Rest Cure


As much as I do love London, occasionally I need to escape it for a little while. I've been feeling a little disenchanted recently; I think from constantly working so hard on projects, from the long summer which I've been failing to fill effectively, and from spending too much time staring at screens (she says, staring at one!)

So a two week rest cure at my parents' house in the North West Highlands was just what the doctor ordered. I brought my current project, Big Teeth, along with me (and got a surprising amount sewn on the train!) My aim for the holiday was to sit and sew and look out at the sea.

So far it has also included rather a lot of staring at screens (surprise surprise), fine food (and wine!), and the odd walk around the hills and down to the beach. The wild landscape is the perfect setting for constructing a book about fairytales (many of which, of course, had fairly savage beginnings).

First of all, here are some holiday snaps:



An old friend adorning a stone shed on the walk down to the beach (painted by a family friend).

Giant daisies growing against the shed in my parents' garden.

The first bushel of gooseberries grown in the garden; there's almost enough for a crumble!

An entirely unintentional shot of me wandering around in the garden in a lovely dress.
Of course, most of my time has been given over to sewing, and this current project isn't an easy one (but then I'm always one to bite off more than I can chew!)

Someone else who hasn't been finding my sewing easy is our dog, Rosie. A few days ago, the phone started ringing whilst I was mid-stitch; thinking it might be my boyfriend, I got up in a rush, thrusting the embroidery aside. It landed on the dog.





Poor pet!

My reading material for the holiday has been fairly light; I desperately wanted to read The Little White Horse, but couldn't find it at home or at my Grannie's (hers is the house next door to my parents'). Instead, Grannie lent me Linnets and Valerians, also by Elizabeth Goudge. I must admit, so far I haven't touched it; I've been too engrossed in Issue Five of Magpie Magazine, which, as well as being full of beautiful photographs and articles, has quite a number of the best poems I've read in recent years. They've inspired me to write some of my own (not quite ready to share yet, though). My final "reading material" is my previous artist's book, On Being Soft, which is sob-inducingly superior to my current efforts, but acts as a good source of inspiration nonetheless.


And on to those poor efforts! I think my real problem is that the story/poem that runs through the book is rather text-heavy, and my pages are rather tiny!


The first few pages are charmingly off-kilter, but the last couple are so dense the text is almost illegible! The second to last page in particular is just not gelling for me; I think the blanket stitch around the text is too bright. I may unpick it and start again. Also, the last line of the first page is missing and I can't for the life of me find where it's gone! Typical me!







I do like the soft tones of the scanned and cloth-printed Polaroids against the clumsy blanket stitch and the hand sewn text, though, and I am (more or less) happy with every page other than that pesky second to last one. Perhaps I should have stuck to using the same fabric for each page, as I did with On Being Soft. Oh well, I'm sure the contents of the Polaroid pockets will be more impressive. And speaking of, I'd better crack on with them. No rest for the wicked!


Softer at The Mill

I'm just back from dropping off a couple of framed embroideries at Penny Fielding's for the E17 Art Trail Summer Show (which opens on Thursday), and I thought I would finally get 'round to uploading some photographs from another little exhibition I'm participated in, which opened a couple of weeks ago.

Some of you may remember the Soft exhibition at The Mill that I blogged about around  this time last year. Well, after the success of that show, The Mill decided to reincarnate the exhibition as Softer. There's a very different feel to this year's exhibition (it's jam packed to the rafters, for one thing!), with more varieties of textile art/craft and a slightly more political slant. Everyone from established artists to infant school students are represented; it's truly reflective of the wider Walthamstow community!

Unfortunately, with all the other exhibitions I'm preparing for and submitting work to, I ran out of time to create something new for Softer. Thus my contribution was one of my early embroideries for The Cure for Love, which was exhibited in its entirety at The Mill in December 2011. 

The embroidery I submitted was my "Love is no mythical creature" narwhal (my favourite animal, don't you know; I frequently dream about them!)


He looks quite sweet nestled in amongst the crochet and quilting!



These "stained glass" crochet granny squares were one of my favourite exhibits. I love how each square is unique, yet each compliments the others. Definitely got me hankering after a granny square blanket (if only I could knit or crochet!)




Work curated and created by my old colleagues at Significant Seams was also featured; cushions spelling out "Softer" were hung up in the front window, inviting the public in. The cushions were made as part of Wood Street Welcome, a community art project for Wood Street, Walthamstow.


In addition to the Softer exhibition, there were also a number of inventive oversized animals on display (including my second-favourite animal, a downcast looking fox!)

This exhibition was entitled Wildlife Reworked, and was comprised of animal sculptures made from recycled objects by local families with the help of sculptor Michelle Reader. Although a separate exhibition, the sculptures could easily have been included in Softer as many were made with large quantities of fabric. There was obviously a lot of attention to detail given when selecting the materials to construct the animals; the texture of the fox's fur in particular was spot on.





This piece has inspired some of my hand stitching and hand quilting idea for Big Teeth. Lovely warm colours and homespun, handcrafted textures!



It wouldn't be a textile exhibition at The Mill without a few of Harriet Hammel's signature pieces. She contributed a Campbell's "PopArt" Soup can and a jar of (my favourite) Marmite. Though why these incredibly life like provisions were displayed in a wire cage, I'm not quite sure! They shared wall space with a knitted or crocheted (forgive my ignorance) faux-taxidermy moose head, which very much puts me in mind of one my housemate hung on our living room wall at university.




This cactus was one of my favourite pieces in the exhibition, and I'm very sorry to say I didn't get any better photographs of it. Just imagine how much more practical knitted house plants would be than their living counterparts!



This quilted duffel bag by Significant Seams stalwart Heidi Beach puts me in mind of William Morris's beloved leather satchels; I can certainly imagine him using this bag if he was around nowadays!


I was enthralled by the texture of the undulating seaweed in this piece; I don't know what the textile technique is, but the artist has caught their essence just right.


Unfortunately the photograph of this knitted item doesn't do it justice; it was a riot of colour and texture.


This bird reminded me of both William Morris's original designs, and Nicola Jarvis's drawings, paintings, and embroideries inspired by the famed Walthamstow-born master craftsman.


I loved the intricate volcano design of this quilt; just imagine how long it must've taken to piece it together!


Finally, an incredibly sweet addition to the exhibition was the "Needle Club" book created by young primary school children. It showcased the magic of children's imagination, and both put me in mind of my soft sculpture book On Being Soft, and inspired me to persevere with Big Teeth














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.

Soft: group show at The Mill

Tonight my parents and I paid a visit to the newly installed exhibition at The Mill, Soft, in which my soft sculpture book, On Being Soft, features (that's a lot of "softs"!)


There really is something for everyone at the exhibition; knitted wall hangings, silk Devoré, soft sculpture, even a cross stitched  QR code! In fact, almost every imaginable type of textile craft/art was featured.




This gorgeous quilted wall hanging by Gilli Haqqani, titled Easter at Kew, is an incredibly intricate (and large!)example of free machine embroidery. It was one of my favourite pieces in the exhibition.



Another large piece, Bambooed by Sba Shaikh, showcased silk Devoré, a technique in which a chemical gel is applied to silk, dissolving it and leaving burnt-out sections. Sba used the gel to create bamboo patterns.


This is a working, cross stitched QR code by Kelly Duggan.




This colourful, hugely touchable piece was created by Debs French and Morwenna Brewitt from hundreds of pompoms.


Another colourful piece, a naive elephant  appliqué  constructed from recycled textiles by Gillian Lawrence.




This series was another one of my favourites from the exhibition; stunningly realistic soft sculpture kitchen appliances by the formidably talented Harriet Hammel.



A Grand Lady appliquéd and framed in velvet by Sheila Aslan.


This quilted wall-hanging by Fatima Ahkrah-kha is a little too traditional for my taste, but beautifully executed.





Having a chat with some ladies who were admiring my book!


Text, Texture, Texere

On Friday the 1st I was in Falmouth for my class' final showing of work.

On Being Soft was debuted (it's now been dropped off at The Mill ready to be exhibited)whilst we were amassed on cushions in a tiny room, sharing homemade cake. Both the book and the cake seemed to go down well (one of my tutors had two pieces!)









My favourite of the other works shown was Natt's installation of texts written in Braille.

These were created in a variety of media, from drawing pins pushed into a globe (which read, in Braille, "an arm's length of mountains and waves"), to nails hammered into a plank of wood, to Braille written on card with a Braille writer.





The beauty of this piece cannot be expressed in a photograph; it has an interesting dialogue with the previous piece, as the bumps of the Braille beneath the pages are akin to the mountain ridges of the globe.







This piece explored the tactile qualities of Braille and skin.


Texere made use of an unread book from our first-year reading list; there was a nice relationship between mine and Natt's showings, as we both explored text, texture and texere (in On Being Soft, I did this particularly on this page).




A photograph of me doing what was instructed in a previous piece and "touching the art"! This piece read in Braille "touch hands".

You can see more of Natt's writing here.


"Goodbye darling, goodbye".

Here for your viewing pleasure is the final completed page of On Being Soft.


In this page, I wanted to allude back to the Lily van der Stokker quotation which I used on the very first page of the book.


I decided to explore the theme of sentimentality listed in the van der Stokker quote.


I also wanted to reference the many handkerchiefs I have used throughout the book. This choice meant that this page would have a strong relationship with the first completed page, with its handkerchief about crying.


The text about handkerchiefs embroidered on to this final page reads "They absorb tears, mucus. They could be a white flag, a token of love, a flutter accompanied by "Goodbye darling, goodbye darling, goodbye"."


The significance of the image of a tunnel embroidered on to the page's pocket becomes apparent once the viewer reads the text and looks at the image embroidered on to the handkerchief folded inside it.

The text reads "The woman standing down the platform from me waved the train all the way out of the station. It was very beautiful and very sad."

This was once texted to me by my boyfriend after he waved me off at Paddington Station. The woman's actions clearly matched his sentimental mood!

The tunnel on the pocket is thus a train tunnel down which has disappeared the train the woman was waving to.

The text is accompanied by the silhouette of a woman in Victorian garb waving a handkerchief - making this a sort of meta-handkerchief!

Tomorrow I will post photographs of the completed book.





Skin and Silk

Here is page seven of On Being Soft, about sensuality (one of the qualities of women listed by Lily van der Stokker in the quotation of hers I stitched) and the feminine form. I stitched a sketchy nude from a life drawing I did at A Level (I seem to be recycling a lot of my Art and Photography A Level work!).

The life drawing
The life drawing translated to stitch




I chose orange/magenta two-tone rough silk for the curved pocket, for its sensual lustre. Inside the pocket is a departure from all the handkerchiefs I've been embroidering recently. To go with the themes of sensuality and sexuality, I wanted to explore "pillow talk" - through "talking pillows"!

The conversation is an exchange between a man and a woman - lovers. Whilst lying in bed together, the woman says "I like your lines", and the man replies "I like your curves".

The words are stitched on to speech bubbles blanket-stitched on to one side of the miniature pillows.

I was recently interviewed about my work by a journalism student, and when I mentioned to her that I was making On Being Soft, she mentioned that the word "soft" made her think of the female body.





One final page to go and then it's time to put the book together!

Sugar and spice, slugs and snails

The latest page of On Being Soft deals with "niceness", a much-maligned quality, as the handkerchief which lives in the page's pocket illustrates.





The text is an imagined conversation, hence I have used two different examples of handwriting, mine, and my dad's rather illegible scrawl!

The text reads: 

"There's nothing wrong with being a bit soft. It can be quite nice."

"I hate the word 'nice'. It's so insipid."

The text is illustrated by more photographs from the shoot I did for my A Levels. I've chosen a mouse and a lion due to their associations with bravery/ferociousness and timidity; perhaps the mouse could be paired with the first voice of the text and the lion with the second? One of Aesop's fables concerns a lowly mouse doing an act of kindness for a majestic lion. "Kind" can be a synonym for "nice".

The transferred black and white photographs were hand-tinted with satin stitch.




I was a bit stumped as to what to do for the page itself. I also had a completed embroidery which I wanted to integrate into the book in some way - a snail (which, fittingly, was completed at a snail's pace - a very performative embroidery!)



A nursery rhyme from my childhood came back to me; "What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and all things nice, that's what little girls are made of! What are little boys made of? Slugs and snails and puppy dogs' tails, that's what little boys are made of!"

Here was a way I could use my labour-of-love snail. The text on the handkerchief would "nicely" problematise the sappy, saccharine, reductive nursery rhyme. 


I embroidered the "sugar and spice" segment of the nursery rhyme as if it was the snail's trail of slime, to illustrate the nausea of sweetness.



On to the seventh page now; a page all about sensuality.


Melancholyflowers

If you follow my work on Flickr, you may remember this silly, play-on-words piece:





Well, the dreadful pun has resurfaced on the latest page of On Being Soft, albeit with an alternate spelling.




In this page, I am exploring "being soft" as perceived as a negative quality. "S/he's a bit soft" is a synonym for "wet", "drippy", ineffectual.

I'd been given a couple of linen scraps on which were stitched gorgeous studies of flowers by my ever-generous Granny, and began to think of how many flower-related idioms amount to meaning the same thing as "a bit soft".

I began listing these: delicate flower, pansy, shrinking violet, lily-livered, weed.

I decided to present a series of embroidered flowers on the page as if they were botanical studies, accompanied by these rather derogatory terms instead of their Latin names. And what could serve as a title for the page? "Melancholyflowers"!

(In a happy coincidence, I recently learnt from Andrew Solomon's book The Noonday Demon: An Anatomy of Depression that the ancient Greeks believed cauliflower to be a cure for melancholy;"Chrysippus of Cnidus believed that the answer to depression was the consumption of more cauliflower".)



For the "delicate flower", I chose one of the samplers completed by my Granny's friend. The remainder of the flowers are hand-embroidered by me.



This isn't the best photograph, but it's "pansy" (in simpering pink, of course) illustrated by, well, a pansy. Interestingly, as well as being homophobic, the term pansy can also mean a "weak, effeminate, and often cowardly man", similarly to "lily-livered". However, I've also heard it used to refer to women, for example, er, myself. Apparently a couple of years back a highstreet men's fashion chain was selling a t-shirt emblazoned with the word "pansy", reclaiming the word as a badge of honour!



In Why Do Violets Shrink?: Answers to 280 Thorny Questions on the World of Plants by Caroline Holmes, we learn that the Sweet Violet shrinks away from insects which try to access its pollen. A "shrinking violet" is of course an incredibly timid person.





In the Middle Ages, the liver was believed to be the seat of courage. A pale, "lily-coloured" liver would be one with no blood, and thus courage, in it; thus, lily-livered.


This is one of my favourite pages so far, and a little self-deprecating dig at myself for being all of the above!


A Brief and Incomplete History of Artists' Books

The Libraries and Archives Canada provides a good definition of an artist's book: an artist's book is "not the reproduction of a work of art; it is a work of art in itself".

By this definition the illuminated manuscript The Book of Kells could be conceived of as an artists' book, indeed as a collaborative artists' book as it is thought to have been produced by three monk-artists. However, as The Book of Kells was created in around 800 AD, the term "artists' book" had not yet been coined. However, as the book and fibre artist Gwen J Penner reminds us, "The book as an art form did not begin with the coining of a term and we owe much to early book artists".


The term was perhaps first coined in France at the turn of the 19th century, when such a book was of course known as a "livre d'artiste". A livre d'artiste was an illustrated book the design of which was by the artist themselves, rather than copied from an artist's design. These were commercial, high-end collectible art objects.

An earlier precursor to the artists' book which may better fit the current definition is William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience. The author wrote, illustrated, and printed this volume of poetry himself in 1789. Blake could not find a publisher willing to let him write, illustrate, and print his own work, and so turned to self-printing and publishing. Blake printed his images and hand-calligraphed text using copper plates, and once printed, he and his wife Catherine painstakingly hand-coloured the images with watercolours.


Infant Joy and Infant Sorrow, plates from Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience.

In the 1960s, with the advent of conceptual art and Fluxus, artists' books came into their own. For the Fluxus artists, artists' books were a means of disseminating their work outside of the gallery. Similarly, Pop artist Ed Ruscha created artist's books which were inexpensive and widely disseminated, in an attempt to bring his art to a wider audience. 

The artist Deiter Roth, who was associated with the Fluxus movement, created an artist's book called Bok, in which he did away with the codex (the form of the book) in order that the reader could rearrange the pages as they pleased. The V&A's page on artists' books states that "
Roth's distinctive contribution to the genre (of artists' books) was his examination, through his bookworks, of the formal qualities of books themselves" through deconstruction and investigation.

 When I compile the pages of On Being Soft, I intend to make button holes in each page and string them together with ribbon tied in a bow, so that the pages may be rearranged in a similar fashion to those of Roth's Bok.

Poemetrie, Deiter Roth, 1968


Today, the genre of artists' books continues to expand, to include bookworks (typically altered books; books that have been "tampered with", some might say desecrated) and book objects (works which focus on the sculptural qualities and potential of a book rather than its written content).

Sugar

The fourth completed page of On Being Soft is ready to share, which means I'm halfway through making the book (if you don't count putting it all together!)

As the pages are loosely based on different aspects of the Lily van der Stokker quote featured here, this page deals with sweetness.




My Mum found me some fantastic fabric embroidered with bees through a recycling scheme, which compliments the honeyed gold tones of the other fabrics I've used.


"Oh sweetheart, would you stoop so low as to swoon at my shriek of a smile carved out with an ice-cream scoop?" is a small segment of my own writing which makes me think of sickly sweetness, even in the ingratiatingly polite way that the "sweetheart" is addressed. The word "swoon" makes me think of drowsy bumble bees drunk on nectar. A "shriek of a smile" is one which is almost too sweet; one which will induce toothache, as do Lily van der Stokker's paintings and drawings.

I stitched the phrase on to a pocket edged with a bee-print fabric my Granny gave me. The tarnished silver beads scattered over the page belonged to my great-great aunts - the page is made from fabric and embellishments from four generations of women.



Poking out of the top of the pocket is a handkerchief. To tie the two together thematically, I embroidered an ice cream cone ("carved out with an ice cream scoop") on to the handkerchief.



The phrase embroidered on to the handkerchief was a comment I overhead a year ago on a day trip to Whitstable; "White dogs at the seaside - they look like they've been dipped in Daz". What's softer than a fluffy, white, Daz-dipped dog?!


When I bought the handkerchief it was already embroidered with sickly sweet, candyfloss pink and blue flowers, which I matched the text to.

Texere

And now for a little light etymology: the words text, textile and texture all derive from the same Latin verb, texere, which means to weave, to plait, or to construct with elaborate care.


I am attempting to construct On Being Soft with elaborate care
(in broken Google Translate Latin, Ego conantur texere libro cum cura); "weaving" together snippets of text and textile, embellishing with embroidery, tall tales, buttons, and beads.


The most recently completed page of the book plays on the shared root of text and texture, texere.






I have cross-stitched the tongue-in-cheek phrases "textually active" and "texturally active" (for which I must give credit to my housemate Mark, as he suggested I stitch up the former of the phrases) on miniscule aida fabric in a plethora of cheap and cheerful colours. The words are surrounded by different textures; light-reflecting orange velvet, a coarse checker-board fabric, thick, fleecy patterned carpet (the remainder of which will make a marvellous appliqued owl one day), antique lace, and plastic buttons.

The book will be both textually and texturally active; made to be read, but also touched.




On Being Soft

In anticipation of the Soft exhibition at The Mill in June, I am stitching a soft sculpture artist's book. 



  
The cover is constructed from a 1920s or '30s gold brocade curtain stuffed with wadding, to make the book, well, soft (my friend Alys mentioned that it could double up as a cushion).


The cover reads "On Being Soft - A work in progress by Kate Elisabeth Rolison". The pages inside will deal with notions of softness; of personality, of the female form, with the sense of touch, and more.


On the first page is a pocket made from blue and gold batik fabric, which bears a cross stitched quote by the artist Lily van der Stokker.








The quotation reads "Women can be sweet, sentimental, sensual, communicative, decorative, weak, emotional, and what else? They are very good at crying".


When I came across this quotation in van der Stokker's book It Doesn't Mean Anything But It Looks Good, it struck me that the qualities she was listing could be thought of as different kinds of softness. A particularly feminine softness, which was what I wished to explore in my book. 


I realise that some may see this quotation as anti-feminist, but I feel it (along with van der Stokker's work) celebrates the feminine aspect of womanhood. Indeed, van der Stokker describes herself as a "feminist conceptual pop artist"!


Below are some examples of van der Stokker's work, taken from It Doesn't Mean Anything But It Looks Good, published by Tate St Ives. The works are exuberantly, even nauseatingly, feminine and positive. In her book, van der Stokker is quoted speaking about "the strength of pink curlicues"; there is strength in this apparently "weak" feminine softness. The strength of softness is something we are aiming to explore in the Soft exhibition.










In It Doesn’t Mean Anything But It Looks Good, van der Stokker writes about how when “women refuse to hold back in their expression, we see artworks that are so different they can repulse and confuse us”. In the making of On Being Soft, I am embracing my own femininity, even those aspects of it which I have previously fought and which have nauseated me.


The pages of the book will be made to be touched, and explored; they will contain pockets which will themselves contain embroidered handkerchiefs.


I wanted the first handkerchief of the book to have a dialogue with the Lily van der Stokker quotation cross stitched on to the pocket which contains it. I focused on the last word of the quotation - crying.






The handkerchief reads ""Are you well?" (I'm welling up.)", illustrated by, yes, a wishing well, because I have a terrible weakness for appalling puns.


There are two voices in this text; the first, a polite enquirer, and the second my interior monologue, my silenced voice, bit tongue. The words (and tears) are trapped within the folded handkerchief, and the viewer has to delve into the pocket and unfold the fabric before they are released.

I've begun to think of the different things handkerchiefs can signify; nowadays they are almost invariably only the property of older people. They catch coughs and sneezes, they are witness to outpourings of emotions, they are used to dab away a furtive tear. In old films and cartoons, they wave away maiden voyages, they are waved out of rapidly departing trains at sweethearts. Moving even further (far further) back in time, they were given as “favours” to jousting knights.

On Saturday I will be visiting the Fashion and Textile Museum on Bermondsey Street, where the exhibition The Printed Square: Vintage Handkerchiefs is currently on display. I will report back later!



"Art Lasts, Life Is Short"

You may notice that the blog has a new look. This is because I'm embarking on a new project, entitled On Being Soft (which it does say, though not very clearly, on the new blog header. Still, at least it looks soft! My wonderful ex-housemate Dini de-wonkyfied the higgeldy piggeldy hand-stitched text for me.)

The germ of the idea for On Being Soft arose out of a call for artists for an exhibition titled Soft (see what I did there?) which will be shown at The Mill from the 21st June 'til the 15th July. The exhibition will be a collaborative effort between The Mill and Signficant Seams, where I am currently intern for the Neighbourly Quilt project.

In last year's E17 Art Trail, Significant Seams exhibited a Neighbourhood Quilt. E17 residents were invited to add a gold thumbprint indicating where they lived on this quilted map of Walthamstow. The quilt was then exhibited at The Mill.

The Neighbourhood Quilt


For this year's Art Trail we are asking Walthamstow residents to contribute a patch which celebrates what they love about Walthamstow, or what makes good neighbours; hence, the Neighbourly Quilt.

My patch for the Neighbourly Quilt


With my patch, I decided to celebrate both Walthamstow's green spaces and the (oft-mentioned on this blog) arts and crafts pioneer William Morris, who was born in Walthamstow.

I embroidered Morris' motto "Art lasts, life is short" on to an appliqued pollarded beech tree. In the Walthamstow woodland area of Epping Forest these ancient trees are numerous, and many are carved with graffiti stretching back over a number of years. I embroidered the motto as if it was etched into the tree's bark with a knife. This was my first go at applique and gave me a chance to try out blanket stitch and couching. The dark green hearts of the background fabric are the same colour as Waltham Forest's logo, and (I feel) add just the right amount of twee.

As completed patches come in, they are beginning to reflect the diversity of Walthamstow. Each portrays an individual narrative, which when sewn together as the quilt will tell a bigger story of our town.


My friend Lucy working on her patch

If you're a Waltham Forest based textile artist, working in any soft medium, watch this space for details of how to submit work for Soft.

A post on my new project, On Being Soft, to follow.