Gail G.

Part 1: History

I grew up near London, and being reasonable able, got good enough grades in the sciences to obtain an Environmental Sciences degree in the 1970s.  My mother sewed clothes, knitted, crocheted and always made things, including a hexagon quilt top of all our clothes materials, which I completed after she died.  Both my parents (Quakers) loved the arts, and I had a wide range of experiences in books, music, pictures at home, and visiting galleries and concerts while growing up.  

Following my degree I went into publishing scientific journals, but got distrated by Greenham Common, and learnt how to organise events.  At the same time I volunteered at a Womens Aid safehouse, and was so impressed with the solicitor advising the clients in getting council housing that I went back to college and qualified as a solicitor.  Initially I was a family and legal aid lawyer, but then worked with the new National Rivers Authority when it was set up, a government organisation formed when the water companies were privatised.  I had 15 years as an environmental lawyer with the NRA, which later became the Environment Agency for England and Wales, working at a national level.

Following a redundancy and my mother coming to live next door for 10 years, I took up part time legal work in charities, until my mother died after some 3 years of difficulties.  Again I returned to charity work, and now work 3 days a week for academies and trusts.

In the period of part-time work, I found the local emboriderers guild branch, and began my eductation in textiles.  I took a City and Guilds Part 1 in embroidery, learnt how to quilt, attended numerous workshops and discovered a whole world which is very important to me.  I ran committees for a number of years for the Guild, but have now given that up, although I am currently a Trustee on the national board.

I now have the opportunity to re-dedicate myself to my own work, with a pension in the offing at 60.  I was working so hard over the last 2 years that I had to give up exhibition work with various groups.  I am now making again and hope to re-join the groups, and have decided to go for an exhibition with one of them next April.

Part 2: Process

I love to use fabric in all its forms, but mainly in abstract pieces based on a theme.  Oftern I use layering (from quilting), collaging, hand-stitiching, over-printing, until I reach a satisfactory result.  I love to play with colour and form, and will use the serendipity of pieces of fabric left over from one project for another.  I spent a long time worrying about edges (hairy ones!) and whether to be neat but hopeful have given that up.  I have also decided against framing (expensive, and too like pictures), and like to do hangings, occaisionally 3-D pieces, and am exploring 2.5-D work. 

I will take an idea, photo, news event, location, or a colour and experiment with fabrics, sketches, samples, and arrangements.  On occasions I cut up pieces and rearrange them.  At the moment I am exploring the use of linen and hemp as natural fabrics as “grounds” for my work, which have fabulous drape and hanging qualities.  The types of these fabrics inspire me to consider long pieces (e.g a roll of Russion linen about 30’ long by 18”).  Although I have limited space my preference is for large pieces, and I am hoping to try to do several for the next exhibition. I used to have lots of ideas, but found work squeezed them all out.  I run about 6 notebooks in a scatterbrain way at the moment, and these have ideas about:

  • Hangings and how to do them (mechanics), e.g. translucent floating layers
  • Series on a theme with new ideas in each one
  • Scribbles with inspirations in them.

Part 3: Content

I would like to create “art works”, and am less interested in literalness, high level embroidery or pictures.  I am interested in developing textile pieces which challenge what textiles are, and expand the accepted use of textiles into challenging and new pieces.  This could be the hanging of the piece, the printing on fabrics by inks and paints, the impact on the viewer of the piece, and the challenge of the colours.  The inspiration could be anything, e.g. from a local museum object, or a photo of a visit to a beach, or the topic given in an exhibition.  There has to be a challenge in the creation of the whole piece in a new direction, albeit by a series.  In the event I do not think I am that revolutionary, since I am basically working in fabric and thread, but in the “accidental” use of what is available and the serendipity of inspiration.

I have another thread to my work which is research into local textiles, such as silk mills, the linen and hemp trades historically in Somerset, and the remnant of these industries as an inspiration for work.