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You can click elsewhere if you want, as I’m still blathering on about the way I work. I find it useful, even if readers don’t. It’s useful because recognition of the patterns and their effect on my soul/mind/body helps even out the peaks and troughs. If I’m feeling low it’ll be because… and equally, if I’m feeling way too “up” then I need to do… this is starting to sound a little like therapy, but it’s not. Not really. It’s self knowledge.

(As a bit of an aside…do you think as a group artists have less therapy than other professional groups?)

I’m feeling twitchy at the moment. Twitchy means I need to settle to something. Christmas looms and I’ve done sod all in the way of preparation, shopping, etc. And in some respects, Christmas has to be dealt with before I can do the “settling to something”.

So the book of lists has come out, the organisation has begun. Hurdles have been set up to get over, hoops to jump through. But also, don’t tell anyone, but I have a basket of stuff behind my table. The presence of the basket will keep me on an even keel.

Don’t get me wrong, I do LOVE the Christmas holidays, gathering my flock in one place so I know they are all safe, we will eat, drink, be merry and play spoons and sword fight on the wii until injury prevents us, and a turkey sandwich beckons.

And then, when everyone goes to bed on Christmas night, I will want to stay up. The house quiet, the cat snoring… at least I think it’s snoring… she does like turkey. Hmmm. Anyway. Then the basket will slide out from under the table. In it at the moment are a small quilt, pinned, ready to hand stitch; a piece of tweed and a large knitting needle, waiting to damage the tweed with the needle; a sketch book with some life drawings in and thoughts of collage.

I will plug my headphones into my MacBook, will lurk about on facebook I expect, send an email or two. I might fall asleep in the chair and wake up at 3:45 with a crick in my neck and cold feet.

But I won’t be twitchy any more.


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Just when I think I might have got somewhere, something happens or someone says something that makes me realise nothing’s really changed. The prejudices are still out there. I suppose this latest rant has been prompted by Marion Michell’s blog:

www.a-n.co.uk/p/2157883/

In which she says she is an ARTIST. Not a disabled artist, nor an “outsider”. AN ARTIST! I lament the inability to express this in big red letters here, just as she did.

I thought I’d got somewhere too.

Over the last few years, I have come to terms myself with the fact I use textiles, embroidery, patchwork, quilting, scissors, needles, pins, dye. Blah blah blah. While doing my MA there was no question of my choice of materials in terms of them being a legitimate choice. Also, once venturing into sound work and presenting it to my tutors and fellow students, there was no question of my choices being real, authentic and meaningful. Even if what I did with them at the start, was questioned. I had shaken off the stupid feeling that to be an Artist I had to Paint. Textiles is where my voice is. Where I am fluent, skilful. This had been accepted.

But…

One of the rejection letters I recently received suggested that I present my proposal to a “local craft organisation” as they felt it would be a better “fit” with my work. To be honest, I expected better. Do people not see past the textile, and perhaps the middle aged woman sat beside them? Am I going to be fighting this battle my whole life?

Currently, at the New Art Gallery Walsall, Jodie Carey has an exhibition on. She has previously used textiles, and the one textile piece in the show is a large crochet hanging (which I love) but also several slabs of plaster, coloured carefully using crayons. I like these too, but there was talk in the gallery of her exploring the craft and the obsession of intense making, without actually using the craft to make – apologies if I’m getting this wrong – that is what was being said on the preview night.

Is this a way of eschewing the craft? Is it a sell out to ditch the cloth? Am I being hidebound by sticking with it and then getting stroppy because no one gets it?

I would protest, saying I have ventured out, and “rediscovered” the cloth, and also that I am now using text and sound in a way informed by the use of the textiles. I think I need to talk to Jodie and ask her how she feels about the process of crafting a piece of art.

I know there are other artists writing blogs here, that use traditional, perhaps traditionally feminine, crafts to express their ideas. What do they think?

So as far as I’m concerned, I am an Artist in big red letters and a capital A, and so is Marion (Actually, Marion is bigger and better, and I hold her in high regard, a role model even, but don’t tell her I told you). I will be frank, it has taken me a while to get to the point where I say it loud and proud, it’s been a struggle sometimes. But I’m here now, and I’m ready to fight anyone with a knitting needle if they say it isn’t art because I can sew, crochet and use a sewing machine.

Reading this back, it is a bit long and ranty, and I’ve posted lots in the last week or so, but I have a bee in my beautifully hand-stitched bonnet!

(and this is my 200th post, so I feel it should be something meaty!)


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Inspiration is a peculiar thing isn’t it?

Been thinking about it since my last post about recognising one’s own working habits and patterns.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve never experienced the *flash* thing that comes from nowhere. Mine is sneakier.

I follow niggly little ideas, read things, listen to music, watch things on tv (nothing terribly mind blowingly intellectual) listen to the radio. I draw: people, life models, flowers, children working in the classroom, the cat, clothes. Actually, lots of clothes. Most of my working sketch book pages contain clothes, bits of clothes, snips of fabric. And I talk. A lot. And I listen. Probably not as much as I should. I like the words, my conversations, other people’s…. And I collect them…

“…had one of those inflatable bananas in his…”

“Tuesday, any day but Tuesday”

“take that out of your mouth, NOW! Yakky!”

“he fell in the canal and they never…”

“she’s a right…”

“that godawful christmas tree dress”

“Why the hell did they call him Sidney? His name was George!”

“shut up, you’re boring me now!” (Copyright my friend Helen, circa 1995, thank you!)

“They spell it with a Z! A Z for goodness sake!”

“bleach potatoes vinegar compost”

“it’s all my eye and Betty Martin”

Snips of conversations, like the snips of fabric, get stored away.

(what does a christmas tree dress look like? Who is Sidney/George?)

Some are mundane, some are bafflingly funny.

What happens is a sort of critical mass thing. When there is enough stuff: music, words, clothes, fabric, whatever, connections are made, tentative at first, then reinforced by additional stuff… drip drip drip, and then, it sort of coalesces into a soup and makes a sense, tells me a new story. It gets drawn into the book and I stew on it. Then one day, I say yes.

Then I stitch like a bloody maniac and it’s made within the week.

That’s how inspiration works in my head.

It’s a Happy Thing.


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I have been way-laid somewhat with various non-art chores. I believe it’s called “Real Life”…But I’m back on track. I can see a clear path through the clunkiness I mentioned in the previous post. I don’t know how other artists work, I know we’re all different. But do you think it takes a while to discover yourself how you work? It seems to have taken me years to recognise these patterns of work: feast and fallow, rise and fall, to be aware of them, and not scared by the fallow periods, or horrified by the clunkiness. I like to find an elegance, a spareness. Two words have stuck with me since doing the MA… a wise tutor (lovely Henry Rogers) once suggested I “avoid tautology”. These two words have stood me in good stead. If I’ve said something, I’ve said it. I don’t need to paint a picture (haha artist joke).

So, the clunk and the clumsy and the obvious reside in my sketch book, the manic period of collection and gathering stuff around me is done. (Apart from the twin set: I NEEEED a twin set… preferably hand knitted, and a few years old.) I have words in my head and my note book, a strand of a song (one of Dan’s again, not one of mine)(www.dan-whitehouse.com) has inspired me to look from a slightly different direction. I have some sounds of my own to work on, they are very very rough, but I’m hearing something useful in there. I had hoped I might be able to do it by myself this time, and I shall get as far as I can, but suspect I am incapable of the level of competence, let alone elegance I require, without help. I am determined to try though, to get as far as I can, I may discover something new by doing it, also, by forging ahead, alone, I can try things that I would be self-conscious to dive into with Dan listening, for fear of being thought of as a blithering, squawking idiot. “Blithering, squawking idiot” = tautology. Just “Idiot” would have been fine.


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A see-saw existence perhaps?

Teacher/~Artist~/Teacher/~Artist

I lurch from one to the other, never seemingly striking a balance. Perhaps a benevolent parasitic arrangement between the two? The Teacher/Host supports the greedy selfish artist wasp?

This week the teacher is fighting back:

Having had a really good day with Y1 and their printing, today I guided Y5 through the designing and making of new hangings for the school hall. They will be a permanent fixture in school, and the children are fascinated by the idea they could still be there when their own children start school. Consequently they are taking this task very seriously: they want to know about bondaweb and sewing machines and embroidery, and washability. They have each had their ideas considered, each hanging includes one idea from each child, they all have a real part in its making and its shared design process. They are cooperative and helpful. Today, they got all their individual choices of fabrics together to see if they worked as a whole. For the most part they did, but the children were critical, and a few changes were made, and on the whole without argument, merely a discussion of the benefits of the change. Tonally, the figure needs to stand out from the background, so which do they change, what possibilities are there? They did brilliantly, and apart from saying things like “Can we make a decision about this tree then?” or, “Is that fabric a little bit too flowery for this?” they made the decisions themselves. I think it’ll look great.

The artist this week is having a hard time:

I’ve started a new train of thought and it feels decidedly dodgy. At the moment I am making clumsy, clunky, blatant statements in words and pictures. Inspired by, but not totally autobiographical, before you start to worry, there are observational bits in there too, drawn from other people’s lives, whether they know it or not. I lurch from the obvious and crass to the secret and vaguely confessional. Have talked about obviousness and confessional work here before. I have come to the conclusion that this is how my work is born, this is the cycle it goes through… I crash about a bit, then the disparate ideas settle down with each other, then slowly, a subtlety is teased out, an ambiguity is found, a balance. Then it is worth showing, is fit to be seen, is respectable. And this is where I am at the moment, contemplating respectability and what lies beneath.


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