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Ruth Blackford…

I have many reasons for choosing Kingston Upon Thames for my new home. But, I did not realise that, nestled within this city, is a mecca for textile art and embroidery. Hampton Court, for a start, has quilting shops, embroidery schools and all sorts of courses. I am naturally gravitating towards integrating my love of Nature with art and textiles. I particularly enjoyed creating my latest deck The Textured Tarot. I am not sure which direction I will eventually go in, but I feel I am in exactly the right place to find out!

Serendipity is a wonderful thing. I was hanging out with my partner at a quirky cafe called Wags n Tales (I wish I had a dog as it is a cafe for dog owners to welcome their pets inside)… when I came across a local magazine. Within it, was an article about Ruth Blackford. She is a textile artist living in Kingston who has enjoyed twelve months of creating textile portraits of local people. I had one day left to see it at the Rose Theatre in Kingston. I was pleased to view it just in time and I was not disappointed.

In the write-up, she mentions the friendliness of people in Kingston compared to her previous home towards central London. I can totally understand. Being from North Wales, I was used to open and friendly engagement with my local community. Living five years in North London has taken its toll on me. Generally, people seemed to be in a bubble and not as open to friendly banter and gestures. I am sure there are many lovely people there. Personally, I found it a little isolating at times. BUT, I do have some wonderful friends in North London who I miss seeing regularly. Sigh…I digress.

There were around forty textile art images up in the lobby of the theatre. Their bright colours punched out against the greyness of the walls. ‘Full of personality’ I thought to myself. I almost expected the people to jump out the pictures at any given moment. It was obvious to see the warmth of their personalities filling the space.

I stood for ages with my mouth open as I studied the art in close detail. I found myself wondering why she decided to leave out certain features while emphasising others; her choice of prints for the lips and teeth; her use of hand embroidery in contrast to machine embroidery; the colours of the fabrics and their textures to emphasise personality and her use of wool to highlight furry/fluffy hair and beards. I recognised some of the background fabrics from Hampton Court quilt shop. So, I imagined the conversations she would have had while excitedly talking about her year-long project.

I am sure I will recognise these beautiful people when I am out and about in Kingston. I notice that Ruth is part of the Kingston Open Art Studios which have a yearly event where you can find a trail of artists living in your neighbourhood. Ruth is definitely on my list to view again. If I was brave enough, I’d love to invite her for a coffee to, say, Wags n Tales and chat about her work and process. It’s not that I want to copy her style, it is more that I am inspired by her process, her decision making and the exquisite standard of the finished pieces. I have my own ideas of a personal style….I just don’t quite know how to express it yet. I have many skills to learn.

The purpose of this blogpost is to showcase the amazing work of an artist I admire. I have an odd relationship with textile art in that I seem to only love some of it. I am not totally sure why and I hope to dig into what moves me more than others. It doesn’t appear to be related to the complexity of stitches or more traditional styles. It is more about contemporary, or unusual ways to express art through textiles: an edgy originality that could be made up with the simplest of stitches and lines. I have many more examples to chat about in future posts….all uniquely different. Ruth Blackford felt like the perfect place to re-start my posts again. I invite you to check out her website because she has quite a range of styles that I am totally in love with.


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