The VIrtual Studio at 2014 Festival of Quilts in Birmingham UK

getting messy at the festival

By Patricia Belyea

BIRMINGHAM UK  Virtual Studio at The Festival of Quilts impressed me completely. It allowed the quilting public to watch textile artists at work and ask as many questions as they wanted. 

Leslie Morgan (top) and Claire Benn (bottom), who lead Committed To Cloth, set up the temporary wet studio at The Festival. C2C’s “real studio” south of London provides teaching and facilities for artistic growth in the textile arts.

Leslie Morgan and Claire Benn

Here at The Festival of Quilts, four stations were set up with different techniques shown at each. The artists started on Tuesday so they had two uninterrupted days before the deluge of curious onlookers.

When I got to Virtual Studio today, Claudia Helmer was working on a paper lamination series—printing fish onto polyester. The top four photos show her at work. (If you learn about this technique, Claudia emphasized that you use matte medium and not matte gel.) The bottom two images are close-ups of earlier paper lamination textile art by Claudia.

Paper Lamination at Virtual Studio at The Festival of Quilts 2014

Another artist, Sheena Hughes, dabbed dilutions of dye on some cloth she’d previously screen printed with a lace doily. The photo of the Gerbera daisy inspired her retro 1950s color palette.

Sheena Hughes at Virtual Studio, The Festival of Quilts 2014

Alice Fox, artist and blog writer with a huge textile following, demonstrated her mark making with found objects and natural dyeing. Alice described her work casually as putting leaves and iron things between paper or fabric, tying everything up, and boiling the bundle in tea. Although Alice makes it sound simple, her persona, vision and expertise all contribute to creating very sophisticated work.

Alice Fox at Virtual Studio, The Festival of Quilts 2014

Susie Koren, who I’d already met at the European Art Foundation exhibit opening, was drawing with soya wax on fabric using random tools. The artwork will ultimately be discharged and hand-stitched. Most revealing was Susie’s collection of sketch and idea notebooks piled in a corner of her worktable.

Susie Koren at Virtual Studio, The Festival of Quilts 2014

Virtual Studio thrilled me with its talented artists who were so generous with their explanations. It reminded me that there are so many more avenues to explore with textile art and gave me a gentle nudge to keep going on my creative journey.