Illuminate

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The long school holidays are over and my two children are settling back into school and the new old routine of getting up early to catch the school taxi which takes them to school. We have a great system in our area for the rurally situated children getting to school. The council supply a free (to parents) service of a ‘taxi’ who picks up all the children in the local vicinity and takes them to school, and brings them home. This service orperated when I was a little girl too, and it’s a great way to lessen how many cars are on these tiny roads.

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So September always feels like the start of the a new year for me, alongside my girls starting a new academic year at school. Those that caught my gloomy blog a few days ago, since deleted, will know that I’ve had a setback during the school break. In the summer my mentor/arts officer emailed to tell me she’s leaving her job, which rather knocked me sideways then upsidedown, and I’ve found myself back to square one. This was swiftly followed by a lino printing demonstration table at a local agricultural show which, though some children loved having a go at printing using my little press, didn’t feel like an overwhelming success. I’d worked hard to have some lino printed lampshades to display, with new designs, and though I got a few lovely compliments, I found it hard hearing very negative comments about my pricing and the disbelief that I actually sell my work (lots of eye rolling), even though they could see how much work goes into each and every lampshade. I realised it was the wrong setting for my kind of work but I still drove home in tears. This is the first time I’ve done anything like this, so hearing those not very subtle harsh comments hurt, and I’m definitely not leaping about wanting to do another one!

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But I am bouncing back, after these two upsets. I now have a nice collection of lampshades which I really enjoyed making, and despite those few folk at the show, I’ve had some great feedback online. It has renewed my wish to carry on with enthusiasm and a desire to succeed, even though it’s not the path I was heading on before the summer. The work I’d developed back then is still in the back of mind, but first I need to focus on how to move forward with the skills and knowledge that I do have, which is drawing, printmaking and enjoying the physical nature of making things. I’ve decided to continue developing lampshade designs, which in turn can also be used for framed wall prints and maybe matching cushions and other home decor items. Following advice on my favourite Facebook group ‘Linocut Friends’, where I asked for help and advice about where to go from here, I’m going to approach some outlets whom might stock my work…interior design outlets or designers, funky lighting shops, posh boutiques etc. The hefty commission these places take will be a stumbling block, but something I will have to accept and work with.

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I’ve a few ideas for some new designs to try. Hares for one! Having decided never to do hares due to them being everywhere on everything, all over the place, I’m going to embrace those elegant long~eared beauties in my own quirky style. I hope I will gain confidence the more I do, and get more and more adventurous exploring animal themes and colour. So far all my (lampshade) designs have been printed in a way that means each and every one will differ from the other. This uniqueness and lack of repetition is important to me and will continue, though it does mean each one takes much longer to print! I like the idea that people who purchase one of my pieces will know no~one else will have one exactly the same. The crossover between craft and art. My current range of lampshades can be found here on Etsy

Once again, please wish me luck!DSCF4697

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new work

I have always been interested in the relationships between humans and animals since my first college days aged 17 when I was given free-rein to make anything I likedĀ  (BTec Nat Dip in General Art and Design, if that course exists any more?). First I made a life-size twig pony from some bush prunings my tutor brought in…they were freshly cut so I put all four legs into buckets of water and it blossomed. I also made a metal springing lamb, plaster foal scratching its head with a hind hoof, a humanised wooden curlew and lastly I cut hundreds of random shapes from sheet metal, painstakingly pop-riveted them together to make a fish man…head of a fish, legs of a man. All these sculptures were at least life size, some bigger. (photos to follow if I can find them)

My two years on that course were amazing because out of everyone in my year group, I was the only one who decided to focus on sculpture, so I didn’t have to share facilities and I only had a vague tutor for a bit of guidance, but mostly they left me to my own devices as I was very focused. When I moved on to my degree course it was a very different experience and although I had a fantastic time, I fought against having to intellectualise my work. I just wanted to make sculptures, without the need to fabricate some tosh about why I’d made it. Some people love all the theory side to art but it wasn’t, and still isn’t for me. I REALLY enjoyed listening to Grayson Perry’s Reith Lectures in 2013, as he voiced all my thoughts about art that I’d never dared mention whilst at college. In retrospect I feel a fine art course was probably not the right direction for me to go in because I started to really struggle with ideas of what to make, like my wings had been clipped. I was made to feel that my desire to ‘only’ make animals or mythical beasts wasn’t good enough and that lack of confidence in my ideas has stayed with me.

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Odilon Redon

Mythology, folk tales and fairy tales have always excited me. When I was a child the shelves were full of lovely thick musty volumes of folk and fairy tales with the most exquisite illustrations by Bauer or Rackham to name a couple. One of my favourites was Swedish Folk Tales full of stories of grumpy (and some surprisingly kind) trolls living in dark forest caves or fighting over ownership of mountains, stealing children and goats. Having artist parents also meant that there were many art and reference books to delve into; to admire, inspire or dismiss. Artists and illustrators that have stayed with me since my childhood and teens are John Bauer, Franz Marc, Chagall, Giacometti, Botticceli, Maurice Sendak and Odilon Redon. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of metamorphosis, changelings and anthropomorphism, and recently I’ve been following two pages on Facebook that share weird and wonderful medieval religious drawings of the most extraordinary fantastical beasts! The transformations and connections between humans and animals are endless and have been studied by humans from all parts of the world and throughout history. The references go back to the earliest forms of art…art being the first language. It seems to be an inexhaustable theme that speaks to individuals on a personal, spiritual or religious level.

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Which brings me round to my own work again, as I’ve recently begun re-exploring my early love of all these things (happily, without a tutor breathing down my neck!). I experimented with a moth woman a few months ago, and now come back to the idea of making a range of fantastical beasts…starting with spider women. I have found my figurative sock art doll characters have stopped selling….for reasons unknown to me other than perhaps they have reached a natural end. Rather than continuing to make them and feel increasingly disheartened that they are no longer selling, I’m taking it as a sign that it’s time to move on to different work. At the moment I’m still using socks as moving on needs to be done in stages for me, otherwise I’ll get overwhelmed by fear (harking back to those latter college days). I’m still enjoying using socks and feel I’ve got a lot of exciting socky things to explore. Socktacular seems to be on a very organic journey of its own with its beginnings in traditional sock toys, moving onto my own unique sock art dolls and further still into weird and fantastical beasts referencing folk tales, medieval drawings and symbolism in art.

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I hope very much you’ll enjoy this new phase and continue to be a part of my Socktacular journey.

Thank you for reading.

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