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Friday, March 22, 2019

Begin Your Creative Journey with the School of Stitched Textiles



Begin Your Creative Journey with the School of Stitched Textiles

For almost 20 years the School of Stitched Textiles has been delivering textile craft courses to crafters and creators across the world. From their humble beginnings as a needlecraft centre based in a quiet Lancashire village, the School of Stitched Textiles has become a globally renowned provider and one of the few centres delivering impressive distance learning courses.

The School of Stitched Textiles’ creative journey began back in 2000 when the now Head of Centre, Dr Gail Cowley established the school. With a specialism in Designing Textiles and Metal and a postgraduate cert in Education, as well as a PhD in e-Learning, Gail went about combining her expertise in both education and craft to deliver City & Guilds of London textile programmes in Embroidery and Patchwork.

After a few years the demand for courses far outweighed the teaching space available so Gail went about designing City & Guilds courses that could be delivered via distance learning - expanding their remit and their reach. Today the School offers an impressive range of textile based courses including knitting, crochet, hand embroidery, machine embroidery, stumpwork, textiles, felting and patchwork & quilting, across varying skill levels, making them the UK’s largest distance learning provider delivering City & Guilds accredited textile courses. 

Gail says, ‘it took us the best part of five years to establish all of the courses we have on offer today because the approval process is so stringent. But certificated, accredited courses are vital for learning and expanding on correct techniques and encouraging creative ideas, which is why they are so important for those who wish to prove their skill level, either to themselves or to an employer or client.  Our graduate students have gone on to teach, author books, design patterns or go on to study further education. For beginners we believe that a certified course provides the best possible foundations for those looking to begin their creative journey.’ 


The accredited courses on offer are a serious business. With the average course taking around one and a half years to complete (depending on the speed you wish to tackle tasks) they definitely have a lot to offer. Gail adds, ‘many modules on each of our courses encourage students to use different techniques, experiment with ideas and play around with their own creativity. More importantly, the courses are fundamental to nurturing creative confidence, allowing people to take their craft to the next level, whatever that may be.’

And it’s not just for serious artists and crafters. The school has recently established a range of online courses for absolute beginners which are all delivered through online videos. These promise to be great introductions to new crafts as well as a fantastic opportunity to meet the tutors, and gain an insight into the more advanced accredited courses.

Intake for the accredited courses is limited and they only accept new students during enrolment which opens between 3 and 4 times per year. If you’re interested in enrolling you first need to express your interest via their website which is the only way to be invited to enroll. The School are also offering some Creative Bursaries for those that may not have the finances to pay for an accredited course and these can be applied for via their website, at https://www.sofst.org/bursary-application and the deadline for applications is 15th April, but will offer more bursaries towards the end of the year.

Whether you’re ready to begin something new or really starting to go places the School of Stitched Textiles say they are ready to help you on your creative journey.




Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Book Review: Anne Kelly - Textile Folk Art



Textiles as both a cultural and as an everyday foundation is probably nearly as old as our species. We have expressed ourselves as individuals, as communities as nations through fabric and stitch across countless generations, as we do today and will do for generations to come.
Anne Kelly shows in her book 'Textile Folk Art', how folk art has worked as a phenomenon across the planet, and how it has been a lasting cultural identity for many, and just as importantly how it can be used by the individual through self-expression in the contemporary world.
This is not a purely historical guide to textile folk art, as good as that would be. No, there is much more to this book. It is indeed a practical guide to understanding and producing your own folk art.
Through a range of contemporary and historical examples, and through comprehensive and clear guidance, Anne gets the artist to question how they can gather personalised mementoes, memories of self, of family, of community, and how to enmesh these encapsulated variations of self into textile work that will become projects of personality, of faith in the continuation of self and others.
From collage, stitchwork, patchwork, screen printing, book making, through to fine art installations, Textile Folk Art expands the traditions of folk art into one that can so easily be embraced by todays contemporary artist.


Anne Kelly is a textile artist and tutor. She trained in Canada and the UK, and is based in Kent, teaching and speaking to guilds and groups throughout the UK. Her work is exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions internationally, including private collections in the Vatican Collection in Rome and at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto. Recently she has been a featured gallery artist at the autumn and spring Knitting and Stitching Shows in London, Harrogate and Dublin. She has been artist in residence at a Sussex garden and guest artist at textile shows in Prague, Beaujolais and the Luberon. She is on the UK’s Crafts Council Register. Anne is the co-author of Connected Cloth and Textile Nature, also published by Batsford.
Textile Folk Art is widely available from the specialist textile art and design publisher Batsford.

Anne Kelly:

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Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Book Review: Lizzie Houghton - Felting Fashion


Felt is one of the most ancient of textiles, felting one its most ancient techniques. That felt is still very much with us today, and the techniques are still fresh, viable and sought after, when so many other textile traditions have fallen into disuse or been discarded by more recent technology, says much about the method, and the durability of the fabric.
Felting is a great teaching technique. It is fun to do, it is a hands on technique, and the results are always vibrant and durable. What’s not to love?
The renowned feltmaker Lizzie Houghton has published a book that should be a must for all feltmakers, and indeed potential feltmakers. Felting Fashion: Creative and Inspirational Techniques for Feltmakers (published by Batsford), is a book that is project-based, with a whole range of practical, easy to follow projects for wearable felt, anything from hats to jewellery, vest tops to coats.
All the projects in the book feature Lizzie’s stunning and original design work, and the book guides the reader through every stage of feltmaking, from choosing materials and equipment, to embellishing and dyeing your own wools and silks.
If you want a book that is going to take you from wishing to wear the unique and the original, to actually creating unique and original clothing, then this is the book for you.
Lizzie Houghton trained as a fashion designer and has always been a clothes maker. Specialising in felt textiles, she exhibits widely and sells her wearable art throughout the UK and Europe. She teaches workshops on feltmaking and dyeing from her studio in Penzance, Cornwall.
Felting Fashion is widely available from the specialist textile art and design publisher Batsford.


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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Book Review: Rosie James - Stitch Draw




Figurative stitch has taken great strides in the last few years. It has taken on both a popularity and a much needed contemporary feel. Embroidery in general today is much more relevant, much more topical, much more strident – stitch has become a home for protest, examination, observation, and for solutions. There seems no better time to release a book of where we are regarding contemporary figurative stitching, and how to help produce the drawing of stitch, than now.
Stitch Draw by Rosie James is a comprehensive guide to figurative stitching, giving techniques and tips regarding free style stitch – drawing with stitch.
Rosie guides the reader through a whole series of techniques and working methods, from setting up a sewing machine, through to drawing exercises that take you from pencil to stitch. This is a book that liberates the artist. There is no tight framework of the ‘right’ way of doing things, this is very much a book that expects the artist to liberate, to literally run with the stitch.
From the background of tradition to the forefront of contemporary art, stitch has made an extraordinary run through the last few years, in no small part due to the high profile artists who have pushed the limits of what can and should be achieved by stitch. These artists have taken stitch and placed it at the cutting edge of contemporary life, and often of contemporary protest. Artists who examine the world that we find ourselves in, and find aspects of that world wanting, are now firmly ensconced within the techniques of stitch, and particularly figurative stitching.
Rosie James gives voice to that element of contemporary figurative stitch in Stitch Draw. She celebrates the extraordinary depth of her own work, which liberally illustrates Stitch Draw, but also highlights the work of some of the best contemporary artists that are using stitch today. Artists such as: mags James, Maria Wigley, Hinke Schreuders, Nike Schroeder, Tucker Schwarz, Leigh Bowser, Sophie Strong and more.
This isn’t a book limited to textile artists, or those wanting to enter the textile art field. This is a book for artists – of any discipline, it is a book for artists who want to explore another way of expressing themselves. That is the important message of contemporary stitch, stitch is a drawing technique and can be experimented on and by any artist. It is a message stated loud and clear in Stitch Draw.
Rosie James is a textile artist with a fine art background. She studied textiles at Goldsmiths College London and runs workshops on her stitch-drawing techniques throughout the UK. Her works are exhibited in museums around the world.
Stitch Draw: Design and Techniques for Figurative Stitching by Rosie James, is published by Batsford and is available from October 4 2018.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Book Review: Cas Holmes 'Textile Landscapes'



We live in a world dominated by landscape, landscape of our own making – the human variety, but more obviously, the landscape of the natural world. Landscape also dominates the visual arts, and has done so for millennia. How the landscape that surrounds us is interpreted by the artist depends on the perception of that artist, but also depends on the tools and working methods that that artist has at their disposal.
Cas Holmes new book: Textile Landscape is an inspirational guide to the observation of the landscape, the practical application of that observation, and of the methods of creativity that can be brought together under the banner of ‘textiles’. This is a book whereby landscape is interpreted by textile art – through stitch, mixed media, and paint.
The book is comprehensive without being dictatorial. It is a guide to artists, students and teachers in how to truly and individually interpret the world around us. Drawing on the book as a source for self-discovery, self-creation, Cas encourages confidence in the art of observation, the art of practical making, the art of interpretation of your own unique view of the world.
Cas covers a whole range of thoughts and ideas in her new book. From keeping a sketchbook, generating ideas, painting and dyeing cloth, how to observe a range of landscapes both large and small, how to interpret the details of those landscapes through paint, ink and stitch. How to make your interpretation as unique and singular as it should be.
Cas has liberally filled Textile Landscape with interpretations of landscape through her own work, but also through a selection of contemporary textile artists from around the planet. Artists range from: Sue Hotchkis, Sue Stone, Richard McVetis, Ian Berry, to Grayson Perry, Joan Schulze, Sandra Meech and many more.
Textile Landscape builds on and continues from Cas earlier book, also published by Batsford Stitch Stories (reviewed in Inspirational 6). This new book reinforces Cas passion for the natural landscape in all its forms, from urban scrubland to secret glades, from the wild untamed to studied farmland.
Above all, Textile Landscape is about the utter uniqueness of perspective, what you see as an individual within the landscape. That is the beauty of Cas book, the projection of your vision, of your creative endeavor. Cas may show you examples of her vision and of the vision of other contemporary artists, but she is always aware that you the reader are the ultimate subject. It is your interpretation that ultimately counts, not hers, and not any number of contemporary artists around the planet. The textile interpretation of landscape through your hands and through your eyes is her ultimate goal, and with this book that goal should be well within your grasp.
Textile Landscape: Painting with Cloth in Mixed Media by Cas Holmes, is published by Batsford.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Book Review: Claire Wellesley-Smith 'Slow Stitch'



This is a book that has the expansion of time as its essence. Not the creation of time, as in there is never enough, but in the understanding that time has personal boundaries, as much as it does impersonal boundaries.
To take moments of your day in order to not contemplate what you didn’t achieve yesterday, and what you will have to try and achieve tomorrow, to let the moment of ‘now’ wash over you as the only moment, to worry less, and smile more at simple procedures of contentment, this is at the core of Slow Stitch.
Slow Stitch, or to give it its full title Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art, is a newly published book by the textile artist Claire Wellesley-Smith. Claire teaches extensively, working in adult education, schools, community-based projects, museums, and galleries. She runs workshops that involve the ideas of sustainable stitch, repurposed cloth, and traditional techniques of hand production.
It is no surprise therefore, that her new book Slow Stitch, should concentrate on the self-same ideas of sustainability, repurposing, and the techniques of hand production that can be brought into the world of textile art.
To understand Slow Stitch is to understand calmness, contemplation, and mindfulness. To understand these, and more importantly, to integrate them into our lives, is to understand that it is OK to unwind a little, that it is OK to place the demands of the twenty-first century to one side, at least for part of your day.
Stitch, and the art of hand stitch is a great and simple means in which to enter the world of the momentary, of the mindful and contemplative world of calmness. The repetitive rhythm of stitch, producing single moments one after the other, can be likened to listening to the ocean waves, to taking note of slow and steady breathing, the beat of the planet.
It is an exercise in purposeful motions, of creating moments, rather than being led by them. Creating stitch, is creating a path, creating a set of elements that can remove you from the world of the twenty first century.
It is measured time, whether self-measured, or measured by the task, it becomes the same thing in the end. Through a range of parts and chapters Claire shows us how so many aspects of textile art can easily be slowed down, treated with respect and calmness.
She shows us how taking note of time, energy, the place that you inhabit while working, can all have an effect on the process, and the result of the process.
Whether working with local materials, repurposing old textiles, natural dyeing, the use of hand stitch and other traditional techniques, all add and accumulate, all move the maker and artist in a direction that has purpose, has meaning.
Claire includes in her book a range of practical projects such as stitch journals, mapping local walks in stitch and found objects, and working with other artists, all part of an attempt to seriously encourage textile artists, or those artists who choose to integrate an element of textile art into their work, to make reconnections with their love of textiles, with their local culture and their local environment, all for the betterment of creativity.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Book Review: Alice Fox 'Natural Processes in Textile Art'


The embroiderer and textile artist Alice Fox has produced an excellent new book entitled Natural Processes in Textile Art. To give some idea of the field of exploration that Alice’s new book covers, its sub-heading is From Rust Dyeing to Found Objects.
Working within natural processes, and projecting those processes through the discipline of textile art, Alice shows how to work creatively with your immediate environment, whether by using raw materials that have been gathered from seashore or garden, woodland, or city street.
Alice encourages by example, her book shows through simple explanations, how to work in time with natural processes, bringing together the rhythms, complexity, as well as the simplicity of nature into textile art.
The book covers such processes as eco dyeing with garden fruits, seaweed and other easily gathered raw materials. Alice shows how using embroidery as a natural process can become an integral part of the work rather than an imposed embellishment, she shows that weaving with beachcombed fibres can add integrity and provenance to a composition, and how printing with found objects can add a depth and direction to the working process.
Alice encourages the fostering of a real connection with nature in order to help the creative process. The integration of nature as a driving force in the process of making has become an increasingly important part of the contemporary creative world, and no more so than in textile art.
With the textile industry and its subsidiary industries still being one of the planets largest polluters and degraders of the natural environment, it has become a particularly pressing concern for designers, as well as artists who involve themselves with textiles, to start looking for alternatives to the norm.
Of particular concern is the use of chemical dyes, their strength, reliability, and endurance once seen as a positive step forward in the world of textiles,  is now being seen as a liability at best, a contribution to ecological degradation at worst.
The rise in local dyeing, in personal dyeing development, particularly amongst textile artists, has produced a whole movement of experimentation in materials, from leaves and flowers, to fruit and vegetables, from metals, to teas and coffees.
Experimentation seems to be the order of the day and Alice encourages, through examples, the fostering of a theme of exploration, of taking a personal journey through the realm of raw materials.
All traditional textile processes, whether dyeing, sewing, weaving, and others, can be supplemented or even replaced by materials both ordinary, and indeed extraordinary, that can be found in the natural environment, from fibre for weaving and sewing that can be harvested from the natural world, from grasses, leaves, and plants, to fishing line washed up on a shoreline, all can be used as material, for use in the process and composition of work. All that is ever really needed is imagination, and of course that is an endless and always renewable resource for the artist.
To scavenge and forage is part of the human condition, it was a large part of our lives for much of our human history. Hunters and gatherers combed the environment for the useful as well as the intriguing, and the ornamental, and although we may seem to be far removed from our early ancestors, we are not as far removed as we sometimes believe ourselves to be.
There is much to be foraged and collected both in the natural and urban environments that can be used as a stimulus for artwork, as well as being integral to the working process. So for example, Alice encourages the collection of leaves, nuts, seeds, lichens, and feathers from woodland, shells, seaweed, plastic twine, and pebbles from the seashore, as well as bottle tops, screws, rubber bands, squashed cans, train tickets and more from the urban environment.
Alice is keen for us to not dismiss what could be used as potential, merely because we have never before considered it. To use your imagination, to think about how you could perhaps incorporate the environment around you within your work, is to express that environment, to see its potential, and to celebrate its life.
Of course, Alice does make it clear that gathering within the natural environment in particular, has to be done with caution and with understanding. To be in harmony with the environment, to use the gifts of nature, does not mean denuding that same environment. Some plants now have legal protection against random harvesting, and when you are free to collect and harvest, Alice encourages you to show moderation, with nuts and berries for example, you are often sharing a crop with the wildlife who depend on what you are harvesting to sustain them, either immediately, or through the long winter.
It is all a matter of empathy and understanding. If you are going to use the environment around you then it is a good idea to try and make sense of that environment, to see it as a complicated interaction between countless species, of which you are one. By all means gather raw materials for your work, but remember that you are only one of the creatures in the complexity, so show compassion to your fellow spirits, be generous, and the environment will be generous back.
Natural Processes in Textile Art includes examples of the work of a number of leading artists who are well known within the field of eco textile processes, whether that be through dyeing, construction, printing, stitching.
Although this book is aimed at textile artists, and those wanting to pursue or expand their repertoire within the textile field, it is also an invaluable resource for anyone wanting to include and incorporate an element of textiles within their own work, so would be ideal for those working in some of the connected disciplines such as mixed media, basketry, jewellery, ceramics, and as far afield as 3D sculpture and fine art painting.
A great book to own, and a great resource in which to look for other means of approaching the world of making.



Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Book Review: Cas Holmes Stitch Stories



Where do ideas come from? Where can interesting source material be found? What is inspiration and how can it be developed? How can you sustain interest in your work from source material to finished piece? How do you tread your own authentic and unique creative path? What can you add to the world of creativity that is a definition of you? Who are you as an artist, and where are you going?

These are just some of the questions that are answered in Cas Holmes new book Stitch Stories. It is a book full of headings, sub-headings, lists of intent, ideas, prompts, and helping hands. Each segment of the book goes into great detail on its particular method, expanding to incorporate a wealth of tried and tested, as well as novel ideas, in how to approach a level of uniqueness that is the role of the artist in us all.

Stitch Stories is aimed at a textile and mixed media audience and is therefore geared towards artists who work, or intend to work, in those fields. The book is full of rich colour photos of Cas own work, as well as the inspiring work of many other artists as well. There are full colour photos of completed works, as well as many works in progress, and most importantly photos of sketch books, one of the areas of work in progress that so many either get stuck on, or are unclear as to what they should contain.

To run through the different chapters of the book in order, will probably give you a good inkling as to why this book is such a valuable addition to the artist. It is often a difficult task looking for rich and useful inspirational starting points in which to pursue a series of work, the journey that those inspirational points should take in order to produce work that is both a reflection of those starting points, as well as being an important part of who you are as both an individual, is perhaps the hardest of all.

Places, Spaces, and Traces - deals with the recording of your experiences, your observations, your feelings of the world that you observe around you. This segment deals with creating a journal, sketchbook, or other form of recording, such as photography. Collecting information is always the starting point of any form of creative development, and choosing what appeals to you personally is a large part of whether your work will develop or not.

Seizing Inspiration - explores a range of potentials for inspiration and exploration, and includes such ideas as using memory and history as reference points, using drawing and simple collage as valuable exercises in focused or unfocused inspiration, allowing the mind to wander, allowing it to draw inspiration from a line, a colour, a texture, all vital elements in the creative journey.

The Natural World - gives a number of starting points, with the idea of nature being their source. Nature is all around and within us, so it is equally relevant and a ready source of inspiration, whether you live in a rural or urban environment.

Studying and observing the natural world, whether it be in a woodland, or a backyard, is connecting with that natural world. It can be observing, identifying, and recording the differing elements to be found in a canopy of trees, reeds along a riverbank, or indeed tough weeds growing out of an urban wall, all are relevant and all have value to the environment as they do to the artist.

Cas also makes it clear how important the cycle of seasons is to anyone interested in using the natural world as a source of inspiration. To observe the same environment through the change in seasons is to understand the layers of change and meaning that can be found within that framework.

All in the Detail - deals with the details that are so much a part of any piece of artwork, those details often come from source material themselves, or indeed from the ambience in which those materials are found.

The world is a complexity of meaning, and we are part of that complexity. Cas gives us a range of artists work that deals in those details of intricacy that they find in inspirational source material, and that they then project out through their work.

Off the Beaten Track - looks at the artist and their responses, through work, of personal themes and interests, rather than generic. A number of artists show their self-expression through an interest in personal family history, social history, comments on historical or contemporary society. Cas gives us a range of artists who have used textiles, both specifically and generally to make a point.

Telling Stories - the last segment continues from the previous, but gives examples of how you can tell your own story, how you can express what you need and want to say, through a range of helpful examples and that is what it is all about, giving you a range of tools in order to effectively express yourself.

It is so important that self-expression be encouraged. Your own story, your own viewpoint, your own perspective on the world, is a constantly unique one. There may well be seven billion people on the planet, but there is only ever one of you. Cas is fully aware of this and has spent a large proportion of her art career guiding and encouraging others to express themselves through creative paths that only belong to them.

If you have the tools and you have the vocabulary then how you use them is up to you. This book is not a book that wants to show you how to work like Cas, how to produce work that copies where Cas has been and where she is going artistically and creatively, it is a book that shows you how to work like yourself, to find your own centre, your own creative strength, to be able to express yourself as your own true self, and not like another, and for that reason, amongst many, I highly recommend Stitch Stories.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

INSPIRATIONAL 20: Released!



Inspirational 20 is now released for instant download and instant access. Pick up a copy at: https://payhip.com/b/OX4M
Over 100 pages in interviews and imagery from contemporary artists around the globe - from textiles to collage, from painting to photography.
All previous issues of Inspirational are available from: https://payhip.com/johnhopper
or why not take out a subscription to Inspirational, delivered monthly to your email. It's as easy as following the link: https://payhip.com/b/MNp6
Inspirational...celebrating creativity


Monday, November 05, 2018

Reouth Erez: Ekphrasis Textile


The Israeli textile and illustration designer Reouth Erez, who is based in Tel Aviv, has a passion for combining literature, philosophy and art, along with a practical design vision. This creative combination is clearly seen in Reouth's Ekphrasis project.

Ekphrasis or ecphrasis, comes from the Greek for the description of a work of art produced as a rhetorical exercise, often used in the adjectival form ekphrastic is a vivid, often dramatic, verbal description of a visual work of art, either real or imagined. In ancient times, it referred to a description of any thing, person, or experience. The work comes from the Greek 'ek' and 'phrasis', 'out' and 'speak' respectively, and the verb 'ekphrazein' "to proclaim or call an inanimate object by name."



In her Ekphrasis textile project Reouth wanted to actually 'revive' classical texts (poetry) from different places and times (eg: Edgar Allen Poe, Pushkin, the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai).

The common denominator between the songs is the subject of man and his urges. The written texts are very visual/sensory - the prints she has created speak the words of the poem as a source of inspiration, or texts, not just a description of words.

The choice to create clothing comes from the desire to expose the audience to those who will be tempted by a "desirable object" as it were.



Each garment print is made from a particular poem. Each piece is accompanied by a pocket booklet with lyrics and other illustrations.

The person purchasing the item of clothing acquires a booklet. They can choose to be exposed to the ministers and be intrigued, and of course, to create a personal library for them. The intention is to operate the format of a rotating capsule collection.

Practical description of the project: Ekphrasis is a fashion and poetry brand. Five printed outfits and supplementary items - scarves, t-shirts, and poetry booklets.
Materials: cotton, velvet, silk, chiffon, faux leather, foil, flock.
Technique: manual drawing, digital drawing, digital printing, screen printing.



To find out more about the Ekphrasis textile project, follow the the link: https://ereouthe.wixsite.com/ekphrasis

To find out more about the artist and illustrator Reouth Erez, follow the link to her website: https://reoutherez.wixsite.com/reouth-erez/home