All my own work…

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My friend Sarah and I are going to Russia in August to attend the International Quilt Festival in Suzdal.  We intend to make one or two small quilts to show there, so, to get inspired, I’ve been looking back at things I’ve made in the past. It’s such a long time since I’ve stitched anything and my confidence that I can actually do it needs boosting.

I studied for four years (part-time) in the 1980s for my City & Guilds qualification in Embroidery and Design, and this coincided with our short posting to Moscow. So while I was in Russia, I was very focused on finding out about Russian textiles, textile artists of the past and present, and on soaking up all the wonderful inspiration that being there gave me.  I’d been set two projects around the themes of ‘trees’ and ‘buildings’ – and I still have my sketchbooks and stitched experiments from that time. It’s over thirty years ago! Since then I’ve done quite a lot of research, writing, teaching and speaking on the subject of Russian art, dress and textiles (including getting my Masters in 2004). So I haven’t been idle. But I’ve done very little sewing or drawing. I don’t know why. I suppose I’ve been creative in other ways – including in my job and my home – but it’s time now to reconnect with the urge to make art!

Some pages from the trees sketchbook -

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And one of the finished works – a quilt hand-sewn in English patchwork (squares formed over papers); hand-dyed and painted silk; lettering done with gutta resist method. 80cm square. (The text is from a poem by Afanasy Fet and means ‘the birches of the North are dear to me’ – which they are!  I’ve just fulfilled a long-held ambition and had a birch tree planted in my garden).

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The inspiration for the design was this photograph I took in 1987 beside the Moscow river.

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I did some samples exploring the qualities of birch bark, which often splits, showing surprisingly vivid orange and rusty tones inside.

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Here are some stitched samples and art-work round the themes of buildings and icons – and a couple of finished pieces using some lovely linen I bought at Dom Tkani (the House of Fabrics) in Moscow.

I was asked to make a piece for a book called ‘Fairy-Tale Quilts and Embroidery’ – specifically for a chapter about illuminated letters. I embroidered this letter P – (П in Cyrillic script) – on a piece of linen, exploring a range of stitch techniques found in Russian counted-thread embroidery, the main one being Russian Drawn Ground. This piece was useful when I used to teach Russian stitch techniques to Embroiderers’ Guild groups.

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The inspiration for the last piece (which combines hand and machine embroidery with layers of fabrics, some of which are cut away), was a favourite wooden egg with its joyful bright colours and naive-style decoration.

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