passion for passi flora pattern

Many years ago my flatmate was given a passion flower plant and when the flowers came we were both in awe of their splendid form; a thing of beauty in our otherwise less than beautiful flat in Camberwell, south London. I made drawings of the flowers and sometime later developed some patterns from it, screen printing it as repeating designs and placement prints. I created the motifs by deconstructing the elements that constitute the flower head.

More years passed and sometime around 2012 I revisited those screen printed patterns, this time interpreting them as lino cuts as part of my Plot to Plate series of editioned lino prints. Last year I planted two passion flower plants in our new garden and last week we had the first bloom. It took me right back to that first flower in the flat in Camberwell, and was reminded of the pattern again.

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Whenever I look back at old work I’m likely to want to make changes, and this is the case here too, but each design also holds a moment, defines a time, and sometimes that makes it what it is. I’d not imagined I’d connect that flower to my practice almost twenty years later…

This pattern remains available as a set of patterned Plot to Plate greetings cards.

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printing pattern progress

My mind tends to want to be busy and I often develop several ideas in parallel. Pattern making and pattern evolution ideas are shaping up so I went back to the lino block and started to cut – I find it best to make the idea come to life so I can work through the potential and pit falls. Watch this space …

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Gardening with Mr Bawden

So this is the week my book ‘Gardening with Mr Bawden’ is being published by Design for Today. It’s been many months in the making, so I’m very excited to be able to share the details and for other people to hold the book in their hands.

What began as a project brief for a book with interesting folds that celebrates Edward Bawden’s love of gardening has become a project I am very proud of and have thoroughly enjoyed for lots of different reasons, pushing me creatively along the way. I love a design challenge and returning to the subject of gardens has been a pleasure, having launched my garden-inspired Plot to Plate collection back in 2012 and being a keen allotmenteer. I’ve moved away from my usual diagrammatic visual interpretation of gardens, towards a more illustrative manner, following on from my Parks and Gardens commission for posters for London Underground last year. It has also been a joy going back to paper engineering and book art – having made many editions of artists books over the years following an MA in the subject from Camberwell in 1998.

The images below show some design stages of this project with Design for Today. There is an early paper maquette as I worked out the structural narrative in relation to the imagery. Several of these were posted between us to allow for discussion and deliberation. At one point there was a cut-out pond but I was unhappy with how it worked on the back of the page so I left that behind. I cut lots of lino, with each page requiring at least two blocks – one for each colour. Although I had an idea of the key focus and composition for each spread it wasn’t until I was cutting the lino did I tie precise detail down. Only a couple of times I decided to completely abandon a page spread and rework it – and I’m so glad I did! Each block was hand-printed and hung to dry in the studio before being scanned to make a digital file that could be prepared for the lithographic printing process of the final edition at Calverts.

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Once the final sheets were litho printed and die-cut / creased we have had to fold them one by one, sign the special edition and pack them up. We even decided to hand-cut out a window pane of the greenhouse in the edition of 100. We are delighted that the Special Edition sold out fast, well before the publishing date – thanks all! Those lucky people will receive the book along with a little booklet of the project and greetings cards, any day now!

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This collaboration with Joe has been a really positive experience as we are both passionate about doing a great job. He was always happy for me to tweak something one last time as we signed off proofs, and understood the reasons why I turned sentences inside out in the booklet, to say exactly what I wanted to. Joe and I have discussed page size, paper weight and the folded structure on several occasions as well as how you take inspiration without copying, and the issue of creating something in relation to, but not derivative of.

I am sure people who know my work will recognise my style in there, despite it being a little bit more illustrative. Pattern making relates to both Bawden, and myself, so it made sense to include a nod to wallpaper designs too, inside the greenhouse, as pots of plants become floral wallpaper. I wanted to use lino because both Bawden and I have used the printmaking process. I also wanted to create a light-hearted feel to the imagery, that is so often in Bawden’s commercial illustrations. As I wrote before in a previous post, we researched lots of snippets of information to guide the imagery and are grateful for there to be so much writing and research available at the moment, but it was never intending to be a guide to the garden at Brick House, more to express the pleasure Bawden would have got from his garden, as so many of us do. I also wanted to take the reader on a journey through a garden, rather than show you all in one go, so I hope the reader can navigate their way around!

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This book is the outcome of a great collaboration. (Thanks Joe!) So as the book is published today we celebrate this journey of designing and making, and can announce it will be stocked by some great places, including the Dulwich Picture Gallery, where a brand new Bawden show opens this week. Check out the social media accounts of Design for Today for updates. Final thanks ought to go to Mr Bawden himself, who has inspired so many of us, and who gave Joe and I cause to make this book.

building / constructing / space / paper

I’ve been working on a new series of works on paper that have evolved from paper cutouts and manipulations I first created over ten years ago. Back then I was experimenting with sculptural paper engineering that aimed to convey meaning through the structural content as well as the printed image. This may sound very much like ‘bookart’ talk, and it is really, as I moved from artists book maker to something different, including public artist and surface pattern designer, see below.

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It’s a strange thing when ideas that had seemed so disparate appear to come together to form a ‘whole’ different idea – and feels right. I’m sharing the first of many new prints evolving along these lines here.

As a result of my design collection ‘construct’ I launched last year I’ve explored the idea of woven threads and constructed surfaces. This led me to explore the space and environment of a page, a sheet of paper, and what could constitute the printed page. I used embossing to create a sense of space and depth, and slotted the ‘print’ to the paper as if floating. I am keeping the ink a neutral Payne’s grey so it doesn’t conflict or distract from the structure. I explored several different printed patterns too, and this, a lino print provided me with sufficient visual noise, but allows the embossing to be seen too.

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So, what do you think? Does it make sense? I’m looking forward to exploring this further over the next few months.

How will these pieces link to the work I shall make in another ten years?

knowledge of books

I have taught hundreds of people how to make books. Folded, stitched, and even stuck books have been made under my guidance in school rooms, art college studios, village halls, hospital rehab. suites, commercial company meeting rooms, and at dining room tables, at the very least. Every time I teach a bookbinding workshop there is a sense of wonderment from the participants, a proud moment when they hold the completed book for the first time, and realise what they have made. It’s a good feeling being the facilitator of that experience. Books are one of those objects that carries so much potential; an object that can contain private thoughts, or public rule, but is portable and very cheap to make using very few tools. We bond with books.

I was first taught about Book Art by Les Bicknell of ‘bookness’ fame. He made a studio full of Norfolk kids studying textiles question our preconceived ideas of what a book can be, and I was unique in that group – I saw a future of work that I wanted to make. On my degree course I was taught more practical bookbinding skills, and eventually wrote a 12000 word dissertation on the subject, researching in key collections at the V&A and Manchester Met. as well as interviewing some leading figures of the genre. Books for me at that time fulfilled learning requirements on my design degree while becoming vessels to explore my ‘fine art’ ideas, and this eventually led me to study for the MA in Book Art at Camberwell College of Arts, London. I spent the year investigating a ‘sense of place’ of south London, driven to create a more personal map of my London in contrast to the A-Z map, exploring cinematic flip books, and architecturally inspired structures.

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There are tools and skills that are beneficial to know; I was taught by the old boys at London College of Printing, as it was then, how to stitch with curved needles, cover the boards, and press the blocks. More useful to me though was the challenging of how we ‘read’ the book form, how one can be directed by the designer to progress through both visual and structural narratives across pages and along folds. I’ve explored these ideas in many of my limited editions of books I made and exhibited between 1998 and 2008. I’m very proud of this body of work, and I know many people appreciated the pieces. I have work in the Tate collection, the British Library, Manchester Met. to name a few, as well as overseas in collection in America, France and Ireland and within the small world of artists books I became known for the structural book forms I created. Many of my books were inspired by journeys and places I experienced, or events and mindsets I found myself in. A broken elbow falling off a bicycle really did inspire ‘Bloom’ which I describe as the ‘measure of my healing’, as I challenged myself each week to cope with the physical tasks required of printing the book. I have always taken on and enjoyed the challenge of transforming a two-dimensional sheet of paper in to a three-dimensional book structure appropriate for its narrative.

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Sadly not many people make a living selling artists books. It frustrated me that I could sell a print for £80 but once I had folded and stitched it in to a complex structure I couldn’t sell it for £20. So strong is our association with art, that if it can be framed and put on a wall it had greater value. I also got fed up with the ‘I can see how she’s made it’ statements as visitors to shows photographed my work without the courtesy to ask, as if I was a learning resource centre, having paid for the pleasure myself. I see now an increase in awareness of book art and hope things have changed in these regards.

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I have continued to use the practical and conceptual skills in my public art commissions, with large-scale visual narratives explored as if pages held in my hand. The sequence of toilet doors in a central Colchester public convenience was just that, a story of passing time. My current design practice benefits from my bookbinding skills and visual communication knowledge, as well as my book art thinking in the design of my marketing material, and sample books. I also continue to produce hand printed and stitched notebooks featuring my patterns – Parterre is the latest.

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As I pack up my box of tricks ready to teach another fifty students the basics of books let’s hope some of that joy and creative potential is passed on to the next generation, for whatever context they want to think about books in.

Useful links:

http://www.tate.org.uk/research/library/artists-books
http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/about.htm
http://www.specialcollections.mmu.ac.uk/artists.php
http://www.katefarley.co.uk/gallery/bookworks2.htm

If you haven’t seen the new IKEA video about the book book, check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOXQo7nURs0

 

 

A new design: working it all out

I’ve created more designs than I can remember since I began ‘formal’ pattern making back in 1992. Some aren’t worth worrying about, some I’m still extremely proud of and some are still waiting for the right time to make their debut… (I can’t wait to show you some very special ones next year but I’m sworn to secrecy.)

Some designs work themselves out for themselves; I vividly remember shutting my eyes to get some sleep right in the middle of my final major project on my degree, when suddenly my mind spun in to action, and there in my mind was a design, colour separated and waiting to be drawn out for screen the very next day. Other designs I battle for days on, and eventually win through demonstrating more stubbornness than the design itself.  I don’t give up easily.

In all my designing, however hard or easy it was in the making, I aim for them to appear strikingly straightforward, as if they did just happen on their own. I was accused by a tutor for being lazy – he didn’t understand minimalism – when in actual fact, it’s far harder to let the negative space be as important as the motifs we can sometimes throw at a design like pennies to a pond. Space can be beautiful.

I’ve taken a slightly different direction to making the most recent patterns; some would argue they are more traditional, more formal, more fussy even. I’ve certainly battled with the minutiae. I thought it nice to share the journey a little, but do bear in mind, every dot, line AND space have been considered, reconfigured, tested, discussed and revised more times than I’m counting (and that’s before I even think about colour). I hope you like the results. The design will feature in my new work to launch at TentLondon in September, so watch this space.

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The image shows: initial sketch / proportions of the motif, repeat / rhythm testing of the drawing before the lino block is cut, the lino block being printed, and the final digital artwork. The inspiration is a mix of kitchen gardens and formal gardens of the National Trust.

 

Kate Farley – Plotting Prints at Tinsmiths

It is a very exciting time for me. It has been about two years in the planning and preparation stages and now we are a week in to my show at Tinsmiths. For those of you unfamiliar with Tinsmiths, it is a beautiful textile and lighting shop in the lovely Herefordshire market town of Ledbury. It is a beautifully considered shop, owned by Phoebe Clive, selling a wide range of fabrics as well as home wares, crafted pieces and artists prints.

I have worked closely with Phoebe to translate my lino printed designs inspired by allotments, to become a collection of heavy weight linen, hand screen printed textiles available to buy as cushions. We have also created larger showroom pieces as curtains and upholstered chairs in preparation for selling some of the designs by the metre later in the year.

Phoebe and the team have styled my products throughout the top floor of the premises in such a way as to create a clean and fresh interior space, working with the other products and furniture pieces in the shop. My prints and drawings are set amongst other exciting colour statements in the form of ceramics & lighting with an understated aesthetic. With plenty of positive feedback at the PV as well as sales throughout the first week it’s a really exciting reward for the long journey to this point.

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the end of one season and the start of the new.

At the start of the harvest time last year I shared with you our first crops of the season. Today I cleared the brassicas that have been under attack from pigeons all winter – much to my distress, and planted in their place the potatoes for the coming year. It was a sign of handing over the baton to another year of potential, involving the weather, our effort, opportunities for head-space and the reward in what we get to eat.

Each year we start with a revised planting plan, more back ache, a new set of gloves and opportunities for me to draw and record the plants to provide further inspiration for my art and design work. As I have also spent the last few days designing, cutting and printing new lino blocks, the creative process of doing so reminds me very much of being a gardener; working with the elements and using knowledge, intuition, skill, time and desire to create something from small beginnings.

I remain positive about the growing season ahead, surely there cant be as many slugs and pigeons this year… can there? And as for cutting lino, I’m in it for the long haul.

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Design inspirations 1: horizon lines

For a while now I’ve been thinking about what has shaped my visual language and informed my art and design tastes. As a result I have planned a few blog entries in which I will evidence some of my thoughts in terms of influence and my art / design practice.

In some recent press interviews I’ve been asked about my inspiration and I tend to consider the formative years as pretty vital in this regard. It makes sense that we develop strong feelings and bonds to what we experience as children, either to reject them or embrace them – either way I believe those early years help to form our adult judgements.

Looking beyond the windows of the house in rural Norfolk where I was brought up is what I consider one of the greatest inspirations to my work. The open fields, the clear horizon lines and sparse distractions across the farmland of Norfolk have stayed with me in relation to my way of seeing, composition and economy of information in much of my work. Why draw ten lines when I can say it with one? I had a particularly horrid visiting tutor in the beginning of my training who felt that I was lazy in my designing, when actually it was he who struggled with some of the simplicity I was aiming for.

Looking back over some of the works I have made in the last fifteen years there are a few key pieces that explain that relationship with the horizon.

‘Nine Perspectives’, a linocut is made up of diagrams where I explore the land, sea and sky in a variety of ways. I consider the horizon in two-dimensional form, in plan view, elevations and diagrammatic perspectives in order to gain a sense of order.

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‘Meadows (France)’ is a drawing of a beautifully simple valley near Gourdon. It gave me a perfect view to explore further skewed interpretations of perspectives seen in the landscape. I worked with a sense of the view working round a set square, with two horizons, as I looked in front and to the side of me.

stgermain_webThe final image is from a screen printed artist’s book I made several years ago exploring the idea of ‘half full’ as a state of mind, but also from each side of the horizon line. I have used the blue areas as either half full of water (the Norfolk Broads specifically) or half full of sky above the chickens. The folded structure implies a view through the use of perspective, looking in to the distance or reflecting on oneself.

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These three works are very old as far as I’m concerned. I have new creative concerns now but they have helped me to test and explore principles in the way that I see and draw that have been important along the way.