Friday, 30 November 2012

Hey, this one looks kind of familiar!

Well, if you were thinking Grace Faithful here looks kind of familiar, you would be right. This bug is a sibling to Epoch John, who appeared in last weeks posts. The people who these two Threadbare bugs were made for are also siblings so it seemed only right to keep the heritage going strong through the art work too.

As you can hopefully tell, this bug is more feminine in her colour pallet and also, she is more rounded out through her body and her legs.

The decision to make a piece that is so close to something else that I have already made is a rare one for me. As I’ve already explained, I do like to make things within one concept e.g. The Threadbare Bug Collection but I generally try to make each one very individualistic after that.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and the decision here, felt like a good one to me. It’s strange that even though I’m the one making the rules in my own work practice; it still feels like I am breaking some sort of code, rather than just creating a new rule to go along side the one that already exists.

These kinds of traps can happen when you work for yourself. I have found it very helpful to discuss my work with other trusted people so that I can weed out such patterns which may stop me from making beautiful or interesting things or going in a new direction that feels unfamiliar or scary.

Having a sound board can be invaluable to open up new possibilities and also, to help you to see where you might be getting stuck or sabotaging yourself.  

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Why, thank you Sir David!

This is the Springtail. I was watching the amazing television series ‘Life in the Undergrowth’ (of which I have already mentioned the book that accompanies the series) by Sir David Attenborough and the BBC. He was doing a segment about a very fancy bug called a Springtail. I’ll post a link below so you can watch it for yourself (The Eiffel Tower!) I feel if I can let the man himself tell you, why pass up that opportunity.

Anyway, I was very inspired by this tiny creature and I decided to make a bug in honour of him. The real thing walks around on little legs but for my version I decided to dispense with them and just give him a spiral spring to hop around on instead.

I gave him a small head, simple antennae, black eyes and a dome shaped body like the insect in the documentary. I thought he was so cute and he had adapted to survive in such brilliant ways that it was only right that my Springtail should look somewhat like his living breathing counterpart.

I love when inspiration strikes like this. You can see something or hear something and it just makes you want to make.

I know my version is much showier than the real one. In thinking about it now, I guess it’s a little deity I can offer up to the Gods of the Springtail. Carry on you little wonders, I salute thee!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Glassy Green Spider

 This bug I made just for myself and my own amusement. He has never had an official title but I always think of him as The Glassy Green Spider.
Like Strum, he is comprised of a single felt ball but in contrast he has long dramatic legs and colourful plumage.

The beads I have used on his body have created a very pleasing textured finish, well, to my eyes anyway! I guess that’s the good thing about creating for yourself, you can use materials, colours and your imagination to suit your own tastes and you don’t have to worry about pleasing other people.

I find it helpful to my work practice to make things not only for commission but also to expand my own creativity.

When I have been making just for myself I find I can push the boundaries a little further. I can be a little more whimsical or add a little more darkness. I can experiment with ideas. Not every one of them has worked out, some get discarded at the halfway point (some sooner!), some get finished but I never find them appealing enough to display and some have aspects to them that I will definitely use again in future projects.

 When I can take the space, sometimes reluctantly, to make something for myself I’m generally glad that I did it. I like this guy and his feathery eyelashes. I like the expression they give him. I like how well I was able to finish him, but mostly, I like that I am able to keep him.  


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Colour is the name of the game and I sure hope I know how to play it.

 Colour played a strong part in the design of this particular bug. When I think of the person it was made for, the colours turquoise and yellow always come to mind.

Colour can be a way to communicate subtle details you notice about a person. It might be colours or tones they wear often or decorate their homes with. It also can be used to show aspects of their personality. For example, red can be used to demonstrate a passionate person; you could use yellow to show someone’s sunny disposition; use soft purples and pinks for someone who is particularly feminine.

 In my experience, people who have received art pieces that have been specially commissioned for them, are really pleased when the colours they are drawn to or feel express them are used in their new piece of art work.

It can be a subtle hint of a blue feather or a vibrant green that dazzles but colour really plays a huge part in how appealing or appalling we will find something visually.

I have found it invaluable to ask the colour question every time I start a new project. I feel I have quite a strong approach to colour but I think I will share more with you about that on another day with some other examples of my work.

P.S. This is just an added photo, the lighting in it is not so hot but I like the feel of it. (Very arty I know, please excuse, but I am an artist)

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Rocker

This is Strum T Metallus. He is one of the smallest, most compact bugs that I have made to date. He is comprised of a single felt ball, six pin legs and a bright red mohawk, that starts at his antennae and sweeps down to his feathery tail.

 Although small in stature, I feel he has bags of punchy personality. He has duo-tones of red and black which is a nod to his rocker heritage. As with a lot of rockers I have met in real life, he may have a dark and slightly hard exterior but I think you can tell by the eyes that he is a big softy really. He has a lot of heart and determination.

I like how simple his design is but I still feel he delivers in character. Rock on Strum, Your public adores you!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

One for the Weekend

This is a rather unusual group shot of the Threadbare gang; Madame Salve Melodious, Benevol Ant Bound and Epoch John. The nature of commission work can make it difficult to predict what kind of pieces you may be working on at any given time especially when you have a range of things that you make. Luckily I made these bugs in succession, so I was able to take a couple of snaps of them altogether before they went to their respective homes.

Two of them were going to the same place anyway, so they live side by side all of the time now.

I feel seeing them together shows how even within one concept or theme in my art work there is still room for huge individualism. I made each one of them with the person it was being given to in mind.

I go through a process of asking about or thinking about what colours are associated with that person, are they male or female, what is their temperament, is there anything in particular that I want to communicate about that person visually.

Every person is different in so many ways that what you end up with is a collection as diverse as the people they are made for.

I really do like this side of my work. To start with an idea, which is my own, then to sit and converse with someone else about a friend or a partner or a family member and then to take this information and visualise, design and actually make the thing that is in my head. Then on the day you hand over the finished piece, all wrapped in ribbons and bows, you get to experience your work in a totally new way as the person sees it for the first time. This can be a lengthy, sometimes challenging, sometimes frustrating process but in general I have found it to be very rewarding. I have often found in myself the ability to express things that are little said but often felt. To be part of something that is mostly all about the Love is true magic indeed.    

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Guru

Whenever I look at this guy I always think that there is something very “otherworldly” about him. His colours are jewel tones, rich and deep. His wings form a wizard’s cape in my imagination. (I know, I know- too much Lord of the Rings for me!) I think I think he knows something that I don’t know but maybe I should know since I am the one who created him, ye know??

…….Never Mind….

 The beading on the back of his wings is regular and patterned like a butterflies wings. I remember that they took a long time to complete and they were heavy with embellishment when they were finished. 

 I feel everything came together quite nicely with this bug. I tried to make him so that he was visually interesting from many different angles but also that he had a calm and meditative spirit about him. I always think if the other bugs needed a guru this guy would be it.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Anyone up for a visit to the Dead Zoo??

By the time I was making these particular pieces I had looked at a broad range of insect photography through books and magazines. Some of my favourites have been “Collins Wild Guide- Insects of Britain and Europe” by Bob Gibbons, “Life in the Undergrowth” by David Attenborough and a beautiful book I got for a bargain at a book sale called “Eye to Eye” by Frans Lanting. I also looked at a huge amount of old “National Geographic” magazines.

It has also been a favourite day trip of mine for years to go the Natural History Museum or the Dead Zoo as they are calling it these days on Merrion Street in Dublin 2.

My parents took myself and my siblings there when we were children. I loved pulling back the heavy leathery covering that is over the glass cases containing their insect collection. I would look with wonder and fear at all the different tiny bodies pinned in rows. I was always one of those kids who worried about how the insects had ended up there. Had they been murdered callously for science or had they died by natural causes and their bodies had been gently collected in baskets by lurking entomologists? I always convinced myself it was the more unlikely natural cause’s option. I didn’t want to be racked with guilt as I wandered around the museum, haunted by the ghosts of murdered bumble bees.

I revisited the museum several times for research purposes in my college years. We would sit for hours drawing on hard floors and getting in the way of tourists. But they are always happy memories for me.

These bugs that I make are not supposed to be accurate representations of those insects I drew from books or from real life. They are generally a mash up of real shapes and silhouettes taken from my research mixed up with the happy wanderings of my imagination. They have feathers and Victorian bustles but they also have thoraces and antennae too.

Epoch John is one such bug who is a mixture of real insect bits and a concoction of what lives in the strange landscape of my mind. He has long spider’s legs and tiny short millipede ones too. He has a hard bumpy snails shell and a tall upright torso.

I never think he is particularly handsome but I do like how I constructed him. Sometimes I am able to quieten the critic in my head and I can just let myself go all out. When I can allow myself to play as an artist, I find I can come up with some interesting creations.

Here's some helpful links to things mentioned in today's post.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Threadbare Bug Collection begins in earnest.

This is Madame Salve Melodious. She is a good example of one of the pieces from my Threadbare Bug Collection. This bug was constructed using three felt balls for her body structure. She stands by balancing on her two front legs and on her elaborate flowing tail. I wanted to give her Tim Burton inspired long spiky eyelashes.

You can see from this view a tumbling, unfurling tail. I used strips of hand-made felt strengthened with wire and feathers to create movement and drama. Everything has been enhanced with glittering glass beads and sequins.  


In this close up shot you can see all the detail that goes into these Threadbare Bugs. I am a detail junkie. Most times I will start a new project I will tell myself that this time I will be more restrained and that I will simplify. At the half way point this has totally gone out the window, I’m generally thinking up ways I can introduce more sewing, more beads and more layering to a piece.
I am pleased with how the layering can be seen in this bug. It is full of different textures and colour tones. She is one of my favourites because she is so over the top. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Bees, Bugs, Jars and Bustles

Gary’s Fat Bee
(in a jar)

I made this Fat Bee for my partner just 1 month after we started going out together. It was that awkward time of not really knowing what to buy someone because it is still all new and shiny.
I decided to make him this bee instead. It is very similar to what was in my graduation show from college. As you can see I have changed to a coloured wire and also there is more embellishment with glass and seed beads.
Gary and the bee are still knocking around with me over ten years later so I guess I must have done something right.

The Shopper Bee

I made this bee for my wonderful boss when I worked at Tokiki in Georges Street Arcade, Dublin. She has moved on to bigger and brighter things but this bee was on display in her small unit while she was there.
I had gotten more confident with my work by then. This bee included texture with bright fibres and yet more beads. She even had a tiny skirt on a tiny wire hanger because the lovely lady behind Tokiki is a fashion designer and she was selling her own creations at her stall.

Bugus Totalus

Bugus Totalus is a weird and colourful creation I came up with after I left college. He has spider’s legs, wings for flying, exuberant antennae and a bright bustle. A bug complete and total with everything a bug could ever want or need. I had moved on from having a wire frame for its body. I was now using hand-felted balls to create the structure. I embellished it with wire legs & wings, seed beads & sequins and felt accents. He is the beginning of what was to become my Threadbare Bug Collection.

Monday, 19 November 2012

...........It’s Folk Art Mother-Folkers!........... (sorry, I've been watching The Wire)

        Does anybody know what folk art is?
Does anybody really care??

Well, em, yes. I do!
There I said it, I frickin’ love folk art. I love all its eye-catching hand-painted, hand-sewn, hand-finished qualities.
For anyone who doesn't know what separates folk art from any other form of art, here is a brief summary and a link to the Wikipedia definition of folk art.
For me, folk art is an art form that uses indigenous or local materials and techniques. It can be highly decorative and utilitarian at the same time. For example the Snugs or tea cosies that I make have a very useful purpose (got to keep the brew warm with our drizzly Irish winters……. and summers for that matter) but I have embellished, embroidered and hand-detailed them to such an extent that they have become a work of art. They are individual and sometimes commissioned for people’s specific tastes and interests. I hope to elevate a useful & practical item to a thing of beauty, something to be cherished and admired on a daily basis.
Another part of folk art that I really love is that the techniques used are often skills passed down through generations. I have learnt to sew and knit both in school and from my mother. Her mother is a keen knitter also. I feel linked to my past through the work. I use skills to fashion art bears and tea cosies that they used to make thick socks, scratchy jumpers and warm blankets. The craft is not lost because I can carry it forward. We may make different things but we talk, consult and learn from each others individual abilities.

Sometimes I feel FINE ART is viewed from a distance, in wide white gallery spaces, in expensive auction rooms and in over produced print replicas that bear no reference to the size and scale of the real work. It can be exciting and aspirational. I feel that FOLK ART can be a slightly warmer or more relatable form of fine art. It can be small or inexpensive. It can be made with familiar materials like wood or wool or wire. It can be made using skills we learned as children. But it can be full of so much character, the character of a town or a county or a country or even a family.

For the most part I consider myself a folk artist, sometimes with reluctance, sometimes with conviction and sometimes I don’t think I am an artist at all. I’m not a lover of labels in life but I can see the value in trying to help people to understand what you are about. I balk less at folk art as a label because I do feel it has some merit, it feels, as I said; more warm, less like exclusion and more like inclusion. It never feels very cool to me and since I have never felt particularly cool myself, I feel at home. I invite you now to come and get folked with me.
You never know, you might even like it!

The First Fat Bee (Wire sculpture)

This wire Fat Bee is one I made in a series of experiments I did in college for my graduation show.

 I had been working with themes using insects for some time. He is now rusted and a little battered but he was definitely the start of an on-going love affair with these little creatures.

I created his barrel body by using weaving techniques and I messed around with getting a boiled down, playful bee silhouette.
I still have him hanging in my house as a reminder of my works humble beginnings and how big ideas can stem from simple origins.