Thursday, September 21, 2006

More about the Knitting and Stitching Show

An example of Barbara Lee Smith's work. Her video is soon to be available from

Above: I found these images on line. One is a sketchbook and the other an embroidery. I have no idea to which of the Caprara's these works belong. I guess it doesn't matter! All the sketchbooks I saw amazed me. The stitching, likely Julia's, captivates me.

I am itching to finish writing about the Knitting and Stitching show in Birmingham, not that it wasn't fantastic; it was outstanding! I'm just ready to focus on my own work and creativity.

Still, writing about the experience does provide a moment of reflection and also an on-line place to which I can return for future inspiration. So, here are some other things I saw in England!

Hilary Hollingworth had a great booth of her figurative embroideries. The images were impressionistic, soft, and presented well. I especially liked the grounds she selected. Some seemed to be created on a dense fabric, like a linen twill, and others were on natural felts. The reason I spent time with these pieces, however, was the unique stitching. Hilary weaves her threads. I've always thought of needle make weaving as "lacy" and "regular" and quite orderly. This wasn't the case at all. The weaving seemed in patches that related to the figures that were portraying. Symmetry and even spacing was unimportant. I have generally never used needle weaving and will have to add this approach to my own work! Her prices were quite reasonable too!

Paddy Killer's work was unbelievable. Each piece just screamed out to be noticed. The hours and hours of planning, execution, and research were obvious. I never thought about using ink on silk as "textile art", but it certainly is! (One display showed the tool of choice: Rotring: Isograph I technical pens.) I've always thought first about stitching, threads, and embroidery. Although quite an accomplished hand and machine embroiderer, Paddy must approach her art-making first as a master draftsman. The framing was almost all handmade, clearly designed by the artist herself and utterly perfect. The exhibit was called "Drawn Together". (

Jae Maries' exhibit was across the aisle from Paddy Killer's space. She, too, relied on a strong ability to draw. The work was completely different. After creating a sketch (to scale) Jae used all sorts of paints and fabric snippets and strips to recreate the image. The ground was often muslin or even denim. There was a great urban feeling to each piece.

Margaret Beal demonstrated her soldering techniques and had her recent book available as well as some supplies. Frankly, I thought she was a little snooty. She gave me the impression that she only wanted to show how process to those seriously considering making a purchase. Jean Draper, however, didn't seem to even want to talk to me at all. I really got the impression that her area was for "serious textile collectors" only.

Maggie Grey, however, was a burst of sunshine and happiness. Swished into a tiny space, she just radiated happiness while eagerly sharing her dissolvable paper techniques. She had sample packages and her books available but made casual references to selling, as if it were far less important than communicating with her constant audience. As a result, there were always people infront of her and her wares sold very, very well. I bought two of the hardback books, one co-authored with Valerie Campbell-Harding. I didn't purchase the supplies from her but bought a larger quantity from another vendor she said carried the dissolvable paper alone. I've leafed through the books; they are first-rate!

Above I posted the on-line address that Barbara Lee Smith hand wrote for me. I haven't tried it yet but plan on visiting this site because there are LOTS of other videos about prominent textile artists. In fact, there are 42 available and three in production, including Barbara Lee Smith's. Interestingly, the other two in production are Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn, the two British fiber artists who have inspired and taught me the most!

Finally, I have to talk a bit about the exhibit of Julia and Alex Caprara's work. I've heard about this British couple, their embroidery school (Opus), the sketch books, and the working vacations to exotic locations they've taken with Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn. This was the first time, however, that I had an opportunity to actually SEE their work.

I was drawn in and repelled all at once. I found so much to love and yet wasn't blown away. How can I say this correctly? How can I explain my appreciation mixed with the realization that I can produce work of equal quality? I'm just too close to the subject and not a good enough writer to do my thoughts any justice!

I read the statement about Julia Caprara's work. It talked about her preoccupation with color and symbol and the way that stitched textiles link the world's cultures and people together, throughout history. It talked about transformation. For Julia Caprara, transformation is the way combinations of unexpected elements and raw materials of everyday life (color, thread, wood, stone, found objects) become empowered like a visual metaphor or talisman. These combinations create a "symbol". That symbol is linked to the creative unconscious.

I like all these words. I relate to these ideas. It all sounds very much like the statements I try to write in explanation of my work. Basically, it sounds like the creative unconscious is alive and well and creating work. Later, the conscious writes rather vague sentences linking the work to just about everything, cultures and history and colors and textures that appeal in the process. If the Caprara's can do this, why can't I. I suppose all the words are true for them. I suppose they are equally true for me.

Then, I looked at all the work. I really do like the pieces. I liked the titles even more. There is a series of "divination wands", some are for nourishment and some for other abstract nouns. Most of the wands were bamboo poles or odd pieces of driftwood. To these were applied layers of sheers fused together and sporting a few soldered markings. Metallic foil had been added. Segments of fishing rods, neon monofilament, beads, and small found objects were also attached.

Mythology plays a role in the titles, like "Rune Cloth" and "Divination Wand for of a god or goddess". Other titles I liked were: Life Maps, Transformation Cloth, Second Skin, and Power Stitches The textile hangings are crudely stitched with great beauty. They are hardly flat. Edges are nicely raveled. There is a sense of primitive lifestyles and magical people. Still, I got the impression that stitching was the most important thing. How or what one stitched could be explained later, so long as the activity was all consuming. In this vein, all the work was outstanding.

The pieces, however, that inspired my most were undoubtedly the sketchbooks. Spiral bound watercolor paper were used. The pages were torn to reveal several parts of the pages undernearth. The tearing related to the drawings of coastal stones, water, and scenary. The layering of the pages added to the dizzing display of color. Crayons were used as a resist. Thus, the sketches didn't require a high level of skill in draftsmanship (which I know Alex Caprara possesses!) These were the quick markings that captured the essence of a place, the color and fell of a particular location. They were done on site and had plenty of life due to this approach. These sketchbooks certainly required the artist to really look at a vista and relate to it. I was quite impressed. The image at the top of the screen does no justice to the experience of looking at one of these sketchbooks in person! The image at the top of the screen of the embroidery is far more dense and textural appealing than any of the work most recently on display, too. I have a feeling that Julia and Alex Caprara are so prolific that one ought not make any final decisions on their work until much more of it is seen than was available at the Knitting and Stitching Show!

1 comment:

arlee said...

Could you post the address again for the online videos? I don't get anywhere with the one in your entry :}