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CETG Meeting on Monday 10th February 2020

Our Speaker – Kate Findlay

Her Subject – Working in Series


Here is an overview of Kate's wonderful talk on the night along with some photos taken on the evening.

Kate started out with a Textile degree.  She then worked in the carpet industry in the Midlands and Yorkshire designing surface pattern and repeats. After being made redundant she re-trained as a teacher, teaching Art and Design Technology.  She worked at Secondary school level before moving to a private Primary school, teaching years 1-6, where she stayed for 12 years leaving in 2018. It was a tough decision to leave but her own textile work was taking over and she took the plunge to start up on her own.  She is now self-employed, giving talks and running workshops alongside her own work and commissions and she loves it! Her talk is a journey through her work over the last 12-13 years.  She has discovered that she works in series and re-visits a theme again and again.


The first quilt Kate made was with her Year 5 children.  Each child made a building which was applied to the quilt with applique and stitch.  The quilt was exhibited at Malvern and won a prize! They kept going and won another competition at the Festival of Quilts where the prize was a sewing machine.  The early years were taught hand stitch, Year 4 used a sewing machine making cushions and similar items and by Year 6 the children were making bags and rucksacks.  Boys particularly love using the sewing machine.


Kate started her own series of work based on Henley-on-Thames. She showed us a textile piece “Henley”, approximately 2 foot square using raw-edge applique fabrics bonded onto the base fabric and then free-motion stitching on top. Kate works from the back of the design to the front.  She draws out the design, sometimes making templates. The finished quilt is then stretched (which she does herself) before framing.


Another piece (or art quilt) “Henley Regatta” used a mixture of fabrics, some bought and some hand-dyed.  In her more recent work she has been using procion dye, which is painted onto the fabric, in her backgrounds. The rest of the fabrics are collaged on top and then machine stitched, often quite sparsely stitched.  She usually has a clear drawing of the design for each piece of work.


Kate is a member of the Quilters’ Guild, often taking part in their annual Journal Quilt challenge.  The Journal Quilt challenge is to make one quilt every month for a year - quite a commitment. In 2014 she used birds as her theme and Kate showed us four from her series.


As mentioned earlier, Kate uses mainly machine stitching in her work, not much hand stitching - although she does do a little bit occasionally. After she had produced the 12 journal quilts, she decided to approach a greeting cards company who took a few of her designs. She then produced a self-published book of the 12 designs.  Kate had become acquainted with Linda Seward (a well-known quilter) who wrote the text for her book.


Kate showed “Wren and Rosehips” - a very recent design.  She decided to create some designs ready for Christmas and feels it is easier doing these in the Winter rather than in August in hot weather.  The designs will probably be for the card market. She also has a range of cushions.  She used a company called where you submit your designs to them and they are voted on by the public via Facebook.  The designs are printed onto the cushion fabric thereby licensing her designs and allowing the cushions to be sold all over the country. The company have a Scottish customer-base and Kate therefore produced a Highland Cow “Cow and Gate” and “Russet Stag” amongst others.


Kate is now doing more and more of her own dying of fabric which she enjoys. Another favourite subject of hers is ducks.  She draws the ducks then works on each separately before adding them to the ground fabric. She showed us a video of her drawing process.  She draws the designs onto tracing paper so that she can move the designs around before deciding on the final positions. Most of her work seems to end up as a square but occasionally she will produce a rectangular design.


She showed two more designs: “Harpsden Wood” and “Wittenham Clumps” both of which are 80”x40”, also another design “The White Horse”.  Another series was using the theme of reflections, including “Loddon Reflections”. A beautiful piece “Glasshouses at West Dean” was shown, of a beautiful garden scene.  Kate loves it at West Dean - “they do great courses there”. Another garden scene was “Red Hot Pokers”. Kate pre-bonds her fabrics ready to collage, then cuts them freehand.  “Blackwater River in Winter” is a very recent piece, another in her Winter themed series - she is trying to use wintry colours and producing more abstract work.


She showed us another video of the making of “Snowdrop Cottage” showing her process of layering.  She uses a Frixion pen to draw the trees (silhouettes) before machine stitching on top (note: you have to be careful not to iron over the pen as this would seal the pen to the design). She is taking a course currently on using the iPad for design “Ima Engine”, for her abstract work.


Kate then introduced us to her “Hadron Collider” series of work which she started in 2008. She read an article about the Hadron Collider in the newspaper which led her to research more on the internet, loving the images she found. She contacted the manufacturer, CERN, obtaining their permission for her to use photographs of the Collider.  She started collecting images and producing sketchbooks. She finds sketchbooks a very useful and productive way of working.  In her sketchbooks she played around with the images and different fabrics. Kate decided all of her designs would be a circle within a square.  The first pieces made were 60 cm square. She used a lot of depth in her designs; textiles as well as a lot of other items: cardboard etc. She also made several quilts although Kate calls herself a Textile Artist, not a quilter. The whole series took nearly 5 years, all whilst she was still teaching and had a young son. Her mother, a quilter, helped her with some of the technical knowledge needed to produce the quilts.  She discovered that the quilts were a very ambitious exercise, and circles are tricky!


“Does Dark Matter” was one of the series shown.  This taught her that it is not easy to store and transport a large quilt and you should measure your car before you start your quilt! The next piece she made in quarters “Atomic”.  She has discovered she prefers the design concept and choosing colours more than the actual quilting.  So the next piece she made was not quilted or stitched. In “Event Stimulation Purple” all of the fabric pieces were bonded, the background fabric was black PVC.


The final big quilt made was “The Alice Adventure” which was 2 metres square.  This she did in smaller sections, six sections in total. A lot of the fabric was bonded.  This piece took 14 weeks, working all day every day. She also used some thermos screen printing around the edge.  She submitted it to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition but it was refused - she thinks they don’t like textile work.


She submitted another piece to PRISM but it wasn’t accepted.  In “Deep Space Four” she experimented by using perspective and grids, partly inspired by the work of Escher.  The lines were thin ribbon in white, grey and dark grey. She enjoyed exploring ideas and wants to do more of this.


She produced work for “Secret Messages”, an exhibition at Bletchley Park, using glow in the dark thread.  Kate, her Mum and her son entered work for the exhibition and her son won! She has also worked on a range of pieces using fibre optics “Wave Particles” and the “Aurora” series.  This is an ongoing project. The fibre optics are really effective and colourful.


She undertook a commission for a software company in Bracknell who wanted a huge piece of work for a very long wall.  She was given a very small timeframe in which to complete the piece so a quilted piece was not possible and Kate had her design printed onto fabric instead, which it was very successful.


A final video of the collage process of Kate’s design “Blackbird and Crabapples” completed her talk.  She uses her mobile phone and time lapse facility to film the videos which really help to show how her work takes shape. 


Kate had lots of her work for us to look at as well as a range of wonderful cards for sale.

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