Bridging Arts

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Bank Holiday weekend and Furzedown exhibition pieces

We wound up our classes at the Furzedown project last week - and embroiderers there have much to do this Bank Holiday weekend... We're planning an exhibition of the work created during these classes in late September. The 15th is the cut off date for embroidery being ready.
At Wednesday's class, people already had lots of ideas. And some extraordinary stories were told.
Mary, for example, brought a sketch of a heart.  She said she wanted to embroider all the names of all the people who are important to her.
She had written them down on a piece of paper because she said it was important to remember. Particularly those with the name Bruce. She showed us her signet ring with the family crest. This is the crest of  Robert the Bruce - and we all suddenly realise that Mary is descended from a great Scottish hero and King.  Robert 1, King of Scots from 1306 to 1329.
On the letterhead, with the list of names that she wants to embroider, is a spider. The spider - I remember from Primary School - is an important part of the legend surrounding Robert the Bruce. On the run, before being crowned, he hid in a cave. He watched a spider swinging from one wall to the next, attempting to fix its web. It failed again and again. But on the eighth attempt, it succeeded. Inspired, Robert the Bruce went on to inflict a series of defeats on the English which resulted - eventually - in him being crowned King.
Mary's letterhead ... with the spider.

It is another, extraordinary, example of how embroidery can make connections and reveal personal histories and stories that we would never have otherwise known about.
We've become friends during this course. Bushra has brought some chocolate biscuits in honour of the last session.
Over tea, other people show their work.
Ann has embroidered trailing roses.
This is a motif that she says she has embroidered again and again over the years. It comes from a leather-bound book she has owned since childhood, and which was given to her mother when she was a child in 1916 - Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses. Ann has etched it on a belt buckle, painted it on silk...and now embroidered it. It's full of memories and associations with a cottage in the country, with roses around the door. A romantic ideal that we all perhaps share. Ann says that it's something that she always wanted to achieve but never did.
She has added her own personal touch to the rambling rose: a bullrush in the bottom right-hand corner, also inspired by an illustration in the poetry book. "I needed something extra to balance it out,"
Hyacinthe is embroidering Spanish needles, a plant that reminds her of her childhood in British Guyana.

Katherine, Bridging Arts intern for the summer and beyond, has brought her own work, as promised this week. As I expected, everyone is delighted to see it. She has two books, one which I will save for another blog post, as it deserves a space of its own and a spotlight. And a smaller one about her uncle.
She is an illustrator who has taken to the needle. Alongside the artistic excellence of much of this work, is true and heartfelt emotion. Everyone is captivated. More on her website.

A good day and the end of a good course.
Amtul's beautiful shawl with rainbow sequins is a perfect garment for the afternoon.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Hafez poetry reading at the National Portrait Gallery

Funnily enough - after our class at the Furzedown Project last week - the name of the Persian poet we discussed cropped up just a day later. I picked up the autumn Events schedule from the National Portrait gallery and saw that there is an evening of readings by Hafez on 7 October at 7pm (entry £5). "... the popular 14th century Persian poet Hafez, known and loved for his power to mix lyrical themes with political commentary", says the programme.
I attempted to read a poem by Hafez about a nightingale last week at the Furzedown class. We were working on our Rose and Nightingale crewelwork pack.  No doubt we will return to him when the Stitch Roadshow moves to Harlesden this autumn (see my previous post).

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Stitch Brent - next stop for our embroidery classes

The Stitch Roadshow moves across London - north west to Harlesden. We'll be running a ten-week course this autumn at the Asian Women's Resource Centre (AWRC). These classes - based on our new embroidery packs - will be free and open to all.  They'll start on 23 September and run from 11am to 1pm every Thursday after that until 25th November. With Royal School of Needlework tutors (who will attend four sessions) We'll study surface stitches, goldwork, crewelwork and blackwork. Materials will be provided free and background information about the motifs (inspired by western and Islamic traditions) will - we hope - spark interesting debate. One of the best things about these classes, undoubtedly (I've eaten at the AWRC before!), will be the Lunch Club. A limited number of creche places will also be available.
We have 20 places and I imagine that they will be booked up quite quickly. Please email me on as soon as possible to book yours. If you'd like to volunteer to help with this course (and we would be very grateful for your help), please email me too.
This course is funded by Faiths in Action, a grants programme open to faith, inter-faith, voluntary and community sector organisations sponsored by Communities and Local Government.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Notes on muslin

A Sunday morning spent filing - will have to move office shortly and am packing up. Come across a loose sheet of scribbled notes on muslin made during a visit last year to the V&A with Restart 50+, the group of Bangladeshi women we were working with in Wandsworth.  We looked at 18th century embroidery patterns and everyone was filled with excitement. Papers and embroidered muslin brought out from the archives by curator Mor Thunder prompted various thoughts from the women that I scribbled down at the time. Do not want to lose them now.

 - 80 yards of the finest muslin can fit in a matchbox
- if you leave fine muslin out on the grass overnight, the dew will make it invisible
- the musin industry was destroyed by the Raj.
The visit was inspired by a piece of muslin brought into a focus group we ran a few months earlier with the women.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

A visitor in Tooting and more on the romance of the nightingale

We have a visitor this week at the class in Tooting - am delighted to that Andy Pring has come along. He's from Wandsworth Council and is involved in a host of interfaith projects and youth work locally. I last saw Andy more than a year ago, when we had just finished the first round of workshops in Wandsworth. Things have moved on a long way...
Andy is a tremendous enthusiast and not only that - a fountain of information. We start to discuss the nightingale motif in our packs - the nightingale long a symbol of romance, and particularly in Iran where the 14th century poet Hafez of Shiraz wrote the lines we read in previous classes.
In the Garden at dawn, I sought for a rose
When a Nightingale's voice broke the peace with her prose....
In spirit, so like the Nightingale in Berkeley Square (we played the famous song again) written 700 years later.
And by one of the extraordinary coincidences so typical of this project - Andy not only had heard of Hafez of Shiraz but had visited his tomb when on holiday in Iran, quite recently. Even more romantic - it wasn't just a holiday, it was his honeymoon.
He said that Hafez of Shiraz was also known as Hafez al Koran, as he knew the Koran by heart (unusual for a Farsi speaker). 'Hafez' in this instance means 'Guardian' - Bushra and Amtul tell us.
It's our next to last class here - and these
classes have been unique in that they have picked up speed as the summer has passed. We started slowly - with some people finding it tough to get back into the swing of embroidery, and others learning stitches for the first time. Then the pace really changed. Some people, like Abigail (above, with Andy), have raced ahead and finished all the packs already. Others are moving forward at their own pace. 
We've been very lucky to have Royal School of Needlework tutors who have worked hard to ensure everyone can join in.  Here - Kate Farrer at work.
And our intern Katherine Eves is still working hard, threading needles and demonstrating. She has promised to bring her own work next week to show the group. Can't wait. I've seen it before.
And finally - I thought this wax was worth a photo. Goldwork needs wax: threads need to be coated with wax to strengthen them. Wax has many uses! e.g. waxing surf boards. But obviously not the same wax.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Today's class in Tooting

A photo gallery of today's class in Tooting, led by the Royal School of Needlework's Sophie Long, with the help of Bridging Arts' intern Katherine Eves and volunteer Josie Harris. The pictures speak for themselves. Wish I could have been there! It looks as if everyone is really involved with the differentpacks. Josie and Katherine played Vera Lynn singing " A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square" - useful background to the nightingale motif that some people are embroidering in crewelwork. Abigail and Hyacinthe (below) are very keen....

 Helped by Sophie, from the Royal School of Needlework (RSN)....
Hyacinthe is racing away with the goldwork pack...Abigail, a keen artist, brings in a piece she  created some time ago. She paints, too. Everything she creates she hangs on the wall.
Katherine Eves, our intern, has plunged into the project so brilliantly.

Amtul arrives with two of her friends, who have been thinking about coming for some time. We are so pleased that they made it!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Saving the dates ...

We're planning lots of embroidery workshops and classes this autumn. We'll also be at the Knitting and Stitching Show again this year. An easy way to keep up to date is by signing up for our newsletter.  (The link takes you through to the Contacts page on the Bridging Arts website. We don't send out floods of emails - only when absolutely necessary.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The fish, the rose and the nightingale - the class grows....

The class grows weekly at the Furzedown Project, Tooting, where we are running a six-week course with our new embroidery packs. The motifs were designed by our volunteer Hannah Walker and stitches worked by experts at Royal School of Needlework. Kate Farrer, who embroidered one of the packs, with a Rose and Nightingale motif, is here to teach today.  We have so many new people that we split into two groups. Some people are keen to stay with the fish - others have finished and want to move on to the Rose and Nightingale.
Abigail, who last week helped by recalling a host (or should I say shoal) of fish-related stories from the Bible, finished off her piece during the week at home. She was unsure whether the French knots around the tail should be visibly connected i.e. on the front of the fabric. But decided that in her case, they should be, as they looked like a net. It is very effective!
The finished piece.
Tea break is very important. This Rose and Nightingale motif lies idle for the time being.
Here is Kate's finished sample.
It is crewelwork i.e. in wool and we talk a bit about this and Jacobean pattern i.e. styles that flourished in the reign of King James 1 in the early 17th century. Traditional Jacobean patterns show fantastic distortions in leaves, plants and animals typical of traditional crewelwork.
Our nightingale in contrast is elegantly restrained - though it is a symbol of romantic passion. Hannah chose the rose and nightgale because of its strong links with Persian poetry and traditions but also its strong tradition in the west as a symbol of romance.  So many examples - from Keats, Oscar Wilde and Shelley to  A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square -  the 1940s song by Manning Sherwin and Eric Maschwitz, famously sung by Vera Lynn.
Hannah, when she first presented these packs in Battersea, read fabulous lines from a Persian poet 14th century poet Hafez of Shiraz. Sherwin and Maschwitz's lyrics seven hundred years later ....

That certain night,
The night we met,
There was magic abroad in the air.
There were angels dining at the Ritz,
And a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.

I may be right, I may be wrong,
But I'm perfectly willing to swear
That when you turned and smiled at me,
A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.

The moon that lingered over Londontown
Poor puzzled moon, he wore a frown.
How could he know that we two were so in love?
The whole darn world seemed upside down.

The streets of town were paved with stars,
It was such a romantic affair.
And as we kissed and said goodnight,
A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.

Made famous by Vera Lynn...