These are a few of my favourite things! Part one

These are a few of my favourite things…

Definitely brown paper packages tied up with string but apart from that I thought I’d write a post showing you some of the  materials that I regularly use and that just make me smile. However when I started thinking about it I quickly realised that there are so many that I can’t possibly write about them all  – so here really are a few… and still so many that I’ve split the blog into two parts!!

Wherever possible I use old and used materials for my artwork – often the more tattered and worn the better. I know that they carry their own stories with them all wrapped up in their own history. Sometimes I will ‘imagine’ these stories and this will become part of my piece but often I am perfectly content to let the story remain ‘hidden’ and no less present for that – I know that it is there captured in the layers of my art.

Like so many textile artists, I am a bit of a collector. I wouldn’t say ‘hoarder’ because I am quite specific. There are some things that I know I would never use because they just don’t ‘speak’ to me and they happily get passed on elsewhere. I am a huge fan of Ebay and online sellers of vintage textiles, I love flea markets, I’m not hugely lucky in Charity shops but I am very lucky in that many bits & pieces seem to find their way to me when people are having clear outs. My favourite words ever are ‘could you use?’ – I literally hold my breath until I hear what follows.

‘Could you use some old table linen – it’s a bit marked and stained?’ – Yes please!

‘Could you use these old scissors – they don’t work anymore I’m afraid’ – Yes, yes, yes!

‘Could you use a bit of bling – I’ve some vintage sequins & beads?’ – No sadly not for me!

A few weeks ago I let photographer & stylist Carole Fitzgerald of Lazy Sunday loose in amongst my stash and here is just some of the gorgeousness we uncovered.

Old French table linens
Beautiful old French linens & tea towels

Lets start with vintage linens – old cream table cloths and tea towels. I find white a bit stark but it can, of course, be dyed or tea stained. I just adore french linens with their red stripes – cream & red is one of my favourite colour combinations and probably in the proportions it is used here and all the more gorgeous when it fades through time and use.

Vintage French linens
Frayed edges & woven selvedges

I love the edges and corners of linens – whether ripped and frayed or a beautiful woven selvedge and they are often the first pieces of the fabric that I will use. I’ll buy a piece of fabric just because it has a fabulous edge!

Vintage table linens
Why was I never finished?

I love finding stitched table linens or even those not yet started but have the pattern transfer with that gorgeous blue line. I wonder why this one was only just (beautifully) started? A life too busy? I really quite love finding very badly stitched pieces – I just imagine someone being forced into the pursuit of embroidery under duress and a little bit of ‘ill humour’ going into every stitch. Apologies I know I’m over using ‘I love’ in this blog but I just can’t help it!

Personal markings

Vintage handkerchiefs are another fabulous source of fabric. Often with a small piece of embroidery or edged in lace, monogrammed, washed & worn. Just imagine the emotion that these little squares of fabric have mopped up or helped conceal.

I’m always excited when I find something with some personal markings stitched in – initials or sometimes just seemingly random marks. Always check the back of stitching – it may look more intriguing than the front.

Old & darned cotton organdie
Edges, corners & holes

I often choose to use the most vulnerable parts of the textiles – edges that have been ripped & torn, pieces that have been worn almost threadbare. I look out for different weights of fabrics – cotton organdie is a beautiful very light weight fabric which can be used where you want just a wisp or just a suggestion.

Old garments with darns
Seams & darns

Perhaps my favourite thing to collect is fragments of old garments  – for me in creams & neutrals. I take them apart and use the shape of the garment piece, carefully unpicking the seams so that the stitch holes remain. I also use the seams themselves  – combining someone else’s stitching in with my own. I think above everything else I treasure patches, mends and darns (though I will probably say that about everything – I have a lot of ‘very most favourites’!

vintage sewing sample
Buttonholes & bands

Buttonholes and button bands would have to come into this category of very favourite things. This pic is a real beauty as it is a sewing sample made at school by someone probably in their domestic science classes. I don’t use these in my own sewing but keep them as little masterpieces in their own right – but I do wonder about the life of the stitcher.

Perhaps more mundane but really useful are buttonhole  & button bands from any old shirt. I love deconstructing shirts revealing the seams & shapes and using these as a background to personal stories. The piece below uses a wonderful vintage detachable shirt collar (very high up on my favourite things list) but the cuff comes from a very ordinary man’s white shirt – actually not so ordinary because and old friend of mine gave me some of her dad’s white shirts when he passed on. She discovered, while clearing out his wardrobe, no less than forty identical white shirts all hanging there – now therein lies a story I’m sure!

Artwork by Ali Ferguson
Collars & Cuffs

I’ll talk more about garments pieces in part two of this blog in a couple of weeks time  along with quilts and haberdashery so do check back. In the meantime you can see how I use some of the materials mentioned in my series ‘HiStories Uncovered’.

I’ll leave you with the gift of a couple of my favourite sellers –  but do, please, tell me more:

Sallie Ead who travels the Uk selling at fairs & shows and also regularly on Instagram

Joan – a lovely friend of mine – is on Etsy at Mamaisonfrancaise

and in the USA  – The Cherry Chic. 

 

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Another View – exhibiting with Textile Group Prism

Last Thursday I set off on a wee trip down to Birmingham where I was exhibiting as part of the textile group “Prism” at the beautiful RBSA gallery.

Prism Another View
That wonderful moment when you first see your work hanging

The Background

At the start of 2016 I made what seemed like a huge decision to stop ‘making’ for shops and selling online and to concentrate my time instead on my own personal textile projects for exhibition.

I love to start the year by writing an ‘action plan’ where I set short, medium and long term goals. As a way to move forward my personal textile work, I set myself a medium term goal of joining a UK wide Textile Group with the specific aim of exhibiting further afield in the UK.

At this point I was already a member of edge- textile artists scotland and knew how well this works for me. Being a member of a group not only gives me deadlines and something definitive to work towards but this, in turn, seems to stimulate my ideas and motivation. Not to mention all of the advantages of being part of a group of likeminded people – especially when I tend to spend a lot of my time working alone.

I therefore set out on a bit of research to find a UK wide group and turned to textileartist.org where I found the feature: Top 5 Textile Art Groups. Further research took me to the various websites mentioned and after looking at the work of individual members I decided that I could see my work sitting alongside other members of Prism so I decided to take the plunge and write an application.

I once more turned to textileartist.org where I found another great feature: ‘Top tips for applying to Textile Art Groups’ I couldn’t believe my luck when I discovered that the article was written by Anita Bruce – one of the chairs of Prism!

Anyway to cut rather a long-winded story short, after submitting photographs and statements I was asked to send some of my work down for the selection panel to consider and was absolutely delighted to be invited to join the group. I was even more thrilled when, at the start of this year, the work that I submitted for their 2017 exhibitions ‘Another View’ was accepted for both the RBSA Birmingham and later in the year for Hoxton Arches, London.

Now reading that back makes it sound like a very straight forward and painless process – it is SO NOT!! It’s hugely scary to put yourself and your work out there. You are essentially inviting a group of people that you aspire to belong to – to either accept or reject you – yikes!! I actually didn’t make any announcements on Facebook until about three months later because I   kept expecting the email to say that they’d changed their mind. Me – paranoid? Not at all!!

I’ll tell you more about the work I submitted “Not Just Blue” in another post but in the meantime you can find out more in Cloth Work.

Art by Ali Ferguson
‘So why do I feel like this” Ali Ferguson

Another View

In the words of Prism Chairs Anita Bruce and Jackie Langfeld :

‘The title ‘Another View’ presents opportunities to explore different ways of looking, seeing and understanding; a chance to visualise the complexities and possibilities of people, places, events and the world we live in. It also perhaps engages the viewer in discussion about contemporary textile practice; offering a different perspective on the ancient craft of stitch.’

Art by Ross Belton
‘Nest’ Ross Belton
Art by Judith Isaac-Lewis
“Aberfan Handkerchief Project’ Judith Isaac-Lewis
Art by Jackie Langfeld
‘Beholder 1 Found’ Jackie Langfeld

The exhibition itself absolutely lived up to expectations. Spending a day stewarding in the gallery allows a glimpse at the public’s reaction. I love how something will catch someone’s eye the moment they walk through the door and they’ll be drawn straight to it, for that moment not seeing anything else around it. And the best of it is that each person will be drawn to something different.

I love too when someone calls over their companion to point something out and an enthusiastic discussion takes place. I quite like when arms get tightly folded across the body but the person continues studying  – you know that something has touched a nerve. And of course there’s the moment when someone’s face lights up and you know that they’ve just experienced that slightly breathless sensation of when something has touched the heart and is ‘speaking’ to them.

Art by Anita Bruce
‘Natural History” Anita Bruce
Art by Julie Harper
‘Novice Parade’ Julie Harper

Also, of course, it is such a thrill to see your own work hanging in the space. No amount of ‘mocking up’ at home compares to the moment you walk into the gallery and see that after all of the many hours of work that your piece ‘fits’ and that your idea for hanging ‘works’. I gave a huge sigh of relief when I first walked through the door and saw my quilt hanging, and then later in the day I couldn’t help a wee smile of pleasure as we opened the window and it gently moved in the breeze, casting its shadows around it.

Art by Ali Ferguson
‘Not Just Blue’ Ali Ferguson

Another View will be showing again with a slightly different collection of works at Hoxton Arches, London from the 17th – 29th October 2017

Hidden Conversations

I made a wee pledge with myself that when writing my blog posts that I would try and give a ‘real’ account so I’m sharing the conversation that took place between me and my other half when I first saw a photo taken at the exhibition opening.

Prism Another View
Exhibition opening at the RBSA

‘Me being me’ means that despite having had my pieces accepted for the exhibition I don’t dare believe that they have actually been included, until I see them with my own eyes!

Me: (peering at a photo on the Prism Facebook page and frantically zooming in) ‘Look, look that’s it – that is definitely mine isn’t it? They’ve definitely hung it – haven’t they? Oh yay – that’s amazing!!’

Paul: ‘Yes definitely yours. Well done. I’m so proud of you. And look there’s someone standing looking at it.’

Me: ‘Yes they are looking at it. How cool. And it looks like they’re talking about it – amazing! Short pause – D’you think he’s saying that it’s sh** and has to come down?!