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Leighton fabrics

These are the two fabric pieces i saw at the Leighton Art Centre on the 11th. (We did see many more, but these are my “focus”.) While the embroidery piece is not directly attributed to the late Barbara Leighton, we still found it fascinating. It’s the batik that had my wheels spinning though!

leighton batik 1 backThe photo above is actually the back (glowing because the sun was behind from a window),  parts of which really drew me. I don’t have a shot of the sidebar on the right though, the area that has me fired up for the work planned for the 2016 exhibit. I’ll have to rely on my “from memory” sketches, even if they weren’t “true” to the actual piece. Signed by Leighton, it’s dated 1967.

leighton batik 1b frontAbove, the front, and though the bar (now on the left) doesn’t show well, there was something about the earthiness and crackle effect that quite inspired me. One tiny section! Below, oh those earthy warm colours and shapes.

leighton batik 1c

And me, drool not visible, fortunately.

arlee and a leighton batik

There’s no proof that Barbara did the embroidery herself, if it was a gift, or a commercial embroidery brought/bought somewhere by someone else. Because of the wide borders though it may have been “framed” at one point apparently. It’s faded in areas, and there are some mouse nibbles as well. Stephanie is going to see if she can find sketchbook notes, and pointed out by one of the Contextural members that it is possibly Russian punch needle/bunka work with some tambour work as well, will check to see if the tool is in the archives as well. What *i* determined though is that the outlines were done by machine, and then whipped from the front like my favourite whipped backstitch. The inner areas are then “coloured in”.

leighton emb 1

Below, back showing obvious machine stitching to outline:

leighton emb 1b

leighton emb 1c


The butterflies/moths (bugs!) are worked in a finer silk thread in a chain, but it could be tambour work rather than by hand:

leighton emb 1d

The back of course is more vivid, the dyes (probably commercial chemical types):

leighton emb 1e

These piece was also much more formal and conventionally styled than any of the other textiles we were shown. And sorry, no full shot of the whole piece, which was quite large, probably 4×3 feet, with a wide border on all edges.

The Leighton Art Centre is booked up for the 2015 year, so we are hoping to have an exhibit there in 2016, inspired by and “reacting” to these fabrics. That gives me much time to work on ideas, sampling and possible techniques and forms. I’ll be showing my process as i go along, but the first work will be the sketches and notes. I’ve already done a small test with local ecoprint material, and am developing colour and usage ideas from these. Stay tuned with the “Leighton inspiration” category, if you are interested.


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Posted by on April 14, 2015 in Contextural group, journal, Leighton inspiration



show doings

No guarantee i’ll get into both of these, but unless you try–and DO THE WORK–you can’t submit, can you? With the group i am in locally (Contextural Fibre Arts Co-operative), there are two possible shows coming up next year, one at the Alberta Craft Council in Edmonton, and one at the Leighton Art Centre, near Millarville, Alberta. The first one is why i have been having periodic binges of stitching with “A Birth of Silence” for a planned “Organic Matters” theme. Admittedly though, i’m not doing so great with enough of the binges though………..A January deadline means get off my ass–or rather, ON my ass since i can’t stitch standing ;)— and “giter done”!

The second one will take place during the summer of 2016, and has us riffing off work we saw by Barbara Leighton, one of the founders of the art centre. (I wrote about that here as two posts.) I’ve been formulating and discarding ideas since that visit, about what i want to do, to portray, and which skills i have to complete the mission, but it wasn’t until yesterday morning at the train station that the lightbulb went on. I’d been thinking about an entirely different, perhaps overly ambitious, project and the pages of my notebook fell open to my Leighton scribbles and sketches, and suddenly, there it all was. (I love it when one’s ideas begin mixing and leaning on each other, fermenting and ripening.)

I’ll be sharing some of those ideas and samplings soon. All may migrate to the blog i have set up for when this one is “full” (approaching very soon, as with that pesky storage issue that all blogs have..) One thing we have also been asked to do with the Leighton show is to have smaller pieces that are reflective of the main gallery work, for sale in the gallery shop. I might start with those as they are also a good way of developing the ideas and approaches! I can then decide too what scale the exhibit pieces can be worked, as i have a diptych or triptych in mind.

And news from a “actual” exhibit: this, from the main SDA blog

Asked to summarize the experience of reviewing such a wealth of work, Wiggers observed that “Through a range of processes, such as dyeing, weaving, embroidery, quilting and tapestry, the selected works demonstrate how SDA members conjoin surface and structure using textile-based techniques; engage decorative, ornamental and pictorial traditions; examine and critique culture and traditions; and push textiles from material to ephemeral limits through individual and collaborative creative practice.”

There are gallery photos, and though i can’t clearly see mine, i suspect it’s the fifth one over in the first shot on the left in that blog post. Can’t wait to receive my copy of the exhibition catalogue. It’s funny too how as you work a thing, it seems rather large and intensive, and then it gets hung and all of a sudden it’s teeny—-still intensive, but teeny!!!!!!!!


influence and interpretation

Part of being an artist is responding to the world around you, not just what you have seen on your travels however small they may be and have taken to heart, but also partly due to where those travels took you for a purpose.

Yesterday, i travelled with part of the Contextural group out to the Leighton Art Centre near Millarville, Alberta. High on a hill, with breath taking views of the foothills, fields and blue blue enormous skies, what a knock out of a place for plein air painting! We were there however, to view the textiles collection created directly by the late Barbara Leighton. Alas, though her work is catalogued in the centre, there’s no online exhibit of it, something i do hope the curator and conservator Stephanie Doll will undertake. Fresh as the day they were made, and as contemporary as any done today, we were enthralled by yardages of batik, tie dye, block printing, many done with Procion which was “New” in the late 60’s and 70’s, and one mysteriously provenanced embroidery.

The intent for being there though was that we were scoping out the gallery space and tie-ing into the textile collection for a(n) (possible) exhibition in 2016. *That* was why we were out there!

Sadly, i have no photos myself, and am waiting for some to be shared by other members. Recall of something and the actuality of a thing are often completely different, yet i have made sketches of what i “remember”. Perhaps the trick of this is to work from the memory, even if it is faulty. When i have the photos, i plan a post on just that!

Outside, gathering my thoughts away from everyone (i don’t do well even in small crowds…), i wandered around the house and was attracted by something i saw in the attached conservatory. At first i thought it was a large artificial tree for “atmosphere”, to rid the view of un-ending snow and brown, but no. I was blown away (almost by the winds there, very windy area): it was a fully leafed 20 foot high OAK TREE. Inside. In April. In Alberta. Inside in April in Alberta. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I excitedly ran back inside to corner Stephanie and ask if i could have a few of the leaves. After explaining what i wanted to do to someone who was not familiar with the process, i was lead through the bowels, very interesting old bowels, of the house to the area where the tree was, and invited to take whatever i wanted. I didn’t grab a lot, knowing they might not work, and not wanting to strip even one branch. (Oh yes i did want to, i really did,  but i minded my manners.) If they DID work, yes i would be sad i hadn’t got more, but if they didn’t, it would be less of a loss of cloth and time. Well, that’s the rationale of the moment at least. And if they work, i’m sure i can sweet talk Stephanie for a few more, even though there are oaks in my own neighbourhood. I want them from the Leighton Art Centre for a reason though!

The leaves that had fallen were like old pattern tissue or large ancient insect husks, they were so thin and brittle, so dry you could almost see through them, blow them away with a small passionately exhaled breath. I did succumb to temptation and plucked two whole live ones, making a total of 10 leaves, hustling them home in a separate bag, so they wouldn’t be crushed like stale potato chips, where i immediately immersed them in a sink of warm water for half an hour then wrapped them in plastic, and put them in the fridge.

soaked oak leighton centre conservatory

This morning i thought i better use them before they further deteriorated, and noting they were somewhat pliable, slapped them on some tannin pre-mordanted cotton, did the usual fast and dirty with the dyebath for an hour and SQQQQQQQQQuEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, they worked.

leighton oak ecoprintThe two on the left are dried on top and a fresh below, all three others moving right were dried ones.

The big one measured 13.5″ long and 7.5″ at its widest point–that’s one MIGHTY “mighty oak” leaf!

leighton oak ecoprint detail 1I love the centre vein detail of this one, almost mechanical:

leighton oak ecoprint detail 1bBelow, detail of the fresh left and the dried right:

leighton oak ecoprint detail 2

I still have five left to play with as well.

Now yes, i have had much success with oak as an ecoprint material before, so what’s the big deal this time? The concern was because of the season and the growing conditions, that there might not be enough pigmentation. And i want to be able to use this for some work that will be a reaction/response/reference/artspeak-term-of-the-day to what i saw in the textiles we were shown. While i had formulated some general ideas about what i wanted to do, how perfect is it that i could be using materials from the site as well?????