Through Our Hands Magazine | Issue 7 - Winter 2015

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linda seward talks to Luke Haynes

Mathilde Renes Judy Coates Perez Rachel Wright Anne Williams talks to Christine Chester and Alice Fox and more...

issue 7 Winter 2015


Cover Cover: Gay E. Lasher, Dangerous Curves @throughourhands

Through Our Hands ‘the magazine’ Established 2014. Editors: Laura Kemshall, Linda Kemshall, Annabel Rainbow Design: Laura Kemshall Submissions and advertising enquiries: Issue 7 - Winter 2015 Published by Through Our Hands November 2015 © Through Our Hands, 2014-15. All content copyright. No part of this publication to be copied or reproduced in any form without prior written permission from the copyright holder(s). 11 Knightcote Drive, Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

Contributing authors Annabel Rainbow Laura Kemshall Linda Seward Terry Grant Linda Barlow Sandra Meech Judy Coates Perez Gay E. Lasher

Mathilde Renes Kate Bridger Rachel Wright Anne Williams Hilary Grayson

throughourhands. 07877 402455

Find out more about our contributors on the website:

In this issue... Welcome 4 Gay E. Lasher 5 Mathilde Renes 11 Interview: Linda Seward poses the questions to Luke Haynes 17 Hilary Grayson 25 Judy Coates Perez 29 Terry Grant: What Would Happen 35 Unfinished Works 41 Desert Island Designs - Linda Barlow 53 Kate Bridger 55 Sandra Meech 63 Rachel Wright 69 Stitch-Links 77

55 kate bridger

11 mathilde renes

linda seward interviews:


Luke Haynes

5 gay e. lasher



terry grant

judy coates perez

69 rachel wright

Catalogue: Linda Barlow Searching for the Invisible Woman

Available from the Through Our Hands online bookstore, only £10

Textiles Re:imagined 50 contemporary artists pushing the boundaries of textiles, fiber and mixed media

A book by

“If you’re a fan of embroidered art or you’re in a position to teach and share exciting art with people, you owe it to yourself to get a copy of Textiles Re:imagined. I cannot recommend it enough!” Jamie ‘Mr X Stitch’ Chambers

For more info visit:

Welcome Hello again! A huge warm welcome to our latest Through Our Hands, the magazine. Laura, Linda and Annabel have worked hard to bring you another packed edition, and all absolutely free to read online. We have articles by your favourite authors including Anne Williams who tells us about a visit she made to an exhibition called Unfinished, at The Courtauld Gallery, and she begins a short series of interviews with a host of celebrity textile artists to ask them about their own unfinished work. In this edition we find out about Alice Fox and Christine Chester. Award winning writer, Linda Seward interviews Luke Haynes, and Terry Grant ponders on experimentation and asks the question, What Would Happen If……?

Annabel Rainbow

We have fabulous articles by some well-known artists, and some that are perhaps new to you; Judy Coates Perez, Gay E. Lasher, Mathilde Renes, Kate Bridger, and Rachel Wright. We find out about the five artists that form the group Stitch-Links, and Hilary Grayson gives us some invaluable tips on holding an Open Studio exhibition. And finally, our marooned star on the Desert Island is Linda Barlow, who not only tells us about her work, and studio, but what she’d really like as a luxury in life! We hope you’ll enjoy reading the magazine online, but don’t forget you can download a pdf version for £3 if you prefer to read offline on your computer, Kindle, etc., or just to support the exhibitions and artists at Through Our Hands. Laura Kemshall

Thanks so much for your continuing support. Knowing you’re out there reading the magazine makes it all worthwhile. Love, Annabel, Linda and Laura

Linda Kemshall



With tailors, pattern-makers and knitters on both sides of her family, it is not surprising that Gay’s artistic explorations have started and ended with fibre. After successive careers as a weaver, batik artist, photographic collage artist and psychologist, Gay finally came to textiles in the form of art quilting in 2003.

Text and images by Gay E. Lasher

Gay E. Lasher When I was a very young, I loved fairytales, especially the one that challenged a girl with spinning straw into gold. I loved the idea that something really mundane could be turned into something of beauty and value. That idea of change and transformation has been an underlying basis for my work. As a child I was surrounded by textiles. My grandfather, a pattern-maker in a women’s dress factory, brought home buttons and trims from women’s dresses at the end of production runs. My step-grandmother, a talented seamstress, tailored coats and dresses for me. My mother hand painted designs on my clothes and knitted numerous sweaters. And there were plenty of scraps leftover for doll’s clothes.

Facing Page: Abstraction IV, Gay E. Lasher


My first attempt at a call for entry was at the age of fifteen when I entered Seventeen Magazine’s Doll Contest. I received a doll face, a sock and instructions about how to construct the rest. Using wire hangers for hoops, an old green velvet dress of my mother’s for fabric and my grandfather’s

lace trimmings, I created the gown, petticoats and underwear for a Queen Elizabeth I doll and sent it off. The doll, along with all the others, went off to Europe as gifts for underprivileged children. I finished my high school years in Massachusetts, went off to major in biology at college in Philadelphia and then onwards for a Masters Degree in Zoology at Columbia University where I met my husband. For several years after that, packing and unpacking formed the rhythm of my life. We moved many times as he pursued post doctoral appointments until at last in 1969 we came to rest in Denver, CO, where we have lived ever since. During those years of formal education, my interest in art mainly took the form of visiting art galleries and museums wherever I lived and I did that at every opportunity. In Denver, however, with two small children, my fingers itched to do something creative and I began by weaving. I moved from weaving to batik, knitting, crochet, wrapping and even one macramé project.

Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015


Above: First Moment, Gay E. Lasher

As I continued with the batik process, I realized the limitations of my drawing abilities. I enrolled in a drawing class at Metro State College in Denver and then decided to continue for an art degree. Studio classes provided me with the vocabulary for thinking and talking about art. The art history classes gave me a context in which to appreciate and understand the big picture of contemporary art.


As I continued taking classes, I signed up for basic photography and it wasn’t long before I fell in love. Soon I sold the loom, bought an enlarger and set up a home darkroom. For the next ten years or so, I made photographs of locations in Denver that were large empty spaces such as outdoor plazas that reminded me of stage settings.

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I made colour prints of these images and then looked through piles of magazines to find photos of persons or objects to inhabit these spaces, cutting them out and collaging them onto my photographs. These photographs were the beginning of my own alchemical process of changing something mundane into something more exciting. At the end of the 1980s, due to changing circumstances in the family, I returned to school and became a clinical psychologist, practising for about eight years before I retired. Certainly the basis of this profession was change

Upon retiring, I turned again to textiles and started teaching myself art quilting. For about six years I improved my skills and began to develop a resume by responding to calls for entry. I was producing work that followed the themes of the shows I entered, such as poetry, spiritual expressions, the American West and American holidays.

more colour into my work and asked my husband for ideas about how to do this. He said, “Why don’t you take some of your photographs and play around in Adobe Photoshop?” I gulped, terrified I would break something but he assured me I couldn’t. Before long, my favorite function was Undo. At first I just played with Image Adjustments, mostly Shadow/Highlights, Brightness/ Contrast and Saturation. Then I entered the world of Photoshop filters and that was the start of the rest of my life until now.

In 2010, everything changed. I was looking for a way to get

When I applied the first filter, I gasped. Because when the filter

and transformation. During those years of practice, I made no art but did a lot of knitting and continued to take photographs.

Below: Crash Zone, Gay E. Lasher


was applied, the size of the image went to 100% and was way too big even for my large monitor. What I was looking at was a small area of the whole image and it had become abstract. In that moment I could see the possibility of creating other images using the same process. And so it was that the theme of change and transformation that had been meandering though my work for years became central. The process is completely unpredictable which is at the same time frustrating and exciting. I live for that “Aha!� moment when, after many trials and errors and successive steps, suddenly I see an abstract composition that works. Using paper-backed cotton fabric, I inkjet print the image in panels, stitch the panels together, add backing and batting and quilt away. My work from 2010-2013 became a series called Transformations.


Since then, using the same processes, I have completed a series called Playing In Traffic, inspired by the massive traffic delays and detours resulting from a terrific explosion of construction projects in Denver since the end of the recession. I have expressed my frustration with this never-ending situation by using bright saturated colors, chaotic intersecting forms and titles taken from traffic and road signs. In both these series my concerns are formal ones of colour, value, shape, line, repetition and texture. I am very happy and pleased that I have been able to bring together my love of photography and of textiles in this current work.

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Facing page: No Turn on Red, Gay E. Lasher

For more about Gay:

Above: No Exit, Gay E. Lasher



Have you ever kept a diary? In this article we find out all about Mathilde Renes who lives on a houseboat in the Netherlands along with a number of chickens, cats and dogs. She has kept a remarkable diary, cataloguing and illustrating her life in daily drawings and embroideries.

Text and images by Mathilde Renes

Mathilde Renes Firstly, to understand my embroideries, I’ll have to tell you about my illustrative work! The subjects of my embroideries - which I have been making for about a year - are based on my diary illustrations. I started my diary seventeen years ago, in 1997, as a daily drawing practice to improve my skills. I searched for a topic but couldn’t think of one, so I began by drawing

what had happened the day before, assisting at my daughters’ school. Since that day, I have been making a drawing every day about yesterday’s main event. There are short interruptions where I did not draw at all and some short periods of time when I thought I’d had enough and I wasn’t inspired anymore. But during each interruption I realized shortly afterwards I couldn’t stop drawing. Now I have accepted it is part of my life and that it is the main project of my art: in a way I’m illustrating my own life. To understand the diary I have to tell you about me. I live on a houseboat near Haarlem in the Netherlands, surrounded by nature and with a fantastic view over a large lake. I have a husband and four children, two sons and two daughters, all grown up. In 2011, I even became a grandmother of two little girls. Our boat is right next to

Above: Cleaning All Day, Mathilde Renes, illustration


Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015

our large garden, which I love to work in, or actually love to create in. I flourish when it’s flowering. We have chickens, cats and used to have two pugs we loved very much but who unfortunately died last year. The subjects of the diary are about common things happening in daily life, such as doing the laundry, tidying up, shopping, cooking, holidays, maintaining our houseboat, the garden, our pets, our children (and now grandchildren), yoga, reading books, and much more. But it is also about the creative process of my other art work, presentation, framing and preparing exhibitions and so on. A lot of subjects repeat every year or season and one can see us getting older. Although... in my drawings I usually draw things as beautiful as I want them to be, or as I am able to draw. Above: Laundry, Mathilde Renes, embroidery Right: At the Museum, detail, Mathilde Renes, embroidery


From top left: Embroiderer in the Garden, detail, Mathilde Renes, illustration In the Garden, detail, Mathilde Renes, embroidery Had a Nice Walk with the Dogs, detail, Mathilde Renes, illustration

So it makes my friends and me very happy to stay slim and young for eternity in the diary. Nowadays I try to draw little wrinkles in my face and make myself a bit heavier but that’s difficult since I am used to drawing myself in a certain way. Because the subjects are so common and ordinary everyone recognizes a lot in the diary, which is why people enjoy looking at the drawings; at least that’s what I’m often told. My textile art is also very important to me and requires some introduction. In my artwork I have always been fascinated by women, often just a part of the body or clothes. I also have always been attracted to textile materials. I used to knit a lot when I was young and made my own clothes and also took some courses to obtain more skills in textiles. In my artwork, however, I mainly created paintings. Though the subjects were often ‘textiles’, I never really got into creating 13

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textile art. For example, I made a series of paintings, collages and graphics called The Dress and Little Skirt. I created paintings with only a torso with shawl or hat or pearls. I even experimented with using fabrics in my paint work, but I felt it never really succeeded very much. I remained fascinated by textile and textile art, but I struggled with how to apply it in my own work. This all changed a few years ago when I started with knitting sculptures and vases. The sculptures were inspired by my paintings and I knitted them without any preparation, free handed and by improvisation. In the meantime, I basically neglected painting and was only focused on knitting. During the creation of my knit art I took pictures of the process.

I used those pictures and edited them digitally before printing them. One day I got the idea to print those pictures on special transfer paper and iron this on fabric. The ironing didn’t work out very well: actually, it was a disaster! Regardless I started to embroider on and around the printed fabric and so I created my first embroidery, called Damage Control. I was so enthusiastic about embroidery that I wanted to do more. I had inherited a lot of embroidery materials from my late aunt, so I could use the threads and fabrics to experiment. I started with my first little piece and got the idea to use the subjects of my illustrated diary and then I was hooked! Of course I have an enormous supply of

Below: Breakfast in Bed, Black, Mathilde Renes, embroidery



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drawings that want to be embroidered, so for the next couple of years I’ll be very busy. While I am working on one embroidery, the next one is already popping up in my head. In a way I make a drawing with my needle and thread. I start with a black thread just as I start with a black line in my illustrated diary; I don’t want to make a design in advance, because I like it to be sort of primitive and not very precise. I try to experiment, for example I sometimes make just a black and white version, instead of my usual coloured ones.

Facing page: Golden Years, Mathilde Renes, embroidery Above: The Day After, Mathilde Renes, embroidery

Next to my diary-inspired embroidery I also like to do some other subjects and styles of embroidery - some of my work is self-portraiture, for example Angry and my latest one Golden Years. Honestly, I do love embroidery so much I’ll continue, one way or the other, and will not only go on illustrating my own life on paper but also in creating it in textile. It’s such a pleasure to find out that a lot of people all over the world create the most beautiful textile art and also do love my work, which is very stimulating and inspiring.

If you’d like to find out more about me and my work my website is here, or I’m on Facebook where you can follow the diverse range of my textile work and see much more of the illustrated diary.



Luke Haynes Best-selling author Linda Seward continues her interview series. In this issue she talks to Luke Haynes about his quiltmaking.

Text by Linda Seward Images by Luke Haynes


I booked Luke Haynes’ lecture at the Festival of Quilts 2015 for no reason other than an interest in listening to a man talk about his work. Seemingly mild mannered and unassuming, but with a wicked sense of humour that developed as he spoke, Luke wrapped his audience around his little finger and never let go for over an hour. We had to be kicked out by the next lecturer and still didn’t want to leave! I spoke to several other members

of the audience on the way out, and everyone was equally blown away by Luke’s work and his stories. In his gallery later on, I asked Luke if I could interview him for Through Our Hands and he gave his assent. On these pages is a treasure trove of his work but go to his website and have a further look. You can also see Luke talking about his work on YouTube; the addresses for this and Luke’s website are at the end of this article.

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Above: [The American Context #16] Christina’s World, Luke Haynes, quilt, 90” x 110”, 2012 Facing page: Luke Haynes



Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015

Linda: Tell us about your background.

L: How did you “accidentally” find quilting?

Luke (LH): I have lived in fourteen US states, but was born and raised across the American South. I currently live and work in Los Angeles, California.

LH: A chance encounter with a Facing page: [On My Bed #2] Cover, Luke box of fabric remnants given to Haynes, quilt, 105” x 105”, 2007 me years before by my mother sparked my imagination for my first quilt. I sewed the first few pieces together by hand during my 8am English class. That was quickly abandoned in favour of using the machine that was created to make that process more efficient: a sewing machine. The top probably took me two years to piece because I started out small: my first quilt measured 213 x 304 cm/7 x 10 feet.

L: Did you have any formal art training? LH: I went to Cooper Union art school in New York, and then Architecture school. A little known fact about me is that I dropped out of Architecture school (twice), which for my family (who work in traditional professions) seemed like a one way ticket to bagging groceries. When I accidentally found quilting, I realized it was the exact overlap of art and architecture.

Above: [Man Stuff #1] Hammer, Luke Haynes, quilt, 72” x 84”, 2008

L: That is an enormous size for a first quilt, but you seem to be partial to it, as most of your pieces are quite substantial. How do you handle such large work?


LH: I developed a system to piece manageable parts into a larger whole, applying a modern design sense to what has become a familiar process. L: Do you prefer working with any specific fabrics? LH: I like to use reclaimed materials from the local communities I work with, so the pieces speak with the textile language of the area. I find that recycled material has a history and a story to it. The resulting visual interest in my work is the result of not really having choices—I use only what is available. In addition to making quilts from recycled fabrics, I also specialize in adaptive re-use—such as converting old buildings to new uses. Following on from that, I feel that I am a self-proclaimed quilt architect because I use deconstructed clothes that are then reconstructed as quilts.

Above: [On My Bed #3] 2012, Luke Haynes, quilt, 86” x 86”, 2010 Facing page, shown flat and draped: [The American Context #4] Benjamin Franklin, Luke Haynes, quilt, 100” x 100”, 2012

L: What are your favourite techniques?

and of course lots of practice and errors.

LH: A mixture of traditional piecing with figurative appliqué.

L: Where do you get your inspiration?

L: Are you self-taught or do you go to workshops/classes?

LH: I read a lot of design blogs and also try to answer questions with each series. I find inspiration in furniture, architecture and industrial design.

LH: I am self-taught. But of course no one is really self-taught. I learned from watching and looking, and by asking questions,


L: What is your process for

starting a project? LH: I design the ideas first then think of the best ways to illustrate them with quilts. L: I am particularly drawn to your Log Cabin series. Can you explain a bit about what you are trying to achieve with these? LH: I am working on creating a body of work that challenges the

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gap between art and function. I call it sculpture, but I think there is a lot more to it than a re-branding of language. The common gap between art and architecture is scale. I am making 50 quilts and will hang them in a way that the viewer will have to navigate between and around them rather than just view them from afar. So I am, in a sense, creating art objects that will then become a form of architecture. L: That sounds very exciting indeed (details of this exhibition are at the end of the article). Following on from that, your work is taking off and is being widely exhibited around the world. Can you talk about one of your favourite exhibitions? LH: I had the honour to be in my home town for the opening of Man-Made at the Asheville Art Museum. To be invited back to Asheville, where I went to high school, to see my work on the walls and to have my family there to take pictures with me was such a beautiful catharsis. L: How do your family feel about your chosen art form? LH: It was wonderful to show them what I have been up to when they came to the Asheville exhibition. While they have been supportive, I know that they were a little unsure about what it means to spend all day sewing squares together and not even for a bed.


Above: [On My Bed #1] Tradition, Luke Haynes, quilt, 87” x 87”, 2005 Facing page: [Man Stuff #2] Screwdriver, Luke Haynes, quilt, 98” x 52”, 2008

Maybe they are still unsure what my actual job is, but at least now they know more about what it is that I make/do. L: I understand that you have taken up teaching patchwork. How are you finding that experience? LH: I find the transition from learning to teaching akin to that of child to adult. Really there

is no change, just one day you announce it and then people expect you to be more responsible. L: So what is your approach to teaching? LH: Recently, I had the immense pleasure of teaching in Lithuania. I knew I had eighteen students of various skill levels and majors, five sewing machines, and two days. This gave me the opportunity to think differently. So I decided

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that rather than each making a small project, we would all participate on one larger project that would allow us to put roughly two hundred person hours into a single project rather than fifteen into smaller individual projects. We took what we made on day one, cut it up and shuffled it around to create a new piece. It became a visual history of the two days we spent learning and playing together. You can see the results on my blog.

L: How do you feel about being a man in what is basically considered to be a woman’s world? LH: The answer is that it really doesn’t affect my work except in that the vast majority of those who are doing it and I am learning from are women. The history of the object and culture is wrought with gender bias and expectation, but I prefer to look forward to my usages of the medium and continue to be excited about who else is making awesome things. I hope people take my work on its merit and less on a novelty of gender. L: So, what are your future plans? LH: I am working on the Log Cabin show entitled The Log Cabins of Donald Judd (details below), then I will create a book from the pieces and the exhibition. I have also just launched a fabric line with

Moda fabric so I will be working with them on creating pieces and patterns out of that. I will also be working on a series of interior design elements with a team out of Los Angeles. Luke is definitely an art quilter to watch. I am looking forward to seeing his new fabric line and to following the development of his Log Cabin quilt series. Those of you lucky enough to live in or visit California, don’t miss his exhibition in February; it will be amazing!

To explore further work by Luke Haynes: Q3memqVg Upcoming exhibition “The Log Cabins of Donald Judd” 18th through 29th February Eli Alexander Gallery, 112 E 22nd St #10, San Pedro, CA 90731



Hilary Grayson

holding an open studio

Hilary Grayson tells us about her experiences as part of Buckingham Open Studios, and shares some useful tips for staging your own exhibition.

Text and images by Hilary Grayson

When I was young I used to make dresses for friends and do a bit of traditional patchwork and quilting, but nothing very serious. My interests have changed since then and I am now more interested in modern contemporary quilting. I’ve taken lots of workshops and classes in order to immerse myself in my new love and to gain the skills necessary to declare myself an artist. In June this year I took part in an Open Studios event and wanted to share my experiences with you and perhaps encourage you to have a go yourself. As an artist


you need to promote yourself and this is one exciting way to do it. I took part in Buckinghamshire Open Studios, an initiative run by the Buckinghamshire Visual Arts Group. There are events like this all over the country and it’s very easy to find out if there’s one near you. They were able to offer all sorts of support such as sharing costs by providing a listing in the event’s Directory which was distributed very widely by us and the other artists, ensuring over one hundred visitors from this alone. They also organized professional road signage etc.

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Going solo or in a group? The benefits of sharing an event like this with friends are enormous as you have support from fellow artists to help with the nerves and doubts, make the tea, and talk to visitors! You’re also more likely to attract visitors if there is a large selection of diverse work to see. I didn’t know any suitable people to share with at the start, but I was brave and asked around, and I got in touch with likeminded people from Facebook, City and Guilds’ courses etc. We were able to organize our own private viewing before the main opening, and we invited neighbours, friends, family, other local artists, local gift and art shop owners, and gallery curators. We provided nibbles and a few glasses of fizz! This networking, or marketing, was

Top, right and facing page: Views of work on display during the Open Studio event.


very worthwhile and made sure we were recommended by them to other potential visitors too. The venue I currently occupy a rented house which is ideal for such an event, but here’s some things that you might like to consider when choosing a venue. Visitor Access Make the entrance welcoming for visitors: knocking on a closed door takes a bit more courage for visitors than just popping in


to take a look around. Consider using bunting and signs to make sure it’s obvious what’s going on and where visitors should go. The exhibition space One floor is ideal and somewhere with lots of available wall space. Plan your exhibition so that the visitor is taken on a journey around the work. If your venue is open plan, it will mean you can keep an eye on everything at once and be able to be amongst your visitors even when making refreshments.

Outside space can be very useful too. Perhaps you could use an outhouse or a shed for example. Setting up Allow plenty of time. Imagine how long it may take you and then double it! With three of us, and the help of a couple of friends, hanging the exhibition took two full days. It’s not only the putting up of work, but also the cleaning and tidying of the house as well. We spent a lot on bleach! Make sure you have enough picture hooks, and strong nylon

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fishing line, for hanging work invisibly. I found net curtain tension rods were great for hanging in door recesses etc. Be professional. Remember to run the event as a gallery and not your home. Make sure all work is labelled clearly with details including the price. Artists’ statements are useful and should be informative and nicely presented. Make sure you have professionally printed business cards lying around with contact details for every participant. Have some to hand to pass to visitors when they leave. A visitor book is a useful way of establishing contacts and a way of starting a mailing list. Payments Finally, make sure you can take payment for any sales. There are lots of systems for taking credit and debit card payments via smart phones or tablets. We settled on a system called iZettle, which provides a card reader for about £35 which plugged into an iPad via the headphones jack, and about one third of all our sales were made on this system. We had a central pay point, where purchases were wrapped, and hand written receipts were issued if required.

about our work and we’ve all made useful contacts. It’s built my confidence no end, and I now feel able to call myself an artist.

Will we do it again? You bet! We’ve already thought about our next venue. Was it worth it? Absolutely, yes. Two of us have been approached by a gallery

For more about Hilary and her work take a look at her blog: livingtowork-workingtolive.



Judy Coates Perez

life in a tailspin

“My life went into a tailspin and I produced some of my best work”. Judy Coates Perez tells us more about how life events have formed her art.

Text and images by Judy Coates Perez

Art has a tremendous ability to heal and transform one’s state of mind and well-being. On the angriest night of my life, the night I let the volcano of emotions erupt over my husband’s affair and the end of our twenty-year marriage, I pulled out every jar of red paint on the shelf and brushed, splattered, and flung it onto a large piece of cotton batting while I poured out my grief. The next day, using a rotary

cutter, I cut big gashes in a piece of aqua-blue hand-dyed cotton, backed with Mistyfuse, and ironed it to the painted red batting. The calm, watery blue surface, evoked the emotional place I was seeking, and the exposed red batting was like my raw and broken heart. I quilted long, undulating, waterlike lines over the blue and filled the red batting with hand and machine stitching in an attempt to transform the ugly raw anger into hope and beauty and come out the other side in a better place. To complete the design I satin stitched a black Tarot symbol 3 of Swords, to represent loss, betrayal and heartbreak. A year later, I used acrylic inks to paint a field of colourful flowers for Black and Bloom All Over. I began by randomly brushing large strokes of colour on a piece of white cotton, then used a permanent marker to write aspirational messages for myself, that were not meant to be read clearly in the finished art, just embedded talismans for my healing. Using a white paint pen,

Left: 3 of Swords, Judy Coates Perez, quilt, 36”x 48”, 2010 Painted cotton batting, hand-dyed cotton fabric, hand stitched, free motion machine quilted. 29

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Above: Black & Bloom All Over, Judy Coates Perez, quilt, 36� x 48�, 2011 Whole cloth art quilt painted with acrylic inks, textile paints, hand carved stamps, stenciled with Shiva paint sticks, printed tea bags adhered with gel medium, free motion machine quilted


I drew flowers and leaves and painted the background blue. I painted thorny black weeds on top of the bright floral imagery, to show that life was still painful and difficult at times, but overall things were looking up: I was more optimistic that things were going to be OK. The modern world of dating is not for the faint of heart, especially for women nearing fifty, but after having a long and fairly lonely marriage, I was determined to give it my best shot. This, of course, required fortitude and regular sanity breaks, and eventually I made it past two dates with one guy and became optimistic. After several months of sporadic dates with him, my still fragile heart was broken again, which led to a bit of obsessive tarot card reading and my piece The 8 of Cups. I began by drawing a large anatomical heart from an old medical engraving, extending the arteries into curving vines to represent new growth and life. I painted over the image with large colourful brush strokes of translucent acrylic ink, and painted a variety of symbolic images: cicadas for communication, a skull with wings for death of the relationship and I collaged images of tarot cards Left: 8 of Cups, Judy Coates Perez, quilt, 24�x 60�, 2012 Whole cloth painted with acrylic inks, textile paint, gold paint pen, copic marker with tarot images printed on abaca paper adhered with gel medium, free motion machine quilted 31

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printed on sheer abaca fibre paper. Then I drew eight large teacups across the fabric and painted white with feathery scrolllike designs around them letting the imagery of the painted cloth become the designs on the cups. I feel like when I create imagery in this manner, embedding words and symbols under overlapping patterns and images, it’s painful but transformative. The process helps me on a deeper level to internalize the meaning behind it. I painted Fear of Flying after a scary round-trip flight from Chicago to Cleveland while a particularly turbulent weather condition was in effect. On my return, I sat next to a nice-looking man, who turned out to be an aeronautical engineer. While the plane dipped, swayed and bucked like a bronco, he sat calmly, cool as a cucumber, and I realized I had nothing to fear. The plane’s wings were not going to snap off, plummeting us to the ground in a ball of flames, the way I imagined. And to top it off this tall, intelligent, funny, and interesting guy found me attractive! I hadn’t encountered all those qualities in one package, in the three years I’d been dating. The unfortunate thing was, he was married, which seemed to confirm my observation that all Right: Fear of Flying, Judy Coates Perez, 24” x 60”, 2013 Whole cloth art quilt painted cotton, free motion machine quilted.


the good, functional ones are, but instead I chose to see it as a gift. He gave me hope that I might eventually find a guy like him, but I needed to move back home to California before finding one. My last piece in this series Discovering the Hidden Perks of a Truckload of Dung, is named after a chapter in a book on finding happiness amongst life’s difficulties, written by Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm, called Opening the Door of Your Heart. I listened to this book in audio form each night for about a year to help me fall asleep when my marriage first ended. In 2008, with the recession at its peak, my husband was working 2000 miles away and the banks weren’t processing loans, so we couldn’t sell our loft in Chicago. By the time he was laid off from that job a year later, our marriage was over too. I actively pursued loan modification to no avail while the bank insisted the only way to qualify was to keep paying the mortgage, so I ran through our life savings trying to keep up with the bills. Without consistent work and no help from the bank, the mortgage slid into default. I put our loft on the market for a short sale and went to court every six weeks to fight the foreclosure. After six months, I got a contract on our place and a month later got the foreclosure dismissed. Four months after that, we closed on the sale and I drove back to California. One of the first things I did, after getting settled in Sacramento was to plant a garden of sunflowers and bougainvillea. I listened to the birds chirp, felt the warm sun on my back, and cried tears of joy. I had made it through what seemed an endless nightmare, and I was so grateful to have such difficult years behind me and felt truly happy.


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I had a hard time seeing past that truckload of $#*t dumped on my life. It was truly overwhelming at times and felt so unfair, but bit by bit I shovelled my way through it. I live every day with gratitude: for my perseverance, my capacity to find humour in difficult times, the tall, intelligent, funny, and interesting man I met six months after my move who has captivated my heart for the last two years, and especially my ability to turn to art as a means for processing my feelings.

Facing page and detail above: Discovering the Hidden Perks of a Truckload of Dung, Judy Coates Perez, 25�x71�, 2014 Whole cloth art quilt painted with acrylic inks, collaged printed imagery, stamps, free motion machine quilted

For more about Judy and her work:



Catching up with the latest from Terry Grant’s studio.

Text and images by Terry Grant

Below: Textile sample, Terry Grant Facing page: Pennsylvania Farmhouse, Terry Grant, quilt


Terry Grant

What would happen...

When I was a child I invented paint. Yes, I really did. I was certain that paint was nothing more than finely crushed crayons, mixed with water. I gathered jars and containers, found a big round rock to use for crushing my crayons and created jars of paint. I was pretty excited about all the paint I was going to have. Well, you know that didn’t work, but I

think it was the first of my artistic experiments, which continue to this day. Part of my process of art making is asking myself, “what would happen if I mixed this with this... Or glued that to that... Or....?” A few weeks ago I was cleaning and organizing my studio for our annual Open Studios event and kept finding little samples I made of techniques or ideas I needed to try out. I think of making art as a continual process of problem solving, and sometimes when nothing I have previously tried is working, I know it is time to get inventive and coax out some new ideas. When I get one of these what-would-happen ideas I like to test it in miniature before I commit myself to something like painting a large surface that might just flake completely away (note to Leonardo da Vinci...) or destroying my entire box of crayons for nought. As a result I have quite a collection of what-would-happens that I should probably throw away, but are reminders to keep trying something new. Well, new for me.

Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015


Left: Rhythm of Rain, Terry Grant, quilt Above: Stitch sample, Terry Grant

I have belonged to a few online discussion groups for quilters and fibre artists over the years and it is very common for someone to post, asking the question, “What would happen if...I used dental floss to quilt with; mixed fabric paint with acrylic paint; burned the edges of silk; sewed paper onto my quilt; used bubble wrap for batting; left the edges unfinished; sewed through metal foil; embroidered with my own hair; dyed fabric with beet juice; etc, etc...?”. If I were to respond, which I usually don’t, I would say try it and see. But there is always someone who will answer these queries, “yes it works,” or “no, don’t try it,” or even, “I don’t think you are supposed to do that.” And often all those responses are to the same question. We live in a world where everything comes with directions and even the creative among us


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seem to rely on having the exact formula spelled out, until we come across an idea that doesn’t seem to have ready made instructions. Then we ask, or experiment. I always prefer the experiment. And I have begun to notice that the artists whose work seems the most original and interesting and personal are also the ones who have invented their own techniques and tools and ways of working. Their way wouldn’t necessarily work for everyone. I know someone who puts her sewing machine on the floor and sits on one leg and sews. I tried it. I hated it and can’t imagine how she does it, but it works brilliantly for her. Isn’t that great? My recent experiments all seem to involve different ways of achieving interesting line in my work. Sometimes the stitched thread line seems too slight and I want something bolder. I have tried thicker threads, which my sewing machine baulks at, but experimenting showed that I could use the thicker thread in the bobbin and stitch from the back side. I know that’s not a new idea, but I had to try it to know which threads to try, how thick they could be and whether it would really work for me. It does. I wondered if I could freely couch a cord using a zigzag stitch and free-motion stitching. I can, but it is not as flowing and spontaneous as I had hoped and a little too

fiddly and slow for me. Good to know. I won’t be using that. Paint is always an option, so I tested brushes and little squeeze bottles. I like the bottles, but I had to do some shopping and experimenting to know which ones had the smoothest tips. Then, of course, which paints and combinations of additives provide the smoothest applications. I even wondered if I could paint onto a silicone surface, let it dry and then transfer the painted design to fabric. Maybe a hot iron would soften the paint enough to adhere it to the fabric? Well, no, it won’t. And now I know. I could have asked my online friends, but I think I would still have made the little samples. That is the real proof to me that something will or will not work for me. Most of my experimentation is done alone, but I am lucky to have a group of friends who are willing to join the fun and we have a day of experimenting every so often. The results are always interesting and informative. Not everything works out, but we find the failures as educational as the successes. Our paste resist experiment of several years back is still the source of a lot of laughs, remembering how hard we worked to remove paste that had dried like concrete, and how we employed every tool we could find in our rented retreat cabin, including screwdrivers, hammers and corkscrews to attack

the hardened resist. Some of it never came off. For the record, it was by far the biggest, messiest mess we have ever had to clean up, but some of the results were really great and we had the best time! We will continue to experiment. I know experimentation will always be a part of my art practice, and now I have gathered these little bits and swatches and they seem both pointless and too good to throw away. I could set them aside for reference or I could actually incorporate some of them in my work. I wonder what would happen if I...

For more information about Terry:


Gallery Bookshop Discover a selection of books that you simply won’t find in your high street bookstore. Titles from :

Through Our Hands Portfolio

Foreword by Maggie Grey, all 27 Through Our Hands artists featured, plus extra articles. 84 pages, full colour, ÂŁ10 plus P&P.

Eszter Bornemisza, Linda Barlow, Jette Clover, Mirjam Pet-Jacobs and more. It is often possible for your book to be signed by the artist, please just enquire when ordering.

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Inspired by The Courtauld Gallery’s summer display Anne Williams asked some textile artists for their thoughts about unfinished works in artistic practice. We begin this short series with a closer look at works from The Courtauld and textile artists Christine Chester and Alice Fox.

Text by Anne Williams Images courtesy of the Courtauld Gallery, Christine Chester and Alice Fox


works from The courtauld gallery

Unfinished… Works from The Courtauld Gallery provided a rare chance to see paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures from the 1500s to the early 20th century that have been described as ‘unfinished’. Before visiting the exhibition I wondered why a gallery would show – or even collect – unfinished pieces. But Dr Karen Serres, Curator of

Paintings, explains, “Such works were an unparalleled way to learn about the artistic process and question academic conventions.” And as a leading centre for the study of art history, conservation and curating, The Courtauld holds an unusually high number of unfinished works. Entering the gallery the appeal

Left: Turning Road (Route Tournante), Paul Cézanne, c1905. The Courtauld Gallery London

Facing page: Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist, Perino del Vaga, c1528–37. The Courtauld Gallery London 41

Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | Winter 2015

Left: Vase of Flowers, Claude Monet, 1881–2. The Courtauld Gallery London

of the pieces selected was immediately apparent, and one of the show’s highlights was the captivating Perino del Vaga’s Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist, painted in c1528–37. During the Renaissance there was greater command of realism, of light and shadow and anatomical accuracy, and this work gives a rare insight into the early stages of painting


during this period. Some areas have been painted in minute detail, but in others the canvas has been left bare save for strokes marking features. As well as this glimpse into the artist’s methods and materials, the juxtaposition of finished and incomplete areas gives the work a beguiling quality. But as well as providing an

understanding of how pieces are produced, unfinished artworks raise many issues about artistic practice. And perhaps the most fundamental question is, “What is an unfinished artwork?”, and “If something is defined as unfinished, why wasn’t it completed?” The works most straightforward to classify as ‘unfinished’ are those that remain incomplete due to the

Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 6 | august 2015

untimely death of the artist. But things aren’t always that simple… Some pieces have clearly been left in a state of ‘undress’, but why? Did the artist simply get bored with a piece and abandon it to move on to something else? Or perhaps they were struggling with the composition and unable to resolve it, set the piece aside with the intention of returning to it once their ‘block’ had lifted, and for whatever reason it just didn’t get finished. Or, more controversially, was the state of incompleteness intentional? In older ‘classic style’ Right: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Honoré Daumier, 1869–72. The Courtauld Gallery London Below: Lady with a Parasol, Edgar Degas, 1870–2. The Courtauld Gallery London


works the viewer has a rough idea of how the finished composition would look, but this isn’t as easy with more abstract pieces. So who’s to say what’s missing and what gaps need to be filled? Up to the mid-19th century, when work was often commissioned, patrons and critics determined whether a piece could be regarded as complete. But later in the 19th century the lighter colours and looser brushstrokes of the Impressionists introduced a tension between the artists’ intent and how their work was perceived, with many critics deeming their work to be unfinished and amateurish. So who gets to decide if an artwork is complete: the artist or the 45

viewer? So with thoughts of what constitutes an unfinished, or finished, artwork swirling around my mind, I wondered how contemporary textile artists feel about these issues in their own practice. I’m very grateful to the textile artists featured here who enthusiastically agreed to take the time to answer my questions; it’s been fascinating hearing their responses.

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Christine chester

Once you’ve started, do you always finish a piece of work?

Now I do. Sometimes my work starts out as an idea which requires development and planning and other times it just grows from playing with process. It has taken me a long time to realise that I now have enough knowledge of process (both wet and dry) to be able to persevere with a piece to correct any apparent mistakes which otherwise might cause me to stop working.

Above: Layers of Silence, Christine Chester, stitched textile Below: Layers of Memory, Christine Chester, stitched textile

Would it feel like a failure to not complete a work?

If I have set out with an idea, it would seem to me to be a waste of the effort and time already paid into the work to give it up, particularly for larger pieces. My work often involves complex layering and so things can go wrong at any stage, but they can also be put right with another layer.

How do you know when a piece of work is finished?

That is one of the hardest questions any artist faces! With some pieces, the time taken in development allows for constant reflection and an idea germinates of what stage should be the final one. Then I pin up the piece and look at it. If the work stays there for a long time I suspect that something else needs to be done. However, if I pin it up and then bring it down after just a few days then I know it’s finished. And sometimes


Above: Palimpsest, Christine Chester, stitched textile

the process itself puts a stop to any more work – when I realise I have put too much media on and can’t stitch anymore.

If you make work to commission, does that make it easier to decide when a piece is finished?

The ideas within a commission are often better formed than in my artwork as I have had to try to explain it to the client. There will be drawings and samples and plans. I have a picture in my mind and I have had to price it up so know the processes that will be involved. This means that I can be quite clear with myself about when it is finished – but I usually still do more than I had intended.

Do you ever go back to a piece you’d considered to be finished and add to, or even take away from it? What have been the reasons for doing this?

I don’t add anything after I think it is finished – I have usually thought long and hard about whether there is enough stitching before stopping. Very occasionally I have unpicked small sections of the work as I have looked 47

at it and decided that something was wrong. Before unpicking I will try to cover up parts of the work in order to decide what needs doing. But generally this has been within a couple of weeks of completion. I have never let something go for a long time before changing it. Once complete, I want to move on to the next piece. We could pick and pick at some things without ever making an improvement – then how do we learn what is better? It is a bit like when you are sketching and you draw a line which is wrong; I was always taught not to rub it out before drawing in the new line. The old line gives a reference to help guide us to create the correct line.

Do you make pieces that you never had any intention of finishing? Why do you make these pieces? Are they samples in preparation for making a fully resolved work?

I do occasionally make reasonable size samples in order to sort out how to do the final layers of quilting, or how to work with an unfamiliar process, or with a process which I am experimenting with. I know these are samples when I make them, but I do sometimes use fabrics which

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I have created for other purposes to use in the samples. But as some of my pieces now grow organically from experiments with process on fabric, I am constantly making fabric which might or might not end up as part of finished pieces.

through a piece, I often refer to other artists to help me decide whether there is something I am missing about how to resolve problems within a piece. I think we don’t always see things clearly when we have been working with them for so long.

If you leave work unfinished is it because you’ve totally abandoned the piece or might you set it aside with the intention of returning to it in the future? Or, at the time, do you not know which category it will fall into?

If you’ve returned to an unfinished piece after some time, did the intent behind it change? If so, what might the reasons for this be?

I develop fabrics which remain ‘unfinished’ because I have not found the right piece to use them with. So they stay in my stash waiting for an opportunity to be used. My very first paper lamination stayed on a roll for a long time until I had fully mastered the process. Then I found my voice in terms of making work about dementia and my father, made several pieces of work, and then I layered it up on Layers of Memory which went into Quilt National 2013. I bring them out every time I start working on a new piece, and audition them together with newer pieces to determine whether I need to make more fabric for layering or if I have the right things already for the idea I have in my head.

Where do you keep unfinished work? Might you leave it somewhere you can see it hoping that the answer to what you need to do to complete it comes to you? Would you show the work inprogress to other people to help unlock what you need to do to resolve the piece?

As pieces develop, there are times when ideas and intent do change from initial plans. For me, this is mainly because the previous layer or process has not ended up quite as I expected or planned, and I have to adjust the following layers to fit. Sometimes this means doing less and sometimes more.

Would you ever exhibit your unfinished works? If yes, what do you think would be the value of displaying the pieces? I would display unfinished work as I would a sketchbook – to show developmental work alongside finished work.

How do you think you would you feel if someone else completed your unfinished work/s?

Hmm – tricky one. It could go badly wrong in that either the finish was not doing justice to the start of the piece, or, possibly worse, it might be better and I might kick myself for not thinking of that in the first place!

For more information about Christine’s work:

I keep all my pieces on a roll and enjoy unravelling it every time I start something new to remind me of what I have previously done. As I work


Above: Unfinished, Alice Fox, stitched textile Facing page: Leaf Lexicon (Translated), detail, Alice Fox, stitched textile 49

Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015

alice fox

Once you’ve started, do you always finish a piece of work?

Usually, yes. I do a lot of samples, which can seem like unfinished pieces but they are not intended to be seen or treated as ‘finished’.

If you’re a finisher, why do think this might be?

I generally only start a piece that’s resolved – rather than an experiment or sample – once I know what I want to achieve. This might often be for a specific exhibition, so I need to finish it!

How do you know when a piece of work is finished?

Sometimes you just know when it reaches a point where it is right. I don’t always know exactly how a piece will turn out in the end because I may be stitching or weaving a certain surface and then that gets stained or marked. Once the marks are made, it is finished. Then I have to decide whether I like the outcome or it has achieved what I hoped for. In some cases a deadline can help you decide when it is finished.

If you make work to commission, does that make it easier to decide when a piece is finished? That depends on the terms of the commission. For one recent commission there was discussion with the commissioners part way through the process to agree on how the final piece would be resolved.

Do you ever go back to a piece you’d considered to be finished and add to, or even take away from it? What have been the reasons for doing this? Not usually.

unfinished and then decided actually it was finished and needed no further work to complete it? What changed your mind? An unfinished piece might feed into other ideas, so becomes a sample effectively.

Do you make pieces that you never had any intention of finishing? Why do you make these pieces? Are they samples in preparation for making a fully resolved work?

I make samples or experiments a lot. I am always trying things out and attempting to answer questions in my work. What happens if I do this? What might this do? There can be a fine line between what constitutes a sample and a ‘finished’ piece. If the experiment turns out well it might become a finished piece. If it doesn’t work as hoped then it is a sample but will still help move towards more successful pieces.

If you leave work unfinished is it because you’ve totally abandoned the piece or might you set it aside with the intention of returning to it in the future? Or, at the time, do you not know which category it will fall into?

It could be either. The piece in the images was started without knowing what the outcome might be. I was really pleased with the marks on the cloth but I then couldn’t decide how to bring them together without losing the delicacy of the fine fabric and the way the cloth sat when just pinned. I may well come back to it, but in the meantime it is on the studio wall and I am living with it until I decide either what to do next or to put it away and move on. This piece wasn’t ever meant for a specific exhibition or end point, which perhaps means it lacks the impetus to be resolved.

Conversely, have you ever set aside a piece as being


If you abandon work, is this likely to be early on in the making process? The longer you’ve spent on a piece, are you more likely to persist to try to complete it? Yes. Once I’ve committed to something I am more likely to persist.

Do you destroy abandoned work? If you do, why? And if you don’t, why?

No, I would usually keep things in case they could be used in the future, or they are treated as a sample and kept for reference.

Where do you keep unfinished work? Might you leave it somewhere you can see it hoping that the answer to what you need to do to complete it comes to you?

I keep samples in a series of drawers and boxes. Some of these might be used as teaching samples. Some remain on my studio wall if they are still relevant to developing work.

How long would you leave a piece before you consider that it will never be finished – or would you say ‘never say never’? I keep most things as a record of development, so unfinished and samples are mingled.


Do you ever deliberately leave parts of a work ‘unfinished’, so to you it’s a finished piece but the viewer might disagree? What is the ambiguity between finished and unfinished expressing? My view of ‘finished’ may well differ from the viewers. I often leave frayed edges or loose threads and have made work where the back was shown as the front (e.g. Leaf Lexicon: Translated). Showing the back was more about hiding the front than appearing unfinished, but some viewers may have felt it was unfinished. Presenting something in a state that some might consider unfinished would still have involved decisions about what that piece was achieving.

Would you ever exhibit your unfinished works? If yes, what do you think would be the value of displaying the pieces? If no, why?

I would show development samples if appropriate. I would only show something that was ‘unfinished’ if there was a requirement to do with the theme of the exhibition. However, if I was to do this I would still be making a decision as to what state of ‘unfinished-ness’ it would be shown in!

Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | Winter 2015

Above: Unfinished, Alice Fox, stitched textile

How do you think you would you feel if someone else completed your unfinished work/s?

Then it would become some sort of collaboration, passing things on for someone else to carry on with what you’ve started.

For more information about Alice’s work:

This article will continue in the Summer 2016 issue of Through Our Hands Magazine when Jenni Dutton, Sara Impey, and Michala Gyetvai will be answering Anne’s questions about their Unfinished Works. Anne Williams is a freelance writer specialising in textiles and quiltmaking. Currently Editor of The Quilter, joint Technical Editor of Popular Patchwork and a regular contributing author to Through Our Hands, Pretty Patches and Fabrications Quilting for You magazines.


Our take on the world famous Desert Island Discs. An artist, eight burning questions and one luxury item.

Desert Island Designs

Linda Barlow 1. What’s your essential art product? Would have to be my Moleskin sketchbook (pure snobbery but the paper is such a pleasing shade of cream!) and some graphite pencils – the place where everything starts. 2. Can you tell us about your favourite technique? Indigo dyeing. No matter how many times I use indigo, the sheer magical delight of seeing that gorgeous green turn into amazing shades of blue


never fails to make me smile. 3. Studio soundtrack, who’s playing on the iPod? Sleaford Mods (these are angry times!) The Fall, Ryan Adams, Beirut, early Van Morrison, War On Drugs, Handsome Family and Nick Cave. Depends on my mood really, miserable music tends to make me happy. 4. Which artist, in a sinking ship full of artists, would you

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throw a lifeline to? Oooh, is there any point throwing a lifeline to a dead artist? Would it bring her back to life? Would dead artists be on a sinking ship anyway? If such resuscitation is possible, it would be Mark Rothko for the sheer impact his work always has on me. I think of the undead, Grayson Perry, for his ability to cut through the rubbish that is talked about art, and make visually pleasing pieces that comment so succinctly on contemporary society. 5. Most inspirational book, place or person? The far west of Cornwall, beyond Penzance always inspires me. I have walked the South West Coast

Path alone, from Minehead to Plymouth (not all at once!) and the section from St Ives to Lands End is my absolute favourite – such an ancient landscape with relatively little visible human intervention. 6. What’s your wildest ambition for your work? To sell enough of it to pay income tax. 7. What’s your happiest creative moment? Difficult – I have to work creatively, it’s not an option. I’m only aware of being miserable when I’m not creating, not particularly aware of being happy at the time. I suppose just going into my shed to start a new project is when I’m happiest – so much potential. Finishing a piece brings a certain satisfaction, but always the feeling that maybe it could have been a little bit better if I’d just dyed this bit a different shade, positioned that bit a little to the left, filled that area with a little more stitch etc etc….! But maybe it’s a healthy thing to never be totally satisfied with your work. 8. What does your studio look like? Messy! And of course, your luxury item? Can I have a fully functioning magic lamp and a bit of fabric with which to rub it?

For more information about Linda and her work:



Someone once said to Kate Bridger “why don’t you just paint?” But Kate is quite happy, and tells us that she prefers to “torture her fabrics” with lots of complex techniques, building layers of colour and texture, and the results are the most amazingly painterly textiles.

Text and images by Kate Bridger

Kate Bridger Fifteen years ago I was at an art show and sale. My booth was beside a delightful painter who marvelled at my work and my ability to manipulate fabric into such painterly art. Eventually, he asked: “Why don’t you just paint?” “Because I don’t know how,” I replied in all seriousness, and was tempted to add, “Why don’t you just sew?”. As a self-proclaimed fabric artist,

it has taken the best part of the past three decades to find my niche and, thanks to publications like this and social media, to find other artists who, like me, never leave the house without a thread or two dangling from their clothing. Twenty-five years ago, when I first labelled myself ‘fabric artist’, it was generally assumed that I must be a quilter; however, the Quilting Guild didn’t accept me, nor did

Left: Doorsteps, Kate Bridger


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Above: Start of a New Journey, Kate Bridger Right: Keeping Afloat , Kate Bridger


the local art club because I wasn’t an ‘artist’ - at least not by their limited definition. All this, of course, only fuelled my passion and commitment to my medium and to proving that I, along with many other undiscovered fabric manipulators, were/ are artists craving recognition for our art, not just the novelty of our medium. My first collection was a series of pieces depicting the highways and byways of northern Ontario where I lived at the time. That part of the world usually commits to winter in October and rarely releases its grip until May, by which time, mosquitoes and other creepy crawlies take over. It took some effort to love the place so, spending time really looking at snow upholstered rocks and forests dappled in stingy light while learning how to recreate those images in fabric, was a great way of connecting with that environment and embarking upon the most important aspect of my art education: learning to see. Above: Mauve Glow, Kate Bridger


In 1994 my family and I moved west to the charming little town of Nelson, British Columbia. It is a mecca for artists, outdoors enthusiasts, vegans and entrepreneurial spirits of all persuasions. Snuggled into the mountains on the shores of Kootenay Lake, Nelson is enchanting with plenty of old (by North American standards, that is) architecture, a vibrant downtown and an outdoor

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playground that is both spectacular and challenging; inspiration unlimited! The wonderful thing about working with fabric, and this is probably one of its main attractions for me, is that it is imperfect; it shifts, it tears, it eschews clean edges and rigidity and, once in a while, it melts. I love its infidelity, unpredictability and the fact that the simple placement of a little piece of fabric can completely alter the direction of a piece I am working on and all I have to do is become a willing accomplice. When I first began working in this medium, my challenge was to see an image I wanted to create and then determine how to pull it off with little more than a collection of fabric scraps and an ancient sewing machine. Those early years were the technical years where the task seemed more about how to do than what to do. Since then, of course, with a number of technical tricks up my sleeve, I have slid unobtrusively into the realm of art. Art is more than ‘how’, it is why and what and, although it still requires diligent attention to technique and

Above: Applied Geometry (1), Kate Bridger

application, it also demands something extra from the artist: a message, perhaps, or simply a different way of seeing something and sharing it with one’s audience. I am drawn to imperfection (phew! what a relief that is). I absolutely love old trucks, rustic archways, peeling paint, crumbling granite and even well placed rubbish. Working with subjects like these provides a freedom not necessarily available when attempting to reproduce modern architecture, portraits or photographic realism. And, whilst I enjoy my commissioned house portraits and the pretty pieces I have created to show off my home town and please the tourists, I still prefer my ruins and relics … after all, they’re already damaged goods, so what harm can I do? These subjects allow me to torture the fabric in so many ways by scratching, scraping, tearing, fraying, stitching and over stitching. My pieces are built from many, many layers of


Above: Save me a Seat in Roma, Kate Bridger

fabric, mostly sheers. By the time a piece is built up it’s often so stiff it could stand on its own. I rarely use printed fabrics but, if I do, I’ll usually use the back not the front. Prints are loud and come with their own agenda: i.e. to provide repetitive and noncredible cloud formations, row upon row of uniform daisies, or yards of uni-dimensional forests. My fabric room is an oversized palette full of textures, colours, shadows and potential. I also have over two thousand spools of thread.

machine capable of straight stitches and zig-zag - a good workhorse is all I need. With surgical precision and scalpel in hand, I can cut and place pieces of fabric no bigger than a grain of rice. I use iron-on fusible webbing to position the pieces and usually have to replace my iron every couple of months. When engrossed in my work, I do not worry about damaged Teflon surfaces, or spilled pins, fabric scraps and wayward threads all over the floor. A tidy studio is a fallow studio.

An assembled collage is never enough for me; it needs the freestyle stitching to accentuate the shadows and textures that the fabric foundation has only begun to communicate. I have a simple sewing

When I’m not sewing, which isn’t very often these days, I am out and about harvesting images, or hunkered down in my studio working on my second novel. I also write an interior decorating blog based


Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015

on a book I published in 2011. I am a picture framer, part-time office administrator (because, sadly, art alone does not pay the bills!) and I love to travel, explore, read and spend time with my two adult sons, one living in Europe and the other in northern British Columbia.

For more about Kate Bridger:

Below: Put out to Pasture, Kate Bridger



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Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015

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A selection of The Dementia Darnings can be seen at The Parkside Gallery, 5 Cardigan Street, Birmingham, B4 7BD from 23 November until 8 January 2016 And then the whole series are in an exhibition entitled Mother Love at Sidcot Arts Centre, North Somerset BS25 1PD ‘Mother Love is a joint exhibition by artists Jenni Dutton and Ingrid Hesling. They present a body of work that explores their relationships with their mothers through the use of domestic materials and textile techniques.This collaboration has encouraged the artists to acknowledge the conflicts to be found within the Mother Love theme, revealing the discomforts as well as delights in these relationships and question where their responsibility begins and ends.’



Sandra Meech a sense of place

“Getting back to my fine art roots has been wonderful - revisiting inspiration for a theme in a very different way.” Sandra Meech tells us about the landscapes that have inspired her art, and the new directions she’s exploring.

Text and images by Sandra Meech

Wherever I am (or have been), I always feel the ‘sense of the place’ that I am in. Broad horizons in the landscape have always fascinated me - even from a small child on regular family car journeys into the Ontario countryside, I have always loved my view with a horizon line. I have occasionally moved away from this in my own textile art, but whether the work is horizontal in nature or ‘real’ imagery is included, for me, there is always a sense of being

grounded somewhere. It has been a few years since I actually lived in a part of the country that I found overwhelmingly beautiful - not since we lived near Rotherfield, on the East Sussex / Kent borders, twenty-five years ago. Now we have moved to Somerton, Somerset, I feel very inspired by this part of the West Country and feel very much at home. It

Above: Level Moor, Sandra Meech


Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015

Top: Marks, Sandra Meech, Above: Stitch Marks, Sandra Meech

is an area very rich in creativity. Both fine and applied art can be seen in many galleries (Taunton, Bristol and Bath), or in the many studio art trails in Somerset and Dorset, and show high levels of talent in crafts, painting and other disciplines (willow basket making, jewellery, ceramics, and glass). The area is also full of many textile artists - contemporary quilters, embroiderers, weavers and felt makers who have moved West for larger studio space. We were only here a year when one of the worst winters of flooding on the Somerset Levels left hundreds of acres of rich

agricultural land, as well as several villages, underwater for more than four months. Much of Somerset is on high ground and was not affected, but the views over land that looked like it had been reclaimed by the sea was embarrassingly beautiful. I loved taking photos of the submerged willow trees and endless stretches of water sometimes covering miles of land; it filled me with a great deal of inspiration. I felt guilty however, knowing that villages like Muchelney, not far from Langport, were cut off completely. Reading about the history of the Somerset Levels was interesting - knowing that the early Abbeys

and Monasteries after the Romans left, were also trying to manage the flood plain, and even as early as 800AD brought in the Dutch to help plan ditches. I could see a new body of work taking shape. My way of starting is always with sketchbooks and drawings - marks inspired by images are often added to collaged composition. Many of my photos were stark and in black and white and when copied and painted (with Brusho), I could begin to see how my pieces would develop. I kept to a restricted colour palette, grey/


green turquoise for the winter water with orange and gold warm colours that suggested hope for a drier spring/summer to follow. Fortunately that wish was fulfilled and soon the water retreated and the fields came alive again. Although many suffered water damage to their homes and are still affected, the land seemed to regenerate as if nothing had happened.

All of this came at a time when I had plans to take part in the Somerset Art Works Open Studio in 2014 in a little gallery space and my studio at home. This prompted a large group of new art textile pieces that were framed. It was great meeting many nontextile visitors who seemed to have many interesting questions. I look forward to doing Open Studio again in 2016.

As I was preparing for this event I also made some collagraph prints which reflected the flooding and transferring many of these prints onto cotton prompted some new approaches; a different feeling than using real images. I have scanned them and added some line drawings of trees for an aspect of reality and a horizon line. I am continuing to use these prints in larger pieces at the

Above: Sketchbook pages, Sandra Meech 65

Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015

Above: Levels 1, Sandra Meech Below: Collagraph, Sandra Meech

moment. I joined the South West Textile Group - a West Country based mixed media group when we moved to Somerton and have shown several Levels pieces with them. The latest work was for Quilt Art’s Dialogues exhibition, Reality and Rhetoric, shown in Heidelberg at the Max Berk Gallery. The work is 2.4m wide in six parts and the slats of transferred images hides handwritten information and dialogue about the history of the levels and the recent politics that involved local interests and the National Environmental Agency. Other smaller pieces based on this work were shown in Small Talk, an exhibition at Festival of Quilts. My latest art has involved more painting with acrylic and gouache. Getting back to my fine art roots has been wonderful - revisiting inspiration for a theme in a very different way. The light I find in Somerset is wonderful. Perhaps


Above: Levels Somerton Moor, Sandra Meech Right: Collagraph, Sandra Meech

it is the wide vistas, big skies and 360 degree views. This has prompted new abstract sketches and colourful little paintings that may perhaps influence some new stitched textile work‌. or not? So watch this space!


Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015

Above and detail below: Reality and Rhetoric, Sandra Meech

For more about Sandra and her work: Sandra’s art textiles can currently be seen as part of South West Textile Group’s exhibition Imprints, on until 2nd January at the Museum of Somerset. The Museum of Somerset Taunton Castle Castle Green Taunton Somerset TA1 4AA 01823 255088 Open Tuesday - Saturday (and bank holiday Mondays) 10.00am - 5.00pm (last entry 4.30pm) uk/2015/09/15/museum-ofsomerset-collections-inspire-southwest-artists/



Rachel Wright Inspired by her artist father, Derek Setford, Rachel Wright has become known for her exquisite collaged and embroidered depictions of landscapes and animals. She tells us how she builds her work from calico to the finished piece.

Text and images by Rachel Wright

Cocooned in my studio, nestled beside baskets of beautiful fabrics of every kind, is where you’ll find me most days. Amongst cotton reels of every conceivable hue and an inspirational smorgasbord of treasured objects and images, my trusty Bernina and I, transfer my creative imaginings to calico canvas. Living in a small village in the

beautiful Buckinghamshire countryside, I’m fortunate to be able to work from home, finding myself with the enviable ability to instantly swap roles as I step from my studio, from embroidered textile artist to Mum. With two boys at secondary school, I find my daily timetable revolves around the school day and homework, except for one day each week, when I’m let out

Below: Martha’s Journey, Rachel Wright Facing page: Crouching Hare, Rachel Wright


Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015


of solitary confinement for good behaviour to sew in the company of friends. I grew up surrounded by drawings, paintings, etchings and engravings; predominantly the work of my Dad, Derek Setford, an amazing artist and in many ways my inspiration and mentor. I can still vividly remember the day I was tasked with painting an orange for my art homework. Having struggled on my own for a while, not wanting to admit that I needed some help, Dad came gently alongside me. He quietly and patiently taught me how to look at light and shadow, how to see colours that aren’t immediately obvious and most valuable of all was his favourite piece of advice, which I often find myself repeating now to my own children… “You have to spend twice as long looking as you do drawing.” Needless to say, with his help, my orange was greatly improved and since then I haven’t looked back. I am indebted to him for his tutelage, love and support.

Above: Cley Next to the Sea, Rachel Wright Facing page: Around the Rugged Rocks, Rachel Wright


Like many people, I was fortunate to have one of ‘those’ teachers, the sort that can see what motivates you and are able to fuel your passion. The catalyst for my creative journey was my needlework teacher, Mrs Tankard from Bolton School. I had no idea that you could study embroidery at degree level, and it was Mrs Tankard, who opened my eyes to the courses available and encouraged my creative streak, by

Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015

allowing me to make embroidered collars, buttons and cuffs for the tedious dress patterns that the curriculum demanded. So having completed my A Levels and an art foundation course, I studied at Birmingham School of Art and Design, specialising in embroidery and eventually leaving with an MA in Fashion and Textiles. I have a passion for the sea, possibly because we’ve ended up living about as far away from the sea in Britain as you can get! So, almost without exception, holidays are spent exploring the wonderfully diverse coastline of the British Isles. Whether it’s the rugged windswept cliffs of the West Coast of Ireland, the picturesque villages and harbours of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast or the forgotten wetlands of Norfolk, I literally soak them up, absorbing their character, bottling the emotions and committing their very essence to memory. Taking lots of reference photos, and supplementing these with images I find elsewhere, I create a vivid photo journal of the area. These images become an invaluable resource as I start to plan my embroideries. With every new piece I approach, I find I need to feel a connection, to have an investment of some kind in the subject matter. It’s always a scary place to be at the beginning of the creative process; the empty canvas is always really


nature of the process, you quickly find yourself covering the drawing with fabric, so adding in too much detail is pointless. My studio has baskets literally overflowing with fabrics, so there’s never a shortage of material to choose from. At present I have a soft spot for traditional handdyed African batik fabrics. I find the patterning delightful, the natural shades complementing my landscapes wonderfully. I buy much of my fabric from a specialist African fabric importer; I love the care and attention that they give to ethically sourcing their fabrics and the provenance that then lends to my pictures.

Above: Two Hoots, Rachel Wright Facing page: Monarch of the Glen, Rachel Wright

tricky for me. For the first few excruciating hours, the ominous void of unbleached calico before me, fills me with dread. It’s a little thing I call ‘blank canvas syndrome’ …the fear of the unknown and where to begin? So it always comes down to the subject matter, the composition on the canvas and starting with the basics. I often begin with an under drawing; a pencil sketch directly on to the calico. This sketch has some detail but there’s a point at which, because of the 73

Probably the most distinctive aspect of my embroideries are the expressive seas and skies, evoking perpetual movement and fluidity; the restless elements on their never ending journey. So I try to capture that in my own way; a snapshot in time, describing in random spirals and swirls a glimpse of the energy and movement of those unseen forces. I gather together a palette of fabrics and threads. Then, working in small areas I carefully cut shapes and place small pieces of fabric into position, before beginning to stitch. I use Madeira Rayons, as I like the sheen they have and the vibrancy of the colours. They catch the light beautifully and run smoothly through my machine. The stitching begins to bind the individual fabric elements together and add in the details. I often think of fabrics as my paint palette and the stitches as my brush strokes. Essentially I

Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 |winter 2015


am, just like my Dad, a painter, but my tools are just a little less conventional. Over time, the subject matter that I choose to embroider has changed and you can definitely see a progression in my work. I used to be terrified of depicting people and animals, particularly the prospect of tackling eyes and facial features, which only need to go slightly wrong, to ruin a whole piece of work. So it was as much of a surprise to me, as it was to everyone else, when I found myself drawn to a photo my husband had taken of our eldest son, resting on a rock, whilst walking in the mountains in Scotland. I loved the composition


Above: Catching his Breath, detail, Rachel Wright Below: Hide and Seek, Rachel Wright

Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015

of the photo; the autumnal colours of the heather on the slopes and I was lured into attempting to translate it into fabric and stitch because Josh was facing away from the camera, surveying the panorama before him, meaning I didn’t have to deal with facial features. I was really pleased with the results and it gave me the confidence to go on and try other new things, which once, I would have been afraid to attempt. This has opened up a whole new world of possibilities and I am currently enjoying getting well acquainted with barn owls, foxes and hares.

Above: Stoer Head Lighthouse, Rachel Wright

Over the years I’ve exhibited all over the UK, as part of prestigious textile groups and in my own right. Nowadays with the pressures of family life, I’m fortunate to have found a handful of galleries that regularly exhibit my work and keep me, and my lovely old Bernina, very busy and very happy.

Recently I have discovered another whole new world, which I never thought I would enjoy so much. Having dipped my toe into the murky waters of social media, I have discovered a treasure trove of like-minded artists and makers. On Twitter, I found a community, dare I even go as far as to say a family, of supportive, talented, creative people all sharing a passion for their art and encouraging one another. It’s a great support network and enables us to canvas opinions and get instant feedback, a good way to know if you’re latest piece is on track.

For more information about Rachel Wright:



Stitch - Links The members of Stitch-Links all have very individual styles, but enjoy working together as a group. They each tell us about their work as they prepare for a large exhibition in summer 2016.

Text and images by the artists


Stitch - Links was founded in 2005 as an exhibiting group. The current members are Sheila Cahn, Marilyn Carter, Liz Hunter, Mara Lindemann and Maggie Paykel. With a passion for fabric, focusing on producing interesting and exciting new work, we are committed to exhibiting high quality contemporary and innovative textiles.

Each member has her own individual methods of working, using very different techniques. This gives vitality, variety and energy to our exhibitions. Belonging to a group helps to spark innovation and experimentation, providing the mutual support that we all value.

Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015



Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015

sheila Cahn

Facing page: Thames Barrier, detail, Sheila Cahn Left: Port des Pecheurs, detail, Sheila Cahn Below: Les Safraniers, detail, Sheila Cahn

Stitching is in my family. My mother and both my grandfathers were Savile Row tailors, and I have been sewing since I was a small child. I graduated in printed textile design, and later in embroidered textiles, exploring my two passions, colour and pattern.

reveal subtle colour relationships. Many of my pieces explore the transitions of light from morning to night, distilled into abstract expressions of colour on land and water.

I work from my sketches. Drawing helps me put my thoughts in order, makes me think in a fresh way, and enables me to understand what I am seeing. Textiles intrigue me because of their sculptural qualities: the surfaces of the fabrics in my pieces, whether shiny or matte, smooth or rough, reflect light in a variety of ways. The material sifts and reflects the light, and the colour is within its body, whereas with paper, the colour and light of the paint sitting on its surface are illusory. I use translucent natural fabrics, which I hand-dye, and layer like a painter working with watercolour, before machine stitching and cutting through, to


Marilyn Carter

Keeping a diary and writing poetry has always been important to me. I enjoy the technique of Japanese Haiku poetry. Within the seventeen syllables of each verse I can react to the world around me reflecting time travelling in Europe and the Far East. Words focus me in on a moment in time. “Reflections water Shimmering colours Fish leaping.�

Above: Early Morning Memories, detail, Marilyn Carter Below: Ripples, detail, Marilyn Carter

My poetry evolves into my textiles. Tropical Falls and Ripples, describe vibrant colours, rippling water, reflections, changing sunlight and distorted images. Memories, are paper scrolls of poetry where the font creates the visual effect. I use translucent, painted fabrics and papers to cut out text. The negative shapes from each line become distorted echoes of the words. By layering the lines of poetry and echoes I aim to create the atmosphere of the place that inspired me. Currently, part of my work is experimenting with linear forms. Drawing trees, plants and flowers I focus on lines making patterns. I redraw and repeat linear forms. A Chain Reaction, occurs of linked but changing images. By scoring, cutting, folding and overlaying textured paper and stiffened fabrics, the textile evolves from 2D into 3D sculpted surfaces. Stitch is used to anchor and define areas. 81

Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015

Above: Sunrise Memories, detail, Marilyn Carter


liz hunter

Cloth and Memory I love cloth for all its infinite variety and uses, its feel in my hands and its ability to shape and hold memories. As a child I watched in fascination as my mother stitched and knitted, I was a quick and eager pupil.

Above: Boiled Wool Jacket, Transformed, Liz Hunter Below: Lily Pond, detail, Liz Hunter


Durham quilts, nightdresses, embroidered bed linen, wedding bodices and teaching samples all made by my mother’s family, have been passed down to me. They fashioned beautiful garments from simple fabrics, wasted nothing, unpicked and reshaped and made patchwork quilts and rag rugs. These tangible memories of the women in my family influence and inspire my work.

Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015

Left: Shibori Indigo Cloths, Liz Hunter Below: One Stitch After Another, Liz Hunter

Reworking the image Using pieces of boiled wool from an unpicked jacket and inspired by the decaying vegetable plot I pleated, darted and handstitched to form tactile versions. After mounting on plinths they looked like ancient remains and acquired another layer of memories.

White on white These experimental pieces, influenced by my grandmother’s intricate samplers, using only white ric rac and cotton thread to explore pattern and texture.

Shibori (quite unknown to my great grandmothers but a favourite technique of mine). Shibori techniques always leave their memories and imprints in the finished cloth. I use rust and indigo that gently fade and stitching that is guided by the patterns and subtleties of the cloth.


maggie paykel

Right: Organised Chaos, detail, Maggie Paykel Below: Kai Tak Arrival, detail, Maggie Paykel


Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015

The attitude of ‘I don’t know anything about quilts, except they go on beds and keep you warm’ needs to be changed. As a child I stitched and as an embroiderer I taught patchwork and quilting for Julia Caprara. I want to challenge the textile world with the use of unusual but everyday fabric such as paper. A series of paper quilts has led to the combining of both fabric and paper in the same stitched work, where it is impossible to tell the difference. I scrunch up brown paper and silk cotton which I wash over with gesso, write on and eventually colour with diluted acrylics or even use old pots of silk paints or recycle bits of painted Bondaweb onto the surfaces as well. If I am having a bad day this is time to write those memories into the surface of both fabrics. Elements of today’s artists are combined into fabric surfaces. The obsessive mark making of Boetti and Linda Karshan, messages written by Fiona Banner in her early work, lines in the work of Diebenkorn and for inspiration, the work of Sean Scully. I can look back at the finished work and be reminded of the stitched memories it contains.

Above: Inside Out, detail, Maggie Paykel Below: Kai Tak Arrival, Maggie Paykel


Mara Lindemann

Right: Mara Lindemann Below: Mara Lindemann


Through Our Hands Magazine, Issue 7 | winter 2015

I started taking photos in black and white as a teenager and this became my first creative work. The arrival of colour film gave me more scope for experimentation. I still take photos all the time but use them mainly for experimentation and recording. The first time I handled clay I knew that I liked working with my hands and preferred making three-dimensional work, and I enrolled on a 3D Design Course. The material itself intrigued me - the feel of the raw and then the fired clay, the colours and chemistry of the glazes and experimentations with form. During the degree course I explored other materials - found objects of metal, wood and textile - and combined them with the clay.

stitch-links are currently working towards their 4th exhibition at the Babylon Gallery in Ely in May and June 2016 ADeC Babylon Gallery

In May and June 2017 we will be exhibiting at our other favourite gallery, The Stables Gallery,Hall Place, Bexley Stables Gallery, Bexley We would love to see you at one of our future exhibitions, more information visit

I now work with felt - both handmade and industrial - and produce three-dimensional forms combining felt with metal and other found objects. I like the contrast between hard and soft, and use various techniques such as stitching, weaving, bending and painting. Contemporary art and modern architecture influence my work. High-rise buildings sheathed in glass allow their insides to be seen but also reflect the sky and surrounding buildings. The geometric patterns can be severe, but also pleasing and are broken up by wavy and colourful reflections.


[The American Context #68] Double Elvis Luke Haynes quilt, 71” X 60”, 2012, 11 Knightcote Drive, Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, UK 07877 402455

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