Blog Post by Sarah Jackson.
A smooth, worn, leather wallet is both a tactile object and one which, when opened up, reveals a repository of a person’s travels and passions: a traceable map of stopping-off points, everyday activities and impulsive purchases. In contrast to Mandy Pattullo’s acclaimed reworkings of old quilts (Selvedge issue 56), her wallet books are works of art to hold in our hand; we privately feast on the treasures each contains as we slowly turn over the pages. Secreted away inside, we might come across glimpses of the previous owner: a stamp or a slip of paper.
But instead of the usual monetary notes, travel tokens and receipts, these wallets are engorged with snippets of old fabric, the end of a tape measure, a beautifully embroidered flower, a section of an old printed sack; a leather emporium of offcuts that have been lovingly woven together for your visual delight. Like her quilts, Mandy considers these wallet books to be impractical objects: yet at their heart they reference different people and their influence on our lives.
They tell a story, a narrative we can follow from page to page as individual elements resonate with us. The wallets tease us with their ambiguity: what, indeed, is their value? They contain discarded and threadbare items picked up in flea markets and charity shops; but ones which, when taken as a whole, allow us to reflect on what we treasure. At the same time, the wallet books reveal Mandy’s work distilled into a portable form. As Mandy herself explains, “each book is based on a colour story or a love affair with a technique.”
Her ability to patch together, in a seemingly effortless manner, aged and distressed fragments into an aesthetic whole highlights Mandy’s affinity with her materials, as well as her honed eye for design. Needle turn appliqué features in a lot of her work with a contemporary vitality of its own; yet is simultaneously grounded in its folk art roots. Mandy’s training in surface pattern design shines through as do her many areas of interest – from the tradition of whole cloth quilts from the North East and American patchwork, to the Japanese peasant workers’ Boro technique.
Recently immersed in writing and producing numerous samples, Mandy will be detailing her personal textile collage techniques in a book to be published by Batsford in September 2016. In her workshops Mandy is an experienced and generous tutor: she readily shares her discoveries, demonstrates various embroidery stitches and passes on her knowledge of how the light touch of the needle can reference the different traditions from which the layers of fabric originate.
During the week-long workshop at Château Dumas, students will have the opportunity to experiment with many of Mandy’s techniques, composing abstract collages and both understanding and creating familiar folk art motifs. In her everyday practice, Mandy will often use indigo dye to colour her materials. On the course students will have a great opportunity to work with Denise Lambert, an expert in dyeing with woad (Isatis Tinctoria) using the locally grown crop from which the natural indigo pigment is extracted. Mandy enthuses her students to develop their own compositions and create their own connections; I always come away fired up, buzzing with ideas and as replete as one of the wallets themselves.
Chateau Dumas, France 20-27 August