I hadn’t planned on visiting this exhibition, as weaving is not something that has interested me especially. I kept hearing how good it was, and it just goes to show how valuable it can be to go along even if you think it’s not for you.
Ironically Anni was not initially keen on weaving either, and considered it ‘sissy’. Not dissimilar to myself thinking textiles and embroidery boring before I fell in love with them.
Anni Albers wanted to paint, but she was discouraged by teacher Oskar Kokoschka and in her day womens options were limited. She was pushed into pursuing weaving ( a suitable female occupation).
“I used the threads themselves as a sculptor or painter uses his medium to produce a scriptural effect which would bring to mind sacred texts.” Anni Albers
“Six prayers 1966-67” was commissioned by the Jewish Museum, New York as a memorial to the six million lost in the Holocaust.
My friend and I took a seat to fully take in this series. We had no idea of their significance. We were only aware of how they dazzled us. They are described in the guide as sombre, which was surprising as they glowed with a calm beauty. They glittered and shimmered in a subtle yet powerful manner. We sat transfixed marvelling at their complexity which was hidden by their initial simplicity. The colours are limited, yet the warm golden tones drew us in. How could beige, silver, black and white be so mesmerising?
Her energy and prolific work was astounding! To see that she had sat and painstakingly drawn tiny triangles filled with dots in her mid seventies, the sheer concentration and manual dexterity that took was inspiring. Her career and life were long, and when she found weaving to be a strain in later years she began printing.
Another element of great interest was how her mind worked. The process of weaving is both creative and methodical. She excelled at both, whereas I struggle with the methodical aspects. What she has managed to achieve in her career is phenomenal. The meticulous planning, and details, the deceptive simplicity of some pieces in their colours, revealing so much depth upon looking closer. Her commissions alone are impressive. These include room dividers for Harvard dormitories, a light reflecting drapery for the Rockerfeller guest house, and a sound proof hanging for an auditorium which resembled a vast piece of metal.
“To let threads be articulate again and find a form for themselves to no other end than their own orchestration, not to be sat on, walked on, only to be looked at, is the raison d’etre of my pictorial weavings.” Anni Albers
So much of the exhibition is a love song to life, the joy of making, the tactile qualities inviting you in.
Her use of materials also intrigued me, how she pushed them and danced with them creating such innovation. Not only wool was used but cotton, metallic thread, cellophane, nylon, and jute.
An over riding feeling from the exhibition was one of wanting to sit down with Anni and question her. What an interesting life she led. The exciting commissions she got to work on, how her life could have ended brutally if she had stayed in Germany like so many others. Black Mountain College, North Carolina where Anni and her husband went to teach in the 1930’s was a creative and intellectual community. It encouraged experimentation and communal living. Materials were explored and taken to new levels.
I especially enjoyed seeing her necklaces constructed from everyday objects such as washers, and ribbon, drain strainers, paperclips and hair pins. From a distance they were stunning, and only revealed their mundane origins upon a closer look. It took a long time to get around the exhibition, as each object had much to reveal on closer inspection. We needed a tea and brownie break half way through. There was just so much to really study, her typewriter -character pieces were fascinating as she used ordinary symbols like dots, percentages and forward slashes to create patterns on paper.
I highly recommend a visit to see this exhibition if you get a chance before it closes on 27th January 2019. The Tate has done an incredible job. You may enjoy the article below.
I have never been a fan of New Year. It’s forced jollity or expectations, ( I find Winter tough and often suffer badly with depression) Society tells us New Year- New You. My husband said let’s try Dry January this year, my youngest child suggested Vegan January. I have said a firm NO to both! If I want to do anything at all this coming year it is to be a hedonist! Now I bet you are thinking.. oh she’s a party girl! Far from it, I much prefer an early night, a good book, and some knitting. Candlelight is sparkle enough for me, good wine, close friends and cats.
I don’t want to just ramble on about myself. So I am hoping that you will tell me what you think and feel in the comments space below. I’ve been thinking about re starting my blog for some time, and so I got to thinking, why? If it’s just a personal journal I can write it in a private notebook, who wants to hear about me anyway? So I’m going to write this blog for me, and for people a bit like me. I really love and value the great instagram community of creative people I am part of. Many have encouraged, supported and inspired me. I have been told by friends that I have many skills to share. So I am hoping here to share my stories, creative process, ideas, inspirations and life lessons.
A little bit of background, I live in Brighton and my flat looks out upon the sea and beautiful communal gardens. ( Something which never fails to delight me daily, as I grew up on a rough council estate) I have a strangely posh accent ( picked up at the girls convent grammar I attended) My childhood was incredibly sad and traumatic and as a result I have suffered with anxiety and depression most of my life. I am a wife and mother, somewhat plump with good cheekbones, and I’m forty three.
Now onto the important bit. In September when my youngest started secondary school, I gained extra time in my day and was excited about all I was going to do. I wanted to do more exercise, put in more hours on my art, have a great routine going, and basically do it all. Instead I got ill, anxiety worsened, and I found myself doing no art. I was frustrated, angry and disheartened. Did I wait patiently for this to pass? No! I forced things, I argued with my body, I tried this and that and was horrified by the mess I found myself in. One morning in Autumn I took myself out into the garden with a cuppa and sat in the sunlight. I looked all around me and saw mess. The mess of all the Autumn leaves, curled, squashed, muddled, crisp and beautiful. I saw very clearly the message nature was giving me. Life is messy, it’s meant to be messy, you can only embrace it.
Nothing changed overnight, but my attitude. I started to see there was a different way. I am not a fan of mess, or slow. I would like colour coded plans, and a whistle to push things along. I would also like to still look thirty and have a perfect beach body. The biggest and best lesson I have learnt is acceptance and trust. Pushing and forcing has only led to failure.
I didn’t think much was going to change but it has. I really decided to start trusting myself, and getting quiet and listening to my intuition. I started to look at success and failure and what they mean to me and to question what is truly important and valuable. I was surprised to find that it wasn’t creative recognition, or getting paid to do textile work. What made me happiest of all was the process, the actual doing of the work, and finishing the work and learning and being part of a community of like minded creative people. Teaching workshops and being here when my children came home. At one point I decided I needed to get a studio, but I found that the idea of a studio was enough to shake up my attitude, and then I realised how much freedom I have working at home if I treat it like a studio. (money saved also, bonus!)
I noticed how much I was living in my ‘story’ and not really living. Worrying, and apologising for being me, and feeling not good enough. So that is why I think it’s more important for me to be a hedonist this year. I’ve begun to feel at ease in my skin at last, and having been someone who is always in my head, I’ve begun to live fully in each moment instead.
Dreams and goals are strange things, important and complicated. Going to art college I felt sure that my path was clearly laid out. You may not be surprised to hear it was messy, and complicated and not remotely how I hoped things would go. I didn’t specialise early enough as I couldn’t find my medium. I had fully imagined myself a photographer, jeweller or ceramicist. Though none of them clicked, and much as they interested me I was lost.
I headed off to do an HND in design crafts after art foundation having been told I could do an extra year top up to get my degree, which turned out to be false..
By then my grant was finished having done 3 years full time education after A levels. At a later date I did another 1.5 years ( half a degree in visual culture ) before illness put an end to that.
All in all I’ve done enough time in education to have an MA behind me but have spent years feeling cross that I don’t even have a degree.
Funnily enough the learning really started when I left education behind me. The greatest thing I’ve learnt creatively has been recently. It is FOCUS!
Suffering with depression gave me a foggy overwhelmed brain, relentless viruses and the anxiety pretty much finished me off. So I flitted around here and there, distracted, always inspired, full of ideas, never finishing very much. Also very frustrated.
I have started to say NO a lot more in my work which has moved it on considerably. Trust and intuition have become good friends and I am finding out where my skills really lie, and choosing which ones to commit to working harder on.
Yesterday I had a funny chat with my teenage son about looking up. We were discussing balconies and how people don’t often look up. I’m always looking up and down and often at weeds in pavement cracks. “Yes, but you are weird” he said!
“No I’m an artist” I replied.
Well you are not making lots of money selling your work he reminded me. This used to be my downfall. No degree- failure, no regular income from art- failure! Not this year my patient reader!
To conclude, I’m stepping out of the story of my life, I’m leaving failure like a heap of clothes on the floor. I delight in my weirdness, I celebrate who I am. I am an artist, something I was too afraid to say for many years.
My intention is to live as much as possible in the present moment, to keep trusting myself and following my intuition. To draw and make marks and learn and make art everyday.
It is the beginning, there is hard work ahead, but what an adventure it will be!
So I wish the same for you. That you feel free, and alive, and realise how wonderful you already are. I wish you a happy, healthy and beautiful new year. Please tell me what your hopes or plans are for the the year ahead. I am hoping this will be a space for chatting and sharing and not just me writing long essays.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking, as do most of us, always in our heads. I have written so many blog pots up there, scribbled notes on them in my sketch book, and very few have actually appeared here.
Life often just passes by while we are waiting to do something. So today I’m just going to do it. The fancy pictures, professional layout, they will come, with time. The aim of my blog in general is to inspire, discuss the creative process, and show snap shots of a creative life, to connect with others, those who are creating, and those who wish they were doing it more.
I have learnt so much in the last year, about the creative process, being an artist, perfectionism, and what really matters to me. I still feel like a beginner though, and that’s a good place to be as it keeps you striving, and moving forward, but hopefully with a little more balance.
When I want to make a good drawing, I panic, I avoid it like the plague, I do nothing! Yet when I decide I haven’t much time, and I will just scribble something fast, the result is I have before me a drawing! A simple, imperfect one but somehow it feels more personal than the hundreds of photographs I have captured on my phone. I feel a connection, I have learnt something about what I am observing, I have found a quieter, calmer part of myself. It’s a lovely thing, try it!
You may be wondering why there isn’t an image of one of my quick sketches here, well I said I was learning about perfectionism, but it’s still there, saying nope that will not do. I guess that is what makes you a better artist, always striving, and trying harder. That balance is a tricky thing.
I have read, and re read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and I love that book so much. Her quote “perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat,” is wonderful. I highly recommend it. In fact it’s probably time for me to read it again.
The photographs I have used are not especially relevant, I just find I’m addicted to taking these shots, loving shadows, greys and textural qualities. I have no idea about photography, I just try and capture the essence of how I see the world. Mostly in details, colours, textures and blurry shadows.
Art and creativity are about connecting with others, something I have found so valuable on Instagram, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Get in touch on Instagram or email (contacts page) as my comments section is closed due to spam, but will be reopened soon.
Before I discovered textiles I was always interested in sculpture and 3d shapes. I still like to bring this aspect to my embroidery. Working with water soluble fabric is so playful. These bowls are inspired by the sea, its colours, by shells. The shimmering of light on the sea is picked out by the hand sewn sequins. I’m currently exploring seaweed for my next textile pieces. I have long been fascinated by what comes out of the sea, knotted fishing wire, ship wrecks, stories of lives. There is something ghostly and mysterious to it…
I love working with linen, and chose a large piece which I machine embroidered with a an abstract landscape theme. As I don’t like to have idle hands I carried it with me in my bag and hand stitched into it whenever I could. On the bus, chatting to friends, in the garden. It was random and unplanned but had a unique quality. It sat in a drawer for a while until I decided to turn it into some pin cushions for sale at Sewmance Festival.