Monday, 26 March 2018

More Threads of Narrative

Threads of Narrative is still running at Walford Mill Crafts and will be staying there until 22nd April, having been extended due to popular demand (or something)! After the original opening date was postponed due to the snow, it's great that more people will be able to see the work during the extra time. After it's finished at Walford Mill, the show will be moving on just up the road to Kingston Lacy - the last home of the Bankes family - where it will be on display for even more people to see! I'm really looking forward to seeing my work placed in the home of the family it was inspired by and will be so proud to see it there. More details of this exciting development to come!

Without further ado, here's some photos of our launch event (photos by Steve and Sarah Appleton):
Lots of people came along (thank you if you were one of them), including Jude the dog!
'My Own Darling Mummy' - Sarah Appleton
'Apron Strings' - Sarah Appleton
'Apron Strings' Detail - Sarah Appleton
'Spares' - Lisa Earley and Sarah Appleton
'Spares' - Lisa Earley and Sarah Appleton
'Spares' Detail - Lisa Earley and Sarah Appleton
'Little Hilary' - Sarah Appleton
'Threads Through Time' - Sarah Appleton and Year 6 of St. Mary's C of E Middle School, Puddletown
Lisa and I talked about our work and the commission in general:
And I even wore a blouse that I made especially for the event, which matched my work:
As you can see, I had a lovely time! The two glasses of wine helped... let's not talk about the fact that this was at 10 o' clock in the morning!!!

Friday, 2 March 2018

Threads of Narrative

I've been a bit rubbish at posting blogs so far this year, this is mainly due to finishing all the work off for the Threads of Narrative exhibition, which opens this week at Walford Mill Crafts in Wimborne. If you've missed my previous posts about this project, you can read a bit more about the beginnings here; but in a nutshell the project is a textile exhibition about the Bankes Family of Dorset.

Now all the work is complete and up I have more free time to talk about it... or at least post pictures! Here are the two main pieces I've made:
My Own Darling Mummy
This is the pink neoprene dress I posted about previously, now complete with lights, words and frills. I'm pleased with how it turned out; as with any project there are things I would have liked to have added or improved if I'd had more time, but time just trickled away with this huge commission and I had to end it somewhere! Here are a couple more pictures, I will of course take higher quality shots when the exhibition officially opens.

The dressmaking pattern is a reproduction of an original 1914 dress and I used neoprene to contrast some contemporary material with the old timey style. It also gives it a really surreal, sculptural sort of effect and almost looks like fondant cake icing... mmm... cake. I hand cut all of the letters out of neoprene to be attached onto the dress:

I also hand stitch and programme all the LED circuits and circuit board into the dress to make the lights blink on and off, I'm not sure if people realise that I do all this or if they perhaps assume that LED fairies come and do it for me, but anyway I do! So quite a lot of thought and physical work went into this piece and I'm proud of it for that. This was also the first LED piece of work that I've created which plugs into a mains plug (the others all being battery powered), which is very very exciting to me!
For another couple of pieces I designed and had some fabric digitally printed onto a plain but good quality cotton:
I used my original photos from the archive visits and some that I found online to design this piece about Hilary Bankes (not the one from Fresh Prince of Bel Air, I checked). Considering that I designed it over Christmas when I was ill with evil flu it turned out amazing and I had a lot of compliments on it; so many in fact that I ended up ordering twice as much as I originally had - one to cut up and one to keep whole. This is what I did with the one I cut up:
Yes, I turned it into some kind of mad tree apron thingy! The apron strings are overgrown and extend out into the family tree, reaching through time into all the generations. The apron pattern was another reproduction from 1911 or so, again giving it that old fashioned look with a contemporary twist on the fabric used. I was really pleased with my sewing skills for this piece of work; I chose a fabric that was very easy to work with and put a lot of effort in to making it neat and well finished.
After that I also hand painted special magic colour changing ink onto certain parts of the apron so that they change colour with heat. Click here to see what I mean. This makes the work interact with its surroundings and with anyone who is allowed to touch it!

Lisa and I were also lucky enough to get a mention in the current issue of Embroidery magazine, so many thanks to them!

That's all I shall write about for now, but you can expect more once the exhibition officially opens next week. It's running until 22nd April so if you're in Dorset you have plenty of time to see it. To close, here is a rare photo of Christine from Walford Mill hammering nails into the gallery wall!

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

I've Never Heard Of It Either...

I did some work with the Year 6 pupils at a school in Puddletown in December and the headteacher was impressed enough to mention my visit in their Parish Magazine! 

I really enjoyed making coded postcards with the kids and am looking forward to seeing them all in the exhibition this March!

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

A Christmas Update!

I haven't posted on here in quite some time due to sheer complete and utter busy-bee-ness; there are a few very good reasons for this, which I will now explain!

The first and probably most significant is that I've been working on a huge Textile commission with artist Lisa Earley about the Bankes Family of Dorset in conjunction with Walford Mill Crafts and the Dorset History Centre. So most of my spare time has been spent researching in the archives, handling documents from as early as the 1200s, interpreting these documents into craft pieces and all the various admin that goes along with such a project. We've also been working with our local communities; making work with local school and college students as well as independent craft groups to involve the public and raise awareness of the archive. The results of this commission will be in an exhibition called 'Threads of Narrative', opening in March 2018. In the meantime you can follow our progress on Instagram: Threads of Narrative. I've never worked on a commission of this scale before, nor with such an established artist, however I'm learning a lot as I go and working with Lisa, who is infinitely patient and extremely organised, has been a real pleasure.

Another reason why you have not been hearing as much from me is that I have a new 'real job', working in the Education department of Walford Mill Crafts. I'm really enjoying it and all the various challenges that come along with the role!

Aaand in between doing those other things I have also been updating my Etsy shop with a few new things. When I looked back at my blog post from the beginning of this year, I had a sort of vague plan of refining the brand of 'me' and I'm very happy to say that I think I've followed this vague plan rather determinedly and that my style is coming along in a way I'm pleased with.
I've definitely stayed true to my weird and wonderful and completely unique aesthetic, and I'm building up a stock of work that I'm really proud of. I try to play to my strengths when I am designing my work; these are my illustrative and imaginative drawing style, my love of colour and not taking myself too seriously.

That's all for now, I have a busy start to 2018 but hopefully I'll be updating again soon. Until then, goodbye!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Summer Sparkle!

Over the past month I've been teaching and assisting with quite a few kids craft classes as part of the summer spark program, so this post is to show off a few of the things we've been up to. A lot of these are sea themed to coincide with our current 'By The Sea' exhibition at Walford Mill Crafts. One of the first was this 'jumpin' jellyfish' workshop that I led:
These were made from the plastic dome lids of fancy smoothie cups, decorated with coloured tissue and glitter, with scraps of fabric, ribbon and yarn for tentacles and strung onto a decorative stick with elastic to make them jump up n down!
Another workshop I ran was a hand sewing workshop for 8+ year olds. Although I'd never done this before and had some reservations about how it would work, it went really well, the kids were fantastic and really enjoyed it and also made some fabulous felt sea creatures:

I gave them stencils to cut the patterns out from, but the rest of the work was all theirs! I was really proud of them because they worked hard and had great ideas, like using the buttons to decorate the turtle shell and mermaid's tail. This was definitely one of my more successful classes and I hope to run some more of these soon with a different theme.
One of the classes I ran last week was 'Painted Nautical Pebbles and Shells', for which the idea was to paint a tiny scene onto a pebble or shell and create a mini work of art. Some of the kids 'got' this idea more than others:

But even the lesser-decorated versions came away looking pretty nice:

So all in all it was another successful class! Kids can sometimes do really cool looking arty things without even trying too, like this mixed up paint pallet:
Another little activity I set up for our exhibition was this kid's corner:
 I painted / collaged the under sea scene and put together some materials for visiting kids to add fish and other creatures to it. So far there's been a few contributions:
I'll try and remember to take another photo when the exhibition ends in september. Although I'm enjoying all the different crafty activities I've been doing, teaching is very tiring and I've got a newfound respect for anyone who can manage it full time! 'Real' teachers must be made of steel!
That's it for now, more updates soon!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Nutty Appley Parrotts?!

Yesterday I had a day's takeover at the Nutty Parrott Studio at Walford Mill Crafts. The studio is the shared space of Caroline Parrott and Wendy Nutt, who are both lovely and extremely talented ladies!
During my takeover, I (wo)manned the shop for them and was able to use the space to create some of my own work too. Here's me outside the studio:
Nutty Appley Parrott?
And here's the bug brooches that I was working on whilst I was there:
These will be available to buy soon from my Etsy store, or directly from me. They are designed from one of my original illustrative drawings, then laser cut onto specially chosen materials (wood and acrylic) in a fabulous colour pallet, then the bug brooches are hand finished with a hand painted, handmade bead and a handmade tassel all made by me! I also 'embroider' them a bit with patterns through holes in their bodies. These are really fun, oversized statement jewellery, not intended for the faint of heart!
But back to Nutty Parrott - it's a really great space to work in; calm and decorated by Caroline and Wendy with inspiring bits and bobs and all their gorgeous work. I had a few visitors who came to browse and chat, so that was nice. I'm scheduled for some more shifts there, which I will look forward to very much!

In other news I have also come across a very fabulous picture of me from Mardi Gras last weekend in which you can see my full outfit including the elusive feathered leg cuffs!
Photo by Graham Reading

Monday, 3 July 2017

Working at the New Carnival Company: Final Chapter: Carnival Time!

My time at the New Carnival Company has come to an end. I'm now back home in Dorset, feeling a little discombobulated after the Mardi Gras yesterday but very grateful and happy to have been involved in this incredible event!
On Friday we focussed on finishing Gina's elephant. When I arrived in the morning she had already made him tusks and eyelids:
Gina and George / Ellie / Bob
I started the day by making heck loads of ruffles from sequinned fabric:
We also had a make-up artist come in and test out face painting ideas on us for the next day. It was nice to have a mini pamper after we'd been working such long hours! Then Gina and I draped a headdress for him which was upcycled from a duvet cover:
And I used my sewing skills to sew that and the ruffles together while Gina finished the details and decorated him beautifully:
Later I finished a few little touches for my peacock costume (leg cuffs and final headdress adjustments) and was very surprised to be presented with a card and beautiful elephant necklace from the NCC staff:

I was even more surprised that they sang the happy birthday song since it wasn't my birthday! Heh heh! They did a lovely presentation and said very kind words and I'm very pleased and grateful that I'll have a treasure to always remember my time there.
Later we checked our to-do list for anything we had missed (nothing):
All finished!
So we had a little celebration with wine and a disco! We were joined by Zach who is a carnival regular and also currently doing some work with the NCC.
The next morning was the big day that we'd all been working so hard towards! When I arrived in the morning Gina had been at it again and created the most beautiful eyes for Ellie:
These were only made from a coppery foil and sequins, but what an incredible effect that totally brought the elephant to life! Next we loaded up the truck with all the costumes that we needed, along with tables, chairs, tools, equipment, gazebos and decorations for the site at Ryde school. Then Gina, Zach and I went in the carnival truck to set up, along with all the other staff and volunteers:
Carnival Truck!
When we arrived we had to prepare the site for everyone to arrive. This is the site beforehand, basically just a fabulous field with amazing views:
It was also the day of the Round the Island Race and we could see some of the boats sailing past as we worked.
We were split up into teams and my first team job was to erect the VIP tent. This was no mean feat as we were faced with a pile of poles that all looked very similar, but no instructions! The poles were numbered so eventually we figured it out with logic and process of elimination:
The next job was to unpack all the costumes from the big truck and lay them out ready for dressing up! Here's some of them ready to go!
Colour and Chaos!
After that it was lunch time and I must say the NCC's Alison put on a lovely feast for us, thanks Alison!
I don't really have any more photos of the event unfortunately, as I had to put my belongings in a safe place for later on... but I do have a photo of how my outfit turned out:
Photo by NCC
This was more or less it minus a few details. There's more great pics over at the Island Echo website, including one of Mary in the finished elephant and another of me in the distance accompanying the peachicks from Lanesend School! They didn't know I'd be walking with them until they turned up on the day and they were all very chuffed and excited and kept asking me if the feathers were real and how much they weighed and that sort of thing. These photos (and video) are great because if you've never been it really shows you the scale of the whole event, how many people from all walks of life took part and came to watch and all the costumes, colours, textures, excitement and fabulousness of it all.
I also had my face painted like a peacock princess by Lisa of the face painting team:
This photo was taken after the event so some of the make up has worn off including my blue lips, but you get the general gist, right? I loved it and felt very glam!
The actual parade part was very fun, I tried to put in lots of energy and dance moves and keep people entertained, casting a voodoo princess peacock spell on the crowd, letting people take pictures of me if they wanted to and waving to all the doggies and kids. Afterwards it was a quick de-robe, then loading all the costumes back into the big truck. Here's Coral and me inside the big truck:
Look at all the sparkle!
Then after loading all the gear back into Carnival HQ it was a quick goodbye and off I popped onto a ferry and home! I've had the most incredible time, been burnt (hotel incident with kettle), bitten (bugs) and bruised (clumsy) and am still exhausted and drained, but it was so worth it for everything I learnt and the great new friends I've made. If you'd asked me a couple of weeks ago whether I could design and make my own costume, dance in a parade and help other people do those things then I probably would have had doubts... but as it turns out I totally can do those things! Another big thank you to the New Carnival Company for having me and making me feel part of the team and an extra big thank you to Gina who took me under her wing, showed me the way of the carnival and was a great teacher, always taking the time to explain how and why to do things, even when we were sooo busy! How, where and when I'll use the skills I've learnt remains to be seen but as I'll be teaching quite a lot over the summer I'm sure I'll put my new knowledge to good use!

To find out more about The New Carnival Company you can go to their website or Facebook.