought didn’t fit our stands and there weren’t enough animal masks to make an impression, beautiful though the horned mask is, by Jenni Joule.

jacket and mask by Jenni Houle hung with my silver heart

I needed more red stuff to link with the bunting on the wall behind…so I asked Lisa Keating who was running a corset making workshop for us, if she had anything suitable to contrast with the white and silver and she lent us this wonderful glitzy black and gold number – now that’s what I call a contrast.

Lisa Keating's black and gold lacedcorset

Then I took every red or silvered glass heart from home and hung them in the window – my house now looks bare – but the Christmas windows are paramount.

red and silver window with my glass hearts from home - note the corset bunting by Lisa

Eventually everything was finished and looked totally intentional; always the way when a design works out well, you can’t imagine that you ever had any other ideas than the finished piece.

Commemorative Crazy

Jane’s finished cushion from the original workshop

It is the 11th of the 11th 2011 and I am in commemorative spirit; yesterday at Heart Space Studios we made the beginnings of a series of commemorative crazy patchwork pieces. After the last Crazy Patchwork workshop one of the participants Jane, asked me if I could help her make some more patchworks using the beautiful tweed jackets that had belonged to her husband, she could not bring herself to throw them away after his death, but now saw a way that she might be able to use them to make gifts for their children.

silk ties and heathery tweed unpicked jackets

I was very pleased to be asked to conduct a one-to one session with her to help cut into the jackets and organise the patchworks. I knew it would be really difficult so I volunteered to cut into them for her , suggesting that she make a start by unpicking and when she arrived she had carefully unpicked and pressed them all; 3 beautiful tweeds in soft shades of beige, grey and brown and she also brought some club and military ties that she had been unable to part with, and a piece of her husband’s Scottish clan tartan.

silk ties woven with memories

This is what I find so compelling about many old and used fabrics, the story behind each piece; “Make, Do and Mend” is not such a simple statement when applied to projects like this. The first thing to do was to cut the cloths to make a sample piece of patchwork. I wasn’t taking any chances with such valuable fabrics.

starting to cut up the tweeds

 The little sample would tell us what size patches would work best, which fabrics worked well together and what the ratio of ties to tweeds was best. The clan tartan turned out to be the right size to make backings for 3 cushions….so only the ties and tweeds to be organised

sample patches bonded on a backing cloth

But the most important thing of all for the success of the project was selecting the colours of the embroidery yarns, they had to be chosen and tested. I had brought several types of woolen yarns for Jane to sample, the usual tapestry 4 ply and some crewel wools that can be used singly or in multiples, very useful for developing colour combinations. Looking at the colours embedded in the tweeds it was a real pleasure to try to match them ..and at first the pale turquoise crewel yarn seemed the best choice

selecting colours to complement the tweeds – check out that pink

But the colour that really delighted and just kept calling to her, was a zingy hot pink – not what you would imagine for this soft and hazy set of fabrics, but it demanded to be used, Jane kept laughing every time she picked it up.

the pink thread that just had to be used.

We also discussed putting a message or an initial onto the piece, and I explained how in the Crazy tradition there are lots of written messages..so she is writing her husband’s initials on a corner piece of each cushion, but has just emailed me to say that her daughter wants her to just write ‘Dad’ on hers.

platyng with the colour combinations

The use of the crewel yarns in the different tied herringbone stitches makes it easy to combine colours to soften and blend the brightest yarns.

Now Jane had to get brave and cut up enough to make a whole cushion square to take home with her – we distributed the tie fabrics between the tweeds…quite a bit of work ahead …

laying out the first cushion square

the last task before she left the studios was to machine stitch everything into place ready for the decorative stitches that are the true embroiderer’s delight in making Crazies.

matching the patches ready for decorative stitching.

During the workshop Jane explained that she had taken tailoring lessons to make her husband a coat from some tweed he had bought from Scotland, she now wondered what she should do with it – my suggestion is to combine the left over tweeds from the jackets and use them to make a huge throw or blanket using a strippy quilt design….so she is now happy that she does not have to throw it out but most importantly, when I wrote to ask her permission to use her ‘story’ she replied that she now felt that the jackets had “still got a life”. That is why I really appreciate using old and loved textiles to remake and recycle.

Kirsty’s Crafted Card

sample of 1st embroidered card

Recently I was advised  to watch Kirsty Allsop’s TV programme, Hand Made Britain, in order to immediately offer a special class in whatever she had made that week in textiles; a new idea for attracting new students toHeart Space Studios. So this week I did just that – watched the programme that is all about making things for competition at County Shows, which I was delighted by having spent many happy days in marquees up and down the country gazing in amazement at the things that people produce for competition.

Portishead produce show

The local Portishead flower and produce show, even inspired an entire body of hand embroidered work, The Flora Embroideries.

my embroidery of Flora, the goddess of flowers

I watched with growing fascination as Kirsty, aided by textile designer Claire Coles, made a pretty paper collage that was then machine stitched to produce a greetings card with a bird and flower design. She was obviously enjoying every minute of it .

OK, I thought – I can do that – and then I will make another version of the idea adding textiles to the papers to run as a short workshop, easy – peasy……

presentation board for an earlier work

That’s what I thought until I started to make my sample. Looking in my plan chest I found some old presentation boards from my book, Crazy Patchwork, lots of lovely images and scraps of fabrics all ready to be re-cycled into new and glamorous greetings cards.

selecting and arranging the papers

It was when I was trying to make a loose and airy design from my tiny scraps of fabrics and old flower pictures that it all seemed to go a bit wonky – but not wonky in the right way or enough to be quirky – which was the look I was aiming at.  I eventually found that working on a coloured background was easier than all that white space glaring out between the collage ( I had been so busy writing my ideas down when watching the TV that I really hadn’t paid that much attention to the actual nitty-gritty of the proceedings) now I was paying the price of over confidence.

stitching the collage with copper coloured thread

I am not a great machine stitcher so even with the embroidery foot in place, the card was quite difficult to stitch in a fluid line; using metallic thread didn’t help either but I often use metallic thread as a neutral tone for busy designs, plus the scale was very small for my level of skill.

stitching on the back of the card

For once I actually think that I preferred the back of the card as even though the stitching is really bad – it is a quirky drawing – I may work with this idea a bit more in future. I was beginning to admire Kirsty’s effort more by the minute. It took me about 2 hours to get to this stage, but it did look a bit sad – beads will cover a multitude of sins – like the holes in the middle of the flowers….

finished sample card

Eventually I got something I thought I could develop – I really liked the addition of lace to the paper and had to resist use all fabric instead and I like the odd combination of different materials so the next day quickly made another card to photograph for the Heart Space website to advertise the class. From these 2 samples I now need to develop a system to enable people  to make their own versions simply and easily. So now I am off to source and organise papers, pictures, fabrics, glues, beads, threads and cards so that the students who come here can have a relaxed and enjoyable time creating something new from something old.

second sample

Back to Kirsty and the programme; she entered the card into an embroidery/hand craft competition at a show in Wales but won no prize with it – fair enough, it was her first attempt. What did win was a traditional embroidery made into a card, it was very precisely stitched – in fact the prizewinner carried off the ‘best in show’ award for what looked like a large – scale cross stitched alphabet; I suspect it was made from a commercial kit or someone else’s design.

For this reason, I generally find the craft displayed at most county shows dispiriting (unlike the produce which I love) all that seems to be rewarded is careful craftsmanship, but I suppose that is what the shows were originatedto promote. But I prefer to see things that people have had tried to fashion for themselves – some personal quirky things made up out of what is available which is why I always prefer seeing the  children’s competitions that are often much freer in spirit, and originality is always rewarded, now what does that tell us?

Mending a Soldier’s Heart at Heart Space

recreated soldier’s pinned heart

This wonderful pinned heart, so bright and fresh but curiously authentic was made yesterday during a workshop at Heart Space Studios. The maker, Libby, had received the original some 25 years ago from her grandmother, to whom it had been given as a token of love by her husband, a soldier during the first world war.

box of rusted and stained remnants with scribbled design for reconstructing the heart.

When she first received the heart, Libby tried to restore it…..with disastrous consequences; the whole thing disintegrated because the silk that the heart had been made in had rotted. She thoughtfully put  all the pieces  in a small box, with a scribbled note of the design – and yesterday it arrived to be mended. The first thing to do was to see what we had got and to clean it as best we could….

all the beads were separated and washed as was the fine cotton velvet centre cross and the remaining  shoulder applique.

The pins were steel with several rusted, but we decided we wanted to use as much as possible of the original materials and also bright stainless steel pins would have detracted from the overall quality of the reconstruction.

rusted pins with some beads still attached

I then had to draft a pattern to fit the purple velvet cross, luckily one of my old pinned hearts was the perfect size so I used this.

original heart used for pattern.

Libby decided that she wanted to use strong colours that complemented the original velvets, but disliking yellow she chose some of my own hand dyed green silk velvet to replace the shoulder appliques.

drawing round the new paper pattern for the back of the heart

Next came the heart reconstruction, this time stitching by machine, it is stronger and quicker…..

machine stitching the heart shape for filling with sawdust

leaving lots more time for time for the really fascinating business of pinning the beaded design back into its original position.

the first central cross is held in position

The washed velvet was still a bit dull and faded but little is seen when all the rest of the beads and the ribbon are in place.

pinning the regimental ribbon in place

I was pleased to see that the original  woven silk regimental ribbon was still very bright after I had carefully washed it in several rinses of warm water. These ribbons with badges and coats of arms feature in many of the hearts I have collected, but none are as bright as this.

the simple beaded lettering being formed

Libby re-wrote the message “FOND LOVE” onto paper and the pricked through it with a pin straight onto the silk. We had found some evidence of sequins in the remnants and they are useful to hide the raw edges of the applied fabrics; in my stash of beads I found some dull gold metal ones salvaged from a 1920’s dress, the same period as the original heart.

the almost finished heart

By the end of the day the heart was almost complete, except that there were a lot of the original beads left over…Libby said that she would keep pinning them  into patterns as more is more in this type of thing. So that evening she brought back the finished heart which you can see at the head of this post.

The best thing of all though was how the remaking of this family heirloom originally made by Libby’s hardly remembered grandfather, resulted in her reflecting on her family and its history, the ties to the present formed by using the remnants of a family wedding dress;  she was moved by  the idea of actually touching the same beads and placing them in the same patterns as her grandfather had  – I have seldom worked with such an enthralled and ultimately contented and student.

Made by Hand & Heart & Eye

Heart Space logo

Things are really moving on now at Heart Space Studios. This month we have split the whole of the front studio into an exhibition and retail space and above is the new logo I have designed for printing on the gift bags. I have adapted a small rubber stamp that Teresa Searle, one of the Studios’ tutors brought for me to play with – I added the eye.

lanterns made for sale in the new gift shop

I have been helping to set up the retail space, which will sell all things textile; to begin with we will sell stuff made by the makers who work with the studios and other things that feature textile or hands, hearts and eyes imagery. I made more of the paper lanterns to sell as lots of people had asked the price when they saw the original over the dining table. I had left the exhibition space entirely to Jan Connett and Lisa Keating to place their corsets in; each makes corsets for completely different reasons so I had imagined a compare and contrast effect.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I walked in on Friday morning and this whole space was now filled with an amazing array of corsets.

exhibition side first thing Friday Morning

I had not thought that the individual pieces would work so well together. They had made a show from mounting the individual corsets onto quirky stands and the major colours were cream and black and red. Lisa’s traditional corsets made with silk and lace and net were the perfect partner for Jan’s barbed wire and metal and leathers.

Jan connett's wired sculptures
Lisa Keating's lace and chiffon and fur confections.

the whole exhibition though small was very inspiring, it really was put together to show the ways oin which the different tutors’ translated similar ideas, and to advertise the courses that both women are hold later in the Month

Front of the exhibition space Liza's ruched bra in chiffon at the front and Jan's barbed wired at the back

Meanwhile on the other side of the room the retail space was taking shape….

Heart themed jewellry by Hazel Sutton

a selection of my enamel heart stone badges and brooches all together in the large show case….

my heart stone badges
Patricia Brownen's fabric necklaces

and then in the dresser  there is a blue and white theme….

blue and white in the dresser

this features lace impressed cups by Hanne Rysgaard

Hanne Rysgaard's lace impressed and rosebud cups with my small ribbon flowered boxes

and on the old round table more and more hearts…..

A tin heart full of badges
Teresa Searle's buttoned felts and Debbie Bird's beaded badges
cards, scarves, badges and picture frames

I know that many people feel that all these textile pieces won’t work together – you can’t mix art with craft, gallery with shop, colour with monotone.. I have always thought this a nonsense when it comes to the wealth of textile treatments and qualities, let’s embrace the difference, the vitality and the fact that the same person who makes a silk embroidery of a mended and broken heart can delight in making a ribbon flowered box and  woman who makes a barbed wire corset to set out her arguments about control and pain can put together charming cards featuring stitched fruit and flowers – all to be seen and Sold at Heart Space Studios.

Making a Paper Lace Shade

the new dining room at Heart Space

A new space has been opened up at Heart Space Studios, the dining room. Until now lunches have been served in whichever of the 2 studios were not in use; now there is a proper dining room between the two studios, but because it is enclosed it has no natural light source …serious lighting had to be considered but I have not got serious lighting money.

the original large paper lantern
collection of paper doilies

I knew that I wanted a very big light fitting because the room is small – a section of the original office area and if you have a major problem when decorating try to make something very positive happen….. no light in a room?  accentuate the darkness, or in this case, if the light has to be on all the time, make the lighting really special.

Yesterday I found a huge paper pendant in Habitat, the right size but seriously understated for my needs – but at £5 it had be be bought – I will do something with it somehow I thought – after all the price was perfect.

When I got it home I looked around for some lace to stitch onto it – the first thought was to use strips of broderie Anglaise and just wind it round and round between the spiral wires that form the shape…then I thought about circles of lacy fabrics, crochet, lace and tatting I have somewhere in my stash of white work…but then I remembered all the paper doilies I had bought from vintage stalls years ago when I was patterning my stitched enamels. Now where were they? Eventually I found them in the white paper draw in the plan chest – where else would they be?

I fished them out and the rest was easy- peasy, well not exactly easy -peasy, in fact it was really tricky to make this idea work. Fabric could have been eased and coaxed into following the curves of the paper sphere, but my old stamped and fragile paper could not. Luckily the paper sphere was already creased….. I set to work.

pinned paper doily being stitched into place

Don’t ask me why but I never even considered gluing this shade together, which is the obvious way of doing it – I just had to stitch it. But in the long run I think this made it easier but not quicker. Stitching, even into paper, does allow for a bit of ease of movement, whereas using glue is OK only when you are very exact and know what you are doing before you start.

first doily stitched in place with back paper removed

I added one at a time pinning and stitching and cutting the backing paper away to get a lace effect and more light. The first one was easy as it was quite small, the second was big and very awkward. I had to really struggle to get the papers cut away from inside the sphere and this is why I like to sample and design first when starting from scratch with an idea. But for this I just had to figure it out as I made it – I really should make a paper pattern for this as I would like to make some more of these to sell in the shop at the studios.

cutting the original paper shade away from appliqued doily

Cutting the backing papers away was a fiddle as I had to get my hands inside the sphere – but the effect is definitely worth it. I worked all Sunday afternoon and then finished it first thing Monday morning and took it in to be hung at lunch time. I was very pleased with the result; but really I just liked being able to stitch something again – starting a business to teach stitching is not the same thing as stitching for a living and I do miss my old quiet and contemplative working life.

The light behind all the different types and layers of paper looks lovely and the whole room now glows.

the finished shade hangs over the dining table in Heart Space Studios.

Mending and Mapping

map showing journeys of delegates attending the TFSW conference

Last weekend all the samples for the Mending at the Museum project was exhibited for the very first time. They were exhibited at a conference, ‘Mapping – Where Are You Now? –  held by Textile Forum South West. Dawn Mason, my collegue and I have been out and about lately giving papers and exhibiting the work achieved by the Stitching and Thinking group. Two weeks ago we gave a joint paper at a symposium on current textile reseacrh  for the Textile Society (where we were applauded for developing new methods for practice based reseacrh)and then Dawn gave a presentation at the conference that had the joint themes of mapping and networking.

samples shown at the one day temporary exhibition at the back of the conferecne hall

The conference was very lively and most interest early on revolved around Chrome Yellow Books – even as they were setting up people were browsing and buying – including me.

Chrome Yellow setting out their wonderful array of desirable books

This was really more than a conference as we had many hands-on opportunities to network, notably Kirsty Hall the blogger who helps you to blog better – if you want help to get started or develop your website or blog – visit her sites – or just visit her sites for really lively ideas and projects.

Mapping TFSW members to help members see who lives near them and where we all are now - Taunton

The mapping project was a good opportunity to show everyone present just who was near to them within the south west – the big pompom in the middle is Taunton where the conferecne was held about the centre of the whole region. there was a whole pom pom vibe throughout the day – to find out more go to our TFSW website

pom pom making classes
pom pom making classes at the mid day break

And there was also a fascinating small set of strings of hanging hearts from the Heart Felt Project, run by TFSW member Jan Connett

Heart Felt hearts

But for me the tiny exhibition of the Mending Samplers was a major triumph, it has taken 2 years to get the Stitching and Thinking project to the point where we can see just what we can make together as a group and Dawn and I were amazed by the way the samples really came together as a group show.

Mending Samplers "Work in Progress" exhibition

The group were obviously all influenced by a few samplers , a red and white rolled stitch sampler bougth by me at an Oxfam shop years ago and an ethereal darning sampler form the Bristol museum and Art Gallery’s collection.

child's 20th century mending sampler
Quaker school mending sampler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The small exhibition caused a lot of interest and comment within the audience – and people were wanting to join us for more workshops and future exhibitons.

Dawn Mason's embellished collage with Steph Wooster's hanging wrap and Jess Turrell's mended tableware
Jilly Morris - stitched plasters and velum torso.
Dawn Mason stitched papers and mended jugs by Hanne Rysgaardmended by me. with small sample of porcelain by Hanne mended by Basil Kardasis
my handkerchiefs and mending - motto plate - mended by Jess Turrel
mended sweat shirt by Matt Benton with box of darning brooches, Dail Behennah - who was the key-note speaker at the conference

 

 

 

 

 

Mending goddess fights back

cracked jug being re-cast

This is a heartening story for menders everywhere. Regular readers will recollect ceramicist Hanne Rysgaard‘s total disregard for mending generally – and mending ceramics in particular – in the previous post ” Oops!”. where I showed the beautiful flowered jug she decided to rebirth as a completely whole and perfect object.

The mold was made and the porcelain poured and then I waited to hear how it appear after firing and what she wanted to decorate it with – but the next time I heard from Hanne was a frantic angry  email – Subject “Arrghhh” saying simply “jug got stuck in the mold”  Do you also hear the Mending Goddess laughing?

the first new jug emerges from the mold

But I knew exactly what she would do now – smash it and start again – so I immediately  phoned her and told her to just put pairs of holes either sides of the breaks and I would stitch it back together later; and then we talked a lot about how we have to hear and act on the universal messages we receive…. till she calmed down and agreed.

savagely holes- made for stitching - feel that frustration
holes smoothly fettled and ready for firing again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next set of images some minutes later made me seriously worried ( see above left) these were truly horrible stab wounds, but later that evening I received another email saying “really liking making these holes now – with a drill” and the holes were getting everywhere

drilling holes goes viral.

Eventually the jug was fired a second time and placed against the second cast, which only had a slight neck wound, when the third cast appeared perfect, Hanne confessed to being disappointed – nothing to play with and drill.

the first 2 jugs after different firings

The jug had lost a a fair amount of size after the 2 firings, above shows the jugs after one and 2 firings, and the original is bigger again. It is interesting to see the whole collapse of the first jug, Hanne says it has “sat down” and that is a very descriptive phrase for the odd shape – but we are about to take this poor sad failure and make it look like some one cared about it.

At first we both thought red stitches would make it look right but some aspects of the gaping wounds looked both sexual and scary when stitched in blood red – so gold was agreed.

jug on my work table being stitched in gold threads

The stitching was problematical although in essence very simple, I used curved needles to navigate the undulations of the shape and also the stitching needed to look as good inside as well as out.i worked on this for several hours getting the stitches to look as if they were planned perfectly.

showing inside stitched in gold
stitching through difficult terrain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the finished piece makes such a strong impression that all our stress has been worthwhile.

finished jug on worktable

and when I eventually took it to the next meeting of the Stitch and Think group, who are working on the mending project, this is the reaction I was wanting to see – Hanne delighted with her  mended ceramics.

Hanne seeing the mending for the first time

 

 

OOPS!

I had called a meeting of the Stitch and Think group who are working towards an exhibition around the idea of mending – a reminder that they had all promised to have working samples ready for early March – I was ahead of the game I had made several pieces of porcelain with mending mottoes on and was feeling pretty confident that I had done enough….then getting  out of my car to go into the meeting I dropped the carrier bag containing all 4 porcelain plates. KERACK!  My passenger Basil Kardasis said “Thank f… it wasn’t me who did that —– this has happened for a reason Janet”. quick thinking on his behalf but I felt strangely elated.

the inspirational break

When I unpacked the bag of broken bits, only one plate had survived – my W H Auden poem plate – more of which later. But on seeing my pile of broken crocks the group became animated, they fell on the pieces re-arranging back into plates and all said they preferred them broken, because now I have proper mending to consider not just simulated, contrived and controlled versions. For myself I felt sick – I was so proud of those plates; then, OK – move on; then, suddenly – FREE ! I no longer felt I had to remake them in a way that would not compromise Hanne Rysgaard’s standards, Hanne had helped me make the plates and she is a stickler for skilled work. So now just  my handkerchiefs with the embroidered mending mottoes will be developed for the exhibition, as the group thought they were a better idea – leaving the plates as research development. Meanwhile, jeweller Syann van Niftrik, had started to look at the way the stitching had been exposed by the break…

Syann van Niftrik’s mended silver objects.

she photographed it saying I had given her a great idea – well it’s an ill wind. The work Syann had brought with her in response to the museum visit was a set of buttons, made in one afternoon, from various cast off metal objects from her studio. She had soldered loops  onto their backs to make them useful.

soldered backs of the buttons
Syann van Niftrik watches as Basil Kardasis holds forth

But when she saw my broken plate it reminded her of the carapace of Chinese Cracker fireworks for the Chinese New Year celebrations, so she now is planning to make cages of wire in the form of the exposed linen stitches – to put together as necklaces.

The button idea has developed through a collaboration with Syann, Basil Kardasis and Dail Behennah – they have been not exactly working together on an idea for making buttons to fasten a collection of significant fabrics to fashion into a garment. Basil talked about a maxim of his father’s, who was a tailor   – a decently made buttonhole was truly important – you could die if it is poorly made. Think about this.

buttonhole sampler (detail)

So he has found an old sampler of how to make tailored buttonholes and and has requested us all to bring him pieces of fabric which we feel are personally significant and he will buttonhole them all together to make a sort of group portrait – I think!

Meanwhile Dail Behennah had been looking at developing her mending jewellry or rather jewellry to hide moth holes, she has been using sewing dictionaries to develop different shapes to stitch in precious metal wires. Below are her pieces base, the lower one based on the arrow head used in tailored garments to strengthen edges of pleats and pockets. The Bristol Mending Samplers have been a real source of inspiration.

Dail Behennah – gold and copper wire mends to hide moth holes and stains
new shape for repairs jewellry Dail Behennah

Another decorative and functional mending system has been devised by Matt Benton, Matt works in several media but uses vitreous enamel for much of his work. He has made mend shaped small enamel plates with drilled holes all ready to be stitched onto a worn area of a garment.

enamel shape tailor made to stitch into position Matt Benton
drilled enamel shape placed into position for stitching

While everyone seems to have been inspired by the mending idea, one maker hates the idea of mending anything to use again. Hanne Rysgaard, who I have been working and talking with throughout our collaboration, admitted that she thought that anything broken should be discarded, in fact she thought that using broken things was a sign of disrespect for the user – she put it very succinctly “I am worth the best things” and “broken things have lost their energy”  these statements caused much argument between us, and although she can see the worth of mending for sentimental reasons (in fact I recently spent some time darning her damaged but favourite red winter scarf ) she still feels that to surround yourself with broken things is disrespectful.

recasting the beautiful cracked jug – Hanne Rysgaard
So what will she make for the exhibition then? She has bought a large and beautiful wash jug and bowl which is only slightly cracked – and as I pointed out to her she would not have wanted to buy  it if it at the unbroken price – but she wants to remake this, so is in the middle of casting a mold to give rebirth to a damaged but lovely object – but will she leave evidence of this break?

back of jug with the break clearly seen  inside neck
Other makers are embracing the idea of sewn mending wholeheartedly, Jess Turrell,a jeweller and enameller has mended broken crockery by stitching linen covers and it looks like she may cover a whole tea set! This spoon is useless now and she calls it “inappropriate mending”

inappropriate mending – Jess Turrell.

stitched patch for broken cup Jess Turrell

the cups and saucers have become un-useable but several of the group thought they had attained another aesthetic value…oops the slippery slope of  the values of art v craft emerge…….moving swiftly on, all the stitchers were impressed by her precise work in fabric, she has an instinctive feel for elegant making with disparate materials.

As does Jilly Morris who is an applied artist working across a variety of materials, but here is researching the idea of skin which, for humans, is the area most often in need of mending. She also looked at sticking plasters – below she has pinned them into position onto a sheet of tracing paper liking the translucency akin to areas of our skin.

pinned plasters – Jilly morris

stitched plasters – Jilly Morris

Playing with the idea of the transparent papers she is was advised by most of the textile makers to move towards making her mending ideas in fine animal skins, parchments, seudes and kid leathers which we have given her to play with.

Two makers are using this project to develop areas for their  advanced degree studies and both have stayed close to their own materials. Steph Wooster is a knitter and designer, undergoing an MA by Research at UWE Bristol, she showed us some large pieces of patchworks that have been based on the use of straight- jackets

Steph Wooster hugging her straight-jacket inspired samples while Hanne Rysgaard looks on
hand stitched sampling for patchworks Steph Wooster

I won’t go into the details but she has developed the fabrics while researching at a local hospital’s archives;  she found the jackets were copiously mended through constant use. Controversially for the group,  she thinks that one overlooked benefit in the use of the straight jackets is that the patient has to hug him/herself…………..and that before the use of these garments the patients were chained in cellars. However this has lead to the sampling of some sumptuous fabrics

darned and patched mending diagrams – Dawn Mason

Dawn Mason is studying part time for her Ph.D by Practice, she is course leadr  in Drawing and Applied Ats at UWE. and she has used the old making manuals to develop pieced papers which are darned, patched and stitched together. She talked of feeling a sense of loss for the present society’s skill base when looking at the original mending samplers. she is currently researching gauntlet making out of the papers she is stitching together, so maybe a move into 3 dimensions is developing.

hand sized mending papers – work in progress Dawn Mason

Whatever else is thought of in the old practices of mending it certainly is proving a rich research area for all these different makers, The group has truly become more than the sum of its parts, we were all fascinated by the different aspects  each maker had discovered for them selves and the truths we had to uncover to start to explain our thinking behind the making.