I am very pleased to have finished two new quilts from a new series I have been working on for over a year. They have evolved very slowly and I feel they are the better for it.
First, a little background......
The quilts tell the story of children who are trapped by poverty on cocoa producing farms in West Africa. They are amongst some of the poorest people on earth and they and their families have few options in life and the cocoa trade takes advantage of this fact. Over 70% of the worlds chocolate is produced from cocoa grown and harvested in the west African countries of Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire), Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Togo, with Ivory Coast being by far the largest. The beans are grown on smallholder farms and require much hands-on labour to grow, harvest, ferment and dry them before a 'Traitant' comes to weigh, purchase and collect the crop. The large chocolate producers Cadbury, Ferrero, Nestle and Hershey are amongst the biggest purchasers of Ivorian cocoa.
It is estimated that over 2 million children under the age of 16 are used in the production of cocoa beans in West Africa. Increasing world cocoa demand and a falling price paid for raw cocoa beans by the big global chocolate producers means farmers look for the cheapest labour they can find. Many poor families are tricked into sending their children to work on the farms with promises of paid work, housing, and education. Worse still, many are enticed to leave home with false promises and end up as modern day slaves. NGO's such as Save the Children, the US Department of Labour and journalists such as those at the BBC and Fortune magazine have all documented the widespread use of children on these farms. A quick Google search will bring up hundereds of images and numerous reports and investigations into this terrible abuse. Even the chocolate manufacturers themselves admit they are aware of the practice, but despite signing up to numerous pledges to wipe out the practice 20 years ago, it still continues. Not a single prosecution has been brought.
In April 2018, the biennial 'Cocoa Barometer Report' (a new report is due out this year) on the $100-billion industry, said this about the child labor situation in West Africa: "Not a single company or government is anywhere near reaching the sectorwide objective of the elimination of child labour, and not even near their commitments of a 70% reduction of child labour by 2020"
For more information Wikimedia is a good starting point. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_labour_in_cocoa_production
And now the quilts..............
Faces have become a familiar part of my work and I have used them in the past to tell other stories. These quilts also started out with monoprints and lino of children's faces made on fabric, which I surrounded with pieced squares and rectangles of fabric in choclatey colours - a nod to the final product we all love to eat.
I wanted to show the children in their working environment, hidden amongst the cocoa plants. Their presence on the farms is almost never acknowledged. Technically it is illegal to employ children on the cocoa farms, so naturally it is in nobody's interest to acknowledge their presence. However everyone knows they are there. They are an open secret.
To portray this I made lino blocks of cocoa pods and leaves and printed over the pieced cloth, gradually obscuring the faces, but leaving just enough peeping through. To add more depth selected parts were then coloured with ink and paint.
I added text using more monoprinting, also peeping through the leaves. The shady business of chocolate production is not very well known on the high street, although gradually the story is leaking out. Cheap chocolate is cheap for a reason - we enjoy it because at the start of the production line the 'workers' get paid less than 50 cents a day (if at all). There are similarities in the the so called 'fast fashion' industry, but that is a story for another day. Whilst awareness is growing about issues such as these, there is still a reluctance by end consumers to acknoweledge the reasons, even if they feel strongly about it. Price, it seems, is a more important driver.
Chocolates are still frequently wrapped in luxurious gold foil, a subliminal message that reinforces this image. We are also used to the idea of chcolate being a little bit of a treat, even though these days we probably eat it almost every day. I wanted to add this element to the quilts so I too used gold foil - in fact, gold leaf, for some of the text. It too is hidden amongst the leaves. I did not want the message to be instantly recognised, so I broke the letters up, adding one letter to each of the chocolate squares.
Overall I am very pleased with this piece of work. Its many layers hold the story of these children.
The second, slightly smaller quilt uses much of the same imagary, but has a more direct message. There is one particular chocolate product which upsets me more than any other. It was first marketed in 1968 and aimed directly at children, for children, a marketing coup at the time. It is now sold inover 30 countries throughout the world and has a loyal following. I suppose many would say that is fair enough; kids love chocolate and as far as marketing goes, this product has it all. Hazelnuts, wafers and smooth sweet milky chocolate, a neat easily transportable kid's sized portion and a little (plastic) gift. What is not to love? It is even marketed at parents as a good choice for their children as it contains whole milk for strong teeth and bones (OMG). It is also reassuringly expensive in terms of price when compared to other chocolate - not cheap and nasty, but still affordable enough to make it an easy purchase.
Sadly the product is tainted with numerous bad associations. The company that makes this chocolate buys all its cocoa from West African farms, paying rock bottom for the product. The hazlenuts used in many of their products are mostly grown in Turkey, where 70% of the worlds supply comes from. These hazlenuts are picked mainly by low paid migrants, including children. Several reports on this have been published in the last year, one by the BBC https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-49741675, and another by the Guardian.
Independent investigations by journalists have also discovered that the little plastic toys that are part of the marketing of some of the products are being packed in Romnia by extremenly low paid workers in their homes, often with the help of their children. None of this is good.
This quilt is called 'For the Children' / 'Für Die Kinder' - you can probably guess why.
So - what is a chocolate lover to do?
Obviously we all have our own views on this. Mine are that I don't want to knowingly contribute to the profit of companies that take advantage of low paid workers, especially children. For that reason I have decided to eat less chocolate and pay more for the chocolate I do buy which is sourced from ethical sources.
I have researched companies that grow their own beans and produce their own chocolate - the so called 'bean-to-bar' companies who know exactly who is working for them and pay their employees a fair wage.
I have discovered exactly what 'Fair Trade' means (transparent and robust standards in supply chains, externally monitired, and a hard ban on any exploitative labour).
I have also found out more about a new initiative called 'Cocoa Life', a self-policing initiative set up by the company Mondalez International Inc., (owners of Cadbury, Cote D'Or, Milka, Oreo, Toblerone amongs many others) which says it has invested 400 million in improving the suply chain of in its choholate related business.
It is all interesting and this is certainly a very complex problem. It is my aim that the quilts will promote discussion about these issues.
Thanks for reading.
It has been 2 long months since I last updated my blog - although a lot has happened this past year there has not been so much for me to record or share on my blog. I have missed writing it. However, it is my hope that next year will be different and I will be back creating new work, discovering new things and having lots to write about.
For my last post for 2019 I thought I would share a small piece of work which has ended up being rather more personal than I originally intended. It is called 'Departure' and was finished a few days after my father passed away.
I belong to a very small and friendly group of textile artists called 'Six Dames'. We are slightly unusual in that we are a bilingual group (French and English) and next April we will be holding our first group exhibition in France. You can find out more about our group and our exhibition here on our website: https://six-dames.weebly.com/
Every 3 months one of our members provides us with a photo to inspire us into creating a new piece of work. So far we have had photos from Barcelona, Antibes, Clevedon, New York, Dubai and our next one is from Porto. Working from photos has proved to be a fascinating challenge and the results from each of the artist members has been incredible. You can see what I mean by looking at all of the work we have created on our website by clicking here or on our blog by clicking here.
But for speed, here is a little glimpse of the photos we have worked on so far..........
The most recent photo we have been working from was provided by Fran and is a photo of one of the departure gates at Dubai Airport. When we received it back in October the scene didn't really have much significance to me other than I had been there a few times on my way to somewhere else. I liked the shapes of the windows and the seemingly calming 'greeness' and decided to focus on those elements.
After some thought and some trials with different materials I decided to create an embroidered 3 dimensional piece using heavyweight interfacing, exploring how the unusual window shapes could create a self-supporting structure. As the building is in Dubai I chose to feature traditional Islamic designs for the embroidery which can be seen below.
All in all this piece is composed of 4 layers of interfacing; two outer layers of pure white and two inner layers which I dyed a dark grey/green. The interfacing is not all that difficult to stitch through, but I did not want to risk leaving any pencil or chalk marks on any of the surfaces so I made a paper pattern then pierced the pattern onto the interfacing first then stitched it afterwards. The whole piece measures 16 inches square and as the interfacing is not flexible the stitching was a slow process.
For the top layers I cut the interfacing to make the 'windows' and then stitched each one, emphasizing the sail-like shape using a curve stitching technique (remember those string and nail pictures that were so popular in the 1970s ???!)
Once the completed the top and back sections were fully embroidered I then put them together and restitched the pattern once again to secure all the layers together. As a base it is now very sturdy indeed and is able to support the curved window pieces with just a tiny slot.
II am very pleased with the delicate lace-like effect on the surfaces and I am happy with the airy feeling of the overall design which I think captures the feeling inside the airport departure hall. It is also strong yet fragile; a good metaphor for life.
This piece, along with the 5 others that are inspired by Fran's photo will be hanging in our Six Dames Gallery at B.I.A.T. - the 8th Biennale International D'art Textile in Villefranche-sur-Saone from 15th - 18th April 2020 (just after Easter) . All of the other work from our photos will also be in our gallery. If you happen to be in that part of the world during those dates please do come and say hello. I will also have my own gallery at the expo and plan to hang some of my portraits along with my Stitched Alchemy series of quilts that I have been working on for the past few years and have never yet managed to hang together. I am very looking forward to that too.
Thank you to those of you who read my blog posts - I wish you a gentle end to the year and I hope that the arrival of 2020 brings you much happiness, good health and creativity.
Following on from the new light-hearted 'Superheroes' quilt I made in the summer I have decided I will take the idea further. I enjoy making them and it provides a little light relief from other not so happy things that are going on at the moment. Several designs are now underway, and I thought I would post a few pictures of some of them. This one seems appropriate for today.
The idea behind the quilts is simple; these are two little mischievious characters who love to dress up. Each quilt shows them taking on their new persona. I have another idea which I may persue using these characters, but I need to do a lot more work on that before I let the cat out of the bag. Each small quilt is hand printed and painted onto cloth then quilted with free-motion quilting. Most of them will measure 16" x 16" and be mounted onto stretchers, making them easy to hang.
Here is a glimpse of today's work in progress.................... I aim to finish it today and pop it in the post to Chris at Midsomer Quilting in time for the 12x12 exhibition. (Deadline is now 10th November)
It is going to be called 'Los Dos Amigos: Santa's Little Helpers' and will be available to bid on, with the proceeds going directly to Dorothy House Hospice.
Just in case you don't already know what the 12x12 is all about, here is a little description.
The shop 'Midsomer Quilting' located in Chilcompton, Somerset hosts and annual 12"x12" quilt challenge each November/ December. Anyone with a connection to the shop (such as being customer, friend or visitor) is invited to make a small 12" square quilt to be exhibited as part of a special exhibition. There is no entry fee and there is no 'judging' - so there is no need to be shy. Previous entries have come from children, beginners, professionals and even a metalworker and a woodworker! The aim is for the exhibition to be inclusive and FUN.
This year the very loose theme is 'One day...........'
Last year over 250 wonderful quilts were displayed and I know they would love to repeat that this year.
The other lovely thing about this exhibition is that many of the quilts are available to purchase by secret auction. If you like a quilt (and it is for sale) all you do is note which one it is, jot your name on a piece of paper and write the amount you wish to bid for it. At the end of the exhibition the highest bid wins. The procedes of the auction are donated to Dorothy House Hospice - I'm sure you will agree, a very worthy cause. Last year over £3000 was raised and donated.
I have entered lots and lots of quilts over the years (except the first year when I accidentally cut my quilt in half with my rotary cutter).
The deadline for handing in your quilt is November 10th - so there is still time to get stitching and make a quilt for the exhibtion and if you aren't able to make one then please do visit - you will be amazed at what can be done with fabric and thread!
The exhibition will run every day from (and including) November 29th until (and including) Saturday December 21st.
The exhibition is FREE to enter and FREE to visit. The shop even offers FREE coffee and chocolate biscuits and what is light heartedly known as the 'creche' for non-quilting partners who can relax after viweing the exhibition!
You just can't go wrong.
01761 239333 or 01761 232509
Shop Opening Hours throughout the exhibition:
Daily - 10:00AM - 4:00PM
Thanks for reading
Back last year I had the beginnings of an idea that decided to explore; it involved the concept of combining lots of small things to create something bigger and better than just the sum of its parts. I think this basically sums up what patchwork is, so from that perspective I was on safe ground. The simple way to sum up the concept is encompassed by the word 'Synergy, which Wikipedia explains as being derived from the Attic Greek word συνεργία (synergia), from συνεργός (synergos) meaning 'working together'.
It is very different from my other work which often focusses on rather heavy subjects, and taking a break from that for a while has been good for me as it has left some space in my mind for that work to develop and grow too.
I started off with paper and got drawn into the incredible world of complex origami assemblages. I have always liked the precision required to make a successful origami model - but what some people can do with many sheets of paper is incredble. I first began looking at the work of Coco Sato, http://cocosato.co.uk/things-i-do/ which led me on to exploring Kusudama (薬玉 the Japanese word for 'medicine ball'). These models require many identical pyramidal units to be made and subsequently stitched together to create ornate hangings that are used to hold insence or fragrant herbs and flowers.
After trying my hand at a few paper models I began searching for a fabric alternative that would be stiff enough to work with and hold a fold. I tried several starch prducts, Terrial Magic and gelatine on numerous lightweight fabrics, but none gave me what I needed to create successful creases that could withstand handling. Finally I settled on using a fine cotton muslin known as organdie which I have seen Iris Van Herpen using in her incredible couture.
'Points of View I' and 'II' were my first pieces in this exploration. After hand dyeing the fabric I created a few hundred folded pyramids in a whole range of vibrant colours - for once my studio looked beautiful (instrad of looking like a small explosion has happened), like a colourful sweetshop. Each pyramid is made from one square of fabric and the many folds give rise to layers which can be stitched, cut or embelished in many ways.
'Points of View II' is a large installation which is suspended from the ceiling and allows the viewer to walk around the whole piece, viewing it from all angles. It was a successful piece and has happily found a home.
You can see the whole installation here: https://www.clairepassmore.com/fold--unfold.html
Using the same lattice structure, but in a more formal layout, I next made 'Storm'. This was as much about controlling the use of colour as it was the use of the pyramidal units. You can see other views of this piece in the galleries on my website : https://www.clairepassmore.com/storm.html
One of the things I love about this work is its simplicity. With minimal materials and simple folds it is possible to create something that appears to be a lot more complicated than it really is. That sums up synergy for me.
Update: This piece has been selected to be shown in SAQA's first online gallery on their new website, which will be launched sometime in the Summer of 2020.
Connectivity II Claire Passmore © 2019
Following on from simply folding and stitching the modules together in a plane surface I followed on by exploring what happens when the modules are layered and stacked. This led me to make a series of small pieces which I called 'Connectivity'. The photos above are the second in the series. Although the photos appear to be different objects they are, in fact, the same piece, just posed in different ways. If I were more mathematically inclined I think I would have a better understanding of how to develop this, but as it stands I just stich and manipulate the pyramids and see what serindipitously occurs. It is a bit like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates - you never know what you are gonna get!
You can see more arrangements of Connectivity II here:
The last piece I have recently finished is this. It has been made using the same principle that of repeated modules, but this time they are only similar - not identical. I also made them flat, as the piece was made in response to a SAQA call for entry entitled 'Opposites Attract' that required 2D work. It was a lot of fun to make and has given me further food for thought in terms of cutting and layering the fabric as well as folding it. I am happy to say that the Juror, Gail M Brown, selected it for the exhibition and it will soon be winging its way to Australia to be part of a tour that starts at the Australasian Quilt Convention – April 16 to 19, 2020.
Read more about the SAQA Opposites Attract exhibition here
And more about this specific quilt here: https://www.clairepassmore.com/round-hole--square-peg--space-to-grow.html
I am pleased with the way this new branch of my work is developing - it satisfies my need to keep my mind occupied with new ideas and is also very 'portable' when under construction - something which I find very convenient!
Thanks for reading.
I have been very nicely surprised at the reaction I have had to the little Superheroes quilt I made a while ago. They are bright and fun and I have had so many lovely comments about them that I have decided I will take them further. I have lots of plans, whether they are fulfilled is another matter, but it is comfortable to have more ideas than time!
For this quilt I decided to try scaling them up (the finished quilt will be somewhere around 130cm x 95cm). Easy to do on paper, but new issues emerge when this is done with quilted fabric, the main one being the large spaces created that I don't want to fill with stitch.
I have also given them slightly different costumes, just for fun.
Here is a snapshot of the painting in progress.
Over the next few days I am going to try and get the quilting finished and then I can see which format I prefer and I will share the finished quilt.
Thanks for reading!
Time seems to fly be doesn't it? I can hardly believe that it is almost the end of July ....long summer days, glorious sunshine, juicy cherries and summer holidays - some of my favourite things. Before we know it the leaves will be rustling and we will be getting our sweaters out again, so make hay while the sun shines!
In between all that I am working on a few big projects at the moment, but they are in the early stages. I have been making lots of notes, models and sketches, trying out ideas and making small samples which are pinned all over my design walls. My studio looks a real mess, but the ideas are slowly coming together. For me this is the stage that takes most time - growing the idea. Sometimes though, I just want to have fun, so a few weeks ago I made a new small square quilt - no planning, no samples, just 'go for it'!
It started like this........... smeared intensely vivid printing ink on glass. I just love it; instant colour that is perfect for creating a monoprinted background.
With stitch I 'drew' 2 quirky characters, inspired by the fabulous work of Fernando Andriacci (click here to visit his website) and then spent a few hours painting them - so much fun! They make me smile just looking at them.
Once they were painted they seemed to me to look like two wacky friends who like to dress up as superheroes - so that is what I called them! Los Dos Amigos - 'superheroes'.
I took this happy little quilt to Midsomer Quilting a few weeks ago to use as part of a demonstration on how to mount work onto stretcher bars. It turned out to be quite popular, so much so that Chris and De have asked me to run a class where people can come and create their own quirky little characters from fabric, thread and paint. More information about this class can be found on my website by clicking here or by contacting De at Midsomer Quilting (Tel: 01761 239333, https://midsomerq.com/).
And now it is back to the mess! Thanks for reading.
"The most beautiful pier in England" is in Clevedon, according to Sir John Betjeman (who knew a thing or two about Victorian architecture) and is the only intact Grade I listed pier in the UK. Built from discarded railway track used by Isambard Kingdom Brunel on the Great Western Railway, it cost £12,000 when opened on Easter Monday, 1869.
The pier is simple and I think very beautiful; thankfully it has no slot machines, candyfloss, or doughnuts. You can find out more about it by visiting the official website: https://clevedonpier.co.uk/
My reason for talking about this pier is that I belong to a small group of textile artists called 'SixDames' and my friend and fellow 'Dame' Stephanie Crawford has challenged us to create our next piece of work using a photo taken on this pier for our inspiration. What Stephanie didn't know when she chose the photo was that it has some very special memories for me.
This is her photo.
When I was around 5 years old my parents took me on a very memorable day trip; we went 'abroad', which I thought was the best! We travelled from Penarth in South Wales, across the Bristol Channel to England, on the Waverley Paddle Steamer. The Waverley is the world's last sea going paddle steamer and up until last year was still steaming around the British coast taking passengers on pleasure cruises. Unfortunately time has taken its toll on her and I have just discovered that she has been temporarily taken out of service as she needs a boiler refit. You can find out more about The Waverley from their official website: https://www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk/welcome-aboard/
That trip made a lasting impression on me - despite the fact that no selfies or other photos were taken! However, the very best bit, as far as I was concerned, was that I brought home a souvenir - a kaleidoscope. It quickly became my favourite 'thing' and lasted a few weeks until I took it to pieces to find out how it worked. Sadly, after that, it never 'worked' again, but I still loved it - just in pieces.
I must confess I had forgotten all about the Waverley, Clevedon and the kaleidoscope, until I saw the photo, but as soon as I did the memories came flooding back - thank-you Stephanie!
So my decision as to what to do in response to this photo was easy. Make a new kaleidoscope!
As well as Stephanie's photo I particularly liked this night-time photo of the pier from the BBC News website (see below) and using the image manipulation software called 'Gimp' I selected part of Stephanie's photo and cut a small triangular section to use.
I cut, rotated, copied and pasted part of the image to create a regular hexagon shape.
Next I altered the colour to create a series of hexagons, starting with a 'daytime' look and ending with a 'night-time' version.
The last decision to make is how to use the hexagons. For a while I thought about printing them onto paper and making a paper quilt, but in the end I decided to have the hexagons printed onto fabric and used the company 'Woven Monkey' once again. (This is the same company I used to print the fabric I used to make my quilt 'Forward, Onward, Upward' inspired by Shamsia Hassani's work. You can read more about that piece by clicking here.)
So now what? Here are two early ideas.
Thanks for reading.
Back last summer, whilst at Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, (UK) like many people I met up with a number of lovely ladies. Meeting up with friends is always something to look forward to, but making new friends is always an added bonus. Whilst at the show Stephanie Crawford (fellow CQ West member) and I met and started chatting to two lovely French ladies - Denise Gregoire and Lydie Bihlet. They were both delightful and after a few minutes we all realised we shared lots of the same interests. As we chatted we realised that an opportunity to create an informal 'friendly' group was staring us in the face and we made promises to 'keep in touch'. I am happy to say that we did not let the opportunity pass us by and to cut a long story short, we took the opportunity to start up a new group based on our mutual interests. To make the group a little bigger we decided to ask two of our fellow CQ West friends (who also speak French) to join us and as such, our group was born. We call ourselves 'Six Dames' and we are (left to right): Denise Gregoire, Claire Passmore, Ana Kirby, Lydie Bihlet, Fran Griffiths and Stephanie Crawford.
As yet we have not all met together, but thanks to modern day technology we have struck up new friendships. To help us to easily share our work we set up a blog which you can visit by clicking on the link below:
We treat the blog a bit like our diary, so it is possible to follow along and see how some of our work is made too. Every 3 months one of us chooses a photograph to inspire the group. So far we have worked on 2 photos (see below) and are in the process of working on the third. Our aim is to create a small textile piece ( around 16 inches or so in size) in response to the photo.
Photo 1: chosen by Claire
To get our group started I chose the first photo. You would be forgiven for thinking it would be an easy task - just pick a photo!!!- but the responsibility of finding a photo that will hopefully inspire people to create something exiting is not as easy as you would think. In the end I chose a photo that was not the run-of-the-mill beautiful scene. It was of some shadows on a pavement (and a pair of curious boots).....this is it.
Rather than explain how it all works here, you can see the quilts we all made on our website by clicking here. It was fascinating to see the different quilts we all made using the same starting point.
Photo 2: Chosen by Denise
Three months later we were all very keen to keep going and Denise presented us with a new photo - again something very different. This time it was of a huge sculpture situated in the Port of Antibes.
You can read more about the quilts we all made in response to this fabulous photo / sculpture by clicking here.
Photo 3: chosen by Stephanie
And finally, our new photo, chosen by Stephanie. It is another fabulous view - this time closer to home. Do you recoginse the location? (It was he colour of the paint that gave it away to me). By the end of May the quilts for this challenge will be complete, so watch this space!
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