The Sewing Circle Rethread

I’m really pleased to announce that I’m involved in another London exhibition at St Pancras Hospital. The Sewing Circle Rethread is curated by Elaine Harper-Gay and Peter Herbert of The Arts Project, Camden and features 23 artists who use needlework in their art.

This is a really interesting exhibition for me in so many ways. Needlework for me has always just been something that you do. It’s been in my family for so long, so many generations, that it never occurred to me that this is something that isn’t necessarily mainstream. It’s only over time that I’ve realised that the way I was brought up and the crafts I learned along the way just weren’t available to other people. I learned to weave when I was 10 and I handmade rugs at 11. I’ve knitted and sewed pretty much anything and everything. It hasn’t formed the main body of my artistic practice because it never occurred to me until recently that it could.

For The Sewing Circle Rethread, I am showing a piece called We are all a Work in Progress. This is a full size paper torso based on my own form and created from hundreds of darkroom prints from my old sketchbooks. Cyanotypes and salt prints tumble over photograms and sketch notes to examine the ideas of us being formed of our combined histories and memories. I’ve always believed that it isn’t your experiences that define you but how you stitch together the memories after. We are always reworking and redefining ourselves, creating new stitches to hold our minds and bodies together.

The Sewing Circle Rethread will open on 10th November and is open for viewing 9am-5pm Monday to Friday until  12th January at the Conference Centre Gallery, St Pancras Hospital, London. Film maker Anna Bowman will be making a short film about this exhibition. I’ve already been interviewed by Anna as part of The Art of Caring at St Pancras. You can see that by clicking HERE.

 

Advertisements

The Art of Caring

Recently I took part in an exhibition called The Art of Caring which was held at St Pancras Hospital in London. The art I created, with Graham Parker, for this show was linked to revisiting memories and the healing process we go through as part of facing a major (potentially terminal) illness. It looked at creating a sense of something new from the ashes of the old as well as how we can look forward together in the art of caring.

But don’t read any more of this. What you actually want is to visit the exhibition, digitally, in video form, and hear all about the exhibition itself from the artists and organisers themselves. Graham and I went up to London St Pancras Hospital and were interviewed for our part in the show. Skip to around 8 mins 45 if you want to see us in action.

Enjoy!

Melanie Ezra and Graham Parker 'New Forms 7' (detail)

‘New Forms’ Melanie Ezra and Graham Parker

Local Exposure

Some of my pictures are currently showing at the Local Exposure show over at the Workers Gallery in Ynyshir. It’s an exciting exhibition showcasing works demonstrating a connection to the South Wales Valleys, inspired by local community, local history, the streetscapes, or landscapes.

The question for me is “What is local?” If local is a geographical thing then at what point of measurement do places cease to become local? I’ve asked friends in the US what they consider to be local and they’ve told me that local is within a 5hr car journey. For us in the southwest of the UK this means local could be as far as the fringes of Scotland.

To me, local is a view of the South Wales valleys, mountains, and beaches from the hill near my home here in the city. Local is also the whole of South Wales though since I have friends and connections in various towns, cities, and villages all across South Wales. I’m forever travelling between valleys or scooting up and down the M4 motorway. Local isn’t just the Rhondda Valleys (where the Workers Gallery is located), it’s the friendships I currently have across various places and the memories I have of these spaces. Local is about familiar places and deep-rooted connections. Local can be what you make it, but you have to make it yours first.

This piece Playing in the Sunflower Fields of Dyfatty is currently showing as part of Local Exposure. It’s several layers of hand cut photograph assembled and held with paper fasteners. Dyfatty is very local to me. It isn’t in a valley. It has no hills. It has tower blocks and traffic. It’s about as urban as you can get*. The sunflower fields of Dyfatty appear annually along with several wildflower fields nearby. I’ve noticed various town councils plant these small fields on traffic islands and next to roads to help local wildlife as well as bring a slice of sanity to those of us ever shifting between our local spaces. Wales is lovely and unspoiled in so many ways so when we have felt the need to plant urban structures there’s also an instinctive drive to counter this and return to nature somehow  From junkies to judges, school children to sisters of mercy, virtually everyone I’ve met in South Wales feels a deep connection the natural landscape here in Wales. It’s a heritage we’re proud to preserve.

When I took the original sunflowers photograph I was surrounded by thousands of bees, and hundreds of passing cars, and yet I was also at peace and quite alone. This small sanctuary on a triangle of land near one of the busiest traffic junctions in town was my playground and my paradise. This is my local.

Local Exposure runs 10am-5pm Thur-Sat until 4th November (or by appointment). Workers Gallery is also celebrating its 3rd birthday soon. To recognise this they are holding a special birthday bash on Sunday 29th October 3-6pm. As part of promotional activity they will be offering 10% discount for Workers Mates on a whole heap of things. Contact them directly to find out more. Email: wood4tt@gmail.com or visit: Workers Gallery 99 Ynyshir Road, Ynyshir, Porth, CF39 0EN

MEzra1b

Playing in the Sunflower Fields of Dyfatty

*I showed a photo of Dyfatty’s architecture once to someone unfamiliar with the area and they thought I was in Berlin. That’s how urban this place is.

Empowerment and Employability

Camera Confidence is all about helping people realise who they are and what they have to offer. Empowerment comes from having the guts to give new things a go and using the support around you to make things happen for yourself. With the right attitude so much is possible if you’re willing to take a chance. What’s the worst that could happen? You get rejected in some way? A course turns out not to be what you wanted? So what? Who cares? What have you lost? In the great scheme of things you’re still alive and kicking so just pick yourself up and dust yourself down and crack on with the next challenge. People who are a success aren’t necessarily successful all the time. They are just more willing to experiment in the possibilities of what can work for them.

Our participants are working out where they want to head in life and what challenge they want to tackle next. Their goal throughout the course was to be confident enough to stand at the front and lead a presentation of their photographs. In four weeks (only 8 hours total) this could feel like a massive challenge but they achieved it. Standing and presenting yourself to your peers is not a comfortable experience but it’s a really valuable skill to have. Being able to walk into a room with your head held high and know that you are good enough is a huge boost to confidence. It makes you more employable. It makes you more able to tackle the crap that life throws at you and be able to challenge your comfort zones. It makes you more able to be the best you that you can be. You can’t get better than that can you?

Cutting it!

I’ve been over in Ynyshir today at the Workers Gallery delivering a special workshop for just two participants. It’s not often I run workshops about my own personal art practice. This isn’t because I’m secretive about my processes – it’s just that I’m amazed that anyone wants to know. I suppose that’s my own lack of ego that places my own creative musings at the bottom of the heap. My ideas and methods are just how I work and I don’t consider them special in any way. Luckily others see what I do in a different way to me, and that’s how today came about.

So today I delivered Cutting It!, a four hour workshop sharing all the ways I use the scalpel in my art. We considered everything from collage using photography, to creating greetings cards through simple paper cutting and layering. It’s a really liberating experience just letting go and cutting up stuff. Gluing it back together again is the complicated bit but it doesn’t have to be stressful. The best thing about cutting up photographs is that you can always get more printed. Any erroneous cuts are just opportunities waiting to take you in a new direction. Any rogue glue can be rubbed away when dry. There’s no way you can go wrong if you’re expecting strange and random results!

Julie and Dale hadn’t created art in this way before so it was interesting seeing what they could do after just a few hours. I’m considering running more workshops like these in the future. If you’d like me to hold one for you just get in touch below and I’ll see what I can do for you.

Dale

Dale

Julie

Julie

Would you employ me?

Today we got to grips with our Camera Confidence by thinking about how we can come across as more confident that we really are. Being confident can be different to displaying confidence and there’s a few tricks you can use to make sure that a first impression is the right impression.

We chatted about body language, sincerity, eye contact, and presentation whilst considering how we come across to others. Having the front to give things a go can be part of the battle in overcoming nerves. Putting ourselves in the frame can be a good way to experiment with how, and who, we want to be.

Each participant was challenged to stand at the front of the group and present their photographs to each other. Talking about photographs you’ve taken of your peers can be very intimidating but it can also be fun. Our focus was always on the positive qualities we each have and how these strengths can benefit each of us in an interview situation. One of our participants had said previously she wouldn’t be able to stand in front of the group and talk, but she managed this on just the third week. I can’t wait to see what she will achieve by the end of the course!

Selling the strengths of other people is often easier than trying to consider our own strengths. Next week our intrepid photographic explorers will be thinking about their own strengths to demonstrate to the group everything they’ve learned. If they can do that they’ll walk all over any job interview situation they might encounter in the future.

Positives and Negatives

Today at Camera Confidence we challenged everyone to find the rubbish and turn it into something wonderful, after all one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. The beautiful autumn sunshine over Eaglesbush Valley in Neath made us feel warm and confident in hunting for our hidden treasure.

We thought about how these items came to be, and considered how this rubbish can be seen in a more positive way. We made up stories about the journeys these things might have been on and where they might be going next. These metaphors for our own well-being and our own personal journey showed us that even when the going gets tough, there’s always something to smile and feel positive about.

Life is beautiful even when it might seem a bit rubbish at times.