Artists share their lockdown experiences ahead of exhibition at Babylon Gallery

PUBLISHED: 13:48 09 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:55 09 September 2020

After nearly two years in planning, the Babylon Gallery in Ely will host Anglia Textile Works’ ‘In The Fens’ exhibition from September 10 to 27. Spring in the Fields. Picture: ANNETTE MORGAN

After nearly two years in planning, the Babylon Gallery in Ely will host Anglia Textile Works’ ‘In The Fens’ exhibition from September 10 to 27. Spring in the Fields. Picture: ANNETTE MORGAN

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After nearly two years in planning, the Babylon Gallery will host Anglia Textile Works’ ‘In The Fens’ exhibition from September 10 to 27.

After nearly two years in planning, the Babylon Gallery in Ely will host Anglia Textile Works’ ‘In The Fens’ exhibition from September 10 to 27. Fen field studies. Picture: NIKI CHANDLERAfter nearly two years in planning, the Babylon Gallery in Ely will host Anglia Textile Works’ ‘In The Fens’ exhibition from September 10 to 27. Fen field studies. Picture: NIKI CHANDLER

When Anglia Textile Works made the decision to exhibit at Ely’s Babylon Gallery, the group never have anticipated doing so in the midst of a pandemic.

As Covid-19 took hold in Britain, the group’s eight members soon began to wonder if their exhibition in September would actually take place at all.

But the gallery team has done everything possible to ensure the exhibition goes ahead, making the gallery safe for visitors

After nearly two years in planning, the Babylon Gallery in Ely will host Anglia Textile Works’ ‘In The Fens’ exhibition from September 10 to 27. ATW ancient and modern. Ely Cathedral. Picture: KATHY COLLEDGEAfter nearly two years in planning, the Babylon Gallery in Ely will host Anglia Textile Works’ ‘In The Fens’ exhibition from September 10 to 27. ATW ancient and modern. Ely Cathedral. Picture: KATHY COLLEDGE

and artists.

Working towards the exhibition during the pandemic affected members of ATW in a variety of ways.

Niki Chandler from Cambridge turned her hand to sewing for the NHS and found that co-ordinating a small group of women of all abilities to make scrubs changed her experience of lockdown.

It was on the return journey from dropping off the first batch of items at Addenbrooke’s Hospital that she came across the field of acid yellow oilseed rape that gave new direction for her body of stitched works for ‘In the Fens’.

Despite living a 10-minute walk from Cambridge she is only 10 minutes from acres of arable farm land and regular once-a-day lockdown walks into the countryside allowed her to absorb the subtly changing colours of vast fields of barley and rapeseed.

MORE: Babylon Arts announce public-voted winning artists who will receive a £1,800 commission

Niki said: “At the start of 2020 I was working on a very different piece for the exhibition. My creative stitch practice is normally a solitary, quiet, meditative daily experience.

“The pandemic changed that - my husband moved into the living room to run his architectural practice and my daughter reclaimed her bedroom (my work space) and remotely finished her tailoring qualification.

“Relegated to a small table in the spare bedroom, I found I was unable to continue on my original piece so I packed it all away. I found solace in the garden where I tried my hand at natural plant dyeing - totally not my usual way of working.”

Some members of the group have taken part in the national effort to make scrubs and scrubs bags for the NHS.

Making bags with Yvonne Brown from Feltwell prompted Kathy Colledge, who lives in Sheringham, to get back to her sewing machine after a period of ‘lockdown lethargy’ that was proving difficult to shake off.

It also planted the seed of an idea to use a bag on which to print some of the jargon that surfaced during the pandemic; a sort of social document, recording challenging times.

Lucie Summers from Worlington in Suffolk found that the pandemic gave her time to stop and take stock and then begin again at a slower speed.

“I certainly felt that my world, like everyone’s, shrank to four walls but I felt incredibly lucky to still be able to get out into fields and meadows on a daily basis and not see another soul.

“Being in nature was definitely grounding during the days when world events seemed to be overwhelming.

“Hearing birdsong, and watching the crops growing day by day was a balm to the soul and definitely helped inform my work for the exhibition.

“All of my pieces are based on my immediate environment, and think however uncertain events seemed at the time, the slower pace of life helped me to create a body of work of which I’m really proud.”

As members of the group are spread across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge and Essex, they usually meet only four or five times a year.

Even this has proved difficult of late but they have been able to ‘meet’ on Zoom which has been helpful in the run up to the show.

Members of the group are: Mai-Britt Axelsen, Yvonne Brown, Niki Chandler, Kathy Colledge, Chrissy Leech, Annette Morgan, Lucie Summers, and Cherry Vernon-Harcourt.


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