Dove Studios Event
UK | March 2009
A 3 day event embroidering on to the Red Dress directly held at Dove Studios in Butleigh, Somerset. A coming together of 15 local creatives of all ages and diverse backgrounds, with a shared love of expressing through stitch.
Nina Gronw Lewis
To contact any of the artisans from the group for commissions, please message Kirstie directly.
SECTION OF THE DRESS: Snowdrops
A flower seeped in memory and folklore
My grandmother taught me to knit, stitch and crochet, she was a wise and gifted woman, she nurtured my creative flair, her favourite flower was the snowdrop. Born and brought up in Somerset I learned of many folk tales, and visited the landmark Tor in Glastonbury many times, on the tower you will see a carving of Brigid, the goddess of nurture, here she is depicted milking a cow, it is said where the drops of milk fell the snowdrops grew.
SECTION OF DRESS: Home A Dove
Revisiting embroidery for the first time since childhood
Bron stitched a beautiful Dove flying out between the two floral mandalas created in Sinai.
This was the first time Bron had embroidered since school, but you wouldn’t have known it! Bron is a highly established printmaker and runs the oh-so special Dove Art Studio in Butleigh, Somerset where this group embroidery event took place.
An absolute powerhouse of creativity, wisdom and kindness, I don’t think there is much Bron couldn’t turn her hand to.
BLANKA BERTA KOLKOVA (from the Czech Republic)
SECTION OF DRESS: Folk embroidery
An honouring of the many women that have come together to work on the dress.
Originally from the Czech Republic Blanka has been in Glastonbury, Somerset for the last 5 years living and working in Zig Zag (a derelict 23000 sq. ft icon of a building on three floors) which has now been lovingly filled with accommodation, art studios and a gallery).
Blanka also has a cosy caravan just outside, the interior of which she has hand painted in the most exquisite eastern European folk patterns
Blanka works with textiles, mostly knitting and crochet and also recycles old clothes. Currently Blanka is creating a new Textile Recycling centre in an old factory building – drawing together all the textile creatives in the area to be make something truly special. The space will offer classes and workshops as well as an opportunity to connect with all things textiles.
Inspired by her roots, in particular czech and slovak folklore embroidery Blanka created a a beautiful motif onto the outside of the bodice arms. Bold floral and decorative shapes swirl out from the word ‘Sesterstvi’ meaning ‘Sisterhood’
“ ..this word came to my mind when I’ve seen your dress for the first time...this is real sisterhood project”. Blanka Berta Kolkova
SECTION OF DRESS: Mountains
Blurring the lines of embroidery and woodcarving
My relationship to embroidery is very new: I am initially a printmaker with woodcuts, and carved reliefs in wood.
I made a fourposter bed about 10 years ago, chiefly because I'm a woodcarver and thought this would be a great way of playing with carved images that came together over a structure. This bed is more of an outdoor installation that is moved into different landscapes, coming apart and then being bolted together again (it fits into my car!)
More recently I decided to create light, embroidered textiles that would accompany the bed but not be attached to it - kind of creating a human or domestic ambiance, but allowing space, light and movement to interact around the heavy, static structure of the bed.
Through research, principally in the V&A, I found a stitch that I liked: Blackstitch. I liked its simplicity, and the way that you could draw shapes and designs - and this relates back to my interest in drawing. What was exciting, though, was that I discovered that blackstitch is thought to have been inspired by the woodcuts in the early Herbalist books. There is at least one in the V&A, and another at Lytes Cary in Somerset. That clinched the deal: I had instinctively chosen a stitch inspired by my first love of woodcuts!
SECTION OF DRESS: Sarabanda form Bach Partita No 2 in D Minor for solo violin.
Kiki brings her love of music to the fabric of the Red Dress
This is such a beautiful piece of music and such an education to play Bach’s music for all violinists!
I chose it so that all the notes would hold down the stave!
I was a violinist in my youth and became pretty seriously good! But eventually left the classical world and learnt to improvise with guitarists etc and discovered a whole new way of playing the violin as well as a whole new world of music!
I am a professional knitter and crotchetier. Its has been a huge honour and pleasure embroidering a part of the phenomenal Red Dress and seeing all the glorious work done by others form around he world.
ALEX SMITH (From Switzerland)
SECTION OF DRESS: Traditional English flowers
Honouring the memory of her late grandparents with a beautiful spray of tiny flowers
Granny was born to a wealthy family of Manchester industrialists who owned a furniture department store in the town centre, so she had never learnt a profession, but knew how to embroider elaborately and was a champion knitter.
I grew up in Switzerland, but when I was little I often used to spend the summers with her in England, where she lived alone on a widower’s pension. She decided to teach me how to embroider so as to give me something to do. I first stitched bookmarks on coarse fibres, then, when she was satisfied, she showed me more complicated stitches, and finally allowed me to work on a masterpiece — a tablecloth — which had been started years ago by my grandfather, who I had never met.
She had loved my Granddad very much, but had lost him in 1954, when my father was 9 years old, to rheumatic fever, and she never married again. For some time before his death, he had been ill at home and she had looked after him. To pass the time and I suppose to take his mind off his illness, she had taught him how to embroider and he had begun to make the tablecloth that I was now allowed to continue. It had a beautiful array of flowers: lilly-of-the valley, forget-me-nots, violets, pansies, clover — all strewn across the linen in a very loose swirling pattern. A beautiful piece. My grandfather never finished it, though he worked on it until he died.
I loved working on it. I loved the musty smell of the off-white linen and the original old anchor cotton threads I worked with. It felt like stepping back in time, as if somehow I could still know my grandfather. I imagined him lying in his bed, loving my grandmother, sewing such a dainty piece with his big manly hands.
During the time I used to spend with her (I must have been around ten years old) I was completely absorbed in the work. What strikes me now is that Granny never herself worked on the tablecloth. She was hit by a car a year later and died, tragically, at the age of 70. I think the tablecloth is somewhere in my parent’s attic, still unfinished. If ever I find the time I should like to finish it, though I don’t have a table to put it on and its style doesn’t really fit into this time. Life is so busy.
For the Red Dress I stitched a few flowers, with some of the few stitches I remember. I think I made a cross between a violet and a forget-me-not, and in the background I intended to stitch some catkins. I am sure Granny would be pleased to know that some of this story ended up on the dress, though I feel rather out of practice.
SOPHIE DOIG (From Kenya)
SECTION OF DRESS: Pokot Woman
A memory form home
My design was of a woman who was part of a tribe called the Pokots, I used to go and visit them when I was a little and my mum used to sell them the beads they used to make their stunning jewellery with. I was drawn to them because of the bright colours they use, and how that symbolizes African culture, it reminded me of home in Kenya.
SECTION OF DRESS: Violin
“My most treasured Possession”
Thank you so much for allowing me to make my small contribution to the red dress. It felt like a great honour to be included, and I think it was just the luck of being in the right place at the right time! I have a long-standing connection with the Dove as at one time I lived there when we were a community.
My small contribution (I was only there for the afternoon) was a violin. I had not done any embroidery since school more than 60 years ago. I embroidered a violin as I play the violin, and my violin, which was made by my dad, is my most treasured possession. My father was a heart surgeon (good with his hands) and when he retired, he took up making stringed instruments. He wanted to make an entire string quartet. He did it! My violin is one of his instruments. Since Kiki had embroidered a piece of violin music, I sewed my violin beside it These days I play my violin with a group of friends (including Bron) we are called the Lonesome Doves.
Although I am an artist (painter printmaker) I am not an embroiderer so I felt incredibly lucky to be included in the Red Dress project.
I love the fact that you made this stunningly beautiful dress, and that you’ve turned it into a worldwide community project enabling both professional embroiderers, and ordinary people like myself to make a contribution. That you have incorporated the work of so many women, so many cultures, so much talent.
I love the fact that you are sharing it and will be sharing it all around the world and that you have not been precious about it, I have been able to touch it, even though it is such a valuable piece of work. I love the fact that we can learn about the culture, the lives of women all over the world through connecting with the dress.
And what a thing of beauty the red dress is!
DARCEY TROTT (Age 6)
SECTION OF DRESS: Turtle
A first experience of embroidery
Darcey is Kirstie’s niece and the youngest embroiderer on the Red Dress. She had never embroidered before although had recently helped to sew on a fabric toy’s broken arm.
SECTION OF DRESS: My Woodland
Established artist turns her hand to embroidery for the first time
My embroidery was made in response to my local woodland, a place where I have walked almost daily for forty years. I made a template of each species of tree and transferred the shape on to fabric. My first attempts at stitching were crude. I watched other, more experienced members of the group stitching and learnt from them. I unpicked as many stitches as made in my finished piece. All part of my process in contributing a small patch on a multi-faceted Red Dress.
SECTION OF DRESS: My Woodland
An intricate and thoughtful depiction of identity
I was thrilled to be asked to contribute to The Red Dress project. It was such a rich experience, working next to the other embroiderers in the same room yet at the same time one was so aware of the other contributors’ work from all over the world. It felt an honour to be stitching my piece amongst the embroidered peace doves from Kosovo and the women from Kenya!
I come from a photography art background but in recent years have also turned to embroidery to tell my stories. The remit for the Red Dress was to be about identity. I stitched a ‘self-portrait’ surrounded by the environment which is so integral to me personally, but I hope the feeling of love and support reaches out to those of all the different worlds represented in the Red Dress.
SECTION OF DRESS: Cretan Labyrinth
A potent symbol honouring the story of Ariandne and her golden thread.
I stitched a seed pattern for the Cretan Labyrinth in the centre of my Embroidery on the Red Dress. I wanted to include this symbol because it is part of an ancient story of Ariadne’s golden thread which will guide the hero or heroine in and out of the Labyrinth. However you cannot get lost in the Cretan labyrinth , by stitching lines between the dots, a spiral path is revealed, into and out of the Centre, this is the spiral dance of women’s mysteries and a universal symbol of birth and rebirth.
To create a border around the seed pattern , I used the template using embroidery techniques from Central Asian Embroideries. To celebrate the wonderful pieces of art, I restored whilst I was also studying Fine Art at Falmouth School of Art. These co-created works of art from Central Asia, had potency and depth. Stitched by groups of women to be used in rites of passage in family life and society. They would be kept from one generation to another as treasured heirlooms. The design templates also seemed to be handed down from one generation to another, this is a radically different creative system to that of western fine art in the 20thcentury.
I am very excited to be part of the Red Dress project, as it is a modern art project weaving together the ancient threads of women’s traditional art, for the 21st century.
Whilst I was sewing the Red Dress, I remembered my restoration work. Sewing with a blunt needle and silk thread, into the holes stitched three to four hundred years ago, redrawing a forgotten design with my thread. To my amazement I could sense the rhythm of the original embroiderer, each embroiderer sews with their own rhythm, so it would change between embroideries like whispers from the past and every now and again, there would be an abrupt change of rhythm. I would wonder what had happened at that moment when the rhythm briefly changed. The restoration work was always a balance between the age of the piece, the story of its journey, and making the original drawing visible again.
I did a lot of Embroidery in my twenties but once I became a single mother I moved on to painting as there was not the time to complete the embroideries. I live in Glastonbury, teaching Meditation and Yoga. As an artist my art work is currently focused on photography, woodblock printing and artist books. At 60 the stitching has resurfaced in book making. Indeed it seems I have come full spiral, in 1988 my thesis was called ‘Textus, tissue of a literary work’ following the possibility that early textile crafts in matriarchal societies may have been linked to the development of writing . For example, Text and Textile have the same Latin origin Textilis, meaning woven or to weave. Once again I am exploring these possibilities in the creation of handmade books.