I went to this the Saturday before last (24th November) . It is a huge selling and exhibiting event which is held in 4 places every year & Harrogate is always one of them . I actually last went to it more than 10 years ago so it has changed quite a bit . It used to be a wonderful place to get serious textile art supplies including combed fleece for spinning and felting , many kinds of dyes including hard-to-get effective natural dyes and raw materials generally . Now the leaning is towards kits , particularly those where you need to have nothing else whether appropriate tools or any creative input whatsoever .The textile equivalent of painting by numbers – for children . Given the name of the show it was surprising that most stalls seemed to expect people who could neither knit nor sew nor even choose wools or thread by themselves . There was even one stall where a woman passed by saying to her friend “I didn’t come here to buy clothes !” . I know what she meant . I was actually tempted by some 3rd world earrings but remembered in time what I was there for !
The second thing they always have had at K & S were wonderful textile art galleries . These were well worth it . As usual I was interested in some individual artists and the Quilter’s Guild and Royal School of Needlework displays . I found a lot of the Embroiderer’s Guild work disappointing this year . To my mind it was less embroidery and more let’s show how much we can make stitch look like ‘real’ art . When this is basically copying contemporary work on fashionably distressing subjects – dementia , anorexia nervosa – the result adds unoriginality to stuff most don’t enjoy seeing in the first place . The other subject which has been de rigueur this year is WW1 . The embroidered hearts were not too bad – I just happen to dislike the heart shape – but the memorials to soldiers in the form of partial uniforms , kitbags , medals , poppies etc. did not seem to be an evocation in the form of embroidery at all . What is so courageous about this ?
Rants over . Here are some images of things I really did love .
Libby Vale’s black on white machine embroidery
She was working on a project about women’s lives . She put out paper for us to contribute words which she will sort and may stitch as commentary on her pictorial embroidery – all , she hopes , to be incorporated in a crinoline which she will make for next year’s 4 exhibitions . She has a website and is on Instagram either as Libby or Libbertine Vale . Instagram has more images – the website being a bit sparse generally as yet .
Firstly this is one of the copies of a 1718 silk quilt which is the oldest in the Guild’s collection and the oldest known dated quilt from England . They showed the original along with various inspired copies . I think this is the one trying to recapture what it looked like 300 years ago with bright colours on a white ground . (The original is now both faded and brownish) .
Next some of the prizewinning modern quilts which I really liked :
They were also showing quilted type work from the Studio Art Quilt Association which has headquarters in the US although it describes itself as international and some of the work was certainly by Canadians . They describe ‘art quilts’ as necessarily involving layers of fabric and lines of stitching . Although most of the work shown was framed as pictures are I would regard all of them as textile works . They were showing works on the theme of ‘Concrete & Grassland’ . The original exhibition must have been huge since there were far more on the SAQA website than we ever saw in Harrogate . Here is a quick flavour :
Electric cooling towers as seen from a train somewhere in the UK by Elizabeth Barton (I can’t remember the correct title) .
‘Rift’ by (someone) Jazkowski .
Yes I know I should have shown more images but the quilted ones especially take up a lot of space . Also I should do hyperlinks but they take ages and I often get them wrong . NB the SAQA website is best searched for using full words – otherwise you get endless links to a South African website about qualifications (!)