Gemma Sangwine

Unique and bespoke millinery, fascinators and bridal tiaras

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Guest Exhibiting at Atelier for Select 2016

After opening our studio at Stafford Mill for the Select Trail for the last 5 years, we took a break in 2015 and enjoyed being tourists and visiting local artists and craftsmen for a change.

But in May 2016 I decided to join in again and took the opportunity to exhibit at Atelier Stroud, along with Heloise of Pink Frazada, Heather Haskins (Atelier’s resident seamstress), Francesca Chalk’s printed textiles, Polly Lyster’s Dye Works and Deborah Roberts Photography.

Atelier is a light, airy, friendly and relaxed space which hosts a sewing club and regular workshops. For the Select Trail the sewing machines were put away and our group of local artists and makers moved in, laying out our wares and generally taking over!

We had lots of visitors over the two weekends, many of whom had never been to Atelier before, so it was great to introduce them to the space, and to talk about our own work.


For me it was a bonus to be able to just rock up with all my stock and display props and set up my stall, rather than having to tidy up my own studio to make it presentable for visitors, which if you have ever visited us at Stafford Mill, you will know it is quite a task.

I end up frantically pushing boxes under tables and randomly shoving materials and equipment into drawers….and then spending the following months looking for them!

Later this year you can catch me as a guest exhibitor at the Made in Chalford Christmas Fair at The Victoria Works Studios, Chalford, on the 3rd & 4th December 2016.

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Creativity in the Stroud Valleys

I have lived in Stroud for 10 years now, and feel very lucky to have settled in such a beautiful, vibrant and creative area. Nearly everyone you bump into is an artist or maker of some sort, or closely related to one.

The Studio at Stafford MillThere is a strong history of the textile industry with many old weaving and spinning mills, often built by the river Frome to make use of water power, and some of those that survive have been converted into offices or studios, including Stafford Mill where I have a studio alongside my sister Victoria of Studio Vee, and fellow Winchester School of Art graduate Nick of Leto & Ariadne.

In the month of May, over two weekends, many of these artists and makers throw open the doors of their work spaces for the SIT Select Trail and SVA Open Studios. Having taken part and opened our own workshop for the last 4 years, this time we decided to opt out and visit some of the studios we have heard so much about but never been able to get to!

Here are some of my highlights;

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Welcome to our Material World!

The last two weekends have been a hectic whirl, as we opened our studio at Stafford Mill as part of the SIT Textile Trail.

There is a rich textile heritage in the Stroud Valleys, as it was once a world leader in the production of woven textiles. It is home to the Stroudwater Textile Trust, and Stroud International Textiles who organise the Textile Trail. The trail is only in it’s second year, but has been a great successes, and is a welcome forum for local textile artists, designers and makers to showcase their work, helping to keep the Textile heritage alive and relevant.

We had just under 300 visitors over the course of the 4 days, including plenty of familiar faces, old and new. It’s always a bit daunting opening up what is normally a private and personal working studio space. I am fortunate to share the space with my sister, who also works with recycled textiles, and we have my good friend and fellow graduate from Winchester School of Art, Nick, in the studio downstairs.

Victoria and I find it particularly heartening to meet fellow recyclers, who have often made the trip out especially to see us. They admire the shelves stacked high with neatly folded lengths and swatches of fabric, wool blankets and tweed coats, and suitcases stuffed full of old jumpers. One lady even took a photo to show her husband, so he couldn’t complain about her hoarding habit, which was quite minor in comparison!

One of the tips we picked up were to keep even the tiniest scraps of natural fibres – wool, cotton, linen, viscose – and save them up to go on the compost heap. These scraps are called ‘Shoddy’, and spawned a whole recycling industry in the 19th century when old woollen clothing was ground down and re-spun into new yarn to be woven into cloth. I already get a pair of wrist warmers, a pair of slippers, and numerous mobile phone pouches and flower corsages, out of just one felted woollen jumper, but I find it satisfying to know even the smallest scraps can still be put to good use. Perfect timing too as Nick and I have recently taken on an allotment, and the compost heap is currently fermenting grass cuttings and weeds, which need cardboard egg boxes and natural fibres to temper the nitrogen from the green matter.