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And so it begins….

This post not only brings you the first scribblings of The Patchwork Quill, but also the beginning of August Craft Month 2011, as well as an innovative new arts venue in Lisburn.

Craft Month is the first of an overwhelming number and variety of festivals, events and fairs coming up this month. I am ridiculously excited!

So, here’s what August Craft Month looks like.  I also recommend heading to the main Craft NI website. 

I attended the launch event on Saturday, Anna Dumitriu‘s science-inspired textile exhibition, Normal Flora. It was also the opening exhibition for R-Space @ The Linen Rooms, a newly opened art venue on Lisburn’s Castle Street, which I plan to feature on the blog in more detail in the future.

With boarded-up windows, barely-dry plaster walls and dusty concrete floors, the main gallery space still appears to be a work-in-progress, but the stark setting actually worked well as a backdrop to Anna’s work.

‘Normal flora’ is a term referring to the natural microbes and bacteria that surround us in everyday life, and that is basically what Dumitriu explores in her textile-based work. Essentially, she grows bacterial cultures in agar jelly in a laboratory and introduces these onto fabric, producing a variety of organic designs in surprisingly pleasing colours. Her best-known work is the MRSA Quilt.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t too inspired when I read about this as an artistic concept. An interesting enough idea to try out once or twice, but could Dumitriu really fill an exhibition with splodges of coloured bacteria on fabric?

But this exploration of bacteria is something which has captured the artist’s imagination, and she manages to be truly imaginative in her presentation of the concept.

She acts as artist in residence at a number of science-based university projects, which includes her role as the Leverhulme Trust artist in residence on the UK Clinical Research Consortium Project, based at the University of Oxford.

The relationship between art and science is one she says has always fascinated her, pointing out the importance to both disciplines of experimentation and creative thinking. 

One of my personal favourites in the Normal Flora exhibition was the lab coat she swabbed and, after cultivating its bacteria in the lab, translated the resulting blobs and swirls into intricate white embroidery, painstakingly hand-sewn back on to the coat.

I also loved Anna’s chair and crocheted throw. The chair features carvings representing bacteria swabbed from it, and the throw – amazingly – is a crocheted representation of bacteria swabbed from the artist’s own bed!

Anna joked on the day of the exhibition: “It’s the bacteria from my bed – what else would I do but turn it into a blanket?!”

You could say these stood out for me because dress-making, furniture customisation and knitting appeal to me. But I really did find myself captured by this idea of making the invisible visible, and emphasising the point by rendering it back on to the object in question, as with the coat and chair. 

The exhibition continues at R-Space until September 17th, and Anna returns to the gallery on August 24th to hold a workshop – Bioart and Textiles : Unnecessary Research and Collaborative Practice in Art and Science. Participants will learn to stain fabric with bacteria and moulds and embroider with antibiotic thread.

The workshop’s free (loads of the other Craft Month workshops seem to be as well –  whoop!) but you need to book in advance through the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum by ringing 028 9266 3377 or emailing 

Lab coat embroidery detail

Anna Dumitriu and the MRSA Quilt

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