Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Dream Shoes

My work is inspired by the beautiful, pristine doll's shoes c1890. I thought about the child that would own such a doll and how very different her life as a girl in Victorian England would have been.

Among the other exhibits were some embroidered samplers showing the progress each girl had made in successive years with finer and more complicated stitches. I wondered if the child who owned the doll really wanted to stay at home, stitch and do all that was expected of her.

This first image from my sketchbook shows a photo of Victorian girl's stitching and a modern sampler that I stitched. The capital letter alphabet has the letters 'N' and 'O' in a slightly different colour anf type of thread - a 'comment' that denies the idea of doing as she should. In tiny letters in almost white thread above the alphabet I have stitched the message 'I do not want to sew - I want to see!'

I started to imagine where her own shoes would have taken her if she had been allowed to travel as she wanted. Her shoes would have marks on the soles to show where she had travelled. I then stitched another page 'Every step you take is a step away from where you used to be'

Istarted researching Victorian women and girls and discovered Isabella Lucy Bird - 1831 -1904, an English traveller who certainly did not stay at home. She travelled the world, including Japan, Korea, Persia, China and Tibet and wrote many books about her often dangerous, but exciting adventures, which are still enjoyed today. She was the first woman to be admitted to the Royal Geographical Society and would have been an inspiration for the child who owned the doll. Below are some more images from my sketch book.

My final piece will be a pair of children's shoes, showing the dreams of travel and escape that the child who owned the doll, had imagined.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Progress on Taplow Vase

My interpretation  of the Taplow Vase in 'secret book's' made of cotton organza is beginning to take shape. Read more about it in this blog post.

Friday, 25 March 2011


When I first visited Slough last year I was really struck by the effort that had been put into making the pedestrianised main street so attractive, with a variety of commissioned art work, including poetry.

I was particularly taken by a piece set into the pavement, called Teardrop. The patterns contained within the granite shape reminded me very much of textile stitches and I decided to base my piece for the exhibition on this.

As part of my background research I contacted the designer of
Teardrop, Anne Smyth. She wrote:

" ... these floor pieces were initially inspired by textiles found in
the charity shops on the High Street, in particular the stitching
backs of the highly decorated fabrics. Used almost as a metaphor for
the rich networks and activity going on behind the scenes in Slough"

and sent me some photos .....

including a photo from her sketch book showing her response to the
original textiles that inspired her.

Details of my piece for the Slough Exhibition: 30 inches square. Made of cotton.
Here is what it currently looks like, not quite completed.

“ Washday Liberation”

I visited the Slough Museum in June 2010 and took a number of photographs of the exhibits. The particular things which struck me on my first visit were the items from the local brickworks and the kitchen from the ?40s/50s. When I later reflected on the photos I had taken, I realised that the kitchen had struck a personal note. It reminded me of my Grandma’s kitchen in Cardiff in the early 50s. I particularly liked the image of the old mangle – I think a lot older than my Grandma’s, but I remembered getting my fingers stuck in her mangle when I played with it, when told not to!

I explored the image of the mangle, and found another vintage mangle in Warwick Castle on a recent visit. I broadened this to a search of the history of the washing machine via the internet, and found other images of bygone washdays. Then I found a reference to an article in 2009 in ‘L’Osservatore Romano’, the Vatican newspaper. The writer was suggesting that the washing machine was one the major factors in women’s liberation, rather than contraception, women working outside the home or other more commonly held views. I found this amusing as well as challenging.

So I decided to use the mangle as a symbol of women’s past drudgery.

I used photo transfer to incorporate photos of mangles, and washing machines and a reference to the article. I used some dyed fabric in Green, blue, brown shades to pick up the green of the mangle frames, and a commercial fabric which picked up some of the colours to brighten it up. When part assembled I felt that the ‘sameness’ of the colours did not sufficiently highlight the images, so I ‘framed the images with a contrasting fabric.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

prehistoric inspiration

I was inspired by the Prehistoric Fossilised Mammoth tooth in the Slough Museum.
I took a photo of the tooth, then resized it and printed it on fabric in a variety of sizes and colourations.

I tested a large variety of fabrics to see which ones worked well with the tooth.

These were a possibiilty, but I ended up choosing fabrics that contrasted with the tooth.

I ripped a rectangle of rust fabric, cut out the tooth and bonded it to the fabric with Bond-a-Web.
I did the same with some smaller versions of the tooth.

My daughter's old trousers were the perfect colour and texture for the background fabric, so I cut them apart.

I laid out the pieces on my work surface to find the best arrangement. I was pleased to find the African tie-dyed fabric which looked really good next to the tooth.

I machine quilted the tie-dyed fabric to the background at the top left. I sewed the other tie-dyed fabric to the bottom, with a strip of the tooth fabric at the left. I bond-a-webbed the other rectangles to the background. Next, the quilting.

Slough Buildings

My ideas so far, well these are many, and are still churning away in my mind. I seem to change my plans frequently. I am rather struck with two key designs to work from, one from a car park in Slough and also the pattern in glass from one of the entrances to office buildings in the city centre.

I have also been pondering about what article to make. Space is limited so I would like to create an artefact that I would enjoy having around, with the option of in the future perhaps ‘gifting it’. So I feel my piece will be ‘inspired by’ but not link directly to Slough.

I have sampled a bit but this didn’t go as I expected so new ideas to the fore!

I am enjoying the challenge of working – still at this stage thinking – to a remit, and I benefited from spending a day taking photographs around the town. I know that because there are still a couple of months till hand-in I will not settle on finalities till nearer the time. I think I need deadlines to work to otherwise ideas will not turn into reality; I do tend to be able to procrastinate for ever and not commit until the last minute.
Kate M

Slough Strata

First (and second) thoughts and feelings:

• Childhood memories of reluctant shopping trips
• Getting lost among the out-of-town trading estates on the way home from visiting friends
• Museum displays of ancient archaeological finds showing the original rural inhabitants of the area
• 19th/20th century industrial expansion including brick making
• Constant change, re-invention
• Nothing -> something -> lots
• Simple -> complex
• Layers of history

Leading to a few ideas:
Layers of building materials – stone of original houses, churches, castle -> brick built houses and offices -> grey tiles of trading estates. Tried it on computer and on paper but too heavy and not enough colour/tonal changes. Described what I was doing with some textile friends (friends interested in textiles not friends made out of textiles!) and they suggested a sheer layer with the ‘stones’ appliqued on. That got me thinking about what to put behind the sheers.

Set into a sea of green countryside – maybe a layer of green at under the sheers to suggest the countryside around Slough.!
When we are gone the fields and trees will still be there.

Current plan (subject to change and/or a complete re-think):
Background: Hand dyed green and brown fabrics in traditional log cabin piecing but with some of the seams on the right side.
Middle: patchwork of cream and grey sheers, possibly fused together rather than stitched.
Top: fabric stones, bricks and tiles appliqued to the sheer layer. Weighted by real flint stones sewn into pockets at the bottom of the sheers.
Shape and size: long and thin approx. 1.5m by 45cm

Karoline Herschel comets

I am inspired by the Herschel family. We all know about William, who lived in Slough to be near the King at Windsor, when he was Astronomer Royal. His sister Karoline was his able assistant and she also discovered 8 comets. So I thought I would illustrate 8 comets in the evening sky as a tribute to her and to all other women who are behind great men!
Jane Edmonds

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

"Slough Town"

measures 150 cm in circumference at widest part. I intended it to represent Slough as a receptacle for many different cultures of people.

The outside of the receptacle uses a traditional crazy patchwork technique of fabrics that are associated with different parts of the globe; holes cut in the fabrics reveal underlayers of colours, referencing histories. The inside is based (loosely) on a map of the town centre & the parks & streets that surround them The patches of colours that stand for the houses & buildings are made from handmade felts, borrowing from artist Joseph Beuys who regarded felt as a protective element. The roads are referencing streets that are 'paved with gold' & when the work is finished I intend that the roads will be extended so they lead into the inside of the bowl.
Anne Hamilton

I have taken a very literal response to the items we handled from the Museum's collection, with particular reference to the samples made by young girls in the 1860s and 1870s. I have always wondered how much they enjoyed (doubtful) making all these samples and how useful (probably) they were in their adult lives. I am making four small framed samples: stitched letters, darning, a buttonhole and rows of embroidery stitches. It's made me realise two things already - my eyesight is not brilliant in working so closely with or without glasses so possibly doing this kind of work at age 8 was a bit easier, and also it is very time-consuming in our "modern age", i.e. who ever sews buttonholes by hand these days?? although I think if I practised more and made them better perhaps I could incorporate them into my textile art ...... we'll see.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Taplow Vase - Progress

Inspired by the idea of drawing the Taplow vase on cotton organza and building multiple layers of the images, I've been experimenting with how I might display them.  From the sales table at the last TVCQ meeting I had a couple of copper/brass rings - perhaps I could suspend them in some way?
I'd been led into the idea of 'secret books' of the images when writing up Novembers activities in the pages of my sketchbook
Trying to see how they looked suspended, I enlisted the help of a spare airer tripod (which normally collapses with the weight on even 1 coat hanger). Not for the final display I think!
The Orginal Taplow Vase - the source of inspiration

Saturday, 19 March 2011

New exhibition dates: 18 May - 11 June

The suspense is over, we now have the revised dates for our exhibition - 18 May to 11 June 2011. This period will include the May half term, so we should get plenty of people popping along to have a look at our work. But the earlier date means the pressure is on ... all the work must be finished on or before 14 May and then we will immediately be installing the exhibition. Nothing like building up a bit of momentum ...

Further work on "sky birds"

I'm thinking "book". For the first mock-up, I crumpled up the bottom of each strip of tracing paper, and then traced flying bird silhouettes on non-crumpled parts -

Inspiration, plenty of inspiration! Once you start looking, you see relevant images everywhere - for, example, in a print by Scottish artist Douglas Robertson - see it here, and more of his work too -
(It came from the artpropelled blog, which is not to be missed.)

A wrought-iron gateway in Melbourne -

The sequence with flocking seabirds in Suki Chan's film, Interval II - in fact the film has two sequences of flocking birds -
Yet more relevant images -
This one is by Rowena Hughes and opens new trains of thought - cutting into the pages of the book, perhaps? -

She has also printed birds on a found dictionary page, and fastened it to the glass with magnets - clever and elegant -
The words of the poem are written in stone -

Stitched samples

Further thoughts

I was given a pair of wooden wings as a present and considered making a panel to fit in the negative space between the wings, based on the previous work that I'd done from drawings of a wing in the stained glass window in St Lawrence's church.

I considered this approach

but didn't like the scale of the panel.

So I returned to the scanned in and repeated image to consider this:

I liked this much better and decided to work more on this.

Friday, 18 March 2011

The literal approach...

I headed towards the history of Slough and its environs initially, and was dallying with the idea of the famous dianthus 'Mrs Sinkins Pink' (not great), brickfields (better) and the Cox's Orange Pippin (fairly promising, as I have been exploring trees in my work for some time) when I came across the nugget that was Upton having appeared in Domesday Book as "a wood for two hundred pigs" - gold!

My four panels therefore feature an apple tree with, respectively, the dianthus, a brick wall, pigs (had to research how to draw those) and a nightful of stars courtesy of Herschel (William, not School). I drew the designs onto freezer paper, cut them out and used them as stencils for oil sticks, brushed on in many fine layers. I then formed traditional quilt 'sandwiches' - top fabric, backing fabric and a layer of wadding or 'batting' in between - and am in the process of free machine quilting them.

These are atrocious photos taken late at night under rotten light with a mobile phone, but better ones will follow!