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
This month’s speaker Vivien Prideaux introduced us to a name that few members were familiar with, Alec Walker. Born in Yorkshire in 1889 Alec was given a rundown mill by his father and he started producing Vigil silk. Kay Earl had been a student in Newlyn in Cornwall and responded to an advert for a designer. He was so impressed with this area he decided to continue producing silk in the north but the design and manufacture of garments was moved to Cornwall. In 1918 Alec and Kay married. In 1920 they founded the couture company, Crysede which became very successful.
Alec Walker was invited to go to Paris and was introduced to Raoul Dufy and Ossip Zadkine. Influenced by their designs he transformed his own paintings into textiles. The business continued to expand so they brought in Tom Heron (father of painter, Patrick Heron) as Manager and the company moved to the Island at St Ives. They were the first company to offer mail order, opened retail shops and sold their designs at Liberty's.
Sadly, in 1929 Alec left the company with health issues and Tom continued for another 10 years when Crysede ceased trading. It was re-branded as Cresta silks.
I was requested not to use Vivien's images so the majority of the above have been taken from the internet.
Report by Ros
Bryony's talk was entitled The Textile Menagerie and she describes herself as a Textile Sculptor and it is an apt description when you see the wonderful textile animals she creates and hear how she does it.
Coming from a family of artists, Bryony was always encouraged to create but her degree in silver jewellery making seems a far cry from the work she does now. Trips to India as a jewellery buyer led to an interest in antique fabrics especially saris and kantha work which Bryony began to collect. A seaside exhibition with a friend resulted in 'Flossie' a life size donkey made with old prices of wood for legs and a covering of scraps of old fabrics. Building and improving on this Bryony continued making life sized fabric animals using recycled textiles often furnishing fabrics, especially William Morris designs and velvets.
As mothers often sat their children on the larger figures Bryony realised they had to be strong so she uses cast iron rod, heavy duty sculpture wire and wood for the skeleton which is covered with sheeting and pillow filling is used to form muscle shape. This is then covered with scraps of fabric stitched in place, layering of textiles give the impression of feather on the birds. Duffle coat toggles carved down make a good beak, false eyelashes look very realistic on deer and false fingernails cut into strips make very convincing claws. All Bryony's figures, ranging from birds, guinea pigs, dogs, pigs and deer are life size and have names usually suggested by the facial expression, tilt of head or attitude. Hover your mouse pointer over the images below to discover the names of the animals!
Bryony gave workshops in Australia last year and is due to return there next year and also to New Zealand to give more talks and workshops, she also manages to fit in classes in this country.
Bryony gave us a fascinating and informative talk; it was lovely to see some of her menagerie on screen and meet others in person.
Thank you to Christine Hill for this report and the lovely photos. Ros
On 23 January I attended the Marlborough Embroiders Guild workshop on how to make a summer garden lampshade with our tutor Nikki Vesey-Williams. Nikki was demonstrating the technique first created by Marna Lunt.
It was an extremely enjoyable day with Nikki's teaching being very relaxed and giving all sorts of useful tips about free machine embroidery, such as the appropriate needle for the type of thread used, how to ensure that the thread runs smoothly when running through the machine and also how to ensure that the bobbin is correctly tensioned or lessened off depending upon the texture that is wanted to achieve, amongst other useful details.
Firstly we decided how tall we wanted our lampshades to be and also whether they would be used for a table lamp, or hung from a pendant light. This would then give an idea as to how we would have the inner workings of the lampshade set up.
We used craft vilene for the base, then used green chiffon material in layers to form the base layer of the shade, giving the impression of grass, fields, hills etc
These are bonded together with bondaweb. Once adhered together, a yellow blow pen was used to give an impression of sunrise or sunset and a blue one to denote the sky at the top of the shade.
Once the pen ink had dried, we could then set to using a variety of threads and free machine embroidery techniques on the sewing machine to make a set of grasses, foxgloves, daisies and cornflowers on our shades.
As we did not want to rush this aspect of the embroidery, we were encouraged to develop the rest of this work at home when we had more time to devote to creating a beautiful work of art.
Nikki then went on to demonstrate how we would then make up the shade using double sided tape, lining it with a fine fabric to cover the stitches and give a professional finish. She also showed how we could cover the top and bottom frame with braid to finish off the lampshade.
Apologies for delay in posting details of this workshop. Ros
Thanks to Claire Tubbs for the report and photos.
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/
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