Monday, January 25, 2016

The Profanity Embroidery Group

Illustration: Annie Taylor. Fucketyfucketyfuckfuckfuck

Most textile disciplines have been around for countless generations. They have a long history of relevance and tradition, they also have a long history of being connectors of individuals, groups and communities, very often using innovation, and subversion.

Embroidery is a textile discipline in particular that has had more than its fair share of relevance, continually reinventing itself within different contemporary eras, with each successive generation finding the means to reinvent, or at least add towards, the strong tradition that it has as part of its history.

Illustration: Alison Fizgerald Lucas. Beaver

There is always a risk that if a discipline does not reflect the contemporary generation that uses it, at least in part, then its fate could well be to become fossilised within its own history, within its own tradition. This is not to say that all practitioners have to reflect the society that they find themselves in, but as long as an element does, the discipline moves forward, and a new expression has been added to the mix.

The Profanity Embroidery Group is one of those elements that is adding a contemporary flavour to the discipline of embroidery. It has only been formed recently, but is full of vigour, fun, and creative energy.

Illustration: Allie Lee. Can't be Arsed

The story of the group is best told by one of its founders the embroiderer Annie Taylor:

About 25 years ago, I sent a Rina Piccolo cartoon to my mother.  18 months or so ago, it fell out of one of her embroidery books, and she returned it to me.  It made me laugh so hard when I saw it, that I promptly shared it to my Facebook page.  It struck a chord with so many friends that within a matter of hours, our first Profanity Embroidery Group meeting. 

The cartoon is of a sweet old lady embroidering hearts and flowers and 'fuck the world': the title was 'Mrs Winchester finds a positive outlet for frustrated negative energy'. 

The Profanity Embroidery Group is made up of around twenty practitioners of varying skills, some had never sewn before, some were self-taught, and some had studied textiles before. The group is based in kent, England, and they meet up every other week at the Duke of Cumberland pub in Whitstable.

Illustration: Bridget Carpenter. Silly Bitch

Their first group project is the Quilt of Profanity which will be unveiled at their first exhibition to be held at the Fishslab Gallery, Whitstable, from February 10-16. Also on show will be a range of Valentine inspired pieces of embroidery work.

If you are going to the exhibition, and I highly recommend it, please be aware that the embroidery work does contain a liberal supply of rude words, so is perhaps not suitable for the young, and the easily offended.

The Profanity Embroidery Group facebook page can be found here, and the Profanity Embroidery Group exhibition facebook page can be found here.

Please be aware that all the imagery used in this article belong to the artists, so please don't reproduce them without permission from the individual artists named.

Illustration: Sarah Jesset. Wanker

Monday, January 18, 2016

Inspirational 8 is released today

Just to let you know that Inspirational 8 is released today. It is available for instant download from the Inspirational tab at the top of the page. 

The artists in order of appearance are:

Stewart Kelly - textile fine artist
Ingress Vortices - fine art painters
Adrian Smith - textile artist
Shane Drinkwater - fine art painter
Diane Savona - textile and mixed media artist
Timo Ahjotuli - mixed media artist
Bea Last - fine art painter
Danae Falliers - fine art photographer

Inspirational 8 comes in at a substantial 203 pages, with 195 full colour photos, but as this is a celebrational portfolio of artists and their work, it seems perfectly acceptable for Inspirational to be the size it is.

I hope that you enjoy the latest number from the Inspirational project, Inspirational 9 will be released on March 14.

If you would like to sign up for the Inspirational project mailing list, in order to keep updated as to development and release dates of each new issue of Inspirational, please feel free to join the Inspirational mailing list

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Work of the Artist David Lasry

The depth of meaning and purpose is such an integral part of the role and persona of the artist, that it is hard to dismiss. It far outweighs any notion of artist as celebrity, business model, bete noir. Although critics continually sneer at the contemporary art world and everything it stands for, the sneering comes from a place of fear and insecurity. The serious artist, in whatever form, and whatever discipline, has a vital role to play in our lives, in our culture, and in our time.

The fine art painter David Lasry is an individual that dwells on the subject of what it is to be human, and above all, what it is to be connected profoundly to others. We live in a world where we often talk about connections, about family, friends, community, we are linked as we never have been before, but how profound are those connections really?

True, connections can be made, relationships can be formed, friendships bonded, but they take time to mature. David, in his work, symbolises the path that our relationships take, through composition as well as working process. It is an ingenious way of portraying the long complexity of each relationship that we form, and the web that those relationships become over time and over our lives.

David shows, through the process of paint, through compositional development, through the journey that every artist takes from initial ideas to completed projection, the same journey that every meaningful relationship we form takes. 

He shows us of the promises, the false starts, the joys, the difficulties, the heartbreaks, the sacrifices, the quiet understandings. These are all part of the framework of every relationship that we form and that we treasure, but they are also part of the framework that is our life. We are no more an isolated individual than any other part of the planet. We are forever more than the part that we call 'I', our relationships make us the larger 'I', ostensibly the 'we'.

David takes his own creative trials and errors, his moments of frustration and joy, the pieces of his inner being, and places them all within his work. It is what artists always do voluntarily, it is part of the creative process, part of the realm of human self-expression, that that voluntary sacrifice is so often dismissed, or ignored by critics is one of the great tragedies in the art world.

However, with artists such as David, following through with compositions of sensitivity, of reflections of understanding, purpose, and meaning, the creative world continues its task of reflecting what it is to be human, its wonder, its tragedy, its joy, and its tears.

The poetic sensitivity of the artist is to show the way for others to follow. Life is all about learning to understand the supreme connectivity of all and everything. It is a journey that artists have to take, it is part of who they are, that artists such as David are willing to reflect on that journey through their artwork, is a great service, and for that we are thankful.

David's work can be found at the following sites: Saatchi ArtDavid Lasrytwitter, facebook, tumblr, instagram, pinterest

Monday, December 21, 2015

Inspirational 8

It is time to release the official cover of Inspirational 8, the issue itself will be released on January 18 2016. The wonderful cover work is by the mixed media artist Timo Ahjotuli.

The format should be familiar to you all by now, each new Inspirational features eight of the best in contemporary artists from across a field of disciplines from fine art painting, through to textiles and beyond.

Inspirational 8 will feature the following artists in order of appearance, but obviously not in order of importance:

Stewart Kelly - textile fine artist
Ingress Vortices - fine art painters
Adrian Smith - textile artist
Shane Drinkwater - fine art painter
Diane Savona - textile and mixed media artist
Timo Ahjotuli - mixed media artist
Bea Last - fine art painter
Danae Falliers - fine art photographer

All of the artists names above have links to their websites and I do encourage you to take a look at their work. Some of the names you may well be familiar with others not, but I hope the unfamiliar names do not put you off as their work is well worth exploring.

Inspirational is more of a creative gallery than it is a magazine, having featured, with issue 8, a total of 64 diverse, interesting, inspirational, and indeed aspirational artists.

It is hoped that Inspirational will continue as it started, and if anything, go on to more diverse, unusual, and interesting horizons. Hopefully more news on these fronts as 2016 progresses.

As always, all issues of Inspirational are available at the Inspirational dedicated page, which can be found HERE, and anyone interested in signing up for the Inspirational mailing list, can do so HERE.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Artist Mary Mazziotti - Laughter in the Face of Death

Mary Mazziotti. A Day in the Life of Mrs Death, 1 in a series of 12, embroidered panel

The artist Mary Mazziotti produces a range of witty memento mori in a variety of guises, from embroidered textiles to full-sized billboards. Her work centres around the intention of producing work that will encourage the observer of her work to understand the fleeting ephemeral aspect that is the life that we live.
Mary Mazziotti. Shopping for Groceries, A Day in the Life of Mrs Death, 5 in a series of 12, embroidered panel

Death, the end of our brief lives, is a subject that none of us can ever be immune to, it doesn't matter how much money you have, how much you think your status on the planet gives you more than others, we all end up at the same place. 

How we approach the subject of the demise of each and every one of us, is a matter that has been treated in an endless array of social niceties across the many generations that our species has walked the planet. We have embraced, grudgingly accepted, or ignored death, we have danced with it, tried to trick it, and even tried to engineer others to take our place, but of course death gives us its eternal grin and takes us all anyway, regardless of what we do during our lives.

Mary Mazziotti. From the Cradle to the Grave, hand embroidery of vintage textile

Mary Mazziotti. From the Cradle to the Grave, hand embroidery on vintage textile

That is perhaps part of the appeal of the work of Mary, her big grin in the face of death. Mary treats the end of our lives with the droll humour and wit that it should perhaps be accorded more often, it is after all just another natural part of life, and if we are all faced with the same, then perhaps we should be at least familiar with it, rather than as we tend to do now, pretend it never happens, or if it does, to others, not ourselves.  

Mary Mazziotti. The Rake's Progress: Tom Gets a Fortune, 1 in a series of 8, embroidered panel

Mary Mazziotti. The Rake's Progress: Tom Marries a B-List Celebrity, 5 in a series of 8, embroidered panel

Mary's take on memento mori, literally "remember you will die", is part of a very long tradition that dates back to the Romans, if not before. "Remember you will die" could also be termed "be prepared, you will die". There are so many sneaky ways that death can sidle up to you nowadays, from pointed political terrorism, to the nonchalance of a moment's distraction on the road, it can happen in an instant, and often does.

So why are we so ill-prepared for our end? We declare as a culture, a zest for life, a love of what it is to be living in the moment that we hope is eternal, but never is. If being born is a part of the rich tapestry of our lives, then so too is death. The two should be celebrated as equals, but in reality births are a projection of collective hope, whilst death is hidden away as an unseemly individual experience, too stressing for our culture to experience.

Mary Mazziotti. Death at the Opera: Carmen, embroidered panel

Mary Mazziotti. Death at the Opera: Tosca, embroidered panel

Mary is an artist that asks us, through humour, to look at the facts of our lives with clarity, and if we can, humour. I personally love the inclusion of death as a healthy subject of creative debate, we spend far too much our time burying our experience of death deep within the interiors of our hospitals and care homes, and not enough within our popular and contemporary culture.

Mary Mazziotti. American Memento Mori: Tango, applique and embroidery on vintage textile

Therefore, I encourage you to visit Mary's website,, and to perhaps take some time to laugh with her, and perhaps even a chuckle with death at the absurdity of life, death, the universe, and everything.

Mary Mazziotti. Obituary billboard

Monday, December 07, 2015

The Handbook of Textile Culture

The Handbook of Textile Culture, produced by Bloomsbury and edited by Janis Jefferies, Diana Wood, and Hazel Clark, is a huge book, not in physical dimensions, but in scope and status. This is a book that takes on the subject of textiles as life-changer, as historical-mover, as political, social, and technological contributor. It is a book that does not see textiles as complacent, subservient, or even supportive, but gives it a dimension as leader, innovator, central to contemporary life and actions.

This is an academic book, and is therefore pitched at students, educators, and scholars. It is set up as a series of twenty-eight essays by a range of artists, academics, and educators. To pick a few names out of the long list of contributors, we have the installation artist and textile lecturer Agnieszka Golda, the writer and journalist Bradley Quinn, the curator Ruth McDougall, the artist, researcher, and educator Seamus McGuiness.

The range of the books findings and ideas runs far and wide with sections of the book given titles such as: Theoretical Concepts; Textile, Narrative, Identity, Archives; Textiles and Globalization; Textiles and the Curatorial Turn; Textile Technologies and the Sensorial Turn; Developments in the Field of Textiles, Cloth and Culture.

This is obviously not going to be a book for everyone, what book is. However, it would be a mistake to think that this is a book that can only appeal to students and academics. Although it is pitched at that audience, there is a lot that can be gained by audiences from a range of subjects and disciplines, whether they be the interested artist, designer, or maker, the textile tutor, who often has one foot in the educational world and the other in the creative world, the part time mature student, or purely the interested amateur.

It is a book that brings together a range of different strands that run through both the textile world specifically, as well as the human world in general. Therefore, anyone interested in subjects that range from cultural history, to costume and fashion, from gender and feminist issues and interpretation, through to the world of art, design, craft, this is a book that raises issues, concepts, ideas, and differences.

To understand the complex world of textiles today, along with its convoluted and myriad disciplines, as well as its equally convoluted history, is to be able to understand a large part of our human world today. The Handbook of Textile Culture is a bringing together of differing thoughts on this most influential and most fundamental of subjects.

However, with a hefty price tag at present of $156/£95 on Amazon, it may well put many off, which is a shame, but is perhaps why it might well be worth checking this out in your college or university library. Having said that, Bloomsbury, the publishers of The Handbook of Textile Culture, is offering the book at the significantly reduced price of £66.50 on their website, the link can be found here.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Fibre Fables Exhibition at The Stainless, New Delhi

The Fibre Fables exhibition, which is running at the The Stainless gallery, in New Delhi, India, is a collaborative effort between contemporary artists/film makers/ photographers/sculptors
installation artists and weavers in Raj Group's factory at Panipat
​, India.​

The eleven participating artists are: Abeer Gupta, Brahm Maira, Dhvani Behl, Durga Kainthola, Nidhi Khurana, Nikheel Apahle, Puneet Kaushik, Sahaya Sharma, Sandeep Biswas, Shivani Aggarwal, Vibhu Galhotra.

This looks to be a fascinating collaborative effort between so many unique and individual artists, that it would be well worth visiting the gallery if you are in the New Delhi area throughout December 2015.

The curator of the exhibition is Shailin Smith, and it seems only right that, after so much effort put into the exhibition, they explain the reasoning behind Fibre Fables.

​The Raj Group was established in 1939, a
midst a growing industry of carpet weaving. They gradually evolved to establish high profile clients and today are one of the leading exporters and manufacturers of home d├ęcor in Panipat. Yet at the same time, somehow The Raj Group is in a paradoxical situation, where the glory of progress is dampened with the ever dwindling state of the weaving industry.  As machine made products take over the significance of fine hand crafted pieces, it is increasingly essential that the focus lies on salvaging the craft of an industry that has thrived for almost a century.

The idea for the exhibition emerged as a project that involved the collaboration of artists and weavers coming together to create works of art. 
This collaboration between art, design and craft, is a result of the relationship shared between the artists and weavers for almost a year.  Weaving in the collective aesthetic of knowing each other and responding to the marked journey full of experimental concepts. 

The artworks in this exhibition are not art itself; they are also a voice that echoes technique and craftsmanship. The works ubiquitously weave a visual fabric to communicate the many possibilities of liberal creative endeavour. They carry within, embedded memories that resonate an exchange of different disciplines and backgrounds. 

As the artists have learnt about various material forms and weaving techniques, the weavers have learnt to view their craft through the fresh perspective of art. Moving beyond boundaries, both have embraced a greater potential. And so the artist-weaver collaboration comes through in this exhibition, that aims to reflect what two creative souls can achieve, when they drop all inhibitions and dissolve in the purity of art. 

The Fibre Fables exhibition runs at The Stainless gallery, Old Ishwar Nagha, New Delhi, from November 21 to December 31. More information can also be found about the exhibition, and the work of the Raj group in general at the Raj Groups websitefacebook, and instagram pages.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Work of the Artist Dex Fernandez

Illustration: Dex Fernandez. Good Morning HOBOS, detail, 2015. Acrylic, ink, embroidery, on a digital photograph

Dex Fernandez is an artist that comes from the graffiti/street art tradition. His work is a creative collision of styles, colors, shapes, lines. He often uses his own digital photographs as a background to a whole panoply of information that is built up in layers onto the base photograph.

These layers can and do consist of abstract pattern, religious symbols, body parts, cartoons, tattoos, to name just a few. Dex plays with these references as he also plays with larger ideas, such as the connection and disparity between high and low art, between history and biology, between beauty and crudeness, and between innocence and sexuality.

Illustration: Dex Fernandez. All of a Sudden I miss Everyone, 2015. Acrylic, ink, embroidery, on a digital photograph

Illustration: Dex Fernandez. ATM, 2015. Acrylic, ink, embroidery, on a digital photograph

These are important combinations and complex relationships that dwell within our contemporary society, and they are often ones that are tentatively side-stepped, or deliberately overlooked. It is important for the artist to highlight these most important references to the world we both live in, and perhaps more importantly, the world we pretend to live in.

Dex is able to express himself through a wide range of formats, including wall murals, street sticker art, altered photographs, as well as fashion and accessories, all part of the panoply that is such an integral aspect of our daily lives. The world at large, in all its contrasts and its illusions is Dex's canvas, and his compositions are a reflection of his use of that larger canvas.

Illustration: Dex Fernandez. Burboun, 2015. Acrylic, ink, gold leaf, embroidery, on a digital photograph

Illustration: Dex Fernandez. Don't be a Stranger, detail, 2015. Acrylic, ink, embroidery, on a digital photograph

Dex's portraits are extraordinary pieces of work. Originally photos of friends and fellow artists, he hand paints intricate and colourful patterns and shapes around and over the original portraits. The multiplicity of color, line, and symbol helps to create a new visual for the portrait, grafting a new mask, a new identity even, onto the original.

In some respects, the original face becomes more than it was, as if the artist has added a dynamic dimension to the original portrait, expanding the character of the individual so that they seem ready to burst out of their contained portrait within a new heightened persona.

Illustration: Dex Fernandez. Entrap, 2015. Acrylic, ink, embroidery, on a digital photograph

Illustration: Dex Fernandez. Mr. Cornflake, 2015. Acrylic, ink, gold leaf, embroidery, on a digital photograph

Interestingly, Dex adds an element of stitch to his animated portraits, often in the guise of bright neon thread that is loosely aligned around facial features, often the eyes. This embroidered embellishment adds one more level of interpretation, or perhaps reinterpretation to the facial character of the individual.

The work shown in this article is part of an exhibition of Dex Fernandez work running at the Owen James Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. Dex has been able to manipulate the gallery in order to enhance and project his work within his own framework. He has covered the main gallery wall with a mural composed of bright neon yellow and black paint, coloured tape and stickers. The collage and mural are encouraged to interact in order to create an installation that is at once a whole entity in its own right, but at the same time has distinct and singular elements, consisting of Dex's portraits, that are separate, but also part of the larger picture.

Illustration; Dex Fernandez. Plankton, 2015. Acrylic, ink, mylar collage, embroidery, on a digital photograph

Illustration: Dex Fernandez. Shernita, 2015. Acrylic, ink, embroidery, on a digital photograph

The exhibition of the work of the artist Dex Fernandez runs from October 30 till November 29 2015 at the Owen James Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. More about the exhibition can be found at their comprehensive website which can be found here. Also, much more of Dex's innovative and inspirational work can be found at his own website, which can be found here.

All of the imagery of Dex's work that was used to illustrate this article, was kindly supplied by the Owen James Gallery. Please be aware of this, and do not republish the illustrations of Dex's work without the permission of the gallery.

Illustration: Dex Fernandez. Installation within the Owen James Gallery, 2015