Thursday, 31 January 2019

Singer Sewing Festival

In 1950 Isaac Merritt Singer was working in Virginia, USA as a machinist for O C Phelps, the manufacturer of the Blodgett & Leriw sewing machine.  This was an early sewing machine that was not particularly successful.

Singer felt he could improve the machine and by September 1850 succeeded in producing the world's first ever practical sewing machine.  The machine was granted its American patent in August 1851 and I. M. Singer & Company began to manufacture their machines in a small workshop in Boston, MA, USA.  This was a labour and time intensive process and the company found it difficult to meet demand.  They had to expand and opened additional factories in and around Boston between 1858 and 1872.

During this period, Singer's industrial sewing machine market boomed with the need to equip American soldiers for the Civil War with uniforms. With new inventions in weaving looms and new manufacturing processes making cloth cheaper and more abundant, there was a gap in the market for a machine that could increase the manufacturing speed of clothing.

An opening was materialising also for the domestic sewer to use their skills and with the new, more easily available and cheaper material, could enhance their income by engaging in dressmaking and allied businesses and resulted in the start of the domestic sewing machine market.

The demand from outside America composed 40% of the company's overall business and Singer tasked Scot George Ross McKenzie (Company President) to look for a base in Great Britain which would act as "an export platform to supply the world market with sewing machines".

In October 1867 Singer's first overseas factory,can small assembly plant, was opened at 1 Love Loan, High John Street, Glasgow.  It assembled machines using component parts shipped from Singer factories in America.  Glasgow was selected because of its international reputation for shipbuilding, and shipping connections, cotton thread manufacture and iron smelting, global trade links and skilled, but low paid work force.

Demand continued to outstrip production and Singer rented a new factory in James Street, Bridgeton in 1869, where machines were made in their entirety and this led to an increased production from 30 machines per week to 3000.  Expansion continued and by 1881 it was manufacturing nearly 5000 machines per week and employing 2000 staff.

The Glasgow Evening News reported in 1877 a waiting list for Singer sewing machines of 40,000.  Clearly, further expansion was required.

Singer purchased over 46 acres of farm land at Kilbowie (now known as Clydebank) for around $65,000 in 1881.  This new manufacturing plant would reduce existing production costs by 30%™and increase production capability.

There appeared to be no end to the ever increasing demand for sewing machines, especially Singers, the leading brand.  As demand continued to grow, so did the factory which was expanded over the next 30 years.

The Clydebank factory was a key player in the sewing machine industry on a global scale.  At its production peak in 1913 the factory had grown to occupy a site if over 100 acres, more than double the initial area of land purchased in 1881 and in 1913, shipped over 1.3 million (1,301,851) sewing machines from its factory doors around the world with help from its 14,000 employees. Of these 14,000 employees a significant number were women.

The Needlewomen

Singer employed over 75% of the available female workforce in Clydebank. This was very unusual for the Victorian era, when working men outnumbered women in the burgh by 6:1

The female workforce was also limited to unmarried girls.  Once married women were expected to stay at home and look after the children.

Singer therefore played a very important role in the female job market in Clydebank, providing jobs for many of those females resident.  The 1911 census shows that 43% if women aged 19 or under and 84% of women aged 24 or under were employed in the engineering and metal working sectors. In 1911 1159 women in total were employed at Singer from Clydebank, Glasgow and surrounding areas.

Working outside the home brought more than just financial benefits for girls - they could get out into the world, achieving the status and attached independence of a wage earner and they had the company if their own age during the day.

A very rigid sexual division of labour existed within the Singer plant with women being almost entirely excluded from the more highly paid, skilled and more interesting work tasks.  This, despite being highly valued for their superior manual dexterity when carrying out fine work.

It has been suggested that factories like Singer, bred young women who tended to be more self confident than their sisters in domestic service.  These girls mostly in their late teens/early 20s were more likely to speak out if they perceived an injustice.  This was to be a significant driver in the trouble brewing at Singer during 1910 and 1911.

Early in 1920 a complaint was brought before the local munitions tribunal for the Western Division of Scotland by the Workers Union (of which the pursuer was a member) against the Singer company, to the effect that a 5/- a week award was not being paid to the female workers in the factory at Christmas.

The complaint was proved.  The company appealed and won.  This scenario played out over a number of years and although the female employee was awarded reparations in 1922, by 1923 the company was acquitted of any breach of law.

This shows the extent to which women were forced to battle for equal pay.  Despite these pay battles, Singer continued to employ a large number of women, 3,500 on average throughput the 1930s - just under half the total workforce.

Ahead Of The Game

Over the last few issues since summer 2018 Westender magazine has been showing the new trends just as soon as they start coming into the stores in Glasgow city centre.

It's really good to be ahead of the game and show the trends as they emerge, and seeing the new pieces in the shops  always gives me the nostalgia of getting excited about fashion for the first time.  We did the March April fashion shoot last week in a gorgeous building in the city centre and the trend we went for was suits - and already there are lots of really nice ones available in major shops.  One I didn't get to use was a gorgeous snake print one from TopShop's Love concession, go take a look at it for yourself.  Next have a gorgeous yellow one I'd love to have for myself, and I did keep the green floral one from ASOS, I'm looking for the right opportunity to wear it as soon as possible and there might be that chance sometime soon.  Colour combinations are easy to make up shopping in different stores, a blouse from Next went really well with a suit from TopShop, and a shirt from Cos in Princes Square went particularly well with the floral suit.  I had a black and white stripe ASOS suit, and put a bralette from a new designer, Bonnie Lawson-Brown who lent me the prototype more or less straight out of the seamstress' hands!  This was one of  my favourite shoots for the styling I pulled and the location we shot, so I can't wait to see the issue in print at the end of February.

Westender fashion was shooting the trends ahead of schedule last summer with the animal print trend, so that when the magazine came out and gave the readers some inspiration there would be lots of choice in the shops in the west end, city centre and online.

I'm hearing really nice compliments about the styling from various people like collaborators in the Scottish creative industry and from the managers and staff in the shops I borrow pieces from which is great!  So, I'm looking forward to keeping going and bringing the trends to the magazine pages as soon as they start to happen, and let the trends unfold as the season progresses.  It's exciting!

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Westender anniversaries all round!

As Westender magazine hits it's 10 year anniversary, this month marks a year I've been working on the mag, and it's all the issues I've worked on which can be read online.

I change my mind from time to time on which is my favourite shoot, my best ones are on my website.  All have been great to work on, I love working with the Westender team, always so organised, professional, friendly and easy going.  We all know our stuff and gel well.  All the models we've had have been fantastic, from braving the weather to not-quite-managing steps in heels.

There's something about the first one I always love, very classic.  We had two of my rabbits on set for the Spring 2018 one, such well behaved bunnies who were happy to pose - it's in the genes, their sister has been photographed for a Vogue China editorial three years ago.  I love the metallic trend, and was really pleased to get the chance to do a metallic themed shoot last Autumn.

I've loved developing relationships with the boutiques in the West End, and bigger stores in Glasgow, it's good to catch up with the people I'm getting to know every couple of months.

Here's to working with a brilliant team on a splendid magazine for plenty more years.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Thursday, 17 May 2018

New Lanark textile exhibition

ARTIST TEXTILES Picasso to Warhol was open at New Lanark from 26th January - 29th April 2018. 

British commitment to artist textiles was remarkably successful into the 1950s. Despite political crisis and economic depression from the First World War onwards, textile manufacturers were not deterred.

Allan Walton Textiles and Edinburgh Weavers commissioned iconic artists of this period to produce work in textiles.  Through Edinburgh Weavers, artists such as Ben Nicholson were able to realise their graphic, dynamic works in both weave and print.


Brave New World

Hardship, political crisis and economic struggle dominated the early half of the twentieth century.  The textile trade became an important part of the national economic recovery after the Second World War,   Iconic artists' designs were central to manufacturers' success.  This work was rich, diverse and inventive and was received enthusiastically by the public.

Textile company Ascher  Ltd commissioned major artists, such as Henry Moore and Henri Matisse, to design a series of head squares and fashion yardage for the recovering couture industry.  Artist Graham Sutherland designed textiles for Horrockses Fashions as well as wallpapers and illustrations for books.  Cresta Silks produced block-printed fashion silks by artist Patrick Heron.  'Aztec' seen here is considered to be one of the most accomplished pattern designs of the following decade.

Fit For a Queen 1940s - 1950s - Horrockses Fashion

Dresses by Horrockes Fashion came to epitomise the traditional English summer frock.  Although popular and affordable, Horrockses dresses were often worn by celebrities.  At their peak, the company designed a collection of dresses for the Queen's coronation tour of the Empire and Commonwealth in 1953-1954.  The Queen's sister Princess Margaret often wore Horrockses dresses, as did Margot Fonteyn.

In 1946 the long established cotton goods manufacturer, Horrockses, Crewdson and Company Ltd, set up a fashion subsidiary, Horrockes Ltd mainly for the production of printed cotton dresses.  They engages painters Alastair Morton and Graham Sutherland to supply textile designs for the company.

John Rombola's Circus (below) is a screen printed cotton furnishing textile by Patterson Fabrics Inc,, New York, 1956.  This is the first textile design by this New York artist and illustrator for Patterson Fabrics.  Rombola's designs were also available as wallpapers through Patterson's sister companies, Harben Papers and Piazza Prints.

This Is Tomorrow 1954-1960s Hammet Prints Ltd

Hammer Prints Ltd was established by avant-garde artists and designers to encompass all aspects of interior design.  They would create everything from furniture, to ceramics, wallpaper and of course, textiles.  This group produced radical and ground-breaking work based on new ideas and techniques. They showed examples of this work in the exhibition, This Is Tomorrow, in 1956.

The group was established by sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi and photographer Nigel Henderson.  Paolozzi and Henderson created designs from an assortment of  photographic material and images from popular culture and ethnographic sources.  The resulting patterns were then silk screened onto textiles, creating  some of the most influential designs of this period in Britain.

Modern Masters  America 1950s - Picasso and Fuller Fabrics

Modern Masters was a collaboration between Fuller Fabrics and some of the most internationally renowned artists of the 20th Century. They aimed to sell "art by the yard" to the American masses. Central to the projects success was the affinity between Pablo Picasso and Dan Fuller, owner of Fuller Fabrics.

Picasso had never before agreed to design commercial textiles.  It was certainly due to his involvement that Fuller was able to engage other important artists such as Joan Miro, Fernand Leger and Marc Chagall.  Fuller's intention was to produce fashion yardage on a vast scale, which the company planned to sell in the lower price range of $1.50 to $2 a yard.

Pioneers Of Pop 1950s to 1960s Andy Warhol and Zandra Rhodes

Andy Warhol, the epitome of Pop Art, worked in New York as an extremely successful graphic designer.  His textile designs are only now coming to light.  The collection here includes a group of food related 'Pop' textiles for his friend Stephen Bruce, proprietor of the legendary New York restaurant, Serendipity 3.

Zandra Rhodes is a hugely successful fashion designer whose works have been considered outrageous by traditional British manufacturers.  Her textiles draw on eclectic sources from commercial advertising to Australian indigenous art.  Despite her commercial experience and skill, she found it almost impossible to sell her extreme pop textiles to the mainstream fashion industry.  This inspired her to develop her work in a dazzling fusion of fashion and textile design.  Rhodes is the founder of the Fashion and Textile Museum with whom this exhibition was developed.

Above, left:  Gerald Wilde Screen printed silk fashion textile, John Mearchant & Co, London 1944

This textile design was originally shown at a 1944 Cotton Board exhibition and subsequently displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum's exhibition "Britain Can Make".

Above, right: Pablo Picasso "Carnet II"  Screen printed cotton furnishing textile, Bloomcraft Fabrics Inc,, New York 1963

Derived from a series of drawings and paintings Picasso  made of his "muse" and second wife Jacqueline Roque.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Intro To Art Therapy evaluation

I finished my Intro To Art therapy course a couple of weeks ago, and the final piece of writing was a 2000-2500 word essay evaluating and reflecting on the course. 

I didn't say much to anyone on the course, though I brought up a few questions in the class, but the overall impression I got was that instead of teaching patients/clients how to process and resolve their own thoughts the therapist built up a relationship of trust, used "spontaneous art making" to let the person receiving the therapy express some pent up tension or emotions and lo!  a magic wand was waved and all was cool again, the person's behaviour was not erratic or dysfunctional.

Having used my creativity to channel thoughts and feelings, I know how important it is to be aware of what you're thinking and how to express it most effectively, and I feel that the art making in therapeutic session should be considered and the patient must learn to understand what and why they're thinking or feeling a certain way to be able to resolve their issues.  The "spontaneity" approach seems quite haphazard, too hit or miss to be effective for me.

As I said in my essay, the therapy has people work directly from their subconscious/imagination to make images to express thoughts and feelings rather than having to translate them into words.  The images can then be analysed and interpreted to figure out the thoughts and emotions needing processed, articulated and resolved.

I know the thoughts that have gone into the creative work I do and the meaning I’m intentionally conveying.  This work for me is my art therapy as it allows me to express points of view in visual form, the same way a poet writes carefully constructed words where they have spent time considering what to convey in a structured form, just as a band layers sounds, bpms etc to develop a scene and create music videos to reinforce the meaning.  The development of the piece analyses and processes the point of view.

In art classes I've also been taught not to work directly from the first ideas that come to you,, but to work on an idea and develop it.  Once you learn how to do something a particular way it's probably impossible to undo that.

I got a grade B2 which I'm quite satisfied with seeing as I didn't reflect much on work I did in the course (as I felt the pieces of "art" I made on the course were of no meaning).  Discussing my Cyber Sages pieces and the Lab Rat Assassin shoot I'm developing is an entirely different thing - these are my concept shoots to convey issues and my dis-satisfaction with situations, where I'm putting my art to good use to express my opinion.  I wanted to point out the case studies which reflected my own point of view that discussion is an important part of the therapy but that wasn't what was really being asked of me.

Here's the essay in full for reference:

Art Therapy uses the creative process of art-making and client reflection to improve and enhance mental, physical and emotional well-being of individuals by releaseing the unconscious through means of creative expression 

The aims of art therapy are exploring and sharing the meaning the works have for the client through the process and production of image making in a supportive environment.  Through the art being produced patients can give shape or form to experiences which can provide the basis for being consciously aware, emotional growth and continuing change in their sense of self, relationships and overall quality of their lives.

The official definitions help clarify what art therapy is but individual art therapists often have their own definitions; for some it is about the art itself as the therapeutic experience and for others its the relationship with the therapist that is crucial.

Margaret Naumberg’s 1940s model of art therapy based its methods on releasing the unconscious by means of spontaneous art expression and has its basis in the transference relation between patient and therapist and on the encouragement of free association. It is closely allied to psychoanalytic theory.  Treatment is the development of the transference relation and on a continual effort to get the patient’s own interpretation of their designs symbolic meaning and depends on the development of the transference relation along with a continuous effort to obtain the patient’s own interpretation of their symbolic designs.  Naumberg stated “the images produced are a form of communication between patient and therapist which constitute symbolic speech.

The therapy has people work directly from their subconscious/imagination to make images to express thoughts and feelings rather than having to translate them into words.  The images can then be analysed and interpreted to figure out the thoughts and emotions needing processed, articulated and resolved.

In therapy sessions, images can come from ideas discussed as well as those put down on paper which makes it possible to explore and ‘play’ with images that arise in this way.  Making images enables the ability to externalise and objectify experiences so they it become easier to reflect upon: by articulating a feeling or response it becomes easier to analyse and process it effectively.

In the classroom on this course honestly got very little from the spontaneous experiential art making myself as I found it much for the sake of it.  I saw that classmates found the process very relaxing and enjoyable: it served a purpose for them (one could see ways of incorporating it into her job, another really enjoyed the process of making the images and someone else mentioned her partner said she came home very relaxed after the class), but in the latter two cases I wonder if it’s the opportunity to have time to yourself away from a hectic life rather than actual therapeutic value?

The class boundaries were set with ideal intentions though it gave an inadequate sense of the real life therapeutic process - if we had opened up and explained our feelings it would have been more authentic.  I found it a true Introduction To Art Therapy as we were going through the motions rather than digging deeper into motivations and explanations of the art making which left gaps for me.  

The difficulties I had were in reconciling my practice as a creative and the Art Therapy process as taught and I found it back to front - I recognise and process my thoughts to create visual interpretations of what I think and feel, which is a very analytical process to give form to my thoughts; I am very aware of my motivations and reasons why I think or feel something - I’ve had to analyse and deconstruct the reasons behind an action which I am then very aware of along with full understanding of a motivation.  I intuitively did this to understand my feelings when I was quite young and then further learned to create a visual representation through set and costume design where there is a conveying of the mood of a scene or the comprehension of a character in order to convey the subtle qualities of a drama in the production’s visuals (colour, texture, styling, contrasts etc).  With that understanding and years of experience I find it a very effective way of processing thoughts into my own conceptual art work to express what I feel in full knowledge of my motivations.  I feel that the spontaneous experiential art therapy rather than understanding the thought process behind that expression is in reverse, and that the thoughts should be understood before making the art once the patient is established in their relationship with their therapist.  This to me is the point of therapy; to provide the patient with the tools to allow them to become self aware, independent and confident.  I appreciate the process of spontaneous work in the early stages to develop the relationship, the level of comfort and the process of the therapy.

I would far rather discuss the creative work I do rather than the experiential pieces I made in the class as I know the thoughts that have gone into these and the meaning I’m intentionally conveying.  This work for me is my art therapy as it allows me to express points of view in visual form, the same way a poet writes carefully constructed words where they have spent time considering what to convey in a structured form, just as a band layers sounds, bpms etc to develop a scene and create music videos to reinforce the meaning.  The development of the piece analyses and processes the point of view.  I've been my own therapist for years by following these processes.

In the class we were advised to think about what we’re feeling as we make the pieces of art.  One of the first pieces we made was the only one which had significance for me.  Once it was finished I immediately recognised what it meant - it was an image about a state of mind I’d been in a while previously where I had to reconcile an very active creative mind with my business brain -  to restrain the ambitious ideas I had at the time.  It demonstrates two states of mind side by side - a sense of restriction (caged) alongside a desire to be free (feathers):   The overall feeling is vibrant and full of energy - the materials, colours, shapes and textures are light and bright which reflect my optimism - the piece is an acknowledgment of this previous state of mind which I was aware of and had resolved.  

The process of making the piece was the use of materials which have connotations - eg feathers = freedom; mesh = cage; colour = vibrancy.  I began being attracted to the colours of the paper and colour and texture of the other layers which I knew immediately would come together to make an attractive piece.  As this is spontaneous art making I went with the first ideas that came into my mind - I could see the finished piece in my mind from the beginning and quickly completed but didn’t rush it.  How it revealed the subconscious thoughts is by use and placement of the materials by building layers to demonstrate what the piece reveals.  By making this piece I learned from the patients point of view that spontaneous art therapy is a process to create an image which is representative of thoughts and feelings to articulate the meaning in visual form.  I didn’t recognise anything else in other pieces I made, they were simple enjoyment because I had the allocated time and it was part of the class work.

Further reading increased my understanding far more and I found examples of an approach which to me is logical.

In Professor Mary Target’s work with a client, she had to try to give meaning to Rosa’s feelings; not to interpret these but help the patient identify and name these experiences which helped develop a mind map.  The process was not simply reflecting back but combining some of the analyst’s work with the client to resonate with them in a regular therapeutic environment that is sensitively maintained over time. Through this process, the client is helped to build a sense of emotional meaning.  Target kept her thinking about object relations and transference in the back of her mind and didn’t try to impose that on her, instead she used her thinking about the patient’s thought patterns and behaviour to help her understand them too.  

This to me is a very beneficial way of working and explains it well.

In Medical Humanities Alternative Project – Reflective Piece by Srinidhi Krishnamoorthy, she quotes Branch & Paranjape, 2002: “Reflection leads to growth of the individual – morally, personally, psychologically, and emotionally, as well as cognitively”and states heraim is to describe, evaluate and analyse her alternative project experience where she explored significance of Art within Medicine, particularly the effect of Art on healing and wellbeing in individuals affected by Breast cancer.

When she viewed the Breathless Breastless Project gallery exhibition she initially felt quite uncomfortable seeing such raw emotion so blatantly exposed on canvas”and the proverb‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ have never rung more true – words were too mundane to describe truly the physical and emotional journey that these women and their families had experienced.

Attending a prescribed complementary therapies for Cancer in Central Europe she took the time to speak to a participant about her Breast cancer journey.  In Art Therapy the therapeutic space allowed the patient to think without external bias or negative responses.  The act of self-expression assists them in processing and dealing with their cancer diagnosis and transcend above it to accept their transformed adjusted selves. 

In Christopher Whitehead-BainesLGBTQ Affirmative Art Psychotherapy which shows how LGBTQ affirmative art psychotherapy provides vital support to men coming to terms with, or struggling to come to terms with, homosexual feelings.

In Case Study 1 one of the images produced with a client was symbolic of the patients feelings at the time of the images creation when he felt lost, alone and empty.

He felt that he had wasted a large part of his life because confidence and self esteem issues had been holding him back. He suffered with anorexia during his childhood and had been the victim of daily bullying during his time at senior school.  Family life was good for him but he felt unable to tell anyone about the bullying and was ashamed of his sexuality and of being bullied in the first place. He was very emotional, became upset easily and was deeply unhappy with his physical appearance, constantly comparing himself to other men he felt were more attractive than him and in his mind, happier. The client had number of relationships that had ended with his partners being unfaithful which reinforced his feelings of inadequacy, believing that his partners had found somebody better looking and more interesting. He felt that he was a bad person who nobody was interested in.

Regarding Figure 2 Whitehead-Baines states “The image has a real power. I was drawn in during its creation and, at times, could feel the distress of the client. He became so involved with the image making process that there was a feeling of being in a trance while witnessing the image develop. The image originated as a mental image that changed as the client produced the drawing. The client described the figure in the image as alone on barren land at the top of a cliff. There is evidence of a strong understanding between therapist and client and a great appreciation of the client’s feelings as discussed and reinforced in the image making where his emotions are evident and expressed well on discussion of the image.


In Case study 2 the image was produced early on in the therapy. The figure resembles a child, hiding behind his hands, though there are adult characteristics like facial stubble. There was a real sense of pain in the image felt by both therapist and client where the hiding is symbolic of the client’s hidden feelings, hidden from a young age. The staircase is a way out, symbolic of the role of therapy, but in order to climb the staircase the figure needs to stop hiding behind his hands, turn around, and face it. The steps vary in size and disappear into the distance; what is at the top of the staircase is unknown

Case study 1 gives a full overview of the patient’s circumstances and shows the level of discussion and understanding which has taken place before art making starts, and it makes sense to me that they talk before making the art.  It gives an immediate level of understanding of the patient’s knowledge of themselves rather than leaving the therapy process open to interpretation and an ‘as if by magic’ solution as I felt was the case in many studies I have heard.

I understand not everybody has a good understanding of their circumstances and that spontaneous art making is beneficial but I’m interested in seeing an understanding from the patient that they have developed a much stronger level of self awareness if they’re able to do so.  I know from experience how beneficial this is in releasing tension and finding an acceptable solution to issues and therefore I’m more keen to find examples which illustrate this method of working as it’s how I envisage running workshops in due course.