Ruby Squares: Marlborough area embroiderers' mark their 40th anniversary with an exhibition

Written by Tony Millett on .

[Click on image to enlarge it][Click on image to enlarge it]Centre stage - literally - at the Marlborough and District Branch of the Embroiderers' Guild exhibition at the Kennet Valley Hall in Lockeridge, are the embroidered squares members were asked to make to mark the branch's fortieth birthday.  

Preparing for the Ruby Birthday last autumn, Chairman Yvonne Miles challenged members to create ten inch squares using ruby red with a splash of another colour.  The results are stunning as a mass exhibit - and intriguing as you look more carefully at the individual squares.

In some ways this extensive exhibition charts embroidery's progression from complex stitching towards what they now call 'textile art' - using many different techniques and materials. Although this still uses many basic embroidery methods and stitches - it can provide a freer and more liberating creative inspiration.

Indeed there is some talk of trying to persuade the central Embroiderers' Guild organisation to change its name to reflect this wider use of new and different techniques and the growing appeal of 'textile art'.

On permanent display in the Kennet Valley Hall is the Guild's 'Upper Kennet Valley Embroidery' - the Hall is where the branch holds its monthly meetings.   For this exhibition another major work has been loaned by the Friends of Savernake Hospital.  In 1981 Marlborough area embroiderers created a striking display depicting great and influential women - details pictured below.  

Coco ChanelCoco Chanel Barbara HepworthBarbara Hepworth Amy Johnson Amy Johnson

The hanging was created by a group of ladies under the guidance of a tutor, Kay Norris, who taught at Chippenham College.  But further than that little is known about the hanging - and branch members are keen to find out more.  If anyone has any information about the origins of this hanging they are asked to contact the Branch.

Thirty-five years later the choice of women and the techniques used give us a fascinating glance back in time.  It certainly begs the question who would the members choose for a repeat performance next year and what would a new display look like?

Detail of Nichola Vesey Williams' 'New York, New York'Detail of Nichola Vesey Williams' 'New York, New York'The branch has a Young Embroiderers Group with members between six and eighteen years. 

Their 'Tree of Hands' in the exhibition [detail at left] is really eye-catching and shows a strongly imaginative use of materials.

One wonders how 'embroidery' and 'textile art' will have developed by the time the branch celebrates its fiftieth anniversary.

The exhibition is open today (Sunday, April 24) and on Monday till 4.30pm.  Full details here.