I’ve given two talks in the space of a week. The first was to the Milton Keynes Embroiderers Guild which coincided with our new textile art exhibition there by ‘FIVE’ (here’s a photo of part of the exhibition – more about that in a later post). The second talk was to Wey Valley Workshop Textile Group in Godalming. I’m delighted to report that I actually enjoyed both of them! No need to lie down in a darkened room to recover, although that bottle of wine later on in the evening did hit the spot. Both groups were lovely and welcoming, and everyone was really friendly. I was pleased with the response to both talks, and I’ve been pondering over why I was apprehensive about it beforehand.
Surveys asking what people worry about seem to suggest that fear of death only occupies the number two spot. Fear of public speaking comes in at number one. It’s that 3am kind of worry, when the house is silent, the dressing-gown hanging on the back of the door in the darkness is someone lurking silently in the shadows, and the people you are going to speak to the next day are definitely going to eat you.
I’ve done my share of giving evidence in Court for work, so I’m used to preparing myself for cross-examination by a hostile barrister whose purpose in life is to make you look stupid, or contradict yourself, or lose your thread, or burble. You do gradually learn the tricks that the barristers employ such as ‘The Withering Look’ or the facial expression that says ‘I Cannot Believe You’ve Just Said Something Quite So Stupid’. I have to remind myself that when I’m speaking to a textile group I am actually talking to a friendly group of like-minded people who have come along because they share the same interest in textiles, and who have come along in a positive spirit. Old habits die hard though, and it is lovely when I have got started and begin to realise that I’m not going to be eaten for breakfast. I start to see nods and smiles and no Withering Looks. The icing on the cake is that the questions are friendly and interested, not critical.
I think part of the apprehension is also an element of ‘So what do I know’. I get invited to do these talks on the strength of having won the C&G Gold Medal for Excellence in Stitched Textiles, rather than because of the years of exhibiting, teaching and publishing experience that many speakers have. I find myself thinking ‘If I had more years experience in textile art, then I would have more to say’. Let me confess something. Once, the night before giving evidence in Court, I dreamt that I was standing in the witness box dressed up in my formal Court clothes except that I had forgotten to put on my skirt. ‘Beam me up, Scotty!’ So, what actually is the worry? Being exposed, like the emperor in his non-existent new clothes? Being caught out? Being found lacking in some way? All of the above, I suspect. So it’s really exciting and liberating to have a positive response to my talks from these two lovely groups (and I’m pleased to say that I did remember to get dressed beforehand!)
I based these talks on exploring questions about why adults so easily lose the creativity that they had when they were children, and how we can get it back if we do lose it. This is something I’ve thought about a lot, because it connects with both my professional working life and my re-discovery of creativity and textiles later on in life.
When I did two previous textiles talks last year I found it very distracting using written notes. It was like someone switching on a fan that blew all my ideas around into heaps of chaos. Those two talks definitely had some Grade A burbling! ‘The mind is a wonderful thing. It starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public’. (Roscoe Drummone). So this time I decided to use the digital images as the prompts instead, and to have no written notes at all. This worked much better, I think. It did occur to me that it would be good to have a Plan B in case of technical failure, but hey, they say adrenaline sharpens the mind.
I guess it will take some time until I lose the unnerving feeling that when I speak about textiles, people are secretly wondering why I forgot to get dressed! I’m not quite sure where the transition comes between being an enthusiastic amateur and being a professional artist. I have a kind of reverence for ‘proper’ textile artists – the ones who earn their entire living through their art. I’m coming into this quite late compared to the bright young things who emerge from art college, so I think I’ll just carry on bumbling along and developing my work and I’ll see where it takes me. In the meantime, with these latest two talks I feel I have dipped my toe into the water. I’m so pleased to find that the water was warm and there weren’t any crocodiles lurking below the surface.
We are moving our recent exhibition (together with some new work) up to Milton Keynes. We are showing stitched textile work inspired by the wonders of World Textiles. You will get get two exhibitions in one visit, because we are exhibiting alongside an Embroiderers Guild exhibition based on the work of garden designer Capability Brown. I’m working away on some new pieces for the new location. Will try to post some images but time is escaping – as it does – I think the world has sprung a leak somewhere, so the time dribbles out! I hope you can come and visit us at the new venue.
What a night! City and Guilds did us proud, with a great celebration of all the awards. Congratulations to Jill Harden, who also picked up a Lion Award for her Floristry course. Well done Jill and Jill!
Here I am on my first (and probably only) red-carpet photo-session! With any luck the official ones will be slightly better…(later comment – no, they weren’t!)
For me, one of the awards that particularly stood out was for Samith Rajapaksha, who travelled all the way from Sri Lanka to collect his award for International Learner of the Year. To do his course and get to his work-place, he had to walk two hours from his village every day. I liked his statement that ‘no dream is too big and no dreamer is too small’. I was also pleased to see an award for Ian Reynolds, Community Supporter of the Year, for his work supporting carers, ‘the forgotten people’.
It was a great evening; drinks, acrobats, eats, entertainments, speeches, awards, posh frocks, more drinks, and lots of socialising. We had some great conversations with so many interesting people, from different subjects, different age-groups and different social backgrounds. The one thing in common was a sense of energy, enthusiasm and excitement. It was great talking to some of the people in their twenties who had won awards – it was clearly a life-changing event. You could see the passion and energy that went into it all. There were a few funny conversations, such as chatting to the felt-making medal-winner while our other-halves compared notes on the silk ties made by their respective partners. Here’s DH, sporting his.
What a big day on Saturday! Missenden Abbey hosted a lovely event for the presentation of the City and Guilds Gold Award Medal for Excellence for Stitched Textiles and for Floristry. There were a hundred or so people in the audience, including current City and Guilds students, my fellow Diploma students, Missenden Abbey staff, and DH for moral support. Thanks to Alison Pearce at the Abbey for organising a lovely event. It was all quite nerve-racking for someone who doesn’t like to be the centre of attention, but I really appreciated that the Abbey made it a special occasion. Despite my nerves it was lovely to be made a fuss of. The ceremony was for two of us – Jill Harden won a Medal for Excellence for her Floristry course. Here’s a photo of all of us.
It felt very unreal to be receiving this award, because of my real diffidence, many years ago now, about signing on for the first part of the course (now the Certificate, then ‘Part One’.) I remember seeing the end of course show at Northbrook College and feeling inspired to try it but also feeling quite intimidated because I didn’t see how I could possibly reach a sufficient standard to do the first course, let alone the second one. Luckily the tutor, Sue Munday, made me laugh about this apprehension and so she was able to introduce me to the delights of design, colour, stitch and particularly machine-embroidery. It was many years later that I signed up for the Diploma Course with Janet Edmonds, and continued the creative journey. Janet has been an inspiring and encouraging teacher, who has opened door after door into new worlds. Her own work is amazing, and we have all learned so much.
I was really pleased that my fellow-students were able to come to the presentation. The support of the group has got us all through many ‘life events’ during the course, as ‘life’ has taken it’s twists and turns over the three years. It has been a pleasure to work alongside such positive and enthusiastic people, who are now firm friends. Here we are, together with Janet Edmonds.
Here’s Janet receiving her thank-you present from us, some time ago now, at the end of the course. It’s a sewing-roll, designed by Cheryl and stitched to her instructions by the four of us.
This embroidered floating fossil rock was a Goldwork piece for the City and Guilds Diploma in Stitched Textiles (Embroidery). It uses traditional metal thread techniques. Silk and viscose velvet was dyed with Procion dye, and the ‘veins’ in the rock were machine-stitched with Madeira FS20 thread in black and gold. The goldwork fossils are stitched with traditional metal thread techniques (leather kid, jap, purls and pearl purl) and the fabric is then scrunched and tweaked into the 3D rock. It floats on electro-magnets, using ‘Levitron Fascinations EZ float’ technology.
I hope you enjoy it.