Uprooted : Festival of Quilts : Birmingham : 29 July - 1 August 2021
I am delighted to have been selected for a gallery space at this year's Festival of Quilts, postponed from 2020, to show my new collection of work, 'Uprooted'. Of course, there is the risk of yet another cancellation if infection rates increase but in the meantime I'm getting ready for the show.
My exhibition was inspired by The Guardian's supplement, The List, published on World Refugee Day in 2018 and is a natural progression of Exodus, Page 27, the piece made for SAQA's global exhibition, Forced to Flee. The refugee crisis has not diminished in the last three years and my work seeks to give form and shape to the unnamed victims - to look beyond the raw data, to picture them and to try and capture their emotions.
And do look at the other wonderful galleries at this year's show.
Interview for The Festival of Quilts 2021
Hi Sabi, we’re delighted that you’ll be exhibiting your new collection of wall hangings, Uprooted, at The Festival of Quilts in July. The works were inspired by The List which names all the refugees and migrants reported to have died trying to reach Europe since 1993. The List was published as a supplement by The Guardian newspaper on World Refugee Day in 2018. Can you tell us more about how you found art in that printed list?
When I first saw The List I had a profound sense of shock, a body blow, as I turned to its pages; I knew I had to respond to it in my art. I had to give form and shape to the named and unnamed men, women and children who had died trying to reach the relative safety of Europe. So not making art was out of the question. My first piece, Page 27 Exodus 1, was accepted by Studio Art Quilt Associates for a global exhibition, Forced to Flee, and Uprooted builds on that work.
The hangings combine fabric printing, stencil cutting, hand quilting and stitching. Can you tell us more about the making process?
The organisation collecting the data, www.unitedagainstracism.org, has given permission for The List to be re-used and re-distributed provided the source is mentioned. I had individual pages of The List commercially printed on cotton. The images were inspired by pictures of refugees and I made stencils using a cutting machine. The positive and negative images were stencilled on in varying degrees of opacity. I experimented with decorative stitching but chose very simple hand quilting to highlight the silhouette of each person.
How did working on Uprooted make you reflect on the human beings whose lives were lost. Was it a difficult collection to make?
When sewing each image I could not but help read the raw printed data and reflect on the lives lost – why were they forced to leave their homelands? What future were they hoping for? Did they suffer in death? Yes, this was a difficult collection to make but even though all the data was heart breaking to read I was determined to continue with my project and bring it into public view.
What would you like visitors to The Festival of Quilts to take away from Uprooted? Is there a campaigning message or organisation that you are supporting through it?
I am aware that visitors may find the subject matter of Uprooted upsetting. But I hope they will take time to contemplate what it might mean for a person to be uprooted from their homes by climate change, persecution, civil war; to make a perilous crossing seeking the relative safety of Europe; to live in refugee camps or detention centres for several years in a state of uncertainty about their future. The aim of my work is to bring to public attention the human side of the refugee crisis, going beyond stark figures and news reports.
You are part of the Studio Art Quilt Associates group. What does it mean to you to be part of this group of artists? I am privileged to be part of SAQA, which enables me to meet a talented and supportive community of international textile artists in online discussions and talks on a wide range of topics. Membership also includes exhibiting opportunities and my work has been shown at venues in Europe, the USA and online.
Have you made new any work during COVID-19? If so, how has the pandemic influenced your work? I am in the process of making a series of textile wall hangings using paint, text and stitch. They are based on the pandemic and the varying messages given to the public in press briefings since March 2020.
Structures : SAQA Virtual Exhibition : 1 July - 31 August 2021
The call for entry to SAQA's current virtual exhibition, Structures, was capable of a very wide interpretation as this excerpt shows:
'A structure can be defined as the framework or the internal arrangement of elements that form something else, whether man-made, like a building or machine, or natural like cells, bones, minerals, or chemicals. There are social structures that represent a pattern of relationships, from families to neighbourhoods. Abstract structures form the construct of music and computer science. When used as a verb, to structure is to plan, organize or arrange the parts of something.'
Immediately I thought of my Southbank Journal Quilts for 2015 - they fitted the theme perfectly.
New Horizons Textile Group, of which I am a member, managed to exhibit at Textiles East Fair in February before Covid-19 prevented such activities from taking place.
We were the only textile exhibiting group and showed two collections of new works - Text FX and Larger Than Life. The criteria for the pieces were that for Text FX one dimension had to be a minimum of 100 cm and for Larger Than life it should be 60 cm square.
I have used text in my collection of works based on The Georgics so rather than reinventing the wheel for the first category, I made another piece depicting olives and using an extract from the poem. Dryden's translation was the inspiration behind my body of work and in this piece I used vintage typeface blocks for the text and stencils for the imagery. Hand stitching completed the quilt.
My second piece, for the Larger Than Life category, was based on an image of mahogany wood magnified 400 times showing the cells carrying nutrients to the tree. The techniques include applique, couching and machine stitching.
Capital Contrasts : Knitting and Stitching Shows : 2019
For some time contemporary quilters in London had bemoaned the fact that there was no textile group in London specifically for their interests. So a group was created - members of London Quilters who also belonged to the Contemporary Quilt Group of The Quilters' Guild decided that we should meet once a month in Camden to talk about our projects, inspire each other, trouble shoot and run in-house workshops. Thus Contemporary Quilt London came into existence in 2017.
It was always our intention to be an exhibiting group and our public debut was made at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in October 2019. There were two themes to the exhibition - London and Notan. The London pieces could be interpreted as freely as the maker wished, the only constraint being the size - 40" x 18" portrait format. The images below show the collection of London quilts and clicking on each one will expand it.
The second theme was Notan, the Japanese concept of balance and harmony using light and dark. Here the quilts were sized 20" x 20" using just black and white fabrics with the design decisions left entirely to the maker
After Alexandra Palace, the exhibition was seen in Dublin and Harrogate Convention Centre. I am delighted to be a member of CQL and proud to have taken part in our inaugural public showing the wide range of ideas and techniques which makes it such an interesting group.
Sadly, however, I must put in a note about our member Jackie Ketley who died of cancer in August 2019. She was determined to take part in our exhibition so both of her works were included and travelled with the other artworks.
Spotlight@40 : 2019
In 2018 I was invited by Region 1 of the Quilters’ Guild to make a quilt for Spotlight@40, part of its 40th anniversary celebrations in 2019. I was honoured to have been asked and delighted to accept.
I had many ideas before fixing on the design for my contribution - I thought about printing ‘40’ in various shades of red to mark the ruby anniversary; I considered creating several traditional blocks and overlaying them with ‘40’ using either paint or sheer fabrics; I toyed with the idea of using the word ‘forty’ in various languages but how many should I incorporate in my quilt? After all, not every country has a heritage of quilting.
It was while researching languages into which ‘forty’ could be translated that I decided to use text. And rather than focusing on the number it would be interesting to see what other significant cultural, political and historical events occurred forty years ago - thus the idea for my quilt was born. Of course, in the quilting world the formation of the Quilters’ Guild would have been the highlight of 1979.
My concept was to have the words ‘Formation of the Quilters’ Guild’ centre stage in a large red font, to refer to the ruby anniversary, surrounded by the other events in smaller and varied fonts using shades of black and grey, like newspaper headlines. Investigating events for inclusion was a lot of fun and I chose subjects that resonate with me - I make no apologies for ignoring sport and religion.
I have used Photoshop as a design tool for many years so typing in and manipulating selected headlines around the virtual quilt was easy; different fonts, sizes and opacities were auditioned; the layout developed from blocks to lines of text. I saved each change in the design to enable easy reference back. From time to time I printed onto paper to proofread and check the layout. These examples give some idea of the development of the quilt:
From the outset, my design was for a single headline in red for ‘Formation of the Quilters’ Guild’ and black and greys for the others. However, this was to change - accidentally and dramatically. I did a test print on paper, as before, but now the printer had run out of cyan so the end result was that the entire image was printed in varying shades of red. This was just great! Much more interesting, lively and in keeping with the ruby theme.
The design was digitally printed onto cotton sateen and machine quilted with horizontal lines of stitching between each line of text. However, I felt that this looked rather dull so another print was ordered. Using a light cream thread, I hand stitched all over the quilt with seed stitch and was much happier with this version - an organic stitch creating texture and contrasting with formal lines of text.
The finished quilt, “Headline News”, together with close-up images where you can, hopefully. see the rather subtle stitching.
20 June 2018 was World Refugee Day and with my copy of The Guardian came a 60 page supplement, now known as The List, marking 25 years of the European refugee crisis. It was compiled by United for Intercultural Action, a network of anti-racist organisations,
The first recorded death was in 1993 - the suicide of Kimpua Nsimba, a 24 year old refugee from Zaire, in a UK detention centre; the last recorded death was on 6 May 2018. The List has details of 34,361 known deaths of refugees and migrants trying to make new lives in Europe. The details include names, ages, gender, places of origin and causes of death - drowning, suicide, murder - but there is a distressingly high number of mass drownings where few other details were recorded.
I knew that I needed to make an artwork responding to The List, especially as permission was freely given to use the data, providing the source, www.unitedagainstracism.org was acknowledged.
The catalyst was the call for entry by SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) for the next Global Exhibition 'Forced to Flee' in May 2019. You can see how I made my artwork by clicking on the Works tab above.
I was delighted that my piece, 'Page 27 - Exodus 1', was selected for inclusion in the exhibition. My gratitude goes to United Against Racism for their generosity in allowing The List to be used by artists.
This link will take you to a virtual tour of the opening exhibition at the Ruth Funk Centre for Textile Arts and interviews with some of the artists, curator and juror - vimeopro.com/saqa/forced-to-flee
Swingfield Centenary Quilt
In 2018, the Centenary of the end of World War 1, thousands of commemorative events were organised across the country and the village of Swingfield in Kent was no exception. My friends, Steve and Barbara, played an important part in fund-raising, planning and, eventually setting up the events leading up to Armistice Day.
Nine men from the village, including two pairs of brothers, had died in the Great War and their names were eventually carved on the lychgate of St. Peter's Church. One of the planned memorials was to have life size acrylic silhouettes of the men seated on pews in the church - still present though absent.
I felt compelled to make a contribution to remembering the deceased and the choice and size were left entirely to me. It didn't take me long to work out a design that was simple but striking. The names of the men were stencilled onto fabric using a military style font and images of poppies, from my photograph, were printed onto fabric and fused down. The whole piece was then machine quilted.
This picture shows the quilt hanging in situ, in St. Peter's Church. I particularly like the rather ghostly acrylic silhouette of the soldier.
Having made many quilts on the theme of the poppy, this will probably be the last one, perhaps fittingly, given that the centenary has just passed.
So far 2018 has been a busy and exciting year - two groups to which I belong have shown work at two separate venues. And it was an opportunity for me to explore in some detail my subject for my exhibition pieces based on Dryden's translation of Virgil's Georgics.
The first in time was 'Contrasts' with All Threaded Together at the Yarrow Gallery, Oundle, Northamptonshire, 3 - 16 March. The group consists of former students of Brenda Boardman who meet once a month to exchange ideas and encourage each other. Most importantly, it is an exhibiting group - pictures and details of the exhibition are accessible with this link: www.allthreadedtogether.com/exhibition-2018.
The second exhibition, 'Into the Fray', was with New Horizons Textile Group at Cowslip Workshops, Launceston, Cornwall 27 March - 8 April. The exhibiting group is a long running one, formed in 1993, and which I joined in 2016. You can see pictures of the exhibition here: www.newhorizonstextilegroup.com/into-the-fray.htmlwww.newhorizonstextilegroup.com/into-the-fray.
The third show is 'Connections', also with New Horizons, was at the Festival of Quilts, Birmingham, 9 - 12 August. This is the largest quilting and patchwork show in Europe with about 30,000 visitors over four days. So Virgil got a lot of exposure!
Patchwork Professional Magazine : January 2018
Dorothee Crane, the editor of Patchwork Professional, a German quilting and textile art magazine, approached me last year with a view to doing a feature about my work. I was delighted to work with her, all by email and telephone, and the magazine was published in January 2018.
With her kind permission, the article is shown below, in German.
SAQA "Made in Europe"
I was delighted that my piece, Southbank 13, was selected to be shown in venues in the USA in 2017. And it has now been chosen to travel to three venues in Europe this year.
You can read about the process of making the piece by clicking on this link - Works
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