Bobby Britnell was the speaker for our November meeting on Zoom. She started her talk, My Creative Journey by telling us that she was desperate to leave school and her first jobs were making glamorous theatre costumes and she mentioned buying fabrics from Borvick Fabrics in Berwick Street, London. After a few years in industry, Bobby decided to go to the Battersea College of Education and then went on to teach at a secondary school in Guildford for 12 years. While working she took a City & Guilds course to expand her knowledge.
In 1986 she moved to South Shropshire, taught City & Guilds Design courses, got involved with school and community projects and the Julia Caprara School of Art.
Bobby then went on to talk about the Moor Hall Studio where she offers a great variety of textile and art related courses (see link below). Music and dance are important to her and she showed us a pieced quilt entitled Morning Star with musical notes on it, another was inspired by the moves of a Morris dance and a third showed a scarecrow wearing a tattered jacket inspired by a traditional story.
Bobby is a long standing member of the Textile Study Group (see link below) and talked about a challenge entitled “Not what it Seams” in which she constructed a 3D 8” high curved vessel and then took it further by constructing a large version sitting on a plinth which she could get inside.
An important period of Bobby’s life started when her son suggested she go to Uganda and she set up the Kisaabwa Project, which they registered as a charity. The aim was for it to be sustainable and eventually independent. A local teacher gave up his job to head the project which included basketry, making brooms, mats and making bark cloth.
I found it fascinating to learn how the bark on the tall straight Mutuba tree is cut at the top and bottom, peeled off and the trunk is then carefully wrapped with fresh banana leaves to encourage regrowth. To find out more look on Bobby’s website (see link below). Bobby has used the bark cloth for a lot of her work and one major project was inspired by the traditional omweso game. The registered charity was shut down 4 years ago and the project is now self-sufficient.
Following on from Bobby’s work with bark cloth she then went on to talk about Jose Hendo who is a fashion designer who uses bark cloth for her work. There is an interesting interview with Jose and the Costume Society together with photographs (see link below)
Another project which I remember well, was when Bobby worked with Janet Middleton to challenge people to create children’s slippers using bark cloth. These slippers were displayed at various exhibitions around the country and then auctioned to raise funds for the charity.
In between teaching, designing and creating her own work, Bobby has still found time to write a book entitled “Stitched Textiles: Flowers” which is readily available from booksellers or on the internet.
This was an amazing story involving many different people, countries, materials and techniques and we thank Bobby for sharing her experiences with us.
Bobby’s website: https://www.bobbybritnell.co.uk/.
To subscribe to Bobby’s newsletter either use Contact on her website or email email@example.com
Bobby’s courses at Moor Hall Studio: https://www.bobbybritnell.co.uk/courses
Bark cloth details on Bobby’s website: https://www.bobbybritnell.co.uk/about/bark-cloth/how-is-bark-cloth-made
Textile Study Group: https://textilestudygroup.co.uk/
Jose Hendo interview: https://costumesociety.org.uk/blog/post/an-interview-with-jose-hendo-part-1
Report by Ros
Photos taken from Bobby’s presentation with her permission.