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.