Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Better Late Than Never

I can't believe it is now a week since my workshops and talk at Farfield Mill and two weeks since the preview of The Read Threads exhibition, time is certainly flying by!
'Tarry Woo' collaborative pillar installation

It was such a busy run up to the exhibition, getting everything prepared and hung, and I am amazed that we got everything completed on time.  However, by 12 noon on 24th September Karen was ready to deliver her talk and I had put the finishing touches to my pillar wrap installations.  
'Oil Pool' installation

'Clever Lass' pillar installation

Karen's talk about the History of Rag Rug Making in Britain was enlightening, and a little controversial (you can now find it published at  The opportunity to view some of her wonderful rug collection was also of great interest to her audience.

After a swift lunch in the wonderful cafe at Farfield Mill, it was time to greet and chat to our visitors at the exhibition preview. Farfield Mill had kindly organised refreshments and there was a lovely 'buzz' as people talked about the work and many left complimentary comments in our visitor book. The afternoon flew by and Karen and I ended it in the cafe again, exhausted but happy!


We are both extremely grateful to everyone who has supported us throughout the residency and run up to the exhibition, especially our families, everyone at Farfield Mill, the owners, managers and staff at the four business that we worked with in Sedbergh, and also Arts Council England whose funding made the whole project possible.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The final countdown to the show

Last Tuesday (20th September) saw Stella and I armed with paintbrushes and polyfiller ready to make good the walls of the Dover and 2K Galleries at Farfield Mill Arts & Heritage Centre. The lovely staff had already done most of the hole-filling from the previous show so it was a relatively quick job to fill the rest and run up and down ladders with the paint roller. We then assembled all the plinths kindly lent by the University of Cumbria and gave them a nice coat of white paint too. The following day saw us back and beginning the exciting process of actually hanging our work. The laser level was brought out just to confirm (yet again) that the walls of all galleries are never straight! We were glad that most of the work went up without the need to get the power drill out - drilling and plugging gallery walls is definitely not my favourite occupation.

Stella managed to have the most mountaineering to do with an ambitious plan to display her whitework pieces against a floor-to-ceiling painted red stripe. With the laser level abandoned we improvised a plumb bob with string and a bolt and voila, Stella was down to business at the top of the tallest set of step ladders in the world! Several metres of low tack masking tape later and she was ready to apply the first brush stroke. It took three coats but the result was fabulous and shows the work off to perfection.

In the meantime I had finished putting my work up on the walls or on plinths and had moved out into the Heritage Gallery to install my 'Oil Pool' prodded piece which forms the lower half of our joint installation called 'Tarry Woo' after a traditional knitting song. The piece had to be wired and stitched into place around one of the mill's characteristic silver pillars -not the easiest of jobs grovelling around on the floor in low light conditions. Luckily, I managed it without stabbing myself with the needle.

Our final day consisted of  displaying our workbooks and cork boards pinned up with work samples in the 2K Gallery and then sticking down all our labels and cleaning the glass cabinet for our smaller pieces and generally tidying up. Of course, as soon as I carried my tool box out to the car we found we needed a screwdriver - always happens! And finally, just a few quiet moments for us to look round and admire our work.

Did we forget anything? Yes, pointing the wretched spotlights into all the corners, must have been the scary stepladder put us off!


Saturday, 17 September 2011

Getting ready for The Read Threads exhibition

Stella and I have been hard at work over the past month, both madly making our pieces for the show but also preparing all our exhibition publicity and acompanying materials. We've signed off the mini-catalogue and postcard, photographed our work (well Adam, Stella's son has - cheers Adam!), written panels, press releases and hundreds of personal preview invitations plus emailed out a load more. Phew!

Our exhibition preview invitation - hundreds printed and emailed!

The most exciting part of this was bringing the two parts of our pillar installation together at the mill and finding that it works brilliantly as a single piece - now christened 'Tarry Woo' after one of the local knitting songs that inspired Stella.

Stella putting the finishing touches to 'Tarry Woo'

I'm pleased to say that my work is pretty much all finished now, so today I have been concentrating on attaching pieces to their backing and then screwing on mirror plates. It's so satisfying seeing the work stacked up all ready to go. I'm still pondering exactly how to display my large 'Oil Pool' textiles though so it's not all plain sailing, but I do like a problem to solve so long as I have the time to do it without panicking!

As a little experiment I have scanned some of the sketches I made during the residency back in May and have been digitally printing them onto linen and framing them up today as well. Hopefully they will be a nice complement to the main ragwork pieces I have made.

Sara and the rest of the staff at the mill have been wonderful and we really hope that we get a good turnout for the preview next weekend if only for their sakes. With exactly a week to go it won't be long before we all find out!


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Sedbergh Art Path open for business!

Stella's piece for Powells Fruit Shop

Detail of Karen's piece for Hollett's bookshop
Since finishing our residency at Farfield Mill at the end of May, Stella and I have been hard at work weaving, hooking, stitching and snipping. We've concentrated on the pieces inspired by our visits to the four business premises in Sedbergh who were kind enough to let us poke about and take photos and make sketches. This was in preparation for the 'Art Path' that we planned right from the start of the project. Our intention has been to show the work inspired by the Sedbergh businesses in its original context. Art on display in the workplace looks very different to art on the walls of a gallery! Yesterday was the big day when we delivered our pieces to the business owners. Luckily, everyone was delighted with the results and they are now all on show along with posters explaining how each piece came about. We have also written and printed a leaflet which shows where all the businesses are and also describes a lovely riverside walk from the town out to Farfield Mill where people can see a display about the work we did in the mill during May. Big thanks to the mill for allowing us to adapt their own walk leaflet for this. Let us know if you manage to walk our Art Path!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The last day in the studio at Farfield Mill

Sunday 29 May was our last day in the residency studio at Farfield Mill and it was incredibly busy with visits from the businesses in Sedbergh that we have been working with and a display of our work to be put up before we could tidy and clear away.

Our first task however was to spend time planning the next steps of the project which will culminate in our exhibition at Farfield in the autumn. We managed to come up with a rather scary amount of stuff that needs doing plus a whole set of deadlines and meetings for our diaries. My head was spinning by the end but I think it will help both of us keep the momentum of the project going once we have returned to our respective home studios. It's been great having the chance to work alongside Stella, discussing ideas, getting technical help and seeing my work through her eyes and I will miss the intensity of the residency.

Stella chats to some of our guests
We'd barely finished our meeting when the first of our invited visitors arrived. It was great being able to show them the samples we have come up with inspired by their work premises, showing them how even ordinary things can become interesting when looked at by an artist. I'm pleased to say that everyone seemed really delighted with what we'd been working on and are keen to host some of the finished pieces during August as part of our planned Art Path through Sedbergh and on to the mill. The delicious fairy cakes from the Weavers Cafe were quickly consumed and we left our various guests exploring the mill while we then got on with putting up our little display in the Level 4 exhibition area.

Stella and I had at first thought we'd just show examples of our MA work but in the end we felt we also needed to show photos of our residency samples and inspiration along with some explanation of the concept behind the project. After all, this will be the end point of the Art Path we are planning. Sara from the mill gave us a lovely little set of display panels and Stella and I were happy with the result although a bit of tweaking will be needed to get it looking a bit more corporate! Thus a long day came to an end along with a month of wonderful opportunities.

We are very grateful to Farfield Mill for allowing us to use the Bainside Studio free of charge and of course to the National Lottery through Arts Council England for the grant that has allowed us to expand the project to include the various businesses in Sedbergh.

Stella and I will continue to update this blog over the summer, posting photos of our work as we progress and discussing the concepts as they develop. We'll also post details of the Art Path as soon as we can. Until then...


Thursday, 2 June 2011

Crazy Patchwork and Quilted Silk

What a beautiful day it has been for a drive back up to Farfield Mill to put the finishing touches to The Read Threads display and to wind some bobbins so that I can continue to weave my 10 metre warp ready to create the pillar wrappings for Farfield Mill.

Another purpose of my visit to Sedbergh was to collect some paper, netting, hessian, and woven plastic sacks from Powells Fresh Produce, one of the wonderful businesses that I am working with in preparation for The Read Threads Sedbergh Art Path.  I am going to use them to create some crazy patchwork - a technique steeped in British 'make-do-and-mend' and a reminder of how even the smallest scraps of textile were once considered precious.

In contrast to this I have been using silk noil to create some oven gloves for the other business that I am working with, Howgills Cafe and Bakery.  I am quilting the silk noil fabric using kantha quilting technique to create the ripple effect evident in the weave of the fabric from which oven gloves are made.  I have just begun work on the final piece and have nearly finished quilting one mitten.

It is strange to be working back at home again, especially on such a lovely day when the studio at Farfield Mill will be filled with light.  Working at home does, however, allow me to pick up my work whenever I have a few moments as well as working during dedicated studio time, and, as I seem to have so much to do before the Art Path begins in August, I will need every moment I can find!


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Nearing the end of the residency

I only have two more days left in the residency studio now and those will be sent setting up a small display and talking to some of the business owners about the work I have been doing inspired by my visits to their premises, so today was really my last real making day in the mill. I spent it working up samples based on my visit to The Chair Workshop in Sedbergh. I'd loved the curved marks left by the Masai bells on the door but I have in the end been more inspired by the marks left in the worktop varnish as the workshop owners rotate the chairs they are mending. They reminded me of the marks skaters leave on ice or the way a child might scribble a big circle onto a sheet of paper with a wax crayon. I did lots of studies using a pale brown ink laid over wax lines. I'd loved the wax resist sketches I saw at Leeds Art Gallery by Henry Moore last month so it was a pleasure to play with the same technique. I also tried curving splashes of silver ink and liked both of the effects.

By a wonderful coincidence my chum at Skipton's Oxfam shop had reserved a couple of lovely pale brown wool blankets for me and these were my starting point for this week's samples. I used them to hook the background then first tried bleaching, then painting on some lines. Neither worked so today I used white glass seed beads and silver embroidery thread to lay out some delicate irregular curves. I'm still not quite there yet and might retry bleaching lines with some advice from Stella on how to thicken the bleach to make it stick where I want it. However, that will be for another day, and definitely back in my home studio not at Farfield. I am now looking forward to chatting with the business owners with a view to them displaying some of my work in their premises during the summer. Let's hope that they like them!