Work in batches – multiple small pieces based on Salford Gas Works
Those of you that follow my blog regularly will know that I made a very definite decision several years ago to always work in series. Doing so has helped me to develop as an artist – I spend a lot of time up front working on colour and on creating a palette of cloth but once I have that palette I am free to develop my ideas as I move from one piece to the next. And for my large pieces I do tend to get one to the finishing stages before starting work on the next. Many of my pieces are three metres wide or more. I am blessed with big print benches and a big design wall but it is not really practical to try to compose two large pieces at the same time.
Some of you will also know that I have struggled to make small art …. my ideas always want to be BIG. But with two exhibitions scheduled for 2018 I knew that I needed to stop struggling and start making. Hence my 100 (week) day challenge in which I committed to spending 2 hours each week day evening working exclusively on small art. And after 70 days I can declare the challenge a success! I am now comfortable taking the ideas, colours and palettes of cloth used in my large scale pieces and working with them on a (much) smaller scale. But, just as importantly, I have really enjoyed making ‘batches’ of work. I am half way through stitching 18 pieces that will each be 12 x 12 inches when finished. I worked on the composition of all 18 at the same time. Each piece has to work on its own but what really excites me is seeing them layed out in a grid. The common colours and repeated use of shape is very powerful and has got me thinking about the power of repeat and how I could use it in a large scale piece. Which is a good if un unexpected bonus!
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.
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 ….
(30 x 75cm)
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!