When I started my 100 (week) day challenge 40 days / 8 weeks ago I really didn’t expect it to be as productive as it has been. I am well ahead of where I need to be in making small art for next years exhibition at World of Glass. And I am pretty confident that I’ll be able to make sufficient small art for the exhibition at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery. So I have decided to take a 2 week break. After all it is a challenge I set myself – I made the rules so I can break the rules!
The reason for taking a break now? Two fold. Firstly I have a lot of family stuff on this week and it is Festival of Quilts next week so I know I will not be able to get into the studio. But mostly I am taking a break to clear a bit of a log jam in my studio. Even though I have a ridiculously large space I found myself unable to work on a large Ruins piece at the weekend because I had nowhere to spread it out properly. My big print bench is covered in part printed, wet stuff. My second print table has breakdown screens drying on it (which I need to pull in the next day or two), trays of pre-cut fabric stacked on it and 20 small Canal Street pieces at various stages of stretching over canvas piled on it. My big sewing table has more small art at various stages of completeness on it, along with the large Ruins piece folded waiting for access to the big print bench.
And I need space to finish preparations for Festival – I will be demonstrating breakdown printing in the Creative Studio on Friday morning. (Not panicking at all. Yet)
And I need time to work on a new project – but more of that later!
I like having multiple things on the go because it means I am never sat waiting …. and mostly I am pretty good at planning ahead. But not this time. So there will be a pause in my 100 day challenge. I wouldn’t call it a holiday though.
Fragments – work in progress
I’ve completed 35 days / 7 weeks of my challenge and I’m really happy with my output but it still feels like hard work making myself go to the studio some evenings.
Today I have spent 6 hours at my sewing machine sewing hundreds of parallel lines on my latest large scale Ruins piece. And I have enjoyed every minute of it. Tomorrow evening I will be stitching parallel lines on the last of the small Canal Street pieces for next years exhibition and it will feel like a chore. Same process but on very different scales. I don’t need a psychiatrist to tell me that my heart still wants to work BIG. But those small scale pieces are necessary – if only because they are more affordable. So I will keep going. Maybe when I get to 100 hundred days I will have fallen in love with working small ….
- Day 26 – 1 1/4 hours making thermofax screens.
- Day 27 – 2 1/2 hours finishing thermofax screens and starting Fragments pieces.
- Day 28 – 2 3/4 hours spent collaging 6 Fragments pieces ready for stitch.
- Day 29 – was out in the evening with the day job but still managed 1 1/2 hours – go Leah!
- Day 30 – Oops, had to spend two hours labelling and packing quilts to send to Festival of Quilts.
- Day 31 – 1 hour spent on layouts for the exhibition at World of Glass (I have more than enough small pieces, yes!) and 1 hour spent stitching.
- Day 32 – 2 hours stitchin’
- Day 33 – didn’t happen, hot and stuff day so gave in to the temptation that is ice cream and a good book.
- Day 34 – 2 1/2 hours stitch’
- Day 35 – 2 1/2 hours stitching and adding little red accents to the Fragments pieces.
When I visit a gallery I don’t tend to read the artist’s statement until after I have looked at their work. I like to savour my own responses to a piece first. But I do read the title because it provides a starting place for my response. So naming my own work is important to me and the subject of many hours contemplation. And the subject of regular discussion amongst fellow artists and on social media.
180cm x 60cm
Naming a series is an even bigger decision because you have to live with it longer. I am not a sketchbook person. All my ideas have a long gestation period in my head before I let them loose on dye and cloth. The titles of my first two series, Hidden Messages and Ruins, became fixed right at the beginning of that process. In Hidden Messages I wanted to develop a series of works around censorship in modern day China. In Ruins I wanted to develop a series of works around abandoned and ruined buildings. The titles were obvious to me and still feel just right. And in both cases I was happy to number the works rather than give each piece it’s own subtitle.
Still 3 (Rest)
99 x 99cm
I gave my third series a working title of Storm / Still as that seemed appropriate to the emotional rollercoaster I was on at the time. Although I numbered the early works they were either ‘Storm’ or they were ‘Still’ and each piece required it’s own subtitle. The series name became fixed when I added a page to my website. Strangely I named the colour family that I developed for this series ‘Dunure’ (after my favourite place in the whole world after my studio). And even named a few small pieces Dunure. But I never thought to call the whole series Dunure and with hindsight I wish I had. Storm / Still feels clumsy to me now and may be one of the reasons that I don’t think I will produce more in this series.
Liverpool Street, Salford
342cm x 154cm
So to today. For my exhibitions next year I am working on three series each focussed on industrial and urban landscapes. One part will be more pieces in my Ruins series. Another part will be on buildings and structures still in use today that shape our landscape but are invisible to most. This series has had the working title View. The inidividual pieces will all need their own subtitles as there are site specific. So far I have made one large piece (above) and am in the process of making a series of small works called Canal Street 1, 2, 3 etc. The working title of View is no longer working for me. Instead I am officially naming the series Structures. Yes it has been used by many, many artists but it is the perfect title for what has inspired my work.
New work inspired by the coal mining around St Helens
The other series is inspired by industries and iconic structures that no longer exist. I already know the subtitle of the large scale piece that is gestating in my head but I’m stuck on titles for the series of small works I am currently making based in the Bold Colliery near St Helens. And I am definitely stuck on a title for the series. I have had a working series title of Gone but that doesn’t even work as a working title. I have been puzzling over this all week. I almost settled on Relics. But then I had a ‘duh’ moment.
The title of the exhibition in St Helens is TRACES. My inspiration is those structures that have left TRACES in our memory. No brainer! This new series is now officially called Traces.
The title of the exhibition in Stockport is FRAGMENTS. The small works are just that – they are small FRAGMENTS of a much bigger series. The series of small works is now officially called Fragments.
And now I need a long lie down in a dark room ….
New work inspired by the coal mining around St Helens
After four really productive weeks of making small art I have had a disappointing week; struggling to get any level of momentum. I spent the week as I planned to – researching and creating cloth for the third string of work that I will exhibit next year. The inspiration comes from those industries, and those structures, that no longer exist – the coal mining industry around St Helens, Lancashire being a great example. I wasn’t working completely from scratch. I have learnt from a couple of failed attempts at printing cloth so I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to achieve and how. And I’d already found a great resource on line – the Sutton Beauty and Heritage site. But I didn’t know if it would all come together. I really needed to lock myself in the studio for a whole weekend to completely immerse myself in the process. Knowing that, at most, I could only work for 3 hours in an evening was enough of a limitation that it throw me. And then there was the start of major building work on our home – likely to be a massive distraction for the next couple of months. Here is what I achieved:
- Day 21 – at home all day because of builders I actually spent about 6 hours in the studio but only 1 hour on small art. Not sure what happened to the other 5 hours!
- Day 22 – 1.5 hours researching and making thermofax screens
- Day 23 – 2 hours – took a break from the new work and instead stitched Kilns 4.
- Day 24 – 2 hours printing and experimenting with discharge.
- Day 25 – a scant 1 hour washing and ironing fabrics
Only 7.5 hours in total. I don’t have the luxury of time with two exhibitions in the first half of next year so cannot afford weeks like this! So this weekend I focussed on getting my act together / pulling my finger out / got down off the fence and finally made some decisions on this series! The results are rather pale and ethereal. I have finished a piece and put it into a picture frame I had in the studio. It didn’t photograph very well and the mountboard is the wrong shade of white but it actually looks rather lovely. Certainly lovely enough to make more. Which is what I will be doing in the 6th week of my 100 (week) day challenge.
New Kilns piece ready to stitch
So what have I achieved after 20 days of my 100 (week) day challenge? The answer – an awful lot more than I was expecting. Albeit they still need stretching over canvas I have completed three 12×30 inch Kilns pieces with another one ready to stitch. I’ve also completed twelve 8x8inch pieces in a mini-series called Canal Street with another eight pieces ready to stitch. Wow!
I have felt such a strong compulsion over recent years to make BIG that making small has felt like hard work. It’s OK when I’m just sampling something but I can feel myself shy away from making small pieces that are intended to be exhibited. With two big exhibitions scheduled for 2018 I knew that I had to get past this. Hence my 100 (week) day challenge. I’m pretty good at self-motivating but there is nothing like putting something in the public domain to focus the mind. And I am really, really happy that my good friend Linda Bilsborrow has joined me in the challenge.
This last weeks summary …
- Day 16 – 2 1/4 hours
- Day 17 – 2 1/2 hours
- Day 18 – 1 hour (and that is being generous, I was distracted by a tub of Ben & Jerry’s Sofa So Good and Netflicks)
- Day 19 – 2 hours
- Day 20 – 2 1/2 hours
I was planning on spending this coming week finishing the Canal Street pieces but I’ve nearly run out of the Madeira Cotona thread I use and my local stockists are out. Darn. Big order placed but in the meantime I’m going to use the week to develop the third series of work needed for the exhibitions. And this time I am going to work small from day 1.