Stitch For Survival: My E17 Art Trail 2015 Exhibition

Once again the yearly E17 Art Trail has rolled around. I am going to do the grand tour next weekend; I set up my exhibition earlier today; well, my "installation technician" (my mother) did most of the hard graft.

For last year's Trail I showed work as part of the Zoology exhibition at E17 Art House, which has since moved to bigger premises on Hoe Street and has some very intriguing exhibitions and events on for the Trail this year.


This time around, applying was a bit of a last minute affair, so I decided to exhibit in the bay window of my parents' house as I did in 2011 and 2012.

This year we decided to ditch the slightly "primary school" blue baize display board we'd used previously, and used white frame boards to display the embroideries on instead.







A wide variety of embroideries are on display, from pages and pocket contents from my artist's books On Being SoftBig Teeth and Milk Thistle, to embroideries from the zine I recently sold at DIY Cultures, Treasures For Your Troubles. My favourite of the #secretsofselfpreservations stitched thus far are exhibited too.







The theme this year seems to be whimsy; the exhibition is less in your face provocative than it has been in the past; more gently subversive, gently parodying the Romantic movement and its romanticisation of mental illness (particularly the Milk Thistle pages and pocket contents). I have really amassed work since 2011, and I feel the exhibition is far more cohesive and well presented than it has been in the past.














If you're local/in the area, please do pop by - the exhibition can be viewed from the front garden from today, Sunday 31st May, until Sunday 14th June, from 10am - 8pm daily.

Next Saturday 6th June I will be holding a #secretsofselfpreservation workshop stitching self care potions from 4pm in the living room; the workshop is limited to ten places, so please email katerolison@googlemail.com to book your place.

The details of my exhibition and workshop can be found here. I do hope you'll visit.





Tangled Yarns: Alke Schmidt at the William Morris Gallery (Part 2)

Earlier I explained that, through Tangled Yarns, Alke Schmidt reminds us of the obscure and murky chain of supply in the textile industry. But it was ever thus; Tangled Yarns explores the (dirty) politics and morality of the textiles industry from the 1700s to the present day. And seemingly, little has changed. Though the chain of supply today may often be a mystery, in her work Stained Alke traces the mid-1800s supply chain from cotton plant to dress. She illustrates how a garment's origins, even then, could leave an invisible smear unbeknownst to the wearer. 


A wealthy woman in an elegant, delicate ball-gown peers through a barrier of columns of an 1840s cotton print which separate her from the women who clothed her. As with many of the works in the exhibition, cloth, stitch and paint weave in and out of each other, and composition says just as much as content.



The women the elegant lady peers at are a plantation slave, a Lancashire mill worker and a cottage industry dressmaker. Each category of exploited worker became the focus of a moral outrage in the 1800s, just as the treatment of Bengali textile workers is now, and rightly so. Even the self-employed dressmaker working from home lived a meagre and often starving existence; there are accounts of cottage industry stitchers losing their eyesight by candlelight in the seminal text The Subversive Stitch.

Alke's dressmaker has dark circles under her eyes and stitches by a guttering candle; perhaps her eyesight, too, will soon falter.


As Alke’s exhibition demonstrates, structural violence towards women permeates and has always permeated the textile industry. In around 1719, this violence become more overt, when, as Alke rather brilliantly puts it, some women became literal "fashion victims". British weavers were feeling increasingly threatened by the popularity of patterned Indian and Indian-imitation cottons. Rather than directing their resentment at the producers of such cottons, wool and worsted weavers took to the streets and began attacking women wearing garments made from the printed cottons. The attacks included ripping and cutting the cloth, setting it on fire, and throwing acid at the women to burn their skin. It quickly became a witch-hunt in which the recipient of the violence was not the clothes but the women wearing them. They were branded Calico Madams, the title of the piece in which Alke brings all these rich and subtle threads of research (or tangled yarns, if you like) together.


As her base Alke has chosen a calico in the style of early 18th century Indian designs. The next layer is a reproduction of an illustration from the period celebrating the passing of the ban on Indian cottons. Finally she has painted the "calico madams" themselves, fighting off their attackers and lying defeated on the floor, where the rump of a woman becomes the site of the cottons being "burnt at the stake", with flames flickering around and leaping up to assault the fleeing women. Of course, the phrase "calico madams" was a way of attacking women for their sexuality, and conflating this sexuality with the way they were dressed. Therefore the flaming pyre appears on one of the most sexualised parts of a woman's anatomy.


Calico Madams is one of the most technically accomplished and conceptually rich works in the exhibition. It is multi-layered both literally, with pattern, print and paint interlacing seamlessly in and out of each other, and figuratively, with countless threads of research woven together without over-burdening the whole.



It gives me courage as an artist who sometimes worries that there's "too much going on" in her own work. 

Tangled Yarns is an eminently apt title for this exhibition; it would be impossible to separate out the strands of race and gender, exploitation and violence with which the textiles industry is intertwined, and Alke doesn't attempt to. Instead, she explores how these strands relate to one another, in a triumph of intersectionality.

I have written about a handful of the works in the exhibition, and have spent almost two thousand words doing so. I hope this is some indication of how thought-provoking, conscience-pricking, and technically astute Tangled Yarns is. As a result of visiting the exhibition, I have chosen to make a real commitment to being an ethical fashion consumer. How many exhibitions cause us to transform our lives (and the lives of others) for the better? I would hazard a guess that it's not that many.

Tangled Yarns is exhibited at the William Morris Gallery until the 25th January 2015.

Tangled Yarns: Alke Schmidt at the William Morris Gallery (Part 1)


The William Morris Gallery is very canny at showing contemporary artists whose output would have been looked upon most favourably by Morris himself. None more so than the latest exhibition by Alke Schmidt, Tangled Yarns. If Morris was alive today I'm sure he would have felt as passionately about Alke's call for social justice through her exposure of the murky world of the textile industry as about her highly skilled handicraft.

Alke plays up this dichotomy between Morris the socialist and Morris the designer in her exhibition. One of the first works which the audience is confronted with as they ascend the stairs to the main exhibition space is entitled Morris's Dilemma. "Confronted" is perhaps an apt word; rising like steam from the two arms of a mill engine, Morris's Honeysuckle and Tulip pattern, repeated on a grand scale, weaves like a mirage in and out of the engine painted over it. I'm not sure whether the work should be classified as a painting or as a collaboration with a bygone craftsman. It could easily be an assault on the senses, but Alke blends pattern and painting so seamlessly, confronting Morris's romantic longing for a pre-industrial, hand-crafted age with the means of production that made his career possible.






One cylinder of the mill engine is entitled "CAPITAL"; the other, "LABOUR". On Alke's blog we learn that this is not her own invention intended to "illustrate the complex and conflicted relationship between Morris the entrepreneur-designer and Morris the socialist", but an unbelievably fortuitous discovery on her part; such an Orwellian mill engine may genuinely have existed. At the very least, it did as a Victorian illustration.

The composition and colouring of Alke's piece is redolent of both right and left wing propaganda for me, but particularly trade union, socialist, and suffrage banners.



In the very last piece completed for Tangled Yarns, Alke pays direct homage to these suffrage banners, appliquéing an early 20th century patchwork (which would have been a "contemporary" of the Suffragettes) with the Suffragette rallying cry and banner proclamation Deeds Not Words.

Though the work harks back to the 1900s and the suffrage movement, and is in part a collaboration with a needlewoman of the past, it feels decidedly modern. It could be the jumble of colours, which are warm, inviting, even cosy; in marked contrast to the rest of the exhibition there is a sense of the handcrafted here that is perhaps not entirely polished; this is highlighted by the unfinished, raw edges of the patchwork. Alke posits on her blog that the woman who created the patchwork may have been a professional machinist making this piece at home for personal pleasure; she was certainly a skilled stitcher. 



Alke's choice to leave the patchwork unfinished signifies the never-ending nature of "women's work", and lends the piece a vulnerable air. The domestic furnishing and dressmaking cottons used for the lettering, the shirting stripes of the patchwork, show that craft is for everyone, and can be (and certainly was in the past) a part of everyday life. Just as Morris would have wanted. 

The phrase which keeps repeating in my head as I look at this work is the old rallying cry of Second-wave feminism, "The Personal Is Political". Its execution puts me in mind of Craftivism, as does its simple, yet impactful and perennial message. It has readopted the Suffragette call to arms, but divorced it from its austerity. As with the campaigns of the Craftivist Collective, "unlike some of the more traditional, extrovert forms of activism", Deeds Not Words is quietly beautiful. 

Alke created her text from fabrics used in the other works in the exhibition - thereby tying up the loose ends of her Tangled Yarns. A fitting conclusion to Alke's exhibition, calling us to bring about real change in the textile industry, whilst honouring the women who intersect with it.

A group of women whose lives were utterly transformed - for worse - by the textile industry were the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh. Disaster makes it sound like an accident; textiles workers in the Rana Plaza building were literally told "If you die here, so be it. But you can't leave, get to work". 

The building collapse is considered the deadliest structural failure in modern human history, leaving behind countless unanswered questions. Due to failures at every level, from highstreet brands whose clothes were manufactured in the building neglecting to take responsibility towards their workers, to local government turning a blind eye to the lack of planning permission, to managers at one of the factories in the building threatening to withhold a month's pay if workers refused to come to work following structural cracks appearing, 1138 (and counting) people have died. The majority of these workers were women, and a number of their children were also killed in the collapse.

Just writing these words makes me angry. It is incredible, therefore, that Alke has created such touching, peaceful, and appropriate memorials to these women in her exhibition, restoring them the dignity that they were so brutally robbed of.




In each of her two works commemorating the workers who were killed, she uses 1138 pearlescent-tipped sewing pins - one for each victim who died. Alke therefore honours the work that they did as seamstresses, though it was not respected during their lifetimes.

1138 and Counting presents the pins on a scroll of cotton and muslin, grouped together like a tally. The pure yet warm off-white is peaceful and spiritual, and together with the ethereal muslin is reminiscent of ghosts and angels.


Memorial presents us with a shroud-like length of cotton (the fabric which ties the entire exhibition together) on which pins delineate the shape of a woman's body. Although the pins pierce the fabric, the body appears to be resting on it; this calls to mind the stories of volunteer rescuers bringing victims out of the wreckage of Rana Plaza on bolts of fabric.



Alke has incorporated the survivors' testimony into both pieces:

They would not pay us if we didn't work that day.

One supervisor forced us to go inside.

We tried to get out but they wouldn't let us.

Our managers said, 'We will all die some day'.

If you die here, so be it. But you can't leave, get to work.

My hand got stuck when the roof came down. So I tried to cut off my hand but I couldn't.

I was buried alive. I never thought I'd see sunlight again.

I can't work anymore. I can't support my family, can't afford my treatment.

They didn't even pay my kids' due salaries. They said there is no salary for the dead.



Alke's neighbours transcribed this testimony from videos published by Labour Behind the Label into Bengali script, a further example of her collaborative process. Alke transferred the script on to the cotton of the works. In 1138 and Counting, the script rises from behind a haze of muslin, reminding us, like Morris's Dilemma, that the chain of supply in the textile industry is obscure and murky.

God's Own Junkyard

Today Pip and I visited Ravenswood Industrial Estate in good ol' E17. The name may sound somewhat unprepossessing, but the Industrial Estate is now home to some fantastic local independent businesses.

First off on our trip was God's Own Junkyard, a little bit of Las Vegas in Walthamstow; a veritable neon wonderland.

It's the kind of place that would be incongruous anywhere, but none more so than in Walthamstow; the colour and spectacle is almost too much to take in.

The Junkyard is frequently used as a location for fashion shoots, film and television, and its neon signs are sold in Selfridges and Scream Gallery.

The Junkyard houses a cafe that I'm eager to sample on another visit. I wouldn't mind doing my own photoshoot there, but as recent clients have included Vogue, I doubt I could afford it!

I'll let the photographs speak for themselves.



















We were torn between a tipple at Mother's Ruin gin palace and the Wild Card Brewery, but Pip kindly agreed to plump for gin; I'm certainly not a mother yet, but it just might be my ruin.

There is a varied and reasonably priced cocktail menu; we both went for a mulberry gin fizz, which was deliciously sharp and sweet. We'll definitely be back!


I'd recommend the businesses on the Industrial Estate to anyone; their wares would make great Christmas presents! It's always good to find new bits of your home town to explore.

Summer Dreaming

I had the dreamiest of weekends, starting on Friday night with cocktails and dim sum and night time strolls along the South Bank with two of my best pals.

Rose and lychee martini
You could say my weekend started on Thursday evening with a visit to the Virginia Woolf exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, but I'll save that for another blog post... it was a very stirring trip indeed.

Saturday was spent sewing and sipping sangria in my favourite dress with good friends. I met up with two of them the next day for wanders around the Walthamstow Garden Party. I'm sorry to say I misread the festival; I had thought it would be small and somewhat provincial. I could not be more wrong; it sprawled across Lloyd Park, with mouthwatering food and drink (I spilled chimichurri sauce on my dress trying to eat a very unruly burger), and an inventive array of activities for the little ones, including neon bright den building and wood work (there's something lovely about seeing a four year old girl expertly inserting bolts into wooden pieces of a rocking horse).


Dens built by local children
Significant Seams had a lovely display of a summer garden in full bloom, created entirely from discarded plastic. I particularly liked this tree of life, which, a volunteer told me, was based on Mexican paintings.







The garlands of wishes (destined for the wishing well) for the community were very sweet, too. Look what this one says.



I just have to put the finishing touches to a big commission proposal this week, and then this weekend I'm off to Brighton with Pip to visit friends and partake of even more cocktails. It's a hard life.

Book Marks

A wealth of wit, literary references and life's big themes are on show in the current exhibition at E17 Art House. Those literary references are particularly apt as the exhibition is entitled Book Marks, and is part of Walthamstow's inaugural literary festival, Words Over Waltham Forest.

Paens to literature, reading and writing in the exhibition include quick-witted visual puns (an orange with a piece of clockwork inserted where its stem should be), conceptual riffs on the sanctity of literature (a Bible which warns that God is watching you via a security camera in the front cover, another with legislature scrawled over chapter and verse), and the more straightforward, though no less charming (sculptures and photographs of readers enjoying a quiet moment with a good book).

From the moment of glancing at the title of How To Deal With Problematic Neighbours, the reader's mind is set racing guessing what the solution may be. Its contents are almost predictable, though still tickle the funny bone; a pistol conveniently concealed inside for dispatching with annoying acquaintances.




J. Thomas's artist's book was one of a number of offerings lining what I affectionately refer to as 'Conceptual Corner' in the exhibition, and is the next door neighbour of my contribution. Big Teeth, the artist's book which consumed me for around a month and a half, is a hand sewn exploration of the women's language of cloth in fairytales, and of what happens after happily ever after.




To the right hand side of Big Teeth was another artist's book, this time for sale in an edition. Subtitles (of Life and Death) by David Barette also happened to be my favourite piece in the show.

It's a simple idea; collate quotations on life and death in the form of screenshots and subtitles from a variety of classic films. But it works. 


The screenshots take the form of postcards that one could "cut (or rather, pull) out and keep", or keep as a complete work of art. Perhaps it appeals particularly to me as part of an image, iconography, pop culture obsessed generation; the Tumblr generation, if you will. It's certainly very accessible and instantly gratifying.




Between the Lines by Wendy McMillan, UK Law transcribed over Biblical Text

1984 by Francis Long



Insect Travellers Author/artist unknown. This artist's book disperses advice and adages alongside scientific illustrations of insects.



Bible Cam - God is watching YOU by Pure Evil


Genre - Mystery by Hannah Battershell. What tales could this abandoned typewriter tell?

A Soul of a New Machine by Jonathan Thomas
The artist E. J. England uses  book covers as their canvases; of course, one would need to read the words enclosed within to know whether these paintings are illustrative, or what is suggested to the artist by the books' titles.

The Stars Look Down by E. J. England. Gouache paint on vintage book.

The Lion by E. J. England. Gouache paint on vintage book


Of Love and Other Demons by Divya Venkatesh
I've been in a number of exhibitions with soft sculpture and embroidery artist Harriet Hammel, but the attention to detail and accuracy of her illustrative comic book embroideries exhibited at Book Marks never fails to astonish me.


Beano Embroidery by Harriet Hammel

Dandy Embroidery Fragment by Harriet Hammel
Another favourite piece was Jonathan O'Dea's book-sculpture Burning Back the Layers. Created as a tangible embodiment of the artist's struggles with reading as a dyslexic, the work also reminds the viewer that books come from trees; it reminds us of the lengthy process the materials have undergone in order for a book, perfect and complete, to be placed in our hands. The longer I spent with this piece, the more of its layers I unpeeled; a very appropriately titled work.

Burning Back the Layers by Jonathan O'Dea

Reading by Esther Neslen
This exhibition is rich and beautifully curated, many of the pieces situated in such a way that they have a profound dialogue with one another. I am sure book based art is a genre I will return to time and time again over the course of my career; books are my first love, after all (and what better first love to have?) As one of the art works in the exhibition mused, in the immortal words of Morrissey: "There's more to life than books you know, but not much more." Quite.

Art in Awesomestow: The Summer Show at Penny Fielding


I promised my Tumblr followers a post on my latest exhibition, at Penny Fielding's, quite a few days ago, and so here, finally, is a photograph of Pip and I being smug in our sunglasses in the gallery garden.

And I did have at least one thing to be (slightly) smug about; one of my embroideries was displayed slap bang in the centre of the window! My Melancholyflowers were placed directly beneath a rather charming little crown, which I take as a sign of good fortune.




My other embroidery was ever so slightly more out of the way, but still very visible; over a doorway leading to an interesting little nook of the gallery/shop. I'm afraid these are the best photographs I could take of it; it seemed very far up from the point of view of my (brand spanking new, it's very exciting) smartphone!



Here's a better, close up photograph of the piece, entitled Plathitude:


Mine weren't the only textile pieces in the exhibition, or the only familiar ones; this exquisite machine embroidered quilt by Gilli Haqqani previously featured (alongside some of my work) at the Soft group show at The Mill last year.



This colourful illustration put me in mind of Grayson Perry's playful illustrative style. The gaudy yet down at heel carnival scene is quintessentially British.


This photograph doesn't do it justice, but this thought provoking painting by socially conscious artist Alke Schmidt. At first glance it seems obvious that the machinists are working in an Asian clothes sweatshops. But with closer inspection, more layers to the painting are discovered. The painting is overlaid with a textiles pattern, which I read in two ways; it is a traditional Asian design, or a cheap and cheerful design for the mass market. It seems to have seeped into the women's skin; they are unable to escape their cultural heritage, which now includes manufacturing cheap high street clothing for Westerners. Their face masks could be to protect them from their unhygienic working environment; it also reminds me of the hysteria, which seemed particularly concentrated in the East, following the outbreak of SARs and then bird flu, and the wearing of such masks, which I remember was common amongst Asian tourists at the time. Finally, the black mass of cloth waiting to be sewn to the right of the machinists is redolent of the drudgery of working in such a sweatshop, and the murky business practises of the multinational companies overseeing such work.


This whimsical piece put me in mind of sideshows at the carnival or circus; surely that cat shouldn't have wings?! The rough but realistic charcoal strokes give the drawing a naturalistic, endearing quality.


Similarly endearing was this piece; I couldn't decide if it was in pastels or some kind of print, but I do know that I love a good cup of tea, especially when it's served so beautifully!


I feel cruel for writing this, but this dreamlike piece by Two For Joy is very reminiscent of Rob Ryan's work. He certainly seems to have cornered the market in whimsical papercuts! This piece definitely has a charm all of its own, however; the detail on the wings/feathers is particularly gorgeous.



I assume this dramatic print is a linocut, a medium I am hoping to experiment with soon. If it is, it's certainly s masterful one; just look at the detail in that spider's abdomen.


This print of identical twins reminded me of a painting my best friend won a national art prize for when we were twelve, and it's just as sweet!


I love dioramas, but unfortunately couldn't get a better picture of this dinky little one inside an old lamp; it, too, was very sweet.


Much as I love Awesomestow, there are days when it seems a bit grey and gritty even for me! So this bright and cheerful treatment of the borough definitely put a smile on my face.


The exhibition is on until August the 25th. I urge you to get down there if you can. As well as all the wonderful art, there's plenty of beautiful homeware and jewellery on sale, and you're bound to bump into some interesting local characters!




Hysterical Woman

The charming little coffee shop where I work tonight hosted the first of its supper clubs for the Appetite Festival (a month-long festival of food in Waltham Forest for the month of June). To coincide with this, Walthamstow Dad has created a coffee-flavoured art installation, and, thanks to a kindly customer who dropped me in it/suggested Arts and Crusts exhibited my work, I have a little window installation of my embroideries.

Carol (one half of Arts and Crusts) set the embroideries off beautifully by hand-drawing a lace design based on one of my handkerchiefs.

Work old and new is featured; pieces from The Cure for Love, my Melancholy Flowers, a pop feminist piece (which will, fingers crossed, feature in another exhibition soon), two handkerchiefs from my current project Treasures For Your Troubles, and a satirical piece on the perils of hero worshipping Sylvia Plath (as Woody Allen said, Plath was an "interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college girl mentality.")

When Carol was putting the finishing touches to the display, she asked me if I had a name for the little exhibition. As I drew a blank, she took a lead from the pop feminist embroidery featured, and dubbed the exhibition Hysterical Woman; so the display now reads Hysterical Woman Kate Elisabeth Rolison (!)





























I'm chuffed with the beautiful way in which Carol has presented my work. It seems fitting to have a little exhibition at Arts and Crusts; after all, it is an arts and crafts café, and I'm always found stitching away in between serving customers!

I'm afraid to say (according to the Arts and Crusts Twitter feed) all the spaces for the supper clubs are now sold out; I'm certainly very pleased to have made it to one. The tabbouleh, baklava, and Arabic mint tea went down particularly well (though wasn't eaten/drunk all at once!) It was a little like a dinner party but with new faces; a wonderful way to meet your neighbours and socialise, all while admiring the art on the walls (and ceiling!) and sampling Middle Eastern deliciousness. Bring on next year!

Maple Leaves and Plush Punch


exterior
Last Thursday evening, Significant Seams invited E17 creatives and locals to take a tour of our new premises and hear our plans for its transformation.
We’re moving from Unit 23 – 24 Wood Street Indoor Market to 131 Wood Street; just over the road, opposite the Flowerpot pub and Brother’s Fish Bar! (Potentially a very dangerous location for Significant Seams staff!)
The premises needs a certain amount of capital work, and so we don’t yet have an exact opening date, but are planning a grand opening in March, in conjunction with a site specific textile project that is currently (rather appropriately) under wraps.
I’d fashioned a tree from our bountiful (though less so now!) supply of brown fabric earlier that day, which we hung from the rafters, and asked visitors to contribute their ideas for how the space might be used and how they would like to be involved.
Ideas weren’t just written down on forms, however; to go with our handcrafted tree for Wood Street, we’d ordered in stunningly realistic maple leaf post it notes.
image (8)
image (2)
Suggestions ranged from the practical to the downright kooky; some of our younger visitors had suggestions such as a giant birdcage for children to play in!
image (5)
What was most evident from both written and verbal feedback was how enthusiastic our supporters are about the move, as are we; it means more space, more convenient opening hours for our customers and service users, and, most excitingly, affords us the opportunity to offer the only inclusive community space in Eastern Walthamstow.
Non-alcoholic Plush Punch (which certainly still packed a punch!)

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)

The Knitter, the Stitcher, and the Quilter.

No, this is not a "walked into a bar" joke, or a Perraultian fairy tale.

It's all just in a day's work.


Today, a knitter (Debs), a quilter (Catherine), and a stitcher (me!), gathered to (hand)stitch together Walthamstow's Neighbourly Quilt.

Back in May I was just finishing off my first internship with Catherine at her Walthamstow-based Social Enterprise Significant Seams (I've just begun my second internship there).

My first jaunt at the Significant Seams Hub was based around a community arts project: the Neighbourly Quilt project featured here.

Significant Seams asked residents of E17 to hand in fabric squares decorated using various textile techniques, or attend a workshop to learn a technique with which to decorate their square. The theme of the square was to be either "something which makes good neighbours", or "something which I love about Walthamstow".

We received 68 patches in all; more than we expected, and more than our target!

Catherine and Debs had already spent a couple of sessions hand-stitching the quilt together, and now that I'm back from Scotland, I'm joining in too. Here's our handiwork:








Here's (rather) a few of my favourites:














One of Debs' beautiful pieces



Exhibition Venues/Here Is My Heart

Today I visited two possible venues in which to exhibit The Cure for Love; the 491 Gallery on Grove Green Road in Leytonstone,and The Mill in Coppermill Lane, Walthamstow.

The 491 Gallery was once a factory but is now an art squat; a home for squatters (or not technically squatters, as they pay a peppercorn rent to the building's owners, Transport for London) and an exhibition space for artists, including students from Central Saint Martins.


The Mill is a slightly different organisation (though I suppose both venues operate on similar community-based principals). Orginally the building that houses The Mill was Coppermill Lane Library. This was closed by the council and the plan was to turn it into a drug rehabilitation centre. However, local campaining meant that it eventually became what it is today; a community centre for local people.

Tomorrow I will be travelling to the Pharmacy of Stories gallery in Hackney, to participate in their show Here Is My Heart, in which hearts are given and recieved in "heart transplants"; very fitting for The Cure for Love!


This is the heart I will be taking along.

I find it interesting that it was originally the liver that was the symbol of love, and believed to be the seat of the passions in the body. The heart itself was believed to be the seat of the mind, and thus is (still) poetically linked to the soul.

Arting Around



Today my dear friend Kat (a talented artist in her own right) and I braved the wind and rain to take in some local culture on the E17 Art Trail. I'd had a brief wander round the Trail with family on Saturday and yesterday, and bought this upcycled dress from an eco pop-up shop on Forest Road:



I also took in painting, photography and illustration in the Ye Olde Rose and Crown pub on Hoe Street. Several illustrative pieces were based on films, including one on a speech from Brief Encounter, a favourite of mine and the basis for some soon-to-be-posted embroideries. The Mitre Art Studio was filled with beautiful lino prints and a couple of amusing pieces, a 50s dress printed with trashy images of lowbrow culture...


and a tiny diorama containing a toy zebra and "far-away" zebras, bearing the legend "This is very small... those are far away", borrowed from Father Ted!



Today we started off in Walthamstow Village on Orford Road, in Desire hair salon, where there was a selection of Modernist/Futurist-inspired leather works depicting Olympic sports by the Mon Seedin collective. The collective had really taken the "On Your Marks" Olympic theme of the Trail as their starting point.


Next on our trip was a collection of abstract paintings named The Journey, by artist Wendy Coley, displayed in the windows of the old Town Hall. Our favourite was the red and gold triptych:


After seeing all that Orford Road had to offer (unfortunately several exhibiting venues were shut) we wandered down to the Market, stopping off at Walthamstow Library to see London... Its People and Places, an exhibition of watercolours by Ron Bowman:


Watercolour of the Ancient House, Walthamstow, by Ron Bowman

Next on our list was Waterstones, which had several prints and a photographic essay on Morocco.

After all that art it was back to mine for a well-earned bacon sarnie. There's still a couple of exhibits I'd like to squeeze in seeing, including Dr. Knit and the Knitting Laboratory...


...Paintings in Tea, Alcohol and Ink by Carne Griffiths, and the most bizarre and disturbing listing of this year, Tears of Blood, in which, apparently, "tears of blood run down the faces of cats as they emerge from beautiful or dramatic scenery"!