Time Lines by Linda Forey

TextileARTS is a small group of textile artists of which I am lucky enough to be a member; and one of our aims is to exhibit our work. Formed in 2002 by Carole Wood, the group of five has followed a steep learning curve finding out about exhibition spaces and how to book them. The first major problem is the famous chicken and egg conundrum. Which comes first, the exhibition space or the body of work to exhibit? Do you try and book a gallery, but without having any work to convince the curator of your worth, or do you make the work then book a gallery, living with the time delay of at least 18 months that it takes from booking to exhibiting?

Reach for the Sky 2 by Carole Wood

Left: Mirage by Clare Higgott

For our first show we decided to start out by agreeing on a theme for the exhibition and then trying to book a gallery. Starting from scratch, with no previous knowledge, we toured a number of galleries until we found one we liked. We submitted a proposal form and started to make our quilts. Sadly, we were turned down because they had had too many textile-orientated shows recently. Disheartened, we spoke to an acquaintance in the business and were suddenly offered a chance to have a touring exhibition with the Spring Quilt Fairs. Marvellous, but we no longer had time to make all the quilts for our chosen theme! Not willing to turn this unexpected offer down, we went for a retrospective of earlier work.

Right: Undulate by Helen Doherty

For our second exhibition it was back to the drawing board; a new theme and another round of possible galleries. This time we decided to make the work first and then find a gallery. Two years later we had a very successful exhibition at the Rugby Floor One Art Gallery. Emboldened by our success, we decided to show the same work at a second venue, the Upstairs Gallery at the Leicester City Art Gallery. Held in March 2007, it was again well received.

By this time Claire Higgott and I were getting used to hanging our work. First step – decide the order. Colour photographs of all the quilts can really help at this stage; it's much easier to rearrange a few pictures than to alter the order of several large quilts. There were many possible starting points when determining the order, and we quickly rejected subject and size as we work in such different ways. We settled on a colour spectrum, and though the group had not discussed colours at all, it was surprising how well the selected textiles worked together. Starting with Claire's stark black and white works, Illusion and Align and her superb work Shooting the Past, we moved on naturally into the browns – Crossed Paths – and reds, including my own The Lines of Peru and Jenny's Wavy Lines III, and two of Carole's 'Helmshaw' series.

Helmshaw III by Carole Wood

Two quilts, Carole's Reach for the Sky 1 and Claire's Mirage, moved us from orange into the green and blue part of the spectrum, helped by Helen Wood's vibrant works in felt – Button Up – together with Jenny Rolfe's wonderful quilt Daisy Chain. We finished the display on that wall with more blue works, among them Jenny's Blue # 2 and Claire's Blue Moon, and my own Time Lines, and then merging finally into purple with Carole's second quilt inspired by her trip to Barcelona, Reach for the Sky II. Helen's works often encompassed several colours, such as her pieces Undulate and Silver Lining, and these naturally slotted into various positions in the hanging order, helping the visitor's eye to move dynamically round the display. Only one quilt, Carole's Fractured Lines, really stood out from the rest with its lime green, turquoise and purple colouring, and at the City Art Gallery we had the perfect space to hang it where it could shine on its own. We finished with Helen's work Mellow Yellow, simply because there was a good place to hang it!

Wavy Lines III by Jenny Rolfe

All five of us have a very different style, but taken together, we seem to complement each other's work. Helen had concentrated more on smaller pieces, mounted on canvas, and often staring with fibres rather than fabric; Jenny's work is characterised by complex stitch and colouring, often not visible without a close inspection; Carole works with shape and colour to great advantage; whilst Claire's works stand out for their superb design and execution. I find it hard to comment on my own work, but perhaps my strengths lie in piecing and colour arrangement. Taken together, we truly tried to 'Define the Line'.

Fractured Lines by Carole Wood

First published in Popular Patchwork Issue 7 2007