This is the story behind my latest Harris Tweed painting of snowdrops.
The main feature of Rock Village where I live in Northumberland is the mill pond, which is surrounded by woodland and in February these woodlands are covered in a carpet of snowdrops. They are such a welcome sight as it means that winter will be over soon and this year I was inspired to do a picture of them. I spent quite a bit of time lying flat on my stomach amongst the snowdrops, as carefully as I could to avoid causing too much damage and took lots of photos and the above video. I got a few strange looks from dog walkers.but never mind.
In the end I decided to create a composite picture based on what it was like to be right down amongst the snowdrops, rather than standing above them and looking down. This is the line drawing I came up with.
I always start my pictures with a line drawing. I cut this line drawing up and use the pieces as you would a dressmaker's pattern, pinning them to the tweeds to make sure that I cut them all to exactly the right size and shape. I then often stick the picture back together again to use it for reference, which is why some of the pieces in the above picture aren't exactly in the right place.
This is a photo of the finished Harris Tweed painting. Although this is a very small picture at only 23.5 cm square, it has still taken me about 25 hours to finish it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the white tweed I've used was woven specially to make a wedding dress and so it's a bit finer than most of the Harris Tweeds I work with. This means it's also a lot more prone to fraying as a result of being needle felted. So I've had to be really gentle with it and go carefully. Secondly, my design turned out to be extremely complicated to make up as it was very fiddly to cut, fit and felt so many small and delicate pieces of tweed together. Never mind, it's good to give yourself a challenge. Now that it's finished it will be sent off to the printer to be electronically scanned and I'll get a print proof back and an electronic image, which will then get sent off to the greeting card printers.
It's Saturday morning and I'm home alone, which is quite rare. I have been meaning to write this blog for about 10 days now, but ironically I haven't had time. The reason it’s ironic, is that this blog is about not having enough time or space.
I am very, very lucky to be able to earn my living as an artist working from my home in rural Northumberland. But it can get a bit lonely and I find that I need contact with other creative people on a reasonably regular basis, or else I get a bit down and de-motivated. So I try to meet up with friends with similar interests fairly regularly and it just so happens that they are all women and all self employed.
Recently I have been struck by the fact that the conversations we have together often centre on finding the time and space to do it all. I should say at that point that they all have it far worse than me as they all have teenage children, which appear to be almost as big a time suck as toddlers. Anyway, I am not moaning about the lot of women here, but I have been reflecting a lot about how self employed women manage their time, space and roles, especially when working from home.
I know that not having enough time is an issue for most people, but when you are working from home it can be hard to be strict about good time management. For women this can often mean that their time is continually drained away by managing their home and the needs of their family. So they end up snatching brief moments to run their business, often when they are tired and not at their best.
Also when you work from home your work space and living space become one. So not only do you continually see all the domestic chores that need to be done, but you also see all the business chores that need to be done as well. For some people, this can mean that it becomes very difficult to give yourself permission to have down time, where you do nothing.
Finding enough physical space to work at home can also be a problem. I am lucky as I have a lovely little conservatory to work from (pictured above) and I can close the door on this. Mind you there are 3 other rooms in the house that are now full of greetings cards, prints and packaging! One of my friends who works from home has no designated work area and has to work on the kitchen table and store her stuff where she can around the house.
Finally, I want to talk about head space, which in my opinion is also vital if you are an artist or run your own business. I think you need head space in order to think creatively and by head space I mean taking a break from thinking about day to day life and worries. Although I really do not like winter, this is the time when I am at my most creative these days and I think it’s no coincidence that this is the quietest time for us as a business. Getting into the zone takes time. But you also need to be able to physically get away from the demands of your day to day life, either by leaving your home/workplace or shutting yourself away in a room of one’s own. In my opinion head space is the trickiest space to find of all. Now I really should be getting on with last night’s dirty dishes......
I am a Northumberland based textile artist and I create needle felted paintings with Harris Tweed and wool yarns.