Journal entry 10th March 2011

New brief received and brain churning away already, a more organised approach this time is necessary as this will be a live brief in terms of finding one to enter or take part in in some way. Time to hit the net and find some competitions to enter or exhibitions to put in for also the possibility of setting up a Folksy shop or similar.

There are also several other ideas which have already popped up. Something to do with Britain in bloom which appeals to the horticulturalist in me, more information to come soon from Amy after she has a meeting tomorrow. A competition with Tiger print card design for vehicle character a little out of my comfort zone in subject at first glance, but I'm sure I could adapt my style to the subject it would be good to stretch myself. Also the idea of working the other side of M&S appeals to me having worked for them in the past in a retail capacity. I always daydreamed about designing work for them instead of selling it. Also as I logged onto Facebook earlier this afternoon a link came up about Staffordshire open arts competition with Shire Hall gallery in Stafford. I am intending to take my Daughter there for a visit next week so I will see if I can glean any extra information on that one- the deadline is the start of April though which is sooner than I would have liked really.

I feel very enthusiastic and have had to restrain myself from diving right into the research the second I got home. Instead had to put my Mum hat on and get the house and children back in order after spending so much time on the last project.

I am excited about this way of working I hope it inspires me to go for it more, start seeking out opportunities and giving them a go routinely.

Journal entry 17th March

I spent yesterday in Stafford with Daisy, I found out lots about exhibiting at the Shire Hall Gallery including the open art exhibition, the Christmas craft fair and selling work through the craft shop and craft exhibition space.

I had not realised how much the commission the gallery takes seems to have increased since I last worked in the industry. I was quite surprised to find that the mark up was 50% + vat this would really affect how I price my work and also considering which outlets I approach to stock it. I was also able to find out directly from the staff what sort of work sold well and look at the prices different types of work sells for. For example I was told that jewellery and greetings cards are particularly popular and as you might suppose their sales increase during seasonal festivities Christmas mothers day etc. One of the staff remarked that he was initially surprised that the cards mostly priced at £3.00 sold so well until he looked at cards for sale in high street retailers like Clinton's cards. This made him realised that actually those handmade cards available in places such as Shire Hall were actually very good value for money perhaps even under priced in comparison.

I also had it confirmed that the gallery usually took in work to sell in the shop on a sale or return basis, this would mean that if I was to have work in several selling spaces at one time I would need a substantial amount of stock available. I would also need to look into and include in the pricing of my work the relevant insurances needed to cover my stock in transit and on display also to look into the terms and conditions of sale with in the gallery I was selling/exhibiting in - areas such as insurance against theft and damage during exhibition and being paid for work sold and the return of unsold work would require particular scrutiny.

I took notes as I was looking around the shop paying particular attention to the makers prices, packaging, display (mostly down to the gallery staff), and the types of work on display. I have then gone back to the designer makers own websites and looked further into there work backgrounds and other pricing structures and other places they had exhibited and sold work, as hopefully these might also be somewhere I could approach at a later date.

I have yet to find out much about the Christmas craft fair apart from that

  • it has been running for a few years 
  • stall cost £50-£100 approx
  • there is a selection process application deadline within the next few months (unconfirmed as yet)
  • the entire gallery space is taken over to accommodate the stalls for two days Friday and Saturday in November
  • you can exhibit for one or two days
I have really reignited my desire to become a successful designer maker but since seeing others work in the flesh once again, some new makers and some I am already familiar with, I now feel somewhat greedy that I want to develop further in three areas textiles, ceramics and jewellery. I know that it would be a tall order to try and push all three in equal measure over this next project however I am keen to follow my gut instinct in the area of tiles / coasters as these seem to be very on trend at the moment and I intend to take advantage of this and build on the success of my previous work by developing it and getting it out into the market place even if that is only on a very small scale initially.

I feel that the textiles element as it is quite an immediate process in comparison to ceramics and jewelery (metal working) with probably form part of the design process developing the colour and texture of my work and the ceramics and metal the forms or canvas for the decorative elements. However after learning form my mistakes of the last project I need to remember that these elements in order to produce a coherent final outcome need to be done in conjunction to each other at the time of development.

As well as the Shire Hall gallery I called in at a small independent outlet Number 28 a tiny gift shop which stocks handmade goods and other gift ware. I spoke briefly to the shop assistant and took a business card, unusually there was no email address or website given and so I will contact the owner by phone at a later date to enquire about selling there.

Journal entry 23rd of March

I thought id be back in college by now but it seems we have a bit of extra time off so I've put it to good use in my allotment. Along side that it seems that my work will be heading in that direction too ! I have finally had some more information about the Britain in bloom brief and it sounds very exciting. I am now in contact with Newcastle under Lyme's Britain in bloom coordinator who luckily enough is based just over the road from college so I Will arrange a meeting for next Thursday to pop over introduce myself in person(i have already dropped her a quick email to introduced myself) and perhaps take some of my work to show her.

The brief in so far as I understand it so far is fairly open I believe I will be given some space (not sure if I will be sharing-need more details in this) in the window of Newcastle U L Library to exhibit my work. This is placed prominently for the judges of "Britain in Bloom" to see on the way to their judging chamber after walking through Queens Gardens. With this in mind I have contacted my Aunt and Uncle who themselves play a big role in "Fareham in Bloom" in Hampshire. I have asked them if any artists or designer makers are involved with their "in Bloom" and also as they are a good example of my potential 'customer' have asked them if there are any potential products gift items they would expect/like to find for sale in relation to the festival.

I have just realised all this sounds very commercial but as this is a live brief I am very aware that I need to set myself boundary's on what is it I am going to create and so need to focus on some products to produce. This idea has been formed partly due to the research I have been carrying out recently as I was  to looking into opening a shop as part of this project or applying for a stand on a local craft fair. This brief however takes the pressure off somewhat as the "Britain in Bloom" event does not actually take place until the summer giving me plenty of time during this project and after to develop and make the work without being limited to the 7 weeks of this projects duration.

As well as visiting galleries Internet research I also visited the Creative Village at Staffordshire University this week. I found out a few more details and met some of its residents. I thought it had a very positive feel about it it was light and airy the spaces were compact but not too cramped and could imagine myself working from there in the future. The graphics and product designers I spoke to told me that the rent charge was roughly £68 a month and showed me a few typical units set out with stock materials and work in progress. I asked them lots of questions many of them I still need answering by Sue Tabnor who runs the center-I have her contact details and will contact her or pop back in on a day when she is working-as she works part time. I did find out however that there is usually a period of grace for the first few months where no rent is payable while you settle in and establish yourself-this is good to know and I imagine takes the pressure off a little.

Apparently you can hire the workshop facilities for £10 per hour after negotiation with the technicians which not only means that you have access to a wide variety of materials, processes and experience but also you have to work in a time and cost efficient manner to keep costs down. Access is from 8am -9pm access outside of those times are also open to negotiation with security and technical staff-this would fit in well with my future plans as regarding my family taking children to school etc.

 I really feel that being part of the Creative Village would be a good move for me once I finish this course as I think it would be beneficial to have a community to belong to and keep me going as I think working from home could be a lonely experience also "going out to work" in contrast to working from home would hopefully help me keep a better work life balance in future.

As far as funding goes this is something I will have to look into further as this is the downside of not working from home is that on top of costs for materials designing and making time, paying rent also needs to be taken into account in the costing and pricing of your work.

Journal entry 27th, 28th and 29th March

On Sunday I had intended to go and draw directly from the allotments but did not feel i could do what i saw justice so after a few attempts I decided instead to use the images i captured with my eye in my camera lens to development later. This group of snapshots have become the basis for my design development so far.
(add images)

Today (Monday) I started to work on my images from the allotment. I used a light box to sketch the outlines onto cartridge paper and then scanned them into Photoshop. I worked into them adding colour in a patchwork effect directly from the photos. This was a very enjoyable process and fairly quick too. i worked on several designs but have yet to print them. I must remember in whatever the outcome I finally make the colours might change- i could remedy this slightly by setting the colours to the panatone range at a later date. I also took back and white photocopies of the line drawings and altered the scale slightly something I will most likely revisit again during the development process.

This evening (Tuesday) I have worked into the slightly enlarged line drawings with collaged plant and seed catalogues-this is something that i have been thinking of doing for some time and the I was going to develop the idea and process during the last project but i felt i would have been going off on yet another tangent so left it on the back burner until now. I really enjoyed the rather time consuming process and allowed a little spontinatey in the design so as not to just repeat the same thing just in a different media -as the Photoshop work. I had intended to do the same treatment with each of the images but as it took so long to do the first I think that this is something I may do later but is not essential now. Far better and more productive to move on now and develop the idea further and perhaps try some other methods.

In the spirit of moving the design forward I had been trying recently to remember techniques I had been taught but had forgotten in my past study of Surface pattern. I decided to focus (using a view finder made of my paper offcuts) in on areas of the collage i thought worked particularly well or had interesting details to them -even if not entirely true to the original image. I used my trusty phone camera to take a few snaps of this process and will print them out to add to my sketch book which i have also made a start on and aim to ensure i keep up to date during this project and others in future, I need to remember -as was highlighted in my feedback- to document the design process regularly to show the progression in a more logical way.

I feel quite happy that my ideas are progressing well and am quite excited about were it may lead me !

Journal entry 31st March

A very good day today, I had my meeting with Britain in bloom coordinator Donna from Newcastle borough council today. It was lovely to be met by equal enthusiasm to my own about the project. It seems that my work and ideas perfectly matches what they want and everything seems to be falling into place. The general feel of the meeting is that we can be of great mutual benefit to both parties and this could be an ongoing relationship.

The biggest theme that the Britain in bloom team wanted to get across is that they are celebrating 20 years of participation in the event. (later emended to 21st year)

The key areas they will be judged on are community, environmental  and horticulture. All three have a direct link to my work.

There are 3 levels of competition

  • local competition Newcastle in bloom
  • Regional competition-heart of England in bloom-15th July-dummy run for final
  • National finals-RHS Britain in bloom -category small city-1st-13th august

The major component of my work will be the exhibition space in the library, they would like me to be present to talk to the judges about my involvement on both days- a great publicity opportunity.

other dates and events I could take part in:
  • Possibility of 2 pop up shops during the judging time two days in vacant shops (old Yankee candle store) Fog Street of the iron market-to be included on the judges route for judging to show community involvement
  • the Brampton-love parks week 23rd-29th July-5th birthday celebration-national event inc art in the park, workshops community workshops (later found out could not attend as was on my sons birthday)
  • It is possible that if the work has a strong focus on the 20 year anniversary the would could be exhibited in the mayors parlor- great publicity exposure could give out business cards etc.
  • possibility of accompanying them to Tatton park for the RHS taton park entry.
Next steps

  • gather primary research from Newcastle allotments-the acres, Basford, and Dimsdale
  • the team are happy to take me to take photos they are going to get clearance from the allotment association and holders.
  • possibility of using existing photos of past years entry's which they will organise for me-but i would prefer my own images as i can find little unusual details not just the obvious documentary images.
  • employ the same formula I have used for developing visuals from my own allotment to this new more specific Britain in bloom Newcastle primary research.
  • Keep the team informed of my progress with regular meetings both in college and at the council offices.
other points

We also talked about their remit to get the 16-18 year old age group more involved in the project the already work well with school children and adult audiences.
We touched on funding ans sponsorship of which there was really only the possibility of asking The art Studio who are a sponsor to discount or sponsor the framing of my work- they currently sell advertising space to local business to advertise  in the garden beds roundabout displays and hanging baskets etc.

Journal entry 7th April

a few teething problems with the camera worked out through trial and error
these allotments different from mine-more organised different buildings
quirky detail colour scheme
I me the allotment association leaders they were very happy to show me round and tell me about their site which they were very proud of.
My first impressions of the Basford site was how different from mine it was on first impressions so it took me a little while to get my eye in and start to discover the unique qualities of these gardens. They are very well established and seem very industrious. The buildings and layouts seemed much more ordered than my own plot, after a little while i realised just how much there was to work with.

I found work by artist who covers sheds in fabric Elena Thomas, apparently her work cased quite a stir when it was first done, it has weathered somewhat now. I thought it was a very simple but unusual idea, allotments are a very traditional institution and anything out of the ordinary could go against the grain. This made m a little more wary perhaps about what the allotment holders particularly the older well established gardeners would think of my involvement in there world. However the allotment holders i spoke to were actually very friendly and helpful allowing me pretty much free reign to take photo uninhibited.

I the afternoon a had a good look through the images taken to look for the best details a theme in colour and shape. Felt a little overwhelmed at the number of possibilities.

22nd April
I tryed to contact The  Brampton about  "by me" but I couldn't get through but made sure photos were taken and statement written-in third person.

23rd "By me deadline today finaly got through to someone to check if sharing a table would be possible but was told might be postponed due to lack of interest but sent stuff anyway. (see emails in research file)

Journal entry 26th April
I got to grips with choosing images to develop worked with light box to isolate details from photos and produced line drawings.

27th April
Worked with text luckily managed to get the wording I needed out of the plant labels id photographed with no need to add anything, so uncanny that it fit so well. I played with scale repeat layout I seem to have trouble with scale and in particular when using photoshop which leads me to have to print out lots of paper to get it right, I just cant seem to visualise it.

Thursday 28th April
Today I had a crit with Cheryl and decided my work was heading in more of a poster graphic design area and was becoming too tight needed to loosen up and relax into the work more spontaneously.

This afternoon I met with Donna from the council to take photos at allotment for news story-importance of bees could work into design as this was a key part of the competition for the alotment gardeners i had noticed lots of little insect habitats and want to use this visual in my work perhaps in simplified form.
I have decided on designs for screen printing and made acetates for exposing the screen unfortunately du to being out at the allotments I did not leave myself enough time to make duplicates and get them lines up propperly it was all a bit last minut and consequently was quite stressful. I need to be more organised !

30th April
I tryed sewing on fabric paper stitch-problems with sewing machine tension lead to finding out how to service machine myself.

4th April
Meeting at college to show work to donna she was very happy with progress. Unfortuantly i realised i culd not atend love parks with the council -anohter publisity opertunity as i is Logans second birthday that day.
Dan helped me to expose screen and we maaged to do the first prints.

5th April
crit- more relaxed stile organic spontaneous lots of little details to bring together at end
transfer inks and citriwash-to include original images-now heatpress is in the studio the settings seem to work quicker deeper image achieved in only 30seconds but have to be careful not t wet or will stick if paper to paper transfer but on fabric works really well perhaps as this time have used up cycled and many times washed fabric to print on on resistant coating to repel the ink.
tryed cut outs and layering with acetates fabric and paper photocopy-added marker to detail on screen prints. smaller prints on a a5/a6 mostly print with stitch overlay cutout or ink detail-perhaps then photocopied onto final patchwork piece?

looked at other screen printers

image by lilsonnysky

inspired me to look back at some of my more successful work (tiles) and have a go a separating them into individual layers so i could make my own 3 colour print.

6th May
team work with Lisa-brown prints problems with bleeding ink colour mixing
work into prints with inks try to do back grounds
talked about screen printing block for back ground with rich suggested trying brayer ink and mask as screen might be prone to drying out and bleed with large open area i was not keen then time probas as end of year so suficently thought could try with my lino- will give different effect than screen print less control over image detail but this print techneque would have its own querks and can be done at home and perhaps simpler to registered the prints?
tryed my watercolour inks but colours did not fit in with palet id developed jared a little to bright so perhaps back to more natural pallet with acents of stronger colour to punctuate. had troble mixing browns today for some reason funny as that is the colour you always seem to end up with !

7th May
found out how to service machiene thinking about at home printing techneques need carbon paper to transefer onto lino for cutting- make 3 colour print of tile motifs and perhaps over come the block background and detail adding prob encounteresd by screen print by incorporating lino with screen but lino cant get photographic detail perhaps colograph techneque for texture back ground if time as must be made and shelaced not much time left. found card stock with texture a6 size will try out -perhaps get other ink colours. When sewing machine is serviced try cut outs of print with fabric behind with stitch detail or on top as aplique. learnt about reduction lino printing apeals to the spontainous in me but scares me to think you need to take the whlile series in one go as the first cut only lasts until the second cut starts etc.
with lino blocks could do with mounting on wooden blocks for ease of printing if not using roller/press will use to print on lining paper a repete pattern also on fabric. maybe use a patchwork of my vintage fabric on the canvas i have as a base and work on top and into perhaps an all over repete of the screen or lino block?
things are coming together, must decide on photos for folio and get them printed this week.

9th May
made first prints with lino black ink as the last printing id done was colograph i wet the paper and then inked up the plate with black ink and put it thought the roller press expecting a sharp dense print unfortunately what i got was a squashed smudged disappointment. perhaps the pressure was to great with the rollers combined with the newness of the ultra slippery soft cut lino. After a few more goes i resorted to the good old fashioned rubbing technique which gave a much better effect. next up was colour of ink i was printing on cartridge. made up a brown but struggled with mixing the right colour. will have to find some better coloured inks the college supply are the wrong colours to mix the ones i lunch time bought some purple ink Hyacinth design suddenly became more prominent. ordered other colours from shop asked about mediums to mix acrylic with.

11th May

decided to take the pressure off and concentrate on small famed pieces to be displayed together perhaps old frames and perhaps a mix with old and new. Dan helped me on wed afternoon had forgotten he was in showed me how to use the downward pressure press and did produce a good clear image could do two plates at a time sped up the process and made it less labour intensive.

13th May
bought frames mix of old and new
bought inks and papers ran out of patience became a chore lino worked well on marno paper but colour meant no need for second colour. perhaps i should have worked into the lino more i still want to but feel i need to stop with the printing or i will keep on an on and never stop. i am definitely back into lino cutting a want to develop it further i like that it is something i can pursue with minimal equipment making it a good option to continue fro home. want to investigate lino print on fabric canvas bags or worked up layered textile pieces. got fed up with printing lost my way in the afternoon once id decided not to do any more i went back to the studio to try and sift through the paper but i got stuck inn a rut. decided to come back to my blog but it was down i imagined having to rewrite everything and so have decided to keep an offline copy too ! just in case.

During the next week I was unable to work due to illness- Being out of action for a week and he timing being of it has taught me you always need a back up plan. I had planed out what i was going to do on the last week and it was tight as it was but had this deadline been for an exhibition or a craft fair there would be a financial implication particualryly a craft fair with loss of trade and costs lost due to not being able to participate.

11. Exhibitors withdrawing from the event after accepting space are liable to pay 50% of their stand fees. Exhibitors who cancel within 20 days of the start of the fair (30th September 2011) are liable for the total cost of the stand.

In this case i would need a backup plan

  • make sure i had stock made up before the event taking into considerestion the possibility of unforseen circomstances
  • have a sales person stand in incase of illness lined up
Luckily these type of events have a long build up between aplication deadline and event itself. I the case of the work im doing now while studying there is such a lot of time spent on developing ideas that timings will be difernt to producing work in batches for sale when efficiences can be made and with practice and learning under my belt i would work more effeciently.

23rd May
i took my photos for printing and collated my reseach went to find the remaining frames yet again charity shops came to the rescue. i was given a brilliant deal and given access to the back of the shop so much stuff a great resource. I now have 21 frames one for every year of Newcastle under Lyme's entry into Britain in bloom.

24th May
I decide that completing all 21 peices for exhibition was not nessesary or possible in the time i have left so instead i looked at all my samples and sorted them out into what i wanted to use and what i didnt I had not realised quite how much work i had produced and how much ground i had covered the project really had developed in a different direction from my initial ideas using my images from my own allotment which make some feel that i would have had a different outcome from each different pace i looked at i hope that this is eveident to the britain in bloom team when they finaly see the work and they can see the Basford allotments charachter coming through. Of course my design process has evolved the work into a more stileised visual which afterall is how i work distilling the details and moving away from the original image whilst retaining the essence of it.

25th May
Day before deadline have had to call a stop to making pieces and consentrate on mounting work for folio. I have decided that sketch books are not for me and instrad of chopping up my samples to put into a sketch book which would take up a very large amount of my time i have insead made sample books colatesd tofether. I did use my sketch book inthe early stages but once i got into sampling for print and stitch i work much more freely and experiemt more if im not constrained to a skechbook. also these samples can be used later when i complete more of the framed pieces for the exhibition. There has been talk about moving the exhibition to a more high profile space in the civic center. I had intended to make a mock up of the exhibition with an image of the library behined however this is not necesary and instad i used photoshop to mock up a layout which i have mounted just using a small sampe of my work so far.

26th May
Project evaluation- At the end of this project, baring in mind that the work will continue fro the exhibition in july, I feel happy that i have met the brief and delivered a coherant body of work. Even if the work was displayed as it is now without finishing the remaining pieces to make the group of 21 i think they woruld dwork as a colection. There are however some peices I am more happy with thatn others sometimes the simplist designs work the best. I feel that the work produced during this project could be developed further and I do intend to do this and produce a range of items which i can sell alongside my exhibited peiece possibley at the pop up shop if it goes ahead or to sell at craft fairs including tote bags printed with the lino cuts ive made and perhaps some apliqued into firther. I have researche into the type of inks i need so that these bags cam n be practical and washable and have asked the University art shop to look into stocking them for me. I did try experiemting with block printing inks on fabric which worked well as a process producing a crisp print which did not bleed but these would not be suitable for use as they would wash out. Permaset or speedball produce fabric screen printing inks which would have the propertiees i need to print with lino blok onto fabric which could themn be heat setwith and iron to make them fully washable and therefor more durable and practical.
On reflection i have learn much about my working practices throught this beif both from a practical and business point of view. I have really enjoyed working with the council sn hope to continue this relationship after the Britain in bloom exhibition has finished. I have been able to put my comunication skill to work both through face to face and emails witht the council and this will be further developed as i will be presenting my work to the judging panael for both the regional and national competition. I have found the relationship very rewarding and it has been so encoraging to have such a positive responce rom the Britain in bloom team. The latest bit of publistiy is that i might be asked to speak on radio stoke about my involvement with Britain in bloom and the council have already ubmitted a news story about my work to RHS growing comunities magasine. At the start of this project i would never have believed it possible that my work could get quite so much exposure and i have been carried along on it with out really having to think about the impact it might have on my future work. I have learnt tht the more open you are to publisity the more seems to come along. Dispite my problms meeting the original deadline for this module I feel i have actually learned from the experience and instead of feling a negative responce once i was well again i can now put in perspective the hole process and have realissed tht it is the live work and exhibition which is most importaint as this is what i intend to be doing once my education has finished.