Preparing for Herts Open Studios 2017
I’m busy at the moment, really busy. It’s just a couple of weeks until Herts Open Studios starts and I’m only just getting round to firing my ceramics work ready to have on display. I had planned to show some of my work during last year’s event, but I was doing a group show at a café which would have made it tricky to display fragile pots and then my kiln broke down just at the wrong time. I am flying by the seat of my pants. I used to make a lot of pottery and sell it too. When I had my daughter, 7 years ago I, no longer had the time or energy required to carry on with it so gradually my textile work took over. Embroidery is more portable - you can do it in front of the telly at night and pop it in a bag when you go on holiday without damaging it too much.
Pottery, specifically throwing (that is making things on the wheel), like textile art requires a lot of practice, but in a different way. You need to build up muscle memory and fine motor skills by repeating the same actions over and over again. It also needs a lot of planning, time and organisation as part of the basic process. You can't cut corners - and there are time limits on how long clay stays workable in its raw state before it dries out too much to build with, shape and add decoration. Something left unfinished that you had planned to come back to the following day whilst it's still moist enough to work with, will be fragile and likely to crumble to dust if you try and alter it the day after. Assuming it survives the first 'biscuit' firing in the kiln there are all the perils of the second firing when you add glazes and oxides to decorate your work.
Opening the kiln door at the end of 12 or more hours of waiting can bring delight, despair or indifference depending the success or failure of the process. It's like a playing a masochistic game of jeopardy. As I’m writing this post I'm having déjà vu! I have just gone to check on my kiln to find the power breaker has tripped and not finished the firing - I’ve now got to wait 10 hours for the kiln to cool down enough to empty my work and try and sort it out! [update - engineer coming on Wednesday]
The textile art I make definitely requires a lot of skill, but it has developed in a more organic way through trial and error. There is also a high level of risk involved in the process. I choose to work with techniques that don’t allow me to make too many mistakes - I really have to get it right first time; as often unpicking the stitches will either damage the material or take far too long. Getting it right first time means that I have rehearsed what I'm going to do in my head many times before I start - working out what order in which to add each colour and how to layer the stitches. I often stitch on to fragile paper, which if you over work tears and disintegrates or puckers and wrinkles.
The black and white landscapes on wool felt also require me to get it right first time. They are made up purely of black and white lines of stitch on white felt and are like 'drawings' made with the sewing machine. I don't make many marks on the felt before I start- just a couple of lines in pencil to plan the shape and then I set off with the design - which I have already planned on paper.
I have been doing a bit of painting this week for Open Studios - in East Herts we are having a Preview Evening on 7th September at the Golden Fleece Pub in Braughing and everyone taking part in Open Studios has been invited to submit a canvas that will be for sale in aid of Isabel Hospice. I have been worried about starting my piece as I'm not confident using paints and was thinking that it would be like my other work where you only get one shot at getting it right. Wrong! With in reason, you have several chances to change what you've done and even cover up your mistakes by just painting over them! I found this really liberating and I've almost completed my picture in under 4 hours (one of my large black and white landscape embroideries takes over 8 hours to make). It will be interesting to see what other people have done and would be great if we all sell our work on the evening to support the charity.
Having got that task out of the way I now need to get on with my list of things to complete before I open my doors. It's a long list, but I am gradually working my way through it. There's nothing like a deadline to get things done.
I'll be opening my studio over three weekends in September starting on Friday 15th September. You can see both my work, and fellow artist Jo Walls' sculptures who's work will be displayed in my garden. You take a look at my working studio, come to a textile taster class (one of which I'll be running as part of the Macmillan 'World's Biggest Coffee Morning'. Come eat cake and sew!
Hope to see you here!