Bridging Arts

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Cloth, crochet and an embroidery show in Manchester

Blogging is addictive. In Manchester (visiting my daughter) find a host of unexpected links to the embroidery trail. It is cold and grey - snowing in Oldham. But my daughter is keeping warm. She has crocheted cuffs for her Primark cashmere cardigan and a patch for a large moth hole in the elbow with Jaeger angora and lambs wool bought in a charity shop.
On the way back to the hotel (once a warehouse holding cloth from the north west prior to distribution all over Britain) we pass an embroidery show called Undercover by students at Manchester School of Art in an cafe, promising "to challenge and inspire anyone whose idea of embroidery is limited to the domestic arena."
A great idea and a great display in the showcase window... pieces of embroidery hang in the cafe downstairs. Where on one of the sofas someone happens to have thrown a crocheted blanket.

And later still, a barman peeling lemon for a martini gets distracted, talking about his former maths and physics studies... and pares off at least a foot of rind. Dropped into the glass, it looks like instant embroidery.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Top chef's embroidered landscapes

Glynn Christian (second left), Britain's first tv chef and now a historical novelist, is taking part in the classes and very kindly brought along his extraordinary collection of embroidered landscapes. They have been collected over the decades, bought in markets and junk shops.
"Though I'm a writer, I'm useless with my hands I can't do this kind of thing, but I so admire people who can," he said. "They were not only stitched by people but designed by them."

This embroidery is mostly on linen or canvas. There are so many beautiful pieces that I cannot display on the blog - so have created web gallery for them on the Bridging Arts site. Everyone was carried away by this embroidery. I am inspired to embroider a landscape myself this Christmas. Thank you, Glynn.

Inspiration and a tablecloth

A lovely moment at the beginning of yesterday's class in Battersea. Kathleen Oyediran brought in a tablecloth that she had started to embroider before she was married, 37 years ago, but never finished. The classes, she said, had inspired her to have another go. The tablecloth has been keep very carefully in the intervening decades and looks as pristine as it did when she started on it....

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Jessica's birthday and the fish motif

The second embroidery class at York Gardens Library, Battersea, launching the second new motif inspired by work in Stitch Wandsworth. It's a fish - which is a powerful symbol in many cultures....
But most important it is Jessica's birthday. Jessica Aldred (above) from the Royal School of Needlework has been working on the project from the start and has thrown herself into it - and really supported the whole idea of bringing cultures together through embroidery. It's a year since we first met at the first focus group in Tooting.
More on discussions at the class, the background to the motif and on embroidery brought in by participants tomorrow... In the meantime Happy Birthday, Jessica.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Another suggestion....

Another reader, this time someone who has followed the project (almost) from start to finish and been a HUGE help, has suggested a good blog to follow ....Lazy Girl Designs
This reader is a keen and enterprising needlewoman who has inspired me to make cloth bags to carry around exhibitions more easily ....mannequins, embroidery, signage boards and sewing packs. An amazingly simple, but brilliant idea. Hopefully this will change my life (though the only fabric available to use was material left over from a sewing project many years ago involving unpopular curtains for my then 14-year-old son's bedroom.... The pattern had far too many cute dragonflies and ladybirds for his taste - and mine had I noticed when I bought it at a knock-down price at Shepherds Bush market.)
However as bags, they work.

Monday, 23 November 2009

The pomegranate and Persephone

A blog reader in stormy Cornwall has remembered Persephone and the pomegranate - another link with the first image that we studied in the embroidery packs launched last week.

beautiful daughter of Zeus and Demeter, was kidnapped by Pluto, King of the underworld. Her parents were – naturally – devastated. Demeter, goddess of agriculture, went into mourning. Crops failed, people starved. Such was the devastation that Zeus ordered Pluto to free Persephone – as long as she had not eaten in the underworld. Pluto let her go as he thought that she had not eaten.

Persephone fled back to her mother’s arms (as in Lord Leighton’s painting above) but close on her heels was a gardener who revealed that she had eaten seven pomegranate seeds in the land of the dead. She had to go back.

But there was a compromise. It was decided that she could live on earth for nine months each year then return to the underworld for the other three.Every year while Persephone was away Demeter refused to allow any plants to grow. Trees lost their leaves; plants withered. Hence winter. All flourished again in the spring when Persephone returned.

More paintings (though not the above) by Lord Leighton at Leighton House, Kensington - a place full of pattern and motifs.

Tracey Emin's blankets and embroidery returned

More embroidery with a message.... Tracey Emin's embroidered blankets are part of her latest show, now in New York. Previously at White Cube, London.
Emin says the show is
"about drawing, about the line. To quote Rudi Fuchs, esteemed Dutch art historian, my 'salty line'. Through my embroideries, the line I draw is accentuated and extreme, which complements the way that I think. I'm on a constant search for clarity."
Drive to the Furzedown Project in Wandsworth to return traditional embroidery that we do not have room to display in the exhibition...

Ferdous Rahman checks it off. Sad to see it go.

Funnily enough the day ends with Tracey Emin - on BBC2 on a programme seeking promising new artists. She talks about the importance of drawing in art. Not everyone agrees.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Embroidery packs launched in Battersea

Today was the big day - a large turnout (with a waiting list) at York Gardens Library, Battersea, for the first class on the pomegranate motif (blackwork). Why the pomegranate? It was the emblem of Catherine of Aragon and appears on her coat of arms and in portraits. It is widely cultivated in the Middle East- and is one of the blessed fruits of Islam. According to the Koran, pomegranates grow in the gardens of Paradise...
Workshop led by Hannah Walker with Royal School of Needlework tutor Lizzie Lansberry.

Catherine of Aragon's pomegranate sparked discussions about talismans and lucky charms. Glynn Christian pointed out that the unicorn, thought to have magical powers, was on the Royal coat of arms as a 'defence of the faith'. A unicorn has the beard of a goat, tail of a lion and feet of deer. The origin of the western unicorn was a deer seen by the first Crusaders on the hill of Jerusalem. Glynn has a personal connection with the unicorn - it is on his family crest.

Seeda Islam said Muslims on the Asian subcontinent often use verses from the Koran as a form of protection - one word or short phrase written outside a front door to protect children. Or carried written on a piece of paper in a locket. Sometimes dots are drawn in kohl on a child's forehead to protect from the evil eye.

Jean Morgan said the Christian cross was a sign of protection..

Ibtisan Ahmed, the translator who helped with the class, said blue was a colour in Islam thought to ward off evil spirits. Blue beads were often carried with this in mind....

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A recipe for rice pudding

Talk to Ferdous Rahman of Restart 50+ about arrangements for 2nd December 09 (an embroidery demonstration by Maureen Markham, a specialist in beading and embellishment who trained with Norman Hartnell and worked on many of the Queen's dresses. Watch this space for further details...)
And in the course of conversation she gives me her recipe for rice pudding, made for the Eid party (29 September 09....)
Slow method:
1. Boil basmati rice in milk.
2. When very soft, add one tin of Carnation evaporated milk.
3. Add seeds of one or two cardamons. Plus one or two sticks of cinnamon and one tablespoon of rose water. Sultanas, pistachios and almonds can also be added, to taste.
Quick method:
Use two tins of Ambrosia tinned rice and 1 tin of evaporated milk.

One of the sewing packs looks at food and recipes.

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Madonna of the Pomegranate

Later in the evening - Hannah Walker, who designed the motifs for the embroidery packs, sends over her powerpoint. A brilliant mix of images that illustrate the point of the first class - and the stitch involved (blackwork). The pattern, a pomegranate, is important in Christian symbolism as well as Islam. As this painting by Botticelli (in the Uffizi, Florence, shows...

Making up the embroidery packs

Only four days to go before we launch the packs in Battersea. Katrina Williams hard at work cutting felt for the goldwork packs.

She has already cut 20cm swatches of calico, measured threads, sorted needles....

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Countdown to the new embroidery pack launch

In Cornwall, writing and editing the embroidery pack for the first classes (back in London next week). The weather is atrocious. In between calls to David Cross, our designer in Ealing, am driving to meetings on our I Packed This Myself project on migrant workers...

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The embroidery trail in Istanbul

Inspired by Ferdous Rahman of Restart 50+, who embroidered a tile from a tomb she saw in Istanbul, go there my daughter for a couple of days. We arrive at the blue mosque as the light is fading.
See a similar tile ourselves.

Extraordinary patterns and murals in the harem of the Topkapi Palace.

(including pomegranates, one of the motifs we're going to study in the Sewing Packs.)

Try and find out some background about the Turkish Rococco design we will use in one of the embroidery packs.