Wednesday, March 12, 2014

12 March 2014, Judith Hammond - "Plastic Couture"

Finally! A monthly meeting that was not put in jeopardy by the weather and in response the members of Oxford Branch turned out en masse. We were joined this evening by Ann Waldon Mills, acting regional Chairman, who was returning work that members had submitted for exhibition at the 'Make It' show which, by all accounts, was a great success.

Ulrike has put together another excellent program of speakers and workshops this year and half way through the program we have already enjoyed an interesting and varied selection of speakers. Tonight was no exception. Ulrike 'discovered' Judith Hammond at the 'Big Stitch' in October 2012 where she was one of a host of volunteer demonstrators.

© Judith Hammond

Judith originates from the north-east of England. Her great-grandmother was a seamstress and her mother made all of the family clothes, whether stitched or knitted, so Judith says textiles and craft are in her genes. At school Judith was in the 'academic stream' so was steered towards French rather than needlework but, to this day, cannot speak a word of French!

After school Judith applied for two design courses at University but was not offered a place at either so she decided to take a year out. She started work as a Civil Servant. She says that it was a 'great' job that she loved doing but sadly there were no textiles involved.

© Judith Hammond

Years later, when she and her husband moved to Banbury, Judith began a textile design course which she described as ‘like play school’ where they were encouraged to explore and experiment with anything and everything. When her tutor resigned Judith was keen to continue with her textile studies. She applied for a course at Banbury College and, when invited to an interview, took with her all the bags of samples produced on the previous course. Emptying the contents onto the desk she said 'this is what I can do'. At the end of the interview the tutor offered Judith a place on their degree course.

Judith describes the next 6 years as 'fantastic'. Her first assignment was to work with a found object. Judith recalls looking at a table filled with the likes of old tooth brushes, combs, etc. and wondering she could possibly do with any of it. She selected an ice cube bag to work with because she was taken with the silk feel of the plastic. Here began a voyage of discovery, exploring every possible use for an ice cube bag, stitching, cutting and melting it, filling it with dye then using the frozen dye cubes to dawn onto fabric, and so on. At this point Judith started handing out the dozens of samples she had brought with her. Every ice cube bag and every piece of paper or fabric with labelled and in addition Judith completed journals documenting every experiment. Judith produced two shawls for assessment and says that she was criticized for not using silk, however Judith states that she does not like to buy expensive materials preferring instead to work with found, recycled or affordable alternatives.

© Judith Hammond

It was while experimenting for the second assignment - Materials and Processes - that Judith discovered that plastic melts and began to explore its potential. Again every aspect was investigated and recorded, resulting in many more samples. Looking for an affordable supply of plastic Judith’s attention turned to her ever growing collection of carrier bags and in addition to sampling began to research bags. Among other things she discovered, among over things, that each person uses an average of 200 plastic bags per year, and the each bag is used for an average of 20 minutes.

Around this time, Judith visited an exhibition called Lost in Lace and was struck by the similarities between lace and some of her stitched and melted plastic bags. For her assessment piece she made a series of 'dresses' from a variety of plastic bags. Each 'dress' is a single layer cut into the shape of a dress, paper doll’s cloth style only several times larger, and displayed on a wire coat hanger.

Since graduation Judith has extended her range of dresses, adding layers and other adornments to produce ever more complex designs. She has exhibited many times either with Elaine Loggin and Ian Hog (who graduated the same design craft course as Judith in 2012) or the Society of Designer Craftsmen of which Judith is a member.

© Judith Hammond

As well as her course samples, Judith brought with her all of her 'plastic bag dresses' to show us and a box full of brooches made from melted plastic. As she closed her talk, Judith reminded us that she had attended an Oxford Branch meeting in June 2013 and had been inspired by Alice Fox, our guest speaker that evening. Since then she has been conducting her own experiments with creating rust marks of fabric and says "I have been completely sucked in by tea and rusty nails and cannot escape."

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