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.

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