Tag Archives | stoke on trent

Birth of a City

… and other stuff.  Birth of a City is the title of my latest artwork.  I first started printing this cloth over a year ago and it has grown and developed until, finally, I am satisfied with it!  As you may know, one of my other interests is genealogy – tracing my family history down the generations – and many of my ancestors lived and worked in the city where I grew up, Stoke on Trent.    A lot of them were engaged in the trade that it is best known for – pottery.

I had already printed the background in various shades and values of blue (with two different thermofax screens), overprinted it in orange/gold using soy wax as a resist and then discharged some of it.  I then decided to take a (VERY) rough sketch of the streets around where my Nan grew up in Longton, altering the two main ones to vaguely echo the shape of the old bottle kilns that pervaded the city and gave it its unique character.  I used masking tape as a resist and overprinted the ‘buildings’ using the larger scale thermofax screen in black ink to make it look like the old street maps from the 19th century.

'birth of a city', my latest quilt

When I looked at it, I then saw that the two main ‘streets’ didn’t look so much like a bottle kiln as a pregnant woman, so I decided to call it ‘Birth of a City’, thinking of the haphhazard, unplanned way the city grew up as hordes of people flocked into it from the countryside to work in the potbanks, leading to overcrowding, poverty and rampant disease.  People lived crammed into houses too small for them; houses sprang up next to factories.

Here is a detail of the hanging:

detail of 'birth of a city'

I wanted to emphasize the rough and ready, homespun nature of the theme, so I decided just to hand quilt it with horizontal running stitches to an old blanket, patched and worn and ragged in places. I left the raw edges of the fabric and just had the original blanket stitches as binding.

detail of 'birth of a city'

Due to the Easter holidays and the fact that my two teenage sons are in the throes of revising for GCSEs and A levels, I am late completing the latest challenge for the International Quilt Challenge, which is Time.   Rather ironic really, due to lack of time…  But I thought I’d put down my thoughts for it so far.

The way I wanted to approach this theme was something around the idea of ‘the past is another country’.  I tried to brainstorm this and wrote down what came into my head….

… time past … we think it will be familiar going back, but actually we have changed and moved on, so what we were, who we were, the old familiar landmarks, look strange to us… strange and foreign…

We have forgotten …

We have a kind of nostalgia but we can never go back, we can only revisit old haunts, some of which will have remained the same, some will have changed forever;

we look at them differently, through different eyes; we are probably taller: things there look smaller, older; strangely familiar yet also foreign to the self that is our present.

And if we could go back to our grandparents’ childhood, into an old photograph, we would experience total culture shock

– the sights

– the sounds

– the smells

– the familiar-yet-unfamiliar ; kin yet unknown people

Anyway, that is as far as I got, and it was taking too long and I got stuck with how to move from there to fabric.  I thought I’d put my thoughts down here in case I use them for another project; but then I got another idea for the theme.

Last night I decided to update my Dreaming Spirals Facebook Page – I had not changed it since the new timeline was adopted and it needed a new photograph as the header.  I decided to make a collage in Picasa of my five Reeds wallhangings.  This is the result:

Facebook Page new banner

Today I was thinking about the theme of the challenge again and I decided to change tack completely.  I thought of the various seasons the reeds go through in the course of a year (recorded in this blog in 2010) when I visited them each month for a year to see how they change, and I thought of those timelapse videos where a camera is set to take photos at regular intervals of, say, a plant growing, and then they are put together into a video as if the plant was moving.  All my reeds pieces record a different season of the year so I thought I would try and blend them together using scraps from these pieces as a starting point to show the movement of time.  (If you would like to see the reeds photos again, here is a collage of them that I made at the end of that year).

So that is my plan at the moment!  Watch this space…. Meanwhile, do go and explore my Facebook Page – it looks quite different now.

I’ve been Google Street-Viewed!

Google Street View has just come out for the whole of Britain rather than just several of the largest cities, and DS1 discovered that I am on it, crossing the road probably going shopping.    It must have been last summer from the clothes I’m wearing.  And thankfully they have blurred out my face!

I have also had a happy few evenings virtually walking round Stoke on Trent, where I grew up, and finding the streets (and possibly the actual houses) various ancestors lived in, with the help of the census records and a website which converts old street names in Stoke to their new equivalents.  In the 1950s lots of them were changed because the six towns which made up the city of Stoke on Trent had grown up independently and there were lots of duplicate street names, with resultant confusion.  Lots of High Streets, Albert Streets, Church Streets, etc!

Here are a few of the streets in Fenton, not far from where I lived until I was 11.  Fenton is the town that the 19th century novelist Arnold Bennett, in his novels about the Potteries, missed out, and who never forgave him for the omission.

This is Berdmore Street where my great grandmother, Minnie Simpson, was living before she was married:

simpsonminnieberdmorestreet

John Swetnam, my 1st cousin 4x removed, lived somewhere in this street in 1871:

swetnamjohngeorgestreet

The husband of the half sister of my great great grandmother, Sarah Swetnam, lived in this house in Heron Street in 1901 (sadly Sarah died in 1883 but several of my first cousins 3x removed were there.)

leighsgeorge14heronstreetwhitedoor

William Brown, my second cousins 3x removed, lived in this street in 1891; then it was Peel Street, now Ramsey Street.  He was a mineral water carter.

brownannie21peelstreet

Hope you enjoyed this little tour round one of the Potteries towns!

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