Stitched into art works
Winifred Taylor was my Yorkshire-born grandmother. She lived on top of a steep hill in Halifax where, during my summer holidays, she patiently developed my early embroidery and sewing skills. Though I miss her greatly I have many of her possessions – including old photographic slides, sewing accessories and her silk wedding dress – which for years I carried around with me in bags that would be hidden away in the attic or cellar of each home in which I resided.
In 2009 I decided it was time to bring my grandma back into the open; so I studied for a four-year City and Guilds qualification in creative techniques. As one of the final textile art projects for the course I created an embroidered book about Winifred’s early life. Incorporating various items from these bags – e.g. her birth certificate, christening photo and copies of entries from her treasured autograph book – this is so much more than a scrap-book: it is a celebration of Winifred and the development of her influence on me through the years to the present day.
It occurred to me while I was studying that many people have the equivalent of these bags in their attic; but also that old and half-forgotten textiles can have joyful as well as poignant associations. So, for another aspect of the course, I made an appliqued illustration for one of our nieces, which featured her baby clothes – cut from the actual items she had grown out of – hanging outside on a washing line. On completion of my studies, I decided that I wanted to establish a textile art practice in York that makes bespoke, one-of-a-kind works of art that in effect transform old material into new material. And I wanted to name it after my grandma, Winifred Taylor, because she was its inspiration.