My work has appeared in…

Thursday, 20 December 2012

A Bodice of Work

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: the cover, close-ups of
some pages and the laced spine, a Kantha sample sewn to
one of the pages.

I know, it's a terrible pun, but I was asked to come up with a theme and this was the best I could conjure off the cuff. I've recently spent a blissful six days on a course dedicated to making handmade sketchbooks. It was actually a general textiles course but the tutor needed her own theme to hang the course onto in order to get it accepted by the college.

I enrolled with the single intention of making some kind of portfolio, in which to keep all the samples I make. Currently, they are stored in a box, which you might think is as good a place as any to keep samples that I've lovingly created. But to me a box is merely a resting place before the inevitable happens and one of my decluttering moods strikes. On these occasions, no box is exempt from my tidying frenzy, and its contents are almost, always destined for the bin. I've lost count of the amount of beautiful clothes that have been rashly sent to charity shops–only to be later regretted, and old portfolios full of drawings and paintings thrown onto bonfires or skips for no better reason than they were gathering a fleck or two of dust!

But I digress…which is pretty much what I did on the course. I started to work on my portfolio but got sidetracked and made a paper sketchbook first. Again, we were asked to give it a theme. I chose a loose interpretation of the game, paper, scissors stone–weaving in tenuously linked elements ranging from Eric Gill's stone carvings and typography to stone circles, concrete poetry, and rock gods The Rolling Stones (it seems I really can't resist a bad pun). You can see the cover in the top left of the above composite image. Other views include, a fossil in a bag I knitted from wire and sewed to a page, some painting with ink and bleach, embossing, quilling, OTT hole punching, and a specially designed introduction page for the book.

For my main sketchbook, the idea was to make a portfolio that resembled a corset, with a drawstring tie at the spine that could be let out as the book's content grew–like a real corset might need to be let out if the inhabitant had eaten too many pies. Instead of real boning, I machine-stitched channels that curved–to suggest a waist–the further they got from the spine. Extendable brass posts hold the inner pages in place. I chose Indian Khadi papers for the inner pages because I adore their texture, and because they are sturdy enough to withstand stitching and other embellishments.

So far, I've only included a few of my samples in the book but it is quite amazing to me how different they look when presented properly. All of a sudden, my samples have become real things rather than scraps of fabric destined for the bin. I've also discovered samples I didn't realise I had (they must have organised a daring escape party during a previous decluttering blitz). Consequently, I'm discovering themes within themes, and a pattern in my swatches: for instance, I seem to like drawn thread work and lots of stitching–even if it isn't exquisitely neat.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I used to keep lots of scrapbooks to store ideas and printed ephemera, but somehow, got out of the habit. However, this may well change, and perhaps my New Year's resolution should be to make sure I regularly update my fabric scrapbook?

Talking of New Year, what am I doing sitting at my computer, when there are just a few days left until Christmas? I should be doing my Christmas shopping and wrapping mountains of presents. Or better still, eating mince pies and drinking mulled wine!

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!


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