Stiff Upper Lip
(60cm x 149cm)
Definitely! And here to prove it is ‘Happy todays?’ baby sister.
Baby ‘brother’ just did not feel right. Maybe because it is part of series that is about me, my emotional state and the calming influence of place? Maybe because I am tainted by the stereo type of textile art as a form of female expression? I would hope not but there is no denying that the wonderful textile / quilt community I am part of is predominantly female. I wonder how male textile artists would label their work?
Work in Progress
Over the last couple of years I have definitely found my ‘voice’. Or my ‘visual style’. Or whatever you want to call that sense of confidence that comes from developing a set of processes (or studio practice) that transforms ideas into finished pieces that are recognisably ‘me’. I can point to three things that helped – making a conscious decision to work in series, attending a Colour Studies course with Leslie Morgan and moving into my purpose built studio.
I currently have two ‘active’ series. The Ruins series which has given me so much success and the Still / Storm series which still feels in it’s infancy. In both cases I started by developing a colour palette then developed a set of printed and / or dyed fabrics. I collage and stitch samples during which ideas for ‘full sized’ pieces start to flow. Some ideas are very vague and require more sampling. Other ideas pop up fully formed. And demanding attention. Like the piece I am working on now.
I keep a list of potential ‘calls for entry’, particularly those without a theme or size restrictions. But I let the work itself dictate what size and even what form my finished pieces will take. And I no longer give in to the temptation to create ‘one-offs’ to fit a specific call for entry. This limits where I might place my work but sometimes there is a really good match between my work and a particular call. Such as the current SAQA ‘Layered Voices’ call. The piece is going to be 4 metre long strip hung such that the bottom section is draped and partially hidden on the floor. It will be double sided. And stitched with hundreds and hundreds of parallel lines. And every end of thread will be carefully sewn in. So shouted my voice!
Unfortunately my voice does not care that the call ends on 30th September and that I start a new day job on the 12th. Or that we are hanging the next Etcetera exhibition at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery this week. Ho hum. Better get back to my sewing machine!
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
Storm 1 (Jagged)
It has been a while since I have written about Steven Pressfield and his book ‘The War of Art’ but this week I had reason to reread sections of the book. I got the news that the pieces I submitted to the SAQA calls ‘Tranquility’ and ‘Turmoil’ had been rejected. Nobody likes rejection but for many people it can be distracting or even paralysing. We all fear rejection. That fear is hard wired into us. But Pressfield says that a ‘Professional’ artist cannot take rejection personally. Instead she should self-validate and assess her work coldly and objectively. ”Where it fell short, she’ll improve it. Where it triumphed, she will make it better still. She’ll work harder. She’ll be back tomorrow.”
So in the time it took to drink a cup of good coffee (and eat some chocolate) I assessed the pieces (including Storm 1 Jagged) that had been rejected. Did I achieve visually what I wanted with each piece? Yes. Were they crafted to the best of my technical ability? Yes. Did I present them to the best of my ability? Well maybe not – they were hard to photograph so I need to work on this. Will I let rejection stop me from working on the Storm / Still series? Will I let rejection stop me submitting works from this series to other calls? Will I let it take anymore of my precious time in the studio? Nope. No way!
And with that I put on some loud music, sat down at my sewing machine and stitched for two solid hours!