Ever been presented with a tablespoon of dead ‘beetles’ from Mexico?

Susie Reade explains what she did when this happened to her.

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‘These are female cochineal scale insects – not everyone’s idea of fun but they are mine.’

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Susie ground them up and used the precious commodity sparingly –

‘after all it is the dye stuff of fifteenth century popes. Paupers were punished should they ever manage to afford to wear red outfits.’

‘Red is a highly charged colour. The Virgin Mary was painted by Van Eyke in red until that was considered too sexy, too female and suggestively fertile – then she wore blue.’

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‘I dyed cotton, horse hair and wool which came out in various hues (alum mordant) with little explanation for their differences: pink, dark purple, dreaded mauve (lots) and magnificent Virgin red (unfortunately 50cm of wool only). The most depressing mauve had an extra dunk into boiling onion skins to add a bit of hopeful gold. The scramble of drying rags looked dreadful.’

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‘Fellow MESH artists had already created beautiful work in ochres and browns. Mauve is not cool. Time was running out. So I willed the sewing machine to work and I stitched the rags together. Of course colours placed alongside each other start relating. To give some structure I took ideas from Korean ‘bogaji’ and made seams overlaid with wool.  It began to almost look quite nice. But ‘nice’ is not really ‘art’ is it? And the whole piece is not well constructed so it doesn’t classify as ‘craft’. I think it treads the borderline between beauty and ugliness. Just to make sure the piece couldn’t be described as ‘pretty’ I honoured the scale insects. I drew their portraits and printed those onto the cloth, just to make sure the piece isn’t pretty.’

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Come along and see Susie’s finished work at our Earthworks Exhibition, opening on 24th April at Patriothall Gallery, Stockbridge, Edinburgh.

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Going Round in Circles with Pat Beveridge

Pat Beveridge explains her work for the Earthworks exhibition:

“I began to think of how everything goes round in circles. One example is that the water that we drink today was drunk by someone thousands of years ago. Those same people in the early days of the development of man, realised the significance of the circle and constructed stone circles and circular dwellings. I am lucky to have three of these circular works within 10 minutes walk from my house in Glenrothes. They are themselves absorbed into the fabric of the ‘new’ town.”

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Indeed, one of the sites at Balbirnie was excavated and moved in the 1970s to accommodate the widening of the A92.

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Pat gathered soil from the sites and fallen leaves and berries. These she used to colour her cloth. She took the circle as her main motif and arranged these on dyed muslin, attaching them with hand stitching and paying reference to the stones and posts found on the sites.

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“The only dye I used which was not local to the sites was turmeric, which I used to achieve the gorgeous yellow, and felt was justified as it gave the vibrancy I was looking for.”

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Pat’s completed work will be on show at the Earthworks Exhibition, opening on 24th April 2015, at Patriothall Gallery, Stockbridge, Edinburgh.

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Work in Progress – Ruth Thomas

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Ruth Thomas has been experimenting with eco-dyeing processes using plant matter from her garden and compost heap. Birch bark, ivy leaves, heather, eucalyptus, purple sprouting broccoli, onion skins and even dried weeds have produced an array of vivid colours in yellows, pinks and deep browns.

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Using her drawings of rocks faces, tidelines, leek and buttercup roots and samples of soil under a microscopic as source material, Ruth has combined these fabrics and threads using free hand machine embroidery on aqua film to produce irregular shaped swatches of lacelike material.

The needle of the machine mimics the action of a pen drawing a large scale aerial terrain reminiscent of eroded river courses and rugged mountains.

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                                                                                                                                                                                           The completed installation will be on display at our Earthworks Exhibition opening on Friday 24th April 2015 at Patriothall Gallery, Edinburgh.

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