I am pleased to say that I will be exhibiting my bowls as part of an exhibition hosted by Eco Savvy which is an upcycling community and community shop based on the Isle of Arran. Over two days and in two different locations on the island I will be sharing my work and explaining a wee bit about how it is created. If you are interested you can find details HERE. xx
I am delighted to be invited to exhibit in an international trade fair early in 2017. Plans are already underway and two bowls have been successfully created. I am definitely getting better at this!
Then in the same week I have been named as one of the 12 must follow upcyclers by No Serial Number an eco conscious artisan magazine. Click HERE for the link.
I am feeling so proud of this small journey,
Thank you to everyone for your support.
The Arran Open Studio weekend is now behind me and what a truly wonderful and enriching experience. I felt completely exposed as this was not only my first open studio but also the first time I had shared any of my art work as a solo exhibitor. There was no being surrounded by other work and artists and I felt it. However, the outcome was much better than I could ever have anticipated. Feedback was excellent and although I only had 11 bowls to exhibit I sold over half and took lots of commissions and secured a wee slot in a gallery.
However, I also took on a great deal of advice and learnt an enormous amount from the experience. Moving forward I hope to use this event as a bit of a marker of where my journey has taken me in the previous 12 months. The support from the other artists was so enriching and I will forever be grateful.
So as a new chapter opens I am working my way through the designs for all the commissions and the bowls I think the gallery will be interested in. I have to accept that I can only go at the pace I can and that is a steep learning curve in itself. I penned a full review of the entire experience which you can read on my main website Scottish island mum. To be in a position when I already have a waiting list for my bowls is incredibly humbling.
I have much work to do.
With my first open studio event just three days away I am trying to stay as relaxed as possible. I am all the calmer for placing my fibre bowls in situ for a quick photo shoot and feeling that I may not have let myself down after all! I am my own worst enemy because once I get an idea fixed in my head I will pursue it til completion regardless of whether it is a good idea or not.
In January of this year I decided I might attempt to take a wee leap into the mysterious world of art. I have a mixed background having originally trained in dance and choreography but I retrained in 2001 as a textile artist. Since then I have deliberately limited myself to the craft world and enjoyed every minute. But I have been sewing all my life and art has given me permission to push my sewing machine as far as it will go. So while others have been sewing with beautiful fabrics I have been tackling the likes of seaweed, dried lavender and sweet wrappers! Not content with producing two dimensional pieces I have also managed to make fibre bowls and it is these that will form the main exhibition pieces. I am hoping visitors might challenge me to use other materials. I am committed to using natural materials such as silk or merino tops or waste material such as sweet wrappers and broken threads from my sewing projects.
Of course, I have no idea how the work will be received so butterflies make frequent visits to my tummy but I am sure that is part of the process. Those that know me well understand how important self challenge is to me and this venture into the art world is just another example.
Whatever the outcome I get to spend four whole days in my studio sewing. How lucky am I? In monsoonal conditions today various members of my family were putting shelves up, taking photos, moving stock, weeding the garden area and making steps safer and I am grateful to them all. I would like sunnier days for when the studio is open so I will accept the heavy rains now. If you are a local or planning a visit any time between 14-17th August (inclusive) do pop by. I am venue 31 on the route and it would be lovely to see you.
I am having such fun and I am hoping that this venture into the art world should be like this. Fun is therapeutic so I intend to try my best to keep it going. I know I am exhibiting in less than a month but I have modest ambitions and have quite decided that what is ready will be shown and that is that. I have fallen in love with merino tops and spent hours indulging in making a machine embroidered bowl which is currently drying. This is the slightly nervous stage in the process because I never really know whether it is going to work as a bowl until it is fully dry. If it fails it means that hours and hours of sewing has led to nothing. It would be normal to react quite badly to that outcome (and I have had a few fails) but strangely I don’t. I simply get on with the next project. I think this is because I am keeping experimentation at the heart of the process. My art journey has already become one long experiment and that is absolutely where the fun lies. By contrast my craft work is not experimentation. It is a well thought through customer led process that rarely fails. Let us call that my bread and butter and my art work is the jam on top. I quite like a piece of homemade bread with just butter; jam is not always necessary.
I have begun to see the world differently and my poor sewing machine is being pushed to its absolute limits. I am fascinated by the process of identifying different ‘fibre’ taken mainly from the natural world. If I have an artistic statement it is ‘a juxtaposition between the natural world and art with a strong ecological commitment.’ We live in such a wasteful world and I am trying to use art to deal with some waste issues. However, it is more than that as I want some of my art pieces to make their own statement about what we might learn from the way Mother Nature deals with concepts such as ageing, decline and decay. She is so efficient and the human race is the absolute opposite of this. I wish we could learn some of this wisdom and there was a time when we were more in tune with the natural world and understood the importance of, for example, natural fibres. We have moved considerably from that point over recent times as we look for fibres with different qualities. Heritage crafts are enjoying a bit of a resurgence at the moment and I am watching that movement with interest. I am particularly interested in craft workers who are based on Scottish islands that are using their own environments in some way. I love to see painters capture their local landscapes but I am really interested in creative people who actually integrate natural resources into their work. I am feeling a wee database and associated website coming on where I can bring all these talented people and their work together. I am not interested in any artificial distinction between art and craft. If the work is of a high enough quality it would be included and it is as simple as that. I just need to work out the economic model to drive it so that we all benefit from such a scheme but it is an excellent extension to Scottish island mum which has been my brand since 2013 and it has a growing pedigree and appreciation. I will be reaching out to this very community to test the idea soon and then take it from there. I rarely make a creative move without ‘speaking’ to this community as they know me so well by now and I trust their judgement.
So lots to ponder as I experiment further with natural sources for fibres which, at this time, remain a wee secret until I can see if these experiments work.
As I move ever closer to my very first solo art exhibition I am trying very hard to ignore the nerves settling in my stomach. I am letting the work guide me and within that the processes absorb me. For me art is all about experimentation. Just how far can I push the boundaries of the humble sewing machine? Of course the exhibition will include some familiar pieces including my wearable art textile jewellery but they have been tried and tested in a range of contexts so I can take some confidence from that. But also included in the exhibition as part of the Arran Open Studios event is more experimental work and there lies the nervousness.
I have been preoccupied with machine embroidery for almost a year now and so my skill levels have improved. However, I somehow feel I am rather pushing my luck as I move into ever more complicated territory. My 3D machine embroidered bowls have been admired already so I am gaining some confidence from them but my latest project moved in yet another new direction.
The point of the creative exercise was to try and stop the process of ‘decay’ begun by mother nature. Taking a skeleton leaf from a magnolia tree I have experimented until I have found a way of trapping the leaf in a process (secret clearly) before machine embroidering it and highlighting its natural beauty with tiny glass beads sewn into the leaf structure. If I had tried to sew these glass beads into the leaf structure in its original form the leaf would have fallen apart. So, for me, there lies the beauty. I am not saying that some decay won’t break away from the piece but on the whole I think I have achieved what I set out to do. But that can only be part of any success equation in art; the other being an integral aesthetic beauty. We are yet to see how the piece is received.
As with all my art pieces it is a long and, at times, painful journey from initial idea to finished piece but that does not phase me. I love the challenge this new direction is taking me in and I love the way it has made me see the natural world in new ways. My camera is forever present now for fear I will miss something to capture to ponder on later. I see a future of experimentation ahead of me but first I have to get through my first solo exhibition. Flipping heck!
I have always been fascinated by colour and texture and see these elements before anything else. Lately I have challenged my own seeing to look at form. This switch came from a wander on the beach and a close look at seaweed. Seaweed sometimes offers us colour and of course the texture is captivating but, for me, the form is what makes it dynamic to the human eye. Its form changes as its relationship with tidal water is explored and that offers us a whole new level of seeing.
I have taken this work into my studio and have spent the last couple of months filling a sketchbook with drawings, pastels and paintings of seaweed. The goal is to become familiar and confident with the form before I translate that to a three dimensional fabric piece of work that is brewing nicely in my head.
Alongside the sketching I have been experimenting with 3D capabilities using the sewing machine with some success. Using starch fabric as my anchor I have had lots of squeals of joy creating leaves (for another piece I am well on with) and bowls. The bowls are my greatest triumph to date and I have been fiddling with form with these as well. By varying drying moulds I can create bowls with different forms and relate form to colour and texture. It is, of course, a journey and one that is proving to be super inspirational.
So, now with all the experiments and sketching behind me I am about to embark on the piece that I hope will translate into what I see emerging in my head. I know the route as I just need to keep form at the centre of my personal yellow brick road and all will be well. An exciting wee project for a fledgling artist….xx
There is something quite terrifying about stepping into the world of art without a paddle but there is also something refreshing about it. I have worked in the craft industry for most of my adult life and I have also ventured into the writer’s den with some success. My sister site Scottish island mum takes you on that journey with me. However, a step into the art world seems to be a giant leap but one that I am determined to take. My beloved late grandmother taught me to sew when I was a teenager and I have never not sewn. My sewing machine is my best friend and we share a passion for old fabrics and that are no longer loved. Together we have turned them into all sorts of useful and lovely things to make a house a home. Now I am using my sewing machine as my sketching pencil and pushing her as far as she can go. Freedom has passed from her to me as I work with free motion embroidery on reclaimed textiles and the journey is already addictive.
My intention is construct simple narratives located in both ecological and aesthetic domains that reach out to the viewer in a unique way. Mother Nature is capable of the lightest of touch but, sadly, human beings have not learnt from this. Our much larger and heavier footprints have scarred the planet that we call home. I want my textile art to communicate that through simple constructions that ask us to pause.
I am a Buddhist and therefore meditation is at the heart of my soul. I have already discovered that making art is meditative but it also has the capacity to heal. My studio is located in an old summer house in the garden and I am aware that it has already become my lived gallery space and I hope to welcome visitors soon.
Meantime, I am always one step away from disaster and perhaps that is as inherent in my process as it is my outcomes.
We shall see,