Just a quick note to tell you all that my blog posts will now appear on a shiny new blog: weavingpoetryjournal.wordpress.com. The world is very complicated and sometimes it’s nice just to see the words and pictures. Writing more might happen too. Hope to see y’all over there…over and out 🙂
Today is the day to finish off a textiles piece I’ve been working on in my current care home residency (part of the Colour Me Purple project). It is made up of many pieces of fabric, hand printed by residents and myself.
I pin them together, hoping to quickly machine-sew the work and be done with it. After the first few lines, the pieces of fabric start to object. They slip and slide out of place, and the picked up piece refuses to hang together in the way I have planned it. I become frustrated and impatient, until I realise that the first section (which I tacked together by hand) is sitting much better than my machined pieces. Calmer, stronger, more cohesive.
In my stubbornness, I don’t listen to the work and carry on attempting to machine it. I am ignoring the quiet yet persistent voice of what I wish to create, telling me it wants to be pieced together by hand, gently and slowly. The different weights of fabric (some heavy, some delicate) are stressed by a mechanical process, and join together slightly awkwardly, just like people in love who won’t give things time.
I stop, break for lunch. I had much planned today but art will not allow it. I feel slow, sleepy and in need of solitude. When I return to the piece I pick up a needle and thread. Accepting now that I must take my time, I begin to slowly stitch each part together. There is no master plan here, I am just letting the work tell me what it wants as each fragment becomes one with the next.
My playlist of music has come to an end, and I don’t put another song on. The work wants quiet; sounds from the outside, wind rustling down the chimney and the muffled beats coming through next door’s walls. The needle is small, but she is so strong, sharp and persistent. With each stitch I pierce time itself, spacing out each and every second.
This month I’ve had a great week working with Donnington Wood Primary School. I was commissioned by Meadow Arts to deliver a week long project at the school as part of their multicultural week. The teachers at Donnington Wood were interested in working with visual language and found poetry (one of my most loved combinations), so I was immediately inspired. Drawing upon my past life in graphic design (and love of unusual letterforms), I designed a workshop where the students could make stencils of non-western typography. We began by looking at text from around the world.
Each student then drew a letterform from my selection of lettering from Japan, Burma, Bali, China, Russia, India and other countries/continents. From the drawings we made stencils and printed them on squares of fabric (material from Scrappies, one of Shropshire’s little gems!).
After these workshops, the other half of the year group wrote acrostic poems about some of the school’s values, including peace, compassion, friendship, trust, wisdom, service and tolerance (the school is Church of England, being Buddhism and yoga orientated myself I found these values easy to relate to). We then stamped some of the lines on long strips of white fabric:
…..and then I wondered off home with a LOT of half-dry inky fabric in my car, with inky fingernails, looking like I’d been down the mines for a week. My original idea was to sew the work together into several long hangings with letterforms and text, what happened was quite different:
It was satisfying to make a large-scale piece of work (double bed sized) from all the lovely work the students had done. I think the format was inspired by text & textiles work I like from artists such as Tracy Emin and Sara Impey. I also enjoyed the timescale of a week-long residency, culminating in the piece being presented in the school assembly. During this, Steve Wilson at Meadow Arts told the children how important creative subjects are. Given the state of publicly funded arts at the moment, I am heartened by organisations like Meadow Arts who provide opportunities for artists like me to do well-paid and well-organised work, and for people of all ages to participate in creative experiences 🙂
This week I’m looking forward to a couple of days in historic Worcester, running workshops at The Commandery as part of my Paper Rebellion project. Paper Rebellion is an ACE funded year-long project (thanks to fundraiser Manda Graham) which aims to to creatively engage young people and visitors with the aims of the English Civil War. Using collage and book making, I am showing groups how to make their own pamphlets, and we are making five collaborative artworks.
The group collage pieces are based on the idea of mandalas. A mandala can be a symbol, diagram or map which represents a microcosm of the whole. In various traditions and practices they are used for focusing the attention and as a form of guidance. Creating a mandala is said to promote a sense of balance and understanding. They usually are circular in form and contain some kind of symmetry and balance. The lovely team at the Commandery made these fabulous easels to display the artworks while they evolve:
To make both the collaborative artworks and pamphlets, we are using photocopied material from the era, combined with today’s newspapers. The site once housed a printing press, and it was during the Civil War era that printed media became widely available. Political groups like the Levellers designed and printed their own pamphlets and manifestos, so in times of control and oppression it was still possible for marginalised groups to have a voice.
The artworks each have a theme: peace, freedom, conflict, belief and power. Through these themes, and the powerful medium of collage I hope to help people connect their learning about the Civil War to their own lives today, and create something relevant to them. For example, here’s a pamphlet I’ve been making on the theme of power:
The Commandery has a colourful history, and as well as being a significant site in the civil war it was also a Medieval hospital for travellers, and at one time a college for the blind. As both an artist and yoga teacher, I am keen to draw out ideas about health and healing. Belief is also an interesting theme, at the time of the war people were very religious and believed in things like witchcraft.
Well, who doesn’t believe in a little bit of magic? As well as symbols like oak leaves and swords I am weaving in a few symbols of my own, which are artistically and spiritually meaningful to me. Butterflies and moths are amongst my favourite images, for their ephemeral beauty and the sense of freedom I receive from them. In life (as in war) fragility is so very often intimately entwined with strength. Look out for more Paper Rebellion updates this year, and details of public events.
As many of you know, I’m an avid fan of self publishing. After creating a found poetry pamphlet, card designs and prints of my work I thought having my own press to publish these things under would be good fun. This is why I’m setting up Rock Rose Press, for my own publications and maybe those of friends as well.
Why Rock Rose? I’ve been aware of the plant for many years, and recently discovered it’s a popular ingredient in flower remedies.The plant itself renews quickly under wildfire, and a flower essence it helps build courage and alleviate anxiety in times of emergency. In the Victorian Language of Flowers, Rock Rose stood for surety. Word-wise I enjoy the balance of ‘Rock Rose’; the masculine/feminine, the hard/soft, the permanent/ephemeral.
Hopefully some bits and bobs will be available under Rock Rose Press in time for Christmas 🙂
I’m posting this with my tail between my legs as it’s been a whole year since anything went up on this blog. Oh well. This summer I set up some book making workshops to teach the lovely people of Shropshire some basic techniques to make their own books. In the Loosely Bound workshop, we covered simple stitched binding, and the extremely addictive Japanese stab binding. These workshops were called Loosely Bound, as although book binding is traditionally a very neat and tidy craft, I myself am not a fastidious maker of things. I enjoy the improvised, unplanned and haphazard, and am a fan of raggedy edges. Saying that, the practice of book binding slows me down in the quest to make a lovely object, and I have made some quite tidy items I’m rather proud of.
Here are some photos from the workshops, which took place at Shrewsbury’s English Bridge Studios:
During the workshop I asked the (slightly philosophical) question “what is a book?”. Our answers included: private space, a shared world, collect, read, object a place of safety, a hiding place, adventure, someone’s child, tactile, something that opens, and imagination. For all these reasons and more, books have always been very special to me, and I enjoyed sharing my love of them in these workshops. To organise a workshop or private book making lesson get in touch 🙂
It’s been a great summer, and I’ve loved developing my Found Poetry & Text Art workshops. Working with lovely groups in Shrewsbury and Hay-on-Wye has been an absolute joy, and I’ll be repeating these classes on a regular basis.
In the class we get creative with words, making poems, stories and our own artwork out of book pages and magazines. Using drawing and collage, I demonstrate simple techniques to help you read between the lines and work with text on a new level. Here are some photos from previous sessions:
The next workshop is on Friday 9th September in Shrewsbury, full details and booking information is on eventbrite. I hope to see you there or at a future workshop! Keep an eye on the events page for new dates.
What previous students have said:
“ I found pleasure in bringing pictures to old forgotten words “
“ Combining the words with images was very relaxing, the workshop opened my mind to new ideas and flow”
“Fun and fascinating! Emily is a very enabling tutor”
“Pleasantly destructive! Cutting up old books is rather thrilling”
“Time just flew, I really enjoyed Emily’s delivery and her fabulous ideas for starting points”
“I really enjoyed that, Im going to take my work home and frame it!”
“Lots of fun and a kind of magic, I could do this all day!”
Over the last four months, I’ve been working away on three commissions for poetry book covers.
Thirza Clout is the first poet in the UK to be published by Mark Time Books (founded in Australia by Ross Donolon). Her pamphlet The Bone Seeker has been described as “honest, tender, fierce and with a gallows humour, journeying through a child’s life in a family so nuclear it breaks your heart”. To reflect the themes of Thirza’s poetry, I wanted to use something from her childhood in the artwork. After experimenting with photographs, precious books, hand-me-down textiles and a much loved teddy bear, we settled on a school photograph collaged onto a background texture.
Here’s some of the lovely feedback I had from Thirza and Ross:
“I knew Emily would come up with something creative for the cover of my first chap book because I’d commissioned her after admiring her work – the fact she was utterly professional, stuck to deadlines and was a pleasure to work with were bonuses. I shall certainly be going back to her!”
– Thirza Clout
The next cover to be brought into the world was local author Paul Francis‘ self-published collection Five String Banjo. The ‘five strings’ to Paul’s bow are sonnets, real lives, politics, performance and miscellany. Poet liz Lefroy says “In 5-string Banjo, Paul Francis shows himself to be a master of rhythm, rhyme and engrossing narratives. Pick up this book, hold it to your ear, and listen to it beat.”
For Paul’s cover artwork, I worked with an abstraction of the banjo shape. As a textiles lover I felt it important to use real strings, and my inner texture junkie had fun working subtle fragments of newspapers into the background to reflect Paul’s political leanings!
Lastly, my artwork for this year’s Wenlock Poetry Festival (called Wenlock Time) has been featured on the 2016 anthology cover (published by Fair Acre Press). The image was inspired by Much Wenlock’s town clock, and thinking about how the festival curates such fantastic contemporary poetry in a historic setting. The anthology is now available from Wenlock Books, and will also be available at the festival bookstand on the 23 and 24 April. If you haven’t booked tickets yet, what on earth are you waiting for?
From May 2016 I’ll be taking on more commissions for book covers, so do get in touch if you’d like to discuss a project. I offer a sliding scale of pricing for self-published authors, small presses and larger publishers.
Stepping into the new year, I am pleased to announce a new project for 2016: my poetic retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Red Shoes. Using a combination of combination of verse and poetic prose, I have written my own interpretation of this classic story.
There have been many adaptations and interpretations of The Red Shoes; in books and on the screen. As a motif, red shoes have long been popular in well-known stories and some lesser-known folk tales. Inspired by themes such as direction, dancing, nature, belonging and creativity, I wanted to write a version about making soulful and authentic choices within the dance of life. I also just really love red shoes 🙂
When I met artist and illustrator Sam Brett-Atkin, I immediately loved his artwork and thought he might be the right person to illustrate The Red Shoes. Luckily Sam was just as keen! Through our collaboration the story has developed into a richer narrative, and Sam has begun creating beautiful, atmospheric images in charcoal and ink.
We have decided to self-publish the book in 2016. Through a crowd-funding campaign we hope to finance the first print run, and allow you to pre-order your copy! We will be announcing the details later this year, please get in touch if you’d like to be on the project mailing list.
Back in September I created a piece of artwork for Wenlock Poetry Festival 2016, which is now making it’s way into various bits of promotional material. The piece is called Wenlock Time, and is a mix of collage, paint and digital layers. I based the image around a photo I took of Much Wenlock’s clocktower, and worked in a map of the town.
Next year’s Wenlock Poetry Festival (22nd-24th April 2016) has a ‘time’ theme, as in April we celebrate 400 years of Shakespeare. As always, the festival will be bringing the best of contemporary poetry to Shropshire, so I wanted to create an image that is fresh and vibrant as well as referencing the roots of poetry.
I’m delighted to have two poems included in this charity anthology, which is produced by Friends of Conakry Refuge School. In 2005 the charity began to support a school for refugees in Conakry, Guinea, and advocate education as a route to a positive future for vulnerable children.
The other contributing poets are Elizabeth Parkes, Deborah Alma, Jean Atkin, Paul Francis, Myra Connell, Liz Lefroy, Kathy Watson, Steve Harrison, Marilyn Miller, Dave Bingham and Ruth Cameron. It’s a great read, and only £5 from the FCRS shop. There are many other treasures in stock, including some beautiful Tuareg jewellery, such as this pendant featuring a Tuareg symbol for the nomadic tent.
It’s out with the old and in with the new here. I am looking for lovely new homes for these pieces of artwork, to make room in my cupboards (and head) to make more! If you’d like to purchase one of these for a Christmas present, or just to treat yourself, please get in touch.
THROUGH THE NIGHT (2015) / acrylic & assemblage on wood / handmade frame / 16cm square
£40 plus postage
THROUGH THE DAWN (2015) / acrylic & assemblage on wood / handmade frame / 16cm square
£40 plus postage
SOUL ADRIFT (2013) / acrylic & assemblage on wood / handmade frame / 21cm x 27cm
£65 plus postage
RED SHOES (2014) / paper, stitch & acrylic / handmade frame / 25cm x 29cm (frame 6cm deep)
£80 plus postage
BLOOM (2014) / textiles hanging / bamboo rod / 25cm x 29cm
£45 plus postage
THIRTY (2014) / textiles hanging / bamboo rod / 25cm x 29cm
£45 plus postage
Back in early August I travelled up to North West Scotland for a week’s course at Bridge House Art. The course was called Alchemy, and focused on mark making and altering surfaces. Taking inspiration from the dramatic (and sometimes stormy) surroundings, we delighted in a whole week’s experimentation using light and heavy materials.
We also incorporated found objects foraged from the shore into our experiments….
A larger piece was created, but the week for me was about experimenting and new techniques…only time will tell how they will filter through into things and words made closer to home. Saying a fond farewell to Ullapool, I returned to my nest with fresh memories of the mountains and inspiration from the sea.
In mid-July I was invited to teach a bookmaking workshop at Festival on the Edge, a lovely folk and storytelling festival in Much Wenlock, Shropshire. The festival site is at the beginning of Wenlock Edge; a wooded limestone escarpment steeped in myths and stories, home to views like this:
When not making things in the children’s or craft tents, I enjoyed music by artists O’Hooley & Tidow and Jonathan Day. Tent-side breakfasts, locally roasted coffee and local cider were shared with my splendid companions, and a very pleasant eve was spent under a hazy Shropshire sunset.
As well as teaching bookmaking, I took along the Wild Wenlock teepees for some Sunday crafting, poetry and stories. Here are some photos from the weekend:
It’s been almost a whole month since Wenlock Poetry Festival, and shamefully I’ve only just got round to processing my photos from Wild Wenlock. For me the weekend was a wildish crafty whirlwind, with lots of visitors to my little travelling village. The splendid chaps at the builders merchants made our month by turfing the entire Corn Exchange in real grass, which was the icing on the cake for Wild Wenlock. Here are photos from our weekend of play and poetry:
By the way, Wild Wenlock is available for summer events and children’s parties 🙂
Preparations for Wenlock Poetry Festival are almost complete. I am hosting a children’s installation called Wild Wenlock 11am-3pm on both days, under Much Wenlock’s Corn Exchange. It consists of these miniature teepees I’ve been making for the last two months: These aren’t just for kids, sitting inside one (and a grown adult can JUST fit inside) can transport you back to the childlike excitement of dens and secret hideaways. They are made from pre-loved curtains and bedding, dyed in tea and bound with torn fabric. Feathers from the garden add some dramatic effect. In two of the teepees will be audio of local authors reading poetry and stories, including material from Andrew Fusek Peters, Jean Atkin, Carol Caffrey Witherow, Lucy Carmel, Steve Harrison, David Calcutt, Kate Innes, Ruth Thorp, Sarah Thorp and myself. The Thorps aren’t strictly local, but as their publisher Raw Mixture will be one of the stalls at Wild Wenlock they are locals for the weekend 🙂 In this mix of indigenous words and fabrics will be making and writing activities; from decorating bugs and beasties, to postcards from Wild Wenlock, to planting poems.
Whilst travelling on the Isle of Lewis last year, I came across the most curious thing; a derelict house entirely covered in fishing nets. I showed the film of this spooky place to poet Jean Atkin, who wrote a most marvellous poem called This Netted House. We made this short film, which The Island Review have just published.
I am making a nest.
Weaving it out of bits and bobs, whatever twigs and scraps I find in the studio and garden.
It makes me feel peaceful, settled, home.
Making it helps me notice the birds more and observe their behaviour.
Perhaps when it is done I will tie it in a tree for a feathered friend to discover…
A moment from my walk this morning.
You learn something new everyday. Via wordporn.
The wondrous Wikipedia tells me there is even such a thing as haptic poetry:
Haptic poetry, like visual poetry and sound poetry, is a liminal art form combining characteristics of typography and sculpture to create objects not only to be seen, but to be touched and manipulated. Indeed, in haptic poetry, the sense of touch (and, to a lesser extent, the other senses) is equal to, if not more important than, the sense of sight, yet both text-based poetry and haptic poetry have the same goals: to create an aesthetic effect in the minds of the intended audience.
It is quite magical when you have been creating along certain lines, then discover those lines have been following invisible tracks of a ‘thing’ that already exists. Like finding community or tapping into a shared consciousness.
I was very inspired today by a visit to Ardalanish in the South of Mull, an organic farm and the world’s first Soil Association certified Organic Tweed weaving mill.
Tiny rips and tears in the exterior begin to reveal the stories they have carried for so long.
A dramatic and unexpected turn in the path. All these threads of history peeking through cause a heart-wrenching rip in the surface. A swift slice through the outer self leaves this one exposed in stark vulnerability.
What will become of these wandering companions, naked interior torn out for all to see? What new tapestries will their narratives weave without those old shells? The next chapter may give a clue. Until next time…
Today’s foundlings, taken from the bookshop shelves to embark on a journey. Chosen intuitively because an element of their story resonates; a faded but beautiful colour, an inviting title or time-worn embossed symbol.
How will the journey transform them? Meeting with lost scraps of fabric, foreign fragments and threads of another, the outside surfaces are the first to show signs of affect. Of course, a little destruction is usually required for meaningful change to take place.
After a long first day on the road, they sit waiting for the next to take them deeper.
Look within; early signs of their flowering. Fragrance surfaces a half-forgotten memory acknowledged in this blooming.
More to come.