Trophy Tears

When I was growing up, if I was being particularly whiney, my mum would occasionally say "I'm playing the world's smallest violin for you".

For this latest instalment of Treasures For Your Troubles, I wanted to create the world's smallest trophy, awarded for achieving precisely the opposite; for navigating the treacherous waters of life without breaking down into floods of tears (or is that mixing the water metaphors a little too much?)

For the embroidery's background, I dyed an antique linen handkerchief with onion skin, similarly to The Onion Cutters' Club.






This idea was actually suggested to me by Pip, who thought I should get the phrase engraved on to a real trophy (maybe one day, Pip). It's also a bit of a self-deprecating in-joke with myself; some days I really do feel it's a grand achievement that I've gotten through the day without bursting into tears. And now I have the world's smallest trophy and dozens of gold stars as reward!

Quite some time ago, appliquéd some felt tear drops on to spangly sparkly gold lurex material. It's a happy coincidence that this piece ties in with the colour scheme of Treasures For Your Troubles. If the project was ever exhibited, I would like to display the tears alongside the more recent works. I'm enjoying the way the naivety of these two pieces work together.


No rest for the wicked; I've got a number of summer exhibitions to submit to and/or create work for. First up, a bee crying (what else) honey over some melancholyflowers. My name is Kate Elisabeth Rolison, and I make art about crying!


Taxidermy, tears, and powerful concoctions

Last Friday was the private view of A Curious Invitation at The Last Tuesday Society on Mare Street, Hackney. Why do I tell you this? Because one of my embroideries is in the exhibition!




Here is the blurb about the exhibition from The Last Tuesday Society's website:

"In celebration of Picador's publication of Suzette Field's first book, 'A Curious Invitation - The 40 Greatest Parties in Literature', the gallery will be given over to an exhibition that illustrates some of the greatest parties ever known.

Which famous fictional festivity was hosted by Satan? Which imaginary party was to be found hovering above an alien planet? At which event were attendees invited to chop onions and cry together? Which mythological merry-making never ended? At which masquerade were all the guests slaughtered? Which Queen was unable to gain access to her own ball? And at which party did the guests use cough syrup as a mixer?"

My piece was based on one of the chapters which appears in Suzette's book; The Onion Cellar, from Günter Grass's novel The Tin Drum. In this chapter, nightclub patrons gather in a dingy cellar to chop onions and shed tears over their sad stories, all while a jazz band plays in the gloom. My onion skin-dyed handkerchief features a pair of bloodshot eyes crying over an onion, with the legend "The Onion Cutters' Club" stitched in an art nouveau font beneath.

As you might expect, the gallery itself is delightfully decadent, eccentric, and slightly seedy (celebrity poo of questionable authenticity is for sale!)

The interior is stuffed to the rafters with taxidermy and curios. Here I am  enjoying dinner table discussion with a truncated stuffed lion:




We rounded off the evening with a cup of a steaming, potent beverage which seemed to largely consist of gin. Not bad for my first "professional" exhibition!



Sob Stories and Stitching

After a hectic week of socialising, stitching, "arting" and performing, I have thoroughly enjoyed having a lazy Sunday.

However, although I haven't been darting about all over the place today, it has still been very productive; artist and designer-maker Hannah Hill came over and we brainstormed our upcoming collaboration, the Stitch Witches zine. We've planned out the first (bumper!) issue and I now have quite a bit of (very pleasurable) work to do.




I mentioned that I'd performed this week; well, this Thursday, Hannah (and my friend Nathan) joined me at Cella Salon in Newington Green for an evening of performance.

My friend Seb runs a monthly performance art night there, and at the very last minute asked me if I'd like to have a go. 


This was my set-up; I invited participants to chop onions and see what memories and emotions this evoked. After a chat about this, I shared a story I had collected (or experienced) about crying, and encouraged the participants to do the same (luckily for me, everyone was pretty forthcoming!)

Once we'd shared our (literal) sob stories and had a little giggle, the participants embroidered a short phrase from their story on to ribbon or a handkerchief. The ribbons were then kept in a glass jar to make a "jar of tears". I will do something with this jar full of ribbons at a later date, and will certainly be looking to perform at Cella Salon in the future.

















Answers for the Art Trail


Kate Elisabeth Rolison - 'The Onion Cutters' Club'

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

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


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

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

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

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

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




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

Cried myself out.

Here's the latest handkerchief from the series The Onion Cutters' Club. I'm not so happy with this one; the photo transfer (which is of a photograph from my family archive) warped quite a bit due to ironing.




I quite like the story itself though; my friend recounted to me something her grandmother had said to her during her weepy teenage years; "When I was young like you, I cried all the time, but now I'm old, I've cried myself out."

The Onion Cutters' Club

As promised, here are the first two pieces from my new project, The Onion Cutters' Club. As you may guess, this project is all about weeping; sad (or funny) stories of crying. The title is a reference to The Onion Cellar, a chapter from The Tin Drum by Günter Grass (a play based on the chapter, also named The Onion Cellar, was written by Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls.)

The first embroidery is a title piece for this project; an illustration of a pair of bloodshot eyes crying over an onion accompanied by the project's title.








The first (true) story I have illustrated is a very sad, yet also rather humorous one.







The text reads "I was wandering, distraught, melancholy and alone, through the city at night. A HUGE moth ambled across the street... when a bus flattened it. I burst into tears."