Find out why I've started dressmaking...
So if you're into history at all this is a little bit cool.
Around 75 miles from where I was born, so in the same sort of region where I'm looking for ancestral inspiration, there's a place called Creswell Crags. It's one of the most northerly places to have been visited by ancient people (read: cavemen) and is full of artefacts, carvings and rock art - some of the most exciting in Europe.
The caves provided shelter to a group of nomadic people during the last Ice Age, between around 55,000 and 10,000 years ago. Are these my people? Maybe, maybe not. There's a strong chance some of them remained in the area, they'd been there for a long time after all...
"Stone, bone and ivory tools from the caves reveal Middle and Upper Palaeolithic occupation, in addition recently discovered 13,000 year old engraved rock art figures of deer, birds, bison, and horse. This evidence connects the Ice Age human cultures at Creswell Crags to groups across north-west Europe."
The rock art is beautiful, and I need to spend time having a closer look, their carving was so beautiful and refined...
Now that I know that my ancestors lived and died in the area where I was born since at least the Bronze Age, I've been trying to find examples of the things they used and the art they made.
It's not as easy as you'd think - there are a huge number of examples from Britain as a whole, but trying to find specific examples from one region (without a handy plane ticket and trip to the British Museum) is more difficult.
But what I have been able to find is pretty exciting - here's a complete beaker from the Early Bronze Age, that was found around 35kms from my home town:
We're back to that triangular pattern, this time with cross-hatching. I love how they've stuck to the pattern, and even carried it across to the handle.
There's also a sword with a very pretty handle:
And they seemed to have a thing for thick gold 'torcs', which are worn as kind of an oversized bangle around the neck. TBH they look like my kind of necklace ;)
I'll have a closer look at these next...
Ok not quite the start, but pretty close.
I was born in a place called Cleethorpes, it's on the North East coast of England and the closest town centre is Grimsby.
The town itself has been around since the Danes invaded in the 9th Century AD. There's evidence of a Roman settlement, but the area was always pretty marshy and it wasn't until the area was drained that the town could really take off.
The whole area was taken over by the Danes (AKA Vikings) around the same time, and that part of England became known as the Danelaw (see this excellent map for more details).
What does this mean for me?
Hard to say. I'm probably ethnically part Anglo-Saxon, part Viking. Pretty cool, hey? I'd tend towards the Viking/Danish theory because both my boys are redheads...
So this throws up some questions...
Do I just look for design inspiration from the place where I was born? Or do I travel further, and think about the places where my ancestors come from, both Anglo-Saxon and Viking?
Hmmm... this needs thought.
So here’s what I’m thinking…
I’m inspired by the connection the people around me in Far North Queensland have to their indigenous heritage and culture.
The art that’s being created here is unique and interesting and really reflective of their culture, but it still embraces what’s happening today, and reflects the feelings of their community.
I feel privileged to live in a place where I can witness first hand this spirit of creating and I've been inspired to think about my own heritage.
I come from the North East Coast of England, a little place that’s often cold, usually wet, green and very pretty. It’s also home to a lot of social problems including entrenched poverty and high rates of unemployment.
My family have lived in this part of the world for as long as anyone can remember, but I feel like I’ve lost sight of what it is that makes where I was born, and my heritage, unique and special.
How is it that I’m surrounded by a people with a deep understanding and connection to their past, with a living commitment to foster learning and development of this heritage, and yet I don’t really know what my version of my design history looks like?
What am I going to do about it?
Over the next little while I’m planning on exploring the patterns, stories, colours, crafts and history that are specific to the area where my family and I come from.
Once I have a better understanding of these patterns, I want to incorporate them into a body of work which explores and celebrates these ideas, and brings them into our contemporary age.
What does this mean for my quilting?
Not really sure yet. I imagine a body of quilts that draw on the unique design attributes of the region where I was born, and are inspired by more traditional forms of textiles that I grew up with.
Plus, I’ve got a hankering to make my own version of a double ring wedding quilt… so that might work its way in there somehow. Some excellent examples can be found on Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s website: http://vfwquilts.com/pages/quilts-collaborations
So stick with me - I'll show you how I build a body of work from start to finish. If you're just here for the pretty quilts then maybe keep checking in from time to time, but I'll also be sharing things I find out on this journey so be prepared for more than just textiles. And at the end? Hopefully something new and exciting I can share with you all :)
Thanks x x
I'm not really sewing much at the minute. There's a few reasons why; I'm working full time, still bringing up three little people, and feeling in general a bit down-in-the-dumps about it all.
But I started a little tiny project last week. Nothing huge. It'll never be a big project or amount to anything more than stress relief, but it's a project so I'm thankful all the same.
Here it is:
I've been thinking a fair bit lately about all the things I wish I'd said more often. Not necessarily to anyone in particular, just things I wish I'd had the courage to say more often when the situation warranted.
AND... I'm in love with rude needlework. Like this one:
So I dyed some fabric real pretty (because why not)
And then I stitched it, with some of the words I wish I'd said most in my life.
I've barely ever said this. Even though I should have done hundreds of times.
I said it again a week or so ago and it felt so good, especially when that person, in particular, had been talking over me for years.
There's more to come. But for now, it's making me feel a little bit better :) so I'll keep stitching.
Patterns are NOT my thing...
but every year Book Week rolls around, and I find myself scrounging around the internet for the most simple cape/jacket/dress pattern I can find.
This year I found some great cape patterns, but then made my own - and it's even more simple!!! Like seriously, you only need to cut once and sew two straight lines. IT COULD NOT BE EASIER.
Here's the pattern - it's FREE. Think of it as my gift to good pattern karma.
And here's one I made earlier:
On Friday night I had the pleasure of attending the opening of Annette's new exhibition at the Manly Art Gallery.
This is a great exhibition, I've not seen a great deal of older quilts in Australia, but (aside from my contribution) the quilts all come from different periods of conflict throughout history. Some of the best are 150 years old - and the workmanship and quality of the fabric is so good that they are as vibrant as ever. The techniques are remarkably similar to those we use now, and I thought the men (and occasionally women) who made the quilts had creative tips we could incorporate into quiltmaking today.
Many of the quilts used wool, in fact some of the earliest were created from boiled wool, which was so thick and durable the makers didn't use seams. I love using wool in my quilts, and seeing it used in such a powerful and colourful way was really inspirational.
The exhibition runs until 22nd November at the Manly Art Gallery in NSW, you can find out more about it here: http://www.manly.nsw.gov.au/attractions/gallery/current/war-time-quilts/
It was great to finish the Gallipoli Quilts, but boy did I make a mess getting them done in time! I have been studiously avoiding tackling the piles of fabric left over from the mental construction period, which were quickly stacked into boxes to keep out the dust.
I've been getting by as I'm super busy working on the Women in Defence quilts, each of which requires me to paint it's own fabric from scratch, but now I need to dig out the moth fabric I've had to tackle the mountain! Linc was a great help, keeping me company while the big two were at school.
And now everything is back in order, which is awesome because this week I received my first (super exciting!) order for a moth brooch! So I've dug out the beautiful moth fabric and I'll get stuck into making a few very soon. My client (who has exceptional taste) has requested a Helena Gum Moth, and aside from hers there will be a few others available; I need to work out how to set up an eshop so you can all get your hands on one!
If you’ve been following me on Facebook you might have seen a few posts about concrete lately. A few people have been asking why so I thought now might be a good time to explain what’s going on.
Firstly, I love quilts, but they are not the only way I work. When I was a kid I was much more interested in woodwork or hand needlework, and I only started making art quilts in 2012. Part of my uni course has been about branching out and trying new ways of working, and without these other experiments (like the painted paper collages) I wouldn’t be making quilts with paint the way I am now – each new method I learn informs the others.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about ways to work with textiles that are more sculptural, without resorting to wire frames or stuffed toys. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing people working with these mediums right now that I absolutely love (Barbara Franc and Mister Finch would be at the top of that list), but if anything that makes me more determined to find my own path.
I came across some work done by a UK company called the Tactility Factory which involved layering fabrics then casting them in a flat concrete base. Their work is amazing a beautiful, done primarily for an interior design aesthetic but still incredibly beautiful and clever. I’d already been working with concrete, trying to make bases for the moths, so I had to give combining the two a go.
The little concrete shapes are open to interpretation – but I see them as a combination of beauty and strength. Concrete and fabric are materials we see all around us all the time, so it’s interesting to see them used in a non-traditional way. The concrete mix I use is pure, literally just plain cement and a local fine sand which is dug up not far from where we live. I’ve use a few different types of moulds, but glass gives the shiniest and smoothest surface, which is what I’m looking for.
By using recycled glasses, bottles, vases and bowls I get to play with something which has been abandoned and give it a new life. The shapes are curvy and individual, and in many respects anonymous – they remind me of little female figurines like my Nanna had on her dresser, adored for their impracticality, fragility and their beauty.
So, I’m making quilts and casting concrete and happy with both :)
I had a great day yesterday in Brisbane! I haven't been since I was about 11, but luckily I had my trusty guides Sue and Ali to help me - and they both also joined me at the launch of the Queensland Regional Art Awards.
So after getting on a place at ridiculous O'clock I got into Brisbane super early and headed straight into town to the Galleries on Southbank. I had a good wander around the Queensland Art Gallery, there is a definite mix there and I had a few favourite pieces.
As you walk in, you pass a wall then you're hit by this amazing work by Michael Sailstorfer, Wolken (Clouds) 2010. It really does feel like you're standing under a foreboding thunderstorm, although it's actually made from truck inner tubes. On the far wall you can see the shiny star shape which is Epistrophy VI, 2012, by Timo Nasseri.
Epistrophy VI refers to symbols used in Islamic and Persian architecture, and it's composed of mirrored panels cut back into a wall - It's incredibly 3D and appears at first like a precious gem or crystal out from the wall until you get close to it.
Further into the Gallery I found a small room with a special exhibition of art commissioned following WWI. There were a few standout pieces, and I loved that in the middle of the room there were a selection of handmade commemorative lace doilies. It's a shame that they were unable to find out the owners or creators of the pieces.
After lunch we headed over to the GOMA, it seemed to have a bit less work but one room was filled with Japanese pieces. I think this was my favourite piece all day, Woods III, 1991-92 by Shigeo Toya. He's used a chainsaw to carve delicate patterns into the wooden columns, I think there were 30 in all and they had to be seen to be believed.
This little girl in pink had a great time weaving between them. Sue and I both agreed it reminded us of being under a pier, with all the knarly, barnacled wood.
We all loved this piece, it's two deer on top of each other, then covered with a clear resin. It's a bit confronting, as you can guess he's had to chop up and sew together the two taxidermy animals, but you can't see any joins and it's distorted so you don't realise it's two together straight away. You can actually see the fur through the larger spheres. The antlers were absolutely beautiful, jewel-like and delicate.
These ceramics are by Sara Tse, I like them because she has taken everyday items of clothing and dipped them in porcelain. The porcelain penetrates the fibres and forms an imprint as the original garment is destroyed during the firing process. I've seen work before in ceramics which has been created to mimic everyday objects, but I like how she has used the properties of fabric to create them, not just tried to duplicate them.
Ok, last photo - this was possibly my favourite piece from the QRAA exhibition, Breathe Life, 2014, by Kelly-Dee Knight. It's paper, cut into delicate shapes which resemble lungs as well as native flora. She's used pins to create depth, and having cut paper myself with an x-acto for the paper collages I can appreciate how much work has gone into this one. It reminded me a lot of Meredith Woolnough's work, she uses pins, native flora and white frames as well, and it's obviously a good combo as it looks brilliant with both paper and embroidered works.
I crashed Sue's date with her husband Bob after the exhibition and we watched Colin Firth find his fight-scene mojo in Kingsman before I headed home on my very late flight. Thanks so much to Ali and Sue for your company and support yesterday, it really meant a lot.
for the Queensland Regional Art Awards Exhibition Opening. I only get one day of freedom, but I'm really looking forward to a few things; I get to catch up with a few of my favourite textile people and check out the galleries, as well as attend the opening. The exhibition is on until the 28th Feb. http://www.flyingarts.org.au/X-QRAA-Vital-Signs-Archive-pg30164.html
Australia Wide Four is also on exhibition in Queanbeyan from next Tuesday. I have a soft spot for Queanbeyan, it's where Linc was born, and the Q is a great venue. You can check out the details here, and I'm super excited that they picked my quilt as the publicity image!
Linc has settled into his preschool and absolutely loves it, so I'm having a guilt-free day working on the templates for the Gallipoli panels as well as trying out some ideas for the creepy crawlies for the hospital commission! The quilts themselves are finished, but not bound or squared off yet, and I've got them rolled up until I'm ready to put the bugs on.
Please forgive me :) I've been crazy busy now that James is gone, I've been working on the commission and I've just started back on the Anzac quilt. I tend to post more photos to Facebook than on here, so if you want to see what I'm up to in 'real time' please like me here: https://www.facebook.com/LucyCarrollTextiles
While I'm pretty much fixed on the plan for the Anzac quilts, I've gone back to refine them a little bit for a different angle. Doing the work on the Women in Defence quilts has made me realise how much I enjoy portraying those intimate, personal, quiet moments rather than the grand, dramatic ones. I've ditched one or two quilts which were more about the 'glory of the Anzacs' and I'm replacing them with scenes which are taken from the images and drawings the soldiers made themselves; I'd been using a few of the staged photos taken towards the end of the campaign for reference but I've put them aside now.
I've also just found The Anzac Book and it's been fascinating! It was compiled from the stories, poems and sketches of the men who fought on the ground, and published as a 'Christmas Diversion' (kind of like a yearbook) - contributions were accepted in November and December 1915. The soldiers tell their own story, and the result is a brutally honest, compelling version of events. You can actually purchase your own copy from the Australian War Memorial, find it online here: https://www.awm.gov.au/shop/item/9781742231341/#.VMx9e41EjIU
There is also an online PDF version which I am using for now, hopefully I'll get my own hardcopy version someday: http://davidmhart.com/liberty/Documents/The_Anzac_Book1916.pdf
Over the last few weeks I've had a few ideas floating around which would need me to make more sculptural textiles. Which sounds good, but is actually a lot harder when I'm determined not to make works that resemble soft toys. My end goal is to make a body for the moths/bugs which would allow them to stand separately from the quilts (like the brooches) on a leg/body structure of resin/clay/concrete/wood/unknown. I've seen other artists working with resin and clay but I know very little about it; obviously the best way forward was to try it out. I'm a big fan of trial and error, you can plan all you like on paper but until you try to actually make something you have no real idea if it's going to work. This was more of a trial experiment but at least I've made a start!
I used a silicon baking tray as a mould, and poured a bottom layer of resin, which worked ok. Then I laid a few different types of textiles bits down and poured another layer on top. Has it worked? Kind of.
The tiny portion of cotton/paint collage down the bottom of the pic was a fail. It didn't stay put as I poured the resin, and it's gone a funny yellow colour.
The gauze, tulle and threads are much more interesting. They've settled throughout the resin, rather than being flat which gives them a 3D and unsupported appearance; which is really tricky to get with textiles. Normally everything needs to be stitched to keep it in place, here you still get the threads and the texture without the stitching. You can see them perfectly clearly, if anything they're shinier and clearer. I can see this as a sculpture/construct made of lots of layers, with fabric and threads in each layer and passing through the layers.
Unfortunately, I only have so many hours and a whole heap of work to do so I think this is probably the end of this experiment for the next little while, although James did point out that you can cast concrete the same way as you can cast resin...
On a more productive note, I've made the first cuts for the three bark quilts - layers one and two are done and I'm half way through layer three.
I found a new grey fabric, it's Italian Wool and very pretty to work with, it's a little lighter than the 2nd layer of Yellow Box, and it has a silver sheen so it should stand up nicely with the other fabrics. I've also found a copper silk which will work with the copper organza, both of them are incredibly yummy and soooo hard to cut up, but worth it :)
I may also have taken over the lounge room again. That new studio cannot come quick enough.
It's 2015! Already! Oh my golly! We spent the new year in Geelong with James's family on our annual pilgrimage.
We spent NYE as grown ups with James's sister and get husband on the pier.
We have had a great few days, catching up and going to familiar places, now we have a few days in Melbourne to do some 'big city' things with the kids.
We had a little while to wander this arvo and we ended up at fed square. We 'just happened' to find ourselves in the fed square portion of the National Gallery of Victoria, and there was a great section for the kids associated with Emily Floyd's exhibition.
I'd never seen her creations I the flesh before, they make much more sense as 3d sculptures. She has a focus on words, and she often makes works which are interactive - the kids had a great time in one of her installations playing with letters:
They had a great time, making words but also using the letters to make shapes and towers.
While the kids (and James) were so happily occupied I snuck across the corridor to the Robert Jacks retrospective.
His work was fantastic - geometric shapes and great use of colour. At the start there was a room filled with huge canvases which reminded me of patchwork quilts.
They all looked great, but I kept going back to this one; I love how most of the colours are neutral but he squeezes in rectangles of fluro orange.
He also made sculptures out of painted card, and the gallery had interspersed them with his paintings - together they worked really well and I feel like you got the 'full effect'. You can see them here on the right wall.
Off on more adventures tomorrow!
I'm one of those people who loves Christmas before the big day, but afterwards I can't get the tree down fat enough. So by about lunchtime on boxing day we were back to normal, which means I have enough room to get started on the three bark quilts!
I can't wait to get into the new house we are building; it will be brilliant to not have to take over the lounge room for every big project. I've got a room set aside in the new place for a studio, with a little courtyard next to it so I can paint and dye outside. Only a couple of months to go!
So the house is semi tidy and I'm getting things organized for the bark quilts. Thankfully I've already bought all the fabric I need, and it's the good stuff - silk, Italian wool suiting, cashmere, French linen. It's all beautiful to work with.
The blues and golds have come together nicely, it took me ages to find the right ones but I'm glad I spent the extra time getting it right.
i've managed to cut the bottom layer as one continuous piece for all three quilts, I'm curious to see how long it takes to do each layer for this much quilt!
This time of year is mental but in a good way! I've managed to squeeze in the odd bit of sewing around all the fun stuff - we headed to the beach for a few days with another family and I even managed to get something done there! I've been working on JM's Quilt - the quilt is finished now and I'm just doing the binding.
Since JM is finished (to all intents and purposes) I've headed back into moth/bark territory, and I've been making some 'practice' moths. I approached them a little differently, they are all about 15cm across, and they are made to be self-supporting, unlike the ones on the quilts which are sewn directly onto the quilts in parts.
I've made them as brooches, with a tiny felt 'stick' in the abdomen as a support, and copper antennae. The wings are a combination of hand-dyed felt, cashmere, Italian wool, silk and gold lame. Plus some other bits I've forgotten :)
They're handy to take travelling, as everything I need fits into a small box -
We got home from camping on Saturday just in time to meet my brother and sister in law (and little Maggie) who have all come to Cairns for Christmas - OMG this girl is gorgeous, she's so smiley and friendly and loves watching the big kids play.
So she's a bit distracting... not much sewing getting done this week!
Hope you're all having a good run-up to Christmas!
I've been powering ahead with JM's quilt, i finished the construction yesterday and I got started on the quilting this morning. I kept forgetting different parts like her beads or the gold knobbly bits on her glasses but we got there in the end.
And I got to start the quilting today, I always try to do the colours on top first to hold everything in place.
No matter what I do I have to go slowly, it's almost impossible to fix any mistakes since the fabric is unforgiving, so I have to try not to make any in the first place. I'm sticking mainly to echo quilting again, I want the quilting to accentuate not dominate. It's not a huge quilt so it's a lot quicker and easier to quilt; not so much folding to fit it through the machine to reach the middle. I'm looking forward to seeing this one finished!