This week’s guest blog post comes from Alison Mayne. Alison has expertly condensed news of the informal regional meet up in Edinburgh and the wonderful variety of work presented into her account below.
The thinking behind the meet up was to share some of the principles and experiences of the first residential event – both for existing members and for new or potential members, who came along to the hear about the network. We shared current projects in participatory stitch, explaining how these linked to our wider practice or research as a way of discussing what was particular about the way participants engaged with us. Finally, we made plans to do some further stitching together, sharing approaches and handcraft skills in a longer ‘workshop’ style format, which will also open up more space for us to discuss the rich differences in our research practice and support a longer term goal of crafting connections between ‘local’ researchers feeling isolated working independently in different institutions.
The Stitching Together Network has an exciting and growing group of members, but it wasn’t possible for all of us to travel to the recent official AHRC events (although 2020 will see a bigger event, don’t forget!). As a number of us are quite far flung in Scotland, I thought it would be fun to have an informal get together for researchers who use participatory stitch to meet, chat, drink tea and share our work…
Six members responded to the call out and on a sunny day in Edinburgh we met up at a central café (with some of us also enjoying a visit to the brilliant Dovecot Studios to watch the latest weaving in operation).
Based in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee, we loved exchanging ideas, recognising connections and were amazed by impressive, unique qualities in each other’s making. With enormous thanks to everyone who came along, here is a summary…
Alison Mayne (Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh)
I spoke about the prompts and questions I used in my (closed) Facebook group and personal journalling research projects, where participants shared what making in knit and crochet meant to them and how it impacted on their wellbeing. As a group, we became especially interested in what participants had to say about making which showed love – and how that came with invitations for reciprocity and also obligation; how handmade textiles often were imbued with emotion by their makers and were a labour of love in terms of materials, time and energy.
Lindy Richardson (Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh)
Lindy spoke about her work with the archive materials from the Needlework Development Scheme, first developed by Coats of Paisley in the early 1930s to teach embroidery. This handling collection forms so much of her community outreach practice, bringing textiles to people or bringing people to the textile archive: this includes work with the Scottish Prison Service in teaching embroidery skills as well as working with RNIB to remake textile and 3D print versions of archive pieces to involve people with visual impairment in investigating stitch.
Daniela Lara (Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh)
Daniela spoke about her PhD research, based on her incredible bead embroidery practice (there were gasps). This work seeks to encourage positive cultural change around attitudes towards gender based violence in South America. There is significant commitment and labour in creating these complex pieces, which bear witness to ‘justifications’ for violence against women offered in court hearings.
Nicole Kipar (Heriot Watt University)
Nicole talked about her PhD research in re-creating C12th and C14th historic dress inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of the Six Swans. Alongside this intricate hand-worked embroidery and garment construction, she uses auto-ethnography to respond to the experience of remaking an idealised historic object which never really ‘existed’ but has been re-created from art and literature.
Shirley McLauchlan (Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh)
Shirley spoke about her own textile practice in stitching on salvaged Ayrshire wool blankets and in particular her recent commitment to #100daysProjectScotland. Using this as a space for reflection on making and sustainable practice, she has recorded the location and time taken for each daily example as part of being curious and joyful about stitch. These samples were recently used to lead a workshop for Fashion Revolution Climate Change Festival in Edinburgh.
Sara Nevay (Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee University)
Sara spoke about her PhD research and the way that ‘social craft’ in textiles may bring people together to help reduce loneliness and increase connectedness. Much of her work is undertaken with older people to construct textile objects which – through conductive thread and embedded audio files – can provide opportunity for social interaction and storytelling: for example, Dundee’s heritage can be evoked in the sounds of the riverside or shuttles of the jute mills. Sara also shared another example from her collaborative work with Lucy Robertson, such as the Lovebirds seen here, supporting engagement through tactility and making with participants using traditional as well as new e-textile materials.
Lucy Robertson (Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee University)
Lucy talked about several projects connected to her PhD study, including Sonic Flock – a project designed to bring the outside environment of Lewis, Harris and the Uists into local care homes. Textile birds (including some in conductive hoops which played their birdsong) were made by and for people living with early onset dementia and their families. Similar groups based in East Lothian and Outer Hebridean communities contributed to a local ‘craft bomb’ which decorated a sensory garden with weaving threads made from plastic fishing rope salvaged from the beach.
More about everyone’s practice and research can be found through the links on the members’ pages.
We had such a wonderful time that we are determined to meet up again – ideally for a longer time and in a space which will support us doing some making together, learning from each other’s’ practices. We’ll keep you posted on that, but in the meantime, I’d encourage anyone else to organise a similar informal regional meet up to reflect together on what makes our stitch and textile research so fascinating.
(All photographs by Alison Mayne)