Here is the promised post – thankyou for waiting, and I apologise that it is such a long one!
I felt completely overwhelmed by the wonderful response to my foray into textiles, and felt that after receiving such positive comments, I really ought to give credit where it is due. So I will embark on an explanation of my sewing background, and how I got to this point today.
The first person to introduce me to sewing was my mother. She had always sewn when we when young, and then , when I was around nine or ten years old she began to do a City and Guilds embroidery course, travelling to Stitch Design on the Isle of Dogs, London, once a week. The course was run by Barbara Marriot and tutored by Julia Caprara,, an exceptional textile artist and inspirational teacher. If I was off school, I used to go with her, rather than her miss her college day, and I often contrived to be ill on a Friday, just so that I could go too. Docklands was undeveloped then, and it was an interesting place to hang out, but most of all I got to sit in on the classes, and joined in the practical work with great enthusiasm. Later on, while doing the Part II course, my mother also taught workshops and evening classes locally, all of which I used to tag along to. So sewing became second nature to both myself and my sister, something for which I am eternally grateful, and which I am endeavouring to teach my girls.
As time passed, and I went off to art college, I felt rather suffocated by my textiles background, and rebelliously strode off in another direction. Ceramics was new and exciting ( and the tutor was rather attractive) and I decided this was my path. Unfortunately, by the time I left Uni, I had realised that I had chosen the wrong path. Illustration was my one love, and that is the direction I have pursued ever since.
I continued to sew all through this time, making or customising clothes, practical sewing, making do and mending, which was simply a part of my upbringing.
My sister, Angharad, however, followed the textiles route through, first doing a degree in costume at the London College of Fashion, and eventually ending up with a clothing business, making fabulous clothes out of recycled and vintage fabrics. She is currently exhibiting at Princetown and Haldon forest as part of a sustainable fashion initiative.
photos (c) Angharad Barlow / Blow-pipe
I cut and sew for her sometimes when she has a big order, but aside from that, and occasional alterations and curtain making for money ( which I loathe doing I’m afraid, but there are times when I can’t really afford to turn it down!) I haven’t sewn as art for years.
BUT, inklings of ideas began to ferment about a year ago. At a friends house I had been admiring a couple of quilts she had, by an artist called Janet Bolton. Because I had admired them so much, Edie gave me a copy of Janet’s book, “Patchwork folk Art” that Christmas. Oh, and it was a book to drool over! I kept it by my bed, to browse through in those rare quiet moments with a cup of tea, after everyone else was asleep, imagining things I could do. Then, after a burst of painting earlier last year, I suddenly decided to translate one of the illustrations into a quilt. Those of you who have been following me for a while will have already seen this piece.
I was pleased with the outcome, but what thrilled me most was the sheer enjoyment of doing it. Yes, it was slow and painstaking, and I had thought I might get bored doing miles of running stitch – after all, I am bored out of my brain when making curtains! But I didn’t – I was happy. Every line of stitching made me smile, and I realised that actually, the finished piece was of secondary importance, it was the pleasure of making every stitch that mattered most. This was a bit of a revelation, a Eureka moment, and I realised I wanted more. Time was short, and spare bits of time had to be spent drawing and painting, but all the while I kept going back to Janet’s book for inspiration, and began to browse the blogosphere looking at textile artists. There are many wonderful people out there – I am surprised by how many I have found, and by how many have found me since I first mentioned my little quilt. You can find links to many of these people on my sidebar, and they are too numerous to mention here, but there has been one person who has inspired me more than anyone ( and I know she inspires a lot of you!) and that is Jude Hill from Spirit Cloth. I discovered her blog last autumn, and found myself returning again and again, to learn from her and be inspired. Through her I heard of the slow cloth movement, and realised that this is exactly the way I feel about my work. It’s exciting and I’m proud to be a part of it in a tiny way.