Bridging Arts

Saturday, 30 January 2010

A personal touch at Little Chef, Okehampton

Set off for London from Cornwall, very early. The full moon still visible over St Ives.
Snow on Dartmoor. Stop for coffee at a rather bleak Little Chef near Okehampton, and see that someone has tried to cheer the place up with pale green ribbons (the colour matching the icy landscape outside).

Friday, 29 January 2010

Machine-stitched pictures at the National Theatre

Another interesting exhibition spotted by a blog reader... this time at the National Gallery.
"Just a suggestion; if you haven't visited the exhibition of stitched pictures by Lalla Ward at the National Theatre, I can recommend it.  They are mostly machine-stitched embroidery pictures of the flora and fauna of exotic places.  Really worth a visit..."

Will try and make it before it closes on 14 February.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

An embroidered bag in the queue in a Truro bookshop

The owner says it was a present, bought in Accessorize. Elaborate beading and embroidery. Am buying Arabic tapes to listen to in the car, as am spending a great deal of time on the road, driving from place to place on meetings for I Packed This Myself. And am trying to learn Arabic, just to exercise the brain...

Monday, 25 January 2010

An embroidered tablecloth from Portugal

Spot an embroidered tablecloth on display in the Portuguese shop in the main street in Bodmin, Cornwall. There are around 3,000 Portuguese in central Cornwall, mainly working in meat processing factories. Traditional Portuguese embroidery and crochet or lace-edged tablecloths are a source of great pride.

Friday, 22 January 2010

A trip to Harlesden and plans for a year of embroidery

A trip to Harlesden, north west London, to see Meherun Ahmed of the Asian Women's Resource Centre. We plan two courses of Stitch (funding permitting) this year. We worked with Meherun and women at the AWRC in the early stages of the project.

Women and the imagined city

At a lecture at the Institute for Germanic and Romance Studies - meet Gill Rye, Editor of the Journal of Romance Studies. Ask her about Margaret Andrews, who helped inspire the British Sari Story project (the ideas all came together after a seminar on the Imagined City that Margaret organised in spring 2007).
Margaret no longer at the IGRS but copies of the journal on the seminar are still available and Gill very kindly gives me one.
Interested to read Liedeka Plate and Ells Rommes' paper on the ways people negotiate cities - and their ideas of  what the city is.  They talk about the things carry in their bags. This is what got me thinking about I Packed This Myself and the idea of travelling suitcases reflecting the background of migrant workers.

"The things we do or do not carry with us - money, bus tickets, condoms, something to eat, nappies, a pocket-knofe, a map, a camera - all these things attest as much to who we are and how we identify ourselves as to what we think we may need in negotiating the city..."

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Minimalism Massimo and interesting connections

At the opening of Lorenzo Belenguer's show Minimalism Massimo at the Gallery at Willesden Green - a great coincidence and very nice to meet Kate Keara Pelen, whose ink and embroidery on paper is displayed.

Just before Christmas, someone told me about Kate's work which is on display in Ealing for the next few weeks. Need to go and see it. She is interested in the 'conventions, rituals and structures of spiritual practice', as we are in Stitch. Interesting connections could be made.
Otherwise... Lorenzo's show is a triumph. It's been two years in the making. He says he was waiting for the right credit crunch moment so that the exhibition, showing contemporary responses to minimalism, would have the maximum impact. With works by Joseph Bueys, Carl Andre, John Baldessari, Martin Creed...

Monday, 18 January 2010

When Stitch leaves York Gardens Library. Though new venues are possible

Sarah Crowe, Bridging Arts intern, and I take down the Stitch exhibition from York Gardens Library, Battersea, this morning. The library looks bigger - but bleak without the colour. It is quite sad to say goodbye to Angela Emmott, librarian - she says she has learned a lot about her local community through the project.
Later a meeting in Shepherds Bush in the Old Library with David Hampshire from Hammersmith and Fulham library service about bringing the show to the Borough. And possibly the British Saris too.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Ripping rococo in the Hotel de Soubise

The Hotel de Soubise in Paris - one of the best preserved examples of rococo decoration in France. Hannah mentioned this in her talk about the Turkish rococo motif of a horn of plenty, that she desighed for one of our new embroidery packs.
Having never been v interested in rococo, try and find out more.

The Princess's salon (1737-49) is full of the ornate scrolls, tendrils, creeping fronds and shells that Hannah described when she presented the motif last November.
I confess - up to now, I had always thought rococo was stuffy, overpowering and hard to warm to. But the spiralling curves and mirrors of this oval room lift the spirits.

The Hotel de Soubise now houses the French National Archives. In the bookshop discover that there was an exhibition - some years ago now - of swatches of Marie Antoinette's dress fabric. Only a postcard left as a reminder. Though the book (with images of the patterns) is still available on Amazon, it seems... Gazette des atours de Marie-Antoinette, Queen's wardrobe 1782.
She was beheaded in 1793.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The big thaw, finding an old friend, making new contacts

The snow is, at last, beginning to thaw. From John Bett's House (sheltered housing run by a charity in Hammersmith and Fulham) you can see people walking with umbrellas on the pavement. The residents are relieved that the ice is melting.
Have gone to talk about Stitch and to gauge interest in embroidery demonstrations - and possibly classes.
But the highlight of the morning is meeting an old friend, Stella, who I  have not had a chance to talk to properly for years. Had not realised that she had moved from her old house. Her new flat is full of embroidery she has collected over the years. Cushions arrayed on the sofa with a variety of histories.....     A tapestry kit bought at a French stately home some years ago...                                                                                          

A cushion won at a Royal School of Needlework raffle

Another bought in Austria, with eidelweiss in each corner

Embroidered and beaded cushions bought in Malta when visiting her sister

A tapestry of a canal scene, worked by her sister. 
 The star of the show (not pictured) is one of Stella's most prized possessions. A Christmas bauble worked by Ruth Chamberlin, who lives in Rutland. Exquisite gold work, beading and applique - the star of Bethlehem and the Rose of Sharon.  Ruth Chamberlin is going to embroider the new vestments at Holy Innocents' Church, Hammersmith, which is where I met Stella.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Jilbab. Niqab. Al Amira. Dupatta. Burqa. Chador.

An article in today's Independent on the veil and its social, political and religious significance to women today...
The Many Faces behind the Veil.
Reminds me of the origins of the Stitch project - one of the the initial aims was to demystify the hijab.

Fake fur in the Co-op and Upcycling

Much later, on my way home from a lecture, bump into my daughter in the Co-op. She has ventured out to buy chocolate chips for cup cakes she is making and is wearing a fake fur coat (bought at funnily enough at Kernow Animal Welfare charity shop in Cornwall during the holidays) over her pyjamas. Recycling garments: instant glamour with fake fur is a theme of the season....

Later, while we eat the cupcakes, she says 'upcycling' is a new trend i.e. creating something from old garments/ materials that values the original craft/workmanship that made them. A friend of hers, Molly, who is studying Fashion at Central St Martins, has been set a project. It is not just a question of e.g. making a new dress from an old satin evening dress found in a charity shop. But using the techniques or characteristics of that garment to create something new. Molly is boiling woollen garments so that the inner seams fuse into felt-like tubing, then creating something new from the tubing.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Links and pictures - the V&A connection

Mor Thunder, the curator at the V&A who helped with the project last spring, has emailed to say that it is all right to reveal her identity - as the previously anonymous visitor who was so complimentary about the Stitch exhibition at York Gardens Libray, Battersea. Am delighted that Mor liked the show so much, as her input was invaluable when Restart 50+ and the Asian Women's Group visited the V&A and looked at printed patterns for muslin with her help..
And she has sent some images of embroidery in the V&A's collection, that she referred to in her comments. In case anyone is interested in going along to see. (I think I will, certainly.). All photos © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Waistcoat, 1710-1720. Silk damask, lined with fustian and silk and made in England. More on this link.
Dress fabric (above) made in Spitalfields, London in the 1730s. More on this link.

And silk damask brocaded in silks and silver-gilt thread woven in France in 1700. More on this link.
Thank you, Mor, for all this fantastic information.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Snow, research in Southfields and embroidery

A meeting at Southfields Library with Sucheta Samant (Library Manager) and Chris Dobb, who has been working on the project almost since the start. Sucheta is wearing an embroidered salwar kameez.

We make plans for the exhibition to open here after Easter. And wonder whether we can find funding to run another embroidery course, this time for eight weeks, during the show.
The roads pleasantly clear because of the snow, still throwing the country into chaos.
But the weather has hammered home something I was thinking about earlier in the week - the loneliness and isolation of so many older people in modern Britain and their too often insular- if not imprisoned -  lives in residential homes.
Many are literally stopped from venturing out at the moment by icy pavements.
Read the Baring Foundation's report Aging Artfully on older people taking part in arts projects (Stitch is mentioned).  A lot of interesting observations generally on aging. Notably that isolation is now known to have adverse effects on health. And an explanation of the terms 'Third Age' and 'Fourth Age'.
And finally - a record-breaking performance, surely, from the Royal Mail. A delightful Christmas card arrives from Margaret Andrews of the Institute for Germanic and Romance Studies, thanking me for inviting her to the launch of the British Sari Story in Brent in October 2007.  (I first met Helen Scalway, a key partner in the British Sari Story at the IGRS at a conference organised by Margaret). It takes me a while to work out what has happened - but the post mark reveals all. Margarget posted the card on 22 December 2007. It has taken just over two years to arrive....

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Forging new friendships

The country is hit by blizzards and a cold day in Shepherds Bush - though not much snow on the Uxbridge Road. A short walk down the street to a sheltered housing complex that I didn't even realise was a neighbour. We are interested in taking the Stitch embroidery workshops into residential homes for older people and inviting people of all ages and backgrounds into the centres to join the classes. The manager of the complex says that her residents are isolated. She feels that in our culture - 21st century Britain - old age is not valued. In the summers in Nigeria, where she was brought up, she was sent off to the village where her grandmother lived. She learned how to cook, use native pots as refrigerators, sew....The wisdom of the old is valued. Not here.
People become flat and depressed through isolation. Classes - like the embroidery classes we are planning - could provide much needed interest and also be something to look forward to every week. They would  help to forge new friendships. More stimulus and also another way of engaging with people who need to be looked after and cared for.
Am shocked to think that this large, insular, community is on my doorstep and that I have such little contact with it.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Landscaping for lazy embroiderers

On a rushed trip to Shepherds Bush market to buy velcro (to install signage boards at an exhibition in Oxfordshire) spot bargain basement Toile de Jouy in the fabric shop. I completely failed in my Christmas plan to draw and embroider a landscape - inspired by Glynn Christian's collection. Just didn't have time, unfortunately.....
But maybe this would be a quicker alternative. Embellishing and embroidering the pastoral scenes already printed...
Buy 1m.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

France and Madras - the embroidery connection

A blog reader spots an article in Le Figaro about Jean-Francois Lesage, a scion of the famous French haute couture embroiderer Lesage, who has an atelier producing embroidered home furnishing fabrics in Madras, India.

Lesage, with its illustrious 150 years plus of history, has been frequently mentioned during the Stitch project. We have no equivalent to Lesage in the UK now. An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal in October 2009 shows that even the great French couture industry is feeling the pinch....Lesage was one of several companies recently bought up by Chanel.

Without ateliers like Lesage, Chanel couldn't make its most elaborate clothes. "This is not an act of charity," Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion at Chanel told the Wall Street Journal.

The companies Chanel bought are allowed to do business with other high-end fashion brands, even though Chanel requires that its own products are all sourced in France.

Francois Lesage, creative director of Lesage, says that while all his designs are created in Paris, he has been outsourcing about 15% of the ready-to-wear orders the company gets to Madras, India, since the late 1990s. "Does the master chef peel the vegetables?" asks the 80-year-old Mr. Lesage.

Wall Street Journal

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Dry fish curry for four

Starting 2010 in style... our final fish recipe for the time being.
Dry Fish Curry - from Leslie Mitchell, who has very kindly helped to collect all the recipes.
Serves: 4
Source: South East Asian Food by Rosemary Brissenden


1 lb fish cutlets (rock salmon, mackerel, grey mullet, Spanish mackerel, snapper or any salmon)
2 brown onions, finely chopped and the excess moisture squeezed out

½ inch piece of green ginger, smashed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 curry leaves
4 fl. oz tamarind water made from a walnut-sized piece of tamarind pulp

2 Tbsp coriander seed

1 Tbsp cumin seed

12 dried hot chillies

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp peppercorns (black)
1 tsp mustard seed

4 Tbsp vegetable oil
Salt to taste


Grind the coriander, cumin, chillies, turmeric, mustard seed and peppercorns to a powder in a blender (or pestle and mortar).
Heat the oil in a saucepan.
Fry the garlic and onions until golden brown.
Add the ground ingredients and fry until fragrant.
Now add the ginger and curry leaves, salt and tamarind water.
Stir well and allow to boil, then add the fish.
Cover the pan and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
Then stir carefully until the fish is cooked and the gravy is thick, when it is ready to serve.

Leslie says:
This recipe comes from Mrs Wilhelmina Sim of Kuching, who supplies recipes every month for the Women’s Institute Radio Programme in Malaysia.
Delicious with boiled basmati rice. Serve with accompaniments such as small bowls containing: salted peanuts, chopped spring onion, chopped ripe tomatoes, dry roasted desiccated coconut and thinly sliced fried onion. Also good with a green salad.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Fish for the New Year

And another fish recipe from the embroidery group – an idea for New Year’s Day lunch.

Tamara Hincho contributed this, a favourite recipe found in a newspaper.

Stir Fry Fish
Red onion - chopped
3 x Peppers – red, yellow, orange – one of each sliced
Garlic - Chopped
Haddock – 2 portions
Cooking foil
Oven setting: 200ÂșC – preheat oven
* Stir fry chopped red onion, peppers, and garlic until softened
* Place on open baking tray
* Place 2 pieces haddock on top
* Pour melted butter on top of fish
* Cover with foil
* Place in preheated oven and bake approx. 20 minutes or until fish is cooked.

Preparation Time:

Notes/Comments: Lovely flavours of the sweetness of the peppers with the fish. Good on its own or served with a green salad.