Monthly Archives: January 2015

The cost of alternative routes

When I first applied to Camberwell, it was under the hope the footnote at the bottom of the course webpage which said “alternative routes will be considered” would be true for me. This should mean that even without the requisite undergraduate education in the arts, I would be looked at for my potential. I was well aware that all I had done formally was my City & Guilds tuition – but with a PhD already I shouldn’t have any issue with the research. It was just the art & design side which might have a skills gap….

….and I don’t have any issue with the research. I understand what needs to be done, the iterative link between thinking and making; I understand how to do self-directed research. However, I feel like I have now come across the harsh reality of what a skills gap feels like. Or perhaps that is a skills chasm. The problem is that I’m not sure how far it is to the other side.

These thoughts are coming from reflecting on the tutorial I had with Maiko yesterday, my first for term two. Maiko as usual was sharp-eyed and saw straight through any blagging, or making I had been doing without really understanding the point of. Talking with her is very helpful, but I always feel a bit shell-shocked afterwards, probably at being brought back to clearly see the climb still ahead of me. Yesterday’s feedback focussed mainly around my lack of clarity on materials and materiality. I still have a tendency to over-think things but not think enough about the fine details of the materials I am using and why. Back to a cooking analogy, it is like a poor sauce which detracts from the deliciousess of the main ingredient and a garnish which doesn’t even belong on the plate. Plus am I making a main course or a dessert? How can I not know which?

One of her other comments was on my daily squares which I had been making as part of my ‘daily rituals’ investigation, which had essentially turned out less to express any emotion and more as a display of a range of different techniques. She reminded me that playing with the possibilities of art like this is what you should be doing on a Foundation course – not an MA. An MA is the time to focus and expand / develop your style into a specific direction to take forward into your professional career. I suppose this hit a chord as I had really considered if I should do a Foundation course after finishing my C&G Certificate. I thought it would be a lot of fun and I would learn lots – but that’s what drove me to an MA in the end. Fun is fine, but I would not be in a position to drive a new business / new career straight afterwards. I am too mature in my career and without enough money to just take a year of work just to have fun!

So, being committed to the MA enough to quit my consultancy job for it, I am not going to let it get the better of me. I have been enjoying the course and I think that can continue while tackling The Challenge ahead. My first challenge, as Maiko and I discussed, is to find the right material which speaks to what I am doing; and to figure out what it is I am doing. I am currently sinking in a sea of good ideas and things I want to try out – structured textile artworks, willow basketry, tapestry weaving, quilted baskets, paper making etc etc. But this is not what the MA is for and I need to keep reminding myself of this. I’m sure this is half of the problem I’m causing for myself. I recall Bridget saying way back during the Getting Started workshops in September – that good ideas you may have to pass by during the course are not lost. You can come back to them in the future – you have your whole career ahead of you after all.

So I’m feeling a bit more positive than last night; I know it will take a little time to figure this out and I will need to be focussed, methodical and proactive. I need to accelerate the crossing of my skills gap and quickly figure out what I really want to develop within my practice.  We have some time left in Unit 1 to experiment, but not that much time.

It’s all character building as my dad would say 😉

Visual research workshop take 2 part 2

The second part of Shane’s workshop was just as fun as the first part, but a little more reflective. We started by each discussing our evaluation of our first session and writing down the key words that kept coming up.

We then had to try to capture an image relating to these words. Shane described it like creating a visual alphabet – I thought this was a fascinating exercise, and a challenge to not want to create one image and develop it, but to create a set of 15 or so smaller separate images. This was my final set – clearly showing some of the things which have been on my mind lately.


After this, we were asked to cut some images out of a magazine which echoed some of our ‘visual alphabet’. We then needed to draw images to get from one to the other. Kind of like those old word play games but with pictures.


The really fun part was then to combine the alphabet images with the image play ones and create the pages for a small graphic book. This got us thinking about more than just continuity of line – there was the symbols, colour tones and textures to add and play with as well.such a lovely idea and a simple was to express pure creativity without the hindrance of over thinking. This was my final set of pages at the end of the day. I may review after a few days before binding!


Visual research Workshop take 2 (part 1)

A second chance at the visual research workshop with Shane. This time I was in from the beginning, which was really useful as I got all of the context and had come prepared. We started by pinning up the pictures we had brought on the wall – 2 of our own drawings, 2 drawings from other people and 2 pictures of our own work.

Next the fun bit! We lined the tables with paper, then Shane tipped out the contents of his drawing goody bag onto the table. We all got to draw something from the stuff in front of us, then had to extend and develop that motif and follow it round the whole table, overlapping and integrating with others’ drawings too. It was a bit like a game of twister! I was drawn (no pun intended!) to the pile of rubber bands, and ended up drawing loops and loopy patterns. We also were asked to draw something using just shading – this was really interesting and a little challenging!

We then had to cut pieces of the resulting splurge which appealed to us. I went for repeating patterns and tight spirals.



After that we had a run of quick exercises
– mapping our cut out bits with our images on the wall. I could clearly see the link to the weaving and the spaces I had been working with.
– finding a way to physically demonstrate this mapping on the wall
– draw the images on the wall (3min time limit)
– draw two images of an extract of this drawing
– draw three more based from this image
– make something 3d from these final images!

I enjoyed the speed of these exercises; they allow you to express what’s in your head without thinking about it at all. It is really interesting to see thoughts rising to the surface that you didn’t know where there. When you look back on it, you can see how it fits in with your research. It’s also nice to draw without any need to do something “good”. This need for perceived quality drawing is what can be crippling for sketchbook work. This was my final image wall:

2015/01/img_1219.jpgOverall it is was fun morning! Shane is a great tutor. I’m looking forward to part two tomorrow morning.

Imbolc inspired making

So, with my research progressing and the fact that Imbolc itself is only a few days away, it seems apt to be making stuff inspired by it. First, the symbols and feelings I wanted to express with whatever I make.

  • Correspondences: Earth / Air; white, yellow, green
  • Aspect of the Maiden Goddess: emergence, youth, purity, new beginnings, rebirth, renewal, sexuality, initiation

I started by making the traditional Brigit’s Cross to get myself going. Since I’ve no rushes or straw to hand, I used a textile equivalent! I went with white as a classic symbol of purity.

Photo 26-01-2015 18 07 49

These were my next experiments using the Brigit’s cross form. I wanted to look at the idea of the earth being a “womb” for the new seeds of spring at this time of year. This also echoes the ideas of the rebirth of the Maiden Goddess. Just made out of card as maquettes, pending a decision on materials.

Photo 26-01-2015 18 07 28

…and after some more thinking, this was the next version of the model. Good progress I think. Currently not using any colour, although I am tempted to add some red flowers somewhere to represent a young maiden’s ‘flowering’ – particularly since ritual basket making is commonly associated with the commencement of menstruation. Anyway a digression for later perhaps.

Photo 26-01-2015 18 06 18

And finally, while playing with a new material which I picked up yesterday this was an impulse make – but I really like how it came out.

Photo 26-01-2015 18 06 44

The festival of winter’s end

One of my proposal strands is looking at the Ritual Year and the traditional crafts associated with marking it. Currently we sit in a bit of a calender void – far too long since Christmas but not yet in sight of Easter. In this void however, sits an old celebration of winter’s end and the traditional start of Spring on the 1 Feburary. This festival is known as Imbolc, and today its remnants are seen in part as the feast of St Brighid on 1 Feb (in Ireland and the UK’s Celtic fringes), and in the rest of the UK elements of the festival are also seen in the Christian Candlemas on 2 Feb.

Imbolc marks the end of winter and the opening of spring – which on the 1st Feb we still note ourselves as the start of spring. The tradition which UK weather forecasters have taken on in recent times to commence spring at the vernal equinox is actually an American import – and a bit out of step with our actual weather. For me in the south of England, the start of Feb is the time we do start noticing the days getting longer at last; snowdrops are out and although there may possibly be more snow ahead, you can see the green shoots of spring rising. Photo 24-01-2015 13 07 57

The start of spring is part of the journey of the Great Goddess venerated in many worldwide traditions. Imbolc is the Maiden’s return, when the dormancy of winter is overcome – echoing the rebirth seen across nature at this time, not just the ascending sun but plants flowering and new born animals returning to the land. The word Imbolc itself is thought to come from the Irish imbolg “in the belly”, referring to the pregnancy of ewes. It is the first of the spring fertility festivals, leading up to the pinnacle on May Day to mark the start of summer. “When the plough opens the earth, it makes a womb of the tomb”.**

Imbolc is otherwise known as the feast of Saint Brighid (or Brigit or Bride), an Irish Saint’s Day named after Saint Brighid – a curious figure with no historical evidence to support she ever existed.* There is however written evidence of a Pagan Goddess of the same name who was worshipped on the same day. Brighid was a Goddess of learning, healing and metal-working. Myths have her as the daughter of the Dagda – the legendary leader of the Tuatha de Dannan. Many of the surviving traditions associated with the Feast of St. Brighid are more pagan in style than they are Christian – perhaps because of the Goddess behind the Saint.

It is believed that the saint/Goddess will visit virtuous households on the eve of her feast and bless the inhabitants. One of the most well known Imbolc craft traditions is the weaving of a Brigit’s Cross (Criosog Bridghe) out of rushes or straw, placed above the door or a window as a sign of welcome to the Goddess. Others include making a corn dolly (biddy) which is dressed in woman’s clothes, then brought into the house by a young woman and placed into a specially made bed. RH notes that “the feast at the opening of spring has developed into a means of paying respect to womanhood”*.

So! This is the history and symbology I have been drawing upon for my current set of making experiments. For ease of categorisation I will put these in a separate post to this one. Keep your eyes peeled!

*Stations of the Sun, by Ronald Hutton. Oxford University Press, 1997
** Ashleen O’Gaea


‘Ritual’ exhibition by World Wide Women

An exhibition on ‘Ritual’ from the creative collective of female photographers, World Wide Women, was held just before Christmas.  I was gutted to have missed it since coming back to my proposal topic on the same theme. However, as luck would have it, the exhibition is now showing at Grace, Belgravia, so I had a chance to pop in and take a look.

The exhibition theme: “Ritual: an homage to that which is lost but not forgotten, a prayer to that which is desired but not realised. Ritual promises to answer endless questions and offers escape from an unfulfilled reality. It is an act of veneration for the bird that has flown away, and for the hope of its return. The photographs, videos, and works on paper in this exhibition tell the story of a woman longing for that, which has gone, and craving that which has not yet arrived. A ritual requires physical imitation, but does not arise out of it. The infusion of pure emotion and true belief is what elevates the act to ritual. The action, in-and-of itself pure mimicry, is simply a part of the ritual as a whole. It is the combination of the conviction in the unknown and the intangible that makes it so. Ritual is arranged in a spectrum of colour and emotion, representing the different stages of a ritual: memory, sacrifice, reverence, and longing. The experience of viewing the show takes the observer through this journey, giving access to the wholly personal act of ritual as experienced by each of the artists: one in which the active body is not alone, but joined by an unnamed force.”

It was a fascinating collection of photographs looking at different aspects of ritual, and some more of the female experience. Considering I have been reading up on the rise of feminist performance art in the 1970’s, there are a lot of similarities even now. I wonder how others look at these pictures? What do different people see in them?

You are always going to like some works and not others, but I thought there were a few special ones felt very poignant and well done. If I had a few spare grand under the sofa I might have taken some home. I think it is the sense of spirit you get from them; distant, quiet, and in some cases a bit psychedelic. Others dark and intense. My favourites are below (photos taken from artists’ websites). Firstly, photographer Michaela Meadow:

ritual MichaelaMeadowHighRes4_1024 Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

And a couple I really liked from Anouska Beckwith…
ritual 10922568_562709323864534_3317141403307417280_n ritual 10424314_565672946901505_4814448460292242392_n

A couple others which caught my attention: Edie Sunday, who “prefers the in-between state of dreaming and waking life”

ritual edie-sunday-interview-photography-09


and Aëla Labbé, ritual dance.

ritual 1

I think that it will be inescapable to look at some aspects of the female experience while looking at ritual. Even if I’m not seeking to make a feminist statement, it will be important to understand the context of where my work fits – the goddess movement, the sacred feminine – and not withstanding the fact that I am working in a craft practice very much associated with women. You never know, after all my claims to the contrary, I may even want to make a statement though my art in the end.

Artists Profile: Michael Brennand-Wood

After the leather day this afternoon, I was thinking again about an artist who has kept cropping up over my research, but who I’ve not followed up yet. This is Michael Brennand-Wood. He describes himself as ‘an artist with a sustained interest in textiles’. He makes vibrant pieces that are part sculpture, part textiles with elaborate visual patterns which mask more profound meanings. He puts into practice some of the embryonic thoughts I have at the moment, about mixing up materials using a range of textile-based techniques and paint. I particularly like the use of the paint!


His website notes that “A defining characteristic of his work has been a sustained commitment to the conceptual synthesis of contemporary and historical sources, in particular the exploration of three-dimensional line, structure and pattern. He has persistently worked within contested areas of textile practice, embroidery, pattern, lace and recently floral imagery. Sites, which offer unbroken traditions, cross cultural interventions and a freedom to work outside the mainstream. He believes that the most innovative contemporary textiles emanate from an assured understanding of both textile technique and history.

“Recent work inspired by traditions of floral imagery have utilised computerised machine embroidery, acrylic paint, wood, glass and collage. Exploring the illusionary space between two and three dimensions, these works are colourful, dramatic, rhythmic and holographic in feel with intense detail that merges at a distance into strongly optical configurations.”

And a couple of really interesting quotes:

“My work has always been about putting myself in unfamiliar territory and working in the margins and I think as a man working in a ‘female’ area I was doing just that.”

“Lace might be defined as the encirclement of space. The majority of laces are formed via the twisting of thread to create an essentially semi-transparent net. A fabric which places the emphasis on the dialogue between the borders and their enclosed spaces, a pattern of enclosure and containment.”

mbw5 mbw4 mbw3 mbw2

Very interesting stuff! I very much like the idea of layering pieces on top of each other – this is part of my love of quilting after all. Perhaps using a range of embroidery and weaving techniques interspersed with each other. This could give my work a depth of space which ‘flat quilting’ has not yet provided me with. Hmm…. Very interesting – I am suddenly feeling rather surprised that all of these ideas have emerged from just two hours stitching a three inch piece of leather…. creativity works in mysterious ways. I will let this stew for a day or so before writing my new intent cards and getting some inspired making done (Hopefully!).

ANT xx


Department of Repair

I dropped into a ‘leather working’ session at the Department of Repair going on in Camberwell Space at the moment. The Department of Repair “explores (re)making through fixing, repairing and mending. The project reframes the theme of ‘repair’, exploring its identities and its potential as an environmentally/socially engaged practice. The project aims to create space for broader interpretations of repairing, fixing and/or mending practice, exploring categories such as repair narratives, agents, materials, and methods/systems.”

Harry Owen was running the demo of working with leather, showing us a range of tools and a few quick techniques which showed some of the tricks of working with the material. Working with leather was interesting – we stitched some decorative stitches in a small sample. What I particularly liked was the use of double needles – and double running stitch – giving extra strength into the leather. We didn’t do any construction beyond this (due to time) but it was an interesting workshop.

Photo 20-01-2015 14 24 56

Photo 20-01-2015 14 44 20

My thought now is returning to the experiment I did with ghost candles back at the start of last term. What richness can you get through stitching in different materials – I was using wood and paper. Maybe interesting to dig them back out?

City & Guilds Final piece finished at last

So, after 28 months of studying, my last assessment piece for my City & Guild patchwork and quilting certificate is now done. It has been a fascinating journey to get here – and I am proud of having made the leap I wanted to when I started: from traditional patchwork to art quilt. I never expected it would lead me into art college, but that’s the roller coaster that life is!

Here are some pics of the finished piece – it’s a triptych called Broken Memory , looking at the pain of suffering from dementia and watching the minds of those you love disappear. I would like to think others see something of this in the final pieces, each of us knows someone who has had the pain of a broken memory.




The photos don’t do the textural detail and justice. I think you have to look at it close up. I want to show this at Festival of Quilts this year, so you’ll just have to come up to Birmingham to see it!

Now let’s just hope my C&G assessors like it as well….!