Caroline Bailey

What led you to take up painting full time?

Was there something or someone who gave you the motivation?

The motivation was always in me, I always drew and painted as a child, my father was an amateur painter and encouraged me and he was also the one who supported me when I chose to go to Art College rather than study an academic subject at university. Although I always painted, I was also interested in other artistic disciplines and I studied Printed Textiles at Manchester Polytechnic where the course involved a lot of drawing and painting.  After leaving with an M.A. I decided to work freelance painting and producing painted and printed fabrics. Over the course of the next ten years I worked on both but gradually over the course of time I found myself doing more painting and less textiles and have been painting full time for the last thirty years.

Lemon Lilies and Sea 30 x 32 inches

You comment, ‘Colour is still the most obvious and fundamental element of my work.’ Discuss

Colour is the first thing that people mention about my work when I meet them and when I contemplate a potential subject it is the mood and colour that fascinates me. I spend time thinking out the composition and simultaneously contemplate the colour that will create the feel of the painting.

Camasunary Bay 30 x 30 inches

You segment, your work into three areas, Landscapes, Seascapes and Still Life painting.  Can you discuss these three genres?

The landscape and seascape is just one category, I only tend to use both terms to convey the fact that much of my work is coastal in one way or another. Most of the places that I choose to paint are on or near the coast, so much so that I moved to the Isle of Skye in northwest Scotland to live by the sea and in a landscape that I love to paint. I am permanently fascinated by the weather and its effect as it moves across the water and the land, it is ethereal, always changing and never the same from one day to the next.

Still life painting goes back to my college days and I just love the concentration of colour that flowers provide. I set up still life paintings in my studio and can quite literally compose the layout of thing on a table. I have lots of different coloured fabrics which I also use and make carefully considered colour choices to create the feel that I want. More recently I have found the land and sea that I can see from my studio window is starting to infiltrate into the background of the still life   paintings so the edges between still life and landscape are starting to blur a little.

Landscape  - Many of your landscapes have a hint of the sea or a cove, discuss this element.

Snow Fields Harlosh 32 x 32 inches

I love working in coastal areas at the meeting point of land and sea, I am also attracted to  harbours and boats, especially working boats and love the associated  buildings and paraphernalia lying around them. Piers and jetties that reach out into the water are one of my favourite subjects as are the ferries that serve the area in which I now live.

Seascapes – Comment on two paintings one in a harbour and one with the majority showing the sea.

Stornoway Fishing Boats  30 x 32 inches.

Stornoway in the Western Isles is one of my favourite locations to paint with lots of fishing boats. It also has lots of buildings of differing colours and sizes and is rich in colour and texture I have worked there many times and never get tired of visiting it.

Fiskavaig Last House 31 x 33 inches

I don’t think this is more than half sea, but it exemplifies another aspect of my love of coastal locations. A small croft house at the end of the road and perched high on a hillside surrounded by a panorama of sea and islands, somewhat at the mercy of the north Atlantic winds. I am fascinated by the power of the sea and the human relationship with it. Again, it is a view that I see every day, the rapidly changing weather conditions mean that every day it is different.

Still Life – Colour just flows out of every vase, discuss.

Still life is a wonderful opportunity to design colour within the painting. I search for flowers that inspire me and then build my still life around them. Sometimes the flowers are white and then everything else carries the colour. The colour is not always bright and strong although it often is, it can also be subtle or dark at times.

Pink Table with Night Sea 28 x 28 inches

How does, your physical environment influence your paintings?

It greatly influences it; I now live in the place that has been my biggest influence since I first visited in my teens. I am now surrounded by the kind of landscape that I paint; I see it every day as I move around the house, what I see permeates deep into my consciousness.

Misty Morning on the River 13.5x13.5 inches

Your outdoor paintings, are these plain airs or painted in your studio?

They are mostly done in the studio; I do small sketches outside and then work from those. The work done outside is generally chaotic and I find back in the studio I can take time to select which elements are going to figure in a larger painting.

Cullins from the beach 13 x 13 inches

Can you comment on how a planned exhibition for the 4th – 12th April altered due to the pandemic?

The exhibition was hung but not yet open when lockdown happened. This meant no preview and having the chance to talk to visitors and buyers, so the work just had to speak for itself online. In some ways that wasn’t as bad as it sounds as I believe that painting is a visual medium and although it is interesting to hear the stories behind them, they should be able to communicate as they stand and I paint them on that premise so I don’t think I would have done things any differently.

Afternoon sunflowers 30 x 32 inches

In 2018, you exhibited at Stafford Gallery, London.  This was different as it was made up of only Scottish artists.  Expand on this experience.

Sunflowers and Summer nights 28 x 28 inches

As an elected member of the RSW (Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour) I exhibit with Scottish artists frequently, so I feel among friends and very much a part of the Scottish  painting tradition despite being English! I have taken part in the Scottish show at Stafford gallery for the last few years now and really look forward to it. I will be sending work again for the 2021 show. that has been done over this year.

Can you expand on colour within your skylines?  Take two painting that show a very different colour palettes and explain the choices you made and why?

Whitby Fish Quay 10.5 x 10.5 inches

I have chosen these two paintings because they are the same view. There are many different things in any view and paintings are a distillation of these things. I find that there are many ways of seeing things and different approaches to painting it. Trying to include too many aspects into one work simply doesn’t work for me hence two paintings which are very different. I am not a sky painter in the traditional sense and I consciously decide whether the sky should be light or dark in contrast with the land. I tend to regard it as a part of the painting which works with everything else. The fish quay painting has lots of saturated colour on the land and quayside so the fading into the sky works well with that whereas across to the west cliff has much darker areas on the land and the use of the very strong blue works as a contrast to that darkness.

Across to the West Cliff 10.5 x 10.5 inches

Discuss the size of your work.  What restrictions do you have.

I tend to work both large and small although they are relative terms really. 10 x 10 inches is usually about the smallest, the largest can go up to 38 x 40 inches of even slightly more although they are more often around 32 x 32, 30 x 30 inches. My limit on size tend to be more practical than artistic. I work in mixed media which is generally a mix of acrylic, gouache and watercolour so framing behind glass is generally required and the larger the work the heavier the framed painting and the greater the logistical problems so that tends to be the limiting factor on size. Having said that I prefer to paint big than small but nevertheless I am fairly content with my large sizes although things never stay exactly the same so it is not out of the question that sizes could increase as time goes on.

Take one of your paintings that make your sense of smell come alive and why?

A Patch of Sunlight 31 x 35 inches

This painting is from a small line sketch done on the beach below where I live, the view is one I see every day from various angles however the painting takes me back to a day early in the year when the land was still dressed in winter colours and I was stood in the shallows watching the sun through a gap in the clouds course it’s way across the hills on the opposite side of the sea loch. The blustery wind was full in my face and the waves splashing on the beach and the rocks were heavy with the smell of salt spray. Looking at that paintings always invokes the smell of the sea water and the salt laden wind.

Contact:

Caroline Bailey

http://www.carolinebailey.co.uk/

caroline@carolinebailey.co.uk

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, August 2020


David Edmond

You worked as a designer before starting you painting practice. Does this have any bearing on your paintings?

1986 textile collection

I ran my own international printed textile business for many years before turning to painting in 2009, personally producing 150 to 300 speculative designs a quarter. My customers spanned across both fashion and furnishing and my designs had to reflect that in terms of style, scale, and subject matter (floral, geometric, textural, conversational etc.). The range of interests and skills that this developed is reflected in my approach to painting in terms of subject matter and techniques, though not in terms of volume of output!

1992 Textile and Clothing collection

I do like to continue to challenge my practice and abilities and see the broad practices of Michael Andrews and David Hockney as something to emulate. Starting my painting practice late means I have a lot to do in the time I have and for this reason I work on 3 to 4 series of paintings at the same time.

Across your range of painting practice, do you think there is a unifying element?

Yes, absolutely. The one overriding quality that I want in my paintings is a sense of quietness. Additionally, another aspect of my work is that though my paintings are figurative I want them to have strong abstract composition qualities.

Take two of your works where you have painted people at the beach.  They are tiny dots in huge landscapes why?

My beach painting series stem from photographs I took of Coney Island beach, New York. Looking out from the boardwalk, the beach, sea and sky suggested a painting of a landscape reduced to simple banded blocks of colour. I paint the figures in small but at slightly different scales to help give a sense of space with subtle perspective. The figures are quite closely observed I want them to have personality and give the viewer possible narratives to play with. My initial paintings in this series depicted the sparse thin line of figures that start populating the shoreline in the quiet of the morning.

Beach 2.3 - Oil on Panel - 39x70 cm

It’s fascinating how different local cultures, politics (small p), aspirations and prosperity are all evident and acted out on the liminal spaces of beaches.

Beach 6.1 (Carrara) - Oil on Canvas - 76x91 cm

For example, the Italian beach club culture with their ordered ranks of loungers and sunshades are different from the British haphazard arrangement of towels and windbreaks. I take inspiration from this for this ongoing series of paintings.

Beach 2.3 - Oil on Panel - 39x70 cm

Your series, ‘Street Paintings’ are more abstract discuss this series and the importance of shape and shadow in these works.

Given that the city is an environment of geometric ordered disorder, and that I live in London, I think it’s inevitable that I would try and capture that. I carry a camera everywhere with the intention to collect images and ideas for future paintings. I search obliquely for the familiar but overlooked that borders the figurative with the abstract. There are piles of prints of these in my studio which I sometime work directly from but often extract elements and reassemble them to make a painting.

Street Painting 12 - Oil on Panel - 48x61 cm

I’m especially drawn to work that balances figuration, abstraction and the painterly. For instance, the work of Milton Avery, Richard Diebenkorn, Mama Anderson and Hurvin Anderson all have these qualities. My Street Paintings are closer to the photograph than these painters, but the abstract considerations are similar. Wolfgang Tillmans photographs have also influenced this body of work with their strong abstract qualities.

Street Painting 12 - Oil on Panel - 48x61 cm

Edward Hopper’s use of the solitary figure in the urban landscape and his painting of light as a tangible thing has also influenced my work. Shadow and contrasting light intensify the mood in a piece.

Take paintings of surf, discuss.

The seascape

The surfers

What influence does your Jamaican background have on these paintings?

Painting the sea in these works was very different to the beach paintings. I wanted a lot more movement in these and a lot of paint was flicked and thrown at the surface to make the turbulent surf.

Surfers 1 - Oil on Paper - 50x65 cm

I don’t remember seeing anyone surfing in Jamaica. My surf paintings are inspired from time spent on the coast of North Cornwall. In my childhood I often stayed with relatives there and then my parents eventually retired there. It’s a place that is close to my heart.

I’m not sure Jamaica has much direct influence on my painting. My parents left there when I was 19 and I haven’t been back since. I often think about returning and it would be very interesting to see how it might change my painting now.

Your drawings are of strangers in public spaces comment on:

How you do this work?

The combination of people resting in hectic spaces.

I was between studios and homes for nearly a year in 2010-2011. I wasn’t homeless but I felt adrift. To continue working on my practice and to develop my drawing skills I went out into the city looking for people who sat still long enough for me to draw them.

Drawing Trafalgar Square 4- Brushpen on Paper - 29x29 cm

When it was warm enough, I found people who sat quietly in Trafalgar Square and when the weather turned, I went to the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank.

Drawing Royal Festival Hall 11- Brush Pen on Paper - 29x29 cm

This exercise was great for me because there was no way of knowing how long the subject would stay in position. It meant I had to work really fast and with total concentration. I didn’t ever ask permission from the subject and tried not to be observed because I wanted to capture a natural state of ease without any self-awareness. The photographer Philip-Lorca di Corcia did a similar thing in Time Square in New York.

Expand on the technique you use in your drawings:

Paper

Time

Where the details need to go and why?

These drawings were made with grey brush pens of varying tonal values. I’d hold 5 or 6 in my hand and start from the eyes; I think Lucian Freud did this working out from there. As I mentioned earlier, I worked at them really fast but sometimes I only had time to get the eyes in before they moved away.

You paint self-portraits.  How does this differ from painting others?

To be honest I don’t paint many portraits, self or of others. The self-portrait on my website is a rare example. My drawings of people in public spaces are more oblique. When a subject presents themselves to be drawn or painted, they can often become performative as they sit, and this undermines my interest.

Give some insight into your landscapes use a drawing and a painting to discuss each medium.

I regard my photographs as drawings or sketches for a painting. I often use the images from several different photographs to make a painting but will plan out the combining of these images directly onto the painting.

Beach - Oil on Panel - 28x20 cm

I hardly ever sketch. If I make a drawing it’s for its own sake not as a plan for a painting. Only once or twice in the last few years have I made a drawing to develop a painting.

You have work in Art Car Boot Fair.  Explain how this sale works and its importance during the pandemic.

The Art Car Boot Fair is great fun and brings together between 50 and 100 artists of varying notoriety, literally selling art from the boots of their cars. It happens once or twice a year in London and at different seaside towns in the Summer and is a way to sell art direct to the public in a street market type environment. I have sold small paintings on paper which I have made specifically for the Fair and it is great way to meet other artists and Instagram friends.

Sadly, due to the pandemic the Art Car Boot Fair planned for July this year isn’t happening.

I received information yesterday (25th July 2020) that The Viral Art Car Boot Fair will be taking place on 20th September. As the name suggest it will be a virtual fair in response to the pandemic and I will be taking part. Here is a link to the ACBF’s website. Notice of the September fair isn’t up yet. https://www.artcarbootfair.com/ This an image of one of the small paintings on paper which I sold at the last ACBF in December 2019. (Floating Man).

Floating Man - Oil on Paper - 16x25 cm

Has the pandemic affected your work and if so how?

I believe that creativity is about adapting to and using change for positive ends, I respond well to change as I find that it brings new ways of thinking and working, such as my drawing in 2010/11. As a result of the pandemic I am in the process of moving my studio back to my home. I am lucky to have the space to do this, but the new work area is smaller, and it will inevitably change my practice. Hopefully for the better.

I agree with many other painters and artist friends, that the lockdown didn’t generally change our practice much. Spending the day, hermit like and alone, focusing on our work is what we do in normal times.

Not being able to visit galleries and physically see others work maybe has a plus side too. Living in London there is generally so much to go and see, it can be very distracting. So, having an enforced break from that has been good for my focus.

Cavaliero Finn, one of the galleries that show my work were due to show my work in their gallery in May. Because of the pandemic they put the show online which proved successful.

I’m quite an active Instagram user and over this period it has been interesting to see how it has developed as a platform for artists to sell directly to collectors.

Evergreen - Oil on Panel - 49x65 cm

I think I and other artists have adapted well to the crisis, but it will be good when we can return to a more physically interactive world.

Contact:

David Edmond

Website - davidedmond.com

Instagram - davidedmondstudio

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, July 2020


Björk Haraldsdóttir

How has your architectural training influenced your ceramic work?

My background in Architecture is naturally a strong influence on my work. Training to become an Architect is a rigorous process and takes 7 years, and then also a lifetime. I have now worked with clay longer than training to be an Architect. I still plan and draw my pieces before they are made like an Architect will do, and feel and adapt the work as it is constructed like an artist.

Tapestry #10.1 52cm x 34 cm Tapestry #10.2 48 cm x 31 cm

As both an architect and ceramic artists, in your opinion how are both used to enhance each other?

I liken my work to small architecture with no brief and no client.   Producing un-commissioned artwork strips away the burden of those constraints to leave only the creative act, a liberating situation and an issue that I am not complacent about. The technical skills you learn as an Architect are invaluable to me. It influences how I construct my work since it is not really a skill I learned in my ceramic training. The pattern of the ceramics is like the façade of a building- both are integral to the design.

What led you from architecture to ceramics?

I first started making ceramics as an antidote to the creative chains of practicing Architecture; Architecture is a complex multi-faceted professional endeavour that is constrained by a vast array of technical and legislative issues. Clay is freedom.

A group of 2020 pots

Can you discuss the sizes of your ceramics?

The scale of my work is basically limited by the height of a large top-loading electric kiln. Ordinarily my work is of the largest size I can manage (upto around 65cm high) because the pattern repeats tend to be more effective across larger surfaces.

Hamar I (back, 58 cm x 37 cm ) and Hamar II 28 cm x 38 cm). Photograph by Cavaliero Finn

I try to engender the appearance of a patterned cloth draped over the clay form which is generally successful using either geometric or random repeats. During the recent lockdown and with the cancellation of all planned exhibitions artist Matthew Burrows came up with the brilliant #artistsupportpledge, an initiative based around the sale of ‘affordable’ artworks on Instagram. This led me to working at a much smaller scale than I had previously and allowed my work to progress in slightly different direction. My pieces have always worked well in groups, but on the smaller scale it has a particular dynamic and I have been producing sets of two and three ‘companion’ pieces. The patterns do sometimes need to be significantly scaled-down on each piece to succeed but when placed in series an interesting relationship between pattern and form begins to emerge.

Pattern is a major component of your art, discuss your thoughts on pattern and shape in your work.

I started my ‘pattern journey’ referencing to old textile work and stitching patterns from Iceland and Nordic Culture. This has developed over time into patterns inspired by ideas and images I come across in nature and daily life. I am constantly working into the pieces ‘making stitches’ or lines of weave and the result is often cloth-like in appearance.

Hamar II (front, 28 cm x 38 cm), Hejduk I (back right, 32 cm x 36cm x 20 cm,). Hejduk II (back left, 37cm x 22 cm x 22 cm ). Photograph by Cavaliero Finn

Form and pattern are individually and equally important and my work is defined by the interaction of these very distinct attributes. There is an ambiguity in the pieces with the pattern acting to disguise the shape of the vessel as it runs seamlessly across creases and corners. Shape and pattern are usually conceived in a planned design, however I have become more flexible over time and now often build the form and assess it before committing to pattern. I like to place a rigid, geometric pattern onto an organic form – a bottle or bell shape. The pattern type significantly alters the perception of a piece’s geometry any given base shape will appear dramatically different when rendered with alternative patterns.

Is all of your work black and white?

I have always been drawn to black and white (or dark and light) and how the monochromatic palette can differ so much. I do create some work with third colour highlights which is effective in accentuating three dimensional illusion and setting up another narrative. I also often line internal surfaces at openings such as the neck of bottle shapes, which begin to suggest a hidden organic interior.

Poem (58cm x 41 cm , back) , Basalt (52cm x 24 cm, front left) , Horizon III ( 31cm x 15 cm, Front right). Photograph by Cavaliero Finn

Discuss the technique of hand building ceramics and why you use this technique?

Hand-building with slabs, which is the process I manly use, is like putting together a mini building. The detail is important, the joining of the slabs and the finishing of the form. It goes hand in hand with my training. I know how to make a pot stand up and I also know if I take shortcuts it is likely to collapse or crack in the kiln. The end result of a piece sets up a visual conversation between the pseudo -perfection of geometric pattern and the tactile impurity of hand-manipulated clay.

Do you make specific works to be bought in groups?

I think strong motifs often sit well together, particularly patterns of different grains. I do not always pre-plan works in pairs or groups but rather experiment with combinations to find successful companion groups. It is sometimes the least expected combinations that work best.

Discuss the design element on your work Ebb and Flow.

Horizon I (60 cm x 47 cm), Horizon II (52 cm x 27 cm, front)

Ebb and Flow was shown as a part of a show for London Art Fair curated by Cavaliero Finn and setting my work with reciprocal pieces by textile artist Jacy Wall.

The two pieces are a pair of similar vessels with inverted patterns fading vertically across the surface. The name Ebb and Flow describes the transition of the pattern from black to white to black and vice versa reflecting the ebb and flow of the tide on the shoreline..

Comment on the importance of good photography for the presentation of your work.

Certainly a considered context is important for photographing art. I work in a studio previously inhabited by the abstract landscape painter Boo Mallinson and most of my work is photographed against the backdrop of the her paint spatters, like a Jackson Pollock mural!. This sets an active scene and avoids the sterility of a white box gallery still.

Do you keep a sketch book that you work your patterns and design ideas in?

Yes, it is important for me to keep a record of my designs and plans for new designs. There is always something new that comes from each sketch.

Patterns. Photo by Cavaliero Finn

How has the pandemic effected your art and art practice?

It has, actually had an unexpectedly positive effect despite the cancellation of nearly all planned gallery exhibitions. I kept working through but rather than building up a collection for future exhibitions as expected I have not been able to work fast enough to meet the demand for smaller works sold online. It has not altered the expression of the work itself – pattern is virus resistant.

Vernacular series. Small pots ranging in height from approximately 6-12 cm, created for #artistsupportpledge.

Can you briefly discuss the technique you use to create your patterns on your work.

To create the patterns successfully the state of the clay is very important -it needs to be just less than leather hard. I paint the whole surface of each pot with black or white slip dependant on the clay used and when the slip has lost its sheen, score the pattern outline into the slip using paper strips and pencil. When the slip has hardened slightly more I scrape away sections of slip to reveal the clay beneath. The process is very laborious and I have to be careful to keep the pots well wrapped and humid between sessions so that the pattern can be completed over several days.

Do you have your own studio? Where is it?

My studio is in the south west of England in my West Dorset garden. It is essential for the studio to be close to my house due to the process of working with slip in the way I do - I need to be able to quickly cover or uncover the work at various stages of the drying process.

What are two aspects that you love about the studio?

The outlook from the studio is fantastic with long views over the Devon countryside and great sunsets most evenings. I also appreciate a studio that is large enough to cope with the mess a ceramic studio often demands. It’s a good place to not be an Architect.

What is the most recent purchase that you have made for your studio and why?

I recently bought a new large slab roller. My pots are so large and having to roll out very large slabs from clay is extremely physically demanding. Having a slab roller has literally transformed my life.

How does your environment influence your work?

I am sure the extraordinary nature in my native Iceland creeps in but it is possibly more my immediate family who now influence my work. We are an artistic family of Architect (my partner), photographer (my 18 year old son) and GCSE Art Scholar (my 16 year old daughter) and inevitable conversations and sometimes unintended suggestions are a big influence.

Contact:

Björk Haraldsdóttir 

justbjork@me.com

Instagram: @ceramics_by_bjork

Website bjork.haraldsdottir.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, July 2020


Chris Motley

What led you to take knitting to another level?

Helping

My mother taught me to knit when I was in grade school, so I’ve been knitting for 50 years or so.  I can’t say I meant for my knitting to start doing art in addition to garments. But even before I retired I had started visualizing knit items in three dimensions and I was selling knit neckpieces made with 3-D oval shapes.  It was so great to see my name tag at an open house at one of the stores identify me as “Artist.” (But I didn’t actually call myself an artist for several more years.)  I was a lawyer for 30 years, and really enjoyed it, but knitting was also always there.  It’s second nature to me so it easily evolved!

Reaching Green

What really started my advancement was happening to see an announcement for a two-day class at the California College of the Arts titled “Sculptural Knitting.”  Wow, I thought – I’m not off base!  That was a great class and four other women attending asked me after to join their critique group – we’re still meeting now 12 years later!  Their encouragement and support was very instrumental in my artistic development.  I now belong to an additional critique group and it is great community.  My lawyer friends comment on how I transitioned will into retirement, and my artist friends were always so surprised to find out my career was as a lawyer – FUN!

For how long have you been knitting with wire?

A Long night

My first knit wire was very early on, when I knit three wine glasses with wire – they of courses did not remain upright and I titled the three together lying down “A Long Night.”  There was then a long hiatus on using wire; the real development of wire pieces started in 2016 when I knit a piece about the climate with wire using very light wool yarn to fill in the leaves with green and then brown, “Brown is the New Green.”  And wire plays a large part of my piece “Steeling Ourselves.” I have to attribute this development into using wire to Karen Searle and Tracy Krumm both of whom use wire in their art and from whom I have taken a class.

You may like to read the interview on Zoneone Arts with Tracy Krumm in April 2014 https://zoneonearts.com.au/tracy-krumm/

Steeling Ourselves

What are some of the difficulties in knitting with wire?

As long as I don’t use wire that is very rigid, knitting wire of a smaller gauge isn’t difficult.  But there is a limit in knitting three dimensional pieces in wire that are closed such as a ball.  In order to knit it, I use flexible wire but its very flexibility makes it unable to retain its shape unless it is handled very carefully; thus it’s just not practical to make a closed shape than is difficult to reshape it gets flattened. Even with thin wire I sometimes put a band-aid on my wrapping finger to protect it.  My wire pieces are thus one dimensional.

Steeling Ourselves, detail.

Comment on the work, ‘Steeling Ourselves’

The inspiration for ‘Steeling Ourselves’ is, simply put, our current president and the state of our country for many of us during his term.  It is made with silver wire knit together with linen cord for the color.  I purposely created holes in the knitting to further represent his impact.  I  have not done other work of political commentary.  Most of my pieces dwell on creating representations of a mood.

Though not political, I have done pieces which comment on societal situations.  In addition to Homeless, Reaching Green, which portrays arms formed into the shape of a tree which are brown at the bottom and green at the top, is a comment on climate change.  ‘Helping Hands’ is made of knit hands from browns, beige and reddish hands clasping together to express a hope for outreach.

You comment, “A design can emerge as I knit.” Discuss

Most of my pieces are constructed from small knit pieces which I then sew together into a piece.  There is thus a period of time when I’m knitting the many individual pieces.  As I’m knitting those, I start with something in mind about how I will assemble them.  Knitting is a meditative process and working on the pieces helps create different pictures of how they can fit together.  And then when I pin the pieces up on a board to plan the assembling, the developing can continue.  A piece that was begun to be round seems to work better stretched out, or with the pieces closer together than I had pictured when I started.

Red Flow

Tell us about your work, ‘Homeless’.

Homeless

The unsheltered homeless people are often in tents, but many are simply sleeping on cardboard on the sidewalk.  The homeless are compelling, and I wanted to represent their situation in my art.  I made a myriad of squares that represent squares of a knit blanket if they were sewn together.  They are laid in the shape of a sleeping body on cardboard which I literally found on the street, with a found pair of beaten up tennis shoes.

Homeless:  For Dear Life

Colour is so much a part of your work  - How do you acquire the coloured materials you knit with?

I do not dye the wool with which I knit; there is a myriad of color choice in purchased wool yarn.  I have a wonderful, wonderful yarn store near me, Imagiknit, and I purchase it there, or less often online or at another store if I don’t find what I need.  And there are such a myriad other materials when I’m not fulling the piece.

Reds

‘Quiet’ is a piece that many can see the actual knitting.  Discuss this piece.

I titled this piece Quiet because of its lack of color.  It is constructed with a variety of fibers, wools and ribbon all in a range of white and beige.

Quiet

I composed it from a large selection of the small pieces that I had knit individually.  As with most of my pieces, I pin the individual pieces on a foam core board, moving them around until I find the pattern with which I’m satisfied.  Only then do I sew them together. I did a similar piece in reds exploring the colors.   I decided to frame these pieces since they didn’t present well on their own and I thought framing would strengthen them.

How has Corona 19 effected your exhibition schedule?

When the pandemic began I had pieces at two galleries.  Both galleries retained the pieces in case they could be shown in person in the future. One gallery was able to open recently after presenting the show online, but the other was only online.

During the shutdown, how have you used your time to develop your art and art practice?

Except for about a week period of adjustment at the beginning of this shutdown, when I lacked  inspiration, it was easier to knit sweaters for my grandchildren.  Since then my art practice hasn’t been affected except to provide even more time to do my art, since socializing and going to events is restricted to the computer.  My spouse is working at home, but he’s busily ensconced in an office on another floor, so that is not affecting my art at all.  It continues including my critique groups, which are now via Zoom.

Pendantic Ponderings

You have been in many juried exhibitions.  Comment on the benefits of these against exhibitions.

Simply put, juried exhibitions provide a forum for those of us artists who are not represented by a gallery.  I started applying early on, encouraged by my critique group – I had no idea then what a juried show was.  It’s much less work that an exhibition though probably not regarded as prestigious as a full exhibition.  I’m just delighted someone wants to see my work!

‘Stream of Consciousness’ at the Morris Graves Museum in Humboldt, CA. Name of the show was Feelings in Fiber #2

Take one or two pieces that have driven your work forward.  Expand what the changes have been and how they have expanded your work.

When I started my art, I concentrated on knit pieces of the human body.  The first piece I ever showed was of a torso with an upraised arm scratching her back with a backscratcher – this represented my mother after my father died.  I continued doing human heads and hands for quite a while.

The huge jump came when I made Almost A-Round, which was my first piece made of smaller parts and is totally abstract.

Almost A-Round

That method has flourished into using a variety of shapes – circles, cups, various flat shapes presented flat or on their edge, or ropes.  All can be assembled into a never-ending variety of finished pieces.

Contact:

Chris Motley

chrismotley@comcast.net

www.chrismotleyart.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, July 2020


Penelope McMorris

What made you change direction and start on a career in photography?

It was more a matter of “discovering” photography than of changing careers. I worked as the curator for Owens-Corning’s corporate art collection for eighteen years, was also a private consultant. In other words, I worked with the art of others. A photographer friend encouraged me to begin photographing in the mid-2000's. I soon discovered the joy of hunting and stalking street life subjects as I travelled. The “Vanity Fair” photo was one of my first (2005) that pleased me.

Vanity Fair, 2005

Now retired from consulting, I consider photography a passion, not a career.

Where do you take your photographs? 

Wherever I am out and about; particularly when traveling. Key West, Florida is one of my favourite cities.  The resident’s welcome eccentrics and camera-toting tourists, I blend right in, just wandering and shooting all day. It is a city full of beautiful backgrounds, fascinating faces and friendly people.

The photographs are a snap shot or moments in time, discuss?

Unlike pre-planning and staging a photograph, I prowl the streets for subjects. This means I might encounter something intriguing the very next second. (Or not.) A site I photograph one moment might not even exist when I later revisit it. There is a feeling of capturing history that I enjoy. There is a tropical mural on the wall of the Hilltop Laundry in Key West that I adore — each year I check to ensure it has not been painted over, knowing it will happen one day.

Hilltop Laundry, 2007

Another “moment in time” photo came when St. Paul’s in Key West was fumigated, and I happened by just as a workman removed the canvas coverings. If you know the photo’s story, there’s no mystery. But if you don’t….

St. Paul’s, 2017

If you have stopped photographing during the pandemic what has caused this freeze?

I’m still out walking and looking. But generally, only see random dog walkers out in my small Ohio town. I’m not inspired to shoot pandemic shots because face masks hide the expressions which would interest me. I’m not a photographer of empty stillness. Plus, I know others are documenting our strange and scary time beautifully. 

Can you expand on how you photograph people imposed over other images?

As I travel, I often come across street art unexpectedly. Being fascinated with faces, I try to find an opportunity to photograph a passer-by in a way that makes the person appear to be interact with the art. My husband and I spent an afternoon in Osijek, Croatia last year and in walking noticed a large street portrait. (I’m sorry I don’t know the artist.) This was one of the few times I “lay in wait” for the perfect person to pass by, although I only had several minutes as we were late for a meeting. I hoped to capture a pretty girl, so the street portrait would appear to be ogling her. But then a man walked by. I liked his purposeful stride and felt it worked.

Watcher in Osijek, 2019

Another time we were walking in Edinburgh. I turned my head as we passed an alley and saw this amazing mural by Smug. A few people were walking beneath it, and luckily, I always have a camera. This photo is one of my favourites.

Catcher, 2017

Comment on finding photo opportunities with advertising.

Adverts are all around us — posters, signs, billboards, marquees. I love the graphic quality they add. I saw a wonderful poster-filled wall in Paris. When a young man past I took my picture, only seeing later the space I had centred him in was surrounded by the phrase “Kill the Young.” Thinking that a bit macabre I researched. It’s the name of a British band.

Kill the Young, 2007

How did your series, ‘Mannikins’ come about?

Like many people, I love mannikins. (And they’re most cooperative about having their picture taken.) And because they are typically behind glass, there is the additional potential of reflections. I was struck by the difference in mannikin scale in this shop window I saw fleetingly from a London bus. A rain-coated pedestrian walked by and I liked the way his legs seemed momentarily attached to the mannikin behind him producing a “what’s happening?” moment in my photo.

London Rain, 2017

In another window, I did a double-take noticing what appeared to be a woman’s leg attached to a tuxedo clad male — as if someone had playfully added extra body parts to this mute figure.

Fancy Footwork, 2019

Discuss the darker side of your photographs in ‘Encounters’.

Perhaps because I’m tranquil by nature, I’m drawn to hotter, more mysterious subjects and faces suggesting a deeper story. (Just as I like Noir movies….) I never take pictures homeless people, or to make fun of anyone. I always start up a conversation (before or after I make my picture), to explain what about them caught my eye. That’s why I consider it an encounter — we meet, we chat, and hopefully I leave them, feeling good about themselves. At least that is always my intention.

Graffiti Alley Dancer, 2019

Why do you restrict your photography to Black and White?

I like the strong graphic quality of black and white. I love colour and shoot “pretty” pictures with my iPhone for fun, but find colour distracts from the mood or story I seek in my serious work.

You comment, “I like the exciting idea of images on glass.” Discuss this using two images.

Reflections depend on time and weather, as well as what is happening both through the glass, and behind the camera.  They offer tantalizing potential possibilities from moment to moment. In this photo, a gentleman sat on a chair in Starbucks. I noticed he appeared to be sitting sideways in a station wagon (actually parked on the street behind me). If he’d shifted position the strange juxtaposition would have been lost.

Lounger, 2019

Another day I passed a gallery which I knew had a large painting of Marilyn Monroe. While I searched for a subject, a semi pulled up directly behind me, bearing a beefcake photo of a grinning man clad only in shorts. I could see my shadow blocking part of the truck’s reflection. But it wasn’t until I saw the photo that I noticed Marilyn’s eye revealed in my shadow. I love surprises like that.

 

Marilyn’s Eye, 2020

Contact:

Penelope McMorris

Website: www.penelopem.com

Email: pennymcmorris@gmail.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, July 2020


Nicholas Lees

You have said, “I am intrigued in exploring the boundaries between shadows and light.” Discuss in relations to your current work.

My current body of work emerged from a research project at the Royal College of Art (London). I was investigating relationships and transitions between two-dimensional images and three-dimensional forms through various processes. Cast shadows and silhouettes became key ideas and inspirations in my research, and I found myself especially intrigued by the boundary of the shadow – the penumbra. The works are in some ways an attempt at a material manifestation of that elusive and ephemeral phenomenon. This built on a long standing interest in boundaries, thresholds and meeting points. They are always contested, uncertain and negotiable, and my works display a visual uncertainty between the definition of the space contained and the space occupied by the hollow object.

'Angled vessels'. Black Porcelain and Parian. H 41cm. Photo Credit Sylvain Deleu

What first drew you to ceramics?

I had always quite enjoyed working with clay as a child, although without any great passion. I think I liked its potential to shift states and take on an infinity of forms. I became seriously interested aged 17 whilst studying for A levels.  My teacher did raku firing with us which was incredibly dramatic and engaging, and also showed me Hans Coper’s work which I found captivating and inspiring.

What do you find rewarding in being a visiting lecturer rather than Senior lecturer?

I spent 10 years giving the majority of my time to working as a Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University, and making some art work alongside that. Now I spend most of my time in my studio, and work as a visiting Lecturer at the RCA in London and the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham. I am very aware how fortunate I am to be able to have that balance and for my teaching time to be almost entirely focused on contact with postgraduate students. I really enjoy the process of tutorial teaching at this level.

'Littoral 3'. H40 x W85 x D20 cm. Parian, grey parian, bone china, black porcelain, painted fibreboard. Photo Credit Jon Furley.

Comment, personally on your thoughts of passing on your skills and where if any are the boundaries shut?

I am most interested in the passing on of understandings and ways of thinking about the creative process. The notion of thinking through making - ideas having an intrinsic relationship with material and process - is very important. I do happily teach skills, although less than I used to, and I don’t see it as my role to show people how to make like me, but to help them find their own way.

On the whole I am pretty open about sharing my process as it is often very tightly linked to the conceptual content of my work.

You have been to three major institutions, Bristol Polytechnic, University of Wales, and Royal College of Art.  Can you give a highlight for your time at each?

I do love to study, and have been lucky enough to return to education twice after periods of practice, and to also be continually involved on the other side of the educational fence. At Bristol I was given a great grounding in ceramics and was taught by some excellent artists of which Walter Keeler probably had the most influence on my making and an extraordinary teacher called Mike Hughes on my thinking. Four years after that the one-year MA in Cardiff was an intense period of learning and development which totally transformed my thinking and my work. There were seven of us in the cohort, and the incredible learning dynamic in the student group stood out. The opportunity to develop a new body of work at the RCA was incredible, but most important was having a year to experiment and play and question the fundamentals of my practice at that stage in my career.

'Four Leaning Vessels'. Parian. H 32cm. Photo credit Sylvain Deleu.

How do your drawings – ink on paper relate to your ceramic work?

The works on paper are a parallel exploration of some of the same ideas as the work in ceramic. Again, the approach is very rooted in material and practice in an exploration of the interaction between paper, ink, water and time. The time between idea and a resolved outcome in ceramic is often many weeks long – so to work in a medium where the same iteration can be achieved several times in one day is a refreshing antidote.

Untitled Drawing. 2017. Ink on Paper.  86 x 67cm framed

Your floating Bowls. Discuss:

 Inspiration

The basic inspiration is as outlined for this evolving body of work in the answer to the first question. Specific inspiration for these pieces was to make something that was more overtly a container and to position the piece on the surface in a way which meant that it had a lightness and floating presence. Also, the fins are at an angle that helps to make the perceptible physicality of the object shift in more planes.

Grouping or not grouping of these works

Usually the works are for sale as individual pieces, but they are often photographed and shown as groupings. Grouping conveys the shifting presence of the object from a single viewpoint. What is perceived is dependent upon the relationships between object, light, space and body.

Three Floating Bowls. H 19cm. Parian. Photo Credit Sylvain Deleu

Balance

The sense of balance and of the piece floating defies its objecthood and moves it into the realm of ephemerality.

Blue Floating Bowl 19.43 H 13cm Parian and soluble cobalt, photo credit Jon Furley

Technique

The pieces are wheel thrown with very thick walls. They are dried slowly before being turned on a lathe. Then they are fired. There is some grinding done with diamond in order to finish surfaces and create the standing point of the piece.

When did you introduce colour into you work and why?

Blue Floating Bowl 19.43 H 13cm Parian and soluble cobalt. photo credit Jon Furley

When I first developed this body of work, I kept it monochrome. This was because I was researching light and shadow and needed to reduce the variables to understand what was going on. The use of colour originated with my work on paper. I am always interested in the interplay between form and surface and didn’t want to use an applied surface. I use a process where the colour migrates right through the form, much in the way that ink moves on paper with the encouragement of water. The colour is dictated by process and chemistry rather than by selecting from a palette.

Discuss the need for perfection in your work?

I am interested in skill and craftsmanship, although not as ends in themselves. The work does take a lot of skill and I do seek some kind of perfection. There is however a subtle interplay with the material and the transformation of process. The pieces do move and distort slightly in the kiln and I enjoy this interaction and undermining of mechanical perfection.

Discuss how the viewer can make your work move visually?

The simple answer to this is time. Look, look and look again. With every change in your viewpoint and in the lighting conditions you will see something different. I am still surprised by pieces that have been in my studio for years when I see an aspect of their presence I have never perceived before.

How do you sign you work?

I etch an initial monogram into the pieces once they are totally finished, along with a unique number including the year of making.

Your work is in many collections.  Take one piece and explain why this piece going to this collection was so important to you career?

This is in the collection of the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza Italy. It was acquired as part of winning a major prize at the Premio Faenza Biennale. This came at an important point to me and was a great boost to my career. I love to work internationally, and another aspect of the prize was a residency at Officine Saffi in Milan, which sowed the seeds of a new body of work which is very slowly germinating in my studio.

'Four Leaning Vessels'. Parian. H 32cm. Photo credit Sylvain Deleu.

With the current pandemic, what advice would you give to both up coming artists and practicing artists.

I have been very fortunate to have been able to keep working as I have my own studio which I can walk to. I have never before been more grateful for that. It is difficult to give advice, but perhaps the key thing is as at any time to find a way to keep making work that you believe in.

What is something positive that has come out of your time during lockdown?

A little bit of progress with the slow germination I mentioned above and some ideas about new forms for my current work.

 Contact:

Nicholas Lees

nicholas.lees@network.rca.ac.uk

www.nicholaslees.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, June 2020


Josée Tellier

Discuss how difficult it was initially for you to decide between art and music?

I had to decide between playing violin or visual art. In a way, visual art could be done anytime with many possibilities;  I was taking extra art classes in high school, experimenting sculpture, different art craft but meanwhile, always drawing in my books. Color pencils and oil pastels were one of my favorite gifts. Violin playing however was daily training, discipline. I was an early admittance to the Quebec Conservatory in Trois-Rivières and playing in the orchestra was so rich and such an emotive experience that I could not imagine myself loosing that feeling after working so hard and performing in concerts. I could not stop taking violin lessons and reaching higher level without  practicing more, having more different classes (theory, solfege, orchestra, etc...) As a teenager there was not much time left between school and the many hours of daily practice as well as  having all the music classes. Finally, I have been an orchestra player for more than 30 years. Emotion drives!

Swing! 102x102 cm, typical French Canadian architecture; ''mansard roof''

Public award in Salon des Arts Visuels de Brossard in 2016

The due to an accident you had a second chance – What was needed in the beginning to improve your art skill to a new level?

I took a first painting class in 2005 because felt  I needed to come back to my first love of colors. At that time, I was going to painting class with my violin  or having to bring my acrylic paint inside, in winter, during orchestra's practices in Montreal Place des Arts. So, as a professional violinist, between  2005 to 2010, I was spending all my free time  painting. I developed health problems in 2010.  The bicycle accident came after 2 years of being sick.  After 3 main surgeries, I was trying  to go back to training for orchestra when that accident happened. My left shoulder could not stand  playing violin anymore. During those 2 years of not being able to play violin, the painting became my main activity. I was lucky to become a member of very good local association, the AAPARS, in 2010. I began to do exhibitions and I was also attending public demo-conferences. I also took a few classes with well known artists.  Though  self-taught by visiting museums and exhibits, taking a few painting classes and training with very good artists made me become Josée Tellier Artiste 3D.

Petit Champlain en Septembre, 61x122 cmOld Quebec city

You have a deep rooted, love of houses, discuss this in relations to your art practice.

My grandfather was living in a huge and beautiful house.  My father was drawing plans for our homes and watching him gave me the knowledge to do the same. I made all  the plans for managing my homes, made plans for building my garage or adding rooms to my house. I learned how to use all the tools  we needed to build a house and built it with my husband.  I feel sorry when I see how hard it is to protect our architecture from severe Canadian climate.

Manteau de mars, 61x91,5 cm. Patrimonial house of Beloeil, QC

Every year we lose many nice houses and for me, painting and preserving its memory is paying a tribute to our architecture. Also, when I was young, during the Christmas season, my father used to drive us around the  neighbourhood to watch the Christmas lights.

La Guignolée 76x91.5 cm, House to house collection for the poor tradition in Quebec winter season.

I clearly remember watching more than those lights. In my mind, I was imagining the story in each home , what the people were doing. So, my work  express  the 2 aspects of houses; first, the shell by sculpting and modelling the form then the mystery behind windows by adding iridescent sparkling glass....

Comment on how you paint your urban environment.

My love for beautiful houses brings me to visit villages or the historic districts of many towns in Canada and USA. The first thing I do  is  bring my camera and take pictures. BUT, I have funny stories about some of my works. Let  me tell you. A few years ago, I had a solo in Châteauguay.  I made few historic searches about very old  houses there. Well, some turned out to be  the oldest  in the Quebec province dating all the way back to the  settlement. I often use the houses  picture but I imagine different landscapes or just move the trees.... etc. what I did with that work.  Because of the technique of the stain glass I use and  the size of the work, I had to make changes in the windows.  I also made that painting with colors, I don't use very often. I did put nice bushes and decided to make it as winter scene. At the opening of the exhibition, a lady I had never met before saw that work and began to cry. I was watching her tears and she just turned to me and smiled.  She was the new owner of that house. It was her deceased mom's house.  I made the windows exactly how her mom wanted them to be restored, her mom's preferred color and season! WOW!

Le temps des érables, 91.5x122 cm. Quebec artists are inspired by the wonderful  colors of the fall season.

How has Coronavirus effected your art work?

I was in Marseilles at International Contemporary Art Fair during that crazy week!!! My goal was to develop contacts in Europe. The show began and was cancelled after one day. OUCH! Much energy and money lost. Then, back to Canada all the art suppliers and galleries were closed. Even with a few confirmed commissioned works, I was unable to make them. The non standard wood panels had to be made and the factory is still unable to make them, maybe for  months. All the exhibitions or art activities have been cancelled until fall due to the  government decisions. For me, it is a bigger problem than I expected. Meeting the public is a huge part of my inspiration. Having nice talk with people and seeing other artists enrich my imagination. The goal of exhibiting is also what I call a positive stress. Without those two  levers I have some problems to go to my workshop. My inspiration  slows down... Even if the reopening of galleries began, the clients and tourists are not there yet and it will take a long time before the situation goes back to the level it was before covid 19.

The problem with my work is that the online selling is difficult because it does not show the 3D and as well  the effect of light rays on the stain glass. The amount of glass and where it is in the work is carefully determined by the composition.

Beautés classiques, dyptique, 122 x 183 cm

The windshield is made of glass.

Online, my work looks like that of  many other painters. My unicity is hard to show online. The mediums I use come from USA an Europe. It becomes harder to get them and is more expensive.  Actually, nobody knows how artists lives will be in 6 months. Too soon to get depressed!!! but I am sure all the art community will suffer in 2020. and beyond

What are you currently working on?

I  actually work on the works I began before going to France!! ,  mainly Quebec architecture. But I took nice pictures in Marseilles and I have a project for a graffiti series inspired by Le Panier of Marseilles. Old cars is also subject I began to put in my work recently.

Discuss the technique of the 3D art you use.

My drawing have to be more developed than just sketches to be able to build the form. I have to work flat and upside down. Not obvious when you have to sculpt a roof. I work on  wood  to be able to make openings  for stain glass insertion. I have many wood tools and  glass tools. Then, I build the base relief with many layers of marble dust in acrylic polymer.

Calèche fleurie, 76x76 cm

After many years I have developed different ways using personal combination of that medium wet, half wet, crusted, etc... to create texture effects. It is carving, modelling, sculpting, sculpting the modelling!!! Many layers have to dry during whole night or whole day. It may take up to 2 weeks to build one project to the painting step, up to 3 weeks for bigger ones. So, I work on many sculptures  at a time and it take  3 to 4 times longer than just painting.  Painting the sky when you have to jump over branches or any form is also challenging for blending colors.

How did this 3D approach come about for you?

I was painting near a window and I was looking at my brother in law stain glass work in that window. It was a nice sparkling. Then I remembered the story of Gazza Ladra, Rossini's opera. The bird attracted by brilliance... The windows + glass + child fascination of lights + wood panel coming in the art market + my love of houses ... all came at the same time that afternoon. I made experimentations on how to fix everything together and my first 3D with glass work was born ... many weeks later!!!

Late in 2019 you won a prestigious art prize from Mondial Art.

Discuss the piece that won you this prize?

Matinée à Oak Bluffs, 76x91,5 cm , Historic ''gingerbread'' houses of Martha's Vineyard Island, MA, USA   this  work won the MAA prize.

I had nice pictures from a trip to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts  from years ago.  Last year, I felt like  painting some of those highly coloured houses. This place is well known for its Gingerbread houses with accentuated details with bright colours. I began to draw and discovered that one of my neighbours, at my winter workshop, came  from there. The guy was also a ''colourful''  man and a ''musician''.  I asked  if I could take pictures of him and his dogs. Then having fun talking with him, having fun  painting something related to this nice guy, all those elements made a difference. It has to be colourful! I got inspired by that man and his dogs! Mostly, when I do work for people I like, I am pretty happy with the result.

Discuss both the actual prize and how Mondial Art has supported your art practice.

France Malo, international Quebec artist, talked to me about MAA and how good the association was. I  sent my application and was selected! First, if you look at the level of the members, it is very high. Being selected was  an honour for me but also a responsibility: keeping the goal of being better and better and striving create the best I can create. It help an artist's career to be recognized by other artists.  This is a dynamic association that has several different projects like making books, holding contests and organizing shows around the world. Also, the power of the group allows us  to participate  in international exhibitions at a lowered shared  cost. AND I GOT INTERVIEWED!!!! Thank you to Zoneone Arts and MAA for that opportunity. Honestly, for weeks I did not believe in winning that prize! For sure, such a  recognition will help me for the next step...

Comment on one or two pieces that have help you in the development of your art.

Beautés classiques, dyptique, 122 x 183 cm

November 2019, I made a big work for a contest- exhibition  with the AAPARS (Association des Artistes Peintres Affiliés de la Rive Sud).  That contest is under juried selection and the level is very high. The final jury is a highly professional one.  It is always a privilege to do that show but this time, I won the first figurative prize. For me, it was again a big surprise but I am very proud to have won at home. This brought new people to pay attention to my work and I have been invited to sign the Gold Book of my city, Beloeil, QC.

L'auberge de St-Placide, 61x61 cm, patrimonial house from Baie St-Paul, QC

That work won a gold medal at the 44th international contest of CASPQ in 2016 at Galeria La Pigna, Vatican, Italy. I met the owner and had a nice talk about restoring that historic house in Baie St-Paul, QC.

Contact:

Josée Tellier

www.joseetellier.com

joseetelliermail@gmail.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, June 2020


David Henty

How do you deal with the terms, art forger/ copyist?

I like it although I prefer “art forger” to “copyist”.  I’m always trying to replicate the look, the feel, and the patina of the original. Also, if possible, I source period canvases, paints and frames, so I believe I’m more akin to an art forger, than a mere copyist. Forgers have always been around, it is most definitely an art form in itself.

Working on Modligiani

How do you handle doing such different work technically?

When I become interested in an artist I become obsessed. At the moment I’m working on Caravaggio’s ‘Card Sharps’. Last week it was Caravaggio’s ‘Entombment’.  I have a burning desire to learn all of his methods, his handwriting so to speak and his tricks. As with other artists I become interested in, I obsess about how they worked and achieved their results.  I always (where possible) study the original works.

Working on Caravaggio's 'Card Sharps'

How does it feel to be in your studio and home surrounded with so many famous artists?

I love waking up looking at Caravaggio’s ‘Taking of Christ’, which hangs full size in my bedroom.  I get a rush in my stomach when I catch sight of a William Waterhouse or a Picasso – which at the moment are stacked up against my studio wall.  There is a photo of Picasso in his home in France, he had a room packed and stacked with art by the likes of Modigliani, Cezanne, and Matisse.  He collected the crème of 1920’s artwork. That is how I feel.

Where did the idea of using your artistic skills in this way come from?

I have always been able to draw and I loved copying different handwriting styles when I was a kid. I come from quite a large family, all of whom have an artistic bent. My sister is the best selling author Shani Struthers, my brother Paul is a horologist, my brother Steven a landscape gardener, my brother Tony a jeweller and my brother Dane an amateur painter.

Comment on your art in comparison to the originals, housed in bank vaults?

I have a firm belief that art should be accessible to everyone, to be admired, loved and to give a feeling of pleasure to the viewer – not stuck in a bank vault. The two most expensive paintings in the world Picasso’s ‘Les Femmes d’Alger’ and Leonardo’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ are two paintings that I have thoroughly enjoyed painting.

 

How has Peter James been influenced by you and your art in his writing?

Being born and bred in Brighton, I have a few tales to tell and a few colourful experiences from my sometimes misspent youth! Peter James collaborated with former Commander of Brighton & Hove Police, Graham Bartlett in a book about some of Graham’s arrests and so, over lunch, we chatted about some of my stories.

How do you choose your artists and which of their paintings to copy?

I’m drawn by the stories of an artists’ life, Modigliani and Soutine for example, both had fascinating back-stories as did Caravaggio, who was the first ‘bad boy’ of art.  I have to love a painting in order to faithfully reproduce it.

Do you have a limit of the number of times you will paint a painting?

Once I have overcome the challenge of a painting, I’m not really interested in repeating it – unless it’s a commission of course.

Do you mind telling how your time in prison helped you to your new career?

Not at all. My time ‘inside’ helped me to focus my attentions on creating art and I have never looked back. It was whilst in prison that I fell in love with painting and the art of recreating masterpieces. I have been absorbed in the technicality ever since.

At Cloud Gallery

What are some things that you have learnt from three different artists?

From Caravaggio: the lightning strike drama.

From Modigliani: the fine line.

From Picasso: creativity and always being in the “flow”.

What advice can you give to art student when looking closely at art in a gallery?

I would say look closely and then look again. Look at nature and try to frame and photograph it in your mind.

If you could invite five artists to dinner, whom would you ask?

Well it would probably end up as a drunken, boozy brawl, but I would invite, 

Caravaggio:

Caravaggio

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was an Italian painter active in Rome for most of his artistic life. During the final four years of his life he moved between Naples, Malta, and Sicily until his death. Wikipedia 

Picasso:

Picasso

Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist and theatre designer who spent most of his adult life in France. Wikipedia

 Modigliani:

Modigliani

Amedeo Clemente Modigliani was an Italian Jewish painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. He is known for portraits and nudes in a modern style characterized by elongation of faces, necks, and figures that were not received well during his lifetime but later found acceptance. Wikipedia

Soutine:


Soutine

Chaïm Soutine was a French painter of Lithuanian Jewish origin. Soutine made a major contribution to the expressionist movement while living in Paris. Wikipedia

Walter Sickert: 

Walter Sickert

Walter Richard Sickert RA RBA was a British painter and printmaker who was a member of the Camden Town Group of Post-Impressionist artists in early 20th-century London. He was an important influence on distinctively British styles of avant-garde art in the mid- and late 20th century. Wikipedia

What would you what to ask each of them?  Or would you just throw in one open question?

I would ask them if I could watch them work, from conception through to completion. I would just like to stand in their shoes and look through their eyes.

What is on the back of all, of your art so that there is no question of forgery?

“David Henty Art”

(I always state when selling artwork that the painting is after… a homage… or in the style of…)

How do you cope with finding the right frames for each piece?

David Henty on the hunt.

I love looking in antique shops, which my hometown of Brighton is renowned for (happily!) I also visit markets and antique fairs looking for period frames. France also has some great markets to pick up old canvases and last but not least, the framer I work with is also brilliant at matching frames to paintings.

Luck of the find

Have you painted any Australian artists work?

Not yet…

Contact:

David Henty

www.davidhentyart.co.uk

david@davidhentyart.co.uk

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, June 2020


Laura Baruël

Your work is varied from origami, plant printing and large paper art.

How and why have Nordic flowers played such an important role in this work?

At a certain time I started wondering how we relates to the specific places that we live. Modern cities kind of look and feel the same all over the globe. But we all do live in specific biospheres,with very specific conditions and “natural inhabitants”. With the work “Patterns of Parise” I wanted to add value to the very specific place of the Nordic countries.

Garden

How does nature influence your work?

My work focuses on the relation between modern man and nature and springs from a curiosity towards the natural word. I like to have an artistic dialogue with these elements that are millions of years old.

Take plant printing:

How do you use plants in you printing process?

I collect plants, paint the plants and make prints with heat and pressure.

How do you extend your work to add colour?

I paint the plants.

What printing presses do you use?

Heat and pressure press.

Printing set up

What materials do you print on?

To make the first original I print on 100 % polyester. Then I scan the original to the computer and then I print it with reactive colour and digital printing mostly on cotton, linen, silk or bamboo.

Take origami:

How do you extend origami and folded paper into a textile pieces?

It comes quite natural to me since I constantly consider how to make form? What form is? etc. I love origami because it transforms 2D into 3D in a very elegant almost “nature like” way. Paper and textile has a lot in common and the things you can do with paper, you can almost always apply to fabric.

Discuss your project Rokoko – Mania

The project Mountain scape for the Rokoko-Mania exhibition is a hybrid of many past and present craft inspirations: 18th century European, silk-woven textiles with their luxuriant, exotic (and erotic) flowers and garden motifs; and partly from the Chinese textiles of the same period, with their stylized lineation portraying dragons and mountains, and animal, flower, wave and cloud motifs.

It consist of five dresses, each one representing architypical concepts or elements of nature, including clouds, water and waves, flowers and hills. The dresses are all ‘linked’ by a rocky landscape. This is an element in Japanese and Chinese art that dates back hundreds of years, the perception and implementation of which has long since spread to the art of other cultures.

Where is the museum?

The Museum is located in central Copenhagen in an old hospital from the 17th century. Really lovely design and craft museum.

Designmuseum Danmark:

Is located in the historic Copenhagen-area, Frederiksstaden, in one of the fine old rococo buildings, originally build in 1757 by King Frederik V as the first public hospital. The museum offers permanent exhibitions where guests can explore the Danish design legacy and historical roots along with sources of inspiration. Guests can also enjoy contemporary Danish design, the lovely museum garden with outdoor serving during summer period, café and museum shop.  Closed due to Corona Viris, and they have put renovations forward during this forced closure.

Discuss the historical component of the project?

From the museum we were asked to do a comment on a historical exhibition about the arts and crafts of the 1700th.  We had some meetings with the researchers at the museum and discussed the  period. I had just returned from a longer trip to China, so for me it was very obvious to work with the influence from the China at the time. At the same time there was a growing awareness in Europe about the Chinese becoming a greater power in modern society. The history of trade is quite interesting telling us a lot about how cultures benefit from exchange and at the same time compete. Cultural signs and symbols can become weapons in wars of intellectual dominance.

Photograph, Amanda Hestehave

I wanted to work with elements from 17th century European craft and Chinese/Asian craft and bring to a totally new place offering an other possibily than “cultural aggression”. Pointing to the things all cultures have in common: Nature – earth, wind, fire, water….The natural powers that we all are a part of.

Photograph, Amanda Hestehave

How did you decide on the five dresses?

I considered the extravagant dresses of the 17th century courtyards as a strong visual sign for 17th century European culture also it has to do with the role of the woman at that period. As a design object it is wonderfully complex. It’s a kind of architecture….or landscape – a very solid form after all that would go good together with my idea about a “mountainlandscape” – one of the Asian components.

Photograph, Amanda Hestehave

What were one or two challenges you had to work through to get the finished pieces?

The project was huge and heavy from the beginning it was necessary to move the project two times during the process of making it. It is still huge and heavy and takes up a lot of space, but I am very happy about that project, so I had to find myself a big workshop!

Photograph, Amanda Hestehave

Comment on Wilderness and how you have combined nature, form, and dress in these works.

The pieces are made directly from plants that I have collected in my own surroundings. I was inspired by ancient fertility sculptures and the concept of wearing your surroundings directly. One dress from ferns, one from seaweed and one from grasses. The materials and the concept of a dress has been the starting point of the work with form. It is a vision of a future with a better connection between man and the biosphere.

Where do you get your inspiration…  Take one piece that will allow you to discuss ‘inspiration’ and how it leads to the final piece.

I tend to have a very long process. Take for instance the Fern dress from the Wilderness project. It started while I was doing another project about Nordic dress culture.  I was interested in the climate issues in relation to clothes. I was doing a lot of walking around, experiencing the climate. During these walks my eyes fell on tiny ferns and I collected a large amount for no purpose.

I was kind of sad that I would not be able to use it for my project. When I started the Wilderness project. I started to research plant evolution and I realized that ferns are among the earliest plants on earth and it made great sense to use it for the new project.

Contact:

Laura Baruël

Email: info@baruel.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, June 2020


Nigel Cheney

Your work is often full of storytelling – comment.

I am driven by narrative. I tend to anthropomorphise to an unhealthy extent and from an early age saw inanimate objects as protagonists in some drama of my invention. I did very badly in English at school and lost all confidence in my writing. I found that drawing conveyed stories more eloquently that prose. I adore the depth to poetry, and how it can be so open to interpretation, but just don’t have the vocabulary to do it myself. I suppose the most inspirational quote is one by Gustave Flaubert: “There is no truth. There is only perception.”

‘Telling Stories’ 140 x 200cm, 2011

I enjoy describing the inside story of the development of a piece but I often reinterpret its intention differently with each retelling. Time offers its own perspective. I have had a recent conversation with a friend who was discussing one of her favourite songs and loving it despite having no idea what the songwriter meant with the obtuse lyrics.

Detail, ‘Telling Stories’ 140 x 200cm, 2011

I googled several articles where the performer had talked about it, with inherent contradictions as she reflected over a period of time. It is that ambiguity I aspire towards.

Detail, ‘Telling Stories’ 140 x 200cm, 2011

How many techniques are used in ‘’ Coat for Lethbridge Sisters’?

How did this piece come about?

‘Coat for Lethbridge Sisters’ 2015

“Coat for the Lethbridge Sisters”, is a piece of wearable art produced between July and October 2015.  It represents 80 hours of hand and free machine embroidery over digital printing before being quilted to produce a one-off silk coat. We were approached by Dr. Lynne Hulse and Caroline McNamara regarding their research project and involving the students in a competition. This was all relating to Dr. Hulse research on the two sisters for her book. ‘Passion and Legacy: The legacy of the Irish Arts and Crafts Movement with particular reference to the work of the Lethbridge Sisters (Julia Baroness Carew (1863-1922) and Lady Jane Cory (1865-1947)): a source of inspiration for design in the 21st century. ’The lecture she gave at Girton College Cambridge, in the room full of Lady Julia’s embroideries on the lives of the two sisters was fascinating. It was the driving factor in making the coat. The imagery for the coat was taken from archive images of their work and portraits. These were combined with an original drawing of her King Charle’s Spaniel and manipulated in photoshop.

What is the percentage of hand stitching on the piece?

The only hand stitching is the portrait of the dog ‘Poppy’ on the centre back

Detail of Poppy the dog on the centre back of ‘Coat for Lethbridge Sisters’ 2015

and the French knots on the sheep.

Detail of French knot sheep, ‘Coat for Lethbridge Sisters’ 2015

The rest is machine quilting emphasising their embroidery. In percentage terms it probably covers about 10% of the cloth in total, took over 90% of the time.

How do you work to deadlines?  What changes do they bring?

I think I respond well to deadlines. (every student I have ever taught  has written this and the eyes roll to the back of my head).  Having taught both Design and Fine Art students I use the following analogy. Design students need training like sprinters. They like short term goals, lots of feedback monitoring their progress and a rhythm to the years calendar with seasons and deadlines. Fine Art students need training like endurance runners who are perpetually in training but balk at the idea of a finishing line. They are driven by their own improvement more than how well others perform. I suppose I am a mix of both.

‘Coat for the Lethbridge Sisters’, Detail, 2015

The ‘Coat for the Lethbridge Sisters is a case in point. The deadline was very tight and I had full time teaching simultaneously. I feel that I didn’t do this project ‘properly’. I just didn’t have time. Certainly not a methodology I would advocate to students. Particularly the garment development was more ‘make the cloth and work out how it turned into a thing later’. There was no toile with pinned on motifs, no careful scale tests of the design.

‘Coat for the Lethbridge Sisters’

These are things I would insist students did. I just had a sense that this was what I needed to do and after all it would be a bit of cloth and I could chop it up if worse came to worst. I found myself with a tape measure and my sister’s anorak estimating where the motifs would need to be placed on the final garment. Working on a small notebook computer I ‘photoshopped’ merrily away, with obscene confidence that it would all come out right. I created the large digital files. Anticipating that if the motifs were composed similarly to a medieval cope then they would just look right when worn. It was kind of a virtual ‘decoupage’ sticking images of stitched motifs from the Girton embroideries at different scales within the composition. The honeysuckle would go here and the leaf there. The sleeves had to be asymmetric and the front panels dominated by enormous portraits of the sisters. The dog sat firmly on their back, nestled under the miniature of Lady Jane. All on a screen 10 inches big….. A ridiculous way to work but all I had to hand at the time!

‘Coat for the Lethbridge Sisters’

Comment on how new techniques such as digital printing has changed your art practice.

I worked with screen printing and oil based inks at school for A’ Level. I love the results but have allergies with the cleaning chemicals. One reason I loathe oil painting. In college I did screen printing on textiles. The chemistry of mixing dyes and the skill required to colour match successfully was beyond my limited patience. I respond to the immediacy of colour. The challenge of getting my drawing onto cloth without having to replicate every stitch (which would still be my preferred option) was driven by necessity of speed. I first used digital printing 20 years ago. To realise it I had to visit a mate in London who worked on photoshop for me and sent to a company there. The expense was astronomical, the quality was dreadful, but the potential was alluring. It is quite amazing how far the industry has come on now.

The Fall of St. Sebastian from the a ‘Appendices’ Exhibition, 2000

For many years I relied heavily on digital stitch as I was using my research time to explore what our college facilities could produce.

Detail, digital stitch fills

You are a member of 62 Group.  How did this happen?

I remember the importance of their exhibitions from as long as I knew about textile art at school. It was one of those dreams to be a member that you have in the quiet of night and talk yourself out of in the daylight. I grew up watching Jan Beaney do machine embroidery on Pebble Mill at One on the TV! I applied not thinking I would make it past the first selection process.

‘Whortleberry I and II,from the 62 Group,  ‘Construction’ Exhibition, Sunny Bank Mill, Leeds,

What have you given them?

Very little, I suspect. I currently manage their social media accounts. So at the least I am useful. I do think I have a different emphasis than many of the members. That diversity is part of its attraction. The way things have worked so far I haven’t shown work that is more drawing based. It hasn’t suited the themes until the latest. The piece for the postponed ‘conversations’ exhibition is basically a drawing that is mirrored so that a moment from the past faces a reflection of that memory. ‘Both sides now’ is wrapped up ready to post. I’m not sure I will ever unwrap it.

Detail, ‘Both Sides Now’, Digital print over machine embroidered ground on vintage jacquard fabric, 30 x 120cm, 2020

Comment on the importance of shows and exhibitions to your career?

I have been very fortunate to have been part of some interesting group shows that have led onto other solo shows. For me the Knitting and Stitching shows have been a great supportive platform.

Family Portrait, 200cm tall, from ‘Decorated’, NCCD, Sleaford, 2017

The two solo shows that have been most pivotal were ‘decorated’ in 2017 in NCCD Sleaford based on my response to WW1 Aspects of this went on to tour London, Dublin, Tipperary and Harrogate and Greenham Common. Their inclusion in Rijswijk Textile biennale last year was very poignant.

Work on display at the Rijswijk Textile Biennale

‘The Birth Certificate’, Differtential shrinkage panels, linen and wool with hand stitching 50 x 50cm, 2019, Island Arts Gallery Lisburn, exhibition, The Shepherds Daughter’.

‘The Shepherd’s Daughter’ 2019 Island Arts, Lisburn, Northern Ireland.

The Shepherds Daughter’.reflected on my mother’s life and the experience of a farm girl who went to work in the local Garment Industry in the 1950’s before becoming a stay at home mum.

‘His Two Loves’ Island Arts Gallery Lisburn, exhibition, The Shepherds Daughter’, Digital print on cotton twill, 140 x 200cm, 2019.

It used a lot of family photos and was a nice foil to the uniform based work I had been involved with for 5 years.

Nigel Cheney with installation at Lisburn, The Shephard’s Daughter

Many of your works are large scale – discuss scale and textile design.

I consciously try and make smaller things. At the end of every exhibition my friends can’t contain their merriment as I vow to never work bigger than a postage stamp in the future. I used to able to paint miniatures with a 00000 paint brush.

‘Starling’ painted in gouache on paper 20 x 10cm. 1984

Now I struggle to draw smaller than A1.

A1, drawing “Naree the Chimpanzee – from Monkey World, Dorset, 2020

Iam limited by my ‘studio’. Unlike many of my peers I don’t have the beautiful purpose built, or adapted studio. I moved back home to England to be a carer for my family. The 4 of us reside in a small 3 bedroom bungalow in a small market town in the East Midlands. They are incredibly tolerant as I spread over every surface, however the deal is that it is always tidied away. Working in these short bursts where you can’t, just leave things pending, is a change from living alone in your own home. Practicalities such as that the sewing machine must be got out and put away each time, has really changed the way I work. I save up machine sewing till there are several things to do.

What is your current inspiration and what are you working on while in isolation?

I’ve been working for months on a large scale quilt with a massive amount of hand stitch looking at a pair of Gibbons. It’s for a competition so I can’t share images of the whole thing yet but my mum thinks it is the best thing I’ve ever done! Who knows if anyone will ever actually see it in the thread?

Sneak peek of ‘Couple Goals’, in progress, hand stitch over digital print, 200 x 140cm, 2020

Big pieces can get scary and I find there are stages when I need to put them aside and work on a different series or finish a different project to distract myself. I have been piecing all the offcuts, I’ve saved and starting to work on throws, that allow me to play with colour through simple running stitch with a fake ‘kantha' approach.

The inspiration is the physicality of stitch and the need to be creative with the limited materials and threads I have in stock.

It has been an opportunity to finish several previously abandoned projects such as the ‘money for nothing’ suitcases that I started 3 years ago.

‘Money for Nothing Suitcase’, 75 x 40cm, 2020

I’m part of a local guild and we do ‘travelling books’.

‘Iris’, From Travelling Books, 40 x20 cm,2020

Fifteen of us decide on individual themes and each start a 20cm square notebook. Every month we make a piece based on this research and then swap books. So eventually we have all contributed to each theme.  It offers a really, different challenge to what I would normally make.

‘Bauhous Pages’, From Travelling Books, 40 x 20 cm,2020

We have committed to carry on, sending images of what we make and with the anticipation that one day we will be able to share all our individual efforts in person. This is our 21st year anniversary as a guild and we are preparing for a group exhibition later in the year.

21st Anniversary Exhibition for ‘Aspects of Stitch’ 20 x 20 cm, 2020

Do historical periods immediately bring certain colours to you mind and why?

Not as such. Colour is often thematic. For instance ‘Lazarus’ was about the English War of the Roses so a reduced palette of black alongside the red and white roses representing the Houses of Lancaster and York.

Detail,'Trinidad and Tobago', from Gone to the Dogs', 140 x 140cm, 2011

When I showed the collection I realised it had been heavily influenced by the death of David Bowie that occurred during its creation, hence the title and the last few outfits featured the blue birds of hope from that song.

Detail, ‘Cinquecento’ from ‘Gone to the Dogs’, 140 x 140 cm, 2011

The coat for the Lethbridge Sisters uses the colour palette from their Tree of life embroideries so would have a period quality.

You use the natural world in your work, how have you introduced this into your textiles?

The red and black approach to the war of the roses from ‘Adaptions’, 2016

I like the challenge of representing the forms of creatures and the textures of their fur or plumage but I don’t want to apply actual feathers. I did try some small samples with porcupine quills as they have such beautiful mottling but it was a dead end. In my more figurative work the creatures do become characters in the implied narratives.

‘Sorrow’ Starlings Detail, 50 x 150cm, hand stitched on wool, 2017

I know there are people who have particular aversions to specific things. Someone I know will not even look at work with images in birds in it, another is frightened of dogs. My interests vary from the deeply symbolic to the often intuitive or random. The oak leaves are a good example of something from nature that satisfies all these criteria.

 

“Oak Leaf’ drawing, Graphite on paper., 20 x 20cm

The hare, discuss how he came into your work and is he always present in you work?

Not always, and sometimes the hare is definitely female.

‘Lady Hare’  Buttons on digital print, 20 x 30cm, 2020

I don’t identify with the hare as necessarily an avatar. It’s certainly not like Tilleke Schwarz and her carrot motif that features as a visual signature in every work.

Detail, ‘Numbers Hare’ laser cut mdf, trapped under polyester net and over digital print on cotton, 20 x 30cm, 2020

I remember being mesmerised by Kit Williams’ ‘Masquerade’ book from my childhood with his treasure hare hidden in every image. I remember we had pet rabbits that were my sisters and just seemed to be a lot of smell and trouble. Especially chasing to recapture when they escaped from their pen.

Detail, Hare’s Eye’ from Guardians 7’ Hand stitched over digital print, 50 x 150cm, 2018

I remember an illustrated ‘tortoise and the hare’ book and it was only until my 40’s I finally accepted that I am the Hare and not the Tortoise.

‘Hare and the Moon’ Hand stitch over digital print, 20 x 20cm, 2020

The visit to Mexico in 2004  exposed me to their creation myths and the stylised hares in the Anthropological museum really spoke to me.

‘Rabbit Moon Schiffli’ embroidered over digital print, 120 x 120cm, 2018

Recently I have expanded on the superb blue fairy wrens

Fairy Wren detail from ‘Delft Blue 8’ detail, Hand stitch, over digital print, 50 x 150cm, 2018

to look at more foxes:

A1 Fox drawing, Graphite on paper 2019

Bears:

Pencil and Indian Ink, Sketch, Pencil, 2019

These are mostly still at the drawing stage but stitch will happen.

When I moved back to the UK in 2017.  I made some mood boards of stuff that I had always liked and would always like. It was somewhere to start. I committed to the colour blue and images of the hare and the moon for a perpetual series that I could always add to.

You comment “I love cloth to have a purpose.” Discuss.

I’m not sure of the original context of that quote but I suppose I mean two things. Textile people tend to be hoarders. The ceiling of our bungalow is sagging through the weight of my much, edited fabric stash in the loft. I have focused certain exhibitions to deliberately use the treasures from many years, but there is always more. There must be a reason to transform that piece of cloth into something else. It must have purpose. I hate waste. I am not a recycling warrior but have always repurposed and reinvented from both sentimental attachment and the haptic material memory that cloth has. I suppose more often from poverty and frugality. Recently we have been looking at old photos and I have a physical sensation to that representation of the materiality of things I was wearing; that wool jumper was itchy, those polyester shorts felt ‘slippy’. I appreciate the quality of certain luxury fibres but need to justify the additional expense when there are far cheaper alternatives, especially from craft suppliers.  Its purpose is to be more than a fragment in a box that is unseen or unused.

Secondly, would be with regard to my teaching, specifically that has often been to students who are very focused on making their work wearable or with a specific function. When I have used existing clothing forms like the uniforms.

‘Decorated’ NCCD Sleaford, 2017

I was challenged by many to make them wearable but that when I experimented on things that could accommodate the human form rather than being wall based that I was actually making costume not fashion.

How is Corona Virus effected your art and your academic practice?

My immediate family are well. Knock on wood (picture me tapping my skull). At times the situation is abstract. We are blessed with good neighbours and family who do our shopping. Embroidery has prepared me for self-isolating. We have a lovely garden and I have those I love most here with me. Staying at home has been easy.  It has terminated all my employment and income. Things I had been preparing for for months are gone or postponed to some indefinite point in a possible future. I am lucky compared to many who are self-employed. That is as nothing compared to the grief of so many. It has taken the last of one line of our family, two elderly ladies, who were both in previous good health despite their age. None of their children or grandchildren could see them in the last month of their lives. Their funerals had a limit of less than a handful of mourners. We sat by a computer watching via a link. Those experiences will never leave me.

In practical terms I am someone who has always loved deadlines. I need the reassurance of a plan and the knowledge I can refocus as circumstances change. I love a morning swim (obviously not allowed now as the Leisure Centre is closed) as I find my mind rehearses the day’s events and allows me to relax into the day with confidence. It controls my sometimes, overwhelming anxiety. Now I simply plan what I can do between the current meal and the next. It is not healthy. It is one of the things I am struggling with the most, at the moment. Often my diary is full 2 years in advance, and certainly when I was teaching full time I was always forward planning several semesters ahead. Now I have the vague possibility of Three postponed workshops and one booking for November 2021. It is terrifying. Luckily I don’t have to try and negotiate the minefield for this current crop of students and their rite of passage of a degree show. The coronial generation of those studying through this will face challenges we cannot dream of. Universities have moved seamlessly to expectations of a delivery and assessment of a virtual programme. I applaud the efforts of staff to make this happen.  Textiles is not a virtual experience. The internet is a tool but not the answer.

Contact:

Nigel Cheney

Email nigelcheney@gmail.com

Website www.nigelcheney.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, June 2020


Nigel Cheney

Your work is often full of storytelling – comment.

 

I am driven by narrative. I tend to anthropomorphise to an unhealthy extent and from an early age saw inanimate objects as protagonists in some drama of my invention. I did very badly in English at school and lost all confidence in my writing. I found that drawing conveyed stories more eloquently that prose. I adore the depth to poetry, and how it can be so open to interpretation, but just don’t have the vocabulary to do it myself. I suppose the most inspirational quote is one by Gustave Flaubert: “There is no truth. There is only perception.”

 

 

‘Telling Stories’ 140 x 200cm, 2011

 

I enjoy describing the inside story of the development of a piece but I often reinterpret its intention differently with each retelling. Time offers its own perspective. I have had a recent conversation with a friend who was discussing one of her favourite songs and loving it despite having no idea what the songwriter meant with the obtuse lyrics.

 

 

Detail, ‘Telling Stories’ 140 x 200cm, 2011

 

I googled several articles where the performer had talked about it, with inherent contradictions as she reflected over a period of time. It is that ambiguity I aspire towards.

 

 

Detail, ‘Telling Stories’ 140 x 200cm, 2011

 

How many techniques are used in ‘’ Coat for Lethbridge Sisters’?

How did this piece come about?

‘Coat for Lethbridge Sisters’ 2015

 

 

“Coat for the Lethbridge Sisters”, is a piece of wearable art produced between July and October 2015.  It represents 80 hours of hand and free machine embroidery over digital printing before being quilted to produce a one-off silk coat. We were approached by Dr. Lynne Hulse and Caroline McNamara regarding their research project and involving the students in a competition. This was all relating to Dr. Hulse research on the two sisters for her book. ‘Passion and Legacy: The legacy of the Irish Arts and Crafts Movement with particular reference to the work of the Lethbridge Sisters (Julia Baroness Carew (1863-1922) and Lady Jane Cory (1865-1947)): a source of inspiration for design in the 21st century. ’The lecture she gave at Girton College Cambridge, in the room full of Lady Julia’s embroideries on the lives of the two sisters was fascinating. It was the driving factor in making the coat. The imagery for the coat was taken from archive images of their work and portraits. These were combined with an original drawing of her King Charle’s Spaniel and manipulated in photoshop.

 

What is the percentage of hand stitching on the piece?

The only hand stitching is the portrait of the dog ‘Poppy’ on the centre back

 

 

Detail of Poppy the dog on the centre back of ‘Coat for Lethbridge Sisters’ 2015

 

 

and the French knots on the sheep.

 

 

Detail of French knot sheep, ‘Coat for Lethbridge Sisters’ 2015

 

The rest is machine quilting emphasising their embroidery. In percentage terms it probably covers about 10% of the cloth in total, took over 90% of the time.

 

How do you work to deadlines?

What changes do they bring?

 

I think I respond well to deadlines. (every student I have ever taught  has written this and the eyes roll to the back of my head).  Having taught both Design and Fine Art students I use the following analogy. Design students need training like sprinters. They like short term goals, lots of feedback monitoring their progress and a rhythm to the years calendar with seasons and deadlines. Fine Art students need training like endurance runners who are perpetually in training but balk at the idea of a finishing line. They are driven by their own improvement more than how well others perform. I suppose I am a mix of both.

 

 

 

‘Coat for the Lethbridge Sisters’, Detail, 2015

 

The ‘Coat for the Lethbridge Sisters is a case in point. The deadline was very tight and I had full time teaching simultaneously. I feel that I didn’t do this project ‘properly’. I just didn’t have time. Certainly not a methodology I would advocate to students. Particularly the garment development was more ‘make the cloth and work out how it turned into a thing later’. There was no toile with pinned on motifs, no careful scale tests of the design.

 

 

‘Coat for the Lethbridge Sisters’

 

These are things I would insist students did. I just had a sense that this was what I needed to do and after all it would be a bit of cloth and I could chop it up if worse came to worst. I found myself with a tape measure and my sister’s anorak estimating where the motifs would need to be placed on the final garment. Working on a small notebook computer I ‘photoshopped’ merrily away, with obscene confidence that it would all come out right. I created the large digital files. Anticipating that if the motifs were composed similarly to a medieval cope then they would just look right when worn. It was kind of a virtual ‘decoupage’ sticking images of stitched motifs from the Girton embroideries at different scales within the composition. The honeysuckle would go here and the leaf there. The sleeves had to be asymmetric and the front panels dominated by enormous portraits of the sisters. The dog sat firmly on their back, nestled under the miniature of Lady Jane. All on a screen 10 inches big….. A ridiculous way to work but all I had to hand at the time!

 

 

‘Coat for the Lethbridge Sisters’

 

 

 

 

 

Comment on how new techniques such as digital printing has changed your art practice.

 

I worked with screen printing and oil based inks at school for A’ Level. I love the results but have allergies with the cleaning chemicals. One reason I loathe oil painting. In college I did screen printing on textiles. The chemistry of mixing dyes and the skill required to colour match successfully was beyond my limited patience. I respond to the immediacy of colour. The challenge of getting my drawing onto cloth without having to replicate every stitch (which would still be my preferred option) was driven by necessity of speed. I first used digital printing 20 years ago. To realise it I had to visit a mate in London who worked on photoshop for me and sent to a company there. The expense was astronomical, the quality was dreadful, but the potential was alluring. It is quite amazing how far the industry has come on now.

 

 

The Fall of St. Sebastian from the a ‘Appendices’ Exhibition, 2000

 

For many years I relied heavily on digital stitch as I was using my research time to explore what our college facilities could produce.

 

 

Detail, digital stitch fills

 

 

 

‘Whortleberry I and II,from the 62 Group

‘Construction’ Exhibition, Sunny Bank Mill, Leeds,

 

What have you given them?

 

Very little, I suspect. I currently manage their social media accounts. So at the least I am useful. I do think I have a different emphasis than many of the members. That diversity is part of its attraction. The way things have worked so far I haven’t shown work that is more drawing based. It hasn’t suited the themes until the latest. The piece for the postponed ‘conversations’ exhibition is basically a drawing that is mirrored so that a moment from the past faces a reflection of that memory. ‘Both sides now’ is wrapped up ready to post. I’m not sure I will ever unwrap it.

 

 

Detail, ‘Both Sides Now’, Digital print over machine embroidered ground on vintage jacquard fabric, 30 x 120cm, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comment on the importance of shows and exhibitions to your career?

 

I have been very fortunate to have been part of some interesting group shows that have led onto other solo shows. For me the Knitting and Stitching shows have been a great supportive platform.

 

Family Portrait, 200cm tall, from ‘Decorated’, NCCD, Sleaford, 2017

 

 

The two solo shows that have been most pivotal were ‘decorated’ in 2017 in NCCD Sleaford based on my response to WW1 Aspects of this went on to tour London, Dublin, Tipperary and Harrogate and Greenham Common. Their inclusion in Rijswijk Textile biennale last year was very poignant.

 

 

 

Work on display at the Rijswijk Textile Biennale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘The Birth Certificate’, Differtential shrinkage panels, linen and wool with hand stitching 50 x 50cm, 2019, Island Arts Gallery Lisburn, exhibition, The Shepherds Daughter’.

 

‘The Shepherd’s Daughter’ 2019 Island Arts, Lisburn, Northern Ireland.

The Shepherds Daughter’.reflected on my mother’s life and the experience of a farm girl who went to work in the local Garment Industry in the 1950’s before becoming a stay at home mum.

 

 

‘His Two Loves’ Island Arts Gallery Lisburn, exhibition, The Shepherds Daughter’, Digital print on cotton twill, 140 x 200cm, 2019.

 

It used a lot of family photos and was a nice foil to the uniform based work I had been involved with for 5 years.

 

 

 

 

Nigel Cheney with installation at Lisburn, The Shephard’s Daughter

 

Many of your works are large scale – discuss scale and textile design.

 

I consciously try and make smaller things. At the end of every exhibition my friends can’t contain their merriment as I vow to never work bigger than a postage stamp in the future. I used to able to paint miniatures with a 00000 paint brush. (

 

‘Starling’ painted in gouache on paper 20 x 10cm. 1984

 

Now I struggle to draw smaller than A1.\

 

 

A1, drawing “Naree the Chimpanzee – from Monkey World, Dorset, 2020

 

I am limited by my ‘studio’. Unlike many of my peers I don’t have the beautiful purpose built, or adapted studio. I moved back home to England to be a carer for my family. The 4 of us reside in a small 3 bedroom bungalow in a small market town in the East Midlands. They are incredibly tolerant as I spread over every surface, however the deal is that it is always tidied away. Working in these short bursts where you can’t, just leave things pending, is a change from living alone in your own home. Practicalities such as that the sewing machine must be got out and put away each time, has really changed the way I work. I save up machine sewing till there are several things to do.

 

What is your current inspiration and what are you working on while in isolation?

 

I’ve been working for months on a large scale quilt with a massive amount of hand stitch looking at a pair of Gibbons. It’s for a competition so I can’t share images of the whole thing yet but my mum thinks it is the best thing I’ve ever done! Who knows if anyone will ever actually see it in the thread?

 

 

Sneak peek of ‘Couple Goals’, in progress, hand stitch over digital print,

200 x 140cm, 2020

 

Big pieces can get scary and I find there are stages when I need to put them aside and work on a different series or finish a different project to distract myself. I have been piecing all the offcuts, I’ve saved and starting to work on throws, that allow me to play with colour through simple running stitch with a fake ‘kantha' approach.

The inspiration is the physicality of stitch and the need to be creative with the limited materials and threads I have in stock.

 

It has been an opportunity to finish several previously abandoned projects such as the ‘money for nothing’ suitcases that I started 3 years ago.

 

 

‘Money for Nothing Suitcase’, 75 x 40cm, 2020

 

I’m part of a local guild and we do ‘travelling books’.

 

 

‘Iris’, From Travelling Books, 40 x20 cm,2020

 

Fifteen of us decide on individual themes and each start a 20cm square notebook. Every month we make a piece based on this research and then swap books. So eventually we have all contributed to each theme.  It offers a really, different challenge to what I would normally make.

 

 

‘Bauhous Pages’, From Travelling Books, 40 x 20 cm,2020

 

We have committed to carry on, sending images of what we make and with the anticipation that one day we will be able to share all our individual efforts in person. This is our 21st year anniversary as a guild and we are preparing for a group exhibition later in the year.

 

 

21st Anniversary Exhibition for ‘Aspects of Stitch’ 20 x 20 cm, 2020

 

Do historical periods immediately bring certain colours to you mind and why?

 

Not as such. Colour is often thematic. For instance ‘Lazarus’ was about the English War of the Roses so a reduced palette of black alongside the red and white roses representing the Houses of Lancaster and York.

 

 

Detail, ‘Trinidad ad Tobago’ from ‘Gone to the Dogs’, 140 x 140 cm, 2011

 

When I showed the collection I realised it had been heavily influenced by the death of David Bowie that occurred during its creation, hence the title and the last few outfits featured the blue birds of hope from that song.

 

 

Detail, ‘Cinquecento’ from ‘Gone to the Dogs’, 140 x 140 cm, 2011

 

The coat for the Lethbridge Sisters uses the colour palette from their Tree of life embroideries so would have a period quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You use the natural world in your work, how have you introduced this into your textiles?

 

 

The red and black approach to the war of the roses from ‘Adaptions’, 2016

 

I like the challenge of representing the forms of creatures and the textures of their fur or plumage but I don’t want to apply actual feathers. I did try some small samples with porcupine quills as they have such beautiful mottling but it was a dead end. In my more figurative work the creatures do become characters in the implied narratives.

 

 

‘Sorrow’ Starlings Detail, 50 x 150cm, hand stitched on wool, 2017

 

I know there are people who have particular aversions to specific things. Someone I know will not even look at work with images in birds in it, another is frightened of dogs. My interests vary from the deeply symbolic to the often intuitive or random. The oak leaves are a good example of something from nature that satisfies all these criteria.

“Oak Leaf’ drawing, Graphite on paper., 20 x 20cm

 

 

 

The hare, discuss how he came into your work and is he always present in you work?

 

Not always, and sometimes the hare is definitely female.

 

 

‘Lady Hare’  Buttons on digital print, 20 x 30cm, 2020

 

I don’t identify with the hare as necessarily an avatar. It’s certainly not like Tilleke Schwarz and her carrot motif that features as a visual signature in every work.

 

 

Detail, ‘Numbers Hare’ laser cut mdf, trapped under polyester net and over digital print on cotton, 20 x 30cm, 2020

 

(NC-61) (NC-62) (NC-63) (NC-64) (NC-65)

I remember being mesmerised by Kit Williams’ ‘Masquerade’ book from my childhood with his treasure hare hidden in every image. I remember we had pet rabbits that were my sisters and just seemed to be a lot of smell and trouble. Especially chasing to recapture when they escaped from their pen.

 

 

Detail, Hare’s Eye’ from Guardians 7’ Hand stitched over digital print, 50 x 150cm, 2018

 

I remember an illustrated ‘tortoise and the hare’ book and it was only until my 40’s I finally accepted that I am the Hare and not the Tortoise.

 

 

‘Hare and the Moon’ Hand stitch over digital print, 20 x 20cm, 2020

 

The visit to Mexico in 2004 (NC-66) exposed me to their creation myths and the stylised hares in the Anthropological museum really spoke to me.

 

 

‘Rabbit Moon Schiffli’ embroidered over digital print, 120 x 120cm, 2018

 

Recently I have expanded on the superb blue fairy wrens

 

 

Fairy Wren de tail from ‘Delft Blue 8’ detail, Hand stitch, over digital print, 50 x 150cm, 2018

to look at more foxes:

 

A1 Fox drawing, Graphite on paper 2019

 

 

 

 

Bears:

 

Pencil and Indian Ink, Sketch, Pencil, 2019

 

These are mostly still at the drawing stage but stitch will happen.

When I moved back to the UK in 2017.  I made some mood boards of stuff that I had always liked and would always like. It was somewhere to start. I committed to the colour blue and images of the hare and the moon for a perpetual series that I could always add to.

 

You comment “I love cloth to have a purpose.” Discuss.

 

I’m not sure of the original context of that quote but I suppose I mean two things. Textile people tend to be hoarders. The ceiling of our bungalow is sagging through the weight of my much, edited fabric stash in the loft. I have focused certain exhibitions to deliberately use the treasures from many years, but there is always more. There must be a reason to transform that piece of cloth into something else. It must have purpose. I hate waste. I am not a recycling warrior but have always repurposed and reinvented from both sentimental attachment and the haptic material memory that cloth has. I suppose more often from poverty and frugality. Recently we have been looking at old photos and I have a physical sensation to that representation of the materiality of things I was wearing; that wool jumper was itchy, those polyester shorts felt ‘slippy’. I appreciate the quality of certain luxury fibres but need to justify the additional expense when there are far cheaper alternatives, especially from craft suppliers.  Its purpose is to be more than a fragment in a box that is unseen or unused.

Secondly, would be with regard to my teaching, specifically that has often been to students who are very focused on making their work wearable or with a specific function. When I have used existing clothing forms like the uniforms.

 

 

‘Decorated’ NCCD Sleaford, 2017

 

I was challenged by many to make them wearable but that when I experimented on things that could accommodate the human form rather than being wall based that I was actually making costume not fashion.

 

How is Corona Virus effected your art and your academic practice?

My immediate family are well. Knock on wood (picture me tapping my skull). At times the situation is abstract. We are blessed with good neighbours and family who do our shopping. Embroidery has prepared me for self-isolating. We have a lovely garden and I have those I love most here with me. Staying at home has been easy.  It has terminated all my employment and income. Things I had been preparing for for months are gone or postponed to some indefinite point in a possible future. I am lucky compared to many who are self-employed. That is as nothing compared to the grief of so many. It has taken the last of one line of our family, two elderly ladies, who were both in previous good health despite their age. None of their children or grandchildren could see them in the last month of their lives. Their funerals had a limit of less than a handful of mourners. We sat by a computer watching via a link. Those experiences will never leave me.

 

In practical terms I am someone who has always loved deadlines. I need the reassurance of a plan and the knowledge I can refocus as circumstances change. I love a morning swim (obviously not allowed now as the Leisure Centre is closed) as I find my mind rehearses the day’s events and allows me to relax into the day with confidence. It controls my sometimes, overwhelming anxiety. Now I simply plan what I can do between the current meal and the next. It is not healthy. It is one of the things I am struggling with the most, at the moment. Often my diary is full 2 years in advance, and certainly when I was teaching full time I was always forward planning several semesters ahead. Now I have the vague possibility of Three postponed workshops and one booking for November 2021. It is terrifying. Luckily I don’t have to try and negotiate the minefield for this current crop of students and their rite of passage of a degree show. The coronial generation of those studying through this will face challenges we cannot dream of. Universities have moved seamlessly to expectations of a delivery and assessment of a virtual programme. I applaud the efforts of staff to make this happen.  Textiles is not a virtual experience. The internet is a tool but not the answer.

 

Contact:

Nigel Cheney

Email nigelcheney@gmail.com

Website www.nigelcheney.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, May 2020


Daniel Mainzer

Can we discuss your project ‘Rubber Industry Project’?

My rubber industry project which has produced a book and prints for exhibitions started with 10 years of documentary photography beginning with my hiring in 1976 as an in house photographer at Firestone , then General Tire. I felt compelled to tell the story of collapse in the tire industry and started with life in the plants and the actual destruction of the plants.

Dozer, 1980 firestone copyrite Daniel Mainzer

My first show of this work was in 2008 in the Massillon Museum of Art, initially for 45 days, but the show was extended for 3 months due to rising attendance every day. I received a Knight Foundation Grant in 2017 to write and publish a book of my work along with a full set of prints for exhibition and another set for the Akron Art Museum.

copyrite Daniel Mainzer

Everything was finished January 2020. The book has 35 photos, 7 pages of text and is being sold in the Art Museum, a local bookstore and by me online. The first show at Muskingum University happened in September 2019 and a major show at the University of Akron this summer has been postponed.

How long did the whole project take from beginning to publication?

I knew that telling the story had to be told with the portraits of the workers in the plants. This has always been my focus and strength as a photographer due to my repour with people. There is always a moment between the photographer and the subject of open welcoming communication. It is the moment to capture which makes a strong photo, much different from photographing work in production even though I always try to have someone in these photos for scale.

Firestone Pieta, copyrite Daniel Mainzer

Everyone relates to the human element in work and it best told in Black and White which requires the viewer to focus on the subject. It is more somber, more serious than color and has a classical beauty coming from the light itself as it falls on the subject. My subjects were very willing to be photographed and were highly amused that anyone would want to photograph them as they were in daily routines which were just what they had to do. Nothing much to them and as uninterested as could be. Not to me.

My boss in the photo studio had no objections to me going out to do this work as we were not that busy. Our work had declined to a fraction of what we did when I started in 1976. Then it was busy every minute and then some. By 1978, the decline had begun and was free to wander in the plants. I showed some of the early work to my boss and he could have cared less so I never bothered again. I was careful to use my own materials so I could maintain control of the work, especially after I was done working for the tire companies, an inevitable conclusion.

John Nevin, copyrite Daniel Mainzer

The work in the book ended in 1987, my last year as an in-house photographer at General Tire, but I never quit documenting the end of tire production in Akron as I have continued to work for the tire companies from my own studio since 1987. The last major photographic excursion was in 2016, a top to bottom documentation of Firestone’s empty plant 1, now owned by Bridgestone Tire. They do produce Indy car race tires there, but that is the only Bridgestone tire production in Akron. Goodyear also produces NASCAR race tires in Akron. There were many thousands of tire workers in Akron in the 70’s, but just several hundred now. I did photograph the empty Firestone Headquarters building in 2016, very eerie.

Plant 2 Firestone, looking east copyrite Daniel Mainzer

How many images did you finally use?

The book has 35 photos, 7 pages of text and is being sold in the Art Museum, a local bookstore and by me online. The first show at Muskingum University happened in September 2019 and a major show at the University of Akron this summer has been postponed due to Corona Virus.

Discuss the repour you needed to have with the workers for your images to be so deeply meaningful?

I knew that telling the story had to be told with the portraits of the workers in the plants .This has always been my focus and strength as a photographer due to my repour with people.  There is always a moment between the photographer and the subject of open welcoming communication. It is the moment to capture which makes a strong photo, much different from photographing work in production even though I always try to have someone in these photos for scale.

Comment on the difference of photographing the machinery and machines in production?

Everyone relates to the human element in work and it best told in Black and White which requires the viewer to focus on the subject. It is more somber, more serious than colour and has a classical beauty coming from the light itself as it falls on the subject.

What was the reaction of :

Workers

My subjects were very willing to be photographed and were highly amused that anyone would want to photograph them as they were in daily routines which were just what they had to do. Nothing much to them and as uninterested as could be. Not to me.

 Management

My boss in the photo studio had no objections to me going out to do this work as we were not that busy. Our work had declined to a fraction of what we did when I started in 1976. Then it was busy every minute and then some. By 1978, the decline had begun and was free to wander in the plants. I showed some of the early work to my boss and he could have cared less so I never bothered again. I was careful to use my own materials so I could maintain control of the work, especially after I was done working for the tire companies, an inevitable conclusion.

Your work is very masculine, discuss this is relations to cars and sport.

 

I wound up shooting automobile racing, mostly for the tire companies, because of my in housework doing this. Like all photographic specialties, there is much to learn and master about shooting racing, plus specialized equipment to do the best job.

copyrite Daniel Mainzer

 

You need fast cameras, the best long lenses, technique and knowledge of race tracks and car characteristics. I still do a bit every year, even though I have mostly retired from shooting anything other than my own work.

copyrite Daniel Mainzer

Discuss your aerial work and the techniques you have used.

There is always opportunity in every aspect of photography and while shooting racing, I saw that there were no aerials of the racetracks so I decided to shoot some.

Virginia 2004, Copperplate, 20 x 30, copyrite Daniel Mainzer

Having done aerials for various companies, it was just a matter of picking out the right day and time. Aerials, like any branch of photography, require specialized knowledge to do a good job, the right cameras, film, now digital, filters, plane vs helicopter, a sense of what is the best angle and as always in any photography, using the light to best advantage. Today I see a lot of drones used for aerials and they seem to do OK, but the cameras are small and if one needs large prints, you need better cameras. Also, drones are limited by law to lower altitudes and would not be good for large subjects like golf courses. There is no one solution, technique or camera of all jobs and there never will be.

Mid Ohio 09 20x30, copyrite Daniel Mainzer

Your work is very masculine, discuss this is relations to cars and sport.

I wound up shooting automobile racing, mostly for the tire companies, because of my in housework doing this. Like all photographic specialties, there is much to learn and master about shooting racing, plus specialized equipment to do the best job. You need fast cameras, the best long lenses, technique and knowledge of race tracks and car characteristics. I still do a bit every year, even though I have mostly retired from shooting anything other than my own work.

Take one destination and photograph that has a charming story behind the photograph.

Parisian Young Man, copyrite Daniel Mainzer

I shot this photo in Paris and it shows a young man in training. We were just walking around the gardens outside the Louvre and this just happened. His mother yelled at him to come back, but he was possessed.

Contact:

Daniel Mainzer

https://www.mainzerphoto.com/

mainzerphoto@sbcglobal.net

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, May 2020


Jessica Brilli

As we are all coping with COVID and being isolated.  You have been painting.  Comment on, ‘The Neighbor’s House’.

Neighbor’s House, 9 x 12 inches, Acrylic on Panel

About the inspiration.

Being immersed in my neighborhood has opened my eyes to surroundings I previously overlooked. Along with painting, I’ve been using photography as a creative outlet — capturing the warm glow of windows on my evening walks. I find myself exploring local streets like William Eggleston might — inspecting vignettes that I would have rushed past pre-COVID.

Why you need to paint during this time?

I always need to paint, so that hasn’t really changed for me.

 

How has the lockdown affected you personally and your art?

The lockdown has giving me more time spend with art, since my studio is at home. This aspect of lockdown has been wonderful, but I wish the global pandemic wasn’t the reason for it.

Discuss your use of minimalism, using the ‘Road to Nowhere’.

I like to leave room for the viewer to create their own story. There are numerous possible scenarios, and I like to give the viewer the opportunity to interpret what’s happening based on their own experiences.  (Note: the composition is the center of the white background)

Road to Nowhere,  9.5" x 28" Acrylic and Oil on wood panel

You do lots of painting using pools as the focus, discuss this aspect of your work.

Concrete Beach, 16” x 20” Oil on Canvas

I’ve always loved swimming and spending time near pools, I find it peaceful, and it’s often where I like to be on vacations.

Visiting from New York, 15” x 19” Print, Signed and numbered edition of 20

 

Discuss your use of dramatic shadows and bright light.

Caddy in Carport ,36" x 48" Oil on Canvas

Scenes with dramatic light/shadows are generally more interesting to me. They are much more dynamic than scenes without a strong light source.

Take two car paintings and explain the necessity for accuracy in these works.

JoAnne, 50" x 72" Oil on Canvas

 

I like to be accurate in general when it comes to painting, but it’s especially important when painting cars, because fans of the specific car in the painting will know if it’s inaccurate, and that can take away from their enjoyment of the piece.

Heading East, 24" x 30" Acrylic and Oil on Canvas

You use both oil on wood and oil on canvas.  What makes you choose one material over the other?

Usually I paint larger pieces on canvas and smaller ones on wood panel. Larger paintings on wood can get quite heavy.

Long Division, 16" x 16" Oil on Panel

Much of your work is a retake of the past discuss.

I prefer the aesthetic of the past to current scenes. I don’t feel the need to paint current scenes, because I’m experiencing these times first hand. Scenes from the past feel a bit more mysterious, and dreamlike.

January 67, 24 x 24"" Oil on Canvas

How has your personal environment influenced your art?

I think so. The pool scenes definitely echo experiences from my childhood, and the suburban scenes are rooted in my upbringing on Long Island, NY. My father was in the car business, so cars were discussed a lot in our household.

Impala, 40" x 40" Oil on Canvas

You comment, ‘using 35mm Kodachrome slides …. we insert our own lives into these scenes’, discuss.

The images that I draw inspiration from are common to many of us. In looking through thousands of slides and photos you see themes that are present in many American lives. From birthday parties to family vacations, many of us have these shared experiences, and strongly relate to imagery of these scenes.

Rose, 24" x 18", Oil on Wood Panel

Contact:

Jessica Brilli

http://www.jbrilli.com/

Jessica Brilli <jbrilli@gmail.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, May 2020


Kate Schuricht

On completion of your Three Dimensional Design degree you participated in a ceramic residency in Japan. How did your time in Japan influence and continue to influence your ceramics?

On the residency programme, there were international potters and ceramic artists of all ages and stages of their careers, so I was exposed to many different creative styles and influences. Amongst the participants were production potters (who were used to throwing 50 + pots a day), sculptors, conceptual artists, tutors and recent graduates. We were all shown traditional Japanese making techniques by renown Japanese potters and encouraged to use the local materials, which proved to be quite a challenge for us! Although we were all taken out of our comfort zone, we were also able to develop our own work, which I was keen to do. I was already making work with quite an oriental aesthetic, so I continued to draw on those sources of inspiration, which were now really close at hand.

Flow, Sea green, Photo, Stuart Conway

I think the most significant and long lasting influence that the residency had on me was being in the company of successful ceramic artists and hearing and seeing how they made their living. This opened my eyes to the real possibility of starting a business as a potter and gave me the confidence to follow my creative instincts.

Within 2 weeks of returning to the UK, I had a part time job with the Crafts Council and had taken up a studio space in a group studio complex called Cockpit Arts in London. I stayed there for nearly 10 years before leaving London for rural Kent.

What has been one of the assets of being a member of the Crafts Potters Association?

Like any society or association, there are many benefits of being part of the CPA, namely the mutual support and being part of a selected network of makers. However, it is also the opportunity to show work in the London gallery and see the work of other favourite potters at their shows. The CPA organise Ceramic Art London in March and The Oxford Ceramic Fair in October, which are both really good selling exhibitions with programmes of talks and demonstrations.

It was your use of form in your ‘Flow Jugs’ that first excited me about your work. Discuss this distinctive shape and how it evolved?

The Flow jugs first came in to being as part of an installation piece called ‘Cluster’, 2008, which was a series of 21 jugs in graduating sizes and tones made in raku. Some of the pieces had areas of subtle gilding on them and they progressed from pale to dark hues. The open jug shapes were very abstract at this stage and more about how they worked as part of the collective piece. However, there was such a good response to the form of the handless ‘Flow’ jugs that I then went on to make and sell them in pairs and trios. I later experimented with making them in stoneware so that they were a more functional piece and realised that there was great scope for experimenting with different interior and exterior colour

How many variations of Flow Jugs do you make?

 Cornflower Blue Flow lustre jugs, Photo, Justin Sutcliffe

There are a total of 10 sizes of Flow jugs from the tiniest at just 5.5 x 5.5cm to the largest at 19 x 22 cm. I make them in raku (crackle glazes with alternating smoky / glazed interiors and exteriors) and also as functional jugs in stoneware with a white exterior and coloured interiors. I have recently started making the jugs in stoneware coloured clays in subtle tones of blues, greens, greys, black and white, all with a contrasting dark lustre interior. These are my latest obsession, as I love playing with the colour combinations and different groupings. I also really like the dramatic effect that the interior lustre has on the pieces.

Does the actual shape help the pouring of the jugs?

Originally, the pieces were more of a sculptural form, so they were not really designed with function in mind. When I went to glaze the pieces by pouring and dipping the glaze, I realised that the extended spout was excellent for pouring. This is not always easily achieved in ceramics, so I was delighted that they worked so well.

Flow, Lustre, Cornflower and white pair 2020, Photo, Justin Sutcliffe

In ‘Tapered Vessels’ you introduce gradients of colour – comment.

I like the idea of making pieces that are all a little bit different, which is one of the reasons that I am so drawn to raku firing where there is endless variation in the finish.

Revelations boxed set of tapered vessels, Photo, Stuart Conway

When I make the pieces in stoneware, I layer the glazes when I dip them, which gives interesting effects. By changing the order of the glaze layering, the results can be quite subtle and the gradients of colour are really beautiful. This is a bit like the effects of a Sea Mist on the horizon (hence the names Sea Mist, Night Mist and Horizon for the range). This technique works especially well on the Tapered Vessel range and can create eye catching groupings.

What led to you writing, ‘Revelations In Clay’?

I was fast approaching my twentieth year of working with clay, so I felt that I needed to document two decades of ceramics and explaining a bit about the influences behind my pieces. I often sell my ceramics in sets or collections and wanted to use the book as a way of showing clients and gallery owners the range of work, my techniques and sources of inspiration. I have recently finshed the 6th edition of the book, bringing it up to date for 2020.

Revelations In Clay Book Cover, Photo, Stuart Conway

Discuss the collaborating with Sam Ziegenfuss and the writing of the book.

Working with Sam on the book was a fantastic experience and helped me to develop a new perspective on my work. It’s common for creative people to get too close to their subject and, as visual people, many artists find it difficult to effectively articulate the ideas behind their creations. However, by explaining it to another artist (Sam herself is a Fine Art graduate), there is a good opportunity for discussion and so many ideas to explore. Sam’s writing style was very fitting for my book and we worked closely together on all the text. As someone who often works alone, I really enjoyed having someone to bounce ideas off and to see her editing skills in action. I think we both got a lot out of the process.

You have an exhibition at Padstow Gallery for the 10th May 2020. How has the Corona Virus effected your exhibition?

Unfortunately, the May exhibition at Padstow Gallery (where I was due to show my ceramics with painters Claire Henley and Imogen Bone) has been postponed until further notice. It is such a shame for all of us, especially as May seems to be my best month for sales at the gallery!

Personally, how are your coping during the pandemic?

 Emotionally

To start with, the whole concept of the pandemic was overwhelming and all-consuming and it took a while to steer ourselves through it as a family.

I think I have now settled in to a new sense of ‘normal’ and I am lucky enough to be able to continue to work from home. However, saying that, home is not the quiet refuge it used to be during the week, as three of us now work away on our various different tasks!

Financially

The financial implications of being a self employed artist with no gallery shows, retail exhibitions or master classes for the foreseeable future is quite a worry. I am fortunate to be able to continue to work from my home studio but with few retail opportunities, there is less call for making pieces. I suppose that there has never been a better time to get on top of paperwork and business planning as well as trying to find new ways to generate an income!

 Creatively

Terrain, Trio, Photo, Stuart Conway

I have seen so much productivity and creativity on social media and it is strange to not have been a part of that so far. I have been busy working on a 6 week project that will be finished next week, so it will be interesting to see how having the creative space and time to play affects my work.

The stillness of time at home now (with no school run, meetings, courses, shows) has been surprisingly welcome. It has taken this lockdown for me to realise how many balls I had been juggling and how short I had been on creative time in the studio. Not having looming deadlines has always been something I have yearned for, so it will be interesting to see what I do with my time.

Comment on your pieces as design objects.

Wall vases

Detail of Droplet Framed Wall Vase, Photo, Justin Sutcliffe

The wall vases were designed in response to my love of nature and the idea of bringing garden flowers into the home setting. By displaying flowers on the wall rather than on a surface, they can have a great impact and can be used to dramatically change the way a space looks. The vases can be set at different heights within the wooden frames giving a flexible display and people have been really taken by this idea. Offering a variety of types of wood and coloured vases allows customers to have a bespoke set for their home.

Sycamore, Wall Vase, Photo, Peter Greenhalf

  Wall vases droplets

Droplet Wall Vases July 2013 (4), Photo, Stuart Conway

The Droplet wall vases came into being when I wanted to translate the idea of the  ‘Flow’ jug into a vase for the wall. I liked the way the different sizes related to each other and wanted to create a variation in scale and position. To do this, I gave an option to have either left or right facing droplets. They have been really popular and customers have been very creative about where they place them, combining colours and sizes to great effect. I love to see ceramics on the wall and the choice to be able to put flowers in just adds to the statement. I would love to see a large wall display of Droplets in a hotel foyer or in an architect designed home.

Using pieces, can you take me briefly through your career using images of your work and the developments you have made.

My current range of work is a combination of my original Tapered Vessels and containers and my Flow jugs and Droplets. The pieces started out as simple cylindrical forms as the best way to show off the intricate crackles and crazing of the raku firing. As I grew more confident and experiemental, I started to design fuller forms like the Flow Jugs and Droplets and started making larger containers and more sculptural vessels. Around this time, I was expanding on my stoneware range and experimenting with interesting glaze finishes. My art has always been focused around the idea of collections, sets and groupings so this theme has always run through my work. I also like to combine ceramics with wood, as in the framed wall vases and the containers with wooden lids or bases.

Raku Wall Vase (Walnut) , Photo, Peter Greenhalf

Comment on one of your commissions and how it has altered your career?

Cluster I,  2008. Raku and gilding, Photo, Stuart Conway

In 2013, I was commissioned by the Director of the Ceramic Art Museum, Ibaraki, Japan to make over 100 pieces as installations for the Cheongju International Craft Biennale in South Korea. It was the biggest project of this type that I had taken on and it was a fantastic opportunity to work on installations of this scale.

Cluster II, detail 2013,Photo, Stuart Conway

I had always wanted to develop my work in this way but needed the right space and context within which to show them. I spent many months on the pieces and the brief was flexible enough for me to experience plenty of creative freedom and a great sense of achievement. Cluster, II came about, as well as Lunar,

Lunar, Clear, Photo, Stuart Conway

 

and Ellipse installations and the work was really well received.

Ellipse, detail, Photo, Stuart Conway

You combine ceramics and wood, how has this evolved?

I studied wood and ceramics at University so working with wood has always been in my creative sphere. After leaving University, the opportunity to work with wood was non-existent so I have always commissioned other wood turners and furniture makers to make my designs. It’s a really interesting professional relationship to build, as there is so much that we can learn from each other and the various making processes can offer inspiration for future designs.

Who does your wood turning  - also comment on this collaboration.

The woodturning for my pieces is done by Tom Pockley who is also a member of the Sussex Guild. We have often talked about ideas whilst attending Sussex Guild shows and it is always really nice to work with another local craft person. He currently makes lids for my pots (and conversely, pots for my lids) in a range of walnut and ebonised oak.

Ebonised oak and raku pots, Photo, Stuart Conway

Why do you find exhibiting such an important part of your work?

Having work on public show is good for getting feedback from the public and gallery owners and one of the best ways to showcase new work. Seeing the work in considered groupings within a neutral gallery space allows the artist to have a different perspective. Often work is made and then stored away without much time for reflection, so the opportunity to see pieces in a new light is great for the continued development of the work.

Where Land Meets Sea II, Photo, Stuart Conway

 

Where is your studio?

My studio is in my garden in Kent. It could do with being quite a bit bigger these days, as storage is an ongoing issue for me, but it is great to not have to worry about paying high rents any more!

Are there several aspects of your studio life that continue to give you overwhelming joy?

I simply enjoy making things with my hands and the touch of clay at it’s various stages from wet through to leather hard, dry and fired. I just get so much pleasure from it and it can almost send me into a meditative state as I work. It doesn’t seem to matter whether I am finishing pieces, glazing or polishing work, I enjoy it all. There is such satisfaction from making something from seemingly nothing, just a bit of mud and minerals!

North Downs, Detail, Photo, Stuart Conway

You use several methods of clay firing, discuss the different techniques and why you use these differing techniques (with images)

I am probably best known for my raku ware. Raku is a low temperature smoke firing technique. Glazed pieces are fired outdoors in a gas fired kiln and taken rapidly up to 1000 degrees Celsius. At this point, the kiln is opened and the pieces are removed using tongs and heatproof gloves and quickly plunged into metal containers filled with sawdust. The sawdust burns the unglazed areas black with smoke and delineates the crackles in the glaze with intricate and random smoky lines. It is a really distinctive effect and no two pieces are exactly the same.

Stoneware firing is, by contrast, a very high firing technique. I use an electric kiln to fire pieces to 1260 degrees Celsius and there can be some lovely glaze effects at this temperature. Stoneware pieces are watertight and functional whereas raku pieces are purely decorative due to the crackle glazes not being watertight.

Discuss the Asian influence in your containers.

Ever since early childhood I have had a fascination with boxes and containers. My grandparents had a set of Russian dolls that I was allowed to carefully play with, as well a Japanese tea caddy and a pair of turned ebony and ivory boxes, all of which I now own. My love of containers most certainly came from those formative years. When I first visited Japan as a student in 1994, I was inspired by the wide range of traditional Japanese boxes and all the different functions they fulfill. I love the ritual of storing, collecting and organising things and this can be clearly seen in my work.

 Raku with Karen Birchwood's painting, Photo, Richard Gadsby

Contact:

Kate Schuricht

www.kateschuricht.com

Instagram @kateschuricht

Tel 07786 576 039

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, May 2020


Sarah Hatton

How do you use different handles on different baskets?

The basket usually tells you what handle it needs by its intended fuction. Shopping baskets will usually have a handle which stretches from one side of the basket to the other. A thick willow rod is added as a handle bow. The willow is inserted into the basket alongside the handle bow, usually 5 rods on either side. The willow rods on one side are twisted around the handle bow to the other side. And then the willow rods from the opposite side are twisted, filling in the gaps that have been created.

 

The tips of the willow rods are then used to wrap the handle to the basket using a decorative finish.

Log baskets usually have two twisted handles on either side of the basket for strength. You can also create finger holes as an alternative but I don’t believe these are as strong as twisted handles.

Contemporary baskets usually have twisted handles using contorted willow or hazel. It’s also very interesting to use a piece of wood that has had a vine growing around it.

Contemporary basket

Comment on patterns in baskets.

 By colour

 By weaving patterns.

There are very many different weaves that can be used on basketry and it’s good to practice those basic weaves to understand how they could be changed to have a fuller effect. For example a single French Rand using 24 weavers can be changed to a double French Rand using 48 rods at a time. This gives you a more striking pattern and also fills up the basket quicker. It is also more difficult so practice, practice, practice. There’s also a different way to use a French Rand that looks like a zig zag pattern. You switch between weaving to the right with all the rods and then to the left with all the rods and then to the right etc.

Double French Rand basket

Colour can also be used to enhance a pattern. So on a double French Rand you could have two different colours. With your two willow rods you have one that’s a stronger colour than the other and then repeat this with all 48 rods. The effect is really beautiful. I now grow 26 varieties of willow to get some fantastic colours.

Discuss one of the larger pieces you have made and take us through the process.

I have recently completed a commission with my willow weaving friend Melanie Bastier who is a renowed willow sculptor. We created an 8 foot high willow brinker which is someone who would scythe the ditches and reens on the Gwent Levels. It will be situated at the Magor Marsh Nature Reserve on the Wales side of the Severn bridge. We were also featured on the BBC programme Countryfile which focused on the Gwent Levels.

What is the history of Cyntell?

The Cyntell is a traditional Welsh agricultural basket, which was used for a variety of purposes.

Cyntell Basket

They were usually made by the farmers in winter, used throughout the year and replaced. In the 1980’s there was one person called D J Davies making the Cyntell. He taught a small number of people how to make the basket, one in particular, called Les Llewellyn has taught most of the members of the Welsh basketmakers South Wales group. It is a difficult basket to make as the frames are dried on a forma for up to a year. The ribs are created by splitting an inch thick willow rod into two, shaving it down and also dried on a forma

The double L in the word cyntell is prounounced by putting the tip of your tongue towards the front of the roof of your mouth and then blowing air out of the sides.

How did your children’s willow play den come about and what is the life expectancy of one?

I developed my willow play den after a customer asked me to make one, which could be packed away. I used to have a Wendy house when I was a child and always loved playing in it. I wanted to create a play den using panels of willow that could be tied together, then in winter taken apart and packed away in a garage or shed so that it would be protected from the worst of the winter weather. This means that the life expectancy would increase from around 3-5 years to 8-10 years. The willow den can also be painted once or twice a year with boiled linseed oil mixed 50-50 with turps to increase the life.

Willow play den

Expand on your ‘Christmas’ bark stars.

The bark stars are naturally scented which unfortunately I don’t smell anymore as I’ve been working with willow for such a long time. I started making the willow bark stars last year for the first time and have only attempted two sizes of 7cm across and 10cm. The bark I have used is willow bark and is harvested from the willow in the middle of the year, in the UK, May or June, when the willow is in leaf. This means the bark is loose and can be easily peeled once a knife is run along the length of the willow rod. The pattern of the stars is traditional Scandinavian.

Bark Stars

Discuss your classes.

My classes cater for a wide range of people, those that are interested in basketry, that would like to have a go and those that want to make something for a specific purpose. I encourage beginners to try the round basket or a garden trug first. These are nice, straight forward baskets and you can go home with a finished basket and some knowledge. The most difficult baskets are square or rectangular basket and also the Cyntell. With every basket you learn new techniques and also ways to use the tools and formas to help you to produce the basket you want.

Moses Basket

What lead you to basketry and willow growing?

I attended the Royal Horticultural Society, RHS, Show in Cardiff to see the flowers and happened upon a willow flower weaving workshop. I was fascinated that you could take a bundle of willow rods and you could interweave the rods to make a flower to put into your garden. I attended course after course and became hooked. Within 6 months of attending the courses I planted around 2000 willow cuttings to get my own supply and choice of variety.

Can you give us a brief understanding of the production of willow?

Willow is planted as a 30cm long bare root cutting during winter while the plant is dormant. It is then coppiced after one year’s growth once the leaves have dropped and the plant is dormant again.

There are different types of willow. Brown willow is any willow that has its bark left on. Buff willow has been boiled for 10 hours and then had its bark stripped. It turns a pinkish colour during the boiling process as the tannins stain the willow. White willow is produced by standing the freshly cut willow in a small amount of water until the rod starts to produce buds. The bark is then loose and is easily stripped away revealing the pure white colour of the rod beneath.

Willow growing.

What are several of the different and unexpected colours of your willow?

There are 300-400 varieties of willow though not all are suitable for basketry. Willow comes in a variety of colour and I am constantly finding different varieties to plant. I have brown, green, purple, black, cream, orange, yellow to name a few. The colour of the willow often changes as the willow dries and sometimes the dried colour can be completely different from the fresh colour. With some willows the colours changes if you dry the willow in the dark or in the light, this only happens with certain varieties though and something you learn as you go along.

Explain how you sell, willow cuttings and the transportation and times of the year they are available.

I sell willow during the winter months so that the willow cuttings are dormant and ready to be planted. I sell them in packs of 10 willow cuttings as each plant will give you between 30-50 rods so you will get a small bundle of willow rods from 10 cuttings. Currently I only sell my willow cuttings in the UK as there are lots of rules and regulations around exporting live plants.

Thinking, of the environment.  Can you expand on Willow coffins and their place in our fragile environment?

Willow Coffin

When we were designing our willow coffins we wanted them to be used for burial, cremation and also natural burial. For cremations we had to use a solid base as they will not accept woven bases. We make sure that we buy our plywood for the base from FSC certified sources. All the willow we use either comes from our own grown or willow growers in Somerset. This makes our willow coffins sustainable and friendly to the environment. We are passionate about creating high quality willow coffins using our experience of over 25 years of willow weaving. For the willow coffins I have a separate business called Lily Willow Coffins with my business partner, Melanie Bastier.

Contact:

Sarah Hatton

info@hattonwillow.co.uk

Websitehttps://hattonwillow.co.uk 

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, April 2020


Michelle Mischkulnig

Expand on your quote, “I am passionate about my art, created with joy”.

Ramblers Garden 2, Detail

I love starting each day with the sense of anticipation of where my creativity will lead me today, what adventures lay ahead. My textile art is about colour and movement, it is about the “good stuff in life”. Every layer and every stitch tell the story of joy and the magic that can be found in the everyday if we open our minds to the possibility.

Joy is a spontaneous emotion which is given, taken and shared. It brings great pleasure to our lives, it makes us smile.

Gum Blossoms, 40 cm x 55 cm, fabric and fibre

All, of the art that I create comes from the heart. It is organic and unstructured; it is moments captured in layers of fabric and fibre; it is my conversation with the viewer, I am sharing my joy and my passion for all that I make.

To breathe life into an art work with colour, movement texture and stitch is uplifting for me as an artist. I am not depicting reality, but I am sharing with you my song whose lyrics are the stitches which depict my memories of landscapes, music, food, dance, sunsets, gardens, cold droplets of water, salty skin and white cockatoos on the horizon. Each art work I create resonates my joy in leading a privileged life of being a maker.

Take a piece of work, done in machine embroidery, discuss the stages involved in this piece, from inspiration to completion.

This textile art work was created after a holiday with my 18-month-old granddaughter at the beach. In her language the beach became known as “bubbles” and the birds “toit toits”, the simplicity of these names and the joy of each spoken word was my inspiration.

Bubbles and Toit Toits,  fabric and fibre

In this textile art work there are many layers of hand dyed silk fabric which has an amazing drape and lustre, these layers have been covered over with single piece of hand dyed silk organza. I have free motion stitched all these layers in bubble shapes and then cut back through the layers to reveal the texture and colours underneath giving the art work movement and depth. To stitch the random bubble shapes, I have used different coloured embroidery and metallic threads.

The amount of stitching around the outside of the bubble shape flattens this space and in doing so elevates the bubble shape. Some of the bubbles are cut out through all the layers creating a negative space which is then backed with a sheer organza, some bubbles are 3D shapes and are attached to the surface.

Bubbles and Toit Toits, fabric and fibre, detail

The tree trunk is raised higher than the background by using a thick polyester wadding. The trunk is made separately from the body of the art work. I have used a fabric that behaves like paper which has been embellished with many interesting textures and elements, then the background of the tree trunk without any embellishing was painted with fabric markers. The trunk was then attached to the body of the art work with many stitches and three-dimensional flower shapes stitched the branches.

The flowers are made, out of a variety of materials such as silk organza and silk velvet, they were stitched individually before attaching them to the branches.

The sky is one layer of silk fabric which has been stitched and cut back, some of the cut areas are left open and some have a backing behind them. I have also used small amounts of gold foil and gold paint in the sky.

The bottom of the picture is based around the earth and trees which are free motion embroidered, I have also has cut the tree foliage out and backed with a sheer silk organza.

Each “toit toit” was independently free motion stitched in lovely colours and then cut out and stitched to the background.

It is a completely organic art work with beautiful tattered soft edges which doesn’t give you an end or a beginning.

How do you control colour in your work?

Wow! this question makes me think­—do I control it? I absolutely love accidental effects, I do not consciously consider controlling my colour. Colour is intuitive for me. You just dive into it, love it,  don’t fear it, don’t,  procrastinate over it. Just get caught up in the wild splashes and exuberance of when colours flow together. I am self-taught and I have not attended any workshops in colour, but my tertiary education was in textile design where we did work with colourways, much to my frustration.

Poppies, 40cm x 55cm, fabric and fibre

I do not use a discipline or rule to control how I use colour. It’s just a sense of balance when I look at the art work. I am not afraid to experiment with colour, if it is iniquitous, I just add some new layers of fabric to cover it, cut it out or stitch over the top. When I teach, I ask the students not to procrastinate over colours just go with your gut feeling, don’t fall prisoner to colour rules. I do not intentionally control my colour, I am not aware of any actions that I take deliberately, but deeply ingrained there must be something subconsciously influencing how I use it.

You have done several pieces, that have led to acquisitions. Take one and discuss?

How the piece stated?

The brief for this art work was a framed wall piece of 60 cm x 70 cm the subject is a garden. An art work that I hoped would speak to women in a breast cancer waiting room, one which will bring them calm, which will make them smile and which they can look at for long time spans and discover different features.

The ramblers garden 60 cm x 70 cm, fabric and fibre

The importance of this acquisition for a career.

The importance to my career was minimal, the importance to me as an artist and person is ongoing. I have had contact with women who have spent many hours in that waiting room finding calm and comfort in my art work and as an artist what more could you want.

Can you explain your involvement with Bernina?

I have owned a Bernina sewing machine since I was 21 years old and that is a long time now. I still own that, particular machine and she is beautiful, my grandmother who was a dress maker also owned a Bernina sewing machine.

They are fantastic machines, real workhorses; my sewing machines can run for 6 -8 hours a day though all thicknesses and terrains. I had used my three Berninas—all around 35 years—old through my career. About four years ago I linked up with Bernina and upgraded to a modern machine.

I tend fly under the radar of most corporate and textile entities. I do not enter quilt shows or belong to quilting groups, so Bernina had not heard of me and seemed really delighted when they did and saw my art works.

Beginnings, 45 cm x 70 cm, fabric and fibre

They are very much a family organisation and took me into their fold. I started writing blogs for their international webpage. In these blogs I shared with the reader how I use the machine and what possibilities there are. I did this through completing various projects.  Although I enjoyed the experience of writing the blog it took many hours of my time which was increasingly becoming scarce. After around 12 months it was time to give it away.

In 2018 Bernina asked me to be their Guru. This was an amazing experience, travelling to shows in Brisbane and Sydney and my own home town Melbourne. What I gained from this involvement was meeting so many creative and interesting people. I talked and talked and demonstrated free motion embroidery on large art works, people were fascinated. In talking to people, I learnt that many, many people say they do not feel they are creative. I would disagree with them as I believe everybody is creative. it has endless forms. My relationship continues with Bernina and my art life revolves around my trusty machine.

How important is a good sewing machine to your work?

As you can tell from the above answer a good sewing machine is essential, but it doesn’t need to be big and fancy. It needs purr through a big workload, it needs to put up with endless textures and expectations, it needs to go fast and smooth when my foot is down. I only know two speeds on my sewing machine which are flat out and stop.

What are three functions that you want on your sewing machine and why?

Ability to free motion stitch—because that is what I do all day in my work room. Without that it would not be me.

Straight stitch—it is my most used stitch and without it I couldn’t draw with the needle.

Have a thread cutter—because I am very lazy with cutting of loose ends, this is a most spectacular function.

Making leaves, fabric and fibre

Discuss the importance of gardens both to you and your art.

Here I won’t discuss the importance but I will share with you some words about the garden that I use in my book, this will help you understand their meaning to me.

Luscious clusters of colours, gentle poetic movement of painted wings, wings that sweep and dart, bodies that sparkle.

The Gardeners Place, 69 x79 cm, fabric and fibre

A music so perfect, so clear only you can hear it. The melody lingers long into the twilight hours. The garden is a place that always acknowledges a burst of vibrancy, which in turn ignites all the senses and brings new beginnings. Endearing and uplifting fragrances capture memories and weave through our soul, the scents that dance long into the evening air.

Uncontrolled reaching, fresh green buds, so fragile, so strong, tickling your arms with gentle tendrils. Wildly growing without caution or fear through cracks and dry rocks, river pebbles, relentless in their task to replenish. Tiny crystal dew drops holding the whole world in their globe, so unobtrusive, so gentle, the garden that is food and medicine for the soul.

I love the smiling daisies nodding in the noonday sun, finding solace in a place so pure and sweet. Humbled by nature which explodes with energy.  Poppies open their petals and shower the world with their happy colour; blossoms shyly opening and trumpeting a new season. The joy of solace in our gardens at dawn or dusk, as watching the colours change, we witness its gentle presence, holding these moments in our thoughts.

The Garden Party, fabric and fibre, detail

Our souls are hungry for the beauty of the garden, and we plant our seeds with expectation and joy, waiting patiently for them to come to life and splash their colour throughout our day. Each plant in our garden is placed with love and surprises us with its journey. Romantic flowers growing, closely touching in the breeze, with large petals unfolding in sheer layers.

I love the dance of the garden when all the colours and textures come together, the wings of insects hum distinctly and sweetly, the sound of the birds, warbling and chattering dashes of colour. The garden is a continual evolution of blush and texture where daring flowers bloom and shy ones gingerly lift their heads to the sun. Where leaves unfold into interesting shapes and fall to create abstract designs along the path. The garden is fresh new life, regeneration and replenishing decay, a place of creativity and wonder.

On a completely different angle take one of your works from your Old Cities series and discuss the work?

Oh! I do love Old Cities. This passion came from visiting Spain, Switzerland and Austria but predominantly Spain. I am completely drawn to cobblestone alleyways. Old Doors which hold secrets, steps worn down by pilgrims’ feet, keys and padlocks, sounds of hoofs.

Alhambra 1, 30 cm x 40 cm, fabric and fibre

In this art work I have tried to capture in a collage technique a feeling of Old Cities. The doors, the keys, tapestries, weathered walls, stories that they hold and the beauty of Old Cities.

Old city doors 50cm x 30cm, fabric and fibre

Thinking of the colours and forms, it is not a depiction of any city in particular just snapshots captured in my mind.

Old city memories 35cm x 45cm, fabric and fibre

How have you integrated leaves into your work – especially colour that is not always associated with leaves?

Leaves change their colour and shape depending on the light, shade, the angle and distance you are appraising them from, their movement. They change colour and shape when you pluck them from their stems, when you bruise them, when you feel their texture. I adore leaves and stitching them in many different ways and materials to add to my textile art works.

Twilring Leaves 80 cm x 40 cm, fabric and fibre

I often fashion the leaves with layers of fabric or fibre or both, producing these leaves to be a 3D element of the finished piece. Colour is in the eye of the beholder, yes leaves are mainly green but think of all those colours captured in Autumn leaves or leaves that fall to the ground in the hot sun. Think of the colours as they sparkle in the sunlight or the marks left by a caterpillar munching on them. The colours I use in my leaves vary depending on the body of the art work and my love of colour.

You do classes – discuss two things your students have taught you.

Just two things thats hard. They have taught me more life’s lessons than textile lessons.

That you never know the stories that people carry, both sad and happy they are willing to share. I love to listen.

That a group of creatives in a room for a number of days are supportive, compassionate, humorous and great fun.

While we are coping with the Corona Virus, how important will creative stitch be to you and others you know?

Creative stitch is enormously important to me during the coronavirus. It is my normality, my routine, it keeps me present in the moment, it stills my mind.

I have many followers on FaceBook who look forward to my posts, they say that they bring them joy, a little bit of magic, which is so important right now.

Spring, 35cm x 50cm, fabric and fibre

I have set up a FaceBook group for people who create and feel isolated and it is so wonderful to see these people from all around the world enjoying each other’s company and supporting each other through stitch and conversation.

I still look forward every day to filling the day with making and will continue to do this. It may be at a slower pace than what it has been in the past. The galleries I supply are no longer open and the exhibitions I have prepared for in various places around the world and Australia are now cancelled, so are most of my teaching engagements for the year. I have to believe we will come out of this and the world will need more than before beautiful things to make people smile and feel happy.

Contact:

Michelle Mischkulnig

chelletextiles@optusnet.com.au

https://blog.bernina.com/en/author/chelle/

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, April 2020


Rick Satava

How did you first arrive at the idea of Jellyfish in your glass art?

It was during the early years of when Monterey Bay Aquarium was first opened, and I saw Pacific Sea Nettle Jellyfish floating in front of a brilliant blue background. I instantly thought about how translucent jellyfish are, the same as glass. The idea continued to grow from there. I experimented from 1989 till about 1994, constantly playing with it, then putting it aside for a bit, but always being drawn back. With the final motivation of the Monterey Bay Aquarium contacting me to create a jellyfish art glass piece to coincide with the opening of their new exhibit called, “Jellies Living Art” I was finally happy with and created what would be my first full production jellyfish piece, Moon Jellyfish.

Moon Jellyfish Seascape

Discuss several of the ways you use jellyfish in your work?

We make our jellyfish in numerous different shapes and styles. First we make the standard upright shape in which they range from 4 ½” tall and 2 ½” wide to 15” tall and 7” wide. Then we also make the jellyfish in a double form which have two jellyfish intertwined over a sea bottom base that are usually 10” tall to 5“ wide. Lastly, we make the side swimmer jellyfish that depicts a single jellyfish swimming over a reef of urchins and sea anemones. in a round shape that we do in both a standard size of 4 ½” and a larger size of 6”. All of the above are encased in clear but we also make all the same pieces mentioned above in our seascape series, in which a background of mottled blues and greens are incorporated into the design. This gives people two different display options in each jellyfish style.

Moon Group

How authentic are they to actual jellyfish?

The jellyfish were never meant to be authentic replica of a jellyfish.  I took the various qualities of the jellyfish that liked, looked at various kinds that exist in the world, but put my own artistic vision on them.

Discuss your work Kokopele Petroglyph.  Its meaning in Native American culture.

Kokopelli is known as a fertility deity, an extremely popular cultural icon by many Native American tribes in the Southwestern United States.

Expand on the depiction of the humpbacked flute player.

We portray him in both his more widely known typical humpbacked flute player form and but also in one that we call backpack Kokopelli that has a more spiralled “back”.

Petroglyph Paperweight – Kokopelli

What lead you to this mythical image?

Initially I started with more traditional European drawings, then eventually I moved towards doing more American based images. My focus shifted from astrological depictions of Native American lore and graduated to more popular images of their culture. During the 1970’s and 80’s I was producing a lot of these images for The Nature Company, a chain that would eventually changeover to be the Discovery Stores in the early 2000’s, so the more easily recognizable images of the Native American society did well in those stores. This made it so I produced more of those images over time.

Do you always have him on a stone coloured background?

That design, plus all our other petroglyph designs, are done on a brown toned background, mostly to give the impression of the image being truly carved in rock. That being said I have done them in red, in more multicolored pieces, as well as, in grey tones to give the impression of stone. I have been doing this series since the late 1970’s, in various forms, and have tried a wide variety of different colors and textures.

Where can he be seen in Southwest America?

In the Hohokam, Yuman and Ancestral Puebloans (those around the four corners area) peoples.

Do you provide the purchaser with information about your work?

All, of our work goes out with a registration card, that gives a brief description of us and has a place for registration number and title of the piece. We also include a biography that give a general history and description of most of the work we create.

Comment on how you capture nature, in glass especially vases?

Though I do use some modern equipment, mostly the century old traditions of glassblowing are still used.  For the most part similar tools, styling techniques and methods are still part of how I produce my work. My designs have always tended to feel more, free formed, which works well for all my style, especially in certain vase creations, like my floral designs as an example. Floral forms in real life are already unique and fluid, so the fact that I don't use molds and that what you see in my work is just constant manual manipulation of the glass, in its molten, pliable state while it is being blown out, really suits that design.  Basically, since each piece is hand formed, no piece is ever exactly the same, just like flowers in the world.

Wild Iris Flask

Are there certain colours in glass that are either difficult or easier to work with and why?

Physically, opaque colors are more unruly. Combination of different consistency of expansion and contraction of the colors makes it more malleable to use. That is the challenge to find colors that are workable together, this is part of the design process.

You have a team in your studio – discuss the varied aspects of their work.

Satava Studio, front entrance

I have a crew of glassblowers that work with me in the hot shop, helping me to create my art glass, a cold work manager that grinds, polishes and finishes the pieces and a office/gallery staff that helps to sell and distribute my pieces all over the world.

Comment on the light base you have and explain who it works with your glass art?

We display much of our work both on and off light bases. The art glass that works best with them are our standard jellyfish shape, as well as, our petroglyph rocks and paperweights. They all are incredibly suited for being displayed with light coming from underneath.

Take Nautilus on Red Bamboo Lidded Vase:

Briefly discuss the process this piece has taken in your studio.

Bamboo Lid #361

I am always interested in incorporating bamboo into my glass (my studio is surrounded with it and I have always been fascinated by it), as well as, Asian forms. This design was a perfect combination of both of those. Even though I did this series for a short time, it does show how certain aspects of my designs are taken and then morphed into other designs.

Red Nautilus Lidded Basket

Whereas the nautilus shell had been used in stand alone vases before this design, then I added the feature of the bamboo lid, then after this design I took the bamboo lid part and incorporated it into a different design that flowed with the lid that was more indicative to the bamboo itself with a base that had bamboo leaves imprint on it with a fumed color. This is just a nice example how design elements from different pieces end up in other designs and are then interpreted a different way.

What are two aspects of glass that continue to delight you?

The Challenge. I like the challenge of figuring out a new series or design. Experimenting. It is a slow process, you have to wait to see the results for a day or two, and then make the next change, then continuing through this cycle ever watching the piece evolve. In the early years I had Friday as an experiment day to play with new ideas. With this freedom I could see what new and interesting concept would come up.

The Success. Obviously seeing the end piece, the final reward of the process above. Also success in that I have been able to do a career I love and live the life I have, I count myself in that way, as being very successful.

Contact:

Rick Satava

https://satava.com

info@satava.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, April 2020


Louise Richardson

Explain how you use three mediums, textiles, sculpture and photography to make a piece.

Talisman

Talisman has all three of these ingredients within the piece. The idea of telling stories is very important to me, taking everyday objects and creating tales. Within art, anything is possible: scale, materiality and time don’t matter.

The diversity of materials and application of different mediums within my work gives me the opportunity and freedom to choose an application which best suits the story.

Talisman, Detail

Although the outcomes are often diverse, they all have common human connections, resulting in artworks that are in fact close to us in our everyday lives.

Discuss your use of both birds and bugs in your work.

Aerie

Within my work animals and humans coexist on the same level, they come with their own stories and inspire new ones, highlighting the connection and tenderness we have with nature.

Aerie, Detail

Take two dresses, lead us through the process of reconstruction and construction in these art pieces.

The garments are often unwearable, by reinventing, combining, observing and retelling their tales gives them a new sense of life, place, preservation and resilience. Whilst a lot of my garments are made from scratch, the piece Ward originally was a child’s vintage nightgown, and so it came with its own history and absorbed stories.

Ward

Within this piece I wanted to explore old wife’s tales, stories and sayings that are passed down through generations. By stitching these into the lining of the garment somehow imbues the wearer with inherent safety.

Ward, Detail

In contrast Telling Tales which consists of approximately 13,000 nails individually placed and rusted, again echoing nature as it resembles fur. This piece is about materiality transformation and alchemy of materials. The process of making is also fundamental; the time it takes to make transcends the piece and encourages the viewer to also take time to observe and make connections with the work, holding the viewer’s gaze, involving and including them in the dialogue, questioning the maker’s intention, interpretation of the wearer and how one would feel owning or wearing this garment. This aims to encourage storytelling and engagement with the piece.

Telling Tales

You almost became a ballerina comment how this has influenced your work.

Dance, particularly ballet, has always been something that has been important to me probably, more subliminally than literally — the silent storytelling and the use of costume to tell a story. The clothes and the shoes worn, particularly to practice in, are often fragile and worn, representing the dances that have gone before.

Go Softly

2D or 3D, discuss when and why your use each and when.

Often the pieces lead themselves. A piece which is intrinsically about the making process and its place living beside us in the world often becomes more object based and three dimensional. Whereas the more two-dimensional image-based work is out of time, and an observation and recollection of something that has happened.

Charm

Although the outcomes are often diverse, they all have common human connections, resulting in artworks that are in fact close to us in our everyday lives.

Cowgirl

How important is detail in all your work?

For me detail in the work allows the slowing down of time, opening, up a quiet, calmed dialogue through discovery and placement, and locating evidence of human intervention within the work for the viewer. For me as an artist, the handmade quality of my practice means I too spend time with the process; this is very important to me, and things happen on this journey that feed into the work, or into other pieces.

Imprint, detail

You use very small amounts of colour.  How, when and why do you add colour?

I tend to use the colours the objects own, and if I do intervene, it tends to be natural colours, or dyes. By the nature in which I make work the pieces often have their own marks which occur during the making process, and the older garments that I have reused have come with their own stains, scars, marks and patches. Adding too much colour seems to distract from what is already there and takes away from the integrity of the piece.

Moth Eaten

Shoes are such a huge part of a woman’s wardrobe.  What has led you to working with little girl’s shoes?

Shoes as a garment seem to hold and condense a person’s identity, like a genie in a bottle. The space inside the shoe is as important as the outside; a place which holds the person and often takes on their form. They evidence a person’s experience journeys, walks and dances. Interventions and recreations allow for interpretation and the re-telling of these stories.

Bind

What collections do you have?

The materials I tend to use are every day accessible objects. I predominantly work with natural materials, for example the garments I make tend to be cottons, linens, etc, and where possible second hand. These objects are often found or sourced naturally. Mainly they are kept in my studio, but also on shelves, windowsills, boxes, cupboards and wherever there’s a space!

Find It, Bind It

There is no real cataloging I tend to know that somewhere is the item I need, even if it may take time to find it, but inevitably I will unearth something good along the way.

Is display a major consideration in your work both as gallery pieces and for the buyer?

The work tends to be displayed in glass wall-mounted deep box frames, as the artworks are often delicate, and fragile; it also allows for control of the space that they inhabit. This form of presentation also nods towards museum cases, artefacts and collections, placing the piece out of time, again slowing down the observation and discovery of the work.

Discuss the importance of fantasy in your work.  How have you been drawn to this whimsical part of your nature?

Nine Hearts

Fundamentally, I must be moved by something or someone, and want to translate that into a piece of work, hopefully with integrity. The medium and way of expressing these ideas allows for interpretation and translation.

The beauty of art is that anything is possible. A place for objects to coexist in a world in which they wouldn’t normally meet. It allows for a range of possibilities and stories; using the ordinary and creating tales to make it magical — a space where anything where anything can happen.

 Contact:

Louise Richardson

'louisecampbell4@ntlworld.com

http://www.louiserichardsonartist.com/

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, April 2020


Paola Zanda

Discuss the importance of abstract and minimalism in our current work.

Although I had good results with the figurative, I was not fully satisfied. I distinguished myself for quality and execution, but it seemed to me that I was proceeding in a field that had already been followed and used by most. After attending a Master Class with Linda Colsh, I had the lighting to find my way. Abstract and minimalism gave me the possibility of creative freedom not tied to any form of expression or messages. My passion for colour, the search for balance between shapes, space and chromaticity, led me to the results of a chromatic dynamism with a strong visual impact. I managed to find my style.

Rupture

You take increasingly more complicated shapes – How has this made you adapt your techniques?

I had a six-year seamstress school education. In which I learned and practised all the techniques of tailoring. I combined these techniques with Patchwork. Knowing the textures of the fabrics, I can model and combine my shapes with a piecing cured to the minimum terms. It's a personal challenge, and I don't accept flaws. Rather I do the work again. Deepening my knowledge of the weft and the warp of the fabric allows me to dare more and more complicated shapes. But this involves hours and hours of study and practice.

Arbremaculé

How has your former work as a florist influenced your use of colour?  Give one or two examples to explain this.

The florist was a child's wish. I was born with a needle in my hand. Thanks to the family, I lived among the fabrics, and I immediately learned to sew and embroider. When I had to choose my profession, the love of sewing prevailed and I started training as a seamstress. I was fortunate to have a beautiful garden full of flowers. I learned to know them and appreciate all their species.

Their colours and elegant shapes fascinated me. I collected them and created harmonious compositions that decorated our home. Maybe that's why my ease of colour matching comes out and allows me to find the right shades when I dye my fabrics.

I did some works working in series with the theory of colours, for example, warm, cold, primary, secondary etc. I matched them quickly without using the colour wheel. It is probably a gift received from my flowers.

Tournesol

How did you get involved with Fifteen by Fifteen?

In 2017 I had my first personal exhibition in the Luberon. I had a huge room available, so I presented my evolution from figurative to abstract works. In Luberon, the shows are in various villages, and it is difficult for artists to visit the other one.

We organize ourselves with the visits before the opening and one morning among the various artists I met and showed my work to Chantal Guillermet. Back home, I receive an email from her asking me if I was interested in being part of the international group of fifteen by fifteen. We met then in Birmingham at F.O.Q., where I also met other group members, and then my collaboration began with them.

Discuss one of the resent challenges Fifteen by Fifteen has stretched you and your art.

The challenges we discuss and choose, sometimes become very demanding: you find yourself faced with white canvas syndrome, without ideas. But then you realize that even if you don't like the theme, your artistic disposition wakes up and leads you to create unpredictable subjects. It's nice to discover with the revelations how the others interpreted the same topic. I like working in series, developing the same theme in various aspects and techniques. Freedom of choice allowed me to use processes that I would never have dared, and in some cases, I am surprised at myself.

How valuable are the Fifteen by Fifteen challenges to you personally?

My turn towards the abstract and minimalism lead me both with the time of study and realization to no more prolonged use other techniques, materials and subjects. I miss this a little, and I found my relief valve with the work with Fifteen by Fifteen group. Here I can use and deepen the techniques learned in the various courses I followed with international artists. There is always something to learn.

Confusion

Discuss the importance of being a member of Fifteen by Fifteen to you.

Being part of an international group is essential for personal development both from the human and artistic side. You have other visions and opinions that can help you evolve and maybe find solutions. Besides, group work teaches discipline, respect for time and deliveries. The distance keeps you in touch with the media, but it's nice to meet at the festivals and get to know each other in person. All fifteen will be difficult, but who knows one day it could happen maybe with a big exhibition. Time will tell.

Sainte Marthe

Do you exhibit together?

When there is an opportunity, we exhibit our works together. But we can't all be there. One or two take care of organizing the exhibition in their country. We make shipments and then the organizer takes care of installation and presentation. We have exhibited in Mexico City, Suzdal in Russia and the next one in the Netherlands.

Falling Shapes

Do you exhibit, solo?  If so, take a recent exhibition you have be involved are to be involved in.

I am preparing an important personal exhibition of ten large format pieces. The theme always concerns the study of bark but under a particular aspect. Unfortunately, we are currently subjected to the Covid-19 problem, and I don't know if it will go through. We have cancelled several exhibitions, and we don't see how evolution will be. Since I work on large formats and my piecing technique takes a long time, I have, to carefully divide, the exhibitions and my work.

Deep Blue detail

Expand on how you have use bark to develop your work.

I love nature. I am lucky enough to live in a village surrounded by woods. I like to observe trees and their bark, how they change depending on the light and the weather. I take numerous pictures. I enlarge the details then I draw sketches until I find abstract shapes that inspire me to create a new design. Then I proceed on to the study of colours. Once, the right spatial and chromatic balance has been found. I move on to textile execution. First, I dye the fabrics with Procion MX creating all the necessary shades. Then I begin the work of assembling the top. All is in piecing technique, absolutely No appliqué. Then I end with the quilting and the finishes for hanging.

TaxusBark

Discuss how you present you work?

Patchwork is a micro world. It is not yet recognized as an art. If we talk about patchwork, everyone imagines the traditional and does not know all the aspects that textile can create. Here in Switzerland, there are few possibilities, and if you want to emerge, you have to go abroad. There are valid artists here too, but the opportunities are few. So you start to travel, visit the various festivals and create a small space for yourself. Take part in competitions and start exhibiting. I like human contact. In this, my teaching profession helps me a lot, and I put myself at complete disposal to explain my work to visitors. I had a couple of interviews on specialized magazines, and my name started to turn. Before I had to search, now I am contacted, and this makes me very happy. My work is understood and appreciated. When I exhibit I always bring new quilts, I don't find it right for the people that travel, to be in front of the same ones. It also requires respect for the public.

On the technical side, I am a nullity, as far as social media is concerned I am lucky that my husband takes care of it.

Floating Shapes

Do you have a size limit to you work?

My first works had the size of 50x70cm. Then I decided to work on larger surfaces to highlight and enhance my piecing work. The largest ones reach 150x 195cm. I can't go further because I don't have a machine log arm and quilting becomes very demanding and tiring.

Shibaraku

Comment on the way you use quilting to further enhance your work.

My quilting is deliberately simple, generally with close vertical lines using variegated cotton threads according to the colours of the top. That is to highlight the shapes, give depth and movement to enhance the design.

 Contact:

Paola Zanda

paola.zanda@bluewin.ch

www.paolazanda.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, March 2020


Abdelhalim Kebieche

Is your art your only source of income?

Indeed, as my work reveals the reality of the tragic reality of ‘Man’. My works of art really don’t harmonize with the decor of the average house ... This, is why I resort to another world to live.  My main income is from graphic art, that I have practiced for years. I have found that art that tricks the politician and only gets the artist into trouble.

 

Le Viel Homme,  Solitaire, Oil on canvas, 2017

Your current work is of people against imposing backgrounds. Comment.

This current body of work comes and has inhabited my space, and now fills it.   It has Invaded my art is confronting too!

The purpose of this work is to initiate an awareness. Beginning with a question, that starts from the intimate.  I hope it will lead the viewer to question the place of man, in his dignity, to stand, to resist.  A “worn body” opens the way to a striking presence. It’s sometimes a "lonely" character that reminds me of the darkness of modern life.

Woman with Trolley, Oil on canvas, 70 x 90cm, 2019

My realistic vision is at the heart of the work. Showing the relationships between a number, of concepts, to highlight the features that are absent while attempted to get close to reality.

I want to give a clearer picture of everyday reality within the recesses of work.

Take two paintings one of an old person and one a young person, discuss the complexities of each.

The body of my works is an iconic sign which depicts in its meanings and its semantic dimensions traits of oppression, persecution, symbolic crime and dream confiscation. ... An embarrassing image which reflects the internal alienation which eats away our common aesthetic.

Letter À Ma Fille, Oil on canvas - 100 X 70cm 2017

Between a painting inhabited by a young body and the other by an old man dragging with his last steps towards dusk. Understanding the sequence of life and its turning points.  Sometimes reflect its truth, full of happiness, sometimes its truth filled with pain. Alas, now I find myself both standing and perplexed in front of these two contradictory situations. The beginning and the end of life. I mean to represent them not only in the juvenile face of a child, but also in those who have already dealt with temporal austerity.  For me, this natural growth or this a journey.

The Weight of Temp, Oil on canvas, 70 x 90cm, 2019

Take a very close look at one painting and explain technically how you have achieved it.

Worn Body, Oil on canvas, 90 x 100cm, 2019

My way of doing art is quite strange, contrary to what I hear about artists. I paint in silence.  I don't like hearing any musical sound or anything else that would distort my dexterity during this action. My visual memory is enough to take me deeper into the subject, to the point that I wander outside of my time. I remember the miserable people established here and there on the sidewalks. Their face which, refers to a melancholy facial expression and the curvature of their silhouette gives me a venue which is reflected in the movements of my brush.  Reflecting my deep disillusionment with this being (Man). the one who has been marginalized by materialist civilization.

I love painting with oil colors. Since I do not like to draw with insignificance, the colors take time to dry well. This which me to amalgamate colours. Technically and aesthetically.

Autumn Light, Oil on canvas, 100 x 140cm, 2017

Can you give us an inside look into the art world of Algeria?

In reality, the Algerian experience of the arts is still rudimentary. There is the question of failure, non-mastery and the inability to adapt to new artistic trends.

Many, Algerian visual artists - with a few exceptions - have revealed marked weakness and an obvious inability to surpass Western artistic trends that emanating from the quintessence of European art that has prevailed for more than four centuries.

Recently you won an international award with Mondial Art Academy.

How has this changed your current art practice?

Yes, I was awarded the overall gold medal and a silver medal in contemporary figuration at the international competition for art professionals, organized by Mondial Art Academia of France. This reward came in time, just when I was experiencing disappointment. These awards came like a ray of sunshine, urging me to continue my artistic path and my story with colors.

The Absurb, Oil on canvas, 100 x 90cm, 2019

Why do you enter art competitions?

I use competitions as a benchmark to position my art, to assess the technical and philosophical maturity of my work.  This, is why, it makes sense that to me that I should test myself.

Why would you recommend art competitions to young artists?

Younger people should participate in international competitions, to know their artistic level compared to what is happening outside their studio and more broadly their country. The competitions are also a space where all the currents and techniques of artistic expression meet.  It is not necessarily to claim and win any title but to give you balance.

What have you learnt from this process?

This competition made me more confident about the artistic work that I do, which is a creed for me.

How did you decide on a painting to enter?

In fact, all, of my paintings that I love are rooted in the depths of my soul, and I randomly presented this painting to the contest.

Discuss your art training expand on one or two aspects that continue to be very important, still.

I plan to put my own artistic touches full of emotion. To represent art born from my deepest pain and human suffering, which is able to cause in me a real disappointment when I meet the eyes of vulnerable people. I owe this to my visual memory. Images of vagabond people in a pitiful state that I come across during my travels in the alleys of the metropolises which literally dehumanized them.

 Contact:

Abdelhalim Kebieche

flyvision@hotmail.fr

Facebook / kebieche.abdelhalim

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, March 2020


Diane Meyer

When did you first combine stitch with photograph?

I’ve been embroidering into photographs since 2011. Initially, I was interested in combining a traditional, analogue process with the visual language of digital imaging. I was also interested in returning to the physicality of the photograph and the notion of the photograph as object- something that becomes increasingly lost in the digital age. Through experimentation, I started sewing in a manner that aesthetically appeared as pixelization. As much of my work deals with issues related to personal and collective memory, I started thinking about the relationship between forgetting and digital file corruption- particularly given how photographs are strongly tied to and ultimately often replace memory.

A long time ago, I was working on a series of landscapes using small squares of carpet remnants which also created a pixelated effect. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I think the embroidered photographs came from my original experiments using carpet remnants.

The process has developed into three different bodies of work. One series consists of images taken in Berlin and follows the path of the former Berlin Wall in the city center and the outer suburbs.

Yard and Remaining Wall Panel, Hermsdorf, Hand Sewn ARchival Ink Jet Print, 5.5x6.75 inches,  2019

The second series is based on snapshots and personal photographs taken at various times throughout my life and organized by location.

New Jersey III, Hand Sewn ARchival Ink Jet Print, 6.25 x 7.5 inches, 2011

The third series, which I am currently working on, is based on found class photos.

Group I, Hand Sewn ARchival Ink Jet Print, 7x9 inches, 2016

‘New Jersey III’ please expand on the addition of colour through each small cross stitch section.

This piece is from the series, Time Spent That Might Otherwise Be Forgotten. In this series, cross stitch embroidery has been sewn directly into family photographs.

Disneyland I, Hand Sewn ARchival Ink Jet Print, 7x5 inches, 2013

The images are broken down and reformed through the embroidery into a hand-sewn pixel structure. As areas of the image are concealed by the embroidery, small, seemingly trivial details emerge while the larger picture and context are erased. I am interested in the disjunct between actual experience and photographic representation and photography’s ability to supplant memory. By borrowing the visual language of digital imaging with an analog process, a connection is made between forgetting and digital file corruption. The tactility of the pieces also references the growing trend of photos remaining primarily digital- stored on cell phones and hard drives, but rarely printed out into a tangible object.

New Jersey XVI, Hand Sewn ARchival Ink Jet Print, 4.5x6 inches, 2016

This series draws largely on family photographs and was taken of me by my mother- probably around 1979 or 1980. The colors of the thread were selected to match the colors in the photograph- predominately white for the snow and reds and browns for the coat and the bricks in the house in the background.

In general, I try to place the sewn pixelated areas in the areas that would normally be the most important parts of the image, or where one’s eye would typically gravitate towards first- people’s faces, important details, etc. In this way, these areas become erased, and the viewer is forced to only look at the unimportant details of the image- such as wallpaper or other small details. I wanted the embroidery to block the viewer- both by being slightly raised above the picture plane and also by covering the faces of the figures or main vantage points- the areas that one would normally look at first in a photograph.

I also wanted to cover the faces of the individuals to make the themes of memory and nostalgia more universal for the viewer. Since everyone’s photo albums show the same kind of scenes, I wanted the viewer to be able to insert themselves into the images or relate them to their own photo albums. At the same time, I wanted the images to also be a bit unsettling psychologically.

When did you begin to increase, the amount of stitch on each photograph? How large are some of your photographs? 

I started drastically increasing the amount of embroidery on each piece with the Berlin series. The images in Time Spent That Might Otherwise Be Forgotten are relatively small as I wanted them to maintain the intimate experience of looking at a family photograph. They are roughly about 25% larger than the original photograph, ranging in size from 4x6 to 9x12 inches. In the Berlin series, the sizes range much more widely. The number of stitches is always the same, so the size of the image itself varies based on how much detail I want to maintain in the embroidered sections.  When pieces are smaller, the Wall becomes a bit more abstract while in larger pieces, the embroidered areas show the detail of what is behind the surface of the embroidery. The largest piece, Brandenburg Gate, is 14x16” has over 17,000 stitches, but I knew I wanted this piece to be large so that the embroidery maintain the detail of the tourists taking photographs and cyclists, giving the impression of them being almost suspended in the Wall.

Former Guard Tower Off Puschkinallee, Hand Sewn ARchival Ink Jet Print, 11.25x14 inches, 2013

The smallest piece in the series is 2 x 3.5 inches.  The series Reunion based on class photographs are consistent in size, 14.5 x 21.5 inches. 

Are all the photographs yours, especially some of the earlier work?

The photographs in the Berlin series are all my own and were taken in 2012 and 2013 and  were taken with a medium format film camera. The images in Time Spent that Might Otherwise Be Forgotten, are a combination of family photographs and my own photographs. As this piece serves as an archive and photo diary of memories throughout my life, the early images in which I am a child were taken by family members while the landscapes and later snapshots were taken by me. There is a class photograph in this series which was my brother’s class photo, but the class photos in the Reunion series are found photographs.

Can you take us through you work, Berlin 2012 – Present? 

There are a total of 43 images in the completed Berlin series..

I did not initially go to Berlin with the intention of doing this project. I went to the city for several months beginning in January 2012 for an artist residency. I initially intended to continue the series I was working on that was based on family photographs,I realized the issues I was working on around memory could be extended to the collective memory of the Wall. By re-inserting the Berlin Wall through embroidery, a pixelated view of what is behind the wall is seen, creating the effect of an almost ghost-like trace in the landscape. While I was in Berlin, I was especially interested in the ways that the wall still felt very present even when it is no longer there.

Mauer Park, Hand Sewn Archival Ink Jet Print, 8.5x11 inches, 2012

I was 13 when the Wall fell and have a very clear memory of watching it on television. However, once I came to Berlin, I realized how much I didn’t know about it, and wanted to learn more. I hadn’t realized how big the Wall was (roughly 100 miles) and how deep it extended into the suburbs and forests- or even that it was a ring that completely isolated West Berlin from the rest of West Germany. I also became very interested in trying to find subtle clues that remained in the landscape even when the Wall was no longer there- small patches of trees that were smaller than others nearby, open plots of land, new construction, architectural discrepancies in some of the suburban neighborhoods, old street lamps facing the wrong way, etc.

Engeldamm, Hand Sewn ARchival Ink Jet Print, 4x5 inches, 2019

Following the path of the wall also provided me with an opportunity to get out of the city center and explore parts of the city and surrounding areas I would not have otherwise gone.

House, Former Wall Area Near Lichterfelde-Süd, Hand Sewn ARchival Ink Jet Print, 5x7 inches, 2017

The path of the Wall was not very difficult to follow. I primarily used an app of the Berlin Wall which was released by the Zentrum für Zeithistoriche Forschung Potsdam, the Bundezentrale für Politische Bilding and Deutschlandradio. The app shows the overlay of where the inner and outer wall had been over a GPS Google Map. There is a paved bicycle path that roughly follows approximate path of the Wall. I generally biked on this path, but then used the app to get to the border in places were the bicycle path veered away from the precise border.

Checkpoint Charlie, Hand Sewn ARchival Ink Jet Print, 7x9 inches, 2015

In the city center, the path of the Wall is largely  marked with paved stones indicating where it had been. The city center is so built up, making it difficult to imagine the Wall having divided very vibrant neighborhoods in the relatively recent past. However, on the outskirts of the city center, particularly near Neikölln or Alt-Treptow or Plänterwald there were empty tracts of land or construction sites which provided an indication of where the Wall had been. In Hermsdorf, I saw really dramatic changes in the architecture of suburban neighborhoods indicating the newer homes which had been built in the areas that opened up after the Wall fell.

Brandenburg Gate, Hand Sewn ARchival Ink Jet Print, 14x16 inches, 2015

After working on this project what have been some amazing stories others have shared with you?

Unfortunately, have not been able to speak to many Berliners who lived through the Wall about the project.  My great grandparents immigrated to the US in the 1890s, and although I have German ancestry on both sides of my family, I unfortunately do not speak German, so I was not able to speak with as many locals as I would have wanted-  particularly in the East. Also, many of the locals whom I met where more recent transplants to the city and did not have the experience of having grown up surrounded by the Wall. I am hoping to have the opportunity to show the work in Berlin sometime in the future as I would really love to hear the perspectives of people in the local population.

Discuss the digital aspect of your work.

The film or photographs and scanned and I am sewing into Archival Ink Jet Prints.

By borrowing the visual language of digital imaging with an analog process, a connection is made between forgetting and digital file corruption. The tactility of the pieces also references the growing trend of photos remaining primarily digital- stored on cell phones and hard drives, but rarely printed out into a tangible object.

When do you know how to stop stitching so that the two mediums are still independent while still connected?

Reichstag, Hand Sewn ARchival Ink Jet Print, 9.5x12 inches, 2019

This is something I’ve been experimenting with. It is important to me that the two medium are independent from one another to a certain extent, but have been experimenting on how much of the photograph needs to be present for it to still be photographic. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a new project. In the image, House, Former Wall Area Near Lichterfelde-Süd, the image is mostly embroidered with just a bit of the rooftop visible. But I’ve been thinking about what if only the sky or a particular colour was visible through the stitching. In other images, such as Heidelberger Staße, the wall is only slightly visible in the frame.

Heidelberger STraße, Hand Sewn ARchival Ink Jet Print, 4x5 inches, 2019

How many prints do you make of each image?

The pieces are created in an edition of three with 2 artist proofs. Because each work is hand embroidered, there are minor variations between each edition, but they are essentially identical.

Discuss the importance of history to your artistic practice.

Photography is of course an important part of understanding history and maintaining records. It is also a way for a viewer to emotionally connect to the past in a way that would be difficult to do through just the written word.  However, it is a deeply flawed mechanism for truly understanding the past given how subjective and how easy it has always been to manipulate photography well before the advent of Photoshop.

In a museum or an archive, narratives about the past are created based on the artifacts that remain. Therefore, stories are created based on fragments and empty spaces are filled in through speculation. Historical photographs are the same in many ways. Particularly because not as many survive- fewer were taken and the negatives or prints have been lost through the years. Those that survive become puzzle pieces to a past that needs to be filled in.

Places are always changing and evolving and, while photographs leave out lots of information, it is a useful tool to preserve what something physically looked like in the past. I was reminded of this when finishing the Berlin series. I was trying to find the original locations of the photographs when I was giving them titles. In some cases, I knew the general area where the photo was taken but had forgotten the street name. I looked at google maps and satellite views to find the locations where I had shot the images and, in several cases, was surprised to see that places that had been empty lots or fields when I took the photographs in 2012 and 2013 now were filled with new construction.

I think in some ways, Photography plays an even more important role today in preserving history. As photography becomes an even more democratic medium with camera phones putting the ability to document the world in the hands of so many people,  digital imaging allowing for an unlimited amount of images to be taken, and social media giving everyone a platform to place their images in the public realm, every event has a multitude of image makers, both professional and amateur, documenting history and allowing it be simultaneously seen from multiple vantage points.

History also has the ability to change the meaning of photographs. The Berlin Wall is a symbol of injustice, lack of freedom and inhumanity. When I started this project in 2012, Barrack Obama was the president and I never would have imagined how delicate and fragile our democracy would now feel just seven years later. Just as the meaning of photographs change over time based on the cultural or historic moment, sadly, the implications and meanings of this project have changed for me in ways I didn’t expect given the current moment.

What has drawn you to Elementary School class photos? 

Most recently, I have been working on a series of hand-embroidered photographs based on found elementary school class pictures from the 1970s. This project continues my interest in the relationship between photography and memory and grew out of an earlier project- while working on the series Time Spent That Might Otherwise Be Forgotten, I included a class photograph of my brother’s elementary school class.

But while looking at the image, I was struck by the psychologically unsettling nature of the photograph, but also the uniformity- how the students were all posed in a very particular and formal way. I started collecting class photographs from around the country and became interested in how not matter where the school was located- across various states, both rural and urban communities, the poses were always identical.

Bogert School ( Class Three) Hand sewn Archival Ink Jet Print, 14.5 x 21.5” 2019

In the class photographs, the faces of the students, or what would normally be the main focal points of the image, are obscured with cross-stitch embroidery made to resemble the digital pixel structure of the image. By obscuring what would typically be the most important parts of the image, otherwise overlooked details are brought into focus such as body language and other embodiments of social convention. I am interested exploring these details to reveal not only the relationships between the various figures, but also how, even at a very young age, children were taught and instructed to pose in particular ways, often based on gender. I am interested in this time period not only because it is my own generation, but also because it is the last generation to have a childhood unclouded by digital technology. I’ve been interested in how our relationship to photographs has changed in the digital age. These class pictures were taken before camera phones and digital cameras and at a time when having one’s class picture taken was a more formal occasion- something that has been lost due to the ubiquitous nature of digital photography- making participants more conscious of the photograph as a vehicle for impression management.

Main Street (Class One) Hand sewn Archival Ink Jet Print, 14.5 x 21.5” 2018

I then began the series I am currently working on now, Reunion, based on these photographs.

Paradise School (Class One) Hand sewn Archival Ink Jet Print, 14.5 x 21.5” 2018

 Contact:

Diane Meyer

www.dianemeyer.net

dianemeyer213@gmail.com

@dianemeyerstudio

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, March 2020


Sally Cleary

What lead you to Paris?

I married a French man in 2014 and moved to Paris. It was unexpected but life changing.

How has your Australian background influenced your current work?

I see my current artwork as a continuative narrative, inspired by place and materiality.

‘State of Ruin’ Series 2, Large 23cm Medium18cm

I have lived in Australia most of my life and worked in ceramics since the age of 18 years. I taught ceramics at RMIT University, Melbourne for over 15 years, and explored a wide range of techniques and materials during this period of time, including porcelain.

Initially I made architectural ceramics – large wall murals, tiles and ‘architecture inspired’ wall sculptures. I travelled to Europe when I was 18, and this had a great impact on me – the ancient buildings in particular, and this became the research for my art practice and master’s degree (1992-95). In 1999 I moved to the rural countryside of Victoria and developed ‘organic inspired’ artwork, incorporating found objects into my work and developing large-scale mixed media installations. This became the core of my research and PhD (2007-14), “the Nature of Things: the re-interpretation of the still life genre in the 21st century”, which focused on mixed media installation art & ecology. See website www.sallycleary.com

‘State of Ruin’ explain how you used architectural ruin in this series?

State of Ruin is a continuation of my PhD research examining the Still Life Genre in the 21st century. At the core of this research lies a warning about the demise of ecology and humanity. The vessel forms in this series are architectural, but often represent landscapes in a state of ruin, and therefore a metaphor for the state of our planet.

‘State of Ruin’ Series 2, 2018, 35 x 17cm

Can you briefly discuss the techniques your use in this series?

Most of the works are hand-built using porcelain paper-clay slabs. This clay is a very versatile material, allowing the walls to be very thin and translucent after firing.

Process 1

Initially the pieces are made flat and the porcelain in cut up and reconstructed like a patchwork. The slabs are also textured, either by hand or with textured moulds. I use a black pigment to stain the works, which is also fired.

You have two series of ‘State of Ruin’ 1 and 11,  expand on the involvement of the second series.

The two series evolved quite naturally, however I wanted to take away the function of the pieces as being utilised as vases, rather viewed as sculptural pieces. By removing the bases and adding holes to the work in series 2, the works took on a new dimension.

State of Ruin, 2&3, 2017, 26 x 12cm

I was also able to add light to the work. After travelling to Africa in 2019, I began to add textures inspired by the haphazard constructions and often unfinished or abandoned buildings I had seen in West Africa.

Comment on how combining works you can develop the feelings of a city.

As the artworks developed, I began to view them more & more as an installation of multiple pieces. Although many of the pieces were inspired by landscape, particularly series 1, I see the works as a still life narrative of an abandoned city in a state of ruin – perhaps after an ecological disaster such as Chernobyl, or a place that is no longer inhabited – where human life has ceased to exist, as in past civilisations. I enjoy positioning my work on the floor, to create floor installations. This also adds to the illusion.

State of Ruin, 2018, Group

You comment, “I am interested in the relationship between objects, and the relationship that we as human beings have, with the natural environment.” Discuss.

When I construct these artworks, I am imagining each object as a place – usually constructed in my imagination. Series one was inspired largely by a journey into the salt desert of Bolivia, and the Atacama Desert in Chile.

When I view the finished work, I am trying to engage the viewer with the sensation that they are interacting with this fictitious landscape or an architectural ruin on some level. Perhaps a place they have visited in another space/place in time.

The still life genre creates the illusion of entering a private intimate stage. The detail within the objects is important to draw the viewer into the space. The meaning / symbolism behind the objects is not always clear, but I try to pique the interest of the viewer to investigate the objects further.

Discuss how you see ‘Still Life’ in the 21st Century?

I see Still Life in the 21st century as a warning of the consequences of capitalism: greed and vanity (which traditionally in the 17th century was its underlying intension). Today I think the message is the same and can also be read as a warning of environmental / ecological devastation in the 21st century.

State of Ruin, Series 2, 2019,22 x 14 x 11cm

Vases: Vessel Forms:

Why are they so important

Comment on the colours you use and why?

White Vases, 28 x 19 x 9 cm

The vases / vessel forms for me represent a very pure form, which have a strong tradition in ceramics. On one hand they can be functional – to hold flowers, emit light. On the other-hand they can be viewed as purely sculptural forms – minimal & restful forms, allowing the viewer to stay still in their presence. As a circular form, you are invited to view the object from all sides to read the complete artwork. When I photograph the work, it is obvious how much each piece changes when photographed from a different angle or positioned next to another piece. I am not sure that the vase / vessel form is important – however the process of making something flat 2D, & then turning it something 3 dimensional, is a current obsession for me, and as a series of works it almost seems infinite.

White vases, 2019, 33 x 9cm

The porcelain is very white and needs no colour. To bring out the texture in the work I add black stain, so the works (not always) are black & white. I have recently started adding colour into the porcelain, so this is the next direction for me - but I love the purity of the white porcelain.

Grey Vases, 2019, 31 x 12cms

Classes:

You taught ceramics at RMIT Melbourne.  What were two aspects that have become memorable from this time.

Teaching ceramics has always been a pleasure for me…interacting with students who are willing to learn about ceramic materials and forms. As a teacher I tried to encourage the individual creativity of each student, and not impose a particular style. The two aspects that are most memorable from this time were teaching students in Hong Kong over a 15-year period. This was immensely rewarding as the students seemed very uninhibited and free in their creativity with ceramics, as opposed to Australian students who had inherited a British / Japanese tradition passed down through their lecturers. The second aspect for me was being engaged with research and understanding that research can form a vital role in understanding one’s own artwork, and the various directions art research can take someone on their own personal journey.

Discuss the importance, of developing you own style is for a practicing artist.

I vary rarely follow trends – thus I am always out of time in a sense. I have always followed my intuition and desire to create my own personal style – even if it is not fashionable. I like to be an anarchist…to provoke if possible. The most important thing for me is to have meaning in my work – not to be purely decorative. If my work can attract attention for be reactive (not necessarily attractive), then I am happy with this achievement.

Collections have been a part of your work throughout your career from Still Life in 2009 and to your current work – discuss.

I started collecting found objects when I moved to rural Victoria and commenced my PhD in 2007. I think everyone is a collector; we all have collections of one sort and another. My collections of found objects are usually organic, and needed to be preserved, and later arranged in Still Life compositions and installations. Inspired initially by an ancient Greek mosaic “The Unswept Floor” 3rd century BC, this ancient artwork has become a reoccurring theme in my work.

Recollections, detail, Nests 5

It is a metaphor for the things we take for granted, that are often overlooked. During this period, I also made collections of porcelain detritus – small handmade organic forms which I had incorporated into my installations. I collected furniture and boxes to display my collections – a contemporary “Wunderkammer” or cabinet of curiosities.

Temple, 1994, 40 x 40cms

Comment on the political statement underlining your work in Asia’s Food Bowl 2018 and Frackoff 2018.  Also, how important is it for artists to bring political situations to the public view.

I am always frustrated by politics, especially when it comes to dismissing the environment for political and capital gain. Our ecology is so fragile, and I fear losing its battle against our political systems. I see this as a blight on humanity.

My two recent installations are exhibition proposals – which have unfortunately never been exhibited. I believe there is a fear in the art-world in general of being politically motivated. Asia’s food bowl is a collection of 200 empty porcelain bowls in the form of Australia’s coastline – It represents Australia’s unrealistic political/capitalistic dream to feed Asia.

Asian Food Bowl, 2018, 5 x 300 x 500cms

Frackoff is a depiction of the fragile nature of the environment – small fragile pieces of white organic objects resting on plastic grass sprayed with oil. It is my way of telling our politicians to stop coal seam fracking, which is highly polluting and destructive to the environment – but somehow keeps popping up on the political agendas of many countries, including Australia. I see both these installations as still life artworks. The hand-made bowls in Asia’s Food Bowl are not fired and will break down to become earth again. The handmade organic forms & plastic grass in Frackoff will last forever – once ephemeral, now eternal. I think of myself as an environmentalist – and as such must be proactive. Art is a great vehicle for reaching people, making them take notice.

Frackoff, 2018, 5 x 100 x 400cm

You use many mediums how do you balance this in your work?

I use many mediums to create my artworks because I don’t like to be recognized as a ceramicist per se.  The more I began to incorporate mixed media into my artworks, which is a bit of a taboo in ceramic circles, the more I enjoyed the different processes and outcomes – the idea is quintessential for me – not the material.

Silent River, Installation with Sound, Project Space – Spare Room, Melbourne, Australia

Working thematically allows me a freedom to work organically, in a non-constructed way of thinking. I enjoy working with photography , and mixed media as much as working in ceramics, but ceramics is a material that always challenges me, and intrigues me – the alchemy of earth, fire, air and water. “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T.S. Elliot.

Contact:

Sally Cleary

www.sallycleary.com

www.sallyclearyceramics.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, March 2020


Carly Le Cerf

Can  you explain the different mediums you use in your work?

My work would most accurately be described as mixed media. My staple materials are beeswax, oil and natural pigment, but I have also been known to use ink, charcoal and even bitumen. I use the beeswax in its molten form (encaustic), taking advantage of its fluidity and textural qualities.

Discuss how important aerial painting is to an Australian, particularly a Western Australian?

Australia is a gigantic continent, with vast expanses of terrain that can only really be fully appreciated from a great height. Of course, I can’t speak for others but, looking at the Western Australian landscape in this way enables me to take in the entirety of the landscape.

Colour is also very Australian in your work.  Use two works to expand on this.

Our dry country 

The colour of the landscape and its seasons directly influence my work. The dynamism of weather and climate also impact greatly. ‘Mudpies’, was created in the centre of what is still the most devastating drought Australia has seen. For me, burnt umber tones against a promising deep, Payne’s Grey sky do the drama justice.

Mud Pies, 165 X 142 CM, Oil, wax and pigment on board (2019)

Our green country

‘Emotionscape’, was painted entirely form memory. I am lucky enough to live in an agricultural area which provides me with an endless stream of inspiration throughout the year. From my studio I can see an expanse of hills, paddocks and tree lines which peter out into the distance. With heavy rainfall around wintertime, the great southern offers plenty of opportunities to play with the blues and greens to prevalent during that time of the year.

Emotionscapes, 100 X 100 cm Oil, wax and pigment on board (2019)

Line, especially straight lines in your work shows the impact of man on the landscape, discuss.

I am fascinated with the contrast between the organised structure seen in agricultural landscapes and the rugged, chaos of the natural bushland. I also very much enjoy the opportunities that these lines give me to explore perspective. With the mediums I use also being fluid and organic in nature, I enjoy the visual tension the straight lines create.

Your studio is at Mount Barker in Western Australia.

Mount Barker is a small town 363 kilometres (226 mi) south-east of Perth in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. My home and studio are perched on a hill (Mount Barker Hill) with 50 kilometres of uninterrupted views across the agricultural landscape to Albany. It was only after I moved to the location 10 years ago that I began painting works in aerial perspective. At first it wasn’t a conscious shift but now I am very aware that my daily view has led me in the direction that I am currently painting.

You comment, ‘Drawing is my meditation’, Expand on this.

For me drawing and meditation are one and the same. Drawing, especially if it is challenging, requires concentration, which enables me to quiet my busy mind and find a focus which blocks out irrelevant thoughts and sounds, much like meditation.

Since I practice both drawing and meditation daily, I am, able to sustain focus for quite a long period of time and I feel recharged at the completion of the drawing.

Horizon line is always at a different plain, how do you decide?

I always refer back to the rule of thirds, depending on what I am wanting to focus on. Sometimes it’s the sky, so the horizon line is very low and other times it’s the land, so my horizon line is either very high or non-existent, like in my aerial works. Placing the horizon line along either the top third line or the bottom, ensures a balanced composition and enables a viewer to interact with it more naturally. Using the rule of thirds works with an inherently natural way of viewing rather than working against it.

Explain how you use wax in your art?

As previously mentioned, I use my beeswax in its molten form. This technique is known as Encaustic. Encaustic painting involves using heated beeswax to which coloured pigments have been added. I then apply the liquid, coloured wax to my plywood panel. A lyricism inhabits the act of building up and carving back the wax; a dance between control and unpredictability, revealing a sculptural quality. I am inspired by the way we sculpt our environment and encaustic is a fabulous medium to explore this element.

You do commissions.  Please take two that have been very different and give your, incite, into the process of both commissions.

Tasmanian Homestead Commission (2019)

This artwork was created for a client in Campbell town in Tasmania, have never been to Tasmania but was instantly drawn to the drone photo sent to me as inspiration for a painting. It is very different to create a landscape that I haven’t personally experienced so in this case my main objective was accuracy and a bright colour palette.

Mullewa, WA Farm Commission (2019)

I created this artwork for a friend with whom I had connected through our shared love of the landscape. Having grown up in the wheatbelt of Western Australia, my friend wanted a memento and a reminder of her childhood to be hung in her current home in York, WA. I was sent a few drone images to work from and after discussions about what she wanted; I began creating the work. The very different component of this commission was that the image provided to me was not taken during the dry, harvest of the canola, but rather when the fields were green and had not yet flowered. I had the challenge of using the landforms and painting the landscape in a completely different season. I enjoyed the whole process and felt it gave me more freedom to create something quite unique.

You work in isolation; how does this effect your work?

I enjoy the quiet and solitude of my remote little studio and I can’t say I have ever felt lonely. My work requires focus and it is also quite physically demanding so I have little time to chat with others or worry about what is going on in the outside world. I have worked in shared studio spaces before and I found it very disruptive to my process. Because my work has such an emotional component, I feel that solitude is required to fully express myself.

Tell us about your art training and how you have developed from that point.

My formal art training started in 1998 at the Carine College of TAFE, where I studied an Advanced Certificate in Art and Design. This was a broad course which gave me the opportunity to dabble in many different mediums. Even back then, drawing and painting were my preferred mediums and I continued to develop my interest in subsequent years. I went on to study a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in Painting, at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia. Since graduating in 2000 I have been committed to regular practice, eventually embarking on a professional painting career after my children were born in 2006. I spent 5 years after graduating in the Pilbara which really ignited my love of the landscape. I have been obsessed with it since!

Rain! Explain how you show the utter joy in seeing the rain in your work?

With all eyes on the weather in Australia, it was inevitable that I would explore the theme in my work. I have always painted seasonally, being directly inspired by the landscape at the time of painting. I have many friends around rural Australia who have struggled terribly with the drought and wanted to bring some rain into everyone’s lives, something everyone (including me) was yearning for. I love the misty atmospheric quality of rain on our parched landscape.

You use the idea, of using a particular place and paint it over and over.  Discuss.

An everyday fascination with the agricultural landscape was the main inspiration for this body of work which I titled, ‘7 Days’. Living in the Great Southern landscape of WA, I am always subconsciously gathering the shapes, flashes of colour and composition of the agricultural patterns that surround me. I wanted the focus to be on the sky and how the light effected the yellow canola field.

When your works are purchased through you, personally how do you package and send the work?

Packing my work takes time and care, especially since I live so far away from my galleries and clients. I personally pack my works, making my own boxes and arranging freight all over Australia. Firstly, I wrap the work in brown paper, then add corner protectors and bubble wrap. I don’t like to just wrap my work in bubble wrap as it can mark the surface of my work. I then custom make a box from recycled glass boxes. I arrange freight through the local Star track depot who can ship Australia Wide. To ensure works arrive safely and to protect my client’s interests, I always purchase insurance for my works and provide tracking updates. Thankfully I haven’t had any big issues and works arrive safely in the hands of their new owners.

Take different farming practices you use in your work.  Vineyards, wheat and canola paddocks.  Although man made these are landscapes of your environment.  Discuss.

I think that these have been my inspiration for a few years now because they surround me and make up my immediate surroundings. Mount Barker is both a farming and wine region so there is plenty of inspiration.

I have also travelled extensively around Australia and taken inspiration from cotton fields. I enjoy the formal windrows of crops and the bold contrasts between the crops and the sky. I think if I lived in the outback again my work would probably shift. I tend to create what is around me.

Contact:

Carly Le Cerf

www.carlylecerf.com

Email: carly.lecerf@gmail.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, March 2020


Paula Kovarik

Your most resent exhibition is titled, ‘Stitched Dissent'.  Discuss the title and why you feel personally, the need to use art in relations to the current political position of your country?

Better Not Said, 41” x 26”, 2019.

The background  

Better not Said began with the idea of how we interpret language with ideograms and lettering.

 The use of black, white and red.

I use black thread on neutral backgrounds in much of my work. I find that the high contrast of black against white enhances the mark and speaks loudly about the intent of the mark. After adding all the marks to the piece in black I went back into it to add the red thread.

Symbolism

The red thread that fills in spaces within the black marks represents what we hold back in our conversations. The things NOT SAID.

How has your quilting allowed you to travel the globe?

I teach workshops in many places. But more than that my work travels in shows. That is what is so special about this career. My quilts have been shown across the world. 

Discuss, line and how you use it in your work.

Sightlines, 48 x 19”

Though I do piece fabric and use colour and shape to create compositions my focus has always been on the line created by stitch. It is a language that not only adds texture but also meaning. It controls the density of texture, the direction the eye travels through the piece and the intent of my message.

Line Matters, Sample

 

How do you want the viewers eye to travel around your quilts?

With wild abandon.

Pathways, 27.5 x 28.25”

Briefly take us through the quilting journey you have taken over your artistic career.

Dissemination, a small piece about crowds and leaders. 12” x 14”, 2006

I started quilting after my mother introduced me to the craft about 15 years ago. Though I am not a traditional quilter I found that working with fabric and thread was a natural medium for me. I loved the textural quality of it. I am a graphic designer by trade and creating messages through composition and imagery comes naturally to me. I began to apply my design skills to this new medium in order to find my own unique approach to this art form.

City, 41.5” x 38”. 2008.

City, one of the first pieces I made that was accepted into Quilt National.

AHA! Moments, a piece that started with a doodle drawing that was enlarged and stitched over. It’s all about how our brain connects points of data.

AHA! Moments, 57” x 54”  2010.

Round and Round It Goes, a piece that focuses on all the threats in the world from roaches to terrorists.

Round and Round It Goes, 54” diameter. 2013

Chaos Ensues, a collage piece that brings diverse pieces of fabric together to tell a story of chaos. 32” x 32”, 2017

Chaos Ensues, 32” x 32”, 2017

My current work.

Dark Heart, 46” x 55”.  2019.

Dark Heart, A piece that assembles pieces from other quilts to create a new being.

Comment on the way you use raw edges in your work.

I find that the more I work in this medium the messier I am getting. I love the raw quality of edges with threads hanging. Layered stitching adds depth and dimension. Piling on layers adds a textural element that is difficult to show in other 2D mediums.

Discuss the work ‘Insomnia'.

Insomnia was inspired by the world-wide economic collapse we all experienced in 2008. My business had suffered the loss of clients, I was worried about our savings and retirement and life was just a barrel of anxiety. All those thoughts went into these two pillow forms.

Size – How do you decide on the size of each quilt?

The quilts themselves determine their size. I build from bits and they grow to their mature size.

Backing – The backing of a quilt is an important part of each quilt. Comment on your thoughts on this aspect of quilting artistically.

I have many quilts that are two-sided because of the way the backing shows a different version of the stitching on the front. Since my stitching is so idiosyncratic, I often find new thoughts when I turn the quilt to the back.

Your mother passed on many craft skills to you.  How do you see education filling these gaps currently.

I study art daily. I seek out artist talks, exhibits and critiques. But education also fills in another very important aspect of my practice. I read voraciously: science, politics, novels, poetry, botany, history, and commentary. These readings add bulk to my understanding of the world and find harbor in my work.

Pundit, 41.5 x 41.5”

Take ‘Fallout’ and discuss the use of stains in this work.

Fallout is about nuclear testing. I wanted the work to look like an antique map. I used a vintage tablecloth as my substrate. I stitched the continents and oceans with blue and brown threads. Hand stitching added texture to the continents. Then I used tea to stain the piece to add depth. The dark brown spots made with dye represent areas on the earth where nuclear testing has been executed.

Fallout, 41.5” x 41.5” , 2017

Titles of works always have deep meanings can you take three quilts and discuss their title and why?

Connecting Fantasy to Reality Proved Difficult 39” x 34”, 2010

This is an early piece that was traditionally pieced but then stitched in a fantastical way. The contrast is striking.

 Same But Not: This piece shows the trajectory and journey of two threads, one black and one white. It is a dialog about race and separation. 39.5”x 42”, 2011

Same But Not, 39.5”x 42”, 2011

 

The Usual Suspects: Presto-Chango, Caught Red-Handed, Empty Rhetoric and Sideshow is about the clown show that happens in politics these days.

The Usual Suspects, 40” x 54”, 2019.

Contact:

Paula Kovarik

paula@sogray.com

paulakovarik.com

IG: @yellowbrickstudio

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, February 2020

 

 


Peter Minson

You are a third-generation glass blower.  Did you ever consider another career away from glass?

As a 13-14 year old I would go to the factory in school holidays to earn pocket money and when I left school at 16 I started full time. At 19-20 years I was managing the production of medical and scientific glassware and 21-22 years, hire and fire as they say. Not something I liked doing, firing someone but required when needed.  A fast learning curve at a young age of handling people and handling staff majority were women. Looking back, I was always going to be a glassblower and follow a family tradition.

As well as your artistic glass blowing you sell glass and glass equipment from Italy.  Why Italian glass and equipment?

As well as your artistic glassblowing you sell glass and equipment from Italy. Why Italian glass and equipment?

In the early 90s I was being asked to teach glass beadmaking sometimes in the Glass Department in ANU Canberra.  The best glass for this was made in Italy, Venice on the island of Murano.  I had written to the owners asking to import direct to Australia but they advised me to buy from their USA distributors.

The best range of glassblowing torches, burners for Lampwork were made in USA.  I was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship in 1995 so while away in USA I organized to bring burners, hand tools in from a supplier and while in Europe I made a point of going to Murano, organized a meeting with the owner and after a discussion they agreed to supply me direct into Australia.

Explain about your Aventurine Chips and how they are used in glass blowing?

Aventurine is a form of Saturated Copper Glass.  It comes in chunks and it is broken down into different size chips and powder. It comes in 3 colours, sparkling gold-brown, blue and green.   It is used to decorate glass beads mainly giving the beads a sparkly look in surface treatment or when encased.

When the glass is molten hot, roll the bead, object over the aventurine chips which stick to the glass, reheat in the flame and it combines with the glass. To give depth a form of surface treatment, encase the chips with a layer of clear glass and melt in.

 

Explain about your work related to birds.

I have always like Birds mainly native birds, so colourful and interesting shapes and sizes.  I decided to include them in glass items I made, on the stem of wine glasses, teapots, just free standing mostly trying to get their colouring correct especially showing the difference between male and female in the same breed such as Kingfishers.  In 2002 I was approached by Niki Savvas an Australian Installation Artist working and exhibiting in England to make something in glass that would work with, complement her work in her next exhibition being held in London.  It had to be something that had size and height and be simple. I came up with Birds, no specific breed just have good shape and height, long necks and legs, free standing in a number of positions. I made a sample, Niki liked it and commissioned me to make 12 and could I get them to England in 2 weeks time. They were successful and I was asked to make more for another exhibition and could they be the same with a bigger variety of stances and some taller.  Most were around 500 mm tall and I managed to make some a metre tall.

The birds are made free hand from Borosilicate tubing and rod. I work from drawings or photos of birds.  I blow the body shape then heat a section to draw out blowing shaping the neck and head. I join onto the body the top section of both legs. Next I shape and seal the tail. Then I add the bottom section of the legs.  I let cool then add the feet getting them in a position so the bird has a correct stance to balance.

I live in Binalong country N.S.W. We are surrounded by birds, Magpies, lots of Parrots, Kookaburra, Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, Corellia, Wrens they are in our backyard in fact we are surrounded by them all the time.

Take two or three of your glass lamp pieces, discuss.

For many years I have made Oil Lamps as a variation on having wax candles on a table. It was a natural extension to make blown animals with a fibre glass wick filled with lamp oil could be used instead of candles. Dolphins and Whale shapes look good and appeal to people. They relate to them.

I found that adding a dye to colour the lamp oil added another dimension. Different colours appeal to different people so gives another selling point and attraction. They can see where it will fit into the decor in their house.

With particular animals such as Dolphins, Whales blue lamp oil attracts customers and complements the shapes. Our lamp oil is fragrance free, some people can’t handle fragrance and others like different ones.  We suggest they can add a fragrance they like.

You have designed many teapots.  Explain about this aspect of your work.

Over 30 years ago following on from a conversation with a few Potters about Teapots, the difficulty of making a good on that works well, I decided to see if I could make a Glass Teapot.  Made from Borosilicate Glass ( Pyrex) which handles boiling water easily, doesn’t conduct heat very well should suit a teapot.

It took almost a year experimenting on shape and size. Making a spout that poured correct, doesn’t drip and then a lid that stayed on when pouring but was simple to make.  Quickly I found out that size was important, the customer tells you this, how many cups of tea does it hold, does it pour well not drip, the lid fits and stays on. The handle stays cool so easy and comfortable to hold.

Over the years I have made variations on the shape but really the basic round slightly squat shape is most popular, customers relate to, and just a small line of a few colours, blue, red, green, black on the opening and lid satisfies most customer. We have a little Café here in the Gallery and use my Glass Teapots when serving a pot of tea.  People love that we serve their pot of tea in a glass teapot I made and it works.

How have you worked on the  beauty of stems in your glasses?

A wine glass is made up 3 parts, bowl, stem and foot. Each part must complement the other, balance to be good design. So in making a wine glass I think on what type, style of wine it will be used for.  Reidel, an overseas glass company makes a different shape glass for every style of wine.  So shape and size is important.

Adding a pattern to the bowl adds another dimension visually especially a pattern or colour.   Serious wine drinkers like clear glass, no colour as it detracts from the colour of the wine however I have found if I use minimum colour, a simple line or fume the bowl with silver the reaction with the glass, light, sun shining on the bowl can react with the wine colour, bubbles and add to the enjoyment when using.

The stem allows me to experiment on shape and colour, still having to complement the bowl and foot.  Looking at glass drinking vessels in books made over the centuries, can be very humbling and inspiring at the same time. Certain periods come to mind such as the English “Georgian Period”.  Recently I did some work for the National Trust, they had a recent donation of a private collection of Georgian drinking vessels and I was asked to speak and explain at an exhibition they were showing. Very humbling to see the quality, styles and variations made so many years ago.  In trying to equal those, challenges me, understanding type of stem, air twist etc and trying to replicate using a different type of glass working a different way and yet must look good and do the job.  Getting the stem right is a big part of this.

Finally making a foot to balance, complement the bowl and stem can make or break the design and so attract or distract from the Glass. Getting this right is as important as the other parts.

You still do classes.  What have been a few highlights from your interaction with students?

I love teaching, especially Lampwork. I get great enjoyment in teaching people to work with glass as I do with a bench burner, glass tubing and rod in either low temperature, soft soda lime glass or high temperature hard Borosilicate glass.  To take someone who has never worked with glass especially Lampwork,  to see them gain hand skills, glass knowledge and confidence to make their ideas, be creative and get good results, nothing better for the student and teacher. To see them having as much fun and enjoyment as I do each day is very satisfying.  I have been doing this for a long time, worked in all areas and forms of glass, Lampwork, fusing and slumping, casting, engraving and cutting, building furnaces, making the glass to work with and then using it to make functional or art glass, always glass the best material, most challenging of materials.

How as an artist do you relate to commissions?

A commission is always a challenge.  If the client has a drawing or photo of what they want makes it easier, but not made in glass and they want it in glass. If they don’t have either I have to understand what they want and why.

What I try to find out is what they don’t like be it shape, size or colour.  Then I try to make what I like based on what we have discussed trusting I have understood enough to create something they like also.  Luckily I have managed to get this right over the years.

Take a recent commission and explain the involvement between you and the client.

There have been a number of Commissions over the years, “International Riesling Challenge” Award, I have made these for 20 years, also a trophy for a one of game between the Aussie “ Matildas” and the N.Z “Silver Ferns” celebrating 100 years of creating the ACT and Canberra. Luckily the Australian women won and is proudly displayed in a cabinet with all the other trophies they have won.

The most recent was a trophy for a “Signing” group, a perpetual Trophy where the winner get their name and year engraved on the base and a smaller version for the winner to take home.

“Signing” is where a person uses hands to talk through hand and finger shape and movement. Firstly I had to understand what “Signing” was and the importance of the “Clasped Hands” symbol.   My friend who works in Metal collaborated.  Looking at what I had made in glass, clasped hands with wrists, he made “Shirt Cuffs and a Button”, my wrists fitted perfectly into his sleeves cuffs with buttons complemented and completed the trophy.

I was happy, he was happy and the Client very happy. Now each year hopefully we will get a repeat commission to make the smaller version for the winner to take home.

Recently you have had a retrospective at the Wagga Glass Gallery expand:

Your involvement with the Gallery

In 1981 Wagga Wagga Council advertised they would be holding an exhibition to showcase Australian Art Glass. They advertised nationwide and attracted entries from all over Australia.  I received an entry form and sent some of my furnace work which I was making in ‘The Paris Creek Craft Workshops” S.A.  My work sold to private collectors.  In 1982 they ran another exhibition and this time my work was purchased to be included in the newly established National Art Glass Collection.

The value of glass to Wagga

In 2016 I was asked to open the exhibition celebrating 35 years of the National Collection”.  I spoke to those attending how I saw the importance of establishing Collecting Art Glass in the early days for the Art Glass movement in Australia, and how over the years by adding to it had given it importance to desire to everyone working in glass to develop their work to international standard be equal to Art Glass made anywhere in the world and maybe become part of the Collection.  This has happened and Australian Art Glass is equal to anything made overseas.

With my official duties done I spoke to the Mayor thanking the Council for supporting the Glass Gallery from inception.  The Mayor assured me they would always support the Collection.  Every year at budget time they have a meeting to decide where they will spend their funds initially looking at 5 core sections first and after that money goes to other areas as decided on need. In those 5 core sections each year the National Glass Collection Gallery is always 3 or 4 in importance to Wagga Wagga just in the number of tourists that come to see the collection from all over country and from overseas means they will always support the Gallery.

How did the Regional Gallery establish it connection with glass?

Back in 1978 a number of people started an organization called Ausglass to give a place for people working in glass a place to meet and talk about glass. In   1980 2 people who lived in Wagga Wagga had noticed the beginnings of this  Art Glass movement, one John Elswood the other Judy Le Livre and decide to hold an exhibition to celebrate this. The first exhibition was in 1981 and work exhibited purchased by the Council and newly formed “Friends of the Gallery” and donated back to the Gallery were the beginnings of the Collection.

Contact:

Peter Minson

peter@minsonartglass.com.au

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, February 2020

 

 


Pamela Sunday

What, lead you to leap into ceramics full time?

I entered the world of ceramic serendipitously.  A group of friends were searching for creative ways to socialize.  It was the "Sex In The City" era,  and we opted for creativity over cosmopolitans,  I fell in love with the material of clay and the process of blending it to my will.  It was challenging and scary to leave behind a successful life in fashion, but my passion for clay won out.  I was fortunate to have design magazines to take notice of the work early on.

Now looking back on this move what have been two highlights?

One major highlight was a commission from Francois Catroux, the legendary Paris based designer.  I was challenged to make a group of huge iterations of my Electrum Series.  It was necessary to balance the new scale with the delicacy of the points.  I spent many months experimenting and relearning the form, discovering how to make it work on a larger scale.

Another highlight was a feature in German Vogue.  They ran a full-page portrait with my work and lovely interview, resulting in a whole new level of exposure to European collectors.

Many artists have been propelled by time at Anderson Ranch Arts Centre – how did your time there nourish you and your work?

I took a workshop at Anderson Ranch in the mid – 1990’s with the renowned Tony Hepburn.  The experience of total immersion there, in a group of obsessed cohorts and teachers, was the impetus for setting up my first studio.  The envoromnent gave me permission to consider myself an artist and make a full – on commitment to my future.

Discuss the importance of excellent photography of each piece.

Relate this back to your time as an Art Director and Artist.

I spent a decade working in the advertising department of Bergdorf Goodman.  My aesthetic and work ethic developed there.

My husband, Paul Sunday, photographs most of my work.  He is known for his beautiful lighting (and patience!).  I was lucky to have publication – ready images from the beginning of my career.

How is nature and science represented in your work?

I take inspiration from the images of microscopic life, scientific illustrations, historical references, and photography.  The endless permutations and possibilities afforded by the recurrence of the orb in nature will no doubt continue to sustain my interest!

MOLECULAR:  19” high x 15” wide/deep:  glazed stoneware

Please discuss the technique you use to make your work.

My sculptures are made by joining repetitive elements.  Some components are formed on the wheel, and others are made using an assortment of hand-building techniques.  I have a habit of pushing the tolerance of my materials to the edge.  Each piece takes many weeks to complete.  My process is an exercise in endurance and tenacity.

HIVE:  15”x 15”x 15”. Unglazed brown stoneware with lustre in indents

Discuss the importance of prominent pieces in an architectural setting.

When a sculpture can attain presence in an architecturally significant space, both are transformed into something more thrilling and memorable.

What size limits do you have?

There are no limits.  Things keep getting bigger,  it would be fun to see where I can go next.

Does all, of your work have a metallic lustre?

SAEPIO:  24” long x 19” wide x 12.5” high.  Glazed stoneware

I love glaze chemistry; it’s a big part of the fun for me.  I will always be developing new surfaces.  While I have often gravitated toward metallic glazes, lately, I have been exploring rich glossy blacks and reds.  My early work was often matte and textural.  For me, it’s about pairing the form with the appropriate surface.

MOTUS:  19” long x 16” wide x 11.5” high.  Glazed stoneware

Shape is a huge aspect of your work – take two or three pieces and expand on your use of sharp and soft shapes.

Stella:

Every aspect of this form is planned, the central sphere, three sizes of attachments, and the placement / balance of each component.  I hope that it looks organized and organic at the same time.

STELLA:  14”X 14”x 14”, stoneware with satin metallic glaze

Rubrum:

This piece explores a new direction, exploiting a generative strategy, and asymmetry.  It’s a different way of working but the orb is still the foundation.

RUBRUM:  24” long x 13” wide x 9.5” high.  Glazed stoneware

Do you ever have work sold in series or collections?

Yes, on occasion, collectors have commissioned pairs or groups of works.  The new generative experiments could lead to more of this way of thinking.  The possibilities for groupings, series, and installations are endless.  

Contact:

Pamela Sunday

pamela@pamelasunday.com

Pamelasunday.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, February 2020

 

 


Keoni Carlson

Your work is an illusion.  Discuss

Illusion work involves using one medium/material to look like another.  In my case, I use wood to represent the “illusion” of fabric and/or beadwork.

Copper Mountain,   8"h x 9"d vessel, Sugar Maple, woodburning, india inks, organic dyes and metallic inks

 What have been some of the comments made by viewers when they realise it is wood? 

There are very common reactions:

  • . it’s really wood… didn’t believe it
  • It must take an immense amount of time (yes, it does)
  • I thought it was woven basketry
  • Never saw the technique before
  • How is it done?

Sky Dreamer,  28"h x 9"d  tabletop sculpture, Sugar maple, kiwi vine, red mallee burl, woodburning, india inks

You have only been working on this technique since 2017.  Where did the inspiration come from?

The practice of illusion carving is quite old:  think Europe and the great Cathedrals where wood was carved and gilded to suggest stone;  and then in China and Japan even earlier where stone was carved to mimic wood.  Artists of respective regions using available, local materials to create the illusion of more scarce sources.

I saw the techniques demonstrated in the early 1990s then revisited the style in 2003/2004, particularly influenced by the work of Lincoln Seitzman and Jim Adkins and then later by artist David Nitman.  With my retirement in 2017, I was able to begin exploring the technique in ernest.

My love for the Lathe began as a young boy when introduced to the tool by my father;  I was a hobby woodturner from that time forward.  The journey to professional artist was accidental and organic, the evolution paced by unexpected opportunities and encouragements from family, colleagues and patrons.

 Preparing the canvases

You are a 3rd generation wood carver.  What do you think your forebears would have to say of your art?

My hope is that they would be proud that the tradition of working with wood has continued.  My family’s backgrounds were more as builders and carpenters… and the very practical world of the Mid-West and West, that I have found a niche as a wood artist would have both surprised and satisfied.

 

Contemporary wall sculpture, 22"d;  "Eagles". porcupine quill center. 

Can you tell us where some of the very best woven baskets can be seen and in which museums or galleries?

“Best” is so subjective.  Examples of the technique can be found in collections at The Smithsonian Museum and western art collections of museums such as The CM Russell, the Briscoe and the Eitlejorge, all in the US.  Collectors range the world stage as do galleries that showcase Southwest/Western fine craft/fine art.

I’m honored to have been selected as a 2020 Smithsonian artist and will join 120 others next April in an exhibition and public sales event in Washington DC.

Discuss the importance of keeping American Southwest tribal culture alive through your art.

 

Joseph's Coat:  8"h x 9"d vessel, Sugar maple, woodburning, india inks

My artwork is story-driven, an approach that I believe adds meaning and context beyond the wood art itself.  I spend considerable time researching Native Cultures’ storytelling, legends and iconography.  This provides a foundation for my eventual contemporary design interpretation. 

Do you provide, an explanation of the story related to each piece?

Yes, of course… for any of the larger/major pieces.  The story informs the piece and adds depth and meaning.  I want to be sure my customers are able to tell their friends about the story of the artwork.

Sol Via,  15"d x 2" wall sculpture, Sugar maple, woodburning, india inks

Comment on the marriage, of the two aspects of your work.  Traditional wood carving and storytelling.

My work is story-driven…  at least for the major and larger pieces.  (small ones are just pretty (grin).  I believe that the aspect of “story” adds much to the production of each illusion carving.  “Story” is one of the things that sets my work apart.  While patrons are drawn to the beauty and uniqueness, it is often the story of a piece that results in selection and purchase.

Sonoran Triplet:  Dawn, Midday & Dusk, each platter is 10"d x 2"h, Sugar maple, woodburning, india inks

I do detailed research (thank you Internet) on tribal/Native Culture stories, legends, iconography and mythology.  I have a degree in Library Science so am experienced in the process of detailed research;  as well, my degree and earlier profession as a journalist also fostered my love of story… a grounding my entire life.

There’s an emotion to story that compliments the artwork

Once I’ve identified a story or aspect, then I interprete it into imagery that I can carve and color.  All this is done freehand when sometimes a small bit of sketching. I don’t do detailed patterns or drawings prior to starting to carve.  The spontaneous, organic nature of the interplay of carving and wood provide a one-of-a-kind direction.

Detail shot: burning the design

What has led you to use sugar maple?  Sugar maple is used for a very specific reason.  Because I woodburn the designs at a very high temperature… the combination of heat + the sugar content of the wood itself produces a wonderful patina of soft browns and ivory as the cell structure actually carmelises.

You also use reclaimed or re-purposed maple.  How difficult is it to source?

In the American late 1940s/1950s, furniture manufacturers used hardwoods such as Maple, Cherry and Oak to produce large volumes of functional furniture.  Over the years, much of the work was handed down and eventually has found its way to flea markets, 2nd hand stores, etc.  I look for these damaged, well-worn pieces and salvage wood.  Another source is rail car flooring.  Hardwood planks were inexpensive to use and the American rail industry expanded.  Now many of the old freight boxcars are being scrapped and flooring recycled. 

Patterns are represented using colour of the weave or beads that would have been woven into the baskets.  Briefly can you explain how you do both techniques.

The woven technique involves woodburning a very high number of cuts in very fine-line detail.  All the woodburning is done with a single tool… a 1/8” radius.  By varying the pressure, the temperature and the density of strokes, I can create the illusion of weaving and fabric… even when looked at closely.  From any distance, it’s difficult to believe “…it’s wood..”;  For the woven designs that require color, semi-transparent India inks are applied.  The transparency mimics the appearance of colored fabric.  Inks are applied with brushes and solvent washes.

Ohana  (family in Hawaiian)  14"H x 9"d vessel, Sugar Maple, woodburning, India inks

The beaded technique is again woodburned using the 1/8” tool.  Actual beads are opaque in color.  To achieve this, I use organic, solid dyes rather than the transparent inks.  These dyes are actually applied twice.  The first application of color soaks into the wood to produce a muted color effect.  Can be nice but beadwork is opaque so a 2nd color coat needs applied.  Each cell is colored discretely so that color does not bleed from cell to cell.

Can you expand on the inside of your baskets?

For some hollow-form executions, the vessel opening is large enough that the inside is visible.  When this is the case, I woodburn and color the inside.  This more than doubles the time required to finish the piece.  As well, the entire inside must be finished first, then the outside of the piece is shaped to final form, carved and colored.

How do you sign your work?

I sign with my artist name: “Keoni”, the year a piece is produced, the name of the piece, and the studio location (either Colorado or California);  On major pieces I also include a design reference number.

  • I’ve became a professional artist (or at least started the journey in 2017 so have been at it for only three years at the professional level. Many fine this short time surprising.
  • My success trajectory has been unexpected.

Year 1: Acceptance into a top tier art show; one gallery representation; several national awards.

Year 2:  Full schedule of national, top tier art shows; nomination to the By Western Hands artisan guild; exhibition acceptance at The CM Russell Museum; multiple awards; additional gallery representation.

Year 3:  Acceptance to the  2020 Smithsonian exhibition;  SOFA-Chicago exhibition; refined, full schedule of top tier art shows; publicity coverage in several national publications ; refined gallery representation.

I believe my business background facilitated the fast start.  Of course, the artwork had to  be of commercial quality… but my understanding of the marketing, finance and business aspects was not a struggle… I’ve honed those skills with decades of a business career.  I understood from the start, the need for branding… efficient material sourcing… differing customer sales channels… the value of publicity… tiered pricing… etc.

I often refer to myself as an “accidental artist…” as this current journey wasn’t at all planned.  No art classes… no formal artist training…

I remain young and learning.  Most every experience is a single data point, whether that be a gallery interaction… set-up and selling at a national show such as Philadelphia, Chicago or Smithsonian…

I am blessed many times over:  my wife and life partner, Karen, is amazingly supportive;  artist colleagues that freely share advice, experiences and hard-won knowledge… retail and gallery owners that, even in rejection, offer encouragement… and the many, many patrons that validate my work with each and every purchase.

 

Journey, wall sculpture, Leopard wood/stainless steel accent back: 24"h x 18"w  Medallion:  13"d x 3"h

Contact:

Keoni 

KeoniWoodArt.com

KeoniWoodArt@gmail.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, February 2020

 

 


Susan Brown

You used to paint only in water colour, recently you have been working in acrylic too.  How do you find the two mediums?

I had to reverse my brain when working in acrylic, as the technique is to go from dark to light (color), usually blocking out the dark areas in advance, whereas with watercolor, one must go from light to dark, usually leaving areas of white paper for the “whites.” It took me awhile to make the change when working in acrylics.

Another difference is the “happy accidents” one gets from watercolor—how colors blend “by themselves” (with a little help sometimes). However, watercolor is less forgiving than acrylic in that one can’t paint over what one has done—it was a revelation that I can make complete changes in acrylic just by painting over what I’ve done! Both watercolor and acrylic allow layers of color over another, though with slightly different techniques. Actually, I’m now able to switch easily between media, including oil as well.

Hidden Valley Summer, oil,14”x 16”

Comment on your series of Street scenes – Santa Cruz to San Francisco.  Can you use 3 to 4 paintings and take us on the trip?

Discuss the content

Discuss differences in the environment you pass through

How you have used the physical road

Since living in the San Francisco Bay Area, and now Santa Cruz County, I have found in my street-scene/local landscape paintings a way to show my love of place and the deep emotional attachment I have for my CA home. This “location” series allows me to explore my fascination with the same location in various times of day and from different perspectives and vantage points. I enjoy the challenge of combining architectural details with city and rural landscapes and solving the geometry of space. My aim with these paintings is to share with the viewer this feeling of joy and warmth, and to evoke a deep feeling of place recognition, even if it’s somewhere you have never been.

Rio Del Mar, acrylic, 12”x 14”

After completing a small painting of Rio Del Mar, My partner, Rick, suggested that I continue and paint a series of local areas that are important to me. I’d never done this level of architectural/landscape mix, but I was inspired by Richard Diebenkorn’s paintings that combine streets, buildings and landscape.

The first painting I did in this series is “Van Ness Ave” —which is the street where I live. I expanded the view to include several iconic town buildings, a hint of the Boardwalk and across the Bay to Moss Landing. It was a challenge!  I had fun painting the cars, including the ice blue one parked on the street, which is my own car. It turned out well and has been exhibited in several venues, as well as prints in private collections.

Santa Cruz Van Ness Ave, Acrylic, 18”x 24”

Next, I painted “Santa Cruz Downtown,” playing with the color of the representative buildings, including the town clock and the triangle building at the intersection of Pacific Ave. and Front St.; the main streets of the town. Another challenge, as this had lots of geometry such as the crosswalks and the angles of the street intersections.

Santa Cruz Downtown, Acrylic, 18”x 24”

The next few paintings in the series are of various aspects of Davenport, CA—in different times of day and evening.  Davenport is a small village with a few excellent restaurants, a country store and a famous glass blower.  I’d been coming here for years to one of the restaurants, The Road House, and to Lundberg Glass before I moved to Santa Cruz, which is very close (10 miles) to Davenport.  Now it’s a place I go to even more often, for brunch with friends, to walk on the bluffs, the beach and to explore the back roads.

Davenport Evening, Acrylic, 16”x 20”

I’ll finish our “tour” with "San Francisco”—featuring one of the steep streets this great city is known for. I moved to the SF Bay Area in 1978, and never tire of going to the city. Again, I played with color (the street is not really purple) (<* , form and geometry.

San Francisco 1, Acrylic, 16”x 20”

Discuss the use of colour in your flower paints also the use of cropping.

Color is the soul of all my paintings, especially the flowers, whether in watercolor or acrylics. When I was painting mainly in watercolor, I naturally gravitated to painting one or two “cropped” floral images as I was attracted to the form of each flower.  I enjoyed painting watercolor flowers in large scope, including the peonies, which is the largest watercolor painting I’ve done; 36”X 24”.

Beauty, Watercolor, 12”x 14”

The flowers seem to float off the page, which was the effect I was going for. I used watercolor glazing to show the depth of the flowers and express the delicacy and elegance of the forms, and goache to contrast the opaque dark background and leaves.

My magnolia watercolor paintings were inspired by Japanese floral paintings, including showing the petals as they are fallen off the plant. The symbolism is that the young and old are natural and inevitable parts of the same whole.

Magnolia 2, Watercolor, 16”x 20”

My acrylic flower paintings have more complexity and abstraction—using the elements of bold color and texture to which acrylic lends itself. It was fun to do them, as they are built on layers of background texture and color; the flowers themselves then added on top, even using my fingers to make effects.

Dream of Flowers, Acrylic, 18”x 24”

How important is colour in your abstraction work?

Color is my first instinct, then form and perspective. The abstracts are very fun and freeing for me, especially in contrast to the “Street Scene” series of paintings which are very “paintstaking,” full of geometry and detail.

Fire Dream, Acrylic, 16”x 20”

For most of my abstracts I start with lots of background color and texture on the canvas, let this dry, then add more color and shapes as I feel them. I sometimes use tools, such as squeegees in various sizes and large brushes to add texture.

A few of my abstracts, however, were done on the bare white canvas, one using streaks of red and yellow, in a color pattern that satisfies me.

Let’s Dance, Acrylic, 16”x 20”

That’s the fun to me of abstracts—I choose a color palette but am not quite sure where they will end up. (I confess that even after I’m done, I often add marks in pen or more paint to “finish” them.) I plan to do more abstracts, after I do a few more in my “Street Scene” series.

Blue Feather, Acrylic, 16”x 20”

Do you go to life drawing classes regularly?

I’ve been going to life drawing classes and model drawing sessions for many years.  In 2008 I was studying with Mike Kitchel, through the Pacific Art League in Palo Alto, CA. He taught a very geometric style of capturing form, which I think is a good basis for further study. Since moving to Santa Cruz in 2014, I joined the Santa Cruz Art League, and became even more dedicated to figure study with a marvelous teacher, Susie Wilson, an expert in form relationships, including explaining how to visualize an invisible grid on the body.

Marla 2, Vine Charcoal, 18”x 24”

She is extremely encouraging, and her concentration in how to really see the relationships and proportions of all the parts of a body, as well as how to capture movement and expression, was just what I needed to progress. I took her classes every week for about three years, and gradually became more confident in my abilities. I have entered and won several awards with my figure paintings which makes me happy that I’m on the right track!

Blue Move, Ink and Bleach, 18”x 24”

Discuss the female form and its beauty and shape as inspiration to you in your work.

I love to draw and paint the female form, especially as I’ve been studying figure drawing for several years. The more, curvy the form the more fun I think it is, as in my “Muriel” paintings.  Another thing is that I think that women are victimized so often due to bodies that don’t fit the unrealistic advertising and celebrity examples that I want to show through my painting the beauty of all types of bodies.

Muriel 2, Acrylic, 16”x 20”

I also enjoy the challenge of drawing poses that are more difficult, such as foreshortened ones. There is something very satisfying about getting the proportion right as well as the likeness and expression on a face. Funny thing is that I’ve developed a drawing style without trying to—folks tell me that my drawings have a definite similarity to each other.

My figure paintings are definitely inspired by Matisse’s loose yet expressive style. I love his patterns and colors too and try to incorporate this into my work as well. I did a series of figure paintings based one of my drawings, using different colors to emphasize various aspects of the form and to depict various moods and themes, including the theme of a German legend, the Lorelei, a woman who threw herself into the Rhine River for love of a man who abandoned her. (She got her revenge in the legend as she became a rock in the river which caused shipwrecks!)

Unlike my figure drawings, actually my figure paintings are in a wide range of styles. I don’t plan it exactly but find out what happens as I put paint to the canvas. Some are more expressionistic, some more realistic and some more abstract.

Waiting, Acrylic, 16”x 20”

You give week long classes comment briefly on the format they take.

The classes take place at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, (www.ghostranch.org) a place where Georgia O’Keeffe lived and worked. It’s a gorgeous area of the USA, with many colorful, unusual rock formations, a beautiful river, (the Chama River), and mountains, including the Pedernal, which O’Keeffe named as her own.

Well, now it’s mine as well (<*

I’m honored to teach a class called “Inspiring Landscapes: Paint It Your Way” (as part of the Spring Festival of the Arts; from Sunday (evening), March 22–Friday (morning), March 27, 2020.

I’ll be teaching a variety of techniques, including travel sketching using pen and watercolor, color mixing technique, and acrylic and watercolor landscape painting. A good friend and excellent travel sketch artist, Julie Barreto, may be a guest teacher on one of the days when we do a field trip in the area. This workshop is available for all levels of painters and all media. The class format include demonstrations, daily studio time to work on each person’s own projects, at least one field trip and lots of individual attention to help each person progress.  Besides the opportunity to stay at this beautiful property.

Using images of your work show how you have developed through your artistic career.

I started as a child in Ohio; don’t know if that counts as part of my artistic career! I went to art classes and won a few awards including one as best in show in my age group.

Ohio Fall Forest, Tempura, Ink, 18”x 24”

After moving to CA, I went back to my art again seriously in 1998, as I was going through a divorce. I first concentrated on my drawing skills as I was quite rusty. I took classes at the College of San Mateo, San Jose State, Pacific Art League in Palo Alto, CA and from excellent private instructors.

Watercolor took over my painting life, although I’d done oils as well. (At that time, I’d never worked in acrylics.) I painted mainly still lives and flowers, found joy in using exuberant color. I started exhibiting at galleries, restaurants and art shows and was even invited to represent the United States at the Florence (Italy) International Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Art in 2011.  I also taught watercolor for various city parks and recreation departments, and also for private classes.

Golden Blossom, Watercolor, 16”x 20”

Since moving to Santa Cruz, CA in 2014, I have tried various styles and media as explained previously, and am having the best time exploring and working in all media and many subjects, from figures, landscapes/urbanscapes to abstracts.

Orange Figures, Acrylic, 16”x 20”

Travel sketching is important, how do you approach is format?

(show examples of your sketch books)

Ghost Ranch, Ink and Watercolor, 51/2”x 7” sketchbook

I have been doing travel sketching throughout my life but have been concentrating on it more in the past few years, especially as I’ve retired from a demanding career in technology marketing. Since then, I have had the opportunity to travel to many places, including Japan, Greece, Argentina, Chile, Italy and France, as well as New Mexico where I’m now teaching. I do plein air, on the spot sketching, depending on how much time I have to do it. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to get an hour or so, but mostly it’s grab a half an hour or even just a few minutes. I used to sketch mainly in pencil, but now I sketch in black ultra fine Sharpie or micro pens, as I like the effect. I’ve found that the more often I sketch the more satisfied I am with what I’ve done—probably an obvious observation (<*

Queen of the Hill—Santa Fe Botanical Garden, Ink and Watercolor, 51/2”x 7” sketchbook

Do you use photography along with sketching when you travel.  How do you combine the two?

I usually try to take a photograph of whatever I’ve sketched or started to sketch so I can fill in details later as needed. I take a small travel watercolor set with me so I can add color—sometimes as I’m sketching but often after I do the sketch and from the photo.

I find that I get great pleasure from looking back at my sketches, they bring back the experience of the place much more than a photograph alone!

(Note the Diebenkorn cards I use as inspiration)

I usually try to take a photograph of whatever I’ve sketched or started to sketch so I can fill in details later as needed. I take a small travel watercolor set with me so I can add color—sometimes as I’m sketching but often after I do the sketch and from the photo.

I find that I get great pleasure from looking back at my sketches, they bring back the experience of the place much more than a photograph alone!

Contact:

Susan Brown

www.susanbrownfineart.com

email: susanbrownart@gmail.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, January 2020

 

 


Susan Howe

How did you first become involved with POSHU?

I first went to Africa in 2008 to live with my husband and children. Our neighbour was a doctor working in a village. He asked me to set up English class for older illiterate women who were caring for family members affected by AIDS. I found the women really appreciated the chance to learn. Then I was asked to set up these grassroots literacy classes in another 6 communities. That’s when I established POSHU. We employ local women to teach in their own language. We also distribute vegetable seed, encourage sports, and guide the women in setting up POSHU Savings Groups.

What does the word POSHU mean?

POSHU means Project of Self Help Uganda. POSHO is their staple food, like mashed potato is to us, so I wanted a simple name that reflects the grassroots nature of the project.

How many villages are now being helped?

In 2019 we operate in 14 rural and remote villages in north and east Uganda. Mostly we stay for 5 years, then move on. By that time the women can manage by themselves. Since 2009 POSHU Classes have taught women in 28 villages, employing over 100 part-time teachers!

How can others help with this project?

You can purchase our POSHU paper bead necklaces from Mildura’s Art Vault. Or you can buy POSHU cloth bags from LiveFast Café at Halls Gap in The Grampians.

Become a Friend of POSHU and help with fund-raising, or decide if you’d like to make a regular monthly contribution. POSHU provides Tax Receipts for donations in Australia, and you can receive our POSHU Newsletter. We really appreciate our donors who make this project possible.

Our bank details are: POSHU Aust Inc

BSB 083-764

Account   20-141-2490

Who do you specialize in these three aspects?

English

English is the national language of Uganda, yet few people in rural areas are able to speak English. If they know even basic English, it opens opportunities for them to gain employment or enrol in further study. Village leaders also attend our classes because they want to represent their people at District meetings, they tell me they need to understand documents concerning their land and water rights.

Sewing

Sewing is an income generating skill, but it’s also just a wonderful, creative activity for the hundreds of women and girls who attend our POSHU Sewing Classes. They love to meet together and work on their individual projects, whether it’s making clothes for their children, or a special dress for themselves. “We fill our space now when we walk, we hold our heads high! We know we look smart now,” they tell me. Quite something for women who have known only hardship and drudgery, who only had one dress till now. And they value the friendships they make through POSHU with women from surrounding villages.

Maths

Maths is important for women subsistence farmers when they go to sell their surplus crops. If they don’t understand how the market works, if they don’t understand basic Math, then they just accept the small amount customers decide to pay them. POSHU teaches basic Math and financial literacy. The women tell me their income has improved because of this training. The next step is helping them to set up POSHU Savings Groups, enabling the women to set up small businesses. They also use their savings to pay school fees for their children, or to buy medicine.

Can you help us put this area on a map?

Give us 3 stories that tell how important POSHU has been to these three women.

  • Hellen has been our POSHU Sewing teacher in her village since 2010. She is highly respected for her commitment to her many students, and her attention to detail. Yet when we first met, she was almost destitute. The daily struggle against poverty proved too much for her husband, and he left to find work. Their three young children had only rags to wear, and there was no money for food, let alone school fees or medicine. Hellen laughed when we offered her a job as POSHU Sewing Teacher. It seemed so impossible. She had some training in tailoring, but no sewing machine. The other POSHU Teachers welcomed her, they became her friends. They saw in her what she couldn’t see in herself. Now they are a strong team. They’ve trained 200 teenage girls to sew! They also hold free classes twice a year for the women tailors who work at the Trading Centre, teaching them to sew the latest fashions and improving their skills. Hellen’s husband has returned and now they have two incomes to support their family.
  • Jen has been our POSHU English teacher since she was 19 years old. She lived with her parents in their hut on the farm, so was able to save her POSHU earnings. After a year, she bought two goats which she raised up and sold. Then she bought two young bulls which she raised and sold at profit. Then she bought some land!! Every year she grows millet on her land and earns a good income! She has a plan for her future.
  • Betty was almost destitute when we asked her to be a POSHU English Teacher in her village. She was overjoyed and cried. Life was difficult for her with a disability meaning she couldn’t dig in the fields. After 5 years of teaching with POSHU, she left last year to work in a shop in the town. Perfect for her!
  • Our POSHU Teachers grow in confidence. Each year, some of them leave to attend full time Teacher’s College, with the support of their families and their community. Their goal is to become Primary School teachers!

Happy Teachers

Discuss the importance of women helping women.

It’s so important for women to help other women. In the village context, there is already enough knowledge between them all to find their way out of poverty. They don’t need me, or anyone else telling them what to do. What they need is the opportunity to talk and to learn from each other. Almost every village now has at least one woman who is literate. POSHU provides a box of books, pens, chalk, black board. Many of our POSHU teachers are born leaders. We pay them to work in their own village, guiding 25 women and girls towards basic literacy. We try to say “Yes” to their ideas for developing further. Women are inspired by seeing what others are achieving for themselves, and importantly, they gain strength by working together and discussing everything as a group. Everyone has a role to play.

How are the women adding to POSHU themselves?

Each village is different, facing different challenges. And yet poverty has a familiarity to them all. Small changes can make a difference,  everyone’s contribution counts. POSHU is valued by the women, and by their communities because we work lightly with them, we don’t tell them what to do. They have the freedom to develop their own ideas, to experiment with what works and what doesn’t. Every woman deserves this right.

What are the plans for POSHU in 2020?

POSHU works with the whole village, because women make sure everyone is included. In 2020 we plan to conduct training for young men in basic manufacturing skills. We have land in eastern Uganda where we’re building a shed that will be our POSHU Enterprise Centre. And we’re supporting a young woman to attend Basic Computer Training and Office Management. She will be an asset to our Enterprise Centre.

Contact:

Susan Howe

Email: susan.h.howe@hotmail.com

Our bank details are: POSHU Aust Inc

BSB 083-764

Account   20-141-2490

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, December 2019

 

 


Clare Belfrage

Can you discuss your use of line and its relationship with nature?

I have worked with the repetition of an element for many years now and most often using line to create pattern and rhythm. I think initially I used line to reference the grassy spines of the Yakka or Xanthorrea plant as well as using line to create glass drawings. I see the repetition of line in many parts of the natural world whether it is in the specific patterns of plants, rocks, shells, or as an expression of current or movement as experienced in water, sand and clouds. Working with line has been the way I’ve expressed something of the complexity of life that I have observed around me in the natural world. I am really interested in the detail in nature and ways of marking out the living of a life, the passing of time.

Awash in Grey, 2014, blown glass with cane drawing, sanded, 52 x 45 x 7cm, Photo by Grant Hancock

How are the threads of glass attached and can they be felt in the final work?

The threads of glass, often called stringers, are fused onto the surface of the glass during the hot process. I prepare the stringers by stretching out a gather of glass with a coloured core to a very fine diameter. Then I use a small torch to heat the stringer at the point of contact to my glass piece to attach it while manoeuvring it to create the pattern.

For different pieces I draw at varying stages of the process and this has an impact on the tactile quality of the line. When I draw early in the process and then gather more glass over the pattern work, the surface will be completely smooth. When I draw later in the process then the line work sits in relief and can be felt.

How have Canberra and Adelaide combined in your art life? 

Being part of community has always been really important to me. In fact I’m sure its one of the aspects that really drew me to glass. From the time I finished my studies I felt I was able to jump into the current of Studio glass here in Australia and overseas, and there are many ways I have benefitted from this community. Adelaide and Canberra have been particularly important to me. There are many connections between these two cities and the incredibly vibrant glass communities they house.

I have worked in and around the JamFactory Glass studio in Adelaide since the early nineties and it is still where I do my glassblowing – and also participate in monthly clean-ups and studio meetings. In 1997 I was part of a group that started blue pony, also in Adelaide, a shared studio that ran for 15 years. This was a formative time for me as an artist and again a really important period of community support and growth.

I have also felt a strong connection to Canberra since the early nineties and have enjoyed great conferences, exhibitions and other events there. From 2009 – 2013 I had the privilege of being the Creative Director of Canberra Glassworks where I was able to engage with the Canberra based community and be creative at a whole other level to my artistic practice. I worked with a strong team and we were able to present great programs and events across all areas of glass making: workshops, exhibitions, residencies, collaborations, parties and festivals with the dual engagement of artists and the general public.

I am based again in Adelaide but enjoy all of the connections between the two cities and in fact my solo exhibition, A Measure of Time, a JamFactory touring exhibition is currently on show at the Canberra Glassworks gallery.

How important has the Tom Malone Glass Prize been to your career? 

Winning the Tom Malone Prize in 2005 was an absolute thrill. It is an incredible validation of your work as an artist. The prize money is always very useful and being in the public collection of the Art Gallery of Western Australia is of course such an honour.

Tom Malone Prize Winner 2011, 2010, blown glass with cane drawing, 36 x 50 x 9cm, Photo by Rob Little

Winning the prize a second time in 2011 was probably even more of a surprise! The work was very different from the first piece which was great, and the judges, from their comments really acknowledged the development in my work which again was very affirming.

Take two pieces that have gone into overseas collections. (What and why these have been such highlights to you?)

 

Leaf Circuitry pair, (in the Corning Museum Collection USA) Tallest 42cm, Photo by Rob Little

The Corning Museum of Glass acquired two Leaf Circuitry pieces. These were some of the hardest pieces I have made in terms of the drawn pattern. The pattern comes from a type of eucalyptus leaf that I found particularly unusual. I was excited by it because of the way the rhythm was established and then interrupted by tangental lines. I was very glad that these pieces went to Corning.

With over 25 years, experience in glass art, what have been some of the major changes you have seen in the glass world?

I think the digital age has meant that there is so much more information that students can access. You can watch Youtube videos on almost anything! I think this has really increased the technical knowledge and skill levels in glass.

I feel like I have seen the popularity of glass rise and then fall again both for makers and in terms of the market. I think these things happen in cycles and that’s ok especially if you keep a long view.

What I really feel excited about is that artists are still being highly innovative with the material and that is ensuring a vitality within contemporary practice.

Collection of vessels at the David Roche Foundation Museum, Photo by Pippy Mount

Many of your works are all about form and shape.  Discuss this aspect of your work.

A long time ago I moved away from the idea of ‘decorating a form’ and focused on the form and pattern being integral to each other. The form or shape always comes from the core idea but without heading down a path of being too literal. I like to think about what is the essence of an object or what are the core elements. This has resulted in many asymmetrical and flattened forms to carry the pattern work of my glass drawings.

Close Impression, teal and white, blown glass with cane drawing, sanded and pumice polished, 35 x 32 x 11cm, Photo by Pippy Mount.

Size, do you have a limit to the size of the work you do?

As my work is all made from the process of blowing glass there are definitely limits to the scale. In the last 12 months though, I have taken another step up in scale. I have a great team I can work with and we have been able to go pretty big for blown glass. This has enabled me to explore the feeling of a monolith and also the relationship between pattern and form on a larger scale. I guess the largest pieces are approximately 12 kilos and close to 70cm tall.

Untitled #6, Blown glass with cane drawing, 41 x 31 x 8cm, Photo by Grant Hancock

Pistachio and Blue collection is a group of pieces.  Do you make many collects or mainly single pieces? 

Over the last 20 years I have presented work most often as singles, but I have definitely made pairs and collections. Sometimes it is how the pieces speak to each other in a collection that becomes one of the most interesting aspects of the work. Most recently I have presented some collections made from pieces from different series. This has been particularly exciting for me.

Quiet Shifting, Purple and Gold Blown glass with cane drawing, sanded and pumice polished 64 x 40 x 20cm Photo: Pippy Mount

Comment on the title, SALA and your personal thoughts on this?

SALA – South Australian Living Artists Festival - is a brilliant, inclusive and huge visual arts festival held every August across South Australia. SALA invites all artists at all levels to participate. It is the biggest visual arts festival in Australia. In 2018 I was the ‘Feature Artist’ of the Festival. This meant that a monograph on my career and practice, titled, Rhythms of Necessity, written by Kay Lawrence and Sera Waters was published and launched. I also had a major solo exhibition, A Measure of Time, as JamFactory’s 2018 Icon, and national tour of the exhibition to eleven venues over three years. I gave a number of public presentations and demonstrations. This was an immense honour and a great opportunity to highlight glass making practice in South Australia and beyond.

How important is professional development to your current work?

I have always enjoyed being active in projects outside of my direct practice. I like the intellectual stimulation and contact with other interesting people. I’ve been involved in developing and hosting conferences and I always attend our Ausglass conferences. I am currently on the Board of Guildhouse, a not-for-profit organization that supports South Australian visual artists, craftspeople and designers to build and maintain sustainable careers. I’m not sure that these experiences directly influence my art work but they are nonetheless very important to me.

Take a resent piece and discuss…

A MEASURE OF TIME from Randy Larcombe on Vimeo.

This was made by Randy Larcombe. It is also called A Measure of Time.

How does your personal environment influence your work particularly colour?

I definitely look to the natural world for my colour sensibility. I mostly look at Australian plants but I am not a purist. I enjoy gardening and I have made a pretty nice front garden of native plants that has really focused on different textures. When I can I go bush walking and camping and I draw inspiration from these experiences.

Clare Belfrage

Adelaide, Australia

www.clarebelfrage.com

insta: clare_belfrage

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, December 2019

 


Emma Rodgers

Can you expand on the importance of people, places and experiences in your life as an artist?

People who have influenced me

There have been  so many people who have supported or had influence on my work an amazing tutor at school Stuart Dimalow , who encouraged me to go to art school and believed in me and encouraged me from such an early age. My Mother who took me to galleries and allowed me to constantly turn our kitchen table into a studio space. Sue Tucker who when at art school help me to develop my work through constantly show me so many aspects of these processes. David Jones at university who took me out of my comfort zone and made me engage with the public and apply for everything! My husband and family who has always supported my projects, no matter how bizarre they maybe. Henry Jabbour , we bonded over our love of art and have become great friends along the way.

Henry Jabbour and Emma Rodgers

Castle Fine art foundry, my work would not have grown this way if I didn’t have the security of your technical skills. And so many others Thank you all , my path would not have been as rich and diverse without your influences.

Places and Experiences

I travel a lot and think it is my greatest luxury , to experience other countries, cultures, history and wild life has had a huge influence on my work.

Museums.  When visiting museums, I find the artifacts that are not fully restored the most interesting, allowing the viewer to fill in the gaps. Often the negative space is just as interesting as the form that remains. Some sections maybe well preserved while other extremely eroded and when they are reintroduced to sit next to each other after the passage of time, the contrasts are quite beautiful.

There is a piece in the British Museum of a horse and rider. All that remains is the horses head and torso with the rider’s hand tenderly placed on its neck, it shows such intimacy that for me, if it was ever fully restored it would destroy the piece.   Nature is incredible in all its raw, yet intricate beauty. The more you peel away the more you find and Clay with its earthy characteristics is the perfect medium to translate natural form.

Museums and medical books are the perfect inspiration for working out how to display a piece.  From the simplicity of the stands through to quite complexed forms when the artifact needs more support, some of these structures almost become part of the form, enhancing it, but without being too intrusive.

Reconstructed Figures

When considering displaying my work I look at what each piece needs.  Some require the elevation of a stand to give them more presence and allow the viewer to see all angles. Whereas other for example the mother and child monkey, I want to appear to have climbed up into the show and are taking a rest. To achieve these holes are inserted at the correct angels and size in construction stage and stone is chosen by which best colour and surface finish suits the piece.

You mention two places Veterinary Theatres and Marvels space ships as important places in your career.  Can you give a brief synopsis of each and their involvement in your art practice.

Through giving talks and demonstrations At Leahurst Veterinary school about how much nature inspires me. I was invited to view the facilities which were fascinating, as they are often striving to develop and improve methods within the practice with state of the art technology and a dedicated team. It is a privilege to have access to their daily life, from sketching in a field through to watching an autopsy and seeing how beautifully nature is constructed.

Marvel

Marvel

I was approached by Marvel Films to create work for a Film called Guardians of the Galaxy. The pieces needed to feel other worldly as they were to be placed in the Collectors spaceship. This is a character that travel around the galaxy collecting artifacts. I loved working on this and seeing how the sets were made was amazing, such attention to detail. They even made space sweets!

Bull

Marvel featured this sculpture in the Stark Towers penthouse of the character Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr, Avengers Age of Ultron.

I was then invited back to designing and producing sculptures with Marvel films for the sets of Avengers Age of Ultron. My children were invited on set and met Robbie Downey Jr and Chris Helmsworth whilst seeing a whole new perspective of what goes into a film. Wonderful memories for them.

Mother and Child

If you are willing to explore various routes of art, one of the huge perks of this job is being able to venture into other worlds.

Owl

One of my friends has a pet owl, so I often visit to sketch, photograph generally observe. The sketches range from close fine detail to very loose often charcoal drawing whilst they are moving, jotting down just a few marks will give me the essence of what I am aiming to capture.

Being able to handle her and feel her joints really helps me to understand how she moves.  When I feel I have enough to work from I will arrange everything around me in the studio and start to construct small quick studies in clay and wax, not really a maquette, more of a 3d sketch. I will then develop one of those poses either in wax or clay. With Luna, I wanted her wings to be made from her environment , but not necessarily include feathers as I felt that to obvious. I gathered bark, branches, moss and shard of slate and working from them developed her wings.  Once I was happy with the form it was moulded, and a wax was made from this of which I hand cut and was then cast in bronze. I patinate all my own work, so the pallet was again inspired by the environment with very loose brush marks on the wings to emphases movement, and more refined marks to define the face and expression of the bird. The piece is then sealed and wax.

In this work you have a limited edition of 9.  Can you say where they have all flown to?

Some have stayed in the UK, others have travelled to New York, Singapore and even Beirut.

Who is Lucy?  Discuss this bronze.

 Lucy

Lucy was originally commissioned by a client in N.Y.  She has a dachshund named Lucy which is very social and can often be found perched on her back legs to be fully involved with conversation. It pose is what inspired the composition of the piece. The clients has commissioned artists from all over the world to make Lucy in their own style and is planning an exhibition of these.

Way back in 1996 you were the winner of the prestigious Victorian and Albert Museum Prize.

How did this come to be?

I was a student at Wolverhampton University and the tutors would we were regularly encouraged to apply for various exhibition and projects, to help take the fear away from filling out form and encouraging us to start to plan and how we would develop out careers.  Luckily one of those forms was the V& A ceramic contemporary. I was accepted and won two prizes, which astonished me.

Rabbit 1 Ceramic, Contemporary prize winner Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996

How did this propel you into the art world?

One of the prizes was an exhibition, and with the exposure the show gave me other galleries approached me to work with them. I realised that these opportunities don’t come along very often and acted on this. It was an incredible springboard for my career. Through the exhibitions I saved and had my first  bronze cast. And was luck enough to be accepted at the R.A. Summer show. With the sale from this exhibition I was able to buy a kiln which gave me so much more freedom to work and develop.

Rabbit 1 Bronze Royal Academy of Arts

Another award more resent has been your nomination to Liverpool’s ‘Top 25 most influential Women in Liverpool’ discuss this honour.

I was awarded Woman of The Year for Arts and Culture Liverpool and I think I was number seven in most influence women in Liverpool . I have also recently been awarded Gold and Platinum awards for arts and culture Wirral Life. These all feel slightly surreal, but were presented due to the attention from the public art I have produced and  my work with charities  using my art.

I am a patron of Clatterbridge Cancer Centre of which I works closely with in various areas.  In the last year my work has raised £100,000 for The Michael Josephson Ball of which I have been involved with for a number of years. I also support a range of other charities in the North West including, St Johns Hospice, Claire House and Variety to name just a few.

This leads us to two sculptures in Liverpool, Cilla Black and Liver Bird, discuss both.

In 2017 I was commissioned by the family of Cilla Black to create a public art sculpture of "Cilla" which is now a permanent feature outside the famous Cavern Club, Liverpool.

Cilla Black

In 2017 Rodgers was commissioned by the family of Cilla Black to created a public art sculpture of "Cilla" which is now a permanent feature outside the famous Cavern Club.  Cilla had worked in the cavern at the beginning of her career, so we felt it was only fitting for her to return.

Cilla Black, detail

In the same year I also designed and created the world’s largest Liver bird, standing at 11 metres high.

Liver bird

Large sheet of steel is cut to appear to be constructed out of Meccano as this is the site of the original Meccano factory.

Liver bird

Liverpool in the same year she has also designed and created the worlds largest Live bird, standing at 11 metres high.

Discuss the pros and cons on working as a sculptor of contemporary celebrities who we all recognize instantly.

With Cilla Black, her family wanted 1960’s face with 1970’s nose. So that face had never existed at that time. This was created by layering images of both decades and working from them.

Cilla Black, detail

Friends of similar frames were approached and asked to pose in freezing studios whist we measured and sketched from them.

We also worked closely with the family , they would pop in throughout the process and offer advice or extra images. Robert her son provided us with a … of the first time Cilla had her hair cut by Vidal Sassoon. This was invaluable, as it showed the cut from all angels , but also how exited she was at it was around the time her career took off.

Discuss the pros and cons on working as a sculptor of contemporary celebrities who we all recognize instantly.

With Cilla Black, her family wanted 1960’s face with 1970’s nose. So that face had never existed at that time. This was created by layering images of both decades and working from them.

Cilla Black

Friends of similar frames were approached and asked to pose in freezing studios whist we measured and sketched from them.

We also worked closely with the family , they would pop in throughout the process and offer advice or extra images. Robert her son provided us with a … of the first time Cilla had her hair cut by Vidal Sassoon. This was invaluable, as it showed the cut from all angels , but also how exited she was at it was around the time her career took off. I asked a hairdresser friend Alan if he would come to the studio with his scissor , and modelled clay as he explained how the hair would move and which angle to cut, to keep it looking as natural as possible. She had such a huge career that spanned decades I chose to hide details within the dress, but I didn’t think there would ever have been enough squares on her dress to tell the full story.

Cilla Black, detail

Thankfully on the unveiling she was greeted well by the public, but my main thought when creating her was that I was making a sculpture for a family of their beloved mother and if they were happy , then we had done our job.

I asked a hairdresser friend, Alan if he would come to the studio with his scissors , and modelled clay as he explained how the hair would move and which angle to cut, to keep it looking as natural as possible.

Cilla Black, detail

She had such a huge career that spanned decades I chose to hide details within the dress, but I dint think there would ever have been enough squares on her dress to tell the full story.

Discuss the pros and cons on working as a sculptor of contemporary celebrities who we all recognize instantly.

With Cilla Black, her family wanted 1960’s face with 1970’s nose. So that face had never existed at that time. This was created by layering images of

We also worked closely with the family , they would pop in throughout the process and offer advice or extra images. Robert her son provided us with a … of the first time Cilla had her hair cut by Vidal Sassoon. This was invaluable, as it showed the cut from all angels , but also how exited she was at it was around the time her career took off. I asked a hairdresser friend Alan if he would come to the studio with his scissors , and modelled clay as he explained how the hair would move and which angle to cut, to keep it looking as natural as possible. She had such a huge career that spanned decades I chose to hide details within the dress, but I dint think there would ever have been enough squares on her dress to tell the full story.

Cilla Black, detail

Thankfully on the unveiling she was greeted well by the public, but my main thought when creating her was that I was making a sculpture for a family of their beloved mother and if they were happy , then we had done our job.

Literature also inspires your work comment on one or two sculptures inspired by the Brothers Grimm.

Twelve Brothers

I do enjoy interpreting folk tales. I have recently produced a body of work based on crane wife a love story featuring the transition of her from a crane to a woman and the effect she has on the people around her.

How and when do you add colour?

Show Girls

I always add oxides , slips and glazes  after the first firing as it keeps the colours clean and enhances the surfaces rather than disguising them. The pieces can be fired several times adding to the pallet  each time. Reds are usually the last firing  and are fired lower to avoid burn out. I treat the sculpture as a 3d canvas using loose brush marks as if applying water colours, I start with darker tones were shadows would fall on your body and brighter colour were the sun would hit the body.

Where did the inspiration for ‘The Hunt’ come from – Chinese ceramics, Chinese painting or the Bayeux Tapestry?

The Hunt

Hunt was inspired by water colours of  Mongolian Hunting scenes,

As I make the brush marks translated such movement and strength. Then through research Ancient Nerge tribes I added further details to the piece. I also liver near Chester race course, so having access to viewing such highly tuned beasts in full charge was a great recourse.

Greek mythology is a recurring inspiration for artists, show one piece that fits these criteria and immediately comes to mind.

Story of Sisyphus

Most of my Exhibition for my solo show at Alice Mogabgab Gallery, Beirut was inspired by Greek Mythology starting of course with Beroe a nymph of Beirut, the daughter of Aphrodite and Adonis. Eros  struck her twice with arrows of love and a confrontation took place for her love Eventually marrying Poseidon. Poseidon’s horses on brazen hooves, The Story of Philomela and  the thankless task of Sisyphus were also interpreted in the exhibition.

You use Castle Find Art Foundry, expand on the importance of having these artisans to work with – the value of both their knowledge and artistic input.

I don’t think my career would have developed the way it has if it wasn’t for Castle Fine Arts Foundry. I have known Chris Butler and his team for almost twenty years, and I am lucky to call them my friends. Having access to such technical ability in so many areas gives me so much confidence in producing my work and approaching a new commission, as  these can vary from a small complexe piece, through to twelve-foot copper beaten radiators. They allow me to work in the foundry which I feel is important in my style of work as it keeps the hand of the artist throughout the process.

Lastly can you discuss your pieces ‘Finches’ inspired by Darwin and the connections that seen to keep connection us all.  (Darwin, Wedgwood – Your incorporating porcelain into your sculptures.)

My Darwin inspired work.

These pieces were inspired by Darwin I have hidden many stories within these sculptures from Researching specimens and research from his trip to the Galapagos islands through to his drawings with hidden porcelain pieces broke to appear as wing to represent his marriage to Emma from the Wedgwood family. the branch they sit on is based on his sketch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact:

Emma Rodgers

http://www.emmarodgers.co.uk/

info@emmarodgers.co.uk

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, December 2019

 

 

 


Barbara Brown

Can you expand on your Installation – Red Oak Labyrinth?

Many people in Ottawa have long desired to build a Botanical Garden. A plot of land was identified and a group of artists were invited to make temporary installations to animate the area and draw attention to the idea and the place.

With the curators, I toured the area in late November. They had asked that each of the six invited artists use live plants in their installations. As the area has yet to be developed it had no water supply and I couldn’t image being responsible to keep plants alive all summer in an open field without water. So, what to do?

Beginning of Red Oak Labyrinth, in early spring.

A large oak tree caught my attention while touring the field. Its form was clearly outlined as the leaves had fallen and the branches were bare. I’m not sure now what I was imagining but the curators said they thought I might make a labyrinth. For about seven years I had been building these ancient meandering walking paths and offering retreat workshops as a form of meditation or contemplation. The old Red Oak tree had several low branches which defined a welcoming space beneath it, and I could imagine being held by the tree in the circular pattern of the labyrinth. I made a plan to construct a 7-circuit Chartres style labyrinth with a circular bench around the trunk of the tree. We began the work in early May before the leaves had come out. With help from family, friends and volunteers we cleared the weeds and prepared a 70 foot circle beneath the tree.

Dan and his round bench for Red Oak Labyrinth.

My partner Dan built the bench and my son cut and split several cords of wood to define the paths of the labyrinth. A call was put out to the community and people came to help set out the cordwood in the circular pattern and then cedar mulch was added to the paths. The labyrinth was completed just in time for the Summer Solstice.

Building the Red Oak Labyrinth with volunteers.

A celebration was called for, even though the exhibition would not open for another week. I called upon my music therapy colleagues and asked if they could form a spontaneous choir of female voices to provide a setting to welcome the first visitors to walk the new labyrinth. On a warm and sunny evening, many friends came bearing flowers to bless the labyrinth and the singers arrived wearing white. The labyrinth was bedecked with white and yellow steamers. Many were enchanted by the experience that evening as they walked the ancient path of mystery and wonder.

Red Oak Labyrinth, made with split Ash logs.

The Red Oak Labyrinth was opened to the public the following week and over the next 3 months many, many, people came and left surprisingly profound comments in the weather-proof notebooks tied to the bench in the centre of the labyrinth. I visited many days to tidy the place and to walk the labyrinth and write in my own journal. It became a popular place to visit that summer and helped to establish the place and the dream of a Botanical Garden in the centre of the city.

Red Oak Labyrinth, Celebrating Summer Solstice.

At the end of the September the exhibition closed and I had to do something to acknowledge all that had taken place in what had become a rather special place for many visitors. I put out the word that a Feast would take place before the dismantling of the  labyrinth. About twenty people arrived bearing beautiful dishes of fine food. Words of blessing and thanksgiving were spilled and then collectively we picked up and stacked the cord wood that had been laid in the spring to form the labyrinth. As a gesture of thanks to those who had gathered to help me, I offered a fine oak aged port and spiced shortbread cookie in the shape of an acorn.

Red Oak Labyrinth, Celebrating Summer Solstice, with a female choir.

My gift at the end of three months was eight notebooks filled with words of praise and comments and stories left by people who had visited the labyrinth beneath the oak tree over the summer. I might one day put all the photo documentation and notebooks together into a book as a way of remembering what was more than I could ever have planned or imaged.

Red Oak Labyrinth, Celebrating Summer Solstice

How have you been able to combine your artistic work and interest in horticulture?

I was asked to start a new program for the Dementia Care Unit at the long-term care facility where I was working as an artist running creative arts programs for the frail elderly. My manager suggested I might try gardening as an activity. I was then thirty years old, living in a downtown apartment and knew nothing about gardening but I gave it try. I got the largest seeds I could find (green beans) and a big clay pot and some soil. To my surprise the men (it was a Veteran facility) loved working with the soil and the beans grew and I was hooked. It was a trial and error approach and I learned on the job. I soon signed up for classes in horticulture and became fascinated by the world or plants, flowers, trees and shrubs. My job afforded me the opportunity to follow my interests and to develop a program that became a comprehensive year around combination of gardening activities both indoors and outdoor, with art activities related to plants and gardens. Over several years, I became an avid gardener and built a sizeable garden at my home. With so much of my attention focused on the garden and plants it was a natural step that my artwork became focused on the garden.

Circular Time Series ‘Wheel of Cedar’

After many years of gardening, my art making became an extension of my garden making. It become a focus for my contemplations on the place of interaction between humans and nature and my understanding of a garden as a human construct.

Fast forward many years and now my home garden has become the source of most of the material I include in my photographic work. It feels like a full circle and leads back to the beginning.

Comment on your work in relation to the cycle of life?

Working with plants is a very relational way to observe the cycle of life. Some plants will complete their lifecycle in one season and they offer a speeded up version of what a human life cycle is. The same can be observed in the pronounced four seasons which we experience here in Canada. Winter is for real here and everything green dies except the evergreen trees and shrubs. In spring one can see the changes from day to day as plants sprout out of the moist earth and come into their full form in early summer. The blooms of summer soon set seeds and complete their growth by fall. As the temperature drops so do the leaves and a gloriously colourful ending happens just before winter sets in again. Where I live, we are fortunate to have four very distinct seasons to experience.

As I spent time with the elderly who were in the ending of their days it was psychically and spiritually relevant to emphasize the cycles of life and to acknowledge and celebrate all the seasons as a way of reinforcing the right and proper ending of all things. I have extended this contemplation into my own artwork and I have been surprised at the beauty that is to be found in the fading and dying of plants, and by extension, of people as well. It is one thing to know a beautiful fresh bloom in its full glory but also to see the exquisite contortions of the withered and wilted sculptural form of its ending.

Both my therapeutic work and my art work have allowed me to know and appreciate all points on the cycle of life and not to over focus on the beauty of youth as is the want of our current culture.

You have had several residencies, including one in India.  Can you explain about this residency?

Why you applied to go to India for a residency?

My partner Dan and I were invited to join a group of international artists for a 10 day period in Jaipur, India to make art addressing issues of water scarcity in India.

Where in India did it take you?

The Kala Chaupal residency was hosted and organized by Leenika Beri, a communication specialist who is giving back to her country through organizing art-focused events . We were accommodated at the Diggi Palace Hotel in Jaipur, an old family compound now run as a hotel by the Diggi family. Most of the artists were assigned studio space at the Hotel in a large open building and some artists worked off-site at a paper making mill and a sculpture foundry. My practice is now photo based, so I set up an improvised studio in an open stairway area of the hotel’s courtyard.

Matka Water Pots, Jaipur Market

What work did it lead to?

Before going to India I did some research and knew generally what I wanted to say but I had no idea what that would look like. Having visited India previously I knew that the people of India have a very different and special relationship with water that we here in Canada do not. It seemed at some level rather perverse to be coming from Canada with our vast resources of water and traveling to India where water has become scarce and challenging to manage, not to mention highly political.

Matka Water Pots, Jaipur, India

Early on in our residency I went to the local market to purchase traditional earthenware water pots to see if they would inspire something. I had seen them employed in many places I had visited previously. It is such a contrast to my experience at home where water comes on demand from a faucet. I was showing the water pots to a fellow artist and explaining that the pots resembled a pregnant belly. Her eyes teared up as she understood the very visceral connection women have with water. Indigenous women in Canada understand themselves to be water carriers in a similar way that India women understand themselves. I also learned that it is women’s work to carry water in India and also in many other traditional cultures.

Matka Portait Series, Moutushi, India

From that encounter I got the idea of making portraits of women with earthenware water pots. Each session began with a conversation as I explained my observations regarding the connection between water pots and women’s bodies. We talked about our shared experiences with pregnancy and mothering. Interestingly, the India women were quick to strike a pose carrying the pots on their head as is common in India.

Matka Portait Series, Shanti, India

The North America women related to the pots as either their own womb or the children they had birthed. One of the young artists at the residency introduced herself and on her social media site stated that she was an artist and nudist. I couldn’t resist asking her if she would pose for a birthing scene, something that I knew was very risqué in Indian culture. She readily agreed and together with an older women posing as midwife we made a beautiful portrait. However, I was not surprised when both women declined to have their photographs shared over social media for the sake of their families.

How do you use photography to produce your Botanical images?

I love the feel of handling plant material and so I make arrangements of plants that are ephemeral, meaning they are very short lived. So, photography initially helped me to capture the compositions I made and allowed me to share them. I began this work outdoors, often in remote settings where I might be the only human eyes to see the compositions I made. Now I work indoors, in part not to have to deal with wind and changing lighting conditions.

Sometimes my images are made on a light box which gives a “backlight” quality to the images, reminiscent of those special moments in the garden when the sun is low and illuminates the plants as if from within.

Photography allows me to share my work but now it is the photograph that has become the driver of my work. Working as I do is very freeing. It allows me to create combinations of things that originate in nature, but are combined in a way that becomes a new view on the garden, one that can’t be found in that actual setting, one that has been created not found.

Compare, ‘Collected Garden - Fallen Peonies’ and ‘Etymology of a Flower - Peony’.

Early morning Kingsbrae Garden

At Kingsbrae International Residency for the Arts in New Brunswick Canada, I set myself a project of making photographic compositions that resonated with botanical herbarium sheets, the method used by plant sciences to preserve plant specimens for later study. Traditional herbarium sheets are mostly beige or brown leaves as the colour of plants fades as they dry. Using a photographic approach along with a scientific curiosity, I deconstructed flowers and laid them out in an arrangement that revealed the intricacy of their making.

Collected Garden Series, White Peony

I had access to the Kingsbrae twenty five acre garden and after working for a week, I had a pile of wilted flowers by my studio door. Most mornings I would get up at dawn and walk in the garden taking photographs of whatever appealed in the moment and at the same time familiarizing myself with the place. One morning the perfect photograph require that I have one foot in a shallow pond. I got my shot and then looked down to check my footing and saw my iPhone in the pond! That just about ruined my day. By the time I got to the studio I was in a rather blue mood. I looked at the pile of dead and wilted flowers by my door and said today I’ll work with you. That accident resulted in a second body of work related to the Etymology Series which become the Collected Garden Series. As I had access to the bounty of a large garden, I was able to make several images that expressed various areas or plant collections in the garden.

Collected Garden Series, Fallen Peony

I particularly enjoyed Kingsbrae’s White Garden, an homage to Vita Sackville-West’s White Garden for Sissinghurst Castle in England. My image is something not available in the garden as it is a focused and composed view.

Collected Garden Series, White Garden

Using four pieces from your collection that reflect the four seasons.

Where I live in Canada, we have four very distinct and pronounced seasons. While it is a bit of a cliché to make art based on the seasonal change, it is the reality of where we live.

Resisting Pink

My work as a Horticultural Therapist focused my attention on the cycle of life and the cycle of the seasons as I created programs based on growing things from seed, seeing them flower and fruit, harvesting and cooking the bounty of the garden. There is something very reassuring in the return of the light in the spring and the sprouting of the first shoots and the taste of the first greens from the garden.

Rochester Field Portrait, July

I worked with one of my colleagues from my time working in Long Term Care and we set ourselves a project to collaborate for a year and mount an exhibition of the work we made together. Cynthia O’Brien is a clay artist and our exhibition entitled LifeCycle Conversations gave us both an opportunity to reconcile the burden of grief we carry from the experience of working with so many elderly residents who died on our watch, not to mention the death of our own fathers.

Gathering #3, Desire for Arcadia Series

Most of our work focused on the last chapter of the life cycle but my personal work goes on to encompass all the seasons. It does bring a kind of rounded balance to my view of life. Yes, death is a reality but so is birth the new beginning of the spring, the fullness of summer and the ripening of all things in the fall.

I offer four images to illustrate the seasonal changes and the turning of the great wheel of life.

Winter Forrest, Desire for Arcadia Series

In your opinion discuss the importance of nature, health, and art.

Using my art practice, I work toward shifting my perspective from human as machine and human as having dominion over the world, to a more holistic understanding that sees humanity as a part of the continuum of the natural world. I trace the changing seasons and the cycles of life, death and rebirth as a place of observation which I am able to more fully inhabit through my practice as a visual artist. I find myself  soothed as well as oriented by handling flowers and twigs, leaves and soil and contemplating the ending of all things.

As an urban dweller I seek to explore and experience the natural world away from the built-up city. Yet my primary access to nature is in my small urban garden at home. It’s not a large garden but it holds a diverse collection of plants that has amused and fascinated me for a couple of decades. As a Horticultural Therapist I learned how important and supportive contact with the natural world is, especially in a sterile health care setting. I do wonder what the next generations of children will be like as many are being raised in a regimented tidy, interior world with far less access to the natural world than what I grew up with.

Self Portrait, as Green Woman, Wise Woman

Contact:

Barbara Brown

website: barbarabrown.ca

Instagram: bbrownartist

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, November 2019

 


Eva Ennist

Can you explain about your residency at Tartu?

Your personal background with Estonia

Your mother’s working gloves

How these two aspects influenced your residency?

I was drawn to attending the Tartu Artist in Residency program in Estonia because my parents were Estonian, my life and work experiences deeply connected to this heritage. Both parents were incredibly hard working, creative and very frugal and my mother introduced me to making things from scratch, recycling and reusing. She had a DYI mentality long before the sustainability movement was a thing.

Mother’s working gloves prepped for collagraph print

My residency project was inspired by a collection of dozens of my mother’s old work gloves. Gloves that she had repaired and rebuilt many times, over many years from parts of other worn out gloves. Her commitment to getting every last bit of use out of any material or object was awe-inspiring. But in her final years, as dementia set in, it was also troubling to see this otherwise commendable frugality turn into an obsession with collecting and hoarding – a behaviour I suspect was rooted in her wartime experiences of making do with very little.

Resumed Repair #5, Drypoint print, digital print collage, 63.5 x 50.8cm

While in Tartu at the Estonian Print and Paper Museum, I worked with collagraph printed textile imagery, dry point etchings and the digitally printed enlargements of the actual gloves that I had brought from Canada. This exploration resulted in various collaged pieces that refer to my mother’s tireless work ethic and survival instincts – as well as to my own drive to sustain an art practice based on reusing and repurposing both materials and meaning.

Tartuensis Gallery Opening

How important is travel and photography in your work?

I believe that travel to places near and far will only continue to amaze, bewilder, excite and inspire me and my art making practice.

At 20 years of age I took my very first trip abroad to Barcelona, Spain where I was able to climb up inside one of Antoni Gaudi’s incredible Sagrada Familia Basilica spires (they were permanantly closed to the public soon after). I found the experience breathtaking, both literally and artistically. Little did I know then that it would be an inspiration in my work to this day. Those shapes, as spires or temples, are one of many such architectural structures that reappear in my sculptures and encaustic /mixed media works.

Temple in India

Photography plays an integral part of expressing the experience of the places that I have travelled to. I document cultural sites, awe-inspiring landscapes as well as close-up details of design, art and craft found in unexpected locations and objects. I take countless images of man-made temple spires, baskets, traps and woven grids in landscapes. But often what I find more inspirational are various bird nests, spider webs and termite mounds - architecture created instinctively by animals.

Fishing baskets in Laos

These images may develop and materialize as sculptural objects made of wire, reed, bamboo, concrete and handmade paper.

Termite nests in Bhubaneswar, India

Photographs of the actual sculptures are often manipulated and find their way into the many layers of my encaustic paintings. The photo is transferred by fusing it to the wax medium creating a base image or recognizable texture.

Expand on your series, ‘Uncanny Resemblance’

Techniques you have used

The importance of found objects

the use of adding only single colour to specific works

 

Balancing Baskets, Encaustic and mixed media, 46 x 61cm

For the exhibition, “Uncanny Resemblance”, all 50 wall pieces were encaustic paintings/mixed media works of various sizes. The mixed media elements include small, coiled, wire cones, flattened wire grids coated with paper pulp, scraps of window screening or woven reed structures imbedded into thick layers of encaustic medium (which is made of beeswax, damar resin and pigment). I also fused transfers of drawings and photographs from a preceeding series of sculptures.

This process of borrowing imagery and textures from older pieces allows new bodies of work to continue to relate to what came prior and to inform what may develop next.

Black Lotus Budding, Encaustic and mixed media, 61 x 30.5cm

Discuss, size in your work using ‘Nesting’

Nesting Hold, Reed, Wood, steel, abaca, cast resin, paint, 213 x 40.85 x 40.85cm

My sculptures range from small table pieces to fairly tall structures. Even though I refer to the five sculptures in the “Nesting” series as human scale, they are mounted on 33 cm high bases taking on an almost towering presence when up close.

The size of the larger sculptures I create is dictated by the size of the woven reed grids. These interlaced layers were once part of much bigger panels for previous sculpture installations. Once cut, these smaller grids can be manipulated in many different configurations.

Nesting Tolerance, reed, cold cast bronze, wood, steel, paint, 195.5 x 54.25 x 54.25cm

Most elements of all, of my larger sculptures come apart so that I am able to get them out of my studio – a very real problem.

Nesting Lotus #6, Bamboo, handmade paper, concrete, 43.2 x 22.8cm

Take 1 or 2 specific materials that you have found and developed into your sculptures, discuss.

Many of my sculptures and encaustic mixed media works are made with natural reed, also known as the core of rattan. It is a pliable, dyeable vine when processed comes in diameters  2 mm to 30 mm. I have woven it into grid structures, sprayed it with paper pulp, embedded it into concrete forms, and into layers of encaustic wax medium. I have also created large installations, light sculptures and even a balcony railing with this textile-like material.

Nesting installation view at World of Threads Exhibition, 2018

Other frequently used but non-fibre materials that I work with are wire mesh and “hardware cloth”. Several years ago, I discovered 5 cm wide strips of this metal cloth that were being thrown out at a wire company here in Toronto. I salvaged several rolls and eventually began to coil the strips, forming them into very sturdy conical shapes. The grids overlapped allowing some very dense areas and other very open sections. I often created a “skin” by spraying hand made paper partially covering the cone. That was the foundation for many sculptures and two dimensional works over the last 22 years.

Potential, Concrete, steel, cast resin, reed, 183 x 35.5cm

How has sight and the actual eye charts become a part of your work?

Eye chart series, wire mesh, digital photo, each 30 x 20cm

My family has had inherent eye problems for many years. Not only the run of the mill myopia and astigmatism but also glaucoma, retinal tears and detachment, cataracts and night blindness have been a on-going problem.

Blunted Sight #1, Bamboo, thread, wire, abaca paper pulp, 82 x 25cm

It seemed inevitable that I would delve into the capacity of sight and I have come across terms such as distortion, simultaneity, clarity that are fundamental in the language of vision as are anatomical references to cones and rods (the light sensitive cells in the retina of the eye). At the same time, these concepts could also be applied to human capabilities beyond the physiological such as concentration and focus.

I began to experiment with layering, assembling, sometimes ‘blurring’ images of the standard eye chart, my own eyes and related text. Textiles, hand made paper, wire mesh, digital embroidery and print were materials for both 2 and 3 dimensional compositions.

Mona – Give us your thoughts on using known art work as a basis of new art.

The Hairy Eye, photo transfer, fabric, artificial hair, thread, 22 x 17cm

If the artwork appropriated is designated “public domain” or an artist has considerably transformed the original artwork of another then I’m open to the work being used in essence as a “material”.

Using images of famous artworks like DaVinci’s Mona Lisa elicits an immediate recognition of the subject matter. This painting has been parodied by countless artists, designers and art directors for years for various effects - usually with comedic twist. This was one part of why I first started to “play” with Mona’s image. The other part was the fact that my favourite uncle/godfather had nicknamed me Mona Lisa (my full name is Eva-Lisa) when I was a small child. He travelled the world for his work and once brought back for me an incredible porcelain doll, which I named Mona Lisa. She was my favourite doll.

Emigmatic / Stigmatic 2, photo transfer, fabric, thread, wire mesh, 29 x 28cm

How have you manipulated Mona Lisa – use 2 or 3 works to explain this?

Myopic Mona, Photo transfer, fabric, thread, wire mesh, 20 x 20cm

While I was working with visual impairment as a serious concept for my work, I had also started creating collages where people or animals were wearing spectacles. I started cutting and pasting eyeglasses from magazines on all sorts of people and animals. This was initially for my own amusement – they were silly and I was able to do them while travelling. In the studio I took this a step further and started to applique fake hair onto singular images of Mona Lisa (The Hairy Eye #1) which had been photo transferred to fabric. This hair was sewn in the shape of eyeglasses. I decided to use multiple Mona Lisa images in one piece and machine embroidered eyeglasses with colourful thread onto a layer of window screening and mounted the piece in an ornate gold frame. This piece, titled Myopic Mona, sold for the highest bid at a fundraiser auction. It seemed I had hit a nerve. So I continued with this approach.

You have been practicing art for 40 years can you discuss your personal thoughts on how your art has changed and developed?

Actually, I have been making art professionally since graduating from art school over 43 years ago. I began to teach, travel and study abroad about 5 years into my practice.

For the first 10 years after school, the main focus of my work was textiles, specifically tapestry weaving for exhibition and corporate and residential commissions. Most of my designs came from looking at the natural world from very close up or from within.  My sketchbooks were full of details of insects, diagrams of fossils and watercolours of plants growing out of rock crevices and geological cross sections. As tapestry weaving was very slow (especially pieces that were 9.3 sq metres in size) I felt the need to experiment with other, more immediate fibre techniques to express my ideas. I took a couple of courses in papermaking and never looked back. This new approach using hand made paper pulp and sheet form allowed me to embed and cast familiar woven elements such as mesh, gauze, and plaited reed to create wall pieces and sculptural forms.

Photo imagery seeped into the mix as well when the work took on a more sobering path after my father passed away late 1989. Personal mourning was expressed along side of loss and preservation practised by women of various cultures.

As time passed, the parallels of death and sleep became the theme of both 2 and 3 dimensional sculpture and installations. However, as the work progressed so did the emphasis of the eyes in a closed position gradually led to the investigation of the faculty of sight, with the eyes wide open. Perception, sight and insight are words that conjure up experiences and memories common to many - I was very interested in conveying this in mixed media (handmade paper, woven reed, photo imagery, wire mesh).

As this process was developing, in 1993 I was invited to join a team of architects and other craft based artists to create a large installation called Designed by Commission: Collaboration 1993 for IIDEX, Interior Design Show. My contribution was a two-layered canopy of thick woven reed and handmade paper pulp suspended over a ceramic, wood and glass platform installation. The creation of these 122 cm x 244 cm panels was the start of a series of large works using the same size and format for many exhibitions and installations.

But after a few years of storing these interesting and “still useful” materials, I decided to recycle the panels by cutting them into smaller sections for various other sculptures.

Untitled new work, encaustic and mixed media, 25.5 x 25.5cm

A few years ago, I was introduced to using textiles and mixed media in encaustic painting by a wonderful artist, Daniella Woolf. After taking a few courses and much experimentation, this approach has allowed me to develop many of my ideas in uncanny ways.

Your work is in many private and public collections, take one or two pieces that have given your great pride and why?

I have mixed feelings about this question. Through the years, many of the commissions, sales or exhibitions have been meaningful achievements in their time and place. But I can honestly say that none of them stands out beyond the others because each one is an affirmation of what I am doing as an artist. I think that just keeping at it, committing to taking risks, challenging myself with new techniques, materials and concepts in the studio and beyond is what I am most proud of. Plus knowing that for over 30 years I contributed to the art education of hundreds of students, which gives me great satisfaction.

Safe, steel mesh, concrete, 155 x 35.5cm 

Contact:

Eva Ennist

Email :

evakip@sympatico.ca

www.evaennist.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, November 2019

 


Martin Gaudreault

Early in your career you were the official photographer for the Lac Saint-Jean bicycle crossing, discuss.

Crossing Lac Saint-Jean by bike is a unique event in North America. Imagine cyclists riding a Fat Bike that crosses a 32 km frozen water body in the middle of winter!

This unique event is for those who wish to cross it by bike by taming the Quebec winter on a 32-kilometre linear course made of snow and ice.

Cold Cyclist #1, Crossing Lac Saint-Jean by Bike, Digital photography, F10 1/500- 14 mm ISO 100

When I was offered to become the official photographer of this event, I decided to embark on this crazy adventure with a certain unawareness of the challenge it represented. My responsibility is to provide images of this event to the media in more than 60 countries. The special character of a 32 km long frozen crossing is unique in North America. It should be noted that Lac Saint-Jean is an inland sea and that in winter, in Quebec, and particularly in Saguenay Lac Saint-Jean, we have temperatures of -35 degrees Celsius.

Frosted Adventure, Crossing Lac Saint-Jean by Bike, Digital photography, F5,6 1/500- 175 mm ISO 100

Taking pictures under these conditions becomes difficult for the equipment and for the photographer. When taking pictures, I try to capture the efforts of the participants and to reflect the climatic conditions encountered during the event. In this regard, over the past few years, I have experienced freezing rain, wind from 50 km/h to -30 Celsius, snowstorms and sunny days. Both the photographer and the equipment have succeeded year after year in making this event a unique moment!

Cold Cyclist #2, Crossing Lac Saint-Jean by Bike, Digital photography, F9 1/500- 14 mm ISO 100

The main difficulty lies in knowing how to capture the movement at the right time and in the right place during such an event. Basic knowledge of photography is essential to achieve this. As I have to operate in a totally white environment, it is necessary to constantly validate the white balance in order to obtain a white snow and not...grey... As the bicycles used are oversized in terms of tires, their cruising speed is relatively low. It is therefore easy to fix the image in order to have an interesting rendering. The use of a slower speed allows to generate images with a certain movement in order to create a panning effect. As temperatures are low in winter, the equipment and especially the batteries must be charged and above all the photographer must have developed tips to keep it warm.

Les Chevaliers de I’Apocalypse, Crossing Lac Saint-Jean by Bike, Digital photography, F22 1/10 10 mm ISO 100,

Photograph exhibition at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris

Use of the work for the lake crossing.

My images have been used in more than sixty countries; Canada, United States, Belgium, France, Brazil, are just a few examples of their dissemination. One was exhibited at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris in December 2018 during the Salon National des Beaux-Arts. My photographs are used in specialized magazines (fat bike) or to promote our magnificent region as a first-rate winter destination.

Contraction, Crossing Lac Saint-Jean by Bike, Digital photography, F11 1/500- 10 mm ISO 100

Photographing in black and white is a technique adapted to many scenes of nature. It is also particularly well suited to architectural photography. It draws the eye to geometric shapes, perspectives or contrasts of light. As a photographer, I can convey a message through black and white by getting to the point. Black and white is a very directive creative technique.

Les Angelots, Louvre Museum, Paris, Digital photography, F5 1/250- 50 mm ISO 100

The use of black and white is often synonymous with negative emotions when it is not. Rather, it demonstrates the aesthetics of a landscape, the purity of lines or the richness of textures. For my part, and in contrast to many photographers, I see black and white photography not as a symbol of nostalgia, but more as a particular vision of our universe.

Romance in Paris, Canal Saint-Martin, Digital photography, F11 1/25- 10 mm ISO 100

Moreover, as human beings, we are surrounded by colours: colours of the seasons, clothes, animal colours, etc. With colour photography, we can very easily evaluate the time of its capture, while black and white is timeless. I could say that colour photography allows the photographer to use a more advanced language in terms of rendering, shapes, textures, etc. Black and white returns to the basis of the message by expressing the photographer's raw emotion through his digital eye.

Romance in Paris #2, Canal Saint-Martin, Digital photography, F5,6 1/60 - 150 mm ISO 100

Nature has a wonderful way of combining colours; discussion on this use in your work.

It is mentioned that I am an image hunter and a film poet. I try to interpret the landscapes under the animated gaze of passion.

Zen, Digital photography, F13 1/80 - 175 mm ISO 100

The colours inspire me as much by their detailed palette as by the poetry they transmit to me. René Richard is one of the Canadian painters who has influenced me the most to date. He knew how to express the solitude of Canada's great outdoors through the colours of the different seasons.

Happy Springtime, Digital photography, F22 1/200 - 10 mm ISO 100

Silver medal, International Prize of Professionals in Art 2018 – Mondial Art Academia

I like to use black and white occasionally, because it allows me to express a less polished vision of the moment, while colour photography allows me to exploit the tonal changes that reflect the present moment. The use of colour allows me to highlight changes in light (hue), their intensity (saturation) or their luminance.

Minimalist Nature, Digital photography, F22 1/25 - 13 mm ISO 100, Post processing in Lightroom

Colour photographs have a distinctive personality according to the photographer's eye. For my part, I like the two opposite ones, namely warm and cold colours. For me, photography is never a random image, it is a research, then a narrative and an awareness of the natural and silent beauty that exists all around us. The calm, silence and feeling of serenity are an integral part of my work.

North Star, Digital photography, F22 1/100 - 17 mm ISO 100, Sepia processing in Lightroom.

I don't add anything during post-production. The effects are minimalist, thus respecting the original image, the authenticity of the moment captured, immortalized. I am a keen fan of the blue hour and the particularities of light at certain key times of the day.

In the Early Morning, Digital photography, F11 1/160 - 22 mm ISO 100, Post processing in Lightroom

I always try to maintain the sensitive expression of the photographer, who feels emotions through his work tool, because a testimony is immortalized in a second from eternity. I thus express my very personal, often contemplative vision on diversity of Quebec landscapes and the elements that compose them, sometimes fragile and ephemeral.

Canal Saint-Martin,Digital photography, F3,5 1/1000 - 18 mm ISO 100

In all humility, I offer a deeply optimistic look to the public, in order to make them live an experience through the image as much by its colours as by the peace that emerges from it.

The Exhibition, Digital photography, F4,5 1/60 - 3 mm ISO 100

The sepia color allows me to give a "vintage" tone to my photos. I use it in certain contexts (such as architecture) to give a particular cachet to the photo especially since I am passionate about old buildings.

Goodness of Heaven, Digital photography, F4 1/2500 - 10 mm ISO 100 Post processing with lightroom

Scale is hard to show, discuss scale in your work.

I like to take pictures from below, because they will give the subject power.

Enchevêtrement, ESCHER,  Digital photography, F3,5 1/200 - 10 mm ISO 100, Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec – Pavillon Lassonde

The viewer thus has a different perspective and allows the main subject to be magnified. This technique gives the vanishing lines of a building, for example, an amplitude and will make a different effect for the eye. In some cases, (with animals or trees), the low angle will give us improbable angles and very often with a particular luminosity especially in the forest.

Heaven,  Digital photography, F11 1/10 - 10 mm ISO 100

You often use a very small coloured image as the addition of colour controlling the viewers eye.  Discuss.

Seul au Monde, Digital photography, F11 1/125 - 60 mm ISO 100

Preserving certain parts of the image that are occasionally coloured makes it possible to attract the eye to a particular element without taking anything away from the entire photographic composition. It is often a touch that will not take anything away from the message of the picture, will highlight the general subject.

What type/s of cameras do you use?

I use a Canon 7D MarkII camera with various lenses.

In your words discuss the importance of photography in recording history.

Let us refer to the invention of photography, no one suspected the importance of this discovery on the witnesses of the history of our humanity. As such, the Lumière brothers certainly had no idea that by filing more than 170 patents, mainly in the field of photography, they would pave the way for the explosion of photography as we know it today.

Adieu Johnny,  Digital photography, F8 1/160 - 24 mm ISO 100

Photo, taken following the death of the French singer Johnny Hallyday,and his funeral procession in Paris

The photographic art was born and became a medium that was part of the visual arts family. Today, this medium occupies a prominent place in our society, rightly or wrongly, we are not here to debate it. You will not be surprised to learn that photography has been part of my life for several years and that this visual art allows me to immortalize the present moment. Photography is about looking beyond the image, feeling emotions, contemplating the scene, recognizing the right moment to trigger.

Grace filled moment,  Digital photography, F2,8 1/5000 - 115 mm ISO 100

Behind each image there is a process, a reflection that is essential, a character to bring out. In all modesty, it is the artist's eye that expresses itself.

In addition to promoting all these elements, photography allows us to take a perpetual look at our society, both in its happy or sad evolution according to the circumstances, but also in the everyday life of people. We all have family clichés that mark our lives. Birth, Wedding, Family celebrations to name a few.

Whether it is Small or Great, history is lived by peoples, written and perpetuated by images.  Many clichés remind us of turning points in the history of humanity, such as the end of the World Wars, the fall of the Berlin Wall or, more recently, the migrant crisis. I have in mind this quote from the philosopher Roland Barthes: "What photography reproduces infinitely only happens once". These few words summarize very well the importance of photography in recording history, because it is our history that we image!

Contact:

Martin Gaudreault

Email : martingaudreaultphotographie@hotmail.com

Website : www.martingaudreault.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, November 2019

 


Greg Winrow

Take two architectural works and expand on them and what initially drew the sites to you?

Fossgate Glory

With ‘Fossgate Glory’ I was drawn to the intricate stonework and of course the Majestic Eagle on top! What makes it more, surprising (or sad, in some ways I suppose) is this is higher in the building and rarely seen from the ground floor which now belongs to a pub chain.

‘Abstract Minster’ was again drawn by the fantastic Medieval Cathedral we have in York (more affectionatly, known as the Minster) It’s the biggest Cathedral in Europe and therefore it’s a difficult subject to avoid, Especially when it’s on your doorstep. I like the Winter effect of the tress within this image, the abstract feel of uncertainty, (if it’s there!) with the Minster in the background.

Abstract Minster

Discuss the importance of composition in your work?

This may sound a little pretentious, but I don't, consciously, think upfront about the visual elements or 'putting together' of the image. I just look for something that has an interesting angle perhaps and a pleasing feel to it.

Take Janes Shoes and discuss.

Jane’s Shoes was inspired by a friend of mine, Jane, not surprisingly! who sent me an image of her patent leather shoes which blew me away.

Janes Shoes

I loved the contrast between the lights and darks and thought it would be a great candidate for a lino.

Expand on the use of monochrome colour in ‘Shambles at Night’

The limited colour on 'Shambles at Night' was indeed a deliberate choice. I wanted the darks of the blue to emphasise the night and I suppose the chilling cold we get here in the winters. It was an experiment in the technique of reduction lino and the first one to use this process.

Shambles at Night

What is the limit number of your prints?

This can vary but usually between 10 and at the most around 40.

Do you sign all your limited prints?

Everyone!

You also work with silk screen print method discuss the differences of this technique to other methods you use.

Well, I only use Lino and Silk screen for the moment, but I am considering other processes. Lino can be an almost meditative process, I call it 'Western Meditation' sometimes! It’s a slow process but the interesting part, is deciding which elements of the Lino to remove.  This is the fun part for me, then when the carving starts it can take hours, but it’s good to whittle away the time listening to some uplifting music in the background.

Silk screen on the other hand is a completely different affair! Once the image is prepared into stencils it can be a messy process, sort of old school photography I suppose and a bit nail biting in the worry that the image may over or under expose. If successful, the results can be more dramatic and instantaneous though.

When do you use Lino Printing?

I tend to split my time around 50/50 between both Lino and Silk Screen work, what motivates me between either isn't really known to me and I just tend to go with where the tide sends me! As mentioned, Lino work can be a somewhat meditative form and I may choose this as a more relaxing (if that’s the correct use of the word)

process. Most of my lino work now uses the reduction process whereby the same block is used multiple times and each ink is layered on every decreasing block finishing the last layer on very little lino from which I started. Once finished it can't be used again so the prints are unique. They can't be reproduced anymore, so this has a kind of charm I think.

You have done many commissions.

Take one and give us the background to the commission.

‘Dunton Springs’(with the barn house in the rear) was a commission I did for an old friend from way when. Emma and her husband sometimes visit this holiday destination in Colorado, and I did this commission as a gift from Emma to her husband on their wedding anniversary whilst they were there. It had a colour scheme that Emma wanted to follow but otherwise the draft was left up to me.

Dunton Springs

How has your location influenced your work both urban and rural York?

York Minster

Absolutely! York is a treasure trove of medieval streets and Roman influences, it’s also a small city so it’s easy to get around and one can’t help but feel influenced everywhere you turn.

Not travelling too far away you are suddenly out in the North Yorkshire countryside and this also is immensely picturesque. My work does tend to focus within the city however as I find the local architecture more enticing.

Saltburn Fisherman

How has your photography influenced your printmaking?

I studied Photography many years ago now, but I can't deny it must have an influence on how I see things, even if subliminally.

You are a member of the York Printmakers, what are two of the benefits of this membership?

Initially when I got back into the swing of things, I was a touch reluctant with the public aspect of my work. The Printmakers is a very good group that help and promotes effectively.  It’s a great opportunity to meet with like-minded individuals who share the same or similar format, but I think if I'm brutally honest the uplifting feeling from a sense of community within the group is my main draw.

Can you share your studio with us?

Certainly, my studio and my living quarter tend to merge. This can have great advantages (in not having too far to travel) but on the down side I do have to be disciplined to avoid some fatal distractions. Tea and biscuits, etc.

What is the main advantage of having your own press?

When I first started doing lino prints, I was using the back of a spoon which, crude as it was had some great results but a bit rustic in approach. Now that I have a press the results are a lot more refined and I love the process.

What is one of the disadvantages of this press ownership?

I opted for what’s called a 'portable press' It still weighs about 50kg and was difficult getting into the studio.  Apart from this, there are none I can think of. Even my cat  ‘Percy’ approves and often can be seen sitting on the press whilst I'm busy elsewhere.

Contact details:

Greg Winrow

gregwinrowprintart.com,

gwinrow@yahoo.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, November 2019

 


Gjertrud Hals

Explain about your recent work with copper wire.

EIR series, Knitted copper wire, Photo by Sjur Fedje 

For the last 2-3 years I have been working with copper wire, making 2D as well as 3D works. My father and grandfather were metalworkers, making and installing engines for the fishing boats. Our family was living close to the factory, and I found it thoroughly fascinating to see the different metal materials that they used.

For years I had been thinking about how to use metal in my artwork. Occasionally I had been using metal wire and various metal objects, but not as a central medium.

EIR series,Knitted copper wire, Photo by Sjur Fedje

After my parents died, in 2013 and 2017, I wanted to make a memorial piece. As knitting was my mother’s favorite hobby, REQUIEM was made of knitted copper wire from my father’s workshop, combined with small items from their estate and ring-pull tabs from beverage cans.

Requiem, Knitted copper wire, 2019,Photo by Sjur Fedje

Eventually I also wanted to make 3D artworks with metal wire, and I am now working on the EIR series, knit on big circle- shaped frames.  Dark colored wire from dynamos and motors is used together with shiny, reddish wire from electric cables.

Requiem, detail, Knitted copper wire, 2019,Photo by Sjur Fedje

The title EIR, meaning corrugation, is pointing to one of the characteristics of copper, that I want to emphasize in this project.

Requiem, detail, Knitted copper wire, 2019, Photo by Sjur Fedje

My next Solo Exhibition, in Galerie Maria Wettergren, Paris (February 8th - April 25th, 2020) will show the new metal pieces.

Comment on how your textile work can be related to your childhood and the local fishermen.

I was born on the Finnøy Island at the North Western Coast of Norway in 1948.

Finnøy Island, where Gjertude grew up

During my childhood there was an abundance of fishing of herring going on every winter. The herring were caught in large nets and hauled up in smaller ones. When the weather was bad, the harbor was packed with boats, and big bunches of fishnets were hanging out to be dried.

Every summer holiday I spent with my grandparents, living by themselves on the tiny Notholmen (not =net) island on Hustadvika. It is a famous and dangerous part of the Norwegian coastline; many ships have been wrecked along it.

Notholmen, where Gjertude stayed with her grandparents

In the evening, when the weather was good, I used to go with my grandfather putting out the fishing nets. The next morning, I would always wake up early, eager to see the nights catch. We used a rowing boat, and it was my job to maneuver the boat while my grandfather was hauling up the nets. Coming home, we worked on loosening the fish and crabs, rinse and hang up the nets to dry.

“The net” has thus been a central theme in my life and art from the very beginning. I am frequently using childhood memories, as in CORAL SEA from 2016: “When we were fishing with nets, sometimes big corals, we called them “sea trees”, would be attached to them.

Coral Sea, detail, 2016, Photo by Sjur Fedje

When they came up from the sea, they had bright yellow and red colors, that after a while would fade away. In my fantasy they were greetings from a mysterious world deep down there, colorful and fantastic, unlike the world we were living in.”

Coral Sea, 180 x 250 cm, Cotton and linen thread, glue, crochet knitting and various lace techniques, 2016,  Photo by Sjur Fedje

Today scientists say that the coral reefs are highly endangered: huge coral areas have turned grey, also here at the Scandinavian coast.

What originally lead you from tapestry to Textile Art?

In the mid 70’s I had a desire to learn the craft of weaving, had two years of training in classic tapestry weaving and plant dying. However, I soon felt that for me it was too rigid, and I started experimenting with new ways to use the traditional craft. Gradually I also used other techniques and materials, amongst other I made a series of LETTER FROM THE ISLAND, embroidery made by hand and sewing machine.

Letter from the Island, 1983, Photo Nanna Wessel

Still not content, I began, in the early 80s, trying out paper cast, as I had a vision of making fiber sculptures. After having been working in a tiny bedroom for some years, I in 1985/86 got my own spacious studio, and about one year later the first LAVA vessel was a reality.

Lava (group) 1987, cotton, flax, and cellulose fibres, paper cast, each piece 90H x 80 cm

Discuss your Lava Series and how this came into being? 

When I managed to make the first LAVA vessel, it was after years of testing and failing. I had a vision of what the shape was going to look like; a membrane, a shell, archaic and timeless, huge, vulnerable and strong at the same time.

Gjertrude Hals, with Lava, 1987

I felt quite vulnerable myself at that time, having left my family for a period to study sculpture at the Trondheim Academy of Fine Art. Maybe the new surroundings helped to liberate the idea, because suddenly I succeeded! I knew immediately that I had found what I had been seeking, and after some months of building and testing different molds at the Academy, I went home to my new studio and started to produce the LAVA vessels.

Two different molds were built out of cardboard and covered with thin plastic. To build the vessels themselves, I used paper-pulp with cellulose glue, cheese cloth and old fishnets as reinforcement.

It was physically hard work, especially to prepare the material. In the beginning I used pre-cut cotton, flax, linen and cellulose fibers, blending it in a kitchen machine. Eventually I was able to buy a Hollander Beater, where I could cut my own fibers, making it a lot easier and much more fun!

The LAVA project went on for a year and a half, with totally about forty vessels.

During that period, I was looking for a suitable location for taking photos. I tried different places, also outdoor, but it did not give the right feeling. One day I came upon a half-finished house construction, and it was perfect!

My husband took the photos, and I thought it was important that I was posing with my artwork in some of them, to visualize the size of the LAVA objects.

There were three Solo Exhibitions with the LAVA vessels:

Schæffergården, Copenhagen 1988

Molde International Jazz Festival 1988 (with a dance performance)

Gallery F15, Moss 1988 (also with a dance performance)

 And many Group Exhibitions, selected:

Metro Art´s International Art Competition , New York 1987(I. Prize)

The National Annual Exhibition; Oslo 1987

The Tactile Vessel, Touring Exhibition in USA 1988

Neo Tradition , Museum of Decorative Art, Trondheim 1988

Perspective on Paper, Lillehammer 1989

ITF International Textile Competition `89, Kyoto 1989 (Grand Prix)

New Norwegian Textile Art, Museum Of Decorative Art, Trondheim 1989

Splendid Forms, Bellas Artes Gallery, New York and Santa Fee 1989

International Biennial of Paper Art, Düren 1990

Nordform, art, craft, design and architecture, Malmö 1990

Ode de la coupe, Museum of Decorative Art, Lausanne 1992

The Lava vessels are to be found in several collections:

Museum Bellerive, Zurich (3)

Museum of Decorative Art, Lausanne (3)

American Craft Museum, New York (1)

Erie Art Museum, Pennsylvania (I )

Leopold-Hoesch Museum, Düren (9)

The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo(3)

The National Museum of Decorative Arts, Trondheim (1)

Arts Council Norway (1)

Bob Kelly Gallery, Gothenburg(1)

Daiichishiko Co. Ltd , Kyoto( 9)

Besides that, they are in a few private collections, I have also kept some for myself.

How and when did you know that you needed to move on from this vessel?

As one can see from my CV, the years from 1987-90 were very active. Besides sending the artworks, I also went to many of the places I exhibited, f.ex. in 1989 I was twice in Japan, in New York and other places in USA, as well as in Norway.

This was before we used internet, and the communication from my hometown to places like Kyoto and New York was challenging.  I remember I bought myself a fax machine, but it did not help much on the situation:

With three children and a husband working full time, I realized that the LAVA success was about to ruin our family life. Because of all the administration and traveling, I had almost no time left to develop my artwork, and by the end of 1989 I was exhausted…

One day, while my son was using the water-hose, I told him he could flush the LAVA molds as well… He did so, and we dug down the remains in the garden.

This might sound like a drastic thing to do, but this act marked that “enough is enough” and gave me the timeout I needed. It prevented me from being tempted go on and on.  I had no molds any longer!

Little by little I regained my health and could continue developing other projects.

Ultima, in the water, photo Gjertrude Hals, 2018

Eventually, twenty-five years later, I made a similar mold for the ULTIMA vessels, that are made with cotton thread and resin.

 

Ultima, 2018, 90 x 100, and 80 x 90, linen, cotton threads, knitted mesh, resin cast.

Discuss the importance of Magdalena Abakanowicz and how her work has influenced your work.

When training in drawing/ graphic art in 1971-72, I went to Poland on a study trip. I had heard about the “Polish wave” in textile, at the Art Academies in Krakow and Warsaw, I saw some examples. However, it was first in 1976, with a major exhibition of Magdalena Abakanowicz

art in Oslo, that I was hit by the wave: the “Abacans” hanging from the ceiling and the hollowed-out, headless human figures on the floor made a strong impression!

Like my heroine I wanted to express myself, but what was there for me to express? I was not, like Magdalena, living in a repressing regime, that I understood was much of a background for her art.

I realized that I had to find another way, being faithful to my own background and experience.

Although Magdalena Abakanowicz was my leading star in my early career, I think my art has always been quite different from hers. I could never think of doing something similar, that would be false.

Step by step; playing and working, failing and retrying, I was able to express myself and write my own visual poems. But the strong “wakening up experience” from 1976 will always be with me!

Why have 2D and 3D textiles, become so much a part of your presentation of textiles?

Interested in the empty spaces/ the negative spaces, I am working with the connection between form, light and shadow. For me lightness is an important quality, often combined with sizes and shapes that normally are thought of as massive and solid.

My artwork tends to blend into the environment, where the “spaces between” are playing an important role.

F.ex the 2D textiles should always have a distance to the wall, that will “waken them to life”, with changing light, movement and shadows.

The way the artwork is installed in the room is for me decisive, and I remember from my study days that I was intrigued by others that were not aware of, or did not mind, how their artworks were presented. As for the tapestries, I also disliked that there was a front and a back side. I soon started to make the weavings transparent, installing them in the room, to make both sides visible.

Insula, 200 x 300cm, Metal, wire and paper pulp

Comment on ‘Insula’

Insula, detail, 200 x 300cm, Photo Gjertude Hals

INSULA, that I look upon as one of my central artworks, was developed through a period of two years, 2006-8. In the beginning I called it FROM VESALIUS, referring to the 16th century Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius, well known for his anatomy drawings in “De humani corpus fabrica”. I was trying to make an arterial system, that I wanted to be an open structure. At the same time, it should allude an enclosed circuit; the circulation system.

My husband Odd is a psychologist, and since we met in 1970, he also, amongst other, has been my sparring partner. At this stage he was much into neuropsychology, and in this process, he came up with the term INSULA.

Insula, 200 x 300cm, Photo Gjertude Hals

I am always seeking symbols that encompass several meanings, so this was a deliberation: INSULA is the latin word for island, and it also may refer to Insular Cortex, a central structure deep inside the brain. It is believed to be involved with consciousness and plays a role in diverse functions, usually linked to emotions and perception of ourselves as isolated creatures, and to our consciousness of the “self”.

Insula, 200 x 300cm, with Gjertrude Hals, Photo Knut Fjeld 2008

At the same time INSULA has a reference to “the island” and a resemblance to coral reefs, another of my favorite themes. INSULA was made with metal wire into 100 x 100 cm squares, totally 9.  The grid structures were sprayed with liquified, dyed paper pulp, about 50 layers.  As one can see from the images, the artwork has been installed in different ways: with 8 squares, 9 squares, horizontal and vertical, and even once with a black background!

Insula, with Gjertude Hals, husband Odd, Photo Gjertude Hals

Discuss how you have moved from the world of tapestry and needlework to the world of textile art. 

The tapestries I was making in the 70s and early 80s, for sure look very different from what I am doing today.

However, for me it feels like I never moved away from it, or any other artistic period of my life. It is all there! I go back to it in my mind, to «roundabouts» where I have been earlier.

Sorting through samples made f.ex. fifty years ago, might liberate a new idea! Every day I am using skills acquired through the years, using them in new combinations and sometimes, going in new directions.

How have you been able to use recycled materials in your work and the importance of recycling in contemporary art?

 

Fenris, detail, photo Sjur Fedje

Throughout my life I have collected items from the beaches and other places; shells and bones, bottle tops and textile fragments; materials that might otherwise be considered garbage.

As a teenager I made a series of what I called “material works” from objects found on the beach.

Fenris, detail, photo Sjur Fedje 

About forty years later, the summer of 2004 I stayed for a month at Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Wandering along the shores, I collected small items, everything from fish bones to man- made objects of metal and plastic.

 

Kapp Mitra, 2005, 245 x 170cm, Threads, fibres, found objects,

Photo Nanna Wessel

They were integrated in my nets, as a new sort of “material works”, like KAPP MITRA, 2005 and FENRIS, 2004/06.

 

Fenris, 200 -06, , photo Sjur Fedje

Though environmentalism is an underlaying theme, I am not concerned with social morality when working with the trash materials, it has more with joy and creativity to do!

To use found objects, often used in a conceptual manner, has become quite common among artists today, I would say.

In this world of trash mountains and ocean gyres of plastic, many contemporary artists are in the front, battling what is happening to our planet. Some of my friends/colleagues have f.ex. formed the

“Guerrilla Plastic Movement”, where they are fighting for a plastic-free ocean by using visual, verbal and artistic means.

The importance of such activity should not be under evaluated. Artists have always been in the front row when big changes have taken place, as is necessary and inevitable in today’s situation!

Contact:

Gjertrud Hals

www.gjertrud-hals.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, October 2019

 


David Poxon RI

Why don’t you use white paint in any of your work?

Many years ago, I came back to watercolour as my primary medium of expression. I wanted to perfect as many techniques as I could without getting side tracked by the latest gimmicks and painting aids. I decided I would commit to paper, paint, and brushes only and find out how far I could go with this limited arsenal, without getting distracted. In my opinion it is not possible to get whiter than the white of the paper anyway, therefore my particular method of working requires that I preserve areas of white paper to represent any whites that may be in the subject choice.

Long Distance Love, Watercolour, 12 x 12 inches

I must confess that I did at one point acquire a tube of white gouache, and experimented with it, however I was disappointed with the results which looked artificial to me, and felt that I was using it out of misplaced laziness rather than for any worthwhile aesthetic reason. From then on I determined to develop my own way and methods of working, a purist approach for me simplifies my choices enabling me to concentrate totally on the modelling of my subjects.

What has led you to focus on reclaimed pieces as your subjects?

My childhood was spent in a heavily Industrial area in the middle of England. Derelict factories and buildings were my playground.  My Father was a vegetable merchant who would frequently drive out of the city into the countryside to collect loads of potatoes and vegetables in his truck. Sometimes he took me with him, and the treat of the day was to get a ride on the Farmers Tractor.

Engine in an Autumn Field, Watercolour, 27 x 18 inches

Tractors, trucks, and factories were the first things I painted. Back home in our yard where he parked his truck there were a mountain of old vegetable crates and boxes, these were a readymade creative output for me as I built the Alamo, Roman Forts, Batmans cave, and anything else that had inspired me that day. I was also painting away on squares of old wall paper lining using my first tin of watercolours, a gift from my Grandmother at the age of five.

Later as a student I experimented with other mediums, styles, and subjects. When I decided to concentrate solely on pure watercolour I followed the time worn path of entering various contests and trying to get admitted to various art clubs. Years ago, entered a contest in Birmingham UK with a painting of an old Qualcast lawn mower.

Van in a Wood, Watercolour, 18 x 26 inches

Peeling paintwork, rust, and fading memories of hissing summer lawns long since over grown. I had become disaffected with the usually landscape/townscape/sea subjects and  had increasingly been drawn to subjects where nature was busy reclaiming what man had created or cast aside. Zooming in on surface textures, form and shapes, gave me more of a painterly workout. To my amazement I got first prize and also sold the work. This gave me the confidence to pursue the direction I was already on. The abandoned, the over looked, the discarded, all became objects and scenarios with distinct creative possibilities and I had an increasingly strong emotional connection with. I treat all my subjects as portraits in that they are living characters passing through this world just as we are. To me they are more beautiful in their regenerative state than when new, just as people become more interesting and soulful as they age. It is the search for the DNA of a subject that gets my total attention. Wrestling with the technical and emotional challenges of painting in pure watercolour, which requires some serious planning and is not the most forgiving medium, is what gives me the greatest pleasure. It can take many days or weeks to complete a painting, but if you enjoy the painting process like me why would you want to rush it ?

Take one painting and discuss where you found the subject.

What, drew you to it, colour or texture?

‘In a Farmyard’ pure watercolour.

This work is a typical subject for me. Objects seemingly randomly dumped by a farmer in his yard. Fortunately I now live in the wonderful Shropshire countryside, and am surrounded by Farming families, some of whom have taken a great interest in what I do. They have given me the run of their farm yards and buildings, and of course I have never lost my love for Tractors and agricultural machinery.

On a subject hunting trip to Grange Farm I came across this discarded treasure. I never move or rearrange objects as feel this gives the subjects an artificial feel. I prefer to rearrange my position and find the best angle to give me a ready made painting possibility.

The elements in this painting gave me all the forms and surface textures I look for. The smooth but dilapidated chicken feeder, the remnants, rust and paintwork , of an old  engine, and other farmyard objects , all held together by an enveloping and powerful strong light and its resulting shadow force.

In a Farmyard, Watercolour, 18 x 26 inches

Discuss the logistics of sending your work overseas for exhibitions.

Careless Love, Watercolour, 27 x 17 inches

This depends on the ultimate destination, and different methods apply. Many overseas shows only require that you send your work unframed. In that case it goes rolled in a card tube, is easy to handle, the weight is low, and therefore the costs also.

The danger is that a fair degree of trust must be afforded the organiser in that the paintings need to be framed and presented for view in a professional manner. More typical Gallery situations will require that work is sent framed. In the UK all watercolours for exhibition must be behind glass. Overseas, particularly USA, they require plexi (plastic) glass. This means less weight, and is a safer option than sending glazed work in terms of sustaining damage in transit.. If I am shipping single items to a client, collector, or gallery, then I have specially sized robust cartons for sending single framed paintings. To ship 5+ to a gallery I have a selection of purpose made wooden crates lined with heavy foam inlays. This is a far more expensive shipping option due to the weight and size, and it is important to use a professional art courier who can handle collection and delivery plus the Customs paperwork efficiently.

What led you to writing two books on drawing and watercolour techniques?

I had, over the years, contributed many articles to the Art Press in the Uk and overseas. One of these Interviews had been spotted by the Editing Commissioner at Quarto Books in London. I was approached with the offer of writing and illustrating a drawing book Quarto had been commissioned to supply, ‘Different Strokes Drawing’.  After an initial meeting I set to work providing content. Two weeks in they asked me to also work on a second book, the Still Life Drawing Bible. This was a very educational and enjoyable experience, Quarto are a top class outfit who provided excellent management of the project. The books were published world-wide in numerous different languages, did really well, and have been reprinted many times.

Later I was approached several times to author a ‘how to paint’ watercolour book, this is still a project that I will do at some point. However at that time I had ambition to produce a book which would be more biographical and less instructional, containing  analysis of my own work rather than explaining basic techniques. I worked with a new Publisher who gave me the design and content freedom I needed. A few months ago Watercolour Heart & Soul was published.

Let’s Go Out Tonight, Watercolour, 27 x 17 inches

Tell us about the International Watercolour Masters in 2020 and your involvement.

In 2017 I had a large solo show planned for the UK in a fabulous stately home venue. That year I was travelling a lot and on one expo outing in China in a late night discussion with Alvaro (Castagnet) and several other artists on the touring circuit I outlined my plan. Somewhere into the Shanghai night my solo show got set aside and I was persuaded to embark on a far more interesting project, a high profile International show featuring the world’s elite watercolourists. The International Watercolour Masters had been born. Fortunately there was a good selection of talent to draw on in terms of artist roster. In one of my previous working incarnations I had worked in the music Industry organising lots of world tours and logistics for high profile bands. That experience has transferred well to my art life, and particularly International shows. The ‘organiser’ in me does enjoy putting situations together and making them happen. IWM2020 is a much expanded show from iwm2018 which was one of the top selling UK art shows of that year with over 17000 visitors. 2020 will feature 39 elite Master painters, in a bigger venue, and with a far more ambitious programme.

IWM2020, as IWM2018, is presented in the heart of glorious Shropshire Countryside in an historic stately home, Lilleshall Hall. The Exhibition in 2020 will be a total event and day out with myself and team having complete control over all preparation and presentation. We will be present on every show day too. This is a new way of doing things. The days of the high street gallery expo where artists turn up, hang their paintings, then disappear till the end of the show, are numbered in my opinion.

In order for art shows to compete with everything else that tempts the visiting public they have to have a bigger and more attractive offer. The concept of IWM is more about elite festival, and all aspects of its presentation will be first class, to deliver an inspirational day out for visitors. Many of the 39 Master painters will be present throughout the show. Over 34 Live 50 minute TV Demonstrations are scheduled from the IWM Arena main stage. Most of the workshops, which will occur in adjacent seminar rooms, are sold out. Tickets for the show are selling well in UK and overseas, and the TV Advertising in UK will kick in soon, and of course the main draw is the incredible exhibition of paintings that will be on display.

Why do you limit your work to watercolour?

How did this come about?

Well, I also like to draw in pencil, particularly portraits. However I guess I am a persistent sort of person who doesn’t give up easily. Watercolour does test all the nerve ends and asks all the questions, and it can shoot off out of control at any moment. However, trying to juggle all the elements is an endless quest, and I always have it in mind that my best painting will be my next !  It is the easiest medium to pick up, but the hardest to master. I love this medium, its radiance and transparent qualities, and feel like I am only at the beginning.

Expand on one of the amazing setting your work has been exhibited in.

In terms of exotic locations there are few to beat the huge productions which the Chinese have managed to stage. Although these have degenerated recently as economic reality sets in, the early shows, Shanghai Biennale, and Shenzhen Biennale, were incredible. Sponsored and paid for by the state ( $1million for each show) and with top class set up teams, these early exhibitions would be hard to beat or replicate in the future. They set a great benchmark for future organisers to emulate.

When you first began did you dream your art would take you around the world?  Discuss this aspect of your art life.

It is very humbling to be in a position where I get invited to lots of exciting places around the world. However, I have always travelled in my working life, so guess this is just an extension of that. It’s great to meet old friends, and make new ones, and talk art all night long!

Tap Dancers, Watercolour, 15 x 12 inches

You are a member of the Royal Institute allowing you to use RI after your name.  Discuss the process it takes to become a member.

The RI is one of the two oldest and prestigious Societies in the UK over 200 years old. Many Masters from the past, Turner, Girtin, Langley, to name but three, have been members. The current member numbers are approximately 60. Membership is by election, and is quite a convoluted process. Candidates must navigate a number of tests which can take up to 5 years. Consistency of work together with individuality and a mastery of the medium are all considerations, as is being selected to exhibit with the RI in it’s annual London show on at least two previous occasions.  Applicants must first get the approval of the RI Council to pass to Candidate status. The final test is to win enough votes from the membership. Membership of the RI is the pinnacle of watercolour artist’s aspirations, so it is a tremendous honour. The Society aims to maintain its prestigious position as the leading UK watercolour organisation by adhering to it’s high standards and admitting only the best very candidates for membership status, it searches for quality not quantity.

Killing Time, Watercolour, 18 x 26 inches

 

Take two works where you have use old machinery. Discuss.

The Day is Done, Watercolour, 27 x 33 inches

This is a working Ford Tractor that often passes my studio. Tractors are regarded as living things by the farmers who drive them. They have to be reliant in all weathers as they plough their miles of furrows. Out of respect for those that work the land, and those that built the implements they work with, I try to be as accurate as I can in the initial drafting. The engines are complicated to draft out, but I spend a long time getting this right before I commit to the watercolour paper. I am not searching for photo realism, I am making a painting, however I have the intention of rebuilding the machine on the paper, and this is my approach when using my multi layering techniques to build form and body.

Machinery at a Farm, Watercolour, 17 x 26 inches

This is a painting of an old Lister machine that had been used in a milking parlour. Having come to the end of its working life I came across it basking in the midday sun, left in a heap by it’s owner, I knew immediately this was a subject for me. The beautiful blue green of it’s original paint work still resonated in places, but was now offset by those wonderful rust shades. I really enjoyed this subject. I feel I gave it renewed life and a fitting status, exhibiting it at the RI and winning the Winsor & Newton Award, I guess it’s legacy is confirmed.

You are currently working up to eight months ahead.  Discuss the pros and cons of this timeline.

We are all products of our time, affected and shaped by lifes circumstances. Ultimately I don’t think there is any place to hide in painting, the truth will always out, and being truthful to your own abilities and aspirations is paramount. Copiers and imitators lack the personal and emotional connection with the originators concept, there is always something missing.

True Colours, Watercolour, 27 x 17 inches

If there is any historical context it is shaped by those circumstances. There are only two things within the control of the individual, their own thoughts, and actions. Everything else is beyond their control.

Watercolour painting is not a race through life, it is a search for yourself.

Contact:

David Poxon RI

davidpoxon.co.uk

david_poxon@yahoo.co.uk

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, October 2019

 


Helen McAllister

Explain about your training both PHD in Practice Design and MA in Embroidered Textiles.

The Embroidery interest emerged in my final years in school.  A small school yet with a large and vibrant art department.  This Embroidery trajectory continued through undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD.    It was a medium that I felt had no limits, use and exploit and I could do it!  I felt I was never a slave to the processes or techniques of embroidery but could make them work for me.   After some years after undergraduate I undertook an MA in Embroidery where I wanted to rebrand and re imagine my practice.  To that point the embroidery outcomes had been 2D image based work, yet I was questioning ‘Was this it?’ The MA saw moving from 2D to that 3D thinking.  There was a perceived decorative ‘read’ of my work that now focused on Venetian history / cultural and materiality resulting in the Shoe form and narrative that captured the research and the rebranding of my practice.  The practice based PhD focused on the need to make. The outcomes were not illustration to a written text but formed ‘chapters’ in themselves that  questioned the materials and processes used and testing these outcomes with new discursive audiences.

‘Walking on Water’- series, detail

Discuss how you work from one level to another.  Reality, shoes to assembling shapes and colour in the abstract.

I trained through design practices and principles, therefore the starting point was about sampling, knowing the potential of a given material or process.

When in production of a series or multiplies,  I often found  it was easier to think in terms of  assembly line, completing some aspects of a form but continually comparing it with the paired  / partnered form, crossing over from one to another, as opposed to completing one form in isolation and moving on to the next form.

Why are you so drawn to shoes?

The shoe surfaced during my MA which coincided with a resurgent interest in new shoe designers, yet   that was pure coincidence, it was the shoe form I found wonderful, with no two view points are the same with its inside and outside.

Tight Series

The scale was small, intimate, and hand-held. It was a revelation to me that I saw and thought 3 dimensionally which I continue to do so.  The shoe object is such an iconic social signifier, codifier, narrator and protagonist.  In Venetian historical fashion and cultural the 'Chopine' became a unique shoe form of ‘improbability’ that continues to fascinate me. This forged and completed the partnership of embroidery, Venice and the shoe.  I cannot have one without the others.

’Improbability’ Series – ‘A Spring in Her Step’

Comment on the connection of Venice and Belfast in your work and on the ‘Venetian Water Series’.

The shoe forms I created were protagonists and narrators.  As part of the narration, I looked at self narration; the shoe was able to reflect the different periods of my life.  At first, coming from Belfast and study in and of Venice seemed to have no connection, yet with time, I found they were complimentary. A piece of work that seems to some up all my influences and interests was called ‘Shattered Steps’.  This piece at first glance is colourful, with rich surfaces, with its glass beading referenced Venice, (glass being sinominous with Venice).  Yet the glass shards used had been collected in the 1980’s from a bombed church in Belfast.  I had collected these shards which seemed like precious delicate mementos.  I had not known what to do with them, as they sat in a box for many years.  It was not until making ‘Shattered Steps that the shards made a perfect pairing of glass from wanton destruction of my Belfast roots now incorporated into this Venetian ostentatious impractical shoe form.

‘Shattered steps’ Series

The shoe from the ‘Venetian Water series’ came about from sitting at a canal’s edge where my eye level was with the waters.

‘Walking on Water’- series, detail

The cityscape around seemed to float on the water at this eye level.

‘Walking on Water’- series

Discuss manipulation in one of your works.

Manipulation of a found material or object for me is part and parcel of contemporary embroidery practices. I like the transformation, giving a new interpretation, the subversive hand changing what already exists.

‘Cellotape’ Series

Often, I machine embroidered a new surface by the collage of chopped up laces / fabrics and (without giving all my secrets away) would ‘cook’ these. I like the happy accident and testing the unlimited possibilities of finding something new that can ‘say’ something that other materials or processes

cannot.  I like finding the everyday, cast aside, cheap materials to work with.  'Cellotape' was a material that proved perfect for its colour / texture, and its transformed ‘read’.

‘Cellotape’ Series

Expand on “Shoe Making Kit’.

‘Shoe-Making Kit’ Series

I had come across a 18th Century shoe making box in the Applied Materials collection at Collins barrack in Dublin. The idea fascinated me, of these tool kits, often given as a leisure activity for middle class women; that then became an activity that women could make a living from.  The production of flat pump / slippers; that were in vogue at the time, allowed women to have an independent income as well as women becoming consumers with discernment.  The historical tools bear no resemblance to those used in the male cobbler shoes making craft.

‘Vamp’, Sampling

While the shoe theme is still there in my work, I had moved from the single shoe artefact to that of

elements and details producing very different outcomes in the box presentations.

How do you find the themes for your work?

The shoe theme continues and develops through themes of narrative, gender and materiality.

Gone Fishing

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a body of new work that will coincide with a Symposium and Exhibition titled ‘(E) quality’.

Discuss your teaching and art practice and how you combine both?

This has developed over the years whereby I now locate my (published) writing with my practice in the Applied Materials domain.  Having taught and practiced through design principles and practices, the Applied Materials ‘space’ links Design and Fine Art.  Embroidery as an applied material is adaptable, with transferable knowledge and skills; adaptive to re imagine itself in new contexts.

‘Vamp’, Sampling

My roots has always been with  embroidery, yet there is no  ‘sector’ in Ireland, so embroidery as a medium  always has   to adapt, reflect and be relevant in contemporary contexts.  I find that exciting, that no two students have the same outcome.  There is no trend- led 'look' but, a breadth and dept of engagement that is continually being re-imagined.

Why do shoes give such pleasure?

There is much to say and write about shoes and our (uneasy) relationship with them.  Shoes still seem to define gender, …and so does embroidery.  The study of both has often pigeon holed the maker.

‘Vamp’, Sampling

Can you give your thoughts on the way textile art is perceived currently?

Textiles on the one hand has become so very popular, with the ever increase Guilds, groups and diverse platforms.  Equilly, this popularity, especially if exhibited by women can be counter productive. Often still classed as a leisure pursuit, with a pervasive attitude that all and any can do.  The practice and skill needed with soft materials is undervalued against the practice and skills needed with hard material processes.

‘Vamp’, Sampling

Other countries seem to have a greater respect for the practitioner who works through soft materials but there still is a hierarchy in the arts. Applied Materials is often thought of as skill acquisition of a craft as opposed to the bed rock of design in the art and design institutes. It is not always understood as a very powerful medium that can communicate social, civic and political engagement.

Contact:

Helen McAllister

Helen McAllister <mcallisterh@staff.ncad.ie>

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, October 2019

 


Raudyn Alfarto

 What made you leave the world of architecture for the art  world?

Let’s Gather 2018, 90 x 60cms, Acrylic on Canvas

As the Italian architect Renzo Piano once said, "If you have total freedom, you're in trouble. It's much better when you have some obligations, discipline, rules. When you don't have rules, you start building your own rules."  Every specialty has its rules and regulations to establish in the end parameters of value, in architecture is no exception, creativity is limited in many occasions by the properties of the materials or by the budget of the client; it is also very important to determine your own style that characterizes you before others in this profession. In the art (painting) I have been able to develop my artistic style that within the architecture has limited me for the previous mentioned motives, the acquired architectural concepts and procedures facilitated me to explore and to determine this artistic style within the painting for its environment of neutrality.

Art gives me the freedom to develop compositions using geometric elements such as curves and circles which are difficult in architecture because of their construction in many cases; as an architect and lover of these elements I try to give balance, dynamism, character, foundation and above all intentionality to each work, it is there where the artist I feeds on this knowledge allowing me to develop this new style and at some point also develop it as an architectural style.

Comment on your association (from an early age) with coffee and your art?

El Callegon, 2017, 90 x 60 cms, Acrylic on canvas

In Costa Rica the time of harvesting the coffee fruit is between the months of December to February (3 months) which also corresponds to the period of school vacations, with it practically all the family was dedicated to this agricultural activity in order to have money for the purchase of gifts at Christmas and school supplies among others, my mother took us from small to the coffee plantations of my hometown Santa Barbara de Heredia where they also congregated multiple families to this activity; this "labor tradition" was becoming through the years in family coexistence within the coffee plantations, the joys, jokes, songs, meals and even the same sadness were shared among all who participated there, all that experience and accumulated memories served me to capture this vision through art firstly as a cultural legacy to my children and all the new generations of my country, because today it has been discontinued in many parts of Costa Rica due to its low profitability for its producers.

Raudyn Alfarto with the basket ready to collect coffee

The kindness, humility, joviality and responsibility among many other values I learned thanks to this agricultural activity. The history of Costa Ricans has revolved around coffee growing as an economic activity of great transcendence, developing its idiosyncrasy and life, and influencing the development of the model of economic, social and cultural development, basing a "culture with the aroma of the countryside and family pride in its sowing, production and harvest" as when I lived it in past decades in my village.

A family of coffee pickers in Costa Rica

Tell us about your exhibition at the Costa Rican Embassy in Guatemala? 

Thanks to the "Declaratory of Cultural Interest" by the Government of Costa Rica and the Ministry of Culture to my art collection entitled "Coffee with a Costa Rican Flavour", the Embassy of Costa Rica in Guatemala extended to me the invitation to exhibit in that country before the diplomatic community and general public within a period of three months, which consisted of one month at the Embassy of Costa Rica and two months at the Royal Palace of the Captains in Antigua Guatemala.

Embassy of Costa Rica in Guatemala

It was my first international experience as a national artist before more than twenty ambassadors from different countries, consuls and heads of commerce; the pride of representing Costa Rica through my art was very high; I felt honored and privileged to receive so many samples of admiration and congratulations for it. They told me how they imaginatively transported them through my work to the time of this agricultural activity in my country, they showed that, through the proper use of geometric figures, the effect of bright colors as well as the hidden perspective achieved that effect.

Discuss who you show ‘hard work’ in your work and why it is so important.

Hard Work, 2018, 110 x 65 cms, Acrylic on canvas

It is the representation of a fact that I observed in my stage of coffee collector, in her I saw a lady who was near me took off her basket to breastfeed her little son who was at her feet, after the baby satiated his hunger the lady returned again to her work as a collector, her husband was near her, but concentrated on the mission of being able to get as much coffee fruit as possible. The double work of this woman made me understand the enormous capacity and dedication in different situations, possibly not being able to count with the time or adequate person for the care of her baby would cause me to take him to his place of work generating this scene of great value; The very perspective of the work transforms it into a sculptural style, where the mother does not lose the other objective that is to return to work without first devoting time to their children, and in a second layer of the painting the representation of her husband and eldest son returning to their work as pickers once deposited the fruit in their respective sacks.

 Show one of your paintings in black and white (showing movement and shape) Then show the same work with colour (how the colour transports us to place).

Grinding Coffee, 2018,  110 x 75 cms, Acrylic on canvas

“Color in certain places has the great value of making contours and structural planes seem more energetic”. Antoni Gaudí.

Grinding Coffee, 2018, 110 x 75 cms, Acrylic on canvas

 Discuss the people in your work.

 Woman:

She is the one who symbolizes in my works and in many occasions the natural beauty, the sublime of a figure, the surrender and determination of intentionality; she is also the one who best represents my country, thanks to her multicolored dresses in honor of our diverse and exuberant. The woman is a symbol of struggle with elegance, hidden tenderness and energy in her movements, it is a painted song that I hear her watching.

A Gossip in the Plantation, 2018 , 110 x 75 cms, Acrylic on canvas

Man: It is the one that represents the effort, the simple and humble of this population, it also symbolizes the human, that one can fail or stumble, but can also rise again; it is also the image of a rough and badly paid job (coffee picker) if losing in many cases its mischievousness of conqueror.

Loading the Cart, 2018, 90 x 60 cms, Acrylic on canvas

Both: They symbolize the union, the love, the commitment; I try not to put prejudices of one on the other, respecting their main human qualities to acquire a symbolic, attractive and intentional balance in my works.

 

At the Cart,  2018, , 90 x 60 cms, Acrylic on canvas

Can you use one or two of your paintings that show a political aspect? Expand on these works.

“God be with us" is the title of a sketch that I am about to paint; Costa Rica for being a mostly Catholic country since its colonial era, I try to represent the tradition or custom of an entire Costa Rican family in entrusting themselves to their god in an image before leaving home for work (collecting coffee), believing that they will have his protection and blessing for the rest of the day.

May God be with Us

“On the way home " is a work that represents the difficult transit of a cart pulled by oxen on the irregular topography of my country, at the sides of the road are observed wire fences limiting coffee plantations, this conformation was given thanks to a political decree of the Government of Costa Rica of the nineteenth century which established the royalty of land dedicated to coffee harvest for a period of five years, due to this new towns and regions were developed throughout the national territory.

Way Home, 2018 , 110 x 75 cms, Acrylic on canvas

Discuss the importance of costume in your work, and how you use it to introduce place.

Lunch at the Plantation, 2017 , 90 x 60 cms, Acrylic on canvas

Actually the dresses used for the harvest of the fruit of the coffee differ very much from those proposed in my works, because they are simpler and less colorful; I try to give it a more nationalistic and patriotic character with the use of our typical dresses; The man does not have so much change because his clothing is very similar to that used for agricultural work such as his wide hat, shirt and long pants and a colored scarf on his neck; in a certain way this would be our typical illustration for the world.

 Why does costume need colour to show your country?

The Basket, 2017 , 90 x 60 cms, Acrylic on canvas

In my country, wherever you look, there is a rich and abundant palette of colors. In the morning until evening, different scenarios are presented before your eyes, all in the same place, passing from cold colors to warm ones and vice versa. From one moment to the next a rainbow appears before you as well as a macaw, a basket of variable fruits as well as a typical picturesque cart, that is to say in Costa Rica they stayed to live all the colors, I can't and won't be able to take these off my palette because they are part of our identity. The typical costumes is our letter of representation, as our flag (blue, white and red), blue as the sky that covers us, red for the blood and strength that gave our ancestors and white for peace in these 51,100 square kilometers.

 Expand on dance in your work.

Cantanos Maria, 2018, 110 x 75 cms, Acrylic on canvas

Movement: The movement of the work is generated by curved lines in the lower part of the petticoat intersecting each other and separating the multiple colors; the other point that generates movement is the cyclic of circles that are in the upper part of the work reproducing the silhouettes of the participants, the main straight line is the one that crosses these circles like a radius, conforming the union of the arms in dance. The curve is the line of nature so our brain relates it as something familiar and beautiful, unlike the straight line that produces a state of stillness and solidity to the observer.

Waiting to Measure, 2018, 110 x 75 cms, Acrylic on canvas

Colors: Based on the theory of color, where harmonic colors are those that work well together, I try to sensitize the observer to perceive a balance in the work, thanks to the neutral color as black to easily separate and locate these colors within the work producing character and intentionality to each of the participating colors, the colors that are always present in my works is the orange that means enthusiasm and exaltation, producing feelings of strength, energy, ambition, determination, joy and triumph.

The Cajuela, 2018, 110 x 75 cms, Acrylic on canvas

Grace of the human body: I try to give personality to the human figure by means of the curved line to achieve a posture that reflects its attitude and temperament within the work, that curve must be very subtle sometimes, generating several planes of drawings at the same time, producing that the environment is camouflaged with the human figure and vice versa as mimetism does in architecture with its intonation. A theatrical scene, or like a painted song, is the main intention that I want to transmit to the observer, who shares his emotion just like when he was a coffee picker.

Dancing in the Cafetal, 2017, 90 x 60 cms, Acrylic on canvas

Tradition: In Costa Rica the dance expresses the traditions and customs of our culture, it is a corporal manifestation that in many occasions is to celebrate some festivity, in this occasion they dance inside the plantations of coffee like approval of a good received harvest. Our typical dance is based mainly on circular movements of the women's petticoats producing a wave of colors for the view, where the shouts of exaltation of both excite all the participants to the dance.

Waiting to Measure II, 2017,  90 x 60 cms, Acrylic on canvas

Intentionality: In my collection "Café con aroma a Costa Rica" it is to be able to relate the qualities of a good coffee like the characteristics that distinguish a Costa Rican; as it is known the coffee of Costa Rica is recognized by its high quality at world-wide level; but I can say the same of our identity; It is easy to recognize a good coffee first by its aroma, then by its body and flavor, so it is possible to distinguish a Costa Rican within a group of people as a coffee literally speaking, of course, because we are happy as the aroma, kind as his body and always leave a sweet taste of our humility, because to be a good Costa Rican has to leave a good taste in the mouth.

 Contact:

Raudyn Alfarto

Raudin Antonio Alfarto Araya

arq.raudyn@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/raudyn.alfarto

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, October 2019

 


April Surgent

How did you first meet John Piatt?

I met John in the spring of 2018, after a mutual colleague that I met on a job in California suggested I contact him. I had been working from the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge (30 miles offshore of San Francisco) on a northern elephant seal project that winter and said mutual colleague knew that we both lived in Port Townsend, WA. Also that John frequently needed volunteers to help with fieldwork.

John Piatt, Research Biologist, USGS- Alaska Science Centre, Anchorage, Alaska

What did you say or do to get John to ask you to join his research team, at Cook Inlet, Alaska?

I’m not sure what I said or did that got my foot in the door, other than sending John a blind e-mail introducing myself; I live in Port Townsend, I am an artist that has been working with different research teams in the field and if he ever needed any extra hands, perhaps I could help. We sent a few e-mails back and forth, met for coffee at his home office and a few months later I got an email asking if I would like to help out with some research in Cook Inlet, Alaska.

Suspended in the Atmosphere, 28.5 x 28.5 x .75” installed, Cameo engraved glass, 2019

It was an opportunity for him as well. Having an artist along is also a unique opportunity for a different type of outreach for his research. The first research cruise must have gone well enough as I was asked to come back on two more occasions this summer!

Kachemak Bay, Alaska

How has your interpretation influenced people to go beyond the research?

Hopefully my work has introduced people to places and ideas that they hadn’t either known of or considered before. The goal of collaborating with research and conservation scientists is to share some of what I learn and experience in the field through my work. I’ve had incredible opportunity to work from some of the most remote places in the world. The idea is to introduce these places to people and help lay the groundwork to understanding and why we should care about them, despite their inaccessibility.

Much More Than a Picture of Ice, 25.75 x 36.5 x .75”, Cameo engraved glass, 2015

For the first time in human history, more people live in urban centres than rural environments and we are becoming increasingly disengaged to the natural world.

Berlin Interchange, 28.25 x 36.5 x 2”, Cameo engraved glass, 2011

This disengagement comes at a time when it is especially important that we understand the world’s ecosystems so that we can be better stewards of the environment.

Into the Green Mountains, 17 x 41 x 2” installed, Cameo engraved glass, 2013

Hopefully my work helps build that connection to nature or at the very least is a reminder of the beauty that can be found in the natural world.

Decadal Time Scale, 19.875 x 30.25 x 2”, Cameo engraved glass, 2014

Discuss the importance of combining art and science.

Wildlife Biologist Ryan Berger on whale watch, the lighthouse on Southeast Farallon Island, Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, California, 2017

This is a big question and one that I have spent years thinking about.  I believe that combining the arts and sciences is important for so many reasons! When you break it down, artists and scientists from all mediums and fields are ultimately trying to accomplish the same thing only through different methods: At the end of the day we’re all observers of life trying to grasp a better understanding of our existence.

Walleye Pollock caught on a forage fish trawl for USGS study, Lower Cook Inlet, Alaska, 2018

My interest in fieldwork lies in the ideology that the dialogue between artists and scientists is imperative for a most informed and diversified understanding of life and that knowledge is the greatest agent for change. With science far too often inaccessible and unattainable, the goal of these collaborations is to bring awareness to the environmental crisis’ we’re facing in order to create a platform for understanding.

Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program remote field camp at Pearl and Hermes atoll, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Permit: PMNM- 2016-011

After all, it’s difficult to care or have compassion for things that are unfamiliar to us.

It has been my experience that cross-disciplinary exchanges are invaluable catalysts for facilitating complex ideas to the public at large and hold significant cultural value. With the consideration that many people only see and understand the world through pictures and or artist and writer interpretation, I see it as part of the artists’ role to illuminate thoughtful and knowledgeable observations on issues critically relevant to our times.

Your exhibition opening from this current research.

In The Space Separating opens at Traver Gallery in Seattle, WA on October 3rd and runs through November 9th, 2019.

The Stark Beauty of a Planetary Landscape, 18 x 66”, Cameo engraved glass, 2019

The show will have eleven engravings inspired by my time spent working as a research assistant in Alaska and a large installation made from disposable lighters that were collected as marine debris from the shores of the North-Western Hawaiian Islands.

Ice Field; Anonymous, 17 x 25.5 x .75”, Cameo engraved glass, 2019

All the engravings for this show focus on light in land or sky scapes. Lower Cook Inlet is a remote and wild place with glacier topped mountains that surge from the ocean.  The surrounding environment skews ones everyday perspective and gives you a palpable sense of being on a planet. Ice Field; Anonymous. is a nine-panel engraving that depicts an ice-capped mountain reflecting the light of high latitude, late afternoon sun. I had this piece hanging in my studio for a few months after I finished it and when I looked at it, it gave me a measurable sense of what it felt like to be at that place, at that time; for me that made it a successful piece.

Lighters….

Portrait of an Ocean, or, The Lighter Project as I have dubbed it, started when I was working for the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program from Pearl and Hermes atoll in the North-western Hawaiian Islands in 2016.

The Unnatural Movement of the Ocean with Plastic, 30 x 30 x .75, Cameo engraved glass, 2017

Although the North-western Hawaiian Islands are considered to be one of the most remote and wild places on earth traces of mankind can literally be found in every step. The tiny islands and islets are covered in marine debris from nations all around the Pacific.

Prolific amongst the debris were plastic disposable lighters.

That Dream then, it was Here, 19.25 x 13 x .75”, Cameo engraved glass, 2017

Our team started to casually collect them, in part just to see how many we could collect and in part for something to do along the way while looking for Hawaiian Monk Seals. By the end of the season we had a five-gallon bucket full of them.

When I returned to my studio, I knew that I wanted to make a piece that spoke to the problem of marine debris and looked to the bucket of lighters as a symbol of that problem.

In the end it was the sea, 15 x 22.75 x .75”, Cameo engraved glass, 2017

I asked the Hawaiian Monk Seal Program if they would collect lighters for me in the 2017 field season to add to my collection. This time, they were collected from five different field camps by nearly 20 biologists from French Frigate Shoals to Kure Atoll and a total of 2,240 lighters were collected. With those lighters I made a 9 x 9 foot installation. I glued the lighters to 16 metal armatures and when it was completed the piece hung like a large monolith.

Pinhole Image of Disposable lighters arranged onsite, Pearl and Hermes Atoll, 2016, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Permit: PMNM-2016-011

Biologists from the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program continued to collect lighters for this project in the 2018 filed season and I now have over 4,000 lighters. For my upcoming exhibition, In The Space Separating, I have used the additional lighters to double the size of the original installation; as marine debris accumulates on shores around the world, so too grows the installation. The composition of the second generation of the lighter installation is fashioned after a non-pyrotechnic distress flag.

Portrait of an Ocean, 9 x 9 feet installed, Disposable lighter marine debris, metal, 2017

The lighters are all different shapes, sizes and colours. Many of them have writing on them, advertising businesses and brands. I have counted a handful of different languages from English to Japanese to Russian. The reaction to the installation is more often than not, of total disbelief.

Detail: Portrait of an Ocean

When you first see the installation, it looks more like stained glass than marine debris. As you get closer to the piece and start to recognize that they are in fact thousands of disposable lighters it is a kind of shock.

Detail: Portrait of an Ocean

Many people ask how I have made them or aged them; assuming that I have bought them all.  When they learn how they were collected the next reaction is to assume that perhaps a shipping container full of lighters spilled. It is a slow connection of the dots to realize that there is just that much debris in our oceans that you can pick out and have so many of just a single item.

What has led you to observe and allow us to be pulled up so sharply?

A deep love for the sea was instilled in me as a child who grew up on and around the great Salish Sea. A lifetime of observing the declining health of our oceans has turned me to science for answers, and over the last 6 years, I have collaborated with scientists from around the Pacific to learn about global warming and it’s impact on ocean ecology. Warming sea temperatures, ocean acidification, over-fishing and pollution are all taking their toll on one of the Earth’s most precious natural resources.

Drifting on a gentle wave, 15 x 24.5”, Cameo engraved glass, 2018

What led you to mural glass engraving?

Growing up in Seattle, an area known for it’s high concentration of glass artists thanks to Dale Chihuly, I was introduced to the medium of glass as a teenager. From the moment I saw people blowing glass in a hot-shop I knew that it was what I wanted to do.  I ended up blowing glass throughout high school and then looked for university art programs that had glass departments. I spent one year at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI and then transferred to the Australian National University’s School of Art renowned glass department. It was there that I was introduced to other approaches with the medium.

I started playing in the cold-shop (term used to describe the working area where one can cut, carve and polish glass) on the different equipment and was especially drawn to the engraving lathe. In 2003, my third year of studies in Canberra, Prof. Jiri Harcuba, a master engraver from the Czech Republic, was teaching an engraving course at Pilchuck Glass School. I had known several of his past students and was determined to take his class. It ended up being a life-changer, as from that class on I put down the blowpipes and really focused on engraving.

Harcuba ended up becoming my mentor and we worked and taught together for nearly a decade before his passing in 2013. He was an exceptional human being who inspired and encouraged me to experiment with engraving, not to be bound by the historical limitations of the craft. He also introduced me to the world of beautiful ideas and instilled in me the importance of being a lifetime student.

Discuss your 2019 work using panels to show the ‘Whole’ images.

Sky Trail, 16 x 20 x .75”installed, Cameo engraved glass, 2017

How do you decide on the number of panels and shapes in each piece?

My engravings are divided up into multiple panels to show a single image due to the process of wheel engraving. There are many ways that you can carve glass but my approach is on an engraving lathe; a machine that is much like a metal smith’s grinder. The shaft distance between the wheel and the machine more or less determines how large I can go per panel.

Sea and Sky, 30 x 30 x .75”, Installed, Cameo engraved glass, 2019

Another consideration is that I need to lift the panels to the grinding wheel; wheel engraving it is a lot like drawing but bringing the paper to pencil. This means that I am continuously moving the glass around. If the panel is very large it becomes very cumbersome not to mention heavy. Although the panels don’t weight much just to pick up, when you’re holding them all day long and pushing against a wheel they get heavy.

Larger works like, Sea & Sky need to be broken up for all of those reasons. Determining where and how I will break up an image into panels is always though and takes a lot of consideration.

Sea and Sky, 30 x 30 x.75, Installed, Cameo engraved glass, 2019

Expand on ‘That Which is Beyond Imagination’.

That which is beyond imagination, 25.25 x 25.25 x .75”, Cameo engraved glass, 2019

That Which is Beyond Imagination is a piece that I made in response to my work with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program in the North-western Hawaiian Islands. It depicts the sooty tern colony on Tern Island in French Frigate Shoals. Although Tern Island is only a mere 34 acres it is home to over 300,000 seabirds and over 80% of them are sooty terns. Despite the chaos, deafening noise and overwhelming smell, being in the middle of a seabird colony of that size was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life!

Like the vast majority of my work, each panel of this piece is comprised of three layers of Bullseye sheet glass that have been fused together. Each sheet is about 1.5 mm thick so the total panel thickness is just about 5-6mm. Each panel has a layer of white on one side and two darker layers under the white.

Using a photograph, drawing or combination of the two, I then roughly draw the composition onto the white layer with a wax pencil. Once the composition is complete, I take the glass to the engraving lathe and start cutting away. Because engraving is a reductive process, I usually end up marking the panels out several times.

Once the engraving part is complete, I wash the glass and put it back into the kiln to lightly fire polish to a matte finish. After the fire polish the panels are ready to have brackets glued to the back of them to be hung on a wall.

Look at four of your research destinations:

Antarctica – NSF

Palmer Station, Western Antarctic Peninsula, 2013

Farallon Island National Wildlife Refuge

Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, 2017

Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program – NOAA

North Island, Pearl and Hermes Atoll, 2016, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Permit: PMNM-2016-011

Alaska – USGS

USGS RV, Alaska Gyre in Homer Marina. Homer, AK, 2018

Discuss one or two aspects that gave you artistic inspiration while there.

I’ve always been interested in the inherent connection between person and place. Whether in Antarctica, the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a city or in my own backyard I tend to draw inspiration from my surrounding environments no matter where I am. I like to observe how we interact with our surroundings and how our interactions with our surrounding influence the way that we navigate through life.

One huge difference in each location you had not expected.

One of the biggest pleasures that I enjoyed in Antarctica was on a solo glacier walk. On a clear afternoon I took a long walk up and over the glacier behind station to work on some drawings. I had come to a point on the glacier where there was a mind-blowing view of the Western Antarctic peninsula mountain range full of glaciers and especially crisp against the bright blue sky. The surrounding waters were a deep blue except for the areas full of bright white pack ice. The snow-covered landscape was all contours and almost appeared to be breathing; the planet itself was alive!

Although I have always felt a closeness to nature, I had never really felt the grandeur of a planetary landscape in that way. For the first time in my life I really felt like I was on a planet, spinning away in the universe. Actually feeling like I was on a planet like the ones I had seen in the night sky opened up a whole new perspective of life.  Though the feeling does not come often, I have since had similar experiences both from the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and in remote Alaska.

If wilderness areas like Antarctica and Alaska represent our existence on a planet, then Pearl and Hermes Atoll represents the womb, or the life-source. Atop the very peak of an ancient volcano sunken into the sea over countless millennia, the world there seemed to vibrate with palpable energy, as if life itself were boiling up to the surface of the ocean.

Accessible only by boat and some 1,200 miles from Honolulu, Pearl and Hermes is a 450-square-mile atoll that is largely underwater. It has only six small islands and islets that have a combined landmass of about 80 acres. At first glance the watery landscape appears to be incredibly hostile and incapable of sustaining life. But on second glace, one realises that it is actually an oasis that can support untold numbers of marine and terrestrial species.

Great Frigate bird on marine debris, Pearl and Hermes Atoll. 2016, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Permit: PMNM – 2016-011

Contact:

April Surgent

https://www.aprilsurgent.com

april@aprilsurgent.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, September 2019

 


Jo Davies

How does and English potter get a Solo exhibition in Shanghai?

Last year I spent a few weeks in China teaching at Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute and so, while I was there, I ended up meeting lots of new people who saw my work and liked what I was doing so the Mufei Gallery, which is part of a larger organisation called ‘The Pottery Workshop’, invited me to exhibit with them.

When did you first become involved artistically in China?

One of the professors at Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute asked me for some information and images about my work by email for a book she was writing on Western ceramics. I gladly gave her what she needed but then she asked if I would like to come to China to teach at JCI with all expenses paid. How could I say no?

Tell us two special moments you have had (artistically)  during your time as a visiting lecturer in China?  

There were many inspirational moments - both large and small - but one of the main events for me was seeing the ghost market in Jingdezhen where many antique objects are being sold. However, many of the items are shards and kiln rejects that have only recently been dug from the ground after hundreds or even a thousand years of lying in an old kiln mound - discarded at the point of emptying the kiln because those pieces were below standard. They now make for fascinating testimonies to the long, arduous process that is involved in making ceramics and people are re-evaluating them as beautiful in themselves.

Expand on your work ‘Chinese Tea Set’

In Autumn last year I was asked to teach at the Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute and so I spent 5 weeks in this historically important part of China both teaching and researching. I explored the area, meeting new friends and building on my knowledge of porcelain in its birthplace. The research I undertook simply followed my natural curiosity for my own subject, shedding a light on cultural differences in attitude towards the material, its production methods and value within both Chinese and Western cultures. During the course of this research I took tea many times. Some tea sets were more formal, some were made by the artisans I was taking tea with and took on more artist aesthetics. I feel incredibly lucky that I was able to take tea both formally and informally, many people in the West have an idea of tea as being an entirely formal ritual without freedom for change but I saw that the objects encompassing a single set could be complementary rather than slavishly similar. I felt this was an important lesson that my experience in China taught me: the nature of a set of objects could cleverly hold the meaning of its function without having the same motif across every object. They can hold as much beauty and still be considered a set of objects without being the same colour even. This is very different to the way we are taught design in the UK - after Wedgwood and the Staffordshire tradition.

Chinese Tea Set, Photo by Matthew Booth

In seeing all these tea sets, from formal meetings to home studios, and observing the splashing, water-spilling nature of the ritual I gained a real insight into what was and what wasn’t important in tea-drinking in China. However, I have my own, British idea of this too and so the bringing together of my aesthetic with the Chinese Tea Set has been an enjoyable development and one that I hope will be accepted by a Chinese audience. My hope is to bring together these two worlds while making the set ostensibly a Chinese one designed for loose leaf tea that values small, exquisite sips of tea.

How has your Chinese Tea Set married East and West?

In China I noticed that tea was being served in a way that was both casual and formal. Beautiful tea sets were being used but water was being spilled liberally. As a British ceramicist the spilling of water from a spout, for instance, is considered a failure of design but in China this aspect was incorporated into the nature of the ceremony - a cloth is always present or there are perforations in the tabletop. This is why I created a tray with a pouring lip so that, much like the saucer of the English teacup, the water can be contained and poured away easily.

Discuss why the tray is so important in China.

The tray is not necessarily something that is used by the Chinese, it’s my addition to the tea set, a nod to Western preferences that include tea trays and saucers. Although there are often larger, more bowl-like containers and wooden slatted ‘table-trays’ included in Chinese Tea Sets, these are not quite like the tray I have introduced.

Comment on the lotus shape of the tray.

Chinese Tea Set, Photo by Matthew Booth

The tray doesn’t have an intentionally lotus shape, this is purely coincidental… a happy coincidence, given the lotus’ significance in Chinese culture !

Explain how you have reciprocated in the world of ceramics by being a visiting lecturer at the Ceramics Institute in Jingdezhen?

The teaching at the Ceramics Institute was a real leap of faith on my part. I knew very little about exactly what I would be doing with my students but, as it turned out, I was working with 4th year Design students and some Masters students. They were very unused to Western methods of teaching - where much emphasis is placed on individual creativity and investigation - and I was unfamiliar with their educational backgrounds, which were mostly based on learning by recreating the work of previous generations. Both systems have their benefits and disadvantages but it did mean we had some teething problems at the beginning. Many of the students slowly understood what I was looking for from them but there was definitely more than just the language barrier to cross! I learnt a lot from them too.

You trained at the Royal College of Art, London.  At the time named ‘one to watch’.  Do you think they anticipated a Solo exhibition in Shanghai the home of China?

I’m not sure anyone did…To be honest, I’m not sure what anyone anticipated, I certainly didn’t see this happening back in 2007 but I’m glad it is.

Discuss your Blue, White and Gold, Speak Vase Series.

 

Blue, White and Gold Speak Vase, Photo by Matthew Booth

While using cobalt to create blue is nothing new for a ceramicist, seeing its use in China revolutionised how I felt about the material. It was no longer the stayed hallmark of some Staffordshire ceramics but more of a living material that could be used freely. I gained a visceral sense of the material that displayed an individual craftspersons skill with beauty in every mark. I was drawn to the marks, particularly the Ming Dynasty shards which were ubiquitous in Jingdezhen, not just in museums but available to buy in their thousands at markets. Each shard was a detail of a larger image, an abstracted fragment that forces us to imagine their original state. In the new blue and white surface designs I wanted to capture some of that materiality of cobalt and create a surface that may or may not be a literal image.

Discuss the importance of Gold in modern China  

I’m afraid this is something I’m not certain of, but my understanding is that gold has a history at least as old as porcelain in China, is often given as a gift as it is held to bring good fortune.

Blue, White and Gold Speak Vase, Photo by Matthew Booth

Currently showing at:

Next event:

Jo Davies: London Porcelain (solo exhibition) | 22 September - 12 October

The Mufei Gallery, Pottery Workshop, Shanghai

Contact:

Jo Davies

https://www.sammichellepaintings.com/

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, September 2019

CLICK HERE TO >>READ INTERVIEW OF JO DAVIES FROM NOVEMBER 2015

 


Raymond Quenneville

Since 1992, you have narrowed your work to landscape.  Can you explain how this came to be?

I started painting landscape in oil long time ago when I was just fourteen. I have been doing it for many years until I completed my scholarship as a wildlife technician. Then I moved to wildlife painting and tried many mediums with a preference for watercolour. I have been painting birds with watercolour for about 10 years. After a while I decided to come back to my old passion; oil painting. Starting in 1992, I devoted myself entirely to painting landscapes in oil, through which I try to render a certain serenity and balance. To me, it is the best fit I could find to express my interior feelings. Over the years, I developed a distinguished style that is now recognised by art lovers and collectors.

You comment, ‘I try to highlight the fine consistency of the air, giving a sense of depth that the eye cannot dispute’, discuss using one of two paintings.

Retour à la maison 18 x 36  inches, Oil on Canvas

In each of my painting I try to maximize the impression of depth by creating a soft haze appearing as we move to the background. I use the value system to accentuate the aerial perspective. The strong contrasts of the foreground get diluted as we move toward the horizon. Similarly, most of the warm and brilliant colors and shapes of the foreground become cooler and vague along the way. This is how, in nature, our eye is decoding the presence of a haze. In French we would say that it is a “trompe l’oeil”.

Entre les îles, 24 x 30 inches, Oil on Canvas 

Discuss shapes in your paintings.

Through time, I removed unnecessary items from my composition. I kept essentially what is giving a direction to the eye and make the observer traveling into the landscape. Shapes of the trees, angles of the houses and churches, shadows, trail paths, all those elements are guiding the eye through the landscape with, at the end of the trip, essentially nothing, just a calm and hazy oasis of peace.

Tout ce temps, 24 x 30 inches, Oil on Canvas 

While on shape you use many dimensions in our work.  6 x 36” 36 x 12” and 16 x 20” discuss the use of three different works represented in these three formats and why you have chosen these sizes.

L’autre saison, 16 x 20 inches, Oil on Canvas

One of the challenges in painting landscape is to fit what is in front of us into a frame. To get it into a 16 x 20 inches box is not always easy. Some scenes required more air than other and deserve to be painted in the appropriate format. I used different canvas dimensions according to the subject I want to paint. Right from the sketch book, in the field, I decide which format will be the best for the situation. I will use a long 6 x 36 inches canvas for a farmland environment with many houses and barns.

Choses tranquilles, 6 x 36 inches, Oil on Canvas

It provides me so much freedom when time comes to spread all the elements on the sheet. In other circumstances, I will use a 36 x 12 inches format to represent a scene where the bird’s eye view is the essential of what I want to express.

Rêver de partir, 36 x 12 inches, Oil on Canvas

For those particular formats, I intentionally cheat the perspective in order to make it easier for the observer to believe it. Nothing must interfere with his journey into the painting. 

In your landscapes you add humanity by building – discuss.

Most of the time, there is buildings in my landscapes. They are there for many reasons. First they add colours and white patches into the mix and allow me to end up with an balanced chromatic complex. Second, buildings’ angles point into a direction that help guiding the eyes. They also bring some humanity to the landscape without being too distractive. I pay attention to details that will leave the observer alone in the painting… no animal, no car, nobody else than the one who gets into the landscape.

Dans le Soleil,  30 x 24 inches, Oil on Canvas

If you pay attention, you will see that there is no doors to most of the houses. No chance for the visitor to be disturbed by someone popping up. This notion of peacefulness in my artwork is important to me.

Are your landscapes local?

Most of my landscape are inspired by real location. My favourite areas are located on both side of the St-Lawrence River in Quebec (Canada), in Charlevoix, Côte-de-Beaupré, Bas-St-Laurent and Gaspésie regions. I also use sketches collected in other countries, from places I visited: Switzerland, Spain, France, USA, Portugal, Italy, etc. I keep from those places the very essential of the composition without paying attention to the architectural details. At the end, we don’t really know where we are. Houses are from  Gaspé, red earth of the pathways is from Magdeleine Islands, mountains are from all over the world and skies are universal and free.

Can we see the seasons in your work? 

There are different seasons in my artwork but they are not necessarily the one we are used to know.

Plein d'espoir, 36 x 30 inches, Oil on Canvas

I would say that there is a warm season, where the predominant colours is a greenish yellow with some warm burned oranges, and a cold season where violet and beige are the main components.

 

Both are representing a moment of the day where the sun is low and the shadows are narrow and long. Up to you to decide if it is just after sunrise or just before sunset.

Expand on your involvement with Canada’s National Parks and how this collaboration has developed in your work.

I have been working with Parks Canada for many years while pursuing my artistic career. As a fire behaviour specialist I have been asked to participate in major firefighting operations all across Canada. I visited most of Canada’s national parks and had a chance to see incredible landscape both from the ground and from a helicopter point of view. Many of my painting are still inspired by the sky amber colour I have seen while working on the great fires.

Art with a difference – tell us about the Helmet of Dominique Maltais.  How this commission came about?

It is a simple story. In 2011, I went to Petite-Rivière-St-François to paint the village and its environment. I posted the painting on my Website as I often do with my work. A few years later, Dominique Maltais who was attending the Winter Olympic Games in Sotchi was searching on the Web for an image of her village to put on her helmet. By typing Petite-Rivière St-François on the Web, she found the images of my painting and made it reproduced on her helmet. She finally won a silver medal and my painting was seen all over the world.  Isn’t it funny!

Within your landscapes you also add maritime features discuss.

I like to paint quiet marine environment. Once in a while I add a ship or a row boat to the composition.

Moment Magique, 18 x 36 inches, Oil on Canvas

The intention being once again to get the attention to the focal point rather than adding a disturbing element to the scene. A few year ago, I moved to Champlain, a small municipality along the St-Lawrence River where I have now my studio. Huge commercial ships are navigating on the St-Lawrence and can be seen from the house. They are now part of my day to day environment and by the way have an influence on my artwork.

Pêche au bout du quai, 15 x 30 inches, Oil on Canvas

Can you discuss La Collection Hommage au Saint Laurent using both your photograph and painting?

Since 2016, I am working with four other Quebec artists (Yvon St-Aubin, Yvon Lemieux, Gérard Boulanger and Robert Roy) on a five-year project to paint the most picturesque regions of the St. Lawrence River (Canada). The group was established with a goal of creating 100 paintings, from the Thousand Islands to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This is the first such venture in Quebec's art history. In October, 2017, the artists were introduced as guests of honour at the Quebec National Assembly. The collection “Hommage au Saint-Laurent” will be completed in 2020 and will be first shown at the general public starting in 2021 at the Pierre-Boucher Museum in Trois-Rivières, Québec.

Lac St-Pierre, St-Lawrence River, Spring 2018

From left to right : Gérard Boulanger, Yvon St-Aubin, Robert Roy, Yvon Lemieux, Raymond Quenneville.  Photo Éric Guénard,

Can you comment on the importance of meeting, sharing and discussing art with fellow artists? 

Working along with other artists on a long period of time is to me the best way to progress, to refine your art and to reach higher levels. The project “Hommage au Saint-Laurent” has been quite stimulating up to now for the five of us. It forced us to put ourselves in “danger “, to go beyond our comfort zone. Other than that, each member of the group has between 30 to 50 years of experience as a professional artist. Easy to understand that sharing this experience is beneficial for everyone. I would say that these five years shared with my partners and friends have had a significant impact on my artistic approach and professional career.

Contact:

Raymond Quenneville

www.raymondquenneville.qc.ca

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, September 2019

 


Yekaterina (Katia) Mokeyeva 

Take one piece that you are proud of and explain why?

Innovation is what I am probably the proudest of. In sayings like "The new is the well-forgotten old", there is a sliver of truth. Revivals emerge constantly, in various areas of art. Aside from this, borrowing ideas from nature is natural to mankind, and similar "natural" ideas have occurred spontaneously in different places and time periods. A unique handling of such an idea is the technical interpretation and processing of it into something new, something that has never previously been applied in this craft. That would be innovation, and it enables development and progress of this craft as a whole.

Mesmerizing Patterns, detail

My mosaic fiber structures, "Mesmerizing Patterns", constructed from small pre-felted elements with the necessary application of plant fibers, happen to be a form of innovation.

Mesmerizing Patterns

Take one of your full-length dresses and discuss...

Form

Wearable sculpture. Oblong, contour-flowing, repeating the curves of the human body, but not snug, somewhat free and swaying instead. It should be laconic and without excess, with clean and rounded edges, a form that does not detract content from perception, and is akin to an amphora.

Conceptual

Technique

This is a 3-D hollow form that was practically sculpted and assembled from a multitude of hand-twisted felt ropes. There is no fabric involved, only wool and plant fiber comprising multiple small parts that are constructed together on a durable base layer, and a surface made of plant-derived fiber (Ramie roving).

 Completed weight

Completed Weight. 990 grams (2 pounds 3 oz)This is a rather hefty piece. If it were an ordinary dress, that is. In this case, the weight is rather humble for a sculpture.

 

 Conceptual

 Colour and colour combinations

With the abundance of texture here, the variety of color had to remain minimal. Black was used to enhance contrast and depth, white for relief sculpting of voluminous textures, as well as creating light for prominent areas. Turquoise is often perceived as the color of water (if not the sky). It was my desire to use a bit of color to expand a theme - the theme of ocean elements.  

Who the garment was made for or why it was made.

This exhibit piece is one of a group of wearable sculptures created for a project of a thematic duo-exhibition. I depicted the forms of an ocean in its various stormy conditions; some part of this depiction was metaphorical, and some of it bore a stylized resemblance to a lively, rampant sea.

Discuss the differences you noticed in your training between Moscow and San Francisco?

In Moscow, especially during the old times, art schools possessed an incredibly strong academic foundation. All art schools, regardless of the major, demanded a serious amount of classical training to be demonstrated at the exams. Many students, despite their display of outstanding skill and potential, had to apply several years in a row to even be considered, and were often rejected. A significant part of studying consisted of classical fundamentals, Drawing, painting, composition. In any of the majors, whether it was applied art, furniture design, fashion, textile, or architecture, these fundamentals were present. One thing that surprised me in San Francisco, was that many of the students were not very good at drawing, but more attention was given to the majors there. Everyone worked with great effort (likely due to the fact that studying there was incredibly expensive). The conditions and equipment were, of course, top-of-the-line. And during their studies at the college, students were able to participate in international and national competitions and contests or obtain an apprenticeship somewhere. The approach to education was also wiser, more grounded to real life. For example, textile artists and clothing designers would work on projects and collections that were tied to realistic product lines and industries. In short, this was the more practical and rational approach.

Take a scarf / collar and discuss the different techniques included within on piece.

Turtle Shell

A statement piece that I created several years ago. it was already around then that I frequently used pre-felted elements, in this case, 3-dimensional segments of a "turtle shell". It was necessary to consider the direction of the fibers in the layout (a layout which must first be spread out on a plane and is comprised of multiple little pieces of wool roving). The correct arrangement of the fibers helped to create a structure that accordingly takes on the correct form upon shrinkage. Of course, the piece is "sculpted" by hand, but the form is planned during the layout. The surface was laminated with loose-weave cotton gauze.

I worked with color, cold and warm tones, to procure liveliness of depth and dimension. Thin, vivid lines were made to create an effect of glowing, and I achieved it with machine stitching.

Expand on the use of colour in your work.

To me, color is an instrument of great importance. At some point, I studied color theory, but have little memory of the class, mainly because I continue to work with color relying on intuition, as I had when I was a child; in other words, I perceive color based on how the eye sees it and the soul desires it. The creation of a rich palette, or on the contrary, limiting colors, aids me in delivering the concept.

Colours 1

Wearable art as an art form

Sculptural, in this case fully "sculpted" from fibers, relative to the human body as another means of communicating a message but separate from mainstream fashion. With a mastery of craftsmanship and commitment to personal vision.

Sea

The reaction of the viewer and the reaction of the wearer.

The pieces that I create for exhibition projects are more likened to installations. The wearer puts them on for demonstration or photo session, but not as a regular garment. For a time, the wearer becomes a part of the project, a participant in a scene of an entire performance. The viewer, apart from being the recipient of the aesthetic, has an opportunity to make sense of the narrative, whether it is allegorical or metaphorical.

Wearable Art

How do you explain the importance of wearable art to the general public?

If someone asked me about the purpose of my pieces, I would reply with the simple answer that art comes in different forms. All art forms are equally important.

Sea of Nettles

How are you influenced by nature, to use natural fibres?

I direct my work down the stream that allows me to be closer to nature. Of course, attempts to return to the source and to be part of nature poses somewhat of a challenge for the modern human. But the ability to absorb inspiration from the natural surroundings rewards with a sense of euphoria. My last three years, I have spent living in the woods. Working with animal and plant fibers couldn't be any closer to my universe in this setting. Fiber is a soft and natural medium; its flexibility and texture feel very much alive.

Color 21

How do you respond to natural fibres and how they combine to give the effect you are after?

Some of those fibers, unfortunately, are a result of processing that demands the utilization of various chemicals and dyes. While newer technologies have not yet replaced the ones currently in use, a compromise is made because the color and thinness of the fibers in some cases are essential. All of this is a similar process as in sculpture and painting. The key difference being that in place of using clay, or applying pigments, I apply and shape small pieces of animal and plant fiber. Fiber is quite responsive material. I create my surfaces using practically the tips of my fingers.

Color 3

How do you use your sketch book to develop a piece? 

I doodle. Doodling has been a habit of mine for as long as I can remember. Because of this, I would sometimes get into trouble as a child. Of course, it isn't always possible to carry a sketchbook with you everywhere you go, and a calm moment is considered a luxury in our day and age. And yet, a few mindless doodles can procure the formation of bigger ideas.

  1. If making small sketches was already a natural habit, then I learned it in London when I took the summer study abroad program at Central St. Martins. Taking photographs of any interesting subject, whether it was nature, an object, or a color combination, or surface, then printing out those images on a simple color printer, was another way.

Then, to manipulate them, cut, take apart, put together, turn upside down, blow up or reduce in size, and so on.

  1. Short notes. They don't need to be full sentences, sometimes just unrelated words, or emotional states or impressions of something.

It isn't necessary to collect those impressions or words for one project only. Sometimes, the final image of whatever I intend to create hasn't fully developed itself in my mind (it happens). I could flip through my sketchbook, or even through one of my old sketchbooks; this awakes a process, thanks to which an abstract idea could become defined and concrete. There are also other techniques used in working with sketchbook materials, and they help to form outside-of-the-box-ideas. These methods I share with the participants of my art retreats.

Discuss retreats in relation to both the development for students and you as a teacher?  The value of being in a special place.

Tenerife Retreat

Celebration, a special unforgettable time, an event for which a desirable place is chosen. How often do we celebrate our creative identity and our love for our craft? Of course, even working in solitude in your studio can bring great joy. But my retreats are a true manifestation of all that is most wonderful.

Tenerife Retreat

Breaking out of the daily routine, discovering beautiful surroundings, working with the best quality materials, is a great way to charge your inspiration for years to come.  It is a nurturing event for my participants and myself as a teacher and organizer. Once upon a time, the vivid impression my time spent in studying abroad endowed my London sketchbook with magical powers.

Tenerife Retreat

You teach on-line classes; can you share what is involved?

First and foremost, a great deal of patience is required. This is a challenge for my naturally restless character. Online classes demand a tremendous amount of computer work.

How do you set up a class?

Each lesson must first be drafted prior to being photographed and filmed, the videos processed and edited, and among all of that, detailed instruction must be given as everything is documented. Whenever I compose a course, it is as though I do a recount of all the years of my work, throughout which I developed and mastered the techniques that I share with my students. Such labor is both satisfying and bears great responsibility. It also forces you to be brave and open with the world. It is as though you invite people directly into your studio, most of them are strangers whose faces you've never seen. At the same time, some of them become friends. A soft and warm medium unites people and brings them joy!

What materials list do you suggest to students?

The materials we used were quite beautiful and attractive - premium quality wool roving, all sorts of plant fibers, luxurious silks, an abundance of colors.

Color 11

How available are the materials (worldwide)?

I have accumulated a pretty extensive list of suppliers from different corners of the world. This includes tens of websites, each of them readily supplying ordered goods through the internet. I share this list with my class participants, and they add to it as well with their own sources.

How far and wide are the students who you teach?

If someone had told me, a person born in Ukraine and raised in Soviet Moscow some 25 years ago, that the extent of such communication is possible, I would never have believed it then. But it is a fact - my students live on every populated continent. I teach fellow Americans from every state, including Hawaii and Alaska, Canadians from far up North, people on all ends of Australia, South Africa, South America (Chile, Argentina, Mexico), practically all Western European countries, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, the UK, Russia, Cyprus, China, as well as Japan (and the locations grow). Such are the incredible times we live in.

How do you incorporate this with your existing art practice?

All courses last between 4 and 9 weeks, with 1-2 lessons per week. The course materials are distributed on a specific platform and are made available to students at any time for them to access. Nonetheless, my participation is also necessary, as I give advice, explain to students the more complex nuances, and then review their results in a virtual classroom. This could take at least several hours, if not many more in the span of one day, and throughout the entire course. No other major projects or trips are possible during this time. Therefore, there are weeks dedicated to the classes, so that I may include some studio work, but nothing beyond that. Tutoring is a time-consuming process that requires dedication.

Studio shot

What have been three important lessons you have learnt and how do you now rely on them in your art?

Trust yourself. The truth, which did not reveal itself to me immediately, is that wherever there is a desire to please someone and meet their expectations, or to land into a fashionable trend, true art begins to hit a bit of a dead end and is instead replaced by conjuncture. Everything that is best is born from the depths of the heart and intuition.

An appetite emerges during a meal (as my grandma would say), and inspiration - during work. The endless wait for ever-elusive inspirational motivation is procrastination. As soon as you begin your work, your muse may arrive, sometimes with a completely unexpected idea.

Making a living being an artist quite a bit of anxiety. And anxiety is a creativity killer. I am learning to live here and now, in the present moment. It helps me to carry on, and it is not a finalized lesson. 

Expand on your piece, “Darkness Is Your Candle”

Darkness Is Your Candle, 142 cm X 89 cm, cellulose fiber wet felted on wool fiber base.

What lead you to move to do a large 2D piece?

The size was not very challenging or something new. Some of my 3-D wearable sculpture pieces have larger dimensions than this work.

The surface consists of well-defined pre-sculpted small 3-D elements. An intense use of tone, color and texture in one work was enough to deliver the idea. Therefore a choice was made to favor the 2-D format.

Darkness Is Your Candle, detail

Discuss the use of colour and lustre

A combination of warm and cool shades and a large tonal range, from almost black to "shining" light hues were the means by which I was able to achieve the effect of glowing. No lustrous or glittery fibers were used here, and no special lighting is required. The "glow" was merely painted using cellulose fibers of various colors.

Darkness Is Your Candle

Where did the inspiration come from?

Since the beginning of my relationship with this medium, I tried applying the techniques that I used in my old paint and pastel works. The ways of depicting light, or an even more interesting idea of creating a ‘glow from the inside’, was something that always fascinated me. Several years ago I made a series of conceptual garment pieces called "Bioluminescence."

"Darkness is your candle," this is the line from "Wetness and Water" by Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet. The emotional state, as well as memories of life experiences encompassed in a whole, resonated with the meaning of those words, and have become a foundation of this piece.

“No matter how fast you run,

your shadow more than keeps up.

Sometimes it's in front.

 

Only full, overhead sun

diminishes your shadow.

 

But that shadow has been serving you.

What hurts you blesses you.

Darkness is your candle.

Your boundaries are your quest.”  ― Rumi, The Big Red Book

Contact:

Yekaterina (Katia) Mokeyeva 

https://www.feuer-und-wasser.com

https://www.facebook.com/FeuerUndWasser

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, September 2019

 


Sam Michelle

Do you think having come from a creative family influenced your choice to be an artist?

I think having encouraging creative grandparents along with a particular aunty gave me confidence in trying new creative projects while I was young. I think I have taken this passion through to adulthood and it has helped influence my choice to be an artist. 

Discuss how you combine floral, textiles and objects in your still life paintings.

Lately I have been playing around with levels and heights in my still-life. I have been designing my own objects within my current collection, for example I have been using hills and trees from my recent NZ painting trip to design objects within my still life paintings.

Have you been highly influenced by Margaret Preston’s work?

Being a Kiwi I have a lot of Australian art history to catch up on. I recently purchased a book on Margaret Preston to learn more about her and her work. I tend to be more influenced by todays painters and ceramicists.

Where do you source your flowers?

My favourite florist is Azalea Florist in the South Melbourne market, but as that is an hour away from me, I like to visit the Tooradin fruit and flower shop who are super lovely and will order in particular flowers for me.

Can we add your video Sam Michelle – Paintings, here?

Sam Michelle is an award-winning oil painter who works from her … Watch this short video for Sam’s … 

How does your art, work in with your current lifestyle?

I paint everyday and I would paint all night if I could. I have a great detached home studio which makes balancing home and work very easy. I can shut off work and focus on my home life after a day of painting. I am always focused on making sure I am balancing the need to paint with catching up with friends, exercising and family life.

You came to Australia from New Zealand do you use both Australian and New Zealand flora in your work?

I am currently working on a NZ inspired collection from my recent trip to NZ. This will be the first time I have used native NZ flora in my work, however NZ and Australia tend to share the love of some of my favorites, hydrangeas, proteas, dahlias & peonies.

How important is a good and supportive gallery in the promotion of your work?

I am blessed with a supportive Gallery but I also like to promote my work as I think it is a team effort. However, that’s not to say if you don’t have a gallery that you need one. Some of my favourite and very successful artists are self represented and doing very well.

Colour is ever present in your paintings, discuss.

I love to play around with colour however I rarely use the primary shades. I like to interpret my subjects in my own way and don’t always feel like I need to paint things in the exact colour they are.

What are your current goals for your art?

I have been working on my landscape language for a while now and would like to continue this work. I love the idea of travelling and creating a collection from the trip. I think your eyes are fully open when you are visiting somewhere new and I would love to be able to tell that story within still life and landscape works. 

Discuss ‘Arranged Nature and Strips’.

Arranged Nature Strips, 77 x 67 cm, Oil on Canvas

This work was created after my trip to the US. I was particularly taken with my trip to the Getty and created a body of work based around my experience there. On the way home from the airport I was so inspired, we stopped off at the South Melbourne market and I purchased lots of produce and flora. This painting was based on the many still life works I saw at the Getty and the beautiful palette and architecture.

Take several paintings and expand on them and what makes each one sing.

Peonies, Waratah & Giant Poppies,  86 x 86, Oil on Canvas

Red Charm & Daffodils, Diptych. I think what makes this painting sing for me is that I always try and give my flowers little personalities and these flowers all seem to be turning to the warm light as if there is something to see.

Red Charm & Daffodils, 48 x 33, 48 x 33 cm, Oil on Canvas

Peony Buds and King Protea. As above, my goal with my flowers is to give them personality, this one sings for me as it is like a parent looking over her three young children.

Comment on ‘The City Flower’

The first time I used a diptych set up was with an underwater painting of two figures. I had the women on one side and the male on the other side (canvas) and they were holding hands in the middle. I wanted to experiment with this in still-life and have enjoyed playing around with the composition, how to make each section equal in its own right and also work well together.

City Flower, Dyptich, 47 x 47, 47 x 43 cm, Oil on Canvas

The thought process in the sizing of each image and composition of both. It really is me setting out a personal challenge for myself, I will keep working on the sketch and composition until I am happy with it.

Do you find our work coming out of your studio, is very seasonal?

Last year I did seasonal releases and challenged myself to investigating and painting what flower was in season when. This year I my aim and goal is to tell more of a story with a collection and not to have so many rules  🙂

Contact:

Sam Michelle

https://www.sammichellepaintings.com/

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, September 2019

 


Angus McEwan

Can you expand on how you paint textures and surfaces?

I work with watercolour to create my textures, exploring surfaces and details that convey each objects identity.  I will combine techniques and other types of media with watercolour, including collage and I will employ methods from one media and transfer that to watercolour to create paintings that are non-traditional.

I use collage occasionally to change the surface of the painting. This act alone can enhance the textural element within the image. Collage as a technique is ubiquitous within Scottish, but it tends to be married with oil or acrylic.  I wanted to try it with watercolour to see whether it would be successful or not.

I did a series of paintings a number of years back using Cuba as an inspiration and created many of the paintings with a collaged substrate.

Make do and Mend, 56 x 60 cm, Watercolour on Collage

“Make do and mend”- this painting, as you can see, started off with simplified shapes ripped and placed roughly where I anticipated they would be needed.  I then drew carefully the basic outline of the main objects.  At this point it is important to ignore the shapes as you draw, it is very easy to be distracted by the collaged pieces as you map out your composition.  Once this is worked out, I paint as I normally would as if the collage wasn’t there.  The result should be that you aren’t initially aware of the collage but as you look carefully at the painting you will begin to see a textural surface that will enhance the image.

Make do and Mend, 56 x 60 cm, Watercolour on Collage

Another technique that I use in just about every painting is splattering, this also helps me describe surface texture and I use it in multiple ways, wet on wet, wet on dry, masking, no masking, light masking. I usually put down quite a few washes before I start the process of splattering.

Poster Girl, in progress

The image above is a detail of “Poster girl”, watercolour on handmade Fabriano.  I wet the surface with a water spray then splattered with a synthetic square headed one stroke brush.  This creates arbitrary marks on the surface which can describe texture, tone or colour.

You can see the final painting below and how the area in the bottom right was developed further as I worked with the splattered marks.  I also added stamps and stencils to add lettering to the image.

 

Poster Girl, 41 x 55 cm, Watercolour on Collage

Ageing or falling apart is often the focus of your work – Discuss.

There is nothing like aged material to remind us of our mortality. Even the things we make eventually return to dust.  I attempt to record some of the objects I come across as a way of preserving the moment.  The objects will either disintegrate, be repaired, replaced, or removed but they will not remain static.  The inevitable decline of the objects that attest to our presence on this rock would eventually be wiped away through time.  It is my sincerest hope to show the unique qualities in those things that I paint, however decrepit.  They are most often unnoticed, ignored or neglected but they all display a degree of inherent beauty that would not be considered traditional.  Their decaying surface fascinates me, and I must try to capture this in my work.

When and why did you decide to work in watercolours?

In 1996 I won the Alastair Salvesen Travel scholarship which allowed me to travel to China for 10 weeks. Part of the prize was to have a large one person show in Edinburgh in the Academy buildings, a large space that would need a lot of work.  I knew that I would be travelling quite a bit and that I would need to create while on the road.  I took a few acrylics and drawing materials with me and decided that watercolour would probably be the most sensible medium to take with me.  I worked with the paint a few months before hand to get a feel for it and found the whole process a struggle.  It took a few moments of desperation to figure out how to work with the medium.  Even now working Plein air gives me a few headaches as its too quick for my normal process of slow methodical washes built up over time.

Due to working in watercolour, does this restrict you to size?

 In a word, yes! I work on paper and therefore constrained by the size of the paper.  Although you can get rolls of paper, I tend not to go crazy with the size as it just takes me years (literally) to finish the work.  I also work on handmade paper and the full sheets are 56 x 76cm and are normally the largest I will work to but occasionally I have a brainstorm and do something larger than that.

Discuss the types of brushes you use?

I use specifically brushes that contain either synthetic hair or synthetic and sable/natural hair mix.  I really can’t control pure sable brushes as they never return to the centre when I’m working with them.  I hate chasing the point when I’m working. I want to know where the point is everytime, not some of the time.

As far as makers go, I will use very reputable brush manufacturers like Escoda & Da Vinci but I also purchase inexpensive brushes.  As long as they do the job.  I also like Prolene synthetic brushes and have used them for over 38 years, the brush hairs are amazingly soft and springy.

Take one specific brush that you love using and why?

I use the ½ inch, square headed, one stroke brush by Prolene.  When new they provide beautiful consistent small straight washes.  When they are old, they are amazing.  They will split apart and become an excellent splatter brush, superb stipple brush and provide amazing marks when dragged.  They are also good for dry brushing.

 How many exhibitions would you work on in a year?

One solo show of around 25/30 pieces or two two-person shows with around 15 pieces.  I also try to take part in group shows around the world, as

This can take me all year because I paint slowly (methodically with many washes), and I teach in College part of my week so everything takes longer than it should due to the stop start nature of my time.

You also exhibit outside the UK discuss how different an overseas exhibition is?

The logistics are completely different.  Normally overseas institutions need the work well in advance (sometimes 2/3 months) so they have time to frame the paintings.  As such the work will be sent unframed, compared to organising the framing myself in a UK based show.  A lot of the time you haven’t seen the venue overseas so trust in the people organising the show is a big thing.  I usually do due diligence by speaking to others who have worked with or shown with a prospective organiser.  In the UK I would normally go and vet the space and meet the people who are working with me. Transport is really a big issue and I have over the years developed a system of packing work that can be used at least twice (there and back).  Recently an organiser said to me that my packaged artwork was the best they had ever seen - I do take a good bit of time to put it together.

Discuss the Plein Air Salon Competition.

Every two months the magazine Plein air Salon have an online competition where they select the top 3 painting overall and winners from each section from the work submitted.  The work, despite the name doesn’t have to be completed in plein air.  At the end of the year they select finalists from the section winners (from the year) to have the opportunity to win the grand prize of $15,000 (USD).  The final prize-winning selections however reflected the Plein air title, so it does seem to be important.

Why you entered?

This is an online competition which appealed to me due to the fact I don’t have to send my paintings overseas.

The work you entered

I have entered a number of work; “Beating heart of China” won best Vehicle April/May; Tea Break was selected as Annual finalist for the 8th PleinAir salon: “Shroud of Qingdao” was also selected as Annual finalist for the 8th PleinAir salon; Tea Break” won best watercolour in August/September 2018; “Contemplation” won 1st place overall: $1000; Shroud of Qingdao” won best watercolour June/July 2018.

 Technically, discuss the work.

Not sure what you are looking for here?  Each of the paintings were very different some took 6 months others were a lot quicker.  All were watercolour.

Beating heart of China, 57 x 56 cm, Watercolour

“Beating heart of China”-took many months and was quite challenging as there were so many different aspects to the painting. I really wanted this to wow!  I therefore spent along time making sure each area made sense.  There weren’t many opportunities to be careless with the paint and I do like some parts of the painting to have an element of serendipity or chance involved in it at some point.

“Tea Break” had to be planned and drawn carefully as I wanted it to be an accurate representation of the moment.  I also used the paper for my white areas, so this had to be painted around in a methodical way as I don’t use masking fluid.  Watercolour on handmade Fabriano.  “Tea break”, is a moment in time preserved for eternity, the point when someone puts their cup and newspaper down on the desk and walks out the door never to return.  Why have they not returned?  Why did they not come back for their coat or clean the mug or put the paper in the bin?

Tea Break, 56 x 38 cm, Watercolour

“Shroud of Qingdao” I came across this boat on a beach one late November day while on a visit to Qingdao to attend the opening of an exhibition. I was immediately taken with the boat which had obviously been half buried on purpose and covered with a rough, thick blue cloth to protect it from the elements.  Having very little time I drew a few of the boats which took my eye, but I knew this one was going to be particularly interesting to paint.  I spent 6months painting every single stone with a 2/0 paintbrush.

Shroud of Qingdao, 55 x 103 cm, Watercolour

“Contemplation”, this was a very interesting painting to do as it has the bulk of the subject matter at the top end of the painting.  There are very few colours involved and I wet and rewet the floor surface to produce the polished floor.  I found the “magic” sponge to be a huge help when creating the light part of the floor.

Contemplation, 76.5 x 57.5 cm, Watercolour

What is the importance of international awards?

Personally, it’s a vindication that the work I’m creating is comparable to other artists, not just in the UK, but worldwide.  It’s a huge compliment and I find that my place in the art world is not just focussed on Scotland or the UK anymore but globally.

I am much more aware of what is going on in other countries than  used to be and as a result I think it helps motivate me to be a more accomplished painter.

In your words discuss watercolour and how they are perceived or miss perceived by the general public and even galleries.

Watercolours, especially in the UK, get a bad rap.  Often seen as being the domain of Sunday painters or amateurs.  Truth be told it is a most difficult medium to master and much trickier to work with compared to Oils or Acrylics.  I teach all of them at College and watercolour is the one medium that can make an accomplished artist look less than capable.  For that reason alone, it should get more respect from the public, Galleries, Museums and even some artists.  The other reason it doesn’t seem to get a lot of respect is that it was used historically as a medium to work out compositions or to paint Plein air.  It was used by many painters in 18th Century to help with their studio oil paintings.  I also believe that the fugitive nature of early watercolour paints meant it was not something you would want to use for serious work.

Now however, the quality and consistency of professional paints are very stable and barring leaving your work in a greenhouse it will certainly be around a lot longer than it used to.  Just consider Albrecht Durer’s work “Young hare” from 1502, its amazingly fresh and it’s a watercolour on paper.

Watercolour is certainly worth investing in as an artist and a buyer. I have found that it is incredibly popular around the world, especially in China and the US

 Discuss ‘Out of Sync’

Where did you find this image?

This was a door in Fabriano, Italy and one that I have looked at many times over the past 6 years.

Out of Sync, 22 x 21 cm, Watercolour

Composition

I wanted to focus down closely so that the image almost became a landscape.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while.  It really becomes quite abstract if there isn’t a hook that can take you into the image.  I divided the painting into two halves although it isn’t exactly in the centre, this compositionally, is a no, no! I do it all the time, so long as there is something that can take your eye across the chasm it will work.  One of the metal hoops breaks the line and therefore disrupts the division.

Colour

I work with my colours as pure (from the tube) washes.  What I mean by that is that I don’t mix my paint very often.  Its all done by layering on the surface.  I advance the colours by alternating warm & cool washes.  The overall image is warmer and more towards burnt orange tones and the bottom is darker and heads towards a bluer/violet red.  The darker wash at the bottom provides stability to the image

Texture 

Wood & metal. I love texture but I especially enjoy painting the texture of wood and metal.  It has to be said that in this instance the colours are quite muted for my work however it was the strong tones that appealed to me. I had to make sure the basic tonal structure was accurate everything else I can create from my imagination.

Comment on your interest in locks, using three images to show your fascination.

Busted-Cuba,  21 x 15 cm,  Watercolour on collaged surface.

I love doors and locks are part of that fascination.  They tend to offset the vertical aspect of a door and woodgrain with a horizontal metallic bar or clasp.  An opportunity to have a foil in the composition.  In the instance of “Busted the metal clasp is twisted into interesting diagonals which I echoed in the scratch in the door.

Brown Out, 38 x 55 cm, Watercolour on handmade Fabriano.

This is a relatively new painting and is currently on show in Bulgaria.  The main thing for me was to emphasise the bleached-out colour of the door with the beautiful blue wire mesh in the dark of the window panels.  It was tricky resisting the urge to balance out the warm colours with washes of blue.  I had to stop myself many times.

Coming Apart at the Seams, watercolour on handmade Fabriano.

This is a slightly older painting although it is one, I returned to recently to try out another method of working. The original door was green, and I’m not very found of green to work with and prefer a Manganese Blue colour (although it is more complicated than that).

This painting has turned out to be one of my more popular image as I have come across a few imitations on the web over the years.

Take one painting that has propelled your career and why has it?

Slipping into the shadows,  52 x 65cm, watercolour on Fabriano Artistico.

This was the first International watercolour competition outside of the UK that I entered, and I won the Bronze award.  The exhibition was one of the largest watercolour exhibitions in the world at the time-Shenzhen Watercolour Biennial China 2013-2014.

I decided to travel to China for a few days to pick up the award and through this I met many people who have been very influential in many aspects of my career ever since.  This painting has probably created the road I am now travelling on.  So many opportunities and friendships have been developed from this exhibition and it has opened many doors ever since.  I am very grateful to have had this opportunity.

Contact details:

Angus McEwan AWI RSW RGI RWS

www.angusmcewan.com

art@angusmcewan.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, August 2019

 


Norma Minkowitz

So many found objects and textiles, how did this combination come about?

Early on in the 1970's my work was both knitted and crocheted in opaque solid sculptural forms. When the work became transparent in the 1980's, I found the addition of found objects to be both provocative and an insight into my imagination, daydreams, thoughts and fears. "Child of The Night"  2008  is such a piece.

Child of The Night, 2008, 12 x 32 x 22 inches 

It is a dark piece and has a psychological reference to childhood demons. It is about universal themes and in this case suggests (as we have perhaps experienced) a child waking up in the middle of the night and familiar daytime toys become objects of darkness, feeling threatening as the light is no longer visible.

When did your work take on both crochet and found objects?

The Present, 2011, 26 x 28 x 27 inches

In the 1980's I started experimenting with found objects, many from nature (That were once alive) such as twigs, branches, flowers and leaves. I also used small hardware from metal that was prominent in such sculptures as Excavation.

Excavation

From the start of my sculptural work, I always included different textures by stitching, crocheting and knitting. The found objects added another dimension to my work. The base and structural part of my sculptures were always crocheted and stiffened. I also at times used paint directly on the fiber.

How has crochet developed in your work?  Take two early pieces to show the early stages of your work.

" Around and A Round" 1974 is an example of mixing crochet with knitting which was a frequent combination of techniques and created varied textures and patterns in my very early works.

Around and a Round collection of Sandy and Lou Grotta

This experimental solid work was a precursor to my transparent vessel forms as it was both a sculpture also alluded to containment.

Around and A Round, Around and A Round, 1984, Fibre, detail

This was made before I started stiffening my work, so it needed a structure inside (in this case a coffee can) to keep it upright. The second early piece which is in the Collection of the Denver Art Museum is called “Ghost Rings" 1981.

Ghost Rings, 4 x 4 x 3 inches

This was a very small piece, about 4"x 4"x 3".  It was one of the first times I actually crocheted around an object in an open lacey technique, removed the object and had a fragile transparent patterned sculpture. This was a move forward to the vessel forms that followed.

Discuss the importance of transparency in your work.

My work with outer netting creates mystery by obscuring the shape within creating a sense of ambiguity in the shadows of the work. My transparent work conveys a sense of inside and outside, because the transparent mesh walls allow visual access to the interior. Despite the repeated use of the same basic stitch, which to me has a spiritual quality, no two stitches are exactly alike. This conveys the intimacy and imperfection of the human hand and makes the work more powerful.

Cyclone Coming, 2019, Stitched and crocheted drawing

I feel the open mesh gives a feeling of ethereal lightness but also implies the concept of containment and psychological complexity. I feel the direction of transparency also related to my interest in developing a personal language as well as connecting to my passion for the drawn line.

Down the River, 2018, 22 x 21 inches

Take two pieces from your Vessel Forms and briefly explain the techniques you have used and the variations.

I Can't Touch You, 1988, Collection of Barry Fisher

" I Can't Touch You" was created by first making a crocheted head from a casting for the top of the sculpture and as a focal point. When I crochet, I only use one basic stitch as my work is not about different stitches, but the creation of a strong textured surface that is both transparent ,fragile and mysterious. The head I crocheted was supposed to symbolize my mother who had recently passed away. The outside was crocheted over a square form to be the base of the sculpture or perhaps to suggest a coffin also to cradle the head.  Each part was stiffened and assembled so that the bottom of the head was visible from both the outside of the box while showing a vision of a submerged head inside of the box. I also painted hands on the outside of the box elucidating the title.

Nucleus, 1990, 12 x 17 x 16 inches

"Nucleus" was a minimal irregular sculpture showing simplicity and variety of textures that showed the interior spaces and the exterior spaces in a overlapping texture that made the piece very interesting and somewhat like my drawings. It was crocheted over rags and fillers, shellacked and then the rags were removed to form the piece.

You comment, “I was drawn to containment, simultaneously, revealing and concealing” discuss.

The notion of containment has been a continuous investigation for me. The concept

of containment motivates personal feelings that I often express in universal themes of earth, life and death. They could suggest the safety of a shelter or a cage from which there is no escape. We see the outside, but also see what is contained within.

The fineness and visual lightness of my linear constructions makes them seem ephemeral; these qualities also relate to my love for pen and ink drawings. These sculptures reveal and conceal at the same time, and the interior often becomes blurred suggesting different stories to the viewer. I encourage the viewer to interpret their own narrative when viewing my work.

What was your first piece to join the collection of a museum?

How did this acquisition propel your career?

Cloak 1979 collection Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I don't know exactly which the first piece was as I have 54 artworks in 32 museum collections. One of my first  artworks  to go to a major Museum was a wearable art piece called "Come Fly with Me".

Cloak 1975  Also know as Come Fly with Me, 30" x 29"- Collection Metropolitan Museum of Art

It went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC and that was a very important acquisition. I will, however, pick one that was more sculptural and is more indicative of my current work. It was a wall hanging that has made an impact on my career. "Journey's End", Is a crocheted and stitched wall drawing with found objects measuring 5' x 5'x 2" which was purchased last year by The Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Journey's End, 20 inches Dia

This was an important purchase for me. They also purchased another smaller stitched drawing called " Lunar Landing" which at that time was a fairly new direction for me as it combined paper, crochet, collage and stitching.

Lunar Landing, 2017, pen and ink, college and stitching

Even though I have had many museum purchases at much earlier dates that were exhibited in Museum shows, this was important as it was well publicized and has led to a public presentation at the Museum in late October 2019. It will be a discussion with a scholar regarding one of my other sculptures in their collection.

Expand on how you are drawn to the human form?

 

I am the Land, Denver Art Museum

As I exhausted the possibilities of the many enclosed vessel forms, I had created, I turned to my interest in the human form.  My earliest drawings in pen and ink were always about the human form as well as the human condition. I now returned to the idea of using the figure in my sculptures which was a difficult transition as to being able to create them while making them transparent and at the same time structured. These where at once much larger and more complicated than the vessel forms. These veiled figurative sculptures were mostly created in the 1990's to the mid 2000's. I have also created multi -figure sculptures that illustrate the passage of time  and other kinds of transitions, I call these installations sequential as I often use several juxtaposed and related figures together.

Body and Soul, Angle view

They are nearly identical figures that subtly change as does time and circumstance. "Goodbye Goddess" is such a sequential piece.

Goodbye Goddess

I still exhibit my figural sculptures and make new ones, but my work continues to change. In 2007, I started using modeling paste which has a plaster- like consistency to fill in the spaces of the fiber's netting. This process creates a surface that focuses on and highlights the lines rather than the open spaces. I drew with the stitches, introducing a bas relief surface of concept, energy and movement. I often highlighted the lines with colors of paint, the concept of the figure was now bolder and darker in concept. My work continues to change and often reverts to previous methods and expressions.

Discuss ‘Goodbye Goddess’ the background to this exhibition as well as how it extended your work.

This is a well written accurate description of my sculpture by Kathleen Whitney a contributor to Sculpture Magazine, in a feature article of my work in Sculpture Magazine 2007.

Goodbye Goddess by Kathleen Whitney 2007

"Goodbye Goddess" is a series of four nearly identical smaller than life-size" Classical statuettes in a line that leads to a fifth circular shape hanging above them. Their contours are blurred, their features indistinct. Each is dressed in a Roman Style, draped in a toga-like outfit that falls well over the feet. These multiple figures slowly change in detail to become symbols of passage. In the fifth and final form, the same face that is on the figures in now distant and sky-bound, like a soul departing the body. To Minkowitz it is a piece that symbolizes the process of mortality or perhaps immortality through a series of subtle visual alterations in each figure."

"Goodbye Goddess" is in the collection of the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford CT and was recently exhibited in an impressive show called She: Images of Female Power from the Permanent Collection 2017. Being in this show with other major artists was certainly a plus for my career.

Discuss the relationship of your fine thread work with drawing.

Drawing continues to be important to me and I find the threads and wires I use mimic the patterns and movement, as well as the irregularities of my pen and ink drawings. My sculpture evolves into three dimensional drawings. The fibers placement creates a surface that focuses on and highlights the lines I draw with my stitches. These stitches introduce the concept of energy, message and movement. I often highlight these drawn lines with colors of paint. There is a crossover between the stitched line and the drawn line that contribute to my work that weaves the personal and universal together. I use fiber as if I were drawing and often the drawn line as if I were stitching. I find them to be interchangeable.

Detour, 2019, crochet and stitch drawing

You comment, “Fibre becomes art, when it is about why it is made rather than how it is made” expand on this comment in relations to textile craft.

A fiber work in my current opinion is craft when the reason for its making , although skilled and not without merit is when it is only about technical skill, emphasis on the use of many stitches and patterns without a clear message. It is a work of art when there is a powerful concept, fresh ideas, experimentation of materials to initiate reflection. I believe in risk taking and art that is unique to the artist. Art should push boundaries. At the same time there is really no simple definition as the art world and concepts of what art is keep changing.

 

Explain about your fibre drawings using Goodbye My Friend.

Goodbye My Friend, 2017, 13 x 20 inches, Fibre, paper, and ink, with college

Drawing continues to be important to me and I have recently embarked on a path to combine my drawings on paper with stitching, collage and crochet. " Goodbye My Friend” was a very personal stitched drawing. It was originally drawn on paper and then combined with a border of crochet, collage and stitched fiber to create this magical image suggesting another place with a female profile in the middle searching or lost in reverie. At that time, I didn’t know what the title would be, but knew it had a sense of mystery and darkness.  Shortly after its completion, not yet titled a close young friend took her own life. This hit me very hard and the drawing suggested my feelings of loss and regret. I titled the drawing "Goodbye My Friend”.

Take one piece and explain how it has influenced your current work?

The Path, 2014

"The Path" 2014. I often dwell on the mysterious cycles of death and regeneration while focusing on the passage of time, containment and sequence. "The Path" is a self-portrait cast from my own head and painted in a camouflage pattern suggesting the act of hiding to avoid the inevitable path. The dead twigs which were once alive are symbols for bones. These bones are crocheted around to protect, caress, contain or perhaps entrap for eternity. I think rather than saying this piece influenced my work since it is current, I think it would be more appropriate to say my prior work influenced this latest major installation.

Contact:

Norma Minkowitz

norminky@optonline.net

www.normaminkowitz.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, August 2019

 


Kerry Miller

Can you expand on several of your floral works?

One of the first flower book sculptures I made was called  “Plant Life of the Black Forest” where I made the illustrations into a circular bouquet or large posy. I framed it then placed it above the fireplace at home and was quite surprised by people's reactions. “Oh, look you've used real flowers. No, hang on, they can't possibly be real. Can they?”

Plant Life of the Black Forest, 415 x 444 x 110 mm, Mixed Medium

This spurred me on to try using flowers in different ways and forms.

With “English Botany, vol 2” there was an added challenge in making the sculpture. As a botany book, the flowers were represented with roughly half of each plant being coloured and the other half being left as a black and white line drawing. My challenge was to colour the black and white part of each illustration using watercolour, to seamlessly match the coloured part. It was a time consuming labour of love.

English Botany, vol 2, 150 x 232 x 36mm, Mixed Medium

“Flowering Plants of Great Britain, vols 1 and 2” also had additional challenges. The sculptures were commissioned for a cruise ship, so they needed to be able to withstand a salt atmosphere and vibrations from the ship. I enjoyed finding ways of achieving this, without affecting the character of the work.

Flowering Plants of Great Britain, vols 1 and 2,approx, 330 x 520 x 90mm Mixed Medium

A few years ago I found a lovely book of butterflies and moths, which I was keen to use. The problem was that they did not have a habitat, that is there were no plants for them to rest upon. I overcame this by adding plants from two volumes of flower books. Thus “Butterflies & Moths Of The Countryside/Wild Flowers Vols 1 & 2” was born. At the time I wrote this description:

“A large butterfly book lies open on the table, two little wild flower books strewn casually across the top. As if by magic, a profusion of wild flowers springs from their pages, carpeting them in layer upon layer of green fronds and an intricate kaleidoscope of floral colour. Butterflies and moths escaping the confines of their book, now fluttering gently in amongst the flowers, alighting on their fresh and delicate petals - completing the scene of a glorious, peaceful English spring”.

Butterflies & Moths Of The Countryside/Wild Flowers Vols 1 & 2, 305 x 470 x 120mm, Mixed Medium

Where do you source your books from?

Finding a suitable book for my work is never an easy task, but it is very much an enjoyable and rewarding part of the process. I spend hours rooting around in jumble sales, charity shops, dusty old bookshops, giveaways – anywhere that has old discarded books with illustrations.

Do the books have to be full of illustrations?

Unless a book is quite heavily illustrated, I wouldn't even consider using it. It also has to capture my imagination. The finished sculpture needs to be both richly populated with illustrations and contain a large amount of detail.

Detail makes me happy!

Are the illustrations coloured or do you colour some of them?

With one or two exceptions, all my book sculptures have had colour added by myself, even where the illustrations were coloured already. I use variously acrylics, watercolours and inks to achieve the seamless and harmonious look I want.

In the case of black and white illustrations, I find that colour adds a sense of realism and brings the characters to life.

Do you ever have critics say that you should not deface books?

People seem to realise that what I am actually trying to achieve is the re-purposing of  books, giving them new life and opening them up to a wider audience.

I am quite proud of the fact that I can make use of books that others might consider to be in an unusable condition.

As friends and neighbours have become aware of my work, I have found bags of books left on my doorstep or handed to me at social events, in the hope that I can use them. Many of these books would otherwise have ended up simply being recycled.

How did you come to this art form?

I have been working in collage for more years than I care to remember.

My book sculptures were a natural progression and the result of lengthy experimentation, using books as a means of producing work in 3D. As I perfected my techniques and developed processes using this extra dimension, I was able to produce far more complex and therefore – as far as I'm concerned - more satisfying work.

 “Book Sculptures”

Sketches by Boz - Kerry Miller's sculptures from Emanuele Marani on Vimeo.

Do you use only old books?

So far, I have chosen to use only old books or those published more recently, but which contain old illustrations. I find that these lend themselves to my work in a way that perhaps modern books would not. I believe that the books I use have been lost in time and that this gives me the opportunity to reveal them to the world once more, but in a very different form.

Have any current artists commissioned you to use their book or books?

Not so far, though I am quite intrigued by the idea.

How do you decide on using the front cover or the book open?

In many ways, the book itself will dictate whether I make it as an “open” or “closed” sculpture, though the final decision is often made at a relatively late stage in the process.

The type, character and number of the illustrations can often help me to decide. Working with them, as I cut them out and take them through a series of processes, enables me to lose myself in their miniature world and, from this, my vision for the finished work gradually forms.

Discuss your use of volumes of magazines 

 In Victorian times, weekly or monthly magazines were periodically bound into a volume. The fun of working with such books lies in the wide variety of subjects illustrated within.

Do you see your work as that of a ‘social historian’?

No, I would not make such a grand claim. Though I create my book sculptures in the hope that the story they tell, albeit within a new narrative, will survive into the next century.

Comment on your personal thoughts on the replacement of print by digital?

I appreciate that so much information these days is only available digitally. However, I have a very real passion for books – something that was instilled in me by both parents from an early age. They both loved book hunting and I would spend many happy hours with them, rooting out interesting volumes to take home and read quietly. For me, the school holidays were about either hunting for butterflies and grasshoppers or curling up with one of the books I had unearthed.

So, while I use the internet as much as anyone, for me, nothing could ever replace the printed word. The very smell of books has a calming effect on my soul. I've heard it described as “grass and vanilla” but whatever it is, it's like breathing in history and you can't replace that with a digital equivalent.

Show us two works where the images have escaped out and beyond the book. Why did they need to escape?

“Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens” is a good example of this. In the novel, Peter Pan is just a baby who flies from his nursery window and ends up in the famous Kensington Gardens in the heart of London, enjoying a series of adventures with the birds and the fairies.  With this sculpture, I wanted to bring out the whimsical nature of the book and to draw out  the ethereal qualities of many of the characters.  For example,  the fairy who sews skeleton leaves to make summer curtains, the trees that go for a walk round the park each evening and the Lord Chamberlain, who always carries a dandelion clock in case the Queen of the Gardens wishes to know the time.

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens,483 x 640 x 100mm, Mixed Medium

To do justice to the book, I believe that it was important to draw out the playfulness of Barrie's story and to reflect both the captivating charm of Peter's new friends and his sense of wonderment, as he attempts to unravel the mysteries of both his immediate surroundings and of the world itself. In order to achieve this, I felt that it was paramount for some of the characters to escape the confines of the book to reveal the exuberance of their personalities.

“The Boy's Own Annual 1886” contained so much action that I wanted to draw the characters out of their environment and give them space to abandon themselves to their various activities. The fireman, diligent in his duty of extinguishing a fire; the boy fishing in a pond off the side of the book; a young man holding his friend back from falling over the side.

The Boy's Own Annual, 1886, 465 x 395 x 38mm, Mixed Medium

Your work is just as delightful when the original cover is very worn – discuss (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management)

I discovered this very old copy of “Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management” in a junk shop. Although complete, it was little more than a pile of loose pages, held together with an elastic band. Inside, however, the lovely illustrations were revealed to be in perfect condition. By restoring the book as far as possible, I was able to preserve its rugged and gnarled appearance, which I think greatly enhances the character of the sculpture. I make no apology for the missing spine and back cover.

Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 180 x 115 x 73mm, Mixed Medium

When is a book too rare for you to work with? How do you know?

I am keen to avoid using rare books in my work, but the price will usually reflect its rarity and I use this as a guide.

Comment on using catalogues.

I have only used one catalogue in my work so far. It was an 1890s catalogue of saddlery which relates to a London company that is still in existence.

In retrospect, my feeling is that catalogues lack sufficient character and interest.

Show us one or two books that have been very special to you and why.

It's so hard to select just one or two books when they have all been special to me in different ways. I suppose I would single out the ones I particularly enjoyed creating.

Chums, 308 x 240 x 62mm, Front, Mixed Medium

“Chums”, an annual from 1908/9 stands out in this respect, because of all the action that was portrayed, so much in fact that I made it into a double-sided piece.

Chums, 308 x 240 x 62mm, Front, Mixed Medium

Another one that springs to mind is “George Cruikshank's Table Book”. This was tremendous fun to make because of the delightfully funny characters it contained - it made me smile just to work with them.

George Cruikshank's Table Book, 250 x 82 x 30mm, Mixed Medium

Very briefly, explain how you cut and the tools you use.

Various different forms of cutting are required to make my book sculptures and to this end a number of different methods need to be employed. Apart from the more obvious scissors and scalpels with a large variety of different blades, my husband has put his engineering skills to good use and made me a set of tools which he has designed specifically for my work.

You exhibit around the world, how many exhibitions do you prepare for each year?

 Each book sculpture takes a long time to make, so I am only able to produce a small number each year. For that reason, I have to keep the number of exhibitions to a manageable level.

Why do you think your work is so popular in America?

When I first started making my book sculptures, I was approached by a gallery in Los Angeles, who subsequently represented me for a number of years. When the principal of the gallery retired, I had the opportunity of being represented by the fabulous Heller Gallery in New York City, so now all the pieces I make are normally shipped directly to them.

But beyond that, I do think that Americans appear to be particularly drawn to the Englishness and also to the unique aspects of my work.

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, August, 2019

 


Henry Jabbour

You use colour and very heavy brush strokes; how do you still capture such serenity?

That is such an interesting question. I definitely don’t feel serene when I am painting. I am in constant struggle with paint, colour, form, my feelings and the feelings I get from what is on the canvas. Each painting is an emotional journey unique to itself. It is difficult for me to pinpoint how I achieve what I am after, but it does not happen on the spot. I have to live with the work and not look at it for some time so that when I come back to the canvas and work on it again, I am in a different emotional space. When I do that several times, then the angst initially felt and projected onto the canvas is diminished. I am glad you feel serenity in the work - I am always amazed and delighted by the diversity of emotions that my work evokes in the viewers.

Lap of Roses, Oil on linen, 50 x 45 cms

Recently you have introduced the diptych format to your portfolio. How did this come about? Please give two images to explain this? 

This happened organically - I don’t remember thinking “I want to do diptychs”. I was in my studio working on multiple canvases for my solo show ‘A Life More Human’ at The Union Gallery. The first diptych that emerged for this exhibition was ‘Your Heart to Mine - Eve and Adam’. I was painting the two canvases at the time but as two separate paintings, and at some stage they were placed next to each other against the wall. I felt there was a connection between the two figures - that they somehow were communicating and looking for each other. So I decided to unite them and started to paint them together. Every time I was painting on one, the other half was hanging next to it. So in this instance it was the work itself that demanded to be in diptych format, it somehow emanated that feeling of togetherness and belonging.

 Your Heart to mine – Eve and Adam, Oil on Linen, 80 x 130 (80 x 65 cms)

What makes you stop at two?

The diptych in a way resembles duality for me. Many things are described in context of duality - light/dark, life/death etc… As I was exploring the diptych format in my work I was conscious of the passage “On Joy and Sorrow” by the Lebanese writer Gibran Khalil Gibran - He says: “When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy”. Put simply - there is no joy without the experience of sorrow.

There is no reason to stop at two but in the context of this exhibition, the duality seemed important for me. ‘A Life More Human’ is about exploring the idea of being human and trying to portray that in a visual form. It is about being in the present moment independent of its duality with the past or the future. I remember years ago reading the philosopher Krishnamurti’s thoughts about fear - he says “Fear is never an actuality; it is either before or after the active present.” This resonated with me.

If I am ever to expand beyond the format of the diptych I feel there has to be an inherent reason for it - somehow it has to make sense within the work.

Do you feel that you need to keep these to a certain size and are they always sold together?

The size of the diptych again is dictated by the subject matter and the feeling that I am trying to bring to the viewer about the work. It is what feels intuitively right. The two canvases of the diptych do belong together. They are one work really, and I would not want them to ever be separated.

Can you discuss the connection between the elements of the diptych ‘My Heart Broke Loose’ III? And how does this relate to other paintings in the series titled ‘My Heart Broke Loose’?

The ‘My Heart Broke Loose’ series is about the symbolism we associate with flowers and our relationship with them. Flowers are inherently beautiful yet their beauty is transient, which is itself symbolic of the human condition, youth, ageing and death.

‘My Heart Broke Loose’ III is a dark painting compared to others in the series. The flowers are completely separated from the figure by the gap between the two canvases. I don’t want to place a particular interpretation on it, but it could be a momento mori or a depiction of grief.

 My Heart Broke Loose III, Oil on Linen, 30 x 30 (30 x 60 cms)

The earlier paintings in the series do not have the same sense of separation between the figure and the flowers. In the first such painting, ‘My Heart Broke Loose’ for example, the flowers spill across both canvases so that the figure is immersed and surrounded by them. This painting is lighter and more joyful, a feeling I have tried to express through composition and colour.

Flowers are an integral part of your work — discuss.

My studio in Cambridge is at the bottom end of my garden which was designed with the idea of having blooms for a considerable part of the year and with a variety of colours. So as I walked to my studio every morning I would see these blooms and colours and eventually they somehow worked their way into my canvases. Again, the flowers have a particular significance in the work for me. Our relationship with flowers is really intriguing and complex – we marvel at their beauty and they delight us. We offer them to others at times of great joy and at times of great sorrow. Their beauty is very transient – and somehow they remind us of the cycle of life and death, vigour and disintegration, youth and old age. Observing and appreciating the beauty and life cycle of flowers is about being human and being in the moment.

My Heart Broke Loose, Oil on Linen, 30 x 30 (30 x 60 cms)

Flowers aren’t always associated with women in your work; discuss using ‘Man Amongst His Roses’.

Absolutely - for some reason, society’s relationship or perception of flowers is often associated with the feminine. It is not a masculine thing to say, I love flowers. Traditionally, you would not give a male friend or partner a bouquet of flowers (although thankfully these stereotypes are fading). I wanted to challenge this in my work. I wanted the love of flowers in my work to be gender neutral.

Man Amongst the Roses, Oil on Linen, 81 x 75 cms 

How has your training as an artist affected your work? And how has this developed over time?

I have had a traditional training – I learnt to draw and paint using traditional methods of observation. That was important to me – I sought that knowledge. However, over time my work has really diverged from it. Although I still draw from observation, when I paint I rely mostly on memory and imagination. My colours are mostly imagined or remembered from past experiences. However, I think I would not have been able to explore this way of working if I did not have a good understanding of the anatomy of the human body, the fall of light on an object, and traditional theories of colour. All these were provided by my years of formal training in art.

How do you manage combining painting, printmaking, and sculpture into your time frame?

Bringing my ideas to life using different media is very exciting for me. They somehow connect on many levels - intellectually, emotionally and technically. I do not see them as separate bodies of work. The way I paint sometimes changes after I come back from a week of printmaking. I have been painting and printmaking for some time now, but sculpture is a new venture. I remember being in Galerie Alice Mogabgab in Beirut which represents my work and seeing the sculptures of Emma Rodgers (a renowned British sculptor). I immediately fell in love with her work. I contacted her when I was back in the UK and she invited me to visit her studio. Emma’s work had a profound impact on me. We are exploring similar ideas in our art.  Emma thought that my work could be translated into sculpture so she invited me to come and work with her in her studio to explore the possibility. That was very exciting for me. I did that over a period of two and half years and created some of the sculptures that are in this exhibition.

Stepping Out, Unique Bronze, L68 x W36 x H63 cms

In your current exhibition you have ‘When The Light Returns’, why was this the painting chosen for the impressive exhibition book?

The choice about which painting to use for the cover was made by Alison Auldjo (the director of The Union Gallery who is hosting my second solo show in Edinburgh). I wanted to leave it to her to make that choice. I think she chose that because it was the last painting I made for this exhibition. The more I think about it the more I feel it was such a good and inspired choice. ‘When The Light Returns’ is a very optimistic painting and a very optimistic title – ‘A Life More Human’ ought to be about optimism and joy as well as darker feelings too.

When the Light Returns, Oil on Linen, 96 x 81 cms

When I was working on this painting I wanted to explore the joy I get from light. Being bathed in sun, feeling its warmth on the skin and the tranquility that one can get from it. The woman is just sitting there -- feeling the moment. That is what I wanted for that painting and that is the first impression that I want the viewer to get from that work. After that, I want the viewer to further their experience of the work by exploring all the other components in it and for them to build their own story with it.

With the painting ‘Morning Ritual’…Discuss beyond the obvious tea ritual to the deeper ritual of craft.  (You may like to add ‘Threading’ to this answer.)

The paintings ‘Morning Ritual IV’ and ‘Threading’ are really inspired by ‘Intimism” – an art movement of the late 19th and early 20th century that depicts the human figure in domestic scenes. Artists that championed ‘Intimism’ include Pierre Bonnard, Edgar Degas and Edouard Vuillard, and more recently Richard Diebenkorn. These are all artists whose work I really love and admire.

Morning Ritual, Oil on Linen, 60 x 65 cms

The two works you mention are a personal take on this idea. They are also about the human spirit being engaged with the moment and appreciating it. Morning Ritual is about the early morning rise with a cup of coffee, being at one with one’s thoughts and the world. Threading depicts the moment of concentration of threading a needle – such a simple task, but one which requires our whole attention.

Threading, Oil on Linen, 35 x 30 cms 

‘Seated Woman’ is seen as timeless elegance – discuss.

The figure in the painting is caught in a moment of reflection or relaxation. She is at ease with herself, and carries her body with ease, unlike some people who are elegant only when others are watching. The painting is about feeling at home in your own skin, being reflective, and not trying to be something you are not.

There is no pretension about her, she just is.

 Seated Woman, Oil on Linen, 45 x 40 cms

‘Beauty Within’ discuss. 

Beauty Within’ is a ceramic sculpture of a standing male figure. The figure hangs simply on the wall. He looks weathered and scarred but stands tall and proud.

This sculpture is about the experience of being human but he resists being labelled or being defined by his experiences or his scars. Despite the nail driven through his hips and the cracks in his body and limbs the Beauty of ‘Him’ shines through from within.

Beauty Within, Unique Ceramic Sculpture

He is the embodiment of the quote by the Spanish Writer José Saramago “Inside us there is something that has no name; that something is what we are”.

Expand on your method of two plate etching, use ‘Dancer III.

Etching is an exciting print process where an image is created on a plate (traditionally copper plate) by using strong acid. The process of etching dates back to the 15th century and there are many renowned artists who have created wonderful works using this technique, most notably Rembrandt, Dürer and William Blake. Over time, etching has been adapted and developed so that images can be produced more creatively. For me, etching is important in my practice because of its sense of history. I feel like I am connecting with past artists that I admire and that I am continuing in a rich tradition. I have created images using single and double plate etching techniques. 

Two plate etching is when I am creating an image using more than one plate – so the final print is created by pressing the paper through the press sequentially against two individual copper plates loaded with different colour inks. This method allows me to add more than one colour to an image. For example, in ‘Dancer III’, the majority of the image in this etching was created on one plate - that being the dancer. In the second plate, I added the green turquoise colour in the foot and in the background. Adding a second colour to the image was important for me and it somehow helped my print work to have a dialogue with my paintings and sculpture.

Dancer 111, Lift Ground Etching and aquatint from copper plates

Lastly expand on how you show emotion in your art.

This question is really hard to answer – it’s like having to explain where does emotion come from. I think I show emotion in my work because I feel emotion when I am working. All my work comes from an inner emotional place or reservoir that I don’t try to control or even understand. But when I am painting, I am always trying to connect or relate to something. Without that, the work really feels vacant and then I have to abandon it. I think, for me, emotion also comes from colour – I do have an emotional relationship with colour, because I always associate colours with memories and the emotions that connect with these memories.

I do want my work to be about emotion – I strive for it to be the narrative in my work, and the fact that you have asked me that question, Deborah, tells me that you have somehow connected with my work at an emotional level and not only at a visual or intellectual level. That gives me comfort and joy - that I am reaching the viewer’s emotional space and providing nourishment for what goes on there.

Contact:

Henry Jabbour

henryjabbour@gmail.com

www.henryjabbour.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, August 2019

CLICK HERE TO >> READ INTERVIEW OF HENRY JABBOUR FROM MARCH 2017

 


Susan Cutts

Are all, of your sculptures constructed in paper?

Yes, I work solely in paper although having said that I have used tulle dipped in pulp for the skirt in Cherish.

Cherish, detail

You make your own paper from raw materials.  Briefly discuss this process.

When I first started using my own handmade paper (in about 1990) I went the usual route of cotton linters chopped up in a liquidiser.  I found obtaining the linters in the Uk, at that time, quite difficult as was information on papermaking.  Eventually, I discovered Carriage House in the US and started using an assortment of linters,  In about 1998 I bought a Hollander beater from Peter Gennatar (great papermaker living in Holland).  It changed my papermaking I was able to work from the raw fibres, which produced a pulp from which I made the sort of paper I had dreamt of making.  From  then on I was hooked on working with natural fibres.  I enjoy the whole process of soaking, cooking etc.  I'm not a person 'in a hurry' so papermaking suits me.  Of course, working with oriental fibres has enabled me to push my technique (I think) and achieve the finish I envisage.

Fairytale

Currently you are in a temporary studio.  How are you able to cope under these very basic conditions?

I moved out of my purpose built studio to make way for an indoor swimming pool.  Crime – yes – but I can basically work anywhere so long as I have water and electricity,  My current space has neither so I am working with the Hollander in our garage, the actual sheet forming and sculpting taking place in the temporary studio.  The temporary place is a weird place to work, its formed of two Victorian railway carriages with a room joining them together.  Originally they were seaside holiday homes (we live by the sea) and were sold with a piece of land, a well and a railway carriage after the First World War (19140=-1918)Foxes live underneath and can be a bit smelly but thankfully were there are foxes there aren't mice!

I'm going to continue with the Hollander in my garage and am moving to an adjoining property, which was also once a holiday chalet but without the history of the railway carriages, on the plus side it has water and electricity, and a sea view.

You are a member of the Royal society of Sculptors.  How does this fit with paper?

Are you the only MRSS working in paper?

I've been a member since about 1999, I submitted to join as I see my work as sculpture and don't want it defined by the medium.  I think there are other members working with paper but very differently and not solely.

Button Up

How do you activate colour in your work?

During the processing of the paper.

After the paper is made.

If the piece I am working on demands colour I tend nowadays to use pigment specific to handmade paper, and this is added during the pulp making process.  I have used fibre reactive dyes in the past, mainly because I was familiar with how to use them and how they worked and they were readily available in the UK.

Red Shoes

In your past you had training in Theatre Corsetry, expand on how this background has developed your work.

 

I love the image of the corset, I love working with the image.   Being me I wanted to learn how to construct the corset in fabric, basically, I felt the understanding of the construction helped me in the construction when working with paper.

De Colletage, front

 You comment, ‘I choose through my work to explore the relevance of dress to identify and the integration between wearer and observer’  Discuss.

I CHOOSE through my work to explore the relevance of dress to identity and the integration between wearer and observer.  Basically, I use dress as a metaphor – I want the viewer to relate to the work, to identify with the work, I want to explore with the work the relevance of what we wear and how we wear and how we perceive what is worn.  I like using contemporary dress with an historically inspired piece and vice versa.

Selkie

On a larger scale you work on installations.  Discus one or two of your installations.

Stiletto

My first major large scale piece was Stiletto.  I am often inspired to start a piece with maybe one or two pieces in mind but as I work  I find more and more reasons for making the piece and the work gets bigger and bigger.  I like working in multiples for this reason – I often see the piece as needing to made up of many parts, its hard sometimes to know when to stop.

Red Shoes

Explain about your shoes / stilettos and how you have used them in various ways.

I love the shape of shoes, I love how an old shoe, a loved shoe portrays and betrays the wearer.  To me the image of a shoe is very evocative, to make them in paper means they are never worn, they are fragile.  I am currently thinking about a piece using the ballet shoe.  I love the image of the ballet shoe and want to make a large piece – its all about finding the right reason for making the work.  I have had this idea for sometime and only recently thought that the ballet shoe would be the ideal 'messenger' for the piece.

‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes’-  Discuss.

The importance of the hanging of this work.

How it felt to see your work in the Museum space.

Who Knows Where the Time Goes

You ask about the importance of the hanging of this work.  To be quite honest I try and make my work as easy to install as possible.  I am often not at the hanging so rely on the technician to 'do his job' which, invariably they 'do' very well.  This piece was easy to install just a matter of hanging the dress over the shoes at an appropriate height.  The ballet shoes sit below the dress and are balanced.

Surlopointe

It is always good to see your own work in an exhibition although I always think when I see the work, I could have done some things better or differently.

What are you currently working on?

I am about to start work on the ballet shoe piece.  I am currently preparing the fibre – gampi – then I'll make the pulp and then the hundreds (hopefully not thousands) of sheets of paper for the work.  These  I will freeze until I need them as I work with the paper whilst wet which enables me to work as I do.

Discuss the visual impact of the human body has on your work even in its absence.

I like the idea of the body/person being the ghost in my work.  Heads, hands and feet do not feature in my work.  I am basically only interested in how the garment drapes over the body, is moved by the body.  For me the impact of the work is the creasing, drape etc I'm not particularly aware of the body shape I have chosen.  More recently I have been working with, I think, fairly androginuous forms but that may not occur to the viewer.

Little Black Dress

Compare two pieces to show how paper can be manipulated to form different textures.

Different textures.  I can't really think of how to answer this question.  I make and work with the paper, the paper has a tremendous input in the work.  Depending on the fibre, how I have beaten it, made the paper, applied the paper all dictate the final texture – basically- the texture doesn't have an awful lot to do with the maker.  I can create creasing, drape etc but how it dries is up to the paper itself.  A high shrinkage will give  a different effect from paper that hasn't shrunk so much – the texture, I think, is out of my hands its the papers contribution to my work.  To have complete control of the process, to have a very set idea of how the work should look is not something I would want or could achieve!

You have exhibited around the world what was on exhibition that challenged you but also allowed you to develop.

'Cherish' detail

I know most artists would say that every exhibition is a challenge and you learn something every time your work goes on public view.  Mostly I have learnt from exhibiting is the basic nitty gritty of sending the work and making it easy to install.  I think I learnt something from Cherish which could push my work into using fabric.

'Cherish'

I dipped netting into pulp, I love the effect and might use it again but basically I love technique and try with each new piece to push the technique to achieve the image I want.  I am a slow worker, I think about the next piece of work for AGES taking into account, once the inspiration is settled in my mind, how the work will be formed, which fibre to use.

Contact:

Susan Cutts

susan@susancutts.com

www.susancutts.com

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, July 2019

 


Bruce Marks

Your Bird Series is about form, can you discuss the importance of human recognition of form and your bird series?

I think that certain forms can enter your subconscious directly and make something tingle deep down there. I strive to achieve this in my work and feel that I have had the most success at this with my bird series.

The birds have evolved over the past 9 years that I have been making them and I feel that they are in their final stage of evolution, they are as close to perfect as I can get them. I think form is to your eye what music is to your ear.

Explain how you have had to adapt your glass practice to allow you to work on your own and why is it important to you?

I now have a very good assistant, Lyndsay who has changed the way I work for the better. I originally worked on my own whilst waiting for the perfect assistant.

Discuss how you combine form and colour in your work.

With glass it is possible to use colour to the extreme, but I have always preferred to use the colour to accentuate the form rather than dominate it. I normally use a single interior colour and a graduated exterior Colour with white between the two to act as a canvas.

Discuss the relationship of colour in your fish series.  How colour is used both internally and externally?

The fish series was an exercise in colour arrangement on a relatively simple form. I wanted to experiment with bringing the internal colour to the outside and allowing light to pass through.

You also tutor at UCA Farnham, discuss.

I am a visiting tutor at UCA Farnham, the University where I completed my MA in glass. I find this to be a not only enjoyable but beneficial to my own practice. By helping the students to understand what is required and important in a professional practice I am constantly reflecting on my own work. I also feel really energized to see the incredible work that they are creating

What are the advantages of your memberships to various Glass Artist Societies?

It is important to be involved in the community of your chosen field and by being a member of these societies it opens all sorts of opportunities for me to meet and be part of the glass community.

Tell us about the Hotshop that you work in and why it continues to give you inspiration.

I work at London glassblowing which is owned and run by Peter Layton. We recently celebrated our 43rd anniversary as a studio which is a testament to the incredible energy and creativity of Peter and his team. As a member of the team you bring your skill and knowledge to the co-operative, but you also have the time and space to create your own unique work.

Why it is important to have a viewing area?

I think it a good idea to be able to show the public what is involved in the making of our work. It creates appreciation for the work and open a dialog between customer and artist.

When can the public see you working?

We are open everyday between 10am and 6pm except Sundays

How important is the Hotshop in the education of the public to contemporary glass?

It is very important, one of the most common things said to us in the hot shop is “I didn’t realise what is involved in (and how much effort goes into) making a piece of glass.”

Do you work to commission?

I do take commissions for both my existing work and for work designed by other artists and customers.  I feel that the commission process can be rewarding to both client and artist if it is approached in the correct way. It often pushes the boundaries of your skill and creativity.

You are constantly introducing time in your work, Boats and again in Time Stood Still, discuss.

I think time is a fascinating thing. As you get older your perspective of time changes, you realise that your perception of time is not reliable, you feel like something that may have happened ten years ago feels like it happened last week, and time seems to be speeding up.

Take one piece that you found hard to sell (let go of) and why?

I recently sold a piece that was part of my Fragile identity series called “Somewhere over the rainbow” I found it quite emotional as the piece had come about in response to my mother’s (and Grandmothers) fight against depression. Fortunately, the lady who purchased it was really taken with the emotional side of it and understood the narrative immediately, I know it’s gone to a good home.

Explain an exhibition or series of work that has been very influential in the growth of your career?

I think that being involved with London Glassblowing from the beginning has had the most influence on my career. My Glass career began there and continues to this day, it is a fun collaborative and creative environment headed up and owned by Peter Layton.

Completing an MA at Farnham also plays a big factor in the way I work and think about my work.

Contact:

Bruce Marks

Studio Manager

London glassblowing

info@brucemarksglass.com

Instagram Brucemarksglass

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, July 2019