Jessica Hemmings

Textile Writer

Stroud International Textile Festival (preview), Museum in the Park, Stroud

Jo_Barker_StroudBY JESSICA HEMMINGS

Stroud International Textile Festival (May 1-23)

Stroud looks set to become to textiles what Hay-on-Wye is to literary festivals. This year marks the festival’s fifth for the Gloucestershire town with an impressive line up of exhibitions, lectures, workshops and events taking place in fourteen local venues. And over one hundred and twenty five participants, that include established names alongside emerging new talent. Highlights include an exhibition of new work by Deirdre Nelson who has been appointed Artist in Residence at Stroud’s Museum in the Park. (Follow her blog http://sitblog.co.uk/ in the run up to the festival.) A two-day conference about “Slow Textiles” will be chaired by Helen Carnac, curator of Taking Time: Craft & the Slow Revolution, on May 8-9. Conference is organised around a day of talks and debates with speakers from the Textiles Environment Design research network based at Chelsea College of Art and Design (Dr Emma Neuberg, Clara Vuletich, Philippa Brock and Rebecca Earley) followed by a day of workshops where theory will be put into practice.

Scottish tapestry artist Sara Brennan will be exhibiting her softly muted landscapes. Daughter of the New York-based tapestry weaver Archie Brennan, Sara’s style could not be more different than the geometric work her father is known for. Brennan weaves what she describes as the feeling, rather than the image, of landscapes near her home in Edinburgh. A signature horizon line is often apparent, a way marker she finds “moves as I work and can change with the weather”. “There is also a consistent colour palette,” Brennan observes of her style. “One or two predominant colours, a slight twist to some of the lines, a hidden line of red and yellow giving a subtle definition”. Details often emerge slowly in what she describes as a “simplified and reduced use of form”. Stormy skies, cloud formations and sea foam are possible to see in her work, inspired in part by her time spent riding her Icelandic pony – a hobby she jokingly refers to as “lazy hill walking”. Set alongside her larger landscapes and small bands of flat colours, studies in minimalism and paired down refinement reminiscent of paintings by the American Agnes Martin. Seen together, these studies look a little like washes or test colours for her more organic compositions.

Brennan’s sophisticated tapestries are just one of the many artists exhibiting at the festival this year who have links to Scotland. Several, like Brennan, studied at the Edinburgh College of Art’s acclaimed (now closed) tapestry department. Also on view at Stroud International Textiles are Jo Barker, Henny Burnett, Norma Starszakowna, Kate Blee and Angela O’Kelly exhibiting a range of tapestry, installations, printed and painted textiles and jewellery.

Organiser Lizzi Walton sums up the event’s ambition “to bring textiles and textile art to new audiences. I love to broaden our vision of textiles and contemporary craft; to surprise and stimulate. I hope that there is something within the festival for anyone who has a love of textiles. One event that should not be missed is Students in Stroud shop windows where graduates from Winchester Art College and Manchester School of Embroidery have created work to be exhibited. There is also a surprise from Bournemouth Fashion students.  The festival is a celebration of textiles and I look forward to welcoming visitors to the Stroud Five Valleys in May.”

For updates on the festival go to: www.stroudinternationaltextiles.org.uk/textilefestival2010
T: +44 (0)1453 808076 M: 07767763607
enquiries@stroudinternationaltextiles.org.uk

Selvedge Magazine (issue 33, March/April 2010: 91)