Saturday, 18 February 2017

2017 Verdant works, Dundee

 It has been wonderful to be involved in another show at the Verdant Mills, this time with edge textile artists scotland.

The Jute Mill, Verdant Works, at Dundee provides a gold mine of textile inspiration and information, not least from the fact that the Golden Fibre, jute, was the reason for its establishment. The large archive and images available cover and bring us a sense of a time now gone.  A photographic image that captured this most for me provided inspiration

The simple stance and directness of gaze of the workers within the weaving shed immediately draws one into imagining their working day; the strong metal structures contrast against the human stance holding the eye and drawing one into the scene. A song by June Tabor and Maddy Prior, Four Loom Weaver came to mind but while it captured a certain aspect it was not the right song for this project.

Further research and The Jute Mill Song by Mary Brooksbank sprung to my attention.  The words have a power and simplicity which immediately captured a sense in the picture…. Mary gives us a glimpse of not only the conditions in the factory but the wages that were worked for.  It led me to find out more and speak to the owner of copyright for the words.
 My original thoughts were of a piece where layers slowly revealed the characters but the directness of the lyrics made me explore the idea of sound waves and light waves. This set the journey for my finished piece; simple use of the powerful lyrics and the reverberating lines of the workers

My thanks and by kind permission of Peter Shepheard I use the words of The Jute Mill Song. He also kindly gave me access to Mary singing the song providing me with a sound backdrop while I did my work.

Lots more to see and the show is on until April 23rd, check Verdant works for opening times
sound waves...Picture top left hand corner

Such a variety of pieces!

Friday, 23 September 2016

Past, Present, Future...Strands of time

Edge - textile artist scotland had an exciting and well received show at the Edinburgh Palette in July 2016, Strands of Time. As the title indicates a flavour of  the work of edge members over past years allowed an interesting starting point from which to view their current work and plans for some fascinating future themes.  An added bonus was to see the work of invited students and graduates from textile courses across Scotland.

A video gives a flavour of the scale of the exhibition:

Six artists were selected for an article on how they prepared for this exhibition which gives and insight and also a hint at the variety of approaches we engage in before submitting for an exhibition:

Thursday, 8 October 2015

pulling strings

A wonderful trip to Turkey in September has proved an inspiration but will reveal all at the end of this year - so many ideas to be worked....

Following a workshop with Louise Martin on double and single wefts this piece appeared...
glacier... spillway

Dunblane Museum was the venue for the Scottish members exhibition in August 2016.  The theme, 'Each Day has its Colour' encouraged a diverse and imaginative interpretation.

Cards and unframed pieces
This link gives a good overview of the show.
Cards and also unframed A4 and A3 pieces were available for sale. My interpetation, patchweave ...tumbling blocks,shown below, explored the optical 3D effect of seven colour tones
patchweave...tumbling blocks

Scottish members of British Tapestry Group were invited to submit small format tapestries with the following criteria for an exhibition celebrating The Golden Fibre...jute
  • 10% of the piece to be woven with jute
  • the tapestry to be mounted on board 20 x 20cm
  • maximum size 30 x 30 x 30cm
  • 3D composition preferred
  • As the exhibition is being held at Verdant Works, Dundee, many of the tapestries have links to the city.
Samples made while contemplating the assignment were also to be shown at the exhibition. A catalogue produced included written statements up to 500 words which explain each artists thoughts on their choice of subject.

cast off the stays

Full description available in a catalogue but key aspects for me: The connections being the link to the whaling industry and its by products of whale oil to ease the process of weaving jute and the  whalebones to provide stays for corsets. Plus the fact that 'stays' also refer to sails of the boats used

 samples made combining jute and linen thread
Following the work for Dundee the idea of using warps to be a backdrop that was used to draw up the shaping of a piece or indeed to be a very visible part of the work led me to contemplate  a small scenic piece

borders...between land and sky  sold
and then experimented with minimal weft and coloured warps:  
this is a portrait of my mother based on a photo taken by my sister Trish French.

Friday, 14 November 2014

new work and themes

A favourite poet of mine is Robert Frost. His poem that starts with the line, 'two roads diverge in a yellow wood', from The Road not taken, offers endless inspiration.  The first three works had added inspiration of incorporating images and objects collected while walking with others in Glenbuchat.
pathways... paths within

pathways...two roads diverge in a yellow road
25 x 25 x 4 cm
25 x 25 x 4 cm
wood, words, weave...
progressing the theme of inspiration from poems

Inspired by Molly Caird's poem, From Fungus to Alga
25 x 25 x 4 cm

Inspired by Sir Alfred Tennyson's poem, The Eagle.
25 x 25 x 4 cm

Inspired by Robert Frost's poem, The Cocoon.
25 x 25 x 4 cm
 in Private collection

As  a member of the  Distant Stitch group I became involved in an initiative, Stitched Feathers that Flew around the World and with the charity, Hands up for Uganda.  To find out more about the project and the charity please use these links or contact me: Its motto ‘We shape our destiny by contributing to it’.
Janet Middleton of

Saturday, 24 August 2013

stick, stone, stitch...

While working on a foundation course for City and Guilds my blog, Stitched in Stone, led me to consider another route for exploration.  Since childhood my walks had resulted in a collection of small finds that were placed on an impromptu 'nature table'.  Inevitably these turned to dust and were lost.  
stick, stone, stitch ...nest egg
in private collection
stick, stone...strata

Continuing my collecting the sticks, stones  series has been added to and more are on the way!.  As can be seen in 'strata', shown on the right, am exploring the process of tapestry weaving while still working some pieces in free machine embroidery.  In strata tapestry weaving replicates the stones pattern and the background from where the stone was found.

As an adult the collecting continued but stones and items that deteriorated but didn't disappear became the objects of choice.  My collections captured serendipity rather than going out to find specific items.  I wanted to celebrate these treasures and  stick, stone, stitch... is the result.

stick, stone, stitch...scars

In scars, shoreline and rough and smooth stitches using freestyle machine embroidery produced the textural background with small areas of hand stitching giving detail. 
stick, stone, stitch...shore

stick, stone, stitch...rough and smooth

25 cms x 25 cms x 4 cms

 In veins the dictionary definitions on the surrounding mount not only give interesting context but offered ideas for stitching.

stick, stone, stitch...veins
In private collection
in private collection

What lies beneath...
The Ordnance Survey map with its symbols and clues as to what lies ahead on ones journey have been an integral part of family outings by car or on foot.
 Moving to Scotland in 1991 my interest increased in walking and maps.  Living in a remote part of Aberdeenshire a high proportion of my few neighbours work in oil related industries. This coupled with enjoyment of outdoor activities set geology as a cornerstone for creative and physical exploration. A part time course in Scottish Studies at Aberdeen University added to an awareness of the geological intrigues of what lies beneath… our feet.
Taking three favourite walks as a starting point, the hills of Morven, Clachnaben and Bennachie provide the inspiration.  Initial use of long and short hand stitch to replicate not only my foot pace but the colours found on geological maps I progressed to freestyle machine embroidery.  This in turn developed into an exploration of 3D bowls and shapes.  
Inspired by the Geological Bedrock map of North UK these three maps show the distribution of the different bedrock units as they would appear if the partial cover of superficial sediments, deposited by glaciers and rivers during the last two million years or so, were removed.  The shadings of colour shown define the age and types of rocks. The initial three pieces show handstitch

 Morven 43 x 33 cms

Bennachie 43 x 33 cms
Clachnaben 43 x 33 cms

Morven, freestyle machine embroidery
 50 x 50 cms

Looking at the Morven hand stitched map through a kaleidoscope the colour background theme was worked for this piece using freestyle machine stitch, machine feed dogs down, which allows for the stitches to be formed by manipulating the fabric by hand.  Incorporating the idea of a 3D image of Morven a model was made representing the contour lines and using half hitch hand knotting over this model. 
The technique was used to make the two bowls.  Each bowl was given a plate which was painted canvas with handstitched for detail.

Clachnaben - freestyle machine embroidery

Bennachie plate handstitch detail
Bennachie- freestyle machine embroidery bowl

Based on 'Bedrock Geology UK North map' by kind permission of British Geological Survey. Morven, freestlye machine embroidery, also based on an Ordnance Survey map of the area by kind permission of Ordnance Survey.

Work on this theme continues...