Mandy started her talk by explaining that she came from a large family and her Aunt Kate taught her to crochet. At secondary school her needlework teacher set high standards and visits to London galleries were obviously exciting with Anwar Shemza, another teacher and an artist in his own right, influencing and encouraging Mandy greatly. He told her “you are only as good as your next piece of work” and she treasures the hand made Christmas cards which he sent each year. Using the Encyclopedia of Needlework written by Teresa Dilmont she taught herself tatting, how to make bobbin lace and various other stitches and techniques.
Mandy was a member of the 62 Group of textile artists and the Textile Study group and retired from lecturing on the foundation course at the Art College in Stafford four years ago. In 2015 she had a joint exhibition with Vivienne Prideaux, is involved with various NHS projects and is currently a volunteer at the National Trust property, Sunnycroft near Wellington where she has been learning to archive.
Mandy draws and paints in colour but her actual work is hand stitching using neutral threads on transparent fabrics. We were shown a variety of her work some of which is shown below.
My memory of Mandy will be someone who rarely had a needle out of her hand and even chatting to members before and after her talk she was busy stitching.
Report and photos by Ros
On Tuesday we spent a truly memorable day visiting the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace. I was not surprised to learn cameras were not allowed so I am afraid below you only have a few photos taken outside.
We congregated outside the main entrance and each person was issued with their own named identity tag. We were greeted by two delightful ladies from the School who guided us along dark corridors and up narrow stairs deep in the bowels of the Palace. On entering we passed through a room with embroidery books from floor to ceiling and into one of their studio rooms which had a truly fantastic view over the gardens. The first hour of our visit was a presentation given by Dr Susan Kay-Williams who has been the Chief Executive for the past ten years.
Dr Kay-Williams started her talk by explaining that the Royal School of Needlework was founded in 1872 by Lady Victoria Welby to encourage the learning of hand embroidery techniques (which were starting to disappear) and to establish embroidery so it would be seen along-side fine arts. It was an occupation for the educated woman who perhaps had found herself on hard times and needed to support herself and Princess Helena, Queen Victoria’s 3rd daughter became a fund raiser for the School.
Originally the Royal School of Needlework was located in Kensington but 30 years ago, thanks to the Queen Mother, they moved to Hampton Court Palace. Today they have a variety of courses on offer: the Certificate and Diploma courses which include Black work, Silk Shading and Gold work, degree courses and the Future Tutors’ course. In addition they undertake bespoke work, ecclesiastical assignments, christening robes, veils and of course the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress. Many people will have seen the Game of Thrones embroidery which has been exhibited at the NEC and Alexander Palace.
Dr Kay-Williams then went on to talk about various items from their collection and explained that everything had been donated. She showed us a beautiful 17thC purse with stitched flowers at the back and front on a metal background and several banners. In 2009 they received a legacy from Jean Panter and this turned out to be 300 boxes of embroidery and 27 sewing machines. The Royal School of Needlework have published their own books on embroidery techniques and we were shown work by Roy and Barbara Hirst who had written instructions for making stumpwork hands and faces.
In 2011 three pieces of 17thC embroidery were auctioned by the Royal School of Needlework and we were shown an image of a mirror surround showing Charles II and his wife Catherine Braganza, a decorative tray and a stumpwork panel on silk. I need to explore further, but I am almost certain the decorative tray was bought by the Holbourne Museum in Bath. On their website they call it a basket but it looks amazingly similar to the image we were shown and anyway, I doubt there are many Charles II pieces of stumpwork about!!!
The second part of our visit to the Royal School of Needlework was a tour of their studios where we were shown examples of work in progress (mainly ecclesiastical) and past students work. We saw the design drawing for the Overlord Embroidery and an amazing floor to ceiling example of Japanese gold work. Topics for student embroidery included Toad of Toad Hall, Barbar the elephant, the Princess and the Pea, Freddie Mercury, Johnny Depp and various animals and birds.
As a memento of the day many of the members treated themselves to books, cards and mugs from the shop on the way out. Arriving back at Lockeridge we were allowed to peep into a box which Sarah W had collected from the Royal School of Needlework. She had just completed a course and we saw her gold work and silk shading. Clever girl!
On behalf of everybody who went to Hampton Court I would like to thank Dr Kay-Williams and her colleagues who made us so welcome and to Ann Kingdon for organising the day which went like clockwork!
Report by Ros
Illustrative pictures using silk organza and hand stitch
It took me about 18 months to decide to join the Embroiderers Guild, because I was intimidated by the amazing work I saw on line. However, when a friend showed me the pieces she had made at a workshop I realised I was missing opportunities to learn and improve. Now I sign up for as many workshops as I can, so that I can broaden my repertoire and gain confidence in my own ability.
When I first read the description for the Emily Jo Gibbs workshop, my doubts came back, because I cannot draw, and that seemed to be fundamental for this workshop. By the next meeting I had changed my mind - I realised that it didn't matter if I didn't produce a masterpiece, and I might learn despite that.
On the day of the workshop, as I looked at Emily's beautiful work, my heart sank. Her portraits, made from layers of silk organza embellished with simple stitches, are stunning, and their apparent simplicity belies the artistic skill that goes into making them. I knew I couldn't ever come close to making something similar. Then I saw a geometric piece and I relaxed, because I knew I could do that.
Emily's teaching style is relaxed and generous, and she doesn't hesitate in sharing her techniques to help everyone achieve something they can be proud of. She took us through the stages of creating our own pieces, starting with the geometric piece. We could then move on to something more complex (except for me, I chickened out and stayed within my comfort zone). Emily is undoubtedly a gifted teacher, and her gentle encouragement made us all very happy with what we achieved (even me), and I loved seeing everyone's work at the end of the day, and admiring the skill within the group.
I won't be winning any prizes for my piece, but that doesn't matter because I got to spend the day with a lovely group of warm, generous and supportive women, and I went home wearing a smile. Great value for £30!
Thank you so much Tricia J for sharing your thoughts and comments about the workshop.
Thank you Vernice for the photos.
It’s not very often that a speaker starts her talk by explaining that one of the main tools of her craft is a hammer. This month Zoe Hillyard introduced us to the technique of ceramic patchwork. Using a variety of ceramic pots and dishes which she finds at car boot sales, charity shops and on Ebay she breaks the pot with her hammer, wraps it in a chosen fabric, often silk and reassembles it using hand stitched patchwork.
Zoe divides her week spending 3 days as a lecturer on the Textile Design course at Birmingham University and the remainder of the week on her own work. Students are prepared for the future by developing their own ideas of composition, pricing their work and showcasing their designs to the world of business.
After graduating from the Textile Design course at Nottingham Trent University Zoe gained confidence when she sold constructed knitting designs to Liberties and Barney’s and worked with knitwear designer Marion Foale of Foale & Tuffin exhibiting at London and Paris Fashion weeks.
Zoe applied for VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) and in 2006 was given a year’s placement teaching in Mongolia. She had little time for her own work but she enjoyed her challenge of teaching design to the students and organised a catwalk show entitled Cashmere & Camel. Garments included embroidered menswear and knitwear embellished with found objects.
Returning to the UK Zoe concentrated on her interest of piecing ceramics back together and showed us a wonderful variety of pots which she has designed for the British Museum, the National Trust property at Uppark House in Sussex and private commissions. One interesting commission was using a Grayson Perry silk scarf to wrap a pot - the owner loved the design but doubted she would wear the scarf. Inspiration for a lot of Zoe's designs has come from extensive travels to South Africa, Peru and Nepal. Currently her work is on show at the CAA (Contemporary and Applied Arts) Gallery behind the Tate and she is preparing for her first solo exhibition in London in October.
Report and photos by Ros
Nicola Jarvis’ talk was entitled “May Morris, her father’s daughter”. I think I can safely say that William Morris was well known to everybody in the room but I do wonder how many people knew all about his daughter, what an important designer she was, what an important book she wrote about stitch and design and how she became a key member of William’s business.
Nicola first became interested in May Morris in 2013 when she won a competition to exhibit her own embroidery inspired by William and May Morris at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow after it’s refurbishment. In her research Nicola discovered that May was the younger of two daughters. Her elder sister, Jenny had epilepsy and May helped to look after her. As a young girl, May lived in the Red House in Bexleyheath and the Morris and Burne-Jones families were great friends.
William Morris wallpaper - Trellis. Hanging by May Morris 1895. Kelmscott House, Hammersmith
In 1896 the family moved to Kelmscott House in Hammersmith by the side of the River Thames. At this stage in his career William Morris was making hand knotted carpets and May watched and became enthusiastic about the design. At the age of 19 May decided she wanted to go to art school and enrolled for the National Art Training School – now the V & A. As a student she had to study and draw objects and many of her drawings are in the Ashmoleum Museum in Oxford. In 1893 she wrote the manual to instruct design called “Decorative needlework” which is still relevant today.
Examples of May's drawings and sketchbook in the Ashmoleum Museum, Oxford.
Nicola continued her talk by showing us many images of May’s work which had a distinctive symmetrical style all of its own but what I found interesting was that she used very few types of stitch and some were worked without a frame. The main ones were the darning, stem and satin stitches. After three years at art school May returned to the family business and became manageress dealing with the orders and enquiries in addition to designing and working the embroideries. William Morris designed the first embroidery kit which was worked by May.
Examples of stitches used by May in her embroidery. Darning, satin, long and short and stem stitch.
Being brought up in such a creative family it is easy to see how May Morris was influenced by her father’s work but in the Victorian times women's education was not of great importance and it was therefore very interesting to learn how May progressed to be such an amazing artist, designer, embroiderer and business woman.
John Henry Dearle (trained by William Morris) three fold screen and examples of William Morris' designs worked by May.
A comment taken from May Morris' book "Decorative Needlework" and one which we can all reflect on!
Report by Ros
The day after Anna McDowell's interesting talk about the history of Dorset buttons she kindly taught a group of Guild members the various techniques to enable us to create our own buttons.
Everybody was given a pack which included the metal ring, thread and the instructions to make a Dorset "cartwheel" button. I was surprised to learn that you used one length of thread and, to begin with, I found 3 1/2 yards quite difficult to handle without getting into knots! Our second button was the Daisy pattern which was worked on a larger metal ring but this had a staggering 5 1/2 yards. We all managed with some results better than others! The final button we were shown was called the "singleton" and for a group of embroiderers this button opened up a great opportunity to express ourselves.
By the end of the day, everybody had at least two buttons and some speedy people even had three!
Thank you Anna for a most enjoyable day.
Report by Ros
Anna McDowell started her talk by explaining that Dorset buttons started as a love story. A soldier, Abraham Case went to the continent in 1600s and brought back this technique of making buttons. When he returned he went to Wardour Castle and fell in love with a local girl and they set up the Dorset Button industry.
High tops were the first to be made from a disc of sheep’s horn, fabric and thread. Dorset Knobs came after along with the Blanford cross wheel and various other designs. The business grew rapidly as a Cottage industry with women and children working in their own homes and in 1730 Abraham’s grandson Peter took over the company and it is thought introduced metal rings. John Clayton joined and organised it as a proper industry. Anna showed us a record sheet from the Blanford Workhouse which showed what a profitable business it was. In 1793 it was recorded that 5d per gross was paid for the buttons and 4000 people in and around Shaftesbury were involved and 3000 around Blanford. In 1812 people were paid 9d per day to work on the land at harvest time but they could earn 12 – 18d per day making buttons.
Men of fashion including Beau Brummel would wear up to 24 shirts a week all done up with Dorset buttons so the industry thrived. The buttons were made in neutral colour thread and dyed after to match a ladies dress or blouse. In 1812 Benjamin Saunders patented the first mechanised button machine and this heralded the beginning of the end for the hand-made button industry.
Anna’s interest began when she became chair of the Gold Hill Museum in Shaftesbury and since then she has tried to bring the Dorset Buttons into the 21st century demonstrating the making of traditional and contemporary buttons. Anna has a website which gives details of the history, she gives workshops and undertakes commissions for making Dorset buttons for period costumes.
Here is Anna's website address: http://henrysbuttons.co.uk/index.html
Report by Ros
On Monday we enjoyed our annual Ploughman’s lunch. Usually we have a guest speaker so this was an opportunity to catch up with friends and to hear what they have been up to. The hall looked very spring like with the tables decorated with colourful cloths and lovely flowers.
After lunch we were shown a presentation from the Embroiderers Guild which explained the history of the organisation and a number of textiles which have either been collected by or donated to the Guild over the years. There were items from the 16th C and from all over the world. Below is a selection from the collection.
The branch has been asked to donate money towards the conservation of these items so everyone was asked to contribute threads, fabrics, magazines and books to be sold and the money raised will go towards this request.
Report by Ros
Embroiderers Guild collection images taken from their presentation.
Vivien Prideaux’s workshop this month was entitled “Japanese Stencilling”. The group was first shown a vat of indigo dye and Vivien explained it was a mixture of henna, lime and indigo. So we could see the creation of a vat she measured the ingredients on some scales and stirred it.
We were then shown how to make stencils and two pastes which acted as resists and then it was play time. Some people cut their own stencils and some used pre cut designs. We then put the stencil on our fabric and used a credit card to scrape the resist over the stencil. The fabrics were then left to dry.
By mid afternoon we had all a number of pieces of fabric ready for the final stage which was to dip it in the indigo vat. Vivien was not happy that the vats were creating the right strength of colour for us to dye our materials so it was decided that we would all do some quick test samples and agreed to postpone the workshop for a few months. We can now look forward to stage two at the end of September.
Report by Ros
Information in this blog is provided by branch members who have attended the meeting, workshop or event.
Marlborough & District Branch is a member of the Embroiderers' Guild, the UK's leading crafts association
* The Embroiderers' Guild website -https://embroiderersguild.com/
* The Guild Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/embroiderersguild/
* The Guild Pinterest pages - https://uk.pinterest.com/theembroiderers/
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