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"Birch leaves in a bottle" embroidery part one

applique embroidery mindful stitching

Earlier this year I went to the Louise Bourgeois exhibition at the Hayward Gallery with my friend Rebecca . It was an amazing exhibition, one of those exhibitions that change the way you think and I came away with my head buzzing.

Buzzing loudest was the desire to embroider a set of pictures and hang them as a grid to fill a wall.

This is inspired totally by the amazing Ode a l'Oubli (Ode to Forgetting), a fabric book of appliqués and embroideries which Bourgeois made in 2004 from fabrics that she had either worn or been carrying about in her stash for decades.

In the Hayward, the 35 pages were deconstructed, unbuttoned from their book form, mounted floating gently in white frames and hung floor to ceiling.

louise bourgeois ode a l'oubli

And so the idea was planted and I have been prowling around the house for a blank wall. We live in a 1980s bungalow so there are no exhibition like soaring spaces, but the wall behind the kitchen table is currently blank. Perfect for eight or nine white frames hung in a grid.

For the past 15 years I have been hoarding a raggedy quilt - it was made from wool suiting scraps over a century ago it is in too sorry a state to save as a quilt. It has been washed harshly at some point in its past, colours bleeding into each other, some patched reduced to their warps, others burned.

I have been saving this sad quilt for deconstructing into a project. A few weeks ago I began to unpick it bit by bit into pieces - the patchwork shapes, the binding and the batting.

The batting is like a steam rollered kapok, stained blue in parts - only holding together as a fabric. I decided that as this is far too fragile to use as anything that will get wear (even embroidering on top of it ruffles holes as it shifts) it would be the perfect base to tie together all my embroideries.

I cut a rectangle of batting - A4 sized - and began cutting out shapes from fabric and placing them onto it like fuzzy felts. Plant dyed linens, pieces of the striped flannel lining, shreds of brighter colours salvaged from the seams where the light had not faded them. I prefer to work directly with the fabrics rather than drawing and cutting a pattern.

My theme for this piece is birch leaves in a bottle - twigs picked from the tree outside my bedroom and placed in a stoneware bottle. Down the side is s strip of banded pebbles from the windowsill.

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