Spikeworld

Welcome to the blog of Spike Dennis; an artist and sometime curator. Trained in London Spike has exhibited widely, from London to Los Angeles, and has delivered projects from Cardiff to Stockholm, for organisations including the Illustration Research network and Cardiff Design Festival amongst Others.

Jillian Tamaki’s Monster Quilt

Jillian Tamaki’s Monster Quilt

Embroidered quilt by Jillian Tamaki'
Jillian Tamaki is an illustrator and cartoonist based in Brooklyn, New York. I recently came across this hand embroidered quilt that she created a few years ago. Apparently it was the first embroidery project that she created having taken up the craft – not a bad effort at all!

I like the spread of creatures crawling all over this quilt. The fluidity of the design is great as well as the way that illustrative imagery is incorporated into a media not so commonly associated with illustration. It’s definitely one of the most interesting contemporary quilts I’ve come across

Hand Embroidered quilt by Jillian Tamaki

I’m working on a hand embroidered quilt of my own at the moment, albeit something very different to this monster quilt, so it was nice to stumble across this piece. Many of the quilts that I’ve come across employ embroidery as a secondary technique to the patchwork and quilting that’s at the fore. It nice to see the embroidery in this work is given centre stage.

Check out more of Jillian Tamaki’s work on her website and blog here: www.jilliantamaki.com

Glitch Test Image

Stitch n' Glitch Test Image Digital Embroidery

Glitch Test Image

This is a little animated GIF made from some glitched images of my Wild Man. I’ve been working with a corrupt image for a new cross stitch project that I’m currently working on as a way of obscurring some of the content in the image. I’m also interested in the ways that I might incorporate corrupt or ‘glitch’ effects into future works.

Cross Stitch Panels Progress

Contemporary Cross Stitch Hand and  Embroidery by Spike Dennis

Work in Progress: Cross Stitch Panels

This is another of the cross stitched panels that I have been working on recently. When complete there will be twelve of these panels which will be stitched together to form the final work of art. They are currently taking around 30 to 35 hours for me to stitch so it’s slow going but I’m hoping to have the final panels completed ready for assembly early in the new year.

Winter Threads

Winter Embroidery Threads DMC Colours

I’m starting work on the final four panels for my latest piece of work and with that I’ve bought a new batch of embroidery thread to get me started. Fittingly for this time of year it’s quite a wintery palette I’m working with.

It’ll no doubt be well into the new year before I have finished these last panels so keep your eyes peeled then for some teasers before the whole work is assembled from the 12 embroidered panels.

The Institute of Sexology Exhibition

The Institute of Sexology is the forthcoming new exhibition to be hosted by the Wellcome Collection in London.

‘The Institute of Sexology’ is a candid exploration of the most publicly discussed of private acts. Undress your mind and join us to investigate human sexuality at ‘The Institute’, the first of our longer exhibitions. Featuring over 200 objects spanning art, rare archival material, erotica, film and photography, this is the first UK exhibition to bring together the pioneers of the study of sex.

I’m looking forward to visiting the exhibition (which is open for almost a whole year!) as I’ve not doubt it will provide fuel for my practice given some of the themes that I have been dealing with in my practice.

Through my research to date I’m already familiar with the work of many of the thinkers that are incorporated into this exhibition such as Kinsey and Freud; it’ll be interesting to see how all of their studies are contextualised in this show.

The Institute of Sexology is open from 20 November 2014 – 20 September 2015

Nyctophilia

nyctophilia
n.

  • an abnormal preference for the night over the day.
  • A preference for the night or darkness.

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Twenty First Century Unicorn Hunting

Hunt for the Unicorn | Subversive Cross Stitch by Spike Dennis

Twenty First Century Unicorn Hunting

This blog post outlines some of the background research that informed my “Hunt for the Unicorn” embroideries. It highlights the ways in which I’ve used symbolic references and metaphors, both in terms of content and materials, to reinforce some of the themes that I have been exploring through this work. Whilst being far from exhaustive I hope it might give a little insight into the intellectual underpinning of my practice and give a little insight into the way I approach the making of my work.


The popular tale of the hunt for the unicorn tells us of how the creature can only be lured into captivity by a young virgin girl. This story was once a popular subject for artists, and perhaps the most well-known images of this story are those referred to as ‘The Unicorn Tapestries’ which are held in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The tapestries are described as being ‘among the most beautiful and complex works of art from the late Middle Ages that survive’. Each of the seven panels describes a scene from a hunt for the unicorn. This starts with the hunters entering the woods and results with the unicorn in captivity.

Thought to have been designed in Paris and woven in Brussels the tapestries are laden with symbolism that was typical of much medieval art and reflects the significance of the unicorn. For example, in the image of the unicorn in captivity (below) the creature is chained but not secured and is surrounded by a low fence that he could easily hope over. This suggests that his confinement is agreeable and it is suggested that this image represents a tamed beloved.

The Unicorn in Captivity | Met Museum New York

As with the other six panels in this series the image is loaded with images of plants that are symbolic of marriage and fertility including wild orchids, violets and thistles. This reinforces the central motif of unicorn sitting beneath a tree which is in fruition with ripe, pomegranates, bursting, revealing their fertile seeds. There is also a frog pictured in the bottom right hand corner which was cited by medieval writers for its noisy mating.

Having read around the unicorn and its history and significance I started to think about the way in which I might reappropriate some of these tales to provide a commentary on attitudes and morals within a contemporary, rather than medieval, society.

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