Monthly Archives: November 2012

Artist spotlight – Anna Masters

I’m very much an ideas person; I find it hugely frustrating when I have an idea for a painting and I can’t start work on it then and there. Personally I need the energy that ideas provide; I find it difficult to work on a project that I don’t feel inspired by or have a vision for. I’m lucky in that I usually have a backlog of ideas to work from – some of them get lost in the midst of other works, but having a number of ideas on the burner keeps a good deal of momentum in creating and developing works.

 I find the ideas process is quite organic; one idea stems from another. The more work I create, the more ideas occur.

 I think it’s important to be inspired when creating work; it’s very difficult to sustain productivity when you’re not inspired by the work you’re creating. But inspiration can be found anywhere; from discarded rubbish to patterns in the pavement. Having said that, I work as a full-time artist, and I do find that it helps to maintain a regular working pattern. On the days that you don’t feel inspired, there’s always lots of other things to do – marketing yourself, mounting prints, framing. I try to follow the pattern of a regular working week – otherwise it’s very easy to go through bouts of working every hour of the day to having huge lulls of creativity.

I don’t often get stuck for ideas; I usually find the process of producing new work – and the difficulties, decisions and successes inherent in that – are conducive in developing subsequent pieces of work. If I do feel like I need some inspiration, I’ll research natural history, look at other artists and generally try to take time to look at the world around me. It can sometimes be difficult to detach yourself from your work and I find it useful to take a step back from what I’m doing to get fresh ideas.

I always knew that I wanted to be an artist, but was always told throughout school that it wasn’t really viable. So I started my fine art degree with very realistic expectations – that I would spend three years doing what I loved and I would then get a sensible office job and try to paint in my spare time. In reality, it’s very difficult to dedicate enough time to developing creative ideas when your head is full of the concerns of a full-time job.

Five years into an arts management career, I found myself in a job that I didn’t like and with the offer of a public art commission. It was this combination of events that finally gave me the push to go back to the artwork full-time, but I’d had to work very hard before that to develop opportunities for making work.

Being an artist has turned me into a bit of a workaholic. Every spare minute I have is spent either at the studio, visiting exhibitions or marketing myself. But it’s a great life; I wouldn’t work so hard if I weren’t doing something I love. And, being a visual practice, it informs the way that you see the world; pieces of rubbish become interesting textures and forms, paving stones become interesting patterns…. Practically everything I see now has the potential to be translated in some way to inform a new piece of work.

I usually work with insects or flowers as my subject matter. I’m drawn to the tiny details of these subjects: the textures; patterns; translucency, and, with the insects in particular, the colours and iridescence. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to draw attention to the details that are so easily overlooked in day-to-day life.

I will never produce two pieces of work exactly the same, but I am very happy to work to briefs. I like to hear other people’s ideas and think about how they can become new works.

If I have a free evening during the week, I will generally spend it looking after the business side of my practice – primarily paperwork and promoting myself. I do a lot of work online, but I think the best way for people to experience the work is in the flesh, so I always look for opportunities to get my work out of the studio and into public spaces. If money were no object I don’t think my main artistic choices would be different, but I do feel like I might revisit some older works that I am no longer happy with and take some time playing around with them, using it as an opportunity to be a little more experimental and playful in the works.

 I think artists will always have a place in the world as I think they contribute something important – it can give you the opportunity to see something in new ways or from a different perspective. So whilst mediums and practices are always developing, I think the importance of the work created doesn’t really change.

When I’m making a painting it takes a long time to get it to a point where I’m satisfied with it – I think whilst you’re in the process of making something the main aim is always to reach that point. But once the work is complete, my only desire for it is for somebody to love it and get enjoyment from it.

I work from a large studio complex in south west London. The space itself isn’t overly important to me, but I need the social interaction of being in a place with other creative people. It can be very isolating working by yourself when there’s nobody else to share ideas, thoughts and criticism with.

Artist Spotlight on Joan Baillie – Textile Artist

I first saw Joan’s work at the Spring show at the Landmark Arts Centre in Teddington. There is a warmth about Joans work which really draws you in.  I really liked her use of colour and texture immediately and was interested to read about her interest in ‘Spirit’,  I think it really comes across in her work and definately  the source of the light within the images.

 Joans work will be available through the gallery until the first week in February 2103.

She talks here in more detail about herself as an artist.

 I was always interested in art but let myself be persuaded by my parents to go to  University, where I studied Zoology and became a Research Technician. In 1996 I took  an Open College of Art course in Textiles by long distance learning and was hooked.  I then did City and Guilds I and II and a Degree in Embroidered Textiles, both by  long distance learning with Opus School of Textile Art. Julia Caprara was in charge and was a truly inspirational teacher and example.  The studies changed my life and art  became an antidote for the pressures of being Chief technician in a field which suited my head  but not my heart. I am now retired and can concentrate on art!!!    I approach a new subject from all possible angles using flow charts.  I walk about and  look at as many exhibitions, galleries, window dressings, magazines, etc. as I can, and  research books and internet.  I play around with the computer and experiment with  designs and colours. Above all I walk about in the early morning and think all around  the subject.  Working with images, colours and textures makes me excited and happy especially if I can express an idea or emotion and like what I have created.

I am always looking for inspiration and see  things in terms of colour design and texture. I see it is the spark of excitement I can respond to to get an idea across. If things start to lull I I just let my mind free wheel until something suggests itself and after a while it usually does.

  I  spent my early years in a logging camp in British Columbia and was always interested  in the First Nations. When I was doing a dissertation on the transformation of masks  and robes from art to spiritual pieces through ceremonial dancing, I was struck by the  concept of SPIRIT, whether human, animal or place and it has been my passion ever  since to try and capture the emotion of spirit through the metaphor of colour, print  and stitch. Work or technique is the means to put the nebulous into practice. I have  changed and evolved my techniques  over the years but kept the same theme.

I have four cats who are my new subjects. Piper, a little Abyssinian cross  looks small  and brown but has the biggest personality and by the use of sparky colours I try to  show her spirit in my images.

Most of my work is created for exhibitions so while I will accept commissions and repeat certain work if I think it has been successful most of the time it has to be new work.  Generally I enjoy the making more than the selling part,  I find pricing difficult and sometimes  I have had my wrists slapped before now for charging too little.   I think art will always be a chancy business, with some artists succeeding in capturing the imagination of those that judge and others that never make it. Luck comes into it as well, but it has always been that way and will continue as far as I can tell.  I would though like to see textile pictures routinely in art museums.

My work space is  half a room in my home, computer on one side and sewing machine on the other. I have to work with the doors shut as four cats and sewing threads do not mix well but it is light and warm and big enough for the size of work I do. If I wanted to do big works I would have to make other arrangements.  To be honest environment is not that important.   My art is informed by my passions, I love animals especially cats so they are constant source of inspiration, I love reading Ancient History and am fascinated by Fantasy and Magic. I also enjoy photography, stained glass and printing and would love to learn tapestry weaving, which one day I hope I will get the chance to do.  In the meantime, this all comes together in often surprising and wonderful ways and contributing to the work I love to produce.  

Artist Spotlight: Melanie Pike – Jewellery Designer (recycled materials)

Melanie Pike

Our first  spotlight of this Winter 2012 show features  jewellery designer  Melanie Pike.  Melanie’s jewellery is quirky, funky and completely original and she assembles carefully selected found componants to create new and unique pieces.  The term wearable art is used a lot these days but it does describe Melanie’s work exceptionally well.  There appears to be a secret life behind each piece  with opening doors and secret messages suggesting travel and exploration.  I love her colours and the sense of humour behind the ideas, each  seems have  a particular story to tell, if it could speak it would probably make for a very interesting dinner guest.

You can see Melanie’s work  in the  gallery until February 2013.

 She talks here about her work as an artist, what inspires her and her thoughts about living a creative life!

I create things because I cannot help myself.  I have tried to do other, more ‘sensible’ things but this urge to design and make stuff always catches up with me.  I’ve simply given up resisting it.  Perhaps it’s because I’m a bit older now – I’m in my mid forties – that the idea of ‘getting somewhere’ seems increasingly less important or interesting and the possibilities inherent in being somewhere, here, increasingly more attractive and enjoyable.  

Softly Like Spring – brooch using recycled materials

Designs usually stem from the materials themselves.  Colours, textures, combinations of elements give me an appetite to combine, arrange, juxtapose. I notice ways in which one element can enhance another, or sometimes add humour to another.  At some point a rightness emerges and with it a knowing that this piece works.  I follow my enthusiasm and the time flies.  It is as if there isn’t a me making a something, there is just the flow of making.

 I’ve always been aware that there are certain activities in this life which are their own reward – things we do that have a purpose or goal but that we do for the love of them.  Like gathering mushrooms on a beautiful autumn day in the woods.  The goal is a fine mushroom supper and yet the steps leading up to that are pure pleasure.  This work is in that league for me  and it is a privilege to do something I love that also brings other people pleasure.  Like many people, I am very visual and am struck by the beauty of very ordinary things.  I try to translate that, through my pieces, into a more widely available appeal.

To re-energise,  I take walks, dance, sing, do yoga, work my allotment, nap, cook, go visiting, check out exhibitions… If I am feeling uninspired it is not because ideas aren’t flowing but because life isn’t flowing through me, so that’s what I try to encourage – the flow of life.

 I am a daughter of very creative parents, my dad is an artist and my mum has taught gourmet cooking so there is an inevitability about what I now do.  But it took me a long time to become clear about the path.  You could say I put a lot of obstacles in my own way.  I spent many years thinking I had to be ‘more’ or ‘different or ‘better’ to be happy.  Once I let go of that burden I found I was free to enjoy doing what I love.

Arizona Brooch – created from recycled materials

Because I work with found objects I’m always paying attention to the inanimate elements in my surroundings – pavements and roadsides in the city for the rusty treasures that might be lurking there.  In the country I look for pebbles, beach glass, driftwood, plastic debris, pottery shards, bones (I have some wonderful bird skulls and sheep’s teeth from Wales).  I am amazed by the wealth and variety of fascinating and beautiful materials beneath our feet.  What is it they say, ‘hidden in plain view’?

I work at home and it suits me.  I like to be able to put the carrots on and return to my bench while they cook and sometimes taking a break to do the washing up is exactly what is required in the flow of a creative process.  My workspace is full of good, natural light and because the scale I work to is small it is not difficult to have everything within easy reach.  I have small drawers with loosely classified objects and finds, boxes and tins stacked on shelves, big jars of tools and small bowls of tiny treasures.

I particularly enjoy working to commission.  I like to transform people’s cherished fragments into wearable art.  Almost everyone has some precious items tucked away in a drawer or box – an orphan earring from a  treasured pair, a scrap of fabric rich in associations, a button, pebble or gold ring, elements which can be made into truly one of a kind pieces that speak of the person you are, the life you have lived and of what has mattered to you.  Pieces of jewellery emerging in this way have an intimacy that a mass-produced item can never replicate.  Otherwise I tend to work in series, following the potential of a given material, improving on a design, varying it, dancing with it and then taking what I have discovered forward to inform the next series or project. 

 Thank goodness people like my work and that it sells!  Otherwise I’d run out of living space as my home would become choked with all the pieces I have made.  Selling my work enables me to make more pieces.  Sometimes I hold onto a favourite piece for a while but I am pragmatic so most of it goes on sale.  Realistically, running the business/marketing side of things probably accounts for about fifty percent of my work time.   How confusing daily life would be if money didn’t enter the equation.  I’ve never experienced that.  It’s a simple equation for me, work equals income, lovely and straightforward.

The era we now live in enables a much broader definition of ‘art’ than any that has gone before.  It encompasses an extraordinary diversity of self-expression.  Fortunately, for those of us who are compelled to express ourselves artistically, it would seem that our contribution to life is required and welcome.  I feel immense gratitude to the people who repair roads, staff  hospitals, teach in schools and generally keep the machinery of the civilised world functioning.  I wouldn’t be as good at doing those invaluable jobs as I am at doing what I love to do. 

 I see our role as artists as remembering not to take ourselves or life too seriously.  We introduce playfulness into the equation, don’t we, by introducing another way of seeing the same old thing.  Inspiration means ‘to inhale or breathe in’.   Art is like taking a breath of fresh air, it refreshes.

Listening with the Moon brooch – created with recycled materials

In that way my heart’s desire has been fulfilled.  I have the freedom to play with unusual materials and turn them into treasure or art. This makes me feel like an alchemist, extracting the precious from the mundane and everyday, bringing the overlooked to life.  I look forward to teaching some day, although I’m not sure how that will come about as yet.  It will be a delight to share some of the processes and solutions I have discovered with others.

As far as learning other crafts goes, if I didn’t find jewellery and wearable art so all consuming I’d love to learn stone carving.  I have some gorgeous pieces of alabaster I’ve picked up on the North Somerset coastline and always imagine that at some point I’ll acquire the skills to work it.

  I’ll probably still want to turn it into some wearable adornment, though.

Glimpsing St Ives – Brooch – Created with recycled materials