My large cross-stitch pattern is now finished, and I’m looking forward to starting to stitch it. You may remember that it’s inspired by Byzantine Church domes, and so the layout of the design corresponds with a traditional dome, but with imagery relating to the Three Fates from Ancient Greek Myth. Around the outer edge, in the corners of the square fabric, are objects relating to each of the fates: a spindle, a measuring stick, scissors, and en egg times, representing the passing of time. There is also a stylised strand of DNA running around the outside. The text running around the inner circle is the names of the Fates, written in Greek, and in the centre is a heart, which I often use within my work as a symbol of both life and death.
For me, this piece of work is all about time, and the struggle and race against time to finish stitching it for the exhibition in November is an important aspect of this. I would say that it will be a near impossible task, and I have already been giving some thought to how an unfinished piece may look. I have been experimenting with covering Aida with clay, and then stitching on to it. This is no more difficult than stitching onto stiff, new Aida, and it will mimic the look of domes which have lost some of their mosaic and are now incomplete.
I’m very happy to say that the project is supported by DMC who will be providing all materials for the workshops and for my own piece of work.
I’m currently arranging workshop dates with various venues around the UK, and I’ll be posting links to the events page on my website so you can come along and get involved for free.
I’ve been working on an article for Workbox Magazine about cross-stitch as contemporary art, and I recently gave a talk at the Hack Circus Christmas Party about my project, and putting what I’m doing into words has been a really good experience.
One of the aims of my project is to change the perception of cross-stitch in contemporary art. It is considered twee and quite an easy form of needlecraft, and the more I research into it, the more I’m inclined to agree.
Cross-stitch never seems to have shaken off its humble origins. Once a form of embellishment for clothing and household linens for the lower classes, cross-stitch was the ideal way of adding decoration to linens on which people were able to count the coarsely woven fibres to form simple repetitive patterns. It has never been a form of high art in the way that other forms of embroidery are. Even today, all that is needed to create an image, even to recreate a masterpiece of art, is a pattern and the ability to count. In the mid 20th century, cross-stitch kits even had the pattern printed onto the fabric, so that all that stitchers only needed to fill in within the lines, rather like a giant paint by numbers.
The recent resurgence of interest in craft and cross-stitch has given rise to the subversive cross-stitch movement, with some hilarious results. Even this though, is still a parody of cross-stitch’s more traditional roots, rather than fine art.
However, the ability to cross-stitch is a skill, and to create a piece of work also takes time and a relationship with the materials and the medium. That is where my interest lies. I believe that the difference between cross-stitch as a hobby craft and cross-stitch as fine art comes from how the materials are viewed in their own right, making use of their own properties to create artworks unique to the medium. The Aida shouldn’t be seen as a blank canvas which needs a picture on it, it should be seen as a tool; and the threads shouldn’t be seen as a way of colouring in, we should be looking at breaking the rules and working with what we have to create something new and exciting.
For example, the restrictions of the grid format distorts any image you try to create, in the way that 8 bit images in computer games are distorted, but if we accept this, and work with it, amazing patterns and images can be created. Also, the idea of hiding the threads away at the back of the fabric to leave a nice picture, which may as well have been painted, seems a little redundant when thinking about the materials and their properties. Why not show your working and your skill in the work?
I think that, to rescue cross-stitch from the no-man’s-land between craft and art, we need to start pushing the boundaries and breaking the rules. Hopefully people will start to think about what could be achieved when working on the DNA pattern to create something together which is genuinely a work of art.
To get a copy of the DNA pattern, and to take part in the exhibition for FREE, please visit my website.
It’s the final push for my crowd funding appeal, as it ends tomorrow. I’ve been working hard every day since 20th October promoting the project, and I’m now tired and burnt out. There is still a fair bit of money to raise, so please help if you can, and hopefully all the hard work won’t have been in vain. Crowd funding alone is a gruelling task, and not something I’d like to do again any time soon. I’ve constantly had a bottomless list of places and people to contact, and in the end I’ve just had to prioritise because there just isn’t enough time to do everything.
I really am blown away at the support the project has gathered. So many people are helping to promote it, as well as donating money, and it’s great to feel that I’ve started something big. It really seems to have captured people’s imaginations and I’m looking forward to getting the project underway properly.
I sent the first lot of patterns out today to my Thread of Life mailing list today, and it seems to be getting a good response, so that’s great. I’ll be releasing it more widely in the coming weeks. We also have a date for the exhibition now: It will be at Bank Street Arts for the whole of November 2015. As yet I have no idea how much work will be in the exhibition, but with the interest gathered I’m potentially expecting hundreds.
I’ve also been working on my large scale pattern, which will be just over a square meter in size. Here’s a look at how it was looking when I last left the studio.
Here’s a link to my crowd funding appeal. If you can help to get this exciting project underway, please do! Every donation helps, so thank you very much for your support!
Interest in my Thread of Life project is certainly gathering pace, although I still have a long way to go with my crowd funding campaign.
This week I’ve been invited to BBC Radio Sheffield to talk about the project, and hopefully that will lead to more donations and more participants.
To help along the way, I’ve added new “perks”, including a hand drawn, signed and framed version of the DNA pattern, and a chance to meet me at my city centre studio in Sheffield. Please take a look at the campaign to find out more, and I would be extremely grateful if you could share the link with others who may be interested.
I’ve also started work on my own, large scale cross-stitch piece, which will be just over a meter squared. The size is dictated by the cross-stitch fabric available to buy, and this is the biggest I can find. However, because I only have roughly a year to make it, this may yet prove to be too big! I’ve always felt that this might be a race to be finished in time, which makes the project so exciting and ambitious.
Here’s a look at the perk in return for a £100 donation, it’s a framed original piece of cross-stitch work.
I’m about 3 weeks in to my crowd funding campaign for my residency project, and I haven’t stopped working since it began! Every day means sending emails, tweets, messages, press releases etc. I’ve contacted everyone I can think of, but I always think of more.
I’ve had a great response from the people I’ve contacted so far, with lots of people wanting to get involved with the project. The hardest part is getting word out there beyond just my immediate contacts, but at last it seems to be paying off. I’ve started to be contacted by people who have had a message or an email passed on to them, and that’s great news. I’ve also got a few magazines, both local magazines and cross-stitch magazines, which are writing an article or interviewing me about the project.
One of the things I’m hoping to do is to get around the country and give workshops, or meet with sewing groups to work on the project. I’ve been contacting galleries and museums to try to find venues, as well as contacting sewing group directly. How much I can do depends on how much money I can raise, but I’m happy to say that I’m receiving some interest for potential venues. Hopefully then I can provide workshops and materials for free, and get more people involved.
The pattern that I want people to stitch themselves is almost ready to be released, and every piece that someone stitches and sends in will go into an exhibition at Bank Street Arts late next year.
For my own part of the project, I’m going to be working on a large scale cross-stitch, which will hang from the ceiling at the exhibition next year. I’ve been working on design ideas, and I’ve decided to base my plans on a Byzantine dome, but with images relating to the Three Fates of Greek Myth.
You can help me out massively by sharing the link to my crowd funding appeal, even if you feel unable to contribute yourself. Also, if you would like to write about my project, or be added to my mailing list, please contact me at [email protected]
Thank you for your support.