'Embroidery' is an unlikely title for a course which is incredibly diverse. While some may use stitch and produce textile related work, others use video, or make installation pieces. What unites us I think is a considered approach, coupled with a love of making and an appreciation of skill in that making. There is a strong emphasis too on acquiring a critical and reflective perspective on our own work.
Well its all over now. It doesn’t feel quite real – a thoroughly intense week of talking talking talking……by the end I was mainly babbling. The whole results day was kind of anti-climactic and disappointing – whilst I did well, it wasn’t really really well and there feels something wrong about scoring art anyway – its just that sense of being shut out of an exclusive club when you don’t get the result you’d hoped for. Particularly when I felt that this project had been so much more successful than my previous one this year. I know that realistically it will never matter again – and on the bright side – I had so much positive feedback about my pieces, and I even sold a few bits of work from my portfolio. I learnt a huge amount – particularly how to engage with people and talk about my work, which is pretty difficult. I also realised that if I carry on with making books I am going to have to keep explaining that they aren’t altered books but constructed books…….that no I havn’t bought them and taken them apart. I didn’t realise that you have to deal with all sorts of preconceptions.
I was very glad that quite a few people had seen the picture of my work in A-N – I’m sure it helped people come up and talk to me; similarly some of them had read the blog which was really nice and thoroughly encouraging. I’ve come away from the Degree show with a few hopeful leads to follow up – including the Manchester Book Artists Fair this year, and an invitation to participate in a show in London. I’m now facing the rather unexpected anxiety of whether I can make more pieces – I have suddenly got all scared in case I can’t remember how I did them in the first place ! What if they aren’t as good ?! The only way to deal with this of course is head on. I’m having a short break to go to the ‘Books that Fly’ conference in Brighton which is all about artists’ books and then I shall just get on with making more. Its been thoroughly helpful writing this blog and I’m really grateful to A-N for the opportunity. I have added a couple more images of one of my fellow students’ work – Ruth Bratt – as I couldn’t resist. Its all about consumerism and excess – a really cheap foam material simply encrusted with decoration. I wish the very best of luck to her and all my year !
Well the private view was fun – though not nearly as busy as I thought it would be. We weren't able to ask family or friends – I rather wished I'd smuggled some in but I'm far too law-abiding. Still it was lovely to see everyone's work up and it felt like we had pulled together a really fantastic show. I had a great weekend as several friends came on Saturday and Sunday which really helped to break up the day. Its a very odd thing sitting with your work and explaining it to people – I found myself feeling very distanced from it, as though I was talking about someone else entirely. There have been some quite fraught moments – some people were not only trying to turn the pages of Joan's book but actually tugging the threads to see how it was made ! I really do need to consider the whole area of books and display – how this can be successfully achieved and how to facilitate interaction with them.
Generally the feedback from those seeing the show seemed really positive – people were very interested in the range of work and impressed too by the level of skill on show. I was particularly struck, seeing all the work together, by how much we as a group share – a certain sort of obsession and focus on materials. I wanted to include a couple of pictures of Liz Arkwright's work – she's created what looks like a fantastic coral reef out of all sorts of plastics, bottle tops, dyed cotton wool buds etc. which really seems to me to illustrate that level of obsession and love of materials and colour, but using unexpected media. Its man-made materials creating something growing and organic.
I had an exit tutorial today – a useful discussion about what I'm planning to do next. I can't quite believe its coming to an end – this week is whirling past and then it'll all be over. I have no idea what that's going to feel like. At the moment though I think we are all just beginning to get really nervous about results. Dreading Thursday !
Hooray ! Finally its the Private View tonight. What an odd few days it has been. All the rush to get stuff done by the assessment deadline then a lull – then back in – and ….. I've been moved again ! Now I'm beside the fire exit and some enormous drawings of burlesque ladies. However at least I have some white wall behind the books and it creates a bit more of a backdrop. Although I might get in tonight to find that I've been moved again….Its been so great to see everyone's work – I think its a really wide-ranging and eclectic mix of work and shows off the course so well.
What a whirlwind. I put my work up in my allocated space on Friday. It all took so much longer than I thought. Just de-tangling one of the books took me (well my helpful assistant – we are allocated a first year to help) ages. There was one particularly stubborn knot that I spent about about two hours working away at. Obviously I could have taken Alexander's approach and just cut it – but no. An old folk custom to ward off witches was to bury a jar of tangled thread under the threshold. The witch couldn't cross because she would have to stop to untangle the threads. That's me.
On Wednesday I was told I would have to move my work – obviously not something you want to hear just a few hours before the assessment deadline; I did think that looking at the work around me my books were a bit lost so I shifted the plinths. I'm so glad they are portable ! It was surprisingly calm in the studios – a sort of controlled panic. There were only a handful of people who were taking things right to the wire. I left about 4 and headed straight out to the fields with a bottle of champagne. Its such a strange feeling to wake up with nothing much to do – the pressure suddenly lifted. I went away for a few days as I knew that if I stayed I'd go doing things like cleaning and tidying and what I really wanted was to do nothing and re-charge my batteries for the degree show run-up.
This was the studio last week – all lovely and empty and nearly perfectly white. It feels so spacious and clean. However now its absolutely packed, completely chaotic and I'm not sure how on earth we're all fitting into it ! Its all a bit stressful. I am a very focussed person – a hangover from being a lawyer I think – so find this all rather difficult. Its all a bit out of control. I'm sure its one of those things that comes together in the end but aaaargh ! The bit of wall I had been allocated turned out to be far too far away from where my plinths can be so I've had to get another one made – bless the great people in the workshops for knocking one together for me at very short notice. I havn't seen it yet but they've called it the 'Hilton' – after the notorious new tower block in Manchester. This makes me slightly nervous now as to whether I've ordered it too tall…..but suppose I can lop off a bit. I'm also worried that my little books are going to be completely swamped by the work on the wall beside them – Sam has done some fantastic drawings of animals but they are really enormous & striking and I think might just tower over my tiny pieces in comparison. We'll see. There's scope to move things around before the degree show anyway. Penultimate day tomorrow of installing. Deadline is Wednesday – and we still havn't had our journals back with comments. I think its very unlikely that any of us will have the time at this really late stage to make any significant revisions….I have no idea why this is happening so incredibly close to the deadline. Ours not to reason why….do creativity and organisational ability rarely go together ?