I still believe in happy endings

About this time last month I went to the Polyester Magazine Issue Four launch. There was a soundtrack of No Scrubs and My Neck, My Back, and, amusingly, being the only person there in a suit, Pip said he felt like he was "taking his thirteen year old daughter to a Green Day concert", but those weren't the only reasons we were there; I have some work featured in the magazine this issue.

You may remember this blog post about the commission I took on for stylist Alice Whiting. Well, the pieces I embroidered for Alice were part of a stunning editorial she put together for Issue Four. You can buy the magazine here to see the excellent company I'm in.

Photographer Sacha Burrows kindly sent me all her favourite shots from the photoshoot of the dress and blouse. I think she did an absolutely stunning job, as did Alice with the styling, and the models Poppy Hanam and Ellen Jasper. The softness and timelessness of the images really captures the skewed fairytale feel I aim for in my work.

I am available for embroidery commissions for fashion, fine art, or a melding of the two, just like here. Please email katerolison@googlemail.com with your requirements and for a quote, and I will be happy to help.










Rose-Red


I feel that to call Alice Whiting a stylist, which indeed she is, may be misleading. The word calls to mind a woman burdened with armfuls of bags, scurrying around sourcing the correct clothing, shabby chic bread boards and backdrops in just the right shade of mauve; not too pink, not too purple. Working to a creative director's specific instructions; sourcing the goods. 

Alice is a stylist by profession. She is an artist by nature. I first came across her work in Polyester Zine in the form of cakes which straddled the line between saccharine and cyanide (sample icing: "Just another sentimental crisis") and evoked the kind of abject loveliness which I am very much about.

So when I was put in touch with her about an embroidery commission, I was naturally very excited about working with such a visionary woman. As she told me what the commission would involve, my excitement grew.

Initially Alice simply wanted the words "I still believe in happy endings" embroidered on to a white silk corset. However, the garment she ended up selecting was a 1940s wedding dress. This gave us more room to play with, and Alice decided that she wanted the dress to be embroidered with the names of her ex boyfriends, showing that although the course of true love never had run smooth, she was still a romantic at heart.

I was enchanted with the Miss Haversham echoes and that tension between the sweetly feminine and the overbearing, grotesquely feminine in Alice's idea.

We had a quick email ping pong about fonts and also decided the names of the ex boyfriends would be interspersed with Disney storybook-esque roses in red and pink.

I traced the words and roses and applied these designs to the dress using the ancient pricking and pouncing technique.

I started with the most impactful text, "I still believe in happy endings". I sewed around the outlines of the words in split stitch and then filled them in using satin stitch for density and impact. This technique would be repeated for the individual names of the ex boyfriends. Once the words were filled in, another outline of split stitch was added to make the words crisp.

The roses were completed in the same way, but in analogous pinks, purples and reds.

Alice has since told me that the dress is "one of my favourite things ever", which makes me feel just wonderful! I can't wait to see her style it to perfection.



































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!