Over the next few months I am preparing for a very exiting project I am working on in anticipation of a two week Artist’s Residency in Sweden, this August. The residency is at the Bergby Konstcenter, an art run institution in rural Sweden, which welcomes artists from all over the world.
In preparation for the residency, I am continuing with the values and themes that run through a lot of my personal work which reflects upon the environment, destruction and our responsibilities as ‘Caretakers of the World’. I am also aware that travelling to Sweden from the UK, will mean that I need to restrict the type of materials and equipment I will be able to physically take to work with. So, using traditional mat-making which I have often used on this type of work, is out! Two such pieces are illustrated below:
The artwork above, was made for an exhibition to celebrate the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to the North East. It represents an illustrated carpet page, created by the monks. Using this imagery, I ‘hooked’ a world map within the cross with flora and fauna, representing the natural world we need to take care of.
‘R.I.P Mother Earth’ is a textile work coffin, the ends and lid of which are ‘hooked’ using a traditional mat-making technique using recycled fabrics. This piece reflects the way we are treating the world and what will become of our planet if we don’t start to radically change our ways.
A more recent piece, which is a link between ‘R.I.P’, ‘Caretakers’ and ‘Häxors Trosor’, is ‘Moral Compass’, a piece I wrote about in January. It reflects upon my desire as a parent to ensure that this is a world my children will want to live in and be happy – a world of peace, respect and love.
I have come up with the working title of ‘Häxors Trosor’ for the residency. This is Swedish for ‘Witches Knickers’! This is a humorous term for the shreds of plastic bags stuck in trees and bushes which are such a common sight in our landscapes. These are symbol of the sad condition of our planet, much of which is a result of a throw-away culture, with rubbish found dumped in beautiful landscapes, plastic floating in the seas and chemicals seeping into the planet’s ecosystems.
Inspiration struck me whilst walking my dog; I saw a crow acting in an extremely defensive manner over what turned out to be a piece of plastic bag which it wanted to use to ‘feather’ it’s nest. I found this very upsetting. It not only represents overconsumption and irresponsible littering (which according to Defra costs £10 million a year to clear up in Britain). As well as the aesthetic degradation of natural landscapes, these plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade and they are dangerous to fauna in many ways.
This has informed the work I will undertake during my residency: a series of pieces which reflect upon the different ways nature is fighting and loosing the war against overconsumption, greed and waste. As I am travelling to Sweden and working in a lovely rural studio and gallery space, I hope to use recycled fabrics and try to be restrained with the resources I take and use to create artworks which show the devastating issues at hand but in a beautiful, reflective manner of textile arts.
So, a couple of weeks ago, I started working on the ‘Crow’, the inspiration for the start of this project. By playing with and developing the piece, it has given me time to think about how the project will develop and the work I wish to create in Sweden. I started by simply machine stitching him, in a pose ready for the time I put the häxors trosor in his beak.
As I continue to work on the crow, I can see new elements I want to add to him and his surroundings, layering up and using found pieces of fabric, like embroidery anglaise from a pretty dress my daughter once wore and using crazy patchwork – which is always good fun!
Crows are traditionally seen as harbingers of bad news, which these environmental issues certainly are. Eventually, I aim to turn this piece into an heraldic pennant (which got me thinking about a penance). It also could be tied in with the double meaning of the word ‘standard’: heraldic standards and our possibly unobtainable ‘standards’ needed to improve environmental issues.
This is just the start, I am hoping that over the next few months and during the time I spend in Bergby, Sweden I can create a series of thought provoking and visually exciting pieces.
My young family are also very excited about our time in Sweden and are treating it as a family artists’ residency with a chance to leave tablets, phones and TV for a fortnight and focus on more creative pursuits. My three girls and husband thrive in a creative atmosphere and they will be keen to create work for visitors to see in the residency space and talk about their work, too. For them it is to be a digital detox and full of creative intoxication!