Em­broi­dery dis­play with a mod­ern twist

Stratford Press - - News - By RHONDA BUNYAN Percy Thom­son Gallery Di­rec­tor.

Tra­di­tion­ally Con­tem­po­rary Stitch is an em­broi­dery ex­hi­bi­tion with a mod­ern twist.

In the field of em­broi­dery Jo Dixey and Ma­ree Burn­nand are of­ten viewed as the ‘young ones’, some­times even ‘shock­ing’, and you can meet them in the gallery this week­end.

Both use tra­di­tional em­broi­dery tech­niques with a con­tem­po­rary de­sign style. Their sub­jects of­ten in­clude the hu­man form, al­though in very dif­fer­ent ways. The pieces in this ex­hi­bi­tion have been stitched in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try, Jo lives in Auck­land and Ma­ree is from Strat­ford, and in dif­fer­ent con­di­tions. Ma­ree’s pieces were cre­ated to the beat of al­ter­na­tive rock with a lot of 90s grunge and Jo’s to a more se­date Na­tional Ra­dio.

Both artists have won nu­mer­ous awards for their work.

Jo Dixey is a pro­fes­sional em­broi­derer who trained at the Royal School of Needle­work. She works on tra­di­tional com­mis­sions as well as teach­ing and hold­ing ex­hi­bi­tions.

“I am con­stantly in­spired by the world around me, so use tra­di­tional em­broi­dery tech­niques to cre­ate con­tem­po­rary stitched works that hope­fully make peo­ple think.”

Jo re­leased her first book, Stitch Peo­ple in 2017. This is a project-based book for begin­ner embroiderers with all the de­signs based on peo­ple.

“This book is part of my longterm plan to con­vert the world, one per­son at a time, to love stitch­ing!”

This col­lec­tion of pieces in this ex­hi­bi­tion have been in­spired by ideas that float around in her head ‘pretty much all the time’.

“So­ci­ety has many ‘boxes’ that we are ex­pected to fit in, but in re­al­ity no one ever truly fits in a mass-pro­duced box. We all need one de­signed just for us.

“We all need to find our tribe so we are sur­rounded by peo­ple like us rather than try­ing to be­come like the peo­ple around us. If you take on too much from the out­side you lose touch with who you re­ally are.

“We all have the right to feel com­fort­able in our own skin and be ac­cepted for be­ing us. I sur­prise peo­ple all the time by not look­ing like an em­broi­derer, what­ever that looks like, and I love it.” Ma­ree’s pieces are of­ten very dif­fer­ent from what you might ex­pect to see at an ex­hi­bi­tion.

De­spite her choice of sub­ject gen­er­ally be­ing slightly al­ter­na­tive Ma­ree says it is the tra­di­tional as­pect to em­broi­dery that ap­peals to her so much.

“I love do­ing some­thing that is ex­actly the same as it was 500 years ago. The tools haven’t changed, the tech­niques haven’t changed. It gives an amaz­ing link to his­tory,” she said.

Ma­ree’s works are of­ten dark, even fore­bod­ing, where death and dy­ing is stitched in del­i­cate de­tail.

“Death comes to us all. An in­ap­pro­pri­ate age is not a bar­rier. Grave­stones pro­vide a per­ma­nent marker but mem­ory fades and iden­tity ab­stracts.

“For a few their mark on the world will for­ever be in­deli­ble but for most, time will erase their foot­print on earth.”

The tragic death of a young fam­ily mem­ber in the 1948 po­lio epi­demic and the school hol­i­day vis­its to tend her grave paved a per­ma­nent fas­ci­na­tion with ceme­ter­ies, head­stones and un­timely death.

This col­lec­tion of pieces ex­plores these con­cepts fused with other pas­sions of gothic churches, stained glass and the mu­sic that pro­vides in­spi­ra­tion and a sound­track to her daily life.

This ex­hi­bi­tion fin­ishes Sun­day, Novem­ber 11.

PHOTO / JEANETTE BELL

Ma­ree Burn­nand, sec­ond left with her sis­ter Ch­eryl, and mum and dad Gay and Gary Burn­nand.

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