Art in Action 2015

It’s July, it’s Art in Action 2015

Colourful tapestry weave at Art in Action 2015

On Saturday we went to Art in Action 2015, one of our favourite events.

One of the joys of Art in Action is to watch artists and craftspeople demonstrate their skills and discuss their work with them. “How do you do… ?” is a common question. I love finding out the techniques used in different arts and crafts and what makes someone’s work different from that of others. Let me introduce you to some of the artists and craftspeople I met on Saturday.

Textiles exhibitors at Art in Action 2015

West Dean College: tapestry weaving

There was a large tapestry on the stand from West Dean College which caught my eye. Lots of jolly colours! The loom was set up so people could have a go.

Tapestry weaving with West Dean College

Look at this: here’s the bit that I did! – the yellow and green section.

Tapestry weaving with West Dean College

The basic technique is simple: weave the weft yarn alternately in front of one warp thread, then behind the next. The demonstrator explained how to prepare the loom for tapestry weaving; it’s quite time-consuming, but simpler than setting up a weaving loom. The difficult part is translating a design on paper to the loom (you can see one technique for this in last year’s post about Textiles at Art in Action). However, this particular tapestry is just made up by each person who has a go. I think this would be a lot of fun to try in my Therapeutic Textiles sessions.

Portia Gilles: knitted textiles

I wrote about Portia Gilles‘s work last year. She uses a beautiful 100-year-old knitting machine to create fine-gauge knitted textiles which she transforms into lovely bags and accessories. She specialises in a technique called ‘plating’. I think this technique is unique to machine knitting; at least I’ve never worked out how to do it by hand. Let me explain! The machine is threaded up with two different colours of yarn. Normally when you do this, you get a mottled effect, as you would when hand knitting with two yarns at the same time. Plating is achieved by using a special attachment, on a double bed machine, which separates the yarn as they form the stitches. Although both yarns are used to form each stitch, one is visible on the knit side and the other on the purl side. This creates two coloured ribs. Looking at the bag below, where you see the width of the colour changes, Portia has manually moved a stitch from one needle bed to the other. It’s slow and painstaking, particularly on a fine-gauge machine. Portia’s bags certainly showcase this technique!

Knitted Bag by Portia Gillies at Art in Action 2015

Look at this stunning cushion! It’s very different to Portia’s bags, knitted using the Fair Isle technique. I thought she had not used her antique machine to do this. Sure enough, she said she had used a domestic machine (the type someone has at home) with a punchcard. A punch card produces a pattern with a repeat of 24 stitches. Portia had to work out her pattern carefully so it would repeat every 24 stitches. I love the pattern and this particular colour combination! Oh gosh, I really must get my knitting machine out and have a play with some ideas.

Knitted cushion by Portia Gillies

Bridget Bailey: millinery, sculptures and textile jewellery

Bridget Bailey was demonstrating the specialist millinery and textile techniques that she uses to create exquisite millinery, sculptures and textile jewellery. I know little of the techniques used here, but the finished pieces are stunning! I love how Bridget explores the scientific side of nature-inspired by taxidermy, entomology and botany.

Apples by Bridget Bailey at Art in Action 2015
Textile Sculpture of flowers by Bridget Bailey

Trudie Timlin-Brown: weaving with a difference

There is always at least one weaver demonstrating at Art in Action. Meet Trudie Timlin-Brown, who uses ikat dyeing techniques to dye her warp yarn before weaving. This is a precise process, since the intention is that the colours will line up when on the loom. Trudie’s pieces resemble watercolour paintings, not the textiles of Indonesia with which ikat dyeing is associated.

Trudie also uses an inkle loom to weave text along narrow fabric. She then uses this narrow fabric as a weft in her larger pieces.

Weaving by Trudi Timlin-Brown at Art in Action 2015

Other exhibitors at Art in Action 2015

Hannah McVicar: screen-printing

Screen-printing is another technique that fascinates me. Hannah McVicar was demonstrating how she produces her beautiful floral and botanical prints using this technique. Each of her illustrations is printed in eight or more colours. Each colour has a separate screen, and each time she uses a screen it must line up perfectly with the colours that have already been printed. Just like any skilled craftsperson, Hannah made screen-printing look easy. Hannah’s screen-printed illustrations have been used in books, magazines and on the boxes for the Johnson’s Designer Garden Seed Collection.

Screen-printing by Hannah McVicar

New North Press: printing

This lovely old printing press makes an appearance every year. This year it was used for demonstrations by New North Press, an artisan letterpress print studio. They set their wooden and metal blocks by hand, before inking and printing. They specialise in posters inspired by the verbal history of London, from nursery rhymes and folklore traditions to Cockney rhyming slang.

New North Press at Art in Action 2015

Eleri Fowler: paper-cutting

Eleri Fowler was demonstrating paper cutting in the Illustration marquee. She explained how she starts with an illustration, transfers that to paper and then cuts the paper. Her designs are amazingly intricate and stunningly beautiful. Eleri said she may produce some kits with pre-printed designs for people who would like to have a go at paper-cutting but can’t or don’t want to produce their own illustration. I’m looking forward to seeing these kits; I might ask Santa to get me one!

Paper-cutting by Eleri Fowler

Another perfect day!

I left Art in Action 2015 buzzing with ideas after talking to artists and craftspeople and seeing their inspiring work. The Sun shone, there was ice cream and happiness all around.

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