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'