On Sunday 7th May 2017 I visited the Textile Fair organised by the Warner Textile Archive in Braintree Essex. The fair incorporates a textile exhibition, talks, “have a go” activities, opportunity to view a small part of the Warner Textile Archive, trade stalls and a pop up tearoom.
We started our visit at Braintree Town Hall where the trade stalls and pop up tearoom were set up. After sampling a large piece of home made fruit cake and a cup of tea we walked from the Town Hall to Braintree Museum which is just around the corner, where the exhibition of new work by East Anglian Stitch Textiles (EAST) entitled ‘Following a Thread’ was on display. The textile work was a beautiful range of work from bright quilts to depictions of personal journeys. We were able to take photographs so here are a few.
One of the ‘have a go’ activities was monoprinting which involved spreading acrylic paints on a laminated A4 sheet, making marks into the acrylic paint using a variety of implements and then laying over a piece of cotton calico resulting in the paint image being transferred onto the fabric. I had not tried this technique before and it gave very good results.
We went to hear a talk entitled ‘An Exhibition on Historic Silk at Gainsborough’s House’ by Louisa Brouwer, who is the ‘Keeper of Art & Place’ at Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury Suffolk. Her talk was about a forthcoming exhibition on the history of Silk and the connection between Spitalfields in London and Sudbury, which is the only place in the UK where silk is still produced.
In the afternoon we walked down to the Warner Textile Archive to have a look at a small selection of the Archive’s collection of textiles. The archivist had selected a range of fabrics that incorporated geometric designs from the early 1900’s until the closure of Warner’s Mills in the early 1970’s. We saw fabrics designed by Marianne Straub and Alec Hunter. Also on display were a collection of garments made by the fashion house Oasis who recently worked together with the Warner Textile Archive. The design team from Oasis selected 5 different historic designs from the Archive and translated them into affordable fabrics for todays fashion market. The designs were a wonderful example of how important the Archive is in not only preserving these samples for the future but enabling them to be rediscovered for a new audience.
I was lucky enough to be able to attend a lecture by the wonderful textile artist Amanda Clayton for the Colne and Colchester Embroiders’ Guild on 29th April 2017 at Firstsite in Colchester Essex. Amanda took us on a journey through her “life of stitching, her education, influences, philosophies and experiences”. She started by talking about her childhood memories, her family, Aunt Kate and her education which included being taught by Anwar Shemza the artist. She brought along lots of little bits of memorabilia from that period of her life, school books, stitched pieces and match boxes of collected items. During her time at school she was influenced by art and lots of different crafts including printmaking and not initially by textiles.
Part of her philosophy is “visual awareness without money” and she had examples of printed papers, pieces of found china, floral transfers, pieces of antique lace and lots of other items which she uses to start building a collection of found and saved objects to initiate new creative streams. Using everyday objects in a grander context. Amanda also described creativity as “a thing that sometimes may not work” but that even small ideas are significant and it is important to record all of them so they can be revisited in the future. She talked about her sketchbooks and that she has a “studio diary” which she uses at home and a smaller sketchbook which she takes out with her. If she has forgotten her pen she uses something else like a needle to make puncture holes in the pages just so she can record something she feels is important.
Anwar Shemza was a big influence in Amanda’s life and she said one of his quotes was “You are only as good as your next piece of work” and she has carried this motto with her throughout her life. She talked about success and contentment and how we measure these things in our life and craft.
I don’t want to spoil the rest of her story for those who get the opportunity to see her lecture “My Blue Suitcase” but she was very generous, informative and inspirational. Amanda had a large selection of her work that had previously been exhibited and we were able to handle and examine her beautiful hand stitched textiles.
I joined EHA in 2013 after seeing a poster in my home town advertising a meeting so I went along to see whether it was something I wanted to be involved in. I am now part of the committee something I have never done before so it shows that I enjoy being part of the group.
EHA was founded in 1909 and has several branches throughout the county, each run independently but there is a County Executive Committee administering the organisation.
EHA is open to anyone of any age interested in crafts but in my group we are all female and mostly over 50’s in age, there are a few younger members some of which are on the committee and we have around 40 members. We meet in the evening on the third Thursday in the month and meetings consist of either a speaker on a relevant subject or a practical evening finishing with a tea or coffee.
2016 so far
In January we had a talk from members of the Brightlingsea U3A (University of the Third Age) about The Pioneer Project in Brightlingsea. The Pioneer Trust was set up to restore the last East Coast 1st Class Essex Skillinger Smack originally built in 1864 in Rowhedge, Essex and the U3A undertook to research and produce as closely and as traditionally as possible the clothes worn by the sailors of the Smacks before all the heritage was lost forever. They produced a full range of clothing including underwear, gansies (hand knitted woollen jumpers), shirts, boots, socks and trousers all made as closely as possible to the original. A lot of research and trial & error had been undertaken to produce the clothing.
In February we had a ‘Show and Tell’ by a local lady Mary McCarthy who is a rag rug textile artist. She talked about how she creates her textile art and she had lots of examples for us to see along with a few pieces where we could try out the techniques she uses.
March saw a practical evening with one of the members showing us felt quilling. We had a small kit containing all the wool felted fabric cut into strips which we coiled into rounds resembling mini Swiss rolls and endeavoured to sew them together using the correct technique.
April was another practical evening ‘The return of the Inchies’. This had been one of the practical sessions in 2015 but I had been working that evening so I missed it. An ‘inchie’ is a square inch of fabric which you treat anyway you want, in our context that is embroidery, beading or fabric collage – basically anything you like. A square inch of fabric is quite a small area to work with and I only made one during the evening!
May brought us a ‘Show and Tell’ by textile artist Sara Impey from Coggeshall, entitled ‘Writing with a needle’. Sara is a leading quilt artist who uses text in her beautiful work. She brought along a selection of her quilts which were very inspiring. You can find out more about Sara on her website – http://www.saraimpey.com
In June we had ‘Rescue, Revive and Recycle’. This is an opportunity for any unfinished projects (UFO’s) to be shared with the group either for advice, to swap or give away to be finished. I didn’t have anything to take with me but rescued a piece of 1950/60’s linen embroidery to finish in my spare time. This was followed by locally picked strawberries and cream.
July brought us together for another local textile artist Sue Rhodes from Wivenhoe, her talk was called ‘Stitches with Stories’ in which she talked about two different traditional embroidery techniques – Sorbello from Sorbello in Italy and Glazig from the Breton Region of France. I had the opportunity to try some Glazig embroidery which I would like to explore more in the future.
We don’t meet in August and September is our AGM and Members Evening which includes the Branch competitions where we can enter work completed either from the workshops, practical evenings or anything you have done during the year. Work entered is judged by the members by anonymous ballot and the winners receive a cup for the year. We also have an annual ‘Challenge’ set by the Committee and whatever is made for the Challenge is displayed and we have the opportunity to talk about what we have made. It’s not obligatory to enter but it does usually generate a lot if interesting pieces and people enjoy taking part.
October has us thinking about Christmas and the annual Christmas Tree Festival held in our local church. We have made ‘Penny Garlands’ to decorate our tree for the festival. Penny garlands are made from felt circles sewn together with blanket stitch.
In December we don’t have a meeting but those who wish enjoy going out for a Christmas meal together.
We are now starting 2017 and have had a ‘social stitching day’ at the beginning of January where people brought anything they wanted to work on. I took a piece of stump work that I started at a workshop in 2015 and hadn’t picked up for a while. I needed some help as I couldn’t remember how to complete some of the pieces. I will put a photo on here when it’s nearer to completion!
We have a varied programme for 2017 and I will add details of each months meeting as we progress through the year.
The Dip Dye – Pepa Martin & Karen Davis – A David & Charles Book – Newton Abbot UK 2015- ISBN 978-1-4463-0487-7 – www.stitchcraftcreate.co.uk – good book about home dying
The ultimate guide to Art Quilting – Linda Seward – New York 2104 – sixthandspringbooks.com – ISBN 978-1-936096-71-8 – very good book, clear technique details and inspiring quilts by the author. I would consider purchasing this book at a later date.
Recently I arranged a visit to the Warner Textile Archive at Braintree in Essex with my local branch of the Essex Handicraft Association.
The archive is housed in the original grade II listed textile mill. It is the second largest collection of flat textiles in the UK after the V&A and includes 10,000 paper designs in notebooks, sample books, rule papers, print blocks and ledgers. The archive is a wonderful historical tour of British textile design.
An interesting talk was given by one of the archivists on the history of the mill and then we spent some time in the Exhibition Gallery looking at a wide range of fabrics, design papers, printing blocks and photographs of the mill and workers in production.
Benjamin Warner bought New Mills in Braintree in 1895. New Mills was an existing silk mill that had gone into liquidation and Benjamin Warner moved his company from Spitalfields in London to Braintree, joining Courtaulds who already had a mill there. Other nearby areas known for silk weaving are Halstead in Essex and Sudbury in Suffolk.
Warner & Sons were a very successful company weaving silks and velvets for all the English coronations from 1902 to 1971 when weaving at New Mills ceased. In their height they produced fabrics for palaces, stately homes, ocean liners and royal residences.
Warner & Sons embraced change throughout their history moving from hand looms to power looms, they used renowned designers producing high quality silks, velvets and traditional chintzes. In 1927 they purchased a printing works at Dartford in Kent enabling to extend their range of fabrics further. During the war years they produced parachute silk and were involved with the design and production of utility fabrics.
Alec Hunter, Marianne Straub and Eddie Squires were some of the designers who kept Warner & Sons at the forefront of textile design.
Warner & Sons closed in 1990 and the brand sold to new owners. The historical archive was saved by various charitable bodies and individuals in 2004 and is now called the Warner Textile Archive.
Further information taken from;
Two Centuries of Creativity – a textile collection of national importance – Warner Textile Archive (booklet purchased from the Warner Textile Archive)
Turner Contemporary – Margate Kent Joachim Koester – The Other Side of the Sky – 25th February 2016
Exhibition of the work of Danish artist Joachim Koester paired with selected watercolours by JMW Turner. Koester’s work covers the past 10 years and plays with the art of storytelling through 16mm film, sound and photography, taking a journey to different times, places and states of consciousness. Turner’s work is a group of watercolours which offer a new perspective on the painter’s later watery landscapes.
Flickering film projectors, photos of abandoned American property following the US subprime mortgage crisis and images of cannabis plants. In the area where Turner’s exploratory watercolours are exhibited was a large ‘building’ constructed of lengths of reclaimed timber. Inside this structure is another film being played from a projector.
I have wanted to visit the Turner Contemporary for a while but have never found the time. We had treated ourselves to a few days away in Deal so it seemed like the ideal opportunity. I did not know in advance, who or what was being exhibited so I had no preconceptions.
I did not find anything inspiring about this exhibition, I could not relate to the flickering images of lines and patterns bouncing around on the large projection screens. Images of people dancing around in a state of ‘Tarantism’, photographs of Cannabis plants and empty American commercial property did not connect with me. Maybe because I haven’t tried any type of recreational drug, I could not appreciate the journey or feeling he was trying to portray.
Turners group of watercolours show his brush marks and experiments with colour which are more relevant to me in my journey in textile studies.
Also being displayed within the Turner Contemporary was a exhibition of work by a Kent based artist Rose Wylie, again not someone I had heard of before. There was a selection of her work and a video of her talking about her work. You see her working and being interviewed in her studio.
Her paintings are simple in execution, they are bold in colour and cover a wide and varied subject matter. She talked about painting scenes from films and includes the name of the director and the character in her images.
I really like her work and although I don’t know exactly what each piece is about they are interesting and bold. She herself is a fascinating character.
I have not been to many exhibitions and I know that I have a lot to learn about how other people express their creativeness, this is just the start of my journey into a new world.