Monthly Archives: April 2012

Introduction to Felt Making – Workshop Day 14th April 2012


Having never made felt myself, I had no idea what this day would bring about.  The first thing that struck me was the colour of the wool.  The most gorgeous rainbow collection of the softest skeins of wool, really vibrant and rich.  Jane Llewellyn, our workshop tutor for the day, also bought a lovely selection of finished work, a kind of ‘this is one I made earlier’ kind of thing.

The piece that I loved most was the window hanging Jane compares to a stained glass window. Wonderful translucent silk with delicate felt designs in relief patterns.

Extremely pretty and I’d be very happy to sneak it away, but I figured she’d miss it :-)


Our game workshop gang duly arrived.  Alison, Roz, Bev and Alison’s daughter Lara. After some background on felt and it’shistory, the work really begun.


This  is no quiet retiring process, I had no idea it was so physical, watching the gang roll, scrub and even throw the felted pieces on the ground outside, you really do have to give it your all.  I have to say it looked like great fun!  Cast in the role of chief tea maker and biscuit bringer it was fascinating to see the whole process from start to finish.

Lots of smiles all around and that was brilliant!



Next felt making day will be on Saturday 12th May and Jane will take her initiates through the rigors of making their own bag!

If you’d like to see some of Jane’s own pieces her work is also for sale in the gallery and very lovely it looks too!

Alison McGechie – Wood and Metal


This week artist spotlight is on ALison McGechie.  Alison works in wood taken from it’s natural environment, and recycled metal. She enjoys experimenting with the unique qualites of the materials, individually and in combination.   We talked about how her recent work is about mutability and the cyclical nature of life – decay and regeneration, and her life-long fascination with the human body.  Life drawing has been her inspiration. “Over years of intense observation, her interest has moved from a concern with form to focus on layers; what lies beneath the surface, and issues surrounding the changes that are wrought on human flesh over time.”

Her work is developed through a dialogue created with the materials, she uses rotted tree stumps as the basis of the sculpture melding these with etched and cast metal.  Her work is flowing and poetic in shape while allowing the materials to speak for themselves.  You can see her work here at the gallery until May 6th.

My creativity starts with having my own space to work and immersing myself in the present actuality of just doing it. The combination of  me – the ideas – the material – and the hope it will add up to something! 

  ‘Inspiration’, whatever that is comes into play at many points. It might be the dawning of an idea for a new piece or at any point through the making process when something falls into place and the next stage becomes clear – but, most of all, I suppose, when you know for the first time what it is you’re trying to do. I don’t think of inspiration as being distinct from ideas although ideas can be developed more consciously through the cerebral processes involved in research.

Sometimes  material,  perhaps an intriguing piece of wood, just seems to offer the potential for something exciting. An idea will be generating, either from my last piece, something I’ve seen or read about, or, occasionally, a theme I’ve been toying with, e.g. ‘to be worn’, ‘to do with the body’. Often it’s a visual idea – an image just pops into my head. Lots of things feed into this: past experiences, other art works that I’ve loved, reading, visual research, photographs, things I see around me, say, graffiti on a wall, peeling paint on a step I pass, and suddenly everything seems to connect. A poem may suddenly come to mind, or a song. Sketching, playing with ideas and experimenting in the workshop help develop it into something. The materials themselves are crucial to this process. As I work it becomes a dialogue, the work evolving in response to the materials and the ‘accidents’ that occur along the way – ‘happy’ or otherwise – which is why I call myself a ‘maker’. For me it needs to have all the elements- the formal, the skills-based technical stuff and the aesthetic. But all for the expression of some idea that means a lot to me. I want people to find the pieces moving and beautiful. When it comes together it’s great and it’s the materials that make that happen.

I love seeking out new experiences, people, conversations, nature – a walk by the sea or on the Downs. Time to cogitate and reflect on experience . The excitement I get from seeing other art all sustain my creativity.   When inspiration seems in short supply I love life drawing, going to exhibitions, going into the workshop and experimenting with materials and techniques.  I think I have to relax – allow myself time, play with materials, write down passing fancies or ideas, until something gels or sticks. Seeing great art is a wonderful stimulus – it keeps alive in me the wonder of art and a belief in its value.

    My working environment is extremely important. I need space, light and I like to know where everything is. There’s something about the atmosphere of a place that makes it conducive or not. I’m happy to share workshop space and companionship and the cross-fertilisation of ideas with others who share my passion can really help me be productive. Conversely, I find friction in my place of work very counter-productive. The studio I’m in at the moment is by the sea and that’s great. It gives me an excuse to see the sea every day. I find the sea both energising and calming. I reward myself for a hard day’s work with a walk by the sea or, in good weather, a swim. What could be better!

 The interesting thing about working as an artist is it’s not something you switch on and off – obviously not a 9 to 5 thing. But you do need to establish some kind of routine and that’s not easy. Finding a balance between my need to cut myself off to create and my need for other people, friends and social interaction, can create a tension.  I’m easily distracted unless I’m totally immersed in the process of creating. Then I’m completely anti-social. Life does have a habit of intruding though and there’s a need for stimulation too. An artist’s life can be quite isolating and my support network is very important to me.

My earliest memories are of just knowing it was what I wanted to do. I guess I was about five when I first became conscious of this – just a sense that it was part of who I was. I always thought I’d do it but it’s taken me a lifetime to allow myself to pursue this path wholeheartedly.

I was never actively encouraged or discouraged as a child. My mother was artistic and took my sister and I to art galleries from an early age, which certainly helped me fall in love with art but I had little or no formal art education – creativity of any kind wasn’t fostered at the school I went to. Still it came as a shock at 16 when I was deflected from going to art school and it’s taken me 30 odd years to get back on track. It was at teacher training college in my 20s when I discovered 3D with ceramic sculpture. I’ve always done bits – always knew it wasn’t enough. So, eventually, once children had grown up and gone, I decided to really ‘go for it’ and get an Art Degree.

I’m not much interested in stuff that is obviously about feeding a market or made to exploit a fashion in art. Sadly public taste can be pretty uninspiring and fashions in art are often rather vacuous. It becomes predictable and formulaic. I like to be surprised. I wouldn’t judge anyone for choosing to pursue the commercial line but as a guiding light it doesn’t excite me. On the other hand just because something is popular doesn’t make it bad.  I do try to approach all work in good faith and judge it on its merits. There’s room for everything.

             I’m happy to take commissions as long as there’s an element of development or re-thinking I can get involved in. ‘ Revisiting’ an idea can be interesting and my latest commission was just that. The starting point was an existing piece, ‘Mother and Child’, but the brief was for a mother and two babes which gave it a new twist and the piece is very different. And when you’re working with natural materials, they’ll have their ‘say’ too. Every piece of wood is different, plus there are the accidents of creation. Responding to that is all part of it and will help ensure individuality. I’d hope that anyone commissioning work is doing so because they like my approach and trust my judgement as an artist. Then it’s a two way process. When it works well, their idea will act as a spur and inspiration – the start of a conversation from which new work emerges.

            I’m afraid I pay too little attention to marketing and probably have a totally impracticable attitude to selling. I tend to treat it as an affirmation rather than payment and I often find myself valuing the work more than the remuneration. I’d like to sell more but would prefer to do other things to make money than make work that I have no personal investment in.

I can’t imagine a world without art because I think people are at bottom creative beings, so I don’t fear for the future of art. I do feel that art is too little valued in the UK though and the gulf between the stars of the Art Market whose work fetches millions and the poor struggling artist, whose time is considered valueless, is absurd. The cost of art seems to bear very little relationship to the effort involved, talent or artistic worth, but I guess that’s just the way of the world. Whatever you do is subject to the vagaries of the market. At least it suggests that the unique nature of art is recognised as a valuable commodity. I’d prefer to put more emphasis on the value than the commodity though. For what it’s worth I reckon that there’ll be a resurgence of interest in art that’s well-crafted. People will get fed up with the slapdash, instant and throwaway.

 In one way,  I’ve achieved my hearts desire artistically, in that I’m now doing it full-time. So, just that I continue to want to make things and have the time, energy, physical strength and ability to do it well. I can’t say financial security because that might deaden the creative urge but it’d be great to have sufficient money to buy tools and equipment and materials and allow me to travel and work abroad which would be wonderful. I suppose, if I’m honest, I’d also like exposure and acknowledgement – that my work be seen and well received is important to me.

Looking forward?   At the moment metal excites me and I’d like to extend my skills in casting and forging.  I’m also very interested in etching. So many things to explore!