Friday, 19 July 2013

Visit from MEP Philip Bradbourn . . .

Last week MEP Philip Bradbourn came to visit me in my studio to take a look at the new loom (Levi) which was bought with ERDF money earlier this year.  The money was acquired through the Shropshire and Herefordshire Business Enterprise Fund which was administrated by Shropshire Council.

Speaking of his visit Mr Bradbourn said "Enterprises such as these have a key role to play in rebalancing our economy and European funding has played a key role in getting this business off the ground. It is excellent to visit a project such as this and see the successful end product of this funding programme. I applauded the initiative taken by Helen and her family in setting up this business and wish her every success for the future."

with MEP Philip Bradbourn and Helen Hunter-Hayes from Shropshire Council

Sunday, 23 June 2013

What's been happening this Spring? . . .

I realise it's been ages since I last wrote a post (naughty me!), but in my defence it's only because I have been such a busy bee!

Planning new colourways

For me this Spring has been all about the production of the new 'Regal' colourways.  The 'Regal' collection is my lightweight cotton stripe design and I've been itching to expand it for ages.  So now 'Charlemagne' and 'Francois' have been joined by 'Claude', 'Josepha', 'Lucienne', 'Antionette', 'Cecilia' and 'Agnes'.  I launched them at the Contemporary Craft Festival a couple of weeks ago and now I am working on getting them up on the website as soon as I can.  My in house photographer (Richard Foot) has been a busy bee too lately, working on lots of new films for R&A Collaborations, so pinning him down to take some product shots has been tricky.  But fear not, I shall be bribing him with biscuits next week! In fact I'm also planning a styled photoshoot of them for next weekend.  I shall be working with Ella Ruth Cowperthwaite again, who took the beautiful modelled pictures of the 'Festival' collection last year.

On show with the 'Festival' scarves at the Contemporary Craft Fair, Bovey Tracey.

But for now I'm off to London for the week, helping my Hereford students at New Designers and making sure I visit as many exhibitions as is possible while I'm down.  Once I'm back it will be the beginning of my summer production run and I shall thankfully have the assistance of some lovely interns for a couple of months.  So watch this space for some Limited Edition colourways, new gift products and an entirely new collection . . . .

Monday, 1 April 2013

Buddying Annabel Williams . . .

I was incredibly lucky last year whilst on the Crafts Councils Hothouse scheme to have the amazing weaver Laura Thomas act as my 'Buddy'.  The role involved being a general go-to person for advice and pep talks, spurring me on to push my business forward every step of the way.

This year the boot is on the other foot.  I was asked by the Crafts Council if I would act as a 'Buddy' to one of this years Hothouse intake and I'm extremely pleased to have been paired up with Annabel Williams.  A fellow weaver, Annabel designs and makes textiles for interior and commercial spaces.

Working on a 16 shaft computerised George Wood loom (which she purchased from Ptolemy Mann) she creates cloths using monofilament, light reflective yarn, lurex and silk.  Annabel tells me her work is inspired by light:

The energy of the city creates a treasure trove of light, shapes and pattern from which I draw on as inspiration. From the buzz of the morning traffic to the fading evenings and dim lit streets, these traits instil a passion for my urban environment.

Light box

A recent graduate from Bath Spa University, where she studied under the watchful eye of Stroud based weaver Tim Parry-Williams, Annabel is now based in Bristol.  Having already successfully shown her work at Tent London, she is now planning for more shows later this year.  She will have a stand at The Contemporary Craft Fair in Bovey Tracey in June (which I will also be exhibiting at) and from my prodding is currently developing a dynamic list of potential stockists to approach in the coming months.

Handwoven cushions

Since I 1st met Annabel in February she has already been making fantastic progress.  I caught up with her on the phone last week and it was great to hear her making positive evaluations for the direction of new work and she's even moved her studio (which I hope to visit in a couple of weeks time).  

So keep you eyes peeled for the work of this new emerging talent . . . 

Friday, 15 March 2013

Nav's Gallery Report: RBSA Gallery

The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) is an artist led charity that supports artists and promotes engagement with the visual arts. Their gallery is situated near Birmingham city centre and has exhibitions on 2 floors. The RBSA's craft gallery has established a reputation as a leading Midlands outlet for contemporary craft. It showcases designer makers from the UK, exploring contemporary approaches to traditional craft-making techniques and materials.

The ground floor consists of solo shows as well as a craft gallery. When I first entered the gallery this exquisite handmade jewellery and metal work caught my gaze and pulled me in for a closer look.

I then began to look around the solo shows such as Rob Hand's ceramics and Kevin Line's pencil drawn portraits. Line's portraits reflect his attempts to make and convey emotional connections.

On the 1st and 2nd floor are works from various artists with different approaches to their work such as collaging, oil painting, line drawing, textiles and sculptures etc.

For more information on the RBSA Gallery click here.

Nav's Gallery Report: The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

Yesterday I visited the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. The institute was founded by Lady Barber in 1932 and is currently celebrating its 80th birthday since it was opened by Queen Mary in 1939. 

The Barber is currently holding over 150 painting, approximately 50 sculptures, 1000 drawings and prints, and a large collection of Byzantine coins in Europe which makes it one of the finest art collections in the UK.
The gallery is a grade ll listed art-deco building designed by Robert Atkinson that is situated on the campus of University of Birmingham. The building contains a central concert hall which is surrounded by lecture halls and a library on the ground floor and the gallery on the first floor.

The collection in the Barber is full of famous works by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso and Rembrandt, displayed in spacious galleries on the first floor. The Renaissance is represented by masterpieces by Giovanni Bellini, Veronese and Simone Martini, Rubens, Van Dyck, Poussin and Murillo. British artists represented are Aubrey Beardsley, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Rossetti and Turner.

Clause Oscar Monet (1840 - 1926),
The Church at Varengeville, 1882,
oil on canvas

As well as these well known and established artists there was an exhibition from the New Arts West Midlands which is a ‘brand new collaborative venture in partnership with Birmingham museum and art gallery and grand union, Birmingham.’ This exhibition profiles the ‘best critically-engaged work by recent graduates from the West Midlands university art schools such as Birmingham City University where I'm currently studying.
The work I was particularly interested in was Clair Waltons ‘Dying West’, (image below). 

 'Dying West' consists of a bike wrapped in wool, its utility removed and replaced by a new functionality. The bike was placed randomly among famous renaissance painting which begs the questions like who owns the bike, what's the history behind it, what colour is it, is there actually a bike inside it?.

For more information about The Barber Institute of Fine Arts click here.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Nav's Gallery Report: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Another gallery I visited last week was the Museum of Art Gallery in the heart of Birmingham's city centre on Chamberlain's Square. The museum boasts their extensive collections of 500,000 pieces dating back 200,000 years to present day.

The part of the gallery that most interested me was the 'History Of Birmingham' section.

Immerse yourself in over 500 years of life, passion, strife and achievement. In the iconic new 'Birmingham, its people, its history' galleries visitors can explore the city's global heritage from medieval times and the industrial revolution, through to the World Wars - to the technology-led life of the 21st century.

The exhibition gives the audience a sense of pride about the city and how the people and place have contributed globally. The gallery experience is suitable for all ages as it offers an interactive experience with hands-on activities which can be enjoyed by all the family.

The exhibition is an in depth look into the life of Birmingham though the years, from entrepreneurial migrants, world wars, to influential people such as Michael Boulton and how they contributed to society thus affecting how we live today.

The part that most interested me was the kinds of clothing they wore throughout the years, which look miles apart from the clothing we wear today.

Overall I think the exhibition is a must see for people from Birmingham and visitors to the city as they can explore and discover the wonderful city of Birmingham.

For more information about Birmingham Museum and art gallery click here.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Nav's Gallery Report: Bilston Craft Gallery

Last week I visited the Bilston Craft Gallery which is situated near Bilston town centre. The gallery has a reputation of exhibiting modern and contemporary artists and designers within the disciplines of ceramics, glass, jewellery, textiles, metal, woodwork and many others. When walking through the first exhibiting room there were a large range of enamels which are famous and part of the Bilston heritage, these enamels are a collection from the past 300 years from local craftsman in the Black Country.

The exhibition which was currently on show was the 'Bags: The Craft Of The Carrying Companion'. This exhibition showed a range of personal approaches to bags, with different design aesthetics and ways of manufacturing carrying cases such as rucksacks, ipad cases and suitcases. These were made from a range of materials such as leather, textiles and basketry etc.

When looking at each designers innovative approach to bags I could see diversity between them, some by the way that they have assembled the bag together and others with the kind of fabrics they have chosen to use to create these fully functional accessories. Alongside each designers collection was a description of each exhibitors profile and a mini interview compiled of questions about their personal approach and design journey of their creations. Questions such as 'what are the top 5 things you always carry in your bag' gave it an endearing and personal touch.

Here are some examples of Lisa Farmer's work exhibited at the show.

Bags designed by Lisa Farmer

For more information on the Bilston Craft Gallery click here.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Nav's Gallery Report: The New Art Gallery Walsall

Yesterday I visited the New Art Gallery in Walsall. The gallery has a reputation for providing internationally renowned exhibitions such as the Garman Ryan Collections which is currently on show at the moment.

The Garman Ryan collection consists primarily of Jacob Epstein's work. The collections provides an exciting view  of artworks from fascinating people who were linked together by there similarities, stories behind their work, and relationship between each other.
Jacob Epstein's wife Kathleen Garman formed this extraordinary collection with sculptor friend Sally Ryan which was subsequently given to the Borough of Walsall in 1973. Garman met Epstein when she was 20 in 1921, they later married after the death of his first wife and together had three children.
This inspiring collection consists of great European artists such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Monet. This collection not only has artworks from famous artists but also has works from unknown artists from many cultures across the world.
When walking around the room the collection of works seemed like an intimate memorial from his wife as many personal letters and artworks from Epstein's friends and family throughout his life were exhibited such as Augustus John, Matthew Smith and son-in-law Lucien Freud.

Portrait of Kitty
by Lucien Freud  1948
When walking into different rooms of the collection I had an insight into his complex family life and his occasionally controversial career.
Garman and Ryan formulated this collection by linking and comparing Epstein's work to artists works from different centuries and cultures such as Damien Hirst. The two curators linked these two together from their similarities within there works as they both shocked the art world with their innovative and thought provoking artworks.
Damien Hirst
Away from the Flock 1994Glass, painted steel, silicone, acrylic, plastic, lamb and formaldehyde solution960 x 1490 x 510 mm | 37.8 x 58.7 x 20.1 in | Edition 3 of 3 + 1 AP

Damien HirstAway from the Flock 1994Glass, painted steel, silicone, acrylic, plastic, lamb and formaldehyde solution960 x 1490 x 510 mm | 37.8 x 58.7 x 20.1 in | Edition 3 of 3 + 1 AP

Sir Jacob Epstein
Study for 'The Rock Drill'
Charcoal on paper
support: 641 x 533 mm

Part of the collection touches on the subject of birth, death and religion as both artists explore this theme within their work which highlight the changes in attitudes throughout the 20th century.

Damien HirstMonument to the Living and the Dead  2006Butterflies and household gloss on canvasDiptych, each: 2134 x 2134 mm | 84 x 84 in
Jacob and the Angel 1940-1

For more information about the exhibition click here.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Nav's gallery report: Ikon Gallery Birmingham

Hi I'm Nav, I'll be giving you a weekly report on different galleries in the West Midlands whilst I'm on placement with Helen. So here's week one...

At the Ikon gallery in Birmingham, one of the current exhibitions is of Timur Novikov's work. Novikov is a Russian artist who was very influential during the 1980's and 1990's, he is best known for his distinctive textiles. The technique which is most common throughout his work is the use of appliqué  where he uses fabric motifs that are sewn onto large scale wall hangings.

The USSR. Mid-1980s
Oil on canvas. 202 x 308 cm

Novikov uses luxurious materials such as velvet which give a sense of richness within his work.

Animals. Mid-80s.
Acrylic on textile. 294 x 231 cm

Most of his pieces give off an aura of simplicity while telling us a story. Some of Novikovs works have a humorous aspect within them, such as his piece with little penguins waddling across to the darkness.

Penguins. 1989
Acrylic on textile. 219 x 221,5 cm

Novikov uses such small scale motifs on an expansive piece of cloth that it draws the audience in to have a closer look and to question what the piece is trying to convey. He often uses images of well known people he admires, such as Oscar Wilde, with an intricate pearl embroidered border around it. A reoccurring theme he often explores is the horizon and colour proportionality to portray this, in one of his works he uses a shiny metallic gold fabric to show the sun setting.

The Iron Mask. «Tapestry» series. 1992
Photography, metal on fabric. 204 x 140 cm

Genuine Russia. 1991
Acrylic on textile. 

Novikov other works show a strong cultural aspect from his 'Euro-China' series(2002) which are a combination of embroidered beads and thread on tasselled satin.

Women. 1992
Print, embroidery, and beads on textile. 172 x 110 cm

Due to an illness Novikov lost his sight during the 1990's but still continued to develop his works, with an oriental inspired set of seven 'pictures of rice paper'(2002). These were drawn from his imagination due to losing his sight, he used Chinese ink drawn houses, trees and Chinese landscapes.

All images from here.