Several people have requested an update following this post that I wrote following a felt-making session I led for the Farnborough Embroiderer’s Guild. We met the following month with the intention of adding some stitching to the pieces we had made and these are the results. They are all work in progress so please don’t judge them too harshly (not that you would, I know 🙂 ).
It has been and exciting couple of months in the London craft world, first we had Collect at the end of February, then the Contemporary Textiles Fair in March and most recently London Hat week. It has been a real treat on so many different levels! I would have dearly loved to try some of these hats on, if the organisers allowed that I am sure the atmosphere in the exhibition would be buzzing with giggles and laughter 🙂
There were literally hundreds of hats on display under the “World Garden” theme so I have selected just a handful of my favourites to share with you here, starting with those made from felted wool, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did…
Collect is an annual show of international contemporary craft, organised by by the Crafts Council. I have wanted to attend this event for the last few years but it is only open to the general public for 3 days so has proved very difficult to schedule, this year however, was different and I finally got to go in person and I am so glad I did! It is a great opportunity to talk to other artists about their craft and processes, especially on the top floor which is dedicated to emerging artists rather than the galleries who occupy the ground and first floors.
It is a pretty incredible show, spread over 3 floors of the Saatchi Galleries. You will need at least 3 hours to do it justice, more if you plan to attend any of the talks.
These are just a tiny selection of the pieces that were highlights for me….
Her tiny colourful dots were strung together with fine translucent thread allowing them to be suspended several centimetres from the wall, creating subtle shadows behind.
The craftsmanship of these bowls was exquisite, with thousands of precisely carved curves producing a mesmerising optical illusion that draws you inevitably to peer into the hole at the centre.
If you look closely you can see a second layer of weaving behind that gives a feeling of depth to a hanging.
I was in awe of the neatness of the thousands of stitches employed in Inger’s hanging, this was clearly a labour of love to hand-stitch such a large and detailed hanging.
This is one of many works Susie has created that puts pills and medication centre stage. She traps the pills using by knitting with a fine thread. It’s not clear what Susie’s stance is on medication is but her work certainly makes the viewer consider their own relationship with it.
Mathieu’s works were incredibly skilful, from a distance they look like oil paintings but as you get closer the messy, tangled weave of coloured threads revel themselves.
This sketch caught my eye, initially I though the stools had been hand stitched but as you get closer you can see how each strand has been “drawn” with melted glass.
Charlotte made a time-lapse video of the making of these elephants, it is only 3 minutes long and worth a look – video.
I hear Collect will be moving to a new venue next year, after 10 years at the Saatchi Galleries it will be moving to Somerset House, I am sure the standard of work will continue to be exemplary in their new home.
I have been attending my local Embroiderer’s Guild (Farnborough) for a year or so now, we meet monthly and our group is slightly unusual in that we focus on teaching each other practical skills rather than inviting speakers. Last month we made coiled bowls and before that temari balls.
Being a feltmaker it was no surprise when I was asked if I would teach the group to make a piece of felt that we could then embroider at the following meeting. It was quite a tall order, 13 ladies, 11 of whom had never handled wool tops before, let alone made felt and we only had 2.5 hours to complete our projects in…
Most embraced a landscape for their first piece of felt, rather fitting with the Q1 challenge although, of course they did not know about it 🙂
Others took a more abstract approach….
I can’t wait to see how they look after the addition of some embroidery next month, I have great plans for machine embroidery on mine, it is going to be a lot of fun!
If you are local and interested in the Farnborough (UK) Embroiderer’s Guild we would love to hear from you, please email Sue and Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
It is almost a year to the day that I gave up my day job of setting up clinical trials of new drugs for hospital patients to pursue my dream of making felt full-time.
A post on FB this week, prompted me to reflect on why I made that choice. One year in to my new adventure and the start of a new year, this seems like a good place to pause and take stock.
The post on FB asked us to choose the 3 main reasons why we chose to use our creative talents to go self-employed because lets face it, most of us don’t do it for the financial rewards, if economic security is top of your agenda, going self-employed in the creative arts is likely to be low on your list of employment choices.
This is the list of values to choose from but you are welcome to add your own, they came from Shannah Kennedy’s book: Simplify, Structure, Succeed.
Which 3 did you choose?
Freedom and Health: being self-employed means I can go for a 2 hour run or a long walk in the middle of the day if I want to, being able to down tools and go outside when the sun is shining has made me far more physically active and the psychological benefits of spending more time outside, in our beautiful British countryside, means I am far less stressed. This also relates to biophilia (see below) which is also supported by working with wool.
I also love that I don’t have to get up a silly o’clock in the morning to sit in traffic jams with thousands of other equally miserable people trying to get to the office before 9 am. There’s a lot to be said for home-working!
Order/stability : I found working in the corporate world could be incredibly stressful, every 2-3 years we would have a new VP, none of them could ever accept that the systems installed by their predecessor worked just fine and so felt they needed to restructure the entire company in an effort to leave their mark, like dogs peeing on a lamppost. We were constantly working in a state of flux, trying to navigate new processes but never being allowed to do the same thing long enough to get good at it before a new VP would come along and change everything again!
I wouldn’t describe my life as particularly ordered; Einstein summed it up well, “If a messy desk reflects a messy mind, of what does and empty desk reflect?”. I am messy and proud! 🙂 But compared to the corporate world my current work-life does feel a lot more stable, my processes only change when I need them to, not because someone else is peeing on my lamppost!
Of course, one downside to being a self-employed maker is that many of us feel we have to take the work when it comes, this can lead to working 18 hour days but that is my decision to work long hours (not due to some arbitrary deadline set by a faceless manager) and if I don’t want to work that many hours, I can always refuse a commission or only accept it with an extended delivery deadline. There’s nothing to say you have to take on every piece of work that is offered to you, in fact I think there are some things you should always say no to, but that is a whole other post!
Biophilia: Not on the list I know, but I think it is very relevant for most of us. Those of you who make felt on a regular basis will understand the deep connection with nature and the past that it brings, taking natural fibres and thousands-year-old techniques to create beautiful works guided only by your imagination and what the materials want to do.
I recently discovered this connection with nature and the desire to surround ourselves with natural materials has a name; biophilia. It seems to be something of a trend in textile studies at the moment but of course felt-makers have been familiar with the concept (if not the name) for centuries 🙂
One of the respondents on the FB page also talked about how isolating it can be to be a creative working from home, she described how she has changed from an assertive, confident woman to feeling like a timid mouse. I felt so sad reading that but I can easily relate to where she is coming from. Working on your own, 7 days a week can be tough, even for introverts who are comfortable with their own company, I can only imagine it must be an impossible challenge for extroverts.
For me, while designing and making are where I find the most fulfilment in my work, I realise that attending fairs and teaching are what keeps me sane. I need that social interaction, while Pickle (my cat) is very chatty, his conversation is hardly what anyone would think of as intelligent.
If you mostly work alone, how do you find it? Do you have strategies for coping with the isolation?
I think we are social animals (even the introverts!), we need to connect with other humans and for me, I am finding I need to collaborate and share with others, Open Studio events and craft fairs are great ways to connect but are quite sporadic so I was chuffed to bits to spend a day with Janine and Nancy making winged vessels in Janine’s studio (she has a studio to die for!). I am already looking forward to our next play-date and hope this will become a regular event in our diaries. I have long admired Ruth’s creative textile gatherings and hope we can develop something similar.