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Scholarship with the Embroiders Guild

Me with my latest body of work – There is No Place like Home

After my success with The embroiders guild I was asked if I would like to apply for a scholarship with the Embroiders Guild, I know that competition is tough for this as they only chose two artists a year, so I put a lot of thought into the direction my work could take, and how best to utilise the money and the time.

I had started to research a subject that been niggling away at me for a while, being based in the countryside and living in the ‘sticks’ in Herefordshire I had noticed so many cottages with good size gardens being knocked down and four luxury houses- with no garden so to speak being built on the plot. This might seem like a great way to regenerate the countryside, but what was really happening was that younger people and poorer people were being priced out of their villages.

Although villages since then have generally become wealthier, many still remain the vibrant and socially diverse communities that The Spectator extolled a century ago. Yet this diversity could now be finally be on the verge of extinction, thanks to Government proposals which will see homes that were previously accessible to all being sold off to the affluent. Families who have made huge contributions to the social fabric of our rural life are facing the prospect of being forced out of their villages because they cannot afford to stay. Just eight per cent of homes in rural areas are now judged to be affordable; in urban areas the figure is 20 per cent. And when compared to the national average, house prices in rural areas are already higher, and rural wages are lower, and the gap between them is growing. This makes a mockery of the Government’s plans to replace affordable homes to rent with “starter homes” to buy – at nine times the median salary of rural workers. In fact these plans will only exacerbate an already very difficult situation”

It seems impossible to rent a country cottage long term anymore, people told me stories about how their landlord had been approached directly by property developers who had made them offers they ‘couldn’t refuse’ and most of them sold and their tenants lost their homes, and in many cases jobs. I knew I wanted to represent this story and so decided that the Scholarship would be the perfect opportunity to highlight this important element of my community.

I shared this with the Guild and also my desire to explore a more 3D approach in my work and the desire to create an immersive embroidery Installation. It was a brave application and something quite different, so I was apprehensive about the outcome. But my previous efforts with the Guild and my boundless enthusiasm really helped my application and in Easter 2019 I was accepted for the Scholarship.

This didn’t leave much time to design and create the body of work, as my first exhibition was the Knitting and Stitch at Alexandra Palace in October. There was a period of reflection and drawing then things become Crystallised when I was in Cumbria on an install and was spending some time in Carlisle Cathedral, where I was agog at the Brougham Triptych, this 3D carved representation of the crucifixion of Christ was made in Antwerp in about 1520, and bears the trademark of the Antwerp Guild of Woodcarvers.

The depth almost made it look like boxes stacked upon each over, each showing a different section of a story which made a whole; it had a massive impact on me. I felt that to use such a techniques could work with embroidery as well, and to allow the depth of these boxes to reflect the depth of context and use a narrative to allow the viewer to become emotionally involved with an individual’s story, rather than to bombarded with stats and facts should be a more coherent and passionate way to represent this humanitarian work.