Tuesday, 25 December 2012

A Christmas Message from Stitch Witches


(Or one half of them at least.)
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A very Merry Christmas to you from the moveable feast that is Stitch Witches headquarters. As I sit, stuffed as the turkey I’m stuffed with, glass of red in hand, I ponder how to make the glitter-covered (a Stitch Witches must) festive season just a touch more… ghoulish.
Possibly with the addition of a Stitch Witches rosette, printed with an illustration by Hanecdote and adorned with spiders, scaredy cats, or spluttering slime green candles?
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Or an otherworldy Stitch Witches loveheart brooch, decorated with ghostly green and lavender gems and sequins?
These and more will be available to buy (or perhaps even win) in the run up to the release of Stitch Witches zine #1. The zine is coming on apace; here is my most recently completed page for it; I won’t give anything else away apart from to say that Polly Kettle is an artistic alter-ego of mine, and certainly lives up to her “mystifying” tag line.
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Hannah is something of a one-woman stitching machine, constantly churning out occult-themed t shirts and accessories (but only of the highest quality), many of which are inspired by Stitch Witches, or will appear in its pages or in other merchandise.
We’ve both been featured (or are about to be featured!) in other zines over the past couple of months. Hannah’s “CREEP” patch above will appear in OOMK zine, along with (fingers crossed) a piece by me on putting on an exhibition in my parents’ bay window this summer.
We’ve also both had art featured in the most recent issue of Girls Get Busy zine. Girls Get Busy is “a non-profit feminist collective supporting female writers, musicians and artists with a monthly zine. Based in London, UK and curated by Beth Siveyer“. My piece, “Hysterical Woman“, is on the very first page (I can’t pretend not to be a little bit proud and smug about that):
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I made my fellow Stitch Witch a little Christmas package of witchy goodies, which arrived at the same time as her copy of Girls Get Busy. Hannah took some great photographs of her swag, and I’m glad she liked my silly little gifts so much (and that they, and the zine, coordinate with her nail polish!):
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One thing’s for sure this Christmas; Stitch Witches are certainly on the up. I’m looking forward to 2013, and all the creativity it will bring, immensely. All that remains to be said is, once again, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good ghoulish night.
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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The wild blue yonder looms


I had a dream a month or so ago that I wrote a song about betrayal, cold hearts, and melancholy, the central metaphor of which was goose eggs.
This struck me as exactly the sort of song harpist and singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom would write, and I only wish I could.
Why do I mention this? Because whilst stitching the next altered page of What To Look For In Winter, a few lines from one of my favourite Joanna Newsom songs kept popping into my head:
And yonder, wild and blue,
The wild blue yonder looms
‘Til we are wracked with rheum
By roads, by songs entombed
~ from Swansea by Joanna Newsom


As the winter months roll on, and the nights draw in, I grow less and less inclined to venture out into the “wild blue yonder”. The world outside can seem very dark and lonely at this time of year; much better to curl up with your family (and Border Terrier!) in front of a fire or boxset.
As I mentioned in my previous post on What To Look For In Winter, the colder months can bring with them common-or-garden blues. However, as I am all too aware, for anyone with an underlying mental illness, it can be a much more trying time of year, bringing very real fears of the outside world. Thankfully so far this year my blues have been of that common-or-garden variety, although it can be something of a battle to keep anxieties on an even keel (aided by listening to lots of empowering Destiny’s Child, and, I’m even more ashamed to say, Cher’s “Believe“!) at times. I am incredibly grateful to be in such a good place, with such a good support network around me, this winter.
What To Look For In Winter will take the reader on a journey through the emotional highs and lows of winter, set in context with the changing winter landscape, and culminate in a spring unfurling, both literal and metaphorical.
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In the most recently completed pages of What To Look For In Winter, there is a juxtaposition between the loneliness felt by the speaker when confronted with the wide open “wild blue yonder”, and the waterbirds who “gather together in flocks”. It was somewhat serendipitous that this page happened to be so very blue!
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The prose of the original Ladybird text is almost magical, and charms me, as an (ever-so-slightly) whimsical adult, as much as I imagine it charmed its original readership of children in the early ’60s. Surely only the most hardened cynic could fail to be beguiled by a description of the half-decayed veins of leaves “remaining like delicate fairy skeletons“? Or perhaps I’m just a little too romantic for my own good? (It’s been suggested.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Got My Goat


Aside from yesterday afternoon, I honestly can’t remember the last exhibition I went  to. Working at Significant Seams, I am somewhat (almost literally) cocooned in the comforting, cosy world of craft, and could at times almost forget that I have a background in conceptual art, and would indeed primarily consider myself a conceptual artist.
Of course, the line between art and craft is forever permuting. In  A Transatlantic Dialoguethe exhibition I visited at the Ben Uri Gallery, the exhibition notes explained that projects directed by artist Judy Chicago involving craft aimed to elevate this “woman’s work” to its rightful place as art.
Chicago’s career spans more than 5 decades and encompasses a multitude of media, but she is perhaps best known for her work The Dinner Party, first exhibited in 1979, and (in part as a product of The Dinner Party) as a feminist artist.
The Dinner Party, which has remained in residence at the Brooklyn Museum since 2007 and visited London only once, was a project on a grand scale of both skill and imagination. Chicago asked master craftswomen to execute her designs for place settings for an imaginary dinner party which famous historical and mythological women were “invited” to. The craftswomen included potters, ceramicists, embroiderers and seamstresses. In inviting these women to honour women “erased” from history, I feel that Chicago was honouring both the foremothers of modern women, and female craft traditions which have a long lineage and continue to be practised today, whilst placing them in a contemporary art context, thereby forcing society to take a second, much longer look at “women’s work”.
Chicago has been accused by critics of reducing all women to “just vaginas”; that her paintings, drawings and sculptures use the hackneyed female forms of flower-as-butterfly-as-female sex organ. And indeed, there was little subtlety on display here, and this was as much evident in the work of the other transatlantic “speakers”, Tracey Emin, Louise Bourgeois and Helen Chadwick, as Chicago’s! However, there was no doubt that here were four strong, gutsy, fearless women, as vulnerable as their diaristic artworks betrayed them to be.
Reading Emin’s “C.V.” of her tragic early life leading up to her gradual acceptance into the art world and her career gaining momentum was moving, powerful, and inspiring. I was equally touched by Chicago’s Autobiography of a Year, a catalogue of the highs and lows, the mundanity and the ecstasy, of an ageing, but successful, woman artist. In Autobiography, Judy Chicago worries about her husband finding her unattractive, and her ability to make “good” art, amongst other things. I found her emotional honesty deeply endearing and comforting; if this icon of a woman is sometimes weak and fragile (or worse), and yet simultaneously so strong and driven, then I reason that I too can succeed!
Chicago’s line in Autobiography reflects her emotional mood and urgency; intricate yet delicate sketches of trees and flowers accompany texts of calm, and her anger at “the hand that makes bad art” is slopped on to the page with blood red ink. Her sense of colour and its symbolism, and the way this runs through the ebb and flow of the year, is astounding (and I would certainly agree with Chicago that orange is the colour of anxiety!)
The exhibition was so multi-layered and comprised so much of a whistle-stop tour of four prolific artists’ work that it will all take me some time to digest (and I must do some more research on Helen Chadwick’s work!)
On a less cultural note, on our way to the gallery we met a new friend, who was very interested in my boyfriend’s Skittles; a pygmy goat in a school garden! I was adamant that she (I was convinced it was a she; perhaps this had something to do with the exhibition we visiting?) was coming home with me.
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Unfortunately I didn’t get my goat; maybe next time.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Maple Leaves and Plush Punch


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Last Thursday evening, Significant Seams invited E17 creatives and locals to take a tour of our new premises and hear our plans for its transformation.
We’re moving from Unit 23 – 24 Wood Street Indoor Market to 131 Wood Street; just over the road, opposite the Flowerpot pub and Brother’s Fish Bar! (Potentially a very dangerous location for Significant Seams staff!)
The premises needs a certain amount of capital work, and so we don’t yet have an exact opening date, but are planning a grand opening in March, in conjunction with a site specific textile project that is currently (rather appropriately) under wraps.
I’d fashioned a tree from our bountiful (though less so now!) supply of brown fabric earlier that day, which we hung from the rafters, and asked visitors to contribute their ideas for how the space might be used and how they would like to be involved.
Ideas weren’t just written down on forms, however; to go with our handcrafted tree for Wood Street, we’d ordered in stunningly realistic maple leaf post it notes.
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Suggestions ranged from the practical to the downright kooky; some of our younger visitors had suggestions such as a giant birdcage for children to play in!
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What was most evident from both written and verbal feedback was how enthusiastic our supporters are about the move, as are we; it means more space, more convenient opening hours for our customers and service users, and, most excitingly, affords us the opportunity to offer the only inclusive community space in Eastern Walthamstow.
Non-alcoholic Plush Punch (which certainly still packed a punch!)

Monday, 3 December 2012

Write again soon.




Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.”  ~ Lord Byron
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I received this gorgeous handcrafted letter whilst a mutual friend of the correspondent and myself were settling down to a cup of tea. All of a sudden the scene became something out of Austen; the letter was read aloud and had us all a-flutter; we swapped recent news on the letter writer and remembered her fondly.
I don’t know if my recent shout out for penpals via my Tumblr was borne out of reading too much Pride and Prejudice, or a long-held love of all things analogue. For years I’ve taken and developed film and Polaroid photographs, bashed away at a couple of old typewriters, and more recently, stitched like mad, only for the products of each endeavour to wind up showcased on the internet. I realise the irony in digitising work I’ve taken pains to do the “old fashioned way”, and there is a danger that some of its original charm is lost in translation, but how else to reach a wide audience? 
Letter writing gives me the opportunity to reach out just as far, but in a far more intimate fashion. As one of my penpals observed in her first letter to me, exchanging letters is a wonderful way to get to know someone. A letter may be deliberated over in a way that a text or email never could be, and does seem to go awfully well with tea! (There I go reading too much  Austen again!)
A week or so ago I was having something of a dreadful day and staggered through the front door ready to collapse on to the sofa, when I discovered a letter waiting for me on the front door mat. The fact that someone had taken the time to write to me, and the excitement of not knowing what the letter would contain, instantly raised my spirits (not to mention the generous stash of glittery goodies contained within!) I was so cheered up, in fact, that I got on with a number of creative projects rather than collapsing in a heap.
So go on, pick up the pen and make someone’s day. You might just make a new friend in the process.
It’s to bed with (what else?) Pride and Prejudice for me for now, but I promise to write again soon.
Letter Batch # 2
Letter Batch #2
Letter Batch #2
An embroidered patch I made as a gift to a penpal
Letter Batch #1: A Halloween card
Letter Batch #1: A Halloween card
Halloween envelopes
Sealed with gingham tape

Thursday, 29 November 2012

No-vember


No sun – no moon! No morn – no noon - No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day. No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease, No comfortable feel in any member - No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! - November!
This (abridged) poem by Thomas Hood seems to encapsulate the way many people feel about the penultimate month of the year. I’ve been having some conversations with friends and customers recently which would certainly seem to suggest so! Some friends have suggested that everything always goes wrong in November, and one customer in the cafĂ© where I work wondered if it was in human’s mammalian nature to want to hibernate through the winter months; if perhaps the human race collectively has a mild form of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
In (dis)honour of this miserable time of year, I am currently working on an altered book. What To Look For InWinter, written by E.L. Grant-Watson and illustrated by C.F. Tunnicliffe, was first published in 1959 by Ladybird Books. It invites young people into the wintry natural world and reveals for them the surprising activity and vivacity of the winter months, beginning with the end of autumn and ending with the very onset of spring.
By today’s standards the book is rather quaint, but nevertheless utterly enchanting. It’s made me stop and consider the wonders of winter as well as the hardships.
Therefore, I am embroidering my own texts on winter on to some of the illustrative pages, taking care that these have an interplay with the images, and with the words which go alongside them. I see this as a collaborative effort between the original writer and illustrator and myself, to create a work which is almostpsychogeographical.
The book itself has been weathered (and indeed, looks wintered) over the years; one side of the front cover has been chewed up (whether by mould or an animal I’m not sure).
I feel as if there is a real dialogue opened up for me, and hopefully for readers and viewers, by this book; is “what to look for in winter” what to look out for in winter – sickness, depression, and doldrums, or is it what to look hard for in winter, in spite of this – the strange beauty in all its sparse desolation, and the promise of spring?

Monday, 26 November 2012

Commission Pt. II




Here is the second half of the embroidery commission I have been working on, finished this very night.
This second illustration accompanies the 1930s children’s story The Dawn Shops, in which Jessy takes a dose of soaring pills:
I’m very happy with the figure and the left hand side of the image, but less pleased with the cat; in fact, cats seem to have been intent on giving me trouble today; a big fat fluffy ginger puss kept sneaking into my garden when I wasn’t looking this morning.
Still, this has been a good learning process and the customers seem very satisfied with the result! I’ve really enjoyed stitching these gorgeous, delicate images, too.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Commission Pt. I


I’m very lucky to currently be working on an exciting commission, translating a couple of treasured children’s illustrations into stitch on gorgeous French lace handkerchiefs.
It’s remarkable how much the illustrative style suits my style of embroidery; it’s been a real pleasure to work on, and I’m sure its sister piece will be much the same.
The stories themselves are fantastical, charming, and rather hallucinogenic; rather more 60s than 30s (when they were actually written!)
During my project The Cure for Love, I adapted a similar children’s book illustration into a piece based on the 1945 film Brief Encounter:
I’ll have to keep an eye out for 1930s children’s picture books in my trips to second hand book shops from now on!
If you’d like to commission me to work on a piece for you, just drop me a line at katerolison@googlemail.com, and I’ll work with you to create your own special embroidered art work, for you or a loved one.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Stitching, Witching, and Bitchin': Stitch Witches zine progress


Last Tuesday, Hannah and I regrouped to share where we’d gotten up to in creating our zineStitch Witches. More importantly, we met up to CRAFT (and eat junk food).
And craft we did! I created a new and improved version of my homage to Destiny’s Child to feature on a special page of the zine:
Much sweeter (pardon the pun) than the previous design, wouldn’t you agree?
Hannah, however, has been working much, much harder than me, creating patches and t shirts a-plenty:
Hannah gave me this fab Stitch Witches insignia to sew on to the back of my camo jacket!
The design on this t shirt will play a very special role in the revamped version of our Tumblr, which will allowStitch Witches everywhere to join in with our Textiles Worshipping Cult.
Hannah even turned a throwaway comment of mine on our day of crafting and cackling into a pretty rad patch:
now available for purchase here
I love the creepy font; almost reminds me of Chiller, which was everyone’s favourite gruesome typeface when I was at primary school! Was anyone else a fan in their misspent youth?
Next on my to-do list is making some special rosettes for our future stitchy witchy sisters!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Happy Belated Halloween!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Getting my stitch (and jelly) on


I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut this month just past. Whatever I’ve made (or haven’t made), I’ve never quite been satisfied with it. I’ve had an awful lot of ideas and projects on the go, but bringing them to fruition has been another matter.
I can attribute some of this to the weather; it seemed like one minute I was walking into work in summer dresses and cardigans, and the next was seriously considering investing in some thermals. The days got shorter and gloomier (in every sense!), which always seems to bring me down somewhat.
I feel that some of my lack of mojo, however, is to do with the predicament of every recent graduate; whither now? Will I ever “make it” to some extent as an artist? Will I ever have a steady job? Will I ever move out of my parents’ house?
Lastly, for the past week I’ve been battling with a horrific tummy bug. It’s been so long since I’ve had any physical ailment that I’d actually forgotten how paralysing it could be. Consequently, I’ve been off work, and getting down to work on creative projects has been equally difficult.
Today, however, the fog of ickyness seems to be lifting; I’ve been working on a commission for a colleague, doing very detailed, fine stitching. Hannah of Hanecdote is back from her holiday, and we have Stitch Witches plotting afoot. Speaking of, I may go and work on a little something for Stitch Witches right now…
But first let me leave you with a very silly (not to mention cack-handed) recent mock-up creation for a page inStitch Witches zine:
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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Big Move

I regret to inform everyone who has followed and supported this blog over the past year that I will shortly be moving to pastures new. I'm in the process of archiving all my Blogger posts over at http://poesiegrenadine.com/, and will be posting over there from now on.

I chose Wordpress to host my domain because I really like the design, it integrates with Significant Seams's blog, anyone can follow my blog (not just people who use that particular blogging platform), and it's a lot less glitchy than Blogger.

That's not to say I haven't loved using this blog. Your feedback and encouragement has always been overwhelmingly brilliant, and it's been wonderful being able to share my artistic endeavours with you.

But I've been slacking with posts a bit, and I think I need a change, a fresh new design, and to approach blogging a bit more "professionally".

Many many thanks for all your kind words, and hope to see a few of you over on Wordpress,

Kate xxx