The speaker for our July meeting was Dr Susan Kay-Williams who is the Chief Executive of the Royal School of Needlework based at Hampton Court Palace. Her talk was entitled Imperial Purple to Denim Blue – the colourful history of textiles.
Dr Kay-William started her talk by showing us an image of 1669 which showed the various stages of the dyeing process – the vat, a brick vessel where hanks of wool on a pole could be submerged and a plunge pool, all very similar to what we use in hand dyeing today. She said that mordants which assist in the fixing process of dyeing had been found in fragments of textiles found in the Indus valley dating back thousands of years.
She then went on to show us an image of a Coptic warrior from the 5/6th century in Egypt and explained the three things that stopped the progress of knowledge were war, plague and water. By the 19thC people would take mordants and dyes to different countries and the different components of the water would determine the results of the dyeing sometimes changing the colour completely.
Dr Kay-Williams then went on to talk about individual colours starting with purple and explained that it was originally found from the gland in the mollusc from within a shell. There are two purples, red and blue purple and Alexander the Great took bolts of cloth as spoils of war. In Rome it was only the Emperor and a few senators who were allowed to wear purple and we were shown a mosaic image of his wife Theodora Ravenna in a purple cloak.
The next colour to discuss was red with copper and allum being the mordants and the root of madder, the dye. It was made commercially in the Netherlands and we were shown an image of the various stages of colour from the intense colour of the first bath to the exhausted pale shade showing the dye had been used up. Henry VIII’s favourite colour was red which is shown in many portraits. Venice was famous for making red from the insect Kermise which was found in the month of June on trees in Southern Spain, Armenia and Poland. It was the most expensive dye colour for the most expensive fabric and the Pope decreed that cardinals should not use purple but red. It was not until 50 years later they discovered cochineal beetle. Per grain of dye cochineal was much better.
The portrait of the Young Flemish man in 1540 shows all garments in red and a shirt of blackwork, Henry VIII in a fine red suit heavily encrusted with jewels and the portrait of Cosimo de Medici by Jacopo Pontormo in 1520 Florence.
The next colour on Dr Kay Williams’ list was blue which she explained was the most popular colour in the world. Up to 8thC Mary had been shown in dar colours but it was then decreed that God should be celebrated in colour and in 11th C the Wilton Diptych shows lapis lazuli. In Europe the dye for blue was wode but in India it was indigo. Jenny Balfour Paul has written an in depth history of Indigo.
The European dye for yellow was weld whereas further afield saffron, gathered from the stigma of the saffron crocus, was used. Dr Kay-Williams explained that the Chinese had found a very powerful yellow colour which did not fade and therefore ancient examples of textiles have kept their vibrant colours. Scholars have tried to find out what they used without success.
The colour green could be seen in the famous Arnolfini portrait by Jan Van Eyck 1434 and this was thought to pay homage to the master dyers of Bruges because it showed deep browns and a deep green for the dress.
The poor man’s black usually came from black sheep where as rich black was achieved by overdyeing as can be seen in Rembrandt’s painting.
The final colour which Dr Kay-Williams talked about was white and she said this was difficult to achieve because the material had to be bleached and re-bleached. The image she showed was of Queen Elizabeth I in a white gown.
To conclude her talk and bringing us up to date Dr Kay-Williams talked briefly about the “new blue” of the military uniforms and the most popular fabric nowadays, denim.
Her final image was of the portrait of Madame Moitessier by Ingres. She has become the living advert for the silk industry of Lyons to be seen in the National Gallery.
Report by Ros
The images in this report were found on the internet, National Gallery, the Royal Collection Trust, Wikipedia etc as I was requested not to take photos during the talk due to copyright
I have divided the images from our Summer Exhibition into sections, one for the overview and another for individual pieces. I apologise to some members because, with the lighting in the hall and the fact that their work was displayed under glass, the images are not as good as I would have liked. If anybody would like to send me a better image of their work I would be very happy to replace it and if I have omitted an image of your work I apologise and can easily insert it.
The first few photos are of the organising committee, helpers and members demonstrating their various skills.
Image 1 Amanda & Ann
Image 2 Christine H, Maria, Ann, Clare, Nikki, Margaret H & Susanne
Image 3 Ros, Ann & Clare (thanks to Sue from marlboroughnewsonline.co.uk. See their website for the full article)
Image 4 Clare, Judy & Robina and a lady doing Turkey work (please send me her name someone!)
Overview photos of the display boards and tables. The children's project which Maria organised is under a separate posting before this one.
Individual pieces from the Summer Exhibition are displayed below. I have not included any "Take a Line" exhibits on purpose, only an overview, because they will be posted in early September after the West of England Quilt and Textile Show to be held at the University of the West of England (UWE) on Thursday 30, Friday 31 August and Saturday 31 August.
Once more our grateful thanks to Ann S and her committee for making this Summer Exhibition 2018 such a great success and thank you to all our members who helped and submitted their work.
Report and photos by Ros
What wonderful imagination children have! Two years ago, a simple landscape background attached to a free standing frame was made by Maria Fraser for the Avebury Festival to encourage children to have a go at some textile artwork. The results were a few stitched flowers and clouds. It came out of storage for the exhibition last weekend and suddenly took on a new focus for the young would-be textile artists. Having seen the eclectic art styles adopted by the adults in the general displays, the children were keen to stamp their own individual creativity onto the work resulting in a wonderfully imaginative softly, cloud-strewn and sunshine-filled world where mermaids and whales share a virtual landscape with sheep, unicorns, horses and foxes! Of course, this is now no ordinary countryside scene, and has been recognised as such by its new name - “The Magic Garden”- which was given to the work by one of the would-be artists Eva Fraser (aged 10), who is also a member of the Young Embroiderers’ Guild
Last weekend we organised a Summer Exhibition of Embroidery and Textile Art at Kennet Valley Hall.
When I have sorted all the photos of the event I will post them on this blog but in the meantime you can read the wonderful report from Marlborough News Online
People came from far and wide and it was great to chat to like minded people about the joy of stitch. I must say it was a privilege to speak to Jan Messent whose work I have always admired and really exciting that she should come to our event.
A very big thank you to Ann S and her team for their hard work organising the weekend and to members who helped support the event by demonstrating, making cakes, taking the money, stewarding and of course to those who entered their work.
Report and photo by Ros
Christine Chester’s talk this month was entitled “Afterwards”. Born and brought up in Eastbourne her father was an "in shore" fisherman and so beaches and the sea played a great part in her life. Her grandmother and mother both taught her various crafts but it was not until she was 25 and wanted to give up smoking that she turned to these skills to give herself something to focus on. Christine did her City & Guilds and following the horrific storm in 1987, she created “the Old Sea Wall”.
Christine entered several Hever Castle Quilt Challenges and showed us images of Strips, Stripes & Structures .and an Elizabethan theme.
A lot of Christine’s work has been influenced by family events and in 2004, after her step son’s car accident she created “Faint Hope” which showed the harsh words of the consultants together with the words of hope sent in cards from friends and family.
Christine felt she was become a butterfly with her work flitting from one thing to another so while at Committed to Cloth she decided to concentrate for one year on one technique. About this time her father had a stroke, his memory deteriorated and he could not read. This event in Christine’s life has given the foundation for various pieces of work – Fragile Fragments and Layers of Memory which won a prize at the Festival of Quilts. She used a selection of photographs which her mother had taken of her father as a fisherman and used various techniques to distort them to show the fading, gaps and deterioration in his memory.
Realising how precious life is, Christine decided to give up her job, set up her own studio and start a Masters degree at the University of Brighton. The final piece was based on empty pockets showing the emptiness of the brain. Pockets were cast with plaster and she pointed out the fluff and crumbs which has accumulated at the bottom of the pocket had been transferred to the cast.
In 2014 Christine was diagnosed with breast cancer and she decided to create a series of panels in red which she entitled One Woman's Journey to document the six radiotherapy treatments. She explained that the amount of work in each panel was determined by how she felt at that point – panel 4 had no stitch at all.
Christine is a founder member of UnFold which is a group of artists who had a successful stand at the Knitting and Stitching Show.
Report and photos by Ros
Two members of our Guild, Eileen J and Fiona H have made hearts for SSAFA charity exhibitions around the country to mark the centenary of Armistice Day 2018.
The first space used will be in The Young Gallery in Salisbury in June this year.
Eileen's heart is on the left and Fiona's heart is on the right.
Report and photos by Clare R
As I love hand stitching I was particularly looking forward to this workshop with Kathleen.
She started by showing us work from four different textile artists who used hand stitching. One was well known to us, Emily Jo Gibbs but the other three were new names - Magdalena Godowa, Kimika Hara and Natasza Niedziolka. Below you will see details of their websites.
Before us on the table Kathleen had displayed various fruit and vegetables which she had cut open to show their insides and we were asked to choose one. The challenge was then to replicate the fruit either adding appliqued materials or just hand stitch. Below you will see the amazing results.
Kathleen has another interesting sideline which she told us about briefly at the end of the day. She makes truly amazing little people under the name of Murgatroyd & Bean. I know my grandchildren would adore to hear the tales and to see these people so I do hope she publishes the stories one day.
Thank you to Kathleen and her friend for a most enjoyable day.
Report & photos by Ros
I was curious about the title of today’s talk “Butterflies and Banners” so it was interesting to hear the story. Born in Derbyshire Heather Everitt spent a lot of her young years with her grandmother who taught her numerous practical skills. Heather was very lucky because she had inspirational teachers at Secondary School, during her Art Foundation course and later at Manchester Metropolitan University where she followed a BA Hon Textile/Fashion chief study in Embroidery. Anne Morrell and Isabel Dibden Wright were two of her tutors and she was given the opportunity to explore behind the scenes of the Whitworth Art Gallery and Gallery of Costume at Platts Field. Heather became interested in heirlooms and tried to age her fabrics to make them look old and worn.
A fortuitous meeting at the final exhibition of her course opened an interesting door which over thirty years later is still a major part of Heather’s work. A gentleman asked if she would be interested in making a masonic banner and she makes on average 6 to 7 a year. Heather also makes replica banners and conserves old worn ones.
After university Heather tried to make a living designing and making hats and cushions but soon realised that she needed more lucrative employment. She became an articled Primary School teacher on the outskirts of Manchester and later moved to become an Arts Co-ordinator in Devon.
Eventually, after 17 years full time she was encouraged by her husband to reduce her teaching and eventually give up work and concentrate on textiles. She got commissions for waistcoats and ties concentrating on nature for inspiration – fish, butterflies, moths etc. Heather used a lot of Liberty fabrics in her work and told us how one day six years ago she queued along with lots of other people to have the opportunity to show her work to a buyer at Liberty’s in Regent Street. She was not successful on this occasion but went away fired with enthusiasm as she subsequently got commissions for weddings and other occasions. More recently she was exhibiting at a craft fair in Devon and a visitor said she knew someone at Liberty’s and promised to contact them. As of last year Heather’s amazing butterflies are now on display in the Liberty Home department.
Heather then went on to explain how she draws or paints the butterfly, chooses the Liberty fabrics which she layers up under organza. The various areas are cut back according to her design using a technique know as reverse applique. The thorax of the butterfly is made using wet and needle felting. Finally Heather adds some “bling” to her work in the form of sequins or the like. The finished butterfly is presented in a labelled box with an OS map as a background identifying the area where it is found.
Heather is very pro-active with a Facebook page, a newsletter, an Etsy site and also sells through “madebyhandonline.com”
Report and photos by Ros
Our congratulations to Nikki on this wonderful achievement. At our meeting on Monday she brought along this amazing glass bowl to show everybody. She told me she has already started thinking about next year's challenge so watch this space!
Report & photos by Ros
Congratulations to Nikki for a well deserved result on her hugely imaginative and creative piece of work. Nikki was judged overall winner by Madeira and Husquvana representatives as well as by Pat Tempest from the Embroiderers’ Guild, who plans to write an article on Nikki in Contact magazine. Her photograph will also be in the next issue of Stitch. Well done, Nikki!
Her prizes, which comprise a Sapphire 930 Husquvana sewing machine, a chest of Madeira Threads and the ‘Crystal Rose Bowl’ trophy, were presented by the UK CEO of Madeira Karen Burrows. Although ever hopeful, Nikki was completely overwhelmed by the result and is still finding it hard to believe. She says that her inspiration was stimulated by the iconic film and figure of Mary Poppins from her childhood days and the seemingly bottomless carpet bag and its contents presented a 3D challenge! The bag, took 10 months to complete. Nikki bought a vintage brief case in a charity shop and reworked it using recycled fabrics from the Wiltshire scrapstore by embroidering various images from the film. Integral to her work, particularly in the making of the contents, was the technique of needlefelting and the recycling of household items such as foil wrappers, ring-pulls, a champagne cage, a knitting needle, and many more. Nikki’s background includes a one year art foundation course followed by a degree in graphic design. She subsequently worked in advertising for 15 years before changing direction. Between 1997 and 2001 Nikki completed C&G courses in both embroidery and in needlefelting to such a high degree that her work was exhibited at the V&A Museum for 6 months!
When asked if she has a style, Nikki was hard to pin down as she says that she never makes the same thing twice, though her passion is free machining, mixed media and 3D, with recycling at the core of her work. She draws her inspiration from nature and history, and from famous artists such as Klimt, Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites. Most days she spends at least 4 hours in her purpose-made studio designing, creating and stitching on one of her 8 operational sewing machines or on one of her two embellishers. Nikki is also a collector of Victorian machines, of which she currently has 10 on display. There is no holding her back now that she has tasted success. She tells me that she has already started working on next year’s Madeira sponsored competition!
Report by Maria F
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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