A very few of my experiments are for sale on my website very cheaply if you're interested, as I hate to throw things away. However, selling is not what this blog is about - I'd have starved to death years ago if it was - it would make me happy if you just enjoy the processes.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The May edition of the magazine is out!

You'll be amazed at the new edition of Through Our Hands, the magazine.

The cover is the work of the amazing Jenni Dutton, whose Dementia Darnings moved me to tears.

You can read more here

If you would like a free preview of the contents and to read the Sue Stone article, click here

Thank you for supporting Through Our Hands. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Liberated Quilt some pictures.

 Laura and I were beyond thrilled at seeing the new Through Our Hands, The Liberated Quilt exhibition at Bilston opening yesterday.

We've both put in such a lot of hard work on this and it was pure joy to see such interesting and different work, from the 24 international artists, that we were quite blown away!  The work was incredible - such a high standard - with new and interesting ideas with each piece.

The opening was yesterday afternoon, and we had about 100 visitors who came to have tea, cake and chat.  You can see Michala Gyetvai and Alicia Merrett getting ready for the afternoon in the photos - they were doing demonstrations and talking about their work.

I don't want to give too much away here - but you won't be disappointed if you make the effort to get to Bilston, which is a fabulous gallery, large, white walled, with lots of natural daylight and space.

Here's another first for you!  Performance dyeing.  Laura and I climbed a stepladder to start the dyes running through Clare Smith's pojagi piece called Bitter Harvest.  Over the course of the exhbition, the dyes will run and merge making some fabulous effects. Look at closely, you can see some beautiful patterns happening around the stitching and patterning in the cloth.

The artists taking part are: Annabel Rainbow, Alicia Merrett, Sandra Meech, Linda Colsh, Bethan Ash, Els van Baarle, Olga Prins-Lukowski, Bente Vold Klausen, Bobbie Britnell, Deidre Adams, Sue Benner, Jette Clover, Eszter Bornemisza, Claire Smith, Dijanne Cevaal, Elizabeth Barton, Linda Barlow, Mirjam Pet-Jacobs, Michala Gyetvai, Jeanne Williamson, Sara Impey, Susan Lenz, Laura Kemshall, Linda Kemshall.  How's that for a line up!!

And just in case you thought you'd hang on for the Festival of Quilts, well, we have a whole new show coming there, so this is your one and only chance to see some of the best makers in the world strutting their stuff!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Life 17 - The Fragility of Self Worth

Coming home from the art gallery with the piece of work which didn't make it into the Open Competition (I submitted 2) got me thinking about how we value ourselves and how important it is to feel positive about yourself.

Typically for me, my personal reaction when I received the phone call telling me that I'd got into Leamington Open, wasn't "oh, how wonderful" but immediately, "what's wrong with the other piece!" Of course rationality and perspective stepped in and I smiled at my dafter self.

But, it's an important point.  How much of our success in life in whatever field relies on us feeling positive and good about ourselves? Melancholy is often given as a driving force for art, as is anger, sadness, grief, and jealousy, (among many) but underneath it all, I wonder if there's a layer of self worth cushioning the negative blows.

So, in the 10 minutes it took me to walk back from town, Life 17 was born.  The Fragility of Self Worth. I know exactly what I want it to look like and I just need a willing model!!  Don't you just love a "ping" moment?

What I also decided was that my painting is boring, and would be much better if I took more risks.  Mitochondrial Roots marked the beginnings of this shift, and I now want to push on even further if I can.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Open Competitions

You know me, always one for banging on about the possibilities for quilts and the fact that quilt shows, whilst fun and enjoyable, can actually hold the progress of quilts back. Well, I'm off on one again.
I wondered if you may have considered the alternatives that are open to us all?  It's easy to think that quilts and the quilt world are the only places to show your work which is of course, not true.  They are delightful and a reasonably easy way to exhibit, but definitely not the be-all and end-all of opportunity!

As we all know, from an arts perspective, quilt shows are bound by rules and regulations for marking and judging that have nothing to do with fine art. Mostly the judges come from within the quilt world and are taught all the values surrounding technique that we're familiar with.  They cannot help but judge others by those same values. Quilt judging hides under the mask of needing some kind of measure to pit one submission against another, and have tick sheets for often banal criteria.  But are they important values in the wider world?  Of course not. Many of the judges are well informed, and really try to do a good job, but the standards they judge by are partly at fault because the thinking behind them is limited and archaic when applied to an art competition. No doubt they work well for many categories in a quilt show, but not for all!

 It seems the criteria the judges use grow in number to cope with the idea of objectifying the judging process and taking out the element of what an individual judge might favour for whatever reason.  This might work for a sponge cake, but has the opposite effect when talking about emotional responses to work. Emotional response is really important in any form of art, and adds strength and thought to a piece but is sometimes unquantifiable by it's nature. 

But, back to the quantifiable. Look at the back of Mitochondrial Roots: I always try technically to do my best because of personal pride and the challenges involved, but looking beyond that, is this technical ability important? I also  haven't chosen a nice pretty piece of fabric for the back. I decided quite purposefully that the backing cloth wasn't important, and the fact that the paint seeped through wasn't important either.  I genuinely believe this. But, would a quilt show accept it?   Probably not, which makes the two irreconcilable.

Different art submitted to a quilt show will never be recognized and appreciated properly without fundamental changes to the way things are organized and handled.  A prize of £5,000 for the Fine Art Quilt Masters for example, is astonishingly wonderful, but so far has been incredibly limiting in it's view of what art is, and we are ending up with a homogenized and continually enforced narrow way of looking at things, because the same principals and views are maintained by the same people.  A lot of looking outside the box is needed before progress can be made - but perhaps that's the problem, not enough people want change in the end. It's comfortable the way things are. Let's face it you probably need to be quite brave to decide a winner that doesn't conform to the established norm. The solution to that I feel is to remove all quilting and sewing experts from the judging process and use known people from the lists of curators, our arts school teachers and academics. There are plenty of them willing to judge.

So, what's left? How about looking outside the quilt world now and then, and trying an Open Competition? If you've never done it, you'll probably find your local Council art gallery and museum hold one every couple of years. Here's what my local gallery has to say which explains what they're looking for and who qualifies: 

Open exhibitions have been held at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum since the 1930s, and have always been incredibly popular with both audiences and entrants. The upcoming OPEN 2015 is likely to be no exception. Submissions are welcome from those working or studying in the West Midlands region which includes, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and the Metropolitan Districts of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

The OPEN is held on a biennial basis and is open to all professional artists based in the West Midlands. This year’s exhibition will take place from Friday 15 May to Sunday 12 July 2015 and will showcase the work of local artists. 

Entries are welcome from a wide range of media including painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, photography, digital media and craft. Works will be selected for the exhibition by a panel of judges. The judges are Wendy Law, Director for Turning Point West Midlands, Fiona Venables, Deputy Curator for the Mead Gallery and Peter McCarthy, artist and critic. There will be one overall prize winner who will receive the OPEN 2015 award of £1,000. Visitors to the exhibition will also be given the chance to vote for their favourite artwork. The work of art which receives the highest public votes will be presented with the People’s Choice Award of £500. All exhibited works will be for sale.

 Life 15 - Mitochondrial Roots, part of Leamington Open from 15th May to 12th July 2015.

No explanations about choice are given and no sheets purporting to offer a critique are given (btw what on earth is that one about?  Since when has the job of judging a piece of work been an excuse for a bit of off-the-cuff teaching? Quite often the comments are so awful and unconnected with the piece submitted that they cause offence.)

Ultimately you may not agree with the Open Competition judges choices either, just as in a quilt show, but at least you feel assured they've been judged by a group of people from the arts world, with a wide knowledge and experience of all disciplines and by their nature, able by training, to look beyond the confines of established thought, and the bravery to stand by their judgements.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

How to prepare for an exhibition - Part One, The Very Beginning.

 (left) Putting together some bits and pieces to make a studio set up for an exhibition starting on 16th May to 25th July,  at Bilston, Wolverhampton.

First of all take a long run up at it, and secure your supply lines for Valium and/or wine.

Well, ok, humour aside, there is a lot involved, and I thought I'd expand a previous posting into a bit more of a Rainbow guide in getting started.

You have to know why you want to exhibit and if you're doing it as part of a group, that you're all on board and involved.  You might all decide to work to a theme, or do your own thing, but either way you need some kind of cohesion and commitment, eg you don't want to agree to make new work for the exhibition, and then find that someone drops out because they have left it all to the last minute and have nothing to show. You need to plan carefully and sort out whatever it is you want to do, before you apply for places.

It can be a long process of course, so everyone needs to be prepared to keep going over a long period, and stay together.  Typically, publicly funded galleries have a long lead in time, and often plan exhibitions 2/3 years in advance.

Having established that you're either going solo, or you're doing it as part of a group, and what your planning to exhibit by way of a theme or style, then you need to look for a suitable venue. 

You need to be clear when writing to people in galleries that you know what your doing and what you're offering.   A good way to do this is to make an exhibition pack with a Proposal, that contains all your contact details, what you're planning on showing (ie number of quilts/paintings) and how much linear wall space that will use up. Include lots of lovely photos.  Will anything need plinths or special arrangements? Can you provide the battening, and hanging if necessary?  Will the work be for sale? Will it be part of a tour and will postage be payable or are you delivering? If international artists are involved, have you sorted out customs? Are there any charges for your services or for the work itself? Will there be items for sale in the shops? It's easier, if it's a Council for example, for one of you to be a creditor on the Council's systems, and all payments would go through that one person. Are you registered for VAT or do you need to be?

Try to think of it from their point of view - why would they want to choose you from the hundreds of applicants they undoubtedly have?

There are many ways you can help persuade a gallery that you are serious.  You could offer to help sort out the funding - many publicly funded galleries rely on Arts Council grants - and have to apply for money to support your exhibition.  You could arrange postage to and from, offer workshops, childrens activities, studio mock ups, catalogue production, opening events, advertising, and willingness to attend meetings to discuss, no matter where they are. Most importantly you have to have an exhibition that is of a high standard and is of interest to, and fits in with, the gallery's other plans.

Do not be disheartened if you don't get a response to your enquiry. Many galleries get so many offers that they don't reply.  Keep trying though. You will find somewhere.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

So, I'm off to buy a dress.

I thought that I'd tell you about my sojourn into the land of dresses. 

I haven't worn a dress for nearly 20 years, but for some reason had a desire to clad myself in sophisticated attire, so whilst my DD was staying for the weekend, we both went to do a spot of shopping.

I had seen a beige linen dress with t-shirt type sleeves - nice and loose and baggy and suitable for how I see myself; as the older larger lady, and I went into the changing rooms to try it on. Mmm, I wasn't sure about it so decided to ask DD.

She looked at me in the dress for a bit, and I could tell she was struggling to find a way of forming her thoughts into kind and supportive words.  "Be honest" I said. 

"It's a tiny bit ......  um....medieval" came the reply. I looked at myself in the mirror again, and she was right!  I really should have had the words "flour" stenciled along the length of me.  She then said, (having started, why stop?) if you want me to be really honest, you look like you're about to sell turnips to Boldrick.

At which point we collapsed into giggles. Ah me.

In the end I settled on a nice little number in pink spotty linen which rather gives the effect of Grayson Perry on a bad day. THAT'S why I haven't worn a dress for 20 years!