Making Uncovered: Elena Hall

elena hall1Elena Hall draws on tradition and a love of colour to inspire her unique knitted jewellery designs.

At Making Uncovered she will be demonstrating some of the techniques behind her work, including bobbin knitting and crochet.

Tell us a bit about your work.
I knit and crochet modern jewellery in neon embroidery threads, copper, recycled silver and semi-precious stones. The pieces I make are inspired by traditional techniques and are delicate, structured and original.

As well as my work with jewellery I also work with embroidery, and this has influenced the jewellery I make through the choice of materials – I crochet with chain and embroidery thread and knit with silver or copper and threads. I also incorporate semi-precious stones and colourful vintage beads into some of these.

I live and make in Brixton and sell via my website as well as at London designer maker fairs. I also work to commission, doing bespoke pieces for special events such as weddings and also to be sold through galleries.

Why are you taking part in Making Uncovered? elena hall3
I’ve been part of Makerhood for two years now and think it’s a fantastic network for connecting up creative people and spreading the word to the local community about how much interesting and unusual work is being produced close to where they live.

Equally it gives makers the opportunity to meet interested people based locally.

I visited last year’s Making Uncovered and it was completely buzzing with people and interesting makers, so when I heard Makerhood were organising another one this year I jumped at the chance to be involved.

I’m really looking forward to meeting lots of local people and seeing some of the demonstrations from other makers.

What will you be doing at Making Uncovered?

elena hall4I’m going to be running a workshop on making a crocheted silver chain bracelet with neon embroidery thread.

Throughout the day I’ll also be showing some of the other techniques I use in my work and the range of jewellery I make.

Elena’s workshop starts at 1.30pm and costs £10, including materials. Limited spaces available – book your ticket here.


Meet the makers: Viv Moriarty

Knitter, crocheter and embroiderer Viv Moriarty is fascinated by the link between thinking and doing – something that she puts to good use when teaching

1. How long have you been knitting and crocheting?
All the women in my family – my aunts, granny and mum – knitted and crocheted, so I’ve done it as long as I can remember. I was knitting even when it wasn’t trendy: I used to knit things for friends at school – remember those 1970s Patricia Roberts’ sweaters? My mum is 86 and still can’t sit in front of the telly without crocheting. We were great believers in the devil finding work for idle hands to do!

2. What about embroidery?
I made some dining chair covers in Florentine tapestry – it took me years. And then I found that they wear out in certain areas where people sit! I also did a Certificate of Technical Embroidery at the Royal College of Needlework – I’m currently working on the Diploma.

3. And now you teach textiles as well as teaching in your day job?
I did a PGCE after university and taught in a primary school for a while. I used to do felting with the children – it fulfils the science curriculum about changing materials! Now I teach practising teachers who are studying for MAs and PhDs – but I also teach knitting and crochet to residents of a residents’ association in Notting Hill.

4. The two types of teaching sound quite different!
Yes! There’s a lot of “brain work” with the MA and PhD students, and it’s very much about individual endeavour, working on a one-to-one basis. With the residents’ association, although they have their own knitting, crochet or embroidery, we are making squares for a blanket, so there is a collective outcome. I also have to be quite adaptable – for example, some people can’t hold a crochet hook because they’ve had a stroke or have Parkinson’s disease. But I really enjoy working with them – they are of the generation who appreciate how much time goes into making something by hand.

5. And you’ve run several workshops for Makerhood as well.
Doing workshops for Makerhood really helped develop my confidence. And talking to other makers has opened my mind to other techniques and possibilities, as well as widening my social skills. My day job doesn’t  involve talking to people about creative things like this!

6. What about selling your items at markets?
I started selling through Makerhood because I didn’t know what to do with all the stuff I make. I wasn’t quite sure they were good enough, but one of my friends was really encouraging and gave me confidence. So I do have a stall and I’d like to sell more – but I think I’m better at teaching!

7. And finally – would you like to share some Stockwell secrets with us?
There’s the house where Van Gogh used to live at 87 Hackford Road [currently up for auction on 27 March with a guide price of £475,000]. Di Lieto Bakery on South Island Place sells fantastic croissants. And Tony’s Greengrocers on Brixton Road is a great family business that sells very reasonably priced fruit and veg.

You can see Viv’s cute knitted toys, crocheted booties and elegant embroidered brooches at One of Viv’s brooches is also featured in the March 2012 issue of Mollie Makes magazine.

Alighiero Boetti at Tate Modern

Making art from “upcycled” materials and textiles may be very fashionable now, but it’s been around for a while, as a new exhibition at Tate Modern shows.

Alghiero Boetti was born in Turin in 1940, and his first exhibitions featured many of the materials from the industries in the city – car paint from the Fiat plant, a plexiglass cube filled with wonderful contrasting textures of wood offcuts, plastic piping, styrofoam packing, fibreglass and corrugated cardboard. There’s even a classical fluted column made from cake doilies stacked on a metal pole!

But it was when he started taking an interest in travel and geopolitics that textiles came to the fore. After the Six Day War in the Middle East in 1967, he asked his wife to embroider the shapes of the territories occupied by Israel. He also coloured in a school map so that each country was represented by its flag, and took it to Afghanistan, where he commissioned local craftswomen to embroider a larger version. This was the first of his maps, which was done in Bokhara stitch, a very dense but time-consuming couching.

There’s a whole room of these embroidered maps made between 1971 and 1994, and it’s fascinating to see the changes over the years. Early maps used the Mercator projection, where Greenland is the same size as Africa, before switching to a Robinson projection. You can also track political shifts, as the flag of Portugal was replaced by Angola in 1983, and the last map from 1994 loses a great block of red as the former USSR is broken up into a collection of independent states.

The embroidery canvases were designed in Italy and sent to Afghanistan (and later Pakistan) to be embroidered, but Boetti often left gaps for the Afghans to include their own messages, so the borders juxtapose Italian texts with Persian messages about exile, composed by Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

The refugees also wove 50 kilims, some of which are on display. The pattern of these kilims is based on a grid of 100 squares, each of which is also subdivided into 100 squares, or pixels. The corner square starts off as one white pixel and 99 black pixels; the next one is two black pixels and 98 white pixels; the next one is three white pixels and 97 black pixels. So as the number of pixels follows a progression, the colours alternate.

As well as embroidery, Boetti explored lots of other concepts, including postal works using different combinations and patterns of stamps, and a lamp that lights up at random for 11 seconds a year (which didn’t occur during my visit!).

I particularly loved his works produced using biro pens, where individual students covered large sheets of paper with tiny blue strokes of biro. Even though they were all using the same tool, the different styles of mark making are very apparent, punctuated by white commas that encode various phrases. The overall effect reminded me of Japanese indigo dyeing.

The final room is a riot of colour, with three large embroideries called Tutto (Everything). Boetti cut out lots of images from magazines and newspapers and laid them out on canvas so that they all fitted together, then traced around them before sending them off to be embroidered.


There were lots of ideas in this exhibition – about the role of the artist being to explore inefficiency and wasting time, about how artists are expected to be private creators and at the same time public showmen producing spectacle, about creating a new world from pre-existing materials.

Indeed, the final exhibit of Boetti’s bronze self portrait on the balcony shows the artist spraying water onto his head, which conceals a heating mechanism, causing the water to turn to steam and evaporate. As the exhibition guide notes, “he shows himself as a thinker with so many ideas that he needs to cool himself down”.

Alghiero Boetti: Game Plan is at Tate Modern until 27 May 2012.