Sunday, 22 December 2013

Hands Up for Uganda and Star Child Shoes Challenge

Whilst at the Knitting and Stitching Show a few weeks ago, I picked up a piece of barkcloth with a very special purpose.
'Star Child Shoes' is an initiative from Janet Middleton, aimed at raising funds for the charity 'Hands Up for Uganda', a charity founded by textile artist Bobby Britnell.
Hands up for Uganda is a small personal charity which works at grass roots level with the people of Kisaabwa, Uganda, helping them towards a sustainable future. This is done through various projects and with a guarantee that every penny raised gets out to Uganda.
This particular initiative focuses  on a creative craft link between Star Child Shoes and traditional crafts and materials from the village of Kisaabwa. Artists have been asked to decorate and embellish a piece of bark cloth in any way they liked and the pieces will be made into 'Art Shoes' by Janet and be part of two ICHF exhibitions in 2014 in Birmingham and London.

I love the whole idea, and have been toying with using barkcloth for a while. So this small project gave me an opportunity to enjoy myself and add a small amount to a much larger initiative.

To begin with I was a little stumped on what to do. The cloth is so lovely in it's own right. My daughter solved that - she wanted me to use Angelina fibre and metal cloth, to layer them and cut back through the barkcloth to reveal to iridescent fibres and the metal. In fact she was so determined, she fused the Angelina for me.
What to use as a pattern?? As the pieces are to be cut into to make the shoes, I thought that I needed to use some dense, overall stitching so that it wouldn't matter which sections Janet has to use for the shoes, and not too much loose stitch in case it all falls to pieces when cut into. So I reverted to a common theme of mine - bark. (Seemed appropriate enough).

The result:

Bark Cloth with Angelina and bronze by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Bark Cloth with Angelina and bronze by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Bark Cloth with Angelina and bronze by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Bark Cloth with Angelina and bronze by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

I can am really looking forward to seeing the shoes by so many different artists.
After my thoughts in the last post about  the difference in feeling between hand and machine stitching, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed sitting out in the sun doing the hand stitching, whereas having to be inside to do the machine work was not quite the same!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

How do you feel when stitching, and why?

From 'Absence and Presence Series' by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

A recent discussion started me thinking about the differences in how I feel about hand stitch and machine stitch and whether the same is true for other stitcher's and why.
For me, however much I know that I am 'allowed' to stitch, it is, after all, a large part of what I do, I still find  that the hand stitch part of my work feels as though I am 'playing', or 'wasting time'. Whereas I can be on the computer, I can draw, sketch, design, sit at the sewing machine or embellisher machine for hours and feel as though I am doing 'real' work!! Now I know this is a mental artefact, but still ....
I find that whilst hand stitching my mind tends to move away from what I am doing and I begin to think about what else I could/should be doing at that time instead of stitching. Does anyone else find this?

Now I am thinking about associations, it reminds me of why I haven't done any needle weaving since college. I had to stay in hospital overnight after a miscarriage, and decided to take my college homework with me, so as not to fall behind and as something to keep me occupied. The piece of needle weaving went into my folder in the same state it was when I left the hospital and I haven't re-approached the technique since. I have talked to many other people who use their creative outlets to help them through rough times, and who don't then pick up negative associations from this.

Detail from 'Gathering' by Hilary Hollingworth

Chatting with Hilary Hollingworth and Jean Draper, who both are primarily hand stitchers, Hilary felt in her case, sitting at the sewing machine was related to making clothes for her children, mending and other domestic jobs, and she felt that using the sewing machine was a chore and not perhaps conducive to her artistic expression. So Hilary's experience is diametrically opposed to mine. It was really fascinating that a professional such as Hilary, with many years of experience, still carried mental hang ups about part of her creative tool-kit, associating it as a domestic instrument. Also interesting is that one of Hilary's signature techniques is darning, which is a hand stitch technique associated very firmly in the domestic repair/mending category. Mmm ...

See more of Hilary's work:
Jean Draper has a fabulous new book all about using hand stitch and thread to create structure, called Stitch and Structure

From 'Absence and Presence Series' by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on what techniques have what associations for you and whether they are positive and helpful or whether they become an issue which you have had to deal with.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Woven in the Landscape at the Kiapara Sculpture Park

Detail of 'Woven in the Landscape', Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

The Kiapara Sculpture Park hosts an annually changing exhibition of outdoor works by a wide range of artists. For the 2013/2014 programme I am exhibiting woven metal, wire and glass pieces. To see details go to the 'art works: woven in the landscape' page.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Handmade books, more metal stitching and art for life.

The end of September, clocks moving forward, spring in the air and Term 3 at an end already.
It feels as though I have only just returned from the UK, only to find that I need to get into full swing for my next trip back. Some of that ‘where has the time gone??’ feeling is due to the usual family life things, including that my eldest son has just joined us in NZ permanently, so preparing his space in the house and helping him to settle has been important.  I am certainly getting more jobs done around the house and garden which has been very welcome – we now have trees trimmed, borders dug and plenty of vegetables planted, also being asked to make a ball gown for my eldest daughter for her end of school ball also took time, and I have to make a Golden Wedding present for my parents,  samples for 2 new workshops in the next 2 weeks, my final book proof arrived from Search Press yesterday in glorious technicolor for me to sign off before Wednesday (I have only noticed two errors so far). 
All of which begs the question, ‘why then am taking time to write this post??’ Well it is a lovely sunny morning, I have the house to myself for once and a coffee to drink, so a good time to reflect and write.

I  recently had a few pieces from my ‘Continuous Thread’ and ‘Restriction and Release’ series’ included in a show at NorthArt which did not achieve any sales, but was seen by a great many people and must have been well received as Wendy, the director, has invited me to have a full exhibition in September 2014 – great! I will let you know more when I have details.

NorthArt Gallery

From the 'Continuous Thread Series' by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

A thank you to the members of the Auckland Quilters who were such a delight to spend last weekend with. They were taking on board some of my ideas and techniques for manipulating and stitching into metals and we all had a great time.  

Meeting with Metals at the Auckland Quilters

Meeting with Metals at the Auckland Quilters

Meeting with Metals by Jean Singleton

Meeting with Metals at the Auckland Quilters

Meeting with Metals at the Auckland Quilters

Auckland Quilters - heads down and hard at work!

During Term 3 I have been teaching an enthusiastic and patient group at the Mairangi Arts Centre. The subject has been handmade books. We touched on a few book structures which need only minimal measuring  - I am not by nature a pedantic person (unless there is great need in order to achieve the best outcome), and love book structures which allow for some personal expression. So we started with 2 versions of ‘piano hinge’ books and included some mixed media paper decorating techniques for the covers and leaves, then moved to a slightly more traditional ‘concertina spine’ book with a hard cover and some simple stitched signatures, and the last week we had fun with folded books, including a ‘maze book’ and a ‘lotus flower’ book.  As I am in the UK for most of Term 4 the course can’t continue for a while, but I have suggested lots of options for 2014 which I hope will be of interest.

Handmade books at Mairangi Arts

Handmade books at Mairangi Arts

Handmade books at Mairangi Arts

Handmade books at Mairangi Arts

The Mairangi Art Centre has hosted a couple of exhibitions during this term, the latest of which I definitely wanted you to see. There was such fantastic expressive work created by people who attend the ‘Spark Centre’ for creative development. The centre offers visual arts and art therapy programmes for people living with disabilities, impairment or other social and personal need. To find out more about the Spark Centre click here or visit
There were statements by each artist near their work which explained what they loved about art and why it was important to them, but even without the ‘back story’, seeing work by this diverse group of people was wonderful.  It was full of expression, liveliness and energy and was a joy to view. It was also gratifying that many of the pieces had big red sold stickers next to them. The exhibition really lived up to their motto ‘art is for life’.
I offer apologies for the reflections and shadows in the pictures, lights and windows did not allow for perfection, and I am not sure that the work and information boards are all in the correct order, but I hope you get the idea.

Spark Centre Exhibtion at Mairangi Bay. Looking very professional.

Chris Baxter

Work by Chris Baxter

Pearl Schomberg

Work by Pearl Schomberg

David Candy

Work by David Candy

Matthew Tucker

Work by Matthew Tucker

Robin Lockwood

Work by Robin Lockwood

Thiona Brooks

Work by Thiona Brooks

Salome Moeauga

Work by Salome Moeauga

Halina Janiszewska

Work by Halina Janiszewska

And finally, the outdoor sculptures for the Kiapara Sculpture Park are coming along nicely – pictures next time.

Monday, 16 September 2013

100 days are ended

Day 100

Saturday was Day 100 of the 100 day project. It culminated in a celebration of work by around 160 of the participants at the Nathan Club, Britomart, Auckland.
To see the individual images of my work and more detail about the project go to the 100 Day page

I stitched all of my pages together and pinned them to the wall as an unrolled scroll, a little more fun than just stuck on to the wall individually I thought:

Adding Day 100

There were many of the other exhibit with intriguing, fun, daft, clever, thoughtful ideas.
Jo Dixey's stitched spiders jumped out at me as soon as I walked through the door (fortunately only visually rather than literally):

I wasn't the only one having a close look at Jo Dixeys work

To find out more about Jo's work, go to her blog:

My daughters' favourite was a parody/homage to the Miranda series, my son liked the bike rebuild project and the lazer cut wooden toys, so there was something for everyone, and a glass or two of wine to go with it.

Many thanks to Emma Rogan who was the extraordinary instigator and organiser.