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

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. 

exhibition

David Hockney – The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020

I was very excited to go to my second art exhibition of the summer – The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020 by David Hockney at the Royal Academy, London. I’ve been a fan of Hockney’s work for quite a long time after seeing another exhibition several years ago and was inspired by two of his pieces in particular when I began to create my own artwork; Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica (1990), and The Road to Thwing (2006). I really liked his use of mark making to give the impression of these landscapes and the way the paintings can be appreciated from both far away and close up. 

This exhibition was a collection of 116 works created between 11th February to 4th July 2020 with the express purpose of exploring the changing of the Normandy landscape as it moves from winter into spring and even summer. Hockney began using an iPad to create artwork back in 2010 and produced all the paintings included in this collection using an app that had been developed and adapted for his specific requirements. The exhibition itself felt quite small, covering only three rooms of the gallery, but the paintings were hung close together and not always in chronological order. Some had been placed in groups all showing the same view allowing a direct comparison between the stages of spring. 

No. 316, 30th April 2020

For me the enjoyment of each painting was two-fold, firstly enjoying it from a distance and appreciating the scene as a whole and then getting closer to each one to really see what kind of marks had been used to form each element of the piece. I particularly liked all the different ways Hockney depicted the grass whether it be long, short or freshly mown. 

No. 323, 13th May 2020

Another technique I really liked was the paintings in which it was raining. The straight lines Hockney uses across the top of the painting to represent the rainfall seem so basic and almost child-like, but are actually really effective and the paintings showing the rain falling into the pond made me smile. 

No. 346, 22nd May 2020

I think the ones of the pond were my favourites because I found it very impressive the way he managed to capture the reflections in the water. They really brought the painting to life for me and gave the impression of depth and perspective. The other thing that Hockney managed to capture well in all the paintings were the skies. No matter if they were clear blue, heavy cloud or somewhere in between it gave you a strong sense of how that day or night felt and you could tell if it was a crisp early morning or a blazing hot afternoon.

No. 340, 21st May 2020

The exhibition is on until 26th September, so if you are in London I would highly recommend it. The Royal Academy is on Piccadilly so is very close to other things to see and do and as it was such a small exhibition it only took us around 45 minutes to look round. We’ve got tickets booked for the Summer Exhibition in September and I already can’t wait!

exhibition

Sophie Taeuber-Arp at Tate Modern

In September I’m going to be starting a foundation diploma in Textiles, which I am very excited about. In preparation for the course we were given some homework to do over the summer. One of the tasks to complete was to visit a gallery or museum that exhibits Art or Design, so last week I visited the Sophie Taeuber-Arp exhibition at the Tate Modern

I had never heard of Taeuber-Arp before and only came across this exhibition because I was specifically looking for one to attend. I’m so glad that I found out about her though as she sounds like my kind of lady! She was a crafts professional (a title which I think I may have to adopt!) and specialised in many different aspects of the arts, crafts and design including wood-turning, sculpture, jewellery making, and performance art as well as editing and producing work for several arts and crafts publications of the time. The majority of her work was produced across the time period spanning both the world wars during which she lived and worked in Switzerland (her home country), Germany, and France. 

Wood-turned marionettes commissioned for an adaptation of Gozzi’s play King Stag

The majority of her early work was exploring abstraction within the grid structures of textiles and featured spaces created within horizontal and vertical lines. She then translated these images into textile pieces such as cushion covers, rugs and wall hangings, as well as beaded bags and jewellery.

It was really interesting to see the progression of Taeuber-Arp’s work throughout her lifetime as you progressed through the exhibition. Towards the end of her career (and life) her work began to include more free-flowing organic forms, although strong linear structures were still very much in evidence. It was clear to see how she had developed her style and artistic expression over the years.

I’m so pleased that I went to this exhibition and if you are in London in the next couple of months I would highly recommend it. Taeuber-Arp was a fascinating lady who knew her own mind and what she wanted to achieve.