Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Working on New Work




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 for.’

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 lines:

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:
Sensory?
Quiet, internally driven work. Looking at shapes, layers and forms rather than colours and immediate impact.
Emotional?
The feeling of being withdrawn and in a space for creativity can be akin to the solitude of depression. Keeping this link is important.
Texture?
Not important, but must not detract from the layering of lines.
Limitations?  
2 weeks to complete!!
Form?
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.
Function?
Wall based panels – visual function only.
Shape?
Not important.
Materials?
Steel cloth and chiffons and stitch seem to bring the balance of texture from trials.
Techniques?
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 unusual:

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. 



To see all of the pieces and the final statement for the series, flick to the art works: negative spaces collection page.




They were displayed at Art Van Go in July/August, and are currently winging their way back to New Zealand to be a part of my next exhibition, to be held at NorthArt from 8th to 19th September 2014. 
Fingers crossed that the customs don’t get silly again – at least I am ready for that this time and have some idea of how to overcome that!
 




Monday, 18 August 2014

Next steps after workshop sessions

Always a delight to see work which has been inspired by a session with me. So thanks to Cath and Tony who brought in pieces to show me.
Cath attended a workshop using metal and reverse appliqué techniques, then later made a piece based on the Nottingham cave system. In a departure from her characteristic purples, pinks and turquoise, Cath has used rich but muted oranges, golds, browns and coppers. She has however stuck firmly to her favourite embellishing techniques for the background!

Go Cath!
Plan view of Nottingham caves

Coloured and embossed copper with cutaway velvet and beads

Tony attended the 'Crown Jewels Gone Mad' course in which we spend the day melting,burning, embossing and generally destroying Angelina fibres. Tony is known for his meticulous detail and precision, also for working in very delicate colours, so his colour selection in this fantastical underwater scene was a departure from his comfort zone also.




Go on -smile Tony, it won't hurt! (I think he was just a little shy)

Metals and Gilding on the North Shore

The North Shore Embroiderers had fun this weekend playing with metals. Saturday saw us colouring, shaping and stitching shims of copper, pewter and aluminium to get started on small, pretty hand stitched panels, and on Sunday we made silk papers from cocoon strippings, waxed paper and added gilding using traditional size and bondaweb before beginning to stitch into these surfaces too.

Hello from Takapuna.
Just a small selection of the samples underway:












As ever, there is always one person in a group who goes their own way! In this case, Jill. Having been inspired by her recent workshop with Sheila Mortlock she had ideas in mind and was developing a piece which combined her design development from that workshop with the metals in this workshop.

Work in progress by Jill Haddow

Thanks to you all for your comments:

'Thank you for a beautifully constructed and presented workshop. It is such a pleasure to work with a seasoned, gifted expert who is generous with her knowledge and inspiration.'

'I have had a simply wonderful weekend. Thank you so much for being a great informative tutor.'

'Fantastic. Thanks for all your ideas.'

There were more, but I don't want to over do it!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

More food than exercise: workshops and exhibitions.



On a brief trip across the Tasman to Canberra in May I was looked after splendidly by my very busy host, Cecile from Unique Stitching who was not only running a large stand, she was teaching full time throughout the show and organising the domestic and workshop arrangements for several tutors. I do hope that she got a good rest after the event before setting off on her next round of trips. (Though I doubt it) 
I have previously posted images of the class samples for the Wild Wire Weaving and the ‘Not So Standard Angelina’ classes. Unfortunately I only managed to get a couple of images of the workshop results this time:


Wild Wire Weaving

Not So Standard Angelina with fluorescent colours
  
Interestingly, Cecile had sourced the fluorescent standard fibre, rather than the more subtle metallic standard fibres which I have used before. These went down especially well with the school girls who chose to take this option, going right to town with the bold colours.
It was also very lovely to spend time (not enough time) with Judy Coates Perez. Judy is a quilter and mixed media artist from Sacramento, USA.
Judy was great fun and we had loads to talk about. Hope we meet again Judy.

Mid Town Sculpture in Canberra

Catching some culture in the Art museum with Judy

Works by Sidney Nolan from the Ned Kelly story

More culture, Canberra style!

Judy and I  with a small display of work at the show.


June saw the inaugural exhibition of the ‘immaterial’ textile group. Held at Minerva, the very special and very tempting, bookshop and gallery in Wellington, NZ.  We managed to time the opening to be on  the same weekend as the ‘Handmade 2014’ festival of art, craft and creativity, also held in Wellington and at which I was teaching.

This is ... Immaterial

This is ... Immaterial

This is ... Immaterial

This is ... Immaterial

This is ... Immaterial

This is ... Immaterial

This is ... Immaterial


This is ... Immaterial

This is ... Immaterial

This is ... Immaterial

This is ... Immaterial

This is ... Immaterial

This is ... Immaterial

This is ... Immaterial

Early July meant that it was time again to set off for the UK. As I write the UK trip is just over and I have to send thanks to lots of friends, family and fellow embroiderers who have all contributed to making the last few weeks such fun.
The weather was generally fabulous, warm and rarely wet - an extra bonus for a British summer.

I began the trip in early July at Norwich Embroiderers Guild, giving a talk about work I have made since my last visit a few years ago (probably about 10 years as I remember being introduced as ‘the Angelina Queen’!) followed by a day making ‘gamblers purse’ style bags with Angelina fibres. We did have a few sewing machines not wanting to tow the line, including one which set off all on it’s own each time it was plugged in!

Making 'Gamblers' Purses' with Angelina fibres at Norwich EG

Making 'Gamblers' Purses' with Angelina fibres at Norwich EG

After this I was ‘forced’ into 2 nights of camping. If friends you want to see are camping on the only dates you can see them, then you have to go with the flow. I survived (just) and nipped across to Art Van Go in Knebworth to set up my exhibition of new work. Bringing work with me on the plane necessitated some improvisation when it came to hanging the work. I wanted it to have a white background and to be seemingly floating. The solution was to paint packing card in white emulsion and stitch the pieces onto this. One snag was that the card curled inwards when painted. This threw odd shadows onto the pieces. By firmly pressing the card in the opposite direction from the back the card was straightened and all were much happier! More details and images in the next post.

The next weekend I visited Llanetllyd near to Dolgellau in Wales.   We worked with metals and sewing machines with a bit of wirework and wire crochet for light relief. Many thanks to Pat Bishop for being a fantastic host. 

No, not Pat's house! Far from it. But a lovely barn in the next field.

Pat and husband

Samples from metal and machine stitching day


Samples from metal and machine stitching day

Samples from metal and machine stitching day

Samples from metal and machine stitching day

End of day inspection and sharing.

Whilst in the area I popped up to Menai Bridge to see old friends and had a minor car breakdown so didn’t stop at the Oyster Catcher at Rhosneigr  which would have been great as it is a chef academy in a Huf Haus, quite an addition for this small Anglesey village. Next time perhaps.

Wednesday saw me back almost on home turf in Chesterfield with the group ‘Inspireation’. We discussed ideas about how best to understand the types of exhibitions and exhibition spaces that are available, what suits their group and how to approach with professionalism. I am sure that there will be future discussions amongst themselves and I hope it helped. For a change of pace in the afternoon we played with image transfer media and altering photographs for stitching and collaging.

The next day it was back to Art Van Go at Knebworth and two days using the techniques from my ‘Beaches of North NZ’ series, this workshop is called ‘Textures and Memories’. During the 2 days we embellished/needle felted, we used image transfer techniques and we used soldering and burning techniques. The pieces shown are by no means finished, but are pretty well on their way. Well done all.

Textures and Memories at Art Van Go

Textures and Memories at Art Van Go

Textures and Memories at Art Van Go

Textures and Memories at Art Van Go

Textures and Memories at Art Van Go

Textures and Memories at Art Van Go


Textures and Memories at Art Van Go

Textures and Memories at Art Van Go

Textures and Memories at Art Van Go

Textures and Memories at Art Van Go

Time with Viv and Kev is always a treat despite their demanding schedule.
A sunny day to sit and stitch outside
 
Saturday was spent with the Trent and Erewash Valley Embroiderers’ Guild, creating silk and fibre papers, adding textures with stitch and other fabrics then using reactive metal paints and gilt wax.

Stitching to add texture becomes ...

... this when painted and patinated.

Sunday was a design and concept day for the East Midlands Region of the Embroiserers’ Guild delivering a workshop for the Kickstart programme. Called ‘Layers of Meaning’ and subtitled ‘The Role of Colour and Symbolism’, this can be a pretty demanding day, the process being to link colour and symbols related to a subject and beginning to develop ideas which broaden the scope of investigation before beginning a piece. Delving a little deeper into the possibilities of the subject of Kickstart, which this year is ‘Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales’.

In 2013 I ran a couple of days investigating ways to abstract designs from the original inspiration. The theme of 2013 was ‘Flowers’, and though I wasn’t able to get to the final display, I was sent a few pictures of the results and was pleased to see that in some of the pieces there seemed to be at least a modicum of relation to the ideas we worked with.




The next week was spent with participants of the Living Threads group, we covered some of the projects from ‘Stitch, Fibre, Metal and Mixed Media’, including  Hanging Pods, Fernery Vessel, Silvered Bark and Golden Romance.I will be running more workshops for Living Threads in October and November the details should be on their site very soon.
I forgot my camera on the Hanging Pods day, sorry, but here are the others, as far as we got on the days. If anyone finishes their work and can send me a picture, I'll not only appreciate it personally, but would love to show it here ...
 
Fernery Vessels

Fernery (actually univers-y) vessels detail from Cath

Fernery by Tony

Fernery Vessel panel

Silvered Bark - starting the day

Silvered bark - becoming an ammonite

Silvered Bark

Silvered Bark

Golden Romance

Golden Romance

After over three weeks I managed to use the indoor climbing wall and catch up with friends there. By now I was terribly out of shape and really must get out running again. This isn’t helped by living with my parents, who like regular and well made meals. This is in direct opposition to my usual varied and perfunctory cooking – I always seem to have better things to do.

The next week was to be the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham. This meant a concerted effort to create work to show on the stand, make 100 workshop packs, create the staged samples for filming on Saturday morning, a book launch (The Ultimate Guide to Art Quilting by Linda Seward) in which I have stainless steel quilt featured, and most nerve wracking of all, walking on the catwalk on Friday evening at the Wearable Art Fashion Show, modelling the corset I made with sweet paper foils for the book. Thanks so much to June who also overcame nerves to show off the wedding dress I made for her. When the filming of the project and the fashion show are posted somewhere I will link it to here – I can’t wait to see what it all looked like from the watchers point of view! 

Small stand at the Quilt Festival

This only left one day to sort everything out, fill my mum’s garage with clothes, equipment art supplies, books etc. which I can’t fit in my suitcase and then back on a plane again. 

Trying to keep things in check whilst taking over Mum's lounge!

I can just about get into bed around the samples, supplies and equipment.

Can’t believe I am already back in NZ. But the NorthShore Embroiderers are expecting me today and tomorrow, my regular workshops at Mairangi Art Centre start again next week, the exhibition at NorthArt has to be finalised, sculptures to create for the 2015 Kaipara Sculpture Garden trail, more workshops in Australia and a family who might just want some attention, before setting off back to the UK again in late October.

Of course no visit is completely full of happy times and during this visit there were two particularly emotional situations.
One was dealing with assisting the owner of the Beetroot Tree to complete the process of closing the gallery down. He had not found it possible to continue in business, so it was time to move on. There is much clearing, sorting, selling and paperwork to be done which I was only able to scratch the surface of with him. Hopefully I was of some use.
The second and even sadder occasion was the death of my Grandad. He was a very frail old man already, and was rushed into hospital, he died peacefully after a couple of days, without spending too long holding on to the last stage of life when he was no longer able to see, hear, communicate or move for himself. My Mum has been a carer for all of her parents, her parents-in-law and a couple of aunts and aunts-in-law, one after another for so many years. She is tired and sad at the moment but now will have a chance to find time to spend on her own interests and with my Dad. As I couldn't stay for the funeral, here are a few pictures of Nana and Grandad Bales through the ages.







There, I hope that I haven’t bored you too much, trying to pack four months into a few words and pictures. I’ll be back sooner next time.