Time for Some Reflection

The start of a new year invariably signals a time to look back and reflect on what has been before making plans for the year ahead. 2013 was a really good year for me on many levels but I ended it feeling frazzled and burnt out. Working at such an intensity is not good for the soul and it certainly wasn’t good for this blog 🙂 Three months have passed since I wrote anything here. I was swept along on a wave of printing for exhibition deadlines and orders and time to think was severely lacking. It became a standing joke that my boyfriend would text me to say goodnight just as I was about to start printing another collagraph and I now know Sailing By by heart and could probably list all the places covered in the shipping forecast. Where would I be without Radio 4?!

I’ve had a great year though. I took part in 20 exhibitions and events and lost count of the workshops that I taught. I completed my second year of Joan Newall’s bookmaking course and have started my third. I also went on Alice Fox’s rusting workshop and Jane Littlefield’s stained glass workshop. I attended lots of exhibitions and previews and helped to set up a printmakers’ networking group. My prints have sold well and I’ve met some lovely people that have bought them. To my astonishment, one collagraph print proved to really strike a chord with people. I designed ‘The Way Through the Woods’ in April and it was an edition of 50. By October it had totally sold out! I would love to be able to repeat that with another print but you never know what is going to capture people’s imagination and so I’ll just continue to make things from the heart and hope that what makes me tick, will inspire other people too.

The Way Through the Woods

In the months leading up to Christmas I realised that if I want to feel happy and fulfilled in the longterm, I need to rethink how I work. It really isn’t easy to turn down opportunities when you are a full-time artist and even though I only have myself to support, the pressure is on to ensure that I make enough to cover my bills and pay my rent. I also strongly believe that you just don’t know where some of those exhibitions, events etc. might lead and, anyway, I do actually thrive on being busy but perhaps not quite as busy as last year!

2013-08-18 10.26.45(This is from Art in the Pens in Skipton, I hope to be doing it again this year and also one in Carlisle!)

So I’m starting 2014 with a different goal. I’m going to pare down my calender somewhat and give myself plenty of time and headspace for developing ideas. Without that, it is hard to make meaningful work. I’ve organised a lovely programme of workshops with ArtisOn Ltd. and will start that in mid-March and I have a few exhibitions pencilled in my diary that should punctuate the year nicely but mainly I will be working on a body of new work for my exhibition at Inspired By…Gallery in Danby. This takes place in November and continues into 2015. I was invited to show there by Sally Ann Smith of the North York Moors Park Authority and it was a lovely coincidence because I was on the verge of approaching her to apply to exhibit. I’ve asked ceramicist Charlotte Morrison to share the space and together we will be creating work inspired by the national park. We’re calling our show ‘New Ground’ and I’ll be blogging about it from now until the opening as I go out into the field and gather ideas for new work.

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I’m also returning to Ålgården in Sweden in February. That will really help get the year off to a good start. I invariably find January and February quite hard. My fellrunning prevents me getting such bad SAD symptoms nowadays but motivation can be at a low. I’m being kind to myself this year and have lined up enough workshops to pay my bills and am allowing myself the rest of the time to do whatever comes easily. I’m really enjoying doing a bit of reading and research about printmaking and I’ve had some great networking days already. In fact, I actually feel raring to go!

My next blog post will be about my trip to Cornwall next week when I will be ‘artist in residence’ at Alverton Gallery in Penzance. I’ll spend three days printing in the gallery to coincide with an exhibition of etchings by Edward Bouverie Hoyton at Penlee House and Gallery.

Bookmaking: Part 2

Oh dear, I’m not awfully good at blogging. My main problem has been having to prioritise and the time I would have taken to write a post has been used for printing or urgent admin. It has been a really, really busy summer and I’ve been working pretty much every day and night apart from when I took two weeks off to go on holiday with Brian. We just jumped in the car and headed north to Scotland complete with Harry the wonderdog and our tentipi. With no plan but some good ideas, we visited Glencoe, the Isles of Skye, Harris and Lewis, Loch Ness and Fort William (for a quick scoot up Ben Nevis). We ran everyday, swam in the sea and visited artist friends in the Outer Hebrides. It was brilliant.

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I came back with lots of ideas for prints and feeling refreshed. I then had  time off with Mum on her recent visit. Both of those ‘time outs’ were just what I needed and I feel almost sane again 🙂

The upside of being so busy is that I am also selling lots of my prints and my work is reaching a wider audience which has led to some exciting invitations for exhibitions and some new galleries selling my work…more on that in a future post.

I promised that I’d show some of the other books that I’ve made as a result of Joan Newall’s excellent bookmaking course and as I am about to begin year 3, here they are.

This is a star book and is called ‘The Rookery Book’. It has a photopolymer print cover and the inside is cartridge paper with photopolymer and relief printing.

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This book is a concertina book and is called ‘Seven for a Secret’. It is collagraphs printed on hahnmuhle paper with a monotyped cover and blind embossed text.

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And finally, here is my favourite book of the trio, ‘As the Crow Flies’. It is a gallery book and has a monotyped cover with block prints on hand dyed paper inside plus the text is of haiku that I wrote about members of the crow family (jackdaws, rooks, crows etc) over the course of a year.

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Well, I hope you liked the books. This year’s theme for our course is ‘inside’ and we are going to explore dying papers, bleaching, rusting and wax as well as pushing some of the book forms we’ve already learnt in new directions. I’m really looking forward to it.

Bookmaking: Part 1

It has been a really busy time for me over the last few months and I feel like I’ve worked harder than I have ever worked before. There have been a lot of late nights in the studio and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard the Shipping Forecast and the National Anthem played before having to resort to some comedy podcasts to keep me going. Having said that, I’m certainly not complaining. In this difficult economic climate, I count myself as very lucky to be able to do what I do and make a living as an artist (just about!) whilst many are struggling. It is not always easy being on my own with only one income coming in but the sense of satisfaction from knowing that I can totally support myself doing what I love makes it all worthwhile.

Life can’t be all work (even if that work makes you happy) and I do do other things to keep myself amused and inspired. Fellrunning and having adventurous weekends with Brian is one way and playing about making artists’ books is another. For the last two years I have been really fortunate to have been attending a bookmaking course at Number Six Studio run by the fabulously talented and inspirational artist, Joan Newall. She is part of a group called Page, Paper, Stitch and you must check out their website to see her work. On Saturday we put up the exhibition of our final projects and those of Joan’s students on her courses in surface textiles and machine embroidery. The exhibition opens this Tuesday (9th July) evening at Number Six Studio Gallery, Pateley Bridge, 6-8pm and is then on daily until Sunday 14th July, 10am – 4.30pm.

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Our theme for the year has been ‘worn surfaces’ and I have chosen to concentrate on the fragments of blue and white china that I have been finding on one of my favourite woodland walks by the Burn in Masham. During the summer, the little shards are often obscured by foliage but in the winter the porcelain pieces shine starkly through the rotting leaves. I’ve been collecting them and looking more closely at the details. Traditional willow pattern pieces show pagodas, cherry trees, bridges and fisherman and are the fragments of larger scenes so that to hold a piece in my hand is a glimpse into the life of the person that owned the plate but then beyond to the designer that painted it and beyond again to the story that they depicted. There are also pieces with ornate flower designs and trailing vine patterns that echo the plants and vegetation amongst which they were discovered. The layering of imagery and narrative is something that I employ in my printmaking and I was drawn to the idea of using photographic imagery taken from the china and combining that with print. I wanted to create objects that would provoke in the viewer the same emotional response that I got when I first discovered each piece.

Throughout the year I have been developing ways of creating papers that give a feel of the forest floor and I have created a box covered in the papers so that when the viewer lifts the lid to discover the sections within, it might feel like looking amongst the leaves in the woods.

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Within the box there is a selection of the pottery shards and a book. The content of the book has been created from cyanotypes of the exquisite fragments and I’ve contrasted these with monotypes of natural forms found in the vicinity. I’ve used burning on the page edges to give the feeling of loss and age but also to hint at the home and hearth. Long ago, these pieces of pottery would have been used by somebody, maybe even daily, and that life is remembered here.

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I really loved just playing about in the studio. The cyanotype part of the project took a lot of work and experimentation. I coated the papers and developed them in the sun using transparencies that I’d made. By working in Photoshop I was able to create negatives from my digital photos that could then be used for the positive prints. I was a bit over enthusiastic and waded in without any prior knowledge of the process and this meant that I made a lot of mistakes…I then read the instructions! I’m still working on a wall piece which will fold up into a book using small pieces of Du Chene paper, cyanotype, embossing and burning but it will take a while to iron out some of the problems I’m having and I will wait until I have more time for ‘playing’.

The exhibition looks great and the variety and quality of the other bookmakers’ work is astonishing. None would look out of place in a good gallery. I can’t wait to see the textile students’ work too.

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Above is my work in situ along with the first ever lidded box that I made, a Belgian secret binding book and a hard bound book all made on the course. I really do love making books and think that they are a great medium for a printmaker. Later this week I will write another post with some examples of the other methods that I’ve explored on Joan’s course and my trio of crow books.