Thinking about borders – a creative workshop to stitch in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
This is a creation of an art work in which we stitch together as we dwell on borders. It was launched as a collaboration with an MA Design – Textiles colleague Libby Rous as part of PAHC Symposium at Manchester Metropolitan University where we both study.
Libby Rous is an aspiring designer of knitted typography. She has experimented with the use of Sashiko (Japanese Embroidery) and Boro (Japanese patchwork) on reclaimed knitwear. Her designs mix humour with serious issues such as climate change, the UK’s hostile response to refugees and our reliance on fast fashion.
My approach has been directly influenced by The Lugg Embroideries project as during that we listening to poetry about the River Lugg and other readings whilst we stitched allowing contemplation of the subject. Rhythmic stitching and words allowed a freedom for thoughts to roam and focus.
The invitation to the launch workshop on 19th May 2022: You are invited to join a workshop to stitch fragments of blue and yellow fabric to a long border strip using simple sashiko running stitch in the tradition of the ancient craft of Japanese boro (patchwork). We are working loosely to the colours of the Ukraine flag. All materials, needles, instructions, and assistance will be available but please bring along any personal patches of blue or yellow fabric or thread that you may like to add. Boro tends to be in rectangles or squares and can be very small. Additionally, or alternatively (if you are not a stitcher), you are invited to bring along a short piece of writing about thoughts of the border, your own or something you found. These can be read out whilst the stitchers stitch. The art piece will then travel over the next few months to various community centres in the country to be added to by local groups. A book will be available to document your contribution – this can be your name and any piece of writing you may wish to be shared with other groups as the piece travels.
Launch session – 19th May 2022
The first session was for one hour in a lunch break as part of the Symposium. We were thrilled that twenty-one people came to participate, at one point we had wondered if anyone would attend. The first task was to tack down the blue and yellow fabric snippets to the background pieces. We had divided the background into four, to be joined when entirely worked, so that it was easier for everyone to gather round. Each piece is 45 cm by 3.5 m. Some fabric pieces were donated from MMU’s Textiles Technician team who kindly helped me rummage through their cloth bins. Some threads, needles and pins came from the MMU Store. Prior to the workshop I had dyed some fabric pieces, also experimenting with dyeing with daffodil flowers.
Introduction to session:
The following reading from Ulrike Hanna Meinhof’s essay stresses the need to (re)create spaces of encounter between the diverse people of Europe. I hope in some small way our stitching groups also allow such encounters between participants. She talks of possibilities of ways of viewing Europe as a bounded Europe of borders, or a Europe of networks or one of neighbourhoods. Excerpt from Ulrike Hanna Meinhof’s (2014) ‘Images and Stories from the Borderlands’, Nordlit, 31, 25-47. Available at: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/382636/.
Readings: Richard Shute read to us about borders whilst we stitched. Martin at MMU’s Poetry Library is also sourcing some border readings. At the bottom of this page are some audio clips of Richard’s readings which can be replayed at stitching groups where the border artwork travels next.
Documenting the border’s journey: The border will now travel to various groups to be added to over the next few months. As hand stitching is slow process there is no deadline to be reached, I think we will sense when it feels finished. It is hoped it will be presented in some form in a liminal space, such as an atrium or stairwell. There has been a suggestion that it could be on show in The Righton Building at Mancheter Metropolitan University, which is an old department store with a large open space, now used as a research hub. If it comes to your group, please do send us a photo, if stitchers give their consent to share their image publically, and any thoughts or extra readings on borders that you would like to add to this page.
Hereford Cathedral Broderers – 8th June 2022
Mary Roberts, one of the Lugg Embroiderers took the border to the Broderers on Weds 8th June and reports they had a lovely time patching and stitching. The six broderers are happy to share their image for the purposes of the project.
Hereford Textile Group – 9th June 2022
The next day Mary went to the Textile Group and reports “there were 12 of us to sit, chat and stitch…Everyone who did the project said they really enjoyed it. It was fun and relaxing and gave us time to catch up, especially at the Textile Group where a lot of us haven’t met for 2 years. I hope everyone else enjoys it as much as we did”.
Mary reported “Joan Ritchie read a poem which she had written herself. She read it out and impressed everyone – there were a few seconds of silence when she finished. I took a photo of the book she had written it in so hope you can read it. She is happy for you to use it if it is credited to her. Also everyone doesn’t mind you using the photos for the purpose of the project”.
Thank you Joan so much for sharing your poem, it is evocative of experiences from the past and sadly our present. It captures the courage required to manage the fears and horrors, and I think a situation that is one step away from us all with a sudden change in circumstances. For me its also a reminder of the precariousness and sacrifices of the lives of my grandparents during the Second World War.
Sewing Circle – Research Hub Day at International Anthony Burgess Foundation – 20th June 2022
Professor Fiona Hackney kindly invited us to bring the Border project for a lunchtime workshop at her event for Fashion and Textile academics examining standards and processes of high quality research and grant applications. The venue was a very interesting building, a palimsest of layers in its stone and brickwork and downstairs there was an exhibtion of typewriters from its archive of writer, novelist, poet, screenwriter, broadcaster and composer Anthony Burgess. Even the walk from Oxford Road station was interesting with the typography on the old industrial buildings. Burgess experienced living in several countries so having the Borders project worked on here felt special. The theme of his famous novel Clockwork Orange reflects human actions and morality.
Eight people added to the border and more enjoyed Richard’s readings about borders over lunch.
A reflective moment was when a participant explained she had deliberately stitched an open chain stitch. This gesture perhaps symbolising hopes for open borders and freedom. At this moment textile artist Alice Kettle’s (2022) recent inspiring words came to mind ‘Thread is a way you can transform the world and you have power’.
Leominster Museum – 28th June 2022
Possible group at People’s History Museum, Manchester to be arranged
Possible group at Leek & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers to be arranged
December 2022 update: The border still needs a lot more stitching so I am looking for groups to take one of the four strips each to work on. Manchester Metropolitan University are keen to have it displayed in the open space in the Righton Building on campus. I might be able to organise a regular drop in session at the Univeristy for a sticth and discussion session in the New Year. If your group would like to work on one of the border pieces, please do get in touch with me, I am Herefordshire based. firstname.lastname@example.org
READINGS ON BORDERS
This reading is about crossing the border from Mexico into USA: Cummins J. (2020) ‘American Dirt’. Great Britain: Tinder Press, Headline Publishing Group: pp 324-328.
This reading is about the events that took place in Berlin in November 1989: Levy, P. (2019) ‘The Fall of the Berlin Wall’. Great Britain: Hodder and Stoughton: pp 20-23.
Warning: This reading contains descriptions of extreme violence as it is about the Partition of India in 1947 when thousands died. Khan, V. (2020) ‘ Midnight at Malabar House’. Kindle edition, Great Britain: Hodder and Stoughton: pp 115-117: Location 1757-1785.
This reading is about the existing wall in Cyprus: Charlesworth, E. 92006) ‘Nicosia – reconstruction as resolution’ in Architects without Frontiers. Oxford: Elsevier Ltd: pp 88-89 and pp 91-92.
Reading about possible effects of having open borders: Bregman, R (2018) ‘ Utopia for Realists’. London: Bloomsbury Paperbacks: pp 213-216.
Reading of a short story by a Ukranian author: Zabuzhko, O. (2020) ‘Your Ad Could Go Here’, translated by Halyna Hryn. Seattle: Amazon Crossing: pp 173-181.
Excerpt from Mary Bosworth’s ‘ Border control in an era of mass mobility: Immigration detention in Britain’ in Bordered Lives – Immigration Detention Archive (2019) Berlin: Sternberg Press pp 28
Other possible readings:
Sainz Borgo, K (2019) ‘Scissors’. Translated by Elizabeth Bryer in The Best Short Stories 2021, edited by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie. New Youk: Penguin Random House: pp 86-90.
Swift, J (1727) ‘Holyhead, September 25, 1727’ in Jonathon Swift Selected Poems (1993), edited by Pat Rogers. London: Penguin Group: pp 103.