After over 2 years of stitching, I am now making final preparations to get my drawing ‘A Couple on the Tube’ to Chelsea College of Art, London. On 12th July the Society of Designer Craftsmen’s exhibition ‘The Hand of the Maker’ opens and runs for 9 days to celebrate 130 years of the society.
The Society has a large membership made up of selected makers and designers from a wide range of craft disciplines including ceramics, textiles, wood, glass and metal. It is the largest multi-craft society in the country and has a vibrant creative space in London’s Shoreditch.
This week my large free machine embroidered drawing will be collected by courier and transported to London ready for the hang. Before that, I will hand my work over to some very skilled professionals. David Gould will photograph the drawing before I attach it to a sheet of perspex and then Edge 2 Edge in Staple Hill, Bristol, will frame it. This is a very difficult job because the frame will contain museum grade glass and both this material and the perspex collect any fibre of fluff that happens to be in close proximity.
I am really excited about the exhibition because there will be two firsts. It is my first time to exhibit with the Society and the first time that ‘A Couple on the Tube’ will be exhibited. I do hope you will get time to visit.
I have had some pretty rubbish attempts at drawing people on paper and whilst at uni, it was suggested that I should avoid it altogether. Also, I am not a painter so the thought of attempting to make images of people in a painterly way with threads is daunting. Realising that I am taking a new and difficult direction with my work, I have spent some time researching other artists who use thread as their medium for portraits.
Photorealistic hand embroidered drawings by Cayce Zavaglia, a textile artist who originally trained as a painter. Zavaglia moved to embroidery when she wanted to make work that reflected an embroidered piece from her childhood. Over the years she has developed a very difficult technique that enables her to blend colours in thread as if they were paint, allowing for tonal qualities usually seen in classical oil paintings.
Tul works with thread, fabric and paint and focuses on faces because she is intrigued with what they show us about a person (or what they don’t). Tul works large and then crops the work suggesting an element of confrontation.
Sarloutte is a French artist whose work is a mixture of traditional and pop culture. I love her use of bold colour which resembles a pixilated version of oil paint. Her inspiration come from her life, cinema and the media.
These artists have different approaches to their subjects and use thread in very different ways. One makes very intricate photo realistic portraits, another works very large and interrupts the image to encourage deeper questions and the final one uses intense colour to add to the emotion portrayed. But in each work, the thread is successfully used to lead us in to the soul of the sitter and allows for further engagement with the viewer.
I am also fascinated by people and their relationship with the world around them; a relationship that only they know and we can only guess at or wonder through our interpretation of any emotion shown. This is why I felt so compelled to photograph and draw the couple sat opposite me on the tube in London. Whilst my picture is being drawn with the machine, I do hope that I can share some of that wonder with the viewer and if that does happen, then perhaps I will know I was right to have another attempt at drawing people, but this time with sewing machine and thread rather than marks made on paper.