Thursday, 23 July 2015

Working in Series - article for CQ Magazine

For years my work has developed along a number of paths reflecting the exploration of more and more techniques, so each new piece has taken me off in a slightly different direction. For a long while I was happy with this, but I now realise its limitations but have lacked the techniques and confidence to develop a sustained collection of work. If I didn't veer off at a tangent each time I was offered a new bag of tricks, what would the alternative be?
Initially Bren Boardman's tutorship got me to develop pieces related to images I brought back from Jordan but I relapsed back into old ways.  The real change happened as a result of pure serendipity, I signed up for a short  course at the Portsmouth AGM where I spent an eye opening day with Christine Restall who awoke in me an understanding of how to begin to create abstract images which came from a concrete starting point and a three day masterclass with Sandra Meech where I was encouraged to see how a small collection of images could be translated into several linked pieces of work. 
I started small. My 2014 JQs were abstractions of three photographs. At the end of each four month period I had a mini series of four pieces each based on one photograph. They were the first tentative steps in working in series. It was liberating and edgy, some were more effective than others but I felt I had begun to grasp the essentials.  I looked through the recent quilts that I had felt happy with and tried to analyse why they seemed to work. I realised that they all involved a significant amount of hand stitch and surface texture, that without this they were not "my work". In addition to abstraction another element of my voice was in place.

Casares abstractions 

Casares Inspiration 

I'm using my 2015 JQs to continue to try and work in series, by this time taking a theme - The Fenlands - and creating a piece related to the theme each month. Again I have divided the year into three segments, the first containing pieces related to the landscape as a whole, the second detailed views of different aspects of Fenland and the last group being abstractions of Fenland images. 
Both these ventures were made less daunting because of the the small size of the pieces. Now I have to find a way to scale up so that I can begin to create a series of larger pieces. It's the abstraction that has captivated me!
I think I have found a style of quilt that I really like constructing and which has the capacity to be used in a number of ways. I went to A3 size first, again small enough to bin if all went awry and I'm really happy that the methodology created pieces that are recognisably related but sufficiently different not be clones. Can I scale it up again? I'm using the "Elements" challenge to try this out. It's larger than the earlier pieces and not quite a big quilt. Taking this step by step, trying to learn as I go along and develop a style that is repeatable and which also becomes " my voice". 
Having a forum in which to get feedback and critique is invaluable and I'm so grateful to the CQ Weedon Bec group, "Threaded Together"and "Layered"  for giving me fora in which this creative journey can flourish. I hope through these talented and knowledgeable women many of my yet unanswered questions and dilemmas will be discussed, chewed over and resolutions proposed and attempted.
I know none of the above is rocket science, I'm sharing it here because I suspect that there may be a few creative stitchery who, like me ,are developing their voice and their ability to produce a series of connected pieces who might be interested. It's also a way of thanking Christine Restall and Sandra Meech for sharing their practice and encouraging the development of others, without whom I would not be in the good place I feel I have reached. The road ahead is still a long one but I'm confident now, that I can sustain the journey.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sarah

    Bren Boardman got me going and I always wish I had been able to do more than just workshops with her. I've never done a workshop with Sandra or Christine Restall.

    However, somehow I do work in a series. I may have several series going at once, but I seem to have fallen into that pattern. I find it very intellectually stimulating and actually wish I could go further.

    So reading this is very interesting.