Monday, June 18, 2007

Poetry workshop

The last event I ran as part of the residency took place on 31st March and unusually for me, involved poetry. I worked with Deborah Tyler-Bennett, a well known local poet and creative writing tutor to run a session for Women Who Write, a group from Wolverhampton. The session was an experimental one, combining practical textile work and writing exercises. The idea was to use my work as a maker as the inspiration for creative writing. I talked about my work, where I get ideas from, the process of working, why I love textiles, why I do what I do. The group then tried out some fabric manipulation techniques and there was some further discussion interspersed with writing exercises from Deborah. The session was very informal and relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable for all involved.
These are some of the works created during the session and afterwards. I love how the writers each took different things from the discussion and how some are about other people sewing and some about me! It was a strange thing to have poems written about me, but I was very flattered as well.

Black Velvet

‘The last thing I need is another dress’
But she does not hear –
She pulls me and strips me
Covers me in a heavy black velvet dress
with a crimped hem that hovers suspiciously above my
I scratch at the waist as she spins me around,
to admire her creation
She pulls my hair into a lopsided ponytail,
and with pins in her mouth, she lisps
‘You look fit for a ball’
And this time I say nothing



To know me
To be me
You must hold me
And feel me
You want me
My secrecy

Janet Bogle


I've got an old jumper I no longer wear
It's hard to get rid of, because I still care,
And charity shops won't accept it - it's threadbare.

It's comforted me through thick and through thin
So I think I'll hotwash it - in the machine
It'll still comfort me when its made into a cushion!

Nadia Kingsley



One handmade handbag lined in orange silk,
full of good intentions, viz:-
A lettuce leaf
A must-do list
An early night
A stitch in time
A bathing cap
An empty diary
A packet of French letters
A wedding vow
A leopard’s spot
A rosary
A pie-crust promise
A clutch of dragon’s teeth.

Jane Seabourne


Baptismal gown

I made this for you, my child.
See how the fabric flows,
Shining, reflecting the light,
You will never see.
Fine lace, so many yards.
Pink ribbons with silver threads.
Rainbow memories of happy futures.
Your stay with us was brief.
I watched you slip away,
Weeks and you were gone.
A wonderful baptismal gown
For a child who is no more.

Eileen Ward-Birch


Grandma’s tray cloth

Grandma’s linen tray cloth,
Fine and white
Garden flowers blooming
On fragile, work aged knees,
Cheer her solitary meal.

Eileen Ward-Birch


On Receiving a Work of Art (Box Pleat)

A strip of calico, all loops and whorls,
the fabric folded back upon itself,
just like a bud, a pouted kiss, not neat
but sloppy with its stitches fat and thin.
A baby’s kiss, received with love for this:
The frown of effort on her face, as she
manipulates the coarse and fraying cloth,
her fingers smeared with jam and glue. And blood
(the needle small, too sharp; not small enough).
The messy browns, like poster paint, remain,
To show where little fingers worked, a kiss
without a thimble; tiny thing that will
not last. The truest work of art I’ve made.

It’s lovely dear. Thank you so much. That said,
I’m sorry but it won’t stick on the fridge.
Donna Scott


Best in Show

In her studio
she unwinds the rosette,
uncoils this ribbon fossil,
salvaged from a charity shop.
She unpicks threads.
She unmakes pleats.
Frayed Vs
(for victory)
are snipped off ribbon ends.
She irons flat the faded silks
to reinvent, rework, remake

At the gallery
her new piece
is exhibited
next to a red dot.
For two hundred pounds
to a man who values the aesthetics
but fails to understand
why she’s called it,
‘Novice Championship -
Preliminary Round’

Emma Purshouse


The Seamstress

Fashionable clothing?
A work of art?

Anne Harding


The Remnant Box

Soft shiny silk from a mandarin’s collar,
A yellow cotton bow from a summer dress,
The torn cuff from a blue and white striped shirt,
A piece of faded flowery curtain,
A pocket from denim jeans,
A cream lacy collar
faded like the page of an ancient tome,
The top half of a washed out pink tee-shirt
with WOMEN NEED MEN LIKE in black,
Can a thing of beauty be created from these?

Anne Harding



Six pink felt petals
A purple button centre
Eternal flower.

Anne Harding



Six bright pink petals
Six purple lie beside them
Silky soft to touch
A purple button centre
These petals will not wither

Anne Harding

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Exhibition opens!

The residency showcase exhibition has opened!

I've been flat out the last few weeks getting work ready for this, and was really pleased to see it finally open last night. I completed nine pieces of new work, ranging from a set of simple paper sculptures to this black jacket. My key aim in the residency was to make time-consuming one-off pieces which I would normally not have time to make. I like to create work by hand, often with a lot of complex detail and hand stitching. I also wanted to spend the time just experimenting, without a specific aim.

My work on display is mostly inspired by the interiors, gardens and collections at Bantock House, and by the craft displays at Bilston Craft Gallery. I have often used museum collections as my creative source material, but tried to look a different kinds of objects and use different elements in this project.

A large part of this residency has been teaching workshops for schools, colleges and community groups. Developing new ideas for the workshops has been enjoyable and has often led me into new creative directions for my own work. I have used new materials for some of the pieces in this show, and have experimented in working in completely different ways than I would normally.

I still have lots of ideas that I haven’t been able to make during this residency and I expect to see them creeping into my ongoing work in the next few months.

It is in the Adult Education Centre in Wolverhampton until 13th April 2007.
City Learning Quarter
Old Hall Street

Monday to Thursday 8.30am to 7.30pm
Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm
Saturday 9.00am to 12.30pm

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Recent work

I've started working with two more schools over the last two weeks, and Claire and I ran our second joint workshop too. This one went much better, and was more focussed.
One of the most valuable things about this residency has been the challenges of working with different groups and coming up with new things. Working with Claire has been really inspiring - and we have just put together a joint proposal for a local project. I hope we will be able to do lots more. It's so interesting working with someone else who has a completely different approach and methods.

I was relieved and delighted that my first sessions with Holy Trinity school and Bilston Primary School went really well. With Holy Trinity we are making a large felt banner which we will decorate with recycled materials in circular patterns. In the first session I introduced all the ideas, talked about felt making and about designing circular patterns. We collected motifs from the gallery and had a go at making circular patterns using them. They have continued this back in school. We then had a very rapid felt-making practice, where they each made a small piece of felt. It all overran a bit, and there was a mad dash to get all the felt rinsed and ready for them to take away with them! But they loved it. They worked intensively for one and a half hours without any thoughts of a break, the loo or lunch, even though we overran into their usual lunchtime! A grand success. Day two with them was just as much fun - we made a HUGE piece of felt between two old curtains on the workshop floor, and pressed it like wine - lots of stamping, lots of foam and LOTS of fun. I was running about mopping up the wet floor so none of them went flying, and forgot to take any pictures of this fantastic scene.

The felt itself has come out rather stringy and holey, mainly because we had to use a coarser wool than is ideal, and we didn't really have time to finish it. Having said that, the process of it all, making it entirely themselves and doing something new, exciting and creative is what matters.

I've only had one session of three with the other school, but again it went really well and I was inspired and amazed by the creativity and enthusiasm of these kids. We are working on a large mobile decorated with fabric sculptures. Each child will make one or two sculptures and we will arrange them on a big plastic hoop to hang from the ceiling. We started the session looking at colour theory - grouping colours, contrasting colours, names for colours, shades and tones. I want them to work out how we will arrange the scultpures according to colour, so we worked on some ideas of dark to light, rainbow, groups of colours etc. We were just working with scraps of fabric for this bit, and I think it was quite hard for them to work out how it might look, so I'll come back to this once we have made all the sculptures. The second part of the session was making sculptures out of paper. I just gave them all a rectangle of newspaper and set them folding and rolling and curling. Some really fantastic ideas came out from this, and I could see some potentially amazing fabric pieces coming from these ideas alone. I was really inspired by the work that came from this very simple exercise and was tempted to make the sculpture out of paper instead! This week we'll work with fabric to come up with more ideas and explore how fabric behaves differently to paper. Then we can start making our sculptures out of recycled fabrics. In the last session we'll finish off the sculptures and put together our mobile. That part is going to be an engineering challenge - trying to make it balance. It's a while since I did that kind of science / maths, so it will be a learning curve for me too!

This has all been very good food for thought for me, while I think about the direction my teaching work will go in. I'll discuss this more over here.

As for my own work - that's coming together too at last - with open studio this weekend and the exhbition opening in a couple of weeks, it's just as well!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Working with schools

I ran the first school project on tuesday this week, in partnership with Claire Wintram. It was the first of two sessions with children from a special needs school, with severe learning difficulties. I've worked years ago with SLD children, and with adults with more moderate learning difficulties more recently. It's always a challenge to work with groups whose abilities and communication skills vary so much, but I felt the session worked out fine. Claire led the morning session with a story and we used various handling objects from Craft Play and from the gallery's own craft handling collection. A visit to the Craft Sense gallery was a great hit, with lots to touch and explore. I particularly enjoyed using the huge wicker basket with the children. It is nice and sturdy for handling, very textural, child-height and made from a familiar material. It was useful to relate the wicker to the trees we could see out of the window. I also showed the children that you could see through some of the wicker, especially if you got up close to it.

After lunch I worked with the children to make a big picture of the story characters and we used recycled and scrap materials to decorate it. The kids enjoyed the cutting and sticking aspect of it, but I think the connection to the story was lost. I wonder if a more simple and tactile creative session would have been more effective, even though it wouldn't link with the story so much. We are doing a repeat session for another group next week, so we can try doing things a slightly different way. I think I might go back to plan A and run a creative session where the children can each decorate a CD with recycled materials to make into a brooch. I think given the time available and the abilities of the various children, it might work better.

The original plan I had for a story / illustration session was for a primary school with more able children, and it wasn't ideal for this group. I would like to try out that idea another time, and continue to explore the options of working with Claire on stories, as it is creatively exciting and enjoyable to work with someone else with different skills and experience.

On a general level, I'm really enjoying working with other people on projects and am keen to keep this up in the future. I've enjoyed the couple of sessions I've done with Jennifer, but wish we could have done a lot more together.

Two school projects start tomorrow, for three or four weeks. I have come up with projects which I hope will be exciting and produce some good work for the showcase.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Monster workshop

This is me advertising the make a monster workshop - and a couple of the samples I made for it. And yes, the doll is not a monster, I know.

This month I have run a couple of workshops for young people. In one we made corsages, both fabric and leather ones. It was interesting that the leather ones were by far the most popular. There seemed to be a reluctance to sew among the girls. Some of them could sew, but most couldn't, and refused to try it out. I think this was mainly due to a confidence issue - they perceived it as something they couldn't do, so they wouldn't even try. It was a real shame, but a useful lesson for me in my expectations! These brooches have been really popular with other young people, but the dynamic in each group is different, and it only takes one objection to influence the rest of the group. The leather brooches involved cutting and glueing, rather than sewing and they all got on quietly and happily with this one. It probably is easier, and there was nothing in the process than they felt they couldn't do. Also I suppose leather is a more interesting material which they hadn't worked with before. I think I'll develop some more workshop ideas which use scrap leather as it goes down so well.
I want to make a piece for the end of project exhibition using leather - I was given some great silver leather scraps last week, which is really inspiring. I had a play around with some ideas last week and something is formulating.

I did a short session for 13-year old boys who were in the process of returning to school following exclusion. I was somewhat unsure how this would work, but it went really well! I printed lots of images onto heat transfer paper.

I used my own images of roof tiles, lichen, leaves, cotton reels and other details which were cut up to create abstract patterned designs. Despite my best efforts, all the boys wanted to put their own names on their t-shirts, rather than do anything abstract! However, the eco-style exhibition did manage to inspire them a little - this tv image is based on a Howies t-shirt print.

Next are two half-term workshops on 15th February at Bantock House, and 16th February at Bilston.

Monday, January 29, 2007

My own work

Here's a little update on my own work that is slowly progressing in between the workshops. I'm playing around a lot more with the leaves template, making it into a collar and possibly cuffs of a coat.

I've also got plans for several more garments and accessories, but they may not all get finished by 20th March in time for the showcase!


It's almost the end of the first month of the residency - the first few weeks have flown by. I'm getting into my stride with the workshops (and the travelling) and it all seems to be going well.

In the past week or so I have given workshops for several groups. These photos are of Foundation students from Shrewsbury College who came and did a half-day session on fabric manipulation. We focussed on the more complex techniques of applique using recycled fabrics and some pleating and folding techniques. It was really interesting working with this group as they had quite a lot of ideas and good technical skills, although they hadn't used these particular techniques much. They were clearly really inspired by the Well-Fashioned exhibition and we discussed some of the pieces they had really liked.

In the evening I lead the second of my sessions for Wolverhampton YWCA youth club. The young women are working on re-fashioned and embellished outfits to wear for a fashion show at Bilston Craft Gallery on 17th February. Some really amazing work is being created in these sessions and I'm looking forward to seeing the finished results. Jennifer Collier ran a session for some of the young women a couple of weeks ago and we are combining the two groups this week for a joint session. It's been interesting watching how much many of the young women have been inspired and excited about what they are doing, and have really progressed in just couple of weeks. I always enjoy doing projects with more than one session. Many of my workshops are one-off days and you don't get to see how the participants have progressed, and where they have taken their ideas. I always hope that at least some will be inspired to carry on with their textile work into the future.

I also ran a workshop for a group of GCSE students, working on an applied art programme. I showed them a range of fabric manipulation techniques, this time mainly gathering and pleating, as well as some trapunto quilting. I was a bit unsure about how this would go, but the students really got into it - even the boys were stitching away! I was taken aback and slightly embarressed when the teacher asked if he could show my sketchbook to the students. I don't use a sketchbook much, and the one that was lying around was several years old with various random bits and pieces in it. I think it proved a point that you don't have to be able to draw to be a designer! It made me realise how important it is to have that kind of resource available to students, as it's one way of showing what a designer's life is like. In future I will talk more about how I got to where I am and what my working life is like. I tend to focus my talks on the techniques and inspiration of my work, rather than the broader picture.

So all in all, a busy couple of days, but enjoyable, challenging and satisfying.
On Saturday I was back at the gallery to lead a drop-in workshop day making soft toys for all ages. The visitors were a broad range of ages - from 3 - 60-something, and everyone had a go at making a felt monster, doll, alien, dinosaur, dog... you name it, one was made. It was kind of nice that a few adults came in to have a go - shy at first, and a bit self conscious in a room of kids, but all were welcome, and they all stayed ages and got really stuck into making something. For some of them it was the first thing they had made since leaving school. I always feel sad when someone says they haven't made anything in years and years. We all need to be creative.

This week I am working with another foundation course group, a fashion group, the YWCA final session and a jewellery workshop for the Youth Service. I'm planning a workshop for young men next week, using screen printing and then some silk painting sessions for community groups and kids workshops for half-term which is just two weeks away.

After half-term, several school projects start, as well as some more sessions with adults.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Events coming up

Saturday 27 January 11.00am – 3.30pm

Come along and meet our resident maker, textile artist Ruth Singer and Make a Monster! Ruth will be in the studio all day to help anyone and everyone make a soft-toy, whether it's a doll, dog or dalek, whatever you like!

Saturday 10 March 11.00am – 3.30pm

Our resident maker Ruth Singer will be demonstrating her textile techniques. Be the first to see her new work as she comes to the end of her 3 month residency at the Gallery.

Mount Pleasant, Bilston, WV14 7LU.
01902 552507

Final showcase:
This intimate display will document the two residencies. Showcasing new work by Ruth Singer and Jennifer Collier produced during the residency, alongside work created by workshop participants from local schools and community groups. On show from 20 March – 13 April 2007.
Adult Education Centre, Old Hall Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 3AU.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The New Studio

This is the room I am working in. Already it looks like mine. Fabric strewn everywhere!
I spent a very enjoyable day at Bantock House, wondering around, drawing and absorbing ideas and inspiration. I started working with some leaves from the grounds, making templates and thinking about how to use the shapes in fabric. This is just a snap of an idea I am considering.

I ran my first workshops of the project this Tuesday. I taught a lovely group of ladies from St Leonard's Church craft group how to make corsages, and I hope they will be back soon to try some more ideas. In the evening I ran the first session of a series for Bilston YWCA, looking at re-fashioning old clothes into something new. Jennifer will be running a parallel session for another YWCA next week, and the two of us will join together for the 3rd and 4th week.

I'm developing some ideas for working with schools in the next few weeks, and have started planning an open day/ drop-in workshop on 27th January, when we will be making soft toys. So there is lots on, and I hope to have some more images for the next post.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A new year, a new project, a new blog

I'm really excited about starting the residency at Bilston Craft Gallery in a few weeks. We had our first meeting last week and I met Jennifer Collier who will be doing a parallel residency at Bantock House while I am at Bilston. I'm a big fan of Jennifer's work so it's great that I'll be working with her soon.

The residency project is designed to allow the two makers time to create their own work in response to the two venues, as well as reach lots of new and repeat visitors through workshops and events. I'll be working with local schools, community groups, young people, adults and families on a range of textile and fashion projects. I've got lots of ideas ticking around in my head, and over Christmas I have to put together firm proposals ready to start in January.
Part of the project is for the makers to work with other creative people, and I'm hoping to work with a poet on some fashion events for adults and a storyteller to work with school groups, maybe looking at costumes for performance, or illustrations for stories. I've got loads of ideas of things to pursue!

The other part of the project is for me to make some new work to exhibit at the end of the residency. I started thinking about this when I was at Bilston last week, looking through their craft display. I'm quite taken with the steel jewellery, the keys and the leather work on display, so something might come from those. I'm hoping to do something quite different from my normal work during this project so I will be thinking laterally about the gallery, and about Bantock House to find some new inspiration. It's really exciting to have the luxury of time to play around with new ideas.

Please do come back in January when I hope I'll have some ideas to share and some dates for workshops and open days.