Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Mum has been laughing alot

When she was 8 years old my daughter was playing at being a school teacher and she wrote me out a school report as if I was her pupil. Yesterday I came across it wedged in a book. Looking at it now nearly 9 years later I don't think I've changed that much.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Cass Art Shop Assistant Living the Dream


On Wednesday Channel 4 broadcasted Random Acts featuring Rob Auton, Cass Art shop assistant and poet. Rob wonders what life would be like for an art shop assistant, living on the same salary as a Premiership footballer! 


Rob Auton's film is a harsh comment on the perverse salaries earned (if earned is the right word) by Premiership Footballers today. A Footballer's Life, featuring Rob Auton, for Random Acts, is one of 5 films produced by The Mob Film Company and Bang Said The Gun. In the style of a silent film, Rob Auton wonders what life would be like for a humble art shop assistant, living on the same salary as a Premiership footballer.

Cass Art Shop is a popular venue for Solihull College students whenever visiting any of the London exhibitions to stock up on art supplies.  It's a real Aladdin's cave of all things arty and the Charing Cross Road branch is only just around the corner from the National Portrait Gallery.  Students can get 15% discount and they also have very good discounted items in store too. I remember buying a huge box of Liquitex acrylics here worth £50 discounted to £19.99.  Well worth a detour. 

Their manifesto is:

Art is freedom. Cass Art believes in art. We know the freedom and creative pleasure it brings. So we want everyone to realise they can do it - and
afford it. 

Our staff are artists. They know art. They enjoy working with what they know. They give you intelligent and thoughtful advice - no bluffing, no hidden agenda.

We negotiate directly with all the famous suppliers. They help us, so we can help you. That's why our prices are as low as they can go.

Solihull College BA 2nd Year Exhibition @ The Works

Well done 2nd years! What a great evening everyone had at the Private View at The Works Gallery on Thursday 23rd Feb. A really good exhibition which was well attended  and well thought out. Here are just a few of the art works on display:

John Mortimer

Claire Denton-Hawkes
Jane Ward
Georgina Koshionis
Ebraa Hussain
Gareth Jones
Jean Hodgson
Pamela Gregg

Pamela Gregg
Jean Hodgson
Jean Hodgson
Joanne Rachel Twiss

Friday, 24 February 2012

Handmade & Vintage is 'de riguer'

Thanks to a recession and TV programmes like Kirstie Allsopp's Handmade Home the interest in needlecraft and the decorative arts has been phenomenal. John Lewis's Haberdashery Dept told me that when Kirstie's TV series first aired sales of sewing machines shot up by 40% and my good friend Nadine who works at the The Cotton Patch told me they completely sold out of the felting tools and mats within days of the needlecraft episode showing on TV taking all of the 90 they had in stock. Clover the company that makes them just can't keep up with demand.

Make do and mend has become fashionable again with people buying old clothes and furniture from charity shops and flea markets and upcycling them. Vintage is the new buzz word and anyway it sounds better than saying second hand. Fashion designer Wayne Hemmingway  is also pioneering vintage in a big way and fans of vintage will be pleased to know that Wayne is bringing his Vintage 2012 festival to Boughton House, Northants this year so us Brummies won't have to traipse all the way down to London.

Knitting is fashionable once again and if anyone still thinks knitting is boring then take a look at the great patterns and yarns on the Rowan website.  I always love to have a a bit of knitting on the pins even if it's only a scarf.  Knitting groups are popping up everywhere and a great one to join that's local is Stitches and Hos a monthly knitting club at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath who meet on the last tuesday of every month 7.30 pm onwards in the back room.  So you can stitch, bitch and enjoy a drink at the same time.  It was Stitches and Hos that were responsible for  Bully's Christmas Sweater in the Bull Ring.

It's interesting and fun to be creative, to turn an old jumper into a cushion cover, make a shoe rack out of old pallets, turn an old pair of men's trousers into a dress, or sew beer cans together to make a lampshade.  So get making as handmade and vintage is now de riguer.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Hours # 2

For my Degree Show I am looking at making a huge heirloom quilt/wallhanging that will be made up of vintage embroideries that I have sourced from places like Ebay, antique and flea markets, charity shops etc. This idea started out with a tray cloth I spotted in Age UK last year, a steal at only 50p but I thought how sad that this beautiful piece of embroidery was lying forgotten and discarded in a charity shop.  I thought about the woman that had stitched it (I assume it was a woman as embroidery is a skill traditionally carried out by women although regulars to this blog may have seen my post  Boys Who Sew from January).  What had happened to her?  Was she still alive? Had she gone into a home for the elderly? Had her relatives plundered her house for valuables getting rid of anything they thought wasn't of value?

My 50p traycloth

I recscued the tray cloth, brought it home and for a while it sat looking pretty on top of my chest of drawers but I actually think it's worth more than just being a home for my clutter. I want to turn this and other pieces like it into a piece of art that values the many hours of stitching that have gone into these beautiful and exquisite pieces. 


So I am going to do my bit in the name of art and create my heirloom quilt of forgotten embroideries.  It will be called The Hours and I will dedicate it to all the women who invested so much of their precious time in creating these wonderful pieces.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A Tale of Two Members

Last night I felt very honoured to have been asked to be a guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Birmingham Embroiderers' Guild.  The evening was called A Tale of Two Members as Janet Molloy, branch chairman of BEG was also giving a talk after me. I didn't rehearse so it was quite off the cuff although I knew what I was going to talk about more or less.  'My Journey' always sounds a bit corny but basically it's a good way of tackling talking about your work and I went back as far as childhood when my interest in art and craft was developing thanks to my Mum and her lessons in knitting and sewing. I skipped over the 33 mind-numbing years @ BT et al and then the great escape to art by way of redundancy and onto the  Foundation Diploma in Art & Design at Solihull College and finally on to their Degree Course in Fine Art. 

I took with me my beloved hybrid cardigan 'You Can Never Have Too Many Cardigans' from Foundation which was made as a tribute to my dear Mum as that was one of her many sayings.  It was good to get that out of mothballs and see how far I've progressed over the last 4 years.
You Can Never Have Too Many Cardigans (2008)
I then went on to talk about my recent work since discovering embroidery and the Embroiderer's Guild and how much it has fed and inspired my studio practice on the degree course.   

Janet went next to talk about her own work although I think I over ran a bit as she only had about 15 minutes left so sorry Janet, I didn't realise I had so much to say but that might have been more to do with nerves. Here are some photos of her work.

We had a great evening and thanks go to Janet, Heather and Pamela and everyone at the B'ham EG for making me so welcome and many thanks to my friend and mentor June Parkinson for giving me the opportunity to do the talk.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The 1000 Journals Project

I think everyone searches for inspiration with their sketchbooks and journals and I have discovered just that with a book called The 1000 Journals Project.   I had heard about it before but this week had the fortune of getting my hands on a copy and was so taken by the content that I fed my Amazon habit once again and have now got my own copy.  The concept behind this project is that 1000 journals were left lying around in random places for people to add their mark and ideas and then circulate them. Here are just some of the pages that I've picked out as examples. The book has been published with some of the best entries from around the world.

The leaves on the right are actually stitched in the book

"One thousand journals are travelling from hand to hand throughout the world.  Those who find them will add their stories and drawings and then pass the journal along in an ongoing collaborative art form." 

Creative food for thought.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Hours #1

For my Degree Show final piece I am looking at The Hours, in other words how many hours of skill and devotion invested in completing a piece of work particularly those which have been created using a needle.  My own experiences are confined to those projects that are started which seem like a good idea at the time but then prove to be a lot more difficult than anticipated or just take up a lot of hours. I suspect my Degree Show piece will prove to be just such one of those pieces.

For my first piece of research and because yesterday was exactly 60 years since Princess Elizabeth became Queen after her father George VI passed away (although she wasn't officially crowned till June 1953 as it took 18 months to arrange the coronation) I was curious to find out the details surrounding the Coronation Robe including how many hours it took to make it.

Designed by the royal couturier Norman Hartnell the dress was embroidered in gold and silver thread encrusted with seed pearls and crystals to create a glittering lattice work effect.  The design included the floral emblems of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth and was made by a team of 3 dressmakers and 6 embroideresses and took approx 9,000 hours to make. 

The Robe of Estate was worn by The Queen when processing from Westminster Abbey after the Coronation. It is of English purple silk-velvet, woven in 22-metre pieces, and measures over 6½ metres in length from the shoulder to the tip of the train. The embroidered cipher of The Queen and border of wheat ears and olive branches, symbolising peace and plenty, took a total of 3,500 hours to complete by a team of twelve seamstresses working in shifts.