I had a great time last week at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate. I’ve been going for years. It first began way back when I was doing a City and Guilds Embroidery course up at Ashington in Northumberland. It was at the show that I found out about my Textiles degree course and then going there each of the five years it took me to do the degree Hartlepool. I also went during the year I did my teacher training at Bretton Hall and during the seven years when I was teaching Textiles in Yorkshire (when the show was just up the road from where we lived). On return to the North-East I went most of the six years that I taught in Stockton-on-Tees. Now, a year and a bit into my new role as self-employed designer-maker, I am still going to the show! It has been a constant marker in the year – a November fixture.
The event takes place in no less than five halls of the Harrogate International Conference Centre. A (long) day is just about enough to see everything, although I have one friend who tries to spend two days at this particular show because it has so much to offer.
It is a buyer’s event of course: all kinds of fabrics, threads, yarns, gadgets and machines are on offer, but the show also includes good exhibition areas, including a graduate show-case which is always interesting.
The highlight this year for me was an exhibition stand containing the work of textile artist Sue Dove. I have enjoyed and admired Sue’s work from the time when I first saw it in ‘Embroidery’ magazine. It was therefore a privilege to not only examine a number of examples of the work, but to meet the maker herself. There is (quite rightly) a ‘No photography’ notice, but I asked special permission and here is the artist, right next to a vibrant self-portrait.
Sue uses thread as one might use a thick crayon or a pastel and the pieces she makes are composed of these areas or blocks of colour which combine to make the whole. The intense stitching creates a rich texture on the surface. It is very satisfying to look at and enjoy, because the piece has qualities as a textile work that could not be achieved in any other medium. You can find out more about Sue Dove at http://www.stisa.co.uk/artist-gallery/sue-dove/
I was also pleased to see that Sue had kept her distinctive style intact through a long period of development as an artist. She writes in her book ‘Painting with Stitches’ (which I bought to enjoy at home) about being influenced by artists such as Kandinsky, Hundertwasser, Matisse, Picasso and Clarice Cliffe, but the embroideries emerge as distinctly her own.
The embroideries glow at you from the gallery wall and the richness of the colours and stitching draw you to them. These works of art are truly life-enhancing. Try and see some if you can.