Lots of workshops! Workshops in Libraries, Special Schools, museums and then more schools means it has been a crazy busy time and here is some pictorial evidence...
I was asked to collaborate with writer Neil Baker recently for a project called 26 Ghosts where 13 writers from the writers organization 26 plus 13 artists worked together to release ghost stories with accompanying artwork in the 13 days running up to Halloween.
Neil sent me a copy of his story ‘Daddy Knows Nothing’ and you can read it here, if you dare that is…. http://26ghosts.org.uk/2014/10/daddy-knows-nothing/
I started working on some images very soon after reading Neil’s story because to be honest it was keeping me awake at night. It is a great story. I was haunted.
I did a lot of thinking about the use of wood in the story. Wooden coffins, wooden cupboards and also the grain of wood then something from my own childhood. When I was a kid I couldn’t sleep because I saw scary eyes in the wooden grain of the cupboard door I had to one side of me as I (tried to) sleep.
I wanted the wood in my image to look a bit like how a child would draw wood if they were trying quite hard to make it look interesting. So the wooden parts of the image are monoprints that were done after the images of the child’s face was printed from a copper drypoint plate. Red seemed right for the interior of the gap, the inside of coffins, the inside of us, blood, and then mixed with black, the colour of shadow, death, fear, the unknown.
It was a great experience working on this project. The story is unsettling and the imagery in it strong so it was fantastic to respond to visually. Thanks Neil for scaring the hell out of me, I enjoyed it, I think.
My print for Absence and Presence, a printmakers response for the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here coalition of artists and writers
This is a print I made for ‘Absence and Presence’, the printmakers response to the bombing of Al-Mutanabbi Street, the bookseller’s quarter of Baghdad on March 5th 2007.
I had a year to make this print, which sounded like a long time when I decided to join with the other artists, writers and poets that have responded so far. I was initially contacted by the UK co-ordinator Catherine Cartwright. Why did I decide to take part? Catherine sent me some material to read plus a series of photographs from the bookseller’s district. The images were the deciding factor: portraits of a community sharing stories that was then brutally shattered. A friend of mine said (very wisely) that our story is what makes us who we are; we are not who we are without our stories. How true. All our stories need to be kept alive and the community that shares them needs to be rebuilt when it is blown apart.
Over the year I have read the extraordinary contents of the book ‘Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here’, I went to see the exhibition of art books and broadsheets at The Mosaic Rooms in London. I also, like everyone else, have had a year punctuated by hearing news from Iraq that is unbearably hard to hear and impossible to make sense of, but I am listening to that news from the safe comfort of peace. This work made me acutely aware of that contrast.
Beau Beausoleil, poet, bookseller and founder of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts here movement has provided encouraging words to those of us responding. He encouraged us to ‘’struggle with the ideas…discard what comes easy...’’
Struggling with the ideas was always going to be part of the deal with this print but what about discarding what comes easy? I decided to embrace the ethos of the project and not rely on methods for making prints that I have used for previous work. Instead I tried techniques that were new to me and embarked on working with non-toxic etching. I was experimenting as I went along and I had some unpredictable results. I thought I had ruined my plate on at least one occasion. I was thinking of starting again but instead kept working through with the existing plate as it felt the right thing to do for the integrity of both the print and for the spirit of the project.
The nature of printmaking is that it is always possible to make another print from the plate you have made. Each print will be slightly different and sometimes those differences are unpredictable and frustrating but the hope is that they will all tell the story you wanted to tell. I hope the print I have made speaks about the shock and loss felt when Al-Mutanabbi Street was bombed, but also the will and spirit of the community to carry on and rebuild another.
For more information about the project follow this link
Dialogue related to the exhibitions of the prints from "Absence and Presence" will begin in December of 2014 at the inaugural exhibition at the San Francisco Center for the Book. Additional exhibitions will be held in the US, UK, Middle East and North Africa from 2015-2017.
For special reasons family members decided they would like to put money in a pot towards building a garden studio for me. The last time I had a studio of my own was in 1995. I had got used to working in the ‘back room’ in the house. My family had got used to the smells of printmaking mingling with the smells of cooking. That never bothered me but it did bother me when I had to pack all my work away to make the back room where I worked ‘look tidy’ for visitors. It also bothered my family that I made a lot of mess in one of the best rooms in the house.
At first I felt at odds with the idea of having my own space, it felt too luxurious for me, I was used to making do, but then I started to get very excited about it. My family were also excited about having the best room in the house back.
So we shopped around and looked around shed heaven. There was a lot to consider and lots of web adverts to look at. But you can’t beat meeting a real builder you like, and seeing a real building you like. We went to meet Trevor Naylor who runs Crusoe Garden Rooms in Nottingham and we liked him and we liked his buildings.
Here’s some photos of the studio that Trevor, and his team Jack and Floyd built.
I normally hate having builders around the place but these guys were wonderful. There was one day in particular I will remember as being very special and that was the day the cedar arrived late in the afternoon. It was the end of the first week of building and the day had a timeline punctuated by smells:
Fish and chips and vinegar
Coffee and KitKats
Cedar…lots and lots of cedar, Canadian red cedar from the Pacific North West, warm-hued and heady resin-scented cedar.
Feel very lucky indeed.
I now have a shed for the ‘shed in my head’ *
*how Grayson Perry describes being an artist.
With special thanks to Di and George Davidson who made this happen.
At 11am on Monday 11th November a group in Newark performed Dawn Cole’s The Silence of Knitting as part of Silent Cacophony, a co-ordinated series of live performance events by artists relating to Remembrance.
In Newark we met an hour before the performance time and, after comparing each other’s efforts with the needles, we settled to listen to Gill from Galerie read from a document call Wartime Newark. Our town doesn’t have an obvious connection with World Wars I and II and most of what people think about in terms of war in Newark harks back to the town’s central role in the Civil War. However the readings reflected on more recent events and as a group of people who have all moved to the town from elsewhere we learnt much of the human consequences of the World Wars in the place where we live now. As a market town it wasn’t an obvious target for the Luftwaffe but it was bombed; it isn’t an obvious choice for Jewish refugee children from Europe to be housed but it looked after many. The landscape around Newark was however an obvious choice for providing air fields for British bombers to take off. Being next to what was to become known as ‘RAF Lincolnshire,’ the flat fields near Newark were ideal for the purpose but with tragic consequences for one Newark family when a British bomber crashed into their house killing 6 of their children.
Sharing those stories prepared the tone for us to commence knitting in silence the final repeat of the Shamrock Lace pattern to finish the white rosette we had all prepared in advance of the performance. The pattern was found hand-written in a notebook of Nurse Clarice Spratling who served in the first world war. The four leaves of the shamrock lace are said to be symbolic of faith, hope, love and luck. At 11am silence was punctuated only by the soft clangs of needles, the sound of reaching for scissors and the soft placing of the completed rosettes on the table.
When all complete we ate a communal lunch listening to music resonant with WW1 then went to place our rosettes in places affected by war: the site of the bombed munitions factory (Ransome and Marles) where 41 workers lost their lives, Spring Gardens where Jewish refugees were housed, The Tudor Hall which accommodated evacuees from Sheffield, Newark Parish Church for being a place of refuge and the runway at Winthorpe’s old airfield.
It was a moving and reflective event and brought us together as a group. Thanks Dawn in Margate for encouraging the responses of those of us further afield.
Back in September I was thrilled to hear that I had two prints accepted for Pushing Print 2013. The process of getting the prints to the Margate show was made simple by the the art transport service organised with Embassy Tea Gallery. Thank you to all who came up with that plan, especially Lucy Bainbridge.
Being up North(ish) and having commitments and stuff I couldn't make the PV on Friday 4th (sounded like a good do though) but did make it down for the events on Saturday 5th October with good friends who live a little closer and ooh was it worth it.
The two shows at the Pie Factory Gallery and Margate Gallery are truly wonderful and tell a fine story of how artists are properly pushing print at this time. The shows, featuring 93 artists, are put together really well, those in charge of hanging have done an amazing job. Easily worth travelling to Margate just for this alone but there was more.
The Market Square was alive with printmaking. A road roller going back and forth pressing big monoprints done by artists of all ages. Hugh Ribbans huge linocut tiger was printed and drying. Marble printing was going on too, excited queues were forming, leaves falling off the trees were being used on the prints. There was such a buzz and all of it about printmaking.
We finished the day with Nick Morley at Hello Print Studio and Nick was wonderful with the younger members of our party as he guided them through relief printing on paper and tea towels, and screen printing on bags. We needed those bags to carry all the goodies we had collected, including the festival's own Newspaper. This was my first visit to Margate and it was nigh on a perfect day for a printmaker like me. I will be back.
Massive thanks to all in the Pushing Print team, you are doing great things. Wish I could be there for the rest of the programme of events!
Heathlands Primary School in Rainworth, Nottinghamshire, asked me if I could come in to work with them to make a big piece of art for their school hall. The intention was to involve every child in the school, with each one of them contributing towards making a big collaborative piece. I said yes.
How many kids? About 180. How many workshops? Seven classes. Any ideas? Yes, they would like their motto including, plus their logo, a butterfly. OK. Ideas time, lots of ideas, lots of planning, lots of ordering pipe-cleaners and modelling wire and heaven knows what else besides. Time also to look at the local countryside around the school.
In June it was time for workshops with the children. We had a fine time. F2s made butterflies and they were very free. Y1 made felt leaves to a design of their own and wired them to (locally sourced) birch twigs. Y2 did batik. Y2 were very good at batik, I was in awe of them. Y3 designed and made their own printing stamps and printed a meadow. I love printing, they loved printing, it was great. Y4 channelled their inner Andy Goldsworthy and made fabulous unfurling ferns. Y5 (despite being shattered after returning from their residential trip) followed wire modelling being modelled by me and made zingy butterflies. Y6 blinged up the letters for the motto, the sparkly stuff was used to fine effect.
Then in July, it was back to me to bring it all together so it could work as a banner. Backing fabric was ordered (thank you Curtain and Blind Design, Newark, wonderful advice and service with a dollop of humour), but then ah, sewing and me never did get along too well. In comes the cavalry in the shape of my inspirational mother-in-law and her all-terrain sewing machine. I learned a lot. I have a lot more to learn. I am incredibly grateful she took the time to help. I still owe her a sewing machine repair bill.
So, with backing fabric sewn, plus printed and batiked meadows sewn on, time for everything else to be attached. Some pieces were sewn, some glued, some sewn and glued (twice). The banner went up at the end of the summer term. It had a little more attention over the summer holidays (some of the pesky butterflies had ‘flown’). More glue, more sewing. Butterflies back in the meadow.
The banner up in the hall, thanks to the lovely caretaker
The final work is big and joyful and it feels right that every child in the school has a piece of their art on it. Bravo Heathlands artists aged 4-11, all 180 of you, you should be proud, you have made something amazing. And thanks Heathlands, for a great experience, where I learned at least as much as the children.
March started with the arrival of exchanged artworks from the Surface Gallery International Postcard Show 2013. I was lucky enough to receive three wonderful pieces from artists (left to right in the photo)
The exchange of artists' work in this way is a wonderful idea and it was great to hear from Alison Craig, an artist in Wales, who had received one of my postcards. It goes on...all over the world, artists are receiving a postcard sized original in exchange of their own, brilliant.
Meanwhile in the studio, the work on the prints about empathy continues and I find myself wondering if these are just prints or nearer to paintings now, as I am spending more time doing brushwork for the mono-printed elements for each pulled print. There is something very exciting about this.
There is always something very exciting about pulling a print though.
Metal, tools, ink, paper, pressure = alchemy.
The Harley Gallery is a wonderful place, and on a personal level it was particularly wonderful on Saturday, when I was awarded the Harley Prize for this piece.
The prize means a lot but what means more is that the judging panel said they found it a moving piece, and that really does mean a lot to me.
Personal stuff aside the whole show is a good one and I would urge you to go and have a look. Here are some more photos of the prize giving celebration. Massive congratulations to the other prize winners and everyone who made the show happen.
It's on until March 17 2013.
Tonight was the Private View for the Surface Gallery International Postcard Show 2013 in central Nottingham
What an enjoyable show! There is something brilliant about seeing the practice of lots of different artists all unified by a size constraint that we are familiar with and have positive connections with.
I have got three small (obviously) mezzotint prints in the show.
There is a flat rate for the sale price of each work (£15) so we came away with a splendid postcard sized original glasswork by Wayne Iredale, looking forward to hanging that at home.
This show also has an exchange element. Unsold works can be exchanged between participating artists and having looked around the huge variety on offer it really is a bit of a win win situation for those of us in the show.
Go see this show soon!