Happy Art

If anyone was feeling under-confident about their creativity, then this month’s talk by Paula Watkins had the power to change that. Paula inspired us with the way she has shared her art in order to help people feel happier and more confident. Like many people, Paula was put off from following art as a career, being told that there would always be people better than her. The reason she shared this part of her story with us was to show how creativity can be fostered and nurtured at any stage of life, despite a lack of initial confidence or direction. Paula’s breakthrough moment was when she went to see a City and Guilds exhibition. Initially she was discouraged and thought she could never achieve anything like it, but she was encouraged by an elderly woman who had completed the course and who told her that if she wanted to do it then she could. This simple encouragement changed her life, and she signed up for City and Guilds and has never looked back. Her approach has been to ‘say yes to everything’ and then work out how to do it once the commitment was made. This led her into teaching art groups in various different community settings, and training as a teacher. Paula has worked in education for many years, and has particularly enjoyed working with people with learning disabilities and people with mental health issues. She is passionate about the way that community learning can transform peoples’ lives. There were several key moments that stay in the mind. One was going to the European Parliament with a group of young people, when a girl who was an elective mute was able to find the confidence to speak up about the importance of funding for creative projects. Another was hearing about the kind of emotional safety net that Paula’s art-groups have provided for people at a vulnerable time of their lives.

Paula de-mystifies art, making it accessible and fun. She uses spontaneous, non-intimidating techniques, with affordable materials. She helps people create work that can ‘evolve’so there is no intimidation over creating designs.

Paula brought with her a lovely collection of art-journals and altered-books, which she kindly agreed I could photograph and share here. She has found that making ‘play-books’ are a very non-intimidating way for children to learn to enjoy a book.  Art journals have been very positive for people experiencing mental health difficulties. Paula spoke about the way that making things and enjoying images can help well-being. Many members of the audience had examples of their own where art and stitch have helped at a time of crisis or depression.

Paula is clear that she is not an art-therapist and doesn’t try to ‘interpret’ people’s art. However, just hearing her talk about her work made people feel positive and happy, so it is easy to see why her art and stitch groups would help people to feel happy and relaxed.


August Garden Meeting

We had a lovely relaxing day for our August ‘Garden Meeting’. Traditionally, our August garden meeting is a chance to sit and stitch together and have a ‘show and tell’ of work that members have been getting up to. It’s good to see what a very wide range of interests and techniques we have across the group.

Medusa (detail)

Pride of place went to Medusa, the branch entry into the Regional ‘Fantasy Wear’ competition, which was awarded a joint second place. Snakes were contributed by lots of different people which gave them a good variety. If you look at the close-up you will see that Medusa herself has a snakeskin face. This mysterious effect was created by Gill.

I took lots of close-up photos of individual pieces of work, but as they didn’t have name labels I couldn’t ask for permission to put them on the website, so I’ll just add some photos of the overall show. If you put something in to the show and agree to it being put in the gallery of members work, please could you drop me an email and describe which piece it is and I’ll include it in the gallery. There are so many lovely things hidden away in people’s houses, which would be good inspiration for other people to see.

The gentle art of felting, with Claire Bullock

Claire Bullock came to talk to us this month about felting. It’s difficult to describe how funny and entertaining Claire’s talk was – so I’ll simply say that we spent a happy afternoon chortling away.

We also learned alot. One of the great things about Claire’s talk was a practical demonstration of how she incorporates scraps of fabric into felt. Claire de-mystified the process, and demonstrated how quickly and easily these delicious textiles can be made. For those of us whose felting tends to produce weighty door-steps, it was a revelation to see just how thinly Claire lays her wisps of wool down, and then how gently she felts it.

Gently teasing out wisps of wool ready to felt
Laying the wool down
Adding scraps of fabric
Gently felting the layers together

Claire brought a lovely selection of her work with her, which she kindly let me photograph to put on the website here. Wouldn’t it be great to have a workshop with her to learn some of these techniques? No more felt that looks like a cow-pat and risks knocking people out if thrown as a frisbee. Here’s a link to Claire’s website for further inspiration.

Flowers and birds, a summery talk by Lara Sparks

What a delightful afternoon for our June meeting, listening to a talk by Lara Sparks.  Judging by the numbers of questions and the throng round Lara’s display table, Lara’s talk was enjoyed very much by members.

Lara told us about a world that most of us know next to nothing about, which is the world of embroidery designers working in the fashion industry. Lara worked in various roles, for example designing and providing the prototypes of embroidery designs for high-end fashion houses making wedding dresses. She recounted one disaster when, after two weeks of stitching the embellishment on a very expensive wedding dress, the sewing machine had a hissy fit and sputtered oil onto the white silk. Oops. Then Lara had a stint of doing embroidery designs for women’s and men’s fashions, as well as designing for children’s clothing. Now she works on embroidered cushions, lampshades and home furnishings and exhibits with the Sussex Guild of Craftsmen (the next exhibition is this coming weekend, Sat 16th-Sun 17th at Parham House).

The drawing and design skills learnt during Lara’s art-college training have stood her in good stead. At one stage she was having to come up with one, sometimes two designs per day, not only drawn but also stitched.

See some of Lara’s work below here, with kind permission by Lara to include images of her work on our website. There is great enthusiasm to invite Lara to run a workshop for the branch.  If a date is arranged for this, then Ann will let everyone know in the newsletter. To see more of Lara’s work, go to her website: http://www.larasparks-embroidery.co.uk/

Workshop with Isobel Moore

Look at this gorgeousness that was made by Lea Dishott on the recent workshop with Isobel Moore. The workshop was machine embroidered swirls, using fabric, printed paper with a light colour-wash, ribbons, braids and bits and bobs. Wonderful. It sounds like a fabulous workshop that was really enjoyed by everyone. If anyone else would like to send me a photo of your work from the workshop then it would be good to see some more. 

Here are some more ‘works in progress’ from the day. It would be lovely to show some of the finished pieces if anyone would like to send them in.

Hospital Quilts

The April workshop group spent the day making quilts for Charity Quilt Day (photos by Linda Hoddy). Linda wrote: ‘We made dignity quilts for Worthing Hospital which are used in A&E, High Dependency and various other departments. They are used instead of clinical NHS bedcoverings to make sad family times more comfortable’.

What a lot of progress in only one day
Two quilts in more detail
Had to include this cheery one too.

The Road to Mandalay

Jennifer modelling an intricate head-dress

This week we had a fascinating talk from Jennifer Hughes, who shared her knowledge and enthusiasm for the textiles of Burma. Jennifer brought a wonderful collection of textiles with her to illustrate her talk, some of which she modelled for us. Great hilarity was caused by her demonstration of how and why men and women tie the wrap-around ‘longhi’ in different ways (don’t ask!)

There were some wonderful little snippets of information. For example, every man in Burma has to be a monk for a period of time, so every family has a connection to the monastery, and religion is closely woven into the fabric of society. Another little snippet was where the term ‘white elephant’ comes from. Apparently pale-coloured elephants were prized, but a ruler could cause frustration and embarrassment by giving someone a white elephant. The elephant would take great time and expense to care for, but the recipient could never get rid of it as it was a gift from the ruler.

Examples of fine weaving
A belt with shells and coins. Wealth is worn rather than hidden away.
Embroidered elephant with sequins

Isobel Moore: ‘Swirls of Paper, Fabric, Stitch and Beads’

Isobel Moore

At our March meeting, members enjoyed a fantastic talk by Isobel Moore, who shared some of her wonderful machine-embroidered textile art with us. Her work (and her talk) were so well-liked that the forthcoming workshop on the 26th April booked up almost immediately. Don’t despair though, if you go on the waiting list then you may just squeeze in if there’s a cancellation.

February Workshop Group

Zippy Bag by Pam Bennett

Look what the Workshop Group made this month. Pam Bennett wrote: ‘Here is a photo of my finished zippy bag from our last workshop. Hope to make a couple more for Christmas presents. Thanks to Wendy for an excellent day’.

It would be good to add more photos if anyone has them.

P.S. I am trying to get my head round a different way of sending new posts to people who have subscribed via the link on the Home Page. If you receive spaghetti instead of something sensible, please let me know!

February Meeting

At the February meeting, we were treated to an interesting talk by member Ruth Walker, who talked us through her ‘textile journey’. Ruth brought with her a beautiful collection of her work, including machine-embroidered bowls, pictures and bags. By her own confession Ruth has quite a ‘thing’ about bags, and they are such a good vehicle for displaying a range of techniques. Ruth also showed us a wonderful range of designs based on peacocks. Some years ago she was treated to a magnificent display by a peacock who shook his tail-feathers at her and ‘strutted his stuff’, and peacocks have featured in her work ever since. Thanks to Ruth.

We had a whole-day meeting this month, so there was plenty of time to ‘sit and sew’, and to see what people are working on. Jill showed people the results of a recent embellishing course she has been on, and demonstrated how she makes background fabrics using scraps and threads (don’t forget that the branch has an embellisher that you can rent for just £5 a month). And thanks for the encouraging feedback on the website everyone. Do keep sending in the photos – we are starting to build up a good range in the ‘gallery’.