Bits and Bobs

Apologies for disappearing for so long; I've been working lots, and when I haven't I've been beavering away on a fairly large scale embroidery. My last day off wasn't wasted, either; Hannah and I met up for an impromptu craft date, and further plotted our zine, Stitch Witches.

Stitch Witches Collective on Facebook is now pushing two hundred young member "witches" who make and/or appreciate textile art and craft. We've even got a summer stitchalong going (which my hopefully soon to be revealed current embroidery is for). Here are some of the contributions so far.

By Chel Panda

By Katie Rylander-Cowden
By Mel Reeve
We are aiming to bring the first issue of the print zine out by the end of the summer, but in the meantime we've opened up the Stitch Witches Tumblr by adding a "Submit" button so that fellow Stitch Witches can get involved with the content, and we plan to have more of a magazine feel to the site, with regular articles, relevant reblogs and original Stitch Witches artwork. Feel free to sign up to our Facebook or follow (or submit to!) our Tumblr.

In other news, it looks like I'm going to be in at least one more exhibition this summer/autumn, and I'm waiting to hear back on a couple more, so fingers crossed!

I leave you with my most recently completed piece of stitchery, which I have been wearing all day (my love for narwhals knows no bounds!)


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.
026
014
015
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.
016
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!
019
022
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:
scan0025
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.
024
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.
027
028
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.
dishwater eyes
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):
_1010305scan0081
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?):
_1020007
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!)
Snapshot_20130112_7Snapshot_20130112_11
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:
_1020003_1020010
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.)
scan0088
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?
scan0081
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.
scan0093
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):
scan0089
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!):
sw1sw2
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.
Snapshot_20121225_1

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:
Image

We are Stitch Witches


Image

Image
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: