Detail: Whitby Abbey  Claire Hignett 1998

I went to the opening of the Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival on Friday night and was very impressed. There were so many friendly people and Warrington Museum and Art Gallery is such a lovely venue. You have to walk through the museum to get to the gallery, and the museum is a real treasure trove. The Exhibition was over three venues, and my piece was in the main gallery, attached to the museum. If you read my earlier post about my disappointment over where the piece was displayed at the Chapel Gallery, then this was just the opposite. It was on a white wall, surrounded by space and lit by its own spotlight.  It looked so beautiful, all the metallic threads sparkling and twinkling, just as I knew they would. Lots of people stood looking at it, so although I didn’t win I was just so happy.

Copyright Dionne Swift

In previous posts I have mentioned that I use techniques taught to me on workshops with Dionne Swift, and on Friday night I mentioned her name so many times while explaining how I had made the quilt that I thought I would introduce her to you in this post and explain how meeting her and learning from her proved to be very fortuitous for me and the progression of my work.

Dionne is an artist who uses dyeing, printing and devoré to create her own subtle interpretation of the Yorkshire Moors and Valleys. Over the years she has studied and experimented with these techniques and made them her own.  She uses them to create sensitive, nuanced and compelling contemporary textile art.  I first met her in 2010 at a time when I was in the creative doldrums. My friend Claire spotted her workshops advertised in Huddersfield and suggested we use them as an opportunity to meet up. Dionne was running a monthly creative workshop at the time called “Workshop Wednesdays”.  These turned out to be the perfect remedy to my doldrums, consisting of a return to basic techniques for unlocking creativity, plus learning new fabric printing and dyeing techniques and an introduction to devoré. The devoré turned out to be the catalyst (or even catapult) my work needed to progress.

Using destructive processes: Whitby Abbey: Claire Hignett 1998

Going right back to my Embroidery City and Guilds in the late nineties, my work has included ripples and erosion, which I have tried to embed into my pieces using the destructive processes of ripping, burning, melting, cutting and any other way I could think of to create the effect of erosion. My Final Collection at Bradford College in 2009 “Cherished Lost, Broken and Found” was the start of my ongoing exploration into fragmenting memories. To me memory is not a constant; it flows and erodes through time, symbolised by my attempts to create the effect of ripples and erosion. My creative doldrums came about because I couldn’t find a way to pull all this together creatively.

And that is when Dionne Swift’s devoré techniques and workshops exploded my creative malaise and led me to experiment, applying techniques learnt in her workshops to my extensively worked and layered embroidery.  The combining of devoré and thermofax printing has enabled me to continue to be destructive, but in a much more controlled and subtle way and most importantly has enabled me to create repeat patterns.

Copyright: Dionne Swift

In addition to sharing her many years of learning with her students, Dionne also freely shares her knowledge of running a creative business, and as a relative newcomer, just listening to her experiences and talking to her has opened my eyes to the realities and possibilities that are open to me.  The most important thing I have learned from her is that absolute hard work and persistence are as essential as self belief and talent!

All images of Dionne’s work reproduced with her permission. Please respect her copyright. Thanks Dionne.

October 2, 2012


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