Choose two internationally known textile artists whose work you find particularly inspiring. Describe their work, in term of materials, scale, colour, technique and imagery. Consider how the artist has used any of the elements listed to express the concepts behind their work.
I had the pleasure of meeting Sandra early last year during her teaching tour of Australia. I found her to be not only very talented but also a delightful person in herself. If you are not familiar with her work click here to visit her website or here for her blog.
This book was originally published in 2003 (paperback in 2005), has been reprinted several times and has been part of my collection for a number of years. Sandra has two other books: Creative Quilts, Inspiration Texture & Stitch and Connecting Art to Stitch, which is her most recent, published in 2009. She is currently working on another volume to be released in August this year.
Whilst I am not a quilter, Sandra’s work appeals to me on many levels.
Originally from Canada, she trained as a graphic artist and designer. Having moved to the UK she completed a Diploma in Stitched Textiles, fulfilling an early interest in an artistic approach using fabric and stitch. I, too, had a year of graphic art training and have found it to be an invaluable base for my textile designs and development. In her work I find a rhythm and flow, a seamless travel from one colour to another and uncluttered visuals that attract my attention.
The work she produces is largely abstract and she often includes photo-transferred images in some areas to unify and visually enhance both the theme and the colour scheme.
She discovered the textiles and clothing of the Caribou Inuit in Northern Canada and a fascination with the Arctic landscape. In the piece to the right you may be able to make out transferred images of dogs pulling a sled over the ice. The clever use of colour and tonal differences immediately brings to mind the frozen North – unlike the piece above left where the warmth of the sun is portrayed.
Her inspiration comes from many sources, and she covers this subject well in her book. She seems attracted to landscapes, buildings, architecture, forests and mainly outdoor material. I see a definite leaning towards the use of cooler colours and these reflect where her recent interest has been – ice and icebergs, glaciers and the Arctic landscape – although in her on-line gallery there are some warmer themed works.
She uses a wide variety of materials in her artworks including paper, paint, mixed media collage items, cloth, dyes, fabric paints and oil sticks, transfer dyes, photographs, plastics and a range of threads and yarns for the machine quilting and surface embellishment.
I am particularly fond of this piece (in the book the focal piece is centred) as it really represents containment to me. The use of rectangles, differently sized but all neatly packed together side-by-side with minimal linear separation, gives rise to many interpretations. Look down on any urban area and see our homes neatly arranged side by side with our fenced boundaries. The scale and repetition of the components here could be thought of as being how similar we all are but how we create slight differences to stand out as individuals. I’ve explored this idea in a previous post.
It could also represent how we compartmentalise our thoughts, different areas of our lives, our friends, our activities and so on or, to change the focus, how we are controlled and contained by society, morals, social standing, the media, the police, the government:
“Do as you are told, don’t stray outside the boundaries, don’t draw attention to yourself, keep your thoughts to yourself, don’t touch anyone, don’t interfere outside your own space, don’t make waves, walk when the light is green, stop when it is red ……….. and definitely don’t think too much as you may be tempted to break out of the mould.”
I have two books by Sarah Lawrence, my most recent acquisition being Stitch, Cloth, Shimmer & Shine.
It was definitely not the cover that attracted me to this purchase as blue is my least favourite colour and this particular blue is quite dull and unexciting. However, owning another book by Sarah meant that I knew how accomplished she is.
This is an artist who I feel has evolved enormously since the early 2000’s. Her work has become more and more individual and her understanding of surface cohesion using both machine and hand stitching gives her work a marvellous unity.
When looking for inspiration she concentrates on patterns rather than landscapes or portraits and, in the main, this book is centred around circular motifs and their integration into bigger artworks. Being a huge fan of circles myself, and having played with many over the years, I find her process very stimulating and end results quite outstanding. She often finds that colours and layering processes deliver a piece.
She also works extensively with raised surfaces and textural elements and incorporates metals, wire, mica, stitching, cords, distorted fabric, beads, yarns, Friendly Plastic, hooks & eyes, zippers and more.
Her base fabric may be treated by using many colouring agents including wax crayons, metal leaf, gilding waxes, inkpads, coloured Vliesofix, foils, fabric paint, solvent markers, etc..
She often concentrates on a single definite colour on a piece and this dominates whatever else is used to embellish. This reduced colour palette seems to give her work a very dynamic feel.
There is a lot of repetition of both shape and size and none of her work that I have seen has a single focal point, instead she seems more inclined to scatter or group items of interest over large sections.
An interesting quote by Sarah, inside the front cover of this book, reads “The context of my work in relation to other crafts is its reliance on the understanding of good craft practices and sound design principles. My work is meant to delight the eye rather than to tax the brain analysing it”.
That is just what it does, it delights the eye, it grabs attention and it shimmers and shines just as the book title promises.
When asked for advice she is quoted as saying “You should enjoy what you create – life is too short to do things that aggravate the artist’s soul” Life certainly is too short – sadly, Sarah Lawrence passed away quite suddenly late last year.
Sandra Meech, Contemporary Quilts, Design, Surface & Stitch, BT Batsford London 2003 – Reprinted 2004 (twice) & 2005.
Photographs reproduced with kind permission from Sandra Meech.
Sarah Lawrence, Stitch Cloth, Shimmer & Shine, Search Press, Tunbridge Wells, UK 2012
Photographs reproduced with kind permission from Search Press regarding images of work by Sarah Lawrence.