The Artists in “Make it OK”

DOROTHY CALDWELL

Dorothy Caldwell’s practice is shaped by differing landscapes. “My work is a map of land and memory. I am interested in the landmarks that give a sense of place and how humans mark and visualise the land they were personally drawn to. Identifying my own personal landmarks, through gathering, touching, and recording is how I create a sense of place. “The vocabulary for my work is drawn from studying textile traditions and ordinary stitching practices such as darning, mending and patching. I am drawn to cloth that has been repaired, and reconstructed and in that ongoing process encodes time and the richness of lives lived.”

Dorothy’s recent work has evolved from residencies in the outback of Southern Australia, and the wilds of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. She assiduously searches for faint traces of lines and signs made by existing and earlier civilisations, and records this distant and faint mark making in her own works.

Dorothy has also spent time in India and Japan on residency projects, leading community workshops and studying traditional and modern cloth and stitch techniques. She has also undertaken major and sometimes site-specific commissions across Canada and USA. Her worried reaction to one commission brief gives the exhibition its title: “This is awful, oh my god. I approach it as a repair job – what do I need to do to make it ok?”

Exhibition and residency locations for Dorothy’s projects include Australia, Canada, India, Japan, Korea, UK and USA. Her work is in collections in Canada, Thailand and USA. Dorothy’s website is here.

Dorothy teaching nov13
Image: Dorothy teaching kantha stitch in Harrogate, 2013.

SAIDHBHÍN GIBSON

Saidhbhín Gibson is concerned with humanity’s impact on and interaction with the landscape. Her work is intricate and frequently small in scale, requiring careful and intimate observation and engendering a sense of wonder rather than any negative emotion. As curator Carissa Farrell wrote, “The burdensome guilt of man’s devastating interference with nature is avoided. Instead Gibson moderates thumping criticism with aesthetic grace.” A recurring format is her series of stitch-led subtle interventions into natural objects, like the series of “repaired” leaves known as Make Good, Make Better. There is deliberate ambiguity in her titles – is it art that makes things better, or nature?

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Image: Detail of Comfort and Joy, Saidhbhín Gibson, 2013. Image courtesy the artist.

Saidhbhín also works in drawing, sculpture, print and film. She has exhibited widely in group and solo shows in Ireland, Iceland, New Zealand and Canada. In summer 2014 she had a solo project Natura Natura at the Natural History Museum, Dublin and The LAB Gallery cube space, Dublin. Developed during a residency at the museum, she explored our understanding and experience of nature, and played with how we expect to make sense of the questions thrown up.

Saidhbhín is currently undertaking a MFA in Sculpture at NCAD in Dublin and is concentrating on extending the range of techniques, processes and materials she can master to express her ideas. The R&D phase of this project funded a trip to London for her to visit the Pumphouse Gallery, meet the gallery team and other artists, and forage in Battersea Park for leaves and twigs specifically for this project. She is interested in the contradictions thrown up by the creation of this park in 1858 as a leisure resource for Londoners, which in many ways was mimicking rural vistas and country house gardens, at a time of great industrial development across the UK.

Saidhbhín has exhibited widely in group and solo shows in Ireland, Iceland, New Zealand and Canada, and currently lives and works in the southeast of Ireland. Her website is here.

CELIA PYM

Celia Pym is concerned with process. She has measured time and journeys through knitting, notably a substantial work created while travelling for several months through Japan in 2001-2002; found intriguing ways, through mending and darning to make fleeting contact with and gather stories from strangers; and makes what she terms heavy knitting through cutting apart and repairing garments. Her interest “in the spaces the body occupies, the tenderness of touch” is centred around how we, as both sentient beings and as biological entities, use “resilience and strength and support” in our care for each other and in the process of making ourselves feel better, both physically and mentally.

Celia was one of five makers selected for the Crafts Council’s Parallel Practices project in late 2014. For this she worked with Dr Richard Wingate, Head of Anatomy and Principal Investigator at the MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology at Kings College London, exploring ‘mending’ in anatomy and the relationships between care and caretaking in textile repair and studying anatomy. She spent time each week in KCL’s Dissecting Room repairing clothes and other objects belonging to the students, and making drawings and notes in response to the lessons on the body and conversations taking place around and with her.

Celia Pym KCL group4
Image: Celia with Kings College Dissecting Room students, courtesy the artist.

Celia Pym has an Anglo-American background. She studied Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard and Textiles at The Royal College of Art and is now based in London. She is also a qualified nurse and teacher. Her work is in the collection of the Crafts Council and various private collections. She has exhibited across the UK, France, Italy, Norway, Japan and USA. Her website is here.

FREDDIE ROBINS

Freddie Robins is well known for her witty, subversive machine and hand-knitted objects, which in the past have looked at issues of the domestic, feminism, crime and public notions of craft. She has an obsession with perfection, but changes over recent years in how she lives and works have led to an embracing of more expedient means and openness to reuse of materials, and a less formulated and planned approach to her work.

In early 2013 she said, “Holding current concepts and themes in mind, ideas about what it is to be human, loss, death, grief and mourning, I am working spontaneously with my materials. Enjoying the release from pre-planned, designed work I am knitting, crocheting, embroidering, sewing and pinning onto the knitted bodies and body parts [from previous projects].” Following her successful presentation of the first of this new body of work at Collect 2013, Freddie continues to explore her preoccupations around pain, fear and loss.

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Image: Freddie Robins at Collect, 213, courtesy the artist. Photo copyright Sophie Mutevelian.

In summer 2014 she exhibited a new commission, Collection of Knitted Textile Folk Objects, in David Littler’s “Yan Tan Tethera” project at Cecil Sharp House in London which has subsequently gone on tour.

Freddie Robins is currently Senior Tutor for Knitted Textiles at the Royal College of Art. She has work in public and private collections in England, Scotland and Norway, and has exhibited extensively across the UK and Ireland, Norway, Australia and USA. Freddie has also undertaken residencies in Germany and Bangladesh. After spending most of her life in London, she relocated to a rural setting in Essex in 2009, the context for which informs much of her recent practice. Her website is here.

KARINA THOMPSON

Karina Thompson makes layered machine-stitched wallpieces and installations, examining the use of scientific medical imaging and data capture systems in the diagnosis of illness, and also in response to historic places, objects and people. Her practice encompasses residencies, commissions and community art. She is a member of the prestigious Quilt Art group.

Previous projects include “Making Moves”, a response to the history and artefacts at Soho House, Birmingham (18th century home of Matthew Boulton of The Lunar Society); and “Pattern Within” for the Centre for Clinical Haematology, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, based on genetic testing used in the diagnosis of serious blood disorders and the personal experiences of patients and staff at this specialised unit. In 2013 the large scale work 1 Hour’s Production = 1 1/2 Miles = 15 Lengths for Cloth and Memory {2} at Salts Mill depicted multiple scans of her own heart while running, a personal response to the immense dimensions of the Mill’s former Spinning Room.

Karina Thompson 600 Diagnoses a Day detail2
Image: 600 Diagnoses a day, Karina Thompson, 215. Image courtesy the artist.

Karina’s current work includes an Arts Council England supported exploration of skeletons and medical archives in the collection of the University of Bradford, from which she’s new stitched work from historical bones, archive x-rays and archaeological site plans. Some of this work is on show at the university in summer 2015 while other pieces are being incorporated in new exhibitions of the Quilt Art group. Alongside Celia Pym (above) Karina has also been part of Crafts Council’s Parallel Practices residency project, working with Dr Matthew Howard, lecturer in robotics at the Department of Informatics at King’s, creating a body of work to stimulate debate about the nature of stitch in the 21st century and show its value in cutting-edge robotics. She blogs about it here.

Karina has exhibited widely across the UK, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and USA. Her website is here.

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