Monthly Archives: January 2013

Artist Spotlight – Catherine Carr : Glass

 I was born with a passion for making, whether it is baking a cake or a loaf of bread, gardening, textiles, paper or indeed working in glass, clay & metal. I love developing new techniques and technologies and applying them to ancient creative skills. The excitement of never knowing what the result will become drives me to experiment further.

I collect old knitting and crochet patterns and am very interested in the origin of pattern and texture. I often start with the making of a textile pattern using wool or cotton and then develop this into my glass designs, testing & trying out adaptations in stitches until the sample mimics the original pattern. The next stage is to trial a larger sample to check final thickness of glass when fully fired and the definition of the stitches. If I am satisfied with the result I then make a full size piece. At the moment I am developing a range of glass vessels using Celtic, Viking & Seafarers knots.

Anything can inspire a new idea or direction. I’m a great believer in the brains ability & how it functions whilst you’re daydreaming or asleep. I often dream through a tricky problem and always have a pad & pen next to the bed for scribbling down ideas – sometimes they even make sense! Any long journey with someone else driving is also very useful.

I work in a studio with several other artists and although we all work in different disciplines, just chatting through ideas is enough to encourage you to continue. However, the secret to success is to translate those ideas with hard determined slog!

When I find a lull in ideas, I keep on working, playing and testing hypotheses until the flow resumes. Often I switch from working with glass to a completely different media. If I’m really stuck, I go to museums & galleries to be amazed at what other artists have done, or have a little holiday to get away from my daily routine. I’m lucky to have both the Peak District & the Lake District within reach and a good walk often helps to blow any blocked creativity paths away.

 

I became a professional artist by accident. I worked for many years in the NHS as a nurse although I’ve played with stained & fused glass for many years but as a hobby only. I unfortunately developed a type of meningitis which stopped me nursing for a while, so instead of sitting at home being disabled, I went to my local college of FE & completed a BTECH in Art & Design. Despite not having an art GSCE to my name – I got a distinction and the making bug just bit! I was offered a place at Manchester School of Art & completed a 3D design degree specialising in glass. I haven’t looked back since.

Being an artist makes life very messy! I have ‘stuff’ everywhere. As an artist I’m not limited to times & hours of work so I tend to be working wherever I am and leaving stuff in every room in the house & in my studio. It has also become part of my family life as we go to exhibitions & events as a family. I have also become very aware of the politics of art & artists across the globe. I realise how lucky I am to be able to practice in a democratic country.

I’ve recently had a very large order from Japan for 50 pieces. I was really happy to make some money for this order, but realised that it was not very satisfying as an artist. I could employ someone to help me out on such orders but, I believe that the hand of the maker (me) is intrinsic to my work. I will not be accepting such orders in the future but am happy to repeat work for individual commission, but it will be made entirely by me.

I sell through high end craft fairs such as Origin, London Design Week & Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair and have ventured into Paris & Germany. I also sell through selected galleries I have a good relationship with. I use social networking – though not frequently to advertise where I will be showing. I also have an email list & web site though it’s sometimes hard to keep up to date with it all.

If I was rich, I don’t think I’d do anything differently. I consider the way I practice as ideal for me although a secretary & agent would be very helpful.

I really would like to go much bigger & bolder in my designs, so would love to have access to a much bigger kiln & some new coldworking equipment & be able to afford to heat my studio properly in winter!

I think the future looks very difficult for artists, especially outside the south east to access funding, especially in this recession. For me to show in London I have to pay the fees to the organiser, book hotels for the duration & transport my work along with furniture to present it on. As London is the hub of the British Art scene, we in the north can be at a disadvantage.

I would like governments to realise the benefits of involvement in arts & culture on the nations well being. Expressing oneself, through art is of huge psychological & physical benefit to human beings. Currently it appears that because advantages of participating in art events are not necessarily quantifiable in cash terms it’s become one of the first thing to be cut when economics is discussed. I could extend this thought to free entry to libraries, museums & galleries especially for the young & other disadvantaged groups. Life is not always about a making a profit.

As I work in glass, I would suggest that the most important thing when deciding the environment to work in is , though working in an old Smithy, its quite dark. I have to open the external doors wide to let light in as there are no windows. So, in summary, I would like a well lit, warm & purpose built studio in a place where other artists are working in their studios, with a coffee machine & cake!

 

Artist Spotlight: Anne French

My constant desire to experiment sustains my creativity. While working on one project, I am thinking of the next.   As soon as I have found a satisfactory way to make something work, I am looking ahead to the next challenge.

Endless trial and error is how I develop new ideas most of the time, and sometimes expensive and heartbreaking mistakes are made ( I recently finished a very elaborate ‘faux inlay’ china dish; I put it in the oven to bake it – having used a very specific porcelain medium , but it bubbled up, and great blisters appeared. I don’t know what went wrong).

Hundreds of discarded comics strewn around my teenage son’s room, persuaded me to use them somehow. I began a very successful line in contemporary decoupage furniture.  I am constantly inspired by things I see.

Anne French working in studio

 

Working at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and my work as an artist are constantly intertwined and I absolutely love them both.  I am endlessly enthused by the beautiful things around me; by materials, by colour, by craftsmanship and sometimes, looking and studying an object, I think,  perhaps it would be possible to re-interpret the art form using materials at hand.

The black and white faux inlay was inspired by an antique chest from India inlaid with delicate pieces of mother of pearl.

I left school at 17 and went to Paris on my own. I had always been ‘good with my hands’, and being resourceful and inventive, while living on a shoe string, became a way of life. My first 2 children were born when I was very young, I sewed a lot at the time, and sold patch work quilts to shops. This was over 30 years ago, everybody was into fabrics, Laura Ashley all over the place. Space was at a premium in Paris, and I made everything, through necessity at first, but also from the pure pleasure of creating something either beautiful, or useful, from what would otherwise have been thrown away. I experimented with mosaics, but this became rather hazardous as the children began to walk!

 

I deal with creative lulls by pretending to myself that I am so busy elsewhere that I will have to put the ‘art side’ of things on hold for a while. But I am constantly, constantly thinking about it, and anything can spark an idea – a trip to a Mexican market started a passion for bottle tops and their diverse possibilities.

So I began decoupage, and this has really been my passion since. It has such a genteel, prim reputation, but is so diverse. A rather risqué comic chair, or a delicate faux inlay vase – just paper and string and glue and varnish.

 

I have always been surrounded by artists, there are so many creative people in my family, and my husband’s too. My great great grandfather, Sir Thomas Wardle, was a collaborator of William Morris, perhaps that is why I love fabrics – my grandfather was a painter, as is my sister in Los Angeles, one of my brothers is a woodworker, the other makes films and my husband is a sculptor, so art is all around us. My (five) children are wonderfully creative, and I am very proud of that.

Sometimes I think I would have loved to have been to art school, to have been taught to do things ‘properly’, instead of the endless experimenting, hours, and days, and weeks spent working out how to do something. But in fact I am glad I didn’t. I have always felt so free to go where I wanted, without, necessarily, following the rules.

I will happily undertake a commission which is not too precise i.e. ‘a bedroom chair in faux inlay’, or ‘a small monochrome comic decoupage table’, but I am nervous when I am presented with an old shellac 78, of huge significance, and asked to transform it into a bowl … they are so fragile, and all sorts of disasters can happen.

I can never repeat anything, each leaf is cut out individually, free hand, and no two are ever the same.

I love what I do, but I am not good at promoting (which is such a necessary part of the selling). The system which works best for me is to have my work on show in a gallery. I am so busy all the time, and I would much rather leave that side of things to someone who knows how to do it!

There will always be artists, but I think functional art is probably more in keeping with the modern world. Most of us are pushed for space, so something which looks beautiful, but can serve another purpose, a light, a bowl, a chair is, I think, the way a lot of artists are going.

A few years ago one of my sidelines was flowery dust pans and brushes. I had to go across the channel to find them in pretty colours; over here they were grey or black. Now in every pound shop colour prevails. We expect everything to look beautiful now.

Being self taught, I sometimes feel I am a jack of all trades but a master of none. I have experimented in so many media, tried so many techniques, and I would love one day to have a private lesson with a grand master, be it in mosaic, papier mache, fabric design, decoupage … just to learn the finesse of the craft.

I work at home, so space has always been very limited. I have had to work less and less on large pieces of furniture, concentrating nowadays on small pieces. But, this year (son off to university) I will have a room of my own overlooking the sea, so I wait in anticipation to see what happens! I am so excited.