A Stitch in Troubled Time

A Stitch in Troubled Time

After nearly two years in planning, the Babylon Gallery will be hosting Anglia Textile Works ‘In The Fens’ Exhibition from 10th to 27th September.

When Anglia Textile Works made the decision to exhibit at Ely’s Babylon Gallery, the group could never have anticipated doing so in the midst of a pandemic. As Covid-19 took hold in Britain, the group’s eight members soon began to wonder if their exhibition in September would actually take place at all, but the Gallery team has pulled out all the stops to ensure that the exhibition goes ahead, making the gallery safe for visitors and artists alike.

Working towards the exhibition during the pandemic affected members of ATW in a variety of ways. Lucie Summers from Worlington in Suffolk found that the pandemic gave her time to stop and take stock and then begin again at a slower speed. “I certainly felt that my world, like everyone's, shrank to 4 walls but I felt incredibly lucky to still be able to get out into fields and meadows on a daily basis and not see another soul. Being in nature was definitely grounding during the days when world events seemed to be overwhelming. Hearing birdsong, and watching the crops growing day by day was a balm to the soul and definitely helped inform my work for the exhibition. All of my pieces are based on my immediate environment, and think however uncertain events seemed at the time, the slower pace of life helped me to create a body of work of which I'm really proud.”

Some members of the group have taken part in the national effort to make scrubs and scrubs bags for the NHS. Making bags with Yvonne Brown from Feltwell certainly prompted Kathy Colledge, who lives in Sheringham, to get back to her sewing machine after a period of ‘lockdown lethargy’ that was proving difficult to shake off.  In addition, it planted the seed of an idea to use a bag on which to print some of the jargon that surfaced during the pandemic; a sort of social document, recording challenging times.

Niki Chandler from Cambridge also turned her hand to sewing for the NHS and found that co-ordinating a small group of women of all abilities to make scrubs changed her experience of lockdown. It was on the return journey from dropping off the first batch of items at Addenbrookes Hospital that she came across the field of acid yellow oilseed rape that gave new direction for her body of stitched works for 'In the Fens'. Despite living a mere 10-minute walk from the historic city centre of Cambridge she is only 10 minutes from acres of arable farm land and regular once -a-day lockdown walks into this countryside allowed her to absorb the subtly changing colours of vast fields of barley and rapeseed. 

Niki says “At the start of 2020 I was working on a very different piece for the exhibition. My creative stitch practice is normally a solitary, quiet, meditative daily experience. The pandemic changed that - my husband moved into the living room to run his architectural practice and my daughter reclaimed her bedroom (my work space) and remotely finished her tailoring qualification. Intensity fell over the house. Relegated to a small table in the spare bedroom I found I was unable to continue on my original piece so I packed it all away.  I found solace in the garden where I tried my hand at natural plant dyeing - totally not my usual way of working.”

As members of the group are quite widely spread across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge and Essex, they usually meet only four or five times a year. Even this has proved difficult of late but they have been able to ‘meet’ on Zoom which has been a Godsend in the run up to the show.

ATW is delighted to show its latest collection of work, inspired by The Fens, at The Babylon Gallery from 10th to 27th September.

Members of the group are:

Mai-Britt Axelsen, Yvonne Brown, Niki Chandler, Kathy Colledge, Chrissy Leech, Annette Morgan, Lucie Summers, and Cherry Vernon-Harcourt

Image: Annette Morgan - Spring in the Fields 1

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