40 Sycamore Keys

Alice_Fox_Hackfall_sycamore_keyAs I mentioned a couple of posts back, I spent my 40th birthday exploring the wonderful Hackfall woods in North Yorkshire. This special place is a historic landscape garden, which appears wild but has been manipulated by the hand of man for over 400 years. Now managed by The Woodland Trust and The Hackfall Trust, it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

For two whole days, from sunrise to beyond moonrise, we drank every detail of the woodland in. Walking every path, treading each 18th century step, discovering all the carefully planned vistas and more. From our precariously perched hideaway we looked down onto the steeply sloping valley, lined with a tapestry of trees recently exposed as their winter selves. The luminous larch held the light and glowed from it’s soon-to-drop yellowing needles. Walking amongst the trees we came upon the recumbent trunk of a fallen tree that had become home to a whole community of plant species: a garden where fairies might have partied, littering the populated surface of the trunk with their tattered wings. The death of majestic birds was exposed before us on the path: blood spilled and feathers strewn. The naked pink of sycamore stems caught our attention. We marvelled at hazel branches holding droplets to sparkle in the last light as the moon rose behind silhouetted boughs. And through it all the rushing river wound its noisy way; energetic always. Water is a constant in this wood: dripping, rushing, hanging, pooling, reflecting.

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Those tattered fairy wings I found were sycamore keys in various states of delicate decay. I collected a few, popping them into a little jar to study later. Back in my studio I emptied out the jar and laid out the keys. Counting them I found that I had collected exactly 40. I set out to draw each one, studying the detail of their veined surface and aiming to capture something of their fragility.

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The drawings are made in walnut ink on watercolour postcards. The ink was made from walnut husks gathered in the Yorkshire garden of a friend. The first few of the series are now posted in my shop and a donation will be made to The Woodland Trust from the sale of each drawing. My drawings are ongoing, a few a week until all 40 are made. I’ll let you know how I get on.

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forming

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The experiments I’ve been doing recently in the studio are my way of exploring 3D structures and trying out different ways to form them. This shot from earlier in the week shows some of these experiments alongside some of the objects that live on my studio wall, which I described a couple of posts ago. I am not necessarily trying to re-create the forms of these objects but there are often similarities between the ones I’ve got pinned up there (for instance, the ones included here on their own or incorporated into a a new structure are either circular, have holes or form vessels) so they gently influence my making in different ways.

winter trees

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I’m really enjoying the bare winter trees at the moment. Their skeletal forms are silhouetted against the sky even in day light, whether against blue (not much of that at the moment) or varying shoes of grey. Over the two weeks of school holiday we’ve had I have walked most days and each walk has taken me past wonderful trees in a variety of landscapes. We passed the oak above on a very wet walk on Christmas day. It was miserable weather and the ground underfoot was slurpy and slippy. I felt very sorry for the sheep we passed hanging around in the cold mist and rain. But even in this terrible weather the trees were resplendent.

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I found this lovely page in one of my many natural history books of the silhouettes of winter trees. I love these kind of diagrams.

I spent my birthday a few weeks ago staying in and exploring some beautiful woods in North Yorkshire on the River Ure. Hackfall is a magical place and combines spectacular scenery with some wonderful historic landscaping. I have a little project unfolding based on some things I found at Hackfall. More on that another time…

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amateur naturalist

Alice Fox studio wall collection dec 2015

My favourite book of all time is Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. I have other books by Durrell but a few months ago in a second hand book shop I was pleased to find one to add to my collection: The Amateur Naturalist. If I had had this book as a child I know it would have been a constant companion. I am working my way through it at the moment and enjoying the wonderfully practical instruction and beautiful photography of found items from different habitats.

Amateur Naturalist deciduous woodland

Last week I visited Manchester Museum to see their natural history collection and in particular to look at how their collections are displayed. I didn’t have time to linger and sketch, as I would have liked. But I got a good idea of what is there and hope to go back with more time.

The wall in my studio (shown at the top) where I gather items and samples of current interest is slowly building a new collection. This wall gradually changes as items are added and others might be put away: a constant work-in-progress. It is somewhat like the pages of Durrell’s book, where items are grouped but vary within that group, showing the mix of different things that might be gathered on any one visit to a location. The wall features both found items (natural and man-made) as well as experiments in making. The objects I am developing are responses to found items, not directly copying them but shapes and forms influenced by them and sometimes incorporating found elements. My new collection is forming slowly.

articles

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I have had interviews and articles published in three places this week. One is here on the lovely Textile Curator website. The second is here and is part of a series of articles where Anne Williams discusses ‘unfinished’ work. Number three is an article in The Quilter, which can be viewed here. This appears in Winter 2015 issue (no. 145) of The Quilter, the quarterly membership magazine of The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles. ‘Moving On’ follows the article I wrote for The Quilter following my bursary from the Quilters’ Guild in 2011.

leaf cubes

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I’ve updated my online shop here with some new items. Some of the stitched leaf cubes that featured in my Leaf Stitching exhibition are on there now, along with a selection of other small 3d and 2d items, books and cards. I do always have a selection of framed pieces from previous exhibitions available, as well as unframed and mounted works (textile and print), but these are not advertised on the shop. I am happy to arrange a visit to the studio (Keighley, West Yorkshire) if you are looking to buy. If you are further afield and have particular requests then do send me an email and I’d be happy to discuss options for work I have available.

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findings

Alice Fox 25 broken limpets

Anyone who follows me on Instagram (where I post images almost daily) will know that I am starting to develop new work based on a series of collections of objects. Ultimately I am working towards an exhibition at the Knitting and Stitching Shows 2016, which I’m really pleased to have been selected for. My working title is Findings. I have been developing ideas for this over some months now, thoughts whirring away in the background while other things happen. Findings will be a series of responses to objects I have collected in different locations.

Finding:

1. the action of finding someone or something.

2. information discovered as the result of an inquiry or investigation.

Alice Fox limpet variations

The first group of objects I am exploring are a collection of limpet shells I brought back from Anglesey in the summer. I didn’t collect the complete shells: it was the ones with holes in that I was drawn to and I came back with a couple of hundred of these. I love the subtle variation in a series of items like this: they’re similar but all unique. Some are really worn down and smooth; others are rough and intricately mottled; some have a jagged broken top; others are almost perfectly smooth rings. I’ve been experimenting with replacing the broken section with a stitched/woven ‘patch’.Alice Fox limpet 'mended' Some of them end up mended completely, others partially filled. Some are being filled in across the inside, leaving them with a sort of woven plate across that reminds me of the limpet’s ‘foot’.

Alice Fox limpet with stitchweave1

As I work away at these experiments (inquiries, investigations. . . ) the results are starting to form a new collection: a collection of my Findings.

objects

I had a lovely week with my Leaf Stitching exhibition in London. Spending time with a body of work in an exhibition situation is a good time to reflect on things, both leading up to that point and looking forward. Being removed from the studio and all the distractions of home life can be useful for a period of time, even if the logistics of arranging it all are tricky! Being present in the gallery to talk to visitors about the work can be very rewarding and, I think, adds a lot to the visitors’ experience of the work. Visitors were often surprised to find that the person sitting quietly stitching in the gallery was the artist. For those that didn’t make it to the exhibition the Leaf Stitching catalogue/book is available in my shop, along with other publications. I hope to get some of the pieces that were featured in this exhibition available in the shop in coming days, along with a few other items for sale.

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Tide Line, shown above, is currently showing in The Language of Objects at Unit Twelve Gallery, Staffordshire. This looks to be a really interesting exhibition with work from a great group of artists and makers. I am really pleased to have another opportunity to show work at this quirky gallery set on a farm in rural Staffordshire.

A few more workshops dates for next year have been added to the list on the workshops page. I hope to arrange some more day workshops at my studio in West Yorkshire as well, although these have to be during the middle part of the year when the temperature in the  studio is more hospitable: it is starting to get pretty cold in there already and we’re only in early autumn! Details of these will be made available when I’ve sorted out dates in the diary.

detail

Alice Fox 20 stitched leaf cubes

Leaf Stitching is showing this week in London and I’m enjoying being back in the calm space that is the Society of Designer Craftsmen Gallery. This exhibition is all about detail. Most of the pieces are intimate in scale and they draw you in to notice their intricacies. Small careful stitches punctuate the natural leaf material; the colours and surface qualities of the leaves invite close inspection.

I’m in the gallery 11-6 until Saturday.

Alice Fox Leaf Stitching eucalyptus triple row

Alice Fox Leaf Stitching Oak Leaf Quilt

Alice Fox Leaf Stitching Eucalyptus circle

Alice Fox Leaf Stitching red oak square