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Faith inspires Norfolk textile artist Annette

International textile artist, tutor and author, Annette Morgan, is showcasing her quilts in Wymondham to help launch her fourth book, Sticks and Stones which was inspired by Thetford forest and the flint cottage where she lives. Sandie Shirley reports.

Annette Morgan’s solo exhibition from October 21 to 28 at the Wymondham Arts Centre, Becket's Chapel, Church Street, is a celebration of this gifted quilt artist who has pushed the boundaries using all types of mixed media and has exhibited in America, Australia, Europe and Japan.
Her new book is a unique joint venture with husband, church leader and artist, Dan, who has painted many of the illustrations at the workshop in their Thetford garden while Annette's labour of love is done from their conservatory.
She draws on a rich depth of artistic talent that runs through her family and a tireless enthusiasm and energy. "I have always liked to sew and knit and was taught by my late father," says Annette, who went on to make clothes and wedding dresses.
AnnetteMorgan450But her textile journey began when she visited a quilt exhibition with a friend in King's Lynn. Annette was fascinated and recognised the scope they offered. She borrowed a book from the library to help her make her first quilt and soon joined a two-year City and Guilds class at Norwich City College 20 years ago. "I would be so excited by what I had learnt and done each day," says Annette. Since then she has never looked back; invitations to show and demonstrate her work and teach followed as she has built on her expertise.
"I thank God for the talent He has given me. I believe your gift from God is what God has given you and your gift to God is what you do with it. If there is anything in your heart that you wish to do I would say get the training and do it," she insists.
Annette has lost count how many quilts she has made but they are valuable teaching aids. At first she produced five-foot square quilts which are her favourite but now she makes smaller pieces.
"I enjoy the process of making. If they get selected for exhibition, sell or win awards that is a bonus," says the former theatre sister who showed a natural ability for teaching student nurses during their placements in the operating theatres.
Today she is teaching the innovative textile techniques that have taken months and years to hone and perfect using image transfer, photography, screen printing, foils, paper, paint, and dye to dramatically change black or white fabric into works of art.
"I see myself as a facilitator," says Annette who runs two-year and four-year City and Guilds Certificate and Diploma courses at the Women's Institute headquarters in Ipswich for a wide cross-section of women through Creative Stitch Suffolk which she helped launch.  She also runs workshops, distance learning courses through the WI and Denman College and is a quilting judge.
"I like to think I have helped put women on the road to their own creative well-being," says the woman who has been President and Vice-President of the Quilters' Guild, won numerous prestigious awards and has been featured regularly in the textile press.
There may be as many as 35 students who travel from across East Anglia to attend the City and Guilds courses. The tutoring is rewarding: "A lot of ex-students make friends for life and are involved in local embroidery and quilting guilds and win awards while   several have gone onto teach," said Annette.
"The courses are also good for their self-worth and belief." One Baptist minister's wife had a growing family and had never worked but gradually grew in confidence.  Annette encouraged her to take a bank teller's job and she excelled through the employment ranks. 
Annette's faith is also an outlet for ministry. "A lot of people know I am a Christian because Dan has been in church leadership for many years. The couple helped plant Hope Church Thetford which has now swelled to 35, having previously being involved in planting Kingsgate Church in Bury St Edmunds.
Teaching enables you to get to know different people over two or four years and some come to me with a particular problem and sometimes I can pray with them," says Annette who was confirmed at 13, and helped ring the bells at Wymondham Abbey. But life did not take on a new meaning until she accompanied a friend to her church some years later. "I sat at the back and felt an overwhelming sense of peace and cried for three days. A few months later I was baptised." 
Annette is also co-founder of two exhibiting groups. Anglia Textile Works began 15 years ago and the Tin Hut Textiles group was set-up a few years ago. "I am good at organising and getting things going and then handing the reins to someone else," she explains. "When I did the City and Guilds course in Norwich I was working in theatre three days a week with two young children so I was always organised and focussed."  
It's that continuing ability that helps her   juggle church life; write four books on textiles; run workshops, courses and graduate shows; give talks and demonstrations across the UK; work abroad and work quickly and effectively on new textile pieces. And although she has retired from nursing, Annette is still involved with distance learning courses for carers.

Annette Morgan, above, and top one of her pieces, Pay The Ferryman.

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