Marie’s List

As lockdown restrictions have eased, I’ve been able to revisit a few of the sites for my project and have enjoyed getting back to Keld, Muker, Birkdale and Semerwater. It has been interesting to see how the whole situation with Covid has impacted my work for the project. With the exception of teaching workshops, gallery deliveries, art fairs and exhibitions, I mainly work from home in my studio. As my work calendar quickly went from full to totally empty I found myself with plenty of time to myself and few distractions from other projects. At times, making new prints for my exhibition has been a struggle but at others, it has been a solace – something to become absorbed in allowing me to forget what was happening in the wider world. What I have noticed is that my focus shifted from making landscape pieces or larger single prints to much smaller work inspired by words and details.

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As for many people, nature has become an even bigger inspiration during this time. The birds becoming active and migrants returning as spring arrived became of huge interest to me as I went out for my daily exercise. The songs seemed louder and the species more varied. I saw linnets in the lane, curlews in the field, oystercatchers nesting by the road, ring ouzels right next to the footpath on Penyghent and, with the absence of traffic and people, they all seemed bolder and more at ease. Meeting a local farmer on one of my walks, we stood across the lane from each other and discussed how we felt that the Yorkshire Dales was probably as quiet as it would have been a hundred years ago. I began listing all of the birds that I’d seen within my local area and I compared that with a list that I’d found in Marie Hartley’s diary (from 1943-47).

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I’d already noticed the appearance of the corncrake on that list, a bird no longer seen in the Yorkshire Dales, and I started to make a note of all the birds on both our lists that have been classed as ‘birds of conservation concern’ by the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) & RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). “The assessment is based on the most up-to-date evidence available and criteria include conservation status at global and European levels and, within the UK: historical decline, trends in population and range, rarity, localised distribution and international importance” (BTO). The ‘Red List’ currently has 67 species of birds found in the UK that have been assessed as being at risk. Marie’s list of 66 birds includes: 1 that is now completely absent from the Yorkshire Dales, 14 that are on the red list, 23 on the amber list and only 28 are classed as being ‘green status’ in that they are plentiful and breeding well within the UK. I have a list of 68 species that I’ve seen and have been able to positively identify within the Yorkshire Three Peaks region. I can only guess at how much more abundant many of the species were in the early 1940s, a time just before agriculture was about to undergo major changes in intensification and mechanisation.

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Wood engraving by Marie Hartley showing haymaking in the Yorkshire Dales.

I’m not an ornithologist and everything I know about birds has been learned from my mum (a retired ecologist) and my own research but I find the subject fascinating: worrying but also inspiring. On the one hand, it is of great concern that there are so many bird species now in decline but on the other hand, heartening to know that the Yorkshire Dales is home to so many of them. I decided to make a piece of work taking Marie’s List as a starting point. I wanted it to celebrate what we have in the Yorkshire Dales and also perhaps provoke discussion and interest in bird conservation and the reasons why so many birds are in decline.

Screenshot 2020-06-29 at 16.32.58Screenshot 2020-06-29 at 16.33.06 As with all of my work, I started with an idea and that developed and changed as I made various decisions about what to include, where to focus and how to physically create the work. I selected 14 birds from Marie’s list that were either red or amber status. I decided to create an individual printing plate for each with her actual list reproduced in the middle. As I started to work out the overall design, I thought about whether I’d label the birds or not and once I decided that I would, I realised that the plates were starting to resemble the old cigarette cards that people used to collect. I have a few John Players ‘Bird of the British Isles’ cards and I love the size and detail of them. I made each little collagraph card using cutting techniques combined with gesso, acrylic medium & wood glue for texture. The labels were made by reversing text on my computer, printing it out, varnishing it and scratching the letters out to create areas of drypoint. I used a font that resembled letterpress type from the 40s.

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Proof prints of some of the bird collagraphs with curlew and oystercatcher feathers that I found on a run.

I also like the link between these and the tiny wood engravings of individual birds that Marie created as end pieces for chapters in the Dales books. In fact I included three of the birds she depicted: Dipper, Curlew and Snipe.

I wanted to recreate Marie’s handwriting so that the list would look as she’d written it. Normally I would use a photograph of the list and take it to a printmaking studio where I could use specialist equipment to make a printing plate such as a silkscreen or a photopolymer plate. This could then be combined with my collagraph cards to create the overall work. Unfortunately, during lockdown all the studios were closed and I wouldn’t have been able to justify travelling to them anyway (there are none that are within an hours drive). I considered ordering a photopolymer printing plate from a company but was put off by the expense and the lack of control over the quality. So I decided to go down the route of creating a drypoint using a reversed photographic printout from one of my photos of the page of Marie’s diary. It is a laborious way of working but very effective and probably exactly the thing to be doing when you feel out of sorts with the world around you. It took me two and half days to scratch out all of the letters but at the end of that, I had an intaglio printing plate that I could use alongside my little bird collagraphs.

Now to the printing part. I’d been ‘proofing’ each bird plate as I went along in order to check whether they worked and also because the pattern of light and dark backgrounds was quite important to the overall look of the print. I spent a great deal of time arranging and rearranging the cards to make the overall design aesthetically pleasing. Once I had proofed everything, it was time to make a ‘registration paper’ so that the spacing of the individual plates would be perfect every time I printed. It’s pretty straightforward, you mark on a piece of paper where each plate will go and draw out the rectangles. I then taped that to my press bed with a clean piece of tissue paper over the top. I could see the lines through the tissue but could take it off when it got dirty. The first print went quite well but after that, each time I laid the damp paper over the top the plates kept moving so that I’d end up with a wonky prints. To ink and wipe all of the plates for one print took up to 2 hours so after the second crooked print, I gave up and decided to work on the solution to the moving plates before I had another go.

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I needed something to hold them in place that wouldn’t damage the plates and also wouldn’t create a ‘hotspot’ of added depth because that would make that area of the print darker due to extra pressure. Brian (my husband) suggested that I stick them to the tissue with smears of honey. Whilst I initially thought this would be really messy and unlikely to work, it did lead me to realise that I could try a small dab of bookbinder’s pva in place of the honey. It is a glue that is archival but that can also can be removed with water after it has dried. I put a tiny dab on the back of each plate which held it in place and then, after printing, I was able to wash the glue and tissue from the back of them without causing any damage to the plates. This is a bit of a revelation because I like using lots of plates to create a single image but the movement issue has often put me off.

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So after a few weeks of work, the print is finished and ready to frame for whenever the exhibition goes ahead. We are now waiting to find out when the museum will reopen and what would be the best course of action regarding the dates for the show. I will let everyone know as soon as we have a definite decision.

Carrying on!

Well, so much has changed since I last posted and the world feels like a very different place. I’ve decided not to write too much about the current situation with COVID-19 because I think we all need a bit of escape from the constant bombardment and I doubt that my ‘two penneth’ will help. There’s some wonderful writers and philosophers out there that will have plenty to say and do it in a far more profound way so I’ll just say that  I hope that people stay safe, well and can remain positive.

I’m currently in the ‘making’ stage of my project with the Dales Countryside Museum and I’m working on a series of prints which have been inspired by areas of the Dales that Marie Hartley and Ella Pontefract wrote about in their three books: ‘Swaledale’, ‘Wensleydale’ & ‘Wharfedale’. Fortunately, I have already spent over a year visiting a few areas repeatedly and have collected plenty of reference material so, despite being confined to my immediate area (no hardship, it is a beautiful part of the Yorkshire Dales), I am able to continue to work on the show. My husband is also working from home and our dogs are delighted to have us around all day! It isn’t always easy to concentrate, stay motivated and get into the right headspace when there is something so much bigger than all of us happening and we are preoccupied by thoughts of our family and friends. For my own sanity and the benefit of my work, I’m avoiding the radio, spending much less time on social media and am immersing myself in audio books (I am currently working through Ann Cleeves’ ‘Inspector Vera Stanhope’ series).

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What has struck me the most about my immediate environment is the change in the countryside. The landscape is normally full of walkers, cyclists and runners tackling one or all three of the Yorkshire Three Peaks and now the hills are virtually empty of people. Brian and I are both fellrunners and our daily exercise takes the form of a run with the dogs and we can go for miles without seeing a single person except perhaps a farmer on a quad bike. It would be tempting to wax lyrical about the peace and quiet except that the hills are ringing with the bleating of lambs and the most exceptional bird song. There are pairs of curlews poking about in the earth, hares running around and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many meadow pipits, skylarks and wheatears. I’ve even seen ring ouzels on Penyghent a few times. I was talking to a neighbour who has farmed here for many years and he said that this is how it used to be when he was young which makes me wonder if this is what it was also like when Marie and Ella were researching their books (minus the quad bikes!).

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Before everywhere went into ‘lock down’, I went to Ålgården studios in Sweden to spend a couple weeks working intensively on the project. I took large pieces of card to Sweden thinking that I’d create some big collagraph prints and what I ended up making were four panoramic pieces each formed from seven smaller images that illustrate ‘journeys’ that I’ve taken. In fact, at the end of the fortnight, all of the printing plates could be wrapped up carefully and put in my pocket!

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I’m working on various scales for the exhibition but I really like this link with Marie Hartley’s illustrations. Her wood engravings were small, intricate little blocks and appeared throughout the books illustrating the places, people and wildlife that Ella wrote about. Each of my ‘Waymark’ prints tells the story of a particular time that I ran a route inspired by their writing. Two of the pieces actually include quotes from the relevant books. Here is ‘Waymarks: Kisdon’:

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and ‘Waymarks: Birkdale’:

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The images are inspired by things that I’ve seen along the routes and that help to tell the story and indicate the seasons. There are currently two more in the series and I’m now working on a fifth that is specifically about the stretch of the river Swale from Muker to Keld.

I travelled back on my birthday, 12th March, after which we quickly went into a very different existence. Before I went away, I’d spent weeks working on another piece which consists of 95 tiny prints collected together to form a larger work. The plates were sat in a box in my studio waiting to be printed and that proved to be the perfect project to tackle whilst coming to terms with our new circumstances. My next post will be all about that piece. Thanks for reading and I hope everyone can find some positives to keep them going.

In the Footsteps of Marie Hartley MBE

Back at the beginning of 2018 I was contacted by Fiona Rosher, Museum Manager at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes. The Museum was celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the book ‘Life and Tradition in the Yorkshire Dales’ which was written and illustrated by Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby who founded the Museum. Within their archives was a collection of 130 wood engraving blocks created by Marie Hartley MBE and Fiona wanted to know if I would be interested in printing them so that they could have a set of prints for use within the museum. This sounded intriguing and what followed was a series of meetings with Fiona where we discussed the possibilities of the project. It soon expanded and developed into one that would culminate in an exhibition of my own work in the summer of 2020. We agreed that I would begin the project by printing the blocks in the museum so that visitors could watch and I could talk to them about their memories of Marie, their experience of the Yorkshire Dales and about printmaking. I would then carry out research about Marie Hartley which would take the form of reading all of her books written in collaboration with Ella Pontefract and Joan Ingleby and I would be given access to the archive of sketchbooks, notebooks and diaries that the museum owned. This would help to form a picture of the woman herself and help me to find an angle for my own work. I would then go out ‘into the field’ to draw, print and develop ideas for a series of brand new works. In other words, a dream of a job!

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Anyone that knows me will know that I work very hard to make a full-time living as an artist and I am often so embroiled in various exhibitions, shows, teaching workshops, running art groups and the accompanying admin that’s involved in doing those things that I often feel that there is very little time and headspace for making new work. It is one of the reasons that I disappear off to Ålgården Studios for a few weeks every year so that I can have uninterrupted time to develop my printmaking. With that in mind, we realised that I’d need some funding to allow me to take a bit of a step back from other commitments for a while and really make the most of this opportunity. Fiona was brilliant in campaigning for the project and we are so fortunate that the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and the Friends of the Dales Countryside Museum have provided the necessary support needed. In return, I am printing the blocks within the museum to allow the public to see the process, will be giving a talk to the FoDCM and will be running a number of printmaking workshops at the museum in 2020. I’m also updating the archive records for the wood engravings as I progress through the printing, making notes of any damage and any links to preparatory drawings that I discover in Marie’s sketchbooks.

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Most of the wood engravings that have been published were created for three books that Marie wrote with Ella Pontefract: Wensleydale, Swaledale & Wharfedale. I’ve decided that I will concentrate my own research on those areas of the Yorkshire Dales. I’m a keen fellrunner and my plan is to run some of the routes described in these books, get to know the places and then I will identify particular points of interest that I would like to return to for sketching and printing. I’ve got a tentative plan to take my campervan on some of my excursions and set up my portable press so I can actually print directly in the landscape. I like to feel that it would be in keeping with Marie and Ella’s explorations of Wensleydale carried out in their little caravan that they christened ‘The Green Plover’ (see a sketch of Marie’s now held at the Leeds University Art Collections by clicking here)

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I shall be writing regularly about the project and sharing snippets of research, images printed, anecdotes from the people that I meet and anything else that I find interesting. In the mean time, if you would like to see me printing some of the wood engravings, I will be at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes from 12-4pm on consecutive Tuesdays up to and including the 7th May 2019 (excluding Tuesday 16th April when I’ll be there on the previous Sunday 14th April, 12-4pm). Do come and see how exquisite Marie’s work is and I’d love to hear anecdotes from those that knew her and stories from your experiences of the Yorkshire Dales (please note, museum admission charges apply).

The Installation of ‘Within These Walls’

So now I had five hangings printed, sewn and perspex rods ready to be inserted (thanks Ian Whyte for drilling the fittings!). Ian Harland, the owner of the barn, had worked really hard to clear it and get it ready for the installation. I’d been up there to sweep up, do a risk assessment and cover the shelving with hessian (I bought a 42 metre roll!). Now there was just the small matter of reaching the beams, which are 4 metres from the floor, to fit the screw eyes and tie the rods in. Ian managed to borrow a builder’s ladder and I was going to give it a go myself but I have to admit, despite being a fellrunner and (briefly) a potholer, I was feeling nervous. I really don’t like being up ladders. Its not a fear of heights because I love standing at the top of a mountain, I think its a fear of precariousness! I have been known to get cragfast on rocky ledges when the wind is up.

Fortunately, I got a text from my friend Matt, an arboriculturist and former tree climber extraordinaire, offering to give me a hand. This actually meant he came along and did the whole thing. My mum and her partner Ian were up for the week so they came up too and kept an eye on Matt’s little boy and wrangled his gangly pointer puppy. I was in charge of passing him the pristine white voile hangings and was responsible for making sure that nobody trod on them or got tangled up!

It was a bit fiddly and we’ve come up with all sorts of ideas to make it easier next time I hang them but essentially, the rods and line did the job and Matt made it look very easy. In the meantime, Ian Harland was mowing the grass and making everything look lovely. He has been cultivating two meadows close to the barn and they are glorious. Ian Whyte then pinned up the rest of the hessian which helped to minimise the distraction of the rack of shelving.

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After installing Within These Walls, I distributed the flyers I’d had printed and put direction signs up. I’d also had postcards of four of the plant monotypes printed. Selling them at 50p each not only gives people something to remind them of the installation but also helps recoup my petrol costs for being up at the barn each day. The Grassington Festival team made me a lovely A-board to direct people up the lane and I’m turning a blind-eye to the fact that I’ve been renamed ‘Heather Cox’ 😀

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So that’s the logistics and the installation has now been up for over a week and open for 6 days. I’ve had 138 human visitors so far and 14 dogs! In my next post I will talk more about my personal feelings about the installation now its finished and some of the visitors’ reactions to it but I think its fair to say that I’m not only relieved to have pulled this off, I’m totally delighted with just how well the prints work in the space.

NB thanks to Paula Cox and Ian Whyte for taking photos of the installing part!

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Large-scale Collagraphs

Its been a long, long road to get to this point but as I write, I’m just about to cut the final blocks for my last two hangings and will be printing them in Horton-in-Ribblesdale Village Hall later in the week. Grassington Festival is a week and half away and I’m up at the barn later today to do some final clearing up. Most importantly, I have also successfully completed my 4-metre collagraph!

I should also mention that I spent a day at ArtisOn Ltd in Masham thanks to the lovely Gaynor and Sue letting me use one of the studios for hemming the five hangings. I am also totally indebted and eternally grateful to Lorraine Garlick and Sheila Smith who gave up their free time to sew 47.5 metres of fabric for me. That is true friendship! I don’t have a sewing machine and I have very little sewing experience so what could have been a total nightmare, was actually pretty straightforward and the results are beautiful.

When I embarked upon this project, I don’t think I fully understood the implications of attempting to print a continuous 75 x 400cm collagraph but I’m glad that I didn’t let all of the set-backs and logistical problems put me off. Working on such a large scale has been challenging but really exciting. First I had to sort my design out so I worked on four pieces of cartridge paper that I divided into 1 inch squares (7 1/2″ x 10″) with the idea that I could then apply a grid to the large pieces of mount board and redraw the design using the sketch as a guide. This did work but the initial drawing took two and half days to do and then each plate took a day to draw out not to mention a day each to cut.

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The finished drawing (hard to photograph!).

My idea was that the collagraph would be a close-up study looking through a bit of meadow with a number of different flower species represented. I chose to include eyebright, yellow rattle, birds foot trefoil, bush vetch, red clover, wood crane’s-bill, meadow buttercup, pignut and sweet vernal grass. These are all species that I’m familiar with and that are found in upland meadows here in the Yorkshire Dales. I’m a bit of a stickler for accuracy and detail so each plant needed to be researched and I wanted them to be accurately in scale with each other. FullSizeRenderUsing the grid system to upscale the drawings worked really well and took me back to my college days. I used four full sheets of mount board to make the plates and mainly used cutting, wood glue and gesso to create the collagraph.

I soon realised that printing at that scale, it was best to keep things quite simple but it was still a bit of a challenge to work out how to do the veins on the leaves and pignut is a such a delicate and frothy plant that it did take a lot of work to get the look just right. In the meantime I had been searching for a place to physically print the work because I needed a press that could accommodate a 75cm wide and metre long collagraph plate. No small task and I actually found myself waking in the night and having panic attacks about not being able to print the plates once I’d made them. I even found myself trying to work out how I could get such large pieces of card over to Sweden as I know Ålgården’s press would have been perfect. Fortunately I found out that Northern Print in Newcastle have a lovely big intaglio press and I made an appointment to have an induction and to print the first plate. It is a 2 1/4 hr journey to get there on a good day (with no traffic & no accidents) and my first visit saw me getting up at 5.30am and hiring a dog walker in order to get there on time and not leave my furry pals crossing their legs all day.57F6D87A-07E4-4F88-9D71-6811EE094C84

It was an unbelievable relief to discover that when I book to use the large electric press, I have sole access to it for the whole session and so can work slowly and methodically whilst not worrying about anyone else needing the press or having to reset it. I am now a member of the studio and have plans to go back and create more large-scale collagraphs there.

Each plate initially took an hour to ink and forty-five minutes to wipe in order to get a paper proof. I needed to do that for each one so that the plate would ‘settle’ and I could check it was printing exactly as I wanted it to. It meant that I had to book the press for 2 x three-hour sessions in order to print one section of the hanging. I won’t go into the entire process here as it was lengthy and stressful but imagine trying to handle an inky metre-long piece of card and print it onto a pristeen white piece of four metre voile and you’ll get a bit of an idea. I also had issues with the pressure on the first print and lifted a corner of the fabric to discover that the collagraph was pale and ill-defined. Fortunately I was able to lower it again and tighten the press to get a good print from it. After my first visit with the first successful section printed, I returned home triumphant to recount my exploits to my husband who then asked ‘but how are you going to make sure the plates match up and how are you going to get them all the same tone?’ To be honest, I hadn’t considered this but chose not to think about it too much and just to hope that I could work these problems out as I went along.

It took another two sessions (with the last one being from 10am to 8pm) to actually complete the design but it is fair to say that I’m really happy with it. Sure, there are a few flaws and I know that I could do it better a second time around (which I may have to if my Swedish contact does want to buy one for the hospital) but it is how I pictured it and I can’t wait to see it in situ.

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The first two prints successfully through the press.

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One left to print. Here I am rolling up the previous prints to protect them and make it easier to handle.

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The final print! All ready to roll up with tissue paper for transportation home.

Now I’m working on two flights of swallows that will be block-printed using screen printing inks designed for fabric and won’t require a press. Mind you, there are plenty of other factors that could go wrong but I’m choosing to ignore those for now too!

 

Collections

So…what am I up to this year (apart from the usual exhibiting and selling in galleries)? Well, I’m making lots of new work and the majority of it will be for a joint exhibition in November. The show features my printmaking and the work of two friends and colleagues, Josie Bezant and Charlotte Morrison. Josie is an artist (and owner of Masham Gallery) who creates assemblages, collages, mixed-media pieces and paintings and Charlotte is a ceramicist. Charlotte and Josie also run Crafted by Hand (a multi-talented pair!). We’ve all exhibited together before but this is the first time the three of us have worked so closely on a project and shared a common theme.

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I’ve always collected natural objects: stones, bones, feathers, skulls etc., and whenever I am walking or fell running I am constantly on the look out for these ‘natural treasures’. The significance of my finds is important to me. For example I am not so interested in the skull of a rabbit, a very common animal, as I am the skull of a curlew which, for me, symbolises the wilderness, moorlands and the arrival of spring. Coming across a pile of linnet feathers with one lone tail feather from a merlin was so exciting and told a complete story of an act that is rarely seen by humans. It triggered the work below which is called ‘The Huntress’ and features a collagraph print, linnet feathers and a twisted heather branch.

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I’m really enjoying using some of my finds within the finished pieces and there will be a number of ‘one-off’ multi-media works at the exhibition. Over the next few months I’ll be writing posts about some of the works that I’m making and you can also read more about the project at our website. Josie, Charlotte and I envisage that this will be an ongoing project and that the exhibition will tour to other venues and perhaps collect more artists along the way.

 

What’s happening?

Well it seems that, despite being a fan of social media, I am not awfully good at regular posting. I do love a blog though so I’m going to try to write shorter, more regular posts.

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This year got off to a cracking start with a number of exhibitions and the Hepworth Print Fair. Initially my application for a wall space was rejected and I was disappointed but you have to expect rejections when you work as a full-time artist. There are a lot of us chasing the same opportunities and it is important not to take it personally. I emailed the organisers to thank them for considering me and a couple days later I received a reply saying that a table stand had become available and would I like it…yes please!

I don’t do a lot of shows and when I do I have always had hanging space of some kind, even if its the bars of a sheep pen (Art in the Pen). A table stand was a challenge but with the help of my friend and colleague Janis Goodman, who sent me photos of her table stand from the previous year, I got to work planning my stall. I can thoroughly recommend Ken Bromley Art Supplies for their collapsible easels. They pack flat so are easy to store but they are really strong and light and they look unobtrusive. I decided to cover my table with heavyweight calico which was a devil to iron and I can only thank my handsome assistant Brian for his perseverance on that score.

I had also recently purchased an iZettle card reader which proved absolutely invaluable. It links to a smartphone via bluetooth and you have an app with all of your stock on it so that you can keep track of sales and take all sorts of card payments (the change purse was a gift from my mum and a joke about my childhood dislike of peas).31444ECD-E36A-423E-A185-8903B51F333B

The event is supremely well organised but the Hepworth is tricky to get to from Horton-in-Ribblesdale and it took 2 hours to navigate safely to Wakefield and a further twenty-five minutes to find my way from the museum car park to the Calder building! I had been given a time-slot of 2-3pm to unload and that gave me plenty of time to get set-up and have a coffee and scone before the preview at 6pm. Unfortunately the lighting of my stall was a bit poor with only one spotlight pointed in my direction but it didn’t seem to put people off and I organised my work so that the prints that needed better lighting were at the appropriate end. During the day, it was much brighter than this photo!

4AA581F4-0AAF-4FA4-BCD5-AAE43B07A675The preview was buzzing and I sold one of my newest framed prints almost straight away. It was an auspicious start. Janis had offered me a bed for the night at her Leeds home.  This saved me a long journey home and back the next day and we celebrated our successes with wine and pasta.

The weekend proved to be really good for both of us. Not only did we sell a large amount of framed and unframed prints (more than I’d ever sold in an event before) but we met lots of wonderful printmakers, gallery owners, print co-operative members and interested visitors. The people that came to the print fair (about 4000 for the weekend) were generally well-informed about printmaking, asked lots of questions about the processes and were very encouraging and complimentary. It was completely exhausting and I barely found time to eat/drink or make the trip to the toilets but it was well worth it.

My stall in daylight:

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Janis’s stand:

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The general hubbub:

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The people that exhibited were:

Ali Appleby / Amy Rodchester / Andy English / Ben Whittington / Beverley White / Bobshaped / Cath Brooke / Colours May Vary / Drusilla Cole / Geri Waddington / Helen Peyton / Helen Roddie / Hester Cox / Hot Bed Press / Inkylinky / Izzy Williamson / James Bywood / James Green / Jane Walker / Janis Goodman / Katie Eyre / Laine Tomkinson /Laura Slater / Lidota Studio / Little Lost Soul / Louella Moon / Nancy Haslam-Chance / Northern Printmakers / PAPER Gallery / Pica Editions / Print Wagon / Rachel Sim / Sarah Harris / Sean Mort Print Shop / Spike Island Print Studio / Staithes Studio / Stoff Studios / Studiotic / The Art House / The Lost Fox / The Modernist Society / The Owlery / Watermark Gallery / West Yorkshire Print Workshop / Wil Law / Yuck Print House / Zillah Bell Gallery

Having had such a good weekend, I treated myself to a lovely little wood engraving by fellow stallholder, Beverley White. ‘Anything Could Happen’ reminds me of my own little terrier.

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Then I had to pack everything up, drive back using my iPhone satnav and unpack at the other end before collapsing exhausted in front of the fire with Brian and our dogs.

 

 

 

Connections North: Mirror Images (Part 1)

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Better late than never, I am writing this as Mirror Images moves to its final location at the Caithness Horizons Gallery in Thurso, Scotland. It will be on show there from 16th October to 28th November 2015.

Last summer applications were invited from printmakers based in North Yorkshire to take part in Chrysalis Arts ‘Connections North:Mirror Images’ project. This is an international printmaking project featuring the work of 40 artists from 4 countries, England (N.Yorks), Scotland, Sweden and Finland. It is a development of the connections already made between Chrysalis Arts, Ålgården Workshop in Sweden, Ratamo Printmaking and Photography Centre in Finland and Highland Print Studio in Inverness, Scotland. Artists specialising in or with a strong interest in printmaking were invited to apply to create two works each on the theme of ‘Place and Identity’. The idea was that the printmakers would create an edition with a minimum of 4 prints which would then be shown simultaneously in England, Sweden and Finland.

I was already a member of the working party that met regularly to discuss the logistics of the project and provide opinion and ideas to Chrysalis Arts but this was no guarantee of a place in the final exhibition as that was to be judged by three external selectors. These were Deborah Fahmy (Visual Arts Officer of Arts Council England), Sally Smith (Curator of the Inspired by gallery) and Martyn Lucas (a print specialist and curator). I was totally certain that I wouldn’t get selected, I’d had a previous disappointment with an application when my prints were judged to not have enough of a ‘contemporary feel with particular regards to subject matter’ and two of the selectors were from that panel! It had given me a well needed ‘kick up the backside’ to really consider how I present myself and my work and with that in mind, I sought advice about my cv, rewrote my statement and carefully selected the prints that I felt illustrated my desire to push myself and that showed best my technical ability. I was walking through Ripon checking my emails on my phone when the judgement came and, typically, the text of the letter didn’t download for ages! I really couldn’t believe that I’d been selected out of the 43 artists to apply.

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I designed my two prints whilst I was at Ålgården in February of this year. I spent two weeks creating numerous test plates and tinkering with ideas and compositions. It had been snowy when I left Yorkshire and I arrived in Sweden to find thick snow and iced over lakes which suited me perfectly. I worked with idea of the contrast between the ephemeral and the enduring as the land changed daily between thaws and snowfall.

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The relief and intaglio studio.

I explored themes of pathways, tracks, trods & traces which directly relates to my fellrunning but also to the landscape where I live which is essentially a playground for all adventure lovers, cyclists, walkers, runners, cavers & even the occasional paraglider. It’s also a region of quarrying & sheep farming.

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Ideas for a layered print about Penyghent and my fellrunning. It includes a garmin trace of the speed and ascent of an actual run that I did.

I managed to get one of my prints proofed whilst in Borås but the plates for the other print were still in the making stage.

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Collagraph plate varnished with seven layers of shellac to allow for drypoint techniques.

To cut a long story short, I worked on both prints for over a month and eventually was ready to proof them just before the delivery deadline (no different to my normal working methods then!). Here they are:

Hester Cox Tracks and Traces

Tracks and Traces, 6 plate collagraph print, 230x475mm

Hester Cox Enclosures

Enclosures, 4 plate collagraph print, 294x417mm

In the next post I will talk briefly about the project as a whole and some of the workshops and talks that took place as well as post some photos of the exhibition.

Life in the Slow Lane

I’m currently in Sweden at Ålgården again and for once in my life I’ve had to slow down. At the end of July I successfully completed the Lakeland 100. This is a 105 mile race around some of the most beautiful parts of the lake district and I had a really good run. I spent the followng weeks on a high, imagining the future strength I’d have and planning for a Bob Graham Round attempt. Six weeks and lots of running later and I have developed a mystery knee injury and can no longer walk without hobbling. It could be reactive arthritis or it may be an injury that didn’t hurt at the time but certainly does now! I’m being tested and examined and hopefully we’ll get to the bottom of it but it is really debilitating.

However, I’d already made plans to come to Ålgården with a friend and colleague, Barbara Greene. She wanted me to show her the ropes so I thought I’d come anyway and just do whatever I could manage. Barbara and I met through Chrysalis Art‘s Connections North project and were both selected as two of the ten printmakers from North Yorkshire to take part in the Mirror Images exhibition. I will write a separate blog post about that as it is a fantastic project involving forty Finnish, Scottish, Swedish and Yorkshire printmakers. Barbara and I hope to collaborate on a future project so it was a good opportunity to talk and exchange ideas too.

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(a fellow printmaker or an accident in the DIY shop car park?)

It has been frustrating to be able to see the dense forest but not be able to get into it but I’ve made myself look for inspiration closer to home and am currently exploring the traces of nature found in the city and around the studio. I’m working on a few ongoing projects simultaneously whilst exploring ideas for a future project and I’m using the time and wonderful equipment here to try out things that I wouldn’t do at home. I tested a pot of Akua Intaglio ink which I brought from home to see what it was like to work with. It is perfect for reduction monotypes because it doesn’t dry on non-porous surfaces so you can work with it indefinitely before printing. It also cleans up with soap and water and yet the print has the same velvety qualities of an oil-based print. With some precarious balancing on a stool and on one-leg, I managed to produce an A1 monotype that I printed on the lovely big etching press. It has a bed sized 1metre x 2 metres and one day I’ll use the whole thing.

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Creating a reduction monotype on an old aluminium litho plate.

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The beautiful etching press (the big one, there are three!) with my print drying behind.

Whilst I may not be very mobile, I’m still getting about thanks to my very kind Swedish artist friends. Christina picked us up from the airport and drove us to the studio and she also invited us to her house for dinner, Lennart has lent me a walking stick (he’s 80 but says he no longer needs it!) and Torbjörn collected me and drove me to the Borås hospital to show me their amazing art collection (and I stocked up on painkillers). He is project director for the region and organises the buying and displaying of art for public spaces such as hospitals, health centres and dental practices. I was so impressed by the work on show at the hospital and the thought that had gone into its display and selection. Not just the more figurative and accessible work that you’d expect but very good quality contemporary pieces and in all kinds of media such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, textiles and glass. Tomorrow Anna is taking us both to see an arts and crafts place called Nääs so that will be a lovely trip out too.

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Today I made 12 small collagraph plates from plaster creating impressions in them from the fallen birch leaves that I’ve collected. I will print these and hope that the leaves will be very subtle. I then plan to overprint with further imagery relating to the city. I associate the birches so much with Sweden and I find their leaves everywhere, in the studio, on the pavements, in the supermarket etc. I’ve also been making monotypes of the shadows of plants growing round the studio too. All the traces of nature that creep into the city and that I seek out when confined to urban places. Really I’m just playing but that’s why I like it here, it gives me the time and headspace to do that and who knows what will develop from my experiments.

New Ground: Part 2

cdc752b7-98d3-4db6-b187-addd70c4bfc6My exhibition with ceramicist Charlotte Morrison is now up and running at Inspired By…Gallery in Danby. It is open daily 10.30am – 4.00pm until Christmas Eve and then it reopens for the 1st-4th January before becoming weekends only throughout January. The prints on show are a mix of collagraphs, intaglio photopolymer prints and a set of monotypes combined with drypoint. I had lots of ideas for images to create but, as usual, time restrictions and other commitments meant that I had to go with the ones that just couldn’t be shaken whilst postponing some of the others for another time. It would mean writing an essay for me to describe all of the images on show and to explain their origins but there are a few key pieces that I’ll mention here. Charlotte has created some beautiful collections of vases, cups and jugs based on old pathways, drovers roads etc. in the North York Moors national Park. Visit her website to see more of her work.

The first pieces to be made were based on a very foggy run that I went on with my partner and our dog. We parked at Sutton Under Whitestonecliff and ran to Gormire, up through Garbutt wood and onto Sutton Bank, along past the Glider club and down via the white horse, through the plantation to Hood Hill and back via Sutton bank and Gormire. Doing a large figure of 8. The ethereal woods and soft focus views triggered off a series of photopolymer prints developed when I was over at Algarden Printmaking Studio in Sweden. For more details, see my previous blog posts Seeing the Wood for the Trees & Photopolymer Experiments Continued….This is a small triptych that evolved:triptychI also spent months designing and cutting a collagraph plate inspired by the birch copse at the base of White Horse bank and of roe deer that I saw in the area. The birch forest was not too much of a problem as I had had previous success with creating a collagraph plate of one last year but I wanted a small group of deer and the grouping, positions and sizes (not to mention direction) took a lot of fiddling about in order to get it just right. The way that I work is that I’ll sketch out the forest and then I’ll sketch various deer in different positions and then trace them off onto pieces of paper that I can move around on the forest drawing. I’ll photograph all of the combinations so that I can compare them on my laptop and then I use photoshop to flip them to see what the plate will look like when printed (collagraphs print in reverse).

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This is just one example of many attempts. Working like this also helps me to spot flaws in my design such as wonky trees, dodgy perspective and badly drawn anatomy! I ended up completing the drawings in Sweden but then decided not to make the plate until I returned home as it is such a time-consuming process and I wanted to spend the studio time developing my photopolymer work. The final piece was proofed in March.

Passing ThroughOne of the key things about the project was that I was revisiting some of my favourite running routes and I wanted to allude to that in the imagery. Three places that I went to numerous times had quite different flora and topography and I decided that I could use this to make a series of prints. I set aside extra time on one of my visits with Paul Harris (who filmed me throughout the year) so that I could collect plant material from three of the sites. When I got back to the studio, I carefully pressed the different leaves and flowers in the pages of a phone directory and left them for a few weeks to dry. In the meantime, I studied an OS map of the areas and drew out the contours for the hills from where I’d collected the plants. Scratching into pieces of plastic, I created drypoints of the contours.

Over the course of a couple days, I printed the plant matter by rolling ink onto a piece of perspex that was the same size as the drypoints and by laying the plants onto the ink and putting them through the press. When I removed the plants, they left their impressions in the ink and I then printed that onto paper. I did this over and over again, changing the colours and tones of the ink and over printing the plant impressions until I had built up a number of images. I then inked up the drypoint plates and printed them as the last layer of each print. Whilst they were drying, I chose the best two sets of prints from the many variations. I painted blocks of MDF and pasted my chosen prints to the blocks using ph neutral bookbinding paste. The blocks were mounted within white box frames and hung as a series.

IMG_3818Gormire Lake:

007Hood Hill:

008Hawnby Hill:

010I’m using colours that reflect the incredible heather moorland at Hawnby for the last of these three prints. Not colours that I normally use but ones that found their way into another of my prints for the exhibition.

The Winter LakeThe Winter Lake was inspired by the view from the Cleveland Way above Whitestone Cliff. I often heard and saw flocks of jackdaws coming into roost on the cliff face above the lake and during the winter months, the birch trees around the lake were leafless but the twigs created a beautiful purple shade. The lake itself is very distinctive in shape and I couldn’t finish my work without creating at least one view of it.

There are many more prints on display including collagraphs inspired by some of the birds that I observed such as wrens, yellowhammers and skylarks but the last two pieces that I’ll include here are ‘layer collagraphs’. They are created by printing four separate collagraph plates with the aim that they will reflect the details of specific places. Textures, patterns and cross sections that I hope will give an impression of Gormire and White Horse Bank during winter and summer:

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I have really enjoyed the year spent researching, visiting the places and creating new prints. I’ve also had a really interesting insight into film-making because photographer Paul Harris has been coming out on location, filming me at ArtisOn, visiting my studio and watching whilst I make some of the work and he has created a really beautiful piece of film as a profile of my work and life as a printmaker. Please do watch it if you can, I think it reflects the whole process very well and the film work is stunning: Hester Cox – Profile of a Printmaker by Paul Harris.