Some thoughts on historic Pin Cushion Hearts

Victorian pin heart cushionsI’ve recently returned from a Pin Cushion Heart making course at Heartspace Studios in Bristol, after seeing some of these objects dating back to the Victorian era for the first time this year. Two of which were in Tate Britain’s exhibition on Folk Art, which I reviewed for Trebuchet Magazine.

I find pin cushion hearts both attractive with their heavily beaded patterning and slightly grotesque, mainly because they have often ‘weathered’ over time and become stained or dirty. Making one myself seemed a good way to understand the significance and possible roles of these double-edged objects, and so to appreciate them more.

Recreated solider's pin heartThe cushions are stuffed with either sawdust or sand, which, if not machine-made, involves quite a lot of force and patience. I added lavender to my sawdust, which could be smelt every time I pushed a pin into the cushion during the decorating stage. It takes a lot of sawdust to make the cushion firm and full, and because it compacts, it takes a lot more than you think you need. The sawdust is stuffed through a long slit down the centre front of the heart. When the heart is sufficiently sturdy and can withstand the pressure of pins (a floppy cushion will result in the pins falling out), it can be sewn up with diagonal stitches that crosshatch each other. This ends up looking like a harrowing scar down the heart’s middle. So although the hearts feel strong, there is a sense of fragility and even violence at their centre.  Continue reading

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Through Our Hands: The 2nd magazine

Through Our Hands magazine issue 2Through Our Hands, an online platform for contemporary quilts, art and craft, has just published the second issue of their magazine with beautiful illustrations of artists’ work. The editorial team includes Annabel Rainbow, Laura Kemshall and Linda Kemshall.

My blog post about the arrival of their first magazine back in May will tell you more about the project’s background and contains a link to the first issue.

I have been invited to contribute a regular column and my latest article is about quilts in Tate Britain’s Folk Art exhibition on pages 51-56.

The link to the magazine is here.

 

 

British Folk Art at Tate Britain

This article is published in Trebuchet Magazine.

Bellamy Quilt, 1890-1, by Herbert Bellamy and Charlotte Alice Springall

Bellamy Quilt, 1890-1, by Herbert Bellamy and Charlotte Alice Springall

Gathering together the 200 items, including paintings, textiles and sculptures, for this British Folk Art exhibition took the curators to more galleries across the country than normal, Penelope Curtis admitted at the Press View. The staggering range of geographical locations adds to the spectacular diversity of artworks and objects on display, indicating the broad spectrum of art objects that make up ‘folk art’.

This genre is particularly undefined in Britain – indeed it is much more of a discipline in America – but instead of attempting to corner off definitions, the curators are keen for this show to be seen more as a “proposition” of folk art that is made up of objects that have histories in galleries. Thus, there are also particular viewing histories acknowledged by the exhibition; Curtis claimed that having the British Folk Art show on at the same time as the Kenneth Clark exhibition is appropriate because they both have a lot to do with taste. Notions of class and gender therefore echo throughout these two summer shows and introduce other important themes: that of surplus time and surplus materials, which together, point towards the making context as an ultimate concern.  Continue reading