Monthly Archives: September 2016

Being kind to myself

Dunure 3 Shadow box framed by Manchester Customer Framing

Dunure 3
Shadow box framed by Manchester Customer Framing

After a ‘career break’ of three months I started my new day job last Monday. New job, new people, new systems, new products, new processes and new responsibilities. And a new car, laptop and phone. It has been both energising and exhausting but, so far, thoroughly enjoyable.

Even though I have a deadline looming for the piece I’m currently working on I decided to be kind to myself and to drop my usual weekly target of 20 hours in the studio. I also made sure that I had no commitments this weekend so that I could relax and recover from what has been a very full-on week. Actively planning to take time off from the studio is quite hard for me to do as I have a bit of a ‘superhuman’ complex and routinely push myself hard. But I am glad I did. I have gone to bed early a few nights, read a book, watched some TV and enjoyed a few cups of coffee in the garden. I feel full of energy and am looking forward to my alarm going off at 6.30am tomorrow morning!

The other way I have relaxed …. several hours quietly stitching in ends. After all it would have taken a truly superhuman effort for me to stay out of the studio for a full week!

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Hidden Message – Working in Series

Hidden Message 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 11

Hidden Message 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 11

The new Etcetera exhibition opens at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery this Saturday and runs to 15th October. There is a preview between 7 and 9pm tomorrow (Friday 9th) if you are in the area and want to stop by.

I am showing these pieces from my Hidden Message series. There are four small tiles stretched over canvas and two quilts. Hidden Message was the first time that I intentionally decided to create a series of pieces from one source of inspiration. It has been an interesting learning curve – my starting point came from trips to Shanghai and the really bizarre cultural conflict between modern, urban China and it’s one-party politics. My initial ideas involved bright colours, teapots, brand names and neon advertising signs. I made one piece, called No Time for Tea, which I loved but felt absolutely no desire to progress.

Instead I switched to a complex, muted colour family, broken fragments of skyscrapers and fabrics printed with words associated with censorship. I created two large pieces. Hidden Message 2 was originally 12 separate sections stitched onto a fabric background and Hidden Message 3 was originally 4 banners joined at the top. Both of these pieces were eventually cut into separate tiles, stretched over canvas and shown in the Etcetera exhibition at Ryedale Folk Museum earlier this year.

I kept working in this complex colourway eventually creating the Hidden Message Skyscrapers set of 8 panels. But I also decided to try out the fragmented structure and patterns in a restricted colour palette of shades of grey and red. The resulting pieces have always felt like odd-balls. They just don’t ‘work’ if I put them alongside other pieces from the series. At one stage I was considering throwing them away but I’m glad I didn’t. The exhibition in Stockport has given me the opportunity to hang them together and to assess them away from the other pieces in the series. They are their own little mini-series!

I found my ‘voice’ but where is the volume dial?

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

Over the last couple of years I have definitely found my ‘voice’. Or my ‘visual style’. Or whatever you want to call that sense of confidence that comes from developing a set of processes (or studio practice) that transforms ideas into finished pieces that are recognisably ‘me’. I can point to three things that helped – making a conscious decision to work in series, attending a Colour Studies course with Leslie Morgan and moving into my purpose built studio.

I currently have two ‘active’ series. The Ruins series which has given me so much success and the Still / Storm series which still feels in it’s infancy. In both cases I started by developing a colour palette then developed a set of printed and / or dyed fabrics. I collage and stitch samples during which ideas for ‘full sized’ pieces start to flow. Some ideas are very vague and require more sampling. Other ideas pop up fully formed. And demanding attention. Like the piece I am working on now.

I keep a list of potential ‘calls for entry’, particularly those without a theme or size restrictions. But I let the work itself dictate what size and even what form my finished pieces will take. And I no longer give in to the temptation to create ‘one-offs’ to fit a specific call for entry. This limits where I might place my work but sometimes there is a really good match between my work and a particular call. Such as the current SAQA ‘Layered Voices’ call. The piece is going to be 4 metre long strip hung such that the bottom section is draped and partially hidden on the floor. It will be double sided. And stitched with hundreds and hundreds of parallel lines. And every end of thread will be carefully sewn in. So shouted my voice!

Unfortunately my voice does not care that the call ends on 30th September and that I start a new day job on the 12th. Or that we are hanging the next Etcetera exhibition at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery this week. Ho hum. Better get back to my sewing machine!