July 2018 Emma Summer South Asian Embroidery Traditions and Contemporary Practice (report by Jean Critchley)
On Saturday 21st July EMMA SUMMER shared her story from her beginnings as an Art and Art History graduate to spending 5 years working at Tate Liverpool where she realised that there were other ways of representing art. As a result, she applied to the Arts Council and obtained a research grant enabling her to spend four months in a garment factory in Ahmedabad. This was a time of enlightenment and encounter with people of great talent but with many anomalies compared to western values such as:
* People had to work very long hours to earn small pay
* Because of the demands of mass production workers had no opportunity for personal creativity
* A turf war existed whereby workers had to bid for work thus lowering their asking price to secure a job; this keeps pay low
* Ownership – power is in the hands of western demands
* Traditions abandoned in favour of western demands – went against original use of natural dyes and used toxins which poisoned water
* No status as designers; just seen as makers
* Men banned embroidery practice when women made dowry; ban still not been lifted, as a result danger of skills and techniques dying out.
HOW DO YOU CHANGE THIS SITUATION?
A question Emma asked and of course this was answered by Ghandi who wanted to work with women – skilled artisans. He set up a system for utilising scrap fabric, creating a paper factory which now produces amazing beautiful paper. Here everyone is paid the same with a share of the profits. There are huge past links with Manchester cotton mills. In Ahmedabad they use an ancient press which came from Manchester; this is used to extract water from the paper.
In that same spirit about ten years ago Judy Frater set up a school to address the fact that women could never move away from the survival situation they found themselves in. Here they can now learn Design Education, business studies with a chance to build a brand. Her book:
THREADS OF IDENTITY – JUDY FRATER tells the story
Emma has joined forces with Lokesh who she met through the Curator of Manchester Craft and Design Centre and who has become a project collaborator with Emma, Emma has taken a post in Dhaka with the Art Summit and will return soon with a brief to raise funds to continue the work of the school.
June 2019 TALK by Three members of Bolton EG “Sharing Good Practice” (report by Pat McBride)
We had a lively, interesting and inspiring talk from 3 members of the Bolton Group and really appreciated their willingness to share their amazing talents with us.
Eileen Pepper explained that her inspiration came from her fascination with history, especially the Tudor Period and Elizabeth1. She showed us some lovely small pillows and bags like the ones which would have been given as presents to Elizabeth1 at New Year’s Eve. They were filled with herbs and decorated using Blackwork, Appliqué and Goldwork. There were also some beautiful examples of Knot Gardens all worked with incredible skill. We all loved the Sampler done in canvas work for a small child.
Barbara Ryall’s beautiful work is inspired by the buildings in and around Bolton, especially those connected to the Cotton Industry and the ornamentation on the buildings. She has also researched the Cotton Industry in the area and studied the archives in the Bolton Museum.
She dyes her own fabrics in a limited range of colours and uses: Templates, Lino prints, Batik, Applique and Discharge paste/bleach to achieve some wonderful effects. Her pieces usually include stab stitch and seeding stitch to pull everything together”.
Jenny Whittle made us laugh when she told us that when she did her Textile Degree at age 50, and she was the “oldest and naughtiest in the class”
She showed us an unusual collar which was made entirely from fabrics used at the turn of the 20th century. Waistcoat shapes, relatives’ faces and an Edwardian stamp were included. It was a stunning garment. There were 3 beautifully dressed dolls and a stumpwork knight with a woven background called “In the dead of Knight” among many others.
A highlight was the large family collage which included photographs and family references.
No meeting during May 2018 because it clashed with the Royal Wedding and the FA Cup Final, and so was cancelled.
We welcomed back an old friend and popular tutor Sarah Rakestraw from Golden Hinde, to take us on an interesting Journey into Goldwork basket weaving, each using 1 of 3 pre-chosen designs, a fish, a cross or bulrushes.
We had all received the starting pack in the form of some templates & a card of string. Well there was the first interesting part of the day! Who would have thought that string could be so daunting? Some arrived with no stringing done, others had tentatively started but then possibly lost their nerve to go further, some of course had beautifully couched strands, whereas in the case of yours truly it seemed to have reached the point of being more of a rope than string. However such is the mark of Sarah being a totally patient & professional tutor that she wasn’t phased in the least. She went round the class getting the non-stringers started, corrected any mishaps with others and still managed to be able to show us all how to start properly before the first cuppas had been finished.
All 3 designs started with the basket weaving technique using 2 strands of Jap gold couched with either a contrasting thread or one meant to invisibly blend in. Each row started & ended with the Jap gold being plunged through the fabric and overstitched on the reverse. The first few rows covered alternating double blocks of string and subsequent sections covered single blocks of string. At this point we could all start to see the different weaving effects coming together.
After lunch we moved on to areas of the designs which were more decorative, in the form of short lengths of purl wire sewn closely together over the string. It was at this point that everyone’s design began to take on a degree of individuality as people started experimenting with colours. Finally Sarah showed us all different ways to add little finishing touches to make each deign our own unique piece.
None of the pieces were finished on the day but I’m sure everyone went home with an understanding of each phase of the process, and I’m also sure that everyone thoroughly enjoyed Sarah’ excellent presentation and that we all learnt something new.
March 2018 TALK by Gill Roberts “History of the Wedding Dress” (report by Sarah Lowes)
Branch member Gill Roberts brought six wedding dresses to show us – five of which she had made herself! We were surprised to hear that originally, wedding dresses were not just for the big day, but were expected to be worn for ‘Sunday best’ and at other occasions for a few years after the wedding. Dresses were often coloured to show that the wearer could afford to buy expensive dyed fabric and white was rare because it was hard to keep clean.
Demure attire was required for church, so brides wore long sleeves, which could be detached for the party later on. The party was important because it was the first occasion on which the bride was presented as a wife. At an 18C country wedding, the dress would be made of coloured and patterned block printed cotton, with an over skirt looped up over a petticoat. After the wedding, the skirt could be let down to become a formal dress for special occasions. A more affluent bride would have a silk dress with fresh flowers sewn onto it on the morning of the wedding. Veils were generally worn at evening parties, at the back of the head throughout the year and thought of as a ‘peasant tradition’ if worn at weddings.
It was Queen Victoria who popularised the white wedding dress and the veil. Her outfit was photographed and published in papers and magazines. Everyone wanted to copy royalty so if they could afford a white silk dress with lace and orange blossom, it became a handy way to show off the bride’s family’s wealth. From the 1920’s onwards, the shape of wedding dresses became more relaxed due to the lessening popularity of corsets. They also became shorter. 1940’s brides could not easily obtain dress fabric and so used furnishing fabric, their service uniforms or parachute silk. Queen Elizabeth II’s dress was inspired by Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’ painting and had floral motifs embroidered over the fabric. By the 1950’s, ready to wear dresses were available and the 1960’s produced coat dresses and later in the 1970’s, crocheted dresses.
We loved seeing the wedding dresses from different eras which Gill had made and her humorous and knowledgeable style made the talk fly over. We would have liked to have heard much more!
February 2018 WORKSHOP with Sandie Maher “Making a Stumpwork Butterfly”(report by Beryl Webster)
As soon as Bee arrived and began to unpack her colourful garments, wools and crafts there was a real buzz of excitement.
Soon we were all dressed in amazing waistcoats, butterfly shrugs, ponchos, scarves and a hat while others held cushions and placemats. We were a very colourful bunch as we waited in anticipation for Bee to begin
She began by telling us her trade name was no longer Crafts from the Dungeon ( she had her studio in a cellar) but was now Crafts in the Clinque as she has moved to an ex prison!
Bee begins all her weaving by putting a ball of multi-coloured wool in a basket and then adding textures by choosing wools from her extensive collection. She said “ If you like the basket, you will like the finished work”And we certainly did.
As we “sashayed” out in turn to model the garments, Bee explained how she had made the weavings and the garments. The most important thing to remember is “that you are making a fabric”. She introduced us to warps, wefts and Heddle looms and told us a very funny story of how she purchased a 7 ft Tri-loom on ebay.
It was a very lively and entertaining talk with a lot of audience participation. We all enjoyed it and had a lot of fun as well. Many of us bought kits as we were inspired to “have a go”. It will be great to see the results.