Study Visit – Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show 2016

Study Visit:  The Knitting and Stitching Show 2016 Harrogate

I teach at this event every year, thus I am able to visit the stalls and exhibitions also and really get a feel of the show over the four days.  I will document only what I feel applies to my work at present, or which will help me to grow:


The Embroiderers’ Guild had a large gallery this year.  In it, one of their graduates had displayed some rather unusual items.  Her point of study was hospitals in Victorian times.  Thus the pieces she created were time worthy of this.  She used Victorian and vintage clothing…this is what the Embroiderers Guild say about her:

Embroiderers’ Guild Over 30s Scholar 2016/2017 – Amanda Woollard

Amanda Woollard is our new Over 30’s Scholar 2016/17. She lives in Yorkshire and graduated from Bradford School of Arts and Media in 2015; gaining a First Class Honours BA in Contemporary Surface Design and Textiles.

Amanda is interested in mental health and rehabilitation and wants to develop her degree work in relation to this. Since finishing her degree, she has worked voluntarily with young adults with learning difficulties and finds it very rewarding to watch their strengths developed through the media of print and embroidery.
Whilst researching for her final dissertation, Amanda visited the Mental Health Museum; where she came across beautiful samplers embroidered by Mary; a patient at the West Riding Pauper and Lunatic Asylum. This led her on a voyage of discovery, where she learnt about life in the asylum, including treatments and political views from the early 19th century. Mary was confined against her will and chose the medium of embroidery as her voice. She embroidered notes into the insides of clothing belonging to other patients; collected scraps of fabric to leave notes for the nurses and embroidered her political views and her resentment in to samplers.

I was particualery interested in the meaning behind the mounting. I was able to chat to the artist herself and ask a few questions, here are her answers:

What material have you used to work with?

I use old hospital gowns and even bandages from the time period.  All authentic.

What technique has been used on the piece left, to make such a good lace impression?

I battered ink through lace using a screen for definition and black ink.

What do the marks and red stitching patterns represent?

They symbolise blood and the marks that happen when mentaily ill.  They may be phyical or emotional, scars.

I love the way you have laced the large piece, does it symbolise anything?

My theme was to do with mental health and restraint.  Thus this body of work was sympathetically mounted using a straining technique, to represent the inability for some patients to move, or be allowed to move.

I love your display boxes, I imagine you made these yourself?

No.  Tkmaxx!

I connected with this artist, as I understood her work and could identify with the themes and techniques used.  I have tried the lace and screen print ink method in my own work in the past.  Thus I can picture how this was done.  I like the emotion that bounces from her work.  It left me thinking about this subject and its severity through time.  This is not just art, it is a visual dairy of lives.

Seeing her work, made me want to investigate worthwhile themes within my own work even more.  I looked up her work and found that sadly she does not have a website, but does have a blog, for future investigation.

Looking at her blog made me realise how lucky I am to have a website.  Although I used to have a blog, I didn’t realise at the time how difficult it can be to read.  I found myself “giving up” after scrolling down many pages of hers, as it is time worthy and not sectioned.  Thus not user friendly.  Seeing her work in person and being able to appreciate size and meaning really enriches my experience with this artist and thus makes me more qualified to comment on her work.

Alice Kettle, an artist well admired by myself, was collaborating with the university she teaches at.  She made a few new pieces:

There is a sadness that is woven through her work and this time, I really felt it and it made me feel sad too.  I met her at the show, a thin faced, gaunt person.  Not that that matters, but it told me something about her work.  It suddenly felt a whole lot more personal.  The faming was non-existent, which I appreciated.  Hung by itself, it looked ready to frame, yet it does not need one.  The face and form on the embroidery don’t stand out greatly, until you really look.  It’s that variegated realisation, which makes me stand and take time over peering into the work itself.  I looked at the eyes, the fraught expression drawn on the forms face…I wonder and I want to know the story behind the piece, yet it is not told.  She always gives her work bland names, so no luck there.  Yet it is this secretive notion which endears me to her work more.

q22.jpg  Other images from students and collaborators:


Above, a students experimentation with screen printing.  q44

The artist above and below, J McKeating.  Another of the tutors at the university (Manchester)  Her work has brightness running through, with a story, diary feel.

Block printing with wooden traditional Indian blocks has been used here.

Anne Kelly textile artist who has recently released a book with Batsford (I read it through at the show) had her own stand.  I had to keep checking each piece, as many were not by her, but were collaborations with other artists.

Her work has a patch work feel, with the added element of shashiko style stitch.  (White running stitch all over in lines).  This stitch traps lots of pieces of fabric which make up her pictures.  They are whimsical in look and often tell a happy tale.

A garden shed was left to stand in the middle of the exhibition, with random music notes and postcards all over it.  Clever, but not immediately obvious as to why it was there.  If you had walked in not knowing her work, this may have been confusing.  However having looked into her works past and the connections with nature, it made sense.

One off pictures were available to buy, thus students and observers could take home a tiny sample of her work.  This was done very cleverly, as the stand used to display the for sale work, was part of the exhibition itself and did not stand out.  The mood boards and pin boards took up a lot of wall space, however the do tell us a little about the work she produces and the inspiration behind the work.

stitches, with some having machine sewn black lines to indicate drawing.  Her work is quite recognisable, thus successful in this way.

Her website is very informative, thus if I want to look at her work in closer detail, I will use this resource.

Moving on, the last part of the show I will discuss is the exhibition by Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn.  They are known for their textures and machine embroidery techniques, all surrounding natural forms.  This exhibition was the first time that the general public were able to view their collections on mass.  We have previously only seen them in film form, or in their books, of which there are many. ….some pieces I particularly liked:

This exhibition was helpful, as it wasn’t just clean cut pieces, all mounted in white frames.  There were cabinets, three large square one, which we could peer into.  These held sketchbooks, samples and odd cut outs, all the prelude work to the final pieces on the walls.  This was very informative and well positioned within the exhibition space.  (Pictures above)

Notice the scales they work on, not one for all, but many different varieties.  Form and colour take hold here.  The pages have been used up from start to finish, photographs merged in with own representations.  3D forms, even in felt.

Nothing is precious, all is used and written on.  This makes the work personal and alive.  The writing does not detract from the work itself, or the drawings.

The art they produce crosses the fine art textiles barrier.  Pastels are often used with stitch in tow. 

Another medium that they use a lot of is water soluble fabric. I have used this a lot in the past and I actually learned a lot about it from reading their books, which I have in my own personal library.

But what can I glean from this exhibition, what can I take from it?

Really the way they use their sketchbooks is of massive use.  No preciousness involved.  Also the way they have displayed their work within see through cabinets really informs us as to their techniques and methods.  Each “box” showcasing the sketchbooks etc was placed strategically near the wall based work that was connected to it.




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