Studio postings

Well, as I write, the ‘A’ Team are hard at work in the Landsdown Gallery, Stroud. Yesterday they achieved what to many would have seemed the impossible, and successfully hung the work in the Museum in the Park  but they are back at work today in the Landsdown. It is all very exciting as we are now so close to the official opening and those of us not involved with the actually hanging are looking forward to seeing how it looks when we visit to steward, teach or give a Gallery Talk. Time therefore to hear about the work of another of our members, Rosemary Campbell. As a textile tutor of enormous experience Rosemary is well known for the many exhibitions in which she has participated both with the TSG and edge – textile artists scotland including several two-man ventures with another TSG member Alison King. I asked Rosemary, which aspect of DIS/rupt she has been working with for the exhibition.

This was difficult and it took me some time before I decided I could be brave enough to tackle the highly personal disruption in my own life, which was my divorce. Later, it was very interesting to find that two other members of the Textile Study Group were doing the same and on comparing notes, fascinating to discover how similar our experiences and emotions were and how our resulting work is so different.

Can you tell us something about the piece you are working on for DIS/rupt

I divorced over 20 years ago so my approach is very analytical.

I believe that during the divorce process communication becomes confusing and difficult, the language conflicting, while in the healing process one inevitably ‘searches for answers’ so I looked to text as my starting point. Initially phrases such as ‘out of tune,’ ‘a life in shreds’ came to mind. I like word search puzzles so using ‘ relationships’ as a starting point, I made one up. I also decided to disrupt my working practice, which normally involves a great deal of decision making in paper if I am working large scale and to begin by sampling and working in cloth instead.

What are the materials and processes that you are working with?

Many of the materials and techniques I used are directly related to the 60 plus words and phrases I collected. ‘Fingers burned’ led to burning the edges of cloth, ‘cracks appearing’ led to the use of wax. White and black lace and net I still associate with both weddings and mourning while not used as frequently today as they once were. I enjoy the use of mixed media, collage and found objects, so I used photo copies of my wedding album to create tone beneath some of the stitched surfaces. Painting and dyeing, printing and stitching the fabric are used to form ideas and create surface texture e.g. I used scraps of shredded paper and stitch to create a surface which is intended to be ambiguous, ask yourself, does it represent confetti or shredded divorce documents? I have incorporated the use of the music played at my wedding which you can listen to through earphones. I am very grateful to Catriona Eunson who helped me to achieve this. Air on a G string’ by Bach is initially played in tune using both hands, then out of tune with lots of mistakes! In the end it is played well using one hand. I think the analogy is fairly obvious. The headphones are decorated with a removable fascinator as both women and men are equally affected by divorce.

Are you able to give us an idea of the scale of your piece?

Yes, it is 2m by 80 cms and will be wall mounted.

What message do you hope the viewers of your work will take away from the exhibition?

I hope viewers will look closely at the work and find some of the hidden references within the piece. That they will feel an association with it, whether in a successful partnership or not and realise how complex relationships are, how we are all connected, how there are no winners. Divorce is a very a difficult experience emotionally and practically and your world can feel a very black place at the time. However, you can emerge from that place with a stronger sense of self. No bad thing!

Thank you Rosemary, the subject of your work will resonate with many people. If, readers, you want to know more about Rosemary’s work and the ideas behind DIS/rupt look on our website. TSG

There are still a few remaining workshop places available and full details and booking information can be found at SIT select 2017

In the meantime, keep an eye on our Facebook page and here on the blog for more updates, photographs and news about the Symposium which takes place 6th May. Information and availability of places can be found at Symposium



Studio postings

It is hard to believe that at the end of this week, in fact in two days time, TSG members will assemble in Stroud to start the hanging of the exhibition. Long in the planning, collectively hours of work have gone in to the organisation and details of the exhibition, and then there is the production of the work. So tonight, another member’s work spotlighted here, this time Alice Fox. Alice is another member well known through her books and the workshops she holds all over the country. Many people will remember the exquisite work on show at last year’s Knitting & Stitching Shows so I asked her what visitors to DIS/rupt will find.

I am working within the area of environmental disruption. My initial thoughts were sparked by an interest in galls: the structures that plants create in response to disruptive activity by certain insects. But I was also thinking early on about responses species have to make to climatic or habitat changes. ‘Adapt or die’, ‘sink or swim’; species are already finding ways to survive as climatic conditions affect the habitats in which they live. Others are unable to adapt or move quickly enough. Many species construct cocoons or nests; structures that provide shelter, safety, or in which metamorphosis takes place.

Gall drawings

Can you tell us something about the piece you are working on for DIS/rupt?

My piece is called ‘Galling’. Initially I studied a variety of galls, many that I had collected myself or seen in natural history collections. Drawing is part of my practice. I draw found objects as a way of getting to know them, studying the detail. Many of these drawings were made using home-made oak gall ink: drawing galls, using galls. I then started to explore ways of constructing similar three-dimensional forms. These are like sketches but in 3D rather than flat on paper. I started to construct 3D forms using found plastics, imagining what sort of structures might result from an evolution of insects adapting to make use of the plastics that are persisting in our environment.

Galling group

What are the materials and processes that you are working with?

I wanted to use found materials in this piece. I am presenting an imagined future scenario where insect species have adapted or evolved to make use of plastics and man-made materials rather than the plants they currently use as their hosts. It was therefore important to use those plastic materials to construct the piece. Most of the materials were collected on beaches, often in remote places where the rubbish is being washed ashore from far away. I am using a variety of 3D stitch techniques: looping, wrapping, stitching, weaving. I am building up structures, either attached to a plastic object or added on after construction. I get a huge amount out of the process of working with found materials. By working with the material I learn about its properties, what I can and can’t do with it. I was surprised to find I really enjoyed working with some of the plastics. Some of the bright colours are a complete departure from what I normally work with too – a refreshing change!

Found objects

Are you able to give us an idea of the scale of your piece?

‘Galling’ is made up of a series of 15 small ‘objects’, presented as if they were a collection of specimens in a museum. They start with objects that are natural but wouldn’t normally have galls forming on them (bone and shell) and then move onto plastics, becoming gaudier in colour.

Is the finished piece to be free standing or wall mounted?

The piece will be plinth based; a series of three Perspex boxed collections.

What message do you hope the viewers of your work will take away from the exhibition?

I hope to raise more questions than answers through ‘Galling’. Such imagined forms could be seen as light hearted, even playful. But there is also a sinister side to them: How far might evolution have to go to cope with human-induced climate and habitat changes? Perhaps there is an acceptance of the current situation within these pieces, an attempt at being realistic about future scenarios. Or these could be seen as a statement against the situation we are creating. I certainly find it ‘galling’ to see the plastic pollution that is such a norm in our environment. Is it heartening to think that some species might adapt to our enforced environmental changes? But what of all those species that don’t manage to change fast enough…

Gall forms

You are one of the TSG tutors running workshops during the DIS/rupt exhibition, briefly, what can your students expect from the class?

We will be exploring a series of natural 3D structures through drawing and construction techniques. The emphasis will be on process and experimentation rather than specific outcomes. I am hoping that there will be discussion and reflection about disruptive processes in the natural world.


Thank you Alice, your work will be of enormous interest to visitors and as always it is fascinating to hear the thinking behind the work.

For more information about DIS/rupt and full booking details for Alice’s and the other workshops find them here SIT Select 2017.

Places are filling so don’t leave it too long before you act. Information about DIS/rupt and Textile Study Group can be found at our website TSG

Bookings for the Symposium, DIS/rupting Tradition featuring Alice Kettle, June Hill, Melanie Miller and Michelle Stephens  can be made at Symposium

TSG is on Facebook TSG Fb and Twitter @textile_study




Studio postings

Ten days and counting……and time for another studio posting, on this occasion featuring Dorothy Tucker whose beautiful work is known by many people. Her very successful workshops over the years have been enjoyed by countless enthusiasts and during the exhibition Dorothy is one of the TSG tutors teaching in Stroud, giving students old and new the opportunity to try some of the themes and techniques she has used and explored in her submission. I asked Dorothy to tell me about her work.

I have created two dresses for DIS/rupt: “Hung out to Dry” and “Left Behind”. They belong together and are presented as a free standing installation. “Hung out to Dry” features a pristine dress which has been washed and hung out to dry on a line with other clothes. The other dress is stained and torn, trampled on and left behind in an area of sand littered with cigarette butts and can tabs, etc. Made from a size 12 dress pattern both dresses are life size and will fit a young girl. The contrast in the placement and condition of these two dresses is intended to convey the danger, suffering and loss of identity a young girl might experience when she leaves home to escape war, political conflicts or famine. The dresses invite viewers to imagine what might have happened to the girl, or to bring to mind the disruption and loss we have witnessed in film footage from war zones and areas of famine.

Sketchbook pages

Initially I collected newspaper articles and photographs relating to current migration stories and tragic episodes in the past. Like most people I only have second hand knowledge of these events through the media. So I began to search for a way into the subject which I could relate to and express in a personal way.

Looking through one of my travel notebooks I came across a sketch of a Rajasthani skirt hung out to dry on a washing line. The pleated, flared panels of the skirt created a memorable half circle of colour and pattern. Very reluctantly I jettisoned this format because it was too beautiful, too Rajasthani. But I kept the idea of “hung out to dry”. I explored other garment formats e.g. the Greek peplos, or the salwar and kameez . But I felt that the cultural references associated with these were also too strong. I was looking for a garment everyone could relate to, something as universal as a denim jacket or quilted anorak. When the idea of a simple, sleeveless, shift dress surfaced, a friend lent me a 1960’s dress pattern.

Also In my notebook there were photographs of fabric held down by stones and spread out to dry on the ground. These connected with the way we sometimes find scraps of cloth or perhaps the odd shoe on a walk on a beach, and led onto the idea of a garment being “left behind”.   With a concept and format in place I could now move into making the dresses and finding the props needed for the installation. However I still needed to resolve what if anything should be included on the dresses by way of colour and decoration.

I am interested in how clothing and designs on clothing can express cultural identity, and how when people migrate they keep some of their cultural traditions intact, whilst they discard others or they become fused or exchanged in the host countries. Whilst working with a group of refugees in a community arts project I noticed how choosing colour and designing decorative motifs seemed to provide a powerful source of comfort and pleasure, and also a renewed sense of personal and cultural identity.

What message do you hope the viewers of your work will take away from the exhibition?

Both dresses carry designs based on the pomegranate. I chose the pomegranate because it symbolises life and death and the borderlands between the two. A.S. Byatt in her essay The Peacock and the Vine described the pomegranate as …. “ a rounded seed container surmounted by a crown of leaves that can suggest a closed secret or something about to burst open with shining crimson seeds with life blood in birth and death”. in many cultures it is a very old and readily understood symbol for life, fertility and growth, and prosperity. Variations of the symbol are to be found for example on the robes of Hebrew priests, or ancient carpets woven in the Middle East or the printed fabrics of William Morris.

To replicate a commercially printed fabric I traced my drawings of pomegranates onto a white cotton polyester fabric with a permanent ink pen and then painted in the designs with brilliant dye based water colour. I then made up the dress. The second dress went through exactly the same stages but I went further and disrupted the pristine, bright, qualities by staining, bleaching and burning the fabric. I grazed it with sandpaper, ripped and tore the dress, and then darned and mended it in places.

Dorothy at work in her studio.

That is fascinating Dorothy and shows the breadth of  your research into your work. I’m sure the symbolism of the dresses will convey your message to the visitors in a very poignant meaningful way, a message still so current in our lives. You are one of the TSG tutors running workshops during the DIS/rupt exhibition, briefly, what can your students expect from the class?

I hope that students will come to explore this idea with me in a full day workshop titled “Add to it, Alter it. Even erase it!”

Venue: The Museum in the Park, Stratford Park, Stratford Road, Stroud, GL5 4AF

Date: Sunday 14th May

Time:   10.00. – 4.00.

Cost: Full Fee £65.00                           Max students: 12            

Students will disrupt the design on the hem of a dress by changing small sections, adding their own colours and some simple stitching. I want students to come and leave their own take on a story revealed and concealed in my exhibition pieces: Hung out to Dry and Left Behind

A materials pack will be supplied cost £3.00.payable at the workshop.

Thank you Dorothy, that sounds really interesting and I’m sure the students will gain a lot from their day with you. As before, booking information for Dorothy’s and all the other workshops running during DIS/rupt can be found here. SIT select 2017

Don’t miss the chance of a place on Dorothy’s or one of the other workshops – as I said, ten days and counting……….

Further information about DIS/rupt can be found here TSG

Meet the Artist

During the course of DIS/rupt exhibition, members of TSG will be on hand to give gallery talks in the Museum in the Park, Stroud. Members will also be stewarding at the Landsdown Gallery and will be on hand to talk to visitors about DIS/rupt. See the full schedule here Meet The Artist

Studio postings

In just over two weeks the team who are charged with the task of hanging the DIS/rupt work will be starting to assemble in Stroud and the enormous job of making the exhibition come together after all the months of planning and the production of the work, will commence. So it seemed timely to ask another member about her work and I cornered Kay Greenlees one day to tell me what she has been working on. Kay is well known as a teacher and author of Creating Sketchbooks for Embroiderers and Textile Artists. I asked her first of all what area of the project she was exploring.

“What fresh hell is this?”

Much to my surprise I’m working within the ‘ecology’ category. This came about largely by accident as I explored the brief and looked at DIS/rupting my work pattern by using the idea of ‘chance’ happenings. These happenings also cause disruption to our countryside and ecology by threatening landscape and the survival of species; a sort of double DIS/rupt! I selected the topic because I was appalled when I heard that we had already lost six species of Moths since the turn of this century. I then chose to use ecological news items that I heard via the Radio 4 Today programme, therefore I have no idea how many issues there will be before the exhibition; it’s a chance that the items occur at all, and a chance that it is featured on the programme. I started recording these in March 2016 and for the Stroud exhibition I will stop at the end of this month.

Sketchbook page

That sounds really interesting, can you tell us something about the piece or pieces you are working on for DIS/rupt?

All the ecological news items have a focus that is to do with the British landscape and species, nothing ‘global’ such as warming. I hoped that this emphasis would provide several issues, each of which is the focus of a small ‘book unit’ which in turn builds into a ‘Library of Lost Causes’. Currently there are twelve with three new ones being added today – that’s three issues, not three of my book units! I have made eight so far but I may not use all of them. The ‘books’ are displayed ‘open’ and in fact do not actually close. Some individual units have taken a month to work on. The units are all the same size and on a small scale that has been selected so that the pages can be kept open, if you lay an ordinary book open on the table it will just ‘flop’ open, I’m hoping that my pages stand up. This technical problem of how to keep the pages open has been part of the vehicle for exploring the topic. I initially hoped to make this an abstract response but alas it’s had to be more representational than I hoped otherwise, the issue isn’t successfully communicated to the viewer. I have had to try to avoid a too obvious inclusion as this just leads to a really trite or clichéd response. I also kept the scale small so that I would have the chance to address as many issues as possible across the timescale I selected.

Sketchbook page

What are the materials and processes that you are working with?

I always try to use whatever I need to get my idea across. The book units are made in paper and include threads, stitch, objects trouve, or whatever allows me to focus on the idea, it’s not necessary (for me) that the piece is embroidered, although there may be a bit of that! I’m just hunting for my soluble fabric and fear I may have given it away.

Are you able to give us an idea of the scale of your pieces?

I am hoping there will be between eight and twelve book units in the piece for Stroud, for subsequent exhibitions there may be more – or less if someone buys some!

Is the finished piece to be free standing or wall mounted?

Initially I envisaged that the piece would be displayed on a plinth but after several experiments with this I have decided to have it hanging on the wall. At the moment I am hoping that each unit will have a small Perspex shelf, but that is still to be finalised.

What message do you hope the viewers of your work will take away from the exhibition?

I could have chosen some very positive environmental messages. There are instances where we have been able to reintroduce species and to rescue some landscapes but ‘Library of Lost Causes’ speaks for itself, although it could have ended with a question mark. It’s the cloud rather than the silver lining. Each page of the units is hand written and it is overwritten so that original sense is lost. The writing represents the rules/laws, research, scientific papers, news items, blogs and other debates that surround each issue. The book form, which traditionally contains writing, also provides a way of containing each disparate cause, and helps makes a link between them. My opening title ‘What fresh hell is this?’ both misquotes Dorothy Parker (who said this when answering her doorbell) and also makes a nuanced reference to my wrestling with the problems in making the work, my problems in dealing with the lack of control in using ‘chance’ as a response to DIS/rupt and the ‘bad news’ represented in each little book. On second thoughts it could make a good title for the piece! Back to work now, some winkles need polishing.

Thank you Kay. I know visitors to the exhibition will be fascinated to see how you have expressed these ideas through the books. The idea of the Library of Lost Causes is intriguing but so relevant to many aspects of contemporary environmental causes.

Information about the exhibition can be found here TSG

Information about the SIT select festival 2017 and booking details about the full range of workshops being run by TSG members during the exhibition can be found here SIT select 2017


Studio postings……

Another TSG member needing no introduction is Sian Martin who is very well known to textile enthusiasts world wide through her Distant Stitch textile courses with students as far away as Australia and New Zealand as well as closer to home. Sian is also one of the TSG tutors running workshops at Stroud while the exhibition is running, so what, I asked her, was she working on for DIS/rupt?

I have been moved by the desperate plight of refugees as they flee their homes due to war and hunger. I have long been interested in movement and journeys whether of birds, people, tides, clouds and the visual repetitive rhythms that these can suggest. A few years ago, I delighted in recording my own journeys by placing a pen on a sketchbook page and letting the pen record the vibrations of the journey, whether by bus or train.

I was also intrigued by the photographs by Eduard Muybridge and the paintings by Duchamp of figures in movement.

My piece for DIS/rupt aims to tell the story of a different journey – the long flight of one young refugee I met last year. I was so moved by his individual story. Like thousands of others, Ahmed experienced the horrors of displacement from his home when he was 15 years old. His father was a nomadic farmer in Afghanistan and the family lived in peace until Isis came and stole his two sisters. They returned to take him away and shot and killed his father when he tried to stop them. His mother told him to run as she kissed him on the cheek.

He escaped and made his way alone through Europe, meeting up with others on the same long journey to safety. Ahmed arrived in the UK after several years in the ‘Jungle’ at Calais. He is currently cared for by the Medical Foundation as part of ‘Freedom from Torture’ (Amnesty International). Ahmed was recently given a few days retreat in Somerset and I was pleased to meet him briefly. He shared his story to his host, my friend, and told her ‘I can still feel her kiss on my cheek’. Ahmed has no way of discovering what has happened to his mother.

What are the materials and processes that you are working with?

Fragments of fabric, some symbolic of the clothing worn by this young teenager such as denim, some with imagery, some with text, have been threaded into long narrow converging bands on fine stainless steel thread using a pleater.

Are you able to give us an idea of the scale of your piece?

My textile is a long, narrow textile that I hope suggests Ahmed’s long journey and will be over 4 metres.

 Is the finished piece to be free standing or wall mounted?

It will be wall-hung so you can ‘read’ the story – a long strip, reading from left to right.

What message do you hope the viewers of your work will take away from the exhibition?

I would like viewers to be moved by the plight of this individual boy to raise awareness of this huge tragedy that is happening to multitudes of others. I hope I have been able to use a visual language to tell this story, starting on the left as the story develops along the length to the right. I’ve used the language of colour as it changes – draining from the strong bright colours of a happy life to bleached and subdued; the language of texture as it changes to fabrics that become worn and frayed; the language of spacing as it changes from closely grouped to spaced, separated and scattered. Occasional elements of imagery to suggest figures and stitched text introduces portions of Ahmed’s words – ‘I can still feel her kiss on my cheek’.

You are one of the TSG tutors running workshops during the DIS/rupt exhibition, briefly, what can your students expect from the class

My workshop is called ‘Zen Stitch’. I hope this will intrigue students as it did me when I first experienced this approach. How often have you been confused by all the choices you have available – what method do you use, what colour do you choose, what shapes do you make and where do you start? See what happens when you don’t need to make those decisions and can just enjoy ‘doing’. See how it feels to be spontaneous in the middle of your busy day and experience a brief time of calm and creativity. I’m not giving any more away, but you won’t find out unless you try it.

The workshop sounds really intriguing Sian and will be of enormous interest to those who will be joining you. And what an amazing story about your piece but how wonderful to be able to put into fabric and stitch the story of this young man. I wonder if  he will be able to see how his story inspired you.

If you would like to see Sian’s work and all the other pieces for DIS/rupt and if you are interested in Sian’s or any of the TSG workshops on while the exhibition is open then look on our website at TSG

Booking for the TSG workshops and further details about the Symposium DIS/rupting Tradition:New Textile Languages: New Textile Languages featuring contributions from Alice Kettle, June Hill, Melanie Miller and Michelle Stephens can be found at SIT select 2017

Studio postings…

Penny Burnfield always produces thought provoking work and her pieces for DIS/rupt are  no exception. With this in mind I was interested to find out a little more about the work she has produced for the exhibition so asked her the area of the DIS/rupt project she was investigating or exploring.

My subject is, perhaps, the ultimate disruption: War, and in particular the disruption of the lives of young people who are manipulated or drafted into the Forces to “defend their country”

Can you tell us something about the piece you are working on for DIS/rupt?

I am making two pieces that have their starting points in a couple of well-known war poems and a first world war recruiting song. One -The Old Lie- will be a ‘coffin’ draped in a ‘flag’ that bears the inscription “Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori”. This saying – which dates back to ancient Rome – means “It is sweet and honourable to die for your country”.

The second piece – His Work is Done – consists of some ‘found’ military objects from various countries and eras on which I am embroidering phrases from the 1914 song “Your King and Country Want You”, which will be on a CD player for the viewer to listen to on headphones.

What are the materials and processes that you are working with?

Textiles play their part in war – not just as flags and uniforms, but as containers for all sorts of equipment from collapsible spades to hand grenades. I have collected some American WW2 gaiters, a water-bottle and its cover, probably Dutch, and a Soviet-era Gas Mask and its bag. All are made of military canvas in various shades of Khaki. I have also used some old sheets that belonged to my parents that I have dyed in various shades of grey to make my flag. I am working with bonded appliqué and hand-stitching: the gaiters are very tough to stitch on!

Are you able to give us an idea of the scale of your piece?

The ‘coffin’ is life size. It would fit me rather well!

Is the finished piece to be free standing or wall mounted?

The ‘coffin’ is free standing and the collection of military objects will be wall hung. I hope that, together, they will form a coherent installation.

What message do you hope the viewers of your work will take away from the exhibition?

I hope people will reflect on consequences of war, and when, if ever, war can be justified.

Thank you, Penny. In these uncertain and unsettling times it is something for all of us to consider. I know your work will resonate with the visitors to the exhibition.

Full information about the exhibition can be found here TSG and booking details and information about the workshops being run by TSG members can be found here SIT select 2017

It’s becoming more and more exciting as we near the opening of DIS/rupt and for anyone thinking of attending the symposium Disrupting Tradition: New Textile Languages  information can be found at Symposium. Speakers at this event include Alice Kettle, June Hill, Michelle Stephens and our curator for DIS/rupt, Melanie Miller. Sounds really exciting and will be stimulating.