Spotlight on Through Our Hands
It was a chance invitation to participate in a one-off exhibition that began a friendship and collaboration which has led to the development of a portfolio website, series of exhibitions, and now an online magazine. We feel that Laura and Annabel’s mission aligns with that of TextileArtist.org and were keen to help spread the word. Here Laura Kemshall explains how Through Our Hands was born and continues to grow.
A passion for quilting
Life with Through Our Hands began in 2012 when I was invited by Annabel Rainbow to be part of an exhibition of art quilts she was curating for Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum. Annabel, always a champion of quilts and textiles, was keen to gather together her top ten favourite quilt artists from around the world and luckily I was amongst the chosen ones! The Gallery had never before displayed a show of quilts and were amazed at the response from the public; it proved to be one of their most successful exhibitions ever with over 25,000 visitors from all around the world. With such a positive outcome it was clear there was a demand for more from the audience. Shortly afterwards, following lots of emails back and forth, Annabel and I somehow found ourselves with a mission to do more and to continue to promote textiles, and art quilts in particular, out to a wider art-based audience. Annabel’s infectious enthusiasm got me inspired, but little did I know where it would lead.
The name Through Our Hands, which had been chosen for the Leamington exhibition, seemed somehow still entirely appropriate for the project. Any organisation or event’s name sets the tone and invites expectations from the public and we were mindful not to restrict ourselves at this early stage. Definitions by their very nature can be limiting so we avoided reference to technique, materials, even genre. Through Our Hands is representative of a diverse group of artists but linking them all is that something is made and achieved by each individual through the use of their artistic skills. While the majority of the collective work with quilts as their primary format, the scope of Through Our Hands is broader than that, and is something which we’re keen to embrace further.
Raising awareness of textiles
The Through Our Hands website currently features the portfolios of 20 established and highly regarded invited artists, working in a variety of media, primarily stitched textiles including quiltmaking and embroidery, and also drawing, painting and print. With us from the beginning have been wonderful artists such as Bethan Ash (recently featured on TextileArtist.org), Alicia Merrett and Elizabeth Barton. Since that first group of 10 we have invited others such as Bente Vold Klausen, Mirjam Pet-Jacobs and Linda Colsh (see Linda’s interview for TextileArtist.org). The website offers the artists a convenient platform from which to promote their work. Annabel and I actively engage with galleries and event organisers to spread the word about the TOH artists and raise awareness of their work, particularly to events and venues who are not so familiar with exhibiting textiles, yet! Since the debut exhibition, Through Our Hands has also exhibited at Festival of Quilts and we are now looking forward to the next outing which will be in 2015 at Bilston Gallery, part of WAVE.
More than a showcase
We wanted the website to be more than just a showcase. As well as the artists’ individual portfolios, we provide the opportunity to sell work, both providing details of larger pieces and a shop for instant purchase of smaller works. There’s also a blog, and exciting videos of techniques featuring the artists at work and being interviewed.
Newly launched is the Through Our Hands magazine. The magazine began as a daily blog written by Annabel and I to help attract visitors and curators to the website, but it proved so popular, that it quickly grew into something much more, and now reflects a growing interest in the website artists and their work. We wanted to put together a magazine that we would like to find on the newsagent’s shelf, a lively mix of articles showcasing what TOH artists are up to, but also featuring content by guest authors, expert technique guides and what’s-on listings.
What makes Through Our Hands different?
We know there’s a wealth of books and magazines out there already but we’ve made the decision to stay entirely online. While there’d certainly be a personal thrill of walking into WHSmiths to find our publication on the shelves there are of course certain limitations to being in print. Being digital means we can publish and distribute immediately so that the content is always new and fresh. We can go mad and have as many pages and as much glorious colour as we like! Most importantly we can make the magazine as accessible and affordable as possible, indeed the first two issues are available worldwide and completely free. We hope that what makes the magazine a bit special is the mix of content. We’re serious about art and about promoting it to new audiences, but we’re neither solemn nor high-brow. We strongly believe in a friendly and inclusive approach. The magazine retains a light hearted tone with regular articles such as Desert Island Designs, Starving Artist and Soapbox alongside the more conventional features that you’d expect from an art magazine.
When we published the first issue in May 2014 Annabel and I had absolutely no clue about how it would be received and whether it would be a success. It’s no understatement to say we’ve been thrilled with the reaction. For the second issue, due out in early August we’re drafting in a third co-editor, Linda Kemshall, to help us pack the magazine with loads of inspirational ideas and articles. We’re delighted that Linda’s coming on board not only for her wealth of experience with art and textiles, but also because she’s the only one of the three of us who knows where to put an apostrophe. If Through Our Hands is new to you, we hope you enjoy discovering more about us and what we do. It’s proving to be a very exciting journey and it would be a pleasure to have you along for the ride. For more information about Through Our Hands please visit www.throughourhands.co.uk
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