Friday, 25 August 2017

Feather Banners: Journeys, Connections and Meanings

Flow: Connect 2016
Indigo dyed fabrics and threads, feathers, beads, hand stitch

Last year I made a piece of work called 'Flow:Connect' which I exhibited as part of Prism Arts C-Art exhibition and which was also on show as part of 'Random Acts of Art' at Gallery Artemis earlier this year. It's a small textile banner, hand stitched and embellished with beads and feathers. The piece explores the idea of everything being interconnected and a journey. This was an important piece for me as it gave me a new way of working and over the course of this year I've been exploring and developing these ideas and techniques.

Experimenting with layouts

Experimenting with layouts

Starting to stitch

As I wrote in my last post the natural world and our connection to it has been increasingly important in my work and in my life generally and it's something I've been thinking about a lot and exploring in these pieces. I've been doing a lot of natural dyeing and I've started incorporating these fabrics into my work, adding another layer of connection. The colours achieved by using natural dyes rather than synthetic dyes are much more subtle and variable and I like the slightly unpredictable nature of using natural materials.

Work in progress (on the train!)

Tea and threads

Work in progress

All of the banner pieces incorporate feathers, most of which I have collected (another connection to the journeys I make.) As my work is developing I'm also developing my own set of meanings for the materials I use. Feathers are signifies for birds which in turn represent us or more specifically our spiritual selves and our desire to transcend and move up to the 'next level.' Throughout human history people have tried to find out what (if anything) lies beyond our physical world and still today we are always pushing the boundaries and trying to find out more. Birds have often been used to represent the soul, their ability to fly connecting them to the sky and the heavens (in many religions, cultures and philosophies the 'next level' is above us in the skies.) I'm fascinated by this idea and our desire to move upwards and I'm intrigued by the idea of a spiritual self; this is one of the things I am exploring in these feather banners.

Of the Earth 2017
Naturally dyed fabrics, feathers, hand stitch, twig

I've shied away from writing about this element of my work before as I've worried that by talking about the spiritual I will put people off. However, I have decided to have the courage of my convictions and one of the great things about art is that it doesn't matter if it means different things to different people; it's not important that other people see (or don't see) the meanings as I do.

Fly to the Sky (Dusk) 2017
Naturally dyed fabrics and threads, silk paper, feathers, hand stitch

Fly to the Sky (Dusk)
Detail

Fly to the Sky (Dusk)
Detail

The different elements of the banners are held together with hand stitch, mostly running, feather, fly and cross stitch. The stitched lines represent the lines of our journeys, both physical and spiritual, and join up all the different layers, connecting the whole piece together. Because they are hand stitched it's very time consuming to make these banners but that's also one of the things I like about them. Working on them forces me to slow down and gives me time to contemplate what they mean to me and what they might mean to others.

Work in progress

Work in progress

Work in progress

I will be exhibiting my work at Farfield Mill later this year along with artist Daniel Cooper and I'm hoping that these banners will form a significant element of my part of the exhibition. Details to follow!

Ready to Fly 2017
Indigo dyed fabrics and threads, feathers, beads, hand stitch

Ready to Fly (detail)


Friday, 4 August 2017

Beautiful Birds

Grey Heron, RSPB Saltholme
Moorhen, RSPB Saltholme

Mr. Stitches and I have just got back from our annual trip to Stanhope, a small town in the beautiful Weardale Valley. We are lucky enough to be able to go and stay in a static caravan there kindly lent to us for a few days each year. Stanhope is a great base as there are so many lovely places to go nearby and each year we've been we've done different things.

Tunstall Reservoir, Weardale

Tunstall Reservoir, Weardale

Tunstall Reservoir, Weardale

Feathers collected from around Tunstall Reservoir, Weardale

This year we've mostly been out and about walking and bird-watching (as well as drinking lots of coffee and eating lots of cake.) Over the past few years the natural world and getting out and about in it has become increasingly important in both my personal life and my art practice. Although I've always loved birds and wildlife it's only relatively recently that I've realised how important they are to me and how important it is to be connected to the natural world, or as I like to call it the actual real world.

Summerhill Waterfalls, Bowlees

Summerhill Waterfalls, Bowlees

Holwick Scar

Over the past year or so I've written a few times about this connection and as my work grows and develops the connections become clearer and stronger. I've started using a lot more natural materials and this year I've been experimenting a lot with different forms of natural dyeing. Birds have also become the central focus of my work, representing not just themselves but us too. By exploring them and their 'otherness' I hope to reveal something (I'm not quite sure what as yet) about ourselves.

Wild and Industrial, RSPB Saltholme

Wild and Industrial, RSPB Saltholme

Wild and Industrial, RSPB Saltholme

As usual I am digressing, the point of this post was to share with you some of the birds we saw whilst out and about. We ventured over to RSPB Saltholme and had a great day exploring. The reserve itself is set right in the heart of industrial Teeside and it's quite odd being out in the reserve surrounded by wildlife but also all sorts of industrial structures and busy roads around the edges. We saw some great birds; including Mr. Stitches first avocets, the elusive water rail, little egrets and the graceful (if a little squabblesome) common terms.

Common Terns

Avocets

Black Tailed Godwits

We also went for several other walks around Weardale, exploring reservoirs, woods and waterfalls. It was good to be out and about in the countryside, enjoying the variety and beauty of our wildlife and landscapes. We've come back feeling refreshed and inspired and I'm ready to get back in the studio and back to work.

Little Egret

Little Egret

Little Egret

Grey Heron

Grey Heron