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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Underpants Gnomes ~ part 2

Moving on 6 or 7 weeks from my panic at the idea of playing to discover who I am as an artist, and what makes me dance a little happy dance.

After my turmoil of angst laid out in my last blog, I decided to go right back to the beginning. Drawing. It might not be everybody’s beginning, but for me drawing is where it all began. I’ve been nervous about go back to that place in case I couldn’t draw any more; draw in the loose confident carefree way of my youth. Turns out it is still there after all these years and numerous life challenges that have been sent my way. So often I feel worn out and look back at the 20something me like she was a totally different person, barely recognisable, which I’m sure is very common.

Back to drawing. Once I’d decided that was how to begin my playing period, things kind of snowballed. The monoprinting that I’d tentatively started in my last blog was to continue, to tease that confident line out of me. No rubbers, no faffing, just get the lines down and don’t worry. I rushed out with my ready rolled ink and some paper and drew our two friendly hens…very obliging models whom were very curious about what on earth I was doing. Drawing from life; drawing creatures that keep moving is quite tricky but so much fun. You have to look with eyes that see only the important lines to describe form, and with that comes a certain kind of energy. I did a few fast monoprints of our hens (Babs and Bibi) and did a little happy dance; I could see those same lines from my youth staring back at me from the paper. After the weekend I rushed out with my rucksack full of ink, roller, pencils, pens and paper and found pigs and cows to draw too. All animals; I’ve found my theme.

I knew this work had to lead to something more so I spent some time in my little studio pondering what I could do with these drawings. Not being able to let go of my love of printmaking, I wondered if it was possible to transfer the lively energetic line of my quick life drawings to lino. I adore lino but I’ve noticed a huge difference between my intial drawings and the final piece, using careful and overworked lines and shapes. It seemed like a good challenge to explore but how? Babs and Bibi sauntered past my window. I took my piece of lino outside and drew directly onto it using a japanese brush pen (not sure why I picked that up, but glad I did!). Those quick flitting lines made to describe Babs grooming herself were then laboriously cut out (irony…nice contrast), inked up and put through my press and another little happy dance followed.

In and amongst these drawing episodes my love of sculpture was also ringing a little bell in my mind. I found some very affordable clay (with a view to revisiting casting but got a horrible shock at the cost of ‘ciment fondu’, my favoured casting material) but I’ve barely touched the clay as line, rather than form, has been most prominant in my play. I also found, after 20+ years of not knowing, that black sculpting wire is indeed available. I’ve always used horrible cheap galvanised stuff, twanging and smelling though self~supporting, when I could have used black annealed wire. Much nicer and aesthetically pleasing.

I made two wall pieces (out of the galvanised stuff) then, after making a lino print of half a pig, finished off the lines with wire. This sparked my lightbulb moment of how to combine my love of drawing, printmaking and sculpture. Do please watch this space. I’m so excited I can’t begin to describe how brilliant it feels to be at the start of a whole new way of working, more reminiscent of my fine art days. I think drawing will now feature heavily in my work however, and will always be a safe place to retreat to when I’m struggling with ideas, confidence or knowing how to get started.

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