Saturday, March 28, 2015

'Connected Threads', Tenby Museum & Art Gallery, 28.3.15 - 17.5.15

Connected Threads: an exhibition celebrating the importance and reward of teaching and learning.

Exhibition statement:

‘Connected Threads’ brings together five mixed media textile artists connected through education, whose practice is all rooted in the principle of manipulating threads to diverse outcomes.  Laura Thomas, a woven textile designer and artist, also co-leads the BA Textiles: knit, weave & mixed media degree programme in Carmarthen School of Art, Coleg Sir Gar.  Having been invited to exhibit at TenbyMuseum & Art Gallery, Laura decided to take the opportunity to invite two of her former tutors Julia Griffiths Jones and Ann Sutton, and two of her former students Sian O’Doherty and Debbie Smyth to exhibit alongside her. 

Teaching is a common accompaniment to the professional life of an artist or designer-maker.  An otherwise often solitary practice is greatly enriched by the joy of sharing expertise and inspiring keen learners.  Laura is particularly passionate about passing on the skill of weaving in a country where the manufacture of cloth is so fundamental.  Carmarthen School of Art offers the only remaining degree programme in Wales with the option to specialise in weave.  

Having always known that a career in art and design was where her future lay, Laura was still uncertain about what to specialise in when she began her Foundation Diploma in Art and Design in Carmarthen School of Art in 1995.  Typography had been an obsession throughout school, so graphic design seemed inevitable.  However textiles tutor Julia Griffiths Jones introduced the idea that textiles could be something quite unexpected and truly exciting and so the path shifted.  Working with wire and other untypical materials and processes were a revelation, and so a degree specialising in mixed media textiles was selected in Birmingham City University (formally University of Central England).  However, here once again the path changed.  The four week introductory taster to weaving was a life changing ‘light-bulb’ moment.  Having never given a second thought to the construction of cloth, the weave room, with its floor-to-ceiling shelves full of yarn, encasing rows of table looms was a welcome onslaught to the senses.  The opportunity to explore the key passions of colour, composition and line, and fundamentally, to make cloth proved irresistible and thus became Laura’s chosen specialism.

One the foremost draws to subsequently undertake an MA in Woven Textiles at the RoyalCollege of Art, was that Ann Sutton was one of the visiting tutors.  Prolific artist, designer, maker, curator, speaker and writer, Ann Sutton’s energetic, rule-breaking and pioneering approach to weave was inspirational.  Treasured tutorials challenged Laura to see the ingenuity in overlooked structures and to recognise that weaving is ‘soft engineering’.  The possibilities for woven textile application in unexpected arenas, such as public art set the die for Laura’s future career.  Good fortune also meant that Laura was due to graduate in 2001, the year that Ann Sutton was recruiting for her first tranche of three Weave Design Research Fellows for The Ann Sutton Foundation in Arundel, West Sussex.  Thrilled to be awarded one of the Fellowships, the two years spent at the Foundation were entirely fundamental in Laura developing the confidence to establish her multifaceted studio practice in Cardiff in early 2004.

Soon after arriving back in Wales, Laura wrote to the textile department in Carmarthen School of Art to introduce herself and offer her services as a visiting speaker.  An informal meeting and talk to the students led to a one-day a week appointment as weave tutor. Laura has taught there ever since, and has been co-leading the course since January 2013.

Carmarthen School of Art is a joy to be a part of.  It is a true art college, in that it’s purely art and design courses undertaken on the campus.  It’s uniquely small, meaning that class sizes are a fraction of those in the ‘big’ universities and so has a nurturing, family atmosphere, where tutors really get to know their students.  Its size also means there is plenty of scope for inter-departmental working, something that both Sian O’Doherty and Debbie Smyth embraced throughout their studies.

The biggest reward in teaching, is to watch already talented students develop over their three years of study into something exceptional; to observe their ‘light-bulb’ moments; to suggest a creative direction that proves to be their personal revelation; to celebrate their recognition in the wider world of art and design.  Both Sian and Debbie were outstanding students from the outset, but what set them apart was their unstinting work ethic, creative risk taking and thirst for experimentation.  Both students were multi-talented and could have easily specialised in any textiles discipline, but both took a mixed media approach comfortably exploring different techniques and processes as per aesthetic and practical demands.  Underpinning their work throughout was their high level of drawing ability, comfortably taken into cloth, paper or thread manipulation. 

Debbie graduated in 2008 and achieved instant recognition at New Designers, the annual graduate showcase exhibition in London.  Work was sold, exhibitions arranged and commissions won.  Debbie has worked consistently since graduation for a stellar list of clients achieving international recognition for her trademark ‘pins and threads’ drawings and large scale installations.  Recent commissions have taken her to Shanghai and Las Vegas to create spectacular installations.

Sian graduated in 2012 and likewise achieved immediate success at New Designers winning the prestigious Lucienne Day Award for her final collection of woven quadruple cloth and digitally printed textiles.    Throughout her studies Sian demonstrated an exceptional technical ability for making fabric in all disciplines, so the final degree exhibition showcased only a fraction of her talents.  Subsequently the focus of Sian flourishing practice based here in Tenby, has primarily been knit for both fashion accessories and homewares, but she also makes mixed media artworks as showcased here in this exhibition.  Sian is also now the knit tutor and co course leader for the BA Textiles course in Carmarthen School of Art. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

'Fourteen', Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, Cwmbran, 26th July - 20th September.

Tomorrow, a new exhibition opens at Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre in Cwmbran. Fourteen artists living in or from Wales were invited to exhibit a piece of artwork that reflects their thoughts on the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. Each artist has created work which makes us reflect on events that changed the world forever.

For this exhibition, I decided to celebrate my love of Welsh blankets to hand weave a blanket in memory of my great uncle William Roy Gifford who lost his life in the First World War, and also his younger sister, Ivy. Every death as result of war is tragic and heart breaking for loved ones and I have always been haunted by this element of my family history. Ivy was so profoundly traumatised by the loss of her brother in the war, that she was institutionalised in her teens and spent the rest of her life in a care home, dying aged 60. Their mother was advised by the family doctor that the best way to overcome her grief was to have another child, and thus my grandmother Nina was born. Although Nina grew up knowing of her siblings, they were rarely mentioned and she never met her sister.

The blanket is a handwoven double cloth an iconic method of creating traditional Welsh blankets famed the world over. The decision to make a blanket was deliberate due to its symbolism of being indicative of nurture, protection and the envelopment of loved ones. Its colour and pattern is muted but rhythmic and has been created as a meditation on loss, absence and not knowing.

Each block of colour represents the siblings and what age they lived until. The red block represents Roy, aged 19, and the brown block Ivy, who lived to age 60. These blocks are joined, as the siblings knew each other. The separate fawn block represents my grandmother, who lived to 88.

The blanket has been handwoven in vintage pure wool, gifted by Ann Sutton some years ago.  Ann produced iconic Welsh double cloth blankets in the late 70s and early 80s.  Knowing my affinity for the history of Welsh blankets, she gave me her remaining stock of yarn when she had a studio clear-out a little while ago.  It was wonderful to use some of it for this project.

The other artists in the exhibition are:

Becky Adams, Iwan Bala, Sarah Ball, Peter Bodenham, Anne Gibbs, David Greenslade,Ruth Harries, Rozanne Hawksley, Buddug Humphreys, Alice Kettle, John Selway, Peter Spriggs, and Stephen West.

You can see an online catalogue here, which you can also purchase a hard copy of.

With extra thanks to my cousin Amy Roach for her help with dates and genealogical information for this project.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Second Chance, Craft in the Bay, Cardiff 18-21st April

Its that time again: I'm taking part in Second Chance at Craft in the Bay this coming Easter weekend, 18-21st April. Slight seconds, samples and older work will be up for grabs at very attractive prices. I'll have a range of resin sculptures, woven artworks and sample cushion covers available. For the first time, I'll also have a selection of hand and jacquard woven sample fabrics and off-cuts available to buy. Ideal for textile enthusiasts, seamstresses, quilters, card makers etc, there will be some total one-off pieces of cloth in a variety of sizes that you can transform as you see fit :-)

I'll be at Craft in the Bay first thing on Friday, and then manning the sale all day on Saturday. Hope to see you there :-)

Monday, March 31, 2014

New film of my work by R&A Collaborations

Am so excited to be able to share this wonderful new film of my work with you. Its made by the super-talented R&A Collaborations who specialize in making highly distinctive & evocative films about makers and designers. They were a pleasure to work with and I think give a real insight to my practice. Should you be looking for someone to make a film of your work, I can't recommend them highly enough. Thank you so much Richard & Arron.

Woven Entrapment from R & A Collaborations on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Featured Maker, Oriel Myrddin, Carmarthen

If you head to Oriel Myrddin this coming month to see the wonderful Bryn Ogwr exhibition by Jacqueline Poncelet and Anthony Stokes, you'll also see my work taking centre stage in the retail area. Exhibition continues until the 26th April. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

On the move.....

Well, its with a very heavy heart, I said goodbye to my studio in Model House Craft & Design Centre this weekend. Whilst I loved my studio space in the heart of Old Llantrisant, my vision of juggling a toddler & a studio hasn't really worked out! We've recently bought a house in Bridgend which is big enough for me to work from home instead. Hopefully I'll now be able to get on with work more efficiently in the evenings etc.

Anyway, I now have a scary amount of unpacking to do as I write this surrounded by boxes and boxes and boxes of yarns, fabrics and paperwork..... Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Arts & Business Cymru Awards

Photo: Carrick Creative 2013

Earlier this year, I was really honoured to have been given the significant commission to design and produce the 2013 Arts & Business Cymru Awards. Presented last month to notable businesses and individuals that have made an outstanding contribution to the cultural landscape in Wales, the awards have been designed to incorporate the A&B corporate colours. Using my trademark technique of seemingly loose threads cast in acrylic resin, these pieces have an added extra: light reflective thread. When light hits the threads, you get a wonderful flash of light in the same way as light hitting safety clothing at night.

Many thanks to Carrick Creative for these photographs, Arts & Business Cymru for the commission and huge congratulations to all the winners.

Photo: Carrick Creative 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Llanelli town centre glass canopy

Rather overdue sharing this news with you, but I'm really excited to bring you these wonderful photos by Dan Staveley of my largest commission to date. This canopy in Llanelli town centre was unveiled last month, as part of its multi-million pound regeneration programme. The canopy structure had been designed as part of the town centre facelift, and I was commissioned to create the glass. 

Drawing inspiration from the incredible industrial heritage of Llanelli, I decided to explore using industrial materials to laminate in glass, rather than my usual dyed silks, cottons and linens. Carbon fibre threads alongside copper and steel meshes were chosen, and they had the added benefit of being colour stable for this outdoor usage. I undertook a lot of research into the tinplate manufacturing process - Llanelli was once the worlds largest producer of tinplate, and so there were a huge number of people once employed in this industry. And it wasn't just men working on the hard production lines either as I had assumed, and so for this commission I wanted to honour the memory of all the women working in the tinplate industry. As the shape of the canopy reminded me greatly of quilting patterns, there was a pleasing juxtaposition between the more expected feminine pastime of quilting and the work women were doing in the tinplate factories.

And so each pane of glass was treated as if an individual pattern piece in a quilt. The gradating blues were achieved with an adhesive vinyl. The copper and steel meshes were folded in reference to the significant 'doubling' process in the tinplate manufacture. This creates a fantastic moire effect so the work has an extra dynamism as you shift your angle of gaze. There are also wonderful shadows cast on sunny days.

As always, I am hugely grateful to the brilliant Innovative Glass Products for helping me realise this commission. To say that this was a challenging job would be an understatement, but they made sure that my vision became a reality.

The canopy structure was made by Broxap who were an absolute pleasure to work with throughout.

The seating underneath the canopy was also a special commission, undertaken by Dallas Pierce Quintero.

And the public art manager was Emma Price, and the build contractors were Alun Griffiths.

Enjoy the pictures...................

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Contemporary Craft Festival, Bovey Tracey, Devon 7-9 June

This Friday sees the opening of the tenth Contemporary Craft Festival in Bovey Tracey. I'm delighted that I will be part of the festival for the first time this year. I'm demonstrating weaving on stand 13 outside, and will also have a selection of my resin sculptures, plus blankets and cushions available to buy.

Mill Marsh Park, off St John's Lane
Bovey TraceyDevonTQ13 9AL
June 7-9th
Open 10am-5pm

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Coleg Sir Gar degree exhibitions

Its that time of year again: my BA3 Textiles students have completed their studies, and their final projects are on show. Do come see their hard work, either at our Jobswell Campus in Camarthen or at New Designers next month.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Art Craft, 1-30 June,

The next exhibition that I'll be featuring in, has a fantastic line-up of artists based in or near Cardiff. Organised by the Cardiff Arts Collective, they have once again secured a vacant shop in the city centre.

Details are as follows:

Art Craft
1-30 June 2013 | 10-5.30 daily
11 High Street, Castle Quarter, Cardiff CF10 1AW
Private View: Saturday 1 June 2-4pm
Artist Talk: Alun Hemming: ‘Scale’ Saturday 8 June 2-3pm
Artist in Residence 1: Michelle Griffiths 10-14 June
Artist Talk: Ingrid Murphy: ‘New Technologies within Ceramic
Practice’ Saturday 15 June 2-3pm
Artist in Residence 2: Natalia Dias 24-28 June
'The exhibition focuses on artists whose work either transcends the boundary between what is traditionally classified as art and craft, falls between the two areas or highlights the theme of what is art and what is craft.
We think it is as current an issue as ever, with the development of new technologies used with more traditional materials and techniques, with many local artists producing technically innovative and thought provoking artwork. Organised by the Cardiff Arts Collective.'

Jonathan Anderson
Sophie Buckingham
Claire Cawte
Natalia Dias
Kathryn Campbell Dodd
Michelle Griffiths
Ruth Harries
Alun Hemming
Ingrid Murphy
Mike Murray
Zoe Preece
Lisa-Marie Tann
Laura Thomas

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Weave: A One Day Symposium: Stroud International Textiles, 11th May 2012

Weave: A One Day Symposium: Stroud International Textiles

Helga Matos

Presented by Stroud International Textiles
Saturday 11 May 2013
‘Weave’  is a one day conference will bring together a diverse group of experts to explore weaving and woven structures. The day will discuss how weaving has progressed and developed while continuing to delight in traditional textiles skills.
Confirmed contributor speakers are Laura Thomas; Nadia-Anne Ricketts; Eleanor Pritchard; Tim Parry-Williams; Deirdre Woods; Helga Matos. Philippa Brock (Chair);
These are inspirational designer makers who test the boundaries of textile material and experiment with how far those boundaries can be pushed. The work they produce is exciting, beautiful, intelligent and inspiring.
The day will bring opportunities for makers and designers to contribute their specialist skills and knowledge of materials and encourage new systems and processes. The day will explore and discuss new techniques while basking in the pleasure of woven cloth.
Each contributor strives to push the expected boundaries of woven textile working with design, architects, fashion, science and interior design
Full price £70
Concessions full time students, unemployed and Friends of SIT £40
Early Bird Tickets: Full Price £60 Students Early Bird £35
Early Bird tickets end on March 30
This includes a light lunch and tea/coffee on arrival.
Advance booking through symposium booking page.
A bookshop run by Yellow-Lighted Books will be present.
To book a ticket please go to or and navigate to the symposium page where you will find full details on how to book online or if you prefer you can send a cheque to SIT office.
Or book through Tourist Information centre on 01453 760 960
Venue: Stroud College in Gloucestershire GL5 4AH
Contact Stroud International Textiles on 01453 751056 /

Eleanor Pritchard
Tim Parry Williams

'Maker in focus' exhibition photos, Mission Gallery

My 'Maker in Focus' exhibition at the Mission Gallery in Swansea has just finished. Thought I would share some photos of the show with you. Many thanks to Nicolas Hughes for the pictures, and to Deirdre Finnerty for her considered curation.

Glass wall panel made with Innovative Glass Products

Monday, April 8, 2013

Maker in Focus, Mission Gallery, Swansea until 5th May 2013

Until the 5th of May you can see a collection of my work at the beautiful Mission Gallery in Swansea. Amongst the collection of thread-wrapped wooden vessels and Resonate sculptures, there is a brand new laminated glass wall panel made especially for the space with the wonderful Innovative Glass Products.

Photo courtesy of the Mission Gallery