Deconstruction-Reconstruction-Evolution - the movie!
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I meant to write this post a few weeks ago but, as per usual, I’ve been busy and didn’t get round to it…. but I’ll put that right now!

During my exhibition at Festival of Quilts I was asked if I was willing to do a ‘meet the artist’ interview for a YouTube channel. I immediately said yes as I was very flattered and publicity is always welcome. It was arranged for the next morning.

Ten minutes later I started getting stressed about being filmed …. what would I say? what would I wear? what if I had a particularly bad hair day? …… Whilst I thoroughly enjoy talking about my art I hate having my photo taken and the thought of being filmed was, frankly, terrifying.

Thankfully Catherine Hill from Arnold’s Attic was brilliant. She said the right things to calm me down and had clearly spent time preparing her questions. She had taken the time the previous day to really look at the exhibition, to read my artists statement and to read the labels for the each piece.

She did a great job of editing the interview and I am absolutely thrilled to have this record of my first solo exhibition. If you have a look please take the time to like and comment - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KmBLjnBlAs

It's a family affair!
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A big thank you to everybody who stopped by my stand at last weeks Creative Craft Show in Manchester. As well as giving a workshop once a day I was busy demonstrating breakdown printing on the stand. Always a bit of a challenge to work in a small space without easy access to a sink but the best thing about using dyes is that they don’t clog the screen when they dry out. I was quite pleased with the pieces I printed (above). And all from screens made using turquoise, rust brown and black dyes!

I also demonstrated stamping using textile inks and acrylic shapes. Easy technique and great for kids. And to prove the point my son, Joe, decided to have a go. OK so at 33 he is not exactly a kid any more but he really enjoyed himself printing a bag with stylised Batman and Joker logos. (And yes, I am aware of the copyright issue so my demo and the workshop I’ve developed using this technique did not use other peoples logos or images).

I really couldn’t do shows without Joe's help. So a very, very big thanks to him!


Back to business as usual ....
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After a much needed few weeks working at a gentle pace it is now time to get back to work properly! I have a busy week ahead of me. I have a private group in the studio at the beginning of the week and am hoping that the weather is reasonably kind as we are going to be breakdown printing. And at the end of the week I will be demonstrating and teaching at The Creative Craft Show at Event City, Manchester.

Compared to Festival of Quilts this is a small show and attracts a broader spectrum of craft enthusiasts. But it is local, a mere two miles from home, so counts as easy! No need to hire a van and I get to sleep in my own bed each night. I will be teaching a workshop called Colourful Cityscapes which uses acrylic shapes and textile inks to print fabric for a small wall hanging. This will be the last outing for this workshop. I developed it for this same show last September and have thoroughly enjoyed teaching it but, boy, is it hectic when there are 16 people in the class! I have learnt a lot since then so the new workshop I’ve developed to replace this will not involve so much running around on my part and will much better paced - so no more red faced teacher and no more frantic activity in the last 5 minutes!

I’ll also be demonstrating on my stand (B24) and will have son Joe with me to take over when I’m giving the workshop. I’ll be breakdown printing (of course!) and, if I get organised, will be doing some mark making and stamping with textile inks. And drinking too much coffee. And talking until I’m hoarse. And doing lots of arm waving as I get a bit excited. Back to business as usual!

If you are coming to the show please stop by and say hello!

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What's next ....... Quilt-Art-Quilt but beyond that?
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I had been warned that I might feel a little ‘flat’ after the roller coaster / adrenalin rush that was Festival of Quilts. If I was still living my old life and had had to return to the day job I think that would definitely have been the case. But luckily I’m not living that life. I’m living one in which I get to work in my studio every day - my idea of heaven! I’ve had lots of bits and bobs to do to prepare for upcoming workshops and events but have also spent lots of time thinking about ‘what next?’ for me as an artist.

Although I have been super busy making art in recent months the development work for those pieces was done some time ago. I developed my Ruins series in 2015. It was a breakthrough moment for me that came after months of work playing with colour and learning about breakdown printing. I started work on the paler pieces inspired by the destruction of the coal mining industry in 2017. Again the first quilt came after months of work learning how I could combine breakdown and discharge to create a very striped back palette. I’m pretty sure that I will make more pieces in both series that will be meaningful and, hopefully, worth exhibiting. But they won’t necessarily challenge me or help me develop as an artist.

The print series was developed last summer. But, if I am being honest with myself, it was rushed. The decision to start teaching and to write a book interrupted that process and I am not as happy with it as I could be. There are some pieces that I really like - Franklin Gothic Heavy (above) is the one I like most and I’m delighted to announce that it has been accepted into this years Quilt-Art-Quilt exhibition. But I think I need to take a step back and rethink. No idea what that will mean yet but I’m just going to play around with some of the fabrics and see what happens.

I also want to start work on a set of ideas, thoughts and emotions about politics, the media and censorship that have been rolling about in the dark recesses of my mind for some time. I have no idea how these ideas will be expressed on cloth but I do know how my ‘creative process’ tends to work so I’m going to set myself some ‘technical’ challenges to get started. Now that I have more time I want to learn more about dyeing and printing on fabrics other than cotton. I want to look at different dye systems. And I want to learn a lot more about the discharge process. The scientist in me will be very happy carrying out lots of experimentation over the coming months. And while my hands are busy my mind will, hopefully, make connections, ideas will find form and I will discover if they are interesting enough to sustain a series of new pieces.

Now that I have calmed down ...

It’s been nearly two weeks since Festival of Quilts and life is getting back to normal. I’ve taken the opportunity to have some time off, to have a bit of a sort out in the studio, but also to sit back and consider ‘what next?’

What is actually next is the Introduction to Surface Design group that has their last day in the studio tomorrow so I’ve been busy cleaning and preparing. It will be sad to say goodbye to them but we’ll be celebrating all that they have achieved with lots of cake!

Quite a lot of ‘what next?’ is on a list of ‘workshop prep’ to work through ready for my workshops and other events this autumn. I’ve been neglecting this a little over the last couple of month and it feels good to start ticking some boxes!

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In a couple of weeks time I will be demonstrating and giving workshops at the Creative Craft Show at Event City, Manchester. I’ve been working through the big pile of printed and dyed fabric that I have created whilst demonstrating in the studio and at shows over the last year and have started to make up packs to sell. Initially at the show but maybe online as well.

I’ve also taken the time to develop a new mini-workshop for the Creative Craft Show at the NEC at the end of October. Still needs fine tuning but will involve printing both sides of a tote bag using textile inks.

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Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be finishing my preparations for the Contemporary Quilt Summer School where I’m teaching a colour class. Preparation mostly involves figuring out how we can dye fabric and print fabric in a room without sinks! I do like a challenge. And I have things I want to do ahead of my first Creative Surface Design class which begins in September.

But beyond my ‘to-do’ list I’ve also been thinking about how I want the ‘business’ side of me to develop. This is the bit that includes the studio, teaching and writing. I’m striving to keep this from swamping the ‘artist’ side of me but, at the same time, it is the bit that pays the bills. This last year has been so hectic that I know that I need to slow down a little so my plans need to be longer term. And to maybe involve a series of smaller projects rather than the stupidly ambitious challenges I set myself recently. I’m thinking of developing a small online shop that sells some of the dyes, screens and fabrics that I already sell in my studio. But this needs a lot of thought before I jump into it as it probably involves a major revamp of my website. So watch this space.

I’ve also been thinking about ‘what next?’ for me as an artist … but I’ll talk about that next time!

I'm still floating on air ....
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Oh my, where do I start? Having my own gallery at last weeks Festival of Quilts was amazing, brilliant, fantastic, awesome, and the best fun ever! My face still aches from grinning so much!

I felt honoured to be given the gallery and humbled to be showing my art alongside that of Michael James, Eszter Bornemisza, Karina Thompson, India Flint and more. I was overwhelmed by the number of visitors and by just how many of them stopped to speak with me or to write a note in my visitors book. The series of works on coal mining got a lot of attention and I was moved by the stories of fathers and grandfathers working in the mines and the sense of sadness that still exists over the closing of mines and loss of communities.

There are so many people to thank. Festival of Quilts for giving me this wonderful opportunity. My family for putting up with me when I abandoned them to work silly hours in the studio. My sons Joe and Callum for hanging the pieces and staying cool when I fretted about getting everything perfectly aligned. An extra big thanks to Joe as he was with me throughout the show - he kept me supplied with coffee and did his best to make sure I didn’t do too much (which is not an easy task!). And thank you to the lovely ladies who provided cover during the show so that Joe and I could take proper breaks.

Thank you to my students and all of you who follow me on social media - your support and encouragement over this last year has spurred me on to achieve so much. Thanks to all those who visited the gallery, to those who brought books and postcards, to those who booked on workshops and to a very special lady who brought Mill Town 1.

But what next …. well I will post about that soon but for now I’m taking it easy. Although, because I am me, I will be in and out of the studio catching up on paperwork, tidying and cleaning, adding photos of the new pieces to my website …. and maybe doing a bit of stitching!

New workshops with Ruth Brown and Debbie Lyddon!
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I am very excited to announce that Ruth Brown and Debbie Lyddon will be teaching here at Urban Studio North!

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that Ruth Brown is a good friend who encouraged me to take that leap of faith to become a full time artist and teacher. She also happens to be a textile artist, book binder and experienced and respected teacher. You can find out more about Ruth on her website here. Ruth will be teaching a 4 day workshop at Urban Studio North called Books for Textile Artists in which she combines her two loves - textiles and books. The workshop with take place from 6th to 9th October 2020 and you can find full details here.

Debbie Lyddon is an artist and maker based on the Norfolk coast. Her work includes mixed media cloth, sculpture, installation and drawing. If you don’t already know her amazing work you can find out more on her website here. I am totally in awe of her work and her experimental approach to creating. Debbie is a sought after teacher … her 4 day workshop at Urban Studio North will take place from 23rd to 26th March 2021. Yes, 2021! The workshop is called Decorative Surfaces for 3D Textiles and in it you will explore the construction and decoration of 3D forms. You can find full details here.

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As well as adding these two fantastic workshops to my website I have added new dates for some of the courses that I teach. The Creative Surface Design course starting in September only has one place left so I have added new dates starting in February 2020. This workshop is spread over 5 weekends and is intended to support each student as they work from their own source or sources of inspiration and develop their own way of working - their own design process. You can find out more here.

I’ve also added an extra Breakdown Your Palette 5 day workshop on 20th to 24th July 2020 as the other workshops in 2020 are filling up. You can find out more here. In case you haven’t noticed I love breakdown printing!

You can always contact me via my website, or via Messenger if you have any questions!

14 days to go ....

Just 14 days until this years Festival of Quilts opens at the NEC, Birmingham and along with it my gallery Deconstruction-Reconstruction-Evolution. I’ve just started work on the final three pieces and am reasonably comfortable that I will be ready with a few days to spare. A few days to catch up on sleep and recharge my batteries! I need it. I have really pushed myself for the last few weeks - I have dug deep as the saying goes.

But isn’t it easy to find that extra level of energy when you are doing something you love? Tired but happy sums me up right now.

Of course there have had to be some sacrifices in the name of art. I can confirm that not cleaning the bathroom for 8 days does not lead to an outbreak of plague. That having toast and jam for breakfast and lunch each day saves time. Especially if you leave the bread, butter and jam next to the toaster. And use the same plate. That my family showed a deep level of empathy by not commenting on the fact that I wore the same top for four days. Actually they are all male so probably didn’t even notice. Which also makes not cleaning the bathroom easier to get away with ….

As well as making art I have been busy doing lots of other stuff in preparation for the exhibition. I have a delivery of more books arriving tomorrow, new flyers are also on route and the fabulous Moo Printing are busy printing postcards. And I have been very honoured to takeover the Festival of Quilts Instagram account for three days this week. If you ‘do’ instagram have a look at @thefestivalofquilts.

And now I need to get back to work ….

38 days to go
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38 days until my gallery at Festival of Quilts opens to the public. Loads of time even allowing for the 7 teaching days between now and then …. . Oh boy!

This morning I have been writing lists. I have the BIG STUFF list - top item is finish all the artwork (obviously) but also includes hiring a van and getting more books printed. I have the list of things that I need to take to Festival which ranges from flyers for Urban Studio North, to a drill, to packets of tissues (for when I come over all tired and emotional) and includes gaffer tape and cable ties because no well organised artist leaves home without them. And I have the scary list - my artwork tracking list. Which has a lot of blank spaces on it. I will be exhibiting 24 pieces of art. 15 of them are finished, 4 are finished but need stretching over canvas. 1 is at the quilting stage. And 4 pieces exist only in my head right now. Oh boy, its going to be tight!

So, I’ll sleep less, my house will not get cleaned, my family can feed themselves. And I apologise up front … I don’t think I will be blogging much in the next 38 days. Instead I will try to post images and quick updates on Instagram. If you’re visiting Festival of Quilts please stop by my gallery and say hello. I’ll be the artist asleep in the corner!

You can find me at https://www.instagram.com/leahhigginsartist/

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