Having worked on the colour family for what I hope will be my new series I need to start creating a palette of fabrics. Where to start? I started by clearing a design wall and moving everything off my 3.5m long print table. I don’t do sketchbooks so this is my equivalent of that blank first page. Scary.
Time for a cup of coffee and a think. I want to experiment with building layers. Marks or text being the first layer. Colour (from the new colourway) being the second layer. Then marks or text being etched back into the colour using a discharge process. Thus revealing some of the original marks or text. Sounds simple but there are so many ways of achieving this. Being a list person I went through all my cupboards and pulled out all the different materials that could be used to mark cloth and wrote a long list of all the different ways they could be used – for example using acrylic, acrylic mixed with water, acrylic mixed with fabric medium, acrylic mixed with matt medium … you get the picture. I cut decent sized pieces of cotton, pinned them to the bench and started.
Having not touched some of the materials in years I guess that I shouldn’t have been surprised by how much stuff had dried out and how many containers I could only get into by cutting off the lid! My big long list got a lot shorter!
I am not bothered about the types of marks or even the colour of the marks as I’m pretty sure that most of what I produce over the next few weeks will end up in the bin. I am really looking at how different materials interact. After a pleasant couple of hours I have my first set of 8 different starting layers. Some will need fixing which I will do tomorrow then they will need soda soaking and drying ready for the second layer. It wasn’t so scary after all.
I wasn’t expecting any form of ‘textile art’ activity this week as my day job had taken me travelling to the US for the week. It was obviously not practical to take my studio with me so, at most, I expected to keep up with friends work and activities via Facebook. However just before I left I heard that those artists selected for Quilt National 2017 would be announced to the world on the Monday and that I would be able to, at last, tell everyone that my piece Ruins 7 was one of those selected. At my first attempt. And with an abstract piece.
Ruins 7 (detail)
Selected for Quilt National 2017
I knew in September that I had been successful but had to keep it a secret. I did tell a couple of close friends but wasn’t able to do a public happy dance. This actually left me feeling a bit flat this week – the euphoria of that original moment was long gone by the time of the official announcement.
And then on Thursday I heard that ‘Happy today?’ had been selected for SAQA’s Layered Voices. Only 23 pieces were chosen from over 500 entrants. Which makes being selected really rather spectacular. I danced a very happy dance and announced it to the world via Facebook. Success like this is euphoric – it always gives me a burst of energy and makes me want to get into my studio and work even harder. (And yes it makes me unbearably smug for a few days). But this time I was thousands of miles away from my family and friends and from my studio. That energy had nowhere to go.
Which it turns out was almost bad thing, at least for me. Sat in a hotel room and then sat for 10 hours on a plane last night threatened to turn positive into negative. What if the great year I am having is a fluke? What if the new series I am starting work on just doesn’t come together? What if the next piece I submit to something is rejected? And the one after that? What if I walk into my studio and don’t know where to start?
Which is nonsense! OK success can be 9/10ths luck sometimes but I built my studio practice on one premise – just turn up and do the work. Not all attempts at a new series of work will progress. Not all submissions will be successful. Some days I will assess the previous weeks work and throw it in the bin. Some days I will start in the studio by emptying that bin and sweeping the floor. But I will be just where I am right now, in my studio and I will be working.
One of the things I like about my new day job is that there is less travelling and generally more ‘regular’ hours. I will have more time in the studio and be better able to plan my output.
But this week I have had a couple of very long days and on Saturday I fly out to the US for a week. So my plan to work at the bench breakdown printing with my new colourway is on hold. I print using thickened procion dyes on cotton so I could leave the printed pieces rolled up in plastic for weeks before I wash them out but I prefer to get in a rhythm of printing, washing / drying, assessing then printing. Don’t ask my why but the first piece of fabric I print after a period away from the bench is always disappointing and often butt ugly!
Instead I have spent my few hours in the studio this week working on my piece for the SAQA call Made in Europe. All the ‘construction’ work is complete and I am now stitching lots and lots of parallel lines. If you look closely above you will see that I keep my lines straight by using my walking foot as a guide and placing masking tape strips about 1 inch apart. I may not be in complete control of my schedule but boy do I control those lines!
New 24 piece colour family
After multiple attempts I am now happy with my new colour family. I am calling it ‘traces’ as I’m hoping to use it to create a new body of work based on iconic industrial buildings that no longer exist. I spent my childhood summers staying with my grandparents in a small village north of Nottingham. The area was criss-crossed with coal seams and every journey took us past pit heads. These buildings don’t exist anymore but I bet most people my age who spent time in the north of England know exactly what I am thinking off.
I used magenta dye as one of the starting colours as an ironic reference to the way we tend to look at the past through ‘rose tinted glasses’. Although many people mourned the loss of community when the coal industry declined I don’t think anybody could remember working conditions in the pits or the polution in the surrounding areas through rose tinted glasses hence I have blended the magenta with black to the point where the colour just tips over from pink to purple. I particularly like the paler colours in the family.
Now that the colour family is fixed I’ve started work on creating the palette of fabrics. This could take several months as my ideas tend to evolve gradually as I work at the bench. However the way I used breakdown printing in my Still / Storm series gave results that were similar to what I have in mind for this new series. So this is where I’m starting.
Fragile lines created by breakdown printing
I have had a very successful couple of years with multiple pieces being accepted into some pretty prestigious exhibitions but today I realised just how far I have come. I received my copy of the catalogue for Breakout: Quilt Visions 2016 which features my piece Ruins 4. A few days ago I received my copy of SAQA‘s Wide Horizons V which features one of my Storm pieces.
Breakout: Quilt Visions 2016
It feels like an unbelievable honour to appear in print alongside some of my ‘heroes’ – Gail Barr, Jette Clover, Jane Dunnewold and Wen Redmond. The selection of work in Breakout is amazing, Although the majority of artists are American most of the work is abstract rather than the more pictorial work that is popular in the US art quilt community. The exhibition is currently running at Visions Art Museum in San Diego. Unfortunately it doesn’t tour which is a real shame as I would have loved to see all the pieces in the flesh.
Jette also has a piece in Wide Horizons along with some of my other favourites – Susan Chapman and Sandra M Newton. Actually I like all the pieces in this exhibition and look forward to seeing it at some stage whilst it tours in Europe.