Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Did I say 'Winds of Change'?

My previous blog referred to winds of change blowing around Traverse and we really had no idea of what was coming or how far those winds would spread! Along with so many people all around the world, our day-to-day lives have changed dramatically - and we are still not sure of the true implications for Traverse's activities. So far, we have only had one show affected - the Quilt & Stitch Village, 17th - 19th April, at Uttoxeter Racecourse has been re-scheduled for 18th - 20th September, in the first instance. We don't know what is happening for the rest of our planned shows and we will wait to hear from them. As I write this, lockdown is slowly being loosened but there are still big questions regarding many aspects of 'normal' life.

I am just grateful not to have lost anyone to the pandemic and have tried to accept the changes with good grace - a life full of virtual choirs, gardening in the sun and possibly a bit too much baking, alongside my creative activities. I've been meaning to write about a piece I actually finished just before everything changed and have decided now is the time! It was conceived as part of our work on the theme of 'Senses', where I have focused on how sight and sound contribute to a sense of place.

Some of you may remember this:

Round and Round the Garden

It was inspired by the gardens of  the South of France, and in particular one in Menton, where we spent a glorious afternoon exploring. We particularly wanted to see the waterlilies and seemed to go round and round through all the other areas, spiralling in towards the pool - the jewel in the centre.

I actually began work on it last October at a workshop with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden but I had prepared the fabric beforehand - kunin felt, transfer printed with a heat press. The design was another link back to the art of Southern France - a homage to Matisse's collage, 'The Snail'. I transfer-painted  computer printer paper in a random way, remembering to note the colour as it always amazes me how they change when heated. The torn painted papers were arranged in a spiral and printed with the heat press, in several different layers, filling in the gaps with consecutive prints.


I intended to use my embellisher at the workshop to add loads of texture and also metal, wire and beads - but I came up against a problem with the embellisher. Although it has 12 needles, it proved very difficult to use on my prepared surface. I've successfully embellished kunin felt many times before so it seemed to be something to do with the heat process - the surface seemed to have melted slightly. I was a bit thrown by this but with perseverance, I found I could use a hand needle felting tool to add some yarn, wool and silk fibres.

Alysn showed us how to use shrink plastic to achieve some interesting effects and I decided to use one sample as the centre of my spiral, adding a little hand stitching and beads. I also found french knots very useful to anchor down some of my scrim and fibres that were rather precariously needle felted in,


In a classic example of 'design through process', my ideas changed significantly as I slowly worked my way outwards. I decided to keep much of the printed felt visible, rather than cover it up with texture as I'd originally planned. I decided against any more beads and wire, using only a few crescent shapes cut from metal coffee pods to give a different texture. I had a circle canvas, which I needed to use for my planned concept, so I outlined the exact size in a variegated running stitch before following the spiral and outlining some of the printed shapes with free motion stitch.

I wrapped the circular canvas and then added more running stitch through the canvas in selected shapes, which served to anchor the work securely. See wrapped canvas and close up of stitch details below (apologies for slightly out of focus image on the left).


When I posted this on social media, I said that it was still not finished and some people wondered where I would take it from here ... and now I'll show you what happened next. My plan all along was to make an ocean drum - it seemed like the perfect evocation of beach walks, with the sound of the ocean and also the amazing shades of turquoise in the sea. One side would be a walk round the garden and the reverse would be a walk by the sea.

During the second half of Alysn's workshop, I began preparing how to show those colours and the translucence of the water.  I made my own printing blocks based on a drawing of the shapes of the ripples in some of my photos of the sea on my holiday and then printed papers and also various stainless steel and copper fabrics with a variety of shades of blue and turquoise. Using soluble plastic film for stability, I cut some of the fabric and began stitching it together in wavy lines.

Back at home, after finishing the garden side, I used the printed paper to line the central well of the canvas, conveniently hiding the running stitches I'd used to anchor the felt and also giving a wonderful splash (!) of colour, especially after a few coats of acrylic wax.

After trialling the metal fabric to see how translucent it was, I decided to change the  scrunched line of copper (towards top of left hand picture) to make it easier to see through to the painted paper beneath.


 It was very difficult to photograph but this close up gives you some idea.

Feeling very pleased with the effect, I explored different sized beads to see which would roll easily and make the best sound. Trials in the open well of the canvas produced many spills and some interesting patterns on the kitchen floor as they bounced out and around! Then I stapled the metal fabric into place and turned my mind to how to hide the staples. I decided to make an embellished border, using yarns and stitch on bright turquoise felt.

I used double-sided extra strong carpet tape to stick it into position and slip stitched it invisibly to the kunin felt covering the edge of the canvas.

Finished at last ...

La Mer

... and it worked!

(Sound doesn't carry brilliantly in this but you should get some idea.)

Well, I've made up for the lack of blog posts recently by writing a mammoth one!

Hope you all stay safe and well,


Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Winds of Change

The winds of change have been blowing around Traverse recently and I'm not talking about the horrendous weather we have been experiencing, which thankfully now seems to have gone away. I'm sitting here looking out at blue skies, sunshine, early blossom and daffodils, which make me smile and remind me of one of my favourite songs I sang as a child at school, 'Glad That I Live Am I' (Lizette W. Rees, 1909). It was the chorus which came to me this morning:

After the sun, the rain,
After the rain, the sun,
This is the way of life,
Till the work be done.

I've always struggled with change - it pushes me out of my comfort zone and I like it there! However, maybe I need to accept change as an inevitable part of 'the way of life' and try to embrace it like the sun and the rain, as a force for good - which brings me to the reason for writing.

A new season brings our new blog header, which reflects a major change for us - Becca and Bernice have made the decision to step away from Traverse to continue their creative life on separate paths. We will miss them and wish them all the very best, both personally and artistically.

'A bend in the road is not the end of the road ... unless you fail to make the turn.' 
Helen Keller

I will use their own words to tell their stories.


Following on from my mentoring course last year, I have been giving a lot of thought to where I want to go with my work and how to achieve this. I'm also aware that Traverse is starting to think about the next body of new work and this has been another consideration in my decision. I have decided I want to take some time to explore my current theme of work further and to spend time working on developing my artistic voice and practice. As a result, I feel that the time has come for me to leave Traverse. I have really enjoyed my time within the group and wish all of you all the best for your future work together.

As some of you will know, Becca's work has great personal significance, based on her experiences of living with deafness - an invisible disability - and has been widely admired during our exhibitions last year. Her Traverse blogpost Making the Invisible Visible describes her inspiration and the reaction to her work most eloquently. Alongside her administrative work within the group, helping a lot with social media, we will also miss that individual creative input and the extra dimension Becca's work brought to Traverse.

The Hidden Face - Becca


It is hard to list Bernice's contribution to Traverse in detail as there was so much she did behind the scenes.  With us right from the beginning, when we sat eating curry and trying to decide on a name, she has been instrumental in so much, including setting up our social media, this website and covering many aspects of the organisation and paperwork. Her work rate is phenomenal and she always came to our meetings with several new pieces to share. We will miss the diversity her mixed media work gave to our exhibitions, the many beautiful books and her wonderful printed and stitched fabrics.

Bernice wrote the following after a 5-day workshop at Committed to Cloth, where she thought a lot about her work:

I have spent my days last week at C2C looking at my current work and practice, and where I want to take my work in the future. I have decided from all this thinking and private journaling that I need to cut back on techniques, materials, workshops and other commitments. To this end I have decided that our next Traverse weekend will be my last.

The Road Not Taken - Bernice

Bernice describes her decision in much more detail on her personal blog here, comparing it to 'climbing a spiral staircase', where the view changes slightly as you climb. Like me, she also talks about not liking change - 'I like to think I'm open to change but in reality I can be quite resistant'.

So I've come full circle, which seems rather appropriate as, after climbing a spiral staircase of my own, my view of the winds of change is different now.

The Fab Four of Deb, Dia, Vicki and I are committed to carrying on as Traverse, embracing and making the most of the changes and, in Becca's words, 'working to keep Traverse a great group.' We have exhibitions lined up for this year, which we are busily preparing for, following our theme of 'Senses'. More on that later but here's a sneak peek.

'When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.'
Chinese proverb


Thursday, 30 January 2020

Please Touch at Sense

Some of you may remember my post about our collaboration with On The Surface at the West Country Quilt and Textile Show, entitled Please Touch. It was very well received, although the idea of not being allowed to touch art was so ingrained in our visitors that we did have to give many people very strong encouragement to actually touch the pieces!

We are very pleased to be bringing a selection of our Please Touch work back to its inspirational home at Sense. the charity which supports deafblind people and those with complex disabilities, for whom the sense of touch is so important. You can read more about their work on their website here.

The exhibition opens next week at TouchBase Pears, running from 3rd to 28th February, and we are really looking forward to sharing our work there. Inspired by Sense, these pieces were designed specifically to be explored by touch, with interesting texture created in various ways - weaving, winding and stitching with yarn, fabric, felt, paper and paint, adding buttons and beads. Here is a selection:

Weaving Waves - Cath
Woven painted card, printed with hand-made printing blocks, machine-stitched

Mono Media - Cath
Layered synthetics, stitched, heat-treated, mounted on cotton duck & painted white

Tower of Holes - Cath
Vessel, wet felted with resists and simple hand stitch

Twisted Tower - Cath
Vessel, layered synthetics, stitched & heat-treated, central band of metal foil, painted

Deb's dress - Gaia

Twiddle-Fiddle - Bernice
Printed & dyed cotton, machine stitched, added textures & twiddly bits
Acquiescence - Vicki

Black & White: Grey Precision - Dia
Wet felted using Puku Finn sheep fibres, resist, metal coffee capsules & organza

Blue & Green: Bluish Climber - Dia
Green fabric, blue & green wool & blue plastic coffee capsules

If you are anywhere near Selly Oak, Birmingham, in the next few weeks, please pop in to TouchBase Pears to see our work - you could also check out the Hive Cafe!


Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Looking back

This time last year I wrote a blog, looking back on some workshops I'd attended and various unfinished pieces I needed to work on in the New Year ... and unsurprisingly, I have to admit that several of them are still waiting! This year my thoughts have turned not to the unfinished but the finished - our Revealed exhibition, which we really enjoyed sharing with the many people we met in 2019.

I'm in the middle of updating our Gallery page and looking back and remembering the reactions and various conversations we had with visitors about our work. So, I thought I'd share some of my memories of our year here. Our exhibition, 'Revealed', explored our individual approaches to the idea of what is seen or unseen, using unconventional viewpoints, revealing various hidden layers - in the physical world, in our emotional landscapes and also in our work itself. As always, we came up with a variety of ideas.

Some of our work came from a very personal perspective - most notably, Becca's work relating to her deafness and the response to them was very positive, particularly from the deaf community. Becca has written her own post here eloquently describing her feelings and the various conversations she had. I just remember the smiles and excited faces of the members of the deaf community I met, as I pointed out the inspiration behind the work - leading to the following comment in our book, 'Very impressive work - from deaf fellows'.

The Hidden Face

Hidden Deafness 1/3

Hidden Deafness 2/3

Hidden Deafness 3/3

Bernice was also inspired by a personal accident for the following machine-stitched piece 'Hidden Support', described here in her own words: A personal journey about my breaking my fingers in 2018. The base of the piece is made from the two muslin slings I was given. I kept a photo diary of my treatment and recovery and most of these photos were printed out on cotton fabric. The top layer is made from the hospital appointment letters. The tags show the dates of the appointments up to December 31st.

Visitors were fascinated to learn of the story behind both this and also the following piece. I saw many a smile on the faces of people, reading the label for 'My Mother Said' and pointing it out to their friends. The label said: On the first layer I wrote about my mother disapproving of even a bra strap showing, unlike now when almost anything goes!

My Mother Said
Mixed media distressed vest, made with paper, fabric, stitch and beads

As the following comment shows, some people were very interested to find out the stories behind our work: 'An amazing display of work and so interesting to hear the background of some of the exhibitors'.

Vicki also found inspiration in the human body and biological structure, here exploring hidden vulnerability and disease. This wonderful, delicate stitching showed the fragility of osteoporosis.


The inspiration for this was of great interest to some, maybe with personal experience of the disease, and some commented how good it was to have a common theme running through an artist's work. However, it was interesting to listen to other conversations about this piece as it was clear that it wasn't necessary to know the inspiration behind it to appreciate the work, as is also often the case. It's seen here displayed as it was on a wonderful glass head ...

... which led to many people discussing its suitability as a fascinator and one loud comment, 'It's beautiful - I'd wear it for my wedding!'

Deb's fabulous 'unwearable' dress was also very popular, with many people commenting on the wonderful texture she has created on the surface. The general consensus was that it was definitely wearable - someone wrote the following in our book: 'Green outfit absolutely beautiful. Could definitely be wearable. So beautiful and so clever to be able to have the foresight'.

Another of Deb's pieces which was greatly admired was her beautiful stitched piece - just stunning!

In some cases, a personal response to the work came from a shared experience with a visitor, which was the case with these wonderful needle felted landscapes from Dia. They grew out of her recent holiday in Namibia ...



... and 'Deadvlei' in particular brought back very happy memories of a very special place for one visitor, who talked excitedly with Dia about the work for some time. She had lived in Namibia for many years and wrote in our book: 'Beautiful work. Such skills ... and the picture of Deadvlei, Namibia is a treasure!'

Several of us chose to use wet-felting with resists techniques for 'Revealed', as these close-ups show.

In 'Spiral Space', I challenged myself to do a large spiral resist and it ended up being the largest piece of wet felting I've ever done - physically, quite hard work and definitely a challenge! However, I was very pleased with it and had many conversations about how I had worked it and the various methods I had to use to make the spiral stand up.

Spiral Space
Wet felted with spiral resist, yarn, threads and pre-felted shapes, hand & machine stitch

Another of my wet-felted resist pieces which drew comments was 3D - the vessel, 'Rainbow Totem'. This had multi-layered resists and one of my favourite colour combinations - orange, red and turquoise. After I'd pointed out 'Spiral Space' to one visitor as wet-felting with a resist, she rushed instead towards the vessel, saying, 'Ooh, I like the spiral, but I lo-o-o-ve this!'

Rainbow Totem
Wet felting with resists, nuno felted with silk chiffon

This also had some nuno-felted areas and so combined felting techniques, learned on separate workshops with two inspirational felters, Caroline Merrell and Clare Bullock. The joy of learning new techniques and sharing ideas within the textile art community is important to me and also a very special part of my reason for doing exhibitions. I hope that sharing our work, as we do, also plays a small part in inspiring others - which is why this is possibly my favourite comment of all written in our book this year: 'Thanks for your information and inspiration. I am going to have a go!'

So, we say goodbye to 2019 and 'Revealed' and look forward to next year, where our theme will be 'Senses'. I'll close with one more close-up image of my 'Starshine' lampcover, also inspired by another wonderful tutor, Alysn Midgelow-Marsden, which drew this comment in our book: 'Starshine is spectacular! Magical!'

Copper shim and mesh, stainless steel fabric, heat treated,
zapped layered synthetics, hand & machine stitch, sequins and beads

It brings spectacular and magical 'Happy New Year' wishes to you all with love and thanks from all of us here at Traverse.