September brings kids back at school, a quieter gallery, and new resolution to concentrate on painting on non-gallery days. So I have 3 days a week to paint and on Mondays and Tuesdays I can do glass work in between attending to gallery visitors. Brilliant!
It also brings fantastic weather, a swim in the sea at Manorbier, talk of getting a puppy (?!), and far too many courgettes!
In painting I am working on bigger pieces. It is hard to resolve these new paintings which are based on my experiences of flying over Pembrokeshire. Flying is like visiting another country, with all the excitement and challenges that brings. I can`t live there, yet I need to learn another language to communicate, and like all language learning, it takes a lot of practice. I can`t fall back on the familiar grammer of horizons and perspective. These new paintings demand new approaches and lots of concentration. That means restricting glass and jewellery work to 2 days a week, and resisting temptation to go visit friends in distant locations! It also means writing my blog just once a month – being disciplined.
I thought I`d have to sell my kiln to create mental space for these new paintings, but I decided I could compromise by restricting glass-making time instead. Making glass is fun and absorbing in a different way to painting, I have less invested in it emotionally so it`s not painful and dispiriting in the same way when it goes wrong. That is good, and it does feed my painting and run alongside it, so why not have some light relief?! Here I go justifying fun!
I had a visitor to the gallery recently who is a batik artist and knows the person, Jane Venables, who taught me batik at West Dean college 33 years ago when I was 16! Talking to Margaret about batik reminded me that I have been at this point between painting and “craft” in my work before – in 1990 I went back to the wax and dye techniques I had first learned at West Dean (infact, I still use my 33 year-old wax pot and stove sometimes in the studio today), I was at a point in my work where I needed to loosen up so I found a big old studio, got hold of a load of old hospital bedsheets, wax and dye, and just let rip on a big scale. I tried all sorts of experimental techniques, using embroidery and quilting alongside the batik, and adapting all manner of household tools from cooking basters to wallpaper brushes to do so (many of these kinds of tools I use today in my painting).
Again, several years ago, I went back to textile media during a period of intense psychotherapy. It gave me a way to explore personal material which was free of the “professional” confusions which painting sometimes throws up. It also allowed me to explore more 3 dimensional possibilities and take texture into a new arena.
All these periods of experimentation have fed back into my painting. Sometimes using a different media allows a fresh way approach a particular problem, and that is why I got interested in glass in the first place. Last year I was experimenting with resins in my work to build up texture and allow me to make “inclusions” in my work. Resin turned out to be powerfully toxic and not at all environmentally friendly, and I found wearing a respirator rather a constriction to my creative process! I approached Steve Robinson, a glass artist based in Solva (http://www.steverobinsonglass.com) to ask if he would give me a masterclass in glass techniques…how naive!!! That is where it all started. Steve emailed me straight back and said “come over”. Steve turned out to be a great guy, and he agreed, in exchange for a painting (which you have yet to choose STEVE!) to give me some basic instruction and use of his studio. After that he could hardly get rid of me! As with everything, I became a bit obsessed, going on a couple of courses to learn glass blowing, lamp work, fusing and multi-layering techniques and eventually buying my own kiln. Now I can experiment at my leisure.
So experimenting with glass and jewellery making is an inspiration for me. It connects me to why I love art, the basic need to “make things” that started me out on my journey as a child digging clay from the stream at the bottom of my garden to make into pots and fire in my mother`s oven. It is the transformation which is at the heart of my fascination with glass – taking a dry piece of pure brittle colour, cutting, combining, painting and shaping it, rendering it liquid in the kiln and transforming it into a wealth of colour and texture as a finished piece. The physics of it and the chemistry satisfy the nerd in me (thank you Jeremy Lepisto for feeding that, with humour, in the Bristol course!), the fact that each piece of glass has a different co-efficient, that glass is technically a slow moving liquid, it is ever changing, transparent even – all these things make glass a fascinating challenge to work withand endlessly frustrating and rewarding – I`m hooked!
I am loving making the new jewellery pieces and they are proving popular in the gallery. I am planning a pre-xmas showcase in early November in the gallery here and online. I am also talking to my friend Rachel Phillips (who is a fantastic stained glass artist who lives in my village and teaches at Swansea University on the glass course) about possibilities for collaborating in some kind of way…watch this space…at the very least it should involve some spirited dog-walking and sharing of ideas! It is great to meet another artist on the same wave-length who is practically my neighbour. Go Maenclochog!