Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Having no holiday bookings I was free to open the parlour and hall as a summer art gallery but despite having put a sign out on the beach road only a hand full of people have bother to call in. There has been no shortage of traffic particularly at the weekend, people making their way down to our two magnificent beaches and certainly no decline in the number of camper vans bristling with bikes and surf boards filling the car park and tents pitched out on the machair or sheltering in the dunes.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Hebridean Dreaming: What to do with two large sacks of Harris Tweed sa...: Stay long enough on the isle of Lewis and you’ll find yourself either cutting peat, working with sheep or weaving, I’ve already ticke...
A few weeks ago a neighbour asked me if I wanted any off cut wool from his Harris Tweed weaving and so already having completed one needlework picture and always willing to accept any raw materials I said yes thank you thinking this would surely come in useful at some point. When two enormous bags stuffed full with salve-edge arrived on my doorstep I realised this was going to be a larger scale project. I’d seen a friend’s work with salve edging where she knitted it into hearth rugs and bath mats but having seen an illustration of a Navaho Indian loom I felt this might be an ideal and relatively simple way to start weaving. The natural dyed wools of Harris Tweed evoke every colour of the Western Isles and so I felt whatever I did with the wool would be bound to represent the surrounding landscape. There is something wonderful about launching into a new method of creation, and through play finding out just what is possible. Within half a day of starting the floor of the studio was covered almost knee deep with mounds of wool and the process started to make sense. It was also obvious that this process allowed for much in the way of versatility as I thought of all the different things I could incorporate within the weave and my mind raced on creating extravagant finished hangings within my head. Having started weaving one evening I dreamed of the repetitive process for most of the night so keen was I to press ahead. With visitors gone and the days proving far too damp and midgey to continue painting the roof I pressed ahead with childlike enthusiasm for the magic of seeing my first woven hanging appear before my eyes. My thoughts drifted back to Shill School in Burford and my very first close up encounter with a loom when on Wednesday afternoons we (all 18 of us boys) would march single file over the bridge that crossed the river Windrush to the Mouse house. We would rip up old sheets into thin strips, boil onion skins to make dyes and learn about keeping bees such were the joys of a small weekly boarding school in the early sixties. I raised my eyes hearing feet crunching on the gravel outside the studio window. I’d left the open sign up for days now in the forlorn hope that people might just happen by and was this at last someone come to look, if so the colourfully clothed couple were walking in the wrong direction. By the time I stuck my head out the door of the studio they had made the road walking heads down with a brisk purposeful pace outrider sticks tapping out a rhythmical stride. How strange I thought to have walked up across the dunes through the croft then climbed the boundary fence as well as that of my vegetable garden and not to have even glanced sideways at the pictures in the window. Evidently not everybody is interested in art but I felt I had just cause in feeling slightly miffed. The walkers had stretched the idea of the right to roam to the full so while traversing my garden they might have at least made some pretence at looking at my art. Later that afternoon they came back and I was full of smiles and ready to show them around but they only wanted to enquire what time the bus came past. Being polite can at times be such an effort. I’m often told I must have tremendous patients to create such complex works but I tell you now opening your doors to the public so they might see those creations requires infinitely more.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
The horns of these sheep were the final part being worked on copper wire and standing proud of the embroidery. I have noticed that while I am out sketching people passing by will often approach to see how I am representing the landscape before me however if they see a man sat stitching with needle a thread they keep at a safe distance much as they do when I’m plucking dead birds for making of feather bird pictures. I started stitching on June the 20th and spent on average a minimum of 3 hours a day until finishing on Sunday the 27th July, a full five weeks. So if I was to conservatively count my time it took just over one hundred hours. The needlework will now be stretched mounted and correctly contained within a deep box glazed frame which will not come cheap. It is important for me to execute such pieces of creative artwork for my own pleasure and so time and money do not come into it. An artist who perfects his or her craft will be able to produce artwork but if the technique is altered or debased in any way either to mass produce or to speed up production then the result must be categorised as craft. Today people are encouraged to buy cheap crap preferably made from recyclable materials since it will not be long before it’s broken and deposited in that correctly sorted bin. While this might make economic sense I find it difficult to understand why when money is so difficult to come by that so many fritter it away on cuddly key ring junk. Today’s world wide tourist industry is a particularly bad offender in this area offering a remarkable selection of poorly made and dull mass produced trinkets in the name of local crafts. Some well known artists have also been tempted to join the throng and debase there work reproducing it on everything from book markers to fridge magnets. Since the general public will part relatively easily with a few quid it is hardly surprising that less skilled craft workers are drawn towards this market which will pay while those producing fine work will quite often obtain a far lower hourly rate of pay. So what would you expect to see as a price tag on this embroidery, £60…. £600? The correct price with frame and given that many galleries now take 50% is nearer £6000, which puts it way beyond the reach of most people. So you can’t afford it now but wait a few years when someone removes my creations and possessions to the local hospice charity shop and it’ll be £6, a bargin.