Saturday, 14 November 2015

God bless your hands: A few thoughts about the Dublin Knitting and Stitching Show.

'Doing' the big shows can be an odd thing. Sure, you meet thousands of people, sure, they are unfailingly enthusiastic (probably those who don't connect keep quiet and walk on, seeking something closer to their hearts), and there always seems to be at least one fabulous new connection with possibilities for future projects. But that is forgetting the walking in the rain through unfamiliar streets, eating (or forgoing that, a bottle of wine and snacks in a room) and a fair amount of time spent alone. The one plays off against the other. I feel some sympathy when reading Bill Bryson's travel books for the many hours, and seemingly days in his case, alone.
In the end, the benefits outweigh the times of tedium and/or stress, and I have made so many great friends through teaching and the shows that I always look forward to the next ones and don't quite know what I would do instead. It is also a great time for concentrating the mind, to consider the shape of the future, to progress projects and crystallise plans. The Dublin Knitting and Stitching Show is proving no exception to the rule and there are burgeoning friendships, new connections and time to think, as well as a drop of wine or two (sorry Ireland, I have really tried to like Guinness, but it's a no go for me).
A couple of nights with the fabulous Stella Harding have been fun (she does like Guinness, so hopefully that might make up for me?), her background makes for interesting conversations and her work is simply stunning.

Go Stella - enjoy the Guinness!

I am settling for a large glass of red and an open fire (well - a gas version, it will do)
Stella's weaving - just amazing

Back to the show. There are a different set of exhibitors here in Dublin compared to Alexandra Palace including many Irish groups and colleges. There is a strong and continuing tradition of supporting textiles through schools (home economics is still taught here and includes woodwork, metalwork, textiles etc.), leading through to lots of college and university opportunities for those wishing to pursue a creative career. The best of luck to them.
As in London, I have had a stream, or river even, of fabulous comments from visitors including

' oh wow'
' unbelievable'
' absolutely beautiful'
'Be still my beating heart. I am overwhelmed'
and the classic Irish: Accompanied by a holding of hands 'God bless your hands'. How lovely is that!

Some of the other exhibitors who caught my eye were:

Claire Woolsey. Belfast School of Art.
From Cork Textiles:

Amanda Hogan: Precious Grain

Amanda Hogan: Precious Grain
Amanda Hogan Precious Grain . This understated, small work was so moving in it's simplicity, but so beautifully constructed. I loved it.
Limerick institute of Technology Connexions project
This project is an experimental connection between two different design departments which I think has paid off handsomely. The combination of 'hard' and 'soft' materials has resulted in some really interesting, contemporary, great designs.

Limerick Institute of Technology

Limerick Institute of Technology

Limerick Institute of Technology

These were some of the highlights. My least favourite part of the show has been the placement of a large (almost life sized) singing Santa on a stand less than 5 metres away. Not only do I loath such plastic, corny and cheap looking Christmas artifacts, but he couldn't even sing in tune! Hour after hour after painful hour ... I won't be missing him after Sunday evening, I might even cancel Christmas!

One more day to look forward to in Dublin, I have been loving it all. x

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Crazy Paper Patchwork

Many years ago I had a fabulous and memorable time on a weekend with textile artist Liz Mann. She shared with us her particular technique for dyeing, patching and piecing and stitching to create a fabulously textural and rich surface. It is a technique I have used for several pieces and have returned to from time to time since.
For a workshop today I adapted this technique which is essentially a modern version of the Victorian 'crazy patchwork', along with influences from seminole and boro patchwork styles, to work with fine papers, stencilling and stitching with a little burning (don't fall over in surprise at that).  
It was also a development on ideas from a previous paper patchwork course
Rachel who came on that course, today brought me her finished piece from last year's course.Thank you, a pleasure to see and share:

This was the patchwork at the end of the workshop day ...

... and the finished piece a year on.                                                                                                                                         Showing a considerate and playfully careful addition of more decoration and surface stitching.  

A detail.
Whilst working on the Crazy Paper Patchwork workshop, I combined ideas from the Paper Patchwork workshop with the new ones and ended up with this as one piece:

Seminole patchwork style in paper by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
As ever, the place we leave a one day workshop is only the start of a journey. And I am sure that in many cases there are benefits to this as can be seen from Rachel's development of her last year's patchwork. I am confident that some of the pieces below will develop into finished works, and I will post any that I get to see.
Here are a small selection of the work from today. The papers used include tissue papers, pattern papers, handmade papers, mulberry paper, paper bags, papers painted on previous courses, book and music score papers, Chinese paper, florist papers and baby wipes amongst others!

Whilst we eagerly await these pieces being completed, here are a few images of my examples:

Some Crazy Paper Patchwork by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden. Stitch, stencil, gild, bead etc.

More Crazy Paper Patchwork by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden. Stitch, stencil, bead etc.

Detail from Crazy Paper Patchwork examples by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden.

And of course, the more you work on ideas, the more new options open themselves for development. I especially like the effect of the burnt edgings and began to explore that more.

Having collected lots of tea bags for the Time For Tea course, I also acquired a few coffee filters. These have a soft, slightly 'bark cloth' appeal and lent themselves to being patched together with simple seeding stitching.

Using a machine automatic pattern to mimic the Victorian Crazy Patchwork stitching. This now calls out for some delicate detailing within the patches.


Monday, 26 October 2015

Large balls and fun with tea bags.

The discussions that we have during workshops often seem to take a turn for the physical, if not smutty. Does anyone else find this, or is it just my groups??
Having had several chats about the appearance and suggestive nature of seedpods in Geelong, followed by conversations about the size and shape of the balls being created at Wolverhampton on Saturday (alysn-midgelow-marsden-hanging-pods), it was a rather more refined discussion yesterday during the 'Time for Tea' course at Living Threads in Derbyshire concerning the nature and quality of different tea bags, coffee bags and so on. This is a new course, not yet on the workshop list, so if you like the sound of it, get in touch with me to find out more. We used the idea that tea bags, other papers and inclusions treated with gel medium create a fabulous surface to stitch into.
Sometimes keeping it simple is the best.
Here are some of the tea bag surfaces from the workshop:

Work made on 'Time for Tea' with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
Gill's piece, includes teabags, reindeer moss and printed Chinese papers

Time for tea workshop by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
Sarah used teabag papers, painted packaging and printed papers

Time for tea workshop by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
Delicate offering with Hydrangeas and lace

Time for tea workshop by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
Lace and leaves from outside the room.

Sheer fabrics with gilding worked really well here added to decorated teabags and printed Indian papers

Time for tea workshop by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
Margaret has begun stitching and beading to complement her round teabags.

Time for tea workshop by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
Gold embossing powder to decorate the teabags, serviettes and leaves

Time for tea workshop by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
Papers, fabric, skeleton leaves, autumn leaves, stenciling and stitching just starting

Time for tea workshop by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
Teabags, lace and ribbon with rose petals, then printing with acrylic paints and gold stitching starting to grow around the motifs.

Margaret's exclamation part way through the day that 'I never knew that tea bags could be so amazing', summed up the general feeling of the group.

A few of my examples where I have had the chance to work further into the surface:

Time for tea workshop by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
A little bit of hand work and embellished with buttons and ribbon.

Time for tea workshop by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
Backed onto cocoon strippings, printed teabags, metal, stitch and sequins.

Time for tea workshop by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
Adding bold stitching across the surface.

Time for tea workshop by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
Machine stitching into the tea bags with 'Heat and Gone' backing, allows machine lace when working into papers which would be unsuitable for soluble film methods.

Time for tea workshop by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
Why stick to the vintage look? A combination of teabags, papers, serviettes, lace, feathers, stitch and beads used with abandon!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Random highlights of the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace 2015

When you are hosting a stand or a gallery at a show such as the Knitting and Stitching Show, it can be difficult to get the time to look around all of the other delights as you are limited to the mornings before the public enter if everything in the gallery is spick and span ready to open, or the evenings when you are tired! So I had only a couple of hours overall to scoot round. Some galleries still were closed and virtually none had the artists in situ to talk to about their work. Perhaps I will have the chance in Dublin or Harrogate.

As you walked through the main entrance there were some great student fashion displays, and then this pretty impressive ?quilt? /wall art piece created by Daniela Arnold and Marco Sarzi-Sartori. Using only scrap fabrics from industrial waste, they create large scale landscapes. See more at

The Fibre Lands Gallery. DAMSS

The Fibre Lands Gallery. DAMSS
 From the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland was a beautiful, ethereal group of artworks collectively titled 'en-twined me-mories'.

Catherine Green's 'Energy Sprite'. Lovely!

Sandy Sexton's 'Collo Libro'. I love art book formats, so this really appealed.
Another international, indeed, multi-national organisation showing work was SAQA. You may well have seen more of their exhibitions as they do get around! This exhibition was titled 'Food For Thought'. And I finally succumbed to the requests to join, so hopefully I will be sending pieces out with tier exhibitions in future. Having said that, I am not sure how my work will stand with the quilters, we shall see!

Detail from Helen Godden's 'C is for ... Couching'
Sarah Ann Smith's Insalata

This was the only glimpse I got of a fascinating display of work put together by Nikki Delport-Wepener and Lesley Turpin-Delport called 'A Tribute to Ancient Inspiration; East meets West', but fully intend to when I next see it.

Nikki Delport-Wepener and Lesley Turpin-Delport gallery called 'A Tribute to Ancient Inspiration; East meets West'
There were knitted fashions from the Kingston Fashion Knitwear Project, looking very striking on the catwalk images:

Kingston Fashion Knitwear Project

Kingston Fashion Knitwear Project
And recent graduates - more of them next time, as well as a selection of 'old hands':

Lizzie Houghton whose felt work is to die for and whose new studio in Cornwall I am very envious about!
Amanda Clayton and Viv Prideaux

Sue Dove's intensively stitched pieces, full of life and fun.

On one side of our NZ Art Textiles gallery were huge embellished and stitched pictures. And by huge, I mean most were around 2m x 3m. Think of the practicalities of making work on that scale! They were quite Van Gogh-esque in the mad flowing energies in the landscapes. Find out more on her website

Michala Gyetvai

Detail from Michala Gyetvai's work

On the other side, was a completely different, expertly crafted and most beautiful display of weaving from Stella Harding.

Stella Harding 'Second Nature'
Stella Harding 'Second Nature'
Stella Harding 'Second Nature'
Stella Harding 'Second Nature'
Stella Harding 'Second Nature'
Stella Harding 'Second Nature'
Another display which I found fascinating technically and artistically were the 'body parts' created by Sally Hewitt. I was really sad not to get a chance to meet her and discuss the work, which would have been even more powerful in a gallery setting than it's small stand, but at least we got to see the pieces.

Sally Hewitt

Sally Hewitt

Then there was the shopping which didn't quite happen, hopefully they will be in Harrogate in November!

Yummy prefelts. I wonder if I can squeeze some in my suitcase?
Don't forget, there are still two Knitting and Stitching Shows to go. Dublin and Harrogate. Find out more.
I am scooting around the UK for the next few weeks and will hopefully have lots to show you from Inverness, Bolton, Nottingham, Wolverhampton, Stevenage, Sutton Coldfield and Darlington before too long.