Julia Griffiths Jones
ISBN 1 900941 82 1
Julia Griffiths Jones
Julia Griffiths Jones Stories in the Making
Philip Hughes Stories in the Making
Mary Schoeser Ideas behind the pieces
Julia Griffiths Jones Biography
Introduction left Shirt of a lad
In the catalogue for the 1998 Ruthin Craft Centre exhibition Julia Griffiths Jones – Unwinding the Thread there was a transcript of a speech made by Dr Elin Jones on the occasion of its opening at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea. She described a lunch where she and Julia discussed textiles and women’s traditional crafts – “We talked about their fragility and impermanence, and the way they are made with such care and love, only to be consumed. Julia and I went on to discuss how men’s crafts all seem to be in durable materials – wood, stone, metal – and they also seem (though I wouldn’t wish to be gender-specific on this or any other point) to have a higher status than that accorded to women’s crafts, although similar levels of skill are required. Then – this was a long lunch – we talked about the possibility of marrying... the impermanent, the delicate and the transient to the permanent, the hard and the durable, and by doing so conveying something of the nature of women’s traditional domestic tasks – the daily routines which are so often ignored, only noticed or commented upon when not done. I think we might have called them the invisible skills of daily living and loving.” Elin then coined the phrase that now seems the natural way to describe Julia’s work to anyone who has not seen it themselves – ‘embroideries in the air’. She described, “In the Celtic laws there were three great crafts whose practitioners were always privileged people. These were the crafts of the smith, the poet and the priest – the ‘shapers’ – prydyddion, yn newid pryd a gwedd y defnyddiau crai – who shaped raw materials into something else – metals into jewellery and weapons, words into poetry, natural things into sacred elements. This exhibition shows us that we have a woman ‘shaper’ – shaping metal with love and care into delicate and lasting embroideries in the air.” Julia Griffiths Jones continues to live and work in Llanybri, West Wales, where her creative practice is strongly rooted. Here, during the seven years that have passed since Unwinding The Thread, the notes and cadences given voice in her ‘embroideries in the air’ have developed and changed. Those with a longstanding interest in Julia’s work will recognise the superb resolution of the personal with the universal, yet surveying these new pieces their inflection has become more complex, subtle and multi-layered. She has exhibited widely in Britain and abroad, completing a broad profile of education projects and significant commissions. In 2003, she received a Creative Wales Award from the Arts Council of Wales to support the development of the pieces shown in this exhibition. We are grateful to everyone who has contributed to this book and the exhibition Stories in the Making – in particular to Mary Schoeser for her insightful essay and to the Arts Council of Wales for funding the exhibition. Philip Hughes Gallery Director, Ruthin Craft Centre
Stories in the Making Julia Griffiths Jones is an intuitive storyteller. She uses a narrative device very much of her own creation: the ‘wire poem’. Her arrival at this expressive form is a tale in itself, one beginning with field studies in Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1977 and still unfolding today. As she relates her journey she traces shapes on the table: the desire to draw, to describe, to depict her observations, always uppermost. Often, the finger makes a circular journey as, for example, when she laughs at her youthful eagerness to leave Wales and her mature delight that she returned home 18 years later, in 1990. It was during the 1990s in Wales that she began a revisitation to her past that was literal, metaphorical and profoundly influential, resulting in an approach to wire work that is new both to Griffiths Jones herself and to the genres within which her work resides. Any appreciation of her current oeuvre therefore necessitates taking a broad view, in which the artist’s past forms but landmarks in the greater terrain of folk art, textiles, sculpture and portraiture. If the mind of Griffiths Jones were a landscape, folk art would be the acres of plowed fields that nurture new crops. From 1977 until 1997 – when the first pairing of poem and wire garment appeared in Shirt of a lad – she has found within folk art inspirations for printed textiles, limited edition prints and books, drawings, collage and traditional textile forms such as samplers and quilts. She describes the impact of her first travels, the result of a scholarship
above Drawing of Slovak bonnet Drawing of Slovak costume made on March 1st 1979 in Vajnory, Slovakia
above House in Cicmany, Slovakia
won in 1977 while studying textiles at the Royal College of Art, as “a most
Drawing of a piece of Slovak embroidery
embroidery, lace, printing and decorative applied arts”, going on to chronicle
formative experience…as I encountered the most beautiful examples of the subsequent focus on Eastern European sources: “Following my degree
House in Stasnice, Czechoslovakia
show I obtained a British Council Scholarship to live in Czechoslovakia for six months where I furthered my research into folk art; this resulted in a three-
(1) Julia Griffiths Jones in conversation 2004
month print-making residency in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and a solo exhibition.”1 In 1982 and 1985 she extended her first-hand knowledge to include the arts of Hungary and Romania, on two further research trips funded by the British Council. It was the combined influences of folk art and family that catapulted Griffiths Jones towards her present direction. By 1987 she was seeking a new expressive form and began to investigate working with wire, a task accomplished over the next few years, as she explored various metal wires and construction techniques as a means of translating her linear drawing style into three dimensions. At the same time, she began to spend more time in Wales and by 1990 she had moved there to marry. Now without the hassle of commuting across London between teaching, time in her studio elsewhere and moments at home, in the studio adjacent to her farmhouse home she perfected her use of mild steel wire (spot-welded while ‘composing’, brazed
for final stability, and then finished with two or more layers of paint) and in 1994 began to work towards ‘Unwinding the Thread’, a Ruthin Craft Centre exhibition which opened in 1998. As she explained at that time, her “main
above Drawing of Slovak costume Woman in Horna Streda, Slovakia
intention was to look at textiles, such as quilts, samplers, embroidered shirts and lace, and try to rework these items using different approaches with wire as if it were a thread, to make a more permanent, heavier statement about something fragile and impermanent.”2 Pivotal to the evolution of her wire poems was the time Griffiths Jones spent in 1996 in the Povazske Museum in Zilina, Slovakia, where Budatin Castle displays its unique collection of tinkers’ work, both utilitarian and decorative, and documents more than three centuries of the worldwide migration and influence of Northern Slovakian craft in wire and tinplate. Funded by an Arts Council of Wales Award, it allowed Griffiths Jones to work with the museum’s craftsman-in-residence and visit four others in their own homes. It was a turning point: “Realising that the tinkers had been trying to make wire resemble lace and knitting to create clothed figurative sculptures was one of the most exciting and important discoveries of my [creative] life and, suddenly, endless possibilities presented themselves.”3 By 1998 she had begun work on If you come my way (2003), in which lacy wire techniques with inset stones were employed to conjure up Lynette Roberts’ poetic description
(2) Julia Griffiths Jones, ‘Unwinding the Thread’ in Unwinding the Thread, The Gallery, Ruthin Craft Centre, 1998, p.11 (3) Ibid
above Drawing of Slovak costume Marta Botikova wearing Slovak costume
of a Welsh village as of ‘lace and stone’. Technique aside, the long gestation period for this piece illustrates Griffiths Jones’s disciplined, self-critical approach, with the collage-like aspects of her ‘garments’ allowing her to reconsider, deconstruct and re-compose in an unconscious parody of a tinker making
Drawings of embroidered cuffs
something new from something old. While some pieces have been completed within four to six weeks, the artist does not rush. Indeed, she uses interruptions to advantage. For example, Everything is better now (2004) – a tour de force of juxtaposed voids and solids – gained its assured composition and half-revealed flowers as a result of a three-month halt in its construction while Griffiths Jones made two pieces for the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital. While an important and natural step towards a mode of expression that equally embraced her linear drawings, experience with textiles and knowledge of folk art, Griffiths Jones’s foray into working wire as if it were thread was not in itself new. By 1996 there was enough interest in this approach to warrant a new edition of Textile Techniques in Metal, which had first been written in 1975 but had been out of print since 1985. Its author, the American jeweller Arlene Fisch, acknowledged this in her introduction, noting how many artists “combine metal and textile technologies… An American sculptor made knitted wire hanging structures twenty years ago; a Norwegian designer makes knitted silver wire bracelets now; a British student spool-knitted a necklace ten years
ago; a contemporary American student uses cloisonné wire to produce fourstrand braided beads.” Tellingly, Fisch went on to describe a state of play that applies to Griffiths Jones: “As so often happens, artists in different times and
above/right To Mother with love previous page Shirt for my daughter
different places stumble onto the same idea seemingly without reference to each other… Using textile techniques in metal does not constitute a movement or a style, only a shared interest in an exciting concept that is somehow ‘in the air’…”4 However, the direction taken by Griffiths Jones soon moved from the literal use of textile techniques in metal to the creation of sophisticated visual references that capture in wire the character, fluidity and freedom that cloth as a medium provides. This transition is apparent in Mya’s apron, Annie’s dress (2003), when experiments with wrapping a fine-twist wire around a softer wire to emulate embroidery led her to visualize stiff organdie and then to rework the lower portion to resemble a dress in motion. The latter aim alone is epitomized by I’m breaking through (2004), a piece that appears to have just moments ago been flung to the floor. Its ‘swoosh’ of imagery incorporates a drawing by Griffiths Jones of her sister, Caroline, dancing in the garden, as well as Caroline’s own drawing of a butterfly done as a child. On the rare occasion when the garment form is rigid, it is deliberately so, as in the case of To Mother with love (2002–3). The geometric grid alludes equally to her
(4) Arlene Fisch, Textile Techniques in Metal, (New York: Lark Books), 1996, p.7
left/above Mya’s apron, Annie’s dress
mother’s profession (an architect) and her mother’s modish wardrobe in the ’sixties (especially, Paco Rabanne and his ‘platelet’ shifts). Yet even in this austere form, within are lively visual references to older and younger generations. Worked in fabric, thread and metal, these motifs move with the freedom of stitch – even when not stitched – leaving only the bodice band as a realistic reminder of the wiry lace/knit techniques that marked the beginning of Griffiths Jones’s present creative journey. And, although her work no longer flows solely from the concept of wire-as-thread, an element of this ‘role reversal’ does remain in pieces such as Everything is better now. Here Eastern European and Welsh motifs collide, with wire-worked flowers for the former set alongside, for the latter, an aluminium half-bodice punched and then actually stitched with a repeating decorative motif. Despite her more recent research in Slovakia, the experiences of twentyand-more years ago are not distant memories for Griffiths Jones, but actively inform her current work. Sketchbooks lie open in her studio and provide constant inspiration, as in the case of I would do for you (early 2004), initiated from a minute drawing of a Slovakian bodice seen in Levice in 1979. In other pieces, the sketchbooks’ contents are melded together with additional influences drawn from nearer at hand – her family, the Welsh environment and the small book club that since 1993 has provided both social and intellectual
stimulation. Nevertheless, the result is far from a random selection from her
above/right Stitch and write
intensive research. Her current body of work is a carefully constructed whole composed of three strands. Her initial concept – of alternating responses to literature, whether poems or fiction, with abstract portraits of her family – was conceived in 1999 as a result of reading Impossible Saints (1997); a fictional work by Michèle Roberts based on the life and death of Saint Josephine, in which alternate chapters tell the story of other female saints; all ‘women who didn’t know their place.’5 However, poem and portrait soon became entangled, as embodied in Shirt for my daughter (2001). With the title itself taken from A Red Shirt by Margaret Atwood and the observation of her daughter’s world inspired by another Atwood poem, Shapechangers in Winter, the ‘unfinished’ half of the shirt portrays the youth, promise and separateness of the child Sara, its empty space a deliberate vessel for the unknown whole of her life. Later came the recognition that a third strand, the folk art of Wales and Eastern Europe, provided for the realization of imaginary characters to complement the real and the literary ones. Within this third strand Griffiths Jones brought into play a conscious form of collaged contrasts, likening it to ‘mashing’, or the overlaying of different sounds on a single musical track, and seen in Mixed up (2004).
(5) ‘Michèle Roberts’, http://www.virago.co.uk/ virago/meet/roberts_profile.asp
left/above I’m breaking through previous page Homage to Calder
Binding these disparate elements together is a theme that some might call feminism, but is more accurately captured in the term ‘womanliness’, since her work celebrates the domestic in a way that parallels much folk art. As Griffiths Jones has found, “Throughout the world there is a strong tradition of women working with
(6) Liz Hoggard, ‘Domestic Science’, Crafts March/April 2002, p.29 (7) http://demo.networks. co.uk/celia/theauthor.html sourced Dec 4 2004, and correspondence with Rees, Dec 20 2004, in which she also wrote: “If I was to be asked, ‘Would your work be the same if you had never met her?’, I would have to answer, ‘No, it would not’.”
textiles to decorate their homes and clothes. Designs vary from country to country – depending on religion and cultural traditions. But many motifs in folk art are universal and represent items that are important to women’s lives – the home, animals, fertility, flowers, birds.”6 That she has embraced this tradition in a thoroughly contemporary and unique way is in part due to her own commitment to her roles as artist but also teacher, wife and, since 1992, mother. Mining the rich vein of original research carried out in the field has been one part of an answer to her wish “not to be an artist who gave up when her children were born!” (Said lightly, in jest, adding “I am most definitely not superwoman”, but nevertheless embodying her striking combination of warmth, dignity, determination, loyalty and sense of fun.) Initiating the book club has been another part of the answer. Stitch and write (2003) celebrates both the club and Griffiths Jones’s long friendship with author and occasional club visitor, Celia Rees. Rees has returned the compliment by incorporating motifs from this piece into her own website, commenting that “although we work in different media, we often draw inspiration from each other” and going on to explain that “Julia has had a subtle but deep and pervasive influence upon my own work”.7
Griffiths Jones is scrupulous in acknowledging her sources of inspiration
above/right I would do for you
and conscientious in her desire to make the narrative element of her work explicit, a reflection of her continuous involvement in teaching since 1978. Presently an Associate Lecturer on the BA (Hons) Surface Pattern Design course at Swansea Institute, her skill in wire-working has also been shared by other means, such as projects with members of the Embroiderers’ Guild. In addition, through Contemporary Applied Arts (CAA), which has represented Griffiths Jones since 1988, in 2001 she conducted a workshop for trainee teachers as part of the CAA’s outreach education programme, ‘Hands On!’, aiming “to motivate students and instruct them in some techniques and skills for drawing with wire and metal that could be developed into the curriculum and used in their teaching practice.”8 Most recently she was among six makers who were commissioned by the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery to create handling boxes that show “how they work, what inspires them and what they create”, for use by teachers.9 Composition is stressed to all her students, citing her own experience, when stumped, of analysing the composition of, say, a Picasso, to provide a starting point. She uses her own work in the same way, as, for example, in Everyone thought it was kitsch (2004), which was influenced in its distribution of imagery by Everything is better now.
(8) http://www.caa.org.uk/ cvs/griffiths-jones.julia.htm. The ‘Hands On!’ programme ran from 1999 until 2002 and those who took part were represented in the CAA 2003 exhibition ‘Celebrating Education’, in which Griffiths Jones’s Shirt for my daughter and Apron were included (see caa.org.uk/2003/ celebrating-education.htm). One example of work with the Embroiderers’ Guild was a wire and thread project with the local branch, part of the exhibition ‘Drawn’ at Oriel Myrddin in Carmarthen in October 2002 (9) ‘Highland Influences Create Inverness Exhibition’, http://www.craftscotland. org, sourced 5 December 2004
left/above Mixed up
The reference to Picasso comes as no surprise, since Griffiths Jones shares with that artist a mastery of the use of a spare yet whimsical line and
(10) See http://www. princetonol.com/groups/ iad/lessons/middle/ calder.htm, sourced 8 December 2004
a respect for traditional cultures and their arts. These features also typify the work of Alexander Calder (1898–1976), whose first commissions were line drawings of a circus, leading in 1926 to wire and wood animals and figures; these led as well to his influential miniature wire circuses, which by the mid1930s were hand-animated in his Paris studio with the aid of other leading artists of the time.10 It is his mobiles, however, that inspired Homage to Calder, made after a visit to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in September 2003. Imagined as hanging in the same alcove in the Museum as one Calder mobile, this piece – a self-portrait – was seminal in the orchestration of all of her current work. The resulting ensembles are individual pieces interacting like figures on a stage, or assemblages permanently choreographed into a troupe of dancing images, as in A story waiting to be told (late 2004). With their jazzy colours, rhythmic compositions and thematic references to literature and folk art, there is something of the inter-war bohemian years that runs throughout Griffiths Jones’s ensembles. That all can be classed as wire poems flows from this fact, with each work – whatever its primary inspiration – capturing a complex narrative within a contrapuntal visual ‘stanza’ in which the empty areas are as meaningful as the pauses in a spoken poem. Equally true
of every piece is the artist’s description of If you come my way, constructed with “layer upon layer of pattern [in] an attempt to visualise in wire the way the poet seems to be offering more and more enticements to visit her…”
above/right Everyone thought it was kitsch previous page If you come my way...
And like this piece, each work is also an abstract portrait carried out with the Mannerist’s love of “twisted forms, broken lines…sumptuous and brilliant effects, strong chromatic contrasts, and bright or metallic tonalities.”11 As a neo-mannerist Griffiths Jones has become not only an acknowledged representative of successful makers in Wales12, but also an influential proponent of a post-millennium trend, in which intentional spatial distortion also plays a prominent role. The neo-mannerist style is especially resonant in her hands for two reasons: the original movement was literary as well as artistic, and for a century or more from the late-16th century onwards, this was the avant garde style that became fossilized in Eastern and Northern European folk art and costume. The Welsh hat and apron derive from Elizabethan and Jacobean garb, and the portraits of those eras are laden with wire-stiffened lace ruffs, metal thread embroidery and voids and solids in the form of slashes, pinking and puffs. In the same way that garments dominated such portraiture, Griffiths Jones has created a related genre of ‘garment as portrait’. A step on from the non-specific ‘empty dress’ art of the late-20th century, her work is redolent of personality, magical and memorable for any observer and yet at the
(11) Luciana Arbace, ‘Mannerism’, Encyclopedia of Interior Design, ed. J Banham (London and Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn) 1977 and, for neo-mannerism, see Mary Schoeser, More is More: an antidote to minimalism (London: Conran Octopus) 2001, p.155 (12) ‘West Wales Revealed as the UK’s Art Gallery’, Arts Council of Wales press release 30/4/2004 http://www.artswales.org/ pressoffice/printable.asp? newsid=154
left/above How he unfolds in my life
same time a vehicle for the artist’s singular observations and experiences. So joyful, even primal, are the marks she makes within each wire poem, that even the loss of her father, memorialized in How he unfolds in my life (2005),
note: A useful introduction to Eastern-Central Europe can be found at http://www.omnibusol.com /easteurope.html
seems alive with a character that is at once Everyman and the individual. The closing words of Lynette Roberts’s Poem from Llanybri are appropriate not only because Griffiths Jones now lives in Llanybri, but also because they summarize what Griffiths Jones has achieved: ...I send an ode or elegy In the old way and raise our heritage. Mary Schoeser
Ideas behind the pieces Shirt for my daughter 2001 Painted mild steel 82 cms x 83 cms My sister and I are sewing A red shirt for my daughter Two lines from a poem by Margaret Atwood called A Red Shirt. But on reading the poem Shapechangers in Winter (page 40) I was inspired to make Shirt for my daughter.
To Mother with love 2002/3 Painted mild steel, collected ephemera 150 cms x 49 cms In the ’sixties my mother was very hip and fashionable and was drawn to wearing bright colours and lots of pattern. I have used images from my grandmother’s clothes in the bodice, to retain the link, but the main part of the piece owes something to Paco Rabanne and his chain-linked clothes. The oblong shapes contain repeated images from my mother’s clothes, a lace blouse, a trouser suit and a silk blouse. The overworking with fabrics, threads and pieces of metal came right at the end and it helps to make the piece softer and more like a textile.
Mya’s apron, Annie’s dress 2003 Painted mild steel 122 cms x 71 cms Mya’s apron, Annie’s dress is inspired by both my grandmothers, Annie and Mya, the fabrics they chose to wear and the embroidery they made. Very different women, Annie was flamboyant in her dress, whereas Mya, a nurse, wore more subdued clothes in terms of shape, but I remember a lot of small floral patterns. I have chosen the apron shape as the conduit for the imagery: I remember Mya wearing this type of garment; but I have decorated it with much of the handiwork and wedding dress lace belonging to Annie. The colours come from Mya’s woven raffia handbag, which she used for special occasions. The bottom half of the apron has been deconstructed and reworked to resemble a dress in motion.
Homage to Calder 2003 Painted mild steel, aluminium, thread 130 cms x 74 cms In September 2003 I went to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to see Calder’s mobiles. I sat for a long time on a bench looking at a mobile hanging on its own in an alcove whose walls were curved and undulating. I had made the paper design for this piece and tried to imagine it hanging in this space. It is intended as a self-portrait and the underneath layer is a red ‘betgwn’, green bodice, lace collar and cream shawl. These are elements of the Welsh costume, but the half apron, although worn in Wales, is highly decorated with images from Eastern European embroidery.
If you come my way... 2003 Painted mild steel 132 cms x 60 cms I live in Llanybri in Carmarthenshire where the poet Lynette Roberts also lived during the Second World War. Much of her writing appears to be about healing, and in particular I have always loved Poem from Llanybri. The piece I have made is part cloak and part ’forties dress, which is a direct response to information I have been given about the clothes Lynette Roberts wore. I have constructed layer upon layer of pattern in an attempt to visualise in wire the way the poet seems to be offering more and more enticements to visit her throughout the poem. Before becoming a poet Lynette Roberts studied Textiles, as I did, and later worked as a florist. I feel very connected to her; she must have pushed her children in their prams around the same lanes as me.
Stitch and write 2003 Painted mild steel, aluminium, fabric, thread 133 cms x 89 cms This piece is inspired by my friendship with Celia Rees and my enjoyment of her writing. The following extract from her book Sorceress gave me the idea for the main shape of the piece: “I left the dress Le Grand had given me on the gritty sand. The wide skirts and petticoats lay at the edge of the water, looking for all the world like a woman drowned and cast up on the shore.” I began making the piece at the bottom of the skirt, and the arrows dart about, moving the viewer over the garment and the story. I have filled the structure of the crazy quilt with elements from Celia’s books Witch Child, Sorceress, and Pirates!. The mermaid is from Zennor in Cornwall where our families holidayed together, and you can see the words, “I was at the fest the same day as Watcyn” running through the piece.
I would do for you 2004 Painted mild steel, stitched aluminium 133 cms x 68 cms This piece comes from a tiny drawing I made of a bodice whilst studying folk costume in the region of Levice in Slovakia in 1979. The half apron contains imagery taken from many different drawings of costume. I travelled around Slovakia with Dr. Marta Botikova, who was my interpreter and is still my friend. One day she took me to Horna Streda to meet a woman who embroidered costume, who produced two identically embroidered aprons, one to be tied on front-to-back and the other backto-front. The left side of this piece has a strong line denoting the back of the apron.
Everything is better now 2004 Painted mild steel, stitched aluminium 63 cms x 140 cms I began working on the bodice of this piece first, and deliberately set out to combine Polish and Welsh embroidered motifs together. Layering wire over metal sheet interested me here, as it was a device both for joining and interpreting the application of pattern. The making of the piece was interrupted by a commission, so when I returned to it I further developed the rhythmic lines with emerging flowers, which can be seen in the Healing apron.
Healing apron 2004 Painted mild steel wire and aluminium 146 cms x 61 cms (Commissioned by NHS Grampian for the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital) Looking at nurses’ uniforms I loved the simple shape of the apron worn in the ’twenties and ’thirties, and I wanted crisp and angular shapes to work with. I deconstructed it and filled it with flowers, herbs, a bird, hearts and a child with open arms. I have used Culpeper’s Herbal for information on herbs, and have chosen the ones which particularly refer to illnesses suffered by children. Goat’s Beard–for liver and chest disorders Moneywort–for healing wounds Lime Tree–for epilepsy Mistletoe–for convulsions Adder’s Tongue–to prevent bleeding Saffron–for measles Fenugreek–for throat and mouth infections Common Knapweed–to prevent bleeding at the nose or mouth Comfrey–for tonsillitis Lentils–for the bowel Pellitory of Spain–for easing pain and preventing coughs
Thankyou dress 2004 Painted mild steel, stitched aluminium 81 cms x 61 cms (Commissioned by NHS Grampian for the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital) This piece is inspired by children’s drawings, and is intended as a child’s ‘thankyou’ to a nurse or doctor. I looked at samplers, the first embroideries children used to make, and decided to juxtapose neat and ordered imagery to celebrate children of the past, with drawings made by children of today. The drawings on the bodice have been made by my five year old daughter and her friend, which I have stitched onto the aluminium sheet. The wire structure is formed from an amalgamation of drawings made by children in Aberdeen primary schools. One child stated that you need “flowers, chocolates, juice and a get well soon card” to help you get better, and I have incorporated these words into the piece.
Mixed up 2004 Painted mild steel 138 cms x 59 cms I had made separate pieces of costume and they were pinned around the studio for ages. My brother Hugh came to see me one day and told me about how in music, musicians overlay different sounds and it was called ‘mashing’. I listen to music when I work, and many of the titles of my pieces are stolen from favourite songs. Eventually I welded all the pieces together, so there is a mixture of Welsh and Slovak costume here.
Everyone thought it was kitsch 2004 Painted mild steel 68 cms x 132 cms The motifs in this piece come from a pictorial blue and white cotton embroidery, about a metre square, which would have been placed behind the stove to catch cooking stains in Hungarian kitchens. I bought many of these embroideries whilst researching in Hungary, but staff at the Ethnographic Museum in Budapest dismissed them as kitsch. I have broken down the original picture and repositioned the imagery so that it no longer makes a picture, but a decoration. The distribution of imagery in this piece is influenced by the composition of another work, Everything is better now.
A story waiting to be told 2004 Painted mild steel, stitched aluminium 134 cms x 122 cms I had been playing around with the idea of combining male and female costume for a long time and was getting nowhere. I continued layering wire on the man’s jacket, which is on the left, and then began working on a piece about the work of another writer, Michelle Roberts. Reading Daughters of the House again, I made visual lists of imagery, which appealed to me in the story, Two red petticoats Blue cardigan Wobbly red cross stitch on gingham Burning red dot Skimpy bunched frocks, little aprons tied on over them I was also considering what a writer would wear to write in, and looking at occupational costume, aprons and smocks were worn to cover up your best clothes whilst working. The stitched metal sheet denotes ‘best’ here.
I’m breaking through 2004 Painted mild steel 90 cms x 131 cms I wanted to make a piece that reached out and cut across the more static pieces, and did not have a hanger attached. I enlarged and cut up a drawing my sister made as a child of a butterfly and inserted it into a line drawing I made of her dancing in a black dress.
How he unfolds in my life 2005 Painted mild steel 111 cms x 55 cms My father was a brilliant draughtsman; his drawings were clear, accurate and crisp. He was also a natty dresser and owned many jackets, sliced through here with the collar of his naval uniform. The piece is also influenced by the metalwork of Michael Craig-Martin and the collection which John Galliano designed for Dior based on military uniform.
Shapechangers in Winter (extract) Margaret Atwood
above Shirt for my daughter
I feel it as a pressure, an added layer: above, the white waterfall of snow thundering down; then attic, moth-balled sweaters, nomadic tents, the dried words of old letters; then stairs, then children, cats and radiators, peeling paint, us in our bed, the afterglow of a smoky fire, our one candle flickering; below us, the kitchen in the dark, the wink of pots on shelves; then books and tools, then cellar and furnace, greying dolls, a bicycle, the whole precarious geology of house crisscrossed with hidden mousetrails, and under that a buried river that seeps up through the cement floor every spring, and the tree roots snouting their slow way into the drains...
Poem From Llanybri Lynette Roberts If you come my way that is... Between now and then, I will offer you A fist full of rock cress fresh from the bank The valley tips of garlic red with dew Cooler than shallots, a breath you can swank In the village when you come. At noon-day I will offer you a choice bowl of cawl Served with a ‘lover’s’ spoon and a chopped spray Of leeks or savori fach, not used now, In the old way you’ll understand. The din Of children singing through the eyelet sheds Ringing ‘smith hoops, chasing the butt of hens; Or I can offer you Cwmcelyn spread above If you come my way...
With quartz stones from the wild scratchings of men You will have to go carefully with clogs Or thick shoes for it’s treacherous the fen, The East and West Marshes also have bogs. Then I’ll do the lights, fill the lamp with oil, Get coal from the shed, water from the well; Pluck and draw pigeon with crop of green foil This your good supper from the lime-tree fell. A sit by the hearth with blue flames rising, No talk. Just a stare at ‘Time’ gathering Healed thoughts, pool insight, like swan sailing Peace and sound around the home, offering You a night’s rest and my day’s energy. You must come – start this pilgrimage Can you come? – send an ode or elegy In the old way and raise our heritage.
1954 Bangor, North Wales
Education 1976–78 M.A. Printed Textiles R.C.A. 1973–76 B.A. Printed Textiles Winchester School of Art 1972–73 Hornsey College of Art Foundation Course Awards 2003 1999 1996 1984 1982 1979 1977
Creative Wales Award – Arts Council of Wales Wales Arts International Travel Award Arts Council of Wales Award for research in Slovakia British Council Scholarship for research in Romania British Council Scholarship for research in Hungary British Council Scholarship for research in Czechoslovakia based at Comenius University, Bratislava, for five months Sandersons Art in Industry Award for research in Poland and Czechoslovakia
Collections 2000 Bankfield Museum, Halifax 1999 Povazske Museum, Zilina, Slovakia Victoria and Albert Museum, London 1978 Commissions 2004 Commissioned by N.H.S. Grampian for the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital Made prize for Welsh Business Person of the Year, presented at the 2000 National Eisteddfod of Wales, Llanelli
Selected Solo Exhibitions 2000 Unwinding the Thread Bankfield Museum, Halifax 1999 Focus showcase – Contemporary Applied Arts, London 1999 Embroideries in the Air Povazske Museum, Zilina, Slovakia (catalogue) 1999 Embroideries in the Air Slovak National Museum, Martin, Slovakia Unwinding the Thread The Gallery, Ruthin Craft Centre (catalogue) (tour) 1998 1997 Unwinding the Thread The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea Folk Art of Three Lands Revisited Haverfordwest Library Gallery (tour) 1987 The European Centre for Folk Studies, Llangollen and Oriel Bangor 1981 Czech Chic South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell (tour) including The Winchester Gallery, Winchester; Holt Street Gallery, Birmingham 1980 Five Months Spectro Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Selected Group Exhibitions 2003 Celebrating Education – Contemporary Applied Arts, London 2003 SOFA Chicago – represented by Ruthin Craft Centre Gweld Llais a Chlywed Llun National Eisteddfod of Wales, Arts Council of 2003 Wales Pavilion curated by Ruthin Craft Centre 2002 Euromix – Salts Mill Gallery, Yorkshire 2002 Decade Ruthin Craft Centre 2002 Drawn Oriel Myrddin Gallery, Carmarthen 2001 National Eisteddfod of Wales, Denbighshire 2001 Telling Aberystwyth Arts Centre 1996 National Eisteddfod of Wales, Llandeilo National Eisteddfod of Wales, Bro Colwyn 1995 1993 Metalworks Oxford Gallery 1992 A Westward Eye Cork Art Institute (two person show) 1992 Live Wire City Gallery, Leicester; Ruskin Gallery, Sheffield (tour)
1992 1991 1991 1990 1989 1988 1985 1984 1979 1979
National Eisteddfod of Wales, Aberystwyth A Welsh Proposal West Wharf Gallery, Cardiff (two person show) Riveting Stuff Oriel 31, Welshpool, Powys Leeds Craft & Design Gallery Ingenious Inventions Harris Museum, Preston Figure Happy Midlands Art Centre (tour) The Minories, Colchester, Essex (two person show) ‘4 at 7’ 7 Dials Gallery, London The Open and Closed Book Victoria & Albert Museum, London The Curwen Gallery, London
Magazines 2003 VIEW ON COLOUR, issue 23, Visible skills of daily living CRAFTS, issue March/April 2002, Domestic Science 2002 1998 EMBROIDERY, Unwinding the Thread Television 2002 P’nawn Da feature for S4C Digital Heno feature for S4C 1999 1998 Sioe Gelf feature for S4C Catalogues 2003 Gweld Llais a Chlywed Llun published by Ruthin Craft Centre 2002 Decade published by Ruthin Craft Centre 1999 Embroideries in The Air published by Povazske Museum Unwinding The Thread published by Ruthin Craft Centre 1998
Residencies 2003 Caerfelin Primary School, Carmarthenshire 2002 Newcastle Emlyn Secondary School, Ceredigion South Hill Park Arts Centre, Berkshire 1984 1980 Spectro Arts Workshop, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Published 1984 1980 1979 1978 1978
Works A Drawing a Day – A Month in Hungary published by Julia Griffiths Jones Five Months in Czechoslovakia printed at Spectro Arts, Newcastle upon Tyne Derby Cathedral in conjunction with the Aylesford Cottage Press Folklor Polski in conjunction with the Aylesford Cottage Press A Diary printed at the Royal College of Art
Lecturing 2004– 2000–04 1991–00 1991–00 1982–90 1981–83 1978–90
Associate Lecturer, Swansea Institute Senior Lecturer, U.W.I.C. Cardiff Associate Lecturer, U.W.I.C. Cardiff Associate Lecturer, C.C.T.A. Carmarthen Associate Lecturer, Middlesex University Part-time Lecturer, Epsom School of Art and Design Part-time Lecturer, Berkshire College of Art and Design
Design Work 1978–92 a range of commissioned work in various media including textiles, paper & metal. Commissioning companies include: Paperchase, C.T. Strangeways, Butters, Sasha Wardell, Jenny Frean and The House of James; textile designs sold in Paris, Milan, U.K., and the Republic of Ireland
Acknowledgements Julia Griffiths Jones I would like to especially thank all my family for their constant support, particularly Peter, Watcyn and Sara. Also to Menna Owen-Strong and Mary Schoeser for their invaluable help in the making of this exhibition. Many others have encouraged me along the way: Eleanor Glover; Gillian St. John Griffiths; Nathalie Camus; Philip Hughes; Audrey Walker; Hilary Rhys Osmond; Jacqui Mclennan; Mary La Trobe Bateman; Celia Rees, and all the staff on the Surface Pattern Design course at Swansea Institute, and for that I am deeply grateful. Ruthin Craft Centre would like to thank and acknowledge the assistance of the following: the Arts Council of Wales and Nathalie Camus; Mary Schoeser; Mary La Trobe Bateman and Sonja Collins at Contemporary Applied Arts; Sara Roberts; Hafina Clwyd; Fennah Podschies; Lisa Rostron; Dave Lewis; Roger Mansbridge; and Pete Goodridge and ArtWorks. Mary Schoeser is an internationally known writer and critic, and the author of several influential publications on the applied arts. Her most recent works include More is More: an antidote to minimalism, published by Conran Octopus (London) and Reed Publishing (NZ) Limited, and World Textiles: a concise history, published worldwide by Thames and Hudson in their Story of Art series. As a Research Fellow at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, she is currently curating Fashion’s Memory: from peasant art to wearable art for venues in the USA and UK. Ruthin Craft Centre Exhibition staff: Philip Hughes & Jane Gerrard.
Design: lawn www.lawn-hq.co.uk Photography: Jason Ingram except Healing apron, Thankyou dress and location photography: Graham Matthews Printed by: Synergy Printed with vegetable based inks, on paper sourced from sustainable forests This exhibition catalogue is also available in a Welsh Language Version Published by The Gallery, Ruthin Craft Centre. Text © the authors and RCC 2005. ISBN 1 900941 82 1 The Gallery Ruthin Craft Centre is part of Denbighshire County Council and is supported by the Arts Council of Wales.
Julia Griffiths Jones – Stories in the Making is a Ruthin Craft Centre touring exhibition with support from the Arts Council of Wales. Poem from Llanybri printed with kind permission of Angharad Rhys. Extract from Shapechangers in Winter published in Eating Fire, Selected Poetry 1965–1995 by Margaret Atwood. Reproduced with permission of Curtis Brown Group Ltd London on behalf of Margaret Atwood. © Margaret Atwood 1995. Extract from Sorceress by Celia Rees printed with kind permission of Bloomsbury. For further information on Julia Griffiths Jones visit www.juliagriffithsjones.co.uk
The Gallery Ruthin Craft Centre Park Road, Ruthin, Denbighshire, North Wales LL15 1BB Tel: 01824 704774
Julia Griffiths Jones
ISBN 1 900941 82 1
Julia Griffiths Jones