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Kathleen Murphy
(aka Murgatroyd & Bean)

with Kathleen Murphy
on 03 April 2018

Kathleen’s interest in needle and thread was sparked by a visit to a puppet show in Birmingham. There she was fascinated by the puppets, made with fabric and stitch, weaving magical tales. From then on, she took up needle and thread to create dolls and creatures around which her imagination developed her own stories.

As a maker, she draws her inspiration from sources as varied as the Clangers, Birmingham Art Gallery, the Pitt Rivers Museum, folk customs and tales and artist Andy Goldsworthy who uses natural materials. The woods near her home are a constant source of inspiration, providing solace, mystery, textures and colours. This has led to the creation of a whole series of Woodland Creatures, the Silver Populi, who have their own stories to tell. She enjoys the immediacy of using thread and fabrics and likes to create colourful, textured and boldly embroidered pieces. She layers scraps of preloved materials, odd bits and pieces such as paper, and then stitches on top. Her creations are often very small and have hidden messages which can only be viewed close up.

As a curator she gathers other textile artists and presents them with a challenge to be developed in six months. The “Shirt Collar Project” was an exhibition by artists who were given a shirt collar to work with. Kathleen’s interpretation was based on the fact that Royal Air Force pilots used to have to wear shirts with collars buttoned up and, once strapped in to the plane, they found the collar tightened, virtually strangling them. Hearing this fact, she created a bird of peace with the collar round its neck strangling it and called it Friendly Fire.

As a tutor, she teaches on her Sewcial workshops whereby you arrive not knowing what you will be making – a sewing challenge. She also encourages some of her students to make puppets and tell their own stories with them; she showed us a lovely video of one such student’s work. A delightful and entertaining talk.


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