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!
A couple of months ago I was contacted out of the blue by Karol Kusmaul and asked if I would join a new international fibre group. With two major exhibitions coming up in spring 2018 I was rather wary. I’ve worked pretty hard at cutting distractions out of my studio practice so the thought of producing a small piece of art every two months for the group challenge did not immediately appeal. However, the thought of working alongside some of the members did appeal – I have long admired the work, and work ethic, of Maria Shell, Terry Grant and Lisa Walton. So, having got assurances that the challenge would involve a series of prompts that could be worked into my existing series I said yes.
We added new members, Karol set up a website and we started discussing the challenge. The idea is that the group decides a general theme for the prompts and we take it in turns to decide the individual prompts – so the theme could be colour and a prompt could be scarlet. With 11 members this is a 22 month commitment. We discussed sizes and decided on two (which has since grown to three) that could be used in either portrait or landscape. So far so exciting.
But as different themes were discussed alarm bells started to ring – I find that I am not willing to dilute the ideas behind my current series. If we decided that the theme was man-made structures I would be happy but anything else? Probably not.
I will be honest – I did think about backing out but realised that I would be disappointed in myself if I did. Instead I am determined to make this a positive. How? By using the challenge to create small works that use colours, techniques, materials and ideas that differ radically from my recent and current work. Now there are limits – I don’t do cute, I don’t do sequins and I definitely won’t be doing animals / flowers / nature type stuff. But I may flirt with acrylics, with curves, with paper. I may even make a piece featuring hand stitching and loose ends. Who knows!
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.
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 ….