Friday, 28 October 2016


I made a quilt, completely unaided, with help from Emma. You can see it in the fancy gif above. Maybe you like it, and maybe you don't. Either way, I'll never find out.

About a month ago I went with Emma to the Forge Mill Needle Museum in Redditch to view a textile art exhibition titled Made in Britain: Concealed. Emma's been making contemporary quilts for a while, and has been involved in handicrafts for much longer. I've always been interested in her work, and her style, what she thinks, and what she does with the craft, with no interest in the work of anyone else.

Then I saw "The Secrets of Forests" by Stephanie Redfern. It was the first piece I saw when entering the exhibition, and it was the piece that spoke the loudest to me. I was transfixed by the combination of three elements:
  • The unapologetic use of different media, including newspaper clippings, plastic, bark, and pebbles
  • The raw expressionism conveyed by the application of these media and the rugged and ragged look to the piece
  • The simplicity of the piece
The last point struck me the hardest. Everything I saw in The Secrets of Forests looked like something I could do. I could stitch, I could paint, I could chose colours and textures and put it all together. But it was the expressionism in The Secrets of Forests that made it work—Redfern had an idea she wanted to convey via textiles, and she conveyed it.

I spent the rest of the weekend talking with Emma about how I and her and anyone else was only limited by our own artistic vision when creating art, not our abilities. She showed me her back issues of Quilting Arts, and a book titled Push Stitchery, and I started having ideas of my own: vague images of colours and shapes swirling in my mind. I liked the idea of making a quilt that was dirty. Not explicitly dirty—no sex or gore—and not something subversive. I wanted to make a quilt of organic shapes, in browns and reds and yellows and whites; something that looked clean, but hinted at something wet and gritty beneath it all: like whatever a sterile surgeon sees under sterile lights when he uses sterile tools to open a living human body.

Then Emma told me to start small, so I made a quilt about hotdogs.

"HOTDOGS", which is what I've decided to call it as of now, is made entirely of Emma's scrap fabric. This includes the plastic, which is from a tattered ziplock bag. I used watercolour paint to write the label, and affixed the label to the rest of the quilt using a bent and unwanted pin.

Emma stitched the rounded parts at the ends of each hotdog. I tried, but could only do wonky triangles.

I'm actually really happy with how HOTDOGS turned out. I'm happy that I had an idea in my head that I was actually able to translate into a physical form through textiles. It wasn't easy, and Emma often had to explain the limitations of the fabrics and the sewing machine and my own abilities. As it turns out, the idea I mentioned earlier—that I could create something in the vain of Stephanie Redfern's The Secrets of Forests right off the bat—isn't quite true.

But if HOTDOGS is a first step, I'm curious as to what the next will be.


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