Stitch For Survival: My E17 Art Trail 2015 Exhibition

Once again the yearly E17 Art Trail has rolled around. I am going to do the grand tour next weekend; I set up my exhibition earlier today; well, my "installation technician" (my mother) did most of the hard graft.

For last year's Trail I showed work as part of the Zoology exhibition at E17 Art House, which has since moved to bigger premises on Hoe Street and has some very intriguing exhibitions and events on for the Trail this year.


This time around, applying was a bit of a last minute affair, so I decided to exhibit in the bay window of my parents' house as I did in 2011 and 2012.

This year we decided to ditch the slightly "primary school" blue baize display board we'd used previously, and used white frame boards to display the embroideries on instead.







A wide variety of embroideries are on display, from pages and pocket contents from my artist's books On Being SoftBig Teeth and Milk Thistle, to embroideries from the zine I recently sold at DIY Cultures, Treasures For Your Troubles. My favourite of the #secretsofselfpreservations stitched thus far are exhibited too.







The theme this year seems to be whimsy; the exhibition is less in your face provocative than it has been in the past; more gently subversive, gently parodying the Romantic movement and its romanticisation of mental illness (particularly the Milk Thistle pages and pocket contents). I have really amassed work since 2011, and I feel the exhibition is far more cohesive and well presented than it has been in the past.














If you're local/in the area, please do pop by - the exhibition can be viewed from the front garden from today, Sunday 31st May, until Sunday 14th June, from 10am - 8pm daily.

Next Saturday 6th June I will be holding a #secretsofselfpreservation workshop stitching self care potions from 4pm in the living room; the workshop is limited to ten places, so please email katerolison@googlemail.com to book your place.

The details of my exhibition and workshop can be found here. I do hope you'll visit.





Summer Dreaming

I had the dreamiest of weekends, starting on Friday night with cocktails and dim sum and night time strolls along the South Bank with two of my best pals.

Rose and lychee martini
You could say my weekend started on Thursday evening with a visit to the Virginia Woolf exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, but I'll save that for another blog post... it was a very stirring trip indeed.

Saturday was spent sewing and sipping sangria in my favourite dress with good friends. I met up with two of them the next day for wanders around the Walthamstow Garden Party. I'm sorry to say I misread the festival; I had thought it would be small and somewhat provincial. I could not be more wrong; it sprawled across Lloyd Park, with mouthwatering food and drink (I spilled chimichurri sauce on my dress trying to eat a very unruly burger), and an inventive array of activities for the little ones, including neon bright den building and wood work (there's something lovely about seeing a four year old girl expertly inserting bolts into wooden pieces of a rocking horse).


Dens built by local children
Significant Seams had a lovely display of a summer garden in full bloom, created entirely from discarded plastic. I particularly liked this tree of life, which, a volunteer told me, was based on Mexican paintings.







The garlands of wishes (destined for the wishing well) for the community were very sweet, too. Look what this one says.



I just have to put the finishing touches to a big commission proposal this week, and then this weekend I'm off to Brighton with Pip to visit friends and partake of even more cocktails. It's a hard life.

Book Marks

A wealth of wit, literary references and life's big themes are on show in the current exhibition at E17 Art House. Those literary references are particularly apt as the exhibition is entitled Book Marks, and is part of Walthamstow's inaugural literary festival, Words Over Waltham Forest.

Paens to literature, reading and writing in the exhibition include quick-witted visual puns (an orange with a piece of clockwork inserted where its stem should be), conceptual riffs on the sanctity of literature (a Bible which warns that God is watching you via a security camera in the front cover, another with legislature scrawled over chapter and verse), and the more straightforward, though no less charming (sculptures and photographs of readers enjoying a quiet moment with a good book).

From the moment of glancing at the title of How To Deal With Problematic Neighbours, the reader's mind is set racing guessing what the solution may be. Its contents are almost predictable, though still tickle the funny bone; a pistol conveniently concealed inside for dispatching with annoying acquaintances.




J. Thomas's artist's book was one of a number of offerings lining what I affectionately refer to as 'Conceptual Corner' in the exhibition, and is the next door neighbour of my contribution. Big Teeth, the artist's book which consumed me for around a month and a half, is a hand sewn exploration of the women's language of cloth in fairytales, and of what happens after happily ever after.




To the right hand side of Big Teeth was another artist's book, this time for sale in an edition. Subtitles (of Life and Death) by David Barette also happened to be my favourite piece in the show.

It's a simple idea; collate quotations on life and death in the form of screenshots and subtitles from a variety of classic films. But it works. 


The screenshots take the form of postcards that one could "cut (or rather, pull) out and keep", or keep as a complete work of art. Perhaps it appeals particularly to me as part of an image, iconography, pop culture obsessed generation; the Tumblr generation, if you will. It's certainly very accessible and instantly gratifying.




Between the Lines by Wendy McMillan, UK Law transcribed over Biblical Text

1984 by Francis Long



Insect Travellers Author/artist unknown. This artist's book disperses advice and adages alongside scientific illustrations of insects.



Bible Cam - God is watching YOU by Pure Evil


Genre - Mystery by Hannah Battershell. What tales could this abandoned typewriter tell?

A Soul of a New Machine by Jonathan Thomas
The artist E. J. England uses  book covers as their canvases; of course, one would need to read the words enclosed within to know whether these paintings are illustrative, or what is suggested to the artist by the books' titles.

The Stars Look Down by E. J. England. Gouache paint on vintage book.

The Lion by E. J. England. Gouache paint on vintage book


Of Love and Other Demons by Divya Venkatesh
I've been in a number of exhibitions with soft sculpture and embroidery artist Harriet Hammel, but the attention to detail and accuracy of her illustrative comic book embroideries exhibited at Book Marks never fails to astonish me.


Beano Embroidery by Harriet Hammel

Dandy Embroidery Fragment by Harriet Hammel
Another favourite piece was Jonathan O'Dea's book-sculpture Burning Back the Layers. Created as a tangible embodiment of the artist's struggles with reading as a dyslexic, the work also reminds the viewer that books come from trees; it reminds us of the lengthy process the materials have undergone in order for a book, perfect and complete, to be placed in our hands. The longer I spent with this piece, the more of its layers I unpeeled; a very appropriately titled work.

Burning Back the Layers by Jonathan O'Dea

Reading by Esther Neslen
This exhibition is rich and beautifully curated, many of the pieces situated in such a way that they have a profound dialogue with one another. I am sure book based art is a genre I will return to time and time again over the course of my career; books are my first love, after all (and what better first love to have?) As one of the art works in the exhibition mused, in the immortal words of Morrissey: "There's more to life than books you know, but not much more." Quite.

Art in Awesomestow: The Summer Show at Penny Fielding


I promised my Tumblr followers a post on my latest exhibition, at Penny Fielding's, quite a few days ago, and so here, finally, is a photograph of Pip and I being smug in our sunglasses in the gallery garden.

And I did have at least one thing to be (slightly) smug about; one of my embroideries was displayed slap bang in the centre of the window! My Melancholyflowers were placed directly beneath a rather charming little crown, which I take as a sign of good fortune.




My other embroidery was ever so slightly more out of the way, but still very visible; over a doorway leading to an interesting little nook of the gallery/shop. I'm afraid these are the best photographs I could take of it; it seemed very far up from the point of view of my (brand spanking new, it's very exciting) smartphone!



Here's a better, close up photograph of the piece, entitled Plathitude:


Mine weren't the only textile pieces in the exhibition, or the only familiar ones; this exquisite machine embroidered quilt by Gilli Haqqani previously featured (alongside some of my work) at the Soft group show at The Mill last year.



This colourful illustration put me in mind of Grayson Perry's playful illustrative style. The gaudy yet down at heel carnival scene is quintessentially British.


This photograph doesn't do it justice, but this thought provoking painting by socially conscious artist Alke Schmidt. At first glance it seems obvious that the machinists are working in an Asian clothes sweatshops. But with closer inspection, more layers to the painting are discovered. The painting is overlaid with a textiles pattern, which I read in two ways; it is a traditional Asian design, or a cheap and cheerful design for the mass market. It seems to have seeped into the women's skin; they are unable to escape their cultural heritage, which now includes manufacturing cheap high street clothing for Westerners. Their face masks could be to protect them from their unhygienic working environment; it also reminds me of the hysteria, which seemed particularly concentrated in the East, following the outbreak of SARs and then bird flu, and the wearing of such masks, which I remember was common amongst Asian tourists at the time. Finally, the black mass of cloth waiting to be sewn to the right of the machinists is redolent of the drudgery of working in such a sweatshop, and the murky business practises of the multinational companies overseeing such work.


This whimsical piece put me in mind of sideshows at the carnival or circus; surely that cat shouldn't have wings?! The rough but realistic charcoal strokes give the drawing a naturalistic, endearing quality.


Similarly endearing was this piece; I couldn't decide if it was in pastels or some kind of print, but I do know that I love a good cup of tea, especially when it's served so beautifully!


I feel cruel for writing this, but this dreamlike piece by Two For Joy is very reminiscent of Rob Ryan's work. He certainly seems to have cornered the market in whimsical papercuts! This piece definitely has a charm all of its own, however; the detail on the wings/feathers is particularly gorgeous.



I assume this dramatic print is a linocut, a medium I am hoping to experiment with soon. If it is, it's certainly s masterful one; just look at the detail in that spider's abdomen.


This print of identical twins reminded me of a painting my best friend won a national art prize for when we were twelve, and it's just as sweet!


I love dioramas, but unfortunately couldn't get a better picture of this dinky little one inside an old lamp; it, too, was very sweet.


Much as I love Awesomestow, there are days when it seems a bit grey and gritty even for me! So this bright and cheerful treatment of the borough definitely put a smile on my face.


The exhibition is on until August the 25th. I urge you to get down there if you can. As well as all the wonderful art, there's plenty of beautiful homeware and jewellery on sale, and you're bound to bump into some interesting local characters!




The thing with feathers

As the time to begin my training at the Royal School of Needlework draws ever nearer, I grow more and more excited, but also daunted, as it seems incredible to me that human hands can produce something so exquisitely beautiful.

Visiting the most recent exhibition at the William Morris Gallery, The Art of Embroidery, has me even more daunted. Truly, Nicola Jarvis's bird and floral motifs are an exercise in impeccable technique. It didn't surprise me in the slightest that the exhibition is supported by both the Royal School of Needlework and the Embroiderers' Guild, because Jarvis's skill is clearly the result of years of training.



What she is particularly masterful at is replicating the same image in a plethora of individual techniques; from quilting to painting to canvaswork. As well as being a master craftswoman she is obviously also a master draughtswoman; her designs for embroidery are exquisite, and are shown in context alongside those by May Morris, William Morris's daughter and a key figure in the Royal School of Art Needlework as it was then known.



May became director of the embroidery department of Morris & Co. at the tender age of twenty three (clearly a prodigious talent; I'm twenty two, and thus even more daunted!) Though techniques in embroidery have become more complex and refined since her time, there is a clear mastery of the craft in her designs. I was particularly struck with her silk shading, which, though thicker in stitch than modern silk shading, has a gorgeous quality of light.



Because of this juxtaposition between old and new techniques in embroidery, the exhibition is something of a view of the evolution of the craft.

I must say, though I greatly admired the masterful technique of Nicola Jarvis's designs, some of my favourite items in the exhibit were three bags, two of which were designed by Morris and the third is a woven Middle Eastern silk evening bag.This may be because of my romantic tendencies, which are perfectly suited to accessories of the Arts and Crafts movement!







My favourite pieces of Nicola's were her richly embroidered cushions. The beading in particular is breathtaking, and works particularly well with floral motifs, adding jewel-like opulence to the flowers. From her design notes, it is evident that Nicola closely studied Morris's designs, particularly his prints for wall papers and fabrics; she cleverly echoes these in the bodies of the birds, and incorporates them seamlessly. In some cases it appears that the birds are made of lace, the embroidery is so fine.











Nicola will be working on an embroidery in situ at the exhibition on a number of days; unfortunately I've forgotten precisely when and didn't write the dates down, but I do know that they are in August!


I would urge anyone, craftsperson or otherwise, to visit this breathtaking exhibition. It is nothing if not impressive, and irrefutably proves that embroidery is not "just an idle past-time", but a true art.


Big Teeth

Possibly thanks to my little exhibition at Arts and Crusts, I was recently contacted by E17 Art House, a local picture framers and gallery, and asked to participate in a new exhibition there to coincide with Waltham Forest's literary festival in October.

Words Over Waltham Forest aims to incite participants and the public to "tell tales, spin stories, recite rhymes, loosen tongues as Words over Waltham Forest celebrates creative writing, literary inspired art, reading, freedom of expression, language and literature across Waltham Forest."

I have a couple of plans for "literary inspired art" afoot, but first I must create a piece for the Book Marks exhibition at E17 Art House. And, always being one to bite off more than I can chew, I've decided to create a follow up to On Being Soft, my first soft sculpture artist's book.

This new book will be titled Big Teeth, and in keeping with the literary theme, will focus on fairytales and all the allusions to textiles therein, and how there is no such thing as a happy ending. It will have more than a whiff of Hounds of Love about it, being narrated by a heroine who is unwilling to give into love and its trappings.

Here is the design for the book's front cover.


Big Teeth refers both to the wolf in grandmother's clothing ("My, what big teeth you have") and to being afraid of the unruly emotions of life and love (life's "big teeth").

I picked up all the fabric to construct the book from fabric donations at Significant Seams for a very reasonable price; I love the slightly worn, pre-loved look of donated fabric. The fabric this embroidery will be stitched to make up the front cover is a faded "toothpaste stripe", which I felt very appropriate.

Hysterical Woman

The charming little coffee shop where I work tonight hosted the first of its supper clubs for the Appetite Festival (a month-long festival of food in Waltham Forest for the month of June). To coincide with this, Walthamstow Dad has created a coffee-flavoured art installation, and, thanks to a kindly customer who dropped me in it/suggested Arts and Crusts exhibited my work, I have a little window installation of my embroideries.

Carol (one half of Arts and Crusts) set the embroideries off beautifully by hand-drawing a lace design based on one of my handkerchiefs.

Work old and new is featured; pieces from The Cure for Love, my Melancholy Flowers, a pop feminist piece (which will, fingers crossed, feature in another exhibition soon), two handkerchiefs from my current project Treasures For Your Troubles, and a satirical piece on the perils of hero worshipping Sylvia Plath (as Woody Allen said, Plath was an "interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college girl mentality.")

When Carol was putting the finishing touches to the display, she asked me if I had a name for the little exhibition. As I drew a blank, she took a lead from the pop feminist embroidery featured, and dubbed the exhibition Hysterical Woman; so the display now reads Hysterical Woman Kate Elisabeth Rolison (!)





























I'm chuffed with the beautiful way in which Carol has presented my work. It seems fitting to have a little exhibition at Arts and Crusts; after all, it is an arts and crafts café, and I'm always found stitching away in between serving customers!

I'm afraid to say (according to the Arts and Crusts Twitter feed) all the spaces for the supper clubs are now sold out; I'm certainly very pleased to have made it to one. The tabbouleh, baklava, and Arabic mint tea went down particularly well (though wasn't eaten/drunk all at once!) It was a little like a dinner party but with new faces; a wonderful way to meet your neighbours and socialise, all while admiring the art on the walls (and ceiling!) and sampling Middle Eastern deliciousness. Bring on next year!

Sewing the seams of change, sowing the seeds of change


This Wednesday evening I shall be leading a Craftivist stitch-in for the Craftivist Collective‘s project “I’m A Piece”. The Collective are asking stitchers new and old to contribute an embroidered jigsaw piece to a giant art installation raising awareness of world hunger and injustice to support Save the Children‘s Race Against Hunger campaign.
Participants are asked to create two more jigsaw pieces; one with a personal message to remind themselves that they are part of the crafty call for change, and one embroidered with the phrase “I’m a piece”, to be passed on to their MP to urge them to use their power for good.
So far I’ve stitched up my first piece for the art installation. I decided to put a Significant Seams spin on things by embroidering the words “Sewing the seams of change, sowing the seeds of change“, and creating the puzzle piece in pinks and purples, the Significant Seams colours. The words are sewn in a sketchy stem stitch, with “Sewing the seams of change” highlighted with running stitch to represent “seams”. I’ve added a few gold bead “seeds” around “sowing the seeds of change“. To tidy up the edges and create a pretty border, I’ve finished the puzzle piece with blanket stitch:
I'm a piece 003I'm a piece 004
If you’d like to get your stitch on and add your voice to the call for change, join me this Wednesday 30th January from 6 – 8pm at 131 Wood Street, Walthamstow, E17. You can book online here, and join the event here.

Maple Leaves and Plush Punch


exterior
Last Thursday evening, Significant Seams invited E17 creatives and locals to take a tour of our new premises and hear our plans for its transformation.
We’re moving from Unit 23 – 24 Wood Street Indoor Market to 131 Wood Street; just over the road, opposite the Flowerpot pub and Brother’s Fish Bar! (Potentially a very dangerous location for Significant Seams staff!)
The premises needs a certain amount of capital work, and so we don’t yet have an exact opening date, but are planning a grand opening in March, in conjunction with a site specific textile project that is currently (rather appropriately) under wraps.
I’d fashioned a tree from our bountiful (though less so now!) supply of brown fabric earlier that day, which we hung from the rafters, and asked visitors to contribute their ideas for how the space might be used and how they would like to be involved.
Ideas weren’t just written down on forms, however; to go with our handcrafted tree for Wood Street, we’d ordered in stunningly realistic maple leaf post it notes.
image (8)
image (2)
Suggestions ranged from the practical to the downright kooky; some of our younger visitors had suggestions such as a giant birdcage for children to play in!
image (5)
What was most evident from both written and verbal feedback was how enthusiastic our supporters are about the move, as are we; it means more space, more convenient opening hours for our customers and service users, and, most excitingly, affords us the opportunity to offer the only inclusive community space in Eastern Walthamstow.
Non-alcoholic Plush Punch (which certainly still packed a punch!)

Jammin'

Just got back from Significant Seams' first "Awesomestow" Christine's Tomato Jam Stitch-In with Oxfam and the Craftivist Collective. It was, if not a roaring, then certainly a contentedly purring success.


The stitch-ins are inspired by the story of Christine, a Kenyan woman who makes and sells tomato jam to support her local community. Tomatoes are a fairly drought-resistant fruit, and thus easily grown in Christine's home town near Nairobi. 

In this spirit, craftivists all over the country (and the world!) are coming together to stitch messages about the food crisis on to jam jar labels. These jars will then be filled with tomato jam following Christine's own recipe, and passed on to people in positions of power, or businesses which are able to call (or shout) for change.


Sarah Corbett, founder and leader of the UK's Craftivist Collective, was on hand to guide us in our stitching, and lead discussion on the issues surrounding the world food crisis. It was fascinating and often deeply unsettling food for thought (pun intended). It's certainly inspired me to educate myself so that I can make more informed choices about how and where I eat.

It wasn't a sombre evening in the slightest, though; there was plenty of tea, and a few tomato jam sandwiches for each of us!


Yes, you read right; tomato jam sandwiches. They were surprisingly moreish. The general consensus was that the jam was closest to plum than any other fruit.

We were hosted by Walthamstow's gorgeous Arts & Crusts café, who provided us with a wonderfully DIY outdoor space, which was festooned with Craftivist Collective and Significant Seams quilts and bunting.

 

My role for the evening was to Tweet (via Sarah's iPhone... I've yet to invest in one myself) all the happenings, and I think I did a pretty good job! Got some nice "soundbites", for example:



Sarah Pelham, Oxfam London/South East's current intern, was on hand to snap and film us throughout proceedings, and took this rather nice shot for me to Tweet:



Well, after those sandwiches I was still feeling a little peckish, so I've just tucked in to a big bowl of pasta infused with, you guessed it... tomato jam! And now I'm off to bed. Good night, everyone!

K x

Answers for the Art Trail


Kate Elisabeth Rolison - 'The Onion Cutters' Club'

I am really intrigued by Kate's literary inspired exhibition. Kate's exhibition (no. 61) will be in bay window of 61 Somers Road, she will also have some work on display the the group exhibit 'Celebrating the Significant'. As well as having artwork on the trail, she will also be doing a number of Art Trail reviews for the blog, so keep you eyes peeled and follow this space! 

Kate tells us about her exhibition this year, her Walthamstow perspective and gives insight into her artistic method:


1. Please tell us about the work you will be showing in the 2012 E17 Art Trail?
Last year in Somers Road I showed a mixture of deeply romantic and very cynical hand embroideries  and cross stitches. Some were on the subject of love and loss, and some on the pretensions of the art world (sorry if that ruffles anyone’s feathers!)
This year is, quite literally, a much sadder state of affairs; a number of embroideries grew out of a project on tears. The exhibition is entitled 'The Onion Cutters’ Club', and is inspired by a chapter in Gunter Grass’ novel 'The Tin Drum' (brilliant book by the way, check it out), in which characters meet in a dingy cellar nightclub to cut onions, cry, and share stories of sorrow. The story captivated me, and so I began collecting true stories of sadness and tears (though it’s not all doom and gloom – some are quite funny!)

 I stitched these stories, accompanied by illustrations, on to antique handkerchiefs which I stained with different shades of onion skin. Originally I planned on completing five or six of these, but my creative juices obviously wanted to get going on something different, and I only ended up with three!
Instead of the two remaining “Onion Cutters’ Club” handkerchiefs, I embarked on an entirely different project, that on the face of it, is charmingly (or sickeningly, depending on your tastes) twee. I began appropriating chintzily hand-embroidered and appliquéd home textiles, and embroidering them with rather unsettling messages. I derived this messages from my experiences of mental illness. But it’s not all doom and gloom there either; there’s plenty of tongue in cheek humour here, aiming to disarm the viewer and make them re-consider their preconceptions of people who suffer from mental ill health.
If I get ‘round to it in time, there will also be a couple of good ol’ (and slightly cheeky!) feminist phrases stitched up and on display too. I’m quite busy at the moment, as I’m also interning at Significant Seams, who are doing several events and exhibitions in the Art Trail, so fingers crossed I can get everything done in time!
2. Is this your first time in the Trail or are you an E17 Art Trail veteran?
Last year I exhibited a collection of embroideries “Literary Stitchery”, which was reviewed on this blog. I got lots of really positive feedback and met many other talented artists. It really got my creative juices flowing and kick-started my third and final year at art college – I would recommend exhibiting in the Art Trail to anyone, even if they don’t consider themselves as particularly “arty”. For one thing, it’s a wonderful way to get talking to your local community!

3. What are the challenges of getting everything ready for your Art Trail event?
As I mentioned above, juggling my internship at Significant Seams inWood Street Indoor Market, reviewing a bunch of exhibits in the Trail, looking for paid work AND trying to set up an Etsy shop for my embroideries will be quite a challenge! It’s definitely one I’m looking forward to though, and I do like being busy.

4. Do you remember the first artist that really influenced you? Does that artist’s influence still have an impact on your work?
Writing was my first love (my degree is in Performance Writing, which basically translates to writing about art/writing as art, and vice versa). It took me a while to grow as equally passionately obsessed about art, but I must say Grayson Perry has been a pretty consistent inspiration. I love the dense layers of detail and “busyness” of his work. My work is often pretty stripped back, apart from my recent artist’s book, “On Being Soft: A work in progress”, which was exhibited in the “Soft” textiles exhibition at The Mill. I also really admire Grayson’s nack for storytelling and capturing characters and dialogue. And of course, his studio is based in Walthamstow and his “Walthamstow Tapestry” is currently on display at the William Morris Gallery, which makes him a very apt inspiration!

5. The E17 Art trail has become bigger every year. Do you think it is because more artists are calling it home?
As house prices soar and the trendy East End pushes out further and further, “starving” artists are pushed to the, shall we say, slightly less fashionable East London boroughs, such as the wonderful Walthamstow.  This is resulting in a bit of a burgeoning, buzzing hive of creativity here in the ‘Stow, as I’ve learnt from becoming more deeply involved in the crafting community. It’s slightly under the radar (but maybe that’s a good thing), and very, very exciting. It’s a good place to be as a young artist in 2012.
6. What has E17 bestowed on you?
E17 has bestowed on me a love and tolerance of all cultures (and a very deep love for the food of those cultures!) It has also bestowed a chance to explore my creativity to the full and to reach out to the local community. Walthamstow often gets a bad press, but my experience of its community has been almost invariably positive, and incredibly inspiring.  But that’s just Awesomestow for you.




(Written by Hassan Vawda, co-reviewer of this year's E17 Art Trail)