Sunday, August 20, 2017

'Foliate'; My artist residency exhibition at the Glasshouse Port Maquarie

In early 2017 I completed an artist residency at the Glasshouse in Port Maquarie NSW. If you want to see what I got up to during the residency check out my previous blog post HERE. Last weekend I went back to the Glasshouse to give an artist talk and see the work up on the gallery walls. Below are a few images of the day and the 'Foliate' exhibition.

‘Foliate’ - Reimagining leaves through embroidery

My residency at Glasshouse started with a walk.
I always like to start a new project with fieldwork and my explorations around Port Macquarie took me to Sea Acres National Park. As I wandered around this natural wonder I was attracted not to the rainforest canopy above but the subtle rainbow of colour underfoot. This easily overlooked spectacle was made up of fallen eucalypt leaves in various stages of dying and drying out. I collected a range of these leaves and took them into the studio to inform my work for the week.

Eucalypt trees are so commonplace in our natural and suburban environments that their beautiful sculptural leaves are often unnoticed.

Once in the studio I strove to reimagine the leaves in embroidery, focusing on their basic form and subtle colour shifts. During the week I stitched dozens of leaves, striving to achieve something close to the beautiful colouring of my collected specimens.  These stitched leaves can be seen in the two ‘leaf lines’ that are arranged like rows of embroidered specimens.

Over the past year I have created several artworks that explore the structure, form and colour of various leaf species. Decorative leaves like the cultivated Begonia and Caladium leaves were studied for their unusual, vibrant colouring. With these studies my goal was to map the patterning and veining systems of individual leaves to create large-scale stitched studies.

I hope to draw attention to the beauty of the natural world with my work. Inviting people to look closer at the often-overlooked elements of nature and appreciate their subtle beauty, intricacies and diversity.

Thank you to everyone who attended the artist talk and has made an effort to see the exhibition so far. 'Foliate' will be on display until September 10th 2017 at the Glasshouse Port Macquarie Regional Gallery. 

If you visit the exhibition make sure you pick up a copy of the exhibition catalogue which includes an introduction from the gallery director Niomi Sands as well as a short essay by arts writer Louise Martin-Chew. 

Cant make it to the exhibition? No worries, you can download a digital copy of the exhibition catalogue from my website HERE.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ja T'ho Faras feature

Thanks to the Catalan television program 'Ja T'ho Faras' my work has spread to the other side of the world. A little one and a half minute segment about my work was aired as a part of the program on 24/06/2017. It is wonderful to think that my work was seen by a whole new audience.

Click HERE to view the segment.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Artist Residency at Glasshouse Port Maquarie

Last week I completed an artist residency at the Glasshouse in Port Maquarie.

What is an artist residency you ask? Hopefully this post can answer that question and also give some insight into what I did during my residency. 

An artist residency is an opportunity for an artist to temporarily stay and work somewhere other than their usual space. They are a great way to get away for the day-to-day distractions that may otherwise impeded on my art practice and allow me the time and space to really focus on getting the creative juices flowing.

In the case of this residency I was whisked away to the beautiful coastal town of Port maquarie, given a lovely studio to work in amongst a super supportive, creative environment (A theatre/regional gallery) and left to my own creative devices for a week - what bliss.  The public was welcomed into the studio at several points during the residency to see what I had been up to and to make the 'mysterious studio life of an artist' a bit more transparent and accessible to the public. I also taught a  workshop at the end of the residency where participants could come and learn to draw and sculpt with their sewing machines. As with many residencies, the work that I created during my time in this temporary studio will be shown in an exhibition later in the year. More details about that show coming soon!

I jumped at this opportunity for a few reasons. Firstly I was delighted to be approached by the Glasshouse as they are a regional gallery that I greatly admire. They have a great program showcasing the arts and I was honoured to be asked to participate in their 'artist in residency' program. Secondly, I am expecting my first child in just over a month so this residency would be my last opportunity to have some time to myself to focus on my practice for who-knows-how-long.

I arrived in Port the day before the residency began and had a bit of an explore around the area. There are some beautiful coastal environments in Port but I was drawn to the Sea Acres National Park for my preliminary fieldwork. I was only able to stay for a short time in the park that afternoon so sadly did not get to explore the area fully but I did collect a range of fallen eucalyptus leaves.

Once I got setup in my new temporary studio the next day I started to play with my collected leaves and I was especially drawn to the great diversity in colour that they present. There is a rainbow of colours to be found in these beautiful specimens, something that I have always loved about eucalypts. 

After selecting a range of thread colours that would work well with the colour pallet provided by the leaves I spent most of my first day of the residency stitching a colour swatch. This somewhat tedious process is really helpful to determine which colours I will use for the project and to see how the various colours blend together. 

I then developed a series of basic outline sketches based on my found leaf specimens. These sketches guided my stitched interpretations of the leaves. 

For the rest of the residency I set about sewing as many eucalyptus leaves as I could. After a few faults starts as I figured out the best way to approach making and dissolving the leaves I managed to create around 85 leaves in a rainbow of colours directly inspired by my collected leaf specimens. These leaves will form a part of the exhibition that I will have at the Glasshouse Mezzanine in August. 

The rainbow of eucalyptus leaves I had created (and my big pregnant belly) at the end of the residency
The ArtLab at the Glasshouse was the perfect studio for the residency; lots of light, space and an endless supply of tea and coffee on hand. The space looked rather chaotic while I was working in here so here is a shot of the space just before the workshop started where it was clean for a brief period.

I would like to thank the team at Glasshouse for making my time during the residency so easy and enjoyable. Everyone was so warm, welcoming and would go above and beyond to make sure that I had everything that I needed. A special thanks goes to the gallery curator Niomi Sands for her endless work and efforts. I am looking forward to coming back for the exhibition in August! 


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Framing Textile Art (part 2) 10 Tips for Framing Textile Art

In my previous post (which you can read here) I wrote about my reasons for framing my textile art works. While that post told my story about framing there is so much more information about framing that I wanted to pass on. So here are a few of my tips about framing textile art.

1)   Consider if framing is right for your textile art
The ideas and aesthetics of my artworks are well suited to framing and I find that framing my embroideries is a necessary step for presenting my work as a professional product that people can easily purchase and hang in their homes. In saying this framing may not be the best choice for every textile artwork. Textile art is unique and varied and framing a piece may limit or even detract from what makes a particular piece of textile art special.

If you were considering framing your own textile pieces you need to ask yourself if the frame will add or subtract from the artwork. In many cases a frame will add a level or professionalism, protection and neatness, however you may be sacrificing the tactile allure of a piece by trapping it behind glass.

2)   Find a good framer (who has experience framing textile art)
Quality is important – find a good framer and stick with them. Finding a framer that uses quality, archival materials will mean that your artworks are well presented and protected for years to come. I have been using the same framer for about ten years now. I have a good relationship with them, they know what I like and expect and as a result my framing has been consistent for the last ten years. This consistency is important if I have repeat customers who want new artworks to match their original pieces.
Textiles often require extra care and special mounting methods so it is very important to find a framer that is familiar with framing textile art. Shop around until you find a framer has experience with framing textiles or unusual items and they will become a part of your art making family.

3)   Factor your framing costs into the price of your artworks.
Custom framing can be very expensive but in my opinion it is a necessary evil. My framing costs are by far the greatest expense of producing my work but I see it is an obligatory material cost that protects my work and increases its overall value. These costs then get factored into the pricing of my artwork.

4)   Avoid cheap premade frames (as tempting as they are)
There are many premade frames on the market in standard sizes but finding a good quality prefabricated frame can be tricky – unless you are purchasing it from a reputable framer. Many of the cheaper, mass produced frames you pick up are poorly made and don’t use archival, acid free materials. You get what you pay for so if you are getting a frame for $10-$20 bucks, chances are it is rubbish. If you are selling your artwork to the public you don’t want to be associated with products that will discolour or fall apart in a few years and if the frame isn’t acid free it may even mark or damage your textile art.

5)   Stick to neutral frame and matt board choices
The correct choice of frame and matt board can make or break an artwork. Framing choices are very subjective; everyone has different tastes so framing materials and proportions need to be very carefully considered. When I visit my framer it is like going into a candy store … so many tantalising colours and textures to choose from and it is easy to get carried away and choose elaborate frames and fancy matt board options. These fancy options may be great for your personal framing projects but for saleable artwork I believe that it is important to frame neutrally so that the artwork stands out rather than the frame.

I keep my framing very simple– a thin white box frame and matching double mount matt board. I choose my materials carefully so that they are all the same type of white, by doing this the transition between mount board, matt board and frame is quite seamless and just adds some subtle shadow borders around the artwork. I find that this very neutral colour scheme works with almost any interior however I am happy to reframe a piece if a collector really wants the frame a specific colour (at the collector expense).

6)   Ask for D-Hooks
A standard hanging string should come on any custom frame but ask your framer to also add D-Hooks to the back of your work. D-Hooks are needed if you ever hang an artwork with a hanging system, which many galleries use.

7)   Check your frames before you leave the framer
It is always a good idea to have a really good look over your framing orders when you pick them up so that you can instantly identify any issues with the framing job and have them fixed straight away. Good framers will quality check their work but occasionally you will get little annoying things like a fingerprint on the mount board or a stray bit of dust or hair trapped in the frame. These types of things are usually very easy for the framer to fix but really annoying if you find them later after you have left the framer or when you are hanging a show.

8)   Use a professional if you are shipping framed work
Shipping framed artwork, especially those framed behind glass, can be a delicate and expensive process. I have heard many horror stories about artworks being destroyed in the post because they were not packed properly. So if I need to ship work I always have them professionally packed by a courier company that is familiar with shipping original artworks. To reduce the risks of glass breakages in transit (and to reduce weight) you can alternatively frame your artworks behind acrylic (Perspex).

9)    Handle and store with care
Unfortunately frames can be easily chipped or scratched (especially on those fragile corners) and this will detract from the look and quality of the whole artwork.
·      Always store and transport framed work wrapped in bubble wrap with the protective cardboard corners attached until just before the work is hung.
·      Don’t ever put framed work down on hard flooring without some protection underneath it (a towel or scrap of bubble wrap is fine).
·      When moving and turning large framed works avoid pivoting the work on the corners, instead lift the work off the ground and turn it in the air.
·      Very large and/or heavy works should be handled by two people.

10)  Reframe damaged works (expensive but necessary)

I am really particular about how my work is packed and handled but when I loan work to galleries or exhibitions I can’t control how it is handled and it occasionally comes back damaged – which is really annoying. If any of my frames are damaged I endeavour to get the work reframed before I exhibit it again. This is an unfortunate expense but I see it as necessary for the professional presentation of my work. Chipped and scratched frames look terrible. I wouldn’t want to buy an artwork that wasn’t pristine so I wouldn’t expect my collectors to either.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Framing Textile Art (part 1) How and Why I Frame my Textile Artworks

Textile artworks are often presented unframed in gallery exhibitions.  There is a wonderful tactility about a piece of textile art that isn't imprisoned behind glass, however in my experience framing can be a good way to present delicate textile work and remove possible buyer barriers. If done correctly, good quality framing gives an artwork a neat professional finish, protects and preserves the artwork and makes it easier to hang (and possibly sell).

95% of the artworks that I sell are framed. This choice to frame my work is a very conscious one for both practical and conceptual reasons and I believe this way of presenting my work have contributed to the success of my art business.

When I first started creating my embroidered sculptures I would often display them by pinning the embroideries directly to the gallery walls, or stitching them onto canvases. While these pieces looked great and people seemed to love them, they rarely sold. Feedback I received from galleries was that people were concerned about how to hang or clean the work in their own homes and were tentative to take on artwork that wasn't in a 'standard format'. Potential customers seemed to be disappointed that they couldn't just take the artwork home and easily hang it on their walls. Understandably consumers want safe, easy to care for art that doesn’t require special care or installation methods – so framing was an obvious next step for me.

When it came to developing the best way to frame my work I spent a lot of time researching and developing a presentation method that would safely secure my work and present it in the best possible way. One of the things that I loved about pinning my work to gallery walls was the dynamic shadows the work created in the right light. I wanted to retain this shadow element within the frame so explored various mounting methods and box framing options until I found the best solution for the work. Inspired by the mounting techniques used in natural history museums I developed a way to pin my work so that it was permanently spaced slightly off a backing board. This gave the illusion that the embroidery was floating in the frame; showcasing the lightness and sculptural aspects of the embroidery and casting those beautiful shadows that I loved.

Once my embroideries were framed they looked even more like preserved museum specimens, which aligned well with the conceptual ideas of my work. The framing makes the artwork somewhat precious and adds a level of intrigue becasue people can't touch the art - even if they really want to. It is like a little world inside a glass box and I have since had many comments about how my work is so professionally presented. 

Since moving to predominantly framed pieces my work is now much easier to transport, hang, store and care for. Exhibition installs are quick and easy since most galleries are set up with hanging systems for framed work. My work is also much more user friendly for the collector. They look good, are easy to hang and don't require any special care or cleaning. There is really no practical reason not to take one home with you. 

Choosing to frame my artworks was probably one of the smartest moves I have made in my art practice to date. It has certainly added to the appeal and accessibility of what would otherwise be very delicate and 'hard to hang' artwork. 

In my next post I will discuss a few more of my findings and tips for framing textile artwork (or any artwork for that matter). So make sure you check it out.