Sunday 24 January 2010

The Thankyou post!

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.

So, my thanks are due to all these people who have encouraged and inspired me, but I have to say that it is to Jude I owe thanks for that final little creative nudge, for stopping me from dreaming about what I’d like to do, and making me actually pick up the fabric and start working. The result was Long Lugs, but he is the first of many! Race the Wind is continuing, stitch by stitch, becoming slightly freer as I let myself go a bit, but I envisage this as a slow process – letting go does not come naturally to me!


jude said...

thank you so much for such a lovely post and for making me feel as if i have provided some comfortable path to your creativity.... seems like it has been there all along though.

Jacky said...

Wonderful that you are moving into the textile world...Long Lugs is just fantastic (and not just because I am partial to hares!!!).
I really enjoyed reading how you developed your love of art and fabric...both you and Jude do the most wonderful drawings/paintings too. I love how they translate into your textile art.

So pleased I found you blog.


Julie Harward said...


A mermaid in the attic said...

"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."

I've just had a similar revelation. For me, it was working out that the reason why I like 'unfinishedness' (if that's a word, LOL) is because the 'journey' of the piece isn't over yet so it's alive and full of possibilities. Once you've finished it, all those other possibilities, those other potential destinations, are lost. Jude mentioned (yes, I'm a fan too!) she likes unfinished edges "because of the way it reveals the woven elements of the cloth" (hope you don't mind me quoting you, Jude!), and I thought, yes, it reveals the journey taken. It's the journey that's important, not the finished piece.

Kath said...

What a lovely post, I am enjoying getting to know you.I feel the same way about quilts and cloth creations, the pleasure is in the making (thats why I give them away) although I plan to keep some this year LOL

Catherine V. Bainbridge said...

I called my blog emergence and it's at littelightshining, because these things - which are not *things* at all, of course - that burn within us, that so often start out as small glowing embers, take time to evolve and to become what they need to become. So, keep that little light shining, 'coz you're doing a fabulous job, and you can count on the rest of us out here in blogsphere to stop by and breath a little oxygen on your flame. Nice getting to know you. saludos. :)

Julia Kelly said...

Eureka moments are wonderful, when we go with what is deep inside us! Can't wait to see what you do with the fabric, know it will be be wonderful.

Clare Wassermann said...

do you know - apart from the fact that I begrudgingly have to live in a city I think we have parallel lives! The Jude thing is mine too - totally addictive and VERY inspirational

Unknown said...

I am lucky enough to have a couple of Janet Bolton's quilts, have all of her books and have taken a course from her. I love her! Next, I discovered Jude, and never miss a day of her blog. I own several of her pieces as well. From Jude, I found your blog. I love your artwork, and your "Long Lugs" is fantastic! I can't wait to see more of your textile work!

Yarrow said...

Fabric is just another artform and I totally appreciate your excitement about 'painting' with cloth. Each stitch is like a brushstroke a pencil mark, a devotion :) I can't wait to see what you're making as even with cloth, your style comes through clearly. Love it :)

Melly Testa said...

So glad to hear your story, I love your paintings and your new emerging cloth work is great. I love to paint, and stitch, so I feel a kinship with you. I just bought Planet Patchwork on your suggestion.

Danielle Barlow said...

Sorry it has taken me a while to reply! Life has been VERY hectic this last couple of weeks :)

Jude - I'm so glad I found you and your work!

Jacky - Thankyou. I am enjoying this textile process more and more. I'm not sure I'll be able to return to painting!

I love you coming by Julie :) You always say such lovely, positive things. I appreciate that so much!

Mermaid - I know just what you mean about the 'unfinishedness'!

Kath - you must keep some too!

Thankyou Catherine and Julia :)

Danielle Barlow said...

Ah Clare - your blog is another that I look to for inspiration!

Karen - I am deeply envious that you own some of Janet's and Jude's work yourself! Would love to see your own work ;)

Yarrow - I'm sorry Kim, I meant to email you back, but the colicky pony brought everything to a crashing halt :(

Melly - Thankyou - nice to meet you!

Blackfeatherfarm said...

Your new works are just charming! I am so wanting to do this myself with inspiration from the Spirit Cloth Blog, Annemieke Mein, and now you! Hand stitching gives these works so much character!


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