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!
Canal Street 1
(20 x 20cm)
It is 4 weeks since I restarted my 100 (week) day challenge and time for an update. After completing 40 days I decided to take a two week break – family stuff plus Festival of Quilts made it pretty impossible to hit my target of spending two hours every week day evening working on small art. I was, and still am, absolutely determined to keep going however it has not been an easy 4 weeks.
Life has thrown the Higgins family a couple of curve balls. On Day 41 I left my day job. There was always a risk that it wouldn’t work out but it was still disappointing and frustrating. Having been made redundant the previous year I had made sure that I could afford to be out of work again. But the thought of looking for another job was depressing and left me feeling very sorry for myself. Then on Day 44 we learnt that my mother-in-law was seriously ill. Which put the lack of day job into perspective. Now being ‘between jobs’ is a good thing – we are able to visit nearly every day and support my father-in-law as he cares for Joan at home. People who know me will know that I don’t do ‘nursing’ but I can bake cakes, make brews, hold hands and taxi people around. And help my husband spend as much time as possible with his mum.
Being ‘between jobs’ (so much nicer than being ‘unemployed’) means more time in the studio, at least in theory. In practice, it has been really hard some days to drag myself the 30 feet from our back door to the studio but my 100 (week) day challenge is a good motivator. I will admit that some sessions have been in the morning rather than the evening but getting into the studio is good for me. It is my space, it calms me. And I am incredibly lucky to have it. So here is my update:
- Day 41: 2 hours – started to stretch the Canal Street pieces over canvas.
- Day 42: 2 hours
- Day 43: 2 hours
- Day 44: 3 hours … all spent finishing and photographing the 20 Canal Street pieces.
- Day 45: 2 hours – stitching Kilns 5.
- Day 46: 3 hours – finished Kilns 5 and fused the background for Kilns 6
- Day 47: 2 hours – stitched Kilns 6.
- Day 48: 2 hours – trimmed and added facing strips to the 6 Kilns pieces.
- Day 49: nope, just too sad.
- Day 50: 2.5 hours – stretched the 6 Kilns pieces over canvas and photographed.
- Day 51: 3 hours – added accent stitching to the Bold Colliery pieces.
- Day 52: 1.75 hours – finished and photographed the 8 Bold Colliery pieces. These will be put in conventional frames at a later date.
- Day 53: 2 hours – getting fabrics ready to make a series of 12 x 12 inch pieces based on the Gas Works in Salford.
- Day 54: 2 hours – adding bondaweb to fabrics and cutting into lots and lots of 1 x 3 inch ‘brickettes’.
- Day 55: 1 hour – preparing the backings ready to build my background ‘walls’.
- Day 56: 1.25 hours – started fusing my walls.
- Day 57: 1.5 hours
- Day 58: 1.5 hours … both spent fusing walls.
- Day 59: nope, emergency taxi service instead.
- Day 60: 3.5 hours – finished building walls, I have enough for 18 pieces of small art.
(30 x 75cm)
180cm x 60cm
It has been a quiet year for submitting work as everything I do is focussed on my two exhibitions in 2018 so it was very nice to be able to submit an older piece to Quilt-Art-Quilt. And even nicer to be selected! Ruins 1 will be travelling to Auburn, New York for the exhibition at the Schweinfurth Art Centre. Exhibition dates are 28th October to 7th January.
I wish there were more opportunities to show pieces in more than one exhibition. Like every artist I would like to sell more of my work but the reality is that a lot of pieces just get stored away indefinitely after one public outing. Which seems a shame.
This week I have also resumed my 100 (week) day challenge working on small art for 2 hours each week day evening. It has been a good first week back – I managed 2 hours every evening except on Thursday where I managed 3 hours. I spent most of that time finishing the 20 small Canal Street pieces. Each is 8 x 8 inches and stretched over canvas. I’m now working on the 12 x 30 inch Kilns pieces. Busy, busy, busy!
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 ….