Friday, 15 July 2011

think on; don't get dirty

As our group of regulars sat and reminisced, I kept an eye out for other potential participants, inviting unsuspecting visitors to the library to join our group. There is a pattern emerging with this, I often find when first approached people their wary of joining the full group- but happy to sit and chat one-to-one. Its a reminder that so many of us are shy, and a group of new people can be intimidating- even if you are usually starved of company.

Marion Davis with napkin ready to embroider 'Father couldn't give a tuppenny toss'
Yesterday I went prepared with a pile of napkins and embroidery threads. Some of these were vintage ready made napkins, beautifully embroidered with pretty little flowers, others where napkins I made from cut up embroidered tablecloths and chair backs. Its a joy to see these textiles have a new lease of life, some have been kindly donated by my good friend Melanie, others from participants themselves, others brought from ebay, some from my collection. There is a delight just handling these textiles from the 1930s, 40s and 50s, the quality and weight of the linen fabric, so much more substantial than the majority of textiles produced today. The original embroidery was done with great care, as Marion said 'you had to decorate things yourself, as everything you brought was plain'. 

After an initial lively group discussion about washing bodies of dirt, grime and all things mucky, the  group of participants enthusiastically got on with selecting lines of their memories to write onto napkins of their choice.

George White with napkin ready to embroider 'Jack, Jack, shine your light'

For me a sign of a really well received workshop was that everyone wanted to take their work home to finish. Their showing great pride in their embroideries, and a desire to share them with a wider audience, for which we are very grateful!

Jeanette Flanigan with napkin embroidery in progress

One of the delights of running art workshops in the community is seeing subtle changes in peoples behaviour as they relax into a session. One participant in particular caught my attention as she started to overcome her shyness, contribute to the group and participate in the practical work. At the start of the session she had stated that she didn't want to/couldn't embroider- by the end of the session she was requesting a collection of napkins to take home to embellish.

Brenda Gilmore with her embroidered cake stand 
One problem we have with this group is they don't want to finish. Each week we have lost track of time, and overshot the end. This week, there were participants noisily chatting half an hour after the end of the session. It was only the rumbling of my stomach that finally got people moving in a homeward direction.

Marion White with embroidery in progress

"If people weren't interested they wouldn't come to the sessions. Nobody usually bothers talking with us about the 60s when I was growing up and the things we did- not in the way we do here. This is our era, not our parents or grandparents..." Marion White.

More photos of Four Acre work at

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