Posts tagged Working In Series
Looking back on 2016

Sun setting over Arran (June 2016) It is that time of year when we look back at what we have done and, possibly foolishly, make promises about what we will do in 2017. So today I am looking back at 2016 and tomorrow I will look forward.

2016 has been an amazing year for me as an artist. The big stuff: I had pieces selected for Breakout: Quilt Visions 2016, SAQA Wide Horizons V, Fine Art Quilt Masters, Quilt National 2017 and SAQA Layered Voices. My piece Ruins 5 won the Art category at Festival of Quilts and I made my first 'proper' sale just before Christmas when Ruins 4 sold whilst on show at Quilt Visions in San Diego. I had two exhibitions as part of the Etcetera group, have had older work touring with CQ 'Elements' and had a couple of pieces shown in Visions Art Museums on-line exhibitions. WOW, not sure if my head will squeeze through the studio door!

I have made a determined effort in 2016 to increase my presence on social media. Having resisted for many years I have embraced Facebook, and to a lesser extent Instagram, and made many new friends along the way. I think this has really helped drive traffic to this blog and my website. This piece will be my 63rd post in 2016, a nice increase compared to 52 posts in 2015. But the real growth has been in visitors and views. In 2015 I had 3069 views by 652 visitors. As of this morning I have had an amazing 9635 views and 2262 visits in 2016. 66% of views are from the UK and 21% from North America. Another WOW!

So have I been successful because the planets have been aligned or the gods have smiled down on me? No, it is a combination of hard work and luck. As of this morning I have spent 964 hours in my studio this year - that is an average of 18.5 hours per week. I put in extra hours during the 3 months that I was 'between jobs' and this compensated for the hours lost whilst I went through the shock of redundancy and whilst I focussed on my new day job. I didn't keep accurate records in 2015 but will continue to do so in 2017. I completed 18.87 square metres of work in 2016 compared to 9.57 square metres in 2015 but this is somewhat misleading as I started 2016 with 2 large Ruins pieces part made and a large stack of printed fabric ready for other pieces. Working in series definitely increases output.

2016 has been a pretty awful year for many, many people with loved ones lost and a frightening surge in voilence and hate around the world. There is much to be miserable about much to take comfort from. A hug, a memory of a beautiful sunset, a fragile pattern and wonderful colour on cloth ... Happy New Year everyone!

Responding to success

I wasn't expecting any form of 'textile art' activity this week as my day job had taken me travelling to the US for the week. It was obviously not practical to take my studio with me so, at most, I expected to keep up with friends work and activities via Facebook. However just before I left I heard that those artists selected for Quilt National 2017 would be announced to the world on the Monday and that I would be able to, at last, tell everyone that my piece Ruins 7 was one of those selected. At my first attempt. And with an abstract piece. Ruins 7 (detail) Selected for Quilt National 2017

I knew in September that I had been successful but had to keep it a secret. I did tell a couple of close friends but wasn't able to do a public happy dance. This actually left me feeling a bit flat this week - the euphoria of that original moment was long gone by the time of the official announcement.

And then on Thursday I heard that 'Happy today?' had been selected for SAQA's Layered Voices. Only 23 pieces were chosen from over 500 entrants. Which makes being selected really rather spectacular. I danced a very happy dance and announced it to the world via Facebook. Success like this is euphoric - it always gives me a burst of energy and makes me want to get into my studio and work even harder. (And yes it makes me unbearably smug for a few days). But this time I was thousands of miles away from my family and friends and from my studio. That energy had nowhere to go.

Which it turns out was almost bad thing, at least for me. Sat in a hotel room and then sat for 10 hours on a plane last night threatened to turn positive into negative. What if the great year I am having is a fluke? What if the new series I am starting work on just doesn't come together? What if the next piece I submit to something is rejected? And the one after that? What if I walk into my studio and don't know where to start?

Which is nonsense! OK success can be 9/10ths luck sometimes but I built my studio practice on one premise - just turn up and do the work. Not all attempts at a new series of work will progress. Not all submissions will be successful. Some days I will assess the previous weeks work and throw it in the bin. Some days I will start in the studio by emptying that bin and sweeping the floor. But I will be just where I am right now, in my studio and I will be working.

Habits - hard to develop, easy to lose

I realised last night that I hadn't blogged for about 10 days despite promising myself that I would blog at least once a week. I told myself that I had a good excuse - the day job has been a little distracting but I have still managed to get about 13 hours a week in the studio. So why haven't I blogged? Maybe because it is not a fully formed, hard to break habit yet? The answer, for me at least, is to keep going, just in the same way that I keep going into my studio to work even when I'm tired or distracted. I turn up and do the work! So what have I done in the last 10 days. Well the good weather lasted longer than expected so I have about 12 square metres of gorgeous fabric to cut into 'bricks' ready to build more Ruins pieces.

Breakdown printed fabrics ready to cut

And I worked on a miniature piece that, if I like it once finished, will be entered into the miniatures category at Festival of Quilts this summer. Stitching a piece that is only 30cm square is so much easier than working on my recent, mammoth, Ruins pieces!

Work in Progress

... while the sun shines

Breakdown printing with Rust thickened dye There's a saying 'make hay while the sun shines' which would be a silly way for me to fill my weekend. I don't live on a farm and I'm already suffering with hayfever. I prefer 'make breakdown screens while the sun shines'. The weather is glorious and I've taken full advantage this weekend to make and print off multiple breakdown screens. In between, as the screens dry out, I have sat on my new garden furniture drinking good coffee and contemplating life. Only in the UK could that furniture have been covered in snow 2 weeks ago!

Looking up through the cherry tree

The contemplating hasn't been particularly productive but the breakdown printing has. Lots of lovely new fabrics for my Ruins series.

Beakdown Printing

After batching and rinsing ... yummy!

It's all about Ruins

Another sneak preview of Ruins 5 I used the back wall of my studio to photograph Ruins 5 as it is the only space I have that allowed me to do so without using a wide-angled lens. I had to move music system, CDs etc out the way but this seems a small inconvenience compared to finding and possibly hiring somebody else's white walled studio / gallery space. This is about the widest piece I'll be able to photograph with my studio in it's current configuration. Would that stop me working on a larger piece in the future? No - I think I work best when I don't set constraints, when I let each piece be the size the piece wants to be.

I was planning on re-hanging Ruins 5 in our living room but have decided to leave it in the studio whilst I continue working on another large Ruins piece (on the sewing table) and whilst I consider different options for small Ruins pieces (on the design wall). There is something energising about surrounding myself with work from one series. It fills my head with new ideas but also helps me evaluate work in progress with a more critical eye. Another benefit of working in series rather than on isolated pieces!