I’m in a book! My origami installation work has been featured in Paper Art II (find it here), a book showcasing international artwork, installations and designs created from paper.
I’m fairly pleased as the last book I was in was my dissertation (which I wasn’t technically in – I just had my name on the spine!).
Following last year’s project for Bentley Library where I worked with local groups to create a community library chair, I’ve been itching to have a go at making/upholstering another one. So, for a recent exhibition at Hot Bed Press, I decided to create some screenprinted textiles for a new piece of work in the shape of a Parker Knoll armchair.
‘Infestation’ is upholstered in silk, hand screenprinted with hundreds of beetles which appear to be crawling out of the chair. Each piece of material features an individual design created from my drawings of beetles. There are about 100 different species of beetle in the surface design from the Javan Fiddle Beetle (Mormolyce phyllodes) to, my favourite, the Long-Necked Shining Fungus Beetle (Datelium wallacei) – you can’t beat that for a name. The chair also has it’s very own beetle legs, brilliantly made by Arbarus.
The work is part of an ongoing series in which I’ll be exploring chairs and similar products, questioning their form and usability (does a chair have to be functional to be a chair?) and reimagining the original design and finish to manipulate reaction and perception.
To create this installation piece I firstly used Photoshop to generate full-size artwork from scans of my beetle drawings, which I then turned into screenprints. I created individual screens for both the fill colour and the key layer (the final line). I’d pre-cut and labelled the individual pieces of silk for the upholstery so I could control which part of the pattern was on each part of the chair. Once the fabric was printed, I set about upholstering!
I’ve been printing leaves for about six years now and during that time I’ve been developing my technique, exploring different methods and constantly trying to improve the results to achieve what I want. My process currently involves inking each leaf individually and then printing from them, which means only one-off prints are achievable.
During recent research for an artist residency application, I came upon a technique that seems to recreate what I do and is a recognised form of printing which I had never heard of! So…. Nature Printing “the name given to the techniques of taking prints from natural objects such as leaves, flowers, or feathers, without the interposition of an artist who, interpreting the form of the original, will often distort it”. So writes Roderick Cave in his brilliant book ‘Impressions of Nature‘ which I now own and has lots of notes and scribbles over already.
In reading this, and other information on nature printing, I came across a technique developed by Alois Auer at the Staatsdruckerei (the Austrian National Printing Office) and later, by Henry Bradbury. This technique was called electro-typing, which involves pressing the subject between a plate of steel and lead, then using the impression in the lead plate to create a copper plate in an electrolyte solution. This plate can then be inked as an intaglio plate and printed.
Henry Bradbury produced a book ‘The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland’ which contained over 100 plates printed using the electro-typing process. They’re absolutely beautiful – you can feel the impressions of the ferns in the page and (for all you letterpress enthusiasts), the type too. The process is something that I’d like to consider researching further but it is going to involve a lot of head-scratching and deciphering of scientific language – not my strong point!
The Bentley Library Chair was part of the Right Up Our Street (RUOS) Project, which is part of Arts Council, England’s Creative People and Places Fund. As part of the RUOS funding, every artist involved has to keep an artist’s diary, write progress reports and an evaluation report once the project is finished. I’ve just submitted my final report and wanted to share a few of the comments we got at the launch of the Bentley Chair at Bentley Library. They make me really proud to have been a part of this fantastic and successful project (I honestly didn’t bribe anyone for these comments!)…
“Never been so impressed in something in all of my life, and when you see your work among it… wow”
“It’s absolutely fantastic. Brings the community together – an absolute pleasure for all!”
“What a fabulous piece of community work. It got everyone talking and evoked a lot of memories. A thing to treasure, lots of memories for young and old.”
“I really think the chair is absolutely beautiful and I feel proud being part of it.”
“I think it’s amazing- I’m so pleased. My grandson’s drawing is on the front. It would look the business in my new kitchen!”
I was asked quite early on in the project what the point of the chair was (which I thought was a really good question) and at the time felt that creativity, teamwork, ownership, engagement, pride and self belief were some of the main reasons for doing the project. I think that these comments show that this was achieved – well done everyone for taking that leap of faith and believing we could make this brilliant piece of art – who said a canvas had to be square!
The Bentley Library Chair has finally been unveiled at Bentley Library in Doncaster. A busy afternoon launch saw over 70 people attend to check out their textile artwork that had been lovingly and carefully (trust me!) upholstered onto a Parker Knoll Wingback Sofa.
This project has been one of my all-time favourites since I’ve been a freelancer – lovely people that I’ve become friends with, a meaningful process and a successful outcome. I think one of the reasons it was so successful was that I spent a lot of time getting to know the groups I was working with, doing research, working out what they wanted to do and also learning from them. If I’d had my way, we would be looking at images of a mosaic chair right now but the groups were very definite in their wish to create something textile-based – so we went with a patchwork sofa that eventually was made up of over 100 people’s artwork.
The artwork includes fabric painting, block printing, applique, knitting, crochet, patchwork, quilting, embroidery, woodwork, photography, digital printing, encaustic art, free-motion embroidery and machine embroidery – there’s probably more…
Everything was then sewn together and I upholstered the finished work onto the sofa, having stripped it first – I had to remove over 1500 staples to get back to the wooden frame! Now finished, it is going to live at Bentley Library as a story chair – though I secretly want it in my living room. Bentley Library – you know where to look if it ever goes missing!
The project was part of the Right Up Our Street research programme in Doncaster, which has just received another three years funding – well done everyone!
Last month I was commissioned by Oldham Council to create 12 ‘flower’ installations for Oldham’s 2015 Flower Festival. Every year, to accompany their gold award winning RHS In Bloom entries, the Council organise a one day festival to celebrate all things floral and this year they wanted to add an extra element – a Flower Trail around Oldham City Centre.
I was asked to work with 12 shops and businesses to create flower-based installations for their windows using objects/materials that relate to each business and with each one featuring a golden flower. These installations form The Golden Flower Hunt and the public can enter a competition to find all 12 installations and enter a prize draw for recently opened ‘The Entertainer‘ shop in Spindles Town Square Shopping Centre. Clues and entry forms can be picked up from the Town Centre Office on something street in Oldham.
As the competition is still open I can’t reveal which businesses I worked with but here are the twelve installations. I collaborated with each business to come up with a concept and design and once everything had been agreed on, had about two days per artwork to get them completed and ready for final installation.
I also worked with a group of local crafters called Threads & Strands and staff and clients from Remploy to create one of the installations – a window-box of large mosaic flowers.
Here’s a selection of the flowers – both photographed in my studio and some in position in the windows – they were surprisingly hard to photograph once installed..!
On Saturday 23rd May it was Festival Oldham time again and I delivered a drop-in workshop making Oldham Wish Flags. This involved 28 metres of fabric (I don’t joke) that I had to cut into 6×14 inch rectangles using pinking shears. I even ironed them (and you know its a special occasion when I get the iron out!).
Oldham Arts Development asked me to make some example flags – I had great fun coming up with some wishes and then turning these into little bits of fabric artwork using paint pens, eva foam and some block printing.
We had a great day at the festival (we were part of of the ‘Rooted’ section) outside Gallery Oldham. Tori, a member of the Dovestone Youth Rangers, and her friend Poppy came along to help Richard and myself and they did a marvellous job of prepping all the flags and hanging them on rope once completed. We made over 100 flags in total to add to the ones I’d already completed. They are all going to be displayed in the foyer of Gallery Oldham so come down and have a look – there’s some great wishes. My personal favourites ‘I wish I was a fairy’ and ‘I wish I could teach basic IT to senior citizens of society’ – aaaahhhhh!
I’m currently working with three brilliant groups in Bentley, Doncaster on the Library Chair Project for the Arts Council England funded Right Up Our Street. The groups all have a vast wealth of knowledge and skills when it comes to art, craft and other creative stuff – we’ve got a sewing machinist trainer, artists, creative and play facilitators, fabric painters, dressmakers, knitters, crocheters and lots of crafters with years of experience!
We’re just getting started on actual creative sessions and have concentrated on fabric painting so far, painting onto wet fabric then adding detail with fabric pens and opaque fabric paint once dry. The patches are looking good and I’m getting excited about putting them all together.
Lots of the groups are also starting to come up with individual ideas for what to include on the chair – local and family poetry, some handmade wooden buttons, tie-dye sections, crocheted flowers, patchwork quilting, kids’ self portraits, local school badges and emblems, cross-stitch work and lots more – brilliant! We’ve even had a hand-knitted square promised from a lovely lady called Dawn who’s blind. I met her and her wonderful guide dog Zeke at Bentley Library last week.
Over the next few sessions we’re going to concentrate on some block printing and maybe some stencilling. I’m also doing a drop-in session at Spiltmilk Dance’s VE Day Celebration on 9th May – I’m hoping to get lots of tales and stories from everyone that attends.
It seems like I’ve been permanently sat at my drawing board for the last month trying to get lots of drawings done for some new screen prints. These are to add to the highly detailed urban series I started in 2014 but this time I’ve created more of the large-scale drawings rather than just the small pieces. They’re approximately 500mm wide with variable heights.
I’m really pleased with them but being bigger means that they take MUCH longer to draw – and the pressure is on not to get anything too wrong! Ho hum – I’m working my way through the Desert Island Discs back catalogue and have listened to Grayson Perry’s Reith Lectures again (which are just brilliant – I wish I was that eloquent!).
Here are some of the drawings finished and ready to be exposed onto screens ready for printing. I use the Staedtler Pigment Liner 0.05 and the Copic Multi Liner 0.03 for drawing. The Copic is the only one I have found in 0.03 and is brilliant as both nib and ink cartridge are easily replaceable (you get through a lot of nibs at this size). However, the Staedtler is my favourite – I haven’t found a better disposable pen in 0.05mm (I think I’ve tried them all!) and now buy boxes of 20 at a time.