Ups and downs

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.

20 days later

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.

Full steam ahead

Kilns 3
(30 x 75cm)
£195

It was exciting and scary news time this week when Helen Conway and I got dates for the two shows we are working towards in 2018. The first one, at Gallery One, World of Glass, St Helens will run from Saturday 17th March until Friday 4th May. No problem. I’m on track to have the work I need for this show completed by the end of December.

The second exhibition will be at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery. We had been expecting an exhibition in the Autumn of 2018. And it might still be in the Autumn but it is much more likely to be late May and June. And the Gallery is huge!

Time to ramp up production. My 100 (week) day challenge was aimed at making 25 – 30 small works of art for the St Helens show. I now need to make 50+ pieces. And I need to complete the big pieces for St Helens by the end of November. Gulp!!

But this is where working in series really pays dividends. When I have an idea that I hope will evolve into a series I invest many, many hours in developing the colours, developing and printing the fabrics, and sampling to establish the basic rules of construction. Sometimes that investment just doesn’t work out but when it does it is wonderful. Because then I can just focus on making. Ideas evolve as I move from working on one piece to the next but I know that they are going to ‘work’ as they are built on a good foundation.

The next 9 months or so are going to be hard work. I had hoped to have a piece ready to enter next years European Quilt Triennial but this looks unlikely. I was planning on rebuilding my website but maybe I’ll need to pay someone to do it for me. Thankfully with my studio being at the bottom of our garden my family won’t forget what I look like. Although I may lock the door if they interupt too often…..

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!