I had nine 30 cm square canvases that I wanted to use for some new small pieces of work, and I decided that I would employ my favourite technique of materials led design. This basically means getting out every scrap of fabric, paper and anything else you own, experimenting and editing with what you have to test what really gets you going, and then making some new pieces, in this case whilst revisiting some favourite themes, something I like to do when making small works. I finished hand stitching the last two yesterday afternoon, whilst catching up on Mark Ronson and Florence and the Machine at Glastonbury. I just love iPlayer. The volume was up, and it took ages to do the work, of course. More Glasto catch up to do later, seriously need to go there at some point, probably should get on with that one. Not camping though, did that once, and that was enough… . . . . . . . . .
…is very interesting isn’t it? I’ve had a few ideas circling in my head for ages, and various wants and needs too, such as an urge during the winter to use more colour, and a strong desire to look at and channel illuminated manuscripts in my work. I saw a lot of these amazing books in an exhibition in the British Library a couple of years ago and they have stayed with me, glowing in their glass cases in the dark rooms.
The colour need seems to have been satisfied with the Khadi paper circles with birds previously shown; they’re almost finished now. The manuscripts are still thoughts in progress, but an innocent activity such as sorting fabrics to put into fabric packs for sale at shows has led me to make some new pieces, without planning to.
These are actually for a couple of shows next year, so there’s no rush to finish them, which is wonderful as I actually don’t like working under pressure at all. I had some fabric I was laying down for the packs, below, and although I would never have chosen these to make a piece of work, I loved what happened and made the happy occurrence into a new piece. It’s about 1.25 m x 60 cm, fabrics on silk noil. I’ve had the silk for years, and actually it has nearly ended up in fabric packs before now.
This led to a burst of creative energy, which as usual involved getting out lots of materials. I laid down another four pieces, on silk noil, then put the materials away. I want to enjoy making these, not end up with a great pile of work I feel I have to plough through; been there, done that, time for a change.
This determined plan then failed as I got more materials out later. Still, there we go, strike while the iron’s hot and other ancient but useful phrases. So a few more pieces, the one below is a companion piece to Dark, or Night, Tide, and is the same size. The elements in this one are all cut out from painted and printed papers. And below are three more pieces, mixed fabrics and papers, each about 50 x 50 cm. These are probably destined for the Art Textiles: Made in Britain gallery at the Festival of Quilts 2016. The fourth piece is a paper collage, which I will stitch, simply and lightly. There is a fantastic show on at the Art Gallery here in Birmingham, curated by Jeremy Deller. The show compares and connects William Morris and Andy Warhol, and there are some wonderful pieces on show.
I loved Andy Warhol’s beautiful line drawings, and his larger screen prints of flowers, and camouflage, mentioning just two examples, displayed surreally on huge walls papered with William Morris wallpaper designs. The careers of both artists are explored thoroughly, particularly the large amount of publications they both produced.
There are some large print blocks on display which were used to block print various William Morris wallpapers, and these tools are gorgeous as objects too. The whole show is so well curated and mounted it’s a joy, and all the Holy Grail Tapestries, made by Morris and Co. are also in the show. I’ve seen these quite a lot, growing up in Birmingham, but it’s always good to see them again.
There are times, let’s be honest, when looking at pictures is much more fun than ploughing through many words. So, here is one of those times, lots of images and hopefully not too many words. I had a lovely day out with Hilary Beattie on Tuesday at Winterbourne Botanical Gardens here in Birmingham. I hadn’t seen her for ages, and it was great fun. This is what the gardens looked like in the glorious weather we had. Many photographs were taken; Hils must have taken about 500. There she is, sneaking into the picture. In the second hand book shop there Hils found this bird book, which she very kindly let me have. I was going to stop buying books but this one and the gorgeous old botanical chap which follows were irresistible, and very cheap too. I love the paintings and engravings which feature throughout the books. I’ve never seen a book so well used as this 1846 Treasure of Botany; many of the pages are taped in and repaired inside. It’s a dense read. And now a couple more of those circles I’ve been laying down, as mentioned in my previous blog post, machine stitched and ready to be hand finished. And, if you’re still with us, an image of part my show at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Gallery in Birmingham. It’s a small area, but one picture has just gone to a new home in Southampton, so can’t be bad. I’ll be demonstrating there on May 23rd, undoubtedly with all my circles.
I’ve been wanting to make some colourful work for some time, and I was recently going through my paper drawer, trying to sort it out but failing; paper doesn’t seem to like being sorted.
I had painted these large circles of Khadi paper at least 18 months ago, and over time kept just putting them back in the drawer. I liked them but didn’t have many ideas of what to do with them, until earlier on this week when I realised they were exactly what I needed to get a bit of colour into my work; and of course I was using stuff I already have, which is a bit of a thing with me these days. Instead of adding to my materials, I’m going through them and using them, and enjoying the process too. Also you end up with more space, which can’t be bad.
So here are a few before and after shots. The circles are 56 cm in diameter.
Auditioning some fabrics.
Laid down and ready to stitch.
All the fabrics are from my store of Bondawebbed materials, so they are all ready to go. The laid down piece, below.
I forgot to photograph the fabrics used in this yellow birds piece beforehand, but you can see what I’ve used on the left. Most of the bright fabrics were painted by my daughter Chloe. She throws them out and I use them…
There are a couple more pieces in the pipeline too, which I will post as they progress.
The work for my solo show ‘Natural Histories’ at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists gallery is all done and wrapped, ready to be hung on Friday. The show opens on Monday 4th May, as the gallery is closed until then having a spruce up. I’ve made three new pieces of work for the show over the past week and a half, which was a surprise, as I thought I had made all the new pieces I was going to; I would have liked at least one more when I finished the main body of work a couple of weeks ago but didn’t feel like pushing it. I don’t know what happened, whether it’s spring or whatever, but after a trip to Manchester recently I regained some of my old oomph, and without really pushing it, really enjoyed making these new pieces. They are very black and white, excluding the mulberry bark border on the two large pieces. I love monochrome, but I’m aiming for some bright colours in my future work; I have a great need to use orange. Here are some images of the new black and white pieces, followed by some of the other work on canvases which will be in the show. The long landscape canvases measure 80 x 40 cm, with the small square one measuring 30 x 30 cm. Work in progress. The pieces were inspired by some photographs I had taken of our magnolia in flower, and an exhibit from the Cornelia Parker show I have recently visited showing the trimmed edges of canvas from some Turner paintings, plus some images I took of the butterfly collection and some plant fossils at the Manchester Museum. The images were manipulated in Photoshop and printed onto calico. My drawing of the canvas edges, from memory, and the magnolia. Above, Natural histories I, finished. Natural histories II Natural histories III, featuring a thermofax print. I made the screen from a photograph of a finished piece of my work based on my toad lily. Above and below, details. I always think that detail shots would make interesting pieces in their own right. I mostly hand stitched the pieces but used some machine stitch on the twigs, as I wanted more texture. And below, some more pieces of work that will be in the show. In the night forest Spring snow Winter forest, dawn Three leaves, autumn Secret gardens. This is an older piece which prompted me to do more pieces on canvas. There are some smaller framed pieces too, and I will be at the gallery on May 23rd and June 13th, 11 – 1 and 2 – 4, making work and available for a chat. There will also be more work to see and handle on those days too.
I visited Manchester for the first time on Saturday with my friend Sue, chiefly to go to the Whitworth to see the Cornelia Parker exhibition. The exhibition didn’t disappoint, and the newly developed and added-to Whitworth, a gallery which is part of the University of Manchester, is beautiful.
We were also impressed by Cai Guo-Qiang’s piece, Unmanned Nature, and his video showing how he made the drawing by basically drawing with gunpowder then blowing the whole thing up, which then forms the marks. There were also videos of his many firework displays, mostly featuring amazing configurations of black puffs of smoke. He designed the fireworks for the Beijing Olympics open and closing ceremonies. Here are a few images, starting with Unmanned Nature, which also featured a large shallow pool.
And now Cornelia Parker’s show, inventive, clever and thoughtful.
The view from the gallery of the park, where we had lunch.
I couldn’t leave out this piece, one of a series of six which involved embroidering two opposing dictionary definitions on either side of a piece of linen. The embroidery is amazing, done by prisoners in HM Prisons.
I was inspired to start some new work by one exhibit in her show, which I didn’t actually get round to photographing. Actually this doesn’t matter as my memory of the piece will serve me well enough, which I will probably use as a format for some new work, which is developing both on my table and in my head at the moment. The exhibit was just strips of waste canvas, small, narrow and ragged, from the edges of some of Turner’s paintings. I have no idea how she came to them, but both Sue and I couldn’t stop looking at them.
Here are some of the materials I have sorted for the new work. I have made some prints on calico using my printer of some exhibits I photographed in Manchester Museum’ natural history collection. We had a short time there before having to catch our train home, it’s a fascinating place.
I also printed some photoshopped images I took of our magnolia in bloom, and a fossil fern. I may use the ginkgo leaves in some way, either as themselves or as little leafy print blocks. It’s all monochrome at the moment, but I’m planning on adding some bursts of colour, either as collaged pieces or as stitching.
I’ll post developments. I’m trying to keep the pieces as soft fabric constructions, as I want to use hand stitch, rather than rampage all over the work with machine stitching, which I can tend to do all too readily.
I had a lovely day with the very talented Ledbury Quilters on Saturday, teaching my Bold and Bright workshop. As I’m always flexible with my workshops, after all, they are about the students not the tutor, you will see some of the work in progress shown here is on the Sensitive and Subtle side of the equation.
I always enjoy the range of work produced in the workshops, I find it all very inspiring, so thought I would share these with you.