New College HND textile student Julie Halliwell won first prize in a local artist competition with a textile art piece inspired by heritage, sustainability, and mindfulness. Julie’s award-winning design has been recreated as a soft furnishing; that perfectly complements the show home's timelessly rustic motif.
The brief required participants to create artworks that demonstrate 'natural aged beauty' using upcycled, re-loved materials, with sustainability evident in the artwork. Celebrating the past in a way that satisfies the contemporary aesthetics of the au courant homeowner - can lead to a convoluted design; However, Julie balanced the semi-disparate concepts of 'now and then' in a celebration of both the past and present. Using ‘mindfulness’ in the artwork's creation to firmly anchor it in the here and now – juxtaposed with the upcycled materials – creates a wistful sense of fond memories. The modern concept of mindfulness focuses on the current moment, allowing one to detach themselves from the worries of work, the worries of life in general – calming and cosy, the essence of home.
For Julie, Swindon's heritage holds fond nostalgic memories, as well as opportunities to reflect on the ever-quickening pace of life in the 21st century:
‘In 1972 I was born in Princess Margaret Hospital in Swindon’s Old Town and have remained in and around the area for 49 years. As a child I remember vividly the GWR hooter sounding out across the town signalling to workers the start or end of a shift. The nostalgia was palpable when that soft and haunting sound permeated the air for the last time in the late 1980’s. Until that day the backbone of Swindon was the railways. Since then, life has gathered pace, and rarely can we now anticipate a ‘job for life.’ As an HND Textiles student at New College, Swindon I have researched the benefits of mindful stitch as an effective move towards wellness – an antidote to the stress of twenty-first-century life. Making is an instinctive and intrinsic part of all of us, creating is fundamental. A connection back to the planet, back to other people, and ultimately, back to yourself. The mindfulness movement echoes the ever more urgent sustainability issues that we all face; we must consume less and be thoughtful of what we use.’
Using mindfulness as inspiration, and the method of creation for her artwork Julie set aside 20 minutes a day and throughout 2 and half weeks built a stitch journal. Julie used these 20 minutes as a moment of reflection – using the shape, frequency, and direction of stitches to represent her thoughts or current surroundings. Julie placed ‘natural aged beauty' and the practice of re-loved materials at the heart of her design, using all recycled fabrics and even using flowers grown within her garden to dye materials.
‘Carving out 20 minutes each day to sit and stitch offers up a time to reflect. The piece is not figurative, rather I would stitch the rhythm or pattern that was forthright in my mind that day but often with the contemplation of the town around me – the circles are often suggestive of sound and the straight running stitches of motion, moving forward. Every fabric used is a scrap from a previous project and the colours were pressed into the fabrics from the last of the summer colour in my garden or from local walks – a passionflower or a pelargonium before the first frosts’
Julie’s Award-winning design will be featured in the Oakfield projects show home, perfectly complementing the interior design of the home's rustic yet contemporary living spaces. Hopefully evoking the same warm nostalgia that went into its creation. Julie's piece, inspired by Swindon's past, becomes a part of Swindon's sustainable future.