VISUALise at 78 Derngate

Today I went out to see a textile art exhibition!  I am so pleased to see stitch in real life, no matter how much digital photographs can capture it is not a patch on the real thing. 

The exhibition is currently on at 78 Derngate Northampton and runs until Sunday 18th July 2021.   In these Covid-19 compliant times not quite as welcoming as I am sure it would be normally but I didn’t have to wait long for a volunteer to let me into the building.  The exhibition and shop are free to visit and you don’t need to book.

The group of 13 artists have a range of work on show, which demonstrates clearly the breadth of possibilities when it comes to stitch and textile art.  The work includes some which is inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh which is in keeping with the venue.  Members of VISUALise have taken the simple lines and vivid colours of Mackinstosh and produced a fabulous array of very different pieces.  I am happy to report that some have already sold including one in fabric and machine embroidery by Alyssa Robinson which depicts the front elevation of the building 78 Derngate.    One which caught my attention was the one created in felt and hand embroidery of black and red roses by Sandra Jenkins.  I guess because I am very much focused on felt in my creative practice at the moment.  Perhaps that could be a starting point for my next work? 

 mackintosh inspired

The artist from the group who I know the best is Alison Ranson.  I have stitched with Alison and also exhibited with her in the past.  Her work has certainly moved forward since I last saw her exhibit, I know the previous group mentor wanted her to tackle peoples faces, she has certainly taken the bull by the horns on that one and produced some delightful portraits in her signature style of cotton scrim and hand stitch.  I was particularly taken with ‘Emma’ the hair braids must have taken ages to stitch. 

 A Ranson portraits

Jane Stock has a series of dresses, some draw inspiration from the documents and tokens from the foundling hospital and use vintage linens and lace together with print and stitch.  She has also worked in felt which again appealed to my creative eye.  Her balanced and clean stitches are an excellent example of what can be achieved with a small selection of stitches, I spotted fly, blanket, running and seed on Dress IV - which is extremely eye-catching. 

Jane stock dresses

Val Taylors seascape has booth energy and sparkle and I am sure it will look fabulous in its new home.   Alyssa has a series of machine embroidered pictures inspired by different areas of the house, they reflect the colours and shapes used in mackintoshes design and make for a pleasing display.  I love them all but the kitchen pieces are my favourite, the green and black combination works so well.  Unfortuately I didn't manage to photograph these.  

Through to the second gallery near the shop and you find some pieces inspired by nature.  Karin Kirks exquisite birds nests are so intricate and are complete with fabric stuffed eggs.  She has skilfully combined fabrics, stitch and a wealth of knowledge to produce nests which any small bird would be proud of.   Susan Latimer has some well observed birds in hand embroidery, I was interested that she works in wools and heavier threads rather than the traditional stranded cottons and silks.  The result is rustic, robust and compelling.

 Latimer and Kirk Birds and nest

The simple lines and subtle colours in Mary Martins architectural pieces are a gentle return to where this exhibition sits within a building which has significance in terms of art and design with respect to architecture.  

I then spent an hour or so listening to a recorded tour as I viewed the building but I could tell the guide, who shares Mackintosh's name but assured me he wasn’t related to Charles Rennie, would rather have given a tour as he would in ‘normal times’.  

I left Northampton feeling inspired to stitch and felt more.  Thank goodness the lockdown restrictions are easing and we get the chance to look closely at inspirational textile art again.  I urge you visit this lovely exhibition (more details can be found in the Whats On section of the website) and while you are there support the artists, buy a card, a piece of art or perhaps a stitch inspiration kit.    Thank you again VISUALise and the helpful volunteers at 78 Derngate 

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