Monthly Archives: July 2016

The N word …. networking!

Those of you who read my blog will know that my day job became ‘unsustainable’ a short while ago so I find myself unemployed. I hate that word and prefer ‘taking a career break’ or ‘taking time out to spend with my family’ or ‘taking a sabbatical to take advantage of an artists residency (in my own studio)’.  But whatever I call it the reality is that I need to find a new job. And apparently the most successful way to do that is by networking. Even the word fills me with horror – I am hopeless at small talk, generally useless at blowing my own trumpet and suffer a big ‘I am not worthy’ moment when I contemplate approaching somebody to give me a job. Does this sound familiar?

To give myself a head start I attended a workshop on LinkedIn and now have my profile set up and am busy making connections. Please feel free to look me up but don’t be offended if I don’t connect with you … I’m trying to keep it limited to day job contacts initially. However the workshop did get me thinking about networking and my ‘other life’ as a textile artist. Whilst networking in this context isn’t aimed at getting a job I am ambitious about my art and do want to get my work ‘out there’. Building a network might lead to opportunities to exhibit or towards getting commissions. Although I didn’t think of it in terms of networking my website, this blog and my Facebook page have been a good start. Being a member of CQ and SAQA was also a good start.

But one of the key takeaways from the workshop was to actively do whatever it takes to become visible, to be at the top of the list when somebody searches for you. Which, in terms of me as an artist, means making my Facebook page ‘public’, sending friend requests to people where we only have one or two mutual friends and not just those where we have lots of mutual friends. It means taking time out to steward on the SAQA exhibition at Festival of Quilts. And it means stopping being a ‘lurker’ on yahoo message groups and starting being a participant. It probably means starting to use Twitter and / or Instagram and / or Pinterest! Which definitely means I need a very large cup of very good coffee … and probably some chocolate!!

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Taking a moment

Breakdown printing is seriously addictive. When the sun is shining and screens are drying in a couple of hours it is really tempting to just keep on printing.

Breakdown printing

Breakdown printing

Especially when it is giving me such yummy results. But I’ve been here before and know that it is important to stop and take a moment. So today I have put all my newly printed fabrics through the washing machine (twice), dried them, ironed them and assessed them.

Thermofax printing at same time as breakdown printing

Thermofax printing at same time as breakdown printing

The piece of art that exists in my head will be mostly monochromatic and will be pale at the top and dark at the bottom. So I have cut into my fabrics and pinned the ‘good’ pieces on my design wall. Standing back I can see that I have lots of light and medium pieces but none that are really dark. I can also see that the inclusion of words is interesting but I only I have a couple of small pieces so far.

Auditioning fabrics on my design wall

Auditioning fabrics on my design wall

Not all pieces made the grade yet so I have a pile that I will soda soak again and print over either to include words or to make much darker or both. Although breakdown printing is not an ‘exact’ process it does become more predictable the more you do so hopefully the next round of printing will give me palette of fabrics I need to move on to the composition time. Lets hope the good weather lasts!

Creating the right environment

I’m in the final stages of making Ruins 7. Well I think I am. I need to stitch on facings and get it hung up somewhere so I can decide if it needs more stitch or not. Which presents a bit of a challenge as it is taller than the height of my studio. This will take a few days to sort out. So what should I do now?

I have been planning on going back to my Storm / Still series to (try to) make a piece for the SAQA call for entry ‘Layered Voices’. Up until now my ideas were all pretty vague and somewhat grandiose. But today I had a light bulb moment thanks to fellow Etcetera member Linda Bilsborrow. Following a discussion about her work I happened to glance at a small sample that was pinned to my Storm / Still design wall …. and flash! Off went that elusive light bulb!

Sample made whilst developing the Storm / Still series

Sample made whilst developing the Storm / Still series

I’m really lucky to have several design walls so I can keep lots of ideas and samples pinned up. Most of that space has been filled with Ruins stuff for the last few months but I kept some photos of Dunure beach and stitched samples visible – would I have had that light bulb moment if everything was tucked away?

Pinned up fabrics ready for auditioning

Pinned up fabrics ready for auditioning

And now that I have a good idea of how to procede I have rearranged my design walls to keep me focussed. On one wall I have pinned the sample and some fabrics that I have already printed. I will add to this wall as I print more pieces. On another wall I have pinned up more photos of Dunure – I can look at these and remember what I felt sat on that beach and what I’m trying to convey in my work. And I have changed the drop cloth on my big print bench from the unmarked one that signifies I am in a composition and stitching phase to one with lots of lovely residual marks from previous printing sessions. Not as quick as flipping a switch but it has the same effect!

Memories of Dunure beach

Memories of Dunure beach

Ta-da! Ruins 6

Ruins 6 270cm x 135cm

Ruins 6
270cm x 135cm

I finished this piece several weeks ago but have only just hung and photographed it. It is quite different to the earlier pieces in the Ruins series and I am not yet sure whether that is different in a good way. For better or for worse the quilt is now on its way to Festival of Quilts where it will be shown in the Art Quilt section. Because it is so wide I am hoping it will get hung on a white wall rather than on the traditional quilt stands. I think some of the impact will be lost if the lighting isn’t great but that is a risk I am willing to take to get my work out there! Wherever there is!

Ruins 6 detail

Ruins 6 detail

 

Being brave

A word of warning before I start – those you know me might want to sit down.

Ruins 7 - work in progress

Ruins 7 – work in progress

I have now finished the background stitching on Ruins 7. It is big; a massive 5 square metres. Which equates to hundreds of parallel lines of stitching achieved by spending hours and hours at my sewing machine. And it looks great – well worth the investment I have made in it so far.

I wanted to do something a little different with this piece and had, in my mind, stitched silhouettes of ruined, bombed out buildings. I went on-line to get some images to work from. Sadly there are far too many images out there – from London and Dresden in the second World War to Aleppo today. I started by sketching in a notebook but could get no sense of scale. So I decided to draw out the full sized design. Cue lots of hours drawing, tearing up paper and drawing again until I was sort of happy. I draw onto blank newsprint paper as I know it tears easily and thought I could pin it to the quilt and stitch through.

I thought wrong. Trying to manhandle the quilt and paper on my sewing machine was horrendous. If I had a swear box in the studio I could have paid my mortgage off!! I thought long and hard about my options …. And decided to draw the design directly onto the quilt. And not with a pencil (which wouldn’t really show up) or with a water soluble marker pen (as I have no intention of letting the piece near water). I decided to use a black permanent marker pen. Yeaks!!

I am using free machine quilting in a black thread to ‘etch’ over the lines so most of the marks should be hidden. Assuming I don’t make a mistake …… Is that brave or really stupid?