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Family Threads - July/August 1989

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This exhibition was aimed towards reflecting individual interpretations, through the medium of textiles, of the concept of a family, whether it be in the form of a visual metaphor as with Liz Pembroke’s work or perhaps, more simply, as a response to the presence of a particular member of a family, as with Betty Myerscough.

The Artists and Their Work:

Eliza Steel had four works in this exhibition – 3 framed portraits and a mask (a self-portrait). All three pieces were selected for Embroidery ’88; an exhibition of embroidery by U.K. and Commonwealth City and Guilds students at the Commonwealth Institute, London.

‘The Old Man’ involved manipulating wadding on calico which was then sprayed and painted and stitched with wool and stranded cotton. The image was taken from a photograph.

‘The Workforce’ used free machine-embroidery on hand-painted calico.

‘The Young Steel’ reflected the artist’s observations/feelings concerning her daughter’s transition from childhood to adolescence. It is a piece of stump work using human hair, wool and fabric paint on a silk background. Eliza’s daughter had just had her hair cut and she wished to preserve some of her daughter’s childhood whilst at the same time conveying her colourful personality and enthusiasm for life.

Finally, ‘The Mask’ which expressed the negative and frustrating feelings of its creator six months prior to sitting her City and Guilds exam. Eliza’s suppressed expression due to pressure and commitments found form in this mask – although humorous it conveys a darker side of life, it reads conflict and panic. ‘The Mask’ was made of hessian applied to a framework, which was then stitched and painted.

Liza Pembroke’s ‘12 years of Life’ looked at relationships/roles amongst people, particularly the way in which they ‘fit-in’ within a family group. The piece combined Dupont silk paint, gutta and litho outline on crepe de chine – a number of areas were stippled then stitched to reproduce the effect and add more depth.

The work was not for sale although commissions were possible and Liza was available to speak with anyone interested in purchasing the piece.

Jae Maries

“Fred and Lil on Brighton Prom” showed a couple, a family, enjoying a somewhat traditional change in environment.  The work was a culmination of a style initially born out of a fine art training as a painter but changing when she developed an interest in textiles after living in America.

Jae’s interest revolves around people in their everyday environments,her sketches thenbecoming the basis for each piece of work. The drawings are transformed into colour with mono and block printing and finally hand stitching is added to emphasise the details.

Jae is a founder member of Creative embroiderers and Textile Artists 1983.

The work was not for sale and was kindly loaned from a private collection.

Jenny Cowern (1943-2005) had two pieces in the exhibition, both felt works.

‘One Family in Five’ represented Jenny’s response on seeing a poster for the organisation M.E.N.C.A.P. and on being struck by the unreality of statistics. The idea developed, initially starting with bolder coloured images taking five figures in combinations of red and black; four figures being in one colour the other in a different colour to translate into visual terms, the reality of the difference that statistics make. However, the work became more subtle in that a pure visual translation of a fact seemed insufficient to represent the true reality. The fact is that a statistic with reference to a human being is not in isolation, its impact is such that it affects more than one person i.e. that person’s family. Hence the figures are shown in varying shades of black or red to emphasise the differing degrees to which other members of a family are affected by the statistic.

The other work ‘Figures’ further developed the idea embodied in ‘One Family in Five’ but in addition incorporates the ‘footmark’ – the footmark positive, the imprint and the footmark negative, when the surface is lifted to reveal other things underlying. A layering of generations, families, societies, social groupings and hierarchies.

The two works in this exhibition involved dyeing wool and felting it, cutting and re-felting. In ‘Figures’ the felt was mounted on panels of wood of varying thicknesses.

Jenny Cowern originally trained as a painter and studied at the Royal College of Art. Felt was the medium that Jenny employed, of it she said that it offers “freedom, unfussiness, even crudeness, and ….directness”.  However this statement was made some time ago and having worked with the medium it has shown its potential for great subtlety.

Public and private commissions were welcomed.

Pat Goudie's piece entitled ‘Florence May – Doll with Wardrobe’, was the result of a project for a City and Guilds course in Embroidery. The project began as a survey of the first Empire style of the 1800’s which in turn was a line of research brought about after the purchase of what appeared to be an original dress of the period. The project developed into a study of the re-appearance of the Empire line in the early 1900’s and includes a fairly close reconstruction (in miniature) of clothes from the artists small costume collection (mainly consisting of her Grandmother’s clothes from the 1900’s). The clothes are made for a Victorian type doll which bears the same name as Pat’s grandmother. The work is accompanied by ‘a file’ which contains both a written and pictorial record of all Pat’s research.

‘Florence May’ was selected for exhibition at ‘Embroidery ‘88’ - an exhibition by City and Guilds Embroidery students – U.K. and Commonwealth. The work was not for sale.

Kate Russell’s three works were all woven cotton tapestries on linen warp – using simple black and white to create a bold effect.

The work entitled ‘Taking a Short Cut’ represented an occasion when the artist’s long hair was cut off by her daughter, nearly to the point of baldness and shows a facet of Kate’s family life. All three pieces were made in 1988/89 in response to some drawings that the artist had made of her daughter and also of her work.

Kate has exhibited widely; exhibitions include ‘Subversive Stitch’ – a national touring exhibition from the Corner House, Manchester and  ‘Fibre Art’  at Lodz Museum and Art Gallery, Poland.

There were a number of postcards on sale in the gallery featuring a variety of Kate’s work.

Betty Myerscough

The four pieces exhibited here all concentrated on Betty Myerscough’s youngest daughter.

‘The Swimmer’ was a hand painted silk collage.

‘The Fiddler’ a fabric collage wall-hanging

‘The Hat’ a hand painted silk wall-hanging, combining machine embroidery and hand quilting.

‘The Young Collector’ representing the artist’s daughter’s messy room, on hand painted silk, machine embroidered and hand quilted.

Betty trained at Glasgow School of Art in the1950’s, she has been a lecturer at Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen and Canterbury College of Art.

There were postcards showing Betty’s work for sale in the Gallery.

Unfortunately we do not have any images of the works exhibited.

 

 

 

 

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