CETG Meeting on Monday 11th February 2019
Our Speaker – Richard McVetis
His Subject – A Stitch in Time
Here is an overview of Richard’s talk on the night along with some images from his website.
Richard is an Artist. He has been specialising in Embroidery since 2005. His talk contained a brief biography and the artists that have inspired him.
He is very passionate about textiles and thinks the medium is undervalued and taken for granted as an art form. He describes his work as process-driven and minimalistic. He loves hand embroidery and embroiders every day. He likes making things relating to the body and organic shapes.
Richard attended Manchester Metropolitan University, reading Embroidery as he was inspired by the breadth of the course (he learnt weaving in Norway for example). He was enthralled straight away. His tutor, Amanda Clayton, was part of the 62 Group of Textile Artists.
After Manchester, he studied Constructed Textiles at the Royal College of Art. This challenged his ideas and made him produce work in larger forms as well as pieces that could be made in less time. At his MA show, he exhibited his final piece “Blanket” which used nuts, bolts and screws assembled in fabric. He enjoys awkward spaces, interceptions, vertical and horizontal areas and creating unplanned pieces of work.
Inspired by a piece at the British Gallery at the V&A back in 2003, Shepheard Buss – an Elizabethan blackwork, his relationship with black and white stitches started and most particularly seeding stitch.
People that have inspired Richard include:
Agnes Martin – he loves her abstract impressionism and simplicity of grids
Rachel Whiteread – his No. 1 – how she captures negative space and the emotion left in a building and the presence and evidence of human activity
Jessica Rankin – she trained as a painter and produced a huge embroidery of a white cube
Anne Wilson – uses seeding stitch and encompasses memory and spaces
Sol LeWitt – uses repetition process and ideas
Everyday mundane monotonous processes excite Richard. He likes usable presence such as someone walking. For example, one of his pieces was inspired by a simple spill in a supermarket, which is exactly as it sounds, also the worn floor markings on a metal grid at the top of an escalator, worn out from many footsteps over time – ordinary things like this excite and inspire him.
He likes how patterns can represent and are similar to the universe and likes studying things in great detail as if from a great distance, things that most people don’t notice in daily life – macro and micro and abstract patterns. He feels we are a small dot in a huge space.
Richard showed us one of his commissions which was a view of London from above.
As part of his process, he takes photographs and draws in sketchbooks – this is his way of trying to understand the world he is living in. He draws smaller than he stitches and likes repetition, he finds it calming and soothing.
Richard confesses that he has an obsessive nature and “fell” into embroidery. His repetitive process takes a lot of time but he enjoys the intimacy of stitch and the tactile nature of the cloth. He stitches every night very slowly and finds this calms the mind. He finds it an antidote for a digital world and this mental process is a way of dealing with the world.
Seeding stitch is the easiest of all stitches; you don’t need to concentrate hard to work a piece, he can do this without looking, unconsciously, with no thinking involved – just perseverance. He gets into a good slow rhythm; his stitches never cross over each other. As he’s got older his stitches have got smaller.
He started getting obsessed with grids and squares. “Five o’clock Shadow” illustrates that textiles can capture time. He is always being asked “How long did it take?”
Richard got going on a project of cubes “Units of Time” which was all about making time more digestible. He broke this down into chunks trying to visualise what time looks like through process.
He kept a list each night of how long he worked on the project. It took 6 months to complete - 40 hours per cube!
He thinks the humble stitch illustrates the complicated subject of time. He kept a diary of the process and found that how you are feeling affects the stitching; you can see it in the work.
This then inspired a large piece of work inspired by Sol LeWitt’s “Open Cube”. This consists of 60 cubes “Sixty”. The cube is 60 x 60 and the rule he set himself was Cube 1 was embroidered in 1 hour, Cube 2 in 2 hours and so on until Cube 60 took 60 hours of stitching. The project took 7 months. He started in the same corner of the cube and set his timer … he thinks the finished stitching looks like bacteria spreading.
Richard talks about the project on his website. His embroideries have been on display in many galleries including the Design Museum.
He is now starting to investigate what’s going on beneath the surface. He loves physics and science and the idea of bringing art and science together. He suggested a good podcast to listen to – The Grid. He often prints a simple shape or a grid to his work first, and then breaks it down into bite-sized elements to work on.
He stitches one whole stitch at a time, stab stitch, and confessed that the backs of his work are a bit of a mess - hope for us all! The cubes are made of wool flannel with hard foam inside. The cubes are embroidered flat and then put together, you don’t need complicated techniques.
His current projects are exploring grids and entropy and disorder. He has to produce work for some exhibitions in May. Until last year he had a full-time job alongside his embroidery but is now a full-time artist. He is obsessed with editing things down into their simplest form. He is not afraid of colour but likes the simplicity of black and white. He is process driven and his work shows that staying with one technique or stitch is a good idea.
Richard had many pieces on display for us to look at. His stitches are miniscule and he doesn’t use a magnifier - yet. Exquisite work!
All photos © Richard McVetis / text © Tina Leslau