Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Alice Kettle @ Ikon Gallery & the National Maritime Museum

Odyssey (2003)
I work as a visitor assistant at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham so got the amazing opportunity of assisting major British textile and fibre artist Alice Kettle to give a masterclass on textiles and stitch.   This was a great privilege and experience for me as Alice has always been a major influence on my work and it was through studying her stunning embroideries that introduced me into the wonderful world of free-machine embroidery.  I first came across her work in 2008 at the Embroiderers Guild's International Open Exhibition called The Art of the Stitch at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery which was described as 'a celebration of stitch and artists who successfully express themselves through this medium'.


Alice trained as a painter and graduated with a degree in Fine Art (going on to do an MA in textiles at Goldsmiths) and this is evident in her work which has a wonderful painterly quality. Alice 'paints' with her sewing machine, using free-machine embroidery to create huge swathes of colour building up layers of hundreds upon hundreds of stitches resulting in rich, vibrant textile pieces some of which take the form of absolutely huge wall-hangings.

Pause (2009)
Pause  (2009 - detail)

Pause (2009 - detail)

Mythscpaes show, Bankfield Museum Halifax

Her work is represented in various public collections; the Crafts Council, the Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester and the Museo Internationale delle Arti Applicate Oggi, Turin, Italy. Commissions include the National Library of Australia, the P&O ship 'Oriana', the Scottish High Court in Edinburgh, Gloucester and Winchester Cathedrals and the School of Music & Drama at Manchester University.

Glimpses of India, P&O Oriana 1995-6

In Camera Scottish High Court, Edinburgh 1997

Altar Cloth Gloucester Cathedral 1999 - 2002

Alice's latest work consists of a series of three new works entitled The Garden of England which draws on the fine 17th-century portraits collection of the National Maritime Museum.  It celebrates the queens and courtiers of the Queen’s House at Greenwich, its original setting as a garden retreat, and captures the richness and flamboyance of the Stuart court.


Flowerbed (detail)

Portrait of Henrietta Maria
This is the inaugural project of the new Royal Museums Greenwich contemporary arts programme. 
Alice's exhibition is on till 18th August so hope I get the chance to visit.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Great British Sewing Bee

Felt I just had to share the buzz of the Great British Sewing Bee now showing on BBC2.  I belong to the Solihull Embroiderers' Guild and Ann Rowley, one of our very own members is taking part and creating quite a stir as she is a great character and brilliant at sewing.  She has excelled in the 2 episodes shown already and we are all routing for her and hope she goes on to win.

The Great British Sewing Bee looks set to follow the same success as the Great British Bake Off and I think this is because people are turning back to the traditional skills of yesteryear as they are such worthwhile and enjoyable pastimes.  The recession of the last few years kick-started the trend for the homemade but thankfully this has continued and home crafts like baking and sewing have never been so popular. We live in such a fast consumer society that life just gets that little bit too hectic sometimes and its just refreshing to slow down and  take our time to produce a delicious cake or a piece of sewing or knitting that is unique and something we can truly call our own.
Am loving Sandra too, from Wolverhampton, a lovely lady who had everyone in stitches when she was trying to look at Saville Row judge Patrick's waistband of his trousers when doing the Trouser Challenge - we all know really she was trying to get a sneaky look at his bum and a very nice bum it is too.

Judges: Expert sewing teacher May Martin & Saville Row tailor Patrick Grant

The Great British Sewing Bee like its sister show The Great British Bake Off is one of those TV programmes which has the feel good factor and warms the cockles of your hear which is why I think programmes like GBSB and GBBO are so popular with the viewing public. Call me old-fashioned and I may be looking at the world through rose-tinted specs here but perhaps, just perhaps if we all started to stop living life at break neck speed and took up a rewarding creative hobby (and its surprising how many people if asked to name a hobby can't actually name one or just say they like watching TV which I don't really class as a hobby)  then maybe we could claw back some of the family values that seem to have been lost along the way by so many people and the community at large might end up a better place to live in.