Jilly Edwards – Reflections & Investigations

Page 1

Jilly Edwards

reflections & investigations

above & right: Textures of Memory, 2005 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen, chenille, mohair & paper weft. 5cm x 1200cm

Contents 5

Introduction – June Hill


Jilly Edwards: Tapestry into the 21st Century – Fiona Mathison


Colours, Journeys and Landscapes – Ian Wilson


Selected Biography

36 Acknowledgements

Sketchbook page: Pastel, oil pastel, watercolour & pencil.

Matthew’s Summer Garden, 1980 (detail) Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen, chenille weft. 150cm x 120cm

Introduction There is no standard gestation period for an exhibition. Some take years to evolve; others months, whilst a rare few seem to emerge in a matter of moments. Given the time weaving consumes in its making, it would be natural to assume that Reflections and Investigations required one of those longer periods of development. In actuality, the exhibition came together relatively swiftly: eighteen months passing between confirmation of the project and the installation of work in the gallery at Ruthin. The retrospective element of Reflections and Investigations, however, hints at the references in Edwards’ work to a longer passage of time. The earliest piece displayed here, Matthew’s Summer Garden, was woven in the 1980’s whilst Jilly was studying at Edinburgh College of Art. She had by then been a practising weaver for a decade, but that time in Edinburgh was critical for her subsequent development as an artist. ‘It was’, she explains, ‘the place and time where I discovered my voice as a weaver.’ Place and time are important elements in Jilly Edwards practise. Both her weavings and paintings have a strong sense of place. The colour and rhythms of her work reflect an astute and perceptive eye, as well as an innate sensitivity to the context in which she exists. A fascination with journeying – physical and creative – is as central to her process as it is to her subject matter. In recent years, Edwards has combined this interest in place with an increasing fascination with time – weaving often being perceived as a form of its physical manifestation. Ideas behind the Slow Movement1 have been the focus for much

discussion on this subject in relation to the crafts and Edwards has been an interested student of this debate. It is an approach that resonates with her own experience of weaving as something that takes time to create. This is her understanding not only of the physical process of making, but also of the craft’s heritage. Being part of a continuum of practise is not an abstract concept for Edwards: it is something that is integral to her weaving. Edwards’ time at Edinburgh embedded her work in a legacy of technically accomplished art practise. Conscious of that legacy and aware of current discourse in the field, one of Edwards’ hopes for this exhibition is that it will provoke thought about the contemporary understanding of tapestry weave. This desire reflects a concern not so much for her own status, but rather for the medium as whole. Edwards’ wants that continuum to be taken up and pursued by a new generation of weavers: weavers who – like her – will investigate and reflect upon extant practise, and then set out on a journey that will take that self-same craft into the future.

June Hill Exhibition Curator

1. http://makingaslowrevolution.wordpress.com/


Twist of Light, 2001 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton weft. 23cm x 70cm Private collection

Follow the Path of the Heart, 2005 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen, chenille weft. 50cm x 125cm

High Cross House

Samplers (3 reels), 2009 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen weft. 3cm x 200cm

Jilly Edwards: Tapestry into the 21st Century The speed of living and working in the developed world has moved from fast to super fast; information is available to and demanded from us at the touch of a button and we are in constant communication with others for both work and social activity. Inquisitiveness is an essential prerequisite for both the enjoyment and success of our lives. Tapestry weaving is in many ways the antithesis; a slow process, intricate and time consuming; every decision requires methodical physical action over hours not minutes. There are no shortcuts, no mechanical or electronic gizmos: tapestry artists usually work alone. Inquisitiveness is essential to the weaver too, but answers are yielded slowly, and the skills required, though simple at the start, become increasingly exacting as the process seduces the artist into making ever greater demands of themselves, their time and the medium; weaving becomes an all consuming passion. Hardly surprising then that tapestry has all but disappeared as a medium of choice for younger artists. Lack of time and the growing possibilities of the virtual world have made the tactile world around us shrink. The eye, now so familiar with looking at a screen prefers clean polished surfaces and dust free environments. Though the examination of this medium of tapestry could yield fascinating insights and ideas that relate to structure and time in a much more conceptual and contemporary way, the medium’s history has been too strongly linked to painting and the pictorial, which makes such developments unlikely. Of course tapestry is visual, but it is not just an image, there is very much more to it than that.

Samplers (3 reels), 2009 (detail) Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen weft. On steel powder. coated box. 3cm x 200cm


Jilly Edwards studied at Edinburgh College of Art Tapestry Department from 1980 to 82, which was quite naturally in that tradition, owing its existence to the Dovecot Tapestry Studios in Edinburgh. The purpose was to train artist weavers, so working with images to develop ideas about colour and composition, developing drawings and colour sketches were all part of a whole gamut of skills including weaving that were practiced by students of tapestry like Jilly. Jilly had come to Edinburgh with a keen interest and quickly developed that all consuming passion that defines the dedicated tapestry weaver. Over the years and in many parts of the country Jilly has promoted the craft, run a dedicated gallery, involved national and international art organisations and stimulated funding. Throughout her career she has continued to weave, taken time out to study, re-investigate and develop her own practice. The strong authentic voice of this artist developed after she left Edinburgh. It came through the desire to relate weaving, its intimate and meticulous processes with notions of time and place, as she travelled across Australia. The process began with a written and visual record made in the moment, an aide-mĂŠmoire. These were then used, not to copy but to recollect her daily experiences and take them into weaving. In abandoning the need to copy the notes, she created for herself a way of articulating ideas directly through weaving. Words were attached quite naturally to threads and woven in; a moment is recalled, and the place in that moment. The inventiveness and directness of her weaving speaks of new things discovered, the unexpected, the adventure, the experience remembered. Now an essential part of her practice Jilly has allowed the process of weaving itself to become the means of expression, a more direct authentic and meaningful way of referencing personal experience. These small works are often rolled up along the length of the warp, returning the medium to one that could be easily


From Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton, 2008. From Dawlish to Totnes, 2008 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen weft. 5cm x 22cm

Memories of the Jurassic Coastal Path, 2008 Memory monofilament warp. Wool, cotton, linen weft. 7cm x 35cm including warp ends

Walk along the Dart, 2009 10 strips of various widths and lengths. Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen, chenille weft. centre piece: 20cm x 400cm

Travellers Samples, 2009 Mixed media: woven tapestry, drawing on shoji paper, lettering on paper, railway ticket, plasterboard gauze, shells, stones & paper price tags. Each 6 segmented acrylic box 17.5cm x 13cm x 6cm

carried but also unwound so that specific moments in its length could be revisited and re-examined. This way of making connections with time, place and memory has continued to dominate her work. Her recent installation at High Cross House, A Sense of Place, records her research and thoughts about past and present events there. The rolled strips of weaving just beginning to unravel were placed directly on a window sill amongst the original objects. Music written by Nigel Morgan, part of the installation at Jilly’s invitation, rose up the stairwell to fill the air. Jilly is aware of contemporary thinking and its interest in mixing disciplines but also of the importance of music in that place. This is an example of a successful cross-disciplinary work, but the desire to make connections between media is not always as successful. Tapestry is like a performative art, it needs a live audience. It also needs slow time, time away from our hectic lives to be fully appreciated. But for this it also needs to be of a quality to bare that scrutiny, and that takes us back to the demands we make of ourselves and the medium. These are not the demands of definitions and restrictions to defend a threatened craft, but of energy and imagination to give a medium new life. It is the energy of a dedicated few that stimulates and keeps tapestry alive, and they are often those who have worked in the medium for many years, like Jilly Edwards. What they all want to know is will there be another generation of tapestry weavers? And where can they come from?

Fiona Mathison Artist and Lecturer in Intermedia, previously Tapestry, Edinburgh College of Art


Prism of Porthmeor, 2001 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton and linen. 60cm x 115cm Collection of Elgan Kobe, Japan

Penwith Passage, 2001 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton and linen. 60cm x 120cm Collection of Elgan Kobe, Japan

Colours, Journeys and Landscapes It is Jilly Edwards’s individual ‘vision’, her particular insights and responses to emotions and memories, to colours, journeys and landscapes – these vital elements of the human experience – which the skill and artistry of her craftsmanship transmute and interpret in her tapestries. This retrospective collection of Edwards’ weavings mounted by Ruthin Craft Centre enables us to see how characterising thematic strands occur in her work, and how these motifs traverse time and distance to re-appear in fresh interpretations. We can follow the confluence of developments, the changes thus effected and the emergence of new themes. Alongside the weavings in this exhibition are the journals, sketches and finished drawings – these are not just aide-mémoires, but essential factors in Edwards’ creative process. She empties her mind into the journals while travelling, and has written that ‘my “journeying” feels like a spiral movement, a cultural journey and daily task; enhancing the thoughts and ideas that become the finished work.’1

Bundu Stones, 1998 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen weft. 70cm x 120cm Private collection

Bundu Stones 2, 2000 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen weft. 12cm x 15cm

Sacred Stones, 1999 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen weft. 12cm x 15cm

Also being shown are the grid-like structures which Edwards assembles from small sectional boxes of transparent Perspex and in which she devises installations. These are titled Traveller’s Samples, a name which refers to the childhood expeditions she made with her father who was a travelling salesman. The individual appeal of the objects can be appreciated, each isolated within a separate ‘frame’, while a wider viewpoint, shows these shells, stones, tins, woven strips and words functioning as contributors to the creation of a larger whole. Edwards calls these installations ‘the bigger stories’ of the strip-weavings which she started making after visiting Japan in 2002. In the latter, every segment is


part of a journey, and the segments – each the size of railway ticket – are marked off from one other, but also come together to form a long, scroll-like ‘document’. The rolled-up portions which are not visible to the eye remind us of the pleasures of not always seeing the whole, while simultaneously, and conversely, the unrolled lengths manifest Edwards’ fascination with the fact that by sewing down the edges ‘the warp becomes an armature’ and one can show the back of the fabric. Edwards has given much thought as to how to express her desire for transparency and lucidity. This objective is achieved by exploiting the space at Ruthin Craft Centre to enable visitors to see something of both sides of these narrow tapestries. It is with regard to pieces such as these that one can understand the admiration which Edwards feels for the artist Agnes Martin of whose paintings she has said, ‘I love the linear – it can be used in so many ways.’ This is a remark which is also profoundly applicable to her own oeuvre. Matthew’s Summer Garden (1980) – made while Edwards was studying in the Tapestry Department of Edinburgh College of Art – sees her, for the first time, moving away from an earlier representative approach and creating, within the parameters of a grey grid, a spectrum ranging from palest yellow to dark black. These slender, horizontally-layered bands of colour celebrate the sensuous delights of what the artist herself has described as the ‘wonderful discoveries of colour to be made whilst researching our involvement with the landscape.’2 It was in Australia that Edwards met with further impetus for the series of weavings based on standing stones which are compelling examples of abstract expressionism. Although we cannot see one of her signal interpretations of this theme, Bundu Stones (1998) as it spends its time travelling between its owners’ homes in Israel and Sweden, this is a subject which Edwards also visited in Northern Echoes (1991) Here, three vertical shapes in strong red, blue and


Calm and Cool, 2000 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen weft. 12cm x 18cm

Sketchbook page: Watercolour and pencil.

Sense of Summer, 2000 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen weft. 60cm x 125cm Private collection

A Journey of a Lifetime, 2000 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen weft. 60cm x 135cm Collection of Customs House, South Shields

yellow stand out against a dark and sombre background, evocative, perhaps, of rituals within the winter night; it is particularly the slash of yellow which burns and glows like a light in darkness. Not wishing to particularise or clamp an interpretive grid onto these works, one should acknowledge how the verticals of bold colour in Northern Echoes are a form of mark-making found in many of the pages of the journals as well as in small-scale weavings such as Southern Summer (3 x 8cm). It is difficult to be in the presence of Jilly Edwards’ weavings and not respond to the rhythms set up by the interplay of the shapes within these tapestries. The ‘canvas’ of Summer Time (1998) is dominated by the swooping movement of two curved forms whose intersection in the centre of the image brings about changes in their colouration. The title of Ma (2001) derives from an exclamation of delight and surprise uttered by a group of Japanese visitors when encountering the work in Edwards’ studio. This weaving – which for its maker represents the culmination of a journey in both practical and spiritual terms – has broad horizontal bands of dark colour along the upper and lower edges which ‘frame’ the space within which differently-shaped areas in a variety of blues robustly proclaim their presence. The viewing eye becomes involved in the juxtaposed relationship of a large rectangle with two forms, one dark blue, the other off-white which suggest vessels, perhaps boats, cups or pots.

Southern Summer, 2001 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton weft. 3cm x 8cm

Early Morning, 1999 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton weft. 3cm x 11cm

Another characteristic of Edwards’ tapestries is the way in which they are conducive to states of contemplation. Silent Red Bowl (1998), is a small work – it measures only 3 x 12cm – but, almost ineluctably, it leads one to meditate upon the significance of quietness, absence and emptiness. This interpretation is borne out by the words which Edwards cites above a photograph of this work in the Portfolio Series monograph devoted to her work, namely, that ‘archaeological sites have spaces that are as important as the objects.’


This exhibition enables us to experience and appreciate the smaller scale of Edwards’ narrower strip weavings. Their width is usually 5cm, but they vary greatly in length, some reaching 12m, which is the measurement defining ‘broadcloth’. It is this diversity which serves as a reminder that for Edwards the short daily trips and the long trans-continental expeditions each have their own import. These coils suggest reels of film or great rolls of tickets – and both these images are sympathetic to their maker’s practice and preoccupations. Like her journals, film is a medium of both recording and creativity, and tickets, whether for a local train or long-haul flight occupy a special position in Edwards’ world. They are signifiers of the travels which as a younger person she had not envisaged herself making, and as such are invested and imbued with special relevance. The original identity of the tickets which appear in the ‘Traveller’s Samples’ installations is much altered, for they are so painted, pasted and written upon that they become tiny, richly-layered canvases. Decorated with oil pastel, script, gold leaf and plasterboard tape with its adhesive and open, gauze-like qualities, some also have rows of minuscule mountains in zigzag stitching, what Edwards terms ‘sewing the line.’ Like the Perspex boxes, the display of these scrolls need not be a matter of bright lights and bravura. ‘I don’t want things screaming out at me,’ she has said with reference to the manner of presentation. The quiet strength of Jilly Edwards’ words, colours and weaving draws us into reflection upon her journeys and hearten us in the making of our own.

Ian Wilson Writer and Lecturer on Applied Arts and Design 1. Art Textiles of the World – Great Britain Vol 3 (2006) ed by Matthew Koumis. Brighton: Telos Art Publishing. p.98 2. Jilly Edwards Portfolio Series (2000) ed by Matthew Koumis. Winchester: Telos Art Publishing. p.37


Silent Red Bowl, 1998 Cotton warp. Cotton, linen, wool weft. 3cm x 12cm Private Collection

Sketchbook page: Pastels. Postcard and seal stamp.

Ma, 2001 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen, chenille weft. 90cm x 230cm

above & right: Sketchbook pages, 2003/4 Watercolours, pencil, crayon, railway tickets & sweet wrappers. Size A5

overleaf: top left to right High Tide – Full Moon, 2004 Markings + Tracking, 2004 Migrancy + Identity, 2004 Landscape + Memory, 2003

Miles of Silence, 2004 Oral + Visual, 2005 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen weft/mohair weft. All 5cm x 22cm

overleaf right: Sampling + Practice, 2003 Suspended in acrylic box. 5cm x 22cm (boxed size: 10cm x 30cm x 5cm)

Kendal to Kyoto, 2004 5cm x 100cm Both: Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen weft.

Around the Red Hills, 2011 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen weft. 90cm x 210cm

Ruthin sketches, Red Hill a–i, 2011 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen weft. 5cm x 10cm

Selected Biography Exhibitions 2011 Ruthin Craft Centre, Ruthin, Denbighshire ‘Reflections and Investigations’ 2010 Corham Court, Vaults Gallery, ‘Material Evidence’ High Cross House, Dartington Hall, Devon ‘Sense of Place’ Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Bovey Tracey ‘Collection’ 2008 Bankfield Museum & Dean Clough, Halifax, West Yorkshire ‘Tapestry 08’ 2007 BSW Gallery, Exeter, Devon ‘East to West’ Stroud International Textile Festival, Museum in the Park ‘One Step Forward’ Highlights Rural Tours – William Jefferies and Jilly Edwards 2006 South Hill Park, Bracknell, Berkshire ‘Off the Wall’ Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, Surrey ‘Off the Wall’ 2005 Ozone Gallery, Tokyo 2004 Fiberart Gallery, St.Ives, Cornwall St. James Gallery, Bath ‘21st Anniversary Exhibition’ ‘COLLECT’, V&A, London 2003 The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh Fiberart Gallery, St.Ives, Cornwall Bilston Craft Gallery, Wolverhampton ‘Beside the Seaside’ RAMM, Exeter, South West Academy ‘Summer Exhibition’ 2002 GalleryGallery, Kyoto, Japan Art Planning Room, Tokyo


2002 2001 2000

Daiwa Foundation, London Customs House, South Shields UCL, Preston Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries Warehouse Gallery, Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal ‘Journeys and Journals’, touring 2001–02 Between 1973 – 2000 Edwards had various solo and joint exhibitions in the UK, Europe and USA

Awards 2011 Gane Trust 2010 Arts Council England 2009 Madelaine Mabey Trust 2008 The Theo Moorman Trust – research 2006 Arts Council England – new work for 2007 Stroud International Textile Festival 2004 Arts Council England – new work for Crafts Study Centre, Farnham 2002 Daiwa Foundation (also1999) 2002 Sasakawa Foundation (also1999) 2001 Arts Council England (National Touring Scheme) 2000 Northern Arts – Mentoring Scheme Commissions 2008 Private commission, Nottinghamshire 2003 Goldman/Cook, Publishers, Los Angeles, USA 2001 Ove Arup, Newcastle Upon Tyne


A Splash of Blue, 1983 (in situ) Collection of Ove Arup

From Porthmeor Beach to Zennor, 2000 (in situ) Collection of Ove Arup

Memories of Travels, 2003 (in situ) Private collection

Collections 2007 Hampshire Museum Collection 2005 Kobe, Japan 2002 Customs House, South Shields Publications 2011 Crafts Magazine, May/June Craftarts, March 2010 Journal of Weavers, December Embroidery Magazine, September/October Crafts Magazine, September/October ‘Sense of Place’, brochure 2009 Crafts Magazine, March/April 2005 Telos Publications, ‘Textiles of the World Great Britain 3’ 2004 Embroidery Magazine 2002 Crafts Magazine, March/April 2001 ‘Journeys and Journals’, catalogue 2000 Telos, Portfolio Series No.1 – Jilly Edwards Education 2003–04 University of Creative Arts, Farnham – Advanced Research 1980–82 Edinburgh College of Art, Tapestry Department, Special Course 1966–69 West of England College of Art, Bristol – Textiles Edwards has taught and lectured in Higher and Further Educational establishments across the UK and Japan.


Acknowledgements Dedication: for Bridget Jilly Edwards would like to thank: June Hill; Philip Hughes; Lisa Rostron; Mei Lim; Fiona Mathison; Ian Wilson; Anne Barron; Robert & Mark Edwards; Mr & Mrs. A. Padkin; Mr & Mrs. C. Helmore, Mr & Mrs. R. Goldman; Mr. Jim Burridge, Ove Arup; Tod Grimwade; the team at Ruthin and Lawn. RCC would like to thank: Jilly Edwards; Robert Edwards; Timandra Gustafson; Alison Carter; Hampshire County Council Museums and Arts Service; Sarah Howard; Lynette and Chris Helmore; Ove Arup; Anne Jackson; Nick Smirnoff; the Lawrence family; Fiona Mathison; Ian Wilson; Mei Lim; Nia Roberts; Lisa Rostron; Stephen Heaton; Tod Grimwade; June Hill; Gregory Parsons; Pete Goodridge and ArtWorks. Curated by: June Hill Photography: Wayne Baillie: cover, p.4, 16, 17 bottom, 18 top, 19–23. Pamela Goldman: p.33 right. Chris Holmes: p.6, 14, 15, 17 top. James Johnson: p.36. Mei Lim: p.1, 4 left, 8–13, 22 bottom, 28–31, 34, 35. Keith Paisley p.32. David Westwood: p.2, 3, 7, 24–27. RCC exhibition and education staff: Philip Hughes; Jane Gerrard; Elen Bonner. Design: Lawn Creative Translation: Nia Roberts Text © The Authors 2011. ISBN: 978-1-905865-36-9 Published by Ruthin Craft Centre. A Welsh Language version is available. Ruthin Craft Centre is part of Denbighshire County Council and is revenue funded by the Arts Council of Wales. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form without written permission from the publisher. Ruthin Craft Centre, The Centre for the Applied Arts Park Road, Ruthin, Denbighshire LL15 1BB Tel: +44 (0)1824 704774 www.ruthincraftcentre.org.uk


Reflection of Time 1, 1995 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen, chenille weft. 10cm x 15cm

cover: Ma, 2001 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen, chenille weft. 90cm x 230cm

p1: Shadows and Shapes, 2010 Cotton warp. Wool, cotton, linen, mohair weft. 30cm x 60cm