The 20th bienniel Quilt National opens today at the Dairy Barn Arts Centre in Ohio, US. And I am incredibly proud that one of my quilts – Ruins 7 – is amongst the 85 quilts selected this year.
(180 x 250cm)
Ruins 7 is part of my series that explores what happens to buildings when we stop using them, when we leave them behind. We stop using buildings for many reasons. This piece references buildings and cities destroyed by war.
It is the first time I have entered Quilt National and really didn’t think I stood a chance so never even considered making the journey to the US for the opening. Which is a shame because I hadn’t realised just how many activities are organised for the selected artists; opportunities to see behind the scenes, to meet fellow artists, to give workshops and to sell other works through the Dairy Barn shop. So there is my challenge for future Quilt National – get selected again AND find the time / money to attend the opening!
Does this work? 1
Knowing that I have two major exhibitions with Helen Conway in 2018 is amazing. Although I’ve worked in series for the last few years this will be the first time that I get to create a cohesive body of work knowing the pieces will be hung together. And knowing the spaces where they will hang. Yes Helen and I need to make sure that our work will work together in each space but otherwise the sky is the limit!
And we have well over a year to prepare. We will have about 15m each of wall at World of Glass and a massive 30m each at Stockport Wall Memorial Art Gallery. And we only have just over a year to prepare!! Thank goodness Stockport will be in the autumn.
My hope is to create two completely separate bodies of work albeit both stemming from three parallel series inspired by the urban and industrial landscape in and around both venues. But I have to also be realistic. I had an amazingly productive year in 2016 but my output still fell short of what I need to achieve in the next year or so. I blame my very loud and bossy ‘voice’. It wants to work big. It insists on piecing lots of small pieces of fabric. And then it absolutely throws a tantrum if I don’t complete the work with hundreds and hundreds of parallel lines of stitch. And, much to Helen’s amusement, it even demands that I sew in all my ends.
Something has to change. I have to find a way to make smaller (and more affordable) works that I, but more importantly, my ‘voice’ can be happy with. So I have set aside the month of April to try new things. Can I make art that can be framed? Can I print onto paper? What happens if I print onto rough linen? Can I fuse my brick walls? Time will tell.
It is with very great pleasure that I announce my second exhibition with Helen Conway. It will take place in early summer 2018 in the fanatastic Gallery One at The World of Glass in St Helens.
Helen has written a great blog with photos of the gallery and insight into her inspirations and intent for the exhibition. Helen was brought up in St Helens; her family has lived there for several generation. It has provided the backdrop to her development as an artist. In her work she will trace her families lives and tell their stories. She will also explore her own history and the development of her creative process.
My art will continue to explore the urban and industrial landscape. St Helens has a strong industrial heritage. From the glass works which still exist today to the coal mines that now only exist in the towns collective memory. I want to build a collection of works that, whilst abstract, contain traces of man-made structures that the people of St Helens will recognise. Drawing them into the work, triggering memories.
Helen and I have set an ambitious schedule. Gallery One is a big space. As is the gallery at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery where we will exhibit in autumn 2018. We are committed to creating work specifically for each venue. We are also determined to create exhibitions that are cohesive; where there are links between each others art. It is both terrifying and exciting. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey!
Looking up through the cherry tree (spring 2016)
As the saying goes ‘another year over, a new one just begun’! And I have started the New Year by getting into the studio and doing some printing. For me there is no start or end; making art is a continual process even if there are days or even weeks when everything I create goes in the bin. Nor do I wait for January 1st to decide what opportunities to pursue in 2017. Galleries tend to plan 2 years in advance and most ‘calls for entry’ are publicised many, many months ahead. And so I do my ‘big picture’ planning looking forward over an 18 month period.
Today however is a good day to tell the world about what I will be working towards in 2017 and into 2018. I am very pleased to announce that myself and artist / friend Helen Conway are working towards a joint exhibition at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery in the autumn of 2018. The exhibition will be called Fragments and will use the upper gallery which is a big, wonderful space in which to exhibit large scale works. We are also hoping to add a second venue for spring 2018. My work will be focussed on industrial landscapes both present and past. Although it will feature new works from my Ruins series I am committed to creating two new, parallel series; one on current, working buildings / landscapes and one on industrial buildings / landscapes from the past.
Because of the way I create new series I know that it is likely to be many months before I produce finished works. If I happen to have suitable work ready there are a few exhibitions that I would like to submit too (including Fine Art Quilt Masters) but I am not going to ‘force’ the evolution of new works to hit deadlines. Of course that means that I will inevitably have fewer things to do a happy dance to in 2017 but look forward to dancing myself silly in 2018!
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.