The photographs in this post show the notes in my sketchbook; images of each artist's work can be seen at the links given under references.
Michelle Loughlin is an American textile artist who made a series of work using hand stitching on photographs in 2007/2008. Urban Weavings is a collection that celebrates the urban landscape in her home city New Jersey City, NJ, using photos of sites that are interesting historically or important to the community. These could be demolished or abandoned buildings, or buildings being redeveloped all of which Michelle recorded before they changed as the area became gentrified. Her motivation was personal, a reaction to feeling helpless in the face of rapid redevelopment of the place she lives in and knows well.
These are small works, less than 20cm square, and mounted very simply. The photograph is printed onto cross-stitch fabric and then stitched freely, with bright threads adding colour, texture and life. Rather than simply recording the scene, she responds to it and uses the stitches to complete the picture, to make it more beautiful and vital. She has said of the building that inspired her piece 410 Bergen Lafayette that she 'would drive by and think how can I make that prettier?' Her stitches have a boldness and simplicity to them, as if doodling with crayons, highlighting selected areas; a stitched intervention into the street scene.
Home Sweet Home, Embroidery Jan/Feb 2009
I first heard of Clare Lane when I visited her solo exhibition at the Stroud textile Festival in 2008, and I was immediately taken by her hyper-realistic images of urban and industrial sites in decay ; I was struck too by the emptiness, the absence of people.
The stretched canvases on show were large, over a metre each way, displayed unframed, and showed photographs that had been digitally manipulated, simplifying the colours into chunky blocks. These had then been stitched in some areas with matching threads, creating a change of texture and depth.
Clare describes what she does as 'unashamedly process driven', starting with walking the streets and taking hundreds of photographs. The next stage is to work with the images in Photoshop. She may use a single image or create a montage, cutting elements from several photographs to create her composition. She may also add layers of scanned images, for example drawings, painted backgrounds, paper cut-outs, text, and apply a variety of filters. The key part of the process is digitally overpainting the whole picture, concentrating on colour and shape and working at such a high level of detail that she may spend hours on a tiny part of the image, looking at it as an abstract arrangement of colour and shape. Because of the size of the finished canvases, she cannot see the final effect until it has been printed on fabric. Then comes the stitching, using an Irish machine to fill in solid blocks of colour on parts of the image, which relieves the flatness of the digital print. This is so subtle that on first glance you may not realise it is there, and it is not always apparent in photographs of her work.
Clare Lane came from a background in architecture and surveying before studying for a textile degree, and her inspiration comes from urban dereliction, our contemporary ruins, which are rarely looked upon as kindly as those that are hundreds of years old, yet they hold the same stories. She describes how she is interested in the 'visual cacophony' of the urban landscape, the way that buildings are surrounded by all sorts of other things that are there without an overall design - rubbish, street signs, road markings.
Urban Fabrication,Clare Lane, Design-It issue 76 (Computer Textile Design Group),2011.
Toil and Rubble, Jo Hall, Embroidery July/August 2008.
Stroudwater International Textile Festival Catalogue 2008.
www.urban-fabric.co.uk Clare Lane's website.