nnie Taylor obviously has lots of things to do, as I sit in her kitchen preparing to interview her she is preparing for her Artist’s Open House, making soup and chatting about Whitstable Jesus all at the same time.
For many Annie is the easily recognisable bundle of pink hair bobbing around the town. First meeting her as she had her arm stuck through my next-door neighbour’s letterbox, I had no idea that she was the brain behind Whitstable Jesus and the Profanity Embroidery Group, simply setting her aside as a particularly bad burglar. In fact, Annie has many strings to her bow.
“ We’ll start with Whitstable Jesus; he has his own Facebook page. . .]
Anyone walking along Regent Street can’t help but notice the statue of Jesus in a window, sometimes surrounded by man-size tissues and flu remedies, sometimes wearing bunny ears. He is an ever-changing fixture of the back streets of Whitstable. How did Whitstable Jesus come about ? Annie’s brother saved Jesus from a skip. With a broken hand and having spent some time in the skip, Jesus seemed to be a bit sorry for himself and Annie offered to rehome him.
A short while later a rather religious, ‘nightmare’ neighbour was making life so difficult for them that something had to be done, “We had the Jesus and the means to do it” says Annie of the window her first window display, Jesus, holding a sign simply saying “Love thy neighbour”. At New Year he sported a hangover, surrounded by bottles and the phenomenon carried on from there. He has given holy backing to local campaigns, supporting the campaign to save the Post Office and protesting about trees being cut down along the railway.
Whitstable Jesus isn’t the only character living in Annie’s house. Her home is also full of her ‘Whitstable Tails’; mermaids and fairy-tale figures, all hand painted and embroidered with their unique stories. Annie’s brain is full of alternative tales, stories of Ugly Sisters, who actually rather beautiful; a horrible Prince; an evil Fairy Godmother and naughty mermaids trapped in jam jars.
“ Every doll has a story, embroidered and woven across them creating an immersive experience for the viewer. . .]
They’ve received a mixed reception; some people love them, whilst others refer to them as scary dolls. Whatever your view of them, they are undeniably beautiful.
Despite filling her days with creating characters, Annie still has nothing better to do and is one of the founder members of Whitstable’s Profanity Embroidery Group, a group of amateur stitchers but experienced swearers. The group started from an innocuous Facebook post showing a picture of an elderly lady happily stitching away at a sampler displaying the words “F**k the world”. One thing led to another and suddenly there were 16 random women meeting in The Black Dog discussing how they could put the cartoon image into practice.
The rest is history. 2016 has seen saucy seaside postcards displayed in Harbour Street for the Biennale (they had to be removed as they were ‘lowering the tone of the town’, something that pleases Annie) and an exhibition in the Fishslab Gallery that had to have the windows covered in bubble wrap to protect the sensibilities of children walking past. Despite the bubble wrap, the amazing public response to the exhibition showed that PEG had captured the town’s imagination.
2017 looks like it will be another amazing year for the group with a collaboration with Leah Thorn, a spoken word poet on the cards. PEG will be embroidering the poet’s words on to garments to celebrate International Women’s Day. With this and more “Whitstable Tail’s” to be created, Annie certainly doesn’t seem to have anything better to do, but we all love it that way.