Thursday, 4 December 2014

Finding Inspiration: Mariette Voke

c.Mariette Voke

There's a certain pleasure which comes from finding small, almost inconsequential, everyday objects, which have been demoted to 'junk' over the passage of time yet give a glimpse of social history past. For example, the discovery of the 'Daphne Bryant' name tapes and all of the questions such a find poses.
The frisson of such a vintage find is one which often captures the imagination of Mariette Voke and accordingly makes it's way into her paintings.

"An awful lot of my paintings depict fabric, lettering, or both and I’m always looking for ways to get little bits of text into my pictures. Coat hangers are great for almost unnoticeably sneaking in a few words, clues to the meanings and origins of the paintings. I’m very happy when I find fabric with words on it, and one of my favourites are woven name tapes, they’re a perfect combination of lettering, fabrics and personal history brought together in something tiny, precious and individual. I’m looking forward to painting name tapes in the A Group Gathering  project which I’ll be working on between now and the spring. I had such a rush of ideas late last night, I had to jump out the bath and find a pencil!"  "
Mariette Voke December 2014

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Finding Inspiration: Tamsin Abbott

c.Tamsin Abbott
Almost two months have passed since the project artists were given their single, pale glove. For all concerned this is a period of contemplation about how to handle the challenge. Many have expressed the intention of putting their thoughts on hold until the New Year to allow other projects to conclude, while for a few, inspiration has struck when least expected.   
Here's a chance find which recently presented itself to Tamsin Abbott on Ebay, a 1927 Girl Guide diary where the name Daphne would not be out of place perhaps. Full of gems about the authors daily life such as, "We're in the middle of a quarrel with George.", this isn't an object or subject which would usually inspire Tamsin's work in stained glass. It will therefore be fascinating to see how, if, this find will work it's way into Tamsin's final glove piece.


Monday, 1 December 2014


c. Sharon Hall Shipp

Group Gathering artist Sharon Hall Shipp is one of 80 artists from across England to be commissioned by art organisation, Woolgather, to make a limited edition artwork for it's Vend project. The challenge of this commission has been to make work in quantity and of a suitable size to fit into a small plastic ball. These small pieces of art will be available to buy via vending machines this month for the princely sum of £1!
"Woolgather have commissioned new works from artists across the UK and are using vending machines to provide a platform for their practice whilst also developing an audience and consumer for the works. Art Vend offers people an art experience amongst everyday life, by placing the machines in public venues such as shopping centres, bars, cafes and at public events, the hope is to maximise the chance of reaching people who may not usually engage with the arts. Ultimately the aim is that the product received will provide a more satisfactory or challenging reward than the standard interaction with a vending machine whilst offering an open door to a contemporary art scene."
Sharon Hall Shipp " I made 150 unique tiles, each numbered using sections of maps and on the reverse a piece of random book text with a word selected. All together in sequence the words make up a story about Tom (one of the books was Tom Sawyer) and Zuma (another book was Montezuma's Daughter). Each tile is presented in a handmade momigami paper envelope."

If you'd like to see the work created by Sharon and her project contemporaries it will be displayed together for a short period from Saturday 6th December. Thereafter you will find them in the Woolgather vending machines across Leeds.
Venue: 15-17 Duncan Street, Leeds, LS1 6DQ (opposite Corn Exchange)
6th-21st December 2014 12pm-6pm
Photo: Jess Rowbottom

Friday, 21 November 2014

She Was Cooking Something Up

Copyright Caren Garfen
This weekend you can see Group Gathering artist, Caren Garfen's latest installation piece, 'She Was Cooking Something Up', at the Knitting & Stitching Show at the Harrogate International Centre. The exhibition closes on Sunday 23rd November 2014. Further details can be found on the event website HERE

Look out for 2014 Group Gathering artist Alice Fox who will also be taking part in this event as an Artist in Action.

Friday, 10 October 2014

The Project Brief 2015

Back in 2013 when the project invitations were extended to the first Group Gathering artists (the Shirt Collar Project) they were also given a brief and told about the base material they would be working with. From this they could make an informed decision about whether to take part or not. The 2015 project artists were not given this luxury - the invited artists agreed to take part without knowing what was going to be asked of them. A brave bunch.  

This week they found out.

Each artist received a small parcel of items and the following instructions: 

"In your parcel you will find a single, pale glove and some Cash’s woven name tapes. This is the base material to be used in a piece of artwork made by you as a participating member of the 2015 Group Gathering project.

There is a partner to your glove which has been given to another of the project artists. At the end of the project the glove pieces will be reunited in an exhibition.  At this point you don’t know who your glove partner artist is. This is to give you free reign in what you choose to do with your glove and name tapes.
The final glove piece can be 2d or 3d. It doesn’t have to remain as a glove, it can be ripped or deconstructed, it can be used in conjunction with any additional materials you choose. Any medium goes; dye, paint, stain, rivet, stitch, print…
The gloves being used in the project have all been pre-used. They have been washed to freshen them but no attempt has been made to remove any stains or marks. 

The Daphne Bryant name tapes were found in a junkshop in North Herefordshire in their original, possibly 1930’s, box. The box has ‘Daph’ written in pen across it. Some other items belonging to Daphne were also found which indicated that Bryant was her maiden name. It is up to you whether you choose to be influenced by this information.

The deadline for making your piece is 30th April 2015 "

Daphne's Glove.
The artists have just over six months preparation and making time.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

'Names From a Hat'

The invitations were extended, accepted and thus a group waited patiently for further instruction...
"Once the group was established, chance had a part to play in the next step of the process. The 2015 challenge involves the artists being put into pairs so rather than over thinking which artist should be paired with whom, I decided that this should be left to fate; the artist's names were put into a bowl and pulled out randomly in twos. Initially the artists won't know who they have been partnered with but it is likely to become apparent as the project develops. This could mean that the artist and the public discover this at the same time.
I'm now in a position to match the artist pairing with the base challenge materials."   
Kathleen Murphy
This week each participating artist was sent a small, tissue wrapped parcel with the material basis for 2015's challenge contained within.   

Monday, 6 October 2014

The 2015 Group Gathering Artists

Work details from: Sharon Hall Shipp, Christine Kelly, Kathleen Murphy

The 2015 Group Gathering project, Daphne's Glove, will involve twelve British artists from across England, Wales & Scotland, and are as follows:

Jeanette McCulloch

Mariette Voke

Click HERE to see a cross section of the artists work on Pinterest

Sunday, 5 October 2014

A Tough Act to Follow

"Over a year has passed since the first Group Gathering artists were 'gathered' and briefed on the Shirt Collar Project. 
In the Summer of 2013 I had only met 2-3 of the invited artists in person. This was due to the fact that my contact with the individual group members was formed largely through social media. Yet, the invited group bravely took a chance and went with my project idea, thus kick starting 'A Group Gathering. Not only did they agree to take part in The Shirt Collar Project but they actually saw the challenge through to the end, creating a super body of work. It has been a pleasure and a priviledge getting to know the artists and their work in person as a result. I'd like to take this chance to publicly thank all of the 2014 Group Gathering artists - you rose to the challenge with aplomb and you will be a tough act to follow."
Kathleen Murphy

For those of you who didn't get to see the finished collar pieces in person this Summer, it is hoped that they will go on display again in 2015.
News of A Group Gathering's 2015 project is about to follow...

Friday, 5 September 2014

Herefordshire Art Week 2014

Angie Hughes: 'Open Up Them Pearly Gates'
If you happen to be in the Herefordshire area over the next nine days you will have the opportunity to see two of the project collars again. Herefordshire based artists Angie Hughes & Kathleen Murphy will both be taking part in Herefordshire's annual arts & crafts festival, H.Art, this month and will have their collar pieces on display along with a selection of other newly made work.
Angie Hughes is opening up her studio space for the festival (Venue 35) and Kathleen Murphy will be one of ten artists exhibiting at Trumpet Corner Art Studios & Tearooms (Venue 28). Both venues are in or close to Ledbury town. 
For more information please click on the LINK where you will also find a 2014 guide to download. 

H.Art 6th - 14th September 2014

Kathleen Murphy: 'Friendly Fire'

Saturday, 19 July 2014


Last day of the exhibition at the Shell House Gallery today, closing at 5pm.
Details of where you can next see the collars will be posted accordingly and plans for next year's project are now in hand. 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Collar Piece: Kathleen Murphy

Kathleen Murphy: Silva Populi woodland folk
Also known by the name, Murgatroyd & Bean, Herefordshire based artist Kathleen Murphy, creates colourful, textile curiosities which are boldly hand stitched with a story to tell. These one-off pieces are inspired by Kathleen's interest in folklore & fairtales, using her needle & thread to create her own mythologies in fabric, stitch and found objects.
Her work is identified by a strong sense of narrative and through it’s application of colour, texture and use of reclaimed fabrics. The patina found on these materials add their own dimension to the final piece. A lot of the fabrics used have been previously disgarded or are given to Kathleen, scraps of cloth, twigs, ends of wool, by people who say, 'I saw this and thought of you'. This 'passing on' of materials chosen by someone else plays an important part, a challenge to work within, in Kathleen's work. 
The root of the Shirt Collar Project has been based on this principle - challenging other artists to work within the boundary of using a material chosen by someone else.
Kathleen Murphy
Kathleen Murphy
"Once I had distributed the collars to the project artists I claimed what was left as my own - a pale blue one. I knew from the beginning that I didn't want the collar to be a wearable piece and the idea of making a colourful bird suspended in air was forming (inspired by the much-laundered curl of the collar). 
Progress took an unexpected turn during my initial research. In March of this year I wrote of my discovery of the origin of the blue collars (see HERE), they were in fact made by Van Heusen for the RAF up until the 1960’s, in the latter years used by ground crew only." 
"I discovered that during WWII these collars were especially unpopular with RAF pilots. Not only were these heavily starched collars uncomfortable, chaffing on the neck when repeatedly looking up during flight, but they also had the unfortunate ability to contract when wet.  If a pilot was shot down into the sea with his shirt collar buttoned as dress regulations stipulated, there was a very real chance that the pilot wouldn’t drown but be tragically strangled by his own uniform. The popular image of a WWII pilot in a silk scarf or polo neck arose out of a need for comfort & warmth but also to hide the fact that their top buttons were undone.
While scouring the internet for the possibility of a personal testimony about these facts I came across the following arresting image of Squadron Leader Brian 'Sandy' Lane on a reflective blogpost by a contemporay RAF airman HERE."
September 1940: Squadron Leader Brian 'Sandy' Lane (centre) aged 23 at Fowlmere nr Duxford c/o Imperial War Museum
"A mere 23 when this photograph was taken and fresh from landing his plane during the Battle of Britain in 1940, I couldn't get this image of Brian Lane or the thought of those drowning pilots out of my mind. My original idea for a colourful, carefree bird was replaced with this sense of loss. Of a bird of peace being killed through friendly fire.  Thus the collar was no longer going to be the bird but the shackle around it's neck. "
Friendly Fire: noun. Weapon fire coming from one's own side that causes accidental injury or death to one's own forces. 
Oxford English Dictionary
"The body of the bird was made from a very old piece of linen onto which bandage type strips were hand stitched. Originally, white linen was going to be used for the bird but it looked too clean. It was replaced by a fabric which I had stained & rusted whilst on a course with Alice Fox. It was very pleasing to be able to make this connection in the piece with a fellow project member."
"I experimented with using thin plastic (from milk cartons) to strengthen beak, body & tail."

"The layers of stiffening fabric on the collar made it incredibly difficult to pierce with a needle. Attaching the collar to the bird took some time and would have been impossible without the help of pliers!"
"I no longer wanted the bird to be suspended but rather to be at rest. The final piece incorporates a box frame in which the bird lies on a funereal pillow of blue stained silk. The stains were made with watercolour and are accompanied by small drifts of seed stitch." 
"A small olive branch was made from wool felt and an acorn stalk wrapped in thread (from a collection of acorns given to me by Christine Kelly)."
The wire feet were wrapped in crewel wool. The wing & tail feathers are hand embroidered.

The Van Heusen logo remains prominent next to the birds head.
'Friendly Fire'

In situ at Shell House Gallery. Thank you to Gentlework for use of image.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Collar Piece: Viv Sliwka

Viv Sliwka's work is characterised by an exuberance of detail created with bright splashes of stitched & painted colour on time faded fabrics & papers. Handstitched coton-a-broder threads become stalks, flowers or loose-limbed knots covering the surface of vintage scraps of patchwork, enriched with red threaded buttons and handprinted motifs. Of course to many, including her huge online following, Viv is better known by the name Hens Teeth.
Viv's passion for vintage textiles, haberdashery and paper ephemera is clear. This marriage of materials is described on Viv's CV as, 'A celebration of the decorative union of transient snippets from the past'. It raises these textile scraps from obscurity to a happy, decorative place.
Viv's work is populated with figures and creatures such as dogs, rabbits and donkeys so for this reason the only white collar to be stamped with the Old England brand lion motif was given to her. The Old England brand was established in the 1890's and became the official shirt makers to the British army during the Boer war. By 1957 the company was rebranded as Peter England, a name we're more familiar with today, and the lion logo went through a series of design changes. By coincidence Viv discovered that she had a card of Old England spare buttons in her collection with a matching lion motif so it seemed that the collar pairing was meant to be! 

Viv has utilised as much of the original collar as possible without the desire to maintain the collar shape. One of only two collars in the project to be deconstructed, Alice Fox's piece being the other. Viv has combined her collar pieces with a background patchwork of fabrics in her identifiable style which show the discoloration and fraying of age. The apearance of age is further enhanced with the use of tea staining on the collar wing tip above. 

Although no longer collar shaped, references to it's original function are many - from the white collar stud to the button hole edging. Fortuitously, Viv found a vintage collar box which she used as both structure and backdrop - the original box remains visible and unchanged on the reverse of the finished piece.
Hand painted bees & hearts of miniscule proportions are recurring motifs for Viv. If you have the opportunity to see this collar piece in person you can have fun trying to find the six tiny bees flying about on it!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Collar Piece: Anya Keeley

Anya Keeley: 'William' from Dark Tales exhibition Llantarnam Grange 2014

A creator and curator of curious creatures & whimsical wonders, Anya Keeley creates one-off contemporary artefacts using found objects and reclaimed materials. Imagined flummeries a Victorian explorer might encounter on his travels to far off shores which he would bring home and display in vitrines and mahogany cabinets. 
Anya is based in Herefordshire which no doubt flavours her inspiration and curiosity about the natural world and her love of nursery rhymes and fairy tales - it's a county rich in folklore. Her workshop is packed with finds such as animal bones, vintage kitchenalia and sugar tongs and Oxo tins crammed with collected words & phrases which may one day find themselves in a piece of work.
Anya's clever use of found objects is drawn together through her wire working techniques (usually brass or iron wire is used). One such method is to create a metal skeleton onto which a skin of vintage card or papier mache is applied. For such a solid material Anya's use of wire often has an unexpected delicacy which shows in her finished collar piece.
Anya Keeley
Unlike the other project artists, Anya doesn't use any textiles in her work - although textile 'ephemera' such as buttons & darning mushrooms do find a place now and then.
The final collar piece shows no evidence of this textile object being out of place alongside Anya's usual materials of choice. There is no stumbling over the 'male' connotations of this collar. The blue collar has been treated as a flat plane - it's colour & texture forming the impression, and essence, of sea water on which the tale of The Missing Ship rests. The lettering on the collar could be forgotten words which have found their way out to sea only to settle on on the seabed amidst the stories of shipwrecks. This unadulterated blue collar has been transformed into a platform for explorations and adventuring to take place!

An imaginary sky is punctuated with mother-of-pearl moon & stars held by skinny spindles of wire.

"The Missing Ship
Drifting along in the pale moonlight
On the murmuring waves
The Ship
All is lost"
A boat fashioned from a wooden spoon, a spatula end and a French cent porthole.

A daisy of wire forms the rudder.
A sea of collar anchored onto driftwood by a pearly button and a musical score.

Anya keeley on

Monday, 7 July 2014

Collar Piece: Jenny McCabe

Jenny McCabe: Hand screened bear print
Based in Lancaster, Jenny McCabe designs and prints home wares and accessories under the business name Coo & Co.
Jenny has a background in fine art but her printing skills and techniques have been largely self taught through a process of experimentation. I first encountered Jenny's work through her early 'Yarn Soup' blog which recorded her endeavours with print, machine stitch and natural dyes. Since then Jenny's creative path has led to establishing Coo & Co and the publication of two books on printing, including 'The Handprinted Home' which was published earlier this year by Cico Books.
A sense of environment and our place in it features strongly in Jenny's creative ethos. Each item Jenny makes is handprinted using eco-friendly materials such as water soluable inks, vintage papers and recycled fabrics where possible (for example, her white cotton is recycled sheeting from the hotel industry). Jenny, therefore, wasn't going to be daunted by the suggestion of creating a piece of work from a vintage shirt collar.

Jenny's collar piece is a combination of techniques familiar to her. Inspired by happy times, family stories & childhood holidays, Jenny's collar has been transformed by using free machine embroidery and transfer printing techniques. It incorporates family & found photo’s combined with pieces of text from old books and colourful scraps of paper map. Images have been printed onto, and layered, with gauzy muslin. It has been decorated inside & out. Little flashes of the original RAF blue collar can be glimpsed through the muslin and at the button hole fastening. The resulting collar is still a very wearable piece.