Yesterday I went to see the Annie Montgomerie exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I've only become aware of her work recently and immediately became completely obsessed. She builds animal characters with childlike, human expressions, dressed in vintage clothing with beautifully crafted props and details. All of the figures have a slightly sinister quality (in my opinion), they're a bit creepy and create a sense of uneasiness, despite being incredibly cute. I think this is partly due to how realistic the faces are, and the detail given to all of their character building. A little like Victorian dolls, or old nurseries, there's a sense of nostalgia but also an unease - perhaps this is because these images have become a horror film trope, or perhaps it's the ghostliness of past play. Things that were once given life through childhood games, loose that innocence as children grow up and abandon their toys. Personally, I'm a massive softy and I've held on to a lot of childhood objects - some teddy bears in particular are incredibly important to me. Montgomerie's figures had the feeling of comfort and nostalgia, with just a hint of malice hidden behind. It was a really fantastic exhibition, probably my favourite of the year and I can't wait to buy the book YSP created about her work when it comes back in stock!
This year has been my first 'commercial' Christmas, so for the last few months I've been very busy with making for local shops and finishing off commission work. I'm so very appreciative that people like my work enough to buy it as gifts, particularly in such a difficult financial climate. I've learnt a lot from this year and there's quite a lot I will change for next year. I'm thinking about how I might split 2023 into different 'chunks', focussing on professional development for the first third, shows and grants in the second and then commercial work for Christmas in the third. I realised I need quite a lot more stock earlier than I'd thought, and that branching out and having a wider range of options would benefit me. I also want to expand where I'm selling, and will approach more shops in the new year. Etsy isn't really a great selling platform for my work, but it's very expensive to host a shop through an independent website, so that's another issue that I need to explore.
One new thing I've been exploring when not making for Christmas, is metal embossing! It's such a fun and simple process - you place a piece of metal (copper or tin) onto hard foam, draw out an image on a piece of paper and then use clay tools to emboss or deboss the image you've designed. It's a bit hard on the hands to begin with, and Have been suffering with an aching wrist, but once you get the hang of it, it's incredibly quick and portable! You can emboss on a train, in a waiting room, at your relatives house. Also, because not that many people seem to do it, you're bound to impress your friends and family! Here are a few of my early attempts - I'd love to make decorations using this technique for next Christmas - I just need to find a way to make sure the edges aren't too sharp.
Lobsters are a bit of an obsession at the minute. I picked up my watercolours for the first time in many, many years and painted this study. I'm doing a stitching of the same image, which I think I'll make into a lobster 'plushie' - it's a labour of love because it's a very slow process - hopefully I'll be able to use the Christmas break to make some good progress with it.
I wasn't expecting to enjoy the watercolour painting as much as I did. At foundation I did a lot of watercolours, including a large piece of birds, all on top of one another with no relief, which I loved. However, when I went to university the first time round, I really started to hate painting (bit tricky as it was a painting course) and haven't really painted ever since. I've never been particularly interested in oils or acrylics, but rediscovering the potential of watercolour was a delight! Much like drawing, it has so many historic associations with women, fragility and 'prettiness', it doesn't seem to be a medium of 'great' artists, so it has a lot of subversive potential. I'm definitely going to go back to my 'The Heartless Hurt Less' file, find some dead animal images that I've stored away over the last year, and have a go at painting them, in the new year. It will be interesting to bring a bit more colour into my work!