Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Journal bunting

This is me on my first day of school.
It's part of a slow stitch bunting I've just completed.

Right now, I am fascinated with the concept of bunting -
it flies in the breeze, entices one to look up,
 lifting the heart heavenward, and is cheerful and innocuous.

It lifts the spirit, and in it's guise as a prayer flag,
 can send wishes out into the world to be heard.
Bunting, garland, prayer flag,
whatever, the inference is one of upliftment.

When I had the chance to teach some bunting workshops
at Hazlehurst gallery, the excitement was palpable.
 I'm still not sure who had the most fun.

 We had two boys in the class
who decided that boy bunting should be called, "boyting".
We used rubber stamps, fabric markers, stitch,
 felt and embroidery thread.

Last year, after Julie Arkell's workshop
at Les Seours Anglaise, the small hand stitched bunting
we created stuck with me and would not leave.
 I found myself creating little flags in the sweet rest spots
 found in canal side cafes' and bars in Berlin and Paris.

 The idea stuck.
 I began digging through the piles of half finished
sewing projects, little samplers, fabric image transfer experiments
and all sorts of odd things.
Little lost ideas suddenly became pieces for bunting.
 They could hang and live a new life, exalted.
Then another what if moment:

 What if the bunting panels
 were like a journal page - telling a story?

The piece below is an image transfer
 of my father's childhood school book.
 If you look closely, you can still see t
he faded red star stamp in the top left corner.

  I wanted to expand on the idea,
 giving voice to a series of narrative slow stitch pieces
 I was working on. Hanging them as bunting 
worked especially well as the subject relates 
to a childhood time and loss of innocence.

I was six.
 My father had just walked out
 to be with another woman,
my mother was dealing with the death
 of her own mother
 and I was just beginning school.

There was so much suppressed emotion in the house.
No one was telling me anything but I felt it.

Hence the words by Robert Frost:

We dance around in a ring and suppose,
 but the secret sits in the middle and knows.

Done on vintage linen napkins, found fabric and image transfer.                 


  1. Wow, beautiful, haunting, poignant. Especially that piece with the "rat that ran and rob(bed)". I need to slow down and do me some slow stitching I think. S:)

  2. These are amazing! You've just transformed everyday bunting into the flags of life and the past and emotion that fly above our heads every day.

  3. They are so touching...... your personal life story...

    and brave up there for the world to see.

    Beautiful too full of unsung emotion.....

    Daisy J

  4. I love bunting and your idea of personalizing it using pics etc, it's wonderful Denise.......

    Looks like alot of fun was had during the workshops.
    Just wondering what method you use for image transfers?

    Clair e:}

  5. I have always been compelled with the act of sewing. It took centre stage in my past work for many years, but has been lost in the world of technology. Sewing to me is an act of repair and renewal. It has been my personal therapy. Seeing your bunting has given me that need to repair, more so renew, being in that state people call post degree depression. The cause : A job in retail and the art world slowly disappearing at my feet. Your work has given new light to the meanings of bunting. I love it. Thank you.

  6. Hi Grrl,
    I love bunting, any bunting, like glitter there just isn't enough in the world. Looks like your students had a lot of fun making their bunting. What a brilliant idea, turning bunting into a story. I started making some bunting this morning and now I will have to look at putting a little story on it. Sorry your story was sad but you created some beautiful artwork out of it... :)

  7. Oh my goodness-such a beautiful idea, very poignant. I agree that there is something uplifting about bunting

  8. this touches a soft spot. and i love the word 'bunting', let alone what you've done with it

  9. What a wonderful version of a bunting....a life journal...a story!! I love this!

    I love the buntings (or boytings) created by your students too. They certainly look like they enjoyed making them.

  10. beautiful and heartfelt. Christine x

  11. So much inspiration here, on lots of levels, love your bunting! :) x

  12. Lovely post full of soft secrets of the heart and fabric!

  13. Love these so much... I love the idea of childhood narrative very much indeed!!

  14. love, love, love your buntings! so very pretty! love how you pieced some of them and also all the handstitching. and that they tell a story. it doesn't get any better than that...

  15. Just beautiful. I love how you have written about your creative process, the story behind what was one of those life changing moments & also how you are reviving other pieces of your work. Thanks so much for this awesome post.

  16. And of course they are prayer flags, too. Once seen, the images of those rope bridges in Tibet, thick with fluttering swatches, never leave. The bunting makes a perfect journal and in its hanging sends the call for restoration and peace for pasts still unsettled. Wonderfully amazing, as usual. xo

  17. handmade slow artjournal = handmade slow artbunting, this is a beautiful idea and ring bells, poetry in the air. Lovely.....

  18. I love them, really touching and I guess a good way to deal with all that burried emotions and feelings.
    I'm making collages with old family pics too, so your work really meets me.

  19. You continually surprise me with your ideas, Grrl. I'm enjoying the combination of bunting and tender memories. Boyting.... lol.... priceless! I imagine doing a workshop with you must be a wonderful warm hearted experience.

  20. Denise - so beautiful. I think I'm going to try this.
    On a sad note, my dear dear dog Hoagy has made his last escape. He didn't suffer long - had a tumour - but my oh my we are so sad and missing his clowny lovely ways. Hope he has met your fella and they are running over the Elysian fields together...

  21. As usual ladyfriend, you are amazing and inspiring to me :) So joyful to see your little blue flags of life and rememberance. Thank you for sharing!

  22. I dearly love what you have expressed in your bunting. I think you have given voice to what I want to say about my family....Love and remembrance. I think this is what I need to do to heal from recent losses...Thanks so much for bringing clarity to me through your Art.


  23. Your comparison of bunting to prayer flags is a beautiful concept and your writing inspires me. Thank you.

  24. Sweet. SWEEEET. Real and sweet.
    And what a Spring way to play.

  25. Beautiful work and inspiration. I recently started a job as a fiber arts instructor working with adults with developmental disabilities. So happy I found your blog! Thank you for sharing :)

  26. Hello, dear sweet Denise
    I have your blog link on the side bar of my blog. I fell in love with your blog instantly, about six months ago and haven't looked back yet. You were the link to finding out about Julie Arkell...oh! my! I adore that sweet lady, even though I have never met her...and NOW!!! Wow! What a sweetheart you are to work with the handicap boys and girls. I have a Down's Syndrome son who is 21, and I KNOW he would have fit right in with your workshop. Thank you for sharing this blissful experience!!! And the buntings are marvelous!!!
    many (((((hugs)))))!!!
    Teresa in California

  27. Love!
    may I ask, how did you get such a clean transfer w/ your text and imagery? I've been experimenting w/ the citrasolve and wintergreen solvent methods and having only so-so results!

    1. Hi Suzanne,

      Yep, I know what you mean about citra solve and wintergreen – I’ve had a love/hate relationship with image transfers for nearly ten years. Finally I gave up and went to the inkjet paper style. I used some vintage organza ironed on to plain ol’ freezer paper for one piece, then I used the iron on type of paper.
      Must say though – Lesley Riley’s artist Transfer Paper is the bomb. Lives up to everything they say. http://www.lesleyriley.com/store.php?cat=4

  28. I got goosebumps reading about what was going on in your home when you were six...how difficult it must have been for your mother...and how you must have needed to feel loved and secure. Life is such a journey isn't it. I love what you've done with the bunting....it's like a life journal sending wishes back in time...who's to say we can't send love back to the past...to the little girl who needed it...

  29. i love the buntings and to use mixed media along with them is super awesome! http://patchworkposse.com/blog

  30. The weaving of your childhood experiences throughout your work makes it so unique and heartfelt. The duck egg blue and sepia tones complement each other perfectly.

  31. Very beautiful and inspiring... Bunting is a funny word eh.. wonder where it comes from.
    I like the way they are prepared wishes for riding the wind.. prayer flags.
    Love what you have created here and the joy you have shared in your workshop.


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