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.