Saturday, 22 April 2017

Sketchbooks - the practice continues

I cannot promise it is daily, but the practice does continue. 

Not rocket science, just the idea of having a handy, easy to reach bag with a few very simple supplies. 

Not all the pages have been successful. 

But it's a sketch book, not a work of art. Lets not beat ourselves up. 

Some pages stay a bit underdone for a while - just a sposh of colour while waiting for a kettle to boil. 

But then they lead onto better things. 

They can languish for a few days! But, as I said, let's not beat ourselves up! 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

A brilliant idea ( I mean really brilliant!)

One of those "duh - it's so genius ideas!"

I like to think that Annabel Rainbow is a bit of a quilting friend. We have only met a couple of times, but when we have I have had a lovely, warm glow. 

Now Annabel is a mean quilter! But none of those twee blocks from her. Oh siree no! Her quilting is a bit radical. She paints incredible ( and in a way, slightly subversive) portrait quilts. 

Now Annabel works with the equally lovely Laura Kemshall to produce Through Our Hands

And they've persuaded the Festival of Quilts organisers to have a very simple portraits gallery at FOQ this year. 

And this isn't any old gallery. This is where the genius comes in. You (yes you!) can do a portrait to hang in the gallery. And there are no rules about the medium you use. It will be very interesting to see the range of styles. 

Ok, you say, but why is this such a brilliant idea. 

Well - first of all, it's in aid of Save The Children. And second of all, you won't get your portrait back. Instead there will be a shuffle and you'll get a random portrait back - you could end up with something from a famous artist. 

But, I'll stop waffling on. Rather than me banging on go over to their dedicated Blog to read all about it, and maybe sign up

ps - if you want some inspiration pop over and have a look at Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.   She has been doing a lot with faces of late. You might have to hunt around her blog, or have a look on Instagram, but you might be inspired.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Visit to the Bramble Patch

Hilary Beattie runs a workshop called Sanctuary, and I was reminded of this on a recent Saturday when I popped up to The Bramble Patch, at Weedon in Northamptonshire.

This is because the Bramble Patch was, for a few years, my sanctuary - my happy place. But I really don't do much quilting now and I'm as likely to be found sourcing my materials in a Charity shop, so my visits to quilting shops are few and far between. On top of that they tend not to host the workshops I want to do. 

So, for all those reasons it had been a few months since my last visit. And in those few months there had been a few changes. 

First of all they've built a beautiful new conservatory on the front and made a tea room. 

And look, you know you're in a quilt shop. Quilts hanging over the back of all the chairs. 

And they sell cake ( I had delicious walnut cake on my visit). 

Oh, but it's also a fabulous fabric shop. Possibly the best quilting fabric shop I have been to.

Now I could have gone a bit mad on the fabric front. But I was very self restrained and simply bought a few spools of thread, some more pins and some plain black cotton that I want to use to edge a quilt. ( Which I will tell you about when it's done.) 

But if you're in the area do pop in. 

The Bramble Patch is in a village called Weedon, about 15 miles north of Milton Keynes and west of Northampton. It's not too far off the M1 so if your on a journey you can easily slip in a little detour. 

Do go! Great for fabric addicts - and did I mention the cake? 

( By the way, I forgot my camera so these photos are from their website. But it really did look just like this!) 

Monday, 10 April 2017

Sketchbooks - ideas and adventures

Hello dear reader.

So how is the daily art practice going?


As I mentioned before, I have been very disciplined of late and have been keeping a simple little sketchbook.  


I confess, I don't always get a page filled in.  Just lately I have been so tired at the end of the day just crawling into bed has been enough. (The reason for this is the day job, its a bit pressured just now, and my poor old dog getting me up in the middle of the night).

But I still cannot highly recommend enough the idea of having a few simple art ingredients to hand and, if nothing else, just sploshing on a bit of colour that might inspire you at a later date.

And a sketchbook can be so very satisfying.

Hilary Beattie recently shared this little sketch book - not one of hers, but completed by a friend of hers. And it is so lovely I just had to share it with you too.

Grab yourself a cuppa and perhaps a cheeky little biscuit and settle down and enjoy this flick through.

Hilary Beattie has been very active on YouTube lately. She shares a lot of her techniques and they can be very inspirational.

You will find her channel here.  Pop over and have a look.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Lets get down to business

A short while ago I saw a little debate on Facebook. A textile artist was asking for advice. How should she  'sell her work more successfully'? How did others find Etsy (or Folksy) or were they using other platforms to sell their work.

The little debate also then touched upon the sort of work she made - 'stuff to sell' or 'art for it's own sake'.

And this got me thinking - and boy is this a big subject.

What is the difference between Art and Craft?  If you follow that previous link, there is a wonderful comment from Tracy Fiegl "Comparing art to craft is like comparing philosophy to engineering: they're two seperate ways of looking at the same thing. To me art is communication of an idea or an emotion, while craft is the physical manipulation of material. An object can easily be both, either or neither."

I very much like that definition.

Meanwhile, this debate (the difference between Art and Craft) has been raging for decades. I remember hearing a presentation by Grayson Perry talking using the analogy of setting sail on the ocean of Art from the estuaries of Craft. There is a sailing analogy here. The implication is that it is safe in the Craft environment. You can hone your skills,  and maybe even be pretty successful but the Ocean of Art is a big leap of faith - a leap into the wider environment. There may be more risks but there could also be more reward. And its s a less structured environment - un-chartered waters if you like. (By the way, I really wanted to share that with you, but I have hunted across YouTube and the internet and just can't find the clip I am referring to!)

Now, I am not sure if this analogy is helpful to everyone. For me, though, I find it a very useful way to think about what I am doing.

I go through phases where I am quite happy splashing about in the estuary of craft. I am doing a little series of lampshades at the moment. They are pretty, they are functional, they are fun to make and I hope they will also be commercially well received. But, do you know what - they are not 'art'.

For me, art demands an intellectual rigour that you don't need to apply when just doing 'craft'. This is where the estuary/ocean analogy is so helpful. You don't need great navigation skills to cross the estuary but you do to cross the ocean.

But, it doesn't matter if you are in the 'estuary of craft' or the 'ocean of art' - you still need to take a professional approach to your work if you intend to sell it. (If you are on the Gosport Ferry - a 4 minute trip across Portsmouth Harbour - you still want to know its a professional operation and that you are not going to be getting wet half way across because someone forgot to pump the bilges! )

So, rank amateurs - time to up your game.

Now, confession time - I am a bit of a rank amateur.

But I recognise this in myself. And it is because I have a full time day job.  I could do much more to sell my work, but boy, do I need more hours in the day or the ability to function on only 3 hours sleep.

But that is not an excuse - just a realisation of "Iam where I am".

I have mulled over the Etsy/Folksy problem. Should I go with them or perhaps another e-commerce platform?  Well, I could take a day or two out, improve my photography and set up my online shop.

But I have to be honest with myself. It's not just about the time taken to create the sales environment in the first place.  I am not sure I would be able to process orders very quickly.  In the fast 21st Century world, I need to recognise that people expect a fast turnaround. They place an order and they expect it to be despatched that day - professionally wrapped and presented for it's onward journey, perhaps with little touches like ribbons or 'thank you' cards etc. So, while it is very tempting, in all honesty I don't think an online e-commerce platform is right for me.

So, how am I going to sell my work?

I have decided - I need to focus on a few selected face to face events each year.

And it would be great to find another gallery to take my work.  I don't mind paying the commission for someone else to provide the post sales service.

So for 2017 I am doing two Open Studios ( Bucks Open Studios in Milton Keynes, and Hampshire Open Studios with my great friends Rob and Andy, in Gosport) and The Workshop Sale in London in December.

But what about a gallery? 

I have sold through a gallery before - with mixed success. 'Mixed' because I think the gallery was finding its way.  I would like another gallery who could stock my work from time to time, but not demand 're-stocking.  This is simply because the day job ( which I do love and which pays some significant bills) means that I cannot always guarantee being able to meet deadlines. I wish I was super human - but I'm not. I need my sleep and my dogs need their walks! 

This is a very useful blog. 10 very useful tips and an insight into the working of a successful gallery. And here are the ten tips for approaching a gallery. 

1. Research the Gallery

Yep - totally agree with this one. Your work has to fit. And you have to have some confidence that the gallery owner will like it. There are quite a few independent galleries around, but many I would not approach. The aesthetic is just wrong. 

2. Find out about their application process

Well that makes sense really! 

3. Look at the type of work they sell

Yes, agree with this too - like point 1. 

4. Research their artists

And again ( if your work does not fit there is just no point wasting your or the gallery owners time) 

5. Pricing 

This is a very sensible point. And one I'm very sensitive too. I will always have one price for a piece of work. I'm never going to fiddle about varying prices because of gallery commission. The work has its value, as does the service provided by the gallery. 

6. Framing

Now this is a very tricky one. If you look at the Golden Hare website you will see that Este Macleod (and indeed the other artists stocked there) have a consistent style of framing - and that framing is customised for each and every picture (though I do think that Este Macleod may use standard canvas sizes).

Now this one is a dilemma for me. I always used to pay for individual framing (and indeed still do if the pieces are 'one off' specials') but for other work, particularly the stitched monoprints which usually retail for between £35 and £50 to commission unique frames for each and every work would be just uneconomical. 

So, for a lot of my work, I do buy ready made frames (though not, it should be said, IKEA frames).  I understand where Laura is coming from on this one, but I have to be pragmatic and sensible  on this. For now, at least, I will keep on using the bought frames I use. 

7. Can you keep up with demand? 

Good question! And I have covered this above. I need a gallery that would be relaxed about my sporadic bursts of activity. 

8. Location

This would be a lovely problem to have, galleries clamouring for your work.  Not a problem for me just now! But it makes sense. Be careful and sensitive to the fact that galleries have to make a living too. 

9. Ask other artists

This is a lovely tip - make sure the gallery is not all smoke and mirrors and that they treat their artists fairly. 

10. Be Selfish

And finally, I love this one. It has to be a partnership. You need a gallery to be batting for you too - one that makes an effort to represent your work professionally. 

What fabulous advice. Do go and read Laura's original Blog and, while you are there, have a look around the gallery too. 

Phew - that was a long one. Well done if you got down here to the bottom. Do tell me what you think. 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

A fossicking adventure

Hello dear reader.

Thought you might like to see the results of my recent couple of hours fossicking around in a few charity shops. 

I was on a very focused mission - I was after books - books that offered possibilities for some of my mixed media stitched work - notably the next batch of embroidered lampshades and other little pieces. 

The haul was a really mixed bag. 

A dictionary - but those pages or words offer so many options and possibilities. 

But I found a ridiculously cheap book of birds, and just look at some of those illustrations.

And an old London A-Z. I can see that coming to life on lampshades.  I could use the whole pages; I could cut out the parks or patterns within some of the major roads; options, options. 

And did you spot that civil engineering book? 

Sums!! I can definitely do something with sums! 

And, because I was on a roll I was even able to finish this traditional bit of quilting which has been hanging around for too long. All I have to do now is sort out the thread ends then I can say that is done. (A vibrant lap quilt using a simple 9 square design - this must have been started about 5 years ago).

So, all in all a very successful day - and this doesn't include the haul of fabulous paper and an old frame picked up at a studio clearance sale. But that is for another day. 

Sunday, 12 March 2017

My creative space (but don't get excited!)

Over on instagram there has been a bit of a meet the maker thing going on.

Well I am not going to start coming out in front of the camera, so don't panic, but one prompt is to share your studio.

So, I thought I would share mine with you.

And it is not very inspiring really is it? ( Unlike the rather charming space belonging to Mrs Bertimus - I've got plastic stag head envy!)

My studio is a conservatory off my bedroom. It is a simple rectangle in shape with a sloping plastic roof - nothing fancy masquerading as a orangery, just a simple conservatory.

The space is somewhat restricted by the fact that there are two double doors. One leads into my bedroom, and the other leads into the garden.

In December, January and February it is pretty in hospitable out there much of the time. But now we are into March it is much more welcoming.  (It is pretty inhospitable in high summer too! But I do have swags of IKEA calico over the ceiling to help keep the worst glare of the sun out and consequently keep the temperature down.)

In my last post I explained that I had set up an impromptu photo shoot with an old sheet. Consequently I had tidied up. So this is when it is tidy! I am a mucky pup! A messy worker. I don't intend to be, but it is just as I am.

The first picture was taken with me standing next to the old filing cabinet (which contains fabric, by the way) looking towards the other corner. That wall is looking a bit blank. If the house was mine (it's rented) I would probably have shelves along there, or may be a rack for thread, or maybe a design wall.  Just looking at it in the photo it looks a bit of a wasted opportunity.

The other picture is taken from the corner with the white cupboard with the boxes on top. That blue IKEA bag contains some lamps - they were reduced in the sale after Christmas and I pounced. I ought to store them in the garage really but I don't want them to get damp. The boxes contain either finished lampshades or lampshade frames waiting to be made.  Pictures are either stored under beds or under the work tables.

And here are my two studio assistants, blending very nicely with the carpet (an eBay purchase that helps keep my feet warm in winter).

So, this is my happy place, but it is very workaday - not a place for relaxing at all (unless you are a dog!). When I am out there I am on a mission!!