Saturday, 13 November 2021

And then there were five

Continuing the theme of change and new beginnings from the last post, we are very happy to share the news that we have a new member - Janet Donnell - a long-time friend of Cath's, who, like her, discovered textile art after retirement and has never looked back!

Recently, we spent a lovely day together at the studio to enable Deb, Dia, Vicki and Janet to get to know one another - chatting and working alongside each other. Everything went just fine and she fitted right in with the general exploratory fun and playtime that usually exists in our studio days!

Here's how Janet described herself for her page on this blog:

My approach to textile work is very much What will happen if?I have a germ of an idea, then begin to explore materials and techniques to see what happens when various methods are combined and developed. I love to work with the soft luscious textures of wools and yarns, or the flamboyant brightness of silk, as well as sheer fabrics, paints and dyes, textured fibres, cottons, lace, beads, papers - or anything else that will add to a finished surface that is full of touchable texture.  Working with my sewing and embellishing machines, as well as a lot of hand stitches, something emerges. I find landscapes and maps, rivers and contours - and the finished piece of work is usually nothing like the idea I started out with….

Janet was working on this beautiful piece on our studio day:

Shetland Pathways - stitch detail

Here's the full piece, which was finished back at home and wrapped around a canvas.

Shetland Pathways

Janet wrote these words about the piece.

This is made with wool yarns, hand-dyed and bought in Shetland. It is worked onto an un-dyed wool background that has been machine felted onto a wool felt base fabric. It has connections to where I live, with Leicestershire Black-Faced sheep wool yarn running though it in spirals. It reflects the time spent in the very quiet and empty Shetland Isles during a gap in the Covid restrictions which allowed us a brief holiday up there in August 2020. The discoveries we made walking along the coastal paths are tied up in the swirls and stitches. 

You can see more of Janet's work by checking out her page by following the link above.

Meanwhile, here's a little look at what the rest of us were doing in the studio that day. Deb and Dia have begun spending regular days at Littleheath Barn and one of their projects has been stitching on small squares of dyed, painted or printed fabric.

Here's one of many lovely squares that Dia bought to show us ...

... and a beautiful one from Deb, from a series called 'Other Worlds'.

It was very interesting for me to see these smaller pieces as I imagined I would struggle to work on that scale but I might just have a go, sometime!

In complete contrast, Vicki continued working on the very large printed piece she began last time - making more great printing blocks and adding a third colour, which worked very well. 

I was looking ahead to our upcoming exhibition at The Sock Gallery, Loughborough and adding beads and stitch to a smaller piece, which I began a while ago, using angelina fibres on a velvet background, heated and then cut with a soldering iron - nearly ready to go into a frame now.

Altogether we had a very happy and productive day as we welcomed Janet to Traverse and we are now very pleased to be continuing our creative journey, moving forwards together as a quintet.


Friday, 17 September 2021

Times of beginnings

I've been contemplating writing this new blog for several weeks now, in a spectacular case of procrastination, and I've realised that sometimes you just have to go for it, even if you're not sure what you're going to say. It's been such a long time since the previous one at the end of last year and in some ways very little was changing in Traverse's world. My relationship with my textile art to a large extent remained tenuous and I've gone for long periods without making anything, apart from occasional bursts of creative energy. I know from our Zoom chats that Deb, Dia and Vicki have also, for various reasons, gone for long periods without doing much textile art.

However, things are slowly changing and finally we've managed to meet together in Deb's studio a couple of times recently. It's felt so good to be in the studio again, working alongside each other and sparking creativity and inspiration together. We are keeping everything crossed that planned shows next year will be going ahead and also have our very first gallery exhibition coming up in January next year. It will be at Sock Gallery, Loughborough Town Hall and we are very excited!

We decided to call the exhibition 'Together/Apart -  a Retrospective' to reflect how our creative lives have been affected recently. As we wrote in our description:

“An important part of our ethos is to celebrate our diversity, share our various strengths and to grow together, working side by side. However, having recently lived through strange times in our world and working apart for over a year, we are celebrating coming together again to present this retrospective, which reflects not only work on our themes but also work produced alone, exploring loss, personal viewpoints and our emotional landscapes – together and apart.”

Here are a few sneak peeks at what we've been up to.

Vicki has been making her own printing blocks and playing with paint and embossing powder ... 

... and a little bit of fabric manipulation.

Dia has been recycling (or is it upcycling?) coffee capsules, inspired by fireworks - the first stage is playing around with different arrangements before adding stitch.

I wonder if this will be the final choice.

Another of Dia's explorations with this felted background and more fabric manipulation ...

... and some stitching on some beautiful hand- dyed fabric.

Some more gorgeous stitching from Deb ...

...and part of her latest unwearable dress - I love the colours on this one!

I have been playing around with a couple of pieces - both of them things I started ages ago. First, something from the Experimental Textiles course where Traverse first met and it definitely needs a lot of work, specifically on the very flat background, which  needs texture. The embellished felted pieces have copper either inlaid or on top so I've been experimenting.

Where shall I put the small copper circles and should they have a dark red (or maybe turquoise) border?

Maybe I'll move some copper from the bottom to the top.

I think I've found some interesting texture for the background anyway!

The second piece is much older - I began it on a workshop with Alysn Midgelow Marsden in 2014! I know I put it away because it was quite fiddly, working with Romeo soluble and tiny pieces of metal cloth but I didn't intend to leave it for quite so long! I love the texture created and also the heat patination on the three different metals - steel, bronze and copper. I'm trying to decide which orientation I prefer and was surprised at the difference it made when I rotated the following photograph taken in Deb's studio.


The sunlight coming in through Deb's window was creating some very interesting shadows that day and the way I look at it now makes quite a difference. A bit of a theme for me lately and I'm still not quite sure how it will end up but remembering my opening sentence - 'sometimes you just have to go for it, even if you're not sure what you're going to do'.


Thursday, 31 December 2020

Times of endings

It's been an incredibly long time since the last blog post and I suddenly remembered that I usually write one at the turning of the year so here it is! I've been thinking about time this morning and how these strange times have unfolded and look likely to continue well into the New Year.

At first, way back in March, time became elastic and seemed to stretch out ahead of me and I imagined how I would use this time of enforced separation from my normal life to do all manner of creative projects - what a wonderful gift it might be! I could investigate new techniques, read all the many inspiring textile art books on my shelf and spend many happy hours upstairs in my room. But this was not to be.

I began well enough by finishing work I'd already started or planned for our 'Senses' exhibition, which we still hoped to show in the Autumn. My 'Ocean Drum' and the metal weavings, 'Moon' and 'Sun', have already been mentioned here in blogland, (Ocean drum in Winds of Change  and Sun and Moon in Lockdown Life) as has my doing the 'Swirls of Colour' workshop with Isobel Moore (also in Lockdown Life), but after that I began to lose creative focus. It slowly became clear that we wouldn't be exhibiting anywhere in 2020 and exploring any new themes just didn't excite me.

Ocean Drum - La Mer

Round and Round the Garden
(Ocean Drum reverse)


Finished Swirls of Colour piece - untitled as yet


I know from artists that I follow that I'm not alone in feeling like that - some have made great use of that elastic time to change direction or explore their work in greater depth, while others have felt like me. I questioned my belief in myself as an artist sometimes but thankfully those times were short and I reached a quiet acceptance that I needed to focus on other things in my life which fed my spirit - mainly singing, virtually on Zoom, with many people all over the world, which has given me great joy.

But this is a textile art blog so gladly I do have some other artworks to write about and they also followed what was emerging as my lockdown theme - finishing things. I found a small piece of embellished felt I'd started many moons ago, which needed some stitching and beads and so that soon came together, although it's unframed and untitled as yet (and the colour looks very odd in the second photo).

I also finished another piece, which I started earlier using one of Maggie Grey's paint-resist techniques; this will be part of another exhibition, curated by Chris Gray, hopefully sometime next year. I was inspired by aboriginal dreamtime symbols and imagery for the central panel layered on felt and I was very pleased to find a piece of handmade paper, which I'd previously dyed on a workshop with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden, which worked well for the background. That has made its way into a frame and is ready to go ... but who knows when?

Turquoise Dreamtime

I'm now working on finishing another piece for Chris, which had to be wearable, so I'm upcycling an old boiled wool jacket, which had a few moth-eaten holes in it - also on the dreamtime journeys theme.

I'm enjoying marrying the needle felting with the use of Kantha stitching and also working with no clear idea of where I'll end up, which I suppose could also be a useful metaphor for where I am right now on the last day of 2020 - with no clear idea of when the strange times will end or what lies ahead. Maybe I needed to concentrate on the endings to make room for new beginnings and I'm hoping for changing times soon. The elastic 2020 time, stretching out far ahead, eventually seemed lost altogether, leading to a timeless quality of life for me and I'm hanging on to truly timeless themes of joy in nature, music, friendship and love.

"What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from."

TS Eliot

I'll be back with more news from Traverse in 2021 but till then we all wish you a very Happy New Year and hope to see you soon!



Friday, 7 August 2020

Navigating through life's complications

In the previous blog on our Lockdown Life, I mentioned how the strangeness of the situation had led sometimes to a feeling of being 'stuck' creatively as well as literally, and how inspiration can come unexpectedly - but what do you do if you hit a creative block?

In her introductory Q & A session here on the blog, Vicki gave us a few clues to her approach with these words: 'Usually, when I'm in a creative fug or bored with what I'm working on, I'll find something else to do and experiment a bit'. Describing her style as 'haphazard, intuitive and organic', she said she was 'trying to navigate through life's complications', dipping into 'years worth of materials to make things'.

The following recent images show her further exploring process. With a love of the rhythm and repetition of stitch and the history around different techniques, she has been taking inspiration from traditional crafts and the rhythms that distract and comfort - but combining them with materials that render them impractical.

In my introduction, I didn't mention that the other word Vicki used to describe her style was 'lazy' and, looking at all this work, I have to politely disagree! I love all these explorations and I'm fascinated by the ideas behind them. I look forward to seeing how they develop over the coming weeks and months and will keep you all posted ...

"Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play"
Henri Matisse


Sunday, 19 July 2020

Lockdown Life

These have been strange and paradoxical times: what began with turbulent change that turned my world upside down has now evolved into a strange feeling that every day is somehow the same and nothing ever changes. We are shielding and my life of singing, performing, exhibiting and textile art group meetings looks like it won't be returning to normal for the foreseeable future.

At Traverse, we have been keeping in touch with Zoom meetings, sharing our works in progress and wondering when we will be able to meet again. We have had confirmation that the Quilt and Stitch Village in Uttoxeter, who had re-scheduled for September, have now cancelled for 2020 altogether and the show will now be on April 16th - 18th, 2021. We have also heard on the grapevine just recently that the West Country Quilt & Textile Show in August has now been cancelled, although we still have no official confirmation of any new dates.  We are awaiting news from Leicester's Big Textile Show in October but although lockdown is easing in general, it remains very unclear when it will be safe for such shows to re-open and we have assumed that it is unlikely.

However, we've continued our creative life in Lockdown in various ways, as would be expected as our diversity as a group is something we value as a strength. At times, the strangeness of the situation has led to a lack of creativity and a feeling of being 'stuck', creatively as well as literally. Then suddenly, a burst of energy or inspiration can come 'out of the blue' and lead you off down different paths to pastures new.

After putting the finishing touches to her stunning needle-felted 'Eye' ...

... Dia was led down a very different path by her granddaughter, who put in a special request early on for 'Luna Lapin' - who obviously needed a custom made, upholstered chair ...


... and some clothes!

Final touch, for when the weather changed, was a rather fabulous pink coat and scarf!

On the subject of making clothes, any of you who have read personal statements on our individual pages will have seen Deb describe herself as 'Dressmaker by day and Textile Artist by night'. Indeed, she has spent many months of hard work building up a business, DebDay Sewing Room, sharing her considerable sewing and dressmaking skills by running classes for enthusiastic beginners, looking to gain knowledge and confidence in using a sewing machine. Lockdown inevitably had a serious effect on that and all workshops had to cease, so Deb was forced to take a different path, very much led by the pandemic and the effect it has had on our lives ... beginning with making face covers.

She has lost count of how many she has made, using a huge variety of beautiful, patterned fabrics ...

... and together with Vicki, she has been giving up her time and putting her dressmaking skills to excellent use by making scrubs for the local Scrub Hub, a voluntary community group, making scrubs to order for NHS staff.

Deb's personal statement also refers to her particular interest in using Textile Art to make 'unwearable' dresses, which have been a popular feature of all our exhibitions so far, leading to many comments along the lines of 'I'd love to wear that!' Her latest beautiful creation is continuing to take  shape in the studio and I can't wait to see it finished.

Deb's also found time to add some more to this gorgeous piece of hand-dyed fabric with embroidered silk embellishments ...

... but she did make us all laugh by rotating it and saying 'I made Roz from Monsters, Inc!!' 😂

Alongside her volunteering making scrubs and helping Deb with the masks, Vicki has continued with this powerful mixed media work, investigating process as part of grief and self.

For my part, I returned to holiday memories of visiting Fondation Vasarely in Aix-en-Provence and also went back down an old path - weaving with metal, which I'd not done for years. Inspired by Vasarely, I particularly wanted to attempt weaving an optical illusion for our Senses theme and remembering one particular night on the same holiday, when the moon rose spectacularly over the hills, I decided to weave the moon, using stainless steel fabric, which I'd coloured with heat, paint and angelina.

I was then further inspired by the sun to weave a companion piece out of copper fabric and shim, embossed and also coloured with heat.

Changing direction completely, I took up Dionne Swift's challenge to make a log cabin square for a virtual quilt, which she organised in collaboration with Janice Gunner and The African Fabric Shop and is hoping to display in some way at next year's Festival of Quilts. I enjoyed using up some of my stash in a different colour palette and getting back to my machine again!

Continuing to explore the possibilities of using fabric rather than my usual wool, felt, needle-felting techniques, I happened to see that Isobel Moore was looking for people to do a trial run of an online course, called 'Swirls of Colour' and was lucky enough to get a place. I'm really enjoying the challenge of using different techniques and the course is very well executed with lots of online support. I continued with my self-imposed challenge of trying to use more yellows and greens and so far have managed to avoid spirals, which was a little extra one I set myself! This is a work in progress shot ...

... and I'm working on adding a lot more hand and machine embroidery.

So, after that little peep into what we have been up to in Lockdown, I'll finish with the happy news that, as of 17th July, Deb has been able to re-open her Sewing Room and, as it's a very large studio in The Old Print Works,  she can continue her classes in a safe, socially distanced way, including a new one on Creative Embroidery.

It will be some time yet before Traverse can fully return to normal but I'm taking heart from this and seeing it as a sign that change will come - it may take a little longer for some of us but it will come.

'This too shall pass'