A few weeks ago I washed the backing out of my latest piece of work. Usually, this stage provokes the highest levels of anxiety in my working process, but on this occasion, worse was to come.
The free machine embroidered drawing of ‘A Couple on the Tube’ was started on 31st May 2015. It wasn’t started with the plan to create a large photorealistic drawing that would be hung and exhibited but just as a challenge. Whilst studying for my art degree, I had had some disastrous attempts at painting people and was advised to avoid drawing them. However, I wondered if the same issues would occur if I used stitch? I started tentatively with the eyes, moved on to the faces and felt that I might have something credible and that I should continue. Difficulties remained throughout: the carrier bag, her hand, his gloves and corduroy trousers. Eventually, I finished the drawing and removed the soluble backing fabric as greater issues materialised due to legal reasons.
The data protection laws had just changed, I didn’t have consent from the couple to use their image and the London Tube Roundel was protected by copyright laws. I had only weeks to try and sort everything out before the drawing was due to be framed and exhibited.
Feeling incredibly anxious about the situation, the chair of the Society of Designer Craftsmen, offered lots of advice and contact numbers. The Information Commissioner’s Office was my first contact because I needed to check the new law and if they said no, then that was going to be the end of the story and the drawing would be kept as a record of achievement and go into a portfolio ready for any postgraduate applications. However, after 50 minutes held in a queue, the answer was yes. I was not breaking data protection laws because I wasn’t giving away any of their details. I then received amazing help from the Crafts Council regarding the use of a photograph taken in public for artistic purposes. Again the answer was yes, I could use the image. My last challenge was Transport for London and the roundel. This is still ongoing but they have given me permission to exhibit as long I as I do not sell the work and as this is not planned for a few years, I will consider this issue when it is necessary.
‘A Couple on the Tube’ will be on show at Chelsea College of Art with the Society of Designer Craftsmen, from 12th to 21st July.