Category Archives: Art Practice

Getting into the swing

Kilns 2
(30 x 75cm)
£195

Two weeks in and my 100 (week) day challenge is working. I am a lot more enthusiastic about making small works and the ideas are really flowing. Kilns 2 is finished, albeit needs stretching over canvas. And, in between working at my print bench this weekend, I have completed the background stitching on a third piece. I thought that committing to finishing at least one piece each week would be a stretch but already I’m finding that I am quicker and more decisive when building backgrounds.

I didn’t manage my goal of a steady 2 hours every evening this week because I had an evening out …. a fairly rare occurance as it has to be something special to drag me away from the studio. So here is my week:

  • Day 6 – 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Day 7 – 2 hours
  • Day 8 – 1 hour (squeezed in between getting home from work and going to see The Oh Sees who were loud, brilliant and just what this (non-medical) doctor needed!)
  • Day 9 – 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Day 10 – 2 hours

I was just too tired on Friday to do the extra 30 minutes needed to hit my 10 hour goal but I am making good progess so decided to be kind to myself. Next week however I have no outings and no excuses!

Topsy-turvy week

Kilns 1
(30 x 75cm)
£195

I have completed the first week of my 100 (week) day challenge. My goal is a steady 2 hours every weekday evening focussed on making small art with a commitment to finish at least one piece each week.

So I got one part right albeit the piece still needs stretching over canvas. Kiln 1 is a small piece in my Ruins series. I want to make art that has some relation to my upcoming exhibition at The World of Glass in St Helens. The museum has a dramatic entrance through a really large renovated kiln and St Helens is dotted with the remains of kilns, both glass kilns and brick kilns. The current Pilkington Glass factory in St Helens has some interesting buildings but brick built kilns are a thing of the past … which fits in nicely with my Ruins series.

My hours this week though were not exactly steady. I nearly delayed starting my challenge because I knew I had an overnight trip with my day job this week. But then I thought what the heck … I am never going to get a 20 week period without interuption. I’ll be lucky to get a two week period. The import thing is that I work around interuptions. So here is my week:

  • Day 1 – 2 hours.
  • Day 2 – 40 minutes (I actually got out of bed early to work in the studio before heading off on my trip! This is a first for me).
  • Day 3 – 2 hours 20 minutes.
  • Day 4 – 3 hours (keeping busy until the election coverage started)
  • Day 5 – 2 hours

I’ll admit to finding the 2 hours on Friday evening rather hard going as I had about three hours sleep before getting up for work at 6.30am. That coupled with the fact my husband joined me in the studio to carry one talking about the results meant that some of my stitched lines were not quite a uniform as I would like. Still I really like the result and am all fired up for next week!

My 100 (week) days of making (small) art

Small work inspired by the Pilkington Glass factory in St Helens

I have long admired those artist who publicly take up ‘100 days’ challenges or ’52 week’ challenges. Committing to do something, whether it is making a text collage (as per Kathleen Loomis), making a finished small work of art everyday (as per Lisa Call) or only wearing clothes you have made for a full year (as per Maria Shell) is rather brave. It is also a great way of motivating yourself. A bit like declaring to the world that you’re going on a diet or going to run a marathan.

Now some people who know me would say that I am pretty motivated / committed to making art. I set myself a target of spending 20 hours each week in the studio based on spending 2 hours each week day evening and 10 hours spread over the weekend. But when I spent some time recently assessing what I had, and had not achieved, over the last six months I realised that I am slacking during the week. I also realised that I had only finished one large piece of work during that 6 months and that I needed to be more productive if I am going to complete everything I want to over the coming 12 – 18 months.

So after much thought I have decided to declare to everybody who reads this that I am going to do the following starting tomorrow:

  • Spend a minimum of 2 hours in the studio every week day evening.
  • Spend those evenings creating small works of art only.
  • Complete at least one piece per week.
  • Post a photo everyday.
  • If the day job / family mean I miss an evening I will make up the hours within that week.
  • Spend my weekends doing ‘admin’, printing cloth and working on large scale pieces.

Here goes ……

It takes all sorts

It’s a wet morning here in Dunure so time to stitch sleeves onto quilts, time to drink coffee and read the newspaper, and time to think. To think about the work I need to create for my exhibitions next year. And time to think about how I work.

One of the reasons that I’ve chosen to partner with Helen Conway is that we share the same professional, ‘get it done’ attitude to making our art and exhibiting our art. We plan our time and know that we will fill the galleries. We share out the administrative stuff and trust each others decisions. We will compromise where we need to.

But we are very different in the way we actually create. Helen is like a sponge – she sees inspiration pretty much everywhere and is constantly spinning new ideas. Not just about the subject of her work but also about the materials she uses. I know that she uses journaling to provide some order to her thoughts but mostly she goes into her studio and just starts. She works in a mess of materials, tools and books. To me it looks like chaos but to Helen it is where she finds creativity.

I am the opposite. The world is full of inspiration but I knew that I would not develop as an artist if I continued to hop from one idea to the next. Or if I continued to take workshops on different techniques. So I have chosen to work in series and to limit the number of techniques / materials I use. And I am very disciplined about it. The old me would have been busy trying to create something based on the beautiful sunsets here in Dunure but the current me enjoys the sunset then continues to stitch sleeves on quilts. I do most of my ‘designing’ in my head. I don’t just go into the studio and start. I occasionally write ideas down but mostly I let them brew and filter as I work in the studio. Yes I will spend lots of time getting the exact colours and textures I want but the experimenting and sampling is really just fine tuning the decisions I have already made in my head. And I can’t work in chaos. ‘Messy’ in my studio is when there are snippets of thread and fabric on the floor. I wash up and tidy as I go. I typically plan my activities for the week and go into the studio knowing exactly what to do first (even if that is to sweep the floor). I’m not at all good at spontaneity.

But I recognise my strengths and weaknesses and have chosen, for now at least, to work with a media – breakdown printing – that cannot be 100% controlled, that introduces unintentional marks into my work. Marks that will hopefully resonate with Helen’s work when we exhibit together in 2018.

Building walls, the stats so far ….

Wall building is getting a LOT of bad press right now but not all walls are a pathetic attempt to pander to a small misguided minority. (OK – political rant over). My walls are going to be things of beauty that invite people in for a closer look and, hopefully, make them smile!

I am in the middle of making my first, full scale wall / background for my new series. I have given the series the tentative title ‘The View From Here’ or View for short. The advantage of working in series is that once I get going I have idea after idea that I know will ‘work’. And I can often create new pieces in the series in what is for me a relatively short period of time. The disadvantage is the hours and hours I put in up front and figuring out what that means when it comes to planning and pricing my work.

I have been tracking my total studio hours for a couple of years but as I started to work on View I decided to collect data on how those hours were spent. So here are the stats so far ….

  • Printing = 50 hours (made approx 15 square metres of cloth which, based on experience, could convert to about 10 square metres of finished art. However I can already tell that I have too high a proportion of light pieces so will need to print more medium and dark fabrics to ‘balance’ my palette)
  • Research and sampling = 17 hours (and still more questions than answers!)
  • Cutting bricks = 7 hours (yes I cut all the printed fabric into pieces 2.5 x 6.5inches)
  • Building my first wall = 11 hours (layout complete and about half way through joining the bricks into long strips)

So that is a total of 85 hours and still a long way from even knowing what the first piece will look like. I am making an investment in time (and money) doing something I love and I hope will give pleasure to others. Not building a wall on borrowed money that divides people and makes the world a scarier place. (Rant definitely over, sorry).