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!
It was my great pleasure to attend the first ever SAQA UK meeting held yesterday in Milnrow, Lancashire. SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Association) are an US based organisation but they do have a couple of hundred members in Europe and 66 here in the UK. Whilst the organisation provides some really great exhibiting opportunities it is inevitably ‘US-centric’ and it can be difficult for those of us making very abstract work to break through.
Christine Seager, one of the SAQA Europe Reps, has initiated the UK meetings to provide more targeted support for UK members both within SAQA and in their endeavours outside SAQA. If successful she hopes that the model can be rolled out across Europe. I suggested Milnrow as a suitable meeting hall that I have booked in the past for the Etcetera group. And, of course, I took along my coffee pot! Christine and Gillian Travis lead lively discussions on what SAQA means to its members and how the UK meetings can support and promote the growth of a professional quilt / textile artist community. There will be another meeting near London early next year and I really hope that many more SAQA members will attend.
Part of the discussion was on exhibiting opportunities. SAQA currently run a biennial exhibition for members in Europe and the Middle East called Wide Horizons. (My piece Storm 2 (Dark) is currently touring with Wide Horizons V and I was delighted to get my copy of the exhibition catalogue yesterday!). Christine has fought hard and got two more opportunities for European members. The first is called Made in Europe I and will tour in the US though 2017. It is the perfect opportunity for European work to be seen by tens of thousands American quilters. The second has yet to be officially announced but will be Made in Europe II and will be shown alongside the SAQA Tranquility and Turmoil exhibition at next summers Festival of Quilts.
Wide Horizons 5
Lots of people have asked how I am going to spend the £1000 award I received for winning the Art category at Festival of Quilts. Lots of encouragement to spend it on something for myself. Well I did spend £40 on a small piece of work by Rosie James but the rest of it is going into the studio ‘pot’. Which definitely qualifies as something for myself! Although I treat my art just as seriously and (hopefully) as professionally as I do my day job the reality is that it does not pay. This is the first significant sum of money that has gone in the pot. And whilst I hope that it is not the last I do recognise that I am incredibly lucky that the money I earn in my day job allows me to work in the way that I want to and in the wonderful environment that is my studio.
That said the unexpected income has ‘allowed’ me to order 60 metres of Cotton Poplin Delphina (from Whaleys of Bradford) rather than the usual 20 metres thus spreading the delivery charge out a bit. And it has ‘allowed’ me to invest in some new silkscreens. I typically buy one most years whilst I am at Festival of Quilts but, because I damage the occasional one, I only have 4 good screens at the moment. Which slows me down when I am breakdown printing as I only pull each screen a few times before cleaning it and remaking it. So I have invested in 10 new screens from Coated Screens Limited. Five at 14 x 20 inches and five rather large ones at 20 x 30 inches. Buying in bulk has reduced the cost considerably. Now I just need to figure out where to store them!
So where to begin. Festival of Quilts is huge. There are a dozen or so white walled gallery spaces, hundreds of open competition quilts and an awful lot of traders. There have been years when I have been so totally overwhelmed that I have left after a couple of hours. The truly amazing selection of work has sometimes made me wonder ‘why bother’ but at other times has energised me to rush back to the studio to make art.
This year has been a good one. My piece Ruins 6 won 1st prize in the open Art Category, Vestiges got a ‘highly commended’ in the Miniature Category and Ruins 5 was shortlisted for Fine Art Quilt Masters. I floated on air and was humbled by all the congratulations and kind words. They even played my favourite Blur song (Song 2) when I went on stage to collect my award. Of course this was a completely random thing as the music is pre-selected but it made my grin even wider!
(270cm x 135cm, £3500)
In between meeting friends and stewarding in the SAQA gallery I managed to visit all the galleries on my ‘must see’ list and saw quite a lot of the open competition quilts. My favourite gallery was probably Art Textile: Made In Britain: Concealed where I was blown away by the work of Rosie James. I also really enjoyed Claire Benn and Ingrid Press’s gallery.
Unlike many visitors I never seem to remember to take photos of the works I like – for the most part I am too absorbed in looking and responding. I did take a few and here is a selection.
Borrowed (Henry Matisse, Tom and me) by Maria Thomas
Shortlisted in Fine Art Quilt Masters
Rust rose by Sue Hotchkis
Shortlisted in Fine Art Quilt Masters
Big Sister by Claire Passmore
Detail of Surface III by Isabelle Wiessler
Thames Lock 101 by Mags Ramsay
Rainy Day Dora Creek #13 by Judy Hooworth