Thursday, 13 September 2007

Guest Speaker, Lauren Shanley

Last night was the first meeting of the Oxford Branch of the Embroiderer’s Guild following the summer break. Our guest speaker, Lauren Shanley gave a talk entitled Celebrations of Colour. Lauren was perhaps not the best 'speaker' that we have had, but when your work speaks for itself, who needs words.

To begin with, Lauren read to us an overview of her background, and the people, places and things that have inspired her. Growing up with an accomplished tailor for a grandmother and a talented seamstress for a mother, certainly triggered her love of fabric, stitching and colour, and her extensive travels have given her plenty of inspiration. Lauren transforms vintage fabrics, especially those from the 1950’s, into collages that she then embroiders by hand and machine, appliqués and beads into layers of colour and texture. From these she makes very individual clothing, bags and home furnishings.

We were treated to a slide show, chronicling her development as a textile artist and finally, to a fashion show of some of her work and best of all, we were invited to model the garments and to view them close up. (I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of some of our speaker, sharing their knowledge and allowing us to handle their work.) I modelled a couple of very colourful coats, not really the type of thing I have the personality to wear, but I still admired them greatly. (Actually, I am a little envious of women who are not afraid to wear exactly what they feel like wearing.)

One member asked Lauren if she only cut up vintage garments that were already damaged. Lauren replied, enthusiastically, ‘Oh no, I cut up every thing. I used to feel guilty about it, but not any more.’ She went on to tell us how she had purchased an expensive silk scarf in Italy, only to cut it up and use in a coat, when she returned home. Lauren relaxed and was far more comfortable talking her work than she was reading her prepared text.

Beautiful work, great to see it up close, you can’t really appreciate from the pictures on the web site just how much work and detail goes into each piece but you can see how much Lauren celebrates colour.

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