Monday, 7 November 2016

Moving forwards

At our recent AGM - much to think about after Ann Lowe's
talk on what was needed to keep our branch viable.
Even though Banbury & District is a small branch of dedicated stitchers, with wide-ranging interests, we nevertheless do seem to be able to package many varied activities into what the Embroiderers' Guild describes as "mixed-media and textile art". We on the Committee are continually mindful that times change - as do fashions and tastes - and even with a younger membership emerging, many members are also constrained by age and/or infirmity, particularly in the winter months. 

So this year, our AGM took a somewhat different form, allowing time for members to put forward suggestions for keeping the branch viable, which has been of paramount concern for many months. Changing Committee roles will mean fresh input, and offers of help with meetings (members sharing necessary tasks) will certainly help. Being a rural group has its problems - and we must rely on everyone to spread the word as to who we are and what we do: meetings with speakers, workshops and sewing days. 

This Blog is not a 'private members only' affair, so do please forward any post to friends or acquaintances and encourage them to sample some of what we offer. And for those who are still mystified by what a 'blog' is: an abbreviated form of 'weblog' originating in the 1990s, it is digital version of a newspaper or newsletter (without the constraints of 'copy-fitting') and with the huge advantage that links to external websites or other online information can be provided for readers at the click of a button - or rather mouse.

MOVING ON: Autumn activities have been fascinating, with members kindly providing outlines of what we have enjoyed. So even this blog has a communal slant.

Watching the secrets of 'Folding Boxes'
(image courtesy Caroline Walker
Of our September workshop, Clare Boomer wrote: "Well, there was an 18-month delay between Ruth Smith’s talk and her workshop ‘Folded Secrets’, but it was well worth the wait! Ruth brought with her some of her amazing collection of ‘Zhen Xian Bao’, folded paper pockets made and used by the women of some minority peoples in China to store their embroidery threads and work in progress.

Chris Walker demonstrates the basic folded box structure
(image courtesy Carolyn Walker)
Having cut our paper to size first it wasn’t long before we were marking, folding, and gluing according to Ruth’s instructions. We learnt that the women in China can achieve perfect-looking cubes and folds without the benefit of rulers, setsquares or even glue, instead using a starchy rhizome to create a bond. Pritt Stick was slightly easier to come by and worked well for us!
Once we had constructed several foldable trays, Ruth showed us the basic twisted cube, which miraculously pops out when the paper is coaxed in the right way. This provided the perfect base for decoration using paints, gel pens or paper cuts. The finished item could be used on a card or as a gift, for storing seeds, CDs, or other small flat items. I suspect there will be several workshop attendees who now share Ruth’s obsession for these beautiful yet functional items!" Editor's note: Clare has written many items for both this Blog and our e-newsletters but unfortunately our meetings now clash with her other activities. We wish her all the very best.
Yvonne Brown's work took one's breath away.
Hard on the heels of 'Folded Secrets' (have you completed your project yet?) came a fascinating evening talk - no title - outlined for us by Rose Kirkaldie: "Yvonne Brown is one of life's over achievers, like Napoleon. She does not have an army, just two sewing machines. But the imagination and superb quality of her work was there for all to see.  
More inspiration.
The volume of her work was immense!  Her natural pace is fast forward, as practice makes perfect - always several practice samples.   But  nothing succeeds like sucess.  Secure in the knowledge that she has mastered a technique, Yvonne goes on to create variations on a theme, through colour and textile differences.  Each change made a  quality stand out.  All a bit over-powering, as a more modest stitcher, but a pleasure and inspiration to see Yvonne's work, that of a true textile artist." 

Editor's note: I discovered that Yvonne focussed particularly on medieval floor tiles as an inspiration, and that I had a book of hers to which I have referred many times in my personal work. A new edition has been recently published, available at a reduced price by clicking this link.

'Top Table' at the Regional AGM - new regional committee
had much to discuss
Testing the water: In preparation for our own AGM, our Chair Ann Lowe (with three of us in support) decided it would be useful to attend the regional AGM in Newbury, which occurred a couple of weeks before our own branch event. The reason? We are not the only branch struggling to maintain numbers, and find sufficient members to serve on a committee and thus keep our group 'legal'. It was sad to learn of branches closing, others struggling - and evidently this phenomena does not apply solely to the Embroiderers' Guild but to many other hobbies and activities. It was nevertheless a marvellous day, and as ever good to meet with creative people from far and wide.

SEWING DAYS: Support for these relaxing days (four hours including our own picnic lunch) fluctuates - not always the same people - and there's no obligation to attend. They offer such a marvellous opportunity to get to know each other, catch up on our own personal projects, or work on a Branch challenge; and even swap information on techniques. The last couple of sessions have revealed some interesting work.

Hannah stitching a 'sewing day' project, though not the
one she describes - just in case .....
Hannah Parrish (a regular attender) wrote: "I am working on a project as a wedding gift – so it is all a bit secret but I can share with you fellow stitchers; the recipient doesn’t know one end of a needle from another so won’t be likely to stumble on this.  I spent the morning creating ivy to climb the end wall of the barn, using dissolvable fabric held in a sprung embroidery ring. I used brown free machine embroidery stitching to form the vines and then changed to a dark green thread to work small leaves on the vine.  Once completed I washed the stabiliser away and dried the ivy, once dry I couched the ivy into place.   I discovered this dissolvable material while speaking to another branch member at another stitch day, it is a great way to share ideas, gain inspiration and learn from others about techniques and products to add another level to your stitch!" Editor's note: this image shows Hannah busy at work on another project and not the wedding gift she describes. She is a most prolific sewer. 

Work in progress - stimulated by Margaret Wilmore's
Norfolk adventure at Cas Holmes' workshop.
Margaret Wilmore arrived with a folder of pieces she had just created at a two-day workshop with Cas Holmes in Norfolk. Using a variety of techniques, magazine images were turned into 'cloth' by lightly rubbing them with baby oil! Some had the appearance of fragile lace. All were absolutely beautiful. She spent the BDEG Sewing Day assembling what will become a stitched panel when it is finished. For anyone wanting to explore the varying techniques, take a look at pages 37-39 of 'The Found Object in Textile Art' by Cas Holmes (Batsford, 2010).

Ann's work in progress - only the motif bottom right has been
stitched so it dissolves into the background.
Ann Somerset Miles started a piece entitled 'Autumn Glory' - stitched paper collage, also using digitally manipulated magazine images, adapting a technique she developed for producing a series of five A4 framed panels for an exhibition at an art gallery in West Yorkshire. For this Autumn panel, a background image (two in this case) formed the 'stage' upon which other autumn-related collage motifs were superimposed. The scans were made at high-resolution, added to an A4 frame (size-constraint removed), then printed on 45gsm Daler Rowney artists' layout paper. Once dry, a momogami technique was used to scrumple the paper, then fusible web was used to apply the print to a muslin oversize base. The motifs were scanned, resized/proportioned and printed on a single A4 45gsm sheet before applying fusible web to the whole sheet. A scalpel was used to cut the motifs and, after applying to the background, each will be stitched into place so that they appear to dissolve into the hedgerow.

(permission obtained to
publish this photo)
The Young Ones: oh how marvellous it was to watch Issy and Netty produce their halloween pieces. Each had planned their design and knew exactly what they wanted to achieve. Both were already (age nine) proficient with the use of a sewing machine, and it was joyous to see the concentration on their faces as they drew, cut and stitched. Issy completed her project (pictured), Netty suddenly realised that pre-planning what had to be sewn under something else could cause difficulties if not considered in advance. Something we can all neglect.
Well done Issy!

Even Northern Rail are spreading the word!
Inspiration is all around us: no matter what our individual speciality is relating to stitch and mixed media creativity, I am sure we each have an individual method (or methods) for recording ideas, techniques, experiments and anything else about which we are passionate when it comes to embroidery. A small satchel is useful with notebook, pen/pencil, small paintbox and water-brush, and even a mini sewing kit. For spur of the moment recording, what better than a digital camera - or, easier still - a smartphone or iPhone? Either are perfect for step-by-step photos of work in progress, spur-of-the moment quick snapshots, or closeups of ephemera that can become the basis of many a stitched project: stones on a beach, a rough sea, lights reflected in a wet pavement, still-life flowers or fruit, a stormy sky; whatever grabs your fancy. It would seem that spreading the word is not a solitary affair, either, as demonstrated by the image above, which could not have been captured by your Blog Editor had she not had her iPhone in her hand when waiting for a train in Manchester recently. As it pulled into the station, she realised that in her hand was not so much a phone, more an on-the-spot tool for preserving the unexpected.