Education

A Year at Morley…

I have officially completed my Foundation Textiles diploma at Morley College! This academic year has absolutely whizzed by and I can’t believe that yesterday was the last day. I feel like I have learnt so much, not only from the tutors but also by being in a group of like-minded individuals who are all there for the same reasons as me.

As you know I am a big fan of textiles as an art form and enjoy learning as many new skills and techniques as possible. My original goal in signing up for the course was not only to learn new techniques but also to formalise my knowledge through learning about keeping a sketchbook, primary and secondary research, and most importantly for me, design development and running a project end to end. I definitely feel that I have achieved this goal, but additionally I found a really welcoming and supportive community of textile fans to share my passion and ideas with.

The course was structured well, beginning with smaller projects and taster sessions in the first term where we covered a range of textile techniques such as weaving, felting, freehand embroidery with the sewing machine, sublimation printing, Shibori dyeing, and constructed textiles to name a few!

The second term went more in-depth in the subjects we covered. For the whole term we worked on a surface pattern project using screen-printing as the method to produce a design we had developed through drawing and research with the end result being a sample book showing a range of printed designs. Alongside this we also did half a term of machine knitting and half a term of conceptual headwear. I thought the machine knitting was brilliant! I had no idea how knitting machines worked, and had never even seen one before the first class, but Alex the tutor was so patient and encouraging and I loved using it so much I bought my own! The conceptual headwear was harder to wrap my head around and I missed the first session of that module due to Covid, so I felt a bit behind all the way through. With a bit of hard work and asking a lot of questions I eventually produced a headpiece to be proud of.

The final term was dedicated to our final major project. This was a project that we could set our own brief for and I found it very helpful writing the proposal of my project idea for the tutors. It was really good for clarifying what you wanted to focus on as I think there could have been a lot of potential to get sidetracked with other good ideas. I actually unknowingly started my project in the first term via some research I did for one of the smaller projects relating to sacred geometry. I decided to follow this theme through to the second term and in doing so developed the idea for my final project before we had even started the third term! My final piece explores the human relationship with nature and the human impulse to find patterns and meanings even in things that are seemingly random or chaotic. I wanted my work to tell a story in three sections. The top section is very textural and three-dimensional showing bountiful nature blooming chaotically. Moving down to the middle section the falling leaves are being turned into geometric shapes and ordered into a uniform pattern. The flatness of the screen-printing and the orderliness are representational of how humans interact with, utilise, and sometimes destroy nature for their own purposes. The final panel mirrors the top panel and shows that no matter how much humans want to control their environments, nature will always win out in the end.

At the end of the course we were able to hang our work in the Morley Gallery for a week long exhibition, which was very exciting! It was such a privilege to see something I had worked so hard on be hung up in a professional space alongside all my classmates work. We had a lovely private view on the opening evening where all our friends and family could come and celebrate our hard work with us.

I’m so pleased that I decided to do this course. I feel like I’ve gained so much from it and it has pushed me to further my textiles journey by taking up a degree in Textile Design at UAL Chelsea College of Arts, starting in September. I cannot wait to get started on this as I think it will open up even more ideas and opportunities. This will be my second degree and I’m interested to see what it will be like as I’ll be a mature student living at home with my husband, rather than an eighteen year old living in halls with my new friends! I’m sure I will have lots of updates on how it’s going once I get started, but in the meantime I now have an even bigger stack of crafts kits waiting for me down the studio than I usually do, so it’s going to be a big summer of crafting for me…watch this space!

exhibition

Tate Britain – Paula Rego

This week I went to the Paula Rego exhibition at Tate Britain. We just managed to catch it before it finished, but I’m glad we did because it was a very thought-provoking show. I remember studying Paula Rego’s work at high school, but I was still a bit too young to understand the content and impact of her work. The main theme throughout the exhibition was the oppression of women, particularly relating back to Rego’s life and experiences living under a dictatorship, the Estado Novo, in Portugal. 

I found the first couple of rooms particularly interesting because they focused on Rego’s early work, which was mainly collage. As we have been experimenting with this technique of image making in the last couple of weeks during my diploma it was great to see it used in the creation of art, not only using found images but also cutting up and re-using images drawn by herself.

Self-portrait in Red (1966)

My favourite room was what I thought of as the main room of the exhibition. A group of large paintings in acrylic that Rego completed in the 1980’s culminating in what is probably her most famous piece ‘The Dance’. The group of paintings all prominently feature women and investigate how their identities are shaped by a patriarchal society.

The Policeman’s Daughter (1987)

Continuing through the exhibition this theme remains in her paintings, whether exploring her own interpretation of fairytales and popular stories, or as a commentary on the way women are perceived in society through the male gaze and her attempts to subvert this view. Much of Rego’s work has political undertones in opposition of regimes and issues that she finds unacceptable.

Angel (1998)

I can’t honestly say that I liked all of the work, but I did think that the exhibition was well put together, both in terms of showcasing the breadth and quantity of work that Rego has completed over the seven decades she has been a working artist (and still continues to be), but also in challenging the status quo and providing much needed material to open up conversations about subjects that can still be considered taboo.

I’m disappointed that I visited the exhibition so late as I would have liked to recommend it, but if you do get the opportunity to see any of Paula Rego’s work it is definitely worth a look.

exhibition

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2021

As much as I love visiting art exhibitions, I don’t think anything can top the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition for me. It’s one of the most inspirational art events to attend and I think a big part of that is the accessibility of it. Not only does it happen every year (even last year), but the fact that anybody can submit their artwork makes you feel as though you too could be up on that famous gallery wall one day. Every time I visit I always want to create as soon as I get home. 

This year in particular I felt inspired as the exhibition co-ordinator, Yinka Shonibare RA, sought to bring more diversity to the gallery. This mainly focused around the promotion of pan-African art, together with artists who are neurodiverse, disabled, or self-taught, but this also allowed for the inclusion of artwork that is more traditionally seen as ‘craft’ rather than serious art. This feels like an important breakthrough as in 1770 the Royal Academy brought in a rule stating that ‘no needlework, flowers, cut paper, shell-work or any such baubles shall be admitted’, effectively excluding crafts and, by extension, women. Throughout this year’s exhibition there were examples of textile art such as crochet, embroidery, tapestry and quilting. Although I like to dabble in all crafts I see myself primarily as a textile artist, so to see these pieces exhibited alongside more traditional art was actually quite thrilling.

The exhibition is huge. Taking up several rooms you need plenty of time to look around as there is so much to take in. Every wall is covered floor to ceiling with artwork of all different kinds. It is running until 2nd January and I am considering a second trip as I’m sure there were things I missed on my way round, and others that I would like a closer look at. If you want a sneak preview you can browse the items for sale on the RA’s website, but I would still recommend visiting because you can’t beat seeing art in real life.

Tickets cost £22 and it is well worth purchasing a list of works for £3.50. Each work is numbered and the booklet lists the name of each piece, the artist, the materials used, and also the price. The majority of pieces are for sale and can range in price from a few hundred to several thousand pounds. Whilst many of the works are one-offs with only the original available to buy, there are plenty that also have prints available so if you are feeling a bit flash you could buy yourself some limited edition artwork whilst you’re there!

If you are interested in how it all works there is a programme available on BBC iPlayer called ‘Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, which explores the selection process and has interviews with Yinka Shonibare RA, along with several hopeful applicants discussing their work.