Sunday, December 28, 2014

What's in a Blog?

I've been aware that this blog has been gradually shifting and the emphasis in the decreasing number of posts has become almost entirely on my work as an artist.  I'm not sure how this happened but I think it's been a bit of a circular thing - if I'm not writing so much I need to make sure that when I do write, at least people can keep up with what work I'm doing but much of my working life is spent doing tasks which don't change very much so there isn't anything to write about so often.  So it's time to break out and return to the original flavour of the blog.

I'm not writing for any particular audience.  I hope people will read this blog but I have no idea who they are - friends, possibly some of my customers, but also people I don't know who happen on the blog by one accidental route or another.  Whatever I put here has to be what I'm happy for the whole world to know.  Trying to balance that with what the whole world might want to know is, I think, something that's been in my mind lately and has led to the whole thing becoming a little stultified.  If I'm writing something you don't want to know, feel free to stop reading and come back another day when there's something more to your taste.

I hope to post more blogs which contain just photographs.
I may include more creative writing - if I do any!
There will be mentions of work.
I mustn't forget about food (writing about it, that is, not eating it!)
I hope to return to writing about ideas.
I'm going to write about more personal things too.

Today I went outside with my camera and the garden was not particularly promising.  However, the rosemary is looking splendid, so that's what I photographed.  Over the last ten years or so I have used herbs in cooking much more than I used to and I think I use rosemary more than any.  It may be my favourite herb.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

All that glisters is not gold

 ... though some of it is.  The rest may be platinum, copper, bronze or coloured lustres.

For the second year, I've produced a limited edition range of lustred mugs.  Last year's mugs had multicoloured spots and this year I've divided the lustres up so there are two colourways - blues, greys and silver (platinum) and reds, oranges and gold.  There are two sizes of mug, extra large and small.  The mugs are available directly from me at my studio or on my stall at Stroud Farmers' Market and will be available in Arcade Artisans at the beginning of December.  I hope you like them.

I've also made more small lustred mugs in the leaf design.  Each mug is unique but you can see a common design.  Here is a small selection of them.

As a postscript, I'd like to draw your attention to the title of this post.  We don't use the word 'glisters' any more as a rule, but I still love what many see as archaic language.  It often has a beauty to it and for my money subtle but important differences in meaning which are often hard to explain.  There is a difference between 'glisters' and 'glistens', the word now usually substituted in the well-known saying.  I prefer the original.

Shakespeare, natch.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Exhibition news

Once again I'm exhibiting at The Cotswold Craftsmen Gallery, in an exhibition called, imaginatively, "CLOTH and CLAY".  It's a smallish exhibition space - what you see here is most of my exhibition - but it really suits my work.  I can display the complete mixture of what I make in a way which allows all the component elements of my artwork - ceramics, pictures, scarves, accessories and cards - to come together in a single whole.

Life is a bit difficult and stressful at the moment (hence even less blogging than usual, apologies) so I'm particularly pleased to have put together an exhibition I'm proud of.  I know most people reading this blog live too far away to visit, but don't forget you can always contact me if you want to know more about anything you see in these photos.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Yet more colour

A sneak preview of my new earrings, August 2014,  because they looked so pleasing all lined up on the rails.  I hope they'll be out for sale some time in the middle of September.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Just a reminder ...

....  that while lots of things turn me on artistically, none so much as

C O L OU R !

When I've finished making a batch of scarves I do love to see them all together.  This photo shows the scarves I've been making in the last few weeks, still needing their final wash to soften them up and restore their shape where necessary, so they're a bit creased at the moment and not arranged particularly carefully.  They're draped over the table top that I've been using to work on.

At some point after they've been washed and ironed I'll photograph them all individually and post proper photos, though this may not be for a couple of months as I still haven't found anywhere as good as my greenhouse in Stroud for good light conditions for photographing artwork.

But as a sneak preview, I can point out one or two new designs.  There's one I call eastern flames - strongly contrasting flamey/domey shapes at the ends of the scarf.  Another is black triangles - black and silver triangles against a background of huge colour triangles.  There is also dot and comma - small colourful circles against a background of huge comma and circle shapes.  And I've done quite a few entirely abstract squiggly ones. That will have to do for now!

I've packed up my work station in the cottage for this year now.  Enough scarves for the following seasons and anyway there are visitors expected in the cottage soon, to which we're looking forward.  I've been working fairly full on in order to get the scarves finished so won't worry about not doing much work for the next week or so. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Moving on

I'm pleased to say I have moved on from the stuck place I seemed to be in for quite a while.  I'd guess that blogging and talking about it was one factor that enabled me to move on and another was that I finally got round to starting up my Etsy shop.

In case you'd like to take a look, it's   here.

I have a feeling I started this a few years ago but by the time I thought about being organised back in February, I found I wasn't allowed to call my shop ClothAndClay;  there doesn't seem to be such a shop anywhere on Etsy so I suspect that I registered with a user name and password I've long since lost track of and that yer actual ClothAndClay shop name is in fact mine.  Hence my new Etsy shop is called ClothAndClayShop.  A bit clumsy but at least I can have my ordinary banner at the top. 

At the moment I have only earrings in my Etsy shop.  This is partly because I can make them to order at fairly short notice; even in really hot weather I'd be willing to use my heatgun to make one or two items.  I daresay I'll get round to some other items eventually. 

The same day as I built my Etsy shop we also did some playing around with space and furniture to see if I could set up somewhere inside to paint scarves.  Previously when we've been here I've done them outside.  This has one or two disadvantages: you need fair weather, but in normal weather the sun is too hot and drying on the patio where I worked by about 2.00 p.m. so I was under pressure to make scarves during settled weather and every morning.  The result of setting something up inside (in the cottage which has no visitors for the next two weeks or so) is that I can work whatever the weather and I can do half an hour and then break off and leave things as well if I want.

So, I have made a couple of scarves.  Nothing startling and two scarves do not a complete inspirational recovery make, but it's a start.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Losing my way

I seem to have lost my way, big time.  For some time now I am stuck in a place where I feel I can't do any artwork.  I've been trying to pretend it isn't so, but since I don't really believe in pretence or dishonesty or whatever else you want to call it, it seems time to speak out.  I don't tend to splurge bad stuff on the internet, either here or on Facebook or anywhere else, but on the other hand this all seems important enough to write about.

The problem seems related to where I am both physically and temporally.  Physically I'm in France and temporally I'm at the point of possible semi-retirement, or at least improving the life/work balance.

I think it is the temporal stuff which is the biggest problem.  Having turned 60 I now get a small pension from the teaching work I used to do and I have promised myself and M that from this point I would work less and live more, in the work/life balance.  But I don't seem to be able to do it.  In France I can do textiles work, make accessories and greetings cards, but I can't do any pottery.  And it's the textiles work that is the problem here because I think I need to be totally immersed in it once I start.  I had an idea that I would work on the property (land clearing, maintenance painting etc) and do domestic stuff like washing and cleaning and shopping in the mornings [life] and then leave the rest of the day for textiles [work] but whenever I get to the point of starting creative work I find I can't do it. 

I can't start.  It's like I can't go through the door because if I do I'll be on the other side, the work side, and not able to get back to the life side.  So here I am, sort of attached to the door handle.  Not able to go through but not able to go back and leave the door alone.  That would mean saying that I'm basically taking a four month holiday and I don't want to do that.  Apart from implications of stock levels, I miss the buzz of being in my work. 

I have ideas.  I even have some exciting big ideas.  I got as far as phoning to ask how big the stretcher frames I use go up to.  But then when it comes to it I can't actually do the work. 

I see pictures of new work friends are making, some of them producing several new ranges in the blink of an eye ....   and I feel even more cut off, not only from their physical company but from that part of myself.   You'd think that would propel me into a place where I'd just create, but it doesn't seem to.

The only creative work I think I could do now is making accessories - both the earrings that I have been making for a while (because I am very low in stock) and new ideas I'm quite excited about.  But this work requires a heat gun or hot water and in our part of France at this time of year it's too hot.  September is the time for the heat gun, when the mornings feel a bit chilly.

In case anyone was thinking of commenting that I am being creative with photography, cooking and other things, yes I am.  But right now they're not enough.  They're not the things I really want to be doing but can't.

So, here I am, losing my way.  I daresay it will pass.  But for the time being, it's a bit grim.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Photo walk

I am starting a mini project which I'm calling my Photo walk.  It's a daily project but I'm not going to be anal about the daily bit.  I'll try to do it most days but if something else crops up or I forget or the weather is unpleasant then I won't bother.

Each day I will take the same walk, or at least part of it, and while on my walk will take one or more photos.  The photos might be of anything at all that I can see from the path or road I'll be walking along.  This one of ripening wheat was on the first day.  I had it as my cover photo on Facebook for a day and then it was replaced by this one.

I haven't decided exactly what I'll do with the photos; whether to use them just on Facebook, or try to blog them daily or what. 

Today I took a series of photos to show my basic route.  The top one shows the route setting out, the bottom one coming back.  This will mostly be my walk although on days when I have more time I hope to get just round the corner from where the fourth picture shows, to reach a little bridge.

I'm pleased with the montage of my route because it gives a good idea of what my walk really looks like and why it probably doesn't appeal to people much as a walk, certainly not repeated daily.  But take a camera with you and ....

Monday, May 19, 2014

Thirty years!

Somewhat weirdly, I am on LinkedIn both as myself and as Crafts In Gloucestershire, where myself is a contact, if you see what I mean.  So Crafts In Gloucestershire gets the notifications that Jane Vernon's other contacts get, which is actually quite a useful tool because otherwise I really wouldn't know what's being sent.  LinkedIn remains rather a mystery to me, I'm afraid.  Anyway, this week Crafts In Gloucestershire received an email suggesting it should congratulate Jane Vernon on her 30 year work anniversary at Cloth and Clay.  Well, I hadn't realised.  But it's true.  May 1984 was when I started up in business as an artist.

And this was the picture that did it.  I had been making embroidered pictures for a few months, but this one made me realise that it was something I could do professionally.  Looking at it now, I'm not sure it looks all that much but at the time it seemed to and certainly everyone else thought so too.

I was still teaching full time at this point but managed to produce enough pictures to start selling at Cirencester Arts and Crafts market later in the year.  I painted on silk with artists' watercolours, then embroidered by hand, using wadding to pad out the work.  The pictures were mounted and framed but never put behind glass.  They were of landscapes and plants.  Some were realistic, like this one, others more abstract and worked in different colour schemes.

Over the years my textiles work developed and I moved through embroidered mirror frames to wallhangings and now embroidered canvasses.  Silk paints came in and I took to those like a duck, as they say.  I've used machine embroidery, hand embroidery, mirror work, applique, synthetic fabrics, metallic threads, beads, sequins and more. Who knows what's next?

Although I had my own wheel and kiln when I started the business, I was making very little pottery and still finding my way through experimenting with clays and glazes.  I sold a few pieces to friends now and then but it wasn't until 1992 that I finally found the clay, glazes and techniques that form the core of my work as a potter even now.  Back then I still had a lot of unresolved back problems and could only work at pottery a few hours a week.  I can't even remember when I started having kinesiology treatment and eventually acupuncture, but between them they turned my life around and most of the time I am now able to work full time in the pottery if I want.

Thirty years was half my life ago.  Back then I was psychologically a very late developer, a bit scared of life generally and hadn't much self-esteem.  I can still remember how I felt when I made the picture above.  That amazing realisation that I had made something I knew someone would buy and that I had it in me to go on doing that.  Starting "in business", making, selling, registering with the tax office, meeting customers but above all making, making and more making, was the beginning of becoming myself. 

The first decade saw me married, widowed, giving up full-time teaching,  and training in counselling.  The second decade saw me developing my artwork, my teaching skills and wonderful friendships.  The third has seen me in a new relationship and marriage, giving up teaching completely and becoming a full-time, self-supporting artist.

It's a pretty good place to be.  I'm not sure what's in store this next decade.  I want a little more life and less work in the work-life balance but new ideas are still tumbling around in my head and I still love making the things I make now, so we'll see.  But thirty years, eh?  Who'd 'a thought?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Working at selling

Yesterday I was at Stroud Farmers' Market.  I don't have a regular spot there so I'm often next to people I don't know and yesterday I found myself next to the mushroom stall for the first time.  As is usual between stallholders,  the mushroom seller and I struck up conversation from time to time.  Topics, as usual, included the weather (an unseasonal biting wind on this occasion), whether there were many people about (there were) and how we were doing for sales.

At one point my neighbour said "Gosh, you had to work hard for that, didn't you?"  Someone had been talking about a fish design plate of mine that had got broken.  I didn't have fish plates there with me but he took a card in case he wanted to come to the studio to see any fish plates I have here.  So no sale, but general market-type conversation, as far as I was concerned.

My neighbour, though, was struck that I  "had to" talk for ages and still get no sale.  My day at any event is full of conversation like this so it hadn't seemed out of the ordinary.  I just hadn't thought that for her, people come up to the stall to buy mushrooms, they nearly always end up buying some and then after some pleasantries they go away again.  By the end of the market the mushroom stall is nearly always sold out.  That's an unimaginable situation for me, even when I have a half-price sale.

So as a craftsperson, I do have to work at selling.  Working at it means engaging with potential customers all the time, encouraging, helping, guiding and yes, mostly, watching them walk away empty handed.  But the work is enjoyable.  I'm proud of what I make and how I display it and I'm happy to talk to people about it, or anything else.  And some of them come back and buy something.

Maybe you are one of my customers?  I don't keep this blog going as frequently as I used to but still enjoy feedback and comments on the blog are always welcome.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Exhibition news

I hope lots of you will be able to visit the exhibition.  I'm really pleased to be exhibiting with these other artists and to be working to a different theme.  As there are six of us, I will be selecting work - old and new- which resonates more particularly with the theme of "Grounded". 

Look out for some different coloured spotty mugs!  There is a collection of green and brown themed spotty mugs which are for the moment "limited edition" in number, though if they prove popular I may make more of them.  And there will be .....  well, you'll have to come to the exhibition to find out what else I'm making .....

On a different subject, as an update, I'm delighted to say that I raised £270 for ShelterBox with my wallhanging raffle.  The hanging was one by a customer who came to my stall at Stroud Farmers Market.  Thank you to all who donated.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Win a wallhanging!

Do you like this wallhanging?  Would you like the chance to win it for yourself (or someone else)? 

I'm offering it as a raffle prize with the cost of your entry being a donation to my chosen charity, ShelterBox.  I'm asking for donations of minimum £5 to an excellent cause and in return you will be entered into the raffle to win the hanging.  The raffle will be drawn either on 28th March 2014 or when the donations have reached £170 (the original price of the hanging), whichever is the later. 

Do visit my JustGiving page to find out more and perhaps make a donation.