Things from the forest

I've been busy with a hundred and one different things the last couple of weeks, and thus have been neglecting Poesie Grenadine. But you can expect a whole raft of posts and updates coming over the next week.

One of the things I've been busy with is making lots of cute new brooches to put in the Etsy shop. I will be updating the shop tomorrow, but in the meantime, here are two sweet little 'shroom brooches.



Polly Kettle


7
My Polly Kettle patches for The Constellation Quilt are all finished! Next comes the trickiest step so far; getting out the graph paper and figuring out what the proportions of the quilt will be. I envision half size rectangles between these squares, embroidered with found text and my own, and appliquéd with moths (there they are again) and moons.
1
2
3
4
5
6
I”m so loving the rich colours of these patches, and their mystical patterns.
To get myself in the mood to write and quilt I’ve written a Polly Kettle-inspired piece, which I’m going to share here, although it’s very much free, stream-of-consciousness verse, and I’m not sure if it’s finished or not yet. Polly is an occultist, part witch, part fortune teller, part medium, and so this piece has occult or supernatural themes:
Gossamer muslin blossoming out of gossiping mouths speaking in tongues and sipping mixed spirits, mixing with spirits, leaving ghostly lipsticks on spritzer glasses and crystal tumblers, wiped away with a white ‘kerchief; a parlour full of parlour tricks, above the mantelpiece the old clock ticks. It is well past the witching hour, and we are bewitching, we are divining, and we are divine, on the divan we deviate, we divide and conquer the dead and the living.
We swoon, we cry for the moon, eyes big as flying saucers, full as a saucer of milk. We three sisters, hag, maiden, whore. It has to be one or the other, the spinster, the mother, the fresh-baked home-wrecker with her wrecking ball.
Hush now sisters; I see a tall dark stranger in my future, the future’s mine, the future’s bright, mine eyes have seen the glory of the ghoulish night, and I’m a moth to my future’s white hot flame, my turban is tattered and unravelling, and I’m suddenly a slip of a thing, thinner than a paper moon, and I see a girl naked in front of her lover, I see my lover in soft focus, vaseline smeared on the glass, I must wait for my crystal ball to clear of mist, I must adjust my lens.
As explained in this article, “ectoplasm” that was produced during Victorian and Edwardian seances was, in fact, muslin, or some other thin natural substance, hence my mention of “gossamer muslin blossoming out of gossiping mouths“.
ectoplasm4
I’m currently collating all the writing I can on stars to get me inspired for the small passages of poetry which will make up some of the patches spaced between the Polly Kettle squares. As well as writing my own snippets, Virginia Woolf’s The Waves is proving a mine of stellar imagery. It was given to me by Pip for Valentine’s Day, and by coincidence was going to have moths as its central motif, not waves… I’m sure this will act as inspiration for the lunar moth(s) I’m going to add to The Constellation Quilt!

The beginnings of The Constellation Quilt


Yesterday I accompanied my Granny to a quilting workshop at the Kilchoan Learning Centre. I went along partially as research for The Constellation Quilt. However, I think my quilt will be rather less elaborate in construction than the table mats we were aiming to make; I didn’t get very far at all, and my efforts came out very wonky!
Despite this, the workshop provided a wealth of inspiration, as Joan Kelly, the workshop leader, introduced us to many quilts she had made over the years, all with their own stories and techniques. I was particularly intrigued by her use of three dimensional applique. A border stem was painstakingly rendered by tucking and sewing the rough edge underneath the flowing shape. Even more inspirational was Joan’s exquisite hand quilting. When the quilt has been finished and bound together, a design is sketched in dissolvable pen, and executed in running stitch all over the quilt. I think I’ll be brave and try this embroidery quilting technique on The Constellation Quilt.
008
009013
014
016
018
019020
024
025
031
033
037
I particularly liked this jewel print fabric, the backing of a quilt for Joan’s son.
042
044
046
052
My paltry efforts!
The beginnings of The Constellation Quilt are going rather more successfully (but then again, I haven’t sewn any of  it together yet!) I am currently spelling out my witchy fortune teller character Polly Kettle’s name in appliqué on squares of African print fabric in rich purples and golds; stardust colours.
058
060
069
062
063
065
I hope to have Polly’s “surname” finished soon, and then it’s on to embroidered and cross stitched sections of the quilt.

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!


"Like a baby book?"


When I tell people that I'm making a soft sculpture book, that is often their first question.


I am not making a baby book; I am making a book which explores the softness of women. A book composed of layers (tissues, fabric?) of women's history, women from my family, women to whom the handkerchiefs concealed in the pockets of the book belonged.

On Being Soft is a patchwork book on two levels; a book patched together out of fragments of fabric, and of fragments of text; of overhead conversations and asides, text messages, private thoughts. Of scraps.


The book artist and critic Johanna Drucker wrote in her essay Intimate Authority: Women, Books, and the Public-Private Paradox that It is not by accident that we see so many materials in  their (women’s) (book)works: doilies, pieces of silk, fragments of kimonos, clothing scraps, soap, photographs, small scrolls, jars and other containers, reused stamps, buttons, ribbons, snippets of this and that.


One female artist who constructed a number of soft books from a life's stash of "snippets of this and that" was Louise Bourgeois. Two, Ode à l’Oubli and Ode à la Bièvre, made in 2002 when Bourgeois was ninety, are constructed from linens she collected over the course of her life, including, Ann Coxon tells us in her book Louise Bourgeois, "the set of monogrammed napkins from her bridal trousseau that serve as the backing for many of the pages". I sewed on linens of a similar age as these linens in my Cure for Love project, although they were not mine but my great-grandmother's; I haven't lived a lifetime in which to hoard beautiful fabrics rich with memories yet!




Speaking of memory, Ode à l’Oubli translates roughly as "Ode to Forgetfulness"; it is the product of a long, rich life. I wonder if the phrase "I had a flashback of something that never existed", printed in red ink on one of the fabric pages of the book, is a wry reference to senility? Certainly Bourgeois' mind was sharp until the very end; she produced art right up until the week before her death.


The only other text which appears in the book is also printed in red ink on old linen (red was a very significant colour for Bourgeois; she wrote that it was both the colour of blood and the colour of paint). It reads "The return of the repressed". Ode à l’Oubli is a book about repressed memories which rise unbidden to the surface; Coxon writes that its pages "tell a story perhaps only truly readable to the artist herself".


The pages of the book are buttoned into the binding so that they may be taken out and displayed on a wall. The pages of my book will also be removable and rearrangeable; each will have a pair of button-holes and will be tied into the cover with ribbon.




There is currently a Louise Bourgeois exhibition at the Freud Museum which borrows its title, The Return of the Repressed, from Ode à l’Oubli. I will be visiting the Museum soon to see some of Bourgeois' textile textual art in person.

Tumblin'

Happy New Year, everyone! I've started a Tumblr (hooray for more internet distractions) to tide me over until I start my next creative project.

Will try to get some photos of handmade gifts I made loved ones for Christmas up here at some point soon, though.

In the meantime, here are some photographs of me looking disturbing whilst trying to take some photos of my boyfriend's birthday present with my webcam. We're both massive West Wing nerds, so I stitched him up a quote from this scene, complete with appliqued muffins and bagel, with beads for cherries and sesame seeds.



Hope you've all had a lovely Christmas!

Tracey Emin - Love, Writing, and Sewing

LOVE

Tracey Emin, too, is a woman obsessed with love. Evidence of this can be found in the titles of her two most recent exhibitions, Those Who Suffer Love and Love Is What You Want. Her neons blaze scrawled love notes, her monoprints beg for “more love”, her blankets whisper, in huge letters, sweet nothings.

For You


More Love


International Woman

Emin has said of love that it "rarely comes easily and if it does, it usually goes quite quickly". Her work constantly touches on intimacy, as in Everyone I Have Ever Slept With. It's a common misconception that the names appliqued on the interior of this tent were those of everyone Emin had ever had sex with. In fact, they were literally the names of everyone she had ever slept beside. 

Interior, Everyone I've Ever Slept With 1963 - 1995

WRITING

Writing underpins Emin's artistic practise. She has said that she is "not known as a text-based artist", but "should be really". She pushes the boundaries between writing as visual art and visual art as writing. Melanie McGrath said of Emin that “She is above all a storyteller and her stories are embroidered, both literally and metaphorically”. 

Emin is indeed a consummate storyteller; revealing tell-alls are sprawled across her confessional, autobiographical blankets, ranging in size from five-inch-high appliqued letters to tiny scrawled passages on paper; her monoprints are written in her own naive, chaotic scrawl; her neon installations are recognisably “written” in Emin’s own handwriting.

Appropriately for work of such a universal appeal, the unrefined, unpolished aesthetic of Emin’s text connects her audience more immediately with her art. Emin cuts and appliqués felt letters onto her blankets by hand.This personal approach suits Emin’s often chaotic, brutal and autobiographical subject matter.
  

Some of her monoprints are solely text, featuring stream-of-consciousness phrases which appear to have the authentic and emotional “voice” of the artist, and a confessional, diaristic tone.

SEWING

One of Emin’s most common artistic formats is the quilt-like blanket. The creation of blankets or wall hangings like Emin’s has traditionally been a woman’s craft pastime. However, rather than meticulously piece together a network of twee fabric patches to create a quilt (as prior generations of crafting women have done), Emin hand-appliques unsophisticated letters and loud, mismatched fabrics onto her blankets. Critics have argued that Emin reappropriates traditionally feminine arts and crafts for feminist purposes, creating a savage, imperfect female aesthetic in chintzy, feminine media.


Emin has said that, through her embroideries, "the line I draw is accentuated and extreme, which complements the way that I think." She has also said that she does not use embroidery "like a craft, but like high art".