Siân Martin PSG :: Iris Martin

A Dialogue between Siân Martin and her mother, Iris Martin

My ‘Creative Dialogue’ is with my mother Iris Martin, a designer/artist and embroiderer. She studied illustration and embroidery at Swansea Art School in the 1930s. Embroidery and design became her lifetime career in both teaching and creating. She was awarded the Broderers’ Cup by the Embroiderers’ Guild in 1999 for her life-long service to embroidery.

It has been an interesting experience to collate the items for this exhibition and to notice how closely our footsteps have walked very similar paths. Iris Martin taught City and Guilds Embroidery until she was 72 as well as undertaking numerous commissions for larger scale embroideries for churches and public buildings throughout Wales including a large-scale mural for the new Swansea City Council Chambers worked collaboratively with Swansea Embroiderers’ Guild and the full set of ecclesiastical regalia for Bangor Cathedral to celebrate their 500th anniversary.

I was brought up in a household busy with designing and making. My career path led into art college where I studied embroidery and then into exhibiting and teaching of art, design and embroidery. My own textile work involves manipulating the textile surface, incorporating stitch and digital imagery.

The female figure featured strongly in Iris’s designs. I remember being intrigued by the way she converted the undulating forms of the figure into sparse and beautiful shapes in her many ‘Mother and Child’ embroidered banners. Her strong graphic style of designing shows also in her paintings and prints. Iris painted, designed and stitched several pieces of work featuring the women cockle gatherers of Penclawdd on the Gower Peninsular; familiar to me as a child in the old Swansea market selling their freshly gathered cockles. A digital print using a scanned image of her painting of a cockle-gatherer has been used as a faded image on the manipulated fabrics in several pieces of my own recent work.

Together, Iris and Edward, my father, designed and marketed a much sought-after series of printed cards at Christmas time featuring their wood cuts or scraper board designs of local views. The bold black and white designs were reproduced as a short print run and then hand coloured by us as a family team. My personal favourites were designs of shells which have featured in my work both using cockle shells to form shibori shapes in ‘To Warm the Cockles of my Heart’ and as inspiration in the 3D shell forms in ‘Shelter Collection’.

work by Siân Martin in Creative Dialogues

detail of work by Siân Martin in Creative Dialogues

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