Here are some of the boxes and the responses to them.
Kathleen Holt’s blog:
Kathleen, one of the students from Falmouth University, was paired with Jane. She made a reflective blog, which includes a wonderful little film which led to more exploratory work. Do take a look:
Elsie and Rosie and Myrtle and Dawn
Elsie and Rosie powerpointslide show
Hannah’s response to the box:
What a treat!
Barbara has given me a mini project in itself. It suggests learning, step by step, and the passing on of knowledge and skill, all of which greatly appeals to me.
It has created an instant link between the both of us, my way of thinking and Barbara’s experience of the Embroiderers Group and how she approaches her craft.
I am driven by traditional embroidery skills, learning how to do something correctly, valuing the heritage, then taking that further in a creative way to challenge expectations in order to modernise and continue to make the work relevant for today. This is how I have been taught, how I approach both my own work and underpins how I teach my students.
All First year students will complete a 4 week project that introduces them to the basics of mixed media, through 3 intense workshops that cover hand stitch, machine stitch and appliqué. They are shown a number of different processes, which they then have to master, after which they are encouraged to consider how to take the work further by altering certain factors such as stitch length, scale of stitch, type of thread etc, ultimately producing a technical file for their own reference.
I am often envious of the time the students have to engage with their creative practice and would love to be able to sit down and devote a focused amount of time to work though the technical workshops that I set. My initial reaction to what Barbara has given me is to do just that. Although I am familiar with Mountmellick work, I have never produced a sample piece of it. I am familiar with some of the hand stitches used but less so with others so there is the opportunity to not only revisit previous techniques but to learn new ones.
I had opened the box prior to a visit to my Mother’s. I had immediately thought that I would take the project with me and invite my mum to work on it together. I attribute my love of embroidery and early learning of it to my mum. She is a very good seamstress and skilled needle woman, making most of our clothes when we were little and always having some sort of needle project on the go. This naturally inspired me and with her encouragement and guidance I learnt to sew and embroider. Throughout my education and career she has often worked for me, helping complete projects and commercial orders and I was keen to share the experience with her once again. However the visit was too short and compromised by family commitments for us to have any time for embroidery.
I have booked out 4 days of research during the Easter holidays, the week before term starts again. I will mainly be working from the Design Centre as I need to access both the digital embroidery software in the IT suite as well as use the digital embroidery machine. There will be more space to physically work as well as currently I have no dedicated space for my creative practice at home. Some students may be in using the space too so let’s see what happens!
My non-existent studio space:
At the moment I do not have any dedicated studio space and have not had for the past 4 years,(since my daughter was born and the spare room was turned into the nursery).
Living in a flat with a young family, there is not only little space but little time or peace to engage in my work in the way that I would like to. I will often use the kitchen table if I am machine sewing or laying out design work, I generally will use the living room when hand stitching and I will always pack my things away wherever I am working as there is no space to leave things out.
What you see in the photo is about 1/3 of my studio, the rest being in boxes in my shed and some left under my desk at work. It is frustrating not having everything to hand but then again it stops me ping ponging from one idea to another without seeing anything through properly! Having out what i need for just one project is perhaps a good thing. And when I rediscover what I have packed away I can look at what I have with fresh eyes and get inspired all over again.
What I work on in the evenings:
I continue to produce a small number of commercial designs that I sell to the international fashion and interiors market via my London based agent. The work is different from my research work in the sense that I have to be mindful of current trends and considerate to commercial viability, especially when selecting fabrics and techniques. Embroidery and embellishment have taken a slight nose dive in sales recently due to the economic climate (expensive to produce) and because digital print is currently very popular as an aesthetic trend. I have to adapt what I do to suit what I am observing.
The top photograph shows a set of designs employ a traditional patch work technique called Suffolk Puff, which I have been making in the evenings after work. Once I have worked out the design, (shape, composition and colour), the making becomes methodical and repetitive, which is easy to do without having to think too much. This is ideal work to do in the evenings in front of the TV as I don’t have to think too hard! I can sit and be quiet but busy and productive at the same time. This is the closest I get to the often discussed notion that embroidery is therapeutic and relaxing, something that I find hard to relate to. When I make it not for relaxation but for work and engages much critical thinking and requires my full attention, as it is often related to financial gain the pressure of time v money is ever present. Limits on time I have to make in general puts pressure on me to work in a concentrated manner.
The photograph on the left shows a collection of digitally embroidered commercial designs, 3 generated using the pre programmed shapes within the software (designs 1,3,4 from lhs), and 2 generated through free hand drawing on the ipad, then auto converting the artwork in the software, (designs 2,5).
Designs 1 and 4 have just sold to Nautica Home in New York and a similar design to 2 has just sold to Donna Karen bedding. The digital designs are designed and produced at the Design Centre, which I do either by staying late after my working day or going in on a Saturday. It is important for me to continue to work as a freelance designer so I have to fit it in and around my day job!
The initial style of embroidery Barbara sent to Hannah:
Finding the digital version of Mountmellick:
Using the Stitch Effects library in the ApS-Ethos digital embroidery software, I am trying to find pre programmed stitches that resemble the hand stitch techniques that are employed in traditional Mountmellick work.
- RO12 – cording stitch
- RO13 – chain stitch
- RO14 – cable plait stitch
- RO18 – fly stitch
- RO 26 – Mountmellick stitch
- RO 30 – buttonhole stitch
Taking RO12 and changing the scale of it
I have increased stitch size by 50% (Taking line to 150mm and the shortening it back down to 100mm)
I have changed the height by 100% (Taking height to 6mm)
I have then reduced density of stitch, compacting the line back down to 50mm
I then reduced the height back down to the original
RO13 – same principle
RO14 – same principle
RO18 – same principle but then taking set, duplicating it and over laying it with off set to create multi layered line.
Also adding a row of RO12 to the stitch to create a new stitch that mimics the Wheat Eared stitch.
RO16 – same principle, Duplicating and layering up double height sample
RO30 – same principle as RO18, With extra 2 samples combining RO13 to mimic Overcast cable plait.
My approach to practice – on reflection:
I had set myself the challenge
of recording and documenting everything for this project on my ipad.
I had meant to record each day as I went but I didn’t get round to it, so I am now recording it 2 weeks later as I come to the deadline of the project.
I am interested in the fact that I did not carry out what I had intended, in terms of writing and recording my thoughts as they happened. Though I did record the practical part of the project as I did it, which included immediate insights as I went along. Will what I write and remember now be different to my immediate thoughts then?
I was buoyed up by what I had received in the box and had immediate thoughts as to how to approach the project purely from this, so without even seeing Barabera’s film. I will always internally brainstorm my ideas, in a quick fired way – what if I did this, then that? What happens if I try that with that? Each idea leading to another.
This excites me and is typical of how I approach all my work, whether it is my own research, my commercial design work or my teaching. I remember a friend from the RCA, a menswear designer, who in a frank conversation said she feared running out of new ideas. That came as such a surprise to me as that has never even crossed my mind – mine are so plentiful that I often struggle to make a decision or physically achieve them all! What I am aware of is that I have an idea and work through it in my head, but when I come to engage with it physically I get frustrated at the slowness of the making, therefore I often abandon it before I even get started and move on to the next idea. I have whole projects that I hav completed without actually making them!
I think this is happening more and more, especially due to the nature of how I am currently working. With the bulk of my days engaged in teaching, I will be responding to students work, I see more role as a Creative Director as well as educator. I am seeing the possibilities of so many different types of projects, on so many different levels (skill, creative thinking), I am able to suggest ways in which they can develop their ideas, they then go away and respond to that in their own way and then the next time I see them deliver the work to me. Therefore a lot is produced through my active creative engagement with the individual students without me having to physically do any making. So when I come to do my own work, I feel slightly out of practice with the doing and find it frustratingly slow.
I am also aware of the time I have to engage with my own work. The switch between the different roles I have is not always as easy as it perhaps suggests. Although everything that I do is linked, the teaching, the research, the commercial design, I approach them in different ways, in thinking and doing. This is stimulating as I am multi-faceted in my creative and technical thinking but is equally frustrating. I feel currently that I am not seeing anything through as thoroughly as I might. This project has high lighted this but through the process of documenting and reflecting on my own practice, it is helping me find better ways to understand and address these issues.