Influences Are Everywhere

This is not a new work. I have shown a part of this pic before, in a blog recounting some of the work covered in a Dorothy Caldwell workshop, “The Expressive Stitch”. This is the worksheet, the experimental page, on which I explored ideas she presented. (see October 2005 archive) That very stimulating workshop reminded us all that anyone regardless of skill or experience can sew a simple straight stitch, in and out, again and again, without any fancy turns or knots along the way, and grouping them in lines, crosses or randomly, create expressive and possibly powerful patterns of marks on cloth .

I am an admirer of UK textile artist Clyde Olliver, whose thread marks are not on cloth but on stone. (“slate or other suitable material” ) This week I visited his blog, http://clydeolliver.wordpress.com and was fascinated by a recent post on current influences in his work. After reading his analysis, I was prompted to consider my own work in terms of ‘influences’. Everything we admire for qualities of design and craftmanship has influence, and I think degrees of admiration and influence are in direct proportion to each other. I think of fav. artists from several countries, all of which I realise have added something to my individual sense of colour, design concepts and love of line and texture.

Serious influences in particular come from textile artists and teachers I have encountered. I became interested in ‘creative embroidery’ in 1975 in a class of that name; Laurel Fraser Allen really opened my eyes to the enormous variety of embroidery/stitchery as a craft practised in all cultures. My mother and grandmothers stitched counted thread work, smocking, needlepoint and ‘fancy work’ – remember the cloths, doilies and duchesse sets on pre-printed fabric? Often sold pre-edged, but Mum and Gran x2 bought ones you needed to crochet your own edges. Then between 1977 and 1980 followed Cynthia Sparks (own design, consider any thread, any stitch) Constance Howard I was privileged to have as a teacher for 4 days in Aus ’79 (emphasis: really looking at colour ) and Meg Douglas ( paint plus stitch, free machined embroidery) The next major textile influence was the world of traditional patchwork and quilting as experienced living in the USA ’87-’94. A first flying geese wall hanging preceeded my own designs, all of which owe something to the grids and repeat units of traditional patchwork. Nancy Crow’s multi-faceted influences on approach and attitude have been far greater than the mere technique of template-free rotary cutting and piecing construction techniques she teaches and which I and many other contemporarty quiltmakes now use exclusively. In recent work I am influenced significantly but possibly less obviously by temporarily living out of my own country in another with different cultural background and values; and finding an interest in lace and leather reflected in some ways, too.

My website, http://www.alisonschwabe.com/ is currently being updated – the most recent artist statement/bio addresses this, too.

One Response to “Influences Are Everywhere”

  1. margaret says:

    What you say about influences hits home with me, Alison – I too was strongly influenced by mother and grandmother, their industry and problem-solving approach. My re-introduction to textiles was in Julia Caprara’s classes (try anything; don’t rip it out); other teachers at the time include Louise Baldwin, Caroline Bartlett, and two classes with the amazing Constance Howard. What I’ve taken from this is “complexity through simplicity” – I hope to do a class with Dorothy Caldwell when she’s in the UK this summer.

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