Saturday, 21 July 2018

My Textile Art Journey Part 3

The third of the transforming events in this journey came in the aftermath of the Bosnian wars from 1992-5. This German publication was published in 1999 and shows the work, pieced and quilted, of a group of  Bosnian women who had fled the horrors and found sanctuary in Austria.

 There, in the Galina refuge hostel in Vorarlberg – a disused army barracks - they were offered sanctuary from the war, the children were provided with schooling and the women with various activity and help to move forward. As part of this help Lucia Lienhard-Giesinger who was both an abstract artist and psychotherapist was asked to help - possibly with art classes. She thought about this and did not want to be the expert - the teacher. She came up with the idea of quilts - something they could all learn.  She provided the templates, inspired by abstract art, to make the quilts and then the women were encouraged to quilt as freely as they wished, expressing their own individual identity and worth. A group of about 30 women were part of this healing work.





For generations, women in varying cultures have gathered together to quilt and talk and reflect. Lucia knew that the activity of quilting would also need concentration. She has said: ‘Sometimes it is necessary to repress the memories’. What she did not anticipate was that these unique quilts they were making would enable some of these women to return to their homes and earn a regular income. After the war, eleven women retuned to Gorazde, about 50 kilometres from Sarajevo, and set up in business. Lucia designed the colour schemes; the women provided the quilting.

 They work when the weather is fine on the banks of the Drina river. The finished quilts retail at around 1000 euros and find their way into homes and churches and museums and galleries in cities such as Vienna, Zurich, and Gothenberg. 80 quilts are sold each year. They even now have their own permanent exhibition space in Bregenz and have exhibited widely in Europe – sadly I missed their exhibition at the NEC Festival of Quilts.

The artistry of these women was recognised in the international quilting community and I became aware of what they were achieving through the quilting magazines I was reading. What is amazing about these quilts, apart from their story, is that there is no Bosnian nor any other regional textile art tradition to provide a foundation for their work.

Lucia Lienhard-Giesinger has also been shaped by this quilting story. Here are the words of her husband:
‘She has changed - my wife; mother of three. When she became part of the lives of the Bosnian women, how could she have known that these women’s melancholy and stoic composure would become familiar traits to her and have a lasting effect on her life and work. In a word, while Bosnia was being reborn anew out of violence, misery and displacement, a new Lucia was emerging. She has learnt that it is good not to work alone. And art has emerged from the hardships experienced by a nation.   

I bought my Bosna Quilts book with a book token present late in 2008. However, it is only now that their work is having an impact on what I am creating. I should also add that It was around the end of that first decade of the new century that I listened as a therapist to a police client reliving the horror of what he had witnessed as a British soldier with the helpless United Nations forces in Bosnia confronted with the greatest ethnic cleansing since the Second World War. Bosnia became personal at that point

A final thought
When I reflect on the history of my work I can see the connection with myself as the child. I have a very strong memory of a Sunday lunch with my grandparents and parents having a conversation I was listening to – what about I do not remember - but I suddenly interrupted with the statement “BUT PEOPLE MATTER!” which produced laughter. When I reflect on my working life and on what I am doing now I still think that the child who claimed that people matter is there in me as an adult - and I hope this belief is reflected in all I create.


So where next? I am aware that my current projects are still being influenced by Amish colours and simplicity -  but there is also for the first time a Bosna Quilts influence as well. The journey of discovery continues.

My Textile Art Journey Part 2

MY TEXTILE ART JOURNEY – PART TWO

LIVING IN AN EAST ANGLIAN VILLAGE – 1986-92

We moved to Walpole in Suffolk from Oxford and lived there in a cottage for six years. By 1988, I had established sufficient a set of skills to be taken on as a Patchwork and Quilting tutor by Suffolk Adult Education services. The quilts I was now making for myself were initially still using patterned material and traditional designs, as this sampler - created as part of my teaching - demonstrates.



LIVING IN AN EAST ANGLIAN BARN IN WANGFORD – 1992-2013 – and then on to ST IVES – and TWO MORE TRANSFORMING EVENTS
By 1992, I was following an academic path as an Open University tutor and was also practising as a psychotherapist.  In 2002 I made the first of my wedding quilts - for David and Belinda Siggers - using a traditional Log Cabin design and plain fabrics inspired by the Amish love of bold colours. David’s mother, Christine, had sent me from London, in secret and on loan, the tie belt from Belinda’s wedding dress. That belt had the three main colours of her traditional Ghanaian garb – bright red, gold, bright blue and bright green. With the new millennium, I had the confidence to know I was good enough to make something special for a loved person at a very important moment in their life. People loved it in its making and Belinda and David love it still. I was beginning to paint with colours, using fabric, a picture that tells someone’s story.  

In 2005 I made my second wedding quilt and this time for a god-daughter, Jane, on her marriage to Tom. Still using a traditional Log Cabin design, this time the dominant colours were blue – Jane’s favourite – and red, to symbolise the home and hearth at the centre of their future life. Jane was the eldest of three sisters and as the other two married, I made wedding quilts for them too. In 2007, Emma married Tim and I used a traditional design called ‘Rail Tracks’ and the colours of pink – Emma’s favourite – and green and brown to symbolise their dream of rustic bliss. Emma was a geologist working for Rail Track. In 2015, Tamsyn married Mikal – and a third wedding quilt followed. They both worked for Transport for London and met when they were assigned to work for the London Olympics in 2012.  So, I used a bars design which is both traditional and modern with quilting going down the fabric on blue bars and across on the pink – to symbolise roads and rail tracks. The edges were quilted with overlapping circles to represent the Olympic symbol.

In that first decade of the century, I also made a bed quilt for a friend using Navajo Indian weaving patterns as the inspiration – she had gifted me a book about them and I was learning the power of their wisdom, not least their belief that ‘Home is where the Wind knows your Name’.

The next impact on my textiles came after a visit to St Ives in 2008 as we holidayed in Cornwall. I walked past the School of Painting and in one of those spontaneous moments that can change a life decided it would be good to take myself out of my comfort zone. I signed up for one of the Art courses later that year. Me – the child who couldn’t draw had grown up to enrol in an art class! And so, I returned to Cornwall and St Ives and had the privilege of being taught by Roy Ray. I have no memory of what I was doing in the class on that day but what he said was the second transforming event in my journey. He looked at my art work and said: ‘You are thinking too much’. I understood straightaway. He also asked me what I wanted from the course and I told him about my quilts and how I wanted to move what I did forward. He said he could see that in what I had been doing in my art - and then all his feedback was directed towards this end.

After my return to East Anglia, I gave further thought to how I could act on my need to be freer in my work. One idea came. I would find some breaking news story with coverage that would last all day and just see what my response would be. And the day arrived – March 26th, 2011 – the March for the Alternative in London. I placed a large black plastic bag of scraps from quilts I had made over many years beside me and sat at the table with the television in view, tuned to live coverage of the March in London. Between 10am and 4 pm, I just cut out and sewed together without any plan, just by instinct for the first time in my life. Roy Ray’s guidance was active. I was creating my first piece of abstract textile art. This piece means a great deal to me. It contains so many memories from previous quilts. And many of my friends who had been on the March have all picked out places where they were turned back, and then ‘kettled’ -  and where they ended up having a party in Hyde Park.


I exhibited the ‘March for the Alternative’ at the annual National Quilting Exhibition in the NEC in Birmingham in 2012 – my first entry there. Two years later – and by now we were living in St Ives - I exhibited there again. This time it was an abstract piece of textile art called ‘Guantanamo’. It won the Judges’ Choice Award. To my joy, when I returned to make sure that I had not dreamt the award a steward who I knew worked in a traditional way was looking at it closely. As she noticed me, she apologised for blocking my view. I explained it was my quilt. She responded: “How did you produce this? I can see all those photos of Guantanamo in it.” I was overjoyed – and even more so when a couple of years later Jo Macintosh found other great comments online and told me.

My textile art journey Part 1

MY TEXTILE ART JOURNEY


Every journey has a beginning but when mine started I had no idea where it was going to lead – and I still don’t!

THE BEGINNING
Great Aunt Marjorie taught me to knit when I was 5, succeeding with me as a left-hander where others had failed. I then knitted clothes for dolls! I started dress making when I was 11 in the 1960s. But the real beginning, the moment I identify as the start, came when I was 12. I was diagnosed with whooping cough and was off school for nearly a term. When my mother went shopping in our market town, I went with her as far as my magic shop – the place where I stayed with the owner’s permission until my mother had finished her shopping. Magic shops such as this are impossible to find these days. The owner sold wool and everything connected with the world of knitting – and likewise for embroidery – and tapestry – and dress making.
The owner – in my eyes then she was ancient, but probably she was in her 40s – during the time I was recovering from whooping cough - made for me a template out of cardboard and hexagonal in shape. She showed me how to cut out paper shapes using this template and then pin the paper to a piece of fabric, allowing 5/8th of an inch to spare – and then how to fold over and sew together to make a cover of hexagonal shapes. These hexagonal shapes were then sewn together to produce a large piece which was then backed with an old sheet. There was no quilting at this stage.





“You’ll never finish it!”, my mother exclaimed. But I did – and it remained the cover on the bed in the guest room at home until my parents sold the house in 2000. I never found out what happened to it. 

THE WINDSOR YEARS  
Rob and I married in 1976 and lived in Windsor for four years until 1980. I started another hexagon piece – at this point the hexagon unfinished piece pictured above. It was then that I taught myself  more about patchwork. Two books were key, both written by an American couple, the Gutcheons:
The Quilt Design Workbook (1976)  which I no longer have and The Perfect Patchwork Primer.
I was discovering the traditional quilt designs – and a desire to learn how to piece them together.


OXFORD – 1980 – 86 - DISCOVERING THE AMISH
Living in Oxford gave me access to a Laura Ashely shop that sold fabric scraps cheaply and I began a collection of these – piecing them together into various covers. This was a time of learning the skills needed for piecing a quilt top. From memory these were then used as coverings over furniture when decorating! Then in 1985, the year before we left the city, I found in our local bookshop – the Summertown bookshop – two books about the Amish that I bought and have inspired me ever since, both technically and spiritually:
The Amish and Amish Quilts (1985) and Who are the Amish? (1985) by Merle Good.
Another key book I soon acquired was A Gallery of Amish Quilts (1976) by Robert Bishop and Elizabeth Safanda. Discovering the Amish and their story and their quilts was really the first of the transforming events in my textile journey.  I had discovered the power of the plain fabric and the resonance of bold colour. I understood the Amish wish for simplicity.   It was not just the quilts which inspired - it was the Amish themselves and much of their way of life … and I started to quilt. I also visited what would have been one of the first specialist shops for patchwork and quilting in Wallingford. There I found the wadding needed – and this  my first hand quilted piece was created. It was also the first piece I exhibited – at an exhibition organised at Audley End House near Saffron Walden in Essex. 






Sunday, 29 October 2017

How far do clocks go back?

General member of population .... back 1 hour
Brexiter ... back to 1974
Farage, UKIP ..  back to 1950s
Tory NHS policy .... back to 1930s
Tory welfare policy .. back to 1890s
Jacob Ress-Mogg ... back to 1830s
Donald Trump ... back to STONE AGE

Author David Schneider

Sunday, 29 January 2017

HOPE AND DESPAIR - MY PATMOS PROJECT AND DONALD TRUMP

My Patmos Project progresses. Hora by Night is finished ...




and Hora by Day progresses ...





But there has been a bureaucratic delay.  This is due to the need to make phone calls to Patmos about the application forms for the exhibition in the Cultural Centre. It is a very strange speaking to someone over the phone who lives and works on this wonderful Island. It would help no end if I had learnt to speak Greek and I am 


Sunday, 18 December 2016

THE PATMOS PROJECT

I am sometimes asked about my 'creative process' - the process of designing and then working on my pieces and I never really know how to respond. I have been thinking about this issue again as I work on my Patmos project. It still remains a mystery!

My starting point is people. As I often say - People Matter. All people, not just - as in the line in the song 'Colours of the Wind' - those "who look and think like you". I have then found further inspiration from what I know of the person or people I am making the piece for - or, as in 'Guantanamo', the people working on behalf of those being held in such inhuman conditions, such as Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve.

.'Guantanamo' by Louise Donovan (2014)

From those points of inspiration there then comes the graph paper, pens, rulers

Thursday, 1 December 2016

PATMOS PRELUDE

The small island of Patmos is one of the most sacred places in the Christian world. A place of bewitching power where people come for a brief summer visit and end up returning year after year - as we have. We've travelled there by various routes. The first time via Kos and Kalymnos on small ferry boats. Then during the 90s via Samos, again on small ferry boats that looked ready for retirement. There was one memorable trip when we met a group of young troubadours and jugglers on the quayside who continued to entertain with song, dance and juggling on the boat.


Now a swift modern ferry takes us direct from Piraeus, the port of Athens. But whichever way we