Making Meaning Podcast Episode Five – Kathryn Parsons

Graphic image with the text: Making Meaning in a swirl logo. Additional text saying A Podcast by Ruth Singer exploring the meaning behind what we make.

Kathryn Parsons is an artist and visual story-teller.  

Kathryn’s approach is research-based and multi-faceted – From a Herbarium of Stories made from leaves and sunlight, to wildflower shoes sculpted in sugar, she creates intricate artworks that weave together tales of nature, place and people.

She has exhibited at The Victoria and Albert Museum and National Centre for Craft & Design, and created site-inspired artworks for Burghley House, the John Clare Trust, and Derby Museum’s porcelain gallery. 

Currently Artist in Residence with Langdyke Countryside Trust, Kathryn also runs creative workshops… she loves to inspire deeper connections with the natural world while nurturing creativity.

The first time I saw Kathryn’s exquisite work I was bowled over by the delicacy and subtly of it. Kathryn has such an interesting perspective on the world, seeing nature with such open curiosity. In this podcast we talk about seeking inspiration in the world and in museums, about how important it is for both of us to be open to new ideas & to work with the materials that are right for the project. We talk about working in small scale, in loving the details in this. We also talk about museums and creating site-specific work related to locations and landscapes. Kathryn is passionate about sharing her work, about making stories accessible to others through art-making and about nurturing a love of the wild. It’s a lovely conversation which I am sure you will enjoy too.

See below for links to things we talked about in the podcast.

As always, behind the scenes and more chat about the podcast and my guests (and their pets if possible!) is available to Patreon members for just £4.50 a month.

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Play here

Kathryn and her work

Kathryn Parsons

Kathryn regularly runs workshops online and in person in the English Midlands. Please check her website and social media to keep in touch or join her mailing list

The Langdyke Stories project Kathryn talked about was produced by Art Pop Up

#solaceinnature is Kathryn’s every-growing collection of photographs that capture the small, beautiful details of nature. She started taking these photographs just before we went in to the first lockdown in 2020, going out each day to look for beauty in order to share it with others via social media. She was blown away by the response and has continued (though not daily any more). Find these beautiful posts on her social media links above.

Support the podcast

If you have enjoyed the podcast, please consider making a contribution towards my costs to create and host these conversations. You can make a one-off donation below or join my Podcast Supporters Membership on Patreon for £4.50 per month. You can also support for free by subscribing, reviewing and sharing the podcast on your social media. Thank you!

Podcast donation

A small contribution towards the podcast costs

£2.00

Making Meaning Podcast Episode Four – Richard McVetis

Graphic image with the text: Making Meaning in a swirl logo. Additional text saying A Podcast by Ruth Singer exploring the meaning behind what we make.

Richard McVetis

My practice is deeply rooted in process and hand embroidery. I record Time and Space through multiples of dots, lines, and crosses. These meticulously rendered stitches reflect a preoccupation with the repetitive nature, exploring the subtle differences that emerge through ritualistic and habitual making.

Richard makes work for exhibitions and commissions and shares his unique style of stitch and the meditative process behind it through workshops. In the 10 years or so since I first came across Richard’s work, he’s exhibited widely including the Crafts Council’s Collect Open in 2017, and he’s got a solo exhibition coming up in 2022. In this conversation we talk about research and our methods for gathering ideas, what inspires us and how place and family heritage are so important. Richard talks about never not being an artist which rings so true for me, and about being curious and always exploring ideas.

See below for links to things we talked about in the podcast.

As always, behind the scenes and more chat about the podcast and my guests (and their pets if possible!) is available to Patreon members for just £4.50 a month.

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Play here

Richard and his recent work

Richard McVetis

Support the podcast

If you have enjoyed the podcast, please consider making a contribution towards my costs to create and host these conversations. You can make a one-off donation below or join my Podcast Supporters Membership on Patreon for £4.50 per month. You can also support for free by subscribing, reviewing and sharing the podcast on your social media. Thank you!

Podcast donation

A small contribution towards the podcast costs

£2.00

Making Meaning Podcast Episode Three – Caren Garfen

Graphic image with the text: Making Meaning in a swirl logo. Additional text saying A Podcast by Ruth Singer exploring the meaning behind what we make.

Caren Garfen is an award-winning artist specialising in textiles and painstaking hand stitching creating carefully considered pieces with profound messages.

Caren’s approach is to extensively research the subject matter of each project that she undertakes. Currently, she is focusing on the Holocaust, as well as examining the shattering rise in global antisemitism in the 21st century. She incorporates everyday objects (e.g. spectacles, stamps and coins) into her work to address sensitive topics in an accessible way.

Caren’s work has been exhibited widely in the UK and Europe, as well as in Japan, USA, Canada, and Australia, and can be found in public and private collections. 

Caren and I first met at the opening of an exhibition in 2013 which we were both showing new work in. Caren’s research-based work was hugely influential to me at that stage of my career as I was just beginning to exhibit my own narrative-based work and find where this kind of work fitted in the gallery world.

Caren has continue to make work around powerful and meaningful themes including eating disorders and most recently anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. In this episode we talk our research, making processes and how textiles and objects can help us tell important stories.

The exhibition we shared in 2013 was On My Mother’s Knee and there is an online catalogue available free here.

As always, behind the scenes and more chat about the podcast and my guests (and their pets!) is available to Patreon members for just £4.50 a month.

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Play here

Making Meaning Episode 3 with Caren Garfen

Caren and her recent work

Caren Garfen

Support the podcast

If you have enjoyed the podcast, please consider making a contribution towards my costs to create and host these conversations. You can make a one-off donation below or join my Podcast Supporters Membership on Patreon for £4.50 per month. You can also support for free by subscribing, reviewing and sharing the podcast on your social media. Thank you!

Podcast donation

A small contribution towards the podcast costs

£2.00

Download the transcript here

This is an auto-generated transcript, which I have edited a little but may still have mistakes and unclear bits.

Making Meaning Podcast Episode Two – Gillian McFarland

Graphic image with the text: Making Meaning in a swirl logo. Additional text saying A Podcast by Ruth Singer exploring the meaning behind what we make.

Artist Gillian Adair McFarland and I met in 2014 when she moved into our shared studio in Leicester. We immediately found common ground with our work and became great friends. We have collaborated a lot on projects over the last few years and continue to work remotely now Gillian has moved back to Scotland. In this conversation, we talk about the areas of interest where we cross over, starting with stains and marks of time, land and human experience. We also talk a lot about the process of making art, comparing our experiences in very different fields – Gillian more in fine art and me in craft / textiles. We also discuss the idea of value in art-making and the challenges of working in a capitalist world where financial value is placed above other kinds of value. We both collaborate a lot with other artists as well as each other so we also talk about the importance of working with others, including scientists. We talk about the difficulty of focussing on just one idea out of so many and how this works so well in our collaborative work.

We have worked together on art-science projects as well as other collaborations. We have recently finished a new Criminal Quilts collaboration and are just starting a co-creation project with the Hutton Institute, Dundee which you can get involved in. Please sign up to my mailing list to find out about that when it’s ready.

Listen here

Gillian and her recent work


Images below of Gillian, Gayle Price glassblower at University of Leicester and photos from our genetics residency

More images and information about our Genetics Residency can be found on our website McFarland & Singer


Gillian Adair McFarland

head and shoulders image of Ruth Singer, white woman with short dark hair and glasses

Support the podcast

If you have enjoyed the podcast, please consider making a contribution towards my costs to create and host these conversations. You can make a one-off donation below or join my Podcast Supporters Membership on Patreon for £4.50 per month. You can also support for free by subscribing, reviewing and sharing the podcast on your social media. Thank you!

Podcast donation

A small contribution towards the podcast costs

£2.00

Download the transcript here

This is an auto-generated transcript, which I have edited a little but may still have mistakes and unclear bits.

Brief Encounters art-science exhibition

I’ve created some new science-inspired work for a small group exhibition which will be opening on Friday 9th March at Newarke Houses Museum, Leicester. This is part of the University of Leicester’s British Science Week celebrations. Find out more about the project and exhibition here. The exhibition continues until 31st March 2018. Some of the Petri Dish Project will also be shown in the exhibition.

My work is often around making ideas and concepts into visual form through textile and mixed media. My first career was working in museums, and this comes through now in my choice of exploring themes of memory, history and personal stories, usually taking historic objects or family history as my source. I was intrigued by the idea of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes having a role to play in ageing. This ties in with my previous work on genetics and other work around grieving, length of time expressed through linear pieces and of capturing ephemeral moments permanent through creating artworks.

Visiting Dr Nicola Royle and talking through the work she does sparked lots of ideas of how I might develop new work around length, ageing and repair. I wanted to explore some of the words and ideas which are used in genetics research and their resonance in the world outside the lab.

DNA is often referred to as strands, like hair or threads. I chose to work with this concept to create a new piece using long lengths of fine wool thread grouped and bound at intervals. Thinking about telomeres, the ends of chromosomes, gave me the inspiration to work with the ends of the thread, in this case knotted together in small groups.

I was also intrigued by the role telomeres play in DNA repair and chose to represent this through a textile repair. The microscopic imagery of chromosomes uses a bright pink fluorescence to highlight telomeres so I chose a similarly-coloured darning thread and used to repair a silk handkerchief.

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Work on paper – new exhibitions

This week I’ve installed and launched the exhibition of our joint McFarland & Singer artist residency in the Genetics Department of the University of Leicester. The work on show is very different from my usual work and includes work in glass and on paper as well as the amazing collaborative petri dish project.
My own work for this exhibition includes new work on paper including prints and drawings including pieces inspired by our research in the university herbarium combined with drypoint printing. I have also used scientific equipment to make textured patterned pieces. The exhibition also includes collaborative pieces Gillian and I have made together combining print, puncturing and stitch. The exhibition is now open daily 7am – 10pm until 22nd December and then again 2nd – 12th January at the Charles Wilson Building (Foyer) at Leicester University and is free to enter. Works in the exhibition will be listed for sale later in the year. A catalogue is available for £3 (+p&p) on request.

 

 

 

I also have other print-based work on show in Leicester Society of Artists exhibition at New Walk Museum from 17th November t0 16th December. These new pieces are created using patchwork, print and stitch. These pieces are part of a new ongoing series of work exploring textile processes and the stages in production of stitched work. These pieces were included in my recent Fragments exhibition.

Genetics Residency exhibitions

This year I have been artist in residence at Leicester University Department of Genetics alongside Gillian McFarland. Our residency showcase exhibition takes place at Leicester University November – January and includes our sculptural glass work created in collaboration with the university’s scientific glassblower Gayle Price, works on paper, photography and the Petri dish project.

The exhibition preview takes place on Friday 10th November 5-7pm and all are welcome. The show continues until 11th January but is closed 22nd Dec – 1st January.

We are also showing a collection of glass pieces at the Berlin Science Festival in “Appealing to the Populous”, the international art/science exhibition for Evolutionary Biology.

 

In January 2018 we will be showing an expanded version of our Leicester exhibition, including pieces from Berlin and other new work at 44AD Gallery in Bath. We won the exhibition opportunity in Bath Open Arts competition earlier in 2017.

 

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.

 

Artist in Residence at Leicester University

I’m excited to be starting a new residency alongside artist colleague Gillian McFarland at Leicester University Department of Genetics this month.

Ruth Singer / Gillian McFarlandWe’ve been granted funds from Arts Council England to support a research project working with academics working on DNA and exploring new work and public engagement. We will be working in the labs with university staff & students and bringing in secondary schools to work with us later in the year. There will also be an exhibition, a touring display, a film and a publication about the project over the summer and autumn, as well as events and blog posts. We hope to extend the project much further in 2018 and beyond too.

I’m on a crash course of learning about DNA, finding my way around the departmental corridors and the inner workings of an academic institution which is all incredibly exciting!