Inspiration is a very personal thing. My inspirations are nearly all urban. I love industrial landscapes although it is getting harder to distinguish between pale grey corrugated metal retail parks and pale grey corrugated metal factories. Some would say that both are factories.
But occasionally there is a flash of colour, a wonderful shape or an interesting interplay of lines breaking up the sky. The Pilkington Glass site on Canal Street, St Helens is fabulous. It has the usual grey boxes, pipes and conveyors running between buildings. It also has towers and shapes that are quite unique and, hopefully, still recognisable as I try to use them in an abstract form in the work I’m creating for my joint exhibition with Helen Conway in St Helens next year.
This last weekend was perfect. Blue skies. A balmy 20C. Blossom on the cherry tree. Coffee in the garden. And long, productive hours in the studio.
April and May are my favourite months. A combination of lighter evenings and some long weekends thanks to the Easter and May public holidays make it almost impossible not to hit my target of 20 hours in the studio each week. Being able to dry my breakdown screens outside speeds up the process and gives much better results than I achieve on screens that have dried overnight in the studio. And rinsing out printed fabric is much kinder on my hands when my cold water feed isn’t finger numbingly cold.
So this weekend I got up early enough both days to drive my son to work for a 7.30am start. I would like to say that I did this just out of love but, honestly, it was so that I could be in the studio before 8am each day! I spent both days happily printing more fabric for my Ruins series. When screens or cloth were drying I continued to work on small samples. Such a productive couple of days.
And the good times keep on coming … Easter means a 4 day weekend!! And chocolate!
Does this work? 1
Knowing that I have two major exhibitions with Helen Conway in 2018 is amazing. Although I’ve worked in series for the last few years this will be the first time that I get to create a cohesive body of work knowing the pieces will be hung together. And knowing the spaces where they will hang. Yes Helen and I need to make sure that our work will work together in each space but otherwise the sky is the limit!
And we have well over a year to prepare. We will have about 15m each of wall at World of Glass and a massive 30m each at Stockport Wall Memorial Art Gallery. And we only have just over a year to prepare!! Thank goodness Stockport will be in the autumn.
My hope is to create two completely separate bodies of work albeit both stemming from three parallel series inspired by the urban and industrial landscape in and around both venues. But I have to also be realistic. I had an amazingly productive year in 2016 but my output still fell short of what I need to achieve in the next year or so. I blame my very loud and bossy ‘voice’. It wants to work big. It insists on piecing lots of small pieces of fabric. And then it absolutely throws a tantrum if I don’t complete the work with hundreds and hundreds of parallel lines of stitch. And, much to Helen’s amusement, it even demands that I sew in all my ends.
Something has to change. I have to find a way to make smaller (and more affordable) works that I, but more importantly, my ‘voice’ can be happy with. So I have set aside the month of April to try new things. Can I make art that can be framed? Can I print onto paper? What happens if I print onto rough linen? Can I fuse my brick walls? Time will tell.
It is with very great pleasure that I announce my second exhibition with Helen Conway. It will take place in early summer 2018 in the fanatastic Gallery One at The World of Glass in St Helens.
Helen has written a great blog with photos of the gallery and insight into her inspirations and intent for the exhibition. Helen was brought up in St Helens; her family has lived there for several generation. It has provided the backdrop to her development as an artist. In her work she will trace her families lives and tell their stories. She will also explore her own history and the development of her creative process.
My art will continue to explore the urban and industrial landscape. St Helens has a strong industrial heritage. From the glass works which still exist today to the coal mines that now only exist in the towns collective memory. I want to build a collection of works that, whilst abstract, contain traces of man-made structures that the people of St Helens will recognise. Drawing them into the work, triggering memories.
Helen and I have set an ambitious schedule. Gallery One is a big space. As is the gallery at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery where we will exhibit in autumn 2018. We are committed to creating work specifically for each venue. We are also determined to create exhibitions that are cohesive; where there are links between each others art. It is both terrifying and exciting. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey!
In my last post I talked about how creativity tends to creep up on me when I am immersed in process. I follow a set process when developing a new series … I work on the colours first – pinning them on my design wall for assessment. Then I do the printing and pin pieces up until my design wall is covered. I discard fabric that doesn’t ‘fit’ without thinking too hard about why. I then sample different types of construction. In my Hidden Message series this resulted in several pieces going in the bin before I was happy. With my Ruins series (and the series I am developing now) building a background made of bricks felt ‘right’. Having stitched some small sample backgrounds I turn to my design wall again.
I don’t do sketchbooks – I do pinning things to a design wall until something ‘clicks’.
Today I pinned up my two sample backgrounds. I rummaged through my boxes of dyed fabric and pinned up a selection of colours. I am not going to decide yet if the foreground will consist of dyed fabric or printed fabric or stitch yet. They are just up there. I added a couple of photos I took last summer of an old gasworks.
Then I used one of my favourite ‘tools’ – I cropped and enlarged small sections from the photo and pinned the results up. And I got that wonderful tingly feeling! I don’t know what size the finished pieces will be or how I will apply the foreground but I do know what I’m going to be spending the next few months doing.