Sunday, 18 September 2016

West Dean - Mixed Media Jewellery – Developing your own personal language

At the beginning of the month I was at West Dean teaching a course on mixed media jewellery to five really wonderful students.

The course was centered around mixed media jewellery with a focus on building confidence in mixed media and combining materials. We spent a lot of time working on textiles techniques in the first half of the course. Working yarns around forms and making three dimensional elements from different yarns. The second half of the course was all about combining the new techniques with other materials and processes...and some students decided to focus on the textiles elements a little longer as they were really taken with the new techniques.

The fabulous five! Josie, Caroline, Margaret, Ildiko and Mary

We covered a lot over the three days including a presentation on mixed media jewellery, making crocheting ball and tube forms, stitching and crocheting around metal wire objects, felt balls, shisha stitching and a few hybrids from these techniques based on the ideas the students had arrived with. It was a really enjoyable weekend for me, with some really beautiful samples being produced. I think a lot of new ideas for future works were taken away to be developed further.

Some images of my samples table

As it was a nice small group it was great to be able to tailor make the course in a really individual way. Some had previous textiles experience and were able to hone existing skills alongside building their material knowledge. Some had less textiles experience and chose to focus mainly on textiles techniques to bring something new to their traditional making. It was good to be quite free with the outcomes, making it really student focused and everyone went away quite pleased with what they had learned and produced over the weekend. I really enjoy these kind of courses where you can demonstrate and share techniques with others.

Images of the work produced by students on the course

West Dean is a really picturesque place to teach. It's situated near Chichester, not far from The Weald and Downland open air museum. It has a fascinating history and beautiful gardens, including vegetable gardens and a greenhouse filled with fruits and a stunning array of chilli peppers.They even hold a chilli festival there once a year!

One of the perks of teaching at West Dean is the hospitality. There is a never ending supply of delicious food and drink. All the staff are so friendly, helpful and organised, they make you feel really appreciated. It's definitely one of the best places I have taught at and I hope to be invited back again.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Happy Midsummer - bringing in the solstice with two new shows....

I have some new works in two exhibitions starting today at Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge - USA. Very aptly two pieces celebrate the midsummer solstice!

Midsommarstång & Små grodorna are both made with vintage Swedish flax yarns from the 1960, which were stored in a haberdashery stockroom for decades. They were made especially for the *Intoxicating textiles* exhibition.

"Midsommarstång"

"Linladan is Swedish for flax barn: the threads we have on this website is from flax grown and spun in the heart of Sweden's textile industrial area in the 1960's. As the factory closed down, the remaining yarn was hidden away in a haberdashery stockroom for decades. We're still researching the story of this yarn, hoping to write it here and on the blog as it unfolds. Although we will add threads from other parts of the world when stumble upon some, the purpose of this website is to present the Swedish yarn Linblomman (The Flax Flower)."

"An old Scandinavian proverb tells "Ull blir mull och lin blir gull", (Wool becomes dust, flax becomes gold) and we have found the latter to be true: linen stays beautiful and strong, ready for stitching now or in 50 years."

"Små grodorna", referes to a special song that is sung when dancing around the maypole at midsummer in Sweden. The translation of Små grodorna means the Swedish for "The Little Frogs" The song is to be danced to while making movements to signify different parts of the frog. It can also be sung at Christmas too, around the Christmas tree. My neckpiece is a celebratory adornment for midsummer to be worn when dancing The Little Frog dance. It can be seen as necklace of bubbling frog eggs to represent the starting of life and to celebrate the beginning of summer.

"Små grodorna"

If you fancied hearing the song and maybe joining in! You can follow the link to see You Tube Video

Små grodorna details

Midsommarstång neckpiece, is a nod to the maypole which is traditionally used at midsummer in Sweden and some parts of Finland. Again it is a piece of adornment to wear in celebration of life, which can be for special celebration days or could just be worn every day to remind us to enjoy and be happy for the good things we have. The small triangular forms represent flags or bunting used across Europe to celebrate traditional gatherings.

"Midsommarstång" details

The two Shepherdess Neckpieces were made especially for the *Black and White* exhibition, in which we were asked to make panda inspired works, either a literal panda or through the theme of black and white. I based my neckpieces on the folklore of the panda and how they came to have their black and white fur.

In Tibetan folklore there is a story about how the panda came to have it’s distinctive black and white colourings. It is said that a long time ago, all giant pandas were snowy white. One day a stalking leopard attacked a panda cub. A shepherdess came to his rescue, but in doing do she was killed by the leopard. The bears in mourning for the shepherdess wore black armbands as a sign of respect at her funeral. The pandas began to cry and as they did they began to wipe their eyes with their armbands, covered their ears to muffle the sounds of crying and hugged one another. The armbands blackened their fur and that is how the panda became black and white.

"Shepherdess Neckpiece #1"

My two neck-pieces are made in honor of the folklore surrounding the shepherdess, who bravely protected the panda cub.

"Shepherdess Neckpiece #2"

The exhibitions run from the 21st June – 15th August 2016

Promotional images from Mobilia Gallery