Monday, 30 June 2014

Collar Piece: ANGIE HUGHES

Angie Hughes 'Trinity' detail

Angie Hughes
Noted for her bold use of colour and sumptuous use of materials such as velvets, layered organza, metallic threads & transfer foils, Angie's work also demonstrates a finely tuned aptitude for free motion embroidery, peppered with handstitch, rich in detail. Angie is based in the market town of Ledbury, Herefordshire, surrounded by beautiful, rolling countryside and close to the home of the Dymock poets. In such a setting it is little wonder that Angie draws inspiration from poetry, text and the natural world - plant forms being a recurring motif.
Angie Hughes 'Hung with Stars'
In addition to creating work for exhibition and to commission, Angie is in much demand across the UK and abroad as a knowledgable & inspiring tutor, generous with advice and technique tips. If you're lucky enough to secure a place on the Colouricious' Textile Holiday to India in April 2015, Angie will be a key tutor.

Found objects are not a usual choice of material for Angie's practice so how did inspiration strike and what direction did she choose to take with this tiny, white collar, one of the smallest in the project?
"When I started making this piece for the Group Gathering exhibition I had grand and highbrow ideas about dog collars, religion, hair shirts and guilt." Little cameo saints began to appear, free machined with a hint of gold thread. 
"I had started to make little saints after I'd researched the lives of saints looking for the really BAD ones with colourful stories, then my mum passed away."
 "This sort of brought a halt to proceedings but after the funeral I sat down and had a think about the project and decided to turn the saints into angels, though not religious mum had a spiritual side and she felt that there were guardians watching us. Mum also enjoyed a good portent like Halle’s comet, aliens, horoscopes, crystal skulls, spirits… she loved all that kind of stuff." 
Although predominantly stitched in black, shots of blue & purple thread have been added to the angels robes with handstitched gold highlights, enhanced with sequins and beads .
 "I decided to call my finished piece, 'Open Up Them Pearly Gates'. It is a magic collar with all the archangels, St Christopher, magic feathers and wings, shooting stars, a bee and a butterfly to help mum on to the next big adventure."
Gold foil transforms the 3d bee & butterfly

A handstitched smattering of gold stars
The words, 'Open up them pearly gates for the next big adventure', has been free machined onto the inside of the collar, punctuated by a 3d butterfly and a bee.
 A vibrant red heart with golden wings, stabbed with seed stitch adds the finishing touch to the front of the collar piece.   
For the exhibition Angie has taken the heart & angel collar motifs and recreated them as individual brooches for sale. 
Angie Hughes Finished Collar Piece: 'Open Up Them Pearly Gates'
A poignant & joyful piece of work 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Collar Piece: ALICE FOX

Alice Fox: Spurn Point
Alice Fox
Based near Bradford (where local architecture still resonates with it's former status as international centre for textile manufacturing in the 19th century), landscape and a sense of place are integral to Alice's work. The work is quiet & contemplative in nature, embodying a spirit rather than a direct represenation of the natural world. This sense of place is captured on fabric and paper using a variety of print and mark making techniques often using found items which rust and stain with fascinating effect.

"My work develops through layering up marks and textures, building up subtle surfaces that combine the textural qualities of textile and printmaking processes. I use found metal objects to make rust prints. I love the way these develop with a kind of alchemy: no two are the same. I set things up and watch them develop, responding to the marks that appear with further layers of print or the contoured lines of hand stitch. Found items, their identity often a mystery because of the action of the elements, are used in collagraph prints: specimens laid out for inspection. Marks are made on fabric; impressions are made on paper like imprints in wet sand."              www.alice

Alice Fox: 'Tide Marks' book detail

Integral to Alice's practice are the finds she makes - the found objects such as rusted lids, smooth edged beach plastic and ancient nails which provide a link to the place where they were discovered. How then would Alice feel about being presented with an object, the shirt collar, for which she had no connection with where it came from? Here is how she tackled the challenge:
"When it arrived I pinned the white collar to my studio wall for a good while before I considered what to do with it. I began by studying it as if it were some sort of specimen, investigating its make-up, structure and features. I drew it, photographed it, took prints from it and slowly took it apart, documenting the process. At each stage I took a print, initially blind embossing (putting it through the press with damp paper and no ink). The marks it made became slowly more ragged and dis-shevelled as the edges were un-done.
 It was so pristine and white that I daren’t mark it with ink initially, knowing that once I did there would be no going back. When I eventually plucked up the courage to do so, the prints it made have wonderful detail where the loose threads caught the ink. I've used found fabrics before for printing with and I love the marks I get from those rough edges. 

Once I'd deconstructed my collar and made those lovely print and embossings from it I had thought I would do some sort of collage/wall based piece from them. But then I started playing about with the prints and cutting them up and the stiffness of that paper was like the starchy collar and I found that these sections I'd made suggested pages. I experimented with the first book form, not knowing if the binding would work or be neat enough. It made this lovely curved form, like the curved collar and it just seemed right, so I continued.
Alice Fox: Book 1 in progress

I cut up two other prints and folded them into different shapes. The end result is three small book forms from my original prints. They can be opened and displayed in different ways, which I like.
Alice Fox Finished Collar Piece: Book 1

Alice Fox Finished Collar Piece: Book 1 detail

Alice Fox Finished Collar piece: Book 2
Alice Fox Finished Collar Piece: Book 2 detail

I have really enjoyed the process of this experiment. I wasn't sure at first how I would deal with someone else's 'object' as I am used to working with things I've found and that link to the place where I found them. I tried various things with my prints that didn't work but it is interesting to find a finishing point that I hadn't forseen - a proper journey!"

As part of the exhibition which accompanies the finished collar pieces there are two framed works on paper from Alice's original prints, which complement the books beautifully. This work is currently on show at the Shell House Gallery until 19th July 2014.
Alice Fox Finished Collar Piece: Book 3
Alice Fox Finished Collar Piece: Book 3 detail

Monday, 23 June 2014

Collar Piece: CATHY CULLIS

Cathy Cullis: 'Freedom to Dream'
Cathy Cullis is an artist & poet based in the South of England. She uses paint, drawing, stitch and words to create personal responses which explore memory, domestic spaces, landscape and abstract forms. Cathy's practice does not usually centre on using a 'found object', such as the blue shirt collar she was presented with last Autumn, favouring instead basic materials such as calico, time faded papers and gouache.
Her skill in free machine embroidery has a delicacy of detail which follows through into her painted work; her watercolours are imbued with atmosphere & fragility. 

Cathy Cullis: 'Lady Blackbird Jug with Spoon & Dark Vessel'

Here follows Cathy's response to the Shirt Collar challenge, how she tackled the piece and the final results:

"My starting point was a faded blue collar. It felt very stiff and masculine; various ideas came to mind, my main concern being the final piece would transform and make the collar 'my own work'.
I decided on a 'plan' - to use my sewing machine as a writing tool and write a personal text on the collar. From an early stage I decided to keep it as a collar. I was slightly anxious about the colour and how to make a piece that would have the right combination of fabric tone and thread. It was after some consideration that I threw the collar in a pan with red onion skins, simmered for a while and let it sit there for a weekend. I wanted to rid of the blue and make it something else - I knew that red onion skins would give a warm tan shade on cotton, so expected the collar to became tan, beige or possibly green. It became a warm pale tan, not a bad result. Indeed, once the colour had changed the colour began to feel more friendly. I trimmed the pointed edge of the collar and made it more rounded.
I wrote a short piece of text about my grandmother and how she always said she could not wear tight things around her neck - because "we are descended from the Huguenots and were all hung", to paraphrase. This has become part of our family folklore. So I wrote a little about that. It seemed apt and personal, without being too conceptual. Much of my work is about memory and women's lives in the past.

The stitched text reads:
“My Grandmother often said she could never wear tight things, bows or collars around her neck. She told me she was ascended from the Huguenots pronouncing in a strange French accent that our ancestors she alleged were hung for their beliefs and that was why she could not wear anything tight around her neck.  I remember Granny with a tissue tucked into her dress to protect it from face powder.”

It was not so important to me that the text me stand-out easy to read, so I avoided using the obvious: either a black or red thread. I felt red would offer perhaps the wrong connotations. Using a cream thread allowed the text to become more subtle, almost like surface design. The reverse of the text is especially pleasing and I left it exposed. I like seeing the reverse side of my stitch work, especially handwriting. The actual stitching was not as tricky as anticipated - I had considered the collar might be a little fiddly to handle. The texture and thickness was just right for working without a frame, which is what I always do. Unfortunately, in my eagerness I missed a word in the next early on - the word 'wear' and went back and wrote it above the line of writing, rather like anyone would if inserting an afterthought or forgotten word. This is, after all, handwriting without editing.
Finally, I added a button from my vintage collection, so that the collar could be done up as a display option."
Cathy Cullis Final Piece: ''My Grandmother Could Not Wear Tight Things Around Her Neck'

Thursday, 5 June 2014


Neatly wrapped in tissue & fine string, Alice Fox's collar piece arrived in three parts. Dainty parcels no larger than 12cm tall. It seemed almost a crime to open them...