Bridging Arts

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Christmas and more embroidery

Christmas is fast approaching but we squeeze in another focus group, this time in Wandsworth with the Asian Women's Group. We've had less chance to meet and talk things through beforehand here, and the women are shy. But it's clear that embroidery is a passion.
The stitch in yellow (pictured) is new to Jessica (our Royal School of Needlework expert).

One lady very kindly gives me a handkerchief she embroidered for me the previous evening because she knew we would be meeting today. It's the first time that I have met her.
People are keen to get started on embroidering themselves now, even though many not have done much needlework for decades.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Pulling out the stops in Tooting

The first focus group and we're dazzled. The room at the community centre, where the group meets, is filled with suitcases, bags and bundles. It's the first time I meet Jessica Aldred of the Royal School of Needlework (who throws herself into the project with a passion) and in one sense we don't know where to start. Such is the variety of pieces brought in, the stitches and the background. We take as many photos as we can. We make a list of the stitches, some regional that Jessica has not seen before. People tell their stories.
We're lucky with the light. There is just time to take photographs in the street as the sun sets.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Building a movement

I had thought it was Streatham - but in fact it is technically Tooting. Close to Tooting Lido. We'll get to know the route well over the next few months. The Furzedown Centre on Moyser Road is a lively base for various groups of 'older' people. Restart 50+, a group of retired professional Bangladeshi women, are keen and their leader Ferdous Rahman has galvanised them into action.
The first focus group will be in a couple of weeks.
This is one of three groups of Muslim women who are keen to take part.
Just down the road in Battersea more connections have been made at the Katherine Lowe Settlement, a vibrant community hub. Particularly interested are ESOL learners from north Africa to Pakistan.
And back, close to central Wandsworth, is the Asian Women's Group, a group of older women who meet three times a week in Mantle Court, a sheltered housing complex. The warden, Ann, loves needlework.
We're ready to go. Next step: focus groups when everyone will bring in their embroidery and we'll look at the stitches and the stories behind the pieces with the Royal School of NEedlework.

A personal touch

Visiting different groups in Wandsworth and talking about the project - today the Association of Somalian Women in Battersea - take examples of embroidery that is important to me.

Including a dress made by my mother for me so long ago that I hesitate to say when - on parachute silk and embroidered with spring flowers from Cornwall, where I grew up.

Grape hyacinths



Parachute silk is in fact nylon - a fabric readily available in the years after the war

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

One year on

A year on. Meetings, draft proposals, final proposals, budgets. A search for partners. In Hampton Court, we made important connections - with the Royal School of Needlework.... and we've just heard that our application to the Heritage Lottery Fund was successful.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

The embroidery trail

Still no progress on funding... but I visit central Spain with a great friend, Marcy Frosh. We stay in Oropesa de Toledo and we walk a couple of kilometres in the burning heat to a neighbouring village, Lagartera.
Famous for its embroidery.

The designs are geometric, a legacy of Moorish rulers many centuries previously.
We both sense that the project - showing through embroidery how cultures intertwine - has so much potential.