The crochet pigeons are back!
Last year I started making a huge flock of crocheted pigeons, out of a variety of grey, blue, silver and glittery yarns. Initially I thought I was going to make an installation of a textile Trafalgar Square, with the pigeons scattered everywhere. However, as soon as I put the first round of birds on Instagram, they all sold out! I was so thrilled with how popular they were. I went on to make another 25 for a Mary Poppins parody, and after I'd filmed my video, they all sold as well.
I then took a little break from the pigeons, but recently went back to them. I contacted a few local shops and I'm so pleased that they are now stocked in Bird's Yard, Sheffield. It's a gorgeous community shop full of amazing independent makers, located on Chapel Walk. It's always been a go-to for finding fab and unique birthday gifts for friends and family. I dropped off 15 pigeons on Monday and 10 have sold already! I'm so happy that other people love crochet pigeons as much as I do. I also got a fab bit of free marketing, when a pigeon landed on the snooker table at the Crucible last week. So, obviously, I've had to go by the Crucible to let the pigeons see a bit of snooker before they go to the shop.
As always, the pigeons are still available to buy from me directly, just email or DM on instagram. Next month they will also be stocked in the Frontier Gallery in Sheffield, for their next show. I'm feeling so lucky that the pigeons are flying off the shelves!
A couple of weeks ago I popped down to London on an absolutely flying visit (5 hours total) to catch the Louise Bourgeois and Beatrix Potter shows. 'The Woven Child' is currently on at The Hayward Gallery, and 'Drawn to Nature' at the V&A. Both of these artists have been important to me in very different ways. Growing up I was really fascinated with illustrated books - I was certain I was going to become an illustrator and many of my heroes are children authors and illustrators. The images in books from my childhood have often stayed with me and made more impact than art I've seen and studied, because they have such an emotional connection. So I was so thrilled to see the Potter exhibition. I'd been given the catalogue from the show for Christmas, so already had a very good sense of what was in it, but seeing the immaculate watercolours in the flesh was so delightful! My fiancé hadn't read any of the books so when we got home I made him read my favourite (Samuel Whiskers), and whilst he isn't exactly a convert, he did have a little chuckle.
Louise Bourgeois has been such a seminal voice in the art world, particularly for feminists and those working with crafts and lower status materials. I first discovered her work when doing my GCSEs and have wanted to see one of her 'Cells' since then. The Hayward have a Cell, with one of her monumental metal spiders. It's such a moving and considered exhibition. It's the first time a gallery has put together only her textiles work for a show, but because she allowed for all her drawing and sculpture to be so intertwined with her fabrics, you don't get a sense that you're only seeing part of her practice.
So, a couple of weeks ago I tore a ligament in my right wrist. A bit of a disaster - I'm right handed so it put me out of action for drawing and textiles work, for the first 2 weeks I couldn't even really type. It was a bit of a blow and I've been finding it tough going, but I have tried to use the time productively. I did an Open University course in Marketing for Freelance Creatives, which was an 8 week course, but it's very possible to do 2 or 3 weeks worth of the course in a day, so it didn't take too long. After the course (it's one of the free ones they host through their website) you get a digital badge to go on your learners profile. It was pretty interesting and I'm glad I did it. I've had quite a few new ideas I'm excited to put into action as soon as my wrist is at full strength again.
I've also been doing a lot of left hand drawing. Most of it isn't very good, but it is quite amazing to see the improvement in such a short amount of time. Here is the first drawing I did, followed by 2 of the same subject yesterday.
Here's a bit more left hand experimenting...
I've had to put a commission I was working on, on hold whilst my wrist heals. I was a bit worried that I might lose the job, but thankfully the person I'm working with has been really understanding and is being exceptionally patient. I'd booked a bit of time off from my gallery job, which was predominantly to work on the commission, but unfortunately it's ended up just being recovery time... I also have my wedding invitations to make, which I'll get started on this weekend.
Happy New Year! I don't know if you're anything like me, but I actually hate 'new year' - I find resolutions stressful and they make me focus on all of my 'failings' from the year before and is a guaranteed way to start beating myself up... So I've done no resolutions - but even so, I feel like I've started 2022 in totally the wrong way.
I have an exciting commission I started working on last week, and after about 10 hours of drawing I've realised the plan won't work and have had to abandon the drawing. This isn't particularly common for me, because I plan my drawings quite meticulously, but I was trying to fit in too many disparate elements into this one. So, I've had to desert it. Thought I'd put some images and the situation up on here, to show glorious failure - I need to see more people failing! It is so good for us all to admit when things don't work.
I just finished a fantastic book about Beatrix Potter, called 'Drawn to Nature'. I found Potter absolutely fascinating - her anatomical awareness, her writing, her scientific studies and the juxtaposition between her quite detached, almost brutal relationship to animals (she would kill ill animals and dissect them for anatomical study), with her care for pets and her stories and drawings. When I'm struggling for inspiration and finding it hard to focus or create, I find the best thing to do is to deep dive into other artists' practices and study their work for a while. I'm so excited to visit the V&A in February for the Beatrix Potter exhibition. We'll also go to The Hayward gallery to see the Louise Bourgeois textiles exhibition, so it should be a really inspiring day!
We went to see the Louis Wain film last week. Louis Wain is a really fascinating artist - I'd seen his work a few times across the years, but didn't get interested in his body of drawings until Nick Cave spoke about his personal collection of Wain work. He painted and drew cats, in a variety of anthropomorphised settings and clothing. Similarly to Potter, these images are often misinterpreted as twee, whereas their reality is actually quite different - there is a dark, frenzied undertone to his work, and a wicked, bizarre charm. Wain became very unwell in his later years and died in a mental health hospital - his later works are often considered to show his descent into schizophrenia, although psychologists disagree on this. It's a sweet film, but for me focusses too much on Wain's life, rather than his artwork, which I would have been more interested in.
Finally, if you're in Sheffield, I would suggest you head to the Cupola Under the Bed Sale. It's an annual event, where artists clear out their studios and offer the work at *bargain* prices. Nothing can be more than £350, but pieces start at £1, and I have picked up some absolute steals from there over the years. This year I have a lot of drawings, both framed and unframed, and 18 prints in the sale - they're as cheap as I could possibly make them, and I'd love for them to find new homes!
It's been a tough year, hasn't it? Personally, I've really struggled - both with difficult familial situations which have been hugely affected by covid, and professionally. All of the other work I do to support my studio practice have been affected by covid - I've had to come in and out of different jobs, and I find the chopping and changing really difficult to manage.
Artistically, I've definitely lost a lot of confidence. I'm uncertain of the validity of my work, the purpose it has in the world, and where I stand between artistic integrity and commercial engagement. It's really difficult for everyone to navigate these circumstances, and the backdrop of the pandemic and political situation makes it exceptionally hard. Like many people have wisely said, the biggest challenge to creativity is fear, and a background of fear and anxiety makes it close to impossible to stretch your creative wings!
So, overall, I'm feeling a bit down! But I've decided to take some time to look at the successes of the last year. I've made a few 'grids' of my images - the first is my favourite projects and makes from the year. It's part of the Instagram #artvsartist2021 image, so there's a photo of me in the middle! It's actually taken last year, at the Paloma Varga Weisz show at the Henry Moore institute, which is one of my absolute favourite shows I've *ever* seen!
The 2nd is purely drawing, the 3rd embroidery and the 4th crochet.
I'm not quite sure where my crochet sits within my practice. I'm not sure if it's 'art'; most of it is definitely craft, Some of it is part of my artistic process, but some of it is just for me and just for fun - perhaps more of a hobby, but using visual and making skills to inform the ideas. I'm considering next year splitting my practice more obviously, into an artistic side and a more craft focussed, and commercial side. I'm not quite sure how it will work yet, but I can see having a sales focussed craft fair side, and a more drawing focussed side, which I will use for exhibitions and prize entries.
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to go down to London for the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize - the show itself opens to the public next month, but all exhibitors can go for the prize giving (and have a sneak peak/PV). It was really exciting to see my work amongst so many amazing drawings - I love drawing; the historical significance, the practice itself and the underpinning it creates within other practices.
My piece was in the 'Working Drawing' prize section, where it sat amongst (in conversation with(?)) architectural and scientific studies, which I found so interesting. I don't consider there to be any difference between artists, drawing practitioners, mark makers or illustrators, I just love to see how drawings come to be and the story they are telling.
We (my Mum and I) were only in London overnight, so we didn't have much time, but we did manage to see the Paula Rego show at Tate Britain. I really enjoy Rego's work, but very specifically her nursery rhyme etchings, which have been some of my favourite illustrations since I was a child. I was given a Rego illustrated book of nursery rhymes for my christening and have cherished it my whole life - after seeing the show I bought a new hardback, fully coloured copy of the book, which will now live alongside my original tatty version.
Another very exciting thing to have happened in the last few weeks, is that Tom Gunn Nash's album 'Closer' came out. Tom is a wonderfully talented musician. and this album has already been picked up by Bandcamp's 'New and Note-able' releases. I was thrilled to be asked to do the artwork for the album, the cover being a drawing of Tom's face and the inside artwork being an eyeball and 3 hands doing a palm reading. Download it by copying the link below!
Last weekend I got to run the first workshop since the very start of the pandemic. It was a drawing workshop called 'So You Think You Can't Draw', where I encourage lots of techniques to improve looking and reduce assumptions, such as non-dominant hand drawing, continuous line drawing, blind drawing etc. It was really wonderful and very nerve wracking to be back running a class. The focus of the class is process rather than outcome, but here are a couple of the fantastic experiments!
Unfortunately, there was a small flood at my studio, and I did lose a few bits (thankfully not too much) so have had to spend quite a bit of time sorting and managing. However, now that things have been sorted, I've been able to do quite a few drawings.
I've started to experiment with tracing paper; I'm not totally sure where these ideas are going - it's very much still at a playing and exploring stage at the minute. For the last piece, I also added sewing thread and masking tape, which is a bit of a new 'messier' approach for me. Whilst I don't think these pieces have totally succeeded, I am interested in them as experiments and think I'll continue with these types of play for a while.
I'm really thrilled that the above piece, "The Nest" has been accepted to the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing prize. I'm going to frame it really nicely today and send it off. This is the biggest show I've been accepted to and it's been on my 'bucket'/'manifestation' type lists for a few years. This is the first time I've felt confident enough to apply, and to be accepted first time is such a wonderful boost.
Thought I'd share a few photos of my studio space. I'm very nosy - and think most creative people are - I absolutely love looking into other people's spaces, so wanted to offer mine up in the hope other's would share theirs with me. The studio I rent is in the S1 complex in Sheffield - it's open plan, split into 3 main 'rooms', and I'm in the backroom, which has a lovely community feel and a gorgeous skylight. It is the coldest room though, so the winters are challenging...
I find having a studio really important to my practice - I'm not very structured about being there for a certain amount of time everyday religiously, but it definitely gives a sense of discipline and boundary to a working day. Generally I'm more relaxed about doing textiles and research at home and use the studio as a drawing space, but I move all the textiles in there as soon as they're finished. For me, it's important that both sides of my practice remain in conversation, even when they're effectively in 'storage'.
Have a nosy at a few more photos - including my horrendous under desk 'storage' piles...
And here's how I protect drawings that aren't framed yet... A highly sophisticated system.
Things are finally opening back up in England and we've all had a few weeks to get used to being back out and about/going to work on public transport/meeting up with people again etc. At The Hepworth Wakefield, we currently have the largest ever Hepworth retrospective, which spreads across all 10 galleries. Alongside this, the curators have placed 3 female artists whose art speaks to Hepworth's, or whose practice has been inspired by her career (Bridget Riley, Tacita Dean and Veronica Ryan).
Ryan's work is a collection of cast objects and crochet - on the face of it, it's a quiet and polite offering, but having spent a lot of time with the installation over the past few weeks, I've really enjoyed investing in the work. It's multi layered and evokes personal memory for the artist, whilst also speaking to the woman as maker, craft and labour, alongside natural order and growth. The wall work of black cast magnolias, tied with very subtle coloured thread has an almost animalistic quality, and the white magnolias hidden in the clay vessel on the opposite wall, suggests (to me) a veiled sexual reference.