Next week I’m taking part in my first RHS show in London. A lot of my customers are keen gardeners, so I thought this would be a good event to try.
As well as my ecoprinted and indigo upcycled scarves and garments, I’m going to try selling some felt pots. I really like making felt pots, and when I first had a market stall I tried selling them. Although people liked them, the most common question I was asked was “But what would I do with it?”.
Then recently I ran a felt pot making workshop at Brixton Windmill harvest festival. After the workshop, I sent one of the sample pots I made to my friend and festival organiser Magdalen. She promptly posted a photo on Instagram of two pots I had made for her, containing some succulents.
This prompted a lightbulb moment – show, don’t tell! So I’m hoping that by showing people how they can be used, this will inspire them to think more creatively.
I will also have a couple of the abstract seedpods to see if they attract any interest.
I didn’t know much about the Scythians – Siberian nomads who roamed from Mongolia to the Ukraine from around 800 to 200BC – before this exhibition.
Not that it’s any excuse, but they pretty much disappeared from history until their artefacts started being rediscovered in the 18th century by expeditions sent to Siberia by Peter the Great.
This exhibition certainly dispels the myth that nomadic people lack art or culture. A stunning selection of gold belt buckles, mostly depicting nature red in tooth and claw (a vulture mauling a yak and tiger, a leopard attacking an elk) were, unsurprisingly, snapped up by Peter the Great for his personal collection (most of the exhibits in this show are on loan from the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg). Gold plaques also decorated weapons and even clothing.
A beautiful piece of body armour consists of overlapping metal scales sewn onto a leather vest – only the upper edges are sewn so as not to restrict movement. By contrast, their shields were essentially made of basketry – wooden sticks threaded with leather!
But what is particularly interesting about this exhibition is the number of textiles on display. There are very few 2,300-year-old textiles that have survived, but in the Scythian burial mound site at Pazyryk in the Altai mountains in southern Siberia, snow and rain entered the tomb chambers and froze permanently, preserving the contents.
And guess what – there’s a lot of felt! A large felt hanging that once lined the coffin chamber has an appliqué border of roaring lions’ heads, while a pair of felt stockings is also decorated with appliqué felt strips and wool embroidery.
More prosaically, there are felt rings used to steady the base of round-bottomed drinking vessels, made from twisted strips of felt and sewn with sinew threads.
My favourite felt object was a swan, with a strikingly curved neck and drooping wings; it was probably a decoration for a headpiece or even a horse mask.
Because horses were so important to the Scythians (being the main form of transport as well as providing meat, milk and hide), the animals were buried alongside their masters so that they could carry them to the next world. Decorations on show include a felt mane cover with leather appliqué cockerels, a felt and leather horse mask topped by a ram’s head with a cockerel between its horns, and elaborate bridles covered in gold foil.
Some intricate stitched pieces have also survived, including a decorated shoe with pyrite crystals perforated with holes less than 1mm across, and a stunning embroidery of a rearing winged bull.
On decorated belts, some of the stitches have been wrapped in tin leaf to resemble silver.
Analysis of some of the remains has also shown what was used for dyeing – a woollen skirt fragment was dyed with madder and red dye from the crushed bodies of kermes insects (rather like cochineal), indigo, sorrel and tannin.
But it wasn’t just the clothes and belongings that were preserved by the permafrost. In the Altai Mountains the ground was too hard to dig graves except in the summer, so bodies were preserved by mummification. The organs were removed and replaced with horsehair, pine needles and larch cones, then sewn up with sinews. The exhibition displays the head of a tribal chief, teeth intact, along with some of his heavily tattooed skin. Nice!
If you haven’t heard of Just a Card, it’s a campaign set up by artist and designer Sarah Hamilton to encourage people to buy from independent designer makers, galleries and shops by reinforcing the message that all purchases, however small (even “just a card”), are so vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses.
The name came about after Sarah read about a gallery that had recently closed, with a quote from the owners saying: “If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought ‘just a card’ we’d still be open”.
All the team are volunteers, and it’s their enthusiasm and dedication to the cause that has made the campaign such a success. Particular thanks to Kate Marsden, the Just a Card blogger, for featuring me on the site this week.
You can support the Just a Card campaign by following and sharing their posts on social media, adding their logo to your blog or site, and talking to other makers and customers.
The wonderful thread 2017 festival of textiles at Farnham Maltings is on 30 September.
There are exhibitions by students from local colleges and others, workshops (extra charge) including shibori, batik, rust dyeing and stitching, talks by Fine Cell Work, Mr X Stitch and Francis Tobin, and free drop-in making sessions.
Unfortunately, as I am one of the 55 stallholders, I won’t have the opportunity to attend these other attractions, but it certainly makes for a good day out. I did the event last year for the first time and met some great people united in their passion for textiles.
Tickets cost £5 in advance or £7.50 on the door – but I’m delighted to have a pair of free tickets to give away. 🙂
To enter the draw, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post saying what subject you most enjoy reading about in my blog.
Closing date is midnight at British summer time on Sunday 10 September.
The winner will be chosen at random after this and I will post the name of the winner in the comments on Monday 11 September – so please look out for this, as you will need to let me know the address to send the tickets to. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours I will pick another name at random.
Entrants must be 16 years or over and based in the UK.
When I first started doing indigo shibori I made quite a lot of fat quarters. However, since I started upcycling scarves and other garments I don’t make so many. I have limited time, and a hand-stitched and hand dyed shibori piece takes quite a lot of time to stitch (and unstitch!). This makes it look expensive compared with all the printed fat quarters out there.
So I was thrilled to receive some photos from Jane, a quilter who had bought some of my fat quarters, showing the end result.
Not all the indigo work is mine – she made some of her own fat quarters (very talented!). I think you’ll agree that the overall result is stunning.
It also prompted me to go and dig out some other photos sent by creative customers. A couple of custom orders via Etsy resulted in a shibori blind and a shibori footstool.
Then at thread 2016 at Farnham Maltings a visitor mused about the possibility of cutting up a linen shibori pillowcase to cover a lampshade she had just bought. I offered instead to make her a custom piece of fabric – this was the result.
Finally, of course, there was the amazing wedding dress where I provided the ecoprinted fabric and the bride’s mother made the dress.
Isn’t it wonderful seeing what other creative people do with your work!