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".

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