Exhibitions, General

Alice Kettle Exhibition “Threads”, an inspiring afternoon in Winchester

I was fortunate to have a whole Saturday to play with this weekend so after convincing Mr B that he would like to have brunch out, we made a cheeky little trip to Winchester. My main motivation was a visit to the Alice Kettle exhibition, “Threads”, so after a rather lovely breakfast, we parted company for an hour or so and I made my way to the Discovery Centre.

Alice Kettle is well known in the area due to her links with the City and the Winchester School of Art. A large piece of her work has been hanging in the Discovery Centre for a number of years, although due to its massive size it is probably more visible from the bus as it drives past the building than when up close to it inside the building itself.

The first few pieces of work had me transfixed for quite some time. They were two of her 2011 “Heads”, “Agape” and “Coeus”, consisting of re-cycled offcuts from another huge piece, stitched (incompletely in places) onto folded and pleated fabric backgrounds to create an image that we can’t help but interpret as a face. They are described as being a “remembering” and a “representation of feelings and encounters”. I spent some time sketching “Agape”, an image that really stood out for me (not least because it has a three dimensional quality due to the fabric manipulation) in the exhibition despite it’s relatively small size.

Alice Kettle, my digital drawing after Agape
My drawing of Agape using line where Alice Kettle uses stitch and collaged fabric pieces

The write ups on the walls between the pieces were interesting to read and some of the comments given quite pertinent. Prof Simon Olding from the University of the Creative Arts refers to stitch as “a method of repetition, coverage and endlessness” while Sara Viersen-Corsa makes comment on how embroidery art imitates painting and how painters imitate embroidery in their work.

Alice Kettle is a leading protagonist in the field of collaborative works and a number of the pieces on display in this exhibition illustrate the dynamics of working with another Creative. In “The Dog Loukanikos and the Cat’s Cradle” a large scale, somewhat disturbing image is calmed by Kirsteen Aubrey’s line of “Glass Grasses” which sit in front and cast beautiful shadows, in places, on the wall behind.

Alice Kettle The Dog Louckanikos
Alice Kettle’s “The Dog Loukanikos and the Cat’s Cradle” with Kirsteen Aubrey’s “Glass Grasses”

Much of the work shown is the artist’s observation of current affairs. In “Golden Dawn” Kettle marries a Greek myth with current Greek politics in a 360cm long, stitched narrative.

Alice Kettle Golden Dawn
Alice Kettle’s “Golden Dawn”

More comment on the current political landscape is made with a huge piece (792x284cm) called “Sea”. This is Kettle’s attempt at making some sense of the migrant crisis, reflecting both how the UK media have been reporting the events and her own meetings with refugees in the south of England. The result is a piece exploring the differences between people being viewed as anonymous groups via a media complete with it’s own bias, and the impact of the crisis and resulting displacement on individuals. The work also represents the sense of helplessness of the viewer as a witness. I encourage you to go and sit in front of this huge piece of art for a while to get a true sense of its scale.

Other pieces on display include “Orphrey”, a 2006 work done on the Schiffli multi needle commercial embroidery machine. The Schiffli Series of works apparently marked a change in the artist’s approach to creating: “I have liberated the fabric as it was no longer covered in stitch”.

Alice Kettle Schiffli Series Orphrey
Alice Kettle’s “Orphrey”

Another piece that drew my eye, partly because it is predominantly blue and I have a weakness for this particular colour, and partly because it can be seen as a representation of the current turmoil in the UK regarding our exit from the EU and our drift away from the main European continent, was “Sea Figure – Island”.

Alice Kettle Sea Figure Island
Alice Kettle’s “Sea Figure – Island”

The last piece of work I want to show you is a ceramics collaboration with Alex McErlain, inspired by the late medieval “Tring Tiles” on display at the British Museum. For these works the artists have developed their own sgraffito technique in the production of a ceramics collection decorated with narrative imagery.

Alice Kettle ceramics with Alex McErlain
One of the ceramic tiles on display as part of the collaboration with Alex McErlain

My aim of this post is to give you a taster of what to expect and I strongly urge you if you are in the area to go and visit this exhibition yourself. Digital representations taken in low lighting can not do justice to the vibrancy and scale of the works on display. I came away throughly inspired by this talented artist’s work and I hope that you too get to enjoy this exhibition. There is also a rather lovely exhibition book to accompany it which I personally shall be using as a source of inspiration for quite some time.

Alice Kettle’s “Threads” is on until 14 January 2018 and more information can be found here.

 

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Exhibitions, General

Ally Pally Knit and Stitch Show 2017, Roundup (and three awesome Textile Artists to look out for)

An October highlight for UK textile enthusiasts is the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace in London. Not only do we get to fill our boots with yarny goodness, it is also an opportunity to catch up with fellow enthusiasts from the Textile World, find out who is new and inspiring, and some of us get to spend a day with our wonderful Mums!

I was particularly excited this year as a friend of mine, the super talented and rather lovely Sarah Waters, had a solo exhibition in the textile gallery. I couldn’t wait to see what she had done with it and as expected it was amazing.

Sarah Waters Stones pairing
Sarah Waters from her exhibition: Stone

Sarah is an experienced felt artist based in the UK’s New Forest. Her work is inspired by our connection to nature and she has a particular interest in sustainability. Her exhibition at the Knit and Stitch shows this year consists of large scale wall hangings, rich with texture and full of beautiful natural colours, depicting stone, the natural inspiration behind it. Felt sculptures add a three dimensional element to the exhibition. Sarah’s exhibition will be at the sister shows in Dublin and Harrogate so if you are lucky enough to be going to these I highly recommend you pay her a visit. More information about Sarah and her work can be found on her website here.

Sarah Waters Stones beige hanging
Sarah Waters

Another gallery which stopped me in my tracks for a better look was Ann Small’s Layered Cloth exhibition. She has recently published a book of the same name and the work she had on display tempted me to add it to my Christmas List. Beautiful ruffles, folds, puffs, slashes, you name it, anything you can do to create a three dimensional effect from stitching and fabric was here.

Ann Small Blue sea urchin
Ann Small “Blue Sea Urchin”

Her work made me smile, it had a sense of fun to it as well as a technical wow factor hence I wasn’t surprised when I read that she has a background in theatre and fancy dress costume making.

Ann Small White shell
Ann Small’s “White Shell”

More about Ann and her work can be found here.

The final artist I’d like to introduce you to in this post is possibly my new favourite textile artist having not come across her work before. Rachael Howard’s gallery “Red Work” consisted of large scale grids of colourful, simplistic illustrations depicting everyday family life. Her inspiration for the exhibition was taken from 19th century red work story quilts and she likens the effect of these historical textiles to modern day Instagram.

Rachel Howard Red Work wall quilt
Rachael Howard

Her work is rich in humour, is very accessible and evokes a personal narrative from the viewer. If you get a chance to check out Rachael’s art she has a website here.

Rachel Howard Red Work dog in suit
Rachael Howard

In this post I’ve mentioned three of my favourite galleries from this year’s Ally Pally. There was so much to see I always wish I can have another day to fully appreciate everything but unfortunately dog dinners awaited and we had to dash off. We didn’t leave without a bit of shopping though (my Mum is such a bad influence on me!).

Kniting and Stitching Show, Ally Pally, 2017
Some of the goodies I had to hide from Mr B when I got home

Please feel free to leave a comment on this post if would like to share a highlight from this year’s show and if you are visiting the Dublin or Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Shows I hope you have a wonderful time.

Until next time……

Exhibitions, General

Kaffe Fassett’s Colour Exhibition at Mottisfont, National Trust

I was so excited about Kaffe Fassett’s “Colour” exhibition at Mottisfont this month that I booked a cheeky day off today to go have a look. Kaffe Fassett (apparently pronounced as “safe asset” for those of us who have been getting this wrong for over thirty years!) has been a huge influence on my creativity over the years and as such could probably be described as one of my artistic heroes. His bold and vibrant designs have inspired me from childhood to the present day. I remember as a teenager drooling over his cabbage and frog tapestry kits wondering how many weeks of paper round wages until I could afford one. And his fabulous 1980s sweaters drove my first tatty attempts at intarsia. Overall his creative career has spanned more than 50 years and he is still a highly respected name and sought after public speaker by knitters and stitchers worldwide.

This exhibition has been beautifully curated with each room focused on a specific colour scheme and painted accordingly to show case the fabulous knitwear, tapestries and quilts. As you enter the first room there is a wonderful quote from the man himself to put you in the right frame of mind: “like so many other crafts, knitting has the potential to create magic in our lives”. I couldn’t agree more.

kaffe fasset blue and white pic
Kaffe Fassett exhibition: from the blue and white room

The theme for the first room of the exhibition is set by the quote “the older I get the more classic blue and white appeals to me”. Something I can certainly relate to myself. He also discusses his love of neutrals in this room, likening them to stonework. I guess this is not something we usually associate with the man but there is no denying the power of beige even to those with such an elevated design status!

kaffe fasset veg room
Kaffe Fasset exhibition: the fruit and veg room, tapestry chair

The next room makes the wonderful statement that “vegetables have such elegant shapes” and is full of the cabbage, aubergine, beetroot et al images and designs that I remember fondly from early Rowan magazines.

kaffe fasset veg cushions
Kaffe Fassett exhibition: the fruit and veg room, tapestry cushions

More colour themed rooms unfold as you wander through the upper floors of this richly historic house, including a yellow corridor (unfortunately not enough natural light for photos in there) where he comments on the mood enhancing properties of this sunny hue. Also a richly coloured blue room, and then finally a  pink room.

kaffe fasset vibrant blue
Kaffe Fasset exhibition: the blue and purple room
kaffe fasset pink room
Kaffe Fasset exhibition: the pink and orange room

One of the reasons for Kaffe Fassett’s enduring appeal is his fearless use of colour. A quote from the man himself from his 2003 book “Kaffe  Fassett’s Pattern Library” explains his approach to an area that many people find quite scary and intimidating.

“The main thing is to have a go at trying out colours, the wilder the better. None of us designers really know what works until we see it, so sampling becomes wonderfully exciting as you stumble on really unpredictable and interesting colouring.”

In my recent knitting workshops we have concentrated on the use of sampling both as a means of gathering technical skills but also for design inspiration.  Sampling is a wonderfully safe environment (after all we don’t have to wear the end product if it doesn’t work) for putting together different textures, colours and yarn types in a playful way. We were all excited by some of the outputs.

If you are local and are interested in colour and design do try and get to see this collection in the flesh as the photographs I have shown you don’t really do the textiles justice. Above all I for one can take a bit of advice from this talented man and while I do love a bit of beige he always inspires me to live a little more dangerously. Pink, red and orange!? Hell Yes!

 

General

Colour me Spring (or your camera is your design friend, be a tourist in your home town and avoiding the shops at all costs)

I am sitting at my computer looking out of the window at a glorious Spring day. The sky is blue, the grass is green and there are signs of growth everywhere. It has prompted me to write a short post about colour inspiration (but is probably really just an excuse to show you some recent photos of the amazing plant life that is currently inspiring me).  After 10 years of using a robust mobile phone where the battery life was more than a month long and I could throw it across the room (accidentally of course not because I am prone to tantrums) without fear of breakage, my lovely Mother in law upgraded her phone just after Christmas and I inherited an i phone 5. While I have yet to get to grips with a painfully short battery life (that has caught me out on a number of occasions already) I have fallen in love with the amazing camera on it.  Helped and inspired by the generous teachings of Emily and Stef at Makelight, my photography has come on leaps and bounds and now I can’t go any where without documenting the amazing visuals around me that I had previously taken for granted.

I know that some of my students on my knitting workshops have told me that they find choosing colours for a project quite scary and friends have also confided in me in the past that they don’t indulge in the relaxing past time of adult colouring books for fear of choosing the wrong schemes. Having done a City and Guilds course and various art qualifications I have explored colour in an academic way and I have got to admit that rather than being more equipped to use it, the theory put me right off. Until, that is, someone suggested that I went back to observation. Nature so often gets it right (after all, survival depends on attraction) and with the ability to take a quick pic of a pleasing colour scheme pretty much whenever one is exposed to it, what could be easier?

Southampton park 1
Southampton City Centre!

Taking more of an interest in my surroundings recently has also highlighted to me just how beautiful the parks are in central Southampton. While everyone was crowed in to West Quay shopping centre yesterday I escaped to this glorious setting a few hundred metres away, which we are so lucky to have and which the council do a great job of maintaining.  And yes, it smelled as good as it looked.  A great little trick to appreciate the familiar of home surroundings that someone suggested to me recently was to pretend that you are a tourist, seeing your city or town for the first time. What would you look at, take pictures of, write about?

pink flower low res
Close up park life

And it’s not just the parks that are blooming marvellous at the moment. Everywhere you look stuff is growing, sometimes planted with care and sometimes quite randomly.

daffs low res
Residential road sign
black bush low res
in a car park
moss on tree low res
moss and lichens on a tree
burgundy plant low res
no idea what this is but love its structure and the contrast with the background

I hope I have inspired you to go on a photo walk and given you a few suggestions to help you choose your next project colour scheme (or at least tempted you to look at the familiar with fresh eyes).  I haven’t mentioned shape and structure inspiration in this post but as you can see from the few pictures I have shared with you that nature is also an amazing source of inspiration for that too. So, enjoy the Spring folks, get inspired by colour, get snapping and until next time….

 

General, Knitting Know How

How to knit a Mitred (mitered) Square (or modular knitting made easy)

I have recently reignited my love of modular knitting (also known as domino or mitred knitting), and have quickly remembered how satisfying it is to work in bite size pieces while creating knitted items with wonderful drape courtesy of the resulting bias in the fabric. This post is an accompaniment to a modular scarf workshop that I had the pleasure of teaching last month at the Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham and is intended as an aide memoir to those lovely ladies who attended and also as a beginners guide for those who would like to experiment with a different method of knitted garment construction.

The term “modular” refers to any type of knitting where modules are made individually and the next module is created from the previous one by picking up and knitting stitches from it. However, it is most often used to describe the specific method of creating a module by decreasing a cast on number of stitches until only one remains. Various shapes can be created by the placement and number of the decreases, the simplest being the mitred square module in garter stitch.

Knitting a garter square module

To create this simple square, an odd number of stitches are cast on. This cast on edge will create two of the edges of the resulting square, with the centre stitch the corner. A stitch marker comes in very handy when working the modules as it can be used to mark the centre stitch. For each right side row, two stitches are decreased either side of and absorbed into this centre stitch using an appropriate decrease. One that I particularly like for this as it has a non directional appearance and an aesthetically pleasing little bump in the centre (hence easy to spot if it accidentally begins to wander off), is the centred double decrease or s2kp.  This is worked by slipping two stitches together knitwise, knitting the next stitch, and then passing the two slipped stitches over. The result is two stitches decreased.  This is continued until only one stitch, the centre stitch, remains and the result is that the initial cast on edge is gradually brought in towards that stitch, thereby creating a square.

module-example-pic-close-up
How to knit a mitered square

Once the square has been completed the next one can be joined to it by picking up and knitting the stitches along the top of the finished square for one side of the new module, and then casting on the remaining stitches to form the second side of the new module. The process is then repeated.

modular-scarf-copy
A diagram showing an example pick up from the top of a square module

The diagram above shows how a second square module with the same bias direction can be created from the top of the first.

module-example-pic
Picking up modules from squares placed as diamonds

Of course, squares can also be turned on their sides to form diamonds and in this case the centred decrease is now a vertical element. When a module is created in between the two below, the pick up occurs down one side of the first module and up the side of the next, with the centre stitch in the corner where those two modules touch, as shown in the photo above.

While mitred modules in garter stitch create squares, other stitches such as stocking stitch, create a more elongated diamond shape. It is great fun experimenting with these to see what happens and what design possibilities these shapes present.

Scallops

If three or four decreases are placed along the cast on edge, the module begins to curve. This is the modular construction technique I used to create my Sparkle design which was awarded second place in the Rowan international design competition a few years back.

0001rI
A scalloped shape modular design

So, as you can see, modular knitting is a versatile method of knitted fabric construction which, due to its bias, can create very flattering garments.

weimwood-inspiration-pic
“Did you tell them why it’s called Weimwood, Mommy?”

For those of you who wish to take your mitred squares to the next level, I have just published a modular shawl pattern called “Weimwood” (so named as it was inspired by and conceived during my daily runs with the Velcro dog around the local woods) which uses mitred squares and triangles in three different 4ply yarns (sock yarn is fabulous for this design) and in different sizes to create an eye catching asymmetrical pattern.  The modules are worked in garter stitch with a simple eyelet pattern along the bottom of each and the shawl is finished off with a classic picot cast off edging.

weimwood-shawl-etsy-pic-5
Weimwood shawl pattern

The pattern is available in my Etsy shop as a digital download and can be purchased here.

I hope this post has inspired you to have a go at modular knitting. As you might have gathered, I’m a huge fan so I would love to have passed on a little bit of my modular addiction to you.

Until next time, happy knitting.