I suddenly have some space to start exploring new ideas, or rather ideas that I’ve been having over the last year but not had the time to engage with. The book I’ve been writing is now finished, or at least delivered to the publishers. There will be editing and tweaking to do but the majority of it is complete. The last year has been pretty much focussed on the book and touring Tide Marks, alongside a fairly hectic workshop teaching schedule. Apart from finishing off my report to Arts Council England for Tide Marks, that is now complete too. So, what is next? I have a number of projects to be getting on with. There are various group exhibitions next year that I will be making work for, so what follows is a period of development of new work. This is exciting and daunting. Where to start is always an issue. The best things is to get in the studio and see where things get to. So often we are forced (by time constraints) to commit to an end point before we’ve hardly started. It is a challenge to allow things the space and time to develop without knowing what that end point is going to be.
I was fortunate to spend a weekend with the Textile Study Group a few weeks ago. The group is made up of textile artists and tutors who share their experience and skills with their students and with each other. The weekend I attended was themed around ‘drawing’, but not just the conventional pencil on paper stuff that immediately springs to mind. We explored how different artists take initial ideas and get things down on paper (or elsewhere) as a starting point for their work – ‘taking the idea out of your head’. This included intensive drawing exercises, as well as group and individual activities on recording what we found around us. Many different ways of recording thoughts, sights, experiences were explored and discussed. It was an immensely stimulating and enriching weekend. What became clear was that everyone has a different approach to drawing, recording ideas and developing their work. Each approach is personal to each artist but all are relevant.
I’m really pleased to announce that I have been made a member of the Textile Study Group. This is quite an honour and I look forward to working with the wonderful artists and teachers that make up the members of the group.
I will be in London next week with the final showing for Tide Marks this year. In addition to the opening hours shown above there will be a poetry reading on Thursday 25th at 6pm. This will be by Nigel Morgan, who wrote the beautiful poems for my Tide Marks book. It will be great to have the poems read amongst the work that they sit alongside on the page. Do come along if you’re able to. I will be in the gallery all week.
I have books on the brain at the moment – if I’m not writing words for one, I’m playing about with book forms. On a recent workshop I was teaching, where simple book forms was a small part of what we did, I was inspired to try out some new bindings. I used some of the demonstration samples to experiment with and now they have become little books.
I recently got a copy of Little Book of Book Making, out in America (and I think a UK version is coming out later in the month under a different name) in which my work is featured alongside some amazing book artists. Making books is just a small part of what I do and I only use very simple structures, so I feel very honoured to have been included in such a collection.
I’m busy writing, trying to get my book finished for the deadline I have in a few weeks time. I am making the most of a day or two to myself while the kids are off splashing in the sea (she says jealously) and I’m plugging away at it.
In between summer holiday parent duties I snatch the odd moment to put something on paper in a sketchbook, recording things I’m seeing or things I’ve found. It doesn’t matter what it is – the act of drawing is the important thing and the discipline of being present in the moment for it to really work. I am reading John Berger’s Bento’s Sketchbook and am reminded of the pleasure and relevance of the practice of drawing – something I often tell myself I should do more of. The problem is fitting it all in to the routine . . .
I spent most of last week at Oxford Summer School teaching an extended workshop called Lost & Found. We had great fun and it was lovely to get to know the students a little over the period of the workshop. We shared a host of different techniques: mark-making, printing, stitching… all based around various found objects and there was much delight at the discoveries we made. The students produced some really exciting work.
I will be working in the Virtual Studio at the Festival of Quilts on Friday morning and Saturday afternoon this week. This inspiring area of the show (run by the wonderful Committed to Cloth) provides an insight into how different artists work in the studio, so isn’t necessarily about finished pieces but the journey you go through before they are reached.
I’ve had a welcome few days away with family and surrounded by beautiful landscape that was abundant with wildlife. The warm summer we’re having is glorious but I love the relief of the evening air and the light at that time of the day can do wonderful things to a field of grasses.
During walks I gathered grass and twisted it into this ball of string. I enjoy exploring a material like this: manipulating it and seeing what it will do and improving my technique as I go. It dries quickly and the fresh green above is soon dulled. Working the grass I find there is a sweet point where it is dried a bit and so a little firmer but once it dries too much it becomes brittle. The ball is my little record of the places we walked.
The summer holidays are almost upon us and with them the mix of relief (I could do with a break!) and dread (how on earth do I fit in all the work I need to do whilst also enjoying time with the family?). I know I’m not the only one to feel that way about school holidays and it really will be lovely to have some time away from the normal routine.
Yesterday I delivered Tide Marks to Artlink in Hull ready for them to put it up for my exhibition which opens on 26th July. There is a preview on Friday 25th from 6-8pm so if you are in the area do come along. Each time an exhibition goes up in a different gallery there can be different hanging requirements. As I’m not hanging it myself this time I decided the best way to deal with the little woven pieces that make up Tide Line was to mount them onto a piece of wood so that they are effectively one piece. This took far longer than I thought (each one is sewn to the wood) but I’m pleased with the result and I just managed to squeeze it into my little car to take it over to Hull. I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks next week when I go back for the preview.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I was preparing drawings for a publication. The publication is now live and is available as an e-book. This collaboration brings together poetry by Nigel Morgan (if you have my book Tide Marks you will have come across his beautiful poems already) with my illustrations taken from various sketchbooks. Many of these drawings were done en plain air, attempting to capture something of the experience of these places, although they weren’t done in the knowledge that they would later be publicly viewed – this kind of sketchbook is a very personal record of place.
These images and words blend together as evidence of such visits in each other’s company, and occasionally alone. Some of what you see or read has come into being in situ, others as dream memories. Together they form a record of time spent unconfined, in the opened air and the pressing wind, sighting distance, or observing the close confusion of what lies at the feet, or near at hand.
Having had the very rewarding experience of publishing a small number of books so far, initially with help and then as my own publisher, the concept of the e-book is one I am very interested in. It has to be the ultimate in sustainable publications – no actual materials being used etc. But, being a hands-on craft-orientated artist, the fact that I can’t hold this thing in my hands, turn the pages and feel the surface of the paper is something I have to put aside and accept: this is a different experience. Collaboration pushes you in directions that you might not have taken on your own, provides new possibilities and opportunities to learn as a result.
Now that the Shirt Collar Project exhibition is open and the final pieces have been revealed I can share a few images of my finished work. There is a full explanation of the process and decisions that led to these pieces over on the project blog. I ended up making three small book forms using the prints I made from my collar. I find the 3D nature of these pieces very pleasing. I often feel drawn to working in a more three-dimensional way and perhaps this project has taught me to go with that impulse. I really allowed the experimentation with the materials to lead me this time, with no particular outcome in mind: a really useful challenge.