Assignment Four (Option 1): Research Point 4.1: 1.

This is effectively a large body of research; thus I have honed my material down to include a few highlights on my blog.  The elongated full version can be seen within my body of work physically and also a Microsoft Word file.

Before I began this area of study, I began brain storming to discover what I could use within this research topic; had I been to any exhibitions which would relate to this subject?  What did I have in my own “archive” of past books, events, artists etc…..

Initial thoughts:

–          Recent visit to The Knitting and Stitching show – a few exhibitions I can think of relate to this including Manchester University collaboration with a museum collection and the winner of The Embroiderers’ Guild Scholarship in the mature category, who studied historical hospital garments to influence her body of work

–          I have a wealth of Knitting and stitching shows to look back on which I have visited.  I can reflect on these and do further research.

–          Alice Kettle as an artist, as she often creates from historical inspiration.

–          I will look back on all my exhibition programs which I have visited, to see which ones relate.

–          Rosalind Wyatt was an artist who I know was inspired by a museum’s collection of strait jackets, from an asylum.

–          I am remembering an exhibition I went to a few years ago, in Paris.  It was a collaboration between impressionist paintings and the models clothing within the painting.  Thus paintings were displayed with the related dresses.  Could this come into this category?

–          Recent visit to The Bowes Museum to see an exhibition called “Shelf Life”.  Definitely relates to this as I will explain.

–          62 Group – many artists from this group have used artefacts as starting points.

–          Other individual artists

I am sure to come up with more than the above, but they may come to me as I research.

I will also have personal areas where I can get inspiration from and museums near myself, which I can document and visit.



A visit to The Bowes Museum recently, led to seeing this exhibition:

Shelf Life – The Ornaments Are Talking To Me

‘Clarke’s Cabinets of Time Lost, Curated by Mark Clarke 15 October – 12 February 2017  Are you a collector or hoarder of treasured or favoured items? Does handling them trigger memories, whether happy or sad? How do you remember loved ones after they are gone?   Mark Clarke’s innovative new exhibition challenges our perception of collecting and remembering, and art versus accumulation. In a series of surprisingly cheery assemblage sculptures Belfast born Mark ponders the theme of life, love and loss. Using familiar mantelpiece ornaments, junk shop tat and car boot treasures, these poetic interpretations of the homemade shrine explore dementia, obsession, good and bad taste, fine art versus outsider art, displacement behaviour and celebrity culture.   Mark Clarke’s latest piece of work, that takes the form of five monumental, crowded shelves, was inspired by his mother, who died of Alzheimer’s, and is a poetic reinterpretation of her homemade shrines. The idea for Clarke’s vast assemblages came to him when clearing out the family house in Belfast after her death. The shelves are arranged in various themes: Dinnertime, Once Upon A Time, Time To Kill, Showtime and Prime Time and are made up of over 1000 disparate individual objects.’


What was my response to this exhibition?

I took to the subject matter immediately.  Having cared for elderly grandparents until death; one having dementia, it struck home one concept in particular, what is precious?  What was precious to my own grandfather before his dementia and what about afterwards?  I wonder if mentally there was a difference?  The exhibition as stated was not particularly made with any monetary reference, more sentimental.  Thus it is what feelings the objects evoke than whether they are antique.

How do we remember our loved ones?  In general, it is not the fortune they leave behind, or the precious jewels, it’s something that connects us to them.  For myself, in my own grandfather’s case, it is the poems he penned over years, the notes in his own writing.  I see his love of poetry and English Literature in myself, there’s very little else I have that connects me with him or that I view as “precious”.  I wonder if the words he penned could ever infiltrate my own work?  Or even just his writing.

The name of this exhibition was thought provoking in itself – everything has a “shelf life”; whether it is because of our own personal preferences changing over the years, fashion or our own lives – everything has a time period, a moment which passes.  Could this be a concept I build on?

His curation was noteworthy.  It is not an unplanned grouping, but a thought out one.  A strong example of this, was observed a few years ago in London at another of his exhibitions:


The boxes are effectively his form of display; harking back to a museum like presentation.

The boxes really stand out and make us look at the contents, rather than the other way around, they bring the work to life, without becoming too much of a feature in themselves.

What can I personally learn?

  • Careful curation, depending on subject type.
  • Look at what is around us to be inspired; i.e. family junk or heirlooms, they don’t have to be of monetary value, yet need something to make them interesting.  This could be simply our association with them, their memory or story.



The next point I will investigate is my recent visit to The Knitting and Stitching Show last year in November.  It was a collaboration between Manchester students and teachers which really struck my interest.  This exhibition really fits this section, as they did exactly what this section is about – responded to a museum collection.  Here is the photo of the exhibition information:



Above:  The exert from The Knitting and Stitching show brochure.

First, what is this collection, this museum?  I did a little background reading on this….

“Gawthorpe Textiles Collection is an independent charity based at Gawthorpe Hall, Padiham, Lancashire. Originally called the Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth Collections, the charity was created after the death of our founder, Miss Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth (1886- 1967) to care for the collection of textiles she had amassed and to make it accessible through learning programmes and curated collection displays in the Hall itself.”

Taken from the museum collection website.  The website also holds a gallery, where up close shots of some pieces are seen:


One thing I am fascinated with, is traditional patchwork.  Not always due to the fabric itself, or technique, but the papers found within the pieces.  Are they letters?  Notes?  What do people of the past use to keep the shape of their pieces?  It would be an interesting area of study for myself in the future?!

I took some photos at the exhibition; all observers were requested to only take pictures of the wall mounted pieces, not the museum pieces in the glass boxes, as they were not allowed to be photographed.  Here are my findings:

A sneaky picture here, where I got parts of the museum collections in the picture too.  I thought the concept was really clever; this conception of the collection in a modern way; as if they are extending the past; or are they creating the new?  It is hard to define.

The image below top right was Jane McKeating’s work.  She also teaches at the Manchester University with Alice Kettle; thus we see direct responses from teachers and pupil mixed in here, which is a rare sight. Jane McKeating (above, left) responded to 19th century printed paisley bandanas embellished with colourful embroidery with a series of vibrant printed drawings which are similarly overlaid with rich stitch work.  You see them in the glass case in the image there.


The wall pieces here in blue were Alice Kettles answer to this theme.  She took inspiration from a delicate sampler from the 1930s.  The idea of “delicate” is portrayed in the lightness of her stitch marks, how the figures are seen, yet are “just” emerging.

What will I take from this exhibition?

–          I loved seeing both point of inspiration and new outcome together.  They were strategically placed, enough for distance but enough to connect.  What could I look at myself in this way?

–          Very different interpretations.  I realised that the new outcomes didn’t have to relate 100% to the inspiration.  They were not “new versions” or copies; all were fresh examples and some just had a hint of the old.

–          I didn’t know all artists involved, so I cannot say if the styles of each one exhibited were made in each artist’s signature style.  However I am familiar with Kettle’s work and Jane McKeating.  I see that their style remained the same, they just used the inspiration.


Looking back on the 2009 Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate, I remembered this exhibition:

Clay and thread

Alice Kettle and ……

This exhibition was not strictly about the artist drawing upon past resources or artefacts.  But I found her responses interesting, as they look at how another artist can spark off an idea in our heads, which we draw from.


Here directly above is Alice Kettle’s part in the collaboration.  She began to draw and stitch the vases which the other artist made; which in themselves look quite like something found in a museum; they have a roman quality to them.

The three images above the one above, showcase the vase which Alice made her thread “conversation” on.  In turn, the artist Alex McErlin used Alice’s drawing style, to create the style of work on his clay pots.

His pottery is often presented in a museum style, in places like Manchester Musuem and others, depending on where it is situated.  Thus in a way Alice did draw her inspiration from “artefacts”.

What was learned from this exhibition?

–          Thought of collaboration / conversation / artefacts.  Where is the line crossed?  Can it be blurred?  What could be my own take on this?

–          The concept of collaborations and this being said to be a conversation….what would my own conversation be?  Would I be able to extend the idea of artefacts to work as tactile or art  conversation?

–          Does this mean old work, old artefacts speak?

–          What could my own beginning be?

–          Working in new mediums?  Could I cross here?  Clay?  Why?

I feel that the exhibition above, has really made me question areas I had not previously thought of.  Although I remember visiting the exhibition, I was too young in my career to realise its potential at the time.  Thus this reflection is noteworthy for my own practice, which comes together with the memories of the show too.  It has questioned my own perception of artefacts and the idea of collaboration too, in the future.  Collaboration has led me to think about crossing mediums myself.  Could clay for example, merge at some point?  The idea lies within me.

Other artists I have looked into and written about are:

Rosalind Watt

Her interpretation of this jacket, made by mental patient Agnes Richer especially touched me; as there is deep creative thought here.  All of which, has been documented in large form within my physical work:

Left:  Agnes Richer and Right:  Watt’s version inspired by the first.

This jacket here,  by Agnes Richter, who sadly was in an asylum in the 1800s.  It still speaks to us today, will all her embroidered wording. She constructed the jacket from cloth typically used in the institution and embroidered her story onto the jacket.

There is no clear inside or outside of the garment. Only the words on the arms are legible from the outside, the rest are can be read from the inside, where she placed them close to her skin. The garment is part of the Prinzhorn Collection at the Universitaetsklinik Heidelberg. Due to its fragile nature it’s not always available for public view.

The outcome by Watt, features letters between Daniel Hack Tuke, Wyatt’s husband’s great great grandfather (1827 – 1895) and his newly wed wife Esther Strickland. They were written on a 1853 journey while visiting various European asylums. The Tuke family is known for radically improving the treatment of the mentally ill with a progressive and humane approach.

This artist here, shows a clear link between historical artefact and modern day interpretation, on a similar theme.

The close up of the garment above, shows how she has used imagery from the persons life, to add building structures.  The colour choice means we can really see the stitch drawn aspects here.

What can I learn from this artist?

–          She takes a strong interest in history.  This is not a passing thought, but an in depth study, like a historian would do.  Thus her work has strong foundations, strong points of inspiration on which to build.

–          She uses had stitching not machine – is this a time faceted response, as the items, such as vintage garments she works upon, would have always been hand sewn to begin with?  This thoughtful response could be taken on board, when I look at my own archives.

–          Use of letters to inspire – my own grandfather’s letters?  Poems?  He travelled the world with the Navy, yet most went over my head when he spoke about it.  Could this help me build my own archive?  Could his letters be used as artefacts?

–          Someone else’s history, can remind us of our own.  This is conveyed in evidential form when this artist looked at Agnes Richer, the lady in the asylum.  This made her look at her own history and found connections on her husband’s side, with an asylum.  Thus she created her own piece on this, as I have documented.

The above is a snapshot of my research for this section; please see physical work etc for more.




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