Things With and Without Wings

folded book sculpture
folded book of flowers and butterflies – Ilaria Padovani

The world is full of surprises. You invite a group of people to develop ideas together in a studio in order to make work for a themed exhibition over a period of 6 weeks, then they go away and come back 3 weeks later with something completely different  – Hey Ho! BUT sometimes the things they bring back are so different and you realise that they have taken a new direction because of the theme  – what could be a better result?

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folded book with moths- Ilaria Padovani

So when Ilaria Padovani, who is a volunteer at Heart Space Studios, arrived the day before the deadline with 4 folded and paper sculpted books, I could only gaze in amazement (she was making a flight of patchwork butterflies last time we spoke)! I had asked everyone to write a few sentences about why they had done the work, knowing from experience that most people engage more easily and trust the words they read, rather than the images they view – I have the opposite point of view but that’s anther story!

 ‘VERBA VOLANT, SCRIPTA MANENT…Spoken words fly away, written words remain…’

  “This was my big sister’s reply to a letter I had written to her pontificating on how to raise her child. Although my intentions were good I had been arrogant and hurtful to someone I love dearly. After her phone call, I stayed up all night thinking of a way to show her how deeply sorry I was for my inconsiderate missive. I had wished the words I had written could have flown away from the page like a flutter of butterflies.

I started folding the pages of a book she used to read to me as a child. I folded a kaleidoscope of butterflies and arranged them soaring out of the pages. The making was cathartic to me and so was her forgiveness on receiving the book”.  

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stitched and printed air mail letter – Steph Wooster

Writing was a theme for many of the pieces in this mixed media exhibition. Steph Wooster, was researching ideas about carrier pigeons, doves and messages of peace, so this old airmail letter has been printed and then embroidered in cross stitch with a the one thing that you can’t give up when waiting for news. Steph’s images are truly mixed media, she prints, knits and embroiders onto papers and fabrics of different densities – layering the multiple sheets of images and text together.

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multi-media layered image of pigeons and laurel branches – Steph Wooster
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multi-media Hope dove – Steph Wooster

 

 

 ” I have an ongoing interest in mixing media, materials and processes. Attending workshops at Heart Space has introduced me to paper-cutting and patching processes that I have explored further with my knitting, stitching, printing and sketching. Making work for Things with Wings I immediately thought of pigeons. I love pigeons, grey, common, mundane and overlooked. Their invisibility and homing instinct led me to layering maps, graphs, envelopes, knitting, photographs, feathers and tracing paper. I wanted to show the humble pigeon as cousin of the dove who brought Noah the olive branch, embodying hope for the future.”

Mary Bishop has  used her own  hand-writing to inscribe poems and rhymes that have been illustrated by embroidering into papers and fabrics. I always recite this rhyme when I see any magpies – its an old English saying. Mary has condensed and enriched her first sample idea that she was working on in the studios to make these encrusted applique and collaged pieces.

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Magpie’s nest – Mary Bishop

My inspiration for this piece was my workroom which is like a magpie’s nest, full of bits that glitter and are pretty, things that cry out to be reused.  I really enjoyed reflecting it in this nest

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ladybird, Ladybird – Mary Bishop

I love ladybirds, so pretty and attracted to colour, I was really inspired by my many colours of threads to build up this flower bed and the cobweb to illustrate this lovely poem.

Keeping with framed pictures, Debby Bird made some really popular (and fast selling) beetle things, some with wings but the main interest for all the viewers was the materials she used, interference foil that distorts the light rays into rainbows of different hues being the most fascinating. The free machine-stitched insect boxes illustrate her idea that many insects are as precious and beautiful as jewellry displays.

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Things With Wings – Debby Bird
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Flying and Crawling Jewels – Debby Bird

“Despite being overlooked and under-loved , Insects are the most successful of the worlds’ species . They are so varied and often more beautiful than the most precious gems, yet they can take off and disappear before you get a proper look.

My free-stitched specimen boxes are representing the energy of live bugs just gathered for a quick inspection before they fly home!

There are classes is this technique by Debby in the new Heart Space Studios Autumn programme of workshops

Sarah Dennis cuts paper by hand and the results are stunning, she conducts her very popular workshops, both day and evening sessions, for Heart Space Studios. The 2 large pieces of work attracted a lot of admiration, people can’t believe that they are looking at a hand made piece of such simple means. I like her simple explanation for the genesis of her things with wings…..

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Deep Blue – papercut – Sarah Dennis

 I love nature; these pieces were inspired by watching a David Attenborough documentary.

Deep Blue was created after watching a scene where the ocean and the sky met together watching a bird dive from the sky and the whale swam around the surface of the ocean in a circular motion, the fishes sprung out of the waves into the sky. I wanted to capture the movement and life of that moment in paper.

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Flamingoes, paper cut – Sarah Dennis

Flamingos is a response to how astounded I always am by the incredible journeys that animals make to survive. I try to exemplify the beauty of nature through the delicate detail of paper.

Some people are really good with the words that they use to describe how they developed their imagery – Sophie Bristol, our administrator – studied History of Art for her BA hons. degree at the Courtauld Institute, so I was not surprised by her eloquence when she wrote about the piece that, at first glance, looks to be just a highly decorative triptych.

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gilded triptych – Sophie Bristol

 One of my greatest past-times is exploring flea markets, making chance discoveries of overlooked gems, which might not be particularly valuable, but are lovely none-the-less.

I recently stumbled across a pack of playing cards at a market, and was drawn to the gilded image of a bird on the reverse. The picture fascinated me because it was both beautiful and slightly sinister. I decided to incorporate the cards into a piece for the Wings and Things exhibition, using hand-embroidery skills, beading, and mixed-media techniques to continue to explore the tension between the beautiful and the macabre.”

Alas, my own framed pieces are very conventional – I had to make them relatively quickly at home in any spare time I could find, so relying heavily on my stitching skills, I made what I hope are amusing images of the ends of things….

“One of the daily tasks of running Heart Space Studios is sweeping the studio floor. Things found on the floor though, are often lovely – scraps of silk, ravels of multi-coloured threads and scatterings of beads; but as they are so small and dusty they usually get binned.

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the Apotheosis of the Embroidery Thread Ends – Janet Haigh silk hand embroidery

Buttons are another matter, they get used here for eyes and noses for toys made at children’s parties; but after a few months only the brown and beige buttons are left in the tins. I suspect that most homes harbour a tin of odd brown and beige buttons….

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the Apotheosis of the Beige Buttons – Janet Haigh, silk hand embroidery

I got to thinking “Ideally, what would happen to the beige buttons that no-one wants, or the teeny scraps of ragged fabric and threads? Where would they go, what would they become”? 

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the Apotheosis of the Fabric Scraps – janet Haigh, silk applique and patchwork

So now we get to the things out of the frames – I feel that out of the frame is perhaps a better way to develop work like this – so we had  a flight of dragonflies from Susi Bancroft, rather difficult to photograph, so here is just one; he looks kind of menacing – but as Susi says……

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One imaginary winged creature – Susi Bancroft. wire and beads

 “ inspired by my delight in watching dragonflies in flight whilst walking by the river. From pale green delicate ethereal things, to flashes of bright iridescent colours skimming the water, I caught my breath watching them. These creatures are an interpretation, a play on ideas. My mind wandered around the real as well as imaginary – the beauty of nature and the fantasy of invented things with wings – from fairies to surreal stinging insects! These may hang indoors or outdoors – catching light and breeze and hopefully raising a smile!

Made on the sewing machine from wire wrapped in glittery metallic thread with seed beads I pre-threaded on the wire – a somewhat exciting technique which requires some nerve!

But where are the things without wings? Well for a start there are lovey simple feathered heart shaped hangings form Jane- Marie Mahy, our display manager.

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Feathered Beaded Heart – Jane-Marie Mahy

” I was inspired by the work I have done in the past for Heart Space Studios simply decorating willow hearts which are rustic in texture against different found objects lovely old beads, buttons and lately clock faces. Feathers were the obvious things to add to the hearts for this project and making them into these angelic hearts”.And unusual beaded necklaces made by Ilsa Fatt, who teaches beaded jewellry making and often using her own lamp- worked beads as inspiration..

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black and white necklace _ Ilsa Fatt
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Re Necklace – Ilsa Fatt

 “The seed for the idea of Spirit-Bird necklaces came not from a bird, but a beetle.  I was thinking about the sacred Egyptian scarab beetle, which led me to thoughts on the strange Egyptian bird-headed gods.  These were in my mind when I first started making glass beads for the Heart Space exhibition.

As I worked, I became more and more drawn to the idea of the bird totems of the Pacific North West coast, such as the thunderbird that can shape-shift into human form.  The little glass birds that finally emerged are things-without-wings, but for me they embody the idea of wings, and of the power of imagination’s flight.

 

And now for both things with and without wings from Kirsten Hill-Nixon, who works with us teaching felt-making but has many other skills to be developed. she really took flight (sorry) with her imagination for this project.

 The image below does not do justice to this piece – it lives under a vintage glass dome so is very hard to see with reflections everywhere – It is made up from some dyed and embellished real chrysalis –  and the strange beings that have escaped from them…the twig is felted wool but everything else is metal and glass, with found objects like large beads and parts of domestic plumbing as well.

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Curious Chrysalis – Kirsten Hill-Nixon

 “What a Great Title ‘Wings and Things’ ‘Things’ could be literally anything! And with winged shoes, aeroplanes, sycamore seeds and half the animal kingdom to choose from what should I do?
I spread out all my shiny objects, threads and fabrics on a large table, things I have been hoarding for years waiting for an opportunity to use them – and here it is.  

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detail – Dragonfly, embellished chrysalis, tin foil, wire and beads – Kirsten Hill Nixon

 There is always a moment of great excitement finding a shiny beetle in the garden; that unexpected flash of sparkling wing on the dragonfly so Bugs it had to be. Small and precious like jewels, my winged things would need the protection of a glass dome just like the exotic specimens in a Victorian museum collection

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butterfly detail – copper, chrysalis, wire and beads – Kirsten Hill-Nixon

I spread out all my shiny objects, threads and fabrics on a large table, things I have been hoarding for years waiting for an opportunity to use them – and here it is. 

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sheer invention – Bugs  – Kirsten hill-Nixon

and just one more from this set of Things with Wings

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copper, wire and washers – Kirsten hill-Nixon.

 


 

 

 

 

Crazy Mixed-Up Samplers

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAstrip sampler of tweed, embroidery, nuno felt copper and paper- Kirsten Hill-Nixon

I am interested in developing a set of workshop using mixed media at Heart Space, think leathers, metals, ceramics, fabrics, glass and wood….. so I thought I could try the idea out on the people who work with us, all expert in their own field and up for a challenge.

And as Crazy Patchwork samplers have been such a success at Heart Space Studios that I decided to run an Away Day for the tutors and staff to enjoy time making together. I asked everyone who could attend, to bring their own favourite materials and their tools. Each person would make either a strip sampler  or a crazy square sampler by using decorative embroidery stitches to join the materials together.

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tutor’s own stash of hand made wool felt
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the administrator’s collection of everything vintage

Most people brought their own stuff to share between the group, I am always impressed by the generosity of makers in workshops like this. The group dynamic is encouraged so that people really want to help one another. What is also an added bonus is finding a shared love of a particular technique or material, even makers of different ages and styles come together when they find they both appreciate a particular aspect of their chosen discipline.

I also brought a large selection of materials from my home-based studios, all kinds of things: woven metal fabrics, stencilled enamels on copper, leathers, plastic lace, metallic damasks and other fabrics –  and also the tools to drill stitch and manipulate them.

one of the best things about attending any materials based  workshop is the abundance of new and unusual stuff that is introduced by people who are experienced in working with it – this can save days of researching.

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my stash of copper discs, enamelled triangles and metallic braids
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copper and aluminium wires for working with in any way possible.

I particularly like metallic leathers and fabrics, so I brought lots of these in for everyone to sample, as well as scraps of thin copper, some patterned with vitreous enamel. such a shame I had no time to experiment with the other tutors’ materials for this research session.

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metal meshes and pressed copper foil, enamel applique and metallic leathers.

The task for the morning was to choose 3 different materials and join them together using their own preferred techniques or I would  teach anyone various embroidery stitches and techniques. As the group comprised experts in knitting, stitching, crochet, felting, print as well as display, administration and even a drama student (a daughter on a flying visit), it proved to be a mixed bag of talents, attitudes and experiences. Perfect for generating new ideas and enthusiasms

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colour co-ordinated mother and daughter

Everyone set to work choosing their 3 materials and laying them out, the strip sampler proved to be the most popular as it is the easiest to co-ordinate; odd crazy  shapes take a lot longer to set up.For the task of joining two of the disparate materials together – colour, surface texture, weight of each material has to be considered as well as the selecting the technique.

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traditional crazy shapes
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strip sampler of cotton, leather and paper

I showed everyone how to make regular holes in various surfaces, involving textile techniques – a tracing wheel, an old darning needle and a hammer! It works for me every time…..and off they went with mixed but interesting results.

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marking out where to make the stitching holes on copper.

At first everyone just chose a colour co-ordinated or used an unusual type of thread to work with…

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metallic leather, woven braid stitched together with silky knitting ribbon, awaiting the addition of a scrap of plastic tablecloth.

only to find that when stitched it looked very different than imagined. after a relaxed start the makers’ critical faculties began to kick in!

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colour co-ordinated threads and second thoughts

I noticed that the knitters worked completely differently from the stitchers; they immediately made a start by adding a linking system to one edge of a piece of material  either using  crochet or knit to form an edge ready to accept the next piece of material – this gave them much more contemplation time for what comes next – the stitchers are able to join 2 pieces together simultaneously. Why had I not appreciated this before?  However working the wire into fine leather was a fiddly affair – see below right.

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knitting wool onto a copper foil strip
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developing the crochet wire joining strip

Now I really must get the knitters to teach how to do this technique. When I first attempted to join metal together using my own stitching techniques I used a different system – making rows of simple cross stitches between the strips of vitreous enamelled copper pieces, so joining each at the same time. It took me some time to try the different insertion stitches. In fact it was an aversion to drilling all the holes that put me off developing this technique for a long time – but now I happily drill rows of holes for hours at a time – well not exactly ‘happily’….maybe I will get to like crochet after all.

my very first attempt at joining metal with stitched wire

When the crochet wire was worked into some copper strips it was very successful…the strong steady base really helps achieve an even texture and the structure gives the metal wire movement and elasticity which is much more compatible to work into fabric.

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copper wire crochet edge to copper foil strip

now the strips of materials are starting to look like they belong together

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concentrating on the task in hand- and a heart on her sleeve

I showed several people how to embroider simple insertion stitches for a lace-like join…securing the fabric to a piece of card first to steady the gap between the pieces, a traditional technique found in my old embroidery manuals for white work.

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cigarette cards stitched onto paper to steady them ready for gold insertion stitching

Now the invention started to kick in…

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insertion stitches and beaded braid for that vintage vibe – Sophie Bristol
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a really crazy mix of materials crocheted together by Avril Best
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elegant beaded joining stitches between rows of leather, wallpaper, metallic braid, crumpled copper foil, nuno felted silk and drilled copper sheet – Debbie Bird
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various knitted materials for joining disparate materials;- copper, copper wire, silk and wool nuno felt, shisha mirror in wool embroidery – Clare Griffel
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ripped card, copper foil, nuno felted silk and wool, tweed and hand embroidery all joined together in crazy style – Kirsten Hill-Nixon.
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interesting how the plastic tablecloth now looks like a precious fabric when seen with the other expensive elements, leather, woven brass and silver fabric. Jane-Marie Mahy
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all things vintage – patchwork cotton, linen thread appliqued enamelled copper circle , cards and silver fabric. Sophie Bristol
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pre machine knitted lace, crocheted copper wire with copper foil and wall paper – Steph Wooster.

And to prove that sampling really does inspire people here is new work from Steph – the day after the workshop she added some of the sampled techniques and materials to her range of knitted hot-water bottle-covers.

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new knitted and embroidered samples – Steph Wooster