Stitching on a Roof Tile!

The Curzon Cinema in Clevedon, North Somerset, is my favourite (actually our only) local cinema; it looks and feels like the picture houses of my childhood in the 1950’s. (photograph above courtesy of Go Bath Bristol) Saved by the community from total dereliction some years ago, it now has a major problem, the roof is leaking and needs major money for repairs. So there was a call – out for local artists to help – decorate an old roof-tile in any way whatsoever ………and they are being auctioned on line next month from 1st December 2019.

the headland of the Kilkenny Bay seen from our house and garden, on late sunny evenings…utterly magical.

The central curve reminded me of the the headland at the end of the bay where I live, Battery Point, on the Severn estuary, fanciful I know but I have many drawings of this view and have made many different types of work from the studies.

I tried many variations of colour scapes from my earlier drawings. I liked the glistening nylon shot fabric for the water, trouble is that the water of this estuary is never a deep true blue, air-force blue is as good as it gets. For some reason I started with the lump on the left…so the view was of the other end of the bay where the sun sets and all the colour emerges from…but it wasn’t working for me – then one morning I just changed it around so it looked like the Battery Point headland…I was suddenly on home ground..or should I say water?

I added the salt marsh fabric, a piece of green and orange shot cotton is the perfect colour of the marsh when the late afternoon sun lights it up in the autumn – the rest of the sky and sea seem purple in comparison.

The task now was to organise the layout of the fabrics so that they would lie in straight lines when they were eventually placed onto the undulating tile …this took some calculations as the tile is wedge shaped but the sea level and the salt- marsh horizons are straight….

I start to running stitch the sky …..but I have decided against the brilliant blue sea I hid it under a translucent layer of silk!

I used the simple running stitches of Kantha technique for this appliqué, I have to get the fabrics to stay together in a soft and malleable form so that I can easily manipulate the fabric over the lumpy tile.

I continue to stitch down the length of the tile – it takes several days but as always fascinating to handle the colour changes. The stitching is quite large and almost crude using a heavy gauge silk thread but very satisfying to do; usually when working this technique I use one single thread of silk and it takes ages and ages to cover the ground

As I continued to stitch the colours became muted and now the once brilliant orange sky was being challenged by the bright green of the salt- marsh; reluctantly I changed the fabric after several different variations of shot cottons had been tried, but there is enough going on in this small space as it is – hey ho!

eventually the finished piece is ready to be mounted onto the tile covered in wadding.

I then covered the tile in a layer of very thin wadding, sticking it down with thins lines of fabric glue so that I could continue to embroider the silk piece to it. I have evolved this technique for covering 3D shaped objects over many years of trial and error but this was a real challenge.

Having aligned the top of the stitching to the top of the tile I tacked it into position, then pinned it all along the undulations…it’s really tricky work trying to keep the horizon lines straight…all those years of pattern cutting came into play! The top and bottom were secured by over stitching onto the back of the tile wadding, pulling and stretching as I proceeded eventually it was securely stitched and bedded into position.

I am really liking the feel of the tile now it is so softly padded and am thinking of possibly making some more stitched covers for other objects – one day. Meanwhile my husband Stephen Jacobson, has painted another view of the estuary using the imprint of the tile manufacturer as a flag with a view of the band stand at Clevedon. And artist Alfred Stockham has painted eyes to create a curious face and called it ” The Man in the IronMask “

All the 40 odd tiles are for auction on the

Porcelain Lace

lace impressed porcelain

I have been working with Hanne Rysgaard sampling new work for an exhibition of the Stitch and Think research group, called Mending at the Museum which starts in November this year and runs for 6 months at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery. Hanne does not like mended things, in fact she is fundamentally opposed to the idea of mending or using anything cracked or broken BUT she does  like transformation – well as a ceramicist she would wouldn’t she ? transformation by fire is fundamental to her practice.

my pieces of damaged vintage guipure lace and drawn thread work

We have been trying to get together to work since our visit to the Lost in Lace exhibition in Birmingham early this year, where we determined to develop some porcelain lace work – possibly a curtain. The idea is that Hanne will transform my tattered bits of lace into porcelain and I will stitch or embroider the patches together to make fabric.

So Hanne prepared some sheets of paper porcelain for us to work on and we set to work rolling several types of lace and drawn thread work into the surface of the clay.

Hanne rolling black guipure lace into sheet of paper porcelain

She was much the stronger roller – my first attempts were really puny. We had placed the larger sheets of lace under the clay as we thought we may want the resulting ‘fabric’ to be seen from both sides. I prefer the stricter linear drawn thread work impressions but Hanne just loved the rich and romantic guipures..

guipure lace and drawn thread squares impressed into the fresh porcelain

We used all types of patterns to give ourselves a good range to sample with. We needed to ascertain how big the individual pieces could be as this would give an indication of the size of finished piece…I had envisaged a huge floor to ceiling drop of larger sheets of porcelain but Hanne explained that making hand  -sized pieces of porcelain was more viable; first the pieces need to be fired without cracking and then be strong enough to be handled later when being stitched together+all my scraps of vintage lace are damaged and small sized, but  how else could I have afforded to collect such lovely pieces?

impression in damp porcelain of the black lace above

As you can see the first impression in the damp clay is stunning, so crisp and clear, we were whooping with delight at the fine detail, every stitch can be seen and this is machine made lace. We now had  to cut the lace into shapes and I was amused to see Hanne pick up a pair of scissors to cut it; but first I handed her an old fashioned tailor’s tracing wheel to impress regular holes in the surface where I have to stitch. We placed the holes anywhere we thought useful – we will have to regulate these more carefully on the finished work.

fettling the edges of the cut porcelain motif

Now to the kiln…Hanne packed it….

kiln packed ready to be fired

and 2 days later I returned to collect the finished motifs…

fired porcelain motifs

The pieces are slightly smaller but the holes are fine for stitching, the quality of the unglazed porcelain is so like a starchy linen fabric that the transformation is uncanny – they look like material but are brittle and now all uniformly white….ethereal.

fine linen drawn thread work square

and like similar transformations in vitreous enamel, plastic lace often makes crisps and clear impressions.

plastic lace impression

So now it is over to me to develop the new fabric, I start by placing the different pieces in formal patterns – I originally intended to use wire to stitch between the gaps using decorative lace like stitches to fill in any spaces….now I realised this was not going to be at all easy, even at this moderate scale. The wire won’t behave well – it needs careful and regular stitches to develop the rhythm required to give embroidery its formal beauty.

motifs arranged formally as a lace curtain design.

I started to draw between the pieces to try to find decorative stitches that could be used between the motifs,

drawing stitches between motifs

but it became obvious that I will need to use a backing fabric and applique the motifs onto it, this will act as some protection but it has to take the weight of the porcelain, so now I am researching silk organzas, cotton organdies and maybe netting…as we are both designers and therefor pragmatists we are liking the transparent quality of the organza first sampled – and applying lace motifs on a pre-made net ground is used as a lace making technique.

first sample of applique on organza, seen against a black background

I have a long way to go before this fabric begins to do  justice to the quality of the impressed porcelain motifs…..but it has started to remind me of Crazy Patchwork
it could be a lovely airy crazy patchwork –   I am now thinking of new ways to develop it further

Lost In Lace

“Lost in Lace – transparent boundaries” curated by Lesley Millar is the current exhibition at Birmingham City Museum, on till 4th March; I went to see it recently with colleagues, Hanne Rysgaard and Basil Kardasis, who are part of the Stitch and Think research group. Hanne and I had decided to make a large porcelain hanging based on lace for the group’s exhibition at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery which takes place later this year, thankfully a lot later. Basil came along for the pleasure of a day spent looking and talking.

The first thing that really got me excited was the scale of the work on view. The Gas Hall where the work is housed and much of it is designed to fit, is massive and the lace exhibits certainly inhabited the space and made a monumental but ethereal impression. My own impression after my first walk around, was of a silent shadowy cathedral; but it wasn’t silent and it wasn’t gloomy, but it was majestic.

I became fascinated by the light within the space and also how the unusual materials used to construct the pieces still acted as lace, you can see it but you can also see through it. trying to assimilate the whole exhibition on my second  journey around I sought out this now you see me now you don’t aspect, as seen above.But I had come to try to take away some aspect that I could develop in the work that Hanne and I are about to embark on. We actually didn’t look or speak together for about 3/4 hour, then she said “light” and I said “shadow”.

I became obsessed by the shadows cast (or not) by the ‘lace’ so this is post is now about the  shadow experience. I now wanted to see and capture shadows, but this wasn’t as easy as I had hoped, which gave rise to a long conversation on the train home to Bristol, about how will we achieve large-scale combined with strong shadow….Annie Bascoul talks about shadow in her pages in the excellent catalogue, she mentions the “eroticism of the thrown shadow” I like what she wrote but I couldn’t find a good shadow to photograph ( but this may be due to my ineptitude with the camera)

A not very erotic shadow – sorry
Some of the most fascinating shadows were from the smaller pieces,below is a detail from 2 edges of Diana Harrison’s ‘Time Line’ a broken,small in scale but very long length of polyester thread. cotton cloth and dog hair. I really wanted to stay and draw the with crisp complicated meshed shadows formed by the fabric and it’s fine black pins that anchor it in position.
The best shadows  obviously were mad when the wall or floor was close to the surface casting it …and the refreshingly bright blood-red piece by Micheal Brennand-Wood gave crisp grey snowflake patterns as an extra bonus.
Lace the Final Frontier, painted and stained aluminium :Micheal Brennand-Wood
and in the children’s activity area beyond the main hall there were lovely paper snowflake patterns hung on a washing line.
And it made the most ethereal and unusual shadows
But my favourite shadow was the strange almost mottled fish skin appearance cast by the unbelievable hand – cut paper lace panels, by Piper Shepard, that made a sort of triumphal arch between two tall and elegant pillars in the museum.
and here is the panel that made this shadow…
And if you feel that I have just not done justice to this exhibition, because I haven’t talked about the philosophy of either the artists’ or the curator’s decisions to make and show the work and I have missed the whole point – good. Go and see for yourself or if not, buy and read the catalogue :-Lost in Lace, written by Lesley Millar,  published by Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, ISBN 978-0-9570494-0-6 and let me know what you think.

Mending goddess fights back

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?

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.

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

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 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.

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.

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

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.


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.

Mending Mottoes

sketchbook of first mending mottoes idea

I have eventually found the time to get back to the Stitched Ceramics story.  Hanne Rysgaard and I found a few odd days to work together during the past months to develop samples of the plates I want to make. The first thing we did was make some new molds, well actually Hanne made new molds while I took the pictures…….

edited idea from the poetry plate

Meanwhile I got on with drawing out designs for different plates, I had really liked the poem by W.H.Auden and the broken heart image (see the Category Archive, Stitched Ceramics May 18th)  I wanted to repeat this design but with a motto instead of the poem or find a poem I could use without having to deal with the copyright restrictions…but Hanne had recommended not writing a great deal as the porcelain would probably dry out too much for me to be able to manipulate the clay into the tears and holes for later mending.

I made several drawings at this stage and some of these initial ideas did survive intact to the finished sample stage – others have been rather rearranged and one has been mended  – for real.

several more sketches for the mending motto plates

Hanne rolling out the porcelain on her new bit of kit.

When I returned to the ceramics studio, Hanne rolled out the porcelain for me, gave me the molds she had prepared earlier and went upstairs to look after Blaze gallery.

I had drawn and cut some stitching hands from card for impressing onto the clay and I also used the copper blanks I had previously plasma cut for enamelling, these proved to be the best at making the right amount of depth for the impressions. Using the working drawings, which were pretty basic, see above, I started to work. Nerve wracking stuff – as the slightest mark is not easily erased, so I was forced to be more controlled learning to rely on my instincts – if you make a wrong move you will have to redress it either now or later when it is fired – or discard it – I was NOT about to discard anything I had been given to work with and which had been so lovingly prepared for me; time to get a grip.

card hand placed on freshly rolled porcelain

I started out quite well, the first hand impress although  a bit weak, was simple and effective, the finished dish  looks more or less as I imagined it would – see below   no blocked stitching holes, no cracks, no loss of shape  – I should be thankful for beginners’ luck!

finished plate, no problems!

And the rest of the day went well, I made 2 more dishes, well one and a half…I had not enough clay for a whole third plate so started to get inventive….I thought that a half a plate with the holes pierced for stitching another material to it would be interesting…I used a crazy patchwork technique for this.

half a porcelain plate with half made linen crazy patches in my studio

This half dish had lost its shape in the kiln, so I had nothing to lose by experimenting with it and although I feel this version is not working due to the pull of the linen fabrics over the curve of the dish, which may be eradicated by cutting them on a different grain,  I feel that there is a lot potential here;  Liz Hewitt, another embroiderer, told me about a kind of felt that can be molded when wet and will dry to shape – and it  can be stitched ….so I will try this  idea again – maybe – if I get the time.

first and unsuccessful sample of crazy patched plate...

But the dish that was to test me most was just simple and pure white with a motto and stitching hand, it needed no further colour, just taking home and darning.

darned dish before firing.....

There was one small problem, several of the holes I had pierced had fused together; I set about filing them out…. I was oh so careful, when one push too far through the actual needle eye and KERACK..the whole plate split in two, right through the hand but, thankyou universe, the darning patch as well.

You know when you just feel sick, sorry and stupid! I wanted to weep, but just had to carry on – Araldite, fast drying Araldite came to my aid. And YES I do appreciate the irony of this…..but I still had to hold the 2 pieces together in my hands for more than 30 minutes and imagine trying to do this when your are telling yourself to just chuck the whole lot away and forget you ever had any ambitions and isn’t this what you always do – mess up because you want too much control…and you desperately need to pee.

Anyway when it finally felt safe to loosen my grip after walking round my studio a dozen times, I tightly bound it in some strips of fabric and left it overnight – unusually I took no photographs of this episode – too sick about it all.

finished double mended plate

After a turbulent night’s sleep, and when I finally stoned off all the last vestiges of glue from the wound and the back of the dish and my hands…and filled the tiny gap with red making it “bleed” under the darned area. I realised that I have discovered another way of working with the ideas of breaking and mending and which I am now really interested in pursuing for the Museum Mending project

But I am leaving you with another motto which just makes me laugh ruefully each time I turn it up in my research book, this needs a very special dish making for it….

Mending at the Museum

What follows is a pretty much the ultimate in the evidence of mending…you have been warned. A colleague, Dawn Mason, and I  recently organised a day at the the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery to research a project called Stitching and Thinking, for the ETC. group affiliated to UWE Bristol. It aims, by way of workshops, DVD interviews, playing with disparate materials and now visiting museum archives, to try to record the thoughts that creative makers, designers and applied artists feel when they are engage with their material.

The group comprises academic and research staff from UWE, experienced makers and designers who run their own businesses – earning a living by making and selling their own work. They are nationally and internationally known and respected within their field:  jewellers, ceramicists, basket weavers, stitchers, knitters, enamellers….. we aim to make work together by sharing our skills and philosophies. I also invited a critical writer, an interviewer and a cameraman to record the day. We were given a short introduction to the mended pieces by Karin Walton, the curator of Applied Arts, who I think was rather bemused by our fascination with this odd collection of stuff.

The museum’s attitude to working on anything needing repair is to neither deceive nor detract from the original and all repairs need to be removable. But many objects were mended before they came into the museum’s possession. Some of the pieces mended in the museum are really very refined,  they often have carefully painted patterns so that the repair is not too obtrusive; but I think the ethereal quality of some painted repairs adds to the charm of the originals – but I would, wouldn’t I?

Some of the repairs are really lively, just additions to make the item serviceable again, we were all reminded of our wasteful society and how we will just throw broken things away and replace them, in fact most technology is superceded by the latest model long before the original has worn out.

But  I was also intrigued in the types of repairs found when turning the pieces over, the staples or rivets in the cracked porcelain and glass were particularly pleasing and I would really like to learn how to make them.  They look so simple a solution to holding broken pieces together but they must take courage to drill when the object is of worth.  But as I have remarked before in the earlier blogs on mending, a decent mend is a sign of worth.

But I am most intrigued by the blanks in the design left by the restorer when using a plain infill – the strange shapes are perfect “blank canvasses” for me to start to invent into.

The inspiration for this project to develop work from the museum was because I wanted to show the group the stitched mending samplers. Bristol Museum holds one of the most comprehensive sampler collections in the country, it is held at The Georgian House and can be visited by appointment. I have researched it many times and I wanted the group to see these particular samplers so Karin, who has written the catalogue for whole collection, brought over several for us to view. The sampler above is from the local Quaker school in Sidcott, it is so fine and holds a special, and to some people in the group, a troubling presence. I just am concerned about the poor childrens’ eyesight and patience, both of which which must have been strained to the limit.

What is noticeable about the plain workmanlike samplers she brought us is that they are made in schools, the young girls who stitched these were learning useful techniques which would stand them in good stead in the future, either for running their own households of serving in someone else’s.

Moving into the museum galleries after our morning in the archives we were all alert to the many mends in evidence, this elegant marble mend on the back of a statue is particularly pleasing, although I would be interested to know at what stage the marble was patched, before or after the caving?  But Now the group, myself included,  needs to go and start to create work that has been inspired by the morning, I will keep you posted on any future progress.

Some new  information on mending has been sent to me from Dail Behennah, one of the of makers involved in this project; she has unearthed this archive advert from a Bristol newspaper which looks like the Coombes company or a predecessor, may have had a hand in mending that tea pot with the metal spout…

Embroidered Ceramics.

I have just spent a couple of days doing a proper embroidery – stitching flowers and spots onto a table-cloth for Hanne Rysgaard to display her ceramics. She is showing large selection of her current work in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre shop, from mid August to mid September. I offered do this the last time I was working in her studio, as she was just preparing to make all the stock for this exhibition. I thought that a stitched version of her pieces would make a good centre-piece for the collection.

first ball point drawings for Hanne's table cloth

While speaking to her over a cup of tea, I put a few ideas down in my work-book; this is real “back of the envelope” stuff, using a ball point pen – which is always good to draw with, but the sometimes the line it leaves is a bit sleazy –  and as often happens the very first idea was the one I used. Hanne immediately liked the whole idea, actually I think she just liked me drawing it out for her. But I do feel that when you get the initial idea for a piece of work, the first drawings, even if just scribbles, contain an energy that subsequent studies don’t, and if referred back to they can often re-assure you through the inevitable time when you doubt your decision to make the work.

The next drawings were on the linen tea-cloth in water erasable pen, Hanne made the actual pieces for me to work from and I took them home to my studio and set them out to draw around.

table cloth set out in studio

The tiny flower arrangement was quite a challenge to stitch, it was a bunch of roses and auriculas with a few forget-me-nots, quite difficult to copy within a 2 cm. spot and this had to be repeated 13 times… comparison the spots were easy-peasy though they are all slightly wonky.

stitched sample for spots and flowers.

While the flowers and spots had to be stretched for the embroidery I always prefer to stitch without a hoop and the outlines of the ceramics are freely stitched, so much easier to handle. I feel that the hand stitching looks right for the hand-made quality of the ceramics.

embroidering the outlines on the un-stretched linen

Once the embroidery was finished, washed and pressed I delivered it and it was a relief when Hanne just whooped with delight when she saw it. It was immediately set out at the back of the gallery/shop at Blaze, where we both set about taking pictures.

Hanne looking impressed with my embroidered version of her work

Here is a close up of a section of the cloth complete with the embroidered cake fork, the real butter knife used as the reference, can just be seen in the background.

close up of embroidered tea cloth

and here is a view of the whole set with the magnificent 4 tiered cake stand.

Stitching Ceramics – First Samples

Today I went to Blaze gallery and studio to collect some of the fired paper porcelain samples from Hanne Rysgaard, (see Archive for first Stitched Ceramics post) and brought them to my studio here to colour and stitch. I am primarily testing how much the porcelain shrinks when fired; Hanne calculates at 20% shrinkage but that I need to see what that looks like.  Then I can decide how big to make the dishes for the stencils and the shapes to impress into the surface – but even more importantly calculate the size of the holes I will eventually stitch.

drill bits with sizes and resulting size changes after one high firing. The dotted outline surrounding the sample is the original unfired size of the paper porcelain

It appears that the smaller the hole the less it appears to reduce and after firing they seem to fit the next smaller size –  so a 2.5 bit will now fit -just- into a 3.sized hole and as they all need smoothing with a file that seems easy enough. I chose to make most of the holes at 1.5 size drill bit and now this easily admits a medium sized crewel needle –  a sharp pointed needle with a long eye for threading thicker yarns.

drawing for ceramic dishes, drawn around my own hand; stitched wire flowers
sketches for hands, flowers and mending broken hearts dishes.

I made several pages of drawings for poems, mainly haiku on the subjects of flowers and hearts, written by a friend Rosemary Murphy, but also I liked the sayings about mending – now there’s a surprise! Anyway samples are made for the mending hands designs and the poems as this is the set of ideas that I have decided to develop into porcelain plates and dishes.

I also wanted to impress the hands as I had previously impressed the lace in the large sample plate – see first blog on Stitched Ceramics – so I used a hand that I had previouslycut out of  copper sheet using my plasma cutter, this was adapted from my letterhead which I have used for over 20 years. I also am waiting for another cardboard hand impression to be fired to make a comparison between metal and card.

The impressed hand is coloured with pale blue powdered enamel so that the outlines are seen more clearly, I think that this colour relates to the embroidery patterns I have been using as references in some of my  other stitched work. I am also considering how I want the lettering of the mottoes and poems written and below is a sample of a some stitched letters from a whole alphabet I had considered sewing in order to make individual stitched letter impresses, but they appear too indistinct at this tiny scale – I may return to this idea though for other works in porcelain or enamel.

So I will use the commercial stamped letters for the writing in this series of work, I like the way that the rather wonky stamps counter the more fluent and elegant hand impressions and drawings