Monday, 18 March 2013

Starting a small creative business. Those early days.

Starting a small creative business.  Those early days.

I first opened my studio 1991 at Cockington Court, Torquay.  Having a studio at Cockington Court with the Devon Rural Skills Trust enabled people to see me working, demonstrate and commission work in person.

Studio at Cockington Court 1991

Working in a studio environment with other craftspeople around was great fun and incredibly inspiring.  It was great to bounce ideas and hear first hand reports of creative opportunities.   Having the general public walk through the studio all day took some getting used too.  Patterns formed with comments made.  The first word uttered would become a predictable sentence, such as "how" and I would know the following words would be "did it take you to make that", or "you" and "must have good eyesight to do that".  Sentences referring to the word "patience" were incredibly frequent.  My Fibonacci Quilts in particular took quite a bit of explaining and very time consuming.    After a while I typed a sheet of "frequently asked questions", covered it with plastic and attached it to the table.   It was easy then to point to the information smile and carry on working.

One of the most memorable moments was when my studio was full of people and I was giving my usual spiel on Fibonacci.  Having repeated this mantra many times I basically felt like a monkey in a zoo with all these people staring at me.  After a while I became aware of someone in the audience who looked very familiar, and in a dumb sort of way I sort of associated him with my then American boyfriend.  This person asked me loads of questions about my work.   The buzz later in the building was that a world famous actor had walked through unrecognised.   I checked out a picture, and yes, it was him.   Oh, my goodness!!

Studio at Cockington Court 1991

Sometimes a member of the public would come out with a real nugget of useful information.   One of the best bits of advice I ever received was from a gentleman who had some knowledge of the Italian Murano Glass industry.  He looked thoughtfully at all my work and said I must start producing smaller, cheaper products to earn a "bread and butter" income, as long term I would not be able to rely on commissions, teaching and selling my signature works.  Hand sewing would never give me a living wage. This was really hard to accept,  but he was right I and started to diversify by creating kits, fabric parcels, and waistcoats.  This advice maybe obvious but at the time I was so passionate about sewing by hand and producing signature pieces that compromise was not an option.

When I look back at those days I wondered how I survived, being single I had to support myself  with  accommodation,  studio rent, electricity, water rates and council tax bills to pay. Plus food.  My mother used to take me to the supermarket one day a week which was very helpful.  No mobiles, cars, internet, insurance, loans or other costly items.   I cycled everywhere and kept life very simple indeed.  It was a very happy existence...........then came the internet.........

My next blog will be about how the Internet changed my creative life.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Roman Archaeology Waistcoat by Jackie Wills

The Roman Archaeology Waistcoat by Jackie Wills

About two years ago I was contacted by someone who wishes to remain anonymous. The request was to commission a long waistcoat.  I was sent images of artifacts found and equipment used on a Roman excavation dig/site.  These included a piece of Roman samian pottery and coins dating back 2000 years.  Also coins, a plum line, Roman broach, buckles, geofizz equipment, trowels, metal detector.

The brief was to put all these items onto denim.   I was given complete artistic freedom.  The sort of challenge I adore.

First of all I created some samples, I particularly liked the Samian pottery and 2000 year old coin.  Have to say it took ages transferring the design onto denim but the result was realistic and pleasing.   Intricate machine embroidery using Husqvarna Lily sewing machine was applied with great effect.

The next challenge was to balance all these items on the blank canvas, this being cut fabric pattern of the garment .   The thing is painting on denim, once it paint hits the fabric it is more or less irreversible.  So it has to be done with extreme care and with precise movement.   Acrylic paint is not very forgiving,  once the item placement has been decided, and the paint hits that area it cannot be removed.   I hasten to add if you get it wrong it means a new start.   Best bit of advice I can give is to practice on a scrap bit of denim to get your colours right on the brush, then go straight to the master work.    I work very quickly and tend not to think too much.  I do not do pre-sketches.  I do make sure that I have a clear head, and that I am in the "right mood" to work and get it right.  I do not like interruptions whilst I am painting.

The work has to be balanced.  After the items are painted on, denim is left to dry, preferably in an airing cupboard for a few days.   Then the real work of embroidery begins.   Its a bit like the paint.  I do not think too much, I go through by thread box and pick out suitable colours and machine embroider until I am happy with the result.  I do not pre-sketch or mark where the embroidery is to go on the fabric.  Its all done whilst the fabric is under the sewing machine foot.   I love couching wool onto fabric, specially textured wool as it seems to bring work to life.  Unpicking is not an option, so having a clear head is important.  Also make sure that your sewing machine is working properly.  New needle, clean of lint, and make sure you are working in good light.

Happy with the result, the garment was then sewn together.  

Please contact me if you have any questions regarding this work.