A Poesie Grenadine interview in Cross Stitcher Magazine


After months of waiting, I can finally share with you all something I've been longing to; an interview in Cross Stitcher Magazine's February issue on my work.

Isn't it funny how these things come along at just the right time? When I was contacted by Cross Stitcher, I was feeling down in the dumps about my life as an artist and my future. The interview really bolstered my confidence and helped me take stock of all the wonderful things happening in my life. It even helped me articulate why I make art; to reach out to others, to spin yarns rich with living history, to connect myself to a lineage of needlewomen across the ages. It was a real blessing, and I'm very grateful to the good people at Cross Stitcher for getting in touch. ♥  



Merry Witchmas

I'm back in London to spend New Year's Eve with my closest friends. Our house is on Christmas wind-down, with not a scrap of turkey in sight, but with holly and baubles woven through the staircase and festive lights in the bay window.


One of my latest hobby-stitchings is perhaps more apt for Halloween than Christmas-time; a heart shaped brooch adorned with antique lace advertising "Witchy Woo Dating Agency" (I told you a couldn't resist a pun).


The brooch will shortly be up for sale in the Poesie Grenadine Etsy shop, which should be up and running in early January.


I did wonder if the potion bottle needed any fabric paint to define its shape and lines further; what do you think?

In other witchy news, I am still working on my Polly Kettle quilt, which is more like a comic strip or open book all about the East End fortune telling siren of the title. In the latest patch under construction, Polly is draped over a paper moon, clutching her crystal ball, in an illustrative style reminiscent of photographs of trapeze artists from the early 20th Century. I plan on painting an inky fabric paint sky in the background, and some pearls... hopefully soon all will be revealed...


All that remains is for me to wish you a very happy New Year, and to say that I will see you on the other side with more craft to share.

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!)


Hell hath no fury like a woman subjugated

I stitched up this piece for a little feminist exhibition I'm hoping to have as part of a wider event (more information to follow if all goes well!)

I put a feminist twist on the famous William Congreve quote (which is, of course, always misattributed to Shakespeare), so I suppose it's literary stitchery too!



The real credit for this piece has to go to the original needlewoman (I'm assuming it was a needlewoman, not a man, and that's incredibly presumptive of me) who cross stitched this ornate floral and fruit, Grecian inspired design. It's an even more incredible feat when you consider that it was rendered on plain cotton rather than cross stitch aida; all those neat, tiny stitches! And without the aid of a drawn-on design, too! I'm in awe of my predecessors, sometimes.


I felt the rather chintzy "surroundings" of the phrase lent a nicely ironic air. A satisfying little stitch to produce while I'm working on bigger things.

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!

Treasures For Your Troubles

Once again, I'm back to my old tricks of hipster bingo (typewriting on Polaroids). This time around though, my efforts are a bit more considered. I hadn't bought Polaroid film in years, but when the idea for my Treasures For Your Troubles project popped into my head, I knew I had to get my hands on some for a very special shoot.

The idea of covering myself in gold stars, mundane rewards for struggling or succeeding through life, struck me as an arresting image, and one which would work particularly well in the soft tones of Polaroids. I'd written a few lines of sing-song poetry on the theme, which I decided to type on the frames of the Polaroids with my cursive typewriter (how analogue can you get?!) If you want to get really pretentious, I could say this was something of a self-care or self-affirming ritual. Or I could say it was just an excuse to cover myself in glitter (though who needs an excuse?)




This project is a celebration of the human spirit in all its absurdity, mess, and glory, and I think the ink smudges (which I dreamily imagine could be tear stains) and blotchily developed photographs, in all their beautiful imperfection, demonstrate this.

More Treasures For Your Troubles to follow...

Gold Star

As a habitual pessimist and anxiety queen, I have recently begun keeping a record of one good thing from each day, to remind myself that actually, my life is pretty darn good.
 
I've also been indulging in an incredibly childish (and mildly embarrassing) practice; giving myself reward stickers.
 
A few months back, on the advice of friend, collaborator and fellow artist Hannah Hill, I started keeping a record of daily to-dos and achievements as a means of patting myself on the back (something I'm often not very good at) and as an impetus to get stuff done. I nicked Hannah's idea and added reward stickers, and as I noted at the time, self-imposed bribery to do things via a stickers-based reward system worked (un)surprisingly well. Yes, I am a child.
 
There's something about gold reward stars in particular that is incredibly crave-inducing; they must be engineered that way. Maybe its my innate and irritating perfectionism, mixed with nostalgia for primary school, I don't know.
 
Anyway, in homage to the humble gold star reward sticker, I wanted to make a series of work celebrating the minor achievements of us bumbling humans as we muddle our way through life, making it up as we go along and getting bumps and scrapes which (hopefully) only serve to make us a little bit stronger... I'm bumbling myself now.
 
I'm tentatively calling the project Treasures For Your Troubles, which is what the first embellished piece of the series spells out, in (what else) golden star sequins.

 




 
The next element of the project (which will be a multimedia undertaking) will be accomplished with the aid of my trusty old Polaroid Spectra camera, and some Impossible Project film which I was happy to find had arrived when I got in from work this evening. Now if only we'd have some good weather, I could get on with it! Just one of the (very minor) obstacles in life the project is all about overcoming.

Lunar Moth


You may have noticed by now, I have something of a predilection for moths.  As The Constellation Quilt is all about stars and the night sky, I couldn't help but stitch up a lunar moth as one of the quilt patches. And as Polly Kettle, the quilt's subject, is something of a femme fatale, I stitched a female lunar moth (the female of the species's colouring is more in line with the toning of the quilt, too!)

I don't know if anyone else has this experience, but this embroidery was one of those ones for me where I've been working on it so long I can't tell if it's any good or not anymore, and truth be told I think I'd still like to have a little play at perfecting it, and adding more realistic and subtle shading. Whether I actually will is another matter; I've got too many new ideas to plough on with, including more floral-themed blackwork and a project about gold reward stars...

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!

At home in the universe


Every now and then, I need a little respite from making. I feel that being in nature is really important for the creative process, and helps me breathe. I've been kayaking a lot recently, which is a really novel and relaxing way to experience the city.

Now that spring is (finally) well and truly sprung, Pip and I took the opportunity to go on our most gothic date yet; a long overdue trip to the famous Highgate Cemetery, burial place of Karl Marx and many other thinkers, writers and celebrities.

The Cemetery really is "a haven of beauty and tranquility" as its website says; strolling around the graveyard one couldn't help but feel at peace, and sitting by the firefighters' memorial surrounded by birdsong and inquisitive, fearless robins was the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon.

 The Cemetery is teeming with life; many graves are more like flower beds, covered with planted daffodils, primroses and pansies. I find the intersection of life and death inspiring and life-affirming; to know that we continue in the form of natural beauty when we die. A number of tombstones had been laced with ivy which had died back, leaving veinous patterns to add to their marble design.


Human design, too, was very inspiring here; there were many witty examples of gravestones the deceased or their families had chosen, from the tomb designed to look like a Penguin Book cover, to  pop artist Patrick Caulfield's sculptural grave, which reads, rather dryly, "DEAD".







When I was doing my A Levels, the topic of one of our Photography modules was "Links and Connections". I chose to look at the links between life and death, and, more specifically, at graveyards.

I also photographed a whale's spine decomposing on the beach of the tiny Highland hamlet my grandparents live in.

The vetebrae sticking up into the air put me in mind of the tombstones I was also photographing at various graveyards in the North West Highlands.

Visiting Highgate Cemetery reminded me of this, and it was a shame I didn't bring a better camera than my everyday digital one! I did, however, snap merrily away, and got many pictures of the profusion of flora and vegetation in the Cemetery, and the varied examples of design in the tombs, ranging from art nouveau to art deco, Sorry this post is so picture heavy; I did get slightly carried away:



I thought this was a particularly lovely epitaph.




Douglas Adams's grave, complete with an offering of pens to the writer

This woman had such a beautiful name; I wonder what her story was?


Blooms covering a "flowerbed grave"
...and luscious ferns


Patrick Caulfield's acerbic tombstone
Pat Kavanagh's art noveau-inspired gravestone


Jeremy Beadle's tomb was judged to be the one with the most books!


This woman is buried with her dog, Emperor




Somehow the erosion of statues like this one only adds to their romantic beauty


George Eliot's tomb




As it is perhaps the first week of tightsless weather this year, I couldn't resist dressing up for the day out in my new imitation-fifties frock (complete with petticoat), and genuine-fifties Polaroid sunglasses.



Now it's back to stitchin' for me; I will try to have my Melancholyflowers up on here this week; it's just that all that foliage is so fiddly (but I do love sewing it!)

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.
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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.
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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!
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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:
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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.
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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.
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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.

Life! Death! Prizes!


“Life! Death! Prizes!” (complete with exclamation marks) is the rather incongruous strapline of Chat magazine, “your smart real-life read”, aka one of the recent spate of pulp magazines, that, as one reviewer of a book named for the strapline puts it, trade “in human misery by revelling in real-life traumas”.
On a lighter note, I was tickled by the phrase and cross stitched it during my second year at university.
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I chose green as the colour for “life!” due to its association with nature and new life, red for “death!” due to the obvious connotations of blood (alternatively red could have been used for “life!” for the same reason), and a variety of bright colours for “prizes!”, analogous with a flashing neon sign that would be found in an amusement arcade or fairground.
The phrase stuck in my head as I began to plan The Constellation Quilt, and the idea that it could be a neon sign hanging in a fairground made me think that it would make the perfect companion piece to my “fortune telling” patch, with a wheel of fortune or fairground fortune slot vibe.
fortuneteller
When translating the phrase into a patch for The Constellation Quilt, I kept the colours of the text the same (adding purple flowers growing out of the “life!” line), but chose a different font for each word. I think the font of “prizes!” is particularly akin to a neon sign. To add to this effect, I stitched star sequins and purple beads, to tone in with the rest of the quilt, issuing out in rays of “neon light”.
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This was my first time using water soluble cross stitch aida, and I’m largely happy with the results, although as the plastic  texture of the aida makes it difficult to use an embroidery hoop, there is some puckering between the words.
Here is the patch alongside its companion piece. Only three more patches to go, and then it’s the scary part; piecing together the quilt by hand.
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Don't interrupt me, the stars are tessellating


Another week, another patch of The Constellation Quilt completed.
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This phrase, “Don’t interrupt me, the stars are tessellating” could be spoken by the hero to the heroine in a clichéd romantic scene in a musical or melodrama. The stars are often associated with romance, and this is something I wanted to pick up on in the quilt.
This phrase is one which I cross stitched when I first began embroidering, one of those phrases that comes to you and persists, nonsensical though it may be.
don't interrupt me the stars are tessellating
Of course, the stars can’t really tessellate; that is, unless they appear in a quilt, for which there are many tessellating stars patterns, one of which I based the motif of this patch on. As I’m keeping the quilt’s construction very simple, I wanted to make reference to the more complicated star patterns here.
The patch is something of a stitch sampler, with back stitch, running stitch, stem stitch and chain stitch all featuring. You can’t tell from the scan, but the thread of the text is in two different shades of gold; I picked it up on a bountiful recent visit to Wroxham.

"You will meet a tall dark stranger"


As I mentioned in my previous post, this patch of The Constellation Quilt is all about Polly Kettle’s fortune telling. I couldn’t help but refer back to my Fortunate Cookie Predicts Pavement Proposal embroidery which featured in my project The Cure For Love with this patch; a number of rhyming cookie fortunes are strewn next to Polly’s sparkling crystal ball. I must apologise for taking so long to post this; the “mystic rays” radiating out from the centre of the crystal ball ate up a LOT of thread, and I’ve just been away for the weekend (I know, excuses, excuses!)
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Any Talking Heads fans may notice that I’ve borrowed a bit of a lyric from Once In A Lifetime with the first fortune, “You  may find yourself behind the wheel of a large Land Ranger“:

I decided to make all the fortunes rhyme to add a playful, light-hearted sense to the patch; I don’t think the occult should be taken too seriously! I’m just about to start the companion piece to this patch, in which I will be playing with water soluble aida (or cross stitch) fabric for the first time; I’m excited to see the results!

Stardust


I’m so inspired to complete the remaining patches of The Constellation Quilt that I’ve even been dreaming about them! The next patch will be a playful look at the stars as they apply to fortune telling (appropriate for a quilt based on my character Polly Kettle, a fortune telling siren).
I’ve just finished reading Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, and amongst the reams of gorgeous imagery is quite a bit of writing about the chaos and majesty of the stars, including the below:
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 Yes, it’s a little melodramatic, but so is Polly Kettle, so it seems appropriate! I enjoyed adding all the tiny gold stars (or should I say stardust?) The background fabric of the patch has the slightest gold sheen; I will be interspersing the Polly Kettle letter patches with these, and with patches of a warm yellow-gold colour. I think this “stardust” patch may be the “cornerstone” patch which ends the first “Polly” line of the quilt.

OOMK at the ICA


I missed OOMK zine‘s launch the other week as I was up in the Scottish Highlands, which is a real shame; it looked like a fab night!
However, I did make it down to the ICA on Saturday to pick up my copy of the zine. Page 28 features a little article on exhibiting in the E17 Art Trail by yours truly. When I first exhibited in the art trail two Septembers ago, I never would have dreamt that my experience would end up in a publication sold at the Institute of Contemporary Art! I almost feel like a “proper” artist.
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OOMK (or “One Of My Kind”) zine “is a highly visual, handcrafted small-press publication. Our content largely pivots upon the imaginations, creativity and spirituality of women.” The theme of Issue 1 is Fabric, and the full colour zine is filled with textile art, collages, comics, and articles (including one by Betsy Greer, the coiner of “craftivism”). Get your hands on your own copy here.

Polly Kettle


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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.
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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“.
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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.
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I particularly liked this jewel print fabric, the backing of a quilt for Joan’s son.
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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.
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I hope to have Polly’s “surname” finished soon, and then it’s on to embroidered and cross stitched sections of the quilt.

Winter's End


A week before the season’s end, I’ve finished my winter project. What To Look For In Winter? ends on a slightly melancholy note, with the heroine, who is now ready for a new season and new love, wondering what to look for when the weather turns colder again.
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But what to
look for
in winter?
The yellow thread that I chose to embroider the phrase picks up the celandine and coltsfoot blossoms in the illustration, and contrasts with the blue moth print paper which lines the index.
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Moths will continue as a motif in my next project. Now that I’ve finished my modest winter undertaking, I feel ready for a  more ambitious make; I’m going to attempt my first quilt. The Constellation Quilt will focus on my character Polly Kettle,  and writing about  the stars and night.
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In the meantime, here’s the completed What To Look For In Winter, a winter’s worth of writing and sewing.

"When the gorse is out of bloom, then is kissing out of fashion"


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English Rose
Your lips
have thawed
And there’s a
Spring
in your step.
This penultimate page of What To Look For In Winter harks back to the very first page, which addresses the English Rose heroine of the tale/poem:
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The coming of spring has freed the English Rose from the cruel clutches of Winter, and now her heart and lips have thawed and she is ready for new life and new love. Only now will she truly “wilt no more“. There is a link between the original text and my own writing on this penultimate page; the mention of the folklore surrounding gorse and kissing and my mention of thawed lips, just as I wrote that the heroine’s lips were “too chapped and dry to kiss” on this page, which mentions and shows mistletoe:
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Only one more page to stitch, and then I will embark on possibly my most ambitious project yet; a narrative quilt on the subject of the stars.