Tuesday, 27 October 2015

10 years on

I realised the other day on the middle one’s 10th birthday that it must be 10 years since I graduated from Goldsmiths.  In some ways it seems like a life time ago since I was studying textiles there.  So much has happened since and not just in my artwork. 
When I visited Goldsmiths for an Open Day before I became a student, I remember being told that it took on average 10 years after graduation for the textile student to get on the right track for their career.  At the time, I thought, surely not – that seems forever!  Now, 10 years down the line it seems about right.  Things have finally fallen in place as to where I should be going and taking control and teaching from home is exactly what I want to do.  It has taken the 10 years to get to this point.  I don’t think it would have worked any earlier.
An anniversary, like 10 years, is a good time to look back on what I have been doing.  So here are some edited highlights (missing out the low points!) of the last 10 years.
Vigilance V by Gillian Cooper
This was my degree show work. 
Vigliance VIII by Gillian Cooper

I almost made these,
Shelter by Gillian Cooper at Delta Studios

...but at the last minute decided to take advantage of the digital knitting machine as I knew I would not have access to it later.  Some of these knitted pieces later toured in a Scottish Arts Council exhibition, the Cutting Edge.  I finally made the Shelter pieces for the Loch Lomond Quilt Show gallery.  They now live in my garage!
the 37 steps installation by Gillian Cooper at the Changing Room, Stirling

I was ‘Craft Practitioner in Residence’ at Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art in Dundee for a number of months.  It was fantastic opportunity to create a new body of work – the 37 steps, which went on to give me my first solo exhibition at the Changing Room in Stirling.
3 of the 37 steps by Gillian Cooper

This led on to creating the Unsung Muses series, which has occupied me for the past five years.  Initially it was shown at the Festival of Quilts, and this year had a number of outings, including to the European Patchwork Meeting in France and a couple of solo exhibitions in the UK. 
Unsung Muses at the European Patchwork Meeting

Over the past 10 years, I have written for a number of textile publications, given talks to quilt (and other) groups and started running workshops.  The teaching part of my life took a huge step this year when I converted my home studio into a teaching room and started running textile classes from home.  I can’t believe how popular the C&G in patchwork and quilting is and the dedication of the lovely students.  It is enormous fun. 
Facing Time by Gillian Cooper

Looking at this on paper, it doesn’t seem that much, but I’ve also had two more children and they do take up a lot of time – which is great.  We also moved to Scotland.  And how could I forget to mention the PomPom Festival – that really was a bit nuts.
Balfron PomPom Blossom Festival

So, not bad for 10 years.  My work has greatly developed, in ways I couldn’t have imagined and at the moment, I am loving playing with and sharing all different types of surface design.  I’m getting ready to think about the next big art project and spending lots of time teaching and writing.  It will be interesting to see what the next 10 years lead to.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

How to: Block Printing

Popular Patchwork - Nov 15
I love exploring techniques that I haven’t used for a while and finding new ways (at least to me) of using them.  In this month’s PopularPatchwork (November 2015) is an article I wrote about block printing. 
Popular Patchwork - the project
It was great fun to make the samples and to explore what I could do, especially as I was constrained (for this feature) only to use bought blocks, not ones I had designed myself.
These blocks were just gorgeous to look at - and to work with
To this end, I had a lovely box of Christmas stamps from Colouricious to play with.  If you have time, it is a very pleasant way to spend a few hours and you can make some lovely, unique cloth that you can use to wrap Christmas presents.  If you have quilter friends, the fabric itself would make a fantastic gift. 
My equipment, including the all important cup of coffee
All you need are the blocks, fabric, a sponge and some paint.  I used a mixture of textile paints and standard acrylics.  To be honest, there was not much different in the handle of the fabric between either of them, but perhaps the textile paint will be more permanent, especially if you are going to wash the fabric.  As most of my fabric is used for wall hangings, this is not something I spend much time worrying over.
Creating a pattern
On some pieces, I just kept overprinting, in different colours, which produced some interesting results.  On others, I tried making patterns.
Usings the printed fabric as wrapping cloths
Another way of printing, which also gave good results was to spray the block with water and then rub with an Inktense stick, before pressing it on the fabric.  Full details are in the article.
Using Inktense and a different type of block

I’m also running a one-day class in block printing on 6 November and there are still some places if you are interested.  We will be making and designing our own blocks, using foam, so you could create your own Christmas wrapping fabrics if you wished.  Email me for more details or visit the website.

Fabric printed with Inktense

Monday, 19 October 2015

Day out in York

The other week I had a lovely day out in York, visiting museums. It was a bit of a mad day, leaving home at 6am and not getting home till 10pm, but it was worth it. The incentive for the visit was Patchwork & Quilting magazine asking me to review the Quilt Art Dialogues exhibition at the Quilt Museum.  I said yes, thinking I could tie it in with a family visit to the in-laws, who live near there.  Unfortunately, with the deadline and the trip to Alsace, I couldn't fit it in, so I went down for a day instead.  I'm so glad I did. This is the Quilt Museum's final exhibition, which is a shame as it is a lovely little venue, but realistically, given its location it was unlikely to succeed financially. However, for me, it was the perfect final show, with a small side exhibition of historical quilts and Quilt Art showing the possibilities of where quilting can go in the future.  No photos were allowed, but you can see the work on the Quilt Art site, where you can also buy the catalogue.
I was able to photograph the stairs, which I loved - they had covered the treads in photos from Inge Hueber's quilt.
Stairs at the Quilt Museum, featuring details from Inge Hueber's quilt on the treads

After the Quilt Museum, I had a pleasant amble through York in the sunshine to the newly reopened York Art Gallery, with the new Ceramics Centre.  There was so much to see and as part of the redesign, it was obvious that significant thought had gone into making the visitors' experiences as rewarding as possible.  There were sketchbooks and pencils on virtually every bench for you to record your thoughts and responses to the work.  
detail of Susie MacMurray - 'Halo', made in response to the 14th century religious painting - hard to see on this photo, but it is lots of loops of gold and was stunning
In some of the galleries with older works, there were contemporary pieces, made in response to the historical works. 
detail from Mark Hearld's scrapbook

There was a room of objects curated by Mark Hearld, a kind of cabinet of curiosities, full of his work and scrapbooks too.   It was interesting to see how he approached his work.

Felicity Aylieff - 'Hua De Tu An, Flower Pictures II'

The ceramics were really interesting too, and included a lot of information on the development of ceramics over the past 100 years, which, as a novice to ceramics, I found useful. 

Three vessels in the Contemporary Ceramics display

My head was definitely whirring with ideas by the time I got on the train home.  I'm still trying to find time to process them all!  If you do get a chance, a visit to the Quilt Museum is really worthwhile and this is your last opportunity, as it closes on 31 October 2015.
Schools project felt hanging, with artist Vivienne Morpeth

Detail of the felt hanging

Gordon Baldwin - 'Vessel for Dark Air'

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The aftermath of an exhibition

Getting over a major exhibition takes time and something I should really factor into my processes, but of course, I never do.  Either I forget about it or assume that this time would be different. 
This time was the same as normal.  I had put it to the back of my mind and besides, I have so much work to do for the classes I am running I wouldn’t have time for the major low that comes after the high of a successful show.  It still happened!  It crept up on me last week and suddenly, my work seemed not very good, I felt that sense of being a phoney and not sure where I should be going next.
It happens for a variety of reasons.  Firstly, I have been so focussed on one event that afterwards you struggle to refocus, especially if there is nothing as urgent on the agenda.  Secondly, there is the exhaustion.  For something like the European Patchwork Meeting, I have worked non-stop for months, then travelled, put up the show and spent four very intense days talking all the time to lovely, enthusiastic strangers.  When most of my time is spent in the studio alone or in small classes, it is rather different.  Thirdly there is all the nervous energy which I have spent worrying about whether the show is going to work, will I be ready on time, what will I wear.  I kid you not on the last one!  I live in my studio and spend the rest of the time with small(ish) children.  Clothes are generally the last thing on my agenda.  So I actually have to find sufficient outfits without stains or holes and which say ‘textile artist’.  I don’t think it would be such a pressure if I worked in glass!  Finally, I arrive home and that’s it.  It is hard to gauge if the event was a success in the month afterwards.  There are no special emails, I’m not suddenly in massive demand, but often something special will come of it months later.  So it all feels rather flat in the immediate aftermath.
Please don’t see this as a complaint about my life – it isn’t.  I love being an artist and I love sharing my work through exhibitions and teaching.  I sat down to write a totally different blog post, but this is the one that felt right today.  I had a fantastic time at the EPM and seem to be climbing out of the trough remarkably quickly this time.  The reasons why?  I have lots of things lined up, so I can’t really stop fully.  Since getting home, I’ve researched Fibonacci and have made appliqué samples for my C&G classes.  I have also written three articles.  And there are still other things on my list.  This has certainly made it easier.  I’ve tried to get enough sleep and to keep exercising, something that goes out the window when I get very pressured.  I actually scheduled my time before I left, so I don’t need to think too hard about what to do when and that has been very useful too, especially as I tried to be a bit more realistic about how long things take.  And I’m trying to make sure I make time to see my family and friends. 
So that just leaves two very important tasks to get on with and to schedule in: making more work and lining up some more exhibitions!  Long may the cycle continue!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Family favourites from the European Patchwork Meeting

Although I didn’t get to see many of the other exhibits at the European Patchwork Meeting, my family did.  They took lots of photos (over a 1,000), some of which are even in focus!  And they reported back to me each day on their latest discoveries.  It was lovely to see how excited they could get about textile art.  Almost as excited as they became about their daily cake... but not quite.  Here is a selection of their favourites.  Where I've been able to find a website for the artist, I've linked the image.
Big Buildings by Olga Prins Lukowski

Foret d'hiver by Jeanne Chausson

Play Ball: Trilobite Trackway by Betty Busby

Mashallah by Gabriele Bach

Contraste by Beatrice Bueche

Die Erde hat Zeit by Monika Sebert

Birgitte Busk (sorry don't know the title as they forgot to photograph the label)

Tatouage by Diane Bonan

Monochrom 4 - Orange Bee by Barbara Lange

A Life Lived in Ink by Kathryn Harmer Fox

I... reflection of Life by Olga Gonzalez-Angulo

Herbst des Lebens by Trudy Kleinstein

Monday, 5 October 2015

Art Quilt Fusion and others at the European Patchwork Meeting

Elly van Steenbeek Faith
Enough about my work at the EPM – what about the other fabulous artists?  I was in the village of Sainte-Croix-aux-Mines and there were three other venues there.  I snuck out from my gallery, leaving Richard and the kids in charge and had a look at the other work in the village. 
Brigitte Paumier Transition Serie 5
Next door in the church was Brigitte Paumier, who created beautiful mixed media collages, using stitch, various fabrics and paper.  
German Afghani Initiative
Also in the same venue was the German-Afghani Initiative with some gorgeous hand embroidered fabric, created by Afghani ladies as part of an exchange scheme.  You can find out more about it at www.guldusi.com and about their newest competition.
Praskovia Bogdokumova Mother's blessing
On the other side of the village at the Villa Burrus was a group of ladies from the Yakutia (or Sakha) region of Siberia in Russia.  37 of them had come with their intricate patchworks, created from a duffle-coat type fabric.  Traditionally the patchwork had been used for saddlecloths made from felt, but now they make wall hangings and other decorations too.  I really liked the subtle colour palette.
Elly van Steenbeek Faith (detail)

Finally, there were three or four exhibitions in the exhibition centre and I was really entranced by the work of the Art Quilt Fusion group.  I could have spent all day just looking at the work of Elly van Steenbeek.  Her colours, designs, choice of material, shapes were all amazing.  The work just shone for me.  
Hilde van Schaardenburg Flames
In the same group, I also enjoyed the gorgeous hand dyed and painted works of Hilde van Schaardenburg.  It was also a pleasure to meet her during the show.  
Sophie Santoir-Futbeyre Galactica (detail)
Also Sophie Santoir Furbeyre created the most luscious textures on her work.  All of the the artists in this group are established artists in their own right and it was great to see them get together to show their work.   I hope they continue to do so as the work was interesting and complimentary, without all being the same.

Elly van Steenbeek Waiting

Elly van Steenbeek Healing

Elly van Steenbeek Healing (detail)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular Posts