Samplers: 2017-2020

My research and visual referencing have always drawn from a broad range of starting points, including museum collections, found and encountered objects, artefacts and fragments. These references are collected and transcribed through my sketchbook. The sketchbook is a space allowing me to develop, investigate and navigate notions around shared narratives, conversations and mythologies. Visually collecting, collating the observed, recorded and remembered narratives, essential in the global art and craft lexicon my practice inhabits. 

My practice is rooted in craft, sculpture and drawing and the notion of the individual and collective shared memories, histories and moments as both language and subject. I have always been fascinated by the synergies between my practice and embroidered and embellished textiles. Specifically, the relationship between the pictorial and the sculptural way material, subject and image are directly transcribed through stitch and its ability to translate and create images by responding directly to the structure or the weave implicit in cross-stitch.

I have always been interested in how cross-stitch constructs, deconstructs and creates recognised forms and shared languages that can cross and navigate cultural and historical borders and boundaries. I have been drawn to and influenced by a range of examples of the application of cross stitch, including Chinese rural textiles from China’s Tang period and the traditions of samplers of the 16th-19th century from Europe and North America and in particular, the sharing of iconography and quality of mark crossing social, geographic and historic global cultural landscape.

In 2017 I began developing the sampler series, cross-stitch works collaborating with the textile designer Linnet Hannan, translating drawings from sketchbooks responding to various places, spaces and cultures encountered since 2015. The transition from the sketchbook starts with constructing and collaging together a range of drawings into component compositions, used to echo compositional symmetries associated with narrative textiles and samplers. The term sampler is broadly understood as a collection and presentation of an assemblage of personally relevant images, motifs, letters and numerals. Often these were positioned as a technical and process-driven pastime and activity, traditions of translation and transcription of images through repetitive, consistent craft and labour and the restrictions of process and technique. The relationship of stitch to the fabric’s weave inherent in cross-stitch holds a direct connection to implicit approaches to related systems, restrictions and constraints I employ in drawing and in my practice. In particular, pre-prepared grids, frameworks, single and multiple point perspectives; a shared language and approach with grid and symmetry-based patterns associated with the cross-stitch sampler.

A key influence was the rationale and thinking embedded in the Trace Engines body of work and research. Trace Engines was a body of works on paper created during a residency in China in 2015. The term trace related to residues left behind, engine referring to the notion of drawing as an act and device to transitioning from one state or place to another. The nature of variants of tone and colour of inks brought about by repeated and straightforward actions of dabbing drawings with cloth and water, disrupting and destroying the paper fibres to release the ink on to a different surface, leaving a complex yet defused residue. The intention was to interrogate and investigate these inherent possibilities and aesthetic of chance through more three-dimensional and potentially rigid or mechanical language and the process of cross stitch. I responded to observations of the variation in colour, tone and intensity of thread concerning time passed, inconsistencies in the dying and qualities of threads I encountered in examples I was drawn to in museum collections and forgotten corners of charity shops. Translating and exploring chance and variation by employing variegated cotton threads to break up and challenge the consistency and expected accuracy of the cross-stitch process. The embroidery thread’s inherent variance also mirrored the transitory nature and consistency of focus and resolution in the residue drawings of Trace Engines. The cross-stitch brought additional connections and qualities of pixilation associated with more familiar and expected digital and analogue traditions of print and image-making – narrative traditions which are associated with the graphic novel, photographic and film-based practices of collecting, collating, and preserving shared stories, histories, and memories.

The resulting images are akin to hybrid comic strip-like dioramas, which interweave, combine and encapsulate remembered and speculative fragments, objects and apparatus, with decorative patterns. The patterns are drawn from cross-cultural sources as diverse as Celtic, Oriental, and 18th & 19th-century European decorative languages and traditions. The samplers emerge and develop intuitively. Different blocks and components are added and tessellated together, forming an intuitive composition speaking to the extended time-based nature integral to the traditions of samplers and narrative storytelling embedded in the global practices of craft. The works have an inbuilt fragmented or fractal quality, brought about through pictorial random generation instigated by the limitations and unpredictability of the variegated thread. 

The sampler series has been exhibited at: 
Port of Entry, Sun Pier House, Chatham, Kent, 2018 
Agency, Eagle Gallery, London, 2018
Fictions, The Cello Factory, London, 2020

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