Maker Reflections – Angie Parker

By CAA Admin

Maker Reflections – Angie Parker
The Bristol Blanket 2020 by Angie Parker, lambswool, 190x140. Photograph by Studio Article.
Our new CAA web feature, Maker Reflections, foregrounds our members and their thoughts on making and creativity.

In the first instalment of our maker reflections, Angie Parker tells the story of how the pandemic and lockdown inspired her Bristol Blanket.

With this feature, we wanted to give our maker members an opportunity to express and share their thoughts on materials and making. In addition, we asked them to reflect on their place in the creative landscape which surrounds us. Given the current circumstances, we thought it was appropriate to launch this series with reflections focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown and creativity. To state the obvious – these are uncertain times and many of us have found ourselves reassessing myriad aspects of our own lives. What will life be like in future? We can’t know but we can ask questions and reflect.

Over time, we will open up the discussion to include more general thoughts on creative life and to explore different topical themes in depth. We will try to include responses from the widest possible range of CAA’s maker members. Thereby creating a kaleidoscopic record of diverse views on what it is like to be a professional craftsperson, artist or designer in Britain today.

Archive

The Bristol Blanket by Angie Parker

What can I do to help?  

That was my question at the start of March this year. The UK lockdown was looking imminent and for pretty much everyone the year was changing shape rapidly, for some more drastically than others.  

My first response came from a practical place. Health wise, I was low risk, and my husband and I were both able to continue working, so I initially directed my energy into volunteering in my local community, and settling our children into schooling from home etc.  

However, it quickly became apparent that as a self-employed weaver, the best way for me to help was firstly to ensure that my one-person business wasn’t another casualty (with a few hours voluntary work for balance). And secondly, with the benefit of hindsight, to use my creativity to try to encourage change to a negative narrative.  

Bristol Blanket by Angie Parker
Bristol Blanket by Angie Parker, lambswool, sample on the loom.

I found myself in a similar situation to many other makers: my planned selling opportunities and teaching work were cancelled. To overcome the initial and fortunately brief slump I experienced as a result, I adopted the methods I had used when establishing my practice in 2014. I basically said yes to every offer of help and opportunity that came my way. This included selling at local online markets, participating in the artist support pledge, meditation (those who know me will know that this is uncharacteristic), free coaching, listening to LOTS of informative and inspiring podcasts and online training. This re-set my head for the year and got the ball rolling.  

Once I got over the discomfort of selling luxury woven textiles online during a global pandemic, I discovered that the marketplace was surprisingly buoyant. Strong sales meant that I was quickly in a position to focus on a new woven blanket project that had been on the back burner. As I took a leap into new territory during a time of uncertainty, I experienced a sense of responsibility as an artist to direct the conversation in a more positive way. I knew that my new project had to have an element of optimism, despite the awful events playing out on the news channels and in our lives.  

From the end of February I’d been relocating yarn and sampling looms from my Bristol studio to our kitchen in preparation for a potential lockdown, so I could be in a good position to support our three children whilst balancing my work. Rather like when I started in business. I think the unexpected opportunity to change my priorities has been good and, as always, the time spent weaving was a positive part of my day. 

Colour Bristol Houses
Colour Bristol Houses by Angie Parker

Interestingly, our studios have remained open this year and I could have safely continued to work there, but as a parent I had to make the right choice for our family too. It made sense that we all stayed at home, as encouraged by those in authority. That said, as the summer approached, I was thankful to be able to return to my studio and complete larger commissioned pieces.  

Getting outdoors each day for fresh air and exercise became a really special part of our day. I’ve never been more thankful to live a 20-minute walk from acres of open land at Ashton Court Estate, or Bristol harbourside in the other direction. The colourful houses of Cliftonwood and Totterdown became an uplifting backdrop on the endless sunny days and fed back into my sketchbooks and onto my sampling loom. From this, the design for The Bristol Blanket grew. 

I’ve particularly enjoyed embracing local networks this year, and the absence of the pressure to have a presence in London has actually been a positive. As the blanket went into production, I felt incredibly fortunate that the Bristol Weaving Mill is in walking distance of my studio, and their sales and marketing manager lives a few minutes from me. With so much brilliant stuff happening online, it was a complete joy to interact in real life and work through the technical details and samples face to face with Rowenna. We frequently met in her sun-drenched street instead of having another Zoom meeting.

To evaluate the impact of the pandemic on the craft industry so far needs another blog post, but one thing that has come out of it for makers is that many of us have discovered how resilient and resourceful we are in times of change. We also understand more about the value of practising craft skills and the positive impact this has on mental health, as well as the importance of surrounding ourselves with things we love in our homes. 

It’s strange to think that without the pandemic the blanket might not exist, but more than ever I just want to wrap everyone up in the uplifting colours that make my home city of Bristol so special. 

Angie Parker with the Bristol Blanket
Angie Parker with the Bristol Blanket. Bench by Timberwoolf. Photograph by Article Studio.

Five feel good things I’d like you to know about The Bristol Blanket:  

  • The design is inspired by Bristol’s colourful houses, which brightened up our daily walks during lockdown in the spring.  
  • It is woven in partnership with Bristol Weaving Mill, a renowned micro mill in the heart of my home city of Bristol which specialises in innovative design.  
  • The optimistic colours in this sumptuous lambswool blanket are designed to lift your spirits and bring warmth and joy to your home, and it is so soft. I provide samples for those who prefer to feel the quality of a textile product before they invest. Drop CAA a line if you’d like to receive one. 
  • The design reflects the connections with our neighbours and local community which for many were strengthened during lockdown. As an artist, I wanted to design a collection that echoed the special bonds that formed from the shared experiences, in the hope that we continue to strengthen them and support each other.  

For every blanket sold, 10% of the profit will go to MIND – the mental health charity. 

Buy The Bristol Blanket online here.
Angie Parker
Angie Parker in her studio. Photograph by Alice Hendy Photography.

Angie Parker is a weaver, designer and colourist, based in Bristol. She trained in rug weaving in the 1990s and started her textile practice six years ago. She developed her original style and bold approach to colour during her previous career in costume for theatre and television. Angie Parker is also an advocate for small business growth.

 


The home of fine British craft since 1948: Contemporary Applied Arts has championed and promoted excellence in British craft for 70 years. Founded in 1948 and a registered charity since 1967, we are a membership gallery that represents some of the most talented and skilled applied artists working in Britain today.

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