Last year, after much consideration I finally decided to go ahead with a small extension and knock through to enable a new living area and studio space. Knowing that this would be a very busy and frantic period of time I decided to stop stitching for a year so that I could fully concentrate on the new home.
After three months of builders, electricians, carpenters, underfloor heating engineers, and kitchen resprayer, I was finally left with a large blank canvas to ready decorate and furnish.
The kitchen was 19 years old. During the build, it was chopped about and moved around to fit the new layout and provide a large island. The granite worktops were rearranged and a large piece of oak was purchased for the new kitchen island. It was then resprayed, and the cupboard door handles were replaced making it look new.
The work is still in progress because several rooms upstairs also need decorating and the garden was destroyed by the building work. However, it has been a very satisfying project and the break from my art has been manageable. I am excited and plan to get back to stitching by October 2019 in a space that will be bright, spacious and calm. I also plan to use the space for small workshops where people can come and learn how to draw with thread in a relaxed environment.
It’s long overdue, but here is the finished image of my free machine embroidered drawing ‘A Couple on the Tube’. Safely back from Chelsea College of Art, it is now hanging on my wall in the workroom. The image was taken by Gould Photography.
The drawing was very exciting to make, but also extremely challenging. I started it because I needed to know if I could draw people with thread. At uni, I had tried to paint and draw people but had failed abysmally. However, I have a fascination with the human form, especially faces and couldn’t get the image of this couple out of my head. The project started tentatively as I gathered books on portraiture and visited exhibitions on drawing. I wasn’t a trained painter, but I knew that I had to find a way to use the embroidery threads in a painterly way that would allow me to create the complex tones of flesh, textured fabrics, leather, manmade steel and rubber, transparent plastic bags and reflections in glass. Whilst this was all very frightening, I am sure that this naivety helped me to push the challenge forward to completion.
I am not sure what the next embroidered drawing will be, but I do have another photograph that is fixing itself in my head. However, it is a sensitive and emotive one that may just need a little more time to consider before I can start the process of enlarging and transferring onto dissolvable fabric.
For now, there is a lot to do with the drawing of ‘A Couple on the Tube’. From 30th November 2018, I will be exhibiting with a fabulous group of artists in a show called ‘Extremely Textiles’. This will run throughout December at the Black Swan Arts Centre, Frome, showcasing our diverse approach to textile art. I also need to try to solve the issue of the ‘Roundel’ so that I can consider the option of producing a limited number of giclée prints. I will look for further opportunities to exhibit the work, but for now, I am happy to stop, think and consider what might come next.
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.
After over 2 years of stitching, I am now making final preparations to get my drawing ‘A Couple on the Tube’ to Chelsea College of Art, London. On 12th July the Society of Designer Craftsmen’s exhibition ‘The Hand of the Maker’ opens and runs for 9 days to celebrate 130 years of the society.
The Society has a large membership made up of selected makers and designers from a wide range of craft disciplines including ceramics, textiles, wood, glass and metal. It is the largest multi-craft society in the country and has a vibrant creative space in London’s Shoreditch.
This week my large free machine embroidered drawing will be collected by courier and transported to London ready for the hang. Before that, I will hand my work over to some very skilled professionals. David Gould will photograph the drawing before I attach it to a sheet of perspex and then Edge 2 Edge in Staple Hill, Bristol, will frame it. This is a very difficult job because the frame will contain museum grade glass and both this material and the perspex collect any fibre of fluff that happens to be in close proximity.
I am really excited about the exhibition because there will be two firsts. It is my first time to exhibit with the Society and the first time that ‘A Couple on the Tube’ will be exhibited. I do hope you will get time to visit.
Last year I decided I would have a go at entering the world’s longest running open submission, the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. 19,800 entries were accepted, but only about 600 hundred would make it on to the hallowed walls in the final hang. My drawing made it, and not only was it selected by Grayson Perry for his stunning yellow gallery, it was exhibited at eye level.
The summer exhibition has been one of the most surreal moments in my life and I have enjoyed every minute from the celebratory varnishing day through to enjoying a cup of tea in the Academician’s room. The private view was a very special treat. I visited with my mother-in-law, who has continuously supported and encouraged my work throughout. Together we enjoyed meeting other artists and sharing a delicious lunch with a glass of champagne to celebrate.
I then visited with my sons. In 2009 their dad Carl had died and soon afterwards I started my Creative Arts Degree at Bath Spa University. The course had been really hard work because the boys were very young and life was very difficult. Often I had felt like giving up because art had seemed like an extravagance.
On 19th June we came to the Summer Exhibition and went straight into the yellow room – their joy and sense of pride in what we had achieved as a family was priceless. We spent the whole day at the exhibition, quite an exceptional treat.
Whilst I live in Bristol, I do have lots more visits planned with friends and probably one more with the boys. I feel so privileged – after all the help and support my friends and family have provided over the years since Carl died, we are now all sharing a very exciting and happy occasion. Thank you very much to the Summer Exhibition committee for selecting my free machine embroidered ‘Bristol 2 Litre Engine’ in the 250th year.
Last summer I visited the 249th Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, the world’s largest open-submission that showcases work from both established and emerging artists. Whilst thoroughly enjoying the large collection of contemporary art in many different mediums, I decided that I would have a go the following year and put the date on my calendar.
The applications opened in January, but I then had to reconsider my plan to enter. 2018 would be the 250th anniversary of the show and in celebration of this, the brief was ‘Art Made Now’ and artists were encouraged to enter work made in 2017/2018. ‘The Bristol 2 Litre Engine’, my chosen piece of work to submit, had been made in 2014. I decided that it was worth a chance and completed the application, but I then stayed quiet and didn’t tell anyone about the submission.
On 15th March, the very much anticipated update to my submission status appeared – I had been shortlisted. I was requested to take the work to the Royal Academy of Art on 10th May for the second round of judging.
After recovering from the shock and excitement of being shortlisted, I thought it would be good to share the news. I won’t know the final decision until 26th May, but until then, I am going to enjoy this news and look forward to delivering ‘The Bristol 2 Litre Engine’ to the RA. It will be viewed and judged by the royal academicians, with Grayson Perry as the coordinator of the show.
My drawing of an elderly couple who sat opposite me on a London commute is continuing to push my art form to levels that I could never have imagined.
Nine years ago, my late husband and I were discussing the merits of studying art to degree level. Carl said that he could accept the cost and disruption to our family life if we could be sure that it would lead somewhere. I wasn’t sure if that would happen but persuaded him because I just wanted to do it.
I had never embroidered before I started my degree at Bath Spa and only used my sewing machine to make clothes. Now I sit at my machine wondering how all this happened. I am both excited and continually challenged because the drawing has been formidable. It has pushed the boundaries of stitch and my understanding of the art.
Every new part of the drawing has brought different challenges that I hadn’t quite expected. The difficulties creating colours from thread to match skin tones, making the carrier bag look translucent, capturing the reflections in the window and the aged hand gripping the bags tight. But now it is nearing completion with only a quarter of the drawing left to stitch before I pin it to loft boards and wash out the supporting, dissolvable fabric.
The completed drawing will be on show at Chelsea College of Art, 12th to 21st July 2018 as part of the Society of Designer Craftsmen show, ‘The Hand of the Maker’.