Friday 8 May 2020

Creating a body of work

I’m really enjoying working on my first real ‘body of work’. Having found the overarching theme that ties it all together, I exult in watching it come together little by little, watching connections form, living the experience. There are many different pieces in creation at one time, in many techniques, and they all reflect on, and inform, each other. Amazingly, despite not having work commitments, days can easily disappear quickly, so often just one little task or some preparatory work gets completed, but it’s the constant daily flow in the right direction that really creates the feeling of immersion. 
I say my first, although I had two exhibitions - Morphology I (2009) and II (2011)  - ‘exploring the fascinating surfaces and forms of fungus and lichen through contemporary textile practices’, featuring felting, dyeing, shibori and free-motion embroidery. Yet this feels quite different. Partly no doubt, because it’s a decade of experience on, it’s solo, and it’s based specifically on my five-week artist residency experience on King Island. It’s my main focus, my number one priority, it’s what I think about night and day.

It’s also very different for me to no longer be working on body-based sculptural pieces. I tried very hard to do this with Morphology, but just couldn’t manage it. It simply would not work back then; now it’s coming together almost effortlessly. It’s really different to living with just the one idea for many months, as I have for my previous wearable art works. I’m living with hundreds of ideas and techniques at the same time, and surprisingly, working within the bounds of natural colour. So many firsts. Below is a rack of backgrounds I am working on - all on solid felt backing.
Another is the use of synthetic material. Normally an anathema to me, for this series I was looking to use materials I already had, as well as those I could find second hand.  Bags of bridal fabric scraps bought years ago had been pillaged for the beautiful lace, silk, and tulle, with polyester satin begrudgingly stored in hope of future use somehow. These came into their own, teamed with Polysol dyes, for creating large background covers. Being polyester, I felt no compunction in painting over them, piecing them together – making the most of them in general.  The dyes have also been a challenge to work with, as they don’t appear true in the pot. To summate – they are murky buggers that remain a bit of a mystery until they come out!
The beauty of this though, is that I finally get to work through this stash of both artificial fabric and the dyes for them. Another way I have found of dealing with synthetics materials in a non-wearable environment is being able to paint in watercolour, as laundering is no longer a consideration.
It’s also really nice to be revisiting the free-motion embroidery techniques which initially brought me into the textile art world, learned in workshops from Ken Smith and Carol Wilkes. I really value the notes and samples I have from these times – from inspiration, to technique notes and machine settings.
 I always remember thinking in high school “if only I could concentrate on one thing, just one discipline”. University disappointed me in this way, but finally, given full free reign, and the years on me to care little about other possible restraints, it’s a joy to be immersed in this work.