A room of one’s own

According to Virginia Woolf, “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”.

The same might be said of female artists, and I have finally achieved the second, if not the first! 😉

In theory, I have had my own workroom. When we first moved into the house 28 years ago, Ever Supportive Partner built a whole load of shelves in a room on the first floor, which instantly filled up with books.

When I became interested in textiles, my collection of fibres, materials and tools ended up in this room too. But because the shelves were full of books, there was nowhere for my stash to go, so it ended up in bags piled on the floor – and hence there was nowhere to work.

For the past few years I have worked largely on our dining room table, due to the fact that it is the largest one in the house. However, the room, which faces north-west, is rather dark, and every time we have friends round for supper or meetings I have to clear everything away (which in practice meant piling it up along the walls).

ESP was forever moaning about the mess, so last month we finally got round to installing more bookshelves in the dining room. This meant that we could move all the books downstairs, leaving the shelves upstairs free for my stuff.

New shelves in the dining room…
…soon filled up with books!

We now have a lovely clutter-free dining room (if you don’t count books!), and I have a fantastic space of my own where I can leave stuff out without having to put up with ESP’s grumbling.

Note there are still three shelves of books upstairs – all textile titles. And I spent a small fortune on plastic storage boxes – they’re not as attractive as baskets but they have the virtue of being see through and (hopefully) moth proof!

I still occasionally need to work downstairs when making longer pieces such as scarves. And I will continue to dye indigo outdoors (weather permitting).

But it makes such a difference having all my stuff together in one place, easily located (for now). And although this room is actually above the dining room, it gets more light because it’s higher up.

All that remains to be done is to hang some inspiring pieces on the walls – and then move on to the first of Virginia Woolf’s requirements. 😉

New Flextiles website

Since the start of this year I’ve been taking part in the Dream Plan Do scheme run by the Design Trust to help give my business a bit of a boost.

And it’s been a real help, by making me think more strategically, setting goals, and teaming me up with a local accountability partner, Becky Bird. Becky designs some very funky prints, stationery and textiles, and we meet up once a month with emails in between to listen and give feedback on our ideas and progress, as well as giving the occasional dig in the ribs to encourage each other to get on with things. 🙂

As part of this process I decided I needed a new website – and here it is!

The idea is to showcase more clearly what I do, so I hope it does that. Undoubtedly it will develop and change as my business develops – but I would be very happy to get any feedback from you on whether the message is clear and what you think could be improved!

You will notice that this blog has been incorporated into the site just as it is – I’m not intending to change it for the time being. So I will still be posting on various textile-related topics, from arashi shibori to Zoroastrian trouser panels, and if you’ve signed up to receive updates they will still come into your inbox – you can choose to unfollow at any time.

Thank you for putting up with the trumpet blowing – normal service will now resume. 🙂

 

Just a Card

Sorry about the radio silence – I’ve been spending too much time in front of a screen building websites and not enough time by the indigo vat! 😦

I’ve just dropped in to let you know that the fab team at Just a Card are featuring me on their blog this week.

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.

Thank you!

 

Metal and textiles taster

Last weekend ESP and I attended a workshop together for the first time. The workshop, held at Morley College’s Pelham Hall, was billed as a one-day “Textile Metal Taster”.

Pelham Hall is an amazing converted Victorian chapel equipped for clay modelling, wood and stone carving as well as metalwork (there’s even a forge). ESP has done stone carving courses there, but this was a first-time visit for me.

Pelham Hall

I was expecting to be working with wire, mesh and textiles, but this was very much an introduction to proper basic metalwork techniques. We started with cutting, using tin snips and air tools. I had a few problems with the air tools so stuck to cutting by hand with the snips, where I felt I had more control.

Then we did a bit of beating with hammers, hole punching and soldering. I cut a circle of steel, punched a circle in the centre and pierced some holes.

As you know, I hate waste, so I then used the spot welder to attach all the tiny metal circles produced by the hole puncher.

One of the tutors said the tiny bowl on the right reminded him of a dalek!

In the afternoon we had a go at heating metal so that it changed colour – you can get some lovely rainbow effects, like oil patches on the road after rain. Naturally, I spot welded some more circles onto mine!

I didn’t do any proper soldering, but played about with the solder to produce different textures instead.

While I produced various small samples, ESP combined lots of different techniques in one piece. This included bits of metal that were left over after I had cut out more spots!

He also played around with a piece of flattened copper tubing, heating it with flux and punching it.

I really enjoyed the workshop – the tutors were enthusiastic and encouraging, and it’s surprising what beginners can produce in a day. One of the students made a bird bath; another made some angel fish.

However, I did think that the textile content was fairly token. There was a pile of fabric scraps, and we were shown how to rivet and attach textiles to metal by soldering with a copper strip. Rather than treating metal simply as a way of holding up textiles I guess I was expecting the two media to be combined in a sculptural piece. I realise this is a lot to ask in a day, but a collaboration with Morley’s excellent textiles department could produce some interesting results.

There was a box of embroidery threads and ribbons there, so I did make an effort to introduce a textile element to one of my samples! 🙂

I’m also thinking about how to incorporate some of my samples into felt, so there may be more to come on this!

Return from Mexico

Brrrr – I’m back!

Actually I returned from Mexico last week but was shocked into hibernation mode by the simultaneous sudden drop in temperature and need to gear up for Christmas markets on both days last weekend.

To be honest I was also a bit overwhelmed by the whole trip. The International Shibori Symposium was extremely intense, with workshops, talks and presentations. I learnt an incredible amount and met some very interesting people.

And my holiday was also pretty busy, with more fantastic textiles, markets and extraordinary pre-Hispanic cultural sites to fit in.

So there will be several posts about Mexico to come over the next few months.

In the meantime, while I catch my breath, here are some images of a dead leaf – what else? – that I found on a tour of the wonderful Ethnobotanic Gardens in Oaxaca.

mexico-dead-leaf-1 mexico-dead-leaf-2 mexico-dead-leaf-3 mexico-dead-leaf-4 mexico-dead-leaf-5 mexico-dead-leaf-6 mexico-dead-leaf-7

I almost couldn’t bear to leave it behind, but I knew that even if it somehow miraculously survived the trip back to the UK, it was illegal to import it in case of disease.

So I took loads of photos instead – a piece of natural shibori. 🙂

Textile Alchemy at the WAC Gallery — Modern Eccentrics

I went to the PV of Textile Alchemy on Wednesday, but Johnny’s photos are miles better than mine! So I’m just reblogging and saying that you can still catch the show tomorrow (didn’t realise it was only up for a few days) at Waterloo Action Centre, 14 Baylis Road, London SE1 7AA.

For once, I’m not going to write very much about this wonderful show, the end of year exhibition of the Advanced Textile Workshop at Morley College. This is because Zoë Burt, the tutor has summed things up so eloquently, and done my job for me. ‘Students have had exciting opportunities to creatively develop their professional textile […]

via Textile Alchemy at the WAC Gallery — Modern Eccentrics

TextielMuseum in Tilburg and Kubota in Antwerp

Last week I visited the Netherlands to see the splendid exhibition commemorating the 500th anniversary of the death of the artist Hieronymous Bosch. The exhibition is in ’s-Hertogenbosch, the city after which the artist took his name, but we stayed in nearby Tilburg, which happens to have an excellent textiles museum. 🙂

The TextielMuseum in Tilburg is housed in an old spinning mill, now a national monument, with modern extensions. The ground floor recreates the woollen blanket factory that occupied the premises from 1900 to 1940, with baskets of fleece and carding, spinning, spooling, and weaving machines, all powered by a steam engine.

Next door, by contrast, is the modern TextielLab, a specialist workshop with computer controlled machines offering students and designers the chance to collaborate and experiment with weaving, knitting, embroidery, tufting, passementerie and laser cutting. Visitors are free to wander and see the machines in action, samples of experimental work, and take part in workshops – it’s an engrossing experience.

Laser cutting in TextielLab
Laser cutting in TextielLab
Weaving in TextielLab
Weaving in TextielLab
Weaving workshop in TextielLab
Weaving workshop in TextielLab
Tufting sample in TextielLab
Tufting sample in TextielLab
Tufting sample in TextielLab
Tufting sample in TextielLab

Upstairs, the temporary exhibition Co-creation explores in more detail three collaborations between the TextielLab and prominent design agencies. Studio Samira Boon’s work on textile structures inspired by origami interested me greatly. By combining suitable yarns and weave, Samira produced complex self-folding textiles known as “Super Folds”, which create a 3D structure.

tilburg 6 tilburg 7

Also on the first floor, another temporary exhibition called Switch examines 25 years of Dutch design. It includes some wonderful felted hangings by Claudy Jongstra.

tilburg 9

There were some interesting rugs too, including the “accidental carpet” by Tejo Remy and Tanja Smeets, made from used woollen blankets.

Accidental Carpet

The “Kiki Carpet” by Kiki van Eijk resembles a large embroidery and was inspired by the decor of 19th-century dolls’ houses.

tilburg 10

The “Algae Growth” carpet by Studio Maarten Kolk and Guus Kusters looked at the issue of sustainability. The designers digitally printed the backing and treated it with the remnants of ink from the ink cartridges. After tufting, the carpet was then moistened so that the ink flowed from the backing to the pile.

tilburg 11

Last but certainly not least, the final temporary exhibition on the ground floor is a retrospective of Sheila Hicks. Spanning seven decades of her work, the show includes some wonderful examples of her remarkably varied work, reflected in the show’s title “Why Not?”

hicks 1 hicks 2 hicks 3 hicks 4

More information about all these exhibitions on the TextielMuseum website.

Before coming home, we stopped off in Antwerp for a couple of nights, where the Fashion Museum (MoMu) currently has eight kimono by Itchiku Kubota on display. I’ve blogged previously about a lecture I attended on this master craftsman, but this is the first time I’ve seen any of his kimono in real life.

Unfortunately, they are displayed about six feet behind glass panels, so it’s not easy to see the detail. This, anyway, is my excuse for the not-so-great images below.

Six kimono are from The Universe section of his Symphony of Light series, ablaze with flames and swirls of colour, rich with embroidery and gold leaf highlights.

kubota 1 kubota 2

The two kimono from the Mount Fuji series are more subtle, with the textures created by shibori clouds delicately rippling across the pale surfaces.

kubota 3 kubota 4

Traditions and Dreams – Kimono from the Kubota Collection runs at the MoMu Gallery until 19 June 2016.