It’s a wet morning here in Dunure so time to stitch sleeves onto quilts, time to drink coffee and read the newspaper, and time to think. To think about the work I need to create for my exhibitions next year. And time to think about how I work.
One of the reasons that I’ve chosen to partner with Helen Conway is that we share the same professional, ‘get it done’ attitude to making our art and exhibiting our art. We plan our time and know that we will fill the galleries. We share out the administrative stuff and trust each others decisions. We will compromise where we need to.
But we are very different in the way we actually create. Helen is like a sponge – she sees inspiration pretty much everywhere and is constantly spinning new ideas. Not just about the subject of her work but also about the materials she uses. I know that she uses journaling to provide some order to her thoughts but mostly she goes into her studio and just starts. She works in a mess of materials, tools and books. To me it looks like chaos but to Helen it is where she finds creativity.
I am the opposite. The world is full of inspiration but I knew that I would not develop as an artist if I continued to hop from one idea to the next. Or if I continued to take workshops on different techniques. So I have chosen to work in series and to limit the number of techniques / materials I use. And I am very disciplined about it. The old me would have been busy trying to create something based on the beautiful sunsets here in Dunure but the current me enjoys the sunset then continues to stitch sleeves on quilts. I do most of my ‘designing’ in my head. I don’t just go into the studio and start. I occasionally write ideas down but mostly I let them brew and filter as I work in the studio. Yes I will spend lots of time getting the exact colours and textures I want but the experimenting and sampling is really just fine tuning the decisions I have already made in my head. And I can’t work in chaos. ‘Messy’ in my studio is when there are snippets of thread and fabric on the floor. I wash up and tidy as I go. I typically plan my activities for the week and go into the studio knowing exactly what to do first (even if that is to sweep the floor). I’m not at all good at spontaneity.
But I recognise my strengths and weaknesses and have chosen, for now at least, to work with a media – breakdown printing – that cannot be 100% controlled, that introduces unintentional marks into my work. Marks that will hopefully resonate with Helen’s work when we exhibit together in 2018.
Shadow box framed by Manchester Customer Framing
After a ‘career break’ of three months I started my new day job last Monday. New job, new people, new systems, new products, new processes and new responsibilities. And a new car, laptop and phone. It has been both energising and exhausting but, so far, thoroughly enjoyable.
Even though I have a deadline looming for the piece I’m currently working on I decided to be kind to myself and to drop my usual weekly target of 20 hours in the studio. I also made sure that I had no commitments this weekend so that I could relax and recover from what has been a very full-on week. Actively planning to take time off from the studio is quite hard for me to do as I have a bit of a ‘superhuman’ complex and routinely push myself hard. But I am glad I did. I have gone to bed early a few nights, read a book, watched some TV and enjoyed a few cups of coffee in the garden. I feel full of energy and am looking forward to my alarm going off at 6.30am tomorrow morning!
The other way I have relaxed …. several hours quietly stitching in ends. After all it would have taken a truly superhuman effort for me to stay out of the studio for a full week!
Posted in Studio Blog
I’m in the final stages of making Ruins 7. Well I think I am. I need to stitch on facings and get it hung up somewhere so I can decide if it needs more stitch or not. Which presents a bit of a challenge as it is taller than the height of my studio. This will take a few days to sort out. So what should I do now?
I have been planning on going back to my Storm / Still series to (try to) make a piece for the SAQA call for entry ‘Layered Voices’. Up until now my ideas were all pretty vague and somewhat grandiose. But today I had a light bulb moment thanks to fellow Etcetera member Linda Bilsborrow. Following a discussion about her work I happened to glance at a small sample that was pinned to my Storm / Still design wall …. and flash! Off went that elusive light bulb!
Sample made whilst developing the Storm / Still series
I’m really lucky to have several design walls so I can keep lots of ideas and samples pinned up. Most of that space has been filled with Ruins stuff for the last few months but I kept some photos of Dunure beach and stitched samples visible – would I have had that light bulb moment if everything was tucked away?
Pinned up fabrics ready for auditioning
And now that I have a good idea of how to procede I have rearranged my design walls to keep me focussed. On one wall I have pinned the sample and some fabrics that I have already printed. I will add to this wall as I print more pieces. On another wall I have pinned up more photos of Dunure – I can look at these and remember what I felt sat on that beach and what I’m trying to convey in my work. And I have changed the drop cloth on my big print bench from the unmarked one that signifies I am in a composition and stitching phase to one with lots of lovely residual marks from previous printing sessions. Not as quick as flipping a switch but it has the same effect!
Memories of Dunure beach
It’s raining. Again.
It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post and there has been little to smile about. As a ‘remainer’ I watched the referendum results come in with increasing disbelief. And as the fall out continues it feels like the country is rudderless. And then there was the football. The awful weather seems strangely fitting.
All that said life carries on. The Ruins background I wrote about a couple of weeks ago is now pieced and layered. It is approximately 180cm wide by 250cm high so I have kept it in two halves to make it easier to get through the sewing machine. I’ve been quilting hundreds of parallel lines. It will take about 35 hours to finish this background quilting. This process gives me plenty of thinking time so I know what ‘structures’ will be stitched onto the background. The only problem left to solve is how I will photograph it. The studio walls are only 230cm high so one option is to hang it from one long edge then turn the photos by 90 degrees. Another option is to rig something up outside. Maybe the sun will start shining soon?
A few weeks before going on holiday I was told that my day job (as a Global Design and Development Manager) was no longer sustainable … a fancy way of saying that I was being made redundant. Which kind of sucks but, having sat on the other side of the table in the past, I quickly moved past being angry and upset to being pragmatic albeit still rather sad. The paperwork was completed the day before we travelled to Dunure so I had lots of time to start looking forward as I sat on the beach looking across to Arran. Those glorious sunsets being symbolic of one part of my life ending and another one starting …
Sun setting over Arran on the last day of our holiday
But as part of moving forward there has been a lot to sort out – a car (I am going to really, really miss my company car!), a mobile phone (thank goodness that I have kids to help sort this one out!), broadband (just don’t ask! total nightmare!) and of course money stuff. I feel like I have spent the whole week either filling out forms or being put on hold on the phone. Despite being officially unemployed I have only managed about 10 hours in the studio. But those few hours have produced a miniature quilt that I am happy to show at Festival of Quilts. I decided I didn’t like my first attempt so I started again and actually made two more pieces. Below is the piece I like. It is called Vestiges.
30cm x 30cm
I wish that I could take this opportunity to become a full time studio artist. Alas we still have a hefty mortgage so I will be spending the next few months looking for a new job. Happily my redundancy pay will keep the wolf from the door for a while so I can take my time. Which means that, now I have sorted out most of the ‘stuff’ that needed doing quickly, I can put in more hours in the studio. Or I could just sit in the garden drinking good coffee and enjoying the summer!