Have you ever sat down and really thrashed an idea?

I know I haven’t.  I read an article by Sarah Ross Thompson in which  she spoke about “excitables.”  I am an “excitable” – she explained – “some people are naturally excitable and explode with ideas….  they find it hard to know which path to follow when so many things rock their boat.  That’s me!

So, I have enrolled on an online course with Sue Stone, Chair of the 62 Group of textile artists, care of www.textileartist.org.  I had done one online course before which I did not enjoy as it was very pressured with new videos arriving every day.  This one, however, I would recommend.  You are given a year to complete the course and can work at your own pace.  Participants are set a series of projects and the choice is yours as to how much time you spend on each module, creating as many or as few samples as you wish.  The first challenge is to work only using running stitch and only using horizontal lines.  Each sample contains a block of four pieces 5cm square and I have so far created five.

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Even though this course is obviously about stitch, I can already see how useful it will be in other areas in that the message is to take an idea and push the boundaries of what you can do with it.  Setting a limitation, either in terms of media, or by reducing the option for a methodology of working, is in fact helping you to think more creatively within set parameters.  Although I am a very organised person in everyday life (where would I be without my lists?!), in my Art practice I like to work intuitively responding to each moment.  So, with the exception of the rigid patterns above, I did not think.  I chose my thread, put my needle in and started without knowing what I was going to do with it.  This way will not suit everyone I know but it suits my loose style of working – I have always said that I can’t sew and I can’t create beautiful embroidery or make clothes but luckily I don’t want or need to be able to do those things.  What I do want to do is to make interesting “marks” whether that be by using a pencil, pen, inks or stitch and I am already learning loads about how I can do that.  Thank you Sue, Jo and Sam at http://www.textileartist.org!

So, why don’t you think of something you would like to do, set yourself some strong boundaries, and play.  And, carry on playing until you really feel exhausted – I can’t tell you when that will be but maybe you need to spend at least a month on that one project. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback if you have done this!

My first foray into ceramics

In anticipation of spending four days with Elaine Bolt at West Dean College, I decided it would be prudent to learn a little about the subject first.  So I contacted Elaine and arrange to spend a day with Elaine Bolt at her studio in Brighton.

I had a wonderful time!  Elaine was a lovely lady and a great teacher who allowed me to run with the ideas that I had.  I wanted to use some of my found materials and incorporate them with ceramic.  First of all, I had the idea of using a piece of boot leather that I had found at Eastbourne.  I like the way it was twisted, I liked the holes and I liked the patina of the sea-salted leather.  I decided to form a vase and wrap the leather around it.  I chose porcelain here so that the white would contrast with the dark tones of the leather.  Here it is ready to be fired with the leather alongside:

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Another idea was to display a series of chip forks that I had found.  Oddly, these were found all bound together in a ridged plastic sleeve.  The fact that they had been squashed together meant that the action of the sea had made marks on the wood where the ridges had been.  I made a plaque from stoneware and covered it with slip to darken it.  Here it is with the forks (and an additional found piece) being auditioned to check the placement of the fixing holes.  Once fired, the pieces can be added to the plaque with wire.

carefully audioning the forks on the clay to determine where the holes are to go.jpg

Finally, I had a lovely piece of rubber shoe sole!  It’s lovely to me anyway!!  I wanted to try and replicate the colour, pattern and texture of this piece in different ways – firstly with ceramic.  This time I used a mixture of porcelain and stoneware to get the light and dark.  Here is the original and the clay piece – the second is larger at this stage to allow for shrinkage in firing:

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These are all interesting experiments. Elaine warned me that you can never be sure of the outcome and for a first timer, I guess I am particularly at risk but I look forward to being reunited with the fired pieces next week! Armed with a very small bit of knowledge (I realise that there is a huge amount to learn if I am to pursue this new area of interest) I can now plan what I would like to achieve during my next course. I think this idea has legs!  Thank you Elaine!

It’s not easy stitching through rubber!

One day last year I found an intriguing piece of rubber on the beach at Seatown, Dorset.  I can’t be sure what it started out as but it had obviously been patched numerous times and the sea had distressed the surface beautifully.

Seatown - rubber 1.jpg

My initial thought was to keep it intact as I loved it so much, but, on reflection I felt that there was so much going, it would be better to view it in bite sized chunks. So I tore it into five pieces.  This was a brave decision because, unlike with art that you have made, you will never be able to replicate a found object – once you’ve alterered it, it stays altered!

Next, I considered how I could add to the surface without distracting from the wonderful texture that the sea had created.  I chose some found pieces of paper and a little more rubber from another find and added them with stitch.  The original piece of found rubber was quite contorted and I considered laying the pieces under a heavy weight to flatten them before mounting – I have rejected that option because I think the twists and turns add interest to the piece but I will see what my framer has to say about it!

It is always a case of being careful to add just the right amount of stitch – too little or too much makes a deal of difference.  The aspect is also important and I will play with some variations in due course.

Here they are before I visit him:

 

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Once they are framed, I will update you with how they look!

Going Abstract

There is no doubt that my taste is changing – I am drawn to more abstract and semi abstract work than I was when I was younger.  I wonder why?  I see marks and patterns that attract me in the strangest of places, even in rubbish.  As you know, one of my hobbies is beach combing.  I like to collect objects that are weathered and distressed by the sea – these are nearly always man made items – whilst I appreciate the beauty of stones and shells I do not feel the need to collect them.

It is unusual to find paper on the beach as it is easily broken up by the waves – not so, sadly, the plastic.  These are some bits collected recently:

 

A crisp bag, a sandwich wrapper and other plastic.  I like the way the colours and text have been eroded and altered by the action of the sea.

But, the big question of course, is how can these be used in “Art”.  Well, as a start, I played around with composition, decided I needed a bit more texture and added some found duct tape.  So the next stage could be to reinterpret these shapes and colours in mixed media …. a project for the New Year.

Abstract from rubbish

Adding Texture … and being brave

I have a need for texture in my work and have been experimenting with different ways of adding depth and texture to my work on paper.  This week I have revisited collage and started to explore a new medium – cold wax.  Treading gently at first, I have added a little wax to my watercolour paper based pieces and am liking the effect.  Here are some of the collage images started recently at West Dean College:

West Dean Collage 3

This next piece was completed in one go – acrylic ink, wax, charcoal and a little collage material from my trusty drawer of bits

Distant cliffs collageAnd finally, this one, compiled from three pieces which I did whilst on holiday in Scotland last year.  I had quickly dashed off a series of three sketches – I liked the immediacy and vibrancy of the marks but each felt incomplete.  Remembering what I had been told by Cas Holmes last year, I threw caution to the wind, tore the pieces up and reassembled them – there they are before and after:

 

Scottish collage

I’d love to know what you think – I won’t be offended so do shout!  Thanks