hand made

Alexandra Joelle – Jewellery Designer

 


I just love to create and seeing each piece come together is the most satisfying thing in the world.

I always design through experimentation, I couldn’t think of anything worse than being sat in-front of my sketchbook all day trying to come up with ideas from the back of my head that will never appear. So instead I start with the circle and have a play with cutting them into sections folding and then see what frame works I come up with.

If I have a lull in the flow of ideas I might start by making something I’ve made before, most of the time whilst I am absorbed in making a ring or something simple, I come up with a new flow of ideas.   I am constantly searching for inspiration; I always have my sketchbook in my bag in case I think of something on the go.  It basically takes over your life and never comes out of your head.  If I am stuck on how to make something I usually start dreaming about it.  Which is actually usually when I come out with some of my best ideas, so I keep a spare sketchbook right next to my bed!   My work is inspired by the idea of creating tension. All my pieces are built to create simplistic frame works to make the tension with the thread. I am also inspired by using different materials in my work I love working with thread maybe this goes back to my love of fashion design when I was younger. 

I’ve always loved making and drawing things from a young age, when I was little I would spend hours drawing fashion design’s, which for a long time is what I wanted to do.  But being in a family of Jeweller’s and being brought up in those surrounding’s my passions lead me into working with metal.

Although it isn’t reflected in my work I have a real love of history, eventually I would like to look into the past and take more inspiration from there. I also work in an auctioneer’s part time so I get to see a lot of old quirky Jewellery which can be really exciting!

My work environment is very important; I find it very therapeutic to sit with my headphones in without any distractions fiddling away with my pieces, I go into my own little world. I still do like to have people around me; I think being in a workshop on my own could get boring quickly its nice to have other people around to bounce ideas of each other. That’s what’s nice about university, you have a lot of people to bounce your ideas around, and it can be very inspirational.

 My heart’s desire is probably to have my own shop that’s full with my own designs, and to be able to employ and train others, as I think opportunities to train in the industry are very difficult to come by. I was lucky that I have my father to carry on training me, and others don’t always have the opportunity.  At the moment I am just taking everything as it comes, I am getting a good response to my work, so I hope to carry on and continue in developing my work. Having my own workshop would be lovely too! But I am lucky to have a family in the industry so I already have one set up in the corner of my fathers shop; this has saved me a lot of money.

I love working to commission, all of my work is repeatable and very versatile; all of pieces are available in many different colours on request, with combinations of either ribbon or chain.   If money was no object I think any artist could say they would do things differently, materials are very expensive as any Jeweller can tell you. I think the biggest difference is I would want to use gold, as it is personally my favourite material, so any commission pieces are most welcome!   As I am just starting out as an artist, money is in short supply, so marketing is something that I am only just starting to look at and will be pursued more as I go on.  

If I was going to learn another skill it probably would be to work more in textiles, I did textiles in my A ‘levels and have always had a passion for it, so more of a combination with textiles and metalwork, which my work does reflect already, I am looking into weaving and castings at the minute. But this is all a work in progress.

 

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: Linda Connelly

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.

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.

 

 

The Big Strawberry and all that Jazz!

After all the excitement and the pomp and ceremony has faded away, it’s back to work as usual. The big Strawberry light went up and came down safely and I’m going to hang a little version in Arthurs if you fancy a peek!  It did look lovely!

Thought I’d share a couple of picks from the festival, don’t the lights look pretty?

Gosh it was COLD though!  Aargh… June?  Lucky we Brits are such a hardy bunch!

Still lovely atmosphere and well done to Lesley Christiane for getting it all together in such style, the music coming from the Jazz tent was amazing and warmed us up a treat (OK the calor gas fire helped a lot too!)  and  I also have to say thanks to the staff at Strawberry Hill House who did a splendid job and went beyond the call of duty in their positivity!  All good stuff, make sure ya’ll get tickets for next year because the  weather will be sunny and warm, the music will sweep you away and you’ll just have a fabulous time.