Sampler – Culture Clash: The Review

On Thursday in Brixton, the Vodafone Live Music Awards took place. In all the nearby bars were people being trendy. Or so they thought.
In a building just off Brighton Terrace, something amazing was taking place.

Sampler-Culture Clash is part of a project being curated by David Littler who, in a moment of inspiration in a pub, decided to examine the dynamic between the two loves of his life – music and textiles. He has used the word “sampler” as his basis and is exploring the similarities between music sampling and embroidery sampling. There’s a lot more connection that you first think:
– Needles
– Weaving (sounds and fabric)
– Patterns
– Politics
– Communication
The list goes on. It’s worth reading the blog about the project to see how strong the connections are. It’s quite amazing.

So when I found about the project I simply had to go.

I arrived at 6.30 to be greeted by the sight of a thirty foot long table, with a huge piece of fabric and all manner of embroidery materials on it. Sitting at the table were some of the wonderful ladies from the New Embroidery Group who beckons me over, and before you knew it we were chatting about blackwork and all kinds of stitchery nonsense.
The fabric was there for people to embroider whatever they chose, as a collaborative piece. So I sat down and tried thinking outside of the cross. Which was a challenge at first, but then you kinda get into it, and before I knew it I was writing my favourite graffiti tag – “keep warm” and doing a bit of couch stitch. All new stuff for me, but I felt quietly confident.

After a while, more people had arrived and at one point there were about thirty people stitching on the thing at various places. What was great was the variety of people taking part, and the effect that communal stitching had in breaking down barriers. The traditional British reserve of not talking to strangers went out of the window, and I met some really interesting people.
There was Monica, the pattern designer who was studying her way through the world of textiles.
There was Jason Singh, sound artist extraordinaire – more on him in a bit.
There was Yusra Warsama, urban poetry goddess and excellent tea maker.
And then the ladies from the NEG, who were so friendly and welcoming and willing to explore different views on embroidery and outlooks on life.
It was a lovely atmosphere and people who’d come along for the music were sitting down and doing their bit.

I had a great chat with Jason and Yusra, who responded really well to my ideas about contemporary cross-stitch. They both came from the music/performing background but you could tell that the project had gotten them a bit hooked. So we chatted a lot, which is why I didn’t stitch as much as I could have done. Now here’s a mad thing – Jason’s got this software which can convert patterns and shapes into sound. I can’t quite get my head around it, but one of the things they’ve done is make sounds from bits of traditional sampler and composed tunes from them. Mindboggling!

Then all of a sudden it was 8.30 and it was show time.
We all went upstairs into the offices of the London Printworks Trust for the show.
In the exhibition space there was a bar, serving wine, beer and cups of tea, and then various spaces on the walls for people to explore sampling. You could use small pieces of graph paper and make patterns, some of which would be turned into sounds later on. There were photocopies of a traditional 18th century sampler, and you were invited to cut and paste new phrases out of them. Monica had done one that was beautifully poetic.

The show began with an introduction from David, who is really honest and modest and passionate about what he does. Then we had:
– A beat box monologue from Jason
– Poetry from the ladies of the NEG
– Poems from Yusra, inspired by samplers seen at the Victoria & Albert Museum
– A video of a traditional stitching song that was recorded by the NEG ladies at a recording studio
– Breakdancing from the Brixton B-Girls

It was superb. So superb that I forgot to take any pictures.
There was a real eclectic bunch of people there a great time was had by all.

Before you knew it, it was 10pm and I had to leave to get home. But I left feeling inspired and exhilarated.
Crafts are coming back in a big way, and events like this just show that although we think we’ve gotten away from all that traditional stuff, we’re just on a circular path and we’re coming back to it big style.

I can’t wait to see what David (in the pic above) comes up with next!

Mr X

Mr X

Director at Mr X Stitch
The Kingpin of Contemporary Embroidery.
Mr X


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