Thirteen Years

Today marks my 13th anniversary as full-time self-employed! My work has changed so much in that time from the early days making cushions, then wall panels, then finally settling down in 2009-10 to something more like the kind of work I make now. Along the way there have been books, kits, patterns, Ruth Singer Studio, teaching and masses more. It’s been a wonderful time and I have never regretted the leap I made 13 years ago to pursue this adventure, although there have been more than a few diversions and hiccups along the way. Wedding dresses….really? What was I thinking?!

There are a couple of review posts from the last couple of years on my blog which I have enjoyed reading today and even looked at a few (boring) posts from as far back as 2006 when I started blogging!

Here and now in 2018 my work is going incredibly well, it kind of astonishes and amazes me when I step back and consider. I’ve just taken down a major solo exhibition and I have another in just a few weeks. It is wonderful and exhausting in equal measure. And I have a book to continue writing this afternoon, so no more self-indulgence, just carrying on working hard like I have been doing for all those years!

 

Criminal Quilts : Creative Residency

Alongside my research and workshops at Staffordshire Record Office, my Criminal Quilts project also includes a creative residency in the Fashion and Textile Department of Wolverhampton University. I included this in the project so I could work with students and staff to help develop the creative work and have access to their amazing studio facilities. I am in the process of setting up a student brief for students across art and design to make work for exhibitions based around the information and data which is growing from the archive research.  I hope that working alongside a practicing artist on a live project with exhibitions and publications will be a great experience and some exciting and innovative work will be produced.

Personally I am working closely with Senior Lecturer Jan Wrigley and Professor Fiona Hackney on both the practical, creative side and on completely new (for me) outcomes for the project including a symposium at the end of 2018 and academic papers. When I devised the project plan and funding application I intentionally created new ways of sharing the project beyond the usual exhibition and am excited by the possibilities which have developed to share and record the project in so many ways.

I also get the chance to experiment with the equipment and facilities at the University including digital print and tufting, all of which is completely new to me. The screen print workshop has much larger capacity than I am used to as well so I hope that I will be able to make some larger scale work rather than my usual tiny, detailed hand stitched work. I even got to have a go with the embellisher in the machine room on my last visit and hope to use the Cornelly embroidery machine on another session.  I was also charmed to find pages from my books adorning the machine room for student reference!

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Rethink your Mind

I’m pleased to have a new piece of work selected for the ReThinkYourMind Yellow Book project.

My piece Ash Map will be included in the new book for 2017 which will be launched this week after an awards reception at the House of Lords last week, although I was at the Contemporary Craft Festival so wasn’t able to attend the awards.

The theme for entries was ‘I feel better when….’ and for me this is walking in the countryside. The line of the piece follows the route of a walk and is stitched with the seeds of an ash tree (called keys) which I collected. This work and a number of others exploring the natural world and the therapeutic nature of walking were created in late 2015 as I was dealing with a painful relationship break up when walking was essential to calm my mind and focus on things outside of my own head. Walking a lot is nothing new for me, I have always loved walking, but these pieces are the first work I have produced which use this experience of walking as a theme and inspiration to making. I am continuing to develop new work around walking, my experience of the natural world and hope to have an exhibition of new pieces in 2018.

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Contemporary Craft Festival preparations

The Contemporary Craft Festival at Bovey Tracey, Devon opens in just over a week. I have been flat out making enough stock to make my stand look convincing, as this is the first show I have done with this work. Until a couple of weeks ago I had less than 10 pieces. Now I’ve got…. some… lots…. more. I haven’t counted, but I’ve been really productive. I have also been buying more tools, hunting eBay for beautiful boxes and today, photographing new pieces. I am really, really enjoying making this new collection. It is exciting to be making things which don’t take weeks and weeks like most of my hand stitched quilts and embroideries.

I am now selling some of these pieces on MadebyHand online and they featured an interview with me on a blog post and newsletter last week which has been great promotion. I am also developing some prints based on my tool embroideries and I *hope* I will have these ready for the Craft Festival but if not these will be online in June instead.

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Criminal Quilts 2017

My Criminal Quilts series originally commissioned by Shire Hall Gallery is probably my best known work including the 2016 Fine Art Quilt Masters winner. This winning piece will be exhibited in the Minerva Arts Centre this summer and the patchwork piece will be at Unit Twelve from the end of April.  I’m really excited to be starting a new project taking this work further with Staffordshire Records Office in 2017-18. I’ve just received funding from Arts Council England to develop new work, exhibitions and community partnership projects based around the original archive material relating to Victorian women criminals.

To celebrate (or actually, co-incidentally) I’ve got a free workshop on Sunday 26th March at New Walk Museum in Leicester inspired by this series of work.

Inspired by Ruth’s work and using silhouettes of hands, create your own piece with a personal touch. Explore drawing and creating patterns on paper with your own hand outline and embellish with embroidery, fabric and paper collage.   No previous experience is required.  The workshop is FREE but booking is essential. Call the museum on 0116 225 4900 to book your place.

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!

 

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.