Happy New Year from Ann Rippin, Academic Quilter

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to get this blog going.  So, I thought I would start with an update on the Body Shop quilt.

I hung up the BSI quilt before Christmas just to have it up for a bit and to live with it.  I can’t see the bottom of it, so I am only living with the top half really.  I immediately began to see flaws in it.  Immediately.  I need to get some DAS and start making some figures ‘from early Europe’ to paint gold.  It needs some big showy pieces which I might wrap with threads or wire or beads or sim.  Just surprised how the gaps showed up instantly.  There are quite large bits of fabric which need focal points.

I have made a male figure, because there is so much male energy in the quilt.  When I saw the male figure in the exhibition in the Ashmolean I was very taken with it.  I thought it was really sexy, which is not a word I use that often.  Sitting here thinking about it now, it strikes me as an example of what we used to rail against in the seventies: the dismembering of women into their sexual parts rather than portraying them as whole women and whole human beings.  My lovely little figurine is full of sex and life, but it is just the torso, the bare minimum of a man you need for sex.  Rather weird.  But he is lovely.  I might make another one to paint.

Ann Rippin's rendering in DAS modelling clay of an Early Europe Figure.

Ann Rippin's DAS Early Europe figure

I saw these little figures when I went to a fantastic exhibition at the newly refurbished Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in the summer.  I had a lovely time there making sketches, which I always enjoy.  This one is the inspiration behind the figure above.

I might spray him gold or I might paint him.  Either way, I know where I am going to position him.  I have some other female figures which I am going to include as well.  I really loved making them, and I can see why people made them even if they have no ritual significance at all.  There is something about the fact that they are so small and sit in the hand so beautifully.  Douglass Bailey writes about this in his essay in the catalogue to the Ashmolean exhibition

Bayley, Douglass, W. (2010) ‘The Figurines of Old Europe’, in David W. Anthony The Lost World of Old Europe: The Danube Valley, 5000-3500 BC , New York and Princeton: Institute for the Study of Ancient World: 113-127.


Quilting meets critical theory

Edge of Body Shop panel

Edge of the Body Shop panel showing raw edge binding with beading.

I have spent a happy summer getting to know the work of Walter Benjamin on the impact of technology on art.  I started to read Benjamin properly and thoroughly and in a sustained way because of my work on my EdD at Bristol and the unit on visual inquiry.  Simple start but it knocked me sideways.

I will no doubt come back to this theme as it has quietly and not so quietly obsessed me for weeks. But one of the things that I love about Benjamin is the way he understood the implications of new technology in a way that can be applied to technologies that did not exist when he wrote.  He didn’t predict them, but he could see where things were going and their logical developments.  So I think he would have been fascinated and delighted with iPhones for example.

There is one tiny little bit in his best-known essay, ‘Art in the Art of (its) Mechanical Reproduction’ which he wrote in the 1930s, where he comments on the impact on the artist of seeing his/her work in close-up.  He was absolutely right.  When I see my work in close-up I see something quite new and different.  It takes on sculptural qualities.  I made it, but it is strange to me.  I was totally delighted the first time I took a close-up picture of it.  I could see every stitch and every fibre of many stitches.  It must have been looking down the microscope for the first time and seeing microscopic organisms.  It changed my relationship with my work, and made me a viewer as well as a maker.  Really fascinating.  And Benjamin saw that coming.

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Introduction to my blog

It feels a bit odd starting a blog.  I’m not sure that I have that much to say to the world, but I have been asked by friends and colleagues to start a blog to let people know what I am doing with my quilts.  So here goes.  I have finished my major piece on the Body Shop, and I will find a photo of it, although I only have dodgy snaps.  I am now starting work on a quilt about Laura Ashley and making some portraits, which is a big new departure for me.  I will put up pictures of those as I go along.

Final panel of the Body Shop quilt 2009-2010

This is the final panel of my Body Shop quilt and it seemed faintly appropriate to start with it.  It was made to fit the gap created by putting all the other panels together and I was amazed that it would lie flat.  Assembling the quilt called for some ingenuity and it is enormous and very heavy so I have deliberately made it so that it will come to pieces.  I might let the panels go separately, but at the moment I couldn’t bear to split it up.