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This Blog is a personal record and an honest illustration of my life as a full time embroidery artist. I hope that you find it entertaining and inspiring.

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Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Give it some Welly Girls!

It might be a little tricky to type as I am on the coach from New Plymouth to Wellington the capital of New Zealand! Raymond the bus driver is going like the clappers and as I try to type, we have our nose so far up the Nissan Micra's arse in front I reckon we might launch them into the sky and over the rainbow that has appeared after the rain. 
What a picture that would be.  It could be titled 'HOPE'.  

Looking forward to windy Wellington.  I didn't spend very long there last time I was here 14 years ago and after the hazy days of my artists life its all a bit of a blur, say no more.  The main thing I can remember of NZ is my friend and I hitching around and standing at the side of the road for hours until some poor unsuspecting but kind sod picked us up.  We were silly, we were thought we were hilarious and young.  Here I am, still considering myself as young, 12 years later.   BUT I AM!!!!!

I have hysterics with this particular friend every time I see her (which considering she emigrated to Israel many years ago is not very often) and I remind her about the time we were stuck at the side of a road in the middle of nowhere waiting for a car to pass, never mind stop!  and there she was sitting at the side of the road ... picking ingrowing hairs out of her legs whilst I stood there with a sign that said 'PLEASE!'  

So the ladies tickled with the Lou Gardiner stitchery witchery wand is now around 29.  
The last two days workshop was successful and everybody produced exotic imaginative embroidered birds from scratch.  We began by talking about creativity and what people feel when they are faced with the prospect of drawing and the blank page.  At this point I usually have about 14 ladies staring at me, not knowing each other very well and all feeling a tad on the nervous side.  More often than not though I manage to kick start a mini discussion about fear and freedom.  I try to encourage people that there are no rules, that despite the humdrum of everyday life where creativity for most of us is pretty limited, we are all essentially creative creatures and to try to use drawing as a tool for expression in everyday life.  This could be by doodling by the phone or actually taking time out from the TV, from everyday chores to actually sit, listen to music, look at the unemployed books that sit on the shelves and oooh why not really push the boat out and have a draw.  In a very short space of time, it will develop and dealing with blank page will become less of a frightening experience.  
It makes me laugh as I have taught so many people and have developed quite a practised and I think pretty interesting 'schpeel' on 'creativity.'  I usually pop the question half way through ' So Drawing, How does it make you feel?' And usually I get 15 little blank faces and a sort of shiver goes through the group,  words like nervousness, fear, shock etc are introduced which prompts me to talk about traditional schooling, lack of creativity, responsibility, freedom etc but sometimes someone pipes up with a burst of enthusiasm and positivity and it completely throws me.  'Freedom' one lady shouted at the beginning of a class.  Oh Tits.  How do I respond now? Script is up the spout…. 

More often than not though, this is a red herring thrown in by an interesting character.  We all have certain expectations of what we can achieve and often with creativity, we have certain expectations of ourselves.  We want to impress and show others we are worthy.  WHY? When its been a subject matter so low on the list at school.  We still all want to be good at it, we  I get all sorts of ladies on my courses.  Mostly people who are inherently creative and keen to work with their hands.  Many who have been brought up with a creative make do and mend mentality.  These ladies in New Zealand can knit, sew, make clothes, hand embroider, crochet…  They are 'old school'.  They want to learn new things and they value their independence. They take time out to feed their creative spirit and have sewn for many years, its part of their make up, their social network, their lives.  It's impressive.  

For those of you reading this blog that know nothing about the embroidery scene, well, its BIG.  You would be amazed.  It's the biggest craft in the world.  Stitching, thread, wool, craft etc is an integral part of thousands of women's  
(and men's) lives (Hi Garry!) all over the world but ESPECIALLY in New Zealand.  The GUILDS are big news and extremely well attended, efficiently organised and regular.  I get the impression that each province has hundreds of members all keen as mustard to get together and share their love textiles, possibly because it is a resourceful island that has to provide for itself.  I almost feel a little ashamed of my limited knowledge about embroidery  in comparison to the wide range of skills these ladies have.  Many of them make their own clothes and specialise in all sorts of stitching.  You would be right in thinking that it is mainly traditional and of course I have been brought over here to give my individual and modern take on working with thread.  I am a 'specialist' working in a particular niche which may not appeal to everybody as my approach is pretty high energy and labour intensive.  I would like to think, I have pioneered this spontaneous and fresh way of working and that it is slightly different to the well known embroiderers of our time.  I approach Free Machine Embroidery (FME) from a drawing perspective,  using it to create three dimensional lines and not using the machine as a 'filler' where copius amounts of thread are used almost to replicate paint and create large surfaces of colour and texture who personally I am not interested in .. I don't see the point.  To me, thats a helluva lot of back breaking machining when I would rather use paint, ink and applique to create large areas of colour or texture.  Horses for courses and all that jazz.  

In fact, I think its almost my disdain for embroidery which makes my work different.  How can I explain this?  I have a love hate relationship with thread.  I cant believe the fiddly, hairy, sinewy, nonsense of thread.   It's itsy bitsy, hard to control and fly away nature which sticks to things, spools run off across the floor, get tangled together and can be a headache to work with, to catch.  Sometimes I think 'Uuugh thread!'  As a medium… its almost a bit annoying, fiddly, tenuous and difficult.  

But then what you can do with it?

… the density of reflective colour, the depth, the line, the nobblyness and 3 dimensional feel of thread in comparison to paint or say, pastels is unbeatable.  It is whimsical, magical, thin, it's strength and fragility and fluttery butterflies.  Cutting, placing, embellishing and adorning.  
Now we're talking.  
I love lines of thread, like a raised inky line, a touchy feely drawing which is about more than just sight.  
It tickles your senses. 
I love scissors and I love shapes. The constant working relationship and love affair I have with colour.  How it makes me feel and how I want to challenge it all the time, creating new colour schemes that push the boundaries of what goes with what and what I have used before.  How complex or simple can you make it?  How does it make you feel?  How do you make colours sing?    

Aghhhh I go on.   

Two lovely ladies described me as an 'over night sensation' the other day which made me laugh.  They said I was famous and I should make the most of this by making a film.  (Must talk to Steven  Speilberg.)  
Oh sorry! You mean an educational film about embroidery?  Damn.  I would rather do one with Johnny Depp.  (I am sure he would love me if he met me ;) )   I think it would end up as a comedy actually as I have seen myself on film.  
I don't think I could take myself seriously.  So what d'you reckon?  Now's the time to really follow my true dream and do comic sketches about stitch?  

Nice one, find me an agent!

Looelly Elly woo woo WELLY!


  1. Hope this time this is posted. I have tried before but to no avail. It has been brilliant following tour blog. Yes do make a film/video whatever!

  2. Hi M.

    The comments emails tend to get lost in countless spam but I recently managed to find time to publish all comments --- about two weeks ago so I think you'll find most are up there now. Thanks for following!
    Glad you enjoying it!



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