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.
One project that I completed last year, and am very pleased with, is my set of tarot cards. The project began after my exhibition in 2019, “The Hearltess Hurt Less” – for the advertising imagery I played with layering the drawings of the dead animals with some of the pattern work that I had scattered throughout the exhibit. The response to these digital collages was very positive and made me think about new ways to play with my drawings.
I’ve always been intrigued my tarot cards, and the culture that surrounds them. From sincere belief, to props in super cheesey Midsomer Murder type shows with a story line about the occult, to a fashion statement, it seemed to me that there was a lot of room to explore and play within a single deck of cards. The dead animals that I had been studying (and that had made up the bulk of my exhibition) seemed like a really unique but fitting set of images for a set of cards; they are a slightly unusual subject matter but tied in very well to the imagery of the tarot, and I felt I could create a fresh new take on these ancient cards.
When creating my set, I began with The Major Arcana – those are the cards that most people think of when tarot is mentioned (The Sun, The Star, Death, The Fool etc) – there are 22 Major Arcana cards in a deck – so I needed 22 different drawings of dead animals. I decided to keep continuity through the 5 suits (Major Arcana, Swords, Pentacles, Wands and Cups) by having the same repeat background pattern for each suit.
I put the backgrounds down in photoshop and then used my drawings to overlay on top; each drawing had to be re-rendered digitally so that it would lay down properly and then I played around for a while with layout and text until I was happy with the basic design of each of the cards.
All together it took about a year to draw all the different animals and then create every different card. I used the same drawing for each number across the suits but had a different one for each of the regal cards, so altogether I created 46 separate drawings and 5 individual backgrounds for the full set of 74 cards.
Once all of the cards had been digitally created, I started experimenting with the best ways to make them as physical sets. I printed off the designs onto card in various different sizes, which I compared against sets of cards I owned until I found the right size that was large enough to pick up on all of the detail in each design, but that would also be usable and ergonomic. It was also important to me that there was a background pattern, so I saved another pattern piece to print on the back of every card. For the project to work successfully, I felt that a very professional looking finish would be needed, so I purchased a laminator and experimented with both gloss and matte laminating pockets. I was pleased with both results, so both finishes are available to buy from my shop. Once all the cards were laminated, I had to trim them down to size. This is probably the hardest part of the process, as it needs to be very precise and I do it all by hand – whilst I aim to get every card as close to perfect as possible, they are handmade sets and so there may be a small size difference from pack to pack.
The last step of making the cards is to trim the corners to round them off and make sure there are no sharp edges. From there, I carefully package up the cards in brown paper and string, for a classic look, slip in a little business card and they’re ready to go!
The Tarot sets are on sale here – for £35. I also have some individual prints from the Major Arcana available, and if there is a card that is particularly important to you, please message me and I can make up a custom print. I hope you’re enjoyed reading about the process of making the tarot cards – it’s a project I’m very happy with and want to continue making up these fun sets. Please message me if you have any questions.
Crochet Fruit de Mer Platter
Lobster, Prawns, Langoustine, Mussels and a Welk... plus some lemon and leaves.
A few different sized lobsters... think Goldilocks and the 3 Lobsters... I'm definitely keeping the big teal one, not quite sure what I'll do with the other 2...
And a crochet jumper for me! It's the Kay Crochet 'Bobbilicious' pattern from Etsy - it is a tad bit too small and snug, but I'm hoping it will stretch a bit. I think I might remake it in a medium (and a different colour) in the autumn.
It's been a bit crochet heavy here, but I have managed one drawing since my last post - this beautiful blackbird, who sadly died after flying into my Dad's study window.
And I finished off this French knot stitching, which will form part of a series of 10 hoops...
This week I've got a couple of commissions to get finished, and then hopefully I'll settle back down to a bit more drawing. I've been finding it really hard to focus on drawing and find the right imagery and subject matter at the minute... Hopefully inspiration will hit again before too long.
Quite a few new bits and pieces to post on here, that I've worked on over the last couple of weeks. I played with some old ideas of the 'Mutated Map' patterns that I created a few years ago, adding in a bit of colour and a grid - the design requires a grid, which previously I've always removed after creating the finished image, but with this piece I played with the idea of a different grid round the edges of the main pattern. I was hoping that the colours I chose would create a sense of anatomical growths (think spots, coldsores, cysts etc) but I think it has ended up looking more floral and decorative than that. If I play with the colour again, it will have more dark shades in an attempt to address this...
On the 1st of March I drew a dead hare that someone had found, photographed and kindly let me use. I wanted to created a silly little parenthesis of the month, so finished March which another dead hare drawing. My friend Tom found quite a few dead hares whilst cycling in Norfolk, so I had a bit of a backlog, which is now fully cleared. The use of dead animals in my work is meant to be a bit thought provoking and perhaps slightly somber, but it also isn't meant to take itself too seriously - I think there's room for a certain amount of dark humour, like using 2 dead March hares to bracket the month.
As well as drawing, I've still been loving doing a lot of crochet - I have a fun seafood project I'm creating at the minute, and I've also made a silly moose for my dad's birthday, and then crocheted my gorgeous dog, Lila. I'm really proud of it - she's a 14 year old labradoodle and they look a bit like animated scribbles, so it can be really hard to capture her in photos of drawing, but I think this fun crochet dog is a pretty good representation. She'll live on the end of my bed for years to come!
The final thing I've finished in the last couple of weeks, is a dress. For my birthday my mum bought me a Merchant and Mills pattern and some beautiful orange fabric and together we made up the 'Ellis' dress over the Easter weekend. My mum is very good at following dress making patterns and made a few of my clothes when I was younger. I've followed 2 very, very basic patterns before but this one was quite a leap up. I absolutely could not have done it without a lot of help from my mum, who read the pattern, explained things to me and then pointed out my huge, huge amounts of mistakes... I don't think dressmaking will be my new major passion, but once I've gotten over the trauma of setting sleeves, I'll try and make the pattern again, with a slightly looser bodice and hopefully quite a bit less unpicking... Until then, I'll enjoy wearing this one to the pub, to celebrate the easing of lockdown!
I have a few big drawings under way and a couple of commissions etc which I can't share here yet, but I have done some textiles work and some fun personal crochet projects over the last couple of weeks.
This first piece is a pixel crochet banner which is a partner piece to a previous yellow banner which read "Stay Soft Hard Lad!!!" which I made for my boyfriend a while back, to remind him that his softness is beautiful. This piece has been planned out for a while, but this last week, with the horrendous Sarah Everard case, and the appalling statistics that have been released about sexual harassment of young women, it seemed to be calling out to me. As women, we employ so many politeness strategies to put men at ease, we make ourselves smaller and softer and shrink ourselves. This piece is a reminder (to myself as much as anyone), that we can be tough. At times, particularly at the moment, we have to be tough. We have to be listened to, and not fear upsetting people or being called a 'bitch' for taking up all the space we deserve.
I've also enjoyed making some Toft pattern crochet animals - this lobster and tarantula. Toft make fantastic, fun and unusual patterns and I'd really recommend checking out some of their books.
Well, March has rolled back around again... In the words of a book blogger I follow, "We Have Always Lived in the Month of March," by Shirely Jackson. It's been such a very, very difficult and strange year, but I think we all seem to be feeling a bit more hopeful. I have my vaccination on Friday (I'm in the moderate risk group) and my Dad has had his too, so that is a positive for my family, which we're incredibly grateful for. Another positive is I'm borrowing my Dad's old laptop whilst I save up for mine to be fixed!
The last couple of weeks have been mainly admin focussed (so the laptop has been very much needed) and quite a lot of practical work has taken a back seat. But I do have a few new things to share...
Here's a pile of crochet squares I've been working on. In my final year of art school I made a piece called 'Softer Landings' where I yarn bombed the main staircase of the Ruskin and I want to return to that project and expand it. My current plan is named 'Softening Sheffield' - I've applied for some council funding (please cross your fingers for me), but whether I get it or not, I plan on making a series of pieces over this coming Summer. I need to make a lot more crochet squares - I can do about 50 a day, but it makes my wrist hurt a bit, so I might need to spread my making out a bit more.
Another piece I'm working on is a new textiles banner, in pinks - pink crochet onto pink faux fur fluffy fabric - it will be a sister piece to a honey monster-is yellow banner I made for my boyfriend a couple of years ago. Pixel crochet is one of my favourite ways of making; it's time consuming and a bit fiddly and it's not exactly a 'cool' medium, but I find it a fluent visual language and I like taking time to focus on an unusual textile project. I'd love to get into punching and rug making, but it's expensive to get started and quite a crowded 'market' at the minute, with lots of amazing makers creating incredible and fun pieces. So for the time being I think it's most likely I'll stick to crochet.
My final piece to share is this drawing - I was adamant I wanted to get it done on March 1st, so it can be an official March hare! I have another hare to draw this month, which I think I'll do on the 31st, to bookend the month with hare studies. I really love their long legs - we have quite a lot of wild rabbits in our local parks, but I've never seen a hare in the wild. Will keep my eyes peeled!
Had a bit of a disaster with my laptop, which, after 10 years of wonderful service has been stood on and I'm currently trying to work round a cracked screen. Less than ideal, and you'll have to forgive any typos because it's very difficult to see what I'm typing. I doubt it's worth replacing the screen on a 10 year old mac book, so I fear I'll have to dig deep and replace it - not great timing, but these things happen - and at least it still works, just hard to see past this giant central blow out and the flickering is quite distracting...
Other than that, it's been quite a productive week - I finished the 2 drawings I was working on. It's a triptych of triptychs - 3 dead hares, 3 dead pigeons and 3 dead squirrels. They've all framed up really nicely but it's very hard to take photos of them - I'm going to put them all up for sale using the Artist Support Pledge on Instagram, but need to get better photos first. They're all done on white A2 paper with 0.05 black pen with some white gel pen detailing.
Think that's all I've got for this week - the screen is really distracting and making it very hard to type. If I don't update any thing next week, that will probably be why!