Allen Jones doesn’t know what’s happening* – the women Pop artists do!

This is a new blog from a good friend of mine, an art historian from UWE. I know her posts are going to be well-informed as well as fascinating, and would encourage you to have a look.

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Latest Laura Ashley panel

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I have started doing some work with Laura Ashley fabric again.  This time there is no rush.  It’s not for an exhibition or a conference paper, so I can take as long as I like.

It started with one of the fents – or waste trimmings from the manufacturing process, and then I added some extra elements which I bought from one of the traders at the exhibition in Malvern that I went to a couple of weeks ago.  Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the trader.  Much as I would love to say that I dyed the lace myself, I bought it, and it went instantly and magically with the Laura Ashley floral – which is the dark green fabric.

I laid out all the elements, but in the course of sewing everything shifted a bit and I ended up with a different arrangement in the end.  Here are the initial layouts with the Madeira Lana thread that I intended to use to do the stitching:

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This is what it looked like at the end:

 

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I bought the buttons in the summer in a great shop in Utrecht (which is every bit as nice as Amsterdam but without the museums – and the crowds and the frantic-ness).  They are big, but I thought they worked.

The piece really came together, though, when I realised that it was basically a variation on a Victorian crazy quilt.  So I did a lot of embroidery on it, including herringbone stitch, which I consider to be one of the most relaxing things in the world to do:

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While I was poking around the internet looking at pictures of crazy quilts and fancy embroidery stitches, I found some sage advice about not bothering whether the embroidery is absolutely perfect because it reflects your energy at the point at which you were doing it.  I rather like this.  My slightly wonky herringbone is a bit like my signature and the opposite of mass made.  There isn’t any machine stitching on this one, it is all done by hand.  And, as with a lot of my work, it seemed to come to life when I started to stitch on some beads:

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The big pearl beads are stuck on as they must have come from a necklace which was taken to pieces at some point.  This makes the piece a bit fragile, but I think the sparkle justifies it.

The netting, by the way, always suggests textile conservation to me, as professional restorers often use it patch up very fragile pieces of cloth, so this fits into my theme of conservation and preserving the past.

I really enjoyed making this piece and it has spurred me on to make some more panels and to produce a large piece about the importance of nostalgia in the brand.

Swapsies

Am I the only person not to have found this blog? If you are a quilter it is a really brilliant resource – a kind of encyclopedia of just useful things. Fantastic.

What I did this weekend

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I spent the weekend at my mother’s, and decided to go up into the loft to see if I could find my old Barbie dolls.  They seem to have disappeared without trace for the time being, but I did find a little cache of fabric from the fifties and sixties as well as some pieces of Laura Ashley fabric.  I love these prints.  They would have been better if I had ironed them, but perfection, as we know, is the enemy of getting things done.

First, this pretty print which is slightly different in the blue and the pink:

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And on the charming folkloric theme, I found one tiny piece of this print featuring a folk art type horse:

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Then there were some great fifties style florals:

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And a happy sixties-looking version, which is a great design for sunflowers:

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And this lovely print which I think might have been curtains:

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Then some very bold prints which have a very modern feel to me:

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As well as a quintessential vintage:

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And finally, a really stunning photo print which could have been made earlier today:

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Not quite sure what that waffle thing is in the background, but the glassy cherries are irresistible, as is the blueprint quality.

And very lastly, a large chunk of one of my very favourite dresses when I was a teenager:

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I can’t wait to see what this lot end up in, and I will keep you posted.

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Modern medals

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A couple of years ago my mother gave me a book she had bought because it was so beautifully produced, but which turned out to be totally useless.  It’s called ‘French General Treasured Notions: Inspirations and Craft Projects Using Vintage Beads, Buttons, Ribbons and Trim from Tinsel Trading Company.’  Snappy, non?  Its author is Kaari Meng and it was published in 2010 by Chronicle Books in San Francisco.

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Mum bought it, I think, because the photos are absolutely sumptuous and enticing:

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The above photos are mood boards or inspiration boards for Meng’s projects and I absolutely love them.  The problem is that the projects all require antique haberdashery: the buttons, beads, ribbons and trims of the title.  Plus, they are not particularly desirable objects when you finish.

But for some reason I got the book off the shelf last weekend, and found the little medals.  I thought that they would be the ideal thing to give to people who had helped me on the recent Thinking Futures day.  So on Sunday afternoon I made some of my own but with a much more contemporary twist.

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I was really interested to see just how much better they looked mounted on the cards.  They could be framed, and they have brooch pins on the backs so they can be worn.  This final one was made for a really good friend of mine who recently got his PhD after 22 years.  I thought he deserved a medal:

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So far the recipients have loved them, and they are a good thing to have in the repertoire for gifts for people that you want to give special thanks to.  I have just ordered a bunch of 1950s ombre ribbon from Etsy, because I am hoping to have occasion to give out a whole bunch of medals in the future.

 

Mr Finch

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Finally, finally, finally my copy of Mr Finch’s book has arrived.  I made a cup of good coffee and sat down to read it.  That isn’t my hand, by the way, the picture is from his Facebook gallery.

Mr Finch is a textile artist/man who sews/sculptor.  He makes wonderful creatures from old and recycled textiles.  I was made aware of him by the wonderful Jemima Lumley and started following him on Facebook.  I love the way that his work is unnerving – Unheimlich, as sociologists and psychologists might say, and very beautiful at the same time.  He seems very happy to make images available so here are some pictures:

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I would love one of his foxes in masks or butterflies made from old embroidered tray cloths.  His work with its detail and delicacy makes everything I do look clunky and gauche, but it is still really inspirational.  It’s worth looking at his website: www.mr-finch.com, and his facebook page.

He currently has an exhibition in Anthropologie on the King’s Road, which I hope to get to see before Christmas.

The book is a great treat, beautifully produced, glorious photos and clearly made with love.  Mr Finch: Living in a Fairy Tale World, 2014, published by Glitterati.  Exquisite.

 

 

 

 

Gelli-printed notebooks

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As part of the Thinking Futures day on 5 November 2014, I made participants a little notebook to write things down from the academic talks in the morning.  I made very simple pamphlet books with stitched covers.

I made the covers using a gelli plate, which is a way of monoprinting.  I really love the gelli plate.  It’s a clear sheet of jelly, about a centimetre thick, and it can be used over and over again.  It’s very easy to use.  I brayer on some fluid acrylic and then pull the print.  You get the customary veined effect if you use the paint fairly generously:

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Sometimes I just use paint rollered onto the plate:

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Or use them to stencil onto:

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Or stamp and use embossing powder:

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Or you can great effects with plastic stencils used as a mask:

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The last one uses sequin waste as a mask.

If you take a print after lifting off the stencil you can get really nice embossed effects:

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Seriously easy, and although the plates aren’t cheap, it is very straightforward to get excellent results.  My next step is to try it out on fabric.

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What I did at the weekend

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If you read my previous post you will know that I have had a very busy time recently.  So this weekend, although I have a head buzzing with Laura Ashley ideas which need making, I found myself making small scale old school patchwork.  I made two dolls quilt size pieces.  I suddenly had the urge to do some very small, simple, self-contained bits of sewing.  They were made with the tiny leftovers from the squares I cut for the quilting bee last week, and which I couldn’t bear to throw away.  The fabric came from Flo-Jo Boutique on Gloucester Road, very kindly donated for our premature babies quilts.

The first piece is a sort of crazy quilt, just laying down the pieces in a more or less random way:

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Then adding some machine embroidery with variegated thread, and some hand stitching with embroidery floss.  The machine embroidery was done on the cheapo IKEA machine which is great, except that it has a massive take up of thread for its first stitch which means the needle comes unthreaded repeatedly and is a bit irritating after a while.  Otherwise it is brilliant, and I used it throughout to make the two pieces, except for putting on the binding where I wanted the 1/4″ foot on the Bernina.  The Bernina, incidentally was playing up and snapping threads.  I gave it a good clean with a stiff brush and removed a mountain of fluff, so let’s hope that fixed it.

Here’s the embroidery on the first piece again:

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The second piece is a variation on the old strippy quilts and I thought I might do some embroidery on the strips, but in the end, just plain in the ditch quilting seemed to work fine:

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Nice stitch on the IKEA machine.  This is the back which I pieced from a remnant I bought and which was exactly the width of the front – meaning I needed to add a bit to make sure it fitted.  Somehow, despite adding a good inch it was still the exact width of the quilt.  Strange:

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I have always liked those pieced backs, and this is about the size I can cope with.

I really loved stitching on the binding as the cotton fabric is so lovely and so crisp to work with.  It had a very soothing effect.  I was talking to some friends about why we quilt and they talked quite a lot about its bringing order and giving a sense of control.  Clearing up the scraps and making them into something and then actually finishing them did act as a restorative, I think, after a very busy week.

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Public engagement – Thinking Futures Workshop and Glamorgan Quilters

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It has been one of the busiest two weeks of my life, which is why I haven’t posted anything recently.  First my lovely PhD student, Zara, had her viva.  Although this is her oral exam on her thesis, I was quietly nervous as there is no way of predicting what questions will come up.  I had prepared her as well as I could with my colleague, Mary, but there is still unpredictability involved.  In the event she sailed through it and the examiners loved her work.  I am delighted for her.

Then, the following day, I went and gave a talk to the Glamorgan Quilters.  They are a lovely group and a delight to talk to.  One of them gave me some tiny scraps of Laura Ashley fabric which I don’t have in my collection and which I intend to do something with.  Another member brought this lovely bag to show me:

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I love everything about this bag.  The piece is like a time capsule of what we were doing in the 70s and 80s and the handles are just delightful as is the quilter who brought it along.

After the talk I went into Cowbridge with one of my colleagues, Sheena, who had come along to support me.  She took me to a sort of indoor antiques/vintage market with a tea room on the side.  I got a packet of Laura Ashley prints, and somehow managed to spend £17 without blinking.  We had a great time.  Cowbridge is the place to go for swanky dress and shoe shops, by the way.  I got off lightly in retrospect with my £17.

Wednesday was my Thinking Futures Day.  This is part of a ten-day-long programme of events put on by the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law in which we try to reach people who wouldn’t normally come into the University to hear about our research.  I did a workshop on patchwork and quilting and the contribution that quilters make to the fabric of our culture and society.  I held it at the Friends Meeting House where Bristol Quilters meets, and we had two wonderful speakers, Harriet Shortt from UWE, and Jenny Hall from Bournemouth University.  They were both great, speaking very passionately about their work.  I talked a bit about the academic study of patchwork and quilting, and gave an update on my Laura Ashley research.  I notice there are a lot of ‘I’s and ‘me’s’ in that paragraph, but really it was a communal day.

I really wanted it to be a bit of a party for Bristol Quilters, to celebrate their contribution to society, as well as to my research.  So, we, my Grate Frend Ceri, and I tried to add some little touches to make it feel like a series of small treats as well as an educational day.  Ceri made these wonderful biscuits:

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The stamp set comes from Lakeland.  These were a great hit.  I made parkin, which I always associate with Bonfire Night which is when we held the workshop.  Alison, Stephanie and Ceri contributed homemade cakes and biscuits and traybakes for afternoon tea.   Ceri and I had already had an afternoon making posies for the table, and in the process realising that a second career as florists was probably not for us:

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This is the pile of things I had to take in for the day:

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We were aiming for amplitude and generosity:

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As well as cake and sandwiches, there were notebooks for taking notes in the morning, and cards with vintage fabric and needles ready-threaded in the afternoon.  I’ll post some pictures of those separately.  There was also fabric very kindly donated by Flo-Jo in Bristol in the afternoon for our sewing bee:

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People worked on a variety of things, but the most popular were the little coverlets for the premature babies unit in Southmead Hospital in Bristol.  These are 16″x20″ unwadded patchworks which we donate to the unit.  The mothers get to keep the quilts no matter what the outcome, and there is always a demand for a steady stream of replacement quilts.  They are exactly the right size for a group project like this.  Although I think only one top was finished completely, Ruth Case, one of the Bristol Quilters, very generously volunteered for finishing duty.

Here are some more images from the day:

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And here is my friend Beatriz talking to Eva, the organiser:

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I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked of the speakers because I was too busy listening, but here is the marvellous Jenny  and her quilt:

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And I didn’t have my camera when Harriet was speaking so this is a photograph of a doll that her mother made of her in her wedding dress that she brought to show us:

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Finally, I spend a lot of time trying to find writers who have something sensible and useful to say about leadership.  There isn’t much out there, I think, that isn’t about people desperate to justify wanting to be in charge.  They should hang their heads in shame and come and look at the self-managing teams which effortlessly formed, performed and disbanded throughout the day, without my having to ask, to make sure that everything went smoothly.  Not least of these were the tea and coffee makers and the washers-up, real unsung heroic examples of distributed leadership.  Thanks to all of them:

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