Monday, 31 January 2011

Meeting Sarah Nicol

Last Friday saw me heading off into the countryside to meet renowned textile artist Sarah Nicol, who I'm writing a feature on for a future issue of Sewing World magazine. Meeting interesting people is certainly a great perk of being a freelance writer and I spent a very happy morning chatting away to Sarah and seeing lots of her fabulous work.

As soon as I arrived, Sarah popped the kettle on! As well as working in textiles, Sarah also creates the most gorgeous range of ceramics, with her partner, Peter O'Neil. In fact, Peter was in the middle of glazing the inside of some large bowls on their kitchen floor, so I got to watch the creative process in action! It felt somewhat apt that I should drink tea out of this mug from Sarah and Peter's collection.

A whole wall in Sarah's studio is given over to boxes that are crammed with just about every fabric imaginable.

Sarah creates all sorts from her collection of fabrics, from framed pictures and book covers, to little houses and doorstops. The piles of ticking are waiting to be made into her little 'herb houses', which she fills with lavender.

Sarah's currently working on her new collection for this year, inspired by the colours of the Bayeux Tapestry. Sarah and Peter were off to France this weekend after a moment of glorious spontaneity that Sarah had had earlier in the week, after deciding on Wednesday lunchtime that she just had to go and see the Tapestry again!

Here's Sarah in action, giving me a demonstration of how she creates her book covers.

Sarah's current style of work came about after what can only be described as a bit of an 'epiphany moment'. Whilst on the Amtrak Coast Starlight train from Los Angeles to Seattle a few years ago, Sarah started to draw the scenery that was going past the window. One long roll of paper and a box of pastels later and "hey presto", it was the beginnings of what can now be described as her signature style. At the top of this photo is part of the long drawing Sarah did on the train...and on the bottom, is her interpretation of it in fabric.

Part of Sarah's Los Angeles to Seattle drawings.

I first saw (and fell in love with) Sarah's ceramics in a gallery in Marazion, Cornwall. Having assumed Sarah was based in Cornwall, imagine my surprise when I found out that she lives only a few miles down the road from us in rural Worcestershire! It was great to see the pottery (in Sarah and Peter's garden) where all the ceramics all made. It's a real team effort...once Peter has thrown the bowls, mugs etc, Sarah adds the painted decoration.

Here's a small selection of finished ceramics. These designs all feature the Cornish fishing boats that Sarah sketches on their frequent visits down south.

On the way to the pottery, I was introduced to Sarah's Bantams, including Baby the cockerel. I'd love to keep chickens and was very taken with the idea of bantams after seeing these beauties!

A huge thank you to Sarah for sharing her creative world with me...and don't forget to look out for the May issue of Sewing World when you'll be able to read my interview with Sarah and discover more about her work.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Tea, Cake and Textiles

One of the greatest things about doing the City and Guilds Embroidery course I went on was the friends I made. After two years of working, laughing and drinking endless cups of tea together, we couldn't bear the thought of all going our separate ways when the course ended. So a few of us did what lots of people in a similar situation do...we formed our own group! Calling ourselves 'The Wednesday Group' (because that was the day we went to college on), we now meet at each others' houses once a month to talk about all things stitch-related...and laugh alot, drink endless cups of tea and eat cake! Yesterday's get together was no exception...

The girls were adamant that they didn't want any 'off guard' photos, so they struck their best 'we're very engrossed in talking about textiles' poses!

Everyone always has something to share and we talk about everything from books and stitch techniques, to exhibitions and what we've been up to over the last month. It's really great to be with friends who all get excited about the same things...although he tries very hard, Mr Treasure doesn't truly understand the joys of a new piece of fabric or starting a new sketchbook!

There's always a great deal of jollity!

Tea and cake has become a very important element of group get togethers! We like to think it aids creativity!

We decided recently that it would be nice to all learn from one another. So yesterday some of us taught those who struggled with french knots the art of this rather addictive little stitch.

There were whoops of delight from around the table as french knots successfully appeared!

Being part of a group really is fabulous...not only do we all get to meet up with a bunch of great friends on a regular basis, it's also really inspiring. We set ourselves little projects and challenges each month and it's always fun to see how 8 people interpret the same theme in such different ways.

We're planning an exhibition of our work later this year, so I'll be sure to keep you posted!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A Belated Welcome to 2011

Happy new year to you, lovely bloggers, one and all!

It's somewhat belatedly that I begin writing in 2011 as I'm afraid the dreaded flu virus has been lurking in the Treasure household since the new year. First it was Mr Treasure's turn to be poorly and then, just when I thought I'd got away with it, I came down with a bug too and so my life up until now has been dominated by warm honey and lemon drinks and rather a lot of sleep. Still, I'm happy to report that that I think the bugs and germs are finally on their way out...hoorah!

In amongst the festive season and fighting off flu, I've been writing about all sorts of things for various magazines. In my line of work I get to write about a whole plethora of fascinating subjects, so I thought I'd tell you all about a museum collection and exhibition that I've just finished writing about for Sew Hip magazine...

‘Flowered all over with cards’. Cotton or linen printed with a playing card pattern. A boy admitted 24 December 1759. Named Joseph Floyd by the Foundling Hospital. Apprenticed 26 July 1769 to John Bedsforth, whitster of Staines, Middlesex. © Coram

The Foundling Museum in London has the largest surviving collection of everyday eighteenth-century textiles. It's rather poignant why they have such a collection, but really interesting none the less. In the eighteenth-century, if mothers found themselves in the desperate position of not being able to look after their children, they took them to The London Foundling Hospital in the hope of giving them a new start. In the case of over 4000 babies left at the Hospital between 1741 and 1760, a small token, usually a piece of fabric, was kept with the child's records by way of an identifier, should a mother ever return to reclaim her child. The Museum's current exhibition, Threads of Feeling, showcases a selection of these textile tokens.

'Flowered lining'. Copperplate print on linen. © Coram

Sometimes a mother would choose what to leave with her baby, but when no token was left, the Hospital's administrators would simply cut a scrap of fabric from the clothes the child was wearing when it arrived.

‘Striped Calimanker.’ Calimanco (a worsted fabrics) woven in stripes and figures. Foundling number 12956. © Coram

Threads of Feeling runs until 6th March 2011, but fear not if you can't get to London in time to see it...there's a permanent online exhibition that you can see from the comfort of your own armchair.

'A bunch of 4 ribbons narrow - Yellow, Blue, Green and Pink'. © Coram

Ribbons were often left with children as they had great symbolic meaning...of separation and parting. Having been tucked away in the Hospital's billet books (where all the children's records were bound and kept together), it's no wonder that the colours of these ribbons are still so vibrant!

'Sleeves red and white speckl'd linen turn'd up red spotted with white'. A baby's sleeve made from linen. © Coram

Sometimes a piece of the child's clothing was kept as a token, just like this sleeve. There are also a number of caps in the Museum's collection that were saved as tokens for some children admitted to the Hospital.

Installation of falling ribbons, created by Annabel Lewis of VV Rouleaux, as part of the Museum's exhibition.

It's not always possible to include everything in a magazine article due to copy deadlines and publication timescales. This was the case with the Curator's Talk early next month, so I promised the Museum I'd mention it here instead!

My article will be published in issue 27 of Sew Hip, but in the meantime, do have a look at the Threads of Feeling exhibition (either in person or online!)