Instead of the summer picnic that we had for our August meeting in the last two years, this year we decided to have a catered ‘posh tea’ instead. This turned out to be a stroke of luck, given the wind and rain that afternoon. Thankfully we weren’t holding on to gazebos that were trying to take off into the field! Valerie kindly organised the caterer, as well as finishing touches such as floral tea cups and table-cloths. Thanks to Margaret for providing floral table-decorations (despite the fact that she was on her way to catch a flight). We were treated to scones with jam and cream, a selection of sandwiches, several different cakes, and strawberries and cream. Naughty but nice! There was a little bit of stitching before tea was served, but when sticky things appeared the sewing was mainly put away. Here are a selection of photos of us stitching beforehand, and then enjoying the feast. If anyone is looking for a cake-maker or caterer, she is Janet Spoor at ‘Janet’s celebration Cakes and Catering’.
Members enjoyed a fascinating and stimulating talk by textile artist Esther Collins at our June meeting. Esther is a local artist whose work is influenced by her interests in the History of Art, and also by her previous work in graphic design. Design influences include the natural environment, walking in the South Downs and local history.
I was so disappointed to miss Esther’s talk, and feedback from members has been very enthusiastic. Sadly I can’t add my own reflections on the talk as I usually do, but the talk generated appreciative comments from members, a couple of which I’ll add here: ‘I loved the leaf brooches and was inspired by the use of gold leaf in her decoupage work’ and ‘Esther produces beautiful work combining stitch, textiles and mixed media. I’ve never met any artist that gets inspiration from dustbin lids and cabbage leaves and then goes onto produce stunning pieces of creative work’. I’ll leave you with some images of Esther’s work taken by Maria Griggs and Margaret Borbone (thank you). Esther’s work can speak for itself! If you would like to see more of Esther’s work, and the courses she runs, you can go to her website at https://www.esthercollins.co.uk/
Thank you to Amanda Duke for an interesting and entertaining talk at our January meeting. Amanda was an art teacher for many years and was head of art at Steyning Grammar School. The focus of her talk was debunking the claim by George Bernard Shaw that ‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach’. During her talk, Amanda spoke about the transition from teacher to full-time artist, and the process of building confidence in both. Amanda spoke about how fortunate she felt to have good art teaching herself as a student, and how passionate she feels about passing this on. There are quite a few teachers in our group, so there were many nodding heads as Amanda talked.
Amanda talked us through her lifetime of ‘Art Doing’ and ‘Art Teaching’. Starting with a fine art training, becoming a teacher for 36 years including being head of art; and only fairly recently (the last few years) becoming a full-time artist. Her practice has mainly been in fine art and collage, and it is mainly the last five years or so that she has become a textile artist. It was surprising (and strangely reassuring) to hear Amanda talk about Imposter Syndrome as an artist in her own right. This isn’t something that you expect to hear from someone who is art college trained, taught art for 36 years, produces such amazing work, has won a prize at the Festival of Quilts, been an exhibitor with different prestigious exhibiting groups, set up and run two large exhibitions at the FOG and other achievements. If someone feels this despite having such clearly established professional art credentials, then there is hope for the rest of us! In fact that was one of the main themes of Amanda’s talk – how to find the courage to just get on and do it, take a risk, and ‘put yourself out there’.
Stitched textiles are a relatively new departure for Amanda, whose main interests until a few years ago had been in fine art, and paper collage. An interest in stitch and quilting began to develop when she facilitated the Steyning Grammar School Heritage Quilts. This was a project that was supported by a Heritage Lottery grant, and was a community project that brought in 500 local people of all ages. It led to setting up the ‘Steyning So and Sews’, when the group had enjoyed themselves so much that they didn’t want to stop when the project was completed.
In 2014 Amanda went part-time at school and started teaching adults too. Over the last four or five years, Amanda has been increasingly drawn to fabric and stitch. Like many SCS members she did a course with Wendy Dolan, which gave her the skills to machine-embroider over her fabric collages. Being Artist in Residence at Sussex Prairie Gardens in 2017 encouraged her to think big, and she was inspired by the flowers and leaves, as well as the experience of ‘meandering’ through the paths and flower-beds. She developed techniques and skills in plant-rubbings and eco-print, which she incorporated into the exhibition.
Being the artist-leader on a Colouricious holiday to India threw Amanda into a full sensory experience, and in response her work moved away from the more subtle browns and greens and became a riot of colour. She moved to using Procion-dyed fabrics rather than natural-dyes, and enjoyed the vibrant colours that these produce.
Amanda joined Leslie Morgan at the Committed to Cloth studio, and felt she had found ‘her tribe’. She enjoyed the sense of purpose, productivity and play, which in turn she passes on to her own students. Unfortunately this was around the time of Covid lockdowns, so Amanda was then suddenly working on her own in her garden studio, and having to think about what direction she wanted to go in. Over time she began to draw together her two quite different styles of work – the natural dye processes and the Procion dye processes. Spending lockdown time in her garden led to realising that the reason the flower colours ‘pop’ and look so bright is that they are offset by the more neutral colours of leaves and earth. This led her to combine the two styles together.
Having been invited to exhibit at the Festival of Quilts, Amanda found herself taking responsibility for the gallery since the founder of the group was unwell. This was a very big learning curve. At the same FOQ she also entered one of her quilts to the open competition and was delighted to win a prize (anyone who has been to the FOQ will know what an achievement this is). Amanda described the combination of excitement, nerves and achievement that this experience gave. She encouraged everyone to seize opportunities and ‘go for it’.
Amanda has largely seen off any ‘Imposter Syndrome’ now that she has been able to develop her own practice and has seen that people respond to her work. However, she is passionate about encouraging other people to learn and enjoy art and textiles, and remains a teacher at heart. She is also now able to confidently describe herself as ‘An artist’. Her story brought her talk back to the original sneer that ‘Those who can’t, teach’ and highlights the much better quote from Aristotle that ‘Those who know, do: Those who understand, teach’.
If you are free on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, I recommend this exhibition at Colonnade House (open from 10-5) by local textile group Curious Threads. Members of the group are Alison Livesley, Amelia Leigh, Jane Falls, Liz Howlett, Sue Duncan, Sue Sherwood and our very own Linda Hoddy. The group crosses the boundaries between quilting and embroidery; each member of the group produces a personal response to different ‘group challenges’. There’s some beautiful work there, as well as lovely bulging sketchbooks. It’s inspiring, and well worth a visit.
We had a very entertaining afternoon with Richard Box for our September meeting. Richard has inspired many hundreds of people with his combination of drawing, painting and textile art including hand and machine stitching. Richard was a funny and witty speaker, who held our interest all afternoon. As well as learning some useful tips, we also had a good day out.
Richard told us some amusing anecdotes about his life and his art, and there was lots of laughter during his talk. His first experience of making something in fabric was a Cope for his Church of England father – but he admitted that his father ‘wouldn’t be seen dead in it’. Richard studied painting at art college, but counts himself very lucky to have been taught by Constance Howard, which really awakened his interest in textile art. His painting background can be seen in his work, for example his ability to really observe what is in front of him, and confidence in colour mixing. He spoke about doing art with children with special needs, and the spontaneity that they had to their art, and how he wants to try to help adults to have the same joy in creating things.
Richard is well known for helping people to overcome their inhibitions about drawing and painting, and encouraging embroiderers to use their own observations and art work to make original designs (think ‘Drawing for the Terrified applied to stitch). He talked us through his own artistic process, starting either from real-life observations or from a photograph. He finds that drawing and painting the subject first is essential, as it helps him to ‘understand’ what he is looking at. Having done a painting of his subject, he then simplifies it into basic colour areas, and sketches or draws the main ‘blocks’ of colour which he then applies in pieces of fabric onto a hessian backing. More layers are added, machine stitching is added, and finally hand-stitching and sometimes beading. The photos below show his process, broken down into stages. Thank you Richard for agreeing that we could share these images on our website, and for an interesting and entertaining afternoon, and thank you Gay for organising the afternoon.
Our August meeting was a very successful afternoon in the lovely environment of Findon Village Hall. We had plenty of space to socially distance, and with windows and doors open and the sun shining in we had a chance to be together once again just like old times. It feels like a very positive time in the group: longstanding members are ‘re-connecting’ and at the same time, new members are joining. We took this chance to look back at some of the work that members have been creating during lockdown, and everyone enjoyed the pop-up display of work. If you scroll down, you will see some photos of the individual work that members exhibited on the day. Apologies if I missed yours, but do feel free to send me a photo to add. If I haven’t named your work, or if you know who made one of the un-named ones, please pop a message in the ‘Comments’ box at the end of this post. And here are a few photos of people chatting and enjoying the afternoon.