Monday, 26 October 2009

Kantha embroidery

I recently attend a class on 'Kantha Inspirations' at my local branch of the Embroiderers' Guild. Kantha originates from West Bengal and Bangladesh. Kantha stitches are essentially running stitches, they were used to layer old saris to make quilts. This resourcefulness did not stop at recycling old saris, the thread used to sew was often drawn from the borders of the used cloth. Traditionally the running stitch would be decorated into birds, flowers and whatever else the embroiderers' found as inspiration in their day to day lives.

In our class we used pre-prepared stencils and acrylic paints to transfer motifs on to brightly coloured cloth. Once dry we layered fabrics together to create a wavy, quilted surface. Here I used a golden organza at the top, pink turban cotton, followed by white muslin. A pink bird is stencilled on the organza. Running stitches surround the bird, with flower and sun details added. The stitching scrunches up the fabric, enhancing the shimmering of the golden organza. Interestingly the central bird looks almost appliqued, I think this is due to the pink cotton behind creating a depth to its colour. Kantha embroidery used such a simple stitch, yet creates a strong effective technique. I have many more fabrics to embroider that I printed at the class - should keep me busy for a while!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Pacific North West Adventure!

At the end of my last post I mentioned how I was in desperate need of a holiday, and lo and behold... off I went to the Pacific North West!
In Vancouver I saw an Emily Carr exhibition. She was one of the first artists to produce modern Canadian paintings, inspired by landscape and First Nations totemic art. The exhibition had many of her paintings from the early 1930s. Often the shapes were quite bold and geometric, colours muted and a feeling of tension on the landscape.
Seattle saw a quick trip to SAM. Here they have two sound suits by Nick Cave. One was made from knitting and crochet, which I thought was very fun and comforting. The other was made largely from human hair, which I admit I found very sinister. It is strange how hair (wool) from sheep attracts me yet I found the human hair repelling?
My final stop was Portland. Here I got to see the Call + Response exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Craft. I really enjoyed the work by Jiseon Lee Isbara. One of her pieces 'Scattered' recreated a pin board, cluttered with memos, immigration letters, timetables etc. The formal text is printed, whereas the answers are sewn in a scribbled, indecipherable scrawl. Hopefully this trip will inspire me, however I really must clean my desk first!