Saturday, 1 June 2019

Q&A with Vicki

Hi, it's Becca here. I've been looking back at the past Traverse blog posts and realised that besides my intro post in June 2018, there has been no post introducing any of the other members! We have a new member to the group and it seemed a really good opportunity to firstly introduce Vicki but also to do a post on every member of the group! So over the next few months, I will post a Question and Answer session with one of Traverse's members.


Vicki  joined Traverse earlier this year and despite the short time between joining the group and our first exhibition of 2019, she worked really hard to ensure she could exhibit with us. But let's find out a bit more..

Can you tell us about you? 

I’m Vicki. I'm trying to navigate through life’s complications whilst dipping into my accumulation of years worth of materials to make things. 

How did you get into textiles? 
As a child during the 1970’s, I attended what was quite a progressive primary school, where creativity was vastly important. We learned to sew - hand and machine, worked with clay, and looked at an array of creative practices. My home life also had an emphasis on making, traditional skills and thinking outside of the box in terms of gender roles.  

I have a BA(hons) in Art and Design.

What are your creative influences? 

Ooooo, where to start! Quite frequently anatomy features as starting point for any work I’m making, disease and mortality. Cliché to say Frida Kahlo but a definite influence there, but honestly, it’s a large sphere of influence including a variety of media. 

Bioscience, technology, nature and history. 

What inspires your work? 

I'm inspired by death quite a lot…


What are your favourite techniques to use?

I love stitch, the repetition, the rhythm, the history around different techniques. 
However, I do bore quite easily so I tend to have a few things on the go at once. Many unfinished paintings and small scale sculptures lurk around my work space

How did find your creative style? 


Describe your style in 4 words 


How do you start a new project? 

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.

What do you do if you hit a creative block?

1. Take some time away from what I’m working on. 
2. Try not to throw it in the bin or cover it in glitter!
3. I love books, so I’ll read or look through reference books for a few sparks.

Thank you Vicki, it has been great to find out more about you and your work!  Our next Q&A post with be with Bernice.


Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Making the Invisible Visible

The Quilt and Stitch Show at Uttoxeter Racecourse was my first exhibition with Traverse but also my first exhibition with my current theme of work 'Making the Invisible Visible'. 'Making the Invisible Visible' is informed by my own experiences of invisible disability and chronic illness and as part of Traverse's theme 'Revealed', I have been keen to show, or reveal, the emotions behind the facade that many people with invisible disability and chronic illness develop.

Traverse's stand at The Quilt and Stitch Show, Uttoxeter. April 2019.

For those of you who don't know me, I'm profoundly deaf, not that you would know unless I told you. For me, it truly is an invisible disability and throughout my life, like many deaf people, I have faced comments such as "You don't look deaf"; "You are not as deaf as you pretend to be"; "You use your deafness as an excuse"; "Can you hear me?" said in either an exaggerated way which is totally useless if you lip read as it alters the lip pattern you are trying to follow or as a whisper behind their hand as they try to 'catch' me out. I could go on, I have many examples. The majority were not funny the first time I heard them, most make me feel very embarrassed and some are truly hurtful.

But the worst thing?

It’s that every deaf person I have met, whether people like myself who have been deaf (of varying levels) since birth or people who have had a hearing loss later on in life have faced these comments. And every deaf person and every person who has an invisible disability or chronic health condition (of which I also have with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue) who face this lack of understanding and support, put on a 'face', that is a face they hide behind, an "I'm fine" face that they face the outside world with to try to minimise any vulnerabilities shown to those who don't understand.

'The Hidden Face'

Using my own experiences and those of various people I have spoken with, I wanted to try and show the emotions behind the facade, the struggle that deaf people (and anyone with an invisible disability or chronic illness) face every day and reveal how different levels of hearing loss affect what we can hear.

Although I have had many a conversation and positive response from the other members of Traverse and a handful of other artists about the work I was creating, I wasn't entirely sure how complete strangers would react and The Quilt & Stitch Show was kind of nerve wracking for that reason! Every artist, whatever media they use, faces worries about how others will perceive their work and worries about whether their work is truly good enough. But I was also wondering if what I was trying to convey would be understood by those viewing my work.

On Friday, the first day of the show, Cath and I were stewarding the Traverse stand and it proved to be a very interesting day - for all of us as we all received lots of nice comments and support from visitors - but especially for me as I met several people who expressed their interest in my work. Three such visitors really stick in my memory of the day:

The first was an elderly gentleman who had age related hearing loss and he instantly 'got' what I was trying to convey - both from the statements that people say and from the difficulties faced with hearing loss in a hearing world. We did what seems to be a typical topic of conversation whenever I meet someone with hearing loss - have a good discussion over the difficulties of trying to hear in different situations, what different hearing aids are like and how hard it is to cope with people who don't understand that different situations affect how well you can hear and follow what is going on - I suspect some of this typical conversation comes from the fact I was an audiologist pre-children and have an inbuilt nature to want to help those I meet rather than a totally typical fellow “deafie” conversation but there is a bit of that too!

'Hidden Deafness' 1/3

'Hidden Deafness' 2/3

'Hidden Deafness' 3/3

I then had a conversation with fellow textile artist Jane Murdock, who is studying with the Open College of Arts and is also a fellow “deafie”, invisible disability and chronic illness warrior. Jane has written a blog post as part of her OCA research looking into how disability or chronic illness is portrayed in art and has included my work from the exhibition in her post. Jane understood instantly what I was trying to convey with the use of text in my Hidden Deafness series, a series of 3 panels based on the levels of hearing I not only experience each day but have experienced throughout my life.

Sound is all around us but how we hear sound is very different to each of us and much more so with hearing loss. Sound can be misheard, can be muddled or even just not heard at all and this leads to frustration, exhaustion, hurt and loneliness. The text was a piece of writing I wrote to try and convey in words the difficulties of being deaf and in each piece I distressed the writing and the stitching (which represents sound waves) to reflect the level of hearing loss being depicted and therefore, how much I could hear and understand of what was said. 

Close up of 'Hidden Deafness' 2 showing some of the text used.

My piece “Making the Invisible Visible” tries to show the hidden layers we have behind the perfect yet imperfect, strong yet fragile façade to show the frustration and irritation we feel when in contact with those who don’t understand the struggles we are facing. Jane could really relate to the feelings being expressed and felt so enthused by my work that she could see ways she could take her own work further and also as part of her OCA course, continued to explore how artists through history have portrayed chronic illness or disability in their art. You can find Jane’s blog post here.

'Making the Invisible Visible'

Finally I met two profoundly deaf ladies who were very moved by the subject matter. Deafness isn't something that comes up in art, let alone textile art very often so it was quite a surprise to them to find something that was so relevant to them - the worries, the difficulties and the frustration that occurs every day.

A full conversation proved slightly difficult as their first language was British Sign Language and mine is English –  despite the common thought that deaf people can’t speak and can only sign, I was actually brought up using oral language/spoken English so I speak but sign very little (something I am working on improving). But we did our best and following “the conversation” (as mentioned above) we discovered that we actually live very close by, in fact one of the ladies lives only 5 minutes away, not a connection I expected to make from a small show in the Midlands!


Sunday, 24 March 2019

If in doubt, cut it up!

As Cath promised here is part 3 of Marvellous Mixed Media Felting Workshop.  Those who read my personal blog know that I am very prone to cutting things up - especially those pieces that I think don't work or I just don't like.  Here you will find an example of both reasons.

I liked the colours I had used with this first piece.  It was only meant to be a sample.  The original piece of felt I thought was two big so I had cut it into two thirds and a third whilst we were at the workshop.  This is the two thirds piece.

I didn't think either piece worked so when I got home I cut up both pieces into smaller pieces.  Of course I could have left it as a sample but decided I'd rather make it into something.

I tried various ways of reassembling the bits.

I stitched on each piece separately and added gold acrylic paint.

I put the pieces together and sewed them to make this whole textile called Piece by Piece 1

These were  the two pieces I made on the second day of the workshop.  And I didn't like them.  Especially the one on the right that looked like it was an African or Aboriginal mask.

So you surely know what is coming next!  Yes.  I cut them both up.

Then I experimented with the reassembly until I came up with something I liked.   Some of the pieces were very thick but by needlefelting them I managed to get them thinner.

I stitched on the pieces and sewed the pieces together.  I added copper acrylic paint.  This one is called Piece by Piece 2.

If you come to our exhibition at the British Quilt and Stitch Village from April 12th-14th you can see whether these pieces stayed like this or whether I was tempted by more stitching or more cutting up!


Thursday, 14 March 2019

Marvellous Mixed Media Felting Workshop Part 2

Please see previous post for Part 1 of this workshop.

We returned the following day, having some ideas of what elements we wanted to include but still very much prepared for the part serendipity might play.

As in Part 1, I'm grateful to Bernice (BH), Caroline (CM) and Deb (DD) for extra images.

Bernice produced several pieces and again documented the process well.

Experimenting with the orientation.

Adding surface decoration

A different kind of resist

Deb also tried this type of double resist ...


... with a beautiful result as she began to cut into it later.

Detail of the above, after beginning to cut into it (CM)

My piece using a similar double resist has a border of nuno felted recycled silk chiffon but it was still awaiting the scissors here ...

... but I did spend a lot of time thinking about the layers on this next piece!

My clothes don't always match my work but it does happen quite often! (CM)

Unfortunately, I was so engrossed thinking about the layers that I forgot to take many photos of the different stages of this but I began with a layer of purple needle-felted pre-felt, adding a copper shim circle, which I'd marked in a spiral with a 'dead' biro.

After adding more layers, including glass beads, more copper shapes and another resist over the copper spiral, I also used some of the purple pre-felt as added decoration on the top layer, along with some dyed Blue Faced Leicester curls.

I finally remembered about photos!

After felting, it looked like this ...

Here come the scissors ...

I was very pleased with it at this stage and resolved to cut into it more at home.

Deb's next piece had several resists in the different layers ...


... with added delicate surface decoration.


Cutting into the layers to remove the resists

Detail of the above after Deb has begun to cut into the felt (CM)

We were all inspired to continue working on our pieces at home. Deb made a fabulous new piece using the same techniques ...

Detail (DD)

I finished cutting into my rainbow copper spiral piece, concentrating on the purple pre-felt in the bottom corner ...

Detail of cutting into top layer of purple pre-felt

... and thought about stitching but decided not to.

Finished piece waiting to be mounted

Then, look what happened when I started cutting into my double resist piece with nuno-felted strips!

Still work in progress but, when I bent it in my hands to see more clearly what colour was under the turquoise, it became decidedly 3d and will probably be a vessel. Did I mention Serendipity?

Come and see us in Uttoxeter at Quilt & Stitch Village (12th - 14th April) to see this and more of our work in Traverse's new exhibition for 2019, 'Revealed'. We'd love to see you there.

We thoroughly enjoyed our two days at the Felt Foundry with Caroline and came away with many new ideas and techniques to explore. Bernice is writing a separate blog about what happened next with her work. Watch this space for Part 3 - coming soon ...


Friday, 8 March 2019

Marvellous Mixed Media Felting Workshop Part 1

Last week, I spent a weekend with Deb and Bernice on a wonderful workshop with Caroline Merrell at The Felt Foundry in Bishop's Frome. We all had some prior experience of wet felting but it was those magical words - Mixed Media - in the title that particularly attracted us to this workshop. The idea of mixing metal, glass and other inclusions within the felt, then possibly adding paint, sounded really interesting and Caroline's work looked amazing.

Thanks to Caroline (CM), Bernice (BH) & Deb (DD) for many of the images in this post.

by Caroline (CM)

by Caroline (CM)

by Caroline (BH)

The Felt Foundry was a beautiful workspace with some wonderful resources ...


including goody bags for us all - not forgetting coffee, tea, a wide variety of biscuits and scrumptious home-made cake!


Moving swiftly on to the actual work (!) ...

Essentially, this will be a picture blog, without necessarily going into great detail about the processes and it may not be strictly in order. However, I will try to show the evolution of some of our pieces and maybe some idea of our creative processes.

Caroline began by demonstrating how to make different types of felt inclusions, which can be attached on the surface or buried underneath the felt - basically tubes, braids (thin and thick) and felt balls.

Beginning to make a tube around a resist (BH)

Adding more layers

Our tubes waiting to be attached to our samples

More from Caroline's demonstration - rolling braids of different thickness ...

Rolling a thick braid (BH)

Attaching thinly rolled braids to enable them to stand up, using resists to add an extra dimension ...



We built up small felt balls with several layers and rolled them in our hands before cutting them in half in preparation for burying them in our felt sample pieces.

Caroline showed us how to layer up our felt, burying various inclusions of our choice, including the felt items we'd prepared and also metal, fabric and glass beads.

Laying out the inclusions (BH)

Adding the prepared felt inclusions (BH)

Burying it all underneath the thick final layer of fibres (BH)

Feeling inspired, we began work on our own samples ...

Bernice was very organised and took several sequences of photos following the progress of her pieces.

Experimenting with folding the tube

At this stage, Bernice decided to cut this piece into two and she continued to work on the larger of the two.

The following photos show the sequence of cutting into the felt.

Removing the resists

This is my sample ...

Positioning the braid and felt balls (BH)

I changed the braid into a spiral before adding the tube, more inclusions and 'spikes' (BH)

When it was dry, the fun began as I started to cut into the felt.

I cut out some  circles

I wasn't sure about the spikes or the tube towering over the whole piece so I experimented with ways to make it smaller, folding and twisting it. I was quite pleased with this ...

Twisted tube and woven spikes

However, much later sitting at Deb's kitchen table, I decided that looked too much like a rose and I wanted something more abstract so I came up with something different ...

... which drew this comment from a friend yesterday - "So you got rid of the rose and came up with a bishop's hat!"

This is as far as I've taken the sample, having cut into the spiral and added a few more curls with needle felting. It needs more work and I'm planning to stitch into it eventually.

Here is Deb's sample piece.

Positioning the felt inclusions (BH)

Adding fabric & glass bead inclusions (DD)

Adding the top layer (BH)

Cutting into the felt

Cutting back into top layer (BH)

As you can see, Deb also experimented with the tube, shortening it by cutting some off the top and placing it over the tube and then deciding to cut into the remaining top edge.

We thoroughly enjoyed working on our samples and began to think about which elements to use in our own designs. Look out for Part 2 coming soon ...