Basketry workshop with Mary Crabb

When I was at West Dean in February there was an exhibition of work by some of the college tutors, including some exquisite woven pods by Mary Crabb. So when a textile friend announced that she had contacted Mary about running a workshop, I jumped at the chance!

Peacock Pod by Mary Crabb Image: Mary Crabb
Peacock Pod by Mary Crabb
Image: Mary Crabb,

This friend Barbara, along with dachshund Bertie, hosted the workshop in her beautiful house and garden in Hove. I wasn’t surprised to learn that she regularly opens her garden to the public as part of the National Gardens Scheme – it’s a multi-layered, multi-textured sensory delight, perfect for such a creative workshop.

Mary arrived with boxes of wonderful goodies, particularly paper threads in luscious colours, and books to inspire us all. Along with the mix of fabrics, wool and thread we had brought ourselves, we were certainly spoilt for choice!

basketry1 basketry2

We started by learning how to twine on a paper cup cut into strips. This helped us to maintain the shape without worrying too much about tension. We explored different threads and created coloured patterns, as well as learning how to introduce new threads when the old ones ran out.

We then moved on to an exercise intended to create a flat motif, to get used to working with warp threads in the round. However, we all decided that we wanted to go straight into making vessels, resulting in an array of teeny pods!

basketry vessels

The combination of a glorious pot-luck lunch in the garden and lots of gossip to catch up on meant that most of us managed only to make a start on creating a larger vessel in the afternoon. The exception was Chrissie, who made a wonderful bag with Indian trimmings.

chrissie vessel
Image: Chrissie Messenger

However, with Mary’s very useful handouts, we will hopefully be able to finish what we started. 🙂

Image: Carol Grantham
Image: Carol Grantham

All in all, it was a very inspiring day in gorgeous surroundings. Many thanks to Barbara for hosting, despite the electrical problems!

basketry group

Some of Mary’s work can currently be seen in Back to the Beach, an exhibition at Worthing Museum and Art Gallery, which runs until 22 August 2015.

RCA degree show 2012

What I like about the Royal College of Art show is the mixture of other applied disciplines – ceramics and glass, innovation, design and engineering, metalwork and jewellery – which can be just as inspiring. Chelsea has fine arts, most of which I have to say completely passes me by: as I get older I seem to be falling increasingly into the “I know what I like” school of art criticism. 😉

No photos allowed, so mostly I’ve linked to photos from the official RCA site. Not many students have their own working websites either.

I loved Elizabeth Scorgie‘s woven pieces. She incorporates unusual materials such as horse hair and leather with silk – and even collaborated with another student to produce some shoes. There was a piece in black horse hair and silk which reminded me of glossy raven feathers.

Maja Johansson is another weaver who experiments with materials like fur as well as rubber and wool.

To complete a trio of weavers, Sophie Manners also uses unusual materials but creates fascinating textures by pulling the warp (or is it weft?) threads to form loops. Some of her work reminded me of the peaks you see in shibori pieces after removing binding threads.

Nelly Song‘s mixed media pieces included lovely double-layered sheer chiffon with machine and hand embroidery on both sides and between. Unfortunately, there is no photo of this – it’s probably quite tricky to shoot.

Haiku landscapes by Sarah Lindstrom were works inspired by Scandinavian nature, incorporating layering and burning techniques in a soothing, repetitive rhythm.

Kirsten Scott worked with women in south-east Uganda to weave plaited palm leaf braids, with which she created wonderfully intricate headgear.

On the non-textile side, Zemer Peled‘s sculptures from ceramic shards blew me away. Very organic, they were like something Andy Goldsworthy produces from natural materials.

Finally, the innovation, design and engineering section was full of fascinating ideas, from polyfloss and man-made nacre (pearls) that could coat any shape to a robot arm that records a maker’s movements and then mimics them. Could be very useful if I could teach it to roll felt! 🙂

The RCA show runs until 1 July.

Prism at the Mall Galleries

Today, on the recommendation of a fellow student, I went to the Mall Galleries to see Prism, an exhibition of textile-inspired art.

Maybe it’s all the work we’ve been doing in class on constructed 3D textiles, but the pieces that attracted me most were vessels or sculptures made by weaving, coiling or knitting.

Anita Bruce

Anita Bruce knits and crochets beautiful, delicate constructions from enamelled copper wire. Previous work has featured sea creatures and plankton, but here she was displaying deconstructed pieces of Unst lace, based on traditional Shetland knitting patterns.

Julieanne Long

Julieanne Long is also interested in natural forms and was showing some striking giant black and red basketry seed pods that incorporated cable ties and other found objects.

Mary Anne Morrison

Mary Anne Morrison‘s ‘Peelings’ are made from coiled and stitched textiles that circle around and in on themselves to produce their own dynamic.

Joan Richardson

Finally, Joan Richardson incorporates fabrics and other found objects into her pieces of knitted copper wire and paper string.

I must admit that when we started this term on weaving and basketry techniques I wasn’t entirely enthused. But earlier this week I had a go myself in class at knitting with very fine wire, and I loved the colours and delicacy of the result. As ever, a bit of lateral thinking and imagination when it comes to materials and techniques can be very inspiring.

Sample of knitted wire

PS I forgot to say that the Prism exhibition at the Mall Galleries closes tomorrow, so you have limited time if you want to see it!

Basket case

No – not me, though I’m frantically rushing around before I go on holiday, so I do feel a bit frazzled!

Term started this evening at Morley College, and we began with some basketry weaving. To get the hang of it, we cut 12 long strips of card, and wove the centres together to form a square, six in each direction.  (We kept them in position by taping the six vertical strips on the table with masking tape.) Then, to form the corners, we wove the two central strips together on each side, adding the others as we moved upwards, holding the strips in position with clothes pegs, as in the picture above.

Those who wanted a flat, square bottom added creases using a spatula (I preferred a round bottom!). Then we pulled all the strips up as tightly as possible to get rid of large holes, and used either staples or hot glue to hold them in place around the top. Some students cut a strip to stitch or glue around the top to finish off; it’s also possible, if the strips are long enough, to weave them back in.

Next week they will be using craft (pelmet) vilene for weaving, colouring it in the heat press first, and also experimenting with coiling. I’m off on holiday for a couple of weeks, so I’ll be interested to see what they’ve produced when I get back!