Monday, 14 January 2019

What I've been working on ~ 3rd year fine art 🌸

Last week was my deadline for the first module of studio work in third year. Here is a picture of my space all set up for assessment:

I've been working in this cosy corner since September. I'm lucky to have a nice big window and if you look carefully you can see all the way to the sea, particularly now when all the leaves have fallen off the trees. I made a lil video tour here if you want a closer look:

I'm going to go right back to the beginning and talk through how I got to this point, so here's where it all began:

When the semester started back in September I really fancied a change from the kind of work I'd been doing last year (found object based installation stuff). I felt like I was doing lots of collecting, arranging, and curating, but it wasn't really satisfying me anymore. I got a bit bored of my comfort zone and wanted to really make stuff again, to do something quite labour intensive that I could feel proud of. I've always been one of those people that is quite good at a bunch of arty things rather than having one main strength, so I decided this year I would just choose something and get good at it and see where it led me. After finding an embroidery book full of tutorials for different stitches, in a charity shop for £1, I thought I'd learn how to embroider properly. I've always enjoyed sewing so thought it would be fun.

At some point I started reading about the textile artist Claire Wellesley-Smith and her Stitch Journal (click here), and became really interested in the idea of thinking through making. I began my own piece of spontaneous sewing, using some of the fancy stitches I'd learnt but mostly just basic running stitch and back stitch that didn't require much concentration. I found it therapeutic. Here are some process photos, it's still not finished though!

The patterns that began to emerge in my sewing made me think of whimsical fantasy worlds, a swirling, pastel coloured landscape with magical creatures and rainbows and sweets. Not in a tacky way but in nice, muted tones like in Tove Jansson illustrations. Moodboard on the wall:

(Bottom left credit to Orly Cogan, bottom centre credit to Pip and Pop, there are Kewpies, Moomins and Care Bears there, the other 2 fairy pics belong to Lauren Poor)
Alongside this "serious" uni work, I'm always doodling little things, usually in lectures and during the talk at church (it helps me concentrate, honest). So one day I decided I wanted to bring some of my doodled characters to life in 3D, and luckily I had a packet of air-dry clay stashed in my locker which I had bought back in the summer. I think this is when my project started to get really exciting, I loved seeing these little friends come to life! I painted them with regular watercolour paint and that seemed to work fine.

After a conversation with my tutor about playing with scale, I decided to have a go at making one of my characters big. I chose the funny blue cat (bonus fact: it was originally a skeleton wearing a cat costume but this got simplified for logistical reasons later on) and chose to make him out of fabric and sew it all by hand. It was a success and as you can see I was v chuffed with my wonky blue boi. Note: I made it all up as I was going along so it was pretty trial and error! I find it a fun problem solving activity to visualise what I want to make and then work out how I can do it with the limited skills and materials I have.

Once I realised that I could make anything I put my mind to (within reason lol), I had a go at something bigger, this time a doggo. The process was quite similar, a bit more complex in certain places but it worked. Some of the parts are made from an old tea towel I got in a charity shop, I also painted on the stripes and eyes.

Next I made a denim octopus with bendy wire limbs:

At the same time as making the bigger creatures, I began experimenting with stop-motion animation using an app on my phone (called Stop Motion, does what it says on the tin really). Here are some of the outcomes, they are very short and I'm thinking of them as prototypes for something more substantial I hope to make this year.

Early in December I got to display my work in an exhibition at uni which was fun. It was nice to get my stuff out of the studio and set it up in a different context, it was also great to get other people's feedback.

Now onto my most ambition endeavour yet, and definitely the biggest. I realised that for some reason recently I had become a bit obsessed with snakes, they were always popping up in my doodles. So I got the idea into my head of making a massive, long, cuddly snake. Like those ones everyone used to have from IKEA, except bigger. I had a big, soft piece of fabric (a bedsheet I think) left over from last year when I used it to make a tent, so I decided I would use ALL of it. Once I'd cut it into quarters and joined them end to end it reached about 7 metres long.


This specific piece was such a labour of love, I spent something like 20 hours sewing up the length of the snake and stuffing it. Looking back I don't actually know how I did it, it was physically exhausting! But I guess I was motivated by the excitement of owning a huge snake. I then began painting it with some water-based, children's paint. That part was fun but definitely a little messy!

A massive achievement, literally. I think I'm gonna take him out on some photoshoots this year, let him see the world. I had a really sweet moment the other day when a little child and their mum were walking past the studio and saw my snake hanging in the window. I heard them talking about it and sounding pretty excited about how big it was! I quite like the idea of making art for children.

At some point during the snake fiasco, I also made (well no, I customised it) this felt tip clown boi. It was this weird troll-esque doll that I got months ago and painted white then attacked with rainbow pens. I love him.

Oh yeah, I've also become a little fixated on clowns (nice ones not scary ones), they too have been a recurring doodle theme. Here's a clown stop-motion I made this week, and a peek at a clown photoshoot I did:

So, that brings us to where I'm at right now. A whistle-stop tour of my last semester of creating! I hope you enjoyed seeing what I've been up to, it's been so much fun. These past few months have felt like my most creative and inspired, maybe ever. I've just been having ideas and running with them and not stopping to think and get stuck. It's been great. Oh and whilst all this was going on I was also writing and handing in my dissertation, which I recently found out I got a first for! So I was very pleased about that πŸ˜€ See you next time!


Soundtrack for writing this post:

  • The Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging soundtrack
  • Debut, Post, and Homogenic by BjΓΆrk.