walking, collecting, making

Holkham bay

This time last week I had just returned from a long weekend on the North Norfolk coast. I was leading a study weekend with 8 Fold, a group of textile artists who are all regulars at the Committed to Cloth studio in Surrey. We had a wonderfully stimulating and creative time and the location provided rich inspiration in terms of landscape and our beach-combing (extreme scavenging at times!). I have long wanted to visit this part of the world, partly having glimpsed elements of it through the work of Polly Binns and Debbie Lyddon.

Holkham Bay razor shell tide line

 We were blessed with the most beautiful blue skies and bright winter sunshine, giving long shadows and the perfect conditions for photography. It was very cold so our cliff-top cottage was a necessary sanctuary to warm up and the kitchen table became the focus of all sorts of experiments and explorations in rust printing, embossing, weaving, stitching, drawing… and eating, but not all at the same time! It was great to spend time with such experienced artists whose curiosity and delight in exploring place and material matched my own.

Alice Fox beach finds (Sherringham)

Needless to say, many photos were taken, and there is a selection here if you want to see more. Although the temperature wasn’t very conducive to sitting around drawing I made the most of the recent cliff falls and used the varying tones of the clay to help record my experience. As ever, there is much to process and explore as a result of this weekend and I know I’ll be feeding off it for a long time.

Alice Fox drawing with cliff-fallen clay


Alice Fox Spurn Cloth #2 take down with assistant

I took down my installation at The Bowery last weekend (with the help of my small assistant).  It was potentially a rather sad day as the paper pieces that I’d collaged directly onto the wall were going to have to be scraped off.  I didn’t know whether they would come off in salvageable pieces or if the whole thing would break up.  I had resolved myself to this site specific piece (the paper extension to my linen Spurn Cloth #2) being an ephemeral work and likened it to the erosion and change that is happening constantly at Spurn, where the pieces were based on.

Someone suggested I should have filmed the process of putting the installation up, building up the collage on the wall – great idea, but I’d already put it up when they suggested it!  So I decided to record the taking down instead.  Here is the result, although the quality isn’t great it gives an idea of how the pieces surrounded you in the gallery (the first half is shots taken from the middle of the room looking round the walls and then it goes back the other way tracking the removal of the work and leaving an empty gallery again.


moving water

When I was down at the Contemporary Craft Fair in Devon a couple of weeks ago I spent a morning escaping from the intense experience of the show in the relative tranquility of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen‘s gallery, over the road in Bovey Tracey.

I needed a little space away from the thinking and talking that we were so busy with all weekend (I was on a research trip with others from the Saltaire Arts Trail).  The gallery featured an interesting exhibition about engagement with the senses.  I found the work by Marcia Smilack particularly interesting and spent a long time sitting in the booth separated off from the main gallery watching her projected images.

Marcia describes herself as a ‘reflectionist’ and photographs reflections on moving water.  Her images look like they’ve been manipulated but they haven’t.  She experiences synesthesia and I found her descriptions of each image really intriguing as the senses she described were all jumbled up: sound = colour; sight = texture. For someone who doesn’t experience colour in this mulit-sensory way it seems incomprehensible that a sight can trigger a sound and vice versa so I sat for a long time trying to imagine what it must be like.  I find that smells trigger very vivid memories… we all experience things in subtly different ways.

Marcia says she “collaborates with nature” and creates “paintings by camera”.

I found all this particularly interested as just a week before I’d been filming little clips of moving water at Spurn.  I’m not trying to capture the same things that Marcia is but there was enough of a link to make me really spend some time with this work.

This is the image that I enjoyed the most: Cello Music.

sunday stitches

I’ve been stitching into some of the prints I made earlier in the week.  This one has a tea and rust print and then a collagraph print over.  There are embossed and printed marks from stitches on the collagraph plate and my little seeding stitches play about amongst those marks.  I’m really pleased with the effect and some late afternoon sunshine (it rained most of today) enabled some good photographs.

marks in the landscape

I’ve had a couple of days of meetings, which have been really useful and stimulating.  One was about the development of a new collaborative project (more on that another time) and the others were about my main project this year.  As a result I have renewed hope about possible funding.  I know I keep being vague in these posts about projects I’m planning and that is because I don’t want to announce things until everything is in place... hopefully that won’t be long now.  

We’re in the middle of a cold spell here with snow coming and going.  Yesterday was particularly wintery, with ice, remnants of last weekends’ snow and then rain just to make things extra slippery.  I drove over to Hebden Bridge to see Angie Rogers, an artist who’s work I admire and who was kind enough to give me some time to talk through various aspects of her recent residency.

The drive over the water shed between the Calder and Aire valleys is one I love.  You climb up from Haworth, through Oxenhope and then on the the moors that separate the two river systems.  Whatever the weather is doing in the valley, suddenly on the moors it can be so different.  It gets me every time!  Yesterday it was shrouded in mist and rain with the residue of recent snow marking out the features in the landscape.  It was bleak, cold and wild – bracing and breathtaking.  The subtle colours of the grasses, rushes and exposed peat are interspersed with patches of snow, which make a clean backdrop for stark stems.

Persistent rain made getting out of the car to take photographs a fairly quick affair, but sketches in the warmth of the car were possible.

Coming down off the tops the fields were suddenly visible, but still through mist.  A different layby, a different view.  Snow drifted along the walls mark out a pattern, almost a negative of the land without the snow.  Snow transforms the set of marks that make up the landscape; accentuates different features.  It lingers in dips and hollows in fields, revealing something new about the surface of the land.

garden dreams

 A trip to my parents last weekend allowed for some garden pottering, finding interesting shapes in the winter sunshine,

and winter sweet, which doesn’t look like much (although is better seen from below like this rather than from above the drooping flowers) but smells amazing.

Since then I’ve spent most of the week at my desk doing paper work or jobs around the house.  Meanwhile I dream of what my garden might become.  I currently have a patch of scruffy lawn and a small patio.  It isn’t much yet, but it has lots of potential…

>photo shoot

>We had a photo shoot last week at college. This was to provide us with professional standard photos for use on publicity stuff: postcards, business cards etc. Some students arranged for models and brought all sorts of props to set up their work to suggest fashion or interiors situations. My collection is made up of art pieces on felt, paper and digital projection and so I don’t really need any props, just a wall or two.

What I really wanted were some close-up shots of stitches and my embossed paper pieces. These are what I’ve really struggled to photograph well myself. There isn’t much for the camera to focus on as it is all monotone; it is the shadow created by the texture that gives contrast. I got my images back early this week. The images of the felt pieces were no better than I can manage myself. I’m looking forward to getting these up in my space for the show to be able to photograph them properly together. Meanwhile I’ve found that close ups taken outside in the sunshine give the best results (above).

The photographer at college managed to light the paper pieces so that the embossed marks show but the shadows cast by the stitches aren’t too dominant, although the images are still quite dark.

When I photographed them myself in strong sunlight I got some good bright shots but the shadows are so strong they are a bit confusing: they look more like drawings.

I like the ambiguity of these pieces however, so perhaps it is about capturing that…

I’ve taken so many photographs recently and I’m struggling to find one that captures the whole collection to use for my postcards.

I keep coming back to these folded, clamped and dyed silk pieces, which were really development pieces and haven’t made it through to the plan for my show space but which are hanging in my studio.

They have the three dimensional quality that I originally intended for this project and which in a sense has been put aside in favour of more subtle ‘flattened relief’. I’m tempted to try and include them though… just not sure how to do it. The danger is that I end up just including everything. I know the secret of putting together a good collection is what you leave out when the temptation is to include as much as you can – just have to try and put that into practise!

>full stops

I’m in the midst the final edit of my dissertation before handing it in. I’ve spent the last couple of hours moving full stops and commas around. I’ve also discovered that I have a bit of a penchant for writing really long sentences!

As my subject is ‘the garden as a creative outlet’ I looked back through some photos yesterday to find a suitable one of my own garden. There were some really interesting colour combinations from late in the year but in terms of the garden looking ‘at its best’ it has to be May or June.