It is the last day of February and have been working for 2 months making my patchwork wall coverings. When I started this blog I vowed to show the journey of the work that I design and make – to explain the problems and possibly the solutions……but this latest project has been keeping me awake and I am still not certain that I will get it sorted and onto the sitting room walls. I am suffering a severe case of Cold Feet!
After I had stitched a wall full of the original design I kept feeling that there was just too much going on – all those colours and stripes and collisions of patterns (all the things I normally love) just looked like porridge – multi coloured porridge – something had to go….What went was the yellow stripes – leaving me with Mauve, Blue and Green strips – this took quite a lot of grief and several days ( and nights) to decide to change things – somehow the well-honed critical faculty I use for all projects, professional as well as personal, has deserted me during lockdown. But once I had pulled apart the original piece and made another wall-full, things started to look possible. I made another design chart this time with repeating patterns built in – once a textile designer…….
Things get back on track by mid January – the first panel is on the studio wall padded and quilted using the new walking-foot on my favourite old Bernina sewing machine.
By Februarythe work gets properly underway – a whole stitched wall – full – but still very uncertain about this entire idea.
I try these first panels around the room seeing how the whole thing will look – trying to imagine it without those brilliant pink walls is hard…and how will it look behind all our pictures – yikes – it really needs to accommodate paintings and other art works that cover every other wall of this house…I start to realise that what it needs is more GREEN.
Trying the panels on other sitting room walls – it needs more GREENto reflect the garden
back to photoshop to play with a version of favourite “Green Blue” or is it Blue Green” by Farrow and Ball which is used throughout the house
I decide that if all else fails the patchworks will look lovely in one of the bedrooms. But this still leaves us the problem of the damp disfigured walls and meanwhile the rest of room is being demolished …. did I mention we are cutting and making verdigris copper tiles for the fireplace?
Determined to make the most of the new year 2021 winter lockdown in the UK, I decided to cover my damp (although supposedly cured) and now ruined sitting room walls…….with patchwork!
And with real fabric. the left-overs from my work organising quilt making in the UK for Kaffe Fassett‘s books of patchwork and quilting designs. Below are 2 of my favourite quilts from previous books that I have worked on and which I referenced for both colour and patten.
Patchwork is part of my professional textile practice and I have always used it for all types of furnishings, from wall papers for Heart Space Studios to my old but still glamorous dining room curtains.
Now I chose fabrics that reflected the colours in the rest of the house: basically turquoisey blues, buttery yellows, mauves and greens – I like colours to blend through the rooms. I had painted the hot pink walls for a New Year’s Day party 2 years ago….as you do!
I really loved the first fat version on my studio quilt wall above, but seeing it in situ was another thing. I wanted to cover the whole room and suddenly I felt totally overwhelmed by colour and pattern – the photoshopped version confirmed my misgivings…..it just hit me in the face and made me feel hot and sticky!!!!!
The larger size of the fabric pieces, 21inches in length, made the patterns fight one another; in the smaller pieces used for quilts the patterns meld together as the eye sees so many at once AND there is only 1 quilt per room. Here there will be at least 6 large quilt sized pieces from floor to ceiling on all walls. Back to the studio.
And back to the oldest and simplest way of softening and unifying coloured fabrics – dip them in brewed tea. Above see the different shades to be had using: top = 1 bag, middle = 2 bags, lower = 2 bags boiled. It is a shame to kill the brilliant singing colours of the Kaffe Fassett Collective’s fabrics but hey ho! These wall coverings will take months to make and mount on the walls and then we have to live with them for ever…….I am not doing this again!
Back in my studio sorting out newer softer colours. Meanwhile the Kaffe Fassett Studios had kindly sent me lots more fabric strips based on my original sample….dipping a few of them in week tea I placed them on top of the quilt wall – wow this looks like a mad Japanese kimono design! Should I introduce stripes?
I am now 3 weeks into this sampling phase, I am still uncertain about the design on the wall. My Christmas star light reigns over chaos.
Time to get a grip! sort out the separately coloured triangles and tidy up
I set them all out on the table ready to start work – tomorrow. Looking at the fabrics the next day they appeared to look so calm totally unlike the design on the wall. Maybe it is the Covid experience of the last 10 months but now I seem to want calm from my colours. I looked at the table and my eyes just glided over the strips of colours – back to the quilt wall again – to organise the diamonds into stripes.
Now my eyes tend to glide up and down rather than dotting about to see other diamond combinations. But that is as far as I can take this designing phase: there comes a time to every project when you just have to commit, and we are now into the first week of the new year. So I am simply sewing one single coloured strip at a time, and when I have finished them I can start to play with the design again – it should see me through until I get vaccinated.
The night before the private view I had a dream that a giant version of the work featured on the poster ( see above) was writhing around the gallery walls and flashing strobe lights, while all the other pieces of work in the exhibition were equally massive and glowing while moving to – for want of a better word – ‘disco’ music: I thought – oh no! my poor flat patchwork!
The featured work by Lynne Machlachan was on display with her other wonderful constructions in blends of strong colours they undulated around the walls and in the air. A panel of photographs showed them being worn, I hesitate to call them jewelry…
On reflection I feel that this work set an atmosphere for the exhibition; clear, strong, flat colour, immaculate attention to surface detail, and a definite sense of playfulness were qualities I enjoyed throughout the rooms. The only strobe effects were caused by overlapping patterns on a smaller scale in many exhibits.
Whether by intention of the makers or sympathetic lighting on the part of the curators, the play of light and shadow were fascinating. I constantly returned to view the works of 2 makers who collaborated to show small woven metal constructions, Jonathan Cleaver and David Poston,
Even when I viewed larger scale works that had became almost installations in the way they were exhibited, the same themes of flat brilliant colour and clean elegant construction were apparent – and the use of this singing yellow and metal together.
colour and pattern throughout the exhibition links very disparate materials and ideas
The machine embroideries of Jacky Puzey echo both colour and form when seen against the metal sculptures. Her large dramatic panel of birds is a real master class in placing together disparate materials and media so that they flow easily one into the another.
The degree of skill on view within the exhibition is made apparent in different ways, certainly to change or add new materials to your original practice makes you concentrate on the “joins” and here nearly every piece of work combined either 2 or more materials or the makers had transferred the techniques of one discipline to another…or they made juxtapositions of natural with man made found objects – never easy.
Ancient bronze thimbles carry coral and sea urchin spines, like tiny offerings to the goddess of stitch! And there were boxes made from a metal shield mount, still with tracings of old patterning mounted with diamonds.
One of the major themes of the exhibition is the transformation of one material to describe another and there were many examples including my own.
One of the advantages of Private Views is to meet up with other exhibitors, I often find that talking to people work who work totally differently to me are always stimulating. I was introduced to Valeria Nascimento and we spent some time together discussing our very different work. as we walked we both stopped and gazed at the work of Anna LorenzIt is intriguing; you just can’t guess the material ( well I am a maker and stimulated by materials) It looks like unglazed porcelain or paper porcelain, or unfired porcelain, or paper or felt or…. or….but it is news print; and it is perforated, but how? Valeria and I were looking behind it, inside its layers and I took this image of the gradated shadow it threw – so much a part of its complete and compelling mystery.
Arriving at Valeria’s work I realised that I had photographed it as soon as I walked into the gallery, drawn to the far wall of what looked like bleached shells and sea creatures.
Her table of porcelain jewelry in stark blacks and whites really intrigued me, the fluffy neck pendants and the massive rings and brooches are not to my personal taste but their presence and implication of natural forms through simple and sympathetic use of her media, just made me want to hold them – and that’s why we go to exhibitions isn’t it – to extend our imaginations and ideas.
Sea creatures emerged as inspiration in the beaded work of Wanshu Li, translucent and iridescent tentacles of colour made up large rings and bracelets.
and accompanying her work were high contrast photographs underlining the quality of deep sea beings… looking at this work made me see a fish in an adjacent vitrine.
Every once in a while you see work that just makes you jealous and wishing that you could have made it – the work of Zoe Hillyard really stopped me in my tracks. First it was beautifully thought-through and formed, second it reminded of work that I had made previously, and third – I wished that I could have used it for an exhibition I co-curated some years ago – Mending at the Museum.
I had actually tried a similar exercise when I was working on ‘mending’ ceramics – but it did not look like this; here are elegant breaks, refined textiles wrapped and stitched to perfection and the soft colouring entirely at one with the materials – it is patch-worked!
I really appreciated this work, especially her dense stitching on the inside of the pieces, used to draw the fabric tight against the curves, she managed to make this as decorative as it was functional. Just so desirable and a perfect transference of materials and ideas – and she made the jars then smashed them herself!!
I cold go on and on about the ideas, images, thoughts and provocations elicited by this exhibition – but now show that finally, after months of work, the Patchwork Enamel was successfully transported and hung and here it is complete with shadows…