Image: Rosie James, Larkfield (detail)
FOUND, a new exhibition from Art Textiles: Made in Britain, is the fourth exhibition by the group to make its debut at the Festival of Quilts, taking place from 29th July – 1st August 2021 at the NEC, Birmingham.
Their aim has always been to showcase the diversity of British textile art and to help to ensure its future. The group aims to stretch new boundaries with vibrant work through art quilts, contemporary embroidery and diverse mixed-media disciplines. Read on for an interview with Sandra Meech, one of the textile artists of Art Textiles: Made in Britain.
Image: Louise Baldwin, Collection II (detail).
Sandra, one year later than planned, Found will have its debut at The Festival of Quilts this year. Art Textiles: Made in Britain aims to ‘stretch the boundaries of British textile art’. Can you tell us more about what you mean by that and what part Found plays in that ambition?
Art Textiles: Made in Britain was formed in 2014 and the artist members were selected because of the diversity of their textile disciplines - some from an art background using paint and stitch, others from contemporary embroidery and art quilting. The mix of media that we use reflects the changes and crossover of materials and techniques that is now part of textile art. We want to continually stretch ourselves and working to a theme/title for a future exhibition is always a great starting point. Choosing the word, FOUND, gave us the opportunity to interpret that subject in many different ways. Some were inspired by observations in nature - the strata of rock almost overlooked, fabrics once forgotten revealing themselves or the wonderful mixture of odds and ends in the attic. We had decided on the theme of FOUND over two years ago and subsequently ‘found’ ourselves invited to exhibit in Japan last year. FOUND has become such an inspired theme and we have all provided very different approaches in our work for this exhibition.
It’s your fourth group exhibition. How do you work together to decide on the inspiration and creative themes for your exhibitions which, to date, have been Identity, Concealed, Wild and now Found?
These were all strong one word titles that evoke endless ideas and interpretation for each individual as well, hopefully, to entice the viewer to think of their own ideas. What we choose for future exhibitions is always a group decision and we settled on FOUND quite quickly.
Image: Sandra Meech, Retreat (detail).
The group is committed to promoting textile art and this year you’ve invited two guest artists – one established and one emerging – to contribute to your exhibition. Can you tell us more about your choice of artists and what they bring to the collection?
In 2019, we had chosen two artists from a large group of applicants to join us for FOUND as we have done for other exhibitions in the past. Sadly, with the challenging 18 months we have all endured, one of the artists wasn’t able to join us at this time. We are thrilled that Sarah Waters, an artist / felt maker from Hampshire will be part of the exhibition with us this year.
Has the last year been a productive time for you all for making new work, both individually and as a group?
We had all started our work for FOUND for The Festival of Quilts last year and had met on a couple of occasions to share ideas. With the cancellation of many events last year, we then had more time to finish and consolidate other work to add to our exhibition. Everyone worked differently during ‘lockdown’: some continued with stitched textiles and hand work, others produced paintings and sketchbooks, or created collage art and stitch challenges for themselves. We had time to reflect on our own art and stitched textiles and discover new things along the way.
Image: Stephanie Redfearn, Lost and Found I (detail)
Several of the group’s artists will be teaching classes at The Festival of Quilts. How important is it to the group to be sharing your creative talents and technical skills with other artists and makers?
Most of the members of Art Textiles: Made in Britain have taught in stitched textiles in some capacity in the past - some in Adult Education and City and Guilds courses, some in community colleges at diploma level or residential courses in the UK. Other members have worked on a more freelance basis in workshops and summer school both in the UK and in Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We are pleased that several of our members will be teaching and sharing their skills and creativity at The Festival of Quilts this year.
Is there an area of textile art that you are yet to explore as a group, perhaps a new technique or style?
Each member is always exploring different aspects of their own practise and often finds inspiration in different areas. We are always up for a challenge and this year at The Festival of Quilts, our exhibition FOUND will also include a group of textile pieces inspired by our experience in Tokyo, Japan at the International Quilt show in January 2020. A bundle of kimono and indigo dyed fabrics was given to each member to produce an additional piece as part of FOUND. Although we all work individually on our own themes, we do occasionally come together for a joint project like this.
Art Textiles: Made in Britain, is a group of leading textile artists working in Britain today (Bethan Ash, Louise Baldwin, Pauline Barnes, Jessica Grady, Cas Holmes, Rosie James, Edwina Mackinnon, Sandra Meech, Sylvia Paul, Stephanie Redfern and Christine Restall).
Found is at The Festival of Quilts at the NEC Birmingham from 29th July-1st August 2021. Several artists from the group will be teaching classes as part of the Festival’s Academy Programme.
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