Scrappy and resolute

Although I was recently "commissioned" to stitch up a small paragraph for Year Two's display in the school at which I am TAing, I have found it hard to get on with Milk Thistle whilst I'm engaged in this short burst of full time work.
 
That's not to say I'm not enjoying the job! It is both more challenging and more rewarding than I was anticipating. Kids are also an endless source of amusement.
 
Alongside working I am beginning to put some plans in place for creative projects (some of which are even paid! I know!)
 
I feel as if I am at a turning point in my creative practice, and in many ways, in my life. I suppose everything is in transition right now, but I am rather enjoying going with the flow.
 
I think once Milk Thistle is completed and (hopefully) exhibited alongside my two other embroidered books, I will be exploring other avenues. I particularly want to return to working collaboratively and creating participatory experiences, and - gasp - to using other mediums in addition to embroidery.
 
I suppose my recent diaristic scribbles and collages are a reflection of this; I've decided that I'm going to spend some of my ill-gotten funds from TAing on art classes, and get back to drawing, partially because it's a skill that scares me a little. I've come to believe that I'm not very good at it, mostly because I've been out of practice. So I'm going to dive back in.
 
This desire/fear is reflected in the double page spread below; some of my drawings from the workshop run by Jake Spicer of Draw Brighton and Bobby Baker with Daily Life Limited are featured, as is the phrase What would you do if you weren't afraid? which I found whilst flicking through a free magazine on the train. A question we would all do well to answer and act on from time to time, I think.
 
These are accompanied by surplus photobooth snapshots (which I had to take for my new job), which complement a silly self portrait I did at the Experts by Experience workshop.
 


Foxes also feature heavily on the two pages below; but of course, they are one of my very favourite creatures, up there with mallards and the majestic narwhal.

Lots of potions, too... hopefully soon I shall be making some more...

Also on the page below is a synopsis of the glorious Our Lady of Nettles by Sylvia Linsteadt, a favourite and visionary writer. Scattered around the two pages are remnants of  the envelope in which the story wended its way to me.

 
I'm off now to check on some cookies I'm baking for the Eid party at school tomorrow; until next time,
 
Kate Elisabeth x
 

The Illustrated Embroiderer

If you know me, you'll know I'm fond of a frock (or seven). My room is currently groaning under the weight of 60s dresses, and the surplus has started seeping out into other rooms too. But when it comes to dresses, I firmly don't believe in too much of a good thing. Particularly when it comes to the gorgeous details of my two most recent acquisitions.

Both are not only lovingly hand-crafted, but also feature illustrations by the designers themselves. 



First up is a delightfully atomic-era-esque number by Supayana. I've followed Supayana(aka Yana Gorbulsky)'s work ever since my teens, when I had misguided dreams of becoming an indie fashion designer. Back in the day, Yana spliced and recycled cute thrifted tops to make her own creations. Her green fashion credentials continue to this day, when she makes use of old and unwanted vintage fabrics, and eco-friendly materials in her designs. Her pieces are now much more refined and elegant than they were at the beginning of her career, when the mishmash of her designs could be said to be an acquired taste (it's certainly one I like, though!)

In recent years, Yana has collaborated with artist Olivia Mew, incorporating Olivia's illustrations into her Spring/Summer 2012 collection of children's clothing and womenswear. I couldn't pass up on one of her illustrated fox tops back then, and I couldn't pass up on a foxy dress now, with a sweet illustration designed by Yana herself, of leaping foxes and bunting.



I've followed Caitlin Shearer's work since my teens too (though I suspect initially that had something to do with us both being mildly obsessed with Patrick Wolf!) Over the years I've seen Caitlin's paintings and illustrations mature into an utterly idiosyncratic and instantly recognisable dreamy aesthetic, echoed in her gorgeous Instagram snaps of bouquets of flowers and her own enviable collection of mid-century dresses. If you've never encountered Caitlin Shearer's work before, I urge you to go check out her Etsy shop. Go now.

In 2012, Caitlin began to introduce a line of dresses and textiles illustrated with her original watercolour paintings to her Etsy shop. A delectably tempting plethora of sweet, slightly puff-sleeved, 50s inspired sundresses are available, with illustrations ranging from pastel biscuits to girl scout badges. The Mermaid dress, however, is the one I've had my eye on since then, and after many months of saving pennies, it recently landed in my letter box.

It's even more dreamy in person; though perhaps a little risqué to wear to School! These mermaids are certainly sirens.




Both these dresses are perfect for the sudden Spring weather we're having (I spent my lunchtime today on a picnic blanket in the gardens of Hampton Court Palace, soaking up the sunshine). I'm certainly feeling much sunnier, too.

The quick brown fox




These crafty little fellas have been stitched up ready to go in the Poesie Grenadine Etsy shop when I reopen it in January.

The foxy fellas had been tucked away in a sparkly box for many a month, but they were just crying out to be made up into cute little brooches. And doing so afforded me the perfect opportunity to practise my blanket/buttonhole stitch and couching. I think they're rather fetching, don't you? Their leaping stance puts me in mind of the old pangram "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" More brooch designs are brewing and will be shared here shortly...

At a snail's pace


"Slow and steady wins the race" is an adage my mother is fond of quoting to me when I am bemoaning just how long it is taking to move things forward. Never is this more apt than with needlework; as a family we recently got 'round to watching Fabric of Britain, and in the embroidery edition of the series (which featured a certain Royal School) learned that it can take six hours to embroider just two tiny cheeks of a face in split stitch. This makes my progress with my Canvas Stitches coral garden look positively speedy!

Jacquard Stitch on my Canvas Stitches coral garden piece


I have never been good at sharing works in progress, whether in the contexts of work, academia, or on this blog. It must be the perfectionist in me. Right now, though, I only have works in progress to show. This feels fitting; it seems like my life is a work in progress right now, moving forward, though in no way speedily. Slowly, slowly, at a snail's pace, I am learning technique, and I am learning so much about myself. Learning what makes me happy and keeps me healthy. This new experience is an education, in every sense of the word.






Although it's tough, sometimes even mentally and physically exhausting, I am enjoying every stitch.

Perhaps all this is why snails have appeared so often in my artwork over the years; from my oh-so-"conceptual" GCSE art project in which a colourful character hid their light under a bushel (or more accurately, inside a box covered with snail shells) within a colourful inner sanctum that was literally bubblewrapped from the outside world;













...to Dale the Snail (not my choice of name!) who takes pride of place in the Jacobean Crewel Work I (finally!) completed for my RSN course (still needs to be mounted, though).



Or perhaps I simply like snails... the way they carry their homes around with them, their dual timidity and curiosity at the world, and if you want to get really "Dartington", how they leave a trace of their existence behind wherever they go.

I'm learning other ways of taking better care of myself in addition to endless meditative stitching; learning to be thankful for all the wonderful people and experiences in my life, reading the work of my favourite writers, surrounding myself with art that makes me feel good. That includes the art of my contemporaries, for example the wonderful Hannah Hill, a young artist and good friend of whom I expect great things (and who is already making great things happen!) This piece in particular has been a great comfort of late; the text is taken from a piece by another young Tumblr artist, Eryn (of the blog "botanicalmovement"):

Hannah has really made Eryn's words come alive

I am, as ever at this time of year, trying to look for the little things that make winter wonderful, when it is such a difficult time for people like me, who have a tendency towards depression. So I felt I'd stumbled on a literary, stitchery, wintry goldmine when I came across this cross stitched Annie Dillard quotation by Jessica Kelly on Flickr:


Dillard is definitely a writer I'll have to do some investigating into pretty imminently.

All these wise stitched words have spurned me into stitching some of my own; I've written a wry little manifesto for myself moving forward:
  • Being a damsel in distress went out with wimples; be your own hero
  • Red lipstick wasn't rationed for a reason; it's a shell to fling at the world, a suit of armour
  • Playing the invalid invalidates you; heal yourself
  • What to look for in winter; fungus, ferns, frost; two bodies under a blanket; a warm dog sat in your lap
  • Remember you're a milk thistle; unlily your liver
  • Shout boo at every hissing goose to cross your path
I am picking away at embroidering the manifesto (tentatively titled "The Tentative Manifesto of a Big Girl's Blouse"... I wonder why?) and practising my split stitch while I'm at it. Picking it up after a hard day's stitching homework and returning to sewing as a form of therapy, which is so important for me.




I've also made the decision to re-open my Etsy shop. The time feels right, when I am so full of enthusiasm for the future. When these two little fellas have been transformed into rosettes, I will be putting them up for sale alongside framed embroidered art from The Cure for Love and other projects, and a few vintage garments I'm very excited to share with you all.


When the time comes I will post all the pertinent information and links here on the Poesie Grenadine blog. Until then, I'll be stitching!