Monday 22 October 2018

anni albers at tate modern

There is a hierarchy in art with textiles low down the pecking order. When at Goldsmiths in the early noughties the Fine Art MA would not share a catalogue with the Textiles MA. I reflected on this while walking round the final shows in which it was impossible to spot the boundary between courses. We use textile - association, thread, fabric and process as a material ripe with context, history, culture and meaning. It is simple, we are artists.

From a tiny look at social media I sensed the deep intake of breath from artists and designers around the opening of the Anni Albers show at Tate Modern. Fortunately I was in London for the opening weekend and got to see the highly sophisticated craft of weaving united with the language of modern art and abstraction.

I read EVERYTHING in the show, and noted down these snippets from Anni Albers which resonated...

Room 2

A Start: Weaving at The Bauhaus
'One outstanding characteristic of the Bauhaus has been, to my mind, an unprejudiced attitude toward materials and their inherent capacities.'

'... went into weaving unenthusiastically, as merely the least objectionable choice, but gradually threads caught my imagination.'

Room 6

The Pliable Plane
'The essentially structural principles that relate the work of building and weaving could form the basis of a new understanding between the architect and the inventive weaver. New uses of fabrics and new fabrics could result from a collaboration: and textiles, so often no more that an afterthought in planning, might take a place again as a contributing thought.'

Room 10

Material as Metaphor: Prints, Drawings and textile samples
'... Circumstances held me to threads and they won me over. I learned to listen to them and to speak their language... And with the listening came gradually a longing for a freedom beyond their range and that led me to another medium, graphics. Threads were no longer as before three-dimensional; only their resemblance appeared drawn or printed on paper. What I learned in handling threads, I now use in the printing process.' 

aa2a residency - derby university

When I lived in London there were constant reminders of my mum and her family who lived for generations in central London. From my bedroom window, tiny on the distant horizon the BT Tower was visible and this totem transported me back to memories of Auntie Lil's spotless kitchen in Camden Town, where the tower loomed large beyond the window, and of Uncle Fred who lived a stones throw from the tower off Oxford Street. At Leytonstone tube the central line could have taken me to my mum's house and Epping Forest where reminders abound. Taking or not taking these journeys wasn't the point, the associations and memories were sparked, keeping Doreen and my London ancestors current in my thoughts.

Moving to Derbyshire has removed this layer if association. This land holds no family connection, and this fact has left me adrift somedays while I sit with complicated feelings. When packing up my Leytonstone flat I had the foresight to include my precious storybooks from childhood. Immediately after moving to Derbyshire I reread these books, wishing to reconnect with my mum and wondering about my adult reading of these tales with a birds eye view of childhood. 

One story, The Woodcutter's Daughter by Allison Uttley stood out, it was eerily familiar, as if trying to grasp fragments of a dream. It tells the story of Cherry-blossom who lives in a forest, a girl who sews by the fire, who mends and makes. When my mum read us these stories she slept in the room with us, and looking back I realise she was using us as protection, my dad was an alcoholic and mum suffered domestic violence. That was the backdrop to Uttley's fairytales in our house.

After re-reading the stories I was intrigued by the author, and tapped her name into the search bar and much to my astonishment discovered Alison was born just a few miles from where I now live. The seed of a project idea began to form and I walked to her birthplace last week. 

My childhood memories are tainted and complex and I want to explore my associations with The Woodcutter's Daughter and bedtime story telling within my placement at Derby University. I've taken a deep breath and recognise my courage in being transparent about this starting point, and it feels right.      

 Wood End, Cromford

 Birthplace of Alison Uttley

 Path along the boundary of Castle Top Farm

 Castle Top Farm

 Short cut at the farm boundary

Steep wood at the farm boundary

Thursday 4 October 2018

life drawing

Gave myself the treat of an evenings life drawing last week, my first in Derbyshire! This was the final drawing of the night, 30 minutes, charcoal. 

artist access to art colleges - derby university

Wonderful news! I've been offered a placement on the aa2a (Artists Access to Art Colleges) programme at Derby University. It will allow time, space and technical support to research and realise a project idea.

It was an odd experience waiting for an interview in the university I graduated from 25 years ago!

The first creative yes in my new life!

Tuesday 2 October 2018


The tree hand embroidered onto this child's nightgown grows at the end of Englands Lane in Loughton, Essex. As a girl I remember sitting underneath its branches and colouring in my flower fairy book. This memory leads to the next, that afternoon I developed sun stroke and spent the rest of the day in our back bedroom, curtains drawn, being sick. This memory is vivid and hazy all at once.

Throughout my life I've held a soft spot for this gnarly hawthorn, probably growing before the housing estate was built in the 1940's. I'd often walk past it when visiting Mum. 

Last year my sister and I packed up Mum's house after her death and this spring, knowing I was leaving the London/Essex area and moving to Derbyshire I photographed the tree, intending to embroider it onto a girls nightdress. Now made I can see it's not quite right, Mum would have appreciated the work BUT there is another version that could be made, an embroidery onto a 1970's synthetic nightdress, less pretty, odd. Can I spend another 100+ hours hand sewing? 


All I need is to source or make a nightdress, I have a pattern from the era purchased from Ebay, but (annoyingly) its buried in a storage unit in Derby with most of my belongings...

For now, I'll take a breath and appreciate the focus and effort involved in making this.       

 Hawthorn dress in a holly grove