Flying Solo: Diary of an Open Studios Virgin

Saturday 22 August (day1): 

5am: OK, five hours sleep is probably enough and I still have so much to do. Where did I put that list of last minute labels I need to make and stuff I need to bring? I hope our do it yourself exhibition panels are still standing and I don’t arrive to a floor covered in expensive art glass. At least the weather looks good.

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It’s all still up!

10am: Thank goodness, the only things on the floor are the Please do not Touch notices. So much for removable sticky dots. Shouldn’t the removable bit come into its own after use, not during.  Good job I have a huge wad of Blue Tack as back up. “I’ll be fine darling, thank you. See you later”.

12pm: Right, I’ve been around the room a few times straightening, polishing, rearranging. The door is open, the signs are up, the newsletter has been sent, the leaflets and booklets distributed. So come on people, where are you? At least my sister and nephew are coming today. Oh, missed that E mail: “The weather is too nice and I am too lazy”. Guess they’re not coming after all.

2pm: Yay, a car! Oh, it’s just the wonderful husband bearing coffee. “It’s dead out there” he says. “The motorway is a car park, guess everyone is off to the coast to make the most of this last day of summer weather.  It’s going to pee down for the rest of the week”.

Oh great!

2.30pm: Yay, another car.  It’s Tim and Em. You lovely people come on in. Have a wander. Tim, stop chatting to Marc about sport, this is supposed to be all about ME! Look again, don’t stop at once around the room. Ask ME questions, not him. You can talk bicycles anytime.

4.45pm: Can’t imagine anyone is coming now. Perhaps I’ll call it a day and go home. Oh, hang on, that’s the landlord crossing the road. Yikes, hope he’s OK with what I’ve done to his office. “Looks great in here!” “Your life drawing has come on a bit hasn’t it?”.

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“Little Lost Pup” illustrations, off to a new home.

45 minutes later, my first sale is done and I’m ready for a G&T.

Sunday 23 August (day 2): 

Can’t imagine anyone venturing out in this weather. They’ll all be tucked up at home having a PJ day. Oh well, gives me a bit of time to work out this 1940s fairisle pattern (I wonder when charts came in?). It really doesn’t look right. It doesn’t help that there are bits missing and, b*ll*cks (!) I think I know what is going on here. The pattern repeat in each row isn’t over the same stitches as the repeat above and below. Let’s start again. Where did I put those felt tip pens?

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Reinventing a 1940s fairisle pattern. We got there in the end!

Lunchtime: Young people are hovering around the Studentnofee sign outside.  They don’t look like Open Studios followers. They’re coming in. “Hi, are you here for Open Studios?” “Yes” (great, just goes to show one shouldn’t make snap judgements based on appearance then, although the accent suggests English isn’t their first language). They are looking somewhat confused at the stuff on the walls and realisation dawns. “Are you looking for accommodation?” “Yes!” they exclaim. “OK so it may say that this is a letting agent on the signs outside and etched into the glass on the door, and printed onto the blinds, but actually I’m an art exhibition”. More confused looks. “No houses” I say. “OK” they say. Off they go still looking confused.

Mid afternoon: Ooh, actual strangers who don’t look like students pulling up onto the forecourt. In they come.  “Hello, are you here for Open Studios?”. “Yes”. Result! A b line is made for the knitted dog heads. “These are great. I’m pleased we bothered coming. I’d give you more than a one star review”. Excuse me!?! What review? “On the Open Studios website you’ve had a one star review, so we nearly didn’t bother coming”. WHAT! I didn’t even know there was a review process and hang on a minute, I’ve only had friends and acquaintances in so far. Who would do such a nasty thing to me after they’ve seen all the hard work I’ve put into this? Ah, hang on a minute, maybe it was the Twirler I had in briefly at lunchtime. She seemed very pleasant but I did get the impression I wasn’t what she expected when she stood in the middle of the room and did a quick spin. “We’ll give you a good review” they say as they leave. “That’s if we can work out how to do it”.

An E mail comes in from my landlord. “Sorry, I tried to review you on the Open Studios website and only gave you 4 out of 5 by mistake. I thought you click on the stars and light them up until you get to your intended rating (like rating stuff on Amazon). However, it turns out that once you’ve clicked on a star, that star is the review done and you can’t change it”. That actually makes me feel better. Perhaps the one star review was a mistake. Let’s keep thinking that……….

The sun comes out. A couple walk by and come in. “What’s this?” they ask, looking interested. I explain the concept. “And is this all you?” she asks. “You’re brave!”. What does she mean, BRAVE? OK, let’s just suppress that angst. I’m sure she means it as a complement. They did write a very nice comment in the book after all!

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The “life” wall

Monday, Tuesday: A pattern has emerged. More students looking lost and desperate for somewhere to live. Starting to think the words “Open Studios” might be a bit confusing in context with the words “letting agent”.  Starting to think that instead of turning them away I should drag them in. Perhaps I could sell them a picture to hang on that wall that they don’t yet have, or a scarf to keep them warm while they trudge the streets looking.

Mid week: Where did all these people come from? I haven’t had a moment’s rest. I’ve got knitting to do you know! Look at all of those lovely comments in my book. I’m going to have to restock the greeting cards.  This is actually fun! One lovely lady brought me coffee and muffins, and then bought two pictures! I must be an artist! Go me!

Friday: More chats with worried parents looking for student accommodation. Right, you sir are going to have to walk around my exhibition before you are allowed to leave. It’s your fault for turning up in a car with a dog in the back. I am crazy dog lady and much of my work confirms this so you WILL look at it. There, that wasn’t so hard was it! Now you can go and find a home for your progeny.

The final straight: Weekends are definitely quieter than weeks. Who’d have figured? An arty friend pops in and chills out with me for a bit on the red sofa. “It’s probably because there is no one else around here exhibiting. People like to make use of their weekends with a densely populated area so travel time is limited, or visit group exhibitions where lots of different styles and subjects are accessible in one place”. Yep, that’s how I’d do it too!

Monday 31 August (day 10): Last day but no time to reflect. Much to my surprise I’m busy. A lovely morning spent with three lots of people I had invited and had assumed couldn’t make it. Lots of smiles while looking around and then time with me on the sofa fascinated by my workbooks and sketchbooks.  Then my neighbours turn up. How lovely!

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The view from the red sofa

3pm: Starting to wind down now. I should probably think about how I’m going to pack all this up. A bike turns up and another friend pops in. I am chuffed to think she has ridden her bike here to show her support and tell her so. “It helps that it stopped raining” she says.

5pm: It’s over except for the packing and the slight issue of where are we going to put all this stuff when we get it home. I enjoyed this. I got to meet some lovely people who left encouraging comments, I sold some stuff and I got to spend a week, knitting, surrounded by my art work. What’s not to like? I guess it was a brave thing to do after all, but worth it on a number of levels.

Back to the normal routine tomorrow and I know a certain Weimaraner who will be pleased that dog jogs are back on the agenda. I suppose I should also do a bit of the housework that has been put on hold for the past ten days. But then again I am halfway through an exhibition piece with a September deadline so perhaps it can wait a little longer……………

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I shall report you for Weimaraner cruelty if you don’t get those running shoes out!

Turn up the Volume!

Apologies for being a bit remiss on the posting front recently.  This isn’t a reflection of a lack of productivity, in fact, quite the opposite.  I have been extremely busy making over the past month driven by commissions, a number of internal and external factors, and inspired by everything from the weather, exhibition visits, recent workshops, my usual doggy muses and exhibition deadlines.

“Jess the Doodle” recent commissioned knitted doggy head

Perhaps it is the volume that has created the problem in searching for an interesting sharing experience with you. A bit like driving into a supermarket car park and finding too many spaces to choose from? Anyway, rather than just post pictures of “stuff what I have done” which probably only interests my Mum (sorry Mum, I’ll post one of those soon too!) I thought I’d share two inspirational experiences that have really added to my productive drive.

The first was a video from Ira Glass, the host of “This American Life” radio show which a friend had posted on her facebook feed. In the clip Ira talks about how creative people are trying to be good at what they do but due to their inherent sense of good taste (as per their creative nature) they are continually being disappointed by their output.  At this point it could be easy to quit as one invests so much time and energy knowing that the work being produced just isn’t up to one’s own high standards.  He urges us instead to keep going and in fact create a huge volume of work with the aim of closing the gap between our ambitions and our output.  Thanks Ira, that was just the excuse I needed to drive on!

The other source of huge inspiration I wanted to share with you today is this book.  I picked it up at the Tate book shop a little while back and nearly missed my train stop on the way home as I just couldn’t put it down.

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In it the author asks 50 successful artists in various media a number of questions regarding why they do what they do, where they get their inspiration from and particularly how they deal with creative blocks.  This is, of course, accompanied by mouth watering pictures of their work.  At the end of each interview the artist is asked to set a task for the reader to help boost creativity and work through a creative block.  One of the really interesting things for me was to see how even these successful creatives have huge amounts of self doubt (I thought it was just us aspiring types!) so I guess this links in with the taste thing that Ira was talking about.  In particular, US illustrator Sidney Pink came out with a fabulous quote which has burrowed into my subconscious and I’m sure will keep surfacing in times of need: “Any thing of value comes from hard work and unwavering dedication.  If you want to be a good artist you need to look at other artists, make a lot of crappy art, and just keep working” (ref page 88 of Creative Block by Danielle Krysa).

So readers, yet again we are faced with the dilemma of not enough hours in the day (and storage space!) and I am feeling the need to get the inks out and create an illustration triggered by my Jack Russell’s antics this morning. I also recognise that there are not enough pictures in this post and far too many words so I shall leave you with an image of an illustration I finished a couple of days ago inspired by Sas and Alfie on a recent Sunday dog jog.  Get creating!

“The Hunters” ink on watercolour paper by Nicky Barfoot

Pickle and Pongo: New homes required

Now that the Knitting and Stitching Shows are over for another year and the 2014 UKHKA Knitted Textile Awards have been announced, Pickle and Pongo’s jobs are done.  While I will be sorry to see them go, there are far too many dogs in my house already (apparently, according to the Husband though I can’t see it myself) so I have just listed them in my Etsy shop. Do have a look and feel free to share with anyone you think might be interested in purchasing a unique, hand crafted gift.

Packing three dog heads into a trolley!

This wet and windy Monday morning I have mostly been packing.  As usual, I have left it all to the last minute and after a frantic few hours trying to locate postcard and business card holders and the other paraphernalia that goes with exhibiting (now where did I leave that hammer!) I have succeeded.  I now know why there is a product called “No more nails”.  I thought the name was a reflection of its superior ability to stick things to exhibition panels but actually it is more about what it does to your finger nails while you try to scrub off the remains of its adhesion from the last exhibition.

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Minimalist exhibition packing achieved!

So once I have decided on the most appropriate footwear to pack for the week (comfy AND waterproof is not the easiest objectives to meet!) I will be embarking on a damp journey around the M25 to hotel Mum and Dad where I will as usual be spoilt rotten.  Note to self: remember to take a big enough handbag to accommodate Mum’s packed lunches this year!  And I don’t feel too bad about leaving the husband on his own for the week as I have left him with the huge roll of bubble wrap for entertainment.

If you are planning to come to Ally Pally Knit and Stitch show this week please drop by the UKHKA stand TG Q13 in the Textile Gallery located in the West Gallery, and introduce yourself to me.  It would be great to put faces to names.  Hopefully see you there.

Can a Leopard really change his shorts?

OK so my title is a little misleading but you know how much I like my Terry Pratchett quotes and I have spent a weekend working on spots so it seemed an opportunity too good to miss.  My spotty weekend was the result of a commission I received a few weeks back to create a knitted dalmatian doggy head sculpture and here is the result: “Floss”.

"Knitted Dalmatian dog head sculpture"

“Floss” hand knitted dog head sculpture by Nicky Barfoot

It was challenging but also rewarding working from old photos (you remember, the type that needed developing and you didn’t know what they looked like until you got them back from the Chemist) of a beloved but long departed furry family member (she was born in the 1970s).  I also asked her owner to give me an idea of the doggy personality I was working with and was given a wonderfully moving account of a dog who was part angel and part devil (aren’t they all?).  I hope I have captured some of her endearing and fondly remembered characteristics in this 3’d’ portrait.

And while we are on the subject of dear departed furry souls (in a fondly remembered not sad way I hasten to add!), I have also recently finished my second Weimaraner (remember I mentioned in a previous post that there was unfinished business here?).  This is a representation of my old male Weimie, Biffa who was my constant companion for nearly 14 years, the most laid back alpha male you were likely to come across (apart from my husband that is!).

"Weimaraner knitted dog head sculpture"

“Biffa” hand knitted 3 ‘d’ doggy portrait by Nicky Barfoot

As usual with Weimaraners the challenge (and the fun bit) is trying to represent a dog which is described as grey but is actually a mixture of brown, green and purple. While this colouring is perfect camouflage for the New Forest, it isn’t easy to find in a knitting basket!

If you fancy seeing Biffa in the knitted fur so to speak, I will be exhibiting him, along with Pongo and Pickle at the Ally Pally and Harrogate Knit and Stitch shows as I have once again been selected as a finalist in the UKHKA UK Knitted Textiles Awards (Yay!) Do come find me and introduce yourself if you are coming to either show.  I look forward to meeting you.

Doggy Textile Taxidermy

Just back from the most fantastic workshop at West Dean.  Dogs and textiles, what more could I want?  OK so the dogs were photos brought along as reference material rather than the real thing but four days spent in the company of seven crazy dog ladies and the lovely and talented Donya Coward as our incredibly hard working tutor, was my idea of Arty Heaven.

The brief was to make a terrier head and as luck would have it I share a house (and often a bed!) with a smooth haired JRT so I had the perfect model on which to base it.  This was not a quick process and some of us were working up to 12 hours a day to get the job done.  However, after months of excited anticipation that I may have found the ideal way in to 3D work to suit both my skills and interests I was not disappointed.

"textile taxidermy first stages"

Day 1: A Gremlin

"Jack Russell Terrier textile taxidermy head"

Day 4: A JRT

She came out a little butcher than I had originally anticipated due to my use of bulky fabrics (recycled felted knitwear) but I am still really pleased with the end result.

"textile taxidermy JRT and her inspiration"

Nelly and her Alter Ego

I can barely wait for my bloodied fingers to heal before I start my next one!