Her quick observational sketches are trasformed to textiles using her sewing machine as a mark making tool.
|Sutton Coldfield Creative Stitchers||
Dionne Swift's Zoom lecture, Establishing a Rhythm, was a lovely introduction into Dionne's artistic practice. She explained how her local Yorkshire countryside inspires her vibrant energetic work.
Her quick observational sketches are trasformed to textiles using her sewing machine as a mark making tool.
Saturday's workshop was fun and enlightening from start to finish. Dionne taught us how to use an holiday photograph to create a beautiful machine stitched image. Her advice and knowledge of sewing machines, threads, fabrics, hoops and sewing room practices were invaluable.
My journey into creative textiles began in September 2014 when I enrolled on a course with textile artist Kim Thittichai. I had a teaching and art background but my only sewing experience was making some clothes as a student and having a nasty, scary needlework teacher at school who convinced me that I was hopeless with any form of sharp implement.
I’d first come across Kim at a DT show at the NEC where she was happily shrivelling up tyvek and layering painted Bondaweb. I bought one of her books and decided I had to get in on the act. Her ‘Experimental Textiles’ course was run at The Inkberrow Design Centre in Redditch. My husband looked at the things I brought home and referred to it as ‘Extreme Textiles’ instead, which wasn’t entirely inappropriate. I loved it! We met one weekend a month and it was huge fun learning new techniques and using different materials. It didn’t matter that I only knew how to do a running stitch as the emphasis was on ‘play’ and ‘design through process’. I began to see stitches as a form of mark making.
I also met some talented, creative women on the course. We finished in March 2015 with an exhibition at the NEC at a textile show which was great experience in itself. However four of us decided we didn’t want this to end and formed our own textile group. We booked a space at the NEC show the following March. Kim kindly took us on as an ExEx Tex group and tutored us for the next year too.
We initially called ourselves Kinetex and came up with a theme of ‘Elements’ for our first exhibition. We like to have a shared theme as it helps focus us and although we all work in different ways it gives an exhibition a sense of unity.
So we had fire, air, land and water and each took one element. I had land. I made large silk bowls and textural hangings that were reminiscent of aerial photos.
It was nerve wracking at first. Just physically setting out and putting up the pieces was a steep learning curve. The exhibition went really well though and those people who came and talked to us seemed to like it. For me, talking to complete strangers about the work was difficult initially but now I really enjoy it.
Since then, we have exhibited once or twice every year ( until COVID came along) at large textile shows at the NEC, Bristol, Leicester and Uttoxeter. We want to branch out more and are hoping to show in the spring at Art Yard in Cradley Heath although that depends on lockdown.
The numbers in our group have varied as we’ve acquired and lost members over time. We also changed our name are now called ‘On The Surface’. We always have 3D and 2D pieces and our work is quite art based. We currently have eight talented and diverse members some of whom are in other groups too including Out of Line, Prism, Meniscus and Midlands Textile Forum as-well as exhibiting in their own right. At the moment we are not on social media, it’s something we know we need to tackle. We did have a website but were hopeless at updating it.
Currently, three of us are working our way through City and Guilds, two have completed Art foundation courses. Catherine Howard went on to enrol on an MA and she’s now doing a PhD in her 60s ! I’m also a member of the Society For Embroidered Work.
What began as an exciting, non- traditional textile course has led to so many further opportunities; forming an exhibiting group, developing our individual creative practices, gaining further qualifications and giving us a supportive network of great friends.
In February we were joined via Zoom by Zoe Hillyard.
Zoe is a lecturer of textiles at Birmingham City University, but also has her own artistic practice.
Zoe re-builds broken pottery and vases by covering the pieces with silk fabric and stitching them together again.
Zoe's beautiful works have been focused in many home decoration magazines and exhibited widely, including the Saatchi Gallery.
Warwickshire Open Studios
In 2014 I applied online to take part in Warwickshire Open Studios and one of the organisers, Jo, invited me to share her studios near Bedworth. I started a visitors’ book and asked people to leave their details if they were interested in taking part in a workshop and I held a workshop the following autumn and did not need to advertise it as I filled all the spaces from my book.
It was quite a blow not to be invited back the following year, but as I learned, most artists like new faces to show their work with. Jo introduced me to Dawn, who at that time ran Ragley Studios. I was shocked to experience some hostility from the full-time professional artists there. However once they realised that I was paying the same weekly rent as they were (for much less space!) there was a definite warming of the atmosphere and we got on extremely well after that!
In following years I have teamed up with contacts nearer to home and shown my work in their homes.
* meeting other artists and widening my circle of contacts
* being accepted by “proper” artists
* learning to discuss my work with visitors
* my visitors’ book - looking back at all the positive comments cheers me up
* having fun!
* there are always people who say, “oh no, it’s textiles”, and veer away in horror.
* other artists can be unfriendly at first - take cake and offer to make the tea.
* it is quite an expensive process - there is a fee to join WOS, a fee to appear in the glossy brochure and often more printing expenses charged by the individual venue. I have sold work but never made a profit - yet!
* I had taken unfinished pieces of work as a conversation starter or to illustrate ideas and ended up selling most of them, against my better judgement. I still regret this and would strongly advise against doing this.
Apologies! It has just occurred to me that there was no report for the Angie Hughes workshop in January.
Angie was as professional as ever. Her Zoom workshop ran smoothly, using a combination of live, and pre-recorded videos to demonstrate her process.
Throughout the day we used found items to imprint textures into heat formable blue blocks to create our own individual and 'one-of-a-kind' print blocks.
We used the blocks to print and overprint with acrylic paints, and experimenting with foils and masks to create a collection of unique fabrics to use in future textile projects.
In January, Maria Wigley joined us on Zoom for a live talk about her textile practice, her techniques and influences. We were able to get a glimpse of her lovely home studio, and a quick video demonstration of her working processes using watercolour paints and machine stitched asemic text.
My Experiences in Exhibiting
20 or more years ago Daphne Gick, (whom some of you will remember) and I signed up for the new Embroiderers’ Development Scheme – designed to help members who had taken C&G or similar and wanted to move on.
This involved getting together within a group periodically for discussions and guidance. We were with Sarah Burgess, who emphasised the need for us to “get out there” and promote/raise the profile of, embroidery/textiles to a wider audience and alongside other art forms. It’s always fascinating when we have our Stitchers’ exhibitions, to chat to people and discover how so many of the public value the opportunity to see what all our members can produce.
We discussed preparing a CV, and an artist statement initially. Then we discussed planning towards being able to give a talk, run a workshop and organise an exhibition.
I gave talks to some of the EG branches. At the time only slides were available to show work, but every talk I attended seemed to involve some calamity – the branch did not have compatible equipment, or the slides were in a carousel and not a ‘box’, or while they were being sorted they all dropped on the floor ! So I decided to keep my talk short, hold up larger pieces, then allow time for the members to come and have a look at the exhibits and discuss. My daughter has now prepared a Powerpoint presentation which can be shown from her laptop, so I have used that more recently.
Workshops are welcomed at most branches, so lovely to have an eager group of ladies all wanting to get good results – that was the main difference from teaching teenagers! and such a rewarding experience. Some of you came to my Or Nue workshop.
Daphne and I had not until then exhibited very much anywhere other than with the EG, so we decided to approach Middleton Hall. They had a lovely beamed ceiling gallery, but were only open at weekends, so visitors were limited. We had a rota of planned workshops too. However, it did give us valuable experience in recognising how much planning and forethought needed to go into preparing for an event on our own, advertising it etc.and we enjoyed chatting to the visitors. Daphne had even managed to get an article about us published in the local freely circulated magazine called Select.
I found it beneficial to join the local Art societies – Sutton and Lichfield. These offer the opportunity to exhibit twice a year and offer talks/demonstrations on painting and related subjects. We all need to use these skills when preparing pieces of work and I have found the demonstrations really helpful. The Societies often arrange visits to museums and exhibitions in London and elsewhere too. There aren’t enough stitchers in either of these groups!! and more would be most welcome.
Exhibiting anywhere often brings unexpected benefits – such as being asked to join another exhibiting group. This has happened to me several times – in particular being approached by members to join the Birmingham Art Circle, and RBSA. Following on from the latter, a member asked me to be joint exhibitor with another member in Bewdley in 2018 – showing some of my canal pictures and a new range of water reflections. Then, locally, there has been the Sutton Art Trail – which should have taken place again in June this year. This involves about 30 artists exhibiting in around 10 different venues for a Sat/Sun in June. Hopefully this will go ahead in 2021.
Most members will be aware of Tangent Textiles, some members of whom also belong to Stitchers. Membership is limited to 8 and we aim not only to plan exhibitions, but also to regularly show work in progress and offer this for critical appraisal.
I think we all benefit and are encouraged from seeing the work of artists in other art forms – and in trying out ideas. So the sketch books we had at the beginning of the lockdown have been very helpful. I have to say I would not have thought of choosing some of the subjects, but having the time, I had a go and have found I could easily go off in another direction!
2020 is the year when my diary had more Tippex than ink. All the group meeting and courses cancelled, what to do with myself?
I initially collected all my UFOs and WIPs and got going on them. Pieces got finished, mounted, framed.
I also took the plunge into purchasing a Judit Pócs video tutorial to make a hat. Not just any old hat, something of a statement hat.
This turned out to be an excellent idea as I could do as much or as little as I was able every day. In all it took me about two weeks to complete, and is felted with the inclusions of sequin material for the decoration.
It was an advanced level of work but being able to access the videos when I wanted/needed and to be able to stop/start and rewind made taking on this huge project attainable.
Since then Zoom workshops have been done with great success, but I am still looking forward to doing workshops in a room with others.
At our December meeting we welcomed Steffi Stern from The Makerss. Steffi presented a mini workshop via Zoom, and participants made a cute little needle-felted Christmas gnome, from Nordic folklore, called a Tomte.
The meeting was very quiet as we all sat industriously stabbing away at our felt. A few fingers were pricked along the way, but a good time was had by all, and at the end of the evening there were 26 mischievous little Tomtes, complete with curly beards and pointy red hats!
Jessica Grady joined us on Thursday 5th November to talk to us about her work, and the fascinating journey she had taken to evolve into the renowned textile artist that she is today, exhibiting across the world.
We were therefore very excited to be joining her the following Saturday for our first ever Zoom workshop.
What a huge success!
We all had such a lovely time learning how to recycle everyday items and waste, into beautiful embellishments that were arranged and stitched to create beautiful floral explosions of colour.
Jessica has a website where you can purchase online pdf workbooks and kits, you can also keep in touch with exhibitions and events that she is taking part in. Jessica also offers Zoom workshops and has an online shop where you can buy her work.