Monday, December 24, 2012

Members Competition, Christmas ATC 12

Displayed in no particular order, except the winning entry which will be shown on Christmas Day

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Members Competition, Christmas ATC 11

Displayed in no particular order, except the winning entry which will be shown on Christmas Day

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Members Competition, Christmas ATC 10

Displayed in no particular order, except the winning entry which will be shown on Christmas Day

Friday, December 21, 2012

Members Competition, Christmas ATC 9

Displayed in no particular order, except the winning entry which will be shown on Christmas Day

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Members Competition, Christmas ATC 8

Displayed in no particular order, except the winning entry which will be shown on Christmas Day

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Members Competition, Christmas ATC 7

Displayed in no particular order, except the winning entry which will be shown on Christmas Day

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Members Competition, Christmas ATC 6

Displayed in no particular order, except the winning entry which will be shown on Christmas Day

Monday, December 17, 2012

Members Competition, Christmas ATC 5

Displayed in no particular order, except the winning entry which will be shown on Christmas Day

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Members Competition, Christmas ATC 4

Displayed in no particular order, except the winning entry which will be shown on Christmas Day

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Members Competition, Christmas ATC 3

Displayed in no particular order, except the winning entry which will be shown on Christmas Day

Friday, December 14, 2012

Members Competition, Christmas ATC 2

Displayed in no particular order, except the winning entry which will be shown on Christmas Day

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Members Competition, Christmas ATC 1

Displayed in no particular order, except the winning entry which will be shown on Christmas Day

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 December 2012, Christmas Social

Given the weather (freezing fog) there was a very good turnout for Christmas Social Meeting.

We tried to do a few things slightly differently from our usual ways, some intentionally and some unplanned. When members arrived they drew a card to decide which table they would sit at. We have several new members this year and we hoped that by mixing people up we would make them feel more welcome. Judging by the continuous hum of conversation, this worked well.

We had some very nice prices for the raffle but no raffle tickets! Instead of the usual method members paid to have their name included in the draw, a pound a go. It was not a very big deviation from a normal raffle but the lack of raffle tickets was cause for some amusement.

Alex came up with a fun and topical variation of bingo for our entertainment. Each table was given a pack of cards with stitch and textile related pictures. Alex then selected and called the cards. Some were easy to identify, needles, black work, buttons, etc, but others were in the form of a quiz, "a piece of work by ...", "this magazine was first published in ...".

Some things were the same as usual. Everyone came “Dressed to impress”, we had a lovely selection of sweet and savoury nibbles and there were some very lovely submissions for the members’ competition which was won by Maureen Ergeneli. They will be making an appearance on the blog in the days leading up to Christmas with the winning entry on Christmas Day.

One of the hot topics of the evening was The Big Stitch. Everyone said how much they had enjoyed the event. The accolades keep coming from far and wide ...

My friend and I had a wonderful day at the Ashmolean, thanks to many of you demonstrating and exhibiting there.
Member of Kettering branch

I really did enjoy the day and so did the other members of my party from the Chesterfield Branch. Huge thanks and congratulations to everyone who worked so hard to make the day such a success. It was a really good `advert' for the best of The Guild!
Member of Chesterfield branch

... and, of course, from closer to home

What a fantastic experience the Big Stitch was. Jean Littlejohn’s talk in the morning: Echoes of the Past was very informative with lots of slides giving an insight into what inspires her work and examples of the inspiring work she has produced recently using a variety of textile materials combined with anything else she can find that suits! Kay and Michael Denis’ excellent workshop on stump work enabled people to produce very realistic looking strawberries ... well explained and great fun. It was wonderful also to see so many fascinating demonstrations of textile techniques by Guild members.
Rosemary Howden, Co-Chair Oxford Branch

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Big Stitch - Jan Beaney Talk

by Margaret Craig

Jan Beaney, Joint President of the Embroiderers' Guild, talk on the "Songs of the Earth".

Jan had the last slot of the day, being post-parandial might have been a difficult slot for some, but not for Jan! She gave an interesting insight into the inspirations behind her work and the mutual interests and destinations she shared with her friend and fellow Joint President, Jean Littlejohn. Jan’s talk concentrated more on the motivations that led to the creation of her work, rather than a technical explanation of her methodology. Her lecture opened with an appreciation for the Native American traditions which were rooted in landscape traditions, her comment brought the work of Jackson Pollock to mind, as he was equally inspired by these traditions, though with very different results!

Jan focused in particular on various trips she’d made in Australia and the Middle East. Much emphasis was placed on the intensity of tones and coloured shadows she experienced in both locations. She showed images from her sketch books (some of which were created whilst being driven around in a car!), which were then translated into magnificent textual landscapes. She frequently attempted to capture the essence of a place and the effects of light, shadow, on places such as Ayres Rock. She said at a particular time of day the shadows were virtually emerald, a phenomenon attributed to the intense red earth and rocks there. She was particularly sensitive to the inclusion of the cooler turquoise and emerald colours in her work. In order to capture these effects in textiles she often created her own fabrics, simply by stitching and overstitching into dissolvable fabric, ultimately creating a slightly ephemeral effect, with the lacy perforated surface that ensued.

My daughter who had been fortunate to attend Jean Littlejohn’s talk in the morning was able to see the huge difference in their responses to similar stimuli. Jan referred to the fact that Jean was a frequent traveling companion during her travels. Jan recounted an episode when she and Jean wanted to fully experience the quiet glory of an Australian outback sunrise without the other tour members, so early one morning they very quietly snuck out. Once out in the middle of the outback they worried that if anything happened to them no one would know where they were or that they were even gone. However on their return they found they had no need to worry! According to their sensitive Aboriginal guide as a result of walking along the gravel path as they left it meant, as far as he was concerned, they’d made as much noise as a heard of kangaroos!

Jan’s talk was a remarkable journey through her varied responses to landscapes one might call arid and featureless, but she was able to respond to the nuances of nature found there to create her own "Songs of the Earth".

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Big Stitch - Japanese Pocket Book Workshop

by Margaret Craig

Japanese Pocket Book Workshop, tutor Gill Riordan, Regional Chairman of the Embroiderers’ Guild East Region

I was fortunate enough to get a pre-booked place on this highly popular workshop (they were turning people away on the day, as they were so over-subscribed!) which was thematically linked to the Japanese textiles exhibition ‘Threads of Silk and Gold’. Many people had travelled quite a distance to attend, with the woman next to me having travelled 2 hours just to get to Oxford!

Gill Riordan was the tutor for the 2 hours long workshop, amusingly supported by her husband, who had clearly been involved with the preparation of the various materials used. The Japanese Pocket Book we were making was essentially an origami-like folded silk covered holder for 3 differently sized small tasselled ornamental notebooks. The notebooks tuck into the origami folded pockets, hence the name!

We were each given a packet of materials containing all we would need for the workshop. The most important initial step was learning to create the folded pocketbook, but practising with an A4 piece of paper first. Once we had mastered the intricate folding process we could apply it to the carefully prepared silk backed paper. This had been created by Gill’s husband, who indicated that it was merely lining paper! He had painted the paper with a metallic deep terracotta colour acrylic paint on one side with the beautiful bronze, black and maroon stylised floral silk applied to the other side. The silk was adhered with double-sided sticky tape along the 4 edges rather than an overall application of Bondaweb, as some give was needed with all the folding involved.

After we’d created the folded pocket book, we needed to create our small notebooks to put in the pockets. These were much simpler with only one fold! They were also made from acrylic painted lining paper (an ochre colour this time) for the covers and a few pages of white cartridge paper for the inside. These were then simply stitched to create a book effect, which we embellished with tassels made from gold and/or black embroidery thread. However we didn’t stop there, as we were provided with a range of variously sized coloured/patterned glass and ceramic beads to choose from to add to our tassels! The small notebooks could also be further embellished through the application of corner ink stamps of a variety of designs.

But, we weren’t yet finished as we were encouraged to add beading to the folded pocket book, along the edges. We were provided with small golden glass beads to apply in whatever fashion we liked, but the emphasis was on creating a picot beaded edge. Although most of us didn’t fully complete all the edging we were encouraged to take away a small bag of beads and complete it at home. Being a rebel I didn’t do a picot edge, but embroidered a chevron pattern to tie in with the angled pocket edges instead (OK, that was for a quicker effect, but I’ve now added the picot edge too!). We were all asked to place our work along one table for the final viewing, a very satisfying time was clearly had by all!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Big Stitch was a Huge Success

The Big Stitch was a huge success! Crowds of visitors queued outside the Ashmolean waiting for the event to begin and continued to gather around the demonstrators long after it was expected to end. The workshops and talks proved very popular, as did Mr X Stitch and the World’s Longest Embroidery. Further proof of the day’s success was the number of people who joined in with the crowd stitch and the smiling faces of our younger visitors who spent some time at the Family Drop-in Activity making Simple Stitches.

© The Ashmolean Museum

Oxford Branch would like to thank everyone who took part in the day. This is what some of you had to say about The Big Stitch.

It was a superior and high quality event, so brilliant to see the Ashmolean filled to the gunnels with enthusiastic people thronging to all the demonstrations, workshops, talks etc! I attended the excellent Japanese Pocket Book workshop whilst my daughter attended the talk by Jean Littlejohn, which she LOVED! She felt the talk was very inspiring and that Jean's work and ideas encouraged her to develop some projects pursuing similar interests. She was particular taken with the concept of (re)using a variety of materials to achieve quite stunning results (e.g. the fingers from rubber/plastic gloves used in a bracelet/cuff design). Overall we both loved the day and in particular she said she felt the best part about it was feeling involved, as being a part of the event gave her a fantastic feeling of inclusion and shared interest with so many others. In particular it left her with sense of stimulation to be involved in future events!
Margaret and Madeleine (aged 13) Craig

Brilliant day. Demonstrating to really interested people was amazing. The cafe was so busy they ran out of teapots!
Kate Medcraft

We had a lovely time yesterday. We were buzzing! I'm so pleased that the day was such a success and that the Ashmolean were given the opportunity to revise their view on "embroiderers". Thank you so much for including us and for making such a great job of organising things. I thought your stand was brilliant; looks like you've got a lively branch in Oxford.
Sue Robinson, Aylesbury Branch

A wonderful variety of skills from friendly women sharing their enjoyment and knowledge. I had a great time. Many thanks to all involved.
Jane Buckly

© The Ashmolean Museum

It was really a wonderful day. I was fascinated to meet ladies who had come to Oxford by coach from Brighton and Worthing and some from London too. The demonstrators were outstanding. So professional. Well done.
Maureen Ergeneli

It was a really good day and thoroughly enjoyed by all of us from the Newbury Guild. The lectures were good, we went to 2, and the demonstrators were great, really covering all topics! In fact we could have been there longer as we didn't manage to get to everyone.
A member of Newbury branch

I thought it was a fantastic day and everyone I met seemed to be really enjoying themselves and pleased to have an extra special stitch event to attend. I certainly had a great time and also had an excellent demonstration space in which to work, not to mention the fabulous surroundings.
Jo Smith, Embroiderers’ Guild Scholar

Everyone who came round was so interested and enthusiastic – a most enjoyable day.
Pam Blackley-Goble

© The Ashmolean Museum

The atmosphere in the Museum was amazing. Both while demonstrating and while watching other demonstrations, I was aware of a continuous buzz of excitement and enthusiasm. The only disappointment for me was that I could not be everywhere and take part in everything!
Carol-Anne Conway

Sunday, December 2, 2012

14 November 2012 Debbie Lyddon -
"Combining the Senses - Sight, Sound and Touch"

Debbie Lyddon trained at The University of Hertfordshire and has an MA in Contemporary Textiles. She enjoys experimenting with cloth and using other materials such as salt and wax to change its natural qualities. Many of her pieces use cloths that appear hard and firm and she generally likes them to be unframed and available to touch.

© Debbie Lyddon
She originally trained as a musician and developed a heightened sense of hearing which she still possesses. Whilst finding many pieces of music very inspiring, she finds sounds in general also catch her ear and she always carries some sort of recording device with her. For Debbie, there is a difference and yet similarity between what you can hear and see both in colour, tone and rhythm – all words that are used in both music and textile art. But it is her "ability" to visualise a sound (for her A-flat is always olive green!), seeing the colours as she played music, and how she turns this into a textile piece that formed the basis of her talk to us.

Like many textile artists, Debbie is inspired by lots of different things and we could see different combinations of these in her work. The North Norfolk coast with its network of little creeks, wide open beaches, and a flat horizon that stretches to meet the sky, can be seen as both bleak and beautiful. Her family also own boats and the shapes of these also make their way into her work – from the tall, straight, vertical masts to the sails and curves of the actual boat itself. Then there were the interpretations of sounds – from orchestral pieces to the ringing of wires against the mast or bubbling lug-worms on the beach.

To help explain her approach, Debbie showed a picture of an early piece – a textile work of undulating white organza shapes, which (sewn onto wires) was then draped and wound across the garden. This was based on a piece of music written by Debussy for the flute - a sinuous lyrical piece which tells the story of a Syrinx, a water sprite pursued by Pan. To escape him she jumped into a lake and turned herself into a hollow water reed, but he saw her, cut the reed down and fashioned them into Pan pipes.

Debbie then displayed one of her Windsor pieces. I had actually seen this in the Graduate Show some years ago, wall mounted in a softly undulating stretch around a corner. Whilst I had felt there was something in it that spoke of water and perhaps boats, it was only after hearing her describe to us how and why it was also based on a musical piece by Benjamin Britten entitled Sea Interludes, that I could really appreciate it. Made of firm linen and softer linen scrim it moved from a solid, flat plain white (painted with gesso and emulsion paint) through blues to an almost black at the other end, where a top layer of large scale drawn-threads hung down over the background. She used drawn threads because they reminded her of moving water and rhythms and therefore fitted with the interpretation of the music.

© Debbie Lyddon
Debbie passed around lots of sample pieces for us to look at, and played parts of the music which had inspired her – it certainly added to the talk to be able to listen to this and view the finished piece at the same time.

First interludeDawn – bare, chilling and desolate with the sound of seagulls in the cold air. (This was the flat, cold and pale part of the work)
Second interludeSunday Morning - bells and rhythms of boats rocking on water were echoed in the semi circles and strong vertical lines
Third interludeMoonlight – with small surges in the music above a slow throbbing background. Whilst her initial drawings tried to translate this, they did not evolve into the final piece and she chose instead her love of the slow tides of Norfolk.
Fourth interludeStorm – thunderous and raging with spray blowing high, but a faint ray of sunshine comes through to challenge and defeat the storm.

We were then introduced to other artists who used music as inspiration. Wassily Kandinsky, who was fascinated and stimulated by colour and its symbolism. He was actually diagnosed as a synesthete. This is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory pathway (ie sound) leads to an involuntary experience in a second sensory pathway (ie seeing colours). In Kandinsky’s art the juxtaposition of colours was very important – the way they were placed and combined, he believed, said different things. He likened painting to composing music writing, "Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul". If you imagine high sounds translated into light colours and deep sounds into stronger colours you get the idea.

Paul Klee, who thought not so much about the colours but about the rhythm and movement of music as he painted. He worked in many different media (oils, watercolour, ink) and often combined them into one work. He used canvas, burlap, muslin, linen, gauze, cardboard, metal foils, fabric, wallpaper, and newsprint. Many of his works allude to poetry, music and dreams and sometimes they include words or musical notations – a violinist, his drawings often look like transcriptions of music, with little hieroglyphics and squiggles.

Debbie explained the composer, Chiyoko Szlavnics, has a way of visualising sounds – instead of using the traditional five lines and notes she uses a graphic score – a way of using a drawing to indicate the sound and which is then open to interpretation by the viewer/musician. Just think what sound you would interpret from a jagged, hard line; or a series of little dots across the page and you get the idea. This idea had led Debbie to make line drawings and paintings, all interpretations of different sounds, and these were then made into folded and pleated books. Other pages were made of strong canvas with large eyelets and these were reminiscent of boats and sails.

© Debbie Lyddon
Whilst all of the above may make you wonder where Debbie fits into the world of textiles, this was a fascinating evening and a very interesting talk. Her work is strong and, knowing more of the background, you can better appreciate the design and marks shown within it. She does not over-stitch or embellish but relies on the simplicity of the piece to speak for itself.

© Debbie Lyddon
Read lots more about what Debbie is currently doing on her blog or see her work on her website

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Big Stitch

Saturday 1 December 2012, 11am–4pm
The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford in partnership with the Embroiderers’ Guild

Join us for a celebration of all things embroidered with events and activities taking place around the Museum suitable for all ages. Study the history of embroidery in the special exhibition and in the Ashmolean’s permanent galleries which house one of the finest collections of textiles in the country. Add your own contribution to the world’s longest embroidery and help us set a new world record; see both cutting-edge and traditional embroidery demonstrations; take a guided tour or learn more in a lecture; and enjoy stitching activities for all ages. Bring your own project, or start something new just in time for Christmas. Experts will be on hand to help you improve your stitching or to get you started if you’re a complete needle-novice.

Pick up a programme and sign up for events on the day at:
The Big Stitch Welcome Desk, Gallery 21
All events and activities are free; exhibition tickets are available to purchase online or on the day.

Venue: Taylorian Lecture Theatre
Booking: No booking, please arrive in good time to avoid disappointment

Textile Treasures of the Tudors
With Chris Berry
Chris Berry is an internationally recognised authority on Tudor & C17th textiles and a practising contemporary embroiderer. For 20 years she taught embroidery as a City & Guilds Creative Studies tutor and continues to teach historical embroidery in the USA and Canada. Chris has a passion for Tudor and Stuart embroidery and currently volunteers at the Burrell Collection, Glasgow, where she is carrying out research into embroidery techniques of the period.

Echoes of the Past
With Jean Littlejohn
Jean Littlejohn is Joint President of the Embroiderers’ Guild and has lectured on and exhibited embroidery internationally. In ‘Echoes of the Past’ she explores the continuing history of creating images in cloth and stitch and how textile art fuses the past and present.

Couture Embroidery: Worth Onwards
With Anthea Godfrey
Anthea Godfrey is a leading expert on the fashion industry and teaches as Principal Lecturer at the University of the Arts, London.

With Sue Rangeley
Sue Rangeley is an internationally renowned textile artist whose work can be seen in the V&A’s Fashion Galleries. In this lecture she reflects on how historic collections, such as those in the Ashmolean, can inspire contemporary textile art, showing examples of her own work.

Songs of the Earth
With Jan Beaney
Jan Beaney is Joint President of the Embroiderers’ Guild and is the longest serving member of the 62 Group of textile artists. She is a lecturer and author on embroidery and runs, with Jean Littlejohn, Double Trouble Enterprises which publishes books and promotes textile arts. In this lecture she looks at the influence of landscape on embroidery.

Young Embroiderers’ Workshops
Venue: Ticket holders to meet at The Big Stitch Welcome Desk, Gallery 21, 10 minutes before the workshop.
Booking: 50% tickets available to pre-book: / 01865 278 015
50% tickets available on the day from The Big Stitch Welcome Desk
Please note: Workshops are led by professional tutors and children and young adults cannot be accompanied to the workshops; parents and guardians are asked to leave a contact phone number when booking and to collect children from the Welcome Desk promptly at the end of the workshops.

Tree Jewellery
With Carla Walsh
Suitable for ages 8–12
On the first day of Advent, Carla will show you how to recycle scraps of fabric and trimmings to make a Christmas wreath which you can hang on your tree or in your home.

Breathing Clarity
With Karen Woods
12.15–1.15pm & 3–4pm
Suitable for ages 12–18
Karen Woods is an award winning textile and mixed-media artist. In this workshop she will show you how to create a fan using images from Japanese woodblock prints and porcelains.

Sashiko Embroidery
With Sally McCollin
Suitable for ages 8–12
Learn the ancient Japanese art of Sashiko embroidery.

Creative Workshops for Adults
Venue: Headley Lecture Theatre, lower-ground floor, Ashmolean
Booking: 50% tickets available to pre-book: / 01865 278 015
50% tickets available on the day from The Big Stitch Welcome Desk

Japanese Pocket Book
With Gill Riordon
Create a Japanese folded pocket book with added stitches for decoration.

Raised Work Embroidery
With Kay Dennis
Renowned raised-work artist Kay Dennis shows you how to create a raised-work strawberry with two designs suitable for complete beginners and more advanced embroiderers.

Booking: 50% tickets available to pre-book: / 01865 278 015
50% tickets available on the day from The Big Stitch Welcome Desk
Please note: Where applicable, exhibition tickets must be purchased prior to the tour.

Highlights of the Ashmolean Textiles Collection
With Lynne Ward
Venue: The Big Stitch Welcome Desk
11–11.45am & 12–12.45pm

Curator-led Exhibition Tour
With Dr Clare Pollard
Venue: Gallery 57, 3rd floor
12.30–1pm & 2.30–3pm

Threads of Silk and Gold: stitches and techniques
With Jane Smith
Venue: Gallery 57, 3rd floor
1–1.30pm & 3–3.30pm

Highlights of the Ashmolean Textiles Collection
With Claire Frampton
Venue: The Big Stitch Welcome Desk

Children’s Drop-In
Venue: Education Centre
Get creative and try some simple stitches in the Education Centre. Suitable for ages 4–10. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

The World’s Longest Embroidery
Venue: Atrium
The world’s longest embroidery is currently 600 metres long, but at The Big Stitch, we’ll be trying to make it longer still. Anyone can join in, so come along and make your mark with the help of Embroiderers’ Guild experts and Mr X Stitch.

Crowd Stitching
Venue: lower-ground floor
Come and join our crowd stitching area where you can sit and sew, with advice from embroidery experts to get you started or help you improve. And we have 1000 mini-kits available for free for anyone who wants to have a go.

Object Viewing
Venue: Jameel Study Centre, gallery 29
For The Big Stitch, the Ashmolean is bringing out objects from its stores so that you can see textiles from antiquity, eastern and western traditions side by side. Learn about the similarities and differences to be found in textiles across history and around the globe.

Try on a Kimono
A generous private collector is bringing a range of kimonos to the Ashmolean for dressing-up in the galleries. There will be children’s kimonos and garments for adults, plus special embroidered examples and an extraordinary wedding kimono. Embroidery Demonstrations

Throughout the day, expert embroiderers will be situated around the galleries creating new works of art in a range of traditional and contemporary techniques. Come and take a close look at how they do it, and take the chance to ask them your questions.

The Embroiderers’ Guild
Representatives from the Embroiderers’ Guild will be on hand throughout the day to answer your questions; and you can take the opportunity to sign-up as a member. The Guild will be selling books by the lecturers and workshop leaders. Embroiderers’ Guild Ambassadors will be demonstrating their extraordinary skills around the galleries.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

10 November 2012: Gizella Warburton -
"Fragments – a Textile Journey of Discovery and Experiment"

By Alex Messenger

When I first saw Gizella’s work on her website, I wasn’t sure whether this workshop would suit me or not, as her work is deceptively simple, both in colour and design, and seems to use a collage approach to combining natural fabrics and threads in a very understated way. However, being a firm believer that you always learn something from these days, I found my materials list and set to packing the bag.

At Night
© Gizella Warburton
As it was, I didn’t need to take very much – picture for ideas/inspiration, selection of fabrics and threads to go with it, and usual sewing stuff. Many of us often feel we need to adopt a "kitchen sink" approach to the workshops and take absolutely everything, but you learn with time, that you don’t – invariably the tutor has organised supplies (for a small charge) when they are using something unusual or others on the day are happy to share if there is something you’ve forgotten or they have just the perfect shade of fabric/thread you need.

This turned out to be a minimalist day. We started with a magazine picture – randomly supplied by Gizella (no choosing) which she asked you to study briefly for colours, textures, shapes etc. She then tipped out a huge bag of scrappy, fabric bits and you had to choose some to represent the items in your picture. So, with smooth paper to represent the fridge, shiny cotton to interpret the glass table, and brown tweed for the wooden chairs, I laid these onto the calico in a sort-of collage representation of the picture. The idea was to simplify it down, not create an exact copy. It was interesting that some people wanted to recreate the picture, others picked out the textures and almost ignored the shapes, others picked out lines and angles, and one looked at the proportions of one colour to another in her vivid mauve/orange floral picture.

Original Picture
We then used a viewfinder to find an area that we liked – whether that was the colour combination or shapes or lines. We then had to again pick fabrics and create a simple collage of that area. We were all getting further and further away from the original picture. The mobile phones came into their own as you could photograph a layout that you liked before you moved it around to perhaps find an even better one (and invariably didn’t so used the picture to go back to where you were!) .

First Attempt
The next step was to simplify down again, but this time in monochrome – not necessarily black/white but certainly shades of one colour. Having taken a lot of grey fabrics, I scrabbled around in my bag, and without realising, began to consider the combination of textures as well as the simplified picture itself. The mix of tweed with a knobbly, thin thread; using a scrap of Gizella’s furnishing fabric with the same colours as the pile of plates; an open weave linen square on top of a dyed cotton. As Gizella reminded us, it doesn’t have to be all fabrics – you can combine papers as well, and she had some interesting textured wallpapers which we were welcome to use.

Then came the stitching. Just very simple stitches to "make a mark" and hold down the fabrics in some way. You did have to think about which stitch you wanted to use, in what thread, and where you were going to put it. The simple, minimalist approach is definitely not to be considered as slapdash – having collaged your fabrics carefully you can’t just plonk heavy, dark stitches on top in a haphazard fashion. The stitches were there for a purpose, to add something, but not stand out and detract – for example, simple couching or running stitch but with big gaps between or extending the thread loosely over the top.

So by the end of the day, we all had some pieces of work that may have started from a magazine picture, but had become uncluttered and simple collages of fabrics and threads. We all had the chance to view each other’s pieces - a bit nerve wracking when you had to say a few words, about it but Gizella was only looking for an outline of what you thought, and liked or disliked about where you had ended up. It was interesting to hear the various comments – "I never use green usually, but I have this time and quite like it"; "I usually create busy pieces so it’s a challenge to make it so simple", "I liked the strong lines and could use either pleated fabrics or stitches to give me this effect", "going monochrome, I went back to an inspirational picture of stones from the Lake District that I’ve always liked".

Finished Piece
I found being guided through the day with exercises so much easier than if I had just been told to "think freely and interpret". Sometimes it can be good to try and bring things down to a simple combination of fabrics and threads and yet still create something that is pleasing to look at. Gizella herself was friendly, helpful and guided us through rather than imposed her own ideas. I guess the test of a workshop is always what you do with the piece when you get home. I’m pleased to say, I finished stitching mine and did a second one for the Travelling Book.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

10 October 2012: AGM and Tessa Wyatt, "A Different View"

The AGM was well attended again this year. Amanda and Jo delivered the Chair’s report and the financial report respectively. Four members of the committee stood down this year including our co-chairwomen. Jo proposed a vote of thanks to Amanda and Alex for their hard work and presented them with pot plants as a token of our gratitude. Rosemary Howden and Denise Harrison were duly elected as our new co-chair. We are very pleased that they have agreed to take on this role and hope that they will enjoy it. There was a little reshuffling of the remaining committee members to fill other vacated roles.

With the business of the AGM concluded, Alex offered to Chair the Branch meeting before handing over the reins to Rosemary and Denise.

Our speaker for the evening was Tessa Wyatt, a local artist who layers photographs to create her unique images. Tessa not only gave a very informative talk full of tips and advice, she has reproduced the entire talk on her blog.

Tessa Wyatt

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

12 September 2012: Gill Banks, "On Your Marks"

Gill Banks completed the HE Diploma in Stitched Textiles at Windsor and is now a member of textile groups HapticArt and Frayed Edges.

She has always found inspiration in the traces and marks left behind by the passage of time – whether these are weathered walls, altering landscapes (particularly the coastlines of North Norfolk and Iona), or the signs of wear and tear on clothes constantly used and laundered.

Gill Banks
Gill likes the "serendipity" of the "what might happen" approach and perhaps this is why she prefers methods such as discharge and dyeing where, whilst there may be an element of some control, you are never quite sure what the end result will be. She likes to use natural fabrics, particularly cottons and linens, and these lend themselves beautifully to dyeing and her way of working. At first sight her pieces may look almost monochrome, but the blending of soft blacks, greys, caramels and nutmeg browns, with an occasional hint of murky blue or smoky green, created calm and sensitive pieces that were not boring at all. Look up close and you can see the fascinating combination of a limited colour palette and simple hand stitching.

She admires the frugality and labour of the "make do and mend" ethos – sides turned to middle on sheets, patching, darning; evidence of care bestowed on simple utilitarian items to prolong their life and usefulness. This admiration can be seen in the way she hand stitches lots of strips of different width fabrics together and then perhaps introduces a square alongside or on top. It may look simple, but there is an art in using just the right number of strips to create the piece. In some of the pieces you can see where Gill has used part of a garment as a focus point – perhaps a buttonhole or placket from a sleeve.

Gill also believes in "enjoying the marks just for themselves", and this clearly comes through in the simple linear patterns that she creates upon her fabrics. Never believe that a line is just a line – it can be thick or thin, straight or wriggly, wide apart or close together, vertical or horizontal ... looking at Gill’s work you find your eyes are not distracted by all the motion but seem to flow from one piece to the next. The signs that she once worked in tailoring are echoed in the straight stitches across seams and coloured tailor tacks or occasional cross stitch which are scattered into a piece.

Gill Banks
It was whilst doing an extended workshop on discharge with Bob Adams that she was re-introduced to the idea of using bleach. Used neat, the effects are immediate and almost impossible to predict - Gill therefore had to develop a new way of approaching it to put her marks on the fabrics. She started to use soya wax (which washes out completely) to put marks on the fabric and then combined this with using bleach and screen prints. This gave her a wonderful new array of softly striped and marked fabrics which blend so well with the plainer pieces where the texture and weave of the fabric itself shows through. As an aside, she found herself introduced to the world of Ukrainian egg decorating when she began to use a kisker to apply the wax!

Gill is still exploring different methods of discharge or colour removal which incorporate both her interest in mark making and resists whilst continuing to work with a limited colour palette. She is soon to do another extended workshop in Italy, this time with Dorothy Cauldwell, and it will be interesting to see what new dimension this adds to Gill’s work.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Design Matters - Creative Sketchbooks online course

By Amanda Smith

I have always admired work done by mother and daughter Linda and Laura Kemshall and some years ago was given an annual subscription to their online TV videos which I have found very useful and have enjoyed dipping in and out of. However, what I really wanted to do was to have a go at producing sketchbooks that were something closer to the works of arts they produce than I was coming up with. Hey presto! An online Creative Sketchbooks course! How could I resist?!

Amanda Smith

The course gives you access, over the period of a year, to four modules. Technically you are supposed to complete one module before going on to the next but I believe not everyone has followed that system. You have an allocated tutor whom you can contact if you have any problems or uncertain as to whether something 'works'. Each module covers a different set of instructions and different ways of creatively covering pages in your sketchbook. They start with a theme of 'my place' and it is suggested that you look in your cupboards and drawers for inspiration.

Amanda Smith

The first module covers some drawing but also tone, rubbing, line. The second goes on to collage and painted papers. The third is mono printing and lino cutting, and we finish up with construction, fold outs and pockets. All through the course there are short videos giving in depth explanation and showing techniques and, of course, there are pages and pages of wonderful inspiration drawn from their own sketchbooks. After each module the student simply photographs or scans however many pages of their book they like and e-mails them to their tutor for feedback. Personally I enjoy drawing but not everyone does. However – do not despair! There is no need to draw if you really don’t like it or don’t feel confident. There are suggestions about using photographs and gessoing out sections and re-drawing them or collaging bits of photos with cut outs from painted papers. There is a lot of help with design and suggestions for going back into earlier pages. I loved it!

Amanda Smith

Sadly my time with the course runs out in August but I can print off some of the online pages if I like (there is too much and it’s too expensive to print it all). I still have the last module to complete. I have got a lot out of it and lots of ideas for how to present pages. If you’re interested taking a look at

Friday, July 27, 2012

Welcoming Athletes of the World

You may have noticed that a certain sporting event is taking place in London this summer. To mark the occasion the Guild invited members to make postcards to represent each participating country. Oxford Branch was asked to make cards that represent Yemen.

Windows I by Jane Travis
Chameleon by Karen Rowe
Desert Rose Tree by Joy Abrahams
Dragon’s Blood Tree by Jan Chalmers
Buildings by Jane Craft
Windows 2 by Jane Travis
Architectural Details by Maureen Ergeneli

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

11 July 2012: Summer Social

As usual, our July meeting was a social event. This year we invited members to make a "Magic Wallet" for the member’s competition. These competitions are light hearted and fun and it was clear that those who entered had fun making their entry.

Only days before the Olympic torch had passed through Oxfordshire. Karen Rowe had organised an Olympic Breakfast event to celebrate its journey through Abingdon and had been loaded a genuine torch for the occasion. We were delighted that Karen brought the torch with her to the summer meeting.

Karen with an Olympic torch