Memories of an inspirational holiday

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Sitting here on a freezing cold winter’s day, last summer seems a long way away! I was, however, reminded of the warmer, longer days whilst going through some photos from of a summer break in Aldeburgh in Suffolk back in August last year. 

I wrote about this holiday at the time as part of my coaching blog. That blog was about the reflection and new perspectives that a holiday away from the usual routines brought. Looking at the photos today I was, however, reminded of another side of the holiday; a more creative and inspiring side which appealed to my interest in textiles in particular, but also to design in general. 

Aldeburgh is known for its long high street, full of independent shops and cafes, as well as its lovely old buildings and quaint cottages, not forgetting the mostly unspoilt and quiet seaside setting. The cottage we stayed in was over 500 years old and is one of the oldest in the area and the owners had maintained its olde worlde feel. It had a number of hand made products, not all of which were to my taste, but it was nice to be able to spend time in an environment where someone had thought about the decoration and how it complemented the building. 

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One of the first things that caught my eye as we arrived were the colourful cushions which were hand made using Kantha quilting and patchwork.

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Kantha quilting is much flatter than traditional quilting, usually being done on layers of fabric with no wadding. It gives a less padded effect whilst still adding body and a firmness to the fabric. Small running stitches are traditionally used which makes it an easy method of quilting even for beginners. I am a big fan of bright fabrics and threads being used together so I liked the combination of the patchwork effect, the decoration & the colour choices.  

One of the reasons we  love Aldeburgh is because there is lots of walking you can do. A walk a couple of miles down the beach, for example, takes you to the small village of Thorpeness. This is even quieter than Aldeburgh, although you do have a nuclear power station on your doorstep! 

In Thorpeness we discovered a large craft / antique shop with an eclectic mix of old and new products. These lampshades and cushions intrigued me as they are look like they are made of woven yarns but they are actually printed.

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By comparison this lampshade was made of real yarns twisted around the wire frame. It was something a little different and it appealed to my love of bright colours. 

The Suffolk Craft Society hold a summer exhibition each year and when we visit I always enjoy looking at the crafts. It is mostly traditional craft items, some of which are textiles based, and the quality is always very high, and many take their inspiration from the surrounding area.  

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Mind you one of the things that always catches my eye whenever I have been to this event in the past are the flags which advertise the event. Although it is a mixed media event the flags are made from textiles using appliqué.

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The number of high quality craft products in the town interest me but I am always just as interested in the functional textiles things I see when I go. This could be the fishing nets, the high performance textiles in the Lifeguard Station, or the clothing in the shops, much of which is inspired by the sea, fishing, and boats. I was particularly interested in this Quba jacket made out of recycled sails, along with a range of products such as bags, made out of the same materials. It is interesting to contrast the use of appliqué and embroidery on this functional product to the use of the techniques purely for decoration on the flags and wall art shown above. 

Not only is Aldeburgh full of lots of interesting textiles, whether it be craft based or more technical, along with other traditional crafts, but the buildings themselves and the environment also has a very creative feel. Locals take a great deal of pride in the town and its quirky nature has been maintained and developed. There is a real eclectic mix of styles but they all sit well next to each other and, no matter how many times you walk round, you still see something different and interesting to look at. 

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The older traditional bits of the town contrast with new 21st Century buildings and things like the massive scallop sculpture by Maggie Hambling on the beach. The contrast, does however, work really well. 

In the depths of winter it is nice to look back on the holiday and be reminded of all the creative things that inspired me.  

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