Saturday, 11 May 2019

May meeting - Jan Dowson

Our speaker this month was Jan Dowson. Before retiring she taught, amongst other things, C&G embroidery in Lincolnshire, and was the teacher of Lynn Haith, who came to talk to us a year ago.

Jan told of her early artistic endeavours, drawing patterns on the insides of old envelopes, when she was a small child. A habit which hasn't left her, albeit now she has moved on to proper sketch books.

Jan Dowson - Sketchbook

After her children were born, Jan worked her way through City and Guilds parts I & II and then took a Foundation Art course which eventually led to a teaching career. She mostly works with hand embroidery, a decision made initially because she had very few resources, and lets the 'stitching do the talking'.

Jan Dowson - Hand Embroidery

Jan was awarded the Gold Medal for teaching by City and Guilds, the Worshipful Broderers award, and the Beryl Dean award. One of the OFSTED reports for her workplace said her course was 'A pocket of gold in a field of dried grass'. These words resonated with her, and with her many past and present students, who created a magnificent embroidered book filled with pockets of gold and reminiscences as a gift on her retirement.

Jan Dowson - Pockets of Gold book

Jan then talked us through her method of working, and had brought many wonderful examples (including a hysterectomy doll!) for us to have a look at. Jan continues to teach and gives talks and will have a book 'Expressive Stitches' coming out with Search Press at the end of this year.
This was a very interesting talk, and easy to see why Jan has received so many awards.

In other things . . .

We have two Facebook pages.
A main one (click here) and a Group one (click here). Although many posts are on both pages, you need to 'like' both of them to see everything. There are also links to the pages in the sidebar at the right of this blog (if you're reading this on a phone or tablet, you'll need to scroll down and select Web View in order to see the sidebars).

There is no branch meeting at the start of June, but there is Regional Day on June 8th, and National Day of Stitch on June 22nd.

The July branch meeting will be a talk on 'Designer Cabochons' (a change to the printed programme) and the Chairman's competition will be judged. The theme is Mixed Media.

There will be a coach trip to the Bowes museum at the end of October. Details to follow.

April Meeting - Heather Ritchie

At April's meeting we had Heather Ritchie talking to us about her story.

Heather's talk was a step away from a traditional chronological story of a person's life!
She brought with her a wonderful array of her work, from some of her earliest pieces to her most recent explorations.

Image taken from
Each one really did tell a story, and Heather is a natural story teller and keen observer of what other people would walk straight past and not think twice about.
Her talent is evident, when you can feel like your were there in her tale.

Her work in Africa,  born from a personal perspective of sight loss and the effect this can have on a person, is inspirational. 

This short blog does not do justice to Heather's engaging and hilarious talk, you must hear her and see the rugs she produces for yourself.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

March Meeting - Joanne Frankel

Our speaker this month was Joanne Frankel. Joanne is originally from the Forest of Dean, a place which still inspires her work, although now she is based in Cheshire and she exhibits regularly with several groups of artists in the North West.

Joanne Frankel - detail

Her current work is very distinctive and colourful, and her talk led us through her journey from starting out as a mature student and the (in her words) navel gazing of some of her degree pieces, via her stitched canvases, to her newest work being explored as part of a return to study to gain a Masters in Fine Art.

Joanne Frankel - detail

Joanne brought many of her pieces for us to see close up and admire the detailed stitching, both hand and machine embroidery. It was a very interesting talk and was followed on Sunday by a workshop where we were shown some of the techniques she uses, and we were able to create our own stitched work.

Workshop pieces

Starting with a design created by Joanne, we painted, appliqued and stitched to create some very individual pieces of work.

Workshop pieces
A very enjoyable weekend.

In other things . . .

There will be a meeting of Young Embroiderers on 17th and 18th April, where the theme will be 'Man in Space' See the Young Embroiderers page for more details.

Pauline will be running an Artists' Trading Card day school on Sunday 7th July. Bookings will open at the April meeting.

We are not having a branch meeting in June (the hall was double booked). However, 8th June is Regional Day. Speakers will be announced shortly. Tickets (which includes lunch) will be £25 and Ingrid will be taking bookings next month. The competition themes at Regional Day are

  • A Flower beginning with the letter I (in memory of past Regional Chair Maggie Judges)
  • Re-imagined for the members' competition
  • 'Man in Space' for the Aurifil competition (previously the Coats Anchor award)
It will be the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the York branch in September. Suggestions for how to celebrate this are welcome.

The April meeting will include the judging of the competition for 'best commercial design'. (Perhaps we might see some finished Joanne Frankel pieces . . . )

Friday, 22 February 2019

February meeting - Members' Day - using equipment!

For our February meeting we decided to utilise the equipment that our guild owns. We felt that not all members were aware of what we have, and also how some of the bits of kit work, and what you could use them for.

We had several stations, each manned by a volunteer (our thanks to these wonderful people); free motion embroidery being demonstrated on a sewing machine, embellishing machine, die cutter, smocking machine, and the marudai.

The smocking machine, is so clever, and doesn't need to be used only for garments. It could be used to create texture for all sorts of projects! We put some fabrics through it that it probably had not been intended for (such as some shiny blue spandex type), but which resulted in some fantastic bits that could "definitely be used somewhere". We've all said that in our times...

The marudai is a beautifully crafted piece of work in its own right, which would look lovely in anyone's living room! Should you wish to use it, we all found it very therapeutic, how you move the strands in different orders to create the cord. The natural stones providing the tension for an even pattern only added to the fascination.
Please see our facebook page for further pictures and videos.

The die cutter and dies were popular as ever, with lots of people having a go with paper, card and fabric.

It was great to have the free motion embroidery and embellishing machine demonstrated in such a way that I actually understood how to do it, and feel confident to have a go at home.

In other things . . . 

Our next meeting is on the 2nd March, with Joanne Frankel giving a talk on her journey from Design-2-Stitch. This is followed by a workshop on Sunday.

The stitch club will also take place as normal on Saturday morning.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

January Meeting - Alison Larkin

Our January speaker was Alison Larkin, telling us about Opus Anglicanum (literally 'English Embroidery').

Before the talk I looked up the term, and the ever helpful wikipedia came up with this definition:

'Opus Anglicanum or English work is fine needlework of Medieval England done for ecclesiastical or secular use on clothing, hangings or other textiles, often using gold and silver threads on rich velvet or linen grounds'.

Alison of course explained in much greater detail!

An example of Alison's work
Using many pictures, with fantastic close-ups, Alison took us through the history of this style of embroidery, and how it was regarded during its lifetime and beyond.


Miniature embroidery

More exquisite miniature embroidery

From approximately 1200-1350AD this highly skilled style of embroidery was produced in England. A typical feature is the 'underside couching' of usually metal threads, resulting in a much stronger and harder-wearing embroidery.

Much was exported to Europe- with a large number (at one time 150+!!) reported in the Vatican's collection at the time, which gives an idea of how highly valued the pieces were.

Unfortunately due to the reformation in England, and the destruction of much of church property, not many examples exist in the UK itself any more, and to see the best examples we must travel abroad!

Alison also mentioned the exhibition at the V & A museum in London, which some of our members had also visited.

A link to the exhibition details is supplied here:

V&A · Introducing Opus Anglicanum

The earliest work on display was a seal-bag dated to 1100 – 1140, made to contain the seal from a foundation document of Westminster Abbey. Art produced at Westminster and the Royal Court between 1250 and 1325 was incredibly influential.

In later years, similar, but cheaper and quicker methods of embroidery were developed on mainland Europe, which resulted in the decline of this highly skilled and labour intensive art.

The talk was very interesting, and Alison led a thought-provoking Q & A session at the end, as well as showing us examples of her own work in this style, which is very impressive.

In other things...

The Young Embroiderers will have their next workshops in February.

February's branch meeting will be an open meeting where we will be showing off our equipment, with members on hand to give demonstrations, and help others to have a go!

Refreshments will be provided as usual!