Friday, 28 September 2012

Telling a Story - The Spitalfields Tapestry Project

Just before the Millenium.

East London ( Spitalfields, Bethnal Green & Hackney)

A group of vulnerable women of all ages and backgrounds living in the area.

The Project:
To create one or two panel(s) for a large textile hanging in shape of a fan telling the story of the French Huguenots (Protestants) who settled into the East London area after they have been offered sanctuary in England by Charles II in 1681, fleeing severe persecution by the French Church and Law. Most of these 40 000 immigrants were highly skilled weavers, mainly using silk. Hence the idea of a tapestry/textile wall hanging celebrating the local history of East London in time for the millenium.

So, this was the background history, research and idea for this project.
But instead of teaching the participants how to weave with silk we decided to use the screenprinting technique (stencil, photographic) and images of Huguenot silkweavers and their architecture in East London (churches and weavers' houses) to tell a 'picture story' of these influential immigrants.

Most of our lovely students (and teachers!) were not aware of this important bit of local history and how it actually influenced East London as it is today.

So we started by handing out photocopied historic images which our students carefully traced onto tracing paper....

Some students concentrated on the architecture.....

....while others were fascinated by the landscape and people.

The traced images were then transferred onto a photographic screen: A light- sensitive emulsion is layered thinly onto the screen. The image is then laid out on top and the screen gets exposed to a strong light for a short while. The emulsion around the image hardens, while the covered image areas can then be washed away, leaving an exact mirror image of the original. A great technique for more complicated images with fine lines!         
We used a 'home-made' light box to do this back in our studio on Brick Lane.

But before those photographic images, which looked like drawings, could be printed onto the large canvas fabric, we asked the students to create some colourful background patterns first.
To do that we taught them two new printing techniques: One was the simple stencil printing, using a cut out image, textile paint and a sponge; the other was batik. Batik is an Asian textile printing technique where molten wax is painted or brushed onto cloth to block out selected areas. These areas stay in the original colour, when the fabric is then dyed. This process can be repeated many times, working from light to dark colours.

Unfortunately I do not have my own images of the finished products, the panel and the whole tapestry, because I had already emigrated to Australia before the Millenium. But I came across a very interesting Blog about Life in Spitalfields, where Di England and her massive tapestry Millenium Project is featured. Check it out : , Di England- Stitches in Time.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Earthly Art

This was an unusual workshop in an equally unusual setting...the bushy hinterland of Brisbane, Australia.
              I worked there as an artist and teacher for various organisations and community groups. This worshop was organised by one such group and aimed at local primary school children. The idea was to get the kids to explore the beautiful surrounding nature through the genre of Land Art or Earth Art.
     First of all, we explained how famous land artists like Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Long, Chris Drury and Richard Shilling work: They usually have a good look around the area they have chosen to work in, looking for fallen leaves, branches, bark, seeds, etc..   
As nature needs to be respected and preserved we stressed the fact that nothing should be broken off, cut or ripped from the earth or plants.   
We asked the children to look at the different colours and shapes, and encouraged them to feel textures and even have a sniff at the different 'materials'. Working in groups was highly encouraged; and as an extra challenge we also supplied some man made materials with the task to create a contrasting sculpture on-site!
....and not to forget to mention: The workshop site was left in exactly the way it was found!



Weaving with Cane

I have taught this free-style, experimental 3D workshop at the Ipswich Art Gallery, Australia, over two days. I used 3mm cane as the base material and showed the participants how to construct a simple sphere using basket weaving techniques. Once they had created their own sample sphere I demonstrated how to construct more organic shapes and how to connect them to form a free-standing sculpture. As you can see the students came up with some fantastic creations. Some of these were even modified into lampshades using tissue-paper, PVA glue and diluted inks to add a bit of colour.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Preface

This blog is my personal portfolio, diary and place of reflection of my art workshops/lessons of the past, present and future. As a practicing artist and art teacher I have taught lessons inside and outside the school environment in Australia and here in England. My students ranged from mature/ retired adults to pre-schoolers and came from various cultural backgrounds and locations. I have learnt to adapt my workshops to limited, natural resources available as well as to high standards in technical and educational environments. But no matter what, where, when, who and why I facilitated these well-planned workshops/lessons the process and outcome of each one of them always had something, or someone, spontaneous in them! And this is exactly what I love about this work. Because as someone once said:

'To teach is to learn twice.'