Monthly Archives: December 2016

Looking back on 2016

Sun setting over Arran (June 2016)

Sun setting over Arran (June 2016)

It is that time of year when we look back at what we have done and, possibly foolishly, make promises about what we will do in 2017. So today I am looking back at 2016 and tomorrow I will look forward.

2016 has been an amazing year for me as an artist. The big stuff: I had pieces selected for Breakout: Quilt Visions 2016, SAQA Wide Horizons V, Fine Art Quilt Masters, Quilt National 2017 and SAQA Layered Voices. My piece Ruins 5 won the Art category at Festival of Quilts and I made my first ‘proper’ sale just before Christmas when Ruins 4 sold whilst on show at Quilt Visions in San Diego. I had two exhibitions as part of the Etcetera group, have had older work touring with CQ ‘Elements’ and had a couple of pieces shown in Visions Art Museums on-line exhibitions. WOW, not sure if my head will squeeze through the studio door!

I have made a determined effort in 2016 to increase my presence on social media. Having resisted for many years I have embraced Facebook, and to a lesser extent Instagram, and made many new friends along the way. I think this has really helped drive traffic to this blog and my website. This piece will be my 63rd post in 2016, a nice increase compared to 52 posts in 2015. But the real growth has been in visitors and views. In 2015 I had 3069 views by 652 visitors. As of this morning I have had an amazing 9635 views and 2262 visits in 2016. 66% of views are from the UK and 21% from North America. Another WOW!

So have I been successful because the planets have been aligned or the gods have smiled down on me? No, it is a combination of hard work and luck. As of this morning I have spent 964 hours in my studio this year – that is an average of 18.5 hours per week. I put in extra hours during the 3 months that I was ‘between jobs’ and this compensated for the hours lost whilst I went through the shock of redundancy and whilst I focussed on my new day job. I didn’t keep accurate records in 2015 but will continue to do so in 2017. I completed 18.87 square metres of work in 2016 compared to 9.57 square metres in 2015 but this is somewhat misleading as I started 2016 with 2 large Ruins pieces part made and a large stack of printed fabric ready for other pieces. Working in series definitely increases output.

2016 has been a pretty awful year for many, many people with loved ones lost and a frightening surge in voilence and hate around the world. There is much to be miserable about much to take comfort from. A hug, a memory of a beautiful sunset, a fragile pattern and wonderful colour on cloth … Happy New Year everyone!

Is TEXTILE ART female?

Stiff Upper Lip (60cm x 149cm)

Stiff Upper Lip
(60cm x 149cm)

Definitely! And here to prove it is ‘Happy todays?’ baby sister.

Baby ‘brother’ just did not feel right. Maybe because it is part of series that is about me, my emotional state and the calming influence of place? Maybe because I am tainted by the stereo type of textile art as a form of female expression? I would hope not but there is no denying that the wonderful textile / quilt community I am part of is predominantly female.  I wonder how male textile artists would label their work?

Plan B …..

In between wrapping presents last week I did manage to prepare and pull some breakdown screens. I got some really promising marks by using a screen made with torn strips of freezer paper gently ironed onto the screen before rollering on a very thin layer of black thickened dye. I also made a screen using strips of torn masking tape. I wanted the marks to be delicate so pulled through with lots of print paste. And replaced the paste if it got tinted with colour.

However those lovely marks only appeared from the first and sometimes second pull. After that everything went ‘blobby’ and not at all what I wanted.

I have found before that I get the best marks and the most ‘pulls’ when I dry breakdown screens outside on warm sunny days. Drying out screens quickly and thoroughly is not easy in the winter. I have tried drying this batch of screens next to and above radiators and I still only get one good pull. Trying to develop a new palette of textiles based on this low success rate could be really frustrating! Luckily I am not working to a deadline so, although Plan B looks to be a good one I am putting it on hold until spring. I wonder if Santa can bring me an early spring?

Where did the week go?

Just where did the week go? And why am I stressing about the state of our carpets? Or debating the need to clean the oven?

Now I am an intelligent and well organised person. I buy cards and wrapping paper in the January sales. I have trained my children to submit Christmas present wish lists with web links and costings in plenty of time. I order the turkey from M&S in early November. And I stopped aspiring to be a domestic godess years ago and ‘learnt’ to live with a (slightly) messier home.

But the same thing happens every year. Preparation for Christmas seriously derails my goal of 20 hours a week in the studio. Actually I have time in the studio over the last 10 days – shopping on the internet, wrapping presents, writing cards. Figuring out the optimum date to clean the stairs carpet so that it won’t get mucky again before ‘the big day’.

And yes, all the while knowing that I am truly lucky to have such woes. But I can’t help wondering if there are many middle aged male artists out there longing to get back to making art?

Failed beginnings

It is a good job that I have a Plan B as my experiments over the last week or so have failed to give me a ‘WOW’ moment. The results didn’t even fall into the ‘Ugly Duckling’ category of pieces that might fit in with what I’m trying to achieve with some additional process. The experiment has been educational but not in any way that is connected with what I think I’m trying to achieve.

I started with 8 pieces of cotton each ‘marked’ with a different medium. It turns out that my water resistant acrylic ink didn’t put up much of a fight and washed out when put in the soda bath to soak. The soda solution was a beautiful turquoise colour as I poured it down the drain. Luckily (sic) the colour washed out so sucessfully that I can reuse the piece of cloth. The remaining seven, soda soaked and dried pieces were pinned to the bench and a layer of colour added using an open silkscreen.

After batching them I washed and dried the pieces. The original marks were all clearly visible below the layer of colour. The lines I had made with dilute acrylic and with acrylic mixed with Golden Matt Medium looked a little faded and fuzzy but the rest appeared unchanged. I then stripped out the colour using two methods. One half of each piece of cloth was discharged using Formosol mixed with print paste and applied through a screen. The other half was discharged using the cheapest bleach I could find (40p for 2 litres – bargain!) and a fan brush.

The Formosol discharged to a fairly consistent colour irrespective of the original colour. The bleach gave a bit more variation and also some different colours. Neither method affected the original marks. Hmm … I had been hoping for some really interesting chemistry to happen that maybe striped back or somehow changed the first layer of marks. Instead discharging added colours to the fabric pieces that created a palette that reminded me of street lights glowing in the dark. Which has got me thinking about something else … maybe the beginning of something else? So the pieces will be hung on a small design wall to contemplate whilst I move on to Plan B!