Do you remember scribbling moustaches, glasses, large teeth, warts and silly phrases onto pictures in the magazines as a child? Do you remember that feeling of naughty delight in defacing some cheesy-looking guy in an advert, and transforming him into Captain StringVest or something equally silly? I have to say that I still like doodling like this – especially on vintage photos; of course, I don’t use the actual photos, but have a supply of scanned images printed out on different papers to satisfy my childish pleasures on wet Sunday afternoons. There’s a certain freedom in getting out the oil crayons and exercising a bit of vintage punk by giving staid old gentlemen yellow polka dot suits, or extremely proper looking ladies banjos and a pint of Boddington’s - but at some point, even that wasn’t quite enough... I wanted to add more texture to these pictures, but something unexpected, something... more...
I’d used hand-stitching on paper images before, and quite liked the random, messy look it gave. Then it hit me that I could try using a sewing machine – even though it’s not a tool I use very often. The blame for my lack of enthusiasm for this piece of equipment lies firmly with Ms Hanne who was the sewing torturer in my formative years; having spent weeks (WEEKS! MANY WEEKS!!) sweating over the brown cotton wrap-around skirt, she greeted my finished creation with a dry cough and the comment that it would indeed come in very handy for Brownie camp – as a groundsheet! Oh, but sweet revenge was mine when I started using the dreaded machine for decorating my vintage photos with doodles and circles and ziggy-zaggy patterns, and long racing lines that made the machine shudder as I pressed the pedal on full gas! A strange peace came over me as I added zingy colours to outline faces, or randomly attached other bits of paper, fabric, metal, tickets, labels – but stitching it all quite randomly, and going over the lines several times in different colours. When the last needle broke, I continued by just gluing threads onto the paper in big, random, messy tangles!
Because paper is so much smoother than fabric, it’s very easy to manoeuvre and you can change sewing direction very easily without having to stop – just keep the thread on a medium tension (4 on my machine, for what it’s worth) and I didn’t even bother with any backing material (which I would use on handmade paper as it rips more easily when stitching onto it – medium weight Vilene gives a stable underlay). So there we have it – an irreverent look at machine stitching and vintage photies; think of the needle and thread as a fabric crayon, which also acts as an adhesive – but most of all it was the freedom I relished in putting together these collages – go on, give it a go! Charlotte Kemsley 03. 05
These images are a mixture of artist’s own, images from art-e-zine donation sheet– as well downloadable Groovy Graphics collage sheets from www.zuraart.com
To see more of Charlotte’s work, visit www.picturetrail.com/madder_than_a_hatter