My interview for the Whitley Bay Carnival Lockdown Art Market.
It’s been a day of getting on with things – workshops to prepare and exhibition dates looming – but all with the threat of postponement or cancellation as the Corvid19 virus swirls around the globe.
I read a very lovely article by someone who has to stay home most of the time for health reasons, advisng on good practice for people new to self isolation or working from home. My big tip after a stressful weekend is to limit news and social media viewing – so I can get on with making rather than fretting! ( Bimblings by Josie George if you’re interested)
So today I have got all ready for a workshop with 60 children tomorrow (I know- right!) We’re going to be silk painting lovely, colourful scenes that the children have designed. So that’s 60 frames filled with silk, 30 pipettes filled with gutta, silk paints packed, palettes and fine brushes packed, samples made and some of my work packed because I’m also going to do a short presentation to the whole school about my work as an artist – they’re on a two week Arts focus – lovely to see!
This afternoon I’ve been hand stitching different elements of my next (Extended) Urban Efflorescence piece – this is one of the words I’m including
and of course it took me right back to thinking about the crazy ongoing situation where people maybe aren’t thinking about sharing enough as they stockpile toilet paper and bread flour! Wouldn’t it be lovely if we came out of this crazy period as expert bakers! I like the idea of the nation spending their time in self isolation learning the magic of sour dough and plaited loaves! My street has set up a Whatsapp group so we can help each other out if necessary – I’m sure baking tips will soon be flying about but today’s chat was mainly about whether you cn buy a guillotine in Lidl and who in the street might be up for knitting by said guillotine! Needless to say – I’ve had to mute the conversation so I can get on with some work!
Here’s another word that seems relevant – trying to be content with the shrinking focus of things, I have lots of books to read, sketchbooks to fill and threads to use so that will keep me content!
We’ve had to postpone a pretty big event we’d planned for the weekend so we’re trying to remain content with the knowledge that it is just a postponement and not a cancellation – at least I’ve got more time to finish the bunting I’ve been making!
The work I do in hospitals is being postponed too, understandably hospitals are trying to reduce footfall where possible. So, I’m going to post some project ideas on the Facebook page for the organisation I work for – why don’t you bob over and take a look? Its @RoomforYouArtsinHealth you never know, there might be something you’d like to share or have a go at making to keep you contented as we go through this strange time 🙂
Tuesday was such a lovely day! My first public workshop of 2020 – held at the lovely Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead.
I started out early so I could squeeze in my regular Tuesday swim before the workshop and managed a kilometre even though I forgot my goggles 🥽- tried swimming with my eyes shut NOT a good idea when you’re swimming in lanes !
The workshop was designed to share methods to help develop unique and personal approaches to creating art – in textiles or other media. First, a talk about how looking at other artists work can help us to make progress with our own work. Then some practical drawing exercises.
Working with a lovely group,I talked about what is ‘Critical for Creativity’ using a methodology I learnt in my first teaching post – last century!! We explored how to follow up when a piece of art catches our attention, using a bit of detective work to find out more about artwork and artist – no stalking! I used an example from my own experience – talking about how my love of Vincent van Gogh’s work influenced the creation of my piece ‘Shingle and Stars’
Having talked through how to analyse an artwork – and spend longer than 15 seconds looking at it! We went through to the gallery and everyone chose a piece of work that appealed to then to try the methodology themselves. I then talked a little more about how I continue to use this methodology and how it helps me to develop as an artist – stressing the importance of continuing to ‘feed’ ones creativity and imagination by learning from other artists. I shared the impact that more recent art ‘crushes’ have had on my own work such as Joan Eardley . The power and scale of her work has encouraged me to work bigger, and her use of collage encourages me in my choice of processes.
Then it was time to tackle drawing – now I know from my experience with students and workshop participants that those who stitch often say they can not draw! But I want to encourage drawing as a way of developing ideas, experimenting and… enjoying the process! So, I put together a series of tasks that would encourage the group to engage with their chosen subject matter and think about what exactly they needed to get from a drawing.
We started by working very quickly, with a range of media and NO Rubbers! When there is only a minute to draw, what do you focus on? The form, the texture? Mark making? Working on sketches for a minute or two can be surprising – it’s amazing how much information you can capture and, as you’ve only spent 60 seconds you don’t feel that pressure for it to be ‘good’ or look ‘right’. I encourage participants to make notes about the drawing experience as we go on …. what works, how it feels, what ideas pop into their heads whilst doing the drawing, the process of drawing can help to clarify the ideas of the artwork to come.
We finished the afternoon with a more extended piece – but drawing using collage – a process that really helps me in my applique and free motion embroidery work.
As with any workshop – I wouldn’t ask participants to do anything I haven’t done myself! So here is one of my 5 minute sketches – and the developing textile work. Once again, the magic of drawing has helped me extend the ideas I have for a piece of work and set me off down another creative pathway…lets see where this one leads to!
I think that I will do several fragments in this way to add further layers to my Urban Efflorescence pieces. I only hope the participants got as much out of the workshop as I did!
I will be running more workshops this year, at the Shipley and independantly, please get in touch if you’d be interested in booking a workshop for your group – and head over to my workshop page for upcoming events!
Autumn is creeping in, with September gone after soaring temperatures followed by torrential rainfalls. The season change has caused us to pause and reflect on changes in our lives here in Newcastle. Dealing with loss of loved ones leads to recallibration of priorities and needs, and so my partner has cut down his hours and I have altered mine leaving us both free to spend Mondays walking in the beautiful North East landscape. If you get the opportunity, I can recommend walking for wellbeing.
Each week we have picked a route of around 10km, in different locations; coastal, moorland, riversides and woodland. Incredibly, all the routes so far have also included remarkably good cafes! (More on that later!) I haven’t stopped to get out my sketchbook yet but have been busy with my camera and collecting bag.
The walks have provided thinking time to mull over project ideas and the landscape is certainly proving inspirational.
Week 1: From Craster to Low Newton and back, via Dunstanburgh Castle
We started this walk with tea and toast at the Shoreline Cafe in Craster, truly excellent toast!
We found this spider hanging outside one of the little cottages on the dunes near Low Newton- beautiful markings
On our return the temperature seemed to have warmed up enough to get these little frogs hopping- we had to be very careful where we put our feet!
Dunstanburgh Castle looking dramatic against the sky line,
Lunch at the Ship Inn, Low Newton. It had to be crab sandwiches and kipper fish cakes!
A mad dash back to Newcastle saw us reach Grey Street in time to catch the end of stage 3 of the Gour of Britain bike race – think we overtook them when the riders got stuck at the level crossing in Widdrington!
Week 2: Allendale around Stobbs Cross
This walk started with a visit to an art gallery…and cafe- can you see a routine forming 🤣
I found this walk quite hard, the landscape seemed bleak to me and the wind was fierce
Lower down the route, hedgerows were covered with rose hips, hawthorn berries and the last few blackberries.
We saw several beautiful brown butterflies whilst we were on the moor – I need to check if this caterpillar was related to them!
Week 3: Derwent Valley from Swalwell to Thornley Woods
We couldn’t go too far from home today- kid taxi duty later – but this gorgeous walk is only 9 miles away- so lucky to live where we do.
We walked a whole mile from the car park before ‘accidentally’ finding Land of Oak and Iron a heritage centre that just happens to have a lovely cafe attached 🤣 more toast and tea tested- 👍👍👍
We walked across the viaduct and then went down to follow the river.
Wasn’t quite so impressed to find this-almost as big as my foot!
Thornley Woods has an accessible sculpture trail- and another cafe! These walks are all easy to reach by bus from Newcastle too!
Week 4 Alnmouth to Lesbury,Bilton and Hipsburn and back
Heading up the A1 this week, calling at Swarland for…yes, tea and toast – you really need to try Nelsons in the Park 4 slices!!
I love Alnmouth, a village full of art and cafes right on the coast- this time though it was all about the river. So after a short walk along the beach we turned inland to find the Aln.
This little hut features in one of my miniature scenes
We walked through the golf course and across a field warning of bulls – luckily they seemed to be elsewhere.
This little robin was quite fierce- he flew right up to my face twice as we tried to pass him- surely it’s the wrong time of year for nesting?
Another viaduct- this trainspotter just missed the 1 o’clock to Edinburgh going overhead!
And after all those steps? A vegan spicy cauliflower pie fromScott’s of Alnmouth
I hope we can continue these walks as the weather turns, we’ve been lucky so far but if it does get grim, we might switch to urban walks with (more) cafes and cinemas!
So here I am engrossed in teaching needlefelting. A workshop I often run for patients I work with in hospitals. We had the great news this week that funding will continue for another year. So I can continue to dream up crazy installation ideas like this recent one…
Patients wrote on the rainbow to share what or who helped them get through Radiotherapy, we needlefelted rainbow coloured raindrops to add to the pom pom clouds – patients always find needle felting therapeutic 😉
Joan Eardley -A Sense of Place
Joan Eardley has become a favourite artist of mine. An exhibition of the Glasgow Girls at the Kirkcudbright Art Gallery introduced me to her paintings of Glasgow children. I was drawn to the use of collage and lettering in the background, and the bold colours. Curious to find out more, I began online research and was struck by the energy Eardley captures in her land and seascapes. I tracked down an exhibition in the Clydebank Gallery a year later – and worked a visit into that summer’s holiday itinerary (!)
It was fantastic to be able to observe first hand the work that I had seen on line. The landscape paintings are around a metre square,the seascapes even bigger, as if she was trying to make life-size representations of the scene in front of her, so powerful. Imagine trying to manipulate a canvas or board that size outdoors in Scottish weather – Summer and Winter! The texture and colour were inspiring. As I stood in front of the work I tried to follow through the process; looking at underlying colours, often very strong and dark, the way thicker paint was applied in parts of the composition and, how in places real plant matter was embedded in thick layers of paint. There was a book supporting the exhibition. I bought it and took it home to study.
I started trying to build the ideas I gained from studying Joan Eardley’s work into my own textile art; stronger colours, more consideration of composition, thinking about how and where to build up texture. Learning from another artist is empowering, encouraging creativity. The biggest lesson is that reminder that in working in situ ideas and feelings flow into the work.
Then, in December 2016, I found out that there was to be another, more comprehensive exhibition of Joan Eardley’s work at the Scottish Museum of Modern Art in Edinburgh – it took me til’ the February Half Term break to persuade my family that they really wanted a weekend in Edinburgh! We compromised – I took them to the Camera Obscura, they accompanied me to the gallery. We met up with friends there, it was good to be able to discuss the work with a great pal – and ex art teaching colleague (Hello Linda!)
This exhibition includes work from throughout Eardley’s all too short career. Completed paintings are supported with sketches and studies, photographs and artefacts and a wonderful film of the artist at work. The work is divided into five rooms, themed through chronology and subject matter. Again, I was entranced by process, the use of media, expensive paints used sparingly then splurged or padded out with filler to create texture. Sketchbook pages stuck together to make a big enough surface to draw on. Collage worked into paintings and sketches. Again, I was struck by the sense of life and energy in the work. And there was another book…
I got the chance to return to this exhibition on Saturday. It was a very short follow up visit- only an hour to go through the five rooms. I was on a weekend trip with the 12 year old, ostensibly to visit the Knitting and Stitching Show and hit the shops with her left over Christmas money. So, we negotiated and an hour was what I got! Focus and determination was the plan. In each room, I studied the pieces that most grabbed my interest, standing in front and typing notes directly on my phone (must get faster at touch typing!) So what follows is the transcript of those notes, with images from the books I bought to remind me. Even reading through them now I get that rush of adrenaline and excitement – it is so important to continue to study other artists’ work. It gives me enthusiasm and ideas, a sense of determination to continue with my work so I get to what I want to achieve. The exhibition is on until the 21st May 2017. I don’t think I’ll get another chance to see it but I have my memories – and I hope there’ll be another one soon….
Be bold bright blue and orange ochre in with greens and charcoal
Obvious layers thick rough texture
Brush marks long embroidery stitch
Field with wild flowers 1960-2
What happens if I add larger pieces (organza) over small?
Marks go in & out of focus
Turquoise lime green salmon pink
July Fields 1959
Patchwork raw edges
Thick thread stitching in texture
That blue again
Summer Fields 1961
Colours layer and smudge together
Small clear details catch the eye
Real plant matter smothered in dripping paint
One side blurred – yellow ochre
Just fabric- minimal stitch
Centre -green/ochre heavy texture
Right- greens clearer bold marks over thinner paint
Fields under Snow 1958
Charcoal & burnt umber on top
Brush marks unravel like frayed yarn
Beehives Storm Approaching 1961
Green jade under grey umber
Black black house
Rough tweed tea texture field
Aggressive wind whipped marks
Stitch collage on top
So much energy
Winter Day Catterline 1957-60
Gable end of tenement 1955
Big flat fabric patches
Two Glasgow Lassies
Flame over blue grey
Is it torn, faded, dirty?
Stained glass colours
Child before a tenement window 1958-60
Illuminated window- lace curtain?
Glasgow Corner shop
Sketchbook collages of local shops
New series collage raw edges mounted on stained white
Children playing in a street 1960
Pen n ink drawings – become machine stitch sketches?
Girl and Chalked Wall 1955-60
Lettering (for Julia)
Texture on dress French knots
Such a Chagall blue
Summer Sea 1962
So big bold and wild
Paint drips and slashes across the wide sea
Shore is dark as peat
Surf crashes desperately on to it
Short thick vertical marks become wide dripping horizontals
Taste the salt spray
Winter Sea III 1958
What was it like to paint in that storm?
Everything crashing rapid direction changes
Difficult to see through pouring rain?
Fishing Nets Catterline 1962
Ochre n khaki beach thin brush texture visible
Cross hatch netting
Sunset fire colours in the waves
Sun thick like butter on burnt toast cliffs
Drowning in a sea of bubblewrap as I get everything wrapped up ready to take down to Harrogate on Saturday! I’ve spent an enjoyable day deciding on just how I want to display everything. Pleasantly surprised to discover that I do have enough work to fill my 2 x 1 m shell space. I know this because I mocked up the show in my, almost, 2 x 1 m bay window !!
There’ll be some jiggling and adjusting but I’ve got an idea now, and in the shell space I’ll have a bit more height so things will have a bit of breathing space. I’m glad I didn’t go for the additional storage unit – there’s no room!!
I did spend/waste quite a lot of time finding the fishing line that I use to find work – why did it take so long to find? Because it was in my exhibition tool kit/vanity case – where it was meant to be but obviously the LAST place I looked for it!
The wholesale price lists, labels and bio are typed up, printed off and mounted on foam board. I’ve still got a whole day to finalise things so I’m feeling quite calm – which feels quite odd!
I’m very grateful to Heaton Baptist Church for the loan of one third of the ‘My Journey’ triptych, and to St Bede’s Palliative Care Unit for the loan of one third of their triptych. I wanted to show community projects alongside my fine art textiles work, and that Heaton Map is just too darn big! (All of these pieces can be found in earlier blog posts).
The rest of the show will be made of recent work and a few old favourites, as I want to give a flavour of everything that I do.
So now its time to pack the tool kit, the step ladders and my trusty flask, and some smart clothes!
I’ll try and do an update whilst I’m at the show..see you in a few days!
The last few days have been taken up with setting up and previewing the Fusion Textile Artists Network exhibition at Gallery45 in Felton.
The first of almost monthly events I’m involved in this year, the Fusion show is called Connections. Ten artists are exhibiting new textile artwork developed in response to that one word title.
As with any exhibition, there are little hiccoughs…getting everyone and everything to the gallery on the right day and at the same time, working out the hanging system, finding all the labels and stock sheets…if you’ve ever had to do it you’ll know what I mean!
Unwrapping and sorting the work is always pleasing, seeing what my talented colleagues have created. Underneath the protective layers of cloth and bubble wrap lie examples of hand and machine stitch, beading, dyeing and more.
With only a few hours to get the job done, we clear the space and put the work out around the room.
Then it’s time for the serious step work out – up and down the step ladders hanging and adjusting pieces, using the spirit level to check things are straight and grouping by ‘eye’. Up the ladder, adjust, down the ladder, step back and review…back up the ladder- no wonder my legs feel like they’ve climbed a mountain!
I headed off to do school run duties and print out the labels on card, leaving the others to do final tweaks. I think, we were all pretty pleased with the end result.
The opening event was on Saturday, we got there early to put up the labels and sort out last minute bits and pieces. Then it was time to celebrate with tea and cake 😊. It was lovely to meet and greet people and share the ideas behind the work.
The exhibition shows great variety, demonstrating the versatility of textile media. Fabric, thread and mixed media are used to create abstract, representational, 2D and 3D pieces.
‘Connections’ is on until the 5th May. If you get to see it please leave a comment in the visitors book- we look forward to reading your views!
Gallery 45 is a gorgeous venue in Felton, Northumberland. From Saturday, the gallery will be holding the latest exhibition of Textile Art made by members of the Fusion Textile Artists Network. The exhibition is called ‘Connections’. The theme has been freely interpreted by the members of the network, so there will be a wide range of subject matter and textile processes to view.
We spent a weekend working with Textile Artist Shelley Rhodes in the Long Room at the gallery last Autumn. Some of the pieces in this new exhibition have developed from that workshop.
The work will be exhibited in the main gallery and in the Long Room and will be on display from March 4th until May 5th. There will be an opening event where you will be able to meet some of the artists this Saturday, 4th March, from 11am – 1pm – refreshments will be available!
The gallery itself is open from 10 – 5 Tuesday to Saturday and 11-4 on Sunday.
For my part, I’ve been exploring the connection one feels with the landscape; how that natural space can be healing and soothing. I love the feeling of being somewhere that is so open, beautiful and powerful. The landscape precedes us and will continue long after we are gone. There is much research to show that connecting with nature is beneficial to our health and well being. I have been visiting and recording the landscapes of Northumberland and Scotland and it is this work that I will be including in the exhibition.
All the pieces are created using hand coloured fabrics and free machine embroidery. It is quite a slow process but it encourages contemplation and I like the painterly effect it achieves.
As part of the exhibition programme, I will be running my Tin Can Metamorphis Workshop on Saturday 25th March. If you’d like to come along to this please contact the gallery direct!
One of the great things about being a textile artist is being able to share my passion for creativity with others, I offer a range of workshops and talks that can be tailored to meet the needs of all ages and abilities.
I’ve just spent a lovely couple of days in North Yorkshire. The fabulous Snape Textile Group invited me down to teach my workshop on making 3D beach huts and garden sheds.
The village itself is gorgeous – reached via an avenue of lime trees with a carpet of snowdrops and aconites.The village hall, right in the centre of the village, was a perfect venue.
Lots of room to spread out and the newly refurbished kitchen meant hot food and plenty of cuppas were available – big thanks to Mary and Sarah! Having lunch together was a great way to find out more about the group’s interests – even if it did go a bit off topic sometimes (murder and mayhem with your apple sponge anyone!!)
So working with a group of 12 each day we got cracking on converting old tin cans into ‘des res’ on a miniature scale.
The main elements of these pieces are the building (obviously!) the side panel that wraps around the tin and the ‘ground’ that the building sits on. its important to have a good plan of what the finished piece will look like , so that each of the elements will harmonise and make a complimentary whole. Other than that, its up to the maker as to what the finished item will look like – a beach retreat? a gardener’s hide away? There’s lots of fun to be had working out how to make miniature features to perfect the scene – this time I shared top tips for making bunting…and cabbages!
It was lovely to see everyone get stuck in and really engage with the project. I’d sent down a materials list prior to the workshop and I always bring a lot of supplies to help people along, so the hall was soon a colourful hub full of beads, threads, fabrics and tins! (Frist job; check that the templates fit around your chosen tin – if not – adapt them!)
It is easiest to customise the building before it is constructed, so people added doors and windows, embroidered flowers and made bunting. Similarly, the roof can be one piece of fabric, or can be layered with tiles and finished with rick rack or ribbon. Decisions, decisions!!
The side panel wraps around the tin lets you ‘set the scene’ of the building, this weekend we had pebbles, flower gardens, fish and boats decorating the surfaces.
After a full day of stitching and constructing we had some very nearly complete Grand Designs, the plan is that the group will get their pieces completed for their annual show at the end of August…I can’t wait to see the final results!