Exhibition Visit: New Quilting, Rheged

My friend, Margaret, and I went to see the New Quilting exhibition earlier in the week. It was hosted by the Rheged Centre in Cumbria and runs until Sunday 23 April 2017.

There were a variety of styles of quilting, from art quilts to historical pieces from the Helbeck Hall collection, and some three-dimensional work. As ever, the lighting was rather dim to preserve the textiles, so my photographs have a yellowish tinge to them.

I have been a fan of Elizabeth Brimelow‘s work for a number of years, and was pleased to see that she had several pieces of work in the exhibition. She is interested in landscape, especially nature, history, and the effects of farming on land. Her work begins with drawings, that are then translated into textiles through stitch and fabric manipulation.

Elizabeth Brimelow, Round Meadow, (silk fabric, labels, hand & machine stitch, hand quilting, knotting).

This piece was described by the artist as “… a journey through my sketchbooks …”, and featured plants, ponds, land features etc on a narrow band of fabric, which was coiled into a spiral for display. I would love to have seen it uncoiled to appreciate all the little details. As well as an unusual way of presenting work, it is a wonderful visual diary of all the things the artist has taken the trouble to observe, draw and stitch.

Elizabeth Brimelow, 461 Days – A Slice Of My Life, (fabric, card, stitch)

This long, concertina book had a scrap of fabric and a brief written note to represent each of the 461 days of the diary. Another interesting idea for making a personal journal.

Elizabeth Brimelow, Mellow Yellow (silk, appliqué, reverse appliqué, hand and machine stitch, fused, hand knotted)

I feel that this quilt relates to the coursework that I am doing at the moment: drawing plants (autumn fruit, leaves and berries, in this case) and combining them in a textile; using a variety of techniques and marks to represent the objects.

Sara Impey‘s quilts feature free-motion sewing machine stitched text as an integral part of the design.

Sara Impey, Social Fabric

This quilt told the imagined story of the piece of antique mattress cloth that the artist had found at a car boot sale. Sara ponders on its significance, its previous owner, and what it went through to end up at a car boot sale. She states that the associated memories make our possessions unique. I thought that this gave poignancy to what could have been an overlooked or discarded piece of cloth, and it underlines the way an item’s history can affect the way we see it and feel about it.

It reminded me of Julie Arkell’s French market find of a scrap of ribbon with the word ‘MAMAN’ embroidered on it. It conjures up the image of child carefully making a hand-sewn gift for her mother, which was then treasured for many years before eventually ending up in a house clearance, being sold at a market and finding a new, appreciative owner. It gives this tiny scrap of fabric and thread immense meaning beyond its constituent parts.

julie arkell maman ribbon

Source: Julie Arkell, Home, exhibition catalogue, Ruthin Art Gallery, 2004, p36 (detail).

Kate Dowty is a new artist to me. She has a background in graphic design and her works are all wall hangings with a focus on colour and texture. I loved the colour palette of this quilt, inspired by the music of Miles Davis and the artist’s ‘Winter blues’. I feel that it captures emerging from the dark days of winter, along with the improvisation of jazz music well. The beautiful indigo colour is enlivened by the textures of the different types of fabric patches and the dense stitch. The red lends a sense of electricity and makes me think of ideas fizzing into being.


Kate Dowty, Out of The Blues (fabric collage, machine stitch)

This piece had raw edge patches and was not ‘finished’ at the edges. As a personal preference, I like the image to go all the way to the edge of the quilt without a border, so this appealed to me. I am always interested to see how the quilts are constructed, and another quilt by this artist, Everything Connects, seemed to be made up of small units, which had then been sewn together at the end (much easier to handle under the sewing machine, from a practical point of view!).

Marita Lappalainen was another new (to me) Finnish artist, whose work I found very appealing. She says that her work is based on her own experiences, but she is happy when it resonates with others. She works mainly in appliqué and hand quilting using recycled textiles for ecological and other reasons. These textiles are imbued with meanings, signs, memories and the touch of “… times long gone”. The artist likes the fact that textiles made and owned by others will live on in her work.

Marita Lappalainen, Sweet City (recycled woollen fabrics, knitted garments, crocheted potholders).

I love the fantasy buildings with their abstract, but “fairy-tale-like” exuberance. The repetition of shape; the variety in textures; the colour palette of pinks, mustard, red, brown and green; the mixture of tones; and the placement of the composition on the ‘canvas’ were all elements that I felt made this piece successful.

This is a small taster of what was on display and it was well worth the visit for those interested in textiles.


What can I learn from these artists?

Elizabeth Brimelow – draw what interests you, and translate those drawings into fabric and stitch. Her ideas for visual journals were something to bear in mind and show new ways of presenting textiles.

Sara Impey – consider using text as an important element of a composition: to tell a story, to make a political point, or social comment, or to add humour to a piece.

Kate Dowty – don’t be afraid to use raw edges in quilts; make a larger piece out of smaller units, which can be joined at the end of sewing. Link the colour palette to ideas and emotions.

Marita Lappaainen – use recycled textiles; concentrate on:- composition and placement; the colour palette used; repeated motifs and tonal distribution.





Julie Arkell, Home, 2004 exhibition catalogue, Ruthin Art Gallery, Wales


http://www.quiltart.eu/elizabethbrimelo.html Accessed 21/04/17

http://www.katedowty.com/index.html Accessed 20/04/17

http://www.maritalappalainen.fi/ Accessed 20/04/17

http://www.quiltart.eu/elizabethbrimelo.html Accessed 20/04/17

https://www.rheged.com/event/new-quilting/ Accessed 20/04/17

http://www.saraimpey.com/ Accessed 20/04/17


Contemporary Knitting

My Tutor, Cari, suggested, in my last feedback, a book by Francoise Tellier-Loumagne, called “The Art of Knitting” as a book to study.

The book has inspirational photographs showing what is possible using knitted techniques. Starting with the basics: knitting is a textile with …”fabrics structured from a series of loops, such as weft knitting and warp knitting”.  Weft knitting is formed from a single yarn, linked in courses. Warp knitting is formed by lengthways fibres fitted to a beam (as in weaving). Chains of loops are formed along the length of the fabric and can be linked crosswise using various techniques.

Fine mesh nets; Jacquard layers of different fibres; puckered surfaces; fur effects; ripples, ridges; voids and more, are possible using either hand tools or knitting machines. (There is a Guild of Machine Knitters, whose website has advice on buying knitting machines.)


Examples of ripple variations

Source:- (Tellier-Loumagne, Black, and Black, 2005), p235

This opens up a vast area that I know very little about (I was taught to knit plain and purl stitches by my Mum, and was briefly a member of a ‘knitting club’ at primary school – my sole output from the latter being a pink and white striped beanie hat, with quite a lot of help from my teacher). However, it may be an area that I return to in the future. In the meantime, prompted by this book recommendation and Rebecca Fairley’s article on the OCA website, I decided to take a look at some contemporary practice in knitting in the art world.

Emilie Zanon is the designer behind Capouche: a French company making one of a kind hats, that can be worn in a number of ways. She uses vintage fabrics and trims, sculptural forms and individual embellishments to ensure that each hat or garment is unique, and suited to its owner.

In her Vert de Gris Collection, she made a knitted garment with a strange and unsettling silhouette. Some parts of the garment hide and distort the shape of the body, while in other areas, it is closely fitted and revealing. The over-sized, knitted area on the back resembles pebbles and appears to be made from a fine stretchy tube textile (?stocking material) that has been stuffed and knitted. Knitting needles are part of the piece, giving the impression that the wearer is knitting their own costume. This is a fascinating mixture of textures. I can imagine performance costumes and soft sculptures made using these techniques.


Emilie Zanon, garment from Vert de Gris Collection

Source:- http://www.capouche.com/en/collections/capouche-lab/vert-de-gris/

Australian performance artist, Casey Jenkins‘ Casting Off My Womb, involved the artist knitting from wool lodged in her vagina for the 28 days of her menstrual cycle. Her blood colours the white wool in places, and is knitted into the work providing a record or journal of her 28 days’ knitting and of her menstrual cycle. She describes the process in a YouTube video as “natural and uneventful” and of being “intimate with my own body”. Casey draws a link between a warm, fuzzy, “boring” pastime and the negative associations and fears that people have about the female body. I can see that her worst fears about how people react to the female body, and a natural process of the female body, were borne out by the overwhelmingly negative public reaction to the piece. The less of a taboo there is around menstruation, the better, in my opinion, so good for her!

Casey knitting vagina

Casey Jenkins, Casting Off My Womb (detail), 2013

Source:- https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/17/vaginal-knitting-artist-defence

Freddie Robins is a British artist, who questions the viewer’s ideas about the gentle craft of knitting by using her, sometimes humorous, work to explore themes such as violence and fear. She describes her method of making art as an evolving process (rather than working to a pre-conceived design), most recently incorporating samples and found or re-purposed items. In an article for The Guardian by Tamsin Blanchard, her home/’museum’ (shared with partner, Ben) is described as being filled with their numerous collections, which have influenced their art work.

Freddie Robins, Collection of Knitted Folk Objects – Pocky, 2014, machine knitted wool, reclaimed knitting needles, 700 × 400 × 120 mm

Source:- http://www.freddierobins.com/blog/archive.php?cat=objects

Isabel Berglunds is a Danish artist who uses knitting to make art such as the installation below, as well as art objects. Members of the public can explore and interact with the work, including garments that you can wear, that are part of the artwork. She seems to have a very imaginative and joyful approach to art, taking knitting from its usual, utilitarian place in the world, and turning it into an unlimited medium to explore different forms, scales, textures and functions.

Isabel Berglunds,  Monument of Stitches – A Social Art Project, 2016 Assembled at Trapholt Museum of Modern Art

Source:- http://www.isabelberglund.dk

The Fries Museum in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands had a recent knitting exhibition that included work by Isabel Berglunds, as well as Sarah Lund’s jumper from The Killing!

Wang Lei is a Chinese artist who uses different types of paper to meticulously knit his artworks. He is interested in how history and society changes over time. In the piece below he has used the paper from a Chinese bible to knit a traditional garment. In this way he is questioning the use of the language, culture and tradition, and of how people may forge new identities.

Wang Lei, The Chinese Bible , 2015, Paper Art with Frame, 84 x 8 x 99cm

Source:- http://www.odetoart.com/?p=artwork&a=12499,The%20Chinese%20Bible%20&artist=Wang%20Lei

Magda Sayeg is said to be the first ‘yarn-bomber’. Her website explains that she is now exploring new materials, such as lights with knit. She enjoys transforming hard, everyday objects with soft wool, which still allows them to remain functional and recognisable. She works to challenge the limitations of her chosen medium.

Magda Sayeg, knitted/crocheted covered bus in Mexico City

Source:- https://flavorwire.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/yarn_bombing1.jpg


What can I learn from these artists and designers?

Emilie Zanon – use unexpected materials with traditional techniques. Exaggerate and combine different scales of stitch and forms.

Casey Jenkins – a simple craft can be subverted to ask wider questions of society.

Freddie Robins – use knitting as an artistic medium like any other. The juxtaposition of a craft that is traditionally performed by women, with an important point can add to the meaning of the piece. Be inspired by what interests you.

Isabel Berglunds – ‘limited only by your imagination’ is a phrase that springs to mind! Large scale and interactive pieces are possible.

Wang Lei – use of unusual and meaningful raw materials. Recreating traditional pieces in new materials.

Magda Sayeg – use wool to transform objects and change the viewer’s perception.



https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/17/vaginal-knitting-artist-defence Accessed 18/11/16

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2002/nov/03/shopping.homes Accessed 18/11/16

https://weareoca.com/textiles/traditional-textile-techniques-used-contemporary-ways-part-3-knitting/ Accessed 26/10/16 and 18/11/16


Tellier-Loumagne, F., Black, S. and Black, Y. (2005) The art of knitting: Inspirational stitches, textures and surfaces. London: Thames & Hudson.


http://www.capouche.com/en/ Accessed 18/11/16

http://www.freddierobins.com/ Accessed 18/11/16

http://www.friesmuseum.nl/en/see-and-do/exhibitions/breien/ Accessed 18/11/16

http://giftofknitting.com/friday-inspiration-isabel-berglund/ Accessed 18/11/16

http://www.guild-mach-knit.org.uk/resources/aboutKM.php Accessed 18/11/16

http://www.isabelberglund.dk Accessed 18/11/16

http://www.magdasayeg.com/work Accessed 18/11/16

http://www.odetoart.com/?p=artist&a=2858 Accessed 18/11/16

http://www.yellowtrace.com.au/isabel-berglund-danish-textile-designer/ Accessed 18/11/16

Research for Part Two: Surface and Stitch

Sandra Dufour

This artist’s work has been featured in magazines, she has illustrated magazine articles, written books, made installations and undertaken commissions.

mep broderies.indd

Sandra Dufour, Pages from the artist’s publication “Broderies Fifties” Dessain et Tolra, 2014

Source:- http://sandradufour.com/index.php?/edition/broderies-fifties/

Dufour has taken iconic imagery and designs from the 1950s and turned them into embroidered pictures. The art works show a variety of stitches, densities of stitching, different backgrounds, depictions of objects as well as shapes and patterns, thoughtful colour choices.

Sandra Dufour, Image from the artist’s publication “Mette et les cygnes sauvages”, Thierry Magnier, France 2012

Source:- http://sandradufour.com/index.php?/illustrations/mette-et-les-cygnes-sauvages/

This piece features layered lace, appliquéd shapes, embroidery and a stitched frame.


Sandra Dufour, From the artist’s series, Fumées (fumes):-

Source:- http://sandradufour.com/index.php?/serigraphies/fumees/

Dufour has made two series of art works mentioned on her website: one on things that give off fumes (house chimneys, people, industrial chimneys, trains, kettles) and another on mountains. Both series show variations on the theme – different embroidery used and differing images, stitches, techniques etc. Some use machine stitching, others appear to be hand stitched. Some feature holes made by a sewing machine in one pattern (swirls, for example), oversewn in places by hand in a more geometric style.

Pages from Dufour’s artist book “Ouvrage”, 2009

Source:- http://sandradufour.com/index.php?/grandsformats/ouvrage/

The altered book contains decorated pages featuring cutting, tearing, textile inclusions and patches, stitch, layering, translucent pockets etc.

What can I learn from this artist?

  • Be experimental
  • Combine all sorts of materials and threads, yarns and papers to create texture and interest
  • Use a variety of stitches in the same piece
  • Work out different ideas in a series of art works
  • Pay attention to colour choices

Stephanie Tudor

“… Stephanie juxtaposes unlikely materials to create highly textured wall panels and interior objects.” Her tactile tiles, wall panels and objects invite touch with their intriguing surface treatments. Different types of surfaces are juxtaposed. Unusual material combinations are used.

stephanie tudor 1

Source:- http://www.stephanietudor.co.uk/#!super-tactility/uw1dr

These pieces use a number of techniques including mixing media; printed images on textiles; and shredding or fraying textiles. There looks as if there is paint or printed colour on the ?wooden elements.

Stephanie tudor 2

Source:- http://www.stephanietudor.co.uk/#!super-tactility/uw1dr

Another fascinating set of material combinations: string emerging from painted wood, clay beads threaded onto fibre and suspended from a twig, and painted/dipped plant material.

Setphanie Tudor Wearable Textures

Source:- http://www.stephanietudor.co.uk/#!wearable-textures/ck2o

I love these wearable, highly textured pieces, which include: specks or broken material suspended in another substrate; natural material embedded in a substrate, impressed lines, printed images, and carefully considered colour combinations.

Other work created by the artist includes dipped threads, thread-wrapped objects, painted wood segments attached with nails to sticks, painted sticks, etc.

What can I learn from this artist?

  • Combine all sorts of materials
  • Use bold colour contrasts
  • Experiment with wrapping, embellishment, natural materials, dipping, threading through, sandwiching between two layers, embedding, fraying, printing, painting

Elena Stonaker

Stonaker is a Los Angeles-based artist/designer. She makes exuberant, colourful and highly decorated soft sculptures and wearable art and performance costumes. Her pieces are hand sewn, and include beading, quilting techniques, appliqué and embellishment. She works with her intuition rather than pre-planning the work and the pieces may evolve and change over time. She incorporates beauty, humour and the unexpected in her art work. Some motifs, such as eyes, are a repeated feature in her work.

Elena Stonaker 1

Elena Stonaker, Detail: Domitille’s Dream. Wall Tapestry. Beads, sequins, hand dyed velvet. 2016. 4’x6.5′

Source:- http://www.elenastonaker.com/sculpturaltextile/i77m6kj5ib8jjxoz21t66d5ueqxijt

An exciting combination of shapes, recognisable forms, patterns and textures. A palette of creams, pinks, greens and black.

Elena Stonaker 2

Elena Stonaker, Detail. The Offering. Ongoing sculpture 2013-present. Beads, fabric, stuffing.

Source:- http://www.elenastonaker.com/sculpturaltextile/c96qwi6y6bmpid6xa3ech9xc8t5k3r

A very three-dimensional piece, with repeated eye motifs, encrusted embellishment with sequins and beads, embroidery, couching, hand stitch and appliqué.

Elena Stonaker Wearable Art

Elena Stonaker, Wearable Art. Detail of Photo by James Cromwell Holden. 2013. 

Source:- http://www.elenastonaker.com/wearable/oun9o556lmh7si03r484t6vvwymr5l

Some flat, graphic, printed and/or painted patterns, two rather frightening, mask-like faces, contrasting with plain areas on the sleeve and front, padded additions, unusual garment shapes displayed on the body.

What can I learn from this artist?

  • Bold pattern and colour choices
  • Surprising and unexpected design elements
  • Embellishment with beads, stitch, appliqué, padded forms
  • Unique vision based on own experience, imagination and observations
  • Use of repeated motifs and patterns

Marie O’Connor

This artist and designer uses found materials, stitch and collage techniques alongside digital and animation processes.

She creates unusual shapes and outlines for clothing and experiments with “…interplays between the body and clothing, image and reality and scale and distance.”


Marie O’Conner, Make Shape (mixed media)

Source:- http://www.marieoconnor.co.uk

This piece looks like a playful assemblage of toy-like items that begged to be handled and explored. She has used silhouettes of familiar and unfamiliar shapes and objects; geometric pieces; flat and three-dimensional items; items with cut outs; lots of colour against a mid-toned background, itself a circle (rather than a straight-sided background); smooth and textured inclusions. Some pieces evoke links to real objects such as a swingball and record player. There is repetition and variety included.


Marie O’Conner, Source:- http://www.marieoconnor.co.uk

This piece shows use of yarns winding and connecting two separate elements of the composition. The arc on the left is a yarn-wrapped flat shape, giving it a variable striped and textured finish. The element on the right has pins marking out the corners of an octagon, around which more yarns are twisted and woven forming new geometric shapes. Knots are visible, creating a clear connection between the yarns and accentuating the colour changes. The yarns used vary in thickness and texture. Shapes come forward and recede depending on which colour(s) of yarn you focus on.


Marie O’Conner, Source:- http://www.marieoconnor.co.uk

Three non-traditional outfits that play with form and pattern, with unexpected additions and cut-outs. The patterns and shapes on the textiles draw the eye, further distorting the perceived outline of the garments, and adding interest and detail to the pieces.

What can I learn from this artist?

  • Use colour and pattern to create depth of interest and several areas of focus for the viewer
  • Bold use of colour and shape can give alter the perceived outline of a piece (rather like camouflage or dazzle ships)
  • Mix shapes, colours, surfaces, textures, dimension; but include repetition

Lauren DiCioccio

This artist has worked with fibre and hand stitch in her earlier work, which examines our relationship with everyday objects. Her more recent work, ‘Familiars’, includes sculptural forms that explore the tools she uses in her art. She starts with a form, built intuitively, then embellishes it with embroidery, wrapping, weave, etc. The resulting sculpture evoke an anthropomorphic reaction in the viewer, with their almost recognisable shapes.

Lauren DiCioccio  Sculpture  2007-2012  paper pad reconfigurations

Lauren DiCioccio, Source:- http://www.laurendicioccio.com/sculpture/2007-2012/paper-pad-reconfigurations/242

This piece shows a flat piece of paper cut and edge-sewn to form a three-dimensional structure, rather like a cross between a sea urchin and a patchwork quilt. The simple ‘found’ pattern on the paper gives further layer of interest to the piece.

Lauren DiCioccio  Sculpture  2013 - present  Familiars (large)

Lauren DiCioccio, Familiars (Large), 2014, Hand-woven cotton, wood, stuffing, felt, thread

30″ x 20″ x 17″

Source:- http://www.laurendicioccio.com/sculpture/2013-present/-familiars-large-/668

This piece reminds me of the yarn-bombing displays. A wooden form has been closely covered with woven strips of fabric, some left loose and unfinished to provide added texture and interest.

Lauren DiCioccio  Sculpture  2013 - present  Familiars (medium)

Lauren DeCioccio, Familiars (Medium)

Source:- http://www.laurendicioccio.com/sculpture/2013-present/-familiars-medium-

This collection of sculptures are indeed like little creatures or figures. Padded or wooden forms are decorated with additional ‘limbs’, threads, and colour. Most are stuffed, smooth pieces, one has been wrapped.

What can I learn from this artist?

  • Consider the papers and textiles you are using carefully (texture, pattern, drape, colour etc)
  • Pattern and texture can provide another layer of interest
  • Simple additions to a form can evoke memories of an actual object/subject
  • The same materials can be used in several ways in the same piece


Plenty of inspiration and food for thought for the next part of the course! There seems to be endless variety in the possible choices of colours, forms, textures, surfaces, material combinations, pattern and so on.