Brunel Broderers’ Exhibition at Newark Park


On my recent visit to Newark Park I was lucky enough to see the Brunel Broderer’s exhibition, which was of work made in response to the house and gardens.  I really hate singling people out in exhibitions, because often it is just a matter of taste as to whose work you prefer, but there was some glorious embroidery on display.  I particularly liked seeing the sketchbooks accompanying the work, and I liked the way that it was spread throughout the house and not just in the gallery.  For example, my good friend Liz Hewitt had this rather lovely piece in a little ground-floor reception room:


This is a little taster of the rest of the show:

The combination of this very high quality contemporary needlework, and the older pieces I mentioned in an early blogpost make this a really good day out for sewers of all sorts.




New for Now: The Origin of Fashion Magazines – my sketches

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The Medieval Historian and I decided to go to Amsterdam for our wedding anniversary this year.  I wanted to see the new entrance to the Rijksmuseum, and the exhibition, New for Now: The Origin of Fashion Magazines, the catalogue for which the MH had given me after his previous visit there.  The exhibition is now over which is a shame because it turned out to be fascinating even for the MH who was not expecting to enjoy it.  It was a show of their collection of early fashion magazines, and the style of drawing was as interesting as the clothes for me.  Although you could take pictures and the illustrations in the catalogue (plentiful on-line) were magnificent, I think there is something about drawing which is useful because it makes you look hard and notice.  So here are my sketches – pretty rough – done in waterproof pen and ink, with a wash applied later in the hotel room, which is why there are colour notes on them.  I am sorry that for some reason I can’t enlarge them without the dreaded pixellation today, but they will give an idea:

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Incidentally, I loved the Rijksmuseum extension.  I love the idea of a main road running through a museum.  That really does bring in hard to reach audiences.

Mr Finch


Finally, finally, finally my copy of Mr Finch’s book has arrived.  I made a cup of good coffee and sat down to read it.  That isn’t my hand, by the way, the picture is from his Facebook gallery.

Mr Finch is a textile artist/man who sews/sculptor.  He makes wonderful creatures from old and recycled textiles.  I was made aware of him by the wonderful Jemima Lumley and started following him on Facebook.  I love the way that his work is unnerving – Unheimlich, as sociologists and psychologists might say, and very beautiful at the same time.  He seems very happy to make images available so here are some pictures:

yellow-bird-small-logo Masked-foxes-small-150x150 spider-ring-small-150x150 Moths-on-Books-small-150x150

I would love one of his foxes in masks or butterflies made from old embroidered tray cloths.  His work with its detail and delicacy makes everything I do look clunky and gauche, but it is still really inspirational.  It’s worth looking at his website:, and his facebook page.

He currently has an exhibition in Anthropologie on the King’s Road, which I hope to get to see before Christmas.

The book is a great treat, beautifully produced, glorious photos and clearly made with love.  Mr Finch: Living in a Fairy Tale World, 2014, published by Glitterati.  Exquisite.





Gelli-printed notebooks


As part of the Thinking Futures day on 5 November 2014, I made participants a little notebook to write things down from the academic talks in the morning.  I made very simple pamphlet books with stitched covers.

I made the covers using a gelli plate, which is a way of monoprinting.  I really love the gelli plate.  It’s a clear sheet of jelly, about a centimetre thick, and it can be used over and over again.  It’s very easy to use.  I brayer on some fluid acrylic and then pull the print.  You get the customary veined effect if you use the paint fairly generously:


Sometimes I just use paint rollered onto the plate:


Or use them to stencil onto:


Or stamp and use embossing powder:


Or you can great effects with plastic stencils used as a mask:


The last one uses sequin waste as a mask.

If you take a print after lifting off the stencil you can get really nice embossed effects:




Seriously easy, and although the plates aren’t cheap, it is very straightforward to get excellent results.  My next step is to try it out on fabric.

Latest additions to my Laura Ashley project


First of all, I am very sorry about the long gap between this post and the last one.  I know a high proportion of people like to read the blog on Sunday afternoons, and I haven’t been providing you with your reading lately.  This has been due to the pressures of the day job – the start of term is always a lot of hard work, and various everyday life things which have required a lot of time and energy.  But I am back.

One of the things that I have been working on is the Laura Ashley project, particularly the gift element, which I will post on later.  I have also been working on ideas about taking the idea of art as research seriously.  What would it mean if we did produce pieces of art rather than written academic papers?  What would happen to the field of study, and to our careers?  John Dewey, one of the great authorities on education, said that communities which do not produce art are deficient.  But what happens if we try to address this?  And, on the other hand, what happens if we reduce the art to mere decoration or illustration?

Well, a small element of my Laura Ashley project has been to produce some illustrations for some of the stories I have collected while doing my research – often when speaking to quilting groups.  These are pictures taken with my swanky new camera, which are great, but could have done with better light.  I am still experimenting with it, so please bear with me.



This was my trial piece.  I often make a dry run sample to get my self sorted out if there is machine stitching to be done.  That’s why this one has no legs – she was just made with an offcut which suggested the shape of the dress.  It is a really bright piece of probably 80s fabric so I reversed it to give a more vintage look.  Her hair is another of my beloved furnishing fabric samples.  The are probably about 2×3 inches:


The faces are all made of curtain lining, and once again, just about everything here is made from fabric which would have gone into landfill.

So here are the illustrations.


I wore a dark Laura Ashley dress for a family New Year’s Eve party and it was the only time my brother-in-law ever told me I looked beautiful.


Every time we have a big family party for a birthday or an event I add another flag to the bunting and it’s almost always Laura Ashley fabric.


I went on a really romantic walk on the Downs with a new boyfriend.  I was wearing a really full Laura Ashley skirt and a bee flew up it.




I made a Laura Ashley dress to go to college dance, and I made a matching tie for my then boyfriend who is now my husband.


I made tablecloths and napkins for all the big family events and celebrations.


My daughter wanted a very simple wedding.  The bridesmaids wore purple Laura Ashley dresses.  Years later we discovered the marriage had not been legal.


I got married in a Laura Ashley sailor dress.

One of the things I really like about this technique is that as Janet Clare, whose workshop gave me the idea, says, you just don’t know who will turn up.  When you start to stitch the faces all sorts of people appear:


This one has a slight look of Lady Diana.


This one looks like someone in my office who is on maternity leave.


The woman in this one looks like a local historian of note.  And I am pleased that I got just a hint of smugness.


This one doesn’t look like anyone, but does look like she is in danger of growing a moustache.


This one has a look of those 70s folk singers like Grace Slick.


I really liked the tie story.  It reminded me of an old American practice I read about somewhere in which the women going to a dance would make a tie in the fabric of their ballgowns and the men would pull out a tie blindfolded.  They then had to partner the woman who matched their tie, as it were:


So, I had lots of fun making these, and I think the illustrations suit the subject very well.  I am thinking of putting together a self-published picture book with longer versions of the stories.  I will be interested to see if they are accepted as legitimate research.  I think I know the answer.


War collar number two


The second collar in my series of wearable armour for corporate women is this blue neckpiece.  The idea here is to make a protective piece.  So, according to the sort of folklore I was brought up with, blue wards off evil spirits, which is  apparently why we dress baby boys in blue, and thus the piece is largely blue.  In other traditions shiny things dazzle the devil and keep him away from you, so it has lots of golden coins.  The piece is also clearly a nod to the lovely tribal embroideries that are inspirational for so many of us.  The best example for me is probably, as I have said before on the blog, The Shining Cloth:


This is a book that I think everyone should have, as it is packed with glorious photos of amazing decorated cloths.

My piece has been hanging about for some time waiting to be made into something.  I got into a good habit a couple of years ago of using the leftovers at the end of a project to make up a block, and eventually you have enough to make a quilt.  This piece was leftover from a series of small quilts about Walter Benjamin which I made last year:




I had this very pretty little piece made up of bits of hand-dyed fabric:


It had some machine stitching on it:


And I decided to do some hand-stitching with the lovely Madeira lana thread:


Then I squared it up a bit and sewed on the coin charms which I think I got very cheaply at a Hobbycraft sale:


Finally I made the cord:


This one is very light, and I think it could be worn.  Being a major fan of the kaftan, I have several things it might go with.  But it will be interesting to see which ones people do want to wear when I go to the next stage of the project.

Access Art – brilliant resource


I have been trying desperately to finish off various things in progress before the start of the new term, so my blogging has suffered a bit.

One of the things has been the text for my turn as I am Access Art.  Access Art is a great website with lots of resources for art teachers, and it is bursting with missionary zeal for sketchbooks.  I love my project books, which are a form of sketchbooks, and so I subscribe to the site’s services, have been to a brilliant sketchbook conference in Cambridge and done one of their on-line drawing courses.

In a new initiative they are showcasing the work of one of their members for a month each.  I had to write a text about my work and I thought I would show you what I have in mind.  I am particularly proud that they asked for a thousand words and this is exactly 1000.

My name is Ann Rippin and I am a Reader in the Department of Management in the School of Economics, Finance and Management at the University of Bristol.  I make textile art as part of the research work I do, and I sometimes include it in my teaching classes.

I make large, heavily surface-decorated and embroidered quilts.  They are usually about the companies I study such as Marks and Spencer, The Body Shop, Laura Ashley, Starbucks and Nike.  I also make artists’ books as a way of drawing attention to the fact that we always present our research in academic journals as if it happened in one perfectly thought out unfolding ribbon, whereas, of course, it had stops and starts, diversions, reversals and so on.  Finally, I have recently begun making art dolls, mainly as a way of exploring the Laura Ashley brand and its place in the hearts of British quilters.

I like to use techniques of juxtaposition in my work.  This is heavily influenced by the work of Walter Benjamin, a twentieth-century German critical theorist, who, at the end of his life began to think that you shouldn’t tell people anything about your research but present them with fragments which they would put together to form their own conclusions.  You could drop hints by putting certain things together – like pictures of Elizabeth I and Anita Roddick, the former CEO of The Body Shop, but you couldn’t spell things out.  I think that textiles are very good for this, particularly if they include graphic elements.  They can also be very useful for showing two sides of things, with an inside and an outside, or a front and a reverse.  I made a two-ended tippy up doll, like the Red Riding Hood at one end and the Wolf at the other dolls, of Nike with the American dream multinational company at one end and the child laborer actually making the shoes at the other.

I work largely with a sewing machine, a Bernina which I have had for twenty years and have only ever had serviced once.  It deserves some sort of medal.  I work a lot by hand, particularly sewing on beads and doing surface embroidery.  I really love painting on the finished pieces, it’s a bit like colouring in, but I often use gold paint on top of my free-style machine quilting.  I use fluid acrylics which come out of the bottle at the right consistency.

I tend to work in series about whatever company or topic I am working on.  I find this a very useful way of slowing down my thinking, a bit like the Slow Cooking movement, so that I can let my ideas incubate for a while rather than dashing to get them onto paper.  At the moment I am working on Laura Ashley and I have made a large quilt showing the importance of her 50p bit bags for a generation of British quilters, a series of mini quilts showing the preciousness of the fabric scraps, a series of narrative pieces of imagined lives of the women who wore the dresses, some Laura Ashley dolls and their husbands, dressed in Laura Ashley fabric showing the biographies of the women I have interviewed in fictionalised forms, and three dolls in vintage-looking dresses exploring the nostalgia in the brand.

I use sketchbooks in the form of project books all the time and I now have a big collection of them.  I like A4 books with comb-binding so that the book will lie flat easily.  I collect images, make mind maps, record quotations, make working drawings, stick in samples and write commentaries in them.  I am experimenting with making fold-outs and tipped in elements, although I have had no luck with pages with windows cut into them.  I am always amazed when I give talks to students and to quilting and embroidery groups how many people seize on the sketch books.  They really love them and remember them longer than the finished work.  I don’t know why this is, but it is consistent across the groups I talk to.  I occasionally give classes on making books and I find that one of the key things is generosity with the materials.  I am delighted with what people make and the creativity and ingenuity they show in making books tailored to their own needs, and I think this sense of playfulness and experimentation comes from having a lot of stuff to work with, a feeling of abundance.  I remember going to an Access Art sketchbook making session where the tables groaned with materials and I came away with a fantastic sketchbook which I still use as a demonstration piece.

A big feature of my work is that I use  lot of recycled materials.  I am lucky enough to have a contact who makes exquisite curtains – or window treatments – and I often get the sample books and the strips trimmed off the bottom of the drapes after they have been alllowed to hang for hemming purposes.  I have a blogosphere friend who is a historical re-enacter who uses exquisite woven silk and sends me the tiny bits she can’t use.  My mother sometimes gives me sample cards and remnants from the hosiery industry in my home town, Nottingham.  Students, who understand my passion for textiles give me fabric and lace from time to time, and quilters bring me their carefully stashed scraps of Laura Ashley fabric to add to my collection.  This means that a lot of my work is made from fabric which would otherwise go into landfill.  It is also often sumptuous with a lot of silk, linen and cotton of the very highest standard.  I like this element of the work: turning straw into gold.

I find great joy in my work, and am very grateful that my university lets me work in this unorthodox way.  I love being able to bring together drawing, painting, stitching and thinking,