Why 'burnt offerings'?
Mostly because it seems to be a general trend - from bunsen burners back in my science days, to soldering irons, heat guns and plumbing torches which seem to be very useful tools in my fine art textiles now, or perhaps just because most of my cooking seems to be that way inclined!
Find offerings about art, textiles, running a gallery and walking the dogs ...
Amazing how a deadline focuses the mind! I am a terrible
procrastinator and it takes me a long time to get started – which ideas and
techniques to use for the series - are the ideas ‘fit for purpose’ – what is
the purpose? Etc. etc.
So, when I find myself just over 2 weeks away from an
exhibition with no work – it is time to get my proverbial finger out.
A deadline both gets adrenaline running to concentrate
efforts on the goal, but often the pieces you had in your head are not those
which start coming out from the end of my fingers. Arrggh. This is why
‘endgaming’ is such a bad thing. In this case I had fooled myself into thinking
that a cerebral trial run would be ok. It turns out that though the colours and
textures I was putting together have potential, they are not right for the
pieces I want to create right now. This is not an uncommon dilemma and part of
the making process is to consider what is it about the pieces you feel fits
your needs for this piece, what doesn’t, and why or why not. Some ideas and
trials are to be put on a back burner, parked for future examination, others
are ready to take forwards. Time to step backwards, reassess and with a bit of
luck, move forward.
I try to develop and create work in a fairly free, open
and mutable way, at least for some periods during the journey to completion.
This might be called improvising, but I am wary of the stereotype associated with
saying that I work though ‘improvisation’. It tends to suggest that I simply
throw random ideas, fabrics, stitching into the air and see what happens. Improvisation
is sometimes thought of as ‘winging it’, implying lack of skill and judgement –
it is not – it is bringing the skills learned in your life to bear on the
subject, but not letting those same skills hem you in. Ideally it results in conscious,
open choices being made and the resulting pieces having a deeper connection to
the ideas I start with.
Stephen Nachmanovitch in ‘Free
Play: Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts’ writes in much more detail
and with much more coherence than I do, look him up of you think that
you would like to try out some of these ideas.
I also find that some of the writings of Joseph Albers are from the same
hymn sheet and worth remembering, such as:
‘I have always spoken against just falling onto
your knees for so-called accidents, I mean a result you are not responsible
One of the methods I use to work towards the aim of making
consciously free work is to start with a ‘checklist’ consisting of headings and
ideas which give me a focus on the piece or pieces and a way to refer back to
my original cogitations about the meaning and important aspects of the works as
I move forward. I emphasise that this is not ‘endgaming’ (deciding what I will
create before beginning the journey), but developing a deeper connection to the
reason for making the pieces, especially the important features or key characteristics.
For this series my initial thoughts were along these
A continuation of ideas developed in terms of the connection
we have to drawings of human figures. Linking right back to a piece I made
after losing a friend when I was 15 years old, she was killed in a motorbike
accident. The piece I painted then depicted figures stacked and curled around
each other, legs, arms and hair linking together as the figures were head down
and curled up in grief. As we move through life we learn to adjust to an
increasing ‘list’ of such experiences, some minor, some major. But they are
always there. Hopefully for most of us these experiences are balanced or
outweighed with positive events and experiences, but there are times for some
people when it seems that difficulties are the only reality.
I have also worked in previous series’ delving into the
feelings and internal landscape present when I am in the process of making
work. These pieces have divided the ‘canvas’ into spaces which link, add
pressure or flow and release to depict the continually shifting mindscape of creativity
and the reality of other influences intruding or helping.
Some of the headings to consider:
Quiet, internally driven work. Looking at shapes, layers
and forms rather than colours and immediate impact.
The feeling of being withdrawn and in a space for
creativity can be akin to the solitude of depression. Keeping this link is
Not important, but must not detract from the layering of
2 weeks to complete!!
Need to be posted/carried in a suitcase – so in this
instance they will need to be developed as flat, soft hangings. This could be developed/changed
for future work.
Wall based panels – visual function only.
Steel cloth and chiffons and stitch seem to bring the balance
of texture from trials.
Patchwork techniques seems to sum up the filing of
experiences and their development into the background of who we are. Machine
stitch, needle felting, some hand stitch if time, could be added later?
I find that writing these notes about the thoughts helps
to crystallise them and identifies my starting points. It is easier after this to
start the quiet contemplation, the virtual ‘holding’ of the germs of the ideas,
hushing my mind to allow the options and considerations to resolve themselves
towards a focussing of possibilities. These notes are certainly not immutable
and fixed, each aspect can be altered, choices made about increasing or
decreasing the importance of the aspects, it is a pinboard to refer back to.
Once these thoughts are rounded up and ready to use, it
is the getting started which can be the next hard step. It is often this development
and cogitation stage which is the lengthiest part of the development process.
Perhaps this is necessary, perhaps it is simply procrastination. In this case,
imminent deadlines, fear of presenting an exhibition which was so minimal that was
actually non-existent, aided the ‘stepping over the parapet’ phase and I worked
solidly for the time I had.
Here’s a very apt quote from blogger and artist Arlee Bar
which also sums up the dilemma of getting started, and reminds me that I am not
This is slow going in one sense. I left the wing pattern and
fabric draped over the frame i want to use (but might not) overnight--my brain
needs to process the direction and instructions first before i bite in with
scissors and needles. Every time i finish something now, it seems a greater
distance to the next one. I know these things are in there, in my heart, mind,
gut, wherever that inspiration and dedication comes from, but digging it out
gets harder and harder, though lord knows i feel empty and bereft without
*something* going in my hands. Sometimes i wish i could just take a picture of
the inside of my head and put that immediately on the fabric and in the stitching,
but alas....it doesn't work that way, does it? It's almost as if there is a
starter shot i'm waiting for, anticipating but never hearing or hearing a
second late. I know i will jump in when the sound stops, but in the meantime
it's quite frustrating! It's like that first step will mislead me, a commitment
to the wrong future.
But digressing and chatting doesn't make it go forward either, so best get on
with it. Just have to find the scissors.
The pieces grew fast once I had started, backgrounds
worked in patched stainless steel, needle felted areas softening and obscuring
some of this, then figure drawings stitched across the pieces. The figures are
then partially obscured with blocks and areas of stitched lines derived from
patterns developed from the negative spaces between the drawings. The pieces
developed until the figures are mostly enclosed and contained by the patterns, becoming
only partially visible. When we are withdrawn into ourselves, the physical body
may actually become curled into a safe foetal position, or at least the feeling
of turning away from the external to achieve clarity and connection with the
internal. The patterns swirl and layer in forms which could be protective or could
be oppressive, patterns derived from the body itself. Around each figure, just
a hint of colour stitched, a spark, a reminder, an aura.