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Monday, August 30, 2010

Declaration of Intent

I'm applying to join a group of local artists, and needed to write an artist's statement. I realised as I did so that really, what I was doing was describing my practice, and the purpose behind it, so I thought I would share it here, as much as a reminder for myself of what it is I'm in business to do, as anything else. Sometimes, we get sidetracked. What would your declaration of intent be like?

Marion is a Scottish artist living and working in the Norfolk countryside, and the author/publisher of three books, with two more currently in production. In textiles, Marion specialises in working with non woven polyester industrial cloth; she also creates oil paintings and mixed media work. She has an interest in landscape, particularly in erosion and cracks, scars or marks on natural surfaces such as stone, and the way in which the mind attempts to impose meaning on such randomly generated marks. This has led to an exploration of rust dyeing, which generates random marks onto fabric, as well as working with natural found objects such as driftwood, bark and stones, while the purchase of a large professional quality inkjet printer last year has led to the beginnings of a series of work using manipulated images of random marks printed directly onto fabric, which will be used either as pieces in themselves or as additions to paintings and mixed media work. This interest has further led to exploring the space between textile and mixed media work, and between textiles and painting, predominately focussed on mark making. The work, regardless of medium, invites the viewer to interpret those marks, whether they be stitch, paint or ofound object, and to find their own personal meanings for each piece or series of pieces.

The image, above, is a manipulated, constructed image taken from a photograph of cracks on a wall.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

After The Ball...

or, in this case, the FOQ, I started a new job, three days a week, doing job evaluation for a local council. It's interesting work, in a friendly team, but it does mean I'm stretched and stretched, as far as time is concerned at least. So, I admit there has been no blog for a while, but Will Do Better.

FOQ was, as always, fun. Busy, busy, this year, talked to lots of lovely people, including the lovely Lynda Monk, with whom I've talked on email, but had never met. It's great to meet people who follow this blog, of course, and lots of people who are like minded. It's interesting to hear how many quilters are moving towards mixed media. I've always felt that the designation 'quilting' is too narrow for my kind of work, at least; now others seem to be shifting that way, too.

Now, I'm planning What To Do Next. I'm attending a craft fair at Reepham later on in the month, and I hope to have a selection of dyes, paints and other materials with me, as well as the usual hand dyed cloth, books and the like. It's a deviation for me, but it seems to fit nicely with the books. I'm not planning to sell things that I personally don't use, so that I can talk about their properties with real experience. And it means that I'll be able to offer kits for the books, as well as for workshops. I'm quietly excited about it. And there's a book to finish, and another two to start... so I'm not exactly lacking work! I do feel a real need to get into the studio and actually MAKE something, even if it's only a few beads. It feels like it has been a long time since I made art without needing something for a book, for instance...and I have a lot of ideas to work with.

I've always thought that this is a good time for planning. The summer isn't quite over, but we're preparing for the schools going back, and for the more indoor seasons of late autumn and winter. I might even find myself hoping for snow, to keep me inside and working. And you know how I hate snow!!!

The image is of Merlin 'helping' to photograph some fabric for Etsy. The cats are a never ending source of joy and frustration, usually simultaneously, but I wouldn't give them up, ever. Not even when they cost obscene amounts of cash at the vets (bought flea and worming stuff on Friday and nearly fainted at the cost!). They are worth every penny, of course... perhaps I need to make another small cat quilt, just for them...and for me.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Breaking Out Continued

Eric Smee has just very kindly sent me a note including this image. I thought he'd be happy for me to share it with you, so that you can see what I'm talking about, so here it is... thanks again, Eric.

I have the feeling I'll be adding to these thoughts for a while yet...

Friday, August 06, 2010

Breaking Out...

of your comfort zone is not an easy thing to do. We don't appreciate just how cocooned we are inside it, until we are forced to challenge ourselves, or create the circumstances for a challenge to come about. That's what happened to me, yesterday. I went for a second look at an exhibition, Salthouse 10 : Landmarks, with my friend Jill Arnold. I thought I knew exactly what I was going to do there; I was going to look at a piece I missed seeing the last time I was there, and I was going to sit with a particular painting that had interested me. As it turned out, I only did one of these things. I did see the piece I missed, properly, an interesting artist's book on a beatiful stand, but on the walk round to the painting, I stopped to take a second look at a mixed media piece, 'Matter Over Mind' by Eric Smee. (Sadly, I don't have an image of it, and I can't find it on the web, so I can't show you what I'm talking about...sorry). On my first visit, I had made the mistake of dismissing it as just another piece of modern mixed media... clever, but not terribly interesting. Oh, boy, was I wrong. Yesterday, I stood and looked closely at the image for about fifteen minutes, and then spent perhaps another half an hour sitting at a distance from it, thinking and writing about it.

In that time, I realised a number of things. Firstly, that Eric was doing in one medium what I do in another; creating layer upon layer of meaning. The artist's statement for the piece reads 'I interview my subjects at length. I try to understand what makes each of them into the person they are today, then re-create an essence of their life slightly offset to preserve their anonimity. I rebuild photographs, drawings and paintings into an outline of what I am trying to say, then add details and variations to show emotional ramifications, often hiding much of the original image, until I feel the viewer will be able to relate to the emotional state of my subject'.

Secondly, that this was the 'way in' to a self portrait for me. I've been tiptoeing round that idea since I turned fifty, and much earlier. I made a self portrait of myself at forty, a watercolour painting, but that didn't seem to be the way to go now... I needed to find a way to structure the many elements that seem to make up me at fifty. Or anyone, at any age, come to think of it. Eric's description of his process has formed the starting point for mine, and I realise that a single image isn't going to do it, for me. I think it's more likely that the self portrait is really a need to explain my life up to now to myself (if nobody else). It's a process that I've already begun to some extent, making books about my childhood, which I tend to refer to as 'the childhood from hell'. That work needs to be continued, with lots of images, and possibly lots of writing to go with them... You can perhaps see that this idea is developing even as I type here; it's very exciting.

Thirdly, the image reminded me very much of a piece I made about ten or so years ago. One of the 'Texture Of Memory' series, it was a large quilt, made of layer upon layer of different fabrics, all of them dark, most of them transparent. Many of the layers could either be removed completely or thrown up and away from the main body of the piece; the idea was that you could 'peel' away layers of memory, to see what was underneath. I've never felt that that particular piece was effective; I think looking at 'Matter Over Mind' has shown me why that is. It was, quite simply, too dark. Matter Over Mind has the kind of feel I wanted for the piece, in part, I think, because there is a strong light area in it. I do have a lot of dark memories, but there are a few light ones in there, too. The piece would have been much stronger if I had allowed some of those to appear.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because I suspect that the things that we dismiss as 'unimportant' or 'not our kind of thing', are in fact gems that we should be contemplating for as long as is necessary. We talk about 'blind prejudice'; certainly, the first time I saw this piece, I was blind to its story, and to its relevance for myself. I don't like the idea of blinding myself to things... so the next time I start to dismiss something out of hand, I think I'll try sitting with it for a while, and see what lessons it has for me. Thanks, Eric. And now, I've got a lot of work to do...

PS You can catch a glimpse of Eric's work here, and an image of another piece, and a little about the artist, here. Go take a look, the work is amazing. See what it shows you...

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Making Magic?

I have been known to say that 'I haven't got a magic wand'. Well, I have now. I saw it in a shop and decided that I just had to have it. I'm going to tart it up a bit, you understand, but this is the basic no frills magic wand that every girl just has to have. I have it displayed in a prominent place near my computer, as a reminder that, no matter how much I tart it up, it's not going to work UNLESS...

1. I know what I want to achieve. Whether that's cleaning the workshop out or creating a body of work, it doesn't really matter. I have to know what I want.

2. Turning up to do the work. If I don't make the time for this, I'm never going to make the work, clean out the workshop etc.

3. Being kind to myself. I need to look after myself properly, so that I can get things done.

4. Having a plan. If I want to achieve lots of different things, I need to work out what my priorities are, and use my time accordingly.

5. Turning up to do the work. Yes, it really does matter more than any of the rest of it.

So...I keep my magic wand to remind me that I don't need a magic wand. All I need to do is get on with it (whatever it is)...

ps if you need a bit of help with this, try looking at the Creative Focus works the same as my magic wand, except that it helps you to do all the things I mentioned... and it's just as pretty!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Flower Power

I said yesterday that I would show you the results of the stitch I did yesterday. True to my word, here I am. I had prepared a piece of pale pink hand dye by painting loose flower shapes onto it using thickened Brusho; then I simply stitched into it to produce the work you see above. I'm pleased with both of these pieces, for different reasons. The heavily stitched piece has enormous energy, it seems to leap from the cloth. I used three different threads, all variegated, using the blue to add definition after the textural stitching had been added to the petals and centre of the image. The distortion produced by the stitching makes the piece puff up in an interesting and organic way, very like real life. I intend to mount and possibly frame it, a simple box frame, probably, and possibly coloured using Brusho to match the piece...don't know. There again, a simple gold edge might be good...we'll see. Or possibly Haydn will tell me what to do... when you've found a good framer, you don't argue with him! Especially when he takes good photographs of textiles!

The second piece is quite different. It's simple, a thread sketch compared to a fully developed piece, using the machine as a kind of pencil. It seems to want to be combined with other pieces in a quilt of sorts. So I guess I'll be making more of these wee pieces, if only to combine them together. I like its simplicity.

I'm not usually a representational sort of a person, but recently, I find myself increasingly interested in landscapes and the natural world. That, for me, is a real shift in perspective. The work I'm doing with Bertha uses images from the natural world, some recognisable, some less so. And there's a lot of rust dyed fabric waiting to be used. I've mostly rust dyed habotai silk, and of course, there is a chapter on rust dyeing in the new Exquisite Evolon book, which I'll have with me at Festival of Quilts. This time, though, I've rust dyed some vintage French cotton, it has an amazing texture by itself, and the rust enhances it enormously. I'm looking forward to working with that, too. It'll be interesting to see what comes out of this new burst of creativity.

Monday, August 02, 2010

It's Raining, It's Pouring...

so I can't play in the garden, as I intended, but I can get on with working on the Brusho book, which is what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm at the interesting moment in writing a book when I decide it's time to rewrite it altogether. I start with a structure in my mind, but nine times out of ten, I find that it doesn't work quite as well as I thought it would, so around the half way mark, I tend to go back and restructure it. I'm also adding photographs, which slows the work down a bit. Plus, I'm looking at the photos I've already taken, and deciding which are acceptable and which not. I've written a section on making watercolour washes, for example, but I feel the photos I have to illustrate it could be a lot better, so back to the drawing board on that one. And I'm picking up on other things that could be illustrated with a small but telling photograph, so I'm building a list of what I need to do next.

The image here shows two of the effects I've been experimenting with while writing the book. I didn't really understand how versatile Brusho is until I really started to work with it. This is a small image of a tree on mountboard, which has been stamped using thickened Brusho, on a background that was produced by printing on shaving foam. I'm quite pleased with the way it has turned out; I think it has movement and energy about it. It's as if the tree is dancing...or is that too fanciful?

This afternoon, though, I'm going to take a couple of hours to sit at my sewing machine and get some work done there. It's related to the Brusho book, admittedly, as I've prepared a painted flower on some cloth, which is ready to stitch into. I'll show you the results tomorrow.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Colouring Some More...

is always fun. I've currently got some rust dyes in rinsing. The weather recently has been really good for rust dyeing, and I'm looking forward to working with some new cloth. And, of course, I'm working with my faithful Procions, too. Shirley showed me an interesting technique when she was here, and one of the results is shown in the photographs. The top image is a detail shot, the second shows more of the fabric. It's not that big a piece, but it turned out well, and I'm looking forward to using it. I'll be bringing some of my hand dyes, including some similar to this, to Festival of Quilts this year for the first time, as well as the Exquisite Evolon book (and the others, of course...), so you can see them in the flesh. I'll also be demonstrating on the ColourCraft stand, Evolon, of course...and maybe a wee bit of lutradur, too. Hope you'll stop and say hello if you're there.

I've had more or less two weeks of visitors, and whilst it's lovely to have people to stay, it's also lovely to have my house back to myself. I'm planning to get back to work on the Brusho book, and hopefully finish it this week, as well as some more dyeing and some stitch work. I figure that after the Brusho book is done, I'll have a short break from writing (a week or so, probably, knowing me...). The problem is that there are lots of books lined up to write, including one with my friend Jill. I'm beginning to think that I'm more of a writer than an artist. Or maybe it's just that they take so much time that I'm not able to make as much art as I'd like. I don't know. But I do have lots of art plans, so perhaps I just need to get a grip and take my own advice about structuring my time. Having written a book on finding creative focus, I clearly need to live up to it, too!