Just one year

img_0029Working the way I do, I am always looking forward to the next exhibition, planning the next project, writing funding proposals and workshop outlines for months and even years ahead, I rarely get the opportunity to look back, consider what has happened and think about how to build on the successes and challenges of the last year. This winter I made sure I did. In December I took a week’s retreat in quiet, hillside cottage in Staffordshire to think, plan, reflect and watch the clouds. Since then life has been a whirlwind so it is now mid February before I’ve had chance to write a proper review of the year.

 

 

2016 started with an ending… the last couple of weeks of my solo exhibition Narrative Threads at the National Centre for Craft & Design which opened in November 2015 after 11 months artists residency at the gallery. It was hard to say goodbye to the exhibition but the ending gave me chance to reflect on it for my funding review and the visitor comments made it all worthwhile.

 

Wonderfully intriguing exhibition. Wonderfully presented.

A very moving emotive exhibition.

Fascinating execution of some clever conceptual ideas.

Selected works from the exhibition have been shown in Salisbury, Unit Twelve, Leicester and Northern Ireland as well as the Knitting & Stitching Shows. I now have a confirmed gallery to show the entire exhibition in 2019 and potentially other shows in 2018 too.

Hot on the heels of the exhibition completion I started Urban Growth, a new project with Interlace. Bethany and I ran an exciting, energetic and exhausting youth project to create a new permanent concrete and textile artwork in my former studio building Makers’ Yard. I worked with two local charities to fund and manage the project, making important and valuable connections with local communities.

 

The early part of the year also saw me moving out of Makers’ Yard studios and return to working at home, although not until I had a loft refit completed to store all my materials and teaching resources! I no longer organise my own workshops in Leicester and have reverted back to freelance teaching in locations across the country.  2016 was a quiet teaching year for me, I only travelled as far as West Dean College, Leeds University, Shrewsbury, Wakefield, Solihull, Bletchley Park and Dublin (to name a few).

Bethany and I continued to work really hard throughout the year with Interlace exhibitions at the Knitting & Stitching Shows in London, Harrogate and Dublin as well as new work selected for Made in the Middle. MitM opened in December and our huge new installation piece Halo won a prize which was a great end to a very intensive year for our collaboration.

 

It was a good year for prizes as I also won the Fine Art Quilt Masters competition at the Festival of Quilts in August with a piece from the Criminal Quilts collection originally made for my Narrative Threads exhibition. The recognition for this prize has been great, giving me lots of press coverage and masses of teaching requests which is making sure 2017 is very busy indeed!

 

The prize money has meant I have been able to invest in creative and professional development including retreats, residencies, training and research visits.  I celebrated my win with two glorious weeks in Cornwall before the frenetic few months of the Knitting and Stitching Shows.

 

Winter has been quieter, a conscious decision. I had a lot of teaching until the end of November but since then have taken some time out to spend on developing my own work and seemingly constant funding applications, including a successful Arts Council bid to work with Gillian McFarland throughout this year as joint artists in residence at Leicester University Genetics Department which means 2017 is getting off to an exciting and busy start!

 

Surface Pattern exhibition at Unit Twelve

Criminal Quilts: Patchwork

This piece will be exhibited in Unit Twelve’s new exhibition (Surface) Pattern 27th April- 26th August 2017.

 

I’m also running a natural dye workshop at the gallery on Saturday 29th July where you can create lovely patterns on cloth using foraged plant materials.

Creative Workshop With Helen Hallows

I treated myself to another creative experimentation day this weekend, trying new materials, techniques and ideas. I spent the day on a Mark Making workshop with artist friend Helen Hallows whose work and philosophy I have long admired.

helen-hallows

Helen Hallows

When you teach a lot of workshops you really appreciate all the hard work which goes into making a workshop really special for the participants, and it’s also a reminder of what it is like on the other side of the teaching table.

Helen made the day very lovely and it was extra special to find my friend Alys there, also having a birthday treat workshop day!

We made mood boards, splashed paint around, printed, stamped and got thoroughly messy, covering paper in colour and pattern. I loved trying mono print again but in totally different ways to the workshop last week and covering papers in bold, strong colour, layering, marking and scraping away. I have created a huge stash of beautiful papers which I think I will use for stitching into, creating collage and more experimental work and I have also stretched my imagination, tried different colour palettes and lots of new ideas for creating colour and pattern which will seep their way into my work in lots of different ways. I left the workshop invigorated and excited and I’ve now got my dining room floor papered in drying painty sheets of paper!

 

 

 

Little Selves exhibition

Little Selves is an exhibition celebrating the portrait miniature showcasing exquisite pieces from the collections at New Walk Museum Leicester alongside new work by Leicester Society of Artists members and a schools competition. The exhibition takes place 25 March – 25 June 2017.

min-eye-miniature-timms-1 Although I am no portraitist, I was intrigued by the potential it gave me to create something new. I worked, years ago, on the development of the V&A Portrait Miniatures gallery and have a fondness for tiny, personal portraits. My inspiration for this piece came from this eye miniature of Mrs. Fitzherbert, George Engleheart (1750-1829). Watercolour and gouache on ivory.

“Mrs Maria Fitzherbert was secretly married to the Prince of Wales, later George IV. He stopped all contact with her on his official marriage, but was buried with a miniature of her around his neck. The identity of the single eye was known to the owner, but to no-one else.” From The Story of Leicester.

 

 

 

I am fascinated by personal mementoes and memorials and by human hair and chose to create an eye miniature of my own stitched with hair. Within is drawn from my own eye and stitched with donated human hair on a scrap of Victorian cotton taken from a disintegrated patchwork quilt.

 

New experiments in printmaking

Last year I joined Leicester Print Workshop (LPW) with the specific aim of exploring textile screen printing in more detail to add to my portfolio of textile skills. Alongside screen printing I have also been exploring different types of print making on paper and other materials which I am slowing adding into my working practice, particularly for my Genetics Artist Residency project. It’s such a different way of working for me but one full of possibilities and it is taking me in directions I couldn’t have imagined a year ago. I’m feeling inspired, challenged and very keen to continue learning and exploring ideas in a new way. Working with Gillian this last year or so has also opened up my way of working, allowing me to think beyond textiles and craft and explore ideas without the emphasis on product or materials. The craft world can be very materials-focussed and I’ve felt a little troubled by working without thread or cloth but it is ultimately very liberating. It’s not really in my nature to be bound by rules of what I ‘should’ be doing.

I recently organised a taster session for Leicestershire Design Factory members at the LPW to share some of the excitement of new printing techniques and try some tests and experiments myself including test printing a version of my floral trowel embroidery.

 

Exploring DNA – Artist in Residence

Gillian and I spent our first full day at work as Artists in Residence at Leicester University Department of Genetics this week spending time observing in labs and extracting the DNA from a banana preparation to testing our own DNA later this week. For the next few weeks were are absorbing, observing, investigating, learning and getting to know the department as well as planning all the other parts of our project including schools project and exhibition.

For me it is a visual and intellectual feast, I’m finding the details of the labs fascinating and so completely new it is somewhat mind-blowing. The joy of this research stage is there’s no pressure to decide what the finished work might be and it’s great to bounce ideas around with both academic staff and of course with Gillian as we begin to scope out how we are going to approach our creative work.

 

I’m working on a new sketchbook with no fixed aim or direction yet which is very liberating. I am learning – fast- about the very basics of DNA and genetics, starting from knowing pretty much nothing, having not studied any science for 25 years! I’m overwhelmed by the generosity and support from the academic staff already and the enthusiasm shown for what must seem a pretty strange project to them.

 

Fabric Manipulation course at West Dean College

I’m teaching a Fabric Manipulation long weekend workshop at West Dean College 16-19 March 2017. If you love texture and structure in textiles this is a perfect course for you to get really absorbed into exciting techniques and develop your own style with three days of teaching with loads of studio time and inspiration.

 

Over the weekend you will have chance to try out a wide range of fabric manipulation techniques, taking inspiration from historic textiles and contemporary fashion. Techniques include formal and organic pleating and folding, stitching and gathering to create interesting textures and 3D appliqué to create bold, exciting fabrics from scratch. You can make samples or work towards a finished textile piece. Fabric manipulation techniques can be combined with embroidery and quilting to make really unique and exciting projects, or learn skills to add into fashion and dressmaking.

West Dean is a spectacularly lovely place to study (and indeed teach) which makes it a perfect place to recharge, learn new things and absorb inspiration. The workshop starts on Thursday evening with dinner with the students and tutor, followed by three intensive but relaxed days of tuition. Students can choose a full-board residential option and stay on site and have access to studios in the evenings, with all meals and equipment provided. You will need to bring some of your own materials to get the best of this course but there is nothing expensive required.

I’ll be returning to West Dean in the summer to teach Stitched Textiles from Historical Inspiration.