design

Carmela Kantorowicz – Ceramics

    Making ceramics is a very challenging disapline.  There is always something new to discover, a new technique, different materials.  There is always a challenge and I never tire of it. This sustains my creativity and drives me as an artist.

I usually start from a technique.  You have to understand the constraints involved and work within those.  From experience you discover what works and what doesn’t, what forms the materials will allow you to make, and what effects you can achieve.    I usually have a picture in mind of the end result, but getting there can often take a lot of time and effort.

It doesn’t happen often that I have a lull in the flow of ideas, I have more ideas than I have time to realise them.  If I’m really stuck, I just make something I have done before and often discover something new in the process, or find a way of improving it. One idea flows from another.

I’ve always enjoyed making things.  From a young age at home we were always knitting, sewing, embroidering, cooking, baking etc.  I enjoyed art and pottery at school, but because I was very academic and went to a grammar school, it didn’t seem the best path for me.  However, now I realise if I had understood myself better I would have been much happier if I had been able to take art and craft more seriously.  It took a long time before I had the opportunity to really learn about ceramics and spend time making.  These days  I’m always thinking about ceramics, but having a family makes it difficult to find as much time as I would like to devote to it.  There are a lot of distractions.  I also never seem to have enough space, and because certain processes need to be done outside, my work is very weather dependent.  In the winter it’s too cold to make very much.  I would love a beautiful big studio with everything I need.

I think that it’s always difficult from a commercial and financial point of view for artists, but I believe they do what they do because it fulfils a need in them to create and to express themselves.   I enjoy doing commissions  as long as they fit in with the existing body of work.  A lot of people ask for things not understanding the limits of the way I work.  It is very hard to repeat pieces exactly, especially with raku, as the final outcome is mostly out of your control.   I find selling and marketing detracts from the time spent making.  I like to make things that I find interesting and enjoy myself.  If I try only to please other people, I find it doesn’t work for me.  I do my best work making pieces I love and if other people love them too that’s great.   I find it quite hard to promote myself and my work.  It might not appear so, but I’m quite shy and don’t like a lot of attention.

I would like my work to speak for itself.

Jeremy White – Ceramics

I hate clutter, but my life is lived in a permanent state of clutter and untidiness from which my studio does not escape.   I try to keep it habitable, but somehow I seem to work better in chaos, although I take care to ensure that the finished piece of work is not sloppy.   My Studio is a small space (a Summerhouse in any other life) in the garden.   I look out onto trees and plants and I know that behind me is a stream, meadow, canal, fields and the Chilterns.   All of these feed my imagination and Creativity.

Inspiration is the nub of an idea, either a photograph, or preferably a landscape view ‘en plein air’, which will later germinate into a physical creation.  I also ‘need’ to work, either to tease out a pot from a vague idea.  The need to produce in a physical, tangible form, an idea which is rolling around in my mind sustains me as an artist and the need to make a living drives me, they feed off each other.  If it wasn’t in clay, it would need to be by some other process.  When  I need to develop new work,  I don’t often sit down and think “lets have a new idea”.   It is a process of osmosis where one piece or style of work leads onto or suggests a development to another stage.

Once I have an idea, I will sometimes make very rough  (and very poor) sketches, usually on scraps of paper which I later have to rescue from the recycle bin.  When working on the wheel new shapes, will develop from others, often by accident!  If I have a lull in the flow of new ideas.  I find going back to basics; either throwing 100 mugs, or simple hand building, usually stimulates the grey cells into doing something different!

 

I have always had creativity inside me, but it only blossomed into a concrete form around the age of 25.   I had wanted to be an actor.   At School I got 5% in Mock Science O Level and refused point blank to take the proper exam, and bugged everyone until I was allowed to do Art O level (for which I received my best marks).   Later Ceramics came into my life almost by accident, but I was hooked.   I built, literally, my first studio and immersed myself in making and selling Pots. I also returned to teaching, Ceramics, this time rather than English and Drama. After a period when I was teaching full time, my own creativity stopped and I had a need to do something completely different.   Many years later the call of the clay could no longer be resisted and I returned to full time Potting.  Now it informs my life!  It’s a visual response, by looking at everything from a different point of view, seeing ‘a pot’, potentially in every view or landscape.

 

With regard to commissions, I don’t really like them, unless the brief is VERY open.  When some one has said’ make me one like that’, they usually end up saying, ‘but its not same colour’ or ‘the shape is different’ as if the pieces were made on a production line and from moulds.  If I make thrown domestic ware then the work is repeatable, but less satisfying to do.   The open brief can be quite satisfying, but if the commission is not something that I enjoy doing then I am afraid that it takes a back seat in my list of priorities.

I don’t really enjoy the process of selling or marketing my own work.  ‘Artist and Makers’ Fairs, ( I don’t like the “Craft Market” scenario as it rather gets mixed up with knitted tea cosies and stuff my Mother used to make for Church Bazaars, which I hasten to add have their place in the order of things!), are my main source of direct outlet.   I take part in our County Open Studios fortnight, which I find interesting and rewarding.   I am delighted if Galleries are interested in taking/buying my work, although I dislike the process of having to present myself and my work for scrutiny.  If money were no object then I would play around with ideas more than I am able to do now, experiment and ‘play’ with different techniques.   I have a website, which I am very bad about keeping up to date, thankfully, my Webmaster is good at nagging me.   I don’t do twitter or Facebook.    Fortunately there will always be people who want to buy hand crafted work, and will pay for it, preferring that to the mass produced and significantly cheaper, items in various stores.   It is just a case of finding them!

 

Jenny Ayrton – Cast Glass

  Creating cast-glass is a fairly drawn-out process involving a number of stages. Initially I work with great attention to detail, however with the introduction of molten glass each piece takes on a life of its own, and often I have no idea what I have created until I open the kiln days later. It is this anticipation that drives me on to want to make more.

Sometimes one opens the kiln to find an unexpected success, more frequently things haven’t worked how I would like; depending on the deadline that I’m working towards I often feel more excited when it is the latter, if everything goes exactly as I expect then I quickly find myself getting bored.   I love problem-solving  and I think that it’s this that keeps my work evolving.  By the time I’m half-way into one mould I’ve usually identified an alternative way to make the next.

It’s so exciting when a new idea strikes. I begin with a rough sketch, I then spend ages puzzling over how best to approach it technically, and the finished piece evolves from there. I’m rather stubborn so if someone says that an idea can’t be achieved, or suggests a simpler but less effective approach, then I’m determined to do it my way!    When I reach a technical dead-end though, I find my dad incredibly helpful. He comes from a more scientific background (though he’s also very creative), and when talking through a project over a couple of beers he’ll often ask just the right question, or suggest an unusual solution. 

I recently came across a box full of my sketchbooks from the last 13  years, it was amazing flicking through to see doodles of uncompleted ideas. Having recently finished a foundation degree in applied arts many of these may take on a new life as I can imagine their potential in materials that I previously hadn’t considered. Over the last couple of years my work has taken a very noticeable turn towards a domestic theme, prior to that it was nautically inspired, I have no idea what it will be next!   The rest of my life certainly affects my art, so I suppose the opposite must be true. I like to think that I’m good at thinking of alternative solutions to life’s little problems, a similar approach to my mould making. 

Like so many artists I find getting out and about really helps when I’m low on ideas. I live in Devon so I’m very lucky to be surrounded by stunning moor, woods and coastline. I’ve also found that travelling by train is fascinating as it gives you an alternative perspective of towns and cities.

 I’ve always had a creative streak, from finger painting as a toddler, to collecting shells on the beach. As a teenager I found textiles excited me more than art lessons at school. When I was 18 I was split between a love of the sea, and a desire to be creative. After a few years afloat it was time for a change so I signed up for a course at Plymouth College of Art, and I haven’t looked back since!    I’ve also recently become a mum for the first time, whilst this has severely restricted my glass-casting time my daughter happily models a number of mummy-knitted outfits, and we’re having great fun getting messy with paint!

 

I am neither comfortable nor confident when marketing my work. For one thing I get very attached to each piece, though with some projects it’s very much a love-hate relationship. Initially it felt like I was selling a little bit of me, however I’m getting better at handing work over, and instead I see it as an opportunity to start on another piece.  At college we were told that to be a professional it’s vital to designate a substantial part of time each week to the business side of things, but somehow the hoovering and washing-up always seem more inviting!   

 
Last year I designed and made the trophies for the Association of Colleges Gold Awards which were presented at the House of Commons. In some ways it was a great experience, but the words ‘blood, sweat and tears’ would not be an understatement!  I would think twice before agreeing to make so many almost identical pieces on such a tight budget and deadline, however it would be lovely to work with customers to create individual pieces with personal meaning.

The introduction of new technologies in art interests me.   I’m not sure whether it will directly influence my work as I still really enjoy getting messy, but there are certainly some very exciting things happening in the glass-art
world.

I would love a bigger workshop with state of the art cold-working facilities, however I have recently started to rent time in the workshop at Teign Valley Glass, and it’s made me realise that having my own workshop could get rather lonely… so totally blowing the budget I think a fully equipped multi-purpose workshop to share with all my artistic friends!

Casting is quite a messy process however it helps to keep things fairly tidy and to clean up as you work (though my husband would tell you my workshop is a tip, I know where everything is!). Much of the equipment I use can be found in a standard kitchen (though not in ours as it tends to migrate to the garage never to be seen again!). So long as I’m inspired and there’s something good on the radio I’m quite happy, I’ve even been known to break the ice on the outside sink to rinse out my plaster bucket!

 

 

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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jill Desbo – Artist Spotlight

Jill’s Exhibition puppets have caused a bit of a stir in the showroom, they are undoubtably on the dark side of of the fairy tale spectrum, beautifully made and all quite mesmorising!   They have become the anchor points for this Autumn show and are perfect for the atmosphere of the turning of the leaves into the darker end of the year.  Each puppet has a powerful personality and the character of each one is delectably theatrical.  Jill talks here about her work and her thoughts about what being and artist mean to her.

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I love the physical act of making- either marks on paper when I’m drawing or for etching, or transforming a lump of wax into a character head for a puppet. The desire to get my ideas inside me out into the world keeps me going as an artist! Also I think ideas of mortality drive me, especially as you get older.

I find walking is very productive, once I have the bones of an idea. Sometimes a book like Mervyn Peakes ‘Titus Groan’ will inspire puppets, or Chaucer. Sometimes ideas just land and then it’s a case of working them up through drawings, or straight into the sculpt. I find one piece of work often ‘inspires’ another- i.e. leads into a new thing. I think the discipline of working is important- not necessarily waiting for some inspiration. Once you start, things often just have their own momentum.

Due to this, I rarely have a lull in the flow of ideas – I work freelance as a commercial sculptor; my problem is finding the time to do my own work! The puppets have been repeated or can be, but each one is unique- different colour scheme for example, and embroidery. I have done small editions of sculpture and if they all sell, well that’s great! I don’t have to have a studio myself because I work fairly small, I can work anywhere – even on the train sometimes! And I always take stuff on holiday. I am never without something to do! It excites me and I feel very grateful.

I sell either through open submission exhibitions, or group shows with 11 fellow printmakers (12PM).or through galleries that have my work, plus an online gallery. I hope my choices would be the same, money no object but that’s an interesting one…. maybe the puppets would be life-size if I could house them! But then I like an intimacy of scale. Because I have the ‘day job’ I don’t have the pressure to make my own work consciously ‘saleable’- or really milk something that’s proved a success. I can sort of indulge myself – it’s always something I really want to do rather than trying to work out if it’s going to be ‘saleable’. For artists who live by their own work, I wonder if it’s sometimes constraining.

Artist Spotlight: Adriana Brinsmead-Stockham

 

Casting and sculpting in glass is an exacting discipline which calls for complete technical mastery.  Like all art forms that require real mastery, what emerges if successful, looks effortless, like the artists job was somehow to ‘get out of the way’ to set the work free and to me, Adriana’s works reflects that ideal.  She brings her ideas to life in forms that require an enormous amount of artistry, skill and investment to produce.  The interplay of light through the faultless body of glass makes each piece appear almost weightless, although it’s anything but as the glass itself is lead crystal based. This means each piece can be finished to a state of perfect clarity, allowing the light itself to bring to life the pure saturated colour and complex carved rythmical shapes she creates to describe water’s signature on the landscape.  Here Adriana talks in more detail about her work and how she came to find her path as an artist.

Water is my greatest inspiration. What it represents, what it does, what it gives, takes, forms and re-forms (such as coastlines and landscapes, canyons and mountains).  Its different states – solid, vapour, liquid.  The fact that it is both life-giving yet life-taking, creating new things and also destroying.  All of its contradictions and duality drive me to try and capture it – not only of itself but also how it affects me.  It can look so innocent and calm yet be deadly, it is mercurial in its moods – the sea can be gentle and welcoming one moment and then change to a madness of power and destruction the next. It refreshes yet frightens, invigorates or drains, it cleanses or pollutes – but above all, it continually draws me to it and when I’m by a body of water such as a river, lake or best of all coastline, I feel as if I belong, like a homecoming almost – its very hard to explain.

I develop new designs and ideas by visiting different areas – whether it be the Thames, the South Coast, the Great Canyons of the USA, icebergs in Alaska or the puddle in my garden – I have my camera with me to capture anything that catches my eye – usually the patterns of the water itself or the patterns and designs that water has made on the land and landscape.  I then start thinking about how I can take those images and patterns and translate them into a piece of work.   Being inspired, to me, just means being driven to create something that hopefully captures what I’m experiencing.  When this dries up, I either re-visit bodies of water or start thinking about where I would like to go that I haven’t been to, but my main problem is usually being overwhelmed with ideas and not having enough time or resources to follow them all through.
My life as an artist came fairly late in life.  I wasn’t brought up to believe that being an artist was an acceptable form of employment, let alone an option!  I’ve always loved drawing and photography, just for my own pleasure, and due to a change in personal circumstances I was given the opportunity to go to University to take a degree in Fine Art – however, whilst doing the Access to Education course that my chosen University (UCA Farnham) ran, I discovered that they had a renown Glass department and that sealed my fate for studio glass has always been a love of mine.  So I then embarked on a degree in 3D Design specialising in Glass and have gone on to do an MA in Contemporary Crafts, also in Glass, which I will be completing later this year.
Opening myself up as an artist has made me much more aware of my surroundings rather than taking them for granted or not ‘seeing’ them properly.  I find it hard to experience any sort of landscape that intrigues me without thinking about what I could do with it/how I would represent it – whether it’s a deliberately sought out ‘inspiration’ or one that catches my eye while driving on a motorway or walking round the local supermarket – different things can be very evocative and can ‘jog’ different thought processes – usually related to something I’m either already working on or thinking about doing. The most surprising thing about taking this ‘path’ is that whilst everyone I knew either called me brave (to my face) or just plain crazy, I just felt so excited and lucky to have finally found what I truly want to do and I now have a personal confidence and sense of myself that I have never had before, and never believed possible.

My studio and workspace is extremely important and I enjoy having the option to work on my own when I want to and around others when I don’t.  I like my own company and am a bit of a control freak when it comes to designing/making and hate it when other people use my tools without looking after them properly, but I also enjoy the mad banter that a small group of artists generate – the exchange of ideas, often crazy, and lots of laughter is such a wonderfully creative atmosphere and I cherish it.   I love taking my photographs and they are an intrinsic part of my design process and whilst I’m not bad at composition, my technical skills are more or less dictated by the ‘auto’ settings!  But if I had to work 3D-wise in another medium then it would probably be wood.

To date, I only make one off pieces, not from any sort of snobbery for batch making – but just because that is what I really enjoy doing.  Commissions (for unique pieces) are also something I also appreciate – for whilst initially they might not be what I would have chosen to do myself, to be able to take a brief and produce something that gives someone else pleasure but is also identifiable as my work, is a great sense of achievement.  I mainly leave the selling and marketing of my work to galleries – what I produce is not conducive to selling online and I maintain a website more as a portfolio than as a direct sales tool.  I also exhibit in group exhibitions with other artists but I find stewarding a bit of a bore and would much rather be making something than selling it!  If money were no object I would spend all my time travelling and designing/making and employ someone else to do all the sales, marketing and paperwork!

Adriana’s work will be available through the gallery until Sunday August 5th.

Glass Fusing course last Monday night

 

Thanks and well done to the girls to made last Mondays glass fusing evening such fun!  We spent a very happy three hours cutting glass and playing with colours and designs and the results were really exellent.   A very creative bunch to be sure.  We made rather beautiful jewellery pendants and some VERY pretty window hangers.  Check out the photo below!

In defence of optimism!

Sometimes I need to get things off my chest and this is one of those days!  I am an unashamed optimist. That’s how I see myself, I had an interesting and spirited discussion in the pub recently with a friend of mine, who stated that optimism is a dangerous indulgence which should be actively discouraged. He believes it plays a large part (if not being actually to blame) for most of the world ills.  He has come to the conclusion that looking on the bright side and seeing the positive prevents us from seeing how bad things really are and taking appropriate action, and that’s why the world is in the state it is.  This is an interesting concept to me, as one who had always tried to see the upside where ever possible. I found it fascinating and a little scary, but in a good way!  He was basically saying the same thing as a poster I saw in one of those tourist shops that said… ‘If you can keep your head when all about are losing theirs – you obviously don’t understand the problem!’  Pessimists (or realists, depending on your point of view) work on the principal that they do understand the problem.  Maybe I don’t understand the problem?  Could that be true? Actually I don’t think so.  It’s necessary to have a healthy charge of optimism; it helps with your energy, your vision, your creativity and your self esteem.

 

Humans on the whole (I have read) are hard wired to be ultimately basically optimistic. It’s how we survive!  We believe in better!  But for a reason; we believe in ourselves and our ability to change things, and that ability to adapt has been the key to our survival.  To see beyond the immediate apparent gloom to a better time keeps us motivated to go on, without it we simply couldn’t survive.  Of course we don’t always get it right.  Often we get it wrong but we’re constantly questioning and that gives me hope.

Now I’m perfectly aware that the other thing that is in the core nature of humans is to look after themselves first and foremost.  To build a secure and comfortable place to live is a major drive and so when people have the opportunity to earn or acquire money at the expense of others that instinct can take over, until from the outside it looks a lot like greed.  Then it’s every man for himself and that’s where the problems start.  We’re often torn between our desire to be good, nice, decent people and to look after our own best interests and those of our family.

The constant flow of negative news and of disaster predications keep us scared, defensive and fatalist. It undermines our determination and our sense of power over our own lives.  We start to pull up our drawbridges and build walls rather than be inclusive and to take rather than give.  We get scared, and when we’re scared we see danger everywhere which means we’re more likely to attack first.  Of course it’s important to keep an eye on the world, but actually it’s more important to keep an eye on ourselves and how that information is affecting us and our communities.  Of course, one has to take care of business, pay bills, do tax returns and get the car fixed. But if we could all just determinedly build the world we want to live in from our own back yards, in spite of what we’re repeated told about the world outside, how much difference would that make?

It seems to me that humans have a need to be kind and generous in their personal lives.  It makes us happy to be nice!  It’s actually our core nature, and it’s on that basis I remain an optimist.

I’ll leave you with a nice story.  A little while ago (a couple of months I think) an old chap was walking outside past the gallery. The door was open and my son and I could hear him making really strange noises.  We both looked at each other and questioned if he was OK.  My son went to the door to check on him further but by the time he’d got to the door the old man had collapsed on the kerb side outside ASK pizza.  It was raining heavily but within minutes of him falling he was surrounded and protected by strangers.  The staff at ASK came out, a woman jumped off a bus, ambulances were called, we took out blankets and a pillow and two business men who happened to be passing, without saying a word, stopped and held their umbrellas over him until the ambulance arrived.  People stood around him like guardians, no-one questioned it, no-one thought twice, they just did what was right and it was an amazing sight!

People are basically good and there’s enough for everyone is my maxim for life!  Look for it and you’ll see it everywhere, really you will.  And guess what?  In spite of the terrible weather forecast, the sun is still shining!  Still might take my umbrella though, you never know when it might come in useful!

Janis xx

 

 

 

Artist Spotlight – Jule Mallett

I first saw Jules’s work at the Mall Galleries  in London at the beginning of the year.  I liked her work immediately, I really enjoyed the humour but also the ethos behind it.  The obsession todays society has with physical perfection is a very interesting topic and Jules work highlights the absurdity of it in a gentle and affectionate way that is well said and charming!   Her work is fresh, quirky and can’t help but raise a smile.

Here she talks about her work and gives a fascinating in depth look at how she came to be where she is today.

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‘In trying to achieve true beauty Hengrels have lost their own identity and heritage.’

At the heart of my current work are ‘Hengrels’, an artificially enhanced hybrid species of chicken in search of true beauty. To satisfy their compulsion for perfection they resort to cosmetic surgery.  Their appearance and behaviour is often odd. I deliberately recycle cloth from clothes and used linen because of its association with our bodies, culture and passage through time. The property of humans, it has not belonged to the Hengrel and is thereby symbolic of a false identity. Their story is only at its beginning.

In response to today’s throwaway society I take devalued textiles, from car-boot sales, and give them new life. Often traditional techniques such as layering and patching juxtapose digitally printed hand drawn images.  My work takes its initial inspiration from Boro, a Japanese form of patchwork in which cloth has been patched and repaired with scraps to extend its life beyond normal expectations. By doing so, these cloths embody the passage of time and identity of its owner. Wear and tear enriches and in such ruination we find beauty. The psychology of the Hengrel however turns this on its head.

My creativity is continuously fed by what surrounds me or rather what I choose to immerse myself in. I am extremely self indulgent and can easily ignore domesticity and the demands of, in my defence a grown up family.  Dinner is often ate on laps as sketch books, pencils, fabrics and threads cover every surface, often floor included. I work best when everything is to hand and visible. I thought I’d be tidier when I graduated but I’m not. Out of sight is definitely out of mind for me. Unless I’m immersed in my media I find it difficult to sustain my creativity as other distractions of normal hum drum family life take over.
When I develop new ideas I constantly have random thoughts which I scribble down on anything to hand. Bits of torn paper eventually collate in old envelopes or on the sideboard and I methodically go through each one and try to explore the possibilities it may have.  My creative journey is often very slow and laborious with many detours and dead ends. I wish I could be more decisive in my creativity but I’ve learnt I need to physically work  through all my ideas in order to be able to move on and evolve my work.

Being inspired is crucial to my creativity. I don’t keep a work schedule or any routine as such. My days are currently interspersed with voluntary sessions at a charity shop, family life and catching up with friends or meetings at textile groups. In between I immerse myself in drawing, stitch, reading books, and going to antique markets, jumble  and car boot sales. I can just as easily be found stitching at 9 a.m. in the morning as I can be at 9 p.m. at night. I create whenever the mood takes me. I never see my creations as work!

When I hit a brick wall or feel I have  ‘creation overload’, I tend to tidy everything away to one corner of the room and reconnect with the outside world. I constantly visit galleries and craft fairs irrespective of their focus as I find inspiration everywhere. I also reach for my camera and walk for hours taking photographs of anything that interests me. You can tell when I’m re evaluating my work or taking a step back because the house is tidier, meals are on the table on time and we entertain guests.

When asked what led me to become an artist I shrug my shoulders and answer ‘I’m not sure how I got here but the pieces all fit!’

As a child my favourite shop was the ‘Treasure Trove’ filled with memorabilia, the macabre and a giant stuffed bear. Most weekends I rummaged through my grandparents bureau and drawers looking for something forgotten. At university I studied Archaeology and developed a particular curiosity for Ethnoarchaeology. Today all of these strands have unconsciously come together.

Equipped with a camera on a summer’s day, I am the person taking photographs of rust and peeling paint. At weekends I’m happiest rummaging through battered cardboard boxes at car boot sales. Having moved several times as a child growing up, I have few markers of my own past. Instead our house is filled with the paraphernalia of strangers. Often I am drawn to the domestic: old brushes still caked in paint, rusty tools, old maps, scuffed picture frames, postcards and photographs. Nothing is pristine. Every surface narrates its own passage through time. In recent years I have started to collect used linen, in particular old embroidered tablecloths, napkins and bed linen. Today these form the fabric of my stitched textile practice.

Being artistic dictates my life and enables me to be, as I said before, rather self indulgent. Our house is full of random bits and pieces that have caught my eye. Shelves overflow with books, remnants of cloth, thread and drawing materials.  Much of my time socially is spent with like minded people. I have a legitimate excuse to keep going to galleries and car boot sales. Luckily for me, my family support me though still shake their head and ask why when I show them my latest acquisition. I promise them one day I will be famous and I might even earn some money!

At the moment my work takes its starting point from my graduation show in 2011. Later this year however I intend to introduce new ‘Hengrels’ into my work. I had hoped to expand my work sooner but I have been completely overwhelmed by the response my work has had since its first showing. Consequently, I am repeating work to demand but I always ensure each piece is individual and unique in its own right which is achievable since all pieces are handmade.

I currently sell my work at exhibitions and through galleries. I have set up a website but it is still very much in its infancy. As a child my dream was to own an art studio, gallery and gift shop . I still have this dream but the closest I’ve come is to be able to enter ‘hengrels’ into google and have it come up with links to my website!

Currently I am working on different ways to expand my range in order to make it more affordable for a wider market. Originally my work consisted of framed pieces, now I have introduced greetings cards, fridge magnets, mugs and even t-shirts, Also, I am  working on a range of original digital prints which focus on the drawn image and are simply embellished with cloth in order to appeal to a different market.  In order to succeed as an artist today I do think you need to continually evolve your work and take note of what’s current.  In the future I would love to see stitched textiles gain recognition as a fine art. At the moment it is still seen by many as a hobby or craft as opposed to art.