Canine Partners Textile Art Challenge

At the back end of last year I found out about a textile challenge that was being put together to raise funds for Canine Partners, a charity which trains and provides (free of charge) assistance dogs to people living with disabilities in the UK.  These amazing dogs help their human partner with everyday tasks such as opening and closing doors, taking the washing out of the machine, picking things up from the floor, pressing switches and fetching help when needed.

Dogs and textiles for a good cause, well it would have been rude not to don’t you think? So the challenge is to buy a pack of 25 fabric squares from the Textile Challenge facebook page and create a piece of textile art or an object using at least part of every piece.

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My original pack of fabrics. 

Sounded easy until I had a good look at the fabrics supplied and realised just what a variety of weights, colours, materials and patterns there were (I should have realised by the word “challenge” in the title, huh?). So two days of standing at the ironing board rearranging, I came up with this.

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Trying to respond to the fabrics and coming up with this, mmm………

As you can see a few of the squares had foliage of some sort as a pattern so I thought I should use these in the final design and had some kind of stitchy flowering thing in mind. And then purely by chance I read an interview with the fabulous Grayson Perry who urged me to respect my muses and my techniques (my interpretation of his advice, not his words as such) and “what were you thinking?” came to mind. At the same time I decided that I couldn’t cope with all of those colours, textures and patterns (way too busy for me) and a bit of unifying was required so the paints came out.

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Now I’m getting excited but let’s move those leaves

So the leaves were replaced with, yes you guessed it, a dog! A free machine embroidered sketch of my usual Weimie muse followed by more paint and a few words hand embroidered on the top and this is the final piece.

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“Clown’s Crown” machine and hand embroidery on painted fabrics

All of the entries to the challenge will be exhibited at the Angel Inn in Midhurst (South Downs National Park) from 18 February for four days. The work will be for sale to raise further funds for the charity. Do check out the Textile Challenge facebook page to see what other people are making and there is still a bit of time left if you fancy having some textile fun yourself for a good cause.

Reflections (or blimey is that where I’ve come from!?)

Happy New Year blogland. It is pouring down outside (the poor Amazon delivery man just had to swim to our front door) and the rest of the household has gone back to bed leaving me with a bit of peace and quiet to compose. With the prospect of rejoining the real world tomorrow morning after two weeks of enjoying being a full time artist (albeit one full of traditional Christmas lurgy), I felt today should be one of contemplation and planning and what better way to engage in a bit of naval gazing than through a blog post.

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Hurrah For Gin sum up the Christmas cycle perfectly 

For many people the Christmas and New Year rituals include a cycle of overindulgence followed by confusion and an often unrealistic therefore short lived abstinence, promoted by various companies selling diet plans and gym memberships. However, as I have mentioned before I’ve given up trying to give up something (why would I try to stop doing something that is obviously giving me some form of comfort and pleasure otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it in the first place, right?) and instead use it as an opportunity for planning and review.

Now please don’t panic, I’m not going to subject you to the whole process but I thought it might be interesting to share with you something that has come out of it which you may find useful to do yourself (that’s if you don’t already do this, after all I’m always a bit late to the party with these things!)

Firstly, as you will be aware, 2015 was a year of going solo for me, a dip into the world of putting on my own exhibitions. So many learning points came out of these experiences and some I have already mentioned in previous posts, so I shan’t linger again. However, something relevant for this time of year did occur to me when I remembered the words of two people who both know me well and were brave enough to tell me after seeing my work up close and personal at the Open Studio how much my art work had come on in recent years.

Now for an obsessive creator who is continually striving to improve their work I am used to looking at my output with a critical eye asking such questions as what didn’t work? what should I have done differently? why is my work not as exciting as that of someone else I admire? etc etc. I am always looking forward and never consider where I have come from. It reminds me of a time when I was serious about running and I remember a particular coastal run where I felt useless and slow and came to a sobbing stop part way through. A male friend who was with me at the time physically turned me around to show me where I had just come from. It turned out that we had been running continuously up a very steep hill which the walkers on the trail behind us were struggling to do without taking numerous breaks on their way up. Needless to say I saw my endeavours that day from a different perspective.

As life drawing has been a continuous artistic discipline for me over the past few years it makes sense for me to use it as a measure of progress.

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Pencil on paper June 2013

At the time this picture of Elise was one of my better drawings from 2013. I might look at it in horror now but I still have a fondness for it as it inspired the first of my knitted paintings.

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Pencil on paper March 2014

I was definitely getting better a year later as this picture of Gilly shows, after a number of courses at West Dean College, a few terms at an Atelier and a particularly enlightening discussion with one tutor in particular about quality of line.

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White pencil on black paper October 2015

This drawing of Stone is my favourite from 2015. At last, after a few terms of weekly classes at a local college I feel that as well as developing the accuracy that the discipline requires I am now also starting to develop a style of drawing that I am happy with and reflects my identity.

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Pencil on paper January 2016

And after a couple of months off this was yesterday’s 25min drawing of Hilary which I am rather pleased with, particularly as it was done small scale in a sketchbook on my lap rather than with the luxury of an easel and board.

So, onwards and upwards dear reader. I am planning for 2016 to be another fun year of arty endeavours for me. However, while it is exciting and healthy to push forwards and strive for improvement in our work, I’ll leave you with the thought that sometimes we also need to step back and reflect on where we have come from. Here’s to a healthy, happy and creative new year for us all.