Thursday 29 December 2022


My current project during the Christmas period has been to respond to the word 'Tailored', the next title for the 62 Group of Textile Artists. This is an investigation of one of the necessary preparatory processes used in making tailored garments. The two dimensional fabric is sculpted into a three dimensional form in a series of processes, one of which is the use of temporary 'tailors' tacking' stitches that mark accurate outlines through the layers of fabrics of shapes for the next stages of tailoring.

Tailor's tacking is a loopy type of back stitch done by hand through more than one layer of fabric (below left). The layers are then separated by cutting through the tacking stitches, leaving temporary rows of cut stitches on both layers (below right).

I worked with two layers, one square yard, of black silk organza and enjoy how fascinating the stitching on the layers become when the layers are cut apart.


I'll be posting more as I progress with this piece.

Tuesday 27 December 2022


The 62 Group celebrated it's 60th anniversary in 2022. The Group presented an anniversary show at the Knitting and Stitching shows at Alexandra Palace, London and at the conference centre, Harrogate. 
We were asked to devise a textile that showed the 'essence' of our textile practice. For me this was a challenge to define this and eventually decided to try to convey a combination of my interesting in making structures by composing a series of separate sections, involving a challenging investigation in the making process. 

Each layer is a crumpled square of waxed cotton organdie. Each section is threaded together with strips of frayed silk organza.

I am also interested in linking my textile ideas to a concern I am moved by such the destruction of communities of people due to war and climate change. The layers in the construction 'Echo' are designed to suggest and reflect the fragility of our world by the tilting of the layers which are still held together before they fall over, hinting at a positive outcome. 

Saturday 24 December 2022

Wrought on the Levels

The ancient craft of basket making is the inspiration for this textile piece. It celebrates a willow weaving process that starts in the land and is wrought into attractive functional items in the skilful hands of workers in my home area on the wetland 'levels' of Sedgemoor in Somerset.

Sketchbook drawings with wet marks printed on opposite page to reflect the repeating character of the wetland landscape.

A few trial samples incorporating willow sticks grown locally for basket making. 

The willow sticks are interwoven into dyed linen strips with areas of withdrawn weft threads. 

First stages of making the resolved 'Wrought on the Levels' construction, withdrawing threads from large areas of painted linen scrim fabric.

The large swathes of fabric represent the swaying rows of withies growing in the field ready for harvesting.

The large curved forms of painted linen: with wide areas of withdrawn weft threads. Willow sticks are interwoven through the weave, helping to define the curved forms.

A separate part of the construction show sprouting withies in test-tubes, supported by a long strip of linen fabric, interwoven with small willow sticks.

A series of experimental willow constructions placed as 'rough sketches' as if resulting from the growing withies.

Wednesday 14 September 2022

A visit to the 59th Venice Art Biennale 2022


The exhibits at the Biennale are shown in a number of pavilions in two areas of Venice - the Giardini and the Arsenale - both beautiful to visit in their own right. The overall theme is 'The Milk of Dreams', taking the title from a fairy tale by British born Leonora Carrington.
The event was spread across Venice at many different galleries such as the Peggy Guggenheim [a surrealism blockbuster], the Accademia [Anish Kapoor] and the Palazzo Ducale [Anselm Kiefer]. 

As I walked around as many of the gallery and pavilions as possible, I recorded pieces that fascinated, attracted and sometimes disturbed me in different ways. It was interesting and pleasing to see so much use of threads, stitching, weaving, knotting and many references to the textile world. Here is a selective glimpse which I hope you'll enjoy.


Rosemary Trockel's  thread and knitted 'pictures' are concerned with 'women's work'' and the devalued status of craft in a mechanised society by encouraging the irregularity of rhythm within the handmade quality despite superficially seeming to echo abstract paintings.
Apologies for the reflections in some images.

The hand-knotted natural fibre sculptures of Mrinalini Mukherjee are made of rope hued in vegetable oranges, yellows and purples. These organic, voluminous pieces seem to ooze human sensuality, some closely resembling sexual organs. 

Bronwyn Katz makes delicate sculptures and installations from natural and salvaged manufactured materials such as mattresses, black pot scourers and corrugated steel referring to domestic life, especially the intimate space of the bed.. Her buoyant composition here relates to ideas of conception, birth and death. Placed on the floor, the six metre wide work [Goegoe] is named after a mythical water snake which the artist says she uses as a metaphor for our contemporary relationship with the earth and other living creatures. 

Layers of transparent plexiglas allow us to view this figurative piece from both sides. Movement and shapes in the gallery setting become part of the composition which is created with fine wires threaded through the plexiglas layers suggesting depth and movement. 

Andra Ursula's seductive and unsettling sculptures are made by fusing direct castes from her own body with everyday objects such as plastic bottles.  One piece of a lounging woman in 'Preditors R Us' is missing both limbs and grows unusual appendages such as a pair of tentacled slippers.

Walking around this installation by Cecilia Vicuna suggests a distinct feeling of transience expressed through the use of abstract, ephemeral found objects such as found objects of debris. The gallery notes suggest the connection with the exploitation of the earth which is causing Venice to slowly sink into the sea.   

We are encouraged to experience these three huge paintings by British artist, Jade Fadojutimi, close up to, to become immersed in the explosive gestural marks. She often paints to soundtracks of Japanese video games, making moments of nostalgia of her childhood. We are told that Jade begins each painting with an attitude akin to shoshin, the Japanese concept of "a beginner's mind", thinking of objects that elude recognition. 

One room showed a magnificent and very disturbing presentation of paintings and 3D figures by Paula Rego. The climax was an altarpiece of old cabinets filled with women from literature and folklore who have fallen from grace. The three dimensional figures made these quite horrific as the foundling babies were held cruelly and dismembered.

In her later work, Paula Rego made detailed ink drawings which intertwined references to Portuguese fairy tales, Disney princesses and novels like Jane Eyre with strong autobiographical references. These draw out darkly complex narratives in which human, animal and hybrid figures act out dream-like dramas of violence and betrayal. The drawings seem to illustrate intimacy while also suggesting  violence and humiliation.

Ulla Wiggen works with layers of gouache on woven medical gauze. Her interest in the human iris builds up layers of blues, greens and hazels on round canvases, taking several months per piece to complete. Ulla cites the blurring of her vision due to developing cataracts prior to treatment as the reason for her interest in the circuitry of brains and eyes. She states that she wanted to visually express this liminal state - one between clarity and ambiguity - between consciousness and sleep. Each painting shows the gradual deterioration of her vision. 

The Sami Pavilion celebrated several artists from Nordic countries. Two shown here are suspended sculptural forms using natural materials from their environment - grasses, skins and twigs.

The Polish Pavilion told the history of Poland in a colossal, three-tiered textile frieze based on the Renaissance frescoes in Ferrara. These textiles were created to display around the walls of a large space which included trompe l'oeil pillars. These were made entirely in applique by a young Polish artist, Malgorzata Mirga-Tas and three co-workers. The history of Poland runs around the top of the frieze, a zodiac cycle of in the middle layer and beautifully observed figures showing sequences of everyday life from birth to death in the lower band.

Ruth Asawa constructs suspended sculptures using everyday industrial materials to create graceful spherical forms. These have no interior mass and are inspired by basket weaving techniques. She uses the wire's capacity for malleability, translucency and solidity to create a series of translucent cocoons, perhaps suggesting waves, plant forms with a womb-like identity.

The enormous, serene paintings by Pinaree Sanpitak are characterised by sensitivity and ethereality. The notes state that her work is tethered to her own body shapes inspired particularly by the powerful experience of breast feeding her own child. The paintings here reduce the breast motif into the form of the mound and the vessel. Her 'Offering Vessels' speak of the body's wide-ranging potential to relate to the sacred  domed structures and offering bowls.

Delcy Morelos has developed her practice using soil, clay, fabrics, fibres and other natural elements as her primary materials. This vast installation, 'Earthly Paradise' is composed of soil that rises above the ground and masses around the spectators body. You can smell the earth's aroma mixed with hay, cassava flour, cacao powder and spices. You can sense the soil's moisture, temperature, texture, and darkness. [Sorry, you can only experience the visual!] The message is that we are earthly beings and we become, live, die and decompose with and as the earth. The gallery notes wisely reaffirms that the soil penetrates and affects our bodies and senses as we take on a new shape and become 'humus' / humans.

Ukraine valiantly showed the calming 'Fountain' by Pavlo Makov; made of 78 bronze funnels through which water gradually drips and dwindles to a meagre flow; a profound and melancholy beauty. 
Apparently, at the last minute, Ukraine also set up a poignant installation of sandbags on a small lawn within the Giardini grounds. 

The Ukraine 'Fountain' was on a wall between the art of Kosovo and Turkey (below) represented by this collection of brilliantly coloured op-art carpets.

The Brazilian artist, Marcelot, now living in and representing Switzerland, He has used newspapers in this series of works called 'Ancient of Today'. He says that "information is power". His  works with 'contrast. These two pieces feature Napoleon, who put an end to the Republic of Venice, seen in opposition to the Lion of St Mark, the symbol of Venice. These have been specially created using newspapers bought in Venice and fragments of Venetian fabrics selected from the Rubelli collection.

This final piece caught my eye as I was leaving the Giardini area, mainly because of the beautiful shadows it was creating. I didn't record the artist or the title of the work, but I couldn't stop walking around it and enjoying the effects it was creating.

This is the second time I've visited the Venice Art Biennale; a wonderful feast of the visual arts that lasts from April until November. The week I was there happened to coincide with the Venice Film Festival, so managed to book seats for the premier of  'Beyond the Wall', a powerful and dramatic Iranian film, sadly with no accompanying red carpet stars.