The Knitting & Stitching Show 2015: Tapestry and textile art highlights

Suzie Blackman
Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace, being the biggest annual show of its kind in the UK, is traditionally the calendar highlight for knitters, stitchers and quilters. It crept up on me this year having been very busy with freelance work, but I was able to take a much needed day off on Friday, grab a last-minute ticket to tackle the customary crowds (dodging the occasional wayward zimmer frame), and see what the world of stitch craft has to offer.

To my surprise, two of my favourite discoveries of the show were contemporary needlepoint tapestry designers. Tapestry doesn’t normally appeal to me a whole lot, feeling like a whole lot of slow, fiddly work for not much reward, but two designers’ work really appealed to my love of bold colour and geometric shapes.

PomPom Design‘s abstract designs immediately grabbed my attention. Designer Helena Ben-Zenou explained that she’d started creating her own designs out of a desire for needlepoint that would look great in a contemporary home, and also be relaxing and enjoyable to work.

Pompom Design's stand

PomPom Design’s stand

With sizable blocks of colour, they would be much less bitty to stitch than kits I’ve tried in the last. I love curved forms of PomPom’s Futura design, which reminds me of some of my favourite screen prints from the 60s and 70s by artist Eduardo Paolozzi. My personal favourite design, Canyon, is inspired by native American and Mexican textiles and evokes the orange stone and strong shadows of the Grand Canyon.

By contrast, Hannah Bass creates stunning, intricate designs based on city plans. Hannah explained that being an interior designer she too wanted to create tapestry designs for the contemporary home. In fact her first design (London) was for herself. It proved popular with friends, she soon found herself taking commissions and her tapestry business grew from there!

Hannah Bass

Hannah Bass’s striking city map tapestry designs

Hannah had worked all the pieces on her stand herself, and assured me that they weren’t difficult to do. Her kits are beautifully hand packaged and use the finest quality natural materials, and at £65 are incredibly well priced and are sure to be treasured.

Although tapestry is typically turned into cushions, both designers showed that they work equally well as wall art.

The exhibition entrance hall displayed intricate and ambitious textile art of a totally different kind; it was hard not to be impressed by the series of large-scale fabric and embroidery pieces depicting coastal scenes, created by two Italian artists working as DAMSS.

Textile art by DAMSS

Textile art by DAMSS

Detail of textile art by DAMSS

Detail of textile art by DAMSS

The artists combined a multitude of textured fabrics and machine embroidery, creating tactile landscapes of shimmering seas, rugged cliffs and vibrant villages. Sadly there wasn’t much information about the work or the artists at the exhibition.

Obviously there was much more to see… fabric and knitting highlights to follow!

The author

Suzie Blackman

The dyer, designer, photographer, creative technologist and maker-of-things behind It's a Stitch Up. She lives in East London in a home filled with colour, fluff and house plants.

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