For the last three months, I’ve been working with community groups in Ashton-under-Lyne on a project based around illegal money lending. Aimed at educating and raising awareness about the dangers of loan sharks community groups created lots of textile patchwork art that I am in the process of upholstering onto a two-seather sofa.
Whilst similar in style to the Bentley Library Chair, this sofa features more drawing, writing and printmaking than the other one which had a lot more sewing, applique and other needlecrafts on – maybe due to demographics of the groups and also timescale of the project.
Funded by the national Illegal Money Lending Team, the sofa will be used around Tameside as an educational and promotional tool before going to it’s permanent home at Cashbox Credit Union in Ashton.
Following last year’s project for Bentley Library where I worked with local groups to create a community library chair, I’ve been itching to have a go at making/upholstering another one. So, for a recent exhibition at Hot Bed Press, I decided to create some screenprinted textiles for a new piece of work in the shape of a Parker Knoll armchair.
‘Infestation’ is upholstered in silk, hand screenprinted with hundreds of beetles which appear to be crawling out of the chair. Each piece of material features an individual design created from my drawings of beetles. There are about 100 different species of beetle in the surface design from the Javan Fiddle Beetle (Mormolyce phyllodes) to, my favourite, the Long-Necked Shining Fungus Beetle (Datelium wallacei) – you can’t beat that for a name. The chair also has it’s very own beetle legs, brilliantly made by Arbarus.
The work is part of an ongoing series in which I’ll be exploring chairs and similar products, questioning their form and usability (does a chair have to be functional to be a chair?) and reimagining the original design and finish to manipulate reaction and perception.
To create this installation piece I firstly used Photoshop to generate full-size artwork from scans of my beetle drawings, which I then turned into screenprints. I created individual screens for both the fill colour and the key layer (the final line). I’d pre-cut and labelled the individual pieces of silk for the upholstery so I could control which part of the pattern was on each part of the chair. Once the fabric was printed, I set about upholstering!
The Bentley Library Chair has finally been unveiled at Bentley Library in Doncaster. A busy afternoon launch saw over 70 people attend to check out their textile artwork that had been lovingly and carefully (trust me!) upholstered onto a Parker Knoll Wingback Sofa.
This project has been one of my all-time favourites since I’ve been a freelancer – lovely people that I’ve become friends with, a meaningful process and a successful outcome. I think one of the reasons it was so successful was that I spent a lot of time getting to know the groups I was working with, doing research, working out what they wanted to do and also learning from them. If I’d had my way, we would be looking at images of a mosaic chair right now but the groups were very definite in their wish to create something textile-based – so we went with a patchwork sofa that eventually was made up of over 100 people’s artwork.
The artwork includes fabric painting, block printing, applique, knitting, crochet, patchwork, quilting, embroidery, woodwork, photography, digital printing, encaustic art, free-motion embroidery and machine embroidery – there’s probably more…
Everything was then sewn together and I upholstered the finished work onto the sofa, having stripped it first – I had to remove over 1500 staples to get back to the wooden frame! Now finished, it is going to live at Bentley Library as a story chair – though I secretly want it in my living room. Bentley Library – you know where to look if it ever goes missing!
The project was part of the Right Up Our Street research programme in Doncaster, which has just received another three years funding – well done everyone!