The Heath Robinson Museum have commissioned me to create a group of Fantastical Creatures for their The Maker’s Art collection. The pieces will be available in the shop in the Museum in Pinner Memorial Park from April 2018 until October 2018.
Optima Magazine ran a lovely piece about the collection which you can find here.
The Maker’s Art is a contemporary range of jewellery, textiles, wood and glass that complement the imagination and enchantment of Heath Robinson’s work curated by Jeannine Lawder. The makers change every six months, – this is now our fourth group – adding more valuable creative partnerships and creating a distinctive decorative art marketplace at the Heath Robinson Museum.
The starting point for this growing interest was a drawing of the skeleton of a Port Phillip Bay Sea Dragon. I then began researching and drawing dragons in the British Museum, the V&A – and anywhere else they appear – and they are surprisingly common – and fantastically imaginary, so can take any form.
Sea Urchins have fascinated me for a long time – their texture, colour and fragility are irresistible, and drawing them is very satisfying. The first sea urchin creations began with a Studio 21 challenge to make a ‘drawing’ and an octopus I was making for my children’s Stitchclubs. I scanned and printed the collage onto cotton and loads of stitching and press studs later the first two urchins appeared.
While researching mystical creatures I read that sea urchins were thought to be dragon’s eggs. I am still working on how to create a dragon inside its egg, but this start gained lovely comments at my recent Open Studio.
The challenge for the 2015/16 Studio 21 exhibition was to research the sewing machine and what it means to each artist and then to create work reacting to these findings.
As the first domestic appliance, the sewing machine required ingenious marketing to become successful. Key to the success was to ensure that the position of the woman was not challenged. As such it was important to maintain the social pretence that women should not, indeed could not, use machines. The mechanics of using the sewing machine were wrapped up in how to sew books such as the one by Mary Brooks Picken which contain directives which are laughably inappropriate in today’s context.
I created two main pieces
As the first domestic appliance, the sewing machine required ingenious marketing to become successful. It was important to maintain the social pretence that women should not, indeed could not, use machines. As such the mechanics were hidden beneath beautifully ornate casing. Many women who sew actually find the mechanics intriguing and when contemplating this, the intrigue and weight of Man Ray’s L’Enigma d’Isodore Ducasse came to mind and L’Enigma evolved.
A Beauty Ritual of Orderliness
An extract by Mary Brooks Picken’s is available as an example of 50’s sexism. Reading the original text one realises that the basic tenet is actually sound: to ensure that your sewing time is rewarding, make sure that you give it time and space. The specific directives however are laughable in today’s context. This piece is worked on a simple apron, required to protect your best dress worn so that you were not “constantly fearful that a visitor will drop in or your husband come home” finding you “not look neatly put together”.
I have had an enjoyable time looking at the wide range of images of the sewing machine and its marketing, building up a diverse Pinterest board which you can see here. The research for this project resulted in some fun images and facts which you can see here in my accompanying booklet.
I also created some smaller pieces from my reactions to the Mary Brooks Picken book.