Industrial Abstract

Alice Fox Fabric of the Building Green Wall & Wall ii

Fabric of the Building gets another airing from this Saturday.  It is showing at The Beetroot Tree, Draycott, Derbyshire as part of Industrial Abstract.  I’m really please to be showing this work again.  It was my final degree project and most of it has been tucked away at home since I graduated.  It includes works on thick industrial felt, paper and digital projection.  There are elements of print, embossing, manipulation, natural dye, and hand stitch. I’m looking forward to installing it in a different space and getting those animated stitches covering a wall in the gallery.

The exhibition is on from 20th April to 8th June and there will be a ‘meet the artist’ event at the gallery on Saturday 4th May.

concrete textile

Last week I collected my Beach Ghosts prints from Artlink in Hull and took a little time on my way back to say hello to the Humber Estuary.  I walked briefly on the foreshore almost under the north end of the Humber Bridge.  It isn’t the most glamorous foreshore in the world but there is something about that point where land meets water that is captivating whatever the situation.

Alice Fox Humber bank sketch

I took a brisk walk in the sharp wind, making a few quick scribbly sketches before the biting cold took hold of my fingers.

Alice Fox Humber bank concrete textile 2

The bank here has the most intriguing erosion control.  It has a fluid smooth form and was obviously created using a textile basis filled with concrete that was then hardened.  These bulging shapes still have vestiges of their textile origins but are now solid concrete, complete with zips and woven surface texture.  It reminded me of the innovative stuff some textile designers and artists have done integrating concrete in their work, for example here, here and here.

Alice Fox Humber bank concrete textile 1Alice Fox Humber bank concrete textile 3


Some time away is a mixed blessing: much needed and precious time with people I love and a chance to step back from the busy home/work life, have some breathing space; always entered into with the knowledge that there is so much to do back in the studio/office.

However, once I can relax into it of course there is so much rich experience to be had.  Time in Somerset and Cumbria this Easter have given me all of these things.  A visit to ‘Damson Country‘ and the Arts and Crafts House at Blackwell are particular highlights.

I’ve known about Blackwell House for years but hadn’t visited.  It was the exhibition ‘Woven from Nature‘ that prompted this visit and, although I knew this was a special example of an Arts and Crafts House, I wasn’t quite prepared for how breathtaking it would be.  You can’t photograph inside the house but you are encouraged to sit on the many cosy window seats and take your time.  This was an absolutely necessary part of drinking the place and it’s stunning location in. 

The exhibition is beautifully curated (on until 29th April so still over a week to see it).  I’ve seen Jilly’s work before a number of times and seeing her colourful pieces in a new location felt like re-visiting old friends.  

I was fascinated by the detail of Mary Butcher’s willow pieces; how a strip of willow can be so ribbon-like in the way it is wound and binds and catches the light as it does so:

What was really clear was the deep understanding of material in all four artists work.  As Maggie Smith says: 

“the themes of my work arise from the ebb and flow of natural cycles, the relationship between maker and materials and by a deep exploration of the materials themselves.” 

Maggie‘s use of found objects, particularly beach-derived ones, had a special resonance for me and her use of seaweed as a basis for cording, twining, knitting, vessel-making was fascinating.

Once outside the house you discover Laura Ellen Bacon’s wierd installation, which emerges out of and oozes down the building and out into the landscape.  If you stand in a particular place on the lawn the two pieces come together, appearing to flow from the roof, right over the wall to the lower terrace.  
Whilst I was enjoying these forms in the spring sunshine (a gap between heavy April showers) I was quite shocked by some of the comments of other visitors; people who were so closed off to the possibilities, the craftsmanship and relevance of such art.  It seems so right for work such as this to be installed at a building whose history is all about craftsmanship and design.  You wonder why some people visit these places if they are going to dismiss something so quickly.  It really made me think about how people might view my work, not that it is in any way approaching the league of what I saw here.  How can you engage people in work that is not immediately ‘pretty’?  Some people will ‘get’ it and some won’t, so is it worth trying?  Even with sensitive and informative interpretation so many people seem to dismiss things without any thought.  I’m afraid it gave me the blues!  

>cutting and printing

This week I took the plunge and cut up my large piece of thick felt. I had been procrastinating about what scale to work on for my final pieces and at one point was convinced that I should keep this big slab of wall-like felt as one section that could really become part of the wall. But I was worried about the difficulties of working on such a large scale, both in terms of committing to one design and the practicalities of working with this big slab of wool. I wondered whether the possibilities of developing ideas over a number of smaller pieces that would make up a larger whole might actually be the better way to go. After a very useful tutorial, which confirmed that I should go for the smaller units, I decided to cut up the felt.

I’ve returned to the idea of repeated units that featured in this project earlier on this year and that I’d moved away from for a while. So many buildings, particularly contemporary ones, use repeated units as their basis.

My units will be the same dimensions but their surfaces with change, grow, develop.

Current listening: Inter-generational cello duets drifting up from a lower floor of the house.

>getting going

On Monday I cleared my space at college of all last semester’s work. Through the week the space has slowly filled up with new things.

I’ve used the photo copier a lot this week: quick experiments in shades of grey; deconstructing.

Also lots of folding, changing angles, shifting lines.

And as for that green wall at the Hepworth…

Friday afternoon listening: The Parlotones, Stardust.

>art walk

My exhibition at yesterday’s Wakefiled Art Walk went well. We didn’t get huge numbers through the door but given that it was a fairly damp and bitter January evening I think the steady flow we got was pretty good. There were some lovely comments and I met some really interesting people. It was especially nice to meet Hannah.

The space@55Westgate as it is now called (was Westgate Studios) is a beautifully light white room and worked brilliantly for the mixture of artwork and interpretation that we included (I don’t think the photos do it justice). It is great to have a bit of practice at putting an exhibition together too – each time you do it you learn something new. This was timely for me and because it was ‘for one night only’ was not too big a deal to be overly stressful.

Once things were set up (and the slight technical problems were overcome – is it possible to use technology without hitches?!) I went off for a wonder round Wakefield to look at some of the new buildings springing up around the place: there are lots!

I visited the exhibition of The RIBA White Rose Award buildings at the Beam Gallery and then went on to look at the new Hepworth Gallery, which opens later this year.

It’s a pretty imposing building with these angular slabs of concrete plunging straight down to the river. With the grey January sky reflected back by the water it was all rather dramatic. The building looked a kind of lilacy grey in yesterday’s light.

I couldn’t help thinking how much more welcoming it would look if one of those massive planes was covered in a green living wall…

>grids and lines – introducing green

>I watched the RIBA Stirling Prize programme that I’d recorded a week or two ago: Ultra-contemporary buildings to wet my current architecture appetite. The winner, Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI was impressive, but I felt it was disappointing on the green front.

Sketchbook work this week has concentrated on capturing something of the lines of these buildings and then starting to play with various ideas that have sprung from the drawings and from thinking about architects’ processes of designing.

exaggerated angles

repeated units

simple shapes

smooth lines


natural light

mix of materials

layers of insulation