Friday, 16 March 2018

Xenotopia IV

I've finished another piece of work in my Xenotopia series. I had a clear vision of the look and feel I wanted for the HUE exhibition and it took a lot of printing and dyeing to achieve it but in the process I created a number of pieces that didn't made the cut and this is the story of one of those pieces. 
61 cm x 92 cm
After spending a lot of time dyeing and printing this fabric I got to the point where I realised that it was never going to be the fabric I was looking for and so with nothing to lose I decided to over dye it with a view to using it in other pieces. The only problem was that I liked the resulting fabric so much that I couldn't bear to cut it up and despite it's darkness, the pattern inspired by the salt crystals was still coming through. So I decided to use it to create a piece in a similar style to Xenotopia I .
The fabric along the horizon line was something I had printed years ago and was the first fabric I'd used in this series that wasn't inspired by the salt flats but it does show that all those bits of fabric will (hopefully) come in useful one day. 

It wasn't my plan to enter a piece for the RA summer exhibition but I couldn't resist after reading the message from Grayson Perry encouraging artists to apply, especially as Grayson has created textile pieces himself. But this week I heard that it hadn't been accepted but then I always knew it was a long shot but you've got to be in it to win it.

I'm going to try and make a floating frame for this piece. I've thought about making one before but tight deadlines have stopped me doing this but I've got no excuses now. The cost of framing adds so much to the cost of the piece, it would be nice to think that I could do it for myself. I'll let you know.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Xenotopia II and III at K&S

K&S at Ally Pally came and went and we (HUE) were pleased with the response we got to our exhibition. Lots of people told us they had read 'The Old Ways' and lots of people said they were going to read it as a result of our exhibition and it's nice to think we have inspired people enough to read the book. If Robert McFarlane sees a spike in sales, I hope that he will link it to our exhibition 😊. 

My previous post  only showed one of my pieces, so if you didn't get to the exhibition here are the other two pieces in the series.

Xenotopia II
This is the detail of my square stitching near the horizon which I rubbed with white fabric paint to suggest a white salty surface on Xenotopia II.

Xentopia III
Xenotopia III had stitched paper in the foreground and appliqued rocks on the horizon line which I now realise I still need to photograph. 

One of my favourite comments in the visitor's book was 'I felt I could step into the Salt Flats', and I'll take that any day.

As well as our 'main' pieces, we each created another work which was the same size and colour as the book but in the style of our 'main' pieces. Each piece would be sold in aid of Macmillan nurses. Mine is in the middle of the top row although the detail is difficult to see in this photograph.
I know these pics of the gallery don't do justice to the work and talents of the HUE members but hopefully they will give you an idea of how the gallery looked and if you didn't see it at Ally Pally please come and see us in Harrogate,  if you can. I'll be stewarding on Saturday and Sunday (25th and 26th November).

I was only able to steward on the Saturday but I really enjoyed talking to the visitors. I spoke to a number of people who knew me through my blog and it encouraged me to try to post more frequently. I hope that I do but I have also just started back to full time work and I'm feeling quite enthusiastic about it at the moment so let's hope the new girl enthusiasm doesn't leave me any time soon. I've lots of other salt flat ideas that I would like to pursue.....and that's just the way I like it....

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Xenotopia at the Knitting & Stitch Show

I'm very pleased that my Atacama Salt Flat pieces will be exhibited in the HUE gallery at the Knitting & Stitch Shows this year. I dyed a lot of fabric in my quest to get the effect that I was looking for and there were many, many times when I thought I wasn't going to get the results I wanted but I'm so glad that I didn't give up. 

This piece is called Xenotopia I and if all goes to plan it will be joined by Xenotopia II and III in the exhibition. Each piece is approximately 1 metre square. You can see some of my original design ideas here.

Across the horizon is a bright red line but the impact is lost somewhat in this photograph. Thinking about the salt in the Atacama, one of my early experiments was to pour strong salt solution on cloth and wait for the water to evaporate, revealing the square-ish shape of the salt crystals. I printed this shape on the fabric and used it to inspire the rocky elements in the foreground. In my other two pieces I have also used square stitches to add rocky elements but more of those in another post. 
Xenotopia I - detail
The work in the HUE exhibition has been made after we all read Robert McFarlane's book 'The Old Ways' and we have all responded to the book very differently. The book is about walks in the landscape which I was pleased about as most of my work is inspired by landscapes. In his book Robert says that we need a word to describe....

'somewhere we feel and think significantly to describe the lands that are found beyond these frontiers?  ‘Xenotopias’, perhaps meaning ‘foreign places’ or ‘out of place places’, a term to complement the terms utopias and dystopias'.   

Xenotopia seemed to describe my experience of the Salt Flats. It was like nowhere I'd been before and I certainly felt differently when I was there and almost three years on and it is still inspiring me.

For some time I've been thinking about getting fabric printed with an image of my piece and making a top to wear when I was stewarding but have been put off by the cost of digital printing, particularly as there was a risk that I would make a mistake and not align the image to the pattern pieces correctly. Fortunately though I recently came across Fashion Formula who had more favourable prices.

The colours of the top are more olivey than my artwork and more olivey than this picture shows but overall I'm very pleased with it. It's gone from design to coat hanger in less than a week, which is just as well because the exhibition opens next week. Maybe it's just me but I think it will be wearable on other occasions too.

If you're going to the show I hope you enjoy it and if you're on Saturday 14th, you'll know how to spot me!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

HUE exhibition opens in Bishop's Stortford

Yesterday we installed HUE's 4th exhibition at  the Rhodes Gallery in Bishop's Stortford. There are 40 textile pieces exhibited, 5 of which are mine.  

Three of these pieces are the first of my Atacama series to be exhibited, with the one on the right only being completed late on Friday evening. Tight? Definitely! It took longer to install the exhibition than I anticipated, perhaps they always do, and had planned to take a couple of close-ups when my pieces were hung but at the end of a busy day, I completely forgot. 
I have previously posted about the 'Hidden Pathways' piece is here and I will post about the other two pieces just as soon as I have some more detailed photos to show you. If you are able to why not visit the exhibition? It's free to enter and there is a lovely variety of work on display.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

A new piece of work finally finished

For all the reasons mentioned in my previous post, it's been ages since I finished a piece of work but finally I have and hopefully there'll be a couple of others finished soon. As you can see I'm still being inspired by the Atacama Desert and think I will be for sometime to come. I loved it!  

I don't usually like to cut things up (cowardly me?) but found it easy to cut this one, probably because I didn't have a fixed image of the end piece in mind and therefore wasn't worrying I would ruin the thing I was trying to create. The blues in the piece represent the big blue desert sky and the underground water supply whilst the other colours represent those created by the minerals in hard salty landscape. 
The piece is made up of layers, the top layer is paper laminatation that I created from one of my designs....
...which I bonded onto a simply printed piece of fabric which just happened to have running stitch going around the edge like a frame. The under stitching is very difficult to see in the final piece but I liked the effect  this created and would like to experiment more with this technique although I'm not sure how motivated I'll be to stitch knowing that it will be covered up by another layer.
The layered fabric was then cut into squares and rectangles and moved around until I achieved a composition that I was happy with. Each cut piece was then layered on black fabric with black thread couched along the edge to neaten it.
Not all the pieces were stitched but I rubbed white screen ink on those that were to emphasis the stitching and to represent the crusty salty surface of the desert. These were then applied to a mono printed background and additional stitching added to represent the pathways linking the elements of the desert together. 

Stitching the pieces to the background should have been the easiest task, but it took ages with lots of unpicking and re-positioning until I was happy....funny how the tasks you think will be quick and easy often take much longer than you think..

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

New studio - up and running!

Having a studio to work in has been a dream of mine for a long time and now I have it. The benefit of having thought about it for so long is that I've had plenty of time to hone my requirements and so I am excited to say that my finished studio meets all those requirements and ticks all my boxes! I am very, very lucky. So what did I want from my studio? 

I wanted somewhere with a print table large enough to cater for my large pieces of cloth and and area I could print and dye without worrying about the long term effects of spillage on furniture and flooring. . 
A sink and a washing machine that never needed to be used for household washing. Those small particles of dye get everywhere and are difficult to see and can easily ruin clothes and sheets in my case. Although I've had some accidents, I'm really surprised and grateful that I haven't had more dyeing incidents than I have.
Somewhere I can leave my sewing machine set up, ready to go and a large pin board which I absolutely love having. Not sure how I did without one of those before,
Storage space, now which textile artist doesn't need more of that? So this is the mezzanine level, which still needs a banister and a loft ladder to get to it and then I can start using it.
Good light available even when it's dark outside and the light in the studio is brilliant (no pun intended). I have 3 large velux windows and lots (and I mean lots) of LED daylight bulbs. All the research into light temperatures, light output etc were worth every hour we spent on it.
And these are supplemented by the bespoke window which I am rather keen on but for obvious reasons the builders less so. 
The whole thing took a lot longer to complete than we thought but it has been so worth it. It wasn't until 11th January that the studio was fully fitted out and had that all-so-important heating working. 

It has been difficult to do much textile work in the last 6 months with the chaos created by the building work, the lack of space, the research and ordering to be done, so I have lots of pent up creativity to get down on cloth but I've started. I've been experimenting with creating texture and layering colours but lots more work to do. I have just finished one piece though,which I'll show you next time, which I hope will be soon. 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Catch-up - Part 2

So here I am back to update you on the week long summer school that I attended with Janet Edmonds.... better late than never, I hope. The first 2 days of the week were a continuation of the explorations in line that we had started in the Taking Textiles Further workshops, this time taking inspiration from the Ann Christopher exhibition which was held at the Royal Academy. We started by exploring the marks we could make with pastels
I really liked the textures I created although frustratingly I couldn't quite recreate the same textures when I tried to use them in my designs. I really enjoyed using the softer pastels and I'm sure I'll soon be investing in more of those very soon.
Using my experiments as a guide, I tried to simplify the landscapes and the use of good quality photocopies allowed me to play with lines and colours in the landscapes without having to keep recreating the backgrounds.
 I used the shapes, if not the colours of the landscape to add additional lines, well we were looking at line afterall.... 
And then I got bolder....and added lines taken from the landscape but on a much bigger scale than they were in real life.
Of all the ideas with line this is the one that I would like to pursue the most - a simple landscape with the lines of the landscape exaggerated and added. What would happen if the colours of these lines were changed? What if the lines were of significantly different thickness? I can't wait until my studio is finished to try it out.

In the other 3 days of the summer school we looked at the artist Chuck Close, who's work was famously made of lots of individual squares. To start the process, I squared off my landscape image, simplified it and recreated the image one square at a time....well until it came to the sky that is, when I must admit to 'cheating' and just colouring it blue, albeit built up with lots of individual colours.
Then taking a plain square print block I printed it again square by square. The nature of printing with a simple block automatically simplified the image further, although when the printing was complete I did work into with pen and collage to put some of the detail back.
Working with a good quality photocopy is very freeing and I should do this more often. I cut up my photocopy, rearranged it and mounted it on black paper. I'm not usually drawn to cutting up and re-piecing my textiles but I did quite like the effect of this. 
I also went back to working with the simple salt crystal shapes, cutting them out of paper and using both the positive and the negative shapes.
 And layering the shapes onto one of my designs.

So..again lots of ideas to pursue and really that's usually why I go on these courses, to take time out to think to develop ideas and designs and to explore ideas that I wouldn't have done if I was working on my own and I certainly came away with lots of ideas that I can't wait to get my teeth into.

Work on the studio progresses but much slower than I would like. Until recently the work has all been outside and has had little impact on our day-to-day living except for all the vans that park on our drive and looking at the front garden that looks more like a builder's merchant's yard than a garden. Now the work on the kitchen is in full swing and it is definitely impacting us. It feels like we're camping but with a more comfortable bed to sleep in. At least we have water in the kitchen which is more than we did a couple of days ago. So with the wall knocked down, the units removed and most of the plastering done, this is what it looks like today.

This weekend I felt determined to do a bit of printing and so sat in the garage amongst builders tools, cement, old units etc and printed and the more I printed the more I got into it and the more I wanted to do. It's not really practical to use the procion dyes at the moment so I printed with screen inks. Now I think about it, I'm not sure why I worked in the garage, surely I could have worked in the warmer kitchen, it wasn't as if I could ruin anything was it? 

I'll show you some of the Chuck Close ideas I have been progressing next time.