Female Matters

The good people at Polyester Zine know how to throw a party. For the launch of the magazine there was a one-night nail bar, DJs, and sangria that was unlike any I have ever tasted (though not in a bad way).

Their latest exhibition-come-knees-up Female Matters was co-curated by Polyester Zine and womenswear designer Clio Peppiatt in aid of the Dahlia Project, which supports survivors of Female Genital Mutilation.

The exhibition could have been a very heavy, dark affair, considering the project it was raising money for, but the curators took a tongue-in-cheek and joyous approach to the subject of female sexual liberation in the 21st Century.

Pop feminism and grrrl power was much in evidence. The first work of art I saw when I walked through the door was my stitchin' sister Hannah Hill, wearing a crop top she had embroidered with her own fair hand. It featured one of her most popular Ghoul Guides designs, "Donut Touch Me".

This was unfortunately very appropriate as Hannah experienced some street harassment on the night. The embroidery shows her resilience and wicked sense of humour in the face of sexism.





Hannah was one of 20+ artists who exhibited customised knickers at Female Matters. Every pair was for sale. Hung on a washing line for all to see, the messages ranged from "No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor" to "Pussy Power", which was featured on several pairs of knickers. Hannah's knickers proclaim that "My body is mine", a statement many of us could benefit from being reminded of, living as we do in a patriarchal consumer society where sex sells and our bodies and ourselves are never enough.

Photograph by Hanecdote









Hannah was also featured in a simply stunning photo series by the phenomenally talented Scarlett Shaney about the social media gaze and how we present our image to the world. Hannah is an utter femme fatale in the series, which is appropriate as Scarlett has an on-going series called Cinema Stills, riffing on Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills.

Photograph by Hanecdote
Ceramics featured heavily at Female Matters. These pondering women, comfortable inhabiting their own bodies (but not sexualised) by playful ceramicist Charlotte Mei, really appealed to me. If I had the cash, I might have bought the pair.


But my very favourite pieces of the night were also perhaps the least subtle. They reminded me of many varied references; Gustav Klimt, icon paintings, landscapes.

These bead and paint works by Melissa Eakin lavishly depict the female body as a shrine to worship at. Menstrual blood becomes a seam of rubies; the pearl clitoris reminds me of the Carol Ann Duffy poem Anne Hathaway:

The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas
where he would dive for pearls.


The woman's body becomes the archetypal woman's body; every skin tone is daubed on to one body, and the scale becomes as cinematic as the Grand Canyon.





More ceramics by Georgia Grace Gibson initially reminded me of Grayson Perry, with their scrawled writing and collaged images.

However, on closer inspection it became apparent that Georgia was doing something very different, and difficult. One pot was daubed with the obscenities and teasing of the girls' toilets at school and battered and borrowed text books. The second pot was an undeniably filthy and foul-mouthed diary of a gobby teenage girl who has thrust herself with gusto into sexual experimentation.

These uncomfortable examples of the young girl's gaze which is often swept under the carpet are contrasted with the third pot, in which naked, nubile young women contort into grotesque parodies of lesbianism exclusively for the male gaze.



















Female Matters was absolutely packed, and rightly so. I was so impressed that such talented and varied artists were brought together and curated so beautifully for just one night. I met a number of people in "mutual" follows on social media, and everyone was so friendly, chatty, and creating fascinating work in different remits and mediums. Here's to the next Polyester Zine event!

Black Lives Matter


For a while now I've watched in horror whilst black people across America are slain by the police and by members of the public who feel the need to take justice murder into their own hands, feeling powerless to help. It seems terribly cynical, but I can't help but think that this happens all the time, just not as publicly. To a fair extent, we have social media to thank for keeping the killings of Mike Brown, Kajieme Powell, Vonderrit Myers Jr., Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner in the public sphere (and the list grows...) Even ten years ago, we would largely have had to rely on the mainstream media, which for various reasons, one of which is that it is overwhelmingly white, is possibly not the best source of information during a period of racial unrest.

The injustice, too, is overwhelming. Not only was Wilson, Brown's killer, not indicted for shooting an unarmed black teenager to death, he resigned, rather than was dismissed, from the police force (albeit without severance pay) after a period of paid leave, and almost $400,000 was raised by his supporters. Let me emphasize that; after shooting an unarmed black teenager to death, Wilson says that he has a clear conscience.

I am angry, I am horrified, I am frightened. Even after signing the petition to take the case of Michael Brown to the Supreme Court, I felt hopeless. I felt that I, and the other signees, were powerless to effect change, even if we were on the right side of history.

Then I saw this post by the inimitable Hanecdote. Ferguson and associated injustice has been weighing more heavily in Hannah's heart than some of us; her boyfriend is black. So she decided she was going to take action. She created 24 "Black Lives Matter" hand embroidered badges to sell, with all donations going to Hands Up United, an organisation that is seeking justice and supporting the community in Ferguson. With this beautiful act of Craftivism, Hannah has empowered us to make a difference, however small.


You can show your support by donating a minimum £5 for the badge with £1 for postage (so £6 in all). Email hanecdote@hotmail.com for details. 

Be the change you want to see in the world.

DIY Cultures

I'm still buzzing from tabling at my first ever DIY fair at the weekend. My dear friend Hannah Hill invited me to share a table and give her a hand at the second ever DIY Cultures Fair at the amazing East End cultural space, Rich Mix, and I was only too happy to oblige.

Hannah was selling a variety of her wares, from stickers to her Ghoul Guide patches to little ghostly brooches (I just had to snap one up at the earliest opportunity!) as Hanecdote. I joined her as Poesie Grenadine, displaying my pop feminist/body positive lino patches for sale.


I must say I think our products looked very cute together, in their colourful array. And, if it's not too smug to say, we looked pretty darn cute too, Hannah in her sugary tough girl get-up and me in my Ghoul Guides dress, bedecked in patches.


Even if I hadn't sold anything, I still would've had a lovely day; it's always a pleasure hanging out with Hannah and her hilarious boyfriend Gerrard, and Pip came along to watch the stall whilst Han and I listened to a talk about anti-capitalist fashion. The talks were really interesting and varied; from "De-colonize It Yourself" to alternative mental health care and the difficulties of trying to shop ethically. Lots of varied views to listen to while we presided over our produce!

Uber-cute Poesie Grenadine business cards that I gave out at the Fair.


It was great to meet other makers and have some chats about mutual interests. I've been watching my pennies a bit lately, but I picked up two zines; the first issue of Hysteria: A Collection of Feminisms, partially for the name and partially due to the fascinating conversation I had with one of the women running the stand, and Poems Underwater: essays and photographs from mermaid haunts around the east of England. I've been reading this zine today, whilst bedecked in my Caitlin Shearer dress, and it is quite unlike anything else I've ever read. Very inspiring.


One of the babes who picked up one of my most popular patches (Thunder Thighs Are Go, of course!) posted a picture of their haul on their Tumblr.
How fab does all that look?!

Speaking of fab, my adorable little Ghoul Guide takes pride of place on my Suzy Bishop dress.


A wonderful day of positivity, with a really strong, engaged female presence; I felt proud to be a woman, and an artist and maker on Sunday, and it's good to hold on to and remember that when there have been such atrocities committed against women recently, from the Nigerian school girls to the women gunned down in sheer misogyny in America over the last few days. If we can, through the phrases on our hand-crafted creations, engender pride in one's womanhood, if we can motivate, come together to create and talk and protest, then we are in some small way standing up to such horrors. We are women, and we will not be silenced.

Stitch For Survival

I'm currently reading an utterly unputdownable book. Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors may occasionally induce eye-rolling at the puerile preoccupations and sheer quackery of psychoanalysis, but for all that it remains a vital and fascinating case study of the treatment and interpretation of women throughout the ages. Unexpectedly, it also throws light on attitudes to needlework over the years, from the opinions of proto-feminists to the most famous mind doctor of them all.

Two famous Marys decried embroidery as a subjugating, dullifying activity that diverted women's attentions away from more intellectual pursuits, and ultimately, away from their emancipation.


 Mary Lamb, early nineteenth century co-author of the enduringly popular Tales from Shakespeare, even wrote that "Needle-work and intellectual improvement are naturally in a state of warfare". Indeed, literature of the early 1800s would lead us to believe that women were forever busied with their "work", hands industriously sewing away creating embroideries of questionable usefulness or purpose, kept in the home at their embroidery frames rather than in the same spheres as "great" men. 





Mary Wollstonecraft, in her watershed text A Vindication of the Rights of Women, perhaps for the first time in English literature, urges men to treat women as equals, and speak to them rationally. In fact, it is almost as if she does not believe women are the fragile little flowers men would make them out to be, capable only of embroidering yet more fragile little flowers rather than turning their minds to more lofty pursuits. Curious.


Now, as a feminist and an embroiderer, I am of course a little sceptical that needlework and so-called lofty pursuits are incompatible. Embroidery gives me space to mull things over in my mind; to ponder everything from the intellectual to the banal. Aside from that, the shared roots of textiles and written text offer an endless source for scholarly research and a rich artistic practice. What I will allow is that it is a calming past-time; one does get into somewhat of a meditative state, and this brings me to my favourite needlework-related quotation of all time, from the granddaddy of psychoanalysis, Mr Sigmund Freud:


"(Hypnoid states) it would seem, grow out of the day-dreams which are so common even in healthy people and to which needlework and similar occupations render women especially prone".





Women are also more prone to these "hypnoid states" because they are the weaker sex (disallowing, of course, the fact that many of them pull off the superhuman equivalent of shoving a watermelon up their nose during labour). For all his sexual liberation, Freud was no feminist, as his theory that women longed for a totemic penis of their very own (thus implying that they were deficient men) indicates. However, it is interesting to me that Freud views embroidery as dangerous; perhaps he's investing a little too much symbolic power in that needle? It reminds me of another quotation I came across once, from the French novelist Colette, concerning her daughter; "she is silent when she sews, silent for hours... she is silent, and she - why not write it down the word that frightens me - she is thinking."


God, forbid, a thinking woman. Dangerous. A woman thinking under cover of an innocent womanly pursuit; doubly so.


Now that I'm studying at the Royal School of Needlework, sewing doesn't often occasion daydreaming for me any more; but when I first picked up a needle, my mind was in turmoil, and the repetitive process both afforded me an occupation (much like the "woman's work" of the 19th Century) and soothed me. In many ways, it was my salvation. It has since become my career path, but it's much more personal than that; I have embroidery to thank, at least partially, for pulling me out of the darkest period of my life.

Despite Freud's misgivings, needlework has since been recognised as an effective form of occupational therapy; following the second world war, shell-shocked soldiers were encouraged to complete embroidery kits as part of their convalescence. More recent studies suggest that the act of embroidery has a physiological effect, regulating heart beat and breathing, triggering "the relaxation response". I myself feel much more relaxed reclining on the sofa with the telly on if I have a bit of stitching in my hands (although that may have more to do with being hooked on needlework than with its calming effect).

An up and coming designer and girl after my own heart, Hannah Hill, recently put into words (and pictures) my own feelings about the salvation of embroidery, summing them up in one of her typically apt and succinct phrases, "Stitch For Survival".




She's surrounded the phrase with tattoo-style illustrations, including a self portrait and her trademark Ghoul Guides badges that she sells in her Etsy shop, and my favourite touch, which one might miss in a quick glance; a tear falling from the eye socket of the skull and crossbones. A reminder that surviving isn't always easy, but that stitching helps.



Ghoul Guides


Back in September I bought myself a 50s Girl Scouts uniform with the intention of covering it in handsewn patches that were gathering dust in a ruby slipper sparkly box on a shelf in my room.

These patches were made by fellow artists and crafters, or "crafty babes" as we say on Tumblr. They include patches by Hanecdote, Milk Lake, and Dany Reede. Hanecdote is the Etsy alias of my dear friend Hannah Hill, who has vowed to create an "international club where it is now your duty to kick butt with sass and attitude" through her Ghoul Guides patches. Hannah creates dozens of designs from the cute to the saucy, stitching up alternative merit badges to be worn with pride. And, fingers crossed, she should be re-opening her wildly successful Etsy shop today!


Milk Lake is Rachel Parent, lover of growing her own and gardening, folk art, music and culture, and Joanna Newsom. Her hand-stitched wall art and patches are so charming in their soft tones and floral patterns; she puts a lot of detail into each piece and each stitch. As she's such a Joanna Newsom aficionado, I just had to commission her to make me a "poetaster" patch, which is displayed close to my heart on my dress. I consider myself something of a poetaster; not a master poet, by any means!


Next to my poetaster patch is a Girl Scouts Walthamstow Division vintage badge. I had to pay homage to my hometown somewhere!

I think this is my favourite Hanecdote patch. So punny.


Dany Reede makes a whole plethora of art, from painting and drawing to printmaking. He also makes the sweetest of broken hearted hand and machine embroidered naive patches. The "Lonely Hearts" one in particular is inspiring me, with my obsession with moons, paper or otherwise.



Thanks to Katrina Bautista for pictures. I will wear my Ghoul Guides dress with pride, and try to do Hannah proud too by kicking butt with as much sass as possible!

At a snail's pace


"Slow and steady wins the race" is an adage my mother is fond of quoting to me when I am bemoaning just how long it is taking to move things forward. Never is this more apt than with needlework; as a family we recently got 'round to watching Fabric of Britain, and in the embroidery edition of the series (which featured a certain Royal School) learned that it can take six hours to embroider just two tiny cheeks of a face in split stitch. This makes my progress with my Canvas Stitches coral garden look positively speedy!

Jacquard Stitch on my Canvas Stitches coral garden piece


I have never been good at sharing works in progress, whether in the contexts of work, academia, or on this blog. It must be the perfectionist in me. Right now, though, I only have works in progress to show. This feels fitting; it seems like my life is a work in progress right now, moving forward, though in no way speedily. Slowly, slowly, at a snail's pace, I am learning technique, and I am learning so much about myself. Learning what makes me happy and keeps me healthy. This new experience is an education, in every sense of the word.






Although it's tough, sometimes even mentally and physically exhausting, I am enjoying every stitch.

Perhaps all this is why snails have appeared so often in my artwork over the years; from my oh-so-"conceptual" GCSE art project in which a colourful character hid their light under a bushel (or more accurately, inside a box covered with snail shells) within a colourful inner sanctum that was literally bubblewrapped from the outside world;













...to Dale the Snail (not my choice of name!) who takes pride of place in the Jacobean Crewel Work I (finally!) completed for my RSN course (still needs to be mounted, though).



Or perhaps I simply like snails... the way they carry their homes around with them, their dual timidity and curiosity at the world, and if you want to get really "Dartington", how they leave a trace of their existence behind wherever they go.

I'm learning other ways of taking better care of myself in addition to endless meditative stitching; learning to be thankful for all the wonderful people and experiences in my life, reading the work of my favourite writers, surrounding myself with art that makes me feel good. That includes the art of my contemporaries, for example the wonderful Hannah Hill, a young artist and good friend of whom I expect great things (and who is already making great things happen!) This piece in particular has been a great comfort of late; the text is taken from a piece by another young Tumblr artist, Eryn (of the blog "botanicalmovement"):

Hannah has really made Eryn's words come alive

I am, as ever at this time of year, trying to look for the little things that make winter wonderful, when it is such a difficult time for people like me, who have a tendency towards depression. So I felt I'd stumbled on a literary, stitchery, wintry goldmine when I came across this cross stitched Annie Dillard quotation by Jessica Kelly on Flickr:


Dillard is definitely a writer I'll have to do some investigating into pretty imminently.

All these wise stitched words have spurned me into stitching some of my own; I've written a wry little manifesto for myself moving forward:
  • Being a damsel in distress went out with wimples; be your own hero
  • Red lipstick wasn't rationed for a reason; it's a shell to fling at the world, a suit of armour
  • Playing the invalid invalidates you; heal yourself
  • What to look for in winter; fungus, ferns, frost; two bodies under a blanket; a warm dog sat in your lap
  • Remember you're a milk thistle; unlily your liver
  • Shout boo at every hissing goose to cross your path
I am picking away at embroidering the manifesto (tentatively titled "The Tentative Manifesto of a Big Girl's Blouse"... I wonder why?) and practising my split stitch while I'm at it. Picking it up after a hard day's stitching homework and returning to sewing as a form of therapy, which is so important for me.




I've also made the decision to re-open my Etsy shop. The time feels right, when I am so full of enthusiasm for the future. When these two little fellas have been transformed into rosettes, I will be putting them up for sale alongside framed embroidered art from The Cure for Love and other projects, and a few vintage garments I'm very excited to share with you all.


When the time comes I will post all the pertinent information and links here on the Poesie Grenadine blog. Until then, I'll be stitching!


Trinkets

I'm not a fashion blogger by any stretch of the imagination (as the photographs below illustrate), but I do have a fondness (well, more than a fondness) for fashion, as my ever-expanding collection of vintage and thrifted frocks attests.

When it comes to clothes, I try to shop second hand (with the exception of hosiery and underwear!), partially for the good of the planet, but largely because it allows me to cultivate a more individual look. 

Cardigan: Charity shop
Dress: Vintage
Shoes: Juju
Brooch: Poptones
Hair clip: Poptones

When it comes to accessories, however, I try my best to support independent designers like myself, many of whom sell their handmade wares via craft vending website Etsy.

My most recent handmade goodies come courtesy of the wondrous Marlena Pope of Poptones, who sells her products via her proper good fashion blog.

Marlena has a wonderful sense of fun and colour in both her outfits and her handmade accessories. When I clapped eyes on her sweetheart barettes, I knew I had to snap one up. I wore it to work today, and every time I turned my head I caught a scent of sugar.




My collection of witch-themed brooches also appears to be ever-expanding (and as a committed Stitch Witch, how could it not be?)

I already have a sparkly number which spells out "WITCH" in beads from the cryybaby Etsy, which my fellow Stitch Witch Hannah Hill gave me (thanks Han, I wear it with pride). Mimi's shop is brimming with riot grrrl sparkle and sass, and she's trade friendly!

My other witch brooch is similarly riot grrrl inspired; also from Marlena's shop, its glittery design is based on a Hole fanzine.




As a self-proclaimed femme, sometimes I need something a little creepy to offset the sweetness of my outfits; and when that's the case, I turn to the fabulous Jen Johnson's Etsy, hoodratroughdiamond. Jen has bags upon bags of wicked cool style, and she comes up with the most wonderfully surreal, disco-morbid badge and barrette designs. Among my favourites are her new moth collar pins:


And her Halloween bone hair barrettes:


My very favourite purchase from Jen, however is the wonderfully witty tombstone pin that reads "Live slow, die whenever". It's a sentiment I live by!


Truly I could spend all my hard-earned pennies in the hoodratroughdiamond shop; there's such a wonderful plethora of naff 90s memorabilia, creepy cute kitsch, and twee, all aesthetics I endorse heartily.

Today's present to myself was a pair of cute ghostie earrings (ghostie is one of my favourite words and definitely one of my favourite things) from ginettepomette, who makes many adorable things which threaten my bank balance. Jen of hoodratroughdiamond alerted me to their existence; thanks a bunch, Jen!


I do love ordering independently designed/manufactured products through the post; when they arrive, it's like getting a little present from yourself that you needn't feel guilty about!

I will always support independent designers whenever I can, which brings me to the last (but certainly not least) designer of this blog post; Hanecdote, aka my good friend and fellow Stitch Witch Hannah Hill.

Hannah has recently reopened her Etsy shop with a ridiculously cute new product; the Ghoul Guides patch. These collectible patches range from "Halloween Queen" to the hilarious and pertinent "Donut Touch Me" (I ordered two; one for me, and one for a friend!)




And the best part is, if you order three badges, you receive a membership badge free of charge! I just know I'm going to have to collect them all!

That's my haul of my favourite indie designers! I'd love it if you could share yours, I'm constantly on the lookout for new trinkets handmade with lots of love.






Gold Star

As a habitual pessimist and anxiety queen, I have recently begun keeping a record of one good thing from each day, to remind myself that actually, my life is pretty darn good.
 
I've also been indulging in an incredibly childish (and mildly embarrassing) practice; giving myself reward stickers.
 
A few months back, on the advice of friend, collaborator and fellow artist Hannah Hill, I started keeping a record of daily to-dos and achievements as a means of patting myself on the back (something I'm often not very good at) and as an impetus to get stuff done. I nicked Hannah's idea and added reward stickers, and as I noted at the time, self-imposed bribery to do things via a stickers-based reward system worked (un)surprisingly well. Yes, I am a child.
 
There's something about gold reward stars in particular that is incredibly crave-inducing; they must be engineered that way. Maybe its my innate and irritating perfectionism, mixed with nostalgia for primary school, I don't know.
 
Anyway, in homage to the humble gold star reward sticker, I wanted to make a series of work celebrating the minor achievements of us bumbling humans as we muddle our way through life, making it up as we go along and getting bumps and scrapes which (hopefully) only serve to make us a little bit stronger... I'm bumbling myself now.
 
I'm tentatively calling the project Treasures For Your Troubles, which is what the first embellished piece of the series spells out, in (what else) golden star sequins.

 




 
The next element of the project (which will be a multimedia undertaking) will be accomplished with the aid of my trusty old Polaroid Spectra camera, and some Impossible Project film which I was happy to find had arrived when I got in from work this evening. Now if only we'd have some good weather, I could get on with it! Just one of the (very minor) obstacles in life the project is all about overcoming.

An interview on the origins of Poesie Grenadine

Recently I've been contacted by a number of different students wanting to interview me on my practice as it relates to feminism, writing, and fashion. It's a real pleasure to answer their questions (not to mention immensely flattering!), and it wasn't very long ago at all that I was bothering artists Joetta Maue and Iviva Olenick with a plethora of nosy questions for my own projects.

This interview was with a fashion journalism student who is creating a literary magazine which focuses on the marriage between poetry and fashion. I'm very excited to see the finished publication.

What came first - your love for writing or your love for sewing?

Writing came first for me. I struggled with literacy at school, but after receiving my first "proper book" (with chapters!), Horse Pie by Dick King Smith, in my stocking, one Christmas when I was seven or eight, it was like turning on a tap; the writing just poured out of me.


When did you start doing each?  Why?

With the writing, the more I put in, (in the form of novels, poetry, non-fiction, plays) the more continued to pour out of me; this continued from the Horse Pie incident and hasn't really stopped, although my writing is a lot more pared down and concise now, as it often has to be embroidered, and embroidery is a very time-consuming medium! Aside from GCSE Textiles, when I embroidered a dress I'd hand printed with unfurling fern designs, I began embroidering in earnest after a very debilitating period of mental illness three years ago, as both an occupation and a form of therapy; I found the meditative, repetitive process soothing; perhaps I was stitching my ego back together again. Occupational or art therapy, if you will!

Are there any themes (in your writing and sewing) that you constantly use in your work?

As the above may hint at, I'm particularly concerned with public (mis?)conceptions of mental illness, notions of romance (and romantic notions), pop fem(me)inism, flora and fauna, the tortured artist cliche, sickness and recovery, the English national psyche, and art which is soft, twee, delicate or "girly" as a foil to darker subtexts.



Where do you get your inspiration from?

The online embroidery and feminist art communities are a constant source of inspiration and support, and I am very grateful to them, and to the web for making them so accessible. I try to take in as many exhibitions as financially possible, and, as it did in my formative years, my reading material continues to inspire me in wonderful ways. Being in nature is, in my opinion, also really important for the creative process, and helps me breathe.


What's your creative process like?  I.e. Do you find yourself writing first and then applying that to your stitch work?

The seed of an idea for an embroidery often begins as a scribble in a notebook, or, more often than not, as a note saved in my phone! There's always rather a lot of writing and planning done before I "commit to cloth". Documentation and reflection is a very important part of my creative process, and I do this by blogging over at http://poesiegrenadine.blogspot.co.uk


What is the significance of words on clothes/accessories for everyone to read?

Words on clothing will always make a statement about the reader to passersby or the general public. Why else do people buy branded clothing than to broadcast their affluence and sophistication to the world? Similarly, my brooches convey pride in oneself and allegiance to a feminist (or femme) cause; a pride in one's womanhood.




So far, which item that you've sewn has been your personal favourite?  Why?


 It's very difficult to pick an absolute favourite embroidery I've sewn; of the embroidered accessories I've created, my "Thunder Thighs Are Go" heart shaped brooch, with its play on the Thunderbirds catchphrase and body positivity, has proved a firm favourite with the Tumblr crowd and is a favourite of mine too (I may have to make myself one to keep!). I'm also rather fond of my Stitch Witches rosettes, created for my collaborative project Stitch Witches, which is soon to culminate in a zine celebrating contemporary and subversive stitch craft, curated and created by an embroidering girl gang of two.

CUSTOMISABLE Stitch Witches Rosette


Is there one in particular you believe to be most powerful?  If so, why is it?

People have really embraced "Thunder Thighs Are Go" as their own phrase to celebrate their bodies, and I'm moderately proud of that. I think that makes it quite powerful. Some of my embroideries on the subject of mental health, created in bitter and knowing irony, have been taken literally and reclaimed as a badge of honour, and I think either taken in this reading or in the spirit they were originally intended, they are powerful statements of defiance.



Describe some of the word play you use. 

My work is always underpinned by the written word, whether that be by beautiful etymologies, dreadful puns, or linguistic philosophy (though it is a little heavy on the puns!)

Currently, how many different projects do you have going on?
 
I'm currently taking a break from my most ambitious project yet; a hand made quilt on the subject of the stars and fortune telling, based around my character Polly Kettle, an occult siren. Whilst I'm ruminating on that, I've embarked on a blackwork series of turn of the century childrens' book illustrations. I'm also working towards bringing out the first issue of Stitch Witches zine with my collaborator Hannah Hill (http://hanecdote.tumblr.com/)

When you created your first piece, what were the reactions like from other people?

The people to see my first piece of embroidery were my parents, and I think they were tickled by the playful wordplay and clumsy stitches! Considering how amateurish it is, it's received a surprising amount of attention on Flickr.



What are your hopes for your creations in the future?

This September I will be starting the tutor training course at the Royal School of Needlework in Hampton Court Palace, to learn, practice and teach hand embroidery to the highest possible level. In addition to and because of this, I would hope to exhibit my work more widely, and expand my practice of participatory performance embroidery workshops, social events where I use embroidery as a tool to open up conversation on a theme in a fun and performative setting.

By the way, where did the name Poesie Grenadine come from? 

Poesie Grenadine is a French phrase which translates roughly (and very broken-ly) as "purple prose". As much of my earliest embroidery arose out of re-workings of terrible teenage love poetry, it seemed most apt. I'm also somewhat of a florid, pinkish person, so it's suitable in that way too!

Doing It Ourselves


Yesterday I went to support my friend and fellow founder of  Stitch Witches Collective Hanecdote at the DIY Cultures Fair at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green.
I’d been to Rich Mix once before, to hear some poetry at their Jawdance open mic night, an evening that really did reflect the cultural diversity of East London, in all its myriad forms (as the Rich Mix aims to with all its programmes). I found myself back there yesterday for a celebration of “all things independent, autonomous and alternative“.
After bumping into everyone from ex-Dartington students to the founder of the Craftivist Collective, I got down to doing what I do best; stitching at a Girls Get Busy X Hanecdote embroidery workshop.
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As you can see, plenty of girls got busy creating their own version of the Girls Get Busy/feminist/Venus symbol. One guy got busy too; my boyfriend Pip made a very valiant attempt at stitching a sunshine yellow symbol.
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I think you can see from the pictures how engrossed everyone was with their DIYing. Hannah’s friend Mollie, a first time embroiderer, made this incredibly cute Venus symbol. I hope she’s proud of her newfound embroidery skills!
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As Pip and I arrived a little late to the fair, I had to finish my patch at home. Inspired by Mollie’s design, I added gold star sequins to my yellow stem stitch symbol:
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I’d love to send the patch to a fellow feminist of a crafty persuasion; if you’d like it, let me know and I’ll send it along in the post free of charge.
OOMK Zine, whose first issue features an article about my experiences of exhibiting in the E17 Art Trail, tabled at the event, and DIY Cultures was co-curated by OOMK founder Sofia Niazi.
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I bitterly regret having run out of money and so not being able to pick up a copy of Sofia’s wonderfully witty and engaging zine Talk To The Scarf, a tribute to her hijab. However, for those of you who are similarly skint, Talk To The Scarf can be seen and read in full over at Sofia’s website.
My favourite new zine I encountered at the event was one which broke free from the normal constraints of the zine format; Indestructible Energy is produced in a print run of one hundred, and is comprised both of original artworks and reproductions. For each run, one hundred copies or one hundred original artworks are produced by the contributing artists for inclusion in the zine. Indestructible Energy is not unique only in being comprised partially of original artworks; it is also an unbound zine which comes wrapped in a screenprinted cloth, lending it the flavour of an archive rather than a publication. Indestructible Energy is also a digital art zine, and some of the reproductions which comprise issue 1 are screenshots from films featured on the zine’s website.
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Shots of Indestructible Energy’s table at the fair
The idea of a zine or archive which allows people to own potentially hundreds of pieces of affordable original artwork really intrigues me, and I will certainly be contributing to issue 2. I don’t think I’ll be completing one hundred embroideries, though! (Well, maybe for issue 3!)
Pip and I stuck around for a talk on DIY Artist Communities, during which Sarah Corbett of the Craftivist Collective spoke passionately and inspirationally about the power of craft as a tool for social change, and the founder of FoodFace, an artist run space in Peckham, reminded us that you actually can’t “do it yourself”; as artists we all need to support one another and come together to make change, and share our work with the world. I am so grateful for the many people present at DIY Cultures yesterday who have accepted me and my work, and helped to share it with a wider audience. Both Hannah and myself were so inspired by what we saw and heard, and can’t wait to turn Stitch Witches zine into a print reality. Watch this space.

Stylin' Stitch Witch


Jen of hoodratroughdiamond wrote the sweetest little blog post about the swap we did. I love the way she styled the rosette; she’s definitely a new fashion icon of mine.
Stitch Witches Collective on Facebook is going from strength to strength, with crafty swaps being discussed and plans for meet-ups afoot. Plus we now have 146 members! Fellow founding member Hannah and I are meeting up the week after next to initiate the next stage of making the Stitch Witches zine a reality.
PS You can get your hands on your own Stitch Witches rosette here.

Swaps, sales, and sinister sewing


Last Wednesday evening I had the most delightful January pick-me-up; I made my first sale on Etsy! The item which sold was Dishwater Eyes, one of my first embroideries for my project The Cure for Love, and was a romantic present for the buyer’s wife. I’ve yet to hear whether she was happy with it yet, but I’m very happy that one of my embroideries can be so meaningful for somebody else.
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As well as selling work, I’ve been doing some swapping of late; the fabulously stylish Jen ofhoodratroughdiamond wanted to know how  she could get a hold of one of my Stitch Witches rosettes (illustrated by Hanecdote and simply sewn by me):
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Well, I’d been hankering after some of Jen’s ghoulishly gorgeous creepy cute accessories for a little while, and so I was chuffed when she suggested we do a swap. I can’t help feeling I lucked out with my goodies; I got this witty little brooch (a much better motto than “Live fast, die young”, wouldn’t you agree?):
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I also received a bone-shaped hair barette which I’m going to describe, in true fashion-twerp style, as “disco-morbid” (it’s covered in glitter!)
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Today I’ve confirmed another spooky swap with Oh Hell Clothing; an embroidery of mine for this rather fab over-sized Ouija tee:
OVERSIZED OUIJA TEE
You can now get your hands on your very own Stitch Witches rosette over at my Etsy shop. Now seemed like a good time to make the rosettes available to buy, as Stitch Witches is becoming something of a movement! Our Facebook group has 135 members and counting, and has become a real (virtual) social hub for crafty young women, a source of inspiration, advice, and celebration of our creativity. Hannah and I can’t wait to get the zine out and get other Stitch Witches involved in our little (but quickly growing) project.
Finally, a silly photoshoot with a fantastic old book I’ve discovered via Significant Seams; it seems one I definitely need to share with the Stitch Witches coven:
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The book isn’t quite as sinister as it might appear, however, rather quaint and English and old-fashioned in fact (a bit like the author of this blog, perhaps?) and really warrants a blog post all of its own…

A Christmas Message from Stitch Witches


(Or one half of them at least.)
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A very Merry Christmas to you from the moveable feast that is Stitch Witches headquarters. As I sit, stuffed as the turkey I’m stuffed with, glass of red in hand, I ponder how to make the glitter-covered (a Stitch Witches must) festive season just a touch more… ghoulish.
Possibly with the addition of a Stitch Witches rosette, printed with an illustration by Hanecdote and adorned with spiders, scaredy cats, or spluttering slime green candles?
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Or an otherworldy Stitch Witches loveheart brooch, decorated with ghostly green and lavender gems and sequins?
These and more will be available to buy (or perhaps even win) in the run up to the release of Stitch Witches zine #1. The zine is coming on apace; here is my most recently completed page for it; I won’t give anything else away apart from to say that Polly Kettle is an artistic alter-ego of mine, and certainly lives up to her “mystifying” tag line.
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Hannah is something of a one-woman stitching machine, constantly churning out occult-themed t shirts and accessories (but only of the highest quality), many of which are inspired by Stitch Witches, or will appear in its pages or in other merchandise.
We’ve both been featured (or are about to be featured!) in other zines over the past couple of months. Hannah’s “CREEP” patch above will appear in OOMK zine, along with (fingers crossed) a piece by me on putting on an exhibition in my parents’ bay window this summer.
We’ve also both had art featured in the most recent issue of Girls Get Busy zine. Girls Get Busy is “a non-profit feminist collective supporting female writers, musicians and artists with a monthly zine. Based in London, UK and curated by Beth Siveyer“. My piece, “Hysterical Woman“, is on the very first page (I can’t pretend not to be a little bit proud and smug about that):
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I made my fellow Stitch Witch a little Christmas package of witchy goodies, which arrived at the same time as her copy of Girls Get Busy. Hannah took some great photographs of her swag, and I’m glad she liked my silly little gifts so much (and that they, and the zine, coordinate with her nail polish!):
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One thing’s for sure this Christmas; Stitch Witches are certainly on the up. I’m looking forward to 2013, and all the creativity it will bring, immensely. All that remains to be said is, once again, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good ghoulish night.
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Stitching, Witching, and Bitchin': Stitch Witches zine progress


Last Tuesday, Hannah and I regrouped to share where we’d gotten up to in creating our zineStitch Witches. More importantly, we met up to CRAFT (and eat junk food).
And craft we did! I created a new and improved version of my homage to Destiny’s Child to feature on a special page of the zine:
Much sweeter (pardon the pun) than the previous design, wouldn’t you agree?
Hannah, however, has been working much, much harder than me, creating patches and t shirts a-plenty:
Hannah gave me this fab Stitch Witches insignia to sew on to the back of my camo jacket!
The design on this t shirt will play a very special role in the revamped version of our Tumblr, which will allowStitch Witches everywhere to join in with our Textiles Worshipping Cult.
Hannah even turned a throwaway comment of mine on our day of crafting and cackling into a pretty rad patch:
now available for purchase here
I love the creepy font; almost reminds me of Chiller, which was everyone’s favourite gruesome typeface when I was at primary school! Was anyone else a fan in their misspent youth?
Next on my to-do list is making some special rosettes for our future stitchy witchy sisters!

Getting my stitch (and jelly) on


I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut this month just past. Whatever I’ve made (or haven’t made), I’ve never quite been satisfied with it. I’ve had an awful lot of ideas and projects on the go, but bringing them to fruition has been another matter.
I can attribute some of this to the weather; it seemed like one minute I was walking into work in summer dresses and cardigans, and the next was seriously considering investing in some thermals. The days got shorter and gloomier (in every sense!), which always seems to bring me down somewhat.
I feel that some of my lack of mojo, however, is to do with the predicament of every recent graduate; whither now? Will I ever “make it” to some extent as an artist? Will I ever have a steady job? Will I ever move out of my parents’ house?
Lastly, for the past week I’ve been battling with a horrific tummy bug. It’s been so long since I’ve had any physical ailment that I’d actually forgotten how paralysing it could be. Consequently, I’ve been off work, and getting down to work on creative projects has been equally difficult.
Today, however, the fog of ickyness seems to be lifting; I’ve been working on a commission for a colleague, doing very detailed, fine stitching. Hannah of Hanecdote is back from her holiday, and we have Stitch Witches plotting afoot. Speaking of, I may go and work on a little something for Stitch Witches right now…
But first let me leave you with a very silly (not to mention cack-handed) recent mock-up creation for a page inStitch Witches zine:
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We are Stitch Witches


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Stitch Witches is a collaborative project that has been brewing for a couple of months now.
It all started when I went along to the Girls Get Busy Zine Festival in August. There I met artist and designer Hannah Hill, whose work I had admired online, and Beth Siveyer, founder of Girls Get Busy.
Me on the left, Beth in the middle, and Hannah on the right
Despite my slightly tipsy state, Hannah and I really hit it off, and immediately started considering working together on a project. A few days and emails later, we had begun to outline what Stitch Witches would look and feel like.
We were both intrigued by girl gangs, slightly occult themes, the few remaining taboos of modern society, and, most importantly, stitching!
Both being quite heavily involved in the young feminist art scene, and given where we met, we decided that our medium would be a zine, and thus Stitch Witches was born.
We plan on making the zine available to purchase in November, and will be doing a post-Halloween giveaway to get people in a suitably ghoulish mood!
Hannah has already produced reams of art and design for the zine, and I’ve written some of the text and designed a membership certificate (my next task is to make Stitch Witches rosettes!)
Here are some photographs from one of our (very high level business) planning meetings:

Afternoon Twee

I'm afraid this post is very text and image-heavy, but it's well worth a read/glance, I promise!

The past week was amazing. I honestly can't remember when I've been happier. I love my "job" (and my workmates), I've met new and very interesting people, spent plenty of time with loved ones, and I'm feeling hyper-creative (with an emphasis on the hyper!)

Saturday was a packed day - I took my cousin Emily in to Significant Seams with me, with the intention of us "holding down the fort"; perhaps fortunately, there was no fort to hold down, as Wood Street Plaza got all the foot traffic, and I didn't have any major disasters.


Emily the Entrepreneur

Slow day at work = sneaky photograph of my outfit
I had it far, far easier than my colleagues, in fact; Mark and Debs were busy demonstrating extreme knitting under a gazebo on the Plaza.






They had a captive audience of small children, but unfortunately I missed the younger knitters' efforts!

Em and I were then dismissed from our duties for the day, and after scoffing a venison sausage each and trying on dresses at Gigi's (me as potential outfits for graduation, Emily for shits and giggles - both equally dangerous, the owner is the most accomplished saleswoman I've ever met!), we proceeded to Lady V's for a cream tea.










As you can see, Lady V's is a veritable tiny, twee, chintzed-to-the-rafters paradise. It was even set off by menus bound in antique book covers and a gently tinkling toy piano track. It's well worth a visit if you're ever down Walthamstow way (it's located in Wood Street Indoor Market, as is Significant Seams). Lady V herself also hires out her bone china for films and parties. I may have to look on putting on a performance of some kind there with a few of my arty friends...

Having suitably lined our stomachs, Em and I nipped over to neighbouring Hackney to the Girls Get Busy zine festival. This was my first Girls Get Busy event, and it was absolutely fantastic. Although I was always very keen to go along to a GGB do, the main purpose of my visit was to meet the artist Hannah Hill, who I wrote about in my previous blog post.

With Girls Get Busy's founder, Beth Siveyer, and Hannah. I was a bit tipsy and nervous and made a bit of a tit of myself in front of Beth. Ah well. (Photograph courtesy of Roxanne Werter).


Hannah and I have decided to start a collaborative project together, which will most probably take the form of a zine. And that's all I'm willing to betray about the matter at the mo!

I picked up one of Hannah's cute-as-a-barrel-of-puppies Girls Get Busy t shirts, and a handful of zines. Here's my swag:


Photograph courtesy of Hannah Hill


It was so inspiring talking to the girls at the event; young women truly doing it for themselves, making things happen, and reaching out to (and supporting) one another. Definitely something I would love to get involved with, and will be going along to again in the future.

Yesterday was more family-orientated. I took Emily and family along to the newly re-opened William Morris Gallery, where Grayson Perry's Walthamstow Tapestry is currently being exhibited. It's so much bigger and richer in detail than I ever expected. I love Perry's subtle but biting sense of humour, and the busy-ness of his work.

Unfortunately I forgot to take along a camera, but I'm sure I'll be back soon. Fingers and toes crossed, Significant Seams will soon be working on a project in conjunction with the gallery, and crossed even harder, possibly I will too...

The rest of yesterday was dedicated to chatting, eating, drinking, making merry, and sewing, all taking place in our back garden. A large contingent of the Rolison (well, Swift; my mother's side) extended family was present, all having a jolly good time.

Some of my younger, more distant cousins became acquainted with my final university piece, On Being Soft:



The award for Cutest Moment of the Day goes to my little cousin Louis, who fell asleep wrapped up in the picnic blanket next to our dog, Rosie. She kept edging closer and closer to him for comfort!


And the award for Least Sociable Cousin goes to... me! For sewing/blogging/working through the entire gathering.


I'll post the fruits of my stitchy labour up soon. Until then,

Take care

K x