Jilli Blackwood: Material Matters
|Millennium Kilt, 2000; wool tartan, silks,
muslins, leather; dyeing, hand and machine embroidery;
22 by 59 inches. Photos: Iain Clark.
"Material Matters," a solo show of Scottish textile designer
Jilli Blackwood's embroidery, ran from November 1, 2001, through
January 30, 2002, at The Hub, Castlehill, Edinburgh. Blackwood
specialized in embroidered and woven textiles at the Glasgow
School of Art. Since graduating in 1986, her design work has
continued to focus on weaving and em-broidery, creating a
vocabulary for herself that is based on both construction
and deconstruction. Sewing needle and scissors are used in
equal measure, with Blackwood embellishing surfaces with threads
and torn fabrics, then snipping and cutting areas away. She
explains, "Different textiles take dye differently, cut and
fray differently, and absorb light differently. I like to
combine these uncertain factors in my work to foil the discipline
and rigidity of formal design."
|Gamma, 2001; wool and black muslin; machine embroidery;
18 by 17 inches.
Most evocative of these sentiments is Millennium Kilt.
A surprisingly large piece measuring 22 by 59 inches, Millennium
Kilt is constructed through a mixture of hand and machine
embroidery using varying weights of hand-dyed silk. The unravelled
and disconnected edges of the torn strips of cloth bring a
sense of vitality to the fabric surface that is reminiscent
of the garment's movements when worn on the body. Blackwood
explains that the design of the piece "fell into place quite
naturally" and was completed in 12 weeks spanning the close
of the 20th century and the beginning of the new century.
Blackwood's geometric series plays with the optical
illusions of cramped and buckled space. Embroidered works
such as Gamma present both an optical and structural
investigation. Similarly, Rouge deals with depth and
space, but in a more limited manner that allows the tactile
surface of the snipped and torn fabric to reveal the darkness
beneath. While layers of loosely structured tears build in
the construction of Rouge, the more figurative bending
of space on the two-dimensional plane of cloth in Gamma
deflects and bends our
|Rouge (detail), 1997; cotton velvet, muslin, silk;
machine embroidery; 12 by 12 inches.
sense of volume and space. Circles of Fire,
a commissioned piece on loan from London, is an intricate
example of three-layer silk machine embroidery that has been
hand finished with scissors. The piece incorporates many of
Blackwood's techniques: layers of stitch build up the surface
and secure strips of torn cloth, which are then trimmed by
scissors. Pastel and primary colors are set side by side,
peeping through tears and embellishing whimsical organic shapes.
|Circles of Life, 2000; silk, muslin, velvet, cotton;
dyeing, machine embroidery; 39 by 59 inches.
"Material Matters" offers a bold mixing of materials and
techniques. The results offer the viewer surfaces of shifting
depths and textures that engage the eye with their balance
of playfulness and intricacy.
Millennium Kilt is on display at the Victoria
and Albert Museum in London as part of the "Men in Skirts"
exhibition through May 12.
|Epsilon, 2001; silk and silk organza; dyeing, machine
embroidery; 18 by 17 inches.
|Eta, 2001; wool and cotton muslin; dyeing,
machine embroidery; 16 by 19 inches.
Jessica Hemmings holds a B.F.A. in textiles
from the Rhode Island School of Design and an M.A. in comparative
literature from the School of Oriental and African Studies
in London. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the University