Sunday, 10 May 2015

On my high horse and an apology

I have been seething recently - not something I do a lot, generally being of a more accepting, level headed, easy going nature (I think), however ...
If you belong to a group which has a constitution and rules, then fair enough, abide by the rules or leave. If you belong to a group with a constitution and rules, which the group organisers then ignore and refuse to discuss with you, (maybe because it is easier for them not to as I am 12,000 miles away and emails are easy to ignore) then I feel entitled to an amount of righteous indignation.

The Living Threads Group is a broadly based group of embroiderers, quilters, knitters and mixed media textile artists, it encompasses both traditional and contemporary styles. It was founded by a group of textile teachers and now consists of over 70 members. There is an exhibition every other year and many workshops are run by members for the public. The group membership is by invitation, and I have been a member for a long time now, being involved as an exhibitor and a tutor.
When I decided to move to NZ I was asked by one of the Living Threads founders not to leave and to continue to offer workshops for them when I visit the UK and to exhibit in the shows. My mother agreed to take on the exhibition stewarding which members are expected to make time for during the exhibition. Delighted, I said, I would love to send new work to show and to continue to tutor as I have many great friends who regularly attend my workshops.
This Easter was the second exhibition I have sent work across the oceans to the  Living Threads exhibition, at a fair cost to myself (my choice, I know).
I then receive a curt email saying that the three main pieces would not be hung due to:
1. Health and Safety concerns.
2. The quality of work not being acceptable.

I obviously objected to this and asked that the  hanging group reconsider. I understand that the perspex backing to the pieces has a deliberately rough cut edge - but this has never been a problem at other galleries or with the buyers, and the most it could do would be to snag your jumper fibres, certainly it could not harm anyone.
The comment about the quality of the work made me see red. Whose opinion I asked? Who selected the selection committee, for an open entry members exhibition?

A flurry of emails back and forward resulted in no more satisfactory answer, simply a repeat that they had decided that the work was not up to standard.

This is where a group should adhere to it's own rules, or lack of rules.
If I send work to a selection committee, or a competition etc. then the choice of the selection board is what it is, whether I like the result or not. This is the case for many exhibitions I take part in. If I opt to send work to be selected by a panel or a judge, the decision is completely theirs.
In this case though, the constitution of Living Threads has no provision for selection of work on any grounds. This may be something the group need to look at for the future if they wish to have the right to select. The group then needs to consider who will make the selection. Who has the status and trust of the group members as a body to select what will be hung?
In this case they should have stuck to their rules, whether they liked it or not, and hung all entered work. Having run a gallery and worked with hundreds, probably thousands, of artists and been through many contractual niceties I know how this can catch you out, but still you have to be fair to your artists and work within your own conditions. I have asked that this be brought up at the next group meeting, but have had only a complete silence as a reply to date, which makes me doubt that my distant voice will be considered. This feeling is compounded by knowing that the founding members still have a strong hold on the running of the group and are resistant to any new thinking in other areas also.

As I had promised you that the work would be at the 'Textile Treasures' exhibition, and so had only shown details and teasers of the pieces in advance, and furthermore I know that some of you did go expecting to see the work and were disappointed not to find it all, the full images are here. I also hope to have them on show at the Knitting and Stitching Shows in October and November.

I await any further communication from the Living Threads committee before making any choices about my continued membership. I would very much miss the chance to spend time with the fabulous, fun, creative ladies and gents who book on my workshops through the group, and this is by far the largest consideration to me.

 Whatever you think of them, and that is beside the point of the discussion/rant I have just treated you to, these were the pieces I sent to be shown, and I can only offer my sincere apologies to you if you traveled to the exhibition to see the pieces, and not to find them on show.

Breaking Open (shown)

Rocky Shoreline series (shown)

Rocky Shoreline series (shown)

Rocky Shoreline series (shown)

Rocky Shoreline series (shown)
On the Run (not shown)

On the Run detail
On the Fly (not shown)

On the Fly detail
On the Cross (not shown)

On the Cross detail
Thanks for listening, I have been needing to get that one off my chest!


Anonymous said...

Alyson, I was one of those people who went hoping to see your work, and talked to your mother, who knew we'd come to see your work.
I agree that an organisation needs to abide by its rules. If there is no selection process then all work should be hung. There was space for it. Also since most work had don't touch notices how can the dreaded health and safety be an issue?

There was work on show that myself and 1 of the friends I went with spotted quality issues which as city and guilds students we know our tutor would have rejected the work if not addressed.

So please keep fighting for your rights.

Alysn Midgelow-Marsden said...

Many thanks for the supportive response, and apologies again for the work not being in the exhibition. What I don't want to do is to let the sour feeling this creates leak over into the rest of my life/work, so I will only push so far for a response from the Living Threads committee, there have to be better things to do!

Maggi said...

I'm sorry t to hear that some of your pieces were rejected. I too understood that this was a non-juried show. I can't understand why those particular pieces were not hung as they don't appear to be of a lesser quality than the others. Although it was, as usual, a good exhibition there were certainly pieces of dubious quality - not yours. Do you think that the fact that you ask realistic prices for your work may have something to do with it - sour grapes? To me there was a considerably number of pieces which were very much underpriced. I do hope that you won't let the few members who are resistant to change force you to leave the group as it would seem to be another link broken between you and those of us back in the UK

Cath said...

Alysn, I also was surprised that there were so few pieces from you and I agree with the other comments on here regarding the quality of some of the work. So sad to think that this has happened and, on a purely selfish note, very sorry to think I may not get to work with you any more. Your Living Threads courses are outstanding and I do hope a way can be found for them to continue. Glad you are not letting it get to you - keep that lovely smile on your face x

Alysn Midgelow-Marsden said...

Having a coherent approach to pricing work in a broadly based group is always a complicated issue! The Living Threads group is no different to other groups with makers who are creating work from multiple standpoints; the value they place on their work, the return they ask for their time etc. varies considerably. I don't think this has ever been a factor at Living Threads before. I certainly don't want to leave the group, but am concerned about the question of belonging to a group which may not be listening to it's members. Thanks again for your thoughts - it is good to hear from people who saw the exhibition to put my experience into context. x

trista36 said...

I feel very lucky that you showed these pieces to our class before sending them off. They are wonderful, thoughtful pieces - shame on Living Threads for treating a member so poorly and for keeping a clearly appreciative audience from enjoying your work. Some people can be real sh*t heads.