Juline of the Hexagon, Portrait of the Artist as a hand sewist

In 2012, I am surrounding myself with creative, talented, driven artists and writers. I'm fortunate to have so many of them in my life. My dear, beautiful friend Juline is among the most wildly prolific. She is a dynamo of inspiration and a little machine of making.

A combination of wild fabrics
and carefully planned design.

Juline loves to hand sew, as do I. Here is an interview I did with her about her fascination with the hexagon and her gorgeous, entirely hand sewn and hand quilted (wow!) charm quilt. It is so much fun to speak to other makers about their process. And her attitude about trying new techniques and being fearless about it... it is the attitude all of us makers should have!

Juline's finished hex charm quilt, entirely hand-sewn!

What is it about the hexagon as a shape that captures your imagination?
My favorite shape is a spiral or circle.  I'm not sure if the hexagon really captured my imagination, but it's a shape that tesselates, so it's awesome for quilting.

Detail from her hex charm quilt.

Tell us about making your hexagon charm quilt. How did you get interested in making one?
I think you showed me the charm quilt-a-long and I decided to give it a try.  I love hand-sewing, so it seemed like a good project.  I also enjoy trying new things, so I decided to give it a go, and I fell in love with it.  Some craft things I try and don't go back to.

Me fondling Juline's chart for a new hex quilt.

Tell us about your process. How did you decide on fabrics? How did you decide on the hexagon size? Was this your first paper pieced project?
I started with fabrics I had, and then exchanged with friends, etc.  I ended up buying more fabric than I should have, but it was so fun and worth it. I used the size of hexagon that was being used in the quilt-along...I guess I kinda blindly followed.  It also seemed like a great challenge.  Yes, this was my first paper-pieced project.

That's a radiation symbol that I embroidered for her  quilt.
I'm honored to be stitched into Juline's work!

Tell us about a few of your favorite hexagons charms.
The one made by YOU!!!  Plus, I also made some out of sun print fabric that I love.  I put some of my old negatives (from college) on the sun print fabric, and have included these little contact photos here and there.  Some are pics of flowers, and there's one pic of my childhood dog, Tache, who has been dead for many years.  I like to find her pic on the quilt and remember how sweet and cute she was.

Such fun fabrics. Elvis!

The back. You can see Juline's hand quilting.

You hand quilted it, too, right? Was that very time consuming? What made you decide to hand quilt it?
Yup, hand quilted too.  Not too time consuming.  I finished the whole quilt in 4 months (crazy!) and I cannot remember how much of that was quilting.  I decided to quilt it by hand because I was nervous about sending it to a professional quilter with a machine.  I know these folks are pros, but I had put SO MUCH time and effort into the top that I didn't want to take any chances.  My little sewing machine wouldn't have been able to do the kind of job that I wanted, so the only option left was to hand quilt.  I love to hand-sew, so this was a soothing process.

Daisy peeking out from under the quilt!

Where does the quilt live now?
In a big crumpled pile on my big comfy chair in my den.  I made the quilt to use.  My dogs sit under it. I use it daily. For me, textile art should be practical and beautiful/meaningful.

More works in progress.

What other hexagon projects have you started since making your charm quilt?
Working on my polka dot hexie quilt now...1.25 in. hexies go SO MUCH faster.  I started on a pillow for a co-worker, but lost interest and it's still only 1/3 finished.  Maybe she'll get it for x-mas this year.  maybe not.

What the hexies look like as they're coming together.

You prefer sewing by hand to on your machine. What attracts you about hand sewing?
It's methodical and soothing.

Juline with the finished quit top at her family's beach house this summer.

45 records as necklaces, by Juline.

Aside from working with hexagons, what other types of crafts do you like to make with your hands?
Knitting, needle-felting, jewelry, and more.  I've tried a lot of crafts.  One thing I really like about myself is that I'm not afraid to try new crafts.  I'll jump in and get messy.  I don't feel pressure for the first thing I make with a new craft technique to be perfect.   

Lucky me and fabulous Juline, ready for anything!

How the hell did you get so awesome?
It's the cool people I hang out with that make me awesome by association.

God, I love me some Juline! For more images of her work (including 40 pzanky eggs made for her parents' 40th anniversary last year) check out her flickr stream.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman, Part 2

Sparrow Heart

More from my interview with the talented young artist Kate Elisabeth Rolison.

We started discussing her current work stitching modern love poetry onto vintage fabrics as part of the poesie grenadine project and wrapped up with details of her other projects.

Drink me In

Can you describe the poesie grenadine blog? What inspired you to start it? How do you decide which poems to translate onto fabric?

Poesie Grenadine was born out of neccessity, as a means of documenting my Contextual Enquiry Project, the first project of the academic year, in which I translate love poetry I have written now and over the years into stitch. "Poesie Grenadine" roughly translates as "purple prose," the sort of writing which can often arise from adolescent attempts at love poetry!

I aim for a variety of tone in the poems I translate onto fabric; from pure "love" poems to the cynical, humorous, and nostalgic. The piece I am currently working on is based on a love letter to "The Stow."(Walthamstow, where Rolison grew up.)

The Beast & Me

Where do you get the vintage fabric that you stitch onto?
The doilies, handkerchiefs, and linens I stitch on were mostly handed down to me by my grandmother, who, in turn, had them handed down to her by my great grandmother. 

Both my grandmothers sewed as I was growing up, so I like to think of it as a tradition which has been handed down to me. I get additional fabrics from The Shop on Cheshire Street, off Brick Lane; it's like Aladdin's Cave in there!

I Have Smut in My Eye

Can you tell us the process that you use for selecting the images to accompany the text? Are these your drawings or do you get them from other sources?
I mostly use illustrations of the subject matter of the text; drawing them on to paper before transferring them on to fabric. Sources range from the internet to bird-spotting books!

To Wit to Woo

What current artistic projects are you working on that are most exciting and energizing for you?
I'm currently working on two collaborations; one with my friend Joe Donohoe (http://cabinfeverband.tumblr.com/), and the other with artist and curator Tina Bueno, of the Pharmacy of Stories gallery in Hackney (http://www.pharmacyofstories.com/).

Kiss the Book

Joe and I are recording my poems and monologues on love, and he is then setting them to music to create soundscapes, such as the one in this post: http://poesiegrenadine.blogspot.com/2011/09/kiss-book.html.
It's wonderfully easy to work with Joe and exciting to be working in this additional medium.

Rolison at a Pharmacy of Stories exhibition
Tina and I hope to soon offer some creative workshops, possibly embroidering love poetry and making love potions, a prospect I am very excited about.


Rolison at work!

OK, can I just repeat how energizing and thrilling it was to speak with Rolison about her artwork! And how can I sign up of a workshop making love potions?! Is that not wonderfully inventive and creative?

Please join me in following Rolison’s fantastic vision and development as she grows as an artist and member of the online stitching community. Follow her blog and check out her flickr stream. Leave her comments about her work. Let her know what is working.

Be inspired by her and, in turn, you will be inspired. Trust me!


Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman: A New Feature

Happy discoveries are made in the online stitching community!

Drink Me In

I stumbled across the work of a young British artist named Kate Elisabeth Rolison in the Phat Quarter group pool on flickr. I was immediately entranced with the stitching and energy of this piece and, like any curious stitcher, followed the links to her blog, poesie grenadine, where she documents her work embroidering modern love poetry onto vintage fabrics.

The work is beautiful and inventive. I just adore the way her drawing and stitching look like the caffeinated images one might concoct in a Viennese coffee den.

Dishwater Eyes

What follows is Part One of a mini-interview with Rolison. I was very curious about her life and her East London routes… especially how the two interact to create a talented young textile artist.  How does a woman who is so comparatively young, living in the U.K. create pieces that so resonate with me?

I started the interview with finding out more about her geographic source, education and her artistic communities, both online and in “meat space.”

A portrait of the artist as a tortured artist

Part Two will focus on her current work with poesie grenadine and other projects.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Walthamstow (also known as "The Stow" or "E17"), a literal end-of-the-line town in North East London, on the end of London Underground's Victoria Line. It's an incredibly culturally diverse place, with everything from 99p and fried chicken shops to a gallery dedicated to the arts and crafts pioneer William Morris and swanky restaurants. It was also the scene of some of the recent London riots, and consequently has a bit of a reputation! My relationship with Walthamstow has changed over the years from “love-to-hate” to a true appreciation of its diversity and vibrancy, particularly since I've become aware of its thriving art scene.

The Stow
Walthamstow is home during the holidays, and also for the next three months as I complete a project independently of university. I hope to move back after graduating to attend the Art Writing MA at Goldsmiths College. I just hope I have enough experience!

Tell us a little about how you started stitching?
When I was 15 – 16, I studied GCSE Textiles at school and designed a dress based on the Amazon rainforest. I hand printed the bodice with a fern pattern, and then hand-embroidered unfurling designs onto the ferns. This first attempt was very amateurish and I took a long hiatus before picking up a needle again! Then, last summer, whilst I was recovering from an illness, my father bought me some very simple hand puppet kits to make for my little cousins. Sewing the simple tiger together was incredibly therapeutic, and soon I was hooked. I experimented with cross stitch and (again, very amateurish) hand

What are you studying in school?
The official title of my degree is "Writing (Contemporary Practises)"; the course as a whole is known as "Performance Writing". In my first year I was based at Dartington College of Arts in Devon, an internationally renowned, avant guard arts and performing arts school. Last year the college relocated to University College Falmouth in Cornwall, due to financial difficulties (however, Falmouth is acclaimed in its own right). My class is tiny; there are only ten of us!

Performance Writing doesn't necessarily refer to performance, per se, but to the fact that the act of writing itself is a performance. This can mean different things for different artists, but my practice mostly focuses on sound art and embroidery.

The Cure for Love

Studying Performance Writing has allowed me to push the medium of writing as far as it can go, and to blur the boundaries between writing and other arts.

I’ve noticed a lot of photos on your blog of you stitching with other artists. Tell us a little about your arts community?  Are there any online communities that you’re involved in relating to your creativity?

The arts community in Walthamstow is very much alive and kicking (some would say surprisingly!) We are the home of the East London Craft Guerilla (http://eastlondoncraftguerrilla.blogspot.com/), who put on a monthly craft night, which I attend, as well as the E17 Designers (http://www.e17designers.co.uk/).

I've become more aware of Walthamstow's arts scene since exhibiting in the E17 Art Trail (http://www.e17arttrail.co.uk/). Going around the trail I met many other enthusiastic and inspiring artists. The trail even brought me my first commission!

Rolison's first commission

The online embroidery community, on Blogger, on flickr, and on the needlework blog MrXStitch has been incredibly supportive of my journey in sewing. It's encouraging to see such a thriving contemporary embroidery community.


Rolison in front of exhibition space

Please take the time to explore Rolison’s work on her blog and in her flickr stream. I’m so thrilled to have found her and I’m geeked to witness her art develop.

Support and encourage talented young artists whenever you can, my friends!

More to come…