First, look back

FreizeIn the early 2000s I made a few pieces which I described as brodages (collages, but stitched rather than stuck).  They were one-offs, and more a kind of exercise of using up bits and pieces.  Frieze above was made with vintage kimono fabric I’d bought on impulse in the USA, my experimental strip of painted silk, paper figures coloured with pastel, and a piece of wire mesh.

slate1I used paper again in the figures for Hard place and Waving.  They all arose from my thoughts after attending a workshop given by Clyde Olliver I’d attended at the Embroiderer’s Guild in the days when they used to have brilliant classes.  (Clyde Olliver gave me the pieces of drilled slate.)


I was moved to make Waving in response to conversations with a friend who was having a double mastectomy.


I then went on to experiment with a couple more pieces: Measured response above was the result of sending off a digital image to be printed on canvas.  An emotional turmoil brought about Sharper – the title comes from King Lear: ” how sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have an ungrateful child”.  During the workshop I had had the idea of making a whole figure out of flint – our garden is full of pieces of flint, and had discussed this with Olliver.  The difficulty was how to attach the individual pieces.  In the end I used linen thread which had been covered in PVA, and wrapped and tied each stone to the wire mesh.


At that time I also found the acrylic frames which seem just right for the work.  All the ingredients of each piece could be seen without impediment, and yet they were tidy in a box.  Sharper has two layers of mesh, a finer one at the back onto which is stitched the patchwork of felted knitwear, then on that are cotton figures stiffened by accident – they were cut from the cotton used underneath silk which was being ironed with transfer paper.  Both the colour/pattern and the stiffening went through the silk to the cotton, thus providing me with a bonus!  Then the wider grid went on top of that and the flint head at the front.


After Sharper I concentrated on the quilt form, both large and small, until another one-off in 2013.  I had created the digital design for Acrobats electric long before I made the piece. But I could not work out a suitable means of realising exactly what I wanted.  Stitch distorts a surface, and yet I wanted the electric elements to be stiff and flat, and yet the bodies to be abstracted and stitched.  Finally what should have been obvious was suddenly clear:  the backgrounds are stitched printed silk, the pylons and wires are cut card, and the bodies are machine embroidered on soluble film.  Sorted.


I was beginning to work out how to make this piece when I was fortunate enough to be invited by Maggie Grey to take part in Approaches to Stitch – which shows, step by step how I made Acrobats electric.

As I look back in order to move forward I remember how much pleasure I had in constructing these brodages, and how I enjoyed the problem solving.  Perhaps I might think about dabbling in the process again as I review how I am to proceed.

5 thoughts on “First, look back

  1. A fascinating look back. I’m realizing the value of doing this kind of backward assessment of my own owrk. Things I’ve tried and totally forgot about but which showed promise, potential, perhaps should be revisited. Series I began and got sidetracked away from before I’d finished my explorations perhaps need a reboot. And also to be reminded of the things that didn’t work so very well. I particularly found the solution to adding the stones interesting, the use of the stones themselves quite surprising and compelling.


    • I do think that looking back is important. It is so easy to forget, and just as we choose particular paths at a fork, it is interesting to revisit, and perhaps look at taking the alternative path. Also progress in each project often takes us speedily past questions, solutions, other aspects which we might want to explore – but we cannot stop if we want to complete the work in hand. I keep a photo album of every piece completed, and flip through it from time to time to remind myself of what I’ve done.

      The use of stones arose from being attracted to them as a material. I find that there is a flipping in the mind between wanting to achieve a design and wanting to use a material. The ‘ideal’ solution arises when both come together. This was true in the case of the flints which I was constantly encountering while gardening. Their shape and colour intrigued me, also their history in early human hands. Their use as a sharp tool particularly chimed with emotions I was experiencing in not wanting to comply with my parents’ wishes at the time – hence the Shakespearian quote which provided the title.


  2. In the context of your previous post about the time taken to stitch, I’m interested to know one thing. Were these pieces quick to stitch as their striking impact seems to rely more heavily on materials used than on stitch when compared with your more recent work?


    • Yes, they took far less stitching time. Also perhaps it is the greater diversity of working that went into them – the manipulating of different materials was rewarding.


      • This certainly looks about part at least of a way through …? I’m very interested too in the diversity of materials you used. I’ll watch developments with great interest!


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