Sunday, 23 March 2014

Richly Stitched Metals at The Great Escape 2014

Metal and embroidery by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
Richly Stitched by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

About a dozen tutors, both local, national and international, and a couple of hundred keen embroiderers’ met this weekend at Orewa near Auckland to have a fabulous time stitching, eating, chatting and walking on the beach for the annual ‘Embroiderers Great Escape’
I had been invited by the kind invitation of the Great Escape committee to join in and get people using their sewing machines with metal shims and fabrics.
Jo Dixey was teaching appliqué with landscape, Alison Coles was over from Aussie teaching beautifully fine goldwork, other tutors were teaching printing, sashiko, Indian embroidery, lace braids and counted thread work.
Alison Coles gave an enthusiastic and passionate talk after the formal dinner showing images of her epic Italian tour, chasing just about every display of goldwork and other embroidery Italy had to offer. I suspect we all want to go now, though I doubt I have the cheeky and bold personality to talk my way in to the out of the way places she did!

The aim of my course was for everyone to get a feel for the metals and how to manipulate them and some of the techniques for creating effects with stitch, using lovely velvets as our backing to add richness to the projects.
Here are lots of pictures of our weekend. If Carole, Rosemary, Gillian, Gina, Olivia, Patricia, Meg, Fiona, Deborah, Jenny, Pat or Liz send me images of pieces when they are completed, I will add them to this post.

I am always happy to see samples being made and added to workbooks for future reference –they can be invaluable. I know that at least one set of the samples will be added into a City and Guilds folder.

All hard at work

Samples to be added to a handmade sample book

Additions to C&G coursework
Another method to create a lovely sampler, which is also a finished piece, is to make small individual samples then attach them to another backing fabric and couch a big twist of fabric or cord between the samples, this both draws the samples together and separates them, so that the original small pieces don’t have to be thought out and matched up beforehand.  
Big smiles, even after being forced to make cords and hand couch them down!
I think that I had my youngest ever ‘participant’ – at 9 weeks old, Kate was a welcome, and amazingly quiet, addition to the group let her mum also get on with lots of stitching!
Amazing what you can do in between feeding babies!

The third option was to create a simple design with areas into which the different techniques could be added as I introduced them, concluding in a piece which used lots of techniques but had been designed as a whole piece in advance. 

Coming on really well, and where was that slight oops? I'll never tell.

Don't close your eyes when machining - never a good plan.

What only 3 complete pieces so far? (There's always one quick worker)

Another prolific stitcher - a sample cloth and a piece all pretty much complete.

Just a few more twists of stainless steel fabric, stitching and beads to go. The background had been made with bondaweb and tyvek - perfect for finishing this weekend.

During the weekend everyone got on really well, and was able to take home work which was needing just final flourishes using the beads or threads that you didn’t bring but know you have ‘just the right one’ in your stash at home. 
Here is how some of them went home:

Richly Stitched with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Richly Stitched With Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Richly Stitched with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Richly Stitched with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Richly Stitched with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Richly Stitched with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Richly stitched with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Richly Stitched with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Richly Stitched with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Richly Stitched with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden

Richly Stitched with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden


Well done all – participants and organisers alike.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Dancing with Lusi

A beautiful dawn over Auckland, a blessing, singing and a smattering of champagne opened the Harbourview Sculpture Trail. 

Dawn over the city
Blessing the trail
Dawn by Doug Kennedy

Navigation Point by Jenny McLeod

Scotch Thistle by Trish Clarke

Pods by Carol Robinson

Wind Drift by Jeff Thomson

Rainforest by Justin Murfitt

Mangroves by Dermot Kelly

Westerlings by Phillipa Kenny (one of our artist angels from the installation)

Catching the dawn light

The piece looked completely magical with the dawn light bouncing off the water and through the transparent fabric.

With the approach of Cyclone Lusi, many of the artists exhibiting at the Harbourview Sculpture Trail, including me, decided to make arrangements to ensure that our sculptures were safe. 

For me, this meant getting into a shortie and lifejacket,  swimming out to the structure and removing the two tallest pieces for the weekend. A particularly lovely thing to do in a silty, swampy lake! 

Messing about in the water
However it turned out to be a blessing as the tube which had been sent in error (see last posting for details) and was the wrong size, had started to fail anyway and this gave us a chance to replace the perspex tubes with aluminium ones which will be much stronger.  We were lucky that the local DIY shops had tubes of exactly the right dimensions so that the fixings did not have to be replaced as well. The staff member who saw us looking quizzically at the tubing, being a good customer service guy, came over and asked what we were looking for and could he help. Now, I am wary of starting conversations like this as it is normal for us, as textile artists, to be looking at materials as supplies for a completely non-standard use which throws the staff. So I often fudge the answer or just say, no, I’m fine thanks. The look that comes over a shop assistant’s face when you ask for metal sheet and then discuss, whether it is possible to stitch through it. Know what I mean? In this case, it turned out that he was more than familiar with such requests having helped with the opening display of the Sydney Olympics amongst other things and was very used to working with designers whose needs are slightly unusual. 

Walking in the tail end of the cyclone

Fortunately the cyclone had lost most of it’s power by the time it passed over Auckland and was no more than a blowy, stormy day, which made for a fun walk on the beach, but was nowhere near as dangerous as it had been.
On Sunday morning, with the sun back out and the wind abated, we headed back to Te Atatu to reinstall the two elements of ‘Light Dancing’ we had taken out. Of course replacing the elements was a much larger job than taking them down and provided early visitors to the trail with plenty of amusement watching me flop around in the water for a couple of hours. 

Light Dancing fabric sculpture by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
Light Dancing

Light Dancing fabric sculpture by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
More ...

Light Dancing fabric sculpture by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
And more.

Light Dancing fabric sculpture by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
 About enough now!
 It is now looking all present and correct again so we can relax.

Making outdoor textile work is a fascinating development for me and I hope to be selected for other outdoor events. Each one will no doubt bring new interests and challenges. 

I said that I would spend some time reviewing my feelings about ‘Light Dancing’, maybe I will come back to that later, or maybe you can make up your own minds.

View from across the water

Monday, 3 March 2014

Feel like dancing on light

What a weekend! Sunday 2nd March, the installation date for ‘Light Dancing’, was rushing towards me. As ever, working late was needed to complete the finishing touches which always seem to take much longer than anticipated. 

Floating structure for 'Light Dancing' being created
Management by collie - probably more effective than mine.
After a site visit a couple of weeks ago we realised that the original plan for installation (simply pushing long rods into the lake to support each section) was not going to work. Brian and I have worked out a plan for a tethered floating structure which will be invisible under the water yet hold everything upright and safe.This is slightly nerve wracking as theoretical plans are not the same as a known and tried solution, but it is my own fault for running behind on projects.

Installation day started rather cold and threatened to rain, so we planned for this, but typical NZ weather, in the end, it was a glorious day and sunburn ensued!

The main structure was re-constructed very quickly, even easier than IKEA furniture! Great we thought, we will be done in no time, home by mid afternoon even ....!!!

Oh for good intentions and hopeful thoughts.

Simon, Amber and Justice wondering what I am talking about

Getting there (slowly)

Perhaps it would look fine on land after all?!

Making the final adjustments to the taller pieces and fitting them took much longer than planned. This was primarily because the acrylic rods had not arrived on time (eventually I had collected them on the morning of installation), which meant cutting and fitting on site. Also, it turned out that they were not the correct size and one was smashed into two. So, different strategies and fittings were eventually worked out.

Once at the water side we were able to fit the tall pieces and get in the water to float the structure into place. This again was not as easy as hoped. The boat provided was more or less unsteerable and the lake seemed to have a current. 

Steering issues
Poor Brian was so tired that we began to wonder how we would be able to finish everything off.  Once we changed plan and moved forward a little so that the anchoring weights (concrete building blocks) were in, it was a case of swimming around to each corner and gradually adjusting the floats and weights until it was just right and seemed to be growing from the water, finally securing the ropes to the shore which prevent the structure tipping.

Floating at last

Putting down the anchors

Gratuitous 'bum shot' taken by a bored daughter

Almost done, but why does it look so much smaller in the water?

It was a very tired crew who got back well after dark. We will all deserve our champagne at the dawn ceremony on Saturday to open the event.

Thanks to Simon, our brilliant helper angel for the day and the other artists who saw we were low on lifting power and stopped working on their pieces to help us. I knew that daughters had boyfriends for some reason - to help me with projects of course! I don’t think he will forget the installation day in a hurry and I hope the pizza for supper was worth all the work.

Many, many thanks to everyone especially Brian who thought he married a scientist and then got landed with an artist who makes increasingly complex challenges on his engineering skills.

After all of the work and physical effort, I it good to remind myself of the intention behind the piece, and when I go back for the opening, I will assess whether I achieved this in the piece.

Light Dancing at dusk

Light Dancing

My statement for the piece reads:
The ripples and interferences between water, light and the movement of air connect the external world to the internal environment of our lives. The ever changing play and flicker of light on water is filled with resonances from our individual experience. We are each composed of many and varied streams and currents which flow, swirl and interact together. Life is movement from moment to moment; chance reflections and refractions create our internal landscape and develop our transcendental self. These are conveyed in the piece through a reflection of the gentle, understated colours and textures observed in the marsh landscape. The work connects in a delicately oblique fashion to the plant life, the water and the sky through the stainless steel fabric. The fabric appears physically delicate and ephemeral, yet it is actually strong, adaptable, resistant and sculptable. The colouring and subtle sheen of the metal replicate water and light in a unique and exciting manner. The fabric is in places treated by contorting and textured by plaiting, braiding, twisting, folding and layering. These treatments reflect the complexities of life, the textures and patterns seen in the native salt marsh grasses and the play of light across a liquid surface.

Your thoughts?

If you want to see the other sculptures on the trail go to: