Artist Spotlight: Linda Connelly

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It’s surprisingly hard to find good enamellers so I was really happy that Linda agreed to come and show her work here in the gallery.  The humour and light heartedness of her style is instantly attractive and engaging, but understanding the level of patience and skill necessary to create the standard of work she produces takes it to another level.  Here Linda talks about her artistry, the fascinating process of how she creates her work and the inspiration behind it.

Sometimes an idea appears to me almost fully formed. I can see it in my mind and I play around with colours and designs in my head, making notes and drawings on. Then I will need to go through a lengthy process with pen and overlays before the design is completed to my satisfaction.  On other occasions, for instance the Brighton Pavilion clock, I go through an extensive design process from scratch, photographing and drawing the building from life and then collecting all the other source material I can find. Then I work with tracing paper and a fine black pen, first setting out the basic shape and then repeatedly tracing over it to refine the design. Sometimes I do some of this work in Photoshop, particularly when I want to play around with scale or produce a detailed symmetrical image.

As part of this process I also have to consider the techniques and materials I will use to achieve what I want. Often this will involve making numerous tests and experiments with colours and processes. I keep detailed notes at this stage in a ‘Technical Notebook’, often including detailed samples. As each piece can have anything from 6 to a dozen or more separate firings, it is important to rationalize the making process at this stage, and ensure that my planned colours will work well together, both visually and technically. I also have to consider construction of the piece and how this will fit into the enamelling process. Often in jewellery I elect to solder some elements after or partway through the enamelling stage. This is technically demanding but often the best solution. In the case of jewellery I make mock ups and check the visual appearance of the shape, and how it will hang when worn. Finally of course I have to check that it will fit into the kiln!

Inspiration can arise from all kinds of sources. Sometimes during a walk on the beach, patterns in the sand or rocks will suddenly stimulate an idea and I will have to rush off to draw it. Other times, ideas seemingly materialize from ‘thin air’, although often I can trace a path of various stimuli that have suddenly gelled! I can’t envisage an existence without creativity. Sometimes I go through a dry patch but this is like being only half alive. Being driven by a creative force is as essential to me as oxygen in the air to breathe.

I have always known that I had to create. Over the years that creativity has found many outlets, but for me it is not a choice – it’s a part of me. Not being an artist was never an option. Without it I don’t feel fully alive. Even when my children were young and time was short, I still managed to find time to draw ideas. I didn’t have much time to make anything, but putting them on paper so they might happen in the future helped to keep me going.

I have recently had the problem of dealing with a lull in the flow of ideas, and I started reading through some of my vast collection of enamelling and jewellery books. I find that bombarding my mind with images, as well as accumulating knowledge of different techniques helps my sub-conscious to chug away and produce a new idea. Otherwise, looking through my old sketch books usually produces an old idea that never happened before, but now with new experiences and knowledge can come to fruition. To this end I constantly note down ideas and collect source material which I collate into folders and books. I also take every opportunity to visit inspiring galleries and exhibitions as well as subscribing to various jewellery and craft magazines. All of this helps to ensure a constant stream of ideas and inspiration.

I love my studio. I wish it was larger but it is light and well designed for me. For instance my kiln is at a level that I can see into it without having to bend so I don’t strain my back. Everything I need is there and within easy reach. I only wish I could find it!

I have always wanted to try blacksmithing. Similar to jewellery making in that it involves heat and hammers but on a much larger scale! I once went parascending – even though I’m terrified of heights! It was amazing – so quiet flying above the sea looking down on the earth. I could have stayed up there for much longer – especially as I don’t know if I’ll ever be brave enough to do it again!

I think the future is good. I think that more and more people are becoming disillusioned with mass produced, cheap, badly made goods and are looking to buy fewer items that will last longer and are beautifully made and designed. I welcome the challenge of commissions. With regards to repeating work, I tend to only produce small quantities of any one thing as I’m always being excited by the next new ‘brilliant’ idea.

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