Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman: A New Feature

Happy discoveries are made in the online stitching community!

Drink Me In

I stumbled across the work of a young British artist named Kate Elisabeth Rolison in the Phat Quarter group pool on flickr. I was immediately entranced with the stitching and energy of this piece and, like any curious stitcher, followed the links to her blog, poesie grenadine, where she documents her work embroidering modern love poetry onto vintage fabrics.

The work is beautiful and inventive. I just adore the way her drawing and stitching look like the caffeinated images one might concoct in a Viennese coffee den.

Dishwater Eyes

What follows is Part One of a mini-interview with Rolison. I was very curious about her life and her East London routes… especially how the two interact to create a talented young textile artist.  How does a woman who is so comparatively young, living in the U.K. create pieces that so resonate with me?

I started the interview with finding out more about her geographic source, education and her artistic communities, both online and in “meat space.”

A portrait of the artist as a tortured artist

Part Two will focus on her current work with poesie grenadine and other projects.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Walthamstow (also known as "The Stow" or "E17"), a literal end-of-the-line town in North East London, on the end of London Underground's Victoria Line. It's an incredibly culturally diverse place, with everything from 99p and fried chicken shops to a gallery dedicated to the arts and crafts pioneer William Morris and swanky restaurants. It was also the scene of some of the recent London riots, and consequently has a bit of a reputation! My relationship with Walthamstow has changed over the years from “love-to-hate” to a true appreciation of its diversity and vibrancy, particularly since I've become aware of its thriving art scene.

The Stow
Walthamstow is home during the holidays, and also for the next three months as I complete a project independently of university. I hope to move back after graduating to attend the Art Writing MA at Goldsmiths College. I just hope I have enough experience!

Tell us a little about how you started stitching?
When I was 15 – 16, I studied GCSE Textiles at school and designed a dress based on the Amazon rainforest. I hand printed the bodice with a fern pattern, and then hand-embroidered unfurling designs onto the ferns. This first attempt was very amateurish and I took a long hiatus before picking up a needle again! Then, last summer, whilst I was recovering from an illness, my father bought me some very simple hand puppet kits to make for my little cousins. Sewing the simple tiger together was incredibly therapeutic, and soon I was hooked. I experimented with cross stitch and (again, very amateurish) hand

What are you studying in school?
The official title of my degree is "Writing (Contemporary Practises)"; the course as a whole is known as "Performance Writing". In my first year I was based at Dartington College of Arts in Devon, an internationally renowned, avant guard arts and performing arts school. Last year the college relocated to University College Falmouth in Cornwall, due to financial difficulties (however, Falmouth is acclaimed in its own right). My class is tiny; there are only ten of us!

Performance Writing doesn't necessarily refer to performance, per se, but to the fact that the act of writing itself is a performance. This can mean different things for different artists, but my practice mostly focuses on sound art and embroidery.

The Cure for Love

Studying Performance Writing has allowed me to push the medium of writing as far as it can go, and to blur the boundaries between writing and other arts.

I’ve noticed a lot of photos on your blog of you stitching with other artists. Tell us a little about your arts community?  Are there any online communities that you’re involved in relating to your creativity?

The arts community in Walthamstow is very much alive and kicking (some would say surprisingly!) We are the home of the East London Craft Guerilla (, who put on a monthly craft night, which I attend, as well as the E17 Designers (

I've become more aware of Walthamstow's arts scene since exhibiting in the E17 Art Trail ( Going around the trail I met many other enthusiastic and inspiring artists. The trail even brought me my first commission!

Rolison's first commission

The online embroidery community, on Blogger, on flickr, and on the needlework blog MrXStitch has been incredibly supportive of my journey in sewing. It's encouraging to see such a thriving contemporary embroidery community.


Rolison in front of exhibition space

Please take the time to explore Rolison’s work on her blog and in her flickr stream. I’m so thrilled to have found her and I’m geeked to witness her art develop.

Support and encourage talented young artists whenever you can, my friends!

More to come… 

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