Monday, 22 October 2018

Processions: Making the letters and tassels

So the plan had always been that we would have letters spelling out the phrase ‘Smile, it confuses your enemy’ individually decorated by the women.  These letters would then be placed on a digitally printed cloth featuring the smiles of 100 women that the women saw as role models or aspirational figures.

I had printed out the letters on paper to use as templates.  We cut them out and then the women choose letters.  Artichoke, organisers of the Processions march had asked for the suffragette colours of Violet, Green and White to be used.  I had bought a load of fabric in those colours and let the women choose what colour their letter might be.  They could decorate the letter however they wished…..and some really went to town with appliqué fabrics, jewels and chains.
Women hard at in in Holy Trinity, Shirebrook

So on some of the workshop session women were working on their letters whilst others were making wrapped cords that would be eventually be made into tassels that would form a fringe along the bottom of the banner or large tassels for the side poles.  The photo below shows the Rev Karen in action on a Pfaff Passport 2.0 sewing machine zigzagging strips of fabric to make wrapped cords.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Processions: Making the printed background

Collecting the 100 smiles was a challenge. The women’s personalities really came out. For example it became clear that Lovely Louise from Bolsover had a keen interest in Tudor history from her list of 16th century women.  Some women wanted family members, other figures from local history whilst others chose household names. We had writers, saints, comediennes, architects, explorers, business women, politicians, royalty, suffragettes, theologians, sportswomen, scientists and fictional characters.

What I found most interesting was that Olga and Basia thought the Polish women’s group facilitator’s list of women were not appropriate. The facilitator hadn’t attended any of the sessions and the list seemed to be TV celebrities or women famous for being married to a politician rather than for their own achievements. When asked who they wanted to see they produced a very interesting list of Polish ‘heroes’ that I had never heard of and one very interesting woman who I had. Now Bolsover and Shirebrook are former mining communities so Margaret Thatcher is a divisive character; I certainly wasn’t going to suggest her.  However she was top their list of strong inspirational women so I had to suppress my own personal opinions and let her on to the banner.

So the women either sent me images directly or names and I sourced images.  Sometimes this was a challenge as images weren’t of a definition that I could use so we had to find other images or rescan them.  I was compiling a folder of the images and gradually over a number of weeks we reached 100.
The smiles are arranged in alphabetical order of their first name.

Now my plan had always been to use the commercial printer that I had used on the first Bolsover project however Super Shirley from Shirebrook had a son who ran a print business that specialised in print on textiles for flags, banners and cushions and she arranged for him to print our background fabric for our banner.  With the deadline so tight, Shirley bought us at least a couple of weeks by sorting a very short lead time on the printing with the statement ‘He’ll do as his Mum says!’

The print was lovely and ready for our lettering which we had been working on.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Processions: Making the Bolsover banner

As part of the Processions 2018 event I was asked by Junction Arts to lead a series of workshops with women in Bolsover and Shirebrook in Derbyshire. The timescale was very short, the number of sessions was limited and they were to be spread across two different locations. This was going to be a challenge. 

The idea was that Artichoke had asked a 100 Arts organisations to each commission a female artist to work with a group of women or girls to produce a banner either to mark the 100 years of some women getting the vote, or to reflect what it’s like to be a woman in the 21st Century. 

I had worked with one of the proposed groups of women last year on the New Bolsover Model Village miners’ banner so I was really looking forward to working with them again. The other location was the church hall in Shirebrook with women with a link to the church and local Polish women, many of whom work in the local Sports Direct warehouse. 

Whilst I was really open to the women dictating the direction of the project I also had a few objectives myself. Firstly I wanted to try and give such a diverse group of women the opportunity to individually express themselves. This would mean sometimes them doing separate ‘bits’ and then somehow combining them together. Secondly I knew that given the subject matter there would be many, quite rightly, banners with a serious message. But given that these aspects of the subject would be featured I wondered if we had scope to try something slightly different and as a result make a banner that would stand out. 

We spent time talking about what the women wanted to theme to be. It was clear that featuring their role models was a reoccurring theme across the groups.   Now sometimes I get an idea stuck in my head. It’s like a bluebottle in a jam jar; it buzzes around and gives me no peace. I had the phrase ‘Smile, it confuses your enemy’ noisily in my head for a number of weeks. I was posting an email with different choice for the women to vote on and just thought I would suggest this as a possible alternative theme. 

It went down extremely well with the women and was democratically chosen for our banner. Lovely Shirley from Shirebrook got very excited and asked if we could have the smiles of ‘their’ women on the banner as well; a plan was being formed. We would have the smiles of 100 women who had been influential to us upon which we would place the embroidered letters of our phrase.