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DIS/rupt and Interior Landscapes
with Sarah Burgess
on 13 October 2018

From an early age, Sarah enjoyed art and, in particular, drawing and, having gained an “A” Level in that subject, hoped that she would be able to develop her love into a career. However it was not until her children were beginning to grow up and feeling that she really wanted to develop her interest seriously that she took the step of going to Chesterfield College in Derbyshire to take up a new course, City and Guilds’ Embroidery Parts 1 and 2. Having gained a distinction at the end of this, and with her tutor moving on, Sarah was asked to take over her post – a real compliment.

And so began her career, teaching in further and higher education, gaining a Cert.Ed. in F.E. along the way. A decision to undertake a two year part-time course at Manchester Metropolitan University in order to gain an M.A. rejuvenated her interest in research. She particularly enjoyed tutorials involving discussions with staff from other disciplines.

She is now working freelance with several groups as well as individual students and developing her own work which she exhibits. 

In sharing with us the body of work that she has produced, it was fascinating to see the variety of her output and to hear about the influences that have affected this. Today, she works with whatever materials seem appropriate e.g. fabric, ceramics, metal. She does not categorize what she does. She says it is “just her work”.

The following examples give only a small picture of what she has achieved, including an idea of the thoughtfulness of what lies behind her work.

An early project involving the Arts Council was called “g’love stories”. She worked with Tameside Museums’ and Galleries’ Service in developing ideas from the historic glove making industry that flourished in Hyde, Cheshire until the end of the twentieth century. Sarah worked with the Museum’s collection of glove making artefacts and collected the memories of older glove makers from the area.

Sarah lives in rural Derbyshire and has a stream flowing through her garden. The discovery of ceramic shards in the water which originated from an old hydropathic institution and her dislike of discarding her finds, led to her using them in work such as “Punctum 2010”. This used shards to create a plate which in turn was fractured with a red wrapped crack running through it. This linked with the Japanese idea of wabi-sabi, showing beauty in imperfection.

The local landscape has also inspired Sarah in a body of work involving mono-printing. She enjoys the unexpected marks and textures which disrupt her print drawings. She uses layering techniques with transparent fabrics, cutting and piecing, inserting silk and adding stitch. 

The theme of disruption caused by personal events has also resulted in work e.g. when an aunt was affected by vascular dementia. She is fascinated by the idea of breaking causing permanent change.

Sarah is a member of the “Textile Study Group” who, as artists and tutors, share their ideas, imagination and skills. She has recently been involved as coordinator in developing a touring exhibition entitled “DIS/rupt”. Some members produced work related to some of the major disruptions of the 21st century, such as global conflict leading to migration and climate change. Others investigated aspects of disruption that were more personal, such as relationship breakdown.

In her piece “Drawing by Numbers”, Sarah examined climate change statistics with particular reference to melting ice caps and rising sea levels, and how that would affect communities in low lying areas of the world. Her work was designed to drown over the course of the exhibition. Cotton organdie was stitched with the names of the ten world cities most vulnerable to sea level rise, with their populations. The ends of the stitching wicks were in a trough containing dye. Each picked up the colour differently, according to the structure and fibre content of the threads. This resulted in words and numbers being picked out gradually. As the dye migrated up and across the fabric, the information was drowned out.

Those who attended Sarah’s talk were fascinated by the thought that went into the work that was shown and inspired to think along new lines in their own work. A most interesting afternoon.


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