Peoples History Museum

I got chance to go over to The Peoples History Museum this month to take part [with Jade and Zi from work] in what I thought was a talk but pleasantly turned out to be a workshop. It was called The Fabric of Protest and was organised by Helen Mather and Lisa Gillan [lisa.gillen@phm.org.uk]. Helen is an independent artist, painter who is interested in banners [and quilts as paintings as I discovered through chatting – there were so many connections].

The workshop that I took part in was one in a series in which people to come along on a monthly basis, in earlier meeting that I had not attended they had come across the story of the Matchstick Girls. This is very basic but essentially, in a factory down south, girls of 14 and maybe younger were employed to make matches and pack them up. Part of the process involved putting the matches in there mouths and as a result they would develop horrendous mouth cancers. Alongside this was the very poor standards of working conditions and at the time, they were considered as unskilled workers and were therefore unrepresented by a Union [which only worked for skilled workers at the time]. On one day a girl was fired which resulted in the entire workforce walking out and marching down to the local Union representative to demand support. This, I understand was the birth of the modern Union’s.

This workshop had decided to make a banner that represented this action, previous weeks had seen the design for the banner develop and this session saw the beginning of sewing happening. We managed in a=our small groups to get the lettering cut out and started some sewing before the session finished and for other in the next groups to continue with. There were so many similar practices happening in this event and the MQB, there shared experience of working on one item was particularly rich.

I am hoping to get along to another session in the future before it is finished but it is during the week and so may not be possible.

The phrase ‘It Just Went Like Tinder’ was a term used by someone at the time of the incident to describe the reaction of the girls / workers when they decided to take action and not stand for the mistreatment any more.

I cannot remember the name or date of the event but I understand the banner is going to be used as a backdrop for a musical event in Manchester during December. I believe the singer is possibly an artist in resident at the Manchester Peoples History Museum and is doing a concert in response to this residency. Will endeavor to find out more.

OK – this is probably a more accurate account… http://www.unionhistory.info/matchworkers/matchworkers.php

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Study of ‘Hobbiest’ Craft Materials

I have realised that I need to develop a greater understanding of some of the materials that I associate with amateur craft makers who particularly rely on shops such as Hobby Craft or Magazines available in local newsagents. I am trying to engage with making as an amateur [which I believe I am] BUT, I operate professionally [in my job] within a design and craft arena in which I have access and a breadth of knowledge of textiles. As a weave tutor, I teach about professional applications of design and as such this requires a high level of engagement with contemporary yarns, dyes, equipment and methods.

I believe that switching and using those materials that we may choose to not use within a design studio but will find in abundance in a local craft’ing’ shop will expand my visual vocabulary.

I have started to tentatively explore this through stitch and am looking forward to the next phase of this research in which i will fully submerge myself in this world of wonderful materials: pom poms, scoobies, hama beads, sequins, ‘fuzzy’ felt sheets and pipe cleaners.

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Quilted [small] Banner, exploring hobby craft materials. [Perren, 2016]
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Detail of Hobby Craft Banner. [Perren, 2016]
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Study with Pom Pom’s [Perren, 2016]
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Detail of Pom Poms. [Perren, 2016]

Exploring Cross Stitch

There are a number of things that I associate [as do others] with perhaps typical hobby outcomes. Cross stitch is one such craft and it felt appropriate that I should explore this further. Like a lot [if not all] of the textiles I make, I consider them as drawing. if not a direct observation of something I see, it is an action that takes time and consideration as it creates marks on a surface.

I have done a number of samples that include cross stitch but have not been able to find the focus or stamina to follow a pre-printed edition. Instead I tend to stitch intuitively although [as can be seen in this sample], I may draw some guidelines for shapes on the ground first.

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Making it up Cross Stitch. Cotton on Linen. [Perren, 2016]
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Trying to follow directions from a 1981, Readers digest Manual. [Perren, 2016]

Exploring non quilted stitch

When it come to textiles, for the last few months the focus has been on quilting. I’m quite happy with this but as a mum I often find myself at locations waiting for one of my daughters, quilts are not exactly portable so I have used the time to explore textiles in other ways in more bite size pieces.  Much like the amateur knitter sitting at the side of the local pool, I found myself doing some embroidery [although I would consider them to be drawings].

These samples have again allowed me to engage with a slowness of pace in working and the ability to use time in a manner that I could have some autonomy. I believe these approaches to stitch might be worth further development with regards to narrative and materiality.

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Stitch Exploration 1. cotton, jute, Japanese tape yarn, beads, sequins. [Perren, 2015]
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Stitch Exploration 2. Sheer viscose, beads, waxed linen, sequin. [Perren, 2015]
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Stitch Exploration 3. Cotton, polystyrene, velvet, dipped paper yarn, tyvek, beads, netting. [Perren, 2015]

ummm, not sure about this

I have used the quilt top / sandwich to develop some ideas with sequins. Think in this case it has not worked, not sure why but it feels like it is two separate things forced together. I am going to keep going with this though but it will need more thought. Once I get a little more time I would like to work on a piece a lot more heavily, at the moment it seems too polite.  Need to take it to extremes.

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Applied Sequins onto a Quilted Top. Cotton, sequins. 70 x 40 cm [Perren, 2015]
I need to gain more control of the straight line, particularly the machine sewn ones. I am ok with the mix of machine and hand sewn lines but it just needs a lot more of a lot more things?

Emma Shercliff

Emma presented a paper at the Transitions conference in Huddersfield last week. She has recently completed a PHD at the RCA and spoke about the importance of the hand and working with a group of ladies making textile pieces for churches etc.

RCA Emma

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These were a few of the key points from her talk:

Joining In and Dropping Out: Hand stitching for the self and others.

Hand stitch as a congenial binder for community groups and creates social opportunities. Shared experiences and social ties to community through crafted process, craftivism, well being. Does not fit entirely into all these places neatly but somewhere else.

In the community and private domain. Images seem to focus on older generations, what about the working age men and women.. Ethnographic and auto ethnographic searching. Allowing the maker to decide on process as opposed to asking them to do something specifically.

How does it then affect your own work once you had joined a local embroidery group.

Significant role of talk in meetings as much as the sewing itself.

Feminist linguistics, role of talking and gossip. Emotional labour associated with the entomology of the word which comes from meetings of women after the birth of a new born child.

A continuos chorus. Shared pools of knowledge and life experiences.

Everyone works onto the same work, it is a shared piece, each week someone else would work into the same pieces. It was not about what the individual could do but the collective.

Being swallowed up and absorbed by the task in hand. FLOW – andrew jackson: Amateur practitioners in well equipped personal studios.

Oral culture, shared time and tasks becomes a performance. Experience a sense of belonging.

Has it changed your practice? Not every craft is a social craft.