Sunday, 13 January 2013

Working on Brick Lane

Dear Diane,

This is a bonus post from me because I wanted to tell you about my evening in the studio last night and I thought our friends might like to read and see the photos too. All the good stuff is in here.. Would you like to see inside?


OK, you can but first some background....

You will recall that I am in a newly formed group here and we are starting out by making quilts or embroideries to the theme of 'Transitions' with a view to entering them all together into a public show. To make our group work cohesive we are working around a grid of sixteen inch squares ( for the quilt, no particular measurement for the embroidery) of three rows of four columns. I decided my interpretation of Transitions was going to be about immigration and I began by looking at the area of Brick Lane in London which has seen several waves of immigraton over the years : Hugenot, Jewish, Irish, Bengali and now recently, Somali.

The thinking work started in September when I went to take some of the photos you see here, and the first thing I wanted to say is that it is interesting how my initial ideas have refined themselves. Initially I wanted my quilt to reference all those groups and to show the way the area changed. Increasingly as I have 'worked on it' ( in inverted commas because until yesterday there was no fabric and the work was mostly talk! ) it has become narrower and narrower until now I am focusing only on the Bengali community. And there is enough there for a series before I return to the other communities.

I wrote over at Plan • Create • Succeed about my new system of Focus words. I think my Focus word for the studio at the moment should be FOCUS!!

Anyway, I took some of the photos and played on Photoshop and also got Dennis to do some writing for me, because I hated my own writing when I tried to do a screen even though I like it when I write directly in my african quilts. Go figure! Then I ordered a stack of thermofaxes. Then yesterday it was time to play and learn how to use them. I mean, I knew how to get the paint through them, but what I have no experience of is how to intergrate them into the kind of multi layered design that was in my minds eye.

I allowed myself to just 'waste' some fabric ( I kept notes, I can replicate the handdyed stuff!) and then put the results in a design book. This in itself is a breakthrough. I don't DO samples.. But for this, it seems I do. Stuff actually improved a lot when I trimmed it down and arranged it nicely!

Here are some pages for you to see what I was dong until one am this morning.

I thought that things started to improve when I dragged out some monoprints and rubbed fabric I had made with no purpose in a class ( or in the case of the rubbed fabric, when the builders revealed amazing plaster texture on the wall when they ripped out my kitchen!).

Black is too harsh on these samples but I like the sense of transition from night to day. The view is down the famous Petticoat Lane looking from the Brick Lane end.

This next one I particularly like for its sense of Islamic mystery. The silver screen over the monoprint is the pattern from the metal minaret in Brick Lane Mosque. Who is she? Where is she going?

These were unsuccessful prints but when I cut them out and in the case of the right hand side one masked off the skirt and added words, I really liked them,.

They gave me the idea to go in this direction.

But by then it was way past bedtime and I had to stop.I feel like there is a lot of work to be done yet and I know that the piece whch has to be done by April will probably not be the best one in this series ( for surely, it is a new series?!) but I am really excited about wher this is going and all I have to learn about it.

The frustrating thing is that this work would be so much easier if I had the wet studio ready. Work started this week and I have just done a post here on my own blog showing the conditions these samples were made in and explaining the little accident I had in the early hours...

And next time I really will tell you all about the Tate visit!



Thursday, 10 January 2013

That De-Cluttered New Year Feeling.

Happy New Year!

I too love the new start, clean slate feeling and it was interesting to me in the days running up to New Year to notice just how your physical surroundings can affect that feeling.

Work on my new wet studio starts this week ( in fact as I am scheduling this so we are back on a Friday posting schedule after the holidays, so it should be two days into progress by now.) In preparation for that we had had to clear the garage out as the plan is to convert that into an area for laundry and surface design. (No, NOT at the same time!).

This was how it was just before the final sort out. Much was rubbish but much was also equipment for dying or old financial records that I was obliged to keep for a number of years and which had been languishing in here since the house move. So all those things went up to my studio where they sat in huge piles cluttering up my reading nook. They were not in the way of the work area of my studio at all but I noticed that their looming presence was discouraging me from going to the studio and was hindering my creative thinking. I felt my whole head was overcrowded and cluttered.

I didn't take a photo of that period but eventually I spent a couple of hours sorting and shifting and now it is all crammed into my studio bathroom cupboard. Still, as you can see less than idea,. But behind the wall of stuff everything is categorised into ordered boxes ready for transporting to the completed studio.

And it did make a huge difference. I was back in the spacious studio and I felt free to get back to work. And almost immediately I shifted all the furniture around and erected a greenhouse in my studio. I know. Bizarre. But I am excited to have the opportunity to display a piece of work in an open air event in Belgium and I thought that extending my recent works involving African Shacks to, um, an actual shack would be fun.

This is it showing the beginning of the inside lining only at the moment. The plan is to hang art on the inside as well once the actual structure is made. So, sister, I fully hear what you said about using your space differently and effectively. So very important.

As for New Year Goals, I was quite surprised when I reviewed my year. The SAQA Visioning Project year runs October to September and in October 2011 I set myself some goals. At that stage I had just moved into the new studio and what I was really aiming at was establishing a good serious studio habit and, basically, justifying the cost of said studio! I said that in a twelve month period I wanted to make 9 large works and 15 small and the response was generally along the lines of: seriously? When?!

In the middle of that visioning year I had a disaster with a quilt I had put a lot of time into and I decided that the overarching aim of a studio practice had been established and that the specific goals were no longer achievable or even needed. So I just reverted to maintaining time in the studio. Indeed in October this year when the new Visioning Year started I revised my goals away from production targets to what I termed being a 70:30 artist. I.e. if my studio and full time day job time were totalled up, art ( including writing) would be 30% or 51 hours a month

When I reviewed my year on 1st Jan, I was not surprised to see I had beaten my time target but I was pleased to see I accidentally almost met the abandoned goal in that I made

6 completed large works with one still in progress and half done and one abandoned very near completion (Large was defined as one side over 25 inches but most of these were much much bigger than that)

14 small works with one ( the 20/12 disasterous Sweet quilt) half done.

Of course my initial reaction was ; darn! What I could have done if I had really tried!! You are so right when you said of us that ' we feel the things we haven't done more keenly than we feel the awareness of what we've accomplished'.

So, it seemed to me that my system was working and that no major overhauls were needed but at the same time I wanted to consider a plan for 2013. In the end I have come up with a Trimester Plan that I think is quite kind to myself:

Trimester One ( January to end of March)

I will complete the following projects:

1. Complete my African Shack for Belgium

2. A quilt based on Brick Lane with the theme of Transitions for my local Etcetera group challenge ( to be entered at the Uttoxeter show) this must be based on a grid of 3 x 4 sixteen inch squares .

3. Complete another quilt for Uttoxeter which I do not wish to show until nearer the time ( because it is a surprise for someone who will see it there for the first time but which is almost done and is HUGE!!

4. Finish my 20/12 Sweet quilt ( which should have been done in 2012 but I had a melt down)

5. Complete an embroidery for the Uttoxeter show again following the Etcetera Group Challenge requirements for basing the work on Transitions and a 3 x 4 grid of squares.

6. Oversee the work on the wet studio and equip the room fully ready for surface design work.

7. Participate in the quilting community, specifically the Etcetera Group and SQAQ online groups

I would also like to complete a quilt for the SAQA Text Message challenge but I have placed this as an added extra on the list due to the size of the other projects.

At Easter I have a two week holiday then commence...

Trimester Two ( Mid April to Mid -September)

Play in the wet studio. And if I like take the results and play with them in the dry studio

That's it. Isn't that a great goal? No chance I can fail on that one J

I tend to think ahead of myself. I have all kinds of ideas all of which require me to be proficient at things I have not really had much ( or any) experience of yet due to the constraints of my space. So this is my time. I do have a list of methods to try and, because I loathe noodling around with no purpose at all, I will be vaguely making samples with a nod to my current themes of shacks, immigration, text and maps. But I shall allow play and experimentation and mess in the name of finding skills and confidence.

I am so looking forward to having a space where things can be ready to go and if I want to spend 15 mins printing I can because everything is mixed up and to hand. Not like now where wet work requires a sort of room conversion.

Oh and I lied. That's not it. I also have another goal to build up a scrapbook of inspirational images to keep in the studio. I also anticipate that I will want to sew so this is my time to make some easy, fun lap quilts with all the fabric I bought on my Round the World Trip. I actually anctipate getting a little ( OK, a lot) annoyed with myself and my lack of immediate skills as I start something new so some improvisational piecing will be good therapy.

Trimester Three (Mid September onwards)

I will be attending a class at Committed to Cloth called...... with Clare Benn. I have been wanting to do this for ages and I am determined that I am going to be ready for it so I can go with purpose and learn and work intention to make the most of my five days. So the Trimester two builds up to that. Immediately after that class I intend to review what I have learned and, taking into account what calls for entry are around for my various groups, and what excites me to work with then, I am going to go back to setting some serious productivity goals.

Do you know what I mean if I say that this feels like a 'spacious' year? I feel like I have room ( literally and figuratively) to grow into my self this year, without too much pressure, and I am excited about that. I think maybe a rotating pattern of hard production months interspersed with a more deliberate fallow and learning/ experimentation process might work well for me generally. We shall see. I also hope to get to reading some of the creativity books on my list over this period.

You asked to see how I have altered my filofaxes to fit with my new year goals. Well, I haven't much really. I rejigged some sections in my studio journal (A5 Ochre Malden) and put new tabs on them, but the basic contents are the same. The new stuff is a list of suggestions to myself and equipment list of the new studio. And I started to use the purple A5 Malden for samples and surface design notes but that is still a work in progress. I am hoping it will get FAT in the new studio!

And the Focus system I wrote about over on Plan Create Succeed works for the studio work too, especially for the present when I really have to focus to get all my projects completed.

Now, I was going to tell you all about my visit this weekend to Tate Liverpool and what I learned from it, but this post is too long already so I shall save that for next time.

Until then,



Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year to you!

Isn't it amazing how the turn of a new year can bring such a feeling of a new start? There's nothing to prevent one approaching every day as its own fresh beginning, of course, but there is something about the start of a new year, and new calendars, that creates a feeling of new possibility.  There are some big new things ahead for me, so I am setting some new goals, restating and refining some existing ones, and generally trying to get myself a bit more organized so I'm moving forward with the things I want to, in the ways I want to.  Hah.  Look at how many times I used the word "new" in that paragraph.  You can tell I'm ready to embrace some changes!

We were talking about sketchbooks.  You know, you complained that I didn't show you messy sketchbook pages after I'd talked about feeling free to be messy -- and I suppose messiness is in the eye of the beholder. (Now, there's a slogan to print up for a poster!) But you are right, it's the freedom to be messy and not worry about what the outcome looks like that has defined the shift in my attitude about keeping sketchbooks.  I used to worry about keeping things looking pretty and artful, and then I'd get panicky and pressured about whether what I was about to do would be GOOD ENOUGH and it'd stall me before I'd even start.  Now I try not to worry about it.

But truthfully, I've not touched the sketchbooks much in the weeks since I posted my entry.  Holiday events have intervened, which have cut into my sketching time by a fair amount.  And I had to switch over from painting to work on the last 12x12 challenge quilt, which meant putting the paints and sketchbooks away to make room for fabric on my worktable.  You'll remember my response to the theme "Sweet" inspired by millefiori candy:

I don't think I made any sketches at all for this -- it went from my head to drawing a grid out on newsprint to figure out how it all would fit into the required 12x20 size, and then I started playing with fabric and wonder-under to assemble each of these little candies.  I think that for this project, I had that same reaction you described of having the image in my head, and not wanting to take the time to work it out in sketch form because that would take away the fun of doing it in fabric.

But as we head into this new year, I know that both of us have shifted away from art sketchbooks for the moment and are instead sitting with our respective Filofax journals to focus on goals and year-end assessment and planning for the new year.  As is evident from your Plan Create Succeed blog, you are far more advanced than I am at goal setting and planning and organizing what you want to achieve into lists and checklists and such.  You continue to inspire me, and I continue to learn from you as you talk about how you approach your planning.

My approach to planning and goal-setting has evolved a fair amount over the past year, so I feel good about applying what has worked to the coming year, and continuing to work on using planning tools to help me.  Today, I pulled out my list of goals for 2012, and spent some time journaling about how they went, what I achieved, and what I discovered that will affect how I move forward in my progress.  I've never done that sort of assessment before but I can see its benefits already.

For one thing, stopping to assess what I HAVE done is a good way to get a handle on the amorphous feeling I often have that I haven't done ENOUGH.  I wonder if that's a chronic feeling for people like us who have so many things we want to do -- we feel the things we haven't done (or haven't had time to even try) more keenly than we feel the awareness of what we've accomplished.  So, for me, pausing to list what I've done -- even just counting books read, workshops taken, paintings done, quilts made, etc -- made me realize that I've actually done quite a lot.  That's encouraging and satisfying.

I had the same surprised pleasure when I sat down early last year to make a list of the unfinished quilts I have in my closet, and discovered that the list wasn't as long as I thought it was.  And having them all listed out helped me as I determined which were worthy of finishing and which needed to be abandoned.

My birthday falls on January 31, and although the start of a new calendar year is a significant marker, I've found that using the month of January as a time for reflection and planning and organization has worked well for me.  Plus, this year some big life changes are taking place during January, so by the time my birthday comes my living situation will have changed and things in my daily life will feel significantly different.  So over the coming weeks, I have lots of planning to do.  I'm looking forward to sitting down with my Filofaxes to adjust them for particular purposes, and decorating them to make them more pretty and fun to use, and sorting out goals and projects and task lists.  Many of my goals have to do with changing things around my house -- I want to make some changes to use the space differently and more effectively (so, for example, I can have paint stuff set up in one place and still have a free worktable for sewing and art quilting!)  So I'm not just setting general goals -- I've launched into envisioning changes around the house, and shopping for the things to make those changes possible.   I have a lot I want to accomplish in the coming year!

One of the apps on the Ipad I quite like is called Moodboards, which allows you to create boards combining images and text and graphics for a digital collage.  Here's the one I assembled for 1/1/13:  

You can see it's about being happy and celebrating cheery, cozy comfort at home.

Now, tell me -- what are your goals for the coming year?  And do show me how you've changed your Filofaxes to accomodate them...

By the way, in my email today was an ad for upcoming Potfest pottery festivals -- which brought back a lovely memory of the one we went to together in 2011.  What a lovely day that was! 

love Diane