Sophie Wire - Armchair Residency
Tuesday 8 January to Tuesday 30 April 2013
Sophie Wire has a degree in Fashion and Textiles and is also a teacher. She makes clothes and accessories to her own designs, and loves dyeing and printing fabric.
This final blog entry has been a long time coming. Once I had gathered courage to answer the 'what if..?' questions and worked on my final piece of calico in the Learning Lab some weeks ago things seemed to be flowing well. It was easier than I had expected to make big, bold, interpretations of my drawings onto the vast fabric and although it took considerable time to fill up the space it was not hard to decide what to do: I drew, painted, printed and wrote on a large scale: what luxury!
Once the fabric was full and the various media had dried it was time to cut it into a long string and prepare for it to be worked with. It made a seemingly endless rope of my reflections. It was daunting cutting up something which had taken me so long, but once I had begun I did start to enjoy it.
To begin with I worked the many metres into a crochet flower with a cross in the centre. It was hard work to manipulate the fabric with my huge crochet hook, and I was not pleased with the result: It seemed messy, and I didn't feel the stitches were defined very well. So, despite all the work which had gone in...
…I undid the flowers, and tried a new approach: I began to knit, with my equally huge knitting needles. This produced a pleasing new textile, but I was not sure to what end I was knitting: after all I did not want to end up with a strange-looking scarf.
After much deliberation and experimentation I have ended up with this: a daisy-shaped flower with a knitted centre. It is hard to give scale to it in these photos, but it is quite large for a daisy! I talk about ending up with this, but I am not sure it is completely finished, and I may work into the petals. That will be a project for the future however, and it is time to draw a line under the blog and my Armchair Residency.
I would like to thank Mitch and all at the Beaney for giving me this opportunity and making me so welcome on my visits the the museum. My best wishes to the next resident artist!
I have planned enough: the time is here for me to crack on with what I see as my final piece.
I have used my time in the Learning Lab to make samples, and plan to get the rest of the messy work done when I am in there later this week.
Time goes so quickly in there, but the space is a huge luxury for me as it's not something I'm used to. I love to spread out my work and see what will happen.
The first marks I made onto my large piece of calico were not as daunting as I thought they might have been, perhaps because I feel I have been preparing for a good long time. I started with drawings, done in soluble pencils as I did not have time for any really wet work to dry.
The pencils are difficult to make precise lines with on un-stretched fabric, and then when water is added they become even more nebulous. This is an effect I have really come to enjoy- it is un-predictable and therefore exciting.
However many samples I have made I cannot be exactly sure how my plan will come together, so there is an element of risk in what I am going to do with my drawn-on and printed fabric. Usually I really enjoy making functional articles, so working towards something which will not have a definite use is very freeing… I just hope it works! I hope to post pictures in my last blog entry.
I have been focussing this week on transferring themes and ideas from my drawings onto cloth.
I love to print with a screen and ink, or with blocks etc, and of course paintings are traditionally done onto stretched canvas, but I wanted to try other media which I wouldn't normally use: I have drawn onto calico with charcoal, marker pens and pastels, and even with pencils. I have been so consumed with drawing that I haven't wanted to try anything else! I have even loved scribbling quickly with fabric pens- not a medium I usually like working with- loving how vivid they are.
I'm beginning to think about how the different things which have caught my eye in the museum can be collaged together to form a finished piece of textile. What motifs will I repeat? What sort of colour palette will I use? Will I sew onto my drawings…? I'm really looking forward to everything coming together to sort of describe these few weeks I have spent observing and copying down and observing again.
Then, one afternoon last week I climbed the old stairs as I habitually do, and there at the top was the most amazing light streaming in the upper windows and projecting the stained glass onto the fabric of the window blinds. As much as I have blogged about capturing images in the old-fashioned way with pen to paper, I have rarely been so thankful to have a phone which can take such beautiful photos!
I visited a beautiful quilting exhibition at the V&A a couple of years ago. It moved me to tears, which I really hadn't expected. I cannot remember now whether it was the quilts made by inmates of a prison, or those made by soldiers in the Crimea that did it for me. But the reason I am mentioning it is that I knew I had seen a reference to Canterbury there, so I dug out the catalogue and this is what I found:
"Fashionable silks were readily available in the attractive cit of Canterbury, which Priscilla Redding visited for her marriage in 1691. In her tour of 1697, Celia Fiennes described Canterbury as 'a flourishing town' with 'good tradeing in ye weaving of silks'. During the Anglo-French wars of the 1690's, illegal traders brought French silks and Flemish lace into the area".
So, a centre of black market luxuries- who knew? I suppose women have always had to have their little luxuries, and they weren't going to let something as silly as a war get in the way of beautifying themselves!
I have spent a lot of time in the 'People & Places' gallery, and "The Drawing Room'. This is because I wanted to look at the Beaney's women, and this is where they mainly seem to gather. I particularly love the fashion illustrations by John Ward; fresh, slim, doll-like creatures maintain their elegant tableaux… as beautiful as they are I cannot help feeling a bit sorry for them, with their arms continually aloft, their waists nipped in.
Perhaps that is the price of fashion, and of beauty, just like 17th century black-market lace?
I have been really taken with a particular sort of drawing: the type where you keep the pen in contact with the page the whole time. It forces you to observe quickly, and not get too hung up on the outcome, and the results are always a little surprising, with a sort of energy to them. I have been drawing objects in this way, but also their settings, by which I mean I have included the cases, the things I can see behind them, and even the floors (which have gorgeous patterns on). When there are people in my view I have tried to draw them too, but most people are so polite and try to get out of my way!
I enjoy the way this highlights the fact that the stories of all the objects and pictures in the Beaney, whether ancient or relatively modern, are connected to each other, and connected to our experience of viewing them. The energy in the new Beaney seems a long way from a dusty old deserted museum, and it seems very much to be a living place.
My thoughts around this type of drawing also remind me of the timeline, which I see every time I go up the main stairs.
And looking at it from another angle, I am also reminded of knitting: before I learnt to knit I used to think it was sort of black magic. How could you start with essentially a ball of wool and two sticks and end up with a jumper or a scarf, I thought. And now that I can knit I am still fascinated by the way one continuous line becomes entwined with itself, in what is a really ancient and beautiful craft, and transformed into any number of flat or sculptural objects.
Lines and connections between things is definitely something I am going to explore and try to reflect in my work.
The first week of my Armchair Residency has flown by, and the time has come to begin blogging. So here I sit in the Drawing Room before my 'Meet the Artist' session, writing this by hand. By the time you read this of course I will have had to type it, email it, and it will be on the internet in the way we have become accustomed to sharing things. I am not writing the old-fashioned way because I have to, but because I want to.
Allow me to explain: since starting to spend a lot more time in The Beaney (working as I am on both my Residency and my 'Make, Do & Give' workshops), all I have really wanted to do is to draw. My sketch book is beginning to fill up with depictions of what I have seen here since I have started to look- to REALLY look. I was very rusty with my sketching, but it is something I have always loved to do, and so I have relished this chance to put pen (or pencil or charcoal) to paper and see where it takes me. I have tried to impart to my Friday workshoppers that drawing can be best when it is about the process of looking rather than the end result, and by the end of our first session a few of my lovely participants had begun to be converted. Not all of my sketches are going to be images I'm really proud of, but I've enjoyed every one, and I feel so much more connected to the Museum Beaney having done them. There is definitely something magical that happens when you forget your surroundings and become immersed in looking, mark making, and looking again!
As yet I am unsure about how my sketches will fit into a final piece, but I am putting my trust in the creative process, letting the marks on the page be my guide… a bit like the way I let this blog take shape with pen on paper the old-fashioned way.