Friday, 28 February 2014

Cottoning On

As my training at the Royal School of Needlework progresses, I'm finding that some embroidery techniques take a little longer to get the hang of than others. Right from the offset of my blackwork, I felt completely at ease and enraptured by the medium. Silk shading has been a little more counter-intuitive, and it took 'til at least halfway through the project for me to get to grips with the smooth shading required. So the final result isn't perfect, but I am still pretty happy with it, and I'm raring to do another! I think I'd like to do a silk shaded milk thistle for artist's book #3...

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Frayed: Textiles on the Edge at the Time and Tide Museum

An excerpt from Lorina Bulwer's stitched letters

Every now and then, you go to an exhibition that speaks to you on such a personal level it seems tailor made for you. It was that way for me with an exhibition of feminist art at the Ben Uri Gallery in 2012, and it was that way with the Frayed exhibition I went to see at the Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth last Saturday.

The exhibition centred around how stitched artworks could act as personal testament, salvation, or therapy. Large swathes of the text accompanying the exhibition could have been lifted directly from my dissertation.

Stitching began as therapy for me; a way of busying my hands so my mind could work things out, and heal. Consequently, many of the art works in the exhibition were very relatable, a couple almost painfully so.

Elizabeth Parker's sampler

I got to see one of my favourite pieces of stitch ever (which I'd studied during my degree) up close, and read every word of it. This huge sampler of blood red text sewn on to minuscule canvas was stitched by Elizabeth Parker, a young woman who lived in the 19th Century. Elizabeth begins her stitched text with the paradoxical phrase "As I cannot write"; she hoped that she would learn to write with a pen, but for the time being she could only stitch her story. And what a story; born into an impoverished family who gave her everything allowed by their limited means, abused (and even thrown down the stairs) by her former employers, Elizabeth wrangled with suicidal urges and their impact on her immortal soul. As the part-confession, part-testament continues, it moves from autobiography to prayer to desperate, uncertain plea to God, to anybody who can save her from herself and her "sins". Hauntingly, Elizabeth's sampler ends with the words "What will become of my soul?"

 Elizabeth's story ends happily, however; the blurb that accompanied the sampler told us that she lived to the grand old age of 76, and presumably accomplished her dream of learning to write, as she became a teacher in a village school. I found it heartening that Elizabeth's story reaffirms that people who struggle with mental health issues can live full, long, productive lives; that there is redemption, and that the meditative, contemplative, suturing act of embroidery can help lead to this; we can stitch ourselves back together again.

Quilts created by prisoners, in the 1800s and now
A section from one of Lorina Bulwer's stitched letters

The exhibition included examples of textiles created by individuals who had suffered many different forms of psychic blows; from kits worked by soldiers convalescing in the wake of the Second World War, to a quilt created by female prisoners under the guidance of Elizabeth Fry, to pieces created as part of a mourning process, to perhaps the most startling items in the exhibition, a series of embroidered letters painstakingly pieced together out of scraps and rags by a resident of a lunatic ward (as it was then known) of Great Yarmouth Workhouse at the turn of the 20th century. It is not clear whether this woman, Lorina Bulwer, came to the workhouse because of her mental health problems, or developed mental health problems through coming to the workhouse. Either way, I doubt her environment could have helped, and she was certainly not a well woman; in one of her extraordinary, cathartic, stream of consciousness, unsettling letters, she announces that she is the illegitimate daughter of Queen Victoria; in another she is obsessively preoccupied with hermaphrodites and Socialists, and the "ills" they have supposedly brought her.

Further excerpts from Lorina Bulwer's densely stitched letters
Her letters and her story make me glad to be alive now, when mental health issues are so much better understood and sympathised with. However, despite the hardships Lorina endured, whether at the hands of the state or her own mind turning against her, her letters have survived, and once seen, cannot be forgotten. However fragile and irrational Lorina was, I wager she was quite a tough woman, and disturbing as her stitched letters may be, they are a testament to her irrepressible spirit.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fascinating blog which can be read here.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

A Poesie Grenadine interview in Cross Stitcher Magazine

After months of waiting, I can finally share with you all something I've been longing to; an interview in Cross Stitcher Magazine's February issue on my work.

Isn't it funny how these things come along at just the right time? When I was contacted by Cross Stitcher, I was feeling down in the dumps about my life as an artist and my future. The interview really bolstered my confidence and helped me take stock of all the wonderful things happening in my life. It even helped me articulate why I make art; to reach out to others, to spin yarns rich with living history, to connect myself to a lineage of needlewomen across the ages. It was a real blessing, and I'm very grateful to the good people at Cross Stitcher for getting in touch. ♥  

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Satan's Mushroom in progress

My Boletus Satanas silk shaded mushroom is a few days away from finished. I'm not quite as enamoured with silk shading as I was with my blackwork; I don't feel I've "got" the technique yet, but I suppose it's very difficult to in such a short space of time. I do love the subject and colours though, I just wish they were a bit, well, silkier! All silk shaded RSN Certificate pieces must include a turnover in a flower petal or leaf, so I've included a vivid green oak leaf at the base of the mushroom, and that certainly has quite a sheen so far.

After my silk shading is complete, I'll be doing a six week module in the RSN studio. During that time, I'll be sampling beadwork techniques, which I will share here. Then it's on to gold work, the design for which is forming in my mind, and involves, er, crying... as so much of my previous work has done!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

"Need-le" Valentine?

If you're a loather of Valentine's Day, look away now. Mine and Pip's involved baking, bathing, and braving the wind and rain to do the twist at a Northern Soul night. We really go for it every year and attempt to make at least one example of heart-shaped food.

White chocolate and raspberry (and fluorescent pink!) heart shaped cookies

Pie, the most romantic of Valentine's meals
We also indulged in a sloe gin and rose lemonade or two... and of course, I squeezed in some stitching!

Over the years I've developed a (perhaps slightly worrying) penchant for mid-century Valentine's cards. The crapper the pun, the better. So when I stumbled across a lot of 43 from one of my favourite vintage dress shops on Etsy, I knew that I had to snap them up, whether they were destined for a feature wall in my future 50s kitsch home, or a crafting project. The card below (which incidentally may win the prize for crappest pun of the lot) has sealed the deal; I'm going to create something crafty, and a real departure/new challenge for me out of the cards.

Time permitting around my RSN commitments, I should be sharing the results here in the not-too-distant future. I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day, whether you shared it with a sweetheart or said "Bah, humbug" to the whole thing.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The long and short of it

My Boletus Satanas (or Devil's Mushroom, to you and I) silk shading is underway. And despite approaching silk shading with some trepidation, I am rather enjoying it. It really is like painting with needle and thread, blending all those long and short stitches together...

Such rich magentas and burgundy, blending to apricot and ghastly green tones... it really is quite a ghoulish mushroom!

The stalk is almost finished, and then I'll be moving on to the slimey, shiny cap, which may prove a challenge, although if it didn't, what would I be learning? Fingers crossed I continue to enjoy the process and am satisfied with the end result.

Monday, 10 February 2014


Celia Johnson (and her backside) were featured on the Mr X Stitch website on Saturday! And what's more, Leigh of LeighLaLovesYou who curates the Stitchgasm feature described Celia as "flawless"! Now, I know that isn't true, but I'll take a stitchy compliment when I get it! Thanks so much, Leigh!

Celia Johnson by Posie Grenadine

Celia Johnson by Posie Grenadine

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Ghoul Guides

Back in September I bought myself a 50s Girl Scouts uniform with the intention of covering it in handsewn patches that were gathering dust in a ruby slipper sparkly box on a shelf in my room.

These patches were made by fellow artists and crafters, or "crafty babes" as we say on Tumblr. They include patches by Hanecdote, Milk Lake, and Dany Reede. Hanecdote is the Etsy alias of my dear friend Hannah Hill, who has vowed to create an "international club where it is now your duty to kick butt with sass and attitude" through her Ghoul Guides patches. Hannah creates dozens of designs from the cute to the saucy, stitching up alternative merit badges to be worn with pride. And, fingers crossed, she should be re-opening her wildly successful Etsy shop today!

Milk Lake is Rachel Parent, lover of growing her own and gardening, folk art, music and culture, and Joanna Newsom. Her hand-stitched wall art and patches are so charming in their soft tones and floral patterns; she puts a lot of detail into each piece and each stitch. As she's such a Joanna Newsom aficionado, I just had to commission her to make me a "poetaster" patch, which is displayed close to my heart on my dress. I consider myself something of a poetaster; not a master poet, by any means!

Next to my poetaster patch is a Girl Scouts Walthamstow Division vintage badge. I had to pay homage to my hometown somewhere!

I think this is my favourite Hanecdote patch. So punny.

Dany Reede makes a whole plethora of art, from painting and drawing to printmaking. He also makes the sweetest of broken hearted hand and machine embroidered naive patches. The "Lonely Hearts" one in particular is inspiring me, with my obsession with moons, paper or otherwise.

Thanks to Katrina Bautista for pictures. I will wear my Ghoul Guides dress with pride, and try to do Hannah proud too by kicking butt with as much sass as possible!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Radical Ma'am

My addiction to lino printing rages on, with many trips to Hobbycraft to satisfy my cravings. This latest print is based on an embroidery I did a couple of years ago.

 Now for sale in the Poesie Grenadine Etsy shop for £5. I shall be adding some more vintage threads to the shop tomorrow.