Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Somerset Art Weeks 2018

This was my third year of taking part in Somerset Arts Weeks, an annual creative event held each autumn.  Creativity in Somerset seems to grow year on year and in 2018 there were 300 Somerset artists taking part in Open Studios.  I'm sure that like me, most were getting themselves sorted right up to the last minute and pondering where to best hang those yellow signs.

Deciding how to out a new space seemed to take me an age and I very much appreciated support this year from fellow stitcher Julie Edwards.  This was the state of play a few minutes before opening on a super sunny Saturday September morning.  Then I could settle to deciding what my fingers were going to be working on for the 16 days ahead.

I like to experiment each year with different textiles and 2018 for me has very much been about eco and sustainable textiles.  I have particularly loved working with eco dyed and printed fabrics by Kim Winter of Flextiles and I am delighted to be collaborating with Kim to combine her amazing alchemy and my textile skills.

My fingers have also recently been enjoying working with wool produced by John Arbon Mill in North Devon and I and my students have used for all manner of creative makes.  This stunning selection of organic merino and silk blends in Harvest Hues, Bazaar, Plantation and Atlantis Lite caught the eye and fingers of studio visitors throughout the two weeks.

Another Devon product I have long worked with is Twool.  A 100% wool product made from Whiteface Dartmoor sheep, I have been using their plaited and twisted rope for bowl making this summer and it is proving a very popular make in workshops.  

In addition to demonstrating these my use of these products, I decided to set myself a  personal challenge.  There is an amazing walnut tree by the entrance to Spring Farm and as the walnuts were just coming to fruition at the beginning of Arts Weeks, this shouted to me to be the basis of a little project.

I decided first off to make a sample leave using wool and stitch - held together in the first instance with a little water soluble fabric.  I had a little fun too extracting dye from the walnut hulls and making cotton, wool and silk fabric text pieces by boiling in a little water for around an hour.

I had a little dabble too with eco printing the leaves onto silk fabric - spritzed with water and vinegar before I wrapped around a stick tightly with string and steamed for a couple of hours.  The final piece is getting close to completion - like most creative work, it is all the better for not being rushed.

Forever passionate about Somerset willow, my Somerset Levels inspired display for 2018 had to include a selection of Somerset Willow products by Coates English Willow  Lovingly embellished with beautiful fabrics by fellow Somerset stitcher Ann, a wider selection can be found in the shop at their visitor centre at Stoke st Gregory.

And last but by no means least, I displayed a selection of my levels inspired pictorial work, including some new free stitch work on wool.  This was a new experiment for me this summer to see how I could 'dry felt' wool fibres and add free stitch to reflect some of the many Somerset views I have photographed - you can find more images on this link.

Thank you to the 450 or so people who kindly visited to see my work this year and for the encouraging comments and feedback.  I had some amazing creative chats over the 16 days and I learnt all manner of interesting things.  What a creative and passionate lot we are in Somerset and long may it last.

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