New art from old treasures

Thanks to Chris for this description of Tuesday’s talk by Anne Kelly.

‘Today we had an interesting talk from textile artist and Author Anne Kelly. Anne is resident artist at Sussex Prairie gardens and lots of our members have been there to workshops with her. Anne brought lots of examples of her unique style of art using paper, hand and machine embroidery and reclaimed fabrics. She is a well travelled artist, originating in Canada and putting on shows in Australia, France and India to name but a few places. She likes to exhibit her work in places like hospitals and hospices and not just art galleries. Anne does lots of commissions and likes working on old maps which she treats with PVA glue and tissue paper before stitching onto them. She feels strongly about reusing old fabrics and putting them to new use. Lots of her work had bits of old embroidery stitched into it. She has an exhibition in Hackney coming up’.

The details of Anne’s exhibition in October are in the poster below. Scroll down below that for lots of photos of the work that Anne brought with her to show the group, and there are more lovely things to look at on her website

Dustbin lids and cabbage leaves…

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




Worthing Artists Open Houses

SCS members are taking part in several different venues in Worthing Artists Open Houses in June / July.
Venue 40: Jane Baskerville, Jane Robinson, Julia Brown (with Julia Berry and Alison Brown). Textile art, Embroidered Landscapes, Mixed Media, Ceramics, Print, Paintings, cards and gifts. Tea and cake in the garden in aid of Care for Veterans. Details above.
Venue 23: Alison Crosthwaite and others. Alison makes colourful hand-dyed and woven garments and decorated papers and cards. A wide range of different work from the other artists at the venue.
Venue 27: Coastal Threads, many of whom are also SCS members (17th and 18th June only). Textiles, Crochet and Mixed Media by members aged 8-85. See details in a previous post.
Hope you can visit as many of the venues as possible. More details at
If you are taking part in the WAOH and you’re not listed here, drop me a message and I will add you.

Silk ribbon embroidery

What a lovely afternoon stitching during our April sit-and-sew meeting. Jan Angove demonstrated silk-ribbon shading, and a large group of members joined her for that. Jan had hand-dyed the silk ribbon in advance, so each person’s piece will be unique. This is an example of a finished piece. There was a peaceful buzz of conversation all afternoon. Isn’t it lovely to stitch in company? There are more photos of the afternoon below. Annette reminded members that the AGM is next month, and we would like more people on the committee. It would be fine for a new committee member to join us without taking on a specific role, so that they can find out how things work before deciding if they want to take on more. One of the main things is to have new people with new ideas. The role isn’t too time-consuming; usually one committee meeting per month, and additional roles only if you want them. Don’t be put off if you’re a new member: many of us on the committee were roped in very soon after joining. We would also welcome any long-standing members who might be interested.

‘Open your eyes and look’

We had some very different work to look at during our November meeting, when we heard a fascinating talk by Heather Collins, textile artist. Heather brought a wonderful selection of her work to show us, and talked us through her textile journey and some of her inspirations and techniques.

Heather grew up in a creative family (her mother was accomplished at pattern-cutting and tailoring) but despite this background Heather didn’t take to needlework while she was at school. She came back to textiles in her mid-thirties, when she took a course in patchwork and joined the Brighton branch of the Embroiderers Guild. Two things added to the inspiration that she began to feel: one was doing an ‘A’ Level in Art, and the other was signing up for a machine-embroidery course with Wendy Dolan. Many of our own members have been inspired by Wendy’s teaching, so there were many understanding nods when Heather described how her interest developed. The machine-stitched cabbage above was one of the pieces that she made during this time. Heather described the experience of ‘the lid being lifted off’, so that she was able to really look and observe.

Heather began to see things with fresh eyes, and found inspiration on the natural world. She was very fortunate to do a City and Guilds Part 1 course at Windsor with Jan and Jean, which of course was an inspiring experience. She developed more skills in machine and hand embroidery, as well as observation skills.

Heather decided not to go on to Part 2 (Diploma) as she already had so many ideas that she wanted to pursue. Three-dimensional work became more and more of a fascination, as shown by the detail of the apples above. She shared some really helpful tips on the foundations she uses for 3D work, for example chicken wire, muslin with non-fungicidal glue, or insulation foam that can be cut to shape and covered with stitched scrim and PVA glue. Her main inspiration remained the natural world; for example vegetation, bark, shells, seaweed, wood, stones etc.

Over the years Heather has exhibited at Ramster, and Brighton Open Studios. She has also entered and been successful in a series of textile art exhibitions in France. The encased olive tree above is an example of one of her exhibits in France (it was of particular interest to the Mixed Media sub-group as we will be doing some work based on twisted wire forms in the new year).

Heather’s work is built up from layer upon layer of threads and snippets, which are stitched intensively to form a background. On 3D pieces this is sometimes shaped into a ‘jacket’ that is stitched round the inner ‘former’, and the smaller details are then stitched on to that. She tends to use a limited range of stitches (straight stitch, French knots and bullion knots). When telling us about the smaller hand-stitched details that are added, Heather told us one of the funniest anecdotes that we had heard for some time. She spent several days hand-stitching lots of small mussel-shells based on chicken-wire, that that she was going to apply to a background. She left them on the coffee-table in the living room, but when she came back every one of them had disappeared…but there was no-one else in the house. The mystery was solved when she realised that her chocolate Labrador was looking rather sheepish: he had eaten them all. Luckily the dog was alright, but he cost her a big vets bill and two days work!

One of the fascinating things about Heather’s work is the way she combines intricate detail with large-scale work, a process that makes her work very distinctive (and time-consuming). The picture above shows Heather with one of her 3D pieces inspired by a wooden groyne (the photo doesn’t how how the surface is entirely covered in stitched detail). Sometimes people mistake her art for ‘the real thing’ and have to touch it to believe that it is hand-made.

One of the memorable things about Heather’s talk was her description of how stitching has helped her through difficult times in her life, and what a wonderful thing it is for mental/emotional well-being (I think we can all relate to that!) She spoke about ‘the spark’ that ignites when you really look around you and see the natural world and want to interpret it in art. Seeing how people responded to her work also showed how that ‘spark’ can be passed from one person to another.




Introduction to Goldwork

There was an air of intense concentration in the Introduction to Goldwork day workshop this week. There was also some chat and laughter as well. Well done everyone for working so hard and being lovely company. Scroll down for a few more photos. For goldwork enthusiasts in the group, we have a treat coming up next year: Jenny Adin-Christie (Royal School of Needlework) will be coming to do a two-day workshop for us. Look out for details in the newsletter next year.

Kim Thittichai says ‘come and play with me’.

Many of our members need no introduction to Kim Thittichai, the well-known international textile artist who lived in Sussex until a few years ago. Many of us have benefited from her inspiring teaching over the years (I was very fortunate to do a year-long City and Guilds Textile Decoration course with her many moons ago, and I’m still using and enjoying techniques that I learnt from that course). Kim made an inspiring move to the South West coast of Ireland a few years ago, where she is pursuing her own textile work as well as teaching online. That brings me to the reason for this post: Kim is now offering her ‘signature’ Experimental Textiles course online. If you feel ready to take on the fun and challenge of a bigger course, there is more information in the link below. It’s a 10-month course with monthly online tuition sessions, monthly individual tutorial, monthly project, an online support group with other course members, and two years access to the 24 videos that make up the content of the course. Kim recognises that it’s a big commitment, so if you’re interested, she suggests you contact her to talk it over before deciding. Have a look at her website and you’ll see lots of inspiring images. If you’re ready for a new challenge, do consider it. I can guarantee you’ll have fun!

A passion for colour

Carol Naylor was our inspiring speaker this month. Carol started by surprising us when she said that she was initially a ‘reluctant embroiderer’. She wanted to get into art college (Goldsmiths) to study painting, but was offered a place on the Goldsmiths embroidery course instead. People tried to talk her out of it. She accepted their misgivings (‘You can’t sew’, ‘You don’t like embroidery’) but she accepted the place, thinking that it would be ‘a foot in the door’ and that after a few weeks she would change to painting. Little did she know that embroidery would turn out to be a life-long passion.

Somehow the change to painting never happened, and she found herself getting drawn into the world of stitch. Carol was lucky to be at Goldsmiths during the time when the legendary Constance Howard was teaching there. She spoke about her memories of Constance Howard’s green hair and her exacting standards. Carol struggled with embroidery for some time, but spoke about a breakthrough when Constance gave positive feedback on a small aspect of one of her pieces.



















Carol’s interest in painting is self-evident in her work. From her post-graduate studies onwards, she developed her own style of ‘painting with the sewing machine’. She always creates from her own observations. She uses photos and sketchbooks as part of her preparation, but she finds it essential to have seen the subject directly. She brought sketchbooks for us to look at, and it was fascinating to see the development of a sketch, through stitch samples, and into a finished piece.

Carol works from the back of her work. The threads that she wants on the front of her work would be too thick to go through the needle, so she puts them in the bobbin and stitches ‘upside down’. The two photos above show the two sides of one of her pieces – interestingly, the back is also lovely!

Carol ended up with a long-term career in textiles, becoming head of department at Chichester College for many years, interspersed with teaching Spanish. She eventually left the college to focus on her own work. She draws her inspiration from landscapes, with particular love of the South Downs, Italy and Spain.

She spoke about how she loves to inspire other people, and also how she loves to see the work of other artists. She showed us some examples of work by other people that she admires, and talked about how different artistic disciplines can influence and inspire each other. Carol is a Fellow of the Society of Designer Craftsmen and was chairman for four years. She has work exhibited in the current exhibition at the Bankside Gallery (open now, until 26th June). She will also has work in a forthcoming exhibition at the Oxmarket Gallery in Chichester, as part of the local art group ARTEL. Each member of the group has submitted art inspired by the Chichester Ship Canal. Good timing, as the exhibition is open from Tues 21st June to Sun 3rd July, so I for one plan to go along to see it. Details in the link.