As you might gather from this post, I was recently invited to
participate in the Around the World Blog Hop – a forum I had never come across
before where artists involved in writing, painting, textiles, book art,
photography and sculpture are asked to respond to four questions about their work and their
It was Sharron Deacon Begg who invited me to follow
her on this hop around the world. She
writes about her work at her blog called Threadpainters Art. It was
way back in the eighties, before we both became silver-haired, that I met
Sharron when I joined the Connections Fibre Artists group. Like me, Sharron’s inspiration comes from the
land around her. She expresses her
reaction to that landscape through watercolours, pen and ink and needle and
thread. It is her beautiful sensitive
thread painting that I am most familiar with but you should take a trip over to
her blog and check for yourself.
So now I have to write about my own work. This does not come naturally to me, I’d rather
stitch any day rather than write! The
four questions I have to answer were given to me in a specific order, but I am
going to change things around and start with question three which seems to suit
my flow of thought better.
Why do I create what
When my grandmother taught me embroidery and insisted the wrong side be
as neat as the front, I certainly never thought of it as an art form. Even from a young age my plan had been to
become an artist in the more traditional sense of painting and drawing. Little did I imagine I would end up covering
cloth in sometimes unruly stitches.
What brought me back to embroidery was an adult education quilting
course I stumbled upon when my youngest child was about to become a
teenager. To my surprise this ended up
being my jump start back into a creative life.
From these two traditions, the one embroidery from my English childhood
and the second from quilt making from my new North American home, I began creating
work that combined the two. At first the
stitches were by machine with a few hand stitches scattered throughout but
today the machine embroidery has been almost completely replaced by hand
Today I continue working with cloth and thread because of their tactile
nature. No day is complete without the feel
of cotton, velvet, wool, or linen or silk between my fingers. Simply put it is just what I am driven to do.
What am I working on?
Over the years my work has been drawing closer and closer to
nature. As I write this post I am in the
beginning stages of new work based on the east coast landscape. These pieces will not record the actual
landscape but my reactions to and observations on living in and treading
lightly through this land. I am
observing small marks and shapes but thinking large. I am observing nature’s imperfect
patterns and rhythms and thinking repetition interrupted and pattern broken
Another project that is always on the go and was started three years ago
is the stitched journal of my daily life.
My original goal was to stitch a simple row of embroidery every day but
this has evolved to include simple stitched images of events in my day. It was a conscious decision not to record
world events, just those simple things that occur in the life of someone living
in the woods of Nova Scotia far from the madding crowd. Never having been able to maintain a written
journal I wanted to keep this project as simple as possible, therefore I opted
for a six inch wide scroll format. After
all, stitching a line of embroidery six inches long every day sounded simple
and would not overwhelm my day. In the
beginning my scrolls became cumbersome in their length and so now I restrict each
scroll to a three month period...much more manageable! However, as I write they are all sewn
together into 117 feet and hanging in the Western Branch of the Art Gallery of
How does my work
differ from others in its genre?
My thoughts on the answer to this question is simply that we all come to
our work having experienced different life experiences which have formed us
into the uniqueness that we are. Each
one of us would approach the same subject or inspiration differently. Each one of us would have physical
differences that affect the weight of a mark, the size or angle of a
stitch. Therefore all work differs.
I am not sure what my genre would be.
If a genre is textiles...oh, my goodness there are so many genres within
that one genre. If my current work falls
within a genre of hand embroidery then mine would be different from some in
that it is usually a repetition of simple stitches or marks often interrupted
by slightly different marks. Repetition
and breaking that repetition as Mother Nature seems to do is something I
consciously think on.
How does my creating
My process starts with getting to know my subject. Many years ago I read "Drawing Closer to
Nature" by Peter London. He taught
me the importance of knowing, really knowing my subject. He wrote: "Find
a portion of the world that is close at hand and adopt it. Become
acquainted with it. Draw closer to it by staying with it over a long
course of time. In all seasons, all times of day, all weathers, all
circumstances of your own life. The more often you return to this chosen
portion of Nature, the more finely you will be able to perceive its more
delicate features, as well as the slow-to-emerge pattern and rhythms."
ideas and work out basic design I fill sketchbooks with marks and thumbnail
sketches. I am not very organized and
these ruminations never seem to end up in one concise sketchbook but sprinkled
through several. I really should try one
day to work in one book at a time. By no
means do I have a finished design worked out by the time I move onto fabric and
thread so there can often be false starts!
As I work through this initial phase at some point there is a sudden
surge of energy and I know exactly which pieces of hand dyed or natural dyed
fabrics should be pinned up and arranged on a design wall. Then I am off to the races! There is always an ebb and flow to my process
with periods of high activity interspersed with periods of rest when I have to
stand back and reflect on whether things are working out or not. I always say I have a love hate relationship
with my work. There are times when I
think it is the best work I have ever done but once finished I am soon not
satisfied with the end result and eager to get on to the next piece that will
definitely be an improvement. But having
said that, when I come across an older piece, I often am pleasantly surprised! Now let's go play.
Today our family is thinking of My grandfather Shanks who was sent to WWI as a young man and luckily survived because he was invalided out. and his uncle who joined the artillery in 1914 and was killed in Belgium in 1915 My other grandfather Frank who was a doctor in WWI also luckily survived because of Tuberculosis. I have the pulled thread bed covering he stitched while recovering. And he was a good watercolour painter too. My father who enlisted into WWII and spent his war fighting in the Burmese jungle. My father-in-law who was a pilot in WWII. He escaped Poland and made his way to England where he joined the RAF Polish squadron. But his brother however was one of the Polish officers killed at Katyn My uncle Alan who was a civilian in Hong Kong and taken by the Japanese as a POW. My brother's father-in-law who was in the army in Singapore at the time of the Japanese invasion and taken prisoner of war. Lest we forget.