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Front Cover: Jessie Chorley

On My Mother’s Knee maker’s influenced by domestic heritage Curated by Louise Jones Williams

Kirsty Anderson, Julie Arkell, Jessie Chorley, Louise Frances Evans, Caren Garfen, Kate Jenkins, Lynn Setterington and Ruth Singer.

A Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre Touring Exhibition

Ruth Singer

Foreword “On my Mother’s Knee” is an exhibition

I began to think back to my formative years

that explores the ideas of domestic heritage

and what were the influences and factors that

through the work of eight contemporary

shaped the way I see the world and function

practitioners. Curated by Louise Jones–

in it. How my artistic vision was formed. I think

Williams, the line-up of makers involved has

that sometimes it is small incidents that have

been describe as “textile royalty” and I feel

a profound influence, being surrounded by

the selection matches her vision. What is

creativity in a variety of forms, knowing that

explored in this exhibition are a group of

there is nothing out of the ordinary in drawing,

makers who chart a direct lineage, they have

painting, modelling, building and creating.

a direct contact with the person who had a

This gives us the confidence to explore and

profound impact on the way they developed

experiment, to get things wrong and learn

as people and how their art practise has

from our mistakes and in turn make us more

been shaped. When talking about “On My

rounded individuals. I feel this exhibition is

Mother’s Knee” with Louise we have had

more than just about the creative process, it

numerous, conversations about ideas and

explores the fundamental process of how we

concepts, skills and knowledge and how they

learn and evolve.

are passed from one generation to another.

Hywel Pontin, Director, Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre

Kate Jenkins

On My Mother’s Knee maker’s influenced by domestic heritage Curated by Louise Jones Williams Kirsty Anderson, Julie Arkell, Jessie Chorley, Louise Frances Evans, Caren Garfen, Kate Jenkins, Lynn Setterington and Ruth Singer. Many makers grow up in homes surrounded

grandparents who were tailors, dressmakers

by fabric and sewing paraphernalia, taught

and milliners; or sometimes just from their

by their mothers and grandmothers to

parent’s creativity in gardening or cooking.

sew, knit, embroider, quilt and crochet.

The makers in this exhibition would not be

Growing up in these families, it was the

who they are today without the influence of

older generations who influenced the next

their families, a legacy which is embodied in

with the passing on of their practical skills,

every delicate stitch.

punctuated with stories told from books and anecdotes from their own lives; also

Inspiration for this exhibition has come

passing on from generation to generation

from observing my daughter’s interest in



art, design and making. It has made me

Sometimes a maker’s skills and interest are

think more about learnt and inherited skills.

inherited from relatives they’ve never met;

Each time I collect my daughter from her



grandparent’s house, where she spends a few hours after school, I find her and my mother making clothes and fixing the wool hair on the old rag dolls from my childhood, doing tapestry, sewing and most recently knitting. The closeness between myself, my daughter and my mother reminds me very much of my childhood with my mother and grandmother. My grandmother was a constant presence when I was growing up, as she lived with us. In her youth, my grandmother had been a milliner until she married in the 1930s and made almost all her own clothes as well as my mother’s when she was a young girl. In later years my grandmother taught sewing in community education classes and my mother went on Kirsty Anderson

to teach patchwork, quilting and just about

embroidering or doing tapestry. The skills

every other craft, passing on the skills and

my grandmother and mother passed onto

traditions they had learnt.

me and are now being passed on to my daughter; they go back generations, my

And so our house was always filled with loose

great grandmother was a dressmaker, my

threads, fabric, pins and needles (always

great, great grandfather a tailor and his

getting stuck in the carpet); the button box

brother a shoemaker. I feel sometimes there

was a treasure trove to be looked through

must be something in the genes.

on rainy days; the precious sewing scissors – never to be used for anything else! One

In previous generations, at a time when

of my clearest childhood memories was

‘craft’ was part of everyday life, the skills of

the frustration of being made to stand on

sewing, knitting, repairing were a necessity

a small stool to be pinned into a something

for girls to learn to clothe their family. But in

that was being made for me. I also fondly

this necessity I think women especially have

remember many hours sat around the dining

found companionship and joy in learning,

table cutting out patterns, learning to use

completing and passing on these skills.

the sewing machine, painting and drawing,

Pleasure too, in the personal touch that

could be brought to them with a special care in the stitching or the embroidery of a flower or name. Julie Arkell’s mother was a skilled needle-woman, knitter, cook and gardener “..from dresses to my doll’s clothes, my father’s socks, jumpers and gloves and hats all made with love and perfection.” All these skills she passed on to Julie who has combined them into her own unique style. Garments and clothing are central to this tradition of domestic inheritance, of skills and techniques learnt from our mothers and grandmothers. Little girls would make clothes for cloth dolls, learning those first dressmaking skills. Perhaps it is of no surprise then that many of the makers in Kate Jenkins

this exhibition use clothing as a conduit

and owners whose stories are hidden from

for their thoughts and ideas. Clothes are,

us. Jessie Chorley uses clothes too, finding

at their most basic an essential for warmth

beauty and inspiration in things that have

and protection, but are also very personal,

been discarded or put to one side, Jessie

they speak not only of the maker but most

brings alive their decaying beauty through

especially the wearer, their occupation

the embroidering of text and narrative.

perhaps, their social position, their tastes.

Coming from a family of makers with a

Clothes were and still are handed down

strong belief in make do and mend, Jessie

from one generation to another either

is passionate about continuing to use

through need or more significantly because

traditional techniques that have been shown

they hold special value or meaning.

to her from a very young age by her mother and grandmother.

Ruth Singer is particularly interested in the hidden aspects of women’s history and

Recycling and reusing, nothing wasted was

uses the apron, that most utilitarian piece

a concept common to most households

of clothing and transforms it into an object

until well after WWII and has seen a massive

which can represent the lives of the makers

resurgence of interest in recent years. Julie

Arkell remembers. “Last year’s dress would be altered to fit, nothing was wasted.” That ethos has continued amongst many makers, perhaps less from a sense of necessity but one of getting back to basics, nostalgia and personal connection with the work produced. Kirsty Anderson creates pieces from textiles her mother designed and printed in the 1960s while Lynn Setterington uses fabric from a dress once worn by her mother in her piece “A patchwork of memories”. Precious objects too are often passed from mother to daughter, a ring, a sewing or jewellery box, a bridal veil, letters, linens, christening gown, photographs. Makers such as Louise Frances Evans frequently incorporate found objects and vintage clothing to create Julie Arkell

pieces which naturally make us think of

would meet, talk and sew. Louise Frances

family connections, identity and loss. Her

Evans says “I was taught to sew and to knit,

work shows that the things we wear or keep

mainly by my Nan, and to cook and bake

close to us also have an inexorable link to

by my mother, plus I undoubtedly absorbed

our thoughts, feelings and memories.

much whilst drinking tea.”

Sewing has a social aspect that is also very

For thousands of years the production of

important, today makers work mainly in

cloth and clothing has not only been central

isolation, alone in studios or spare rooms

to woman’s role in the home but also as a

but the tradition of the sewing circle or

source of income when few others were

sewing bee has a long history. Groups of

open to them. Before industrialisation the

neighbours, family and friends came together

production of cloth was done in the home

to sew, gossip, laugh and drink tea. In these

either for your own family or as a ‘cottage

groups essential skills and new tricks were

industry’. Mothers and daughters worked

exchanged. My mother remembers as a


little girl going with her mother to visit her

spinning (the origin of the word spinster).

great aunts, where a large group of ladies

Women all over the world still make objects




from cloth, passing the skills of embroidery,

1970s onwards there has been a revaluation

applique, batik etc from mother to daughter.

of these occupations and especially within the last twenty years there has been a huge

The beauty, value and importance of cloth

resurgence in artists and makers using

and sewing has quite often been overlooked

cloth. There is also a significantly wider

until recent times mainly due to its relatively

appreciation of what makers have been

low perceived status within the arts but also

producing and of its historical contexts.

due to its perishable nature, few examples

The defining line between craft and art has

survive before even a few hundred years ago.

become increasingly blurred and more and

Technology and conservation techniques

more makers see textiles as a valid form of

now allow much better preservation and

expression, and one which can tackle the

the work of seamstresses, embroiderers and

most serious of subjects. Makers such as

quilters is appreciated by a wider audience.

Caren Garfen, use textiles to create pieces

During the social turmoil of the post

which are often humorous but with stark

war period, women’s work and roles were

social statements relating to women’s issues,

questioned with traditionally ‘feminine’ tasks

such as domesticity, work/life balance, and

often being rejected. Gradually from the

the body.

Whilst the makers in this exhibition may not

turn too perhaps mothers have been influenced

talk about inheritance directly in their work, all

by their daughters, reviving their sense of

of them come from a very distinct background

adventure, to be more original and creative.

where craft, creativity and skills were things to be used, treasured and passed on. Kate Jenkins

So this is where it all began, the comfort

remembers being taught from an early age to

and wonder found in piles of fabric, boxes of

knit and crochet by her mother and grandmother

buttons, braids and ribbons enthralled these

and is greatly influenced by her family. However I

makers as children. There could be nothing

am sure many rebelled in their youth, Julie Arkell

more natural than for them to create work which

mentions going out to buy a Jeff Banks jersey

forever connects them to their childhood and

dress. “My mother thought it looked cheap and

the people who influenced them. Techniques

was very unimpressed. I tried to hold my own,

learnt ‘on their mother’s knee’ give these

but secretly knew she was right!” Eventually

makers a unique identity and a shared past;

most of us give up our rebellion and as artist

sewing the experiences, events and secrets

Janet Ruttenburg writes “I tried so very hard to

of their family’s lives. Their pieces speak of

be different in any way I could from my mother,

women’s work and domestic heritage and are

and now I give up. I want to be just like her.” In

imbued with beauty, history and meaning.

Kirsty Anderson

Kirsty Anderson “Having grown up in a creative environment

My sister and I have been influenced

it was never really a decision, it’s been in

creatively by our family from a young age,

our family for generations. My gran always

especially our mother. Having went to art

talks about her mother recycling bits and

school she has always had the tools to

bobs around the house to make trinkets.

create lying around. I want to show both sides of my work and my mother’s for this

My mother studied printed textiles at


Duncan of Jordanstone and spent most of her life as a designer, my Dad is a chef and

Some of the fabric used was designed by

Lucy, my sister, is a fashion designer so it

my mother at art school. I have had the

was always on the cards - I can’t imagine

pattern digitally printed for some patterns

doing anything else. I have a drawing from

and others are the original material, other

primary school where we had to draw the

pieces of fabric have been handed down

past, present and future. The future was

like the napkins in the mobile’s wings. I find

me sitting at a big drawing board designing

it interesting to have a part of us reflected

dresses - so I am kind of close.

in the pieces I make.”

Kirsty Anderson Kirsty Anderson grew up in Burntisland, a seaside town in Fife. She has been involved in making, teaching and showing art and textiles ever since graduating and now lives in Edinburgh. Kirsty’s work centres on the deconstruction and transformation of found and unwanted textiles, turning the undesirable or discarded into unique works that have a new life and create fresh memories with her textile animals. Her work takes inspiration from the past, wildlife, family and eclectic items which hold history.

Kirsty Anderson

Kirsty Anderson



1 “Me, my mum and my dad’s mum” 2 Vintage fabric detail

Julie Arkell

Julie Arkell “I grow up in the 1950’s and 60’s in a home

right! Knitting was more of a challenge for

where the handmade was very important.

me to learn – hot sticky fingers trying to

My mother was a skilled needle-woman,

understand where the wool should go. My

knitter, cook and gardener. She knitted and

tension was dreadful, everything came out

sewed for all her family – from dresses to

enormous, where as hers was so neat and

my doll’s clothes, my father’s socks, jumpers

perfect. Over the years it has improved.

and gloves and hats all made with love and

Since my mother died 18 months ago, I have

perfection. She showed me all these skills.

found knitting a particular source of comfort.

I remember the excitement of going to

A friend of mine, on seeing the red pixie hat,

Liberty and choosing fabric and a pattern

asked me if my mother had knitted it. I so

for a new summer frock. Last year’s dress

wish I could show her my achievements.”

would be altered to fit, nothing was wasted. As a teenager I rebelled, and with some

Julie Arkell is one of the country’s best

saved money went and bought a Jeff Banks

recognised contemporary folk artists. After

jersey dress. My mother thought it looked

studying fashion at St Martin’s, she began

cheap and was very unimpressed. I tried

selling her work at a stall in Covent Garden

to hold my own, but secretly knew she was

and now shows her wonderful creatures in

Julie Arkell galleries around the world. Working from her London studio, she forms and paints their paper-mache bodies, hand sewing and embroidering their clothes and knitting the accessories. Julie regularly holds workshops both in the UK and abroad.

Julie Arkell

Julie Arkell



1 2 “In these two photographs my mother is wearing the same style dress, both made by her. In the late 1980’s she made me the same dress in a black and white check. I own the pattern now and still wear the one she made me every summer. The coloured photograph is my favourite, taken in 1960 in our back garden. I loved the mauve and white check gingham dress I’m wearing in it. I’m holding a Swiss national costume doll my Auntie had bought home for me from holiday – I still have her. Sadly all my childhood dresses got worn out and torn with playing on the swings and slide in our local park. The black and white photo is about spring 1957.”

Jessie Chorley

Jessie Chorley Jessie finds beauty and inspiration in things

grandmother. She regularly still makes with

that have been discarded or put to one

her Mum, Primmy Chorley and they also run

side. The most familiar objects that she

embroidery workshops together.

works with are books, clothing and furniture sometimes combining all three to create a

Jessie uses carefully chosen text and imagery

one of piece or small series of work.

combined with simple hand embroidery and the placing of her found fragments to

Jessie and her brother were home schooled

create scenes and narrative experiences for



an array of different works that can be for

themselves, learning through creativity.

interior spaces as well as items to be worn.

Coming from a family of makers with a

“I am passionate about giving life and a new

strong belief in Make do and Mend, she

beginning back to a forgotten object. To see

uses the techniques of tatting/lace making

someone using something that I have re-

hand embroidery and weaving. Jessie is

created is like a completion to the story�





passionate about continuing to use these traditional techniques, shown to her from

Jessie Chorley was born in Maidstone Kent

a very young age by her mother and

but grew up in Snowdonia, North Wales. She

Jessie Chorley mainly works with paper and textiles most of which are “found� this being her inspiration. Jessie lives and works in East London and co-runs J&B The Shop. Her work explores narrative and story telling through the use of simple and traditional textile techniques combined with the use of found and reworked objects. She is passionate about teaching and sharing her skills, she runs workshops around the UK.

Jessie Chorley

Jessie Chorley


1 Jessie sewing 2 Primmy sewing


Louise Frances Evans

Louise Frances Evans “I come from a close family of mother and

My Nan was always making dresses and my

father with me sandwiched between my

passion for fabric and thread was picked up at

two brothers. My mother was ever present

her side. Unfortunately I never met my paternal

and I saw my grandmother, nan, and great

grandmother, but she was a professional

grandmother, known as ‘Sweetheart Nan’,

seamstress. She made my mother’s wedding


dress in the early sixties whilst my Nan made the younger bridesmaids. Making my own

I was taught to sew and knit, mainly by my

wedding and bridesmaids dresses was a family

Nan, and to cook and bake by my mother,

tradition that I happily followed.

plus I undoubtedly absorbed much whilst drinking tea. When I was quite small my

More recently I have discovered that both my

Nan made me a huge rag doll which I called

mother and grandmother’s teenage diaries

Rebecca. I remember that I adored exploring

are full of entries saying ‘stayed in and sewed’,

the contents of the button box and was

‘made blouse’ or references to creating

allowed to play at dressing up in a beautiful

something for the bottom drawer in preparation

yellow dress that my Mom had worn for her

for a future home. I now treasure my Mom and

21st birthday party.

Nan’s sewing machines and I am lucky to have

Louise Frances Evans been given my Sweetheart Nan’s thimble in its beautiful worn green velvet case.� Louise Frances Evans creates jewellery, textile



installation incorporate

pieces found

which objects

and vintage clothing Her work seeks to highlight what we carry on the body and in our minds - thus garments, shoes, jewellery, flowers and dolls become sites for memory traces, exploring identity, commentary on the ideals of femininity or representing an absent person. Louise studied Jewellery at Birmingham City University, has worked widely in the gallery sector and exhibits internationally. Louise Frances Evans

Louise Frances Evans



1 “Mom, nan, brother and me on pier” 2 “Me, Mom, Nan, Sweetheart Nan and brothers at Christmas”

Caren Garfen

Caren Garfen stitches

women bravely reveal their past. This

memories of growing up in a household

artwork takes the form of two dresses in the

where making was an inherent way of living.

style of summer frocks once worn by the

“In my childhood home, cupboards were

twins when they were about eight years old.

overflowing with yards of cloth, spools of

Now adults, they look back, delving into

thread and tins of buttons. Boxes were filled

memories from their childhood. The account

with sewing tools, zips and tape measures.

by Twin I was hand stitched onto the front

Knitting wools and knitting needles had

of the first dress before any memories from

their places on the shelves. It is no wonder

Twin II were revealed. The twins had no hint

that textiles and stitching have become the

of what the other was writing. The hand

heart of my practice.”

stitched sentence ‘I don’t remember sitting




on my mother’s knee’ gives an intimation ‘Addressing the Past’ is an investigation

of the troubled relationship between the

into the childhood of twin girls who had

young girls and their mother; the viewer will

the same upbringing, and it examines their

need to read between the lines!





memories converge or deviate as these

Caren Garfen uses textiles to create pieces

Caren Garfen relating to women’s issues in the 21st century. Painstaking hand stitch is used to convey messages on gender politics, and themes such as domesticity, work/life balance, and the body. Caren has exhibited widely in the UK and overseas including at the V&A and the Royal Academy. She has appeared in many articles and books and is a member of The 62 Group of Textile Artists.

Caren Garfen

Caren Garfen



1 2 “It is of me as a child (holding the bucket!) surrounded by my sisters and with my mother. My mother made all of the trousers that we were wearing at the time and knitted the jumpers too!�

Kate Jenkins

Kate Jenkins Taught from an early age to Crochet and

worldwide. Kate works from her studio in

Knit by her Mother and Grandmother, Kate

Brighton and has plans to show in Paris in

has been described as a ‘crocheting genius’


and one of our most original innovative UK artists. Famous for her unique crocheted

Kate Jenkins was born in Cwmbran and grew

food, Kate takes a nostalgic look at everyday

up in Tir-y-berth, Rhymney Valley. She was

items, re-invented in wool and yarn with wry,

educated in Cardiff and later graduated

comic touches.

from The University of Brighton with a BA Honours Degree in Fashion Textiles. In

She has crocheted art pieces of the nation’s

her previous life as a successful knitting

favourite food, transformed spaces into

consultant, she sold her designs to fashion

a knitted and crocheted garden, knitted

labels Marc Jacobs, Missoni, Sonia Rykiel

a fantasy dinner party setting complete

and Donna Karan. Alongside her art projects

with crocheted bottles of champagne, re-

she produces fashion and homewares under

imagined iconic branded supermarket items.

her own label ‘Cardigan’.

She has exhibited in London, Brighton and the United States and her work is collected

Kate Jenkins

Kate Jenkins

Kate Jenkins



1 “This is a very old picture of me and my sister Helen (in Welsh costume). Me on the right” 2 “Me as a baby”

Lynn Setterington

Lynn Setterington “Looking back I think my family influenced

again, evokes happy memories of my

me in their passion for making rather than

childhood and takes me back to my early

sewing or textiles in particular. My mum

life in Yorkshire. I can still see my mum in

was a wonderful inventive cook, my dad a

the pink dress found in the top row centre

teacher and passionate gardener and my


older brother was forever in the garage mending things and working as a woodwork

In meshing together the fabrics in the house


blocks, this piece offers a reminder of the impact our upbringing can have on our

The patchwork incorporated into this piece

identity and future. The upside down house

is one I started as a teenager. It is made up

references the fact that not all memories and

fragments of garments belonging to myself,

upbringings leave such a positive imprint.�

my mum, and my sister. It lay dormant, (like many patchworks) in a wardrobe for thirty

Lynn Setterington is an internationally

years and reappeared when my mum died

recognised textile artist who celebrates the

and her/our home was cleared. Revisiting it

ordinary and overlooked in society. Born

after all this time and seeing the material

in Yorkshire, Lynn trained at York College

Lynn Setterington of Arts and Technology and Goldsmiths College London. She is a Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University and an Associate Fellow of the International Quilt Study Center in the US. She is a member of the 62 Group and  exhibits internationally. Her work is held in many major public museums including the V&A, the Crafts Council of Great Britain and the Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester.

Lynn Setterington

Lynn Setterington



1 “Me, my mum and cousin John” 2 “Me, my mum and brother”

Ruth Singer

Ruth Singer “Grandad’s tool shed: These pieces are based

Aprons - Time Bubble 1 & Time Bubble

on the household and garden tools from

2: This series of aprons inspired by the

my Grandad’s shed. He was a professional

hidden aspects of women’s history and

gardener from the age of 14 and carried on

the enigmatic, owner-less aprons that have

growing his own vegetables until his death in

survived in museums. Aprons are an under-

2012 at the age of 96. His numerous sheds

appreciated art form, which are often left

contained years of carefully-maintained and

languishing in museum collections without

well-used tools and the essence of him. His

any in-depth study. For me they represent

second wife’s family ran a small laundry and

the lives of the makers and owners of those

their house was full of traditional linens,

aprons, whose stories are hidden from us,

all bleached, starched and ironed. I have

inside a bubble of time.”

combined the linens and the tool sheds to create a series of inter-related pieces which

Ruth Singer creates intriguing artworks

are made from Grandad’s handkerchiefs

inspired by historical textiles, museum

alongside new fabrics. Techniques include

objects, personal heritage, memory and

trapunto quilting, shadow embroidery and

stories. She uses natural and recycled

reverse appliqué.

textiles combined with hand stitching as

Ruth Singer well as fabric manipulation techniques to create detailed surface texture. Many of her techniques are developed from the study of historical textiles, based on her own research and first career in museums. She exhibits in the UK and abroad and has been commissioned to make work for Derby Museums and Shire Hall Gallery.

Ruth Singer

Ruth Singer



1 “Me and my granddad” 2 “My stepmother who taught me sew, my step-grandmother (Grandad’s second wife), Grandad and me”

Julie Arkell

“On My Mother’s Knee” a Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre Touring Exhibition. We would like to thank all the makers who have allowed us to exhibit their work in “On My Mother’s Knee”. Exhibition Curator: Louise Jones Williams Translator: Heddwen Pugh-Evans Design: Hillview Design Published by Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre. Text ©The Authors and LGAC 2013 Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre St.David’s Road Cwmbran Torfaen NP441PD T: +44(0)1633 483321 E: W: Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre is part of the Arts Council of Wales portfolio of Revenue Funded Organisations. Registered Charity no: 1006933 Company Limited by Guarantee no: 2616241 Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre is funded by the Arts Council of Wales, Torfaen County Borough Council and Monmouthshire County Council. This publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form without written permission from the publisher.

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On My Mother's Knee  

Exhibition Catalogue from the Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre exhibition 'On my Mother's Knee' November 2013

On My Mother's Knee  

Exhibition Catalogue from the Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre exhibition 'On my Mother's Knee' November 2013

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