yellows

I’ve always enjoyed working with colour; choosing combinations, mixing inks and matching colour. I am interested in how we relate colour to brands, how colour suggests quality, market levels, football teams, trends, and this week in particular political parties. Sometimes people say they do not really like colour – but what they often really mean is that they don’t like strong and vibrant colours, but in my mind bright colours are no more important than the whites on white; equally powerful if used well, just not so extrovert.

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I like seeing the way an inky grey sky makes fields of corn glow golden, and how the crepuscular blue sings out before the night sky takes over. Relationships that colours have can bring connotations, evoke distant memories and create moods. I remember a bag of hand-me-down clothes was excitedly torn open by my twin sister and I, hoping for fabulous new items to wear – in the eighties, when what was actually presented was everything brown and purple – from the previous decade. So disappointing!

Getting the right colour isn’t about a broad brush of red, it’s about seeing the nuances. You’ve only got to see a sale-rail to see the buyer got the shade of mustard a bit too green, or the pink too candy, and not blush. Any colour can vary hugely, our personal perception of colour not only is affected by the technicalities of sight, but also our own relationships with colour, built on past experiences. It took me a while to wear navy, having had to endure it for school for several years.

A friend described my ‘black’ screen prints for the Barbican, and I had to explain it was actually dark grey – it makes a considerable difference to the final result, but if both examples are not shown side by side most people would be none the wiser that the designer made a conscious decision to make a grey look not quite a black.

So here’s some yellow, photographed in Norfolk a few weeks ago. Enjoy, what ever it means to you!

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blue

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Horsey, Norfolk.

December 2016

a fine line

Once again, and not a surprise, a trip back to my homeland of Norfolk this Christmas resulted in me taking many photos of the beautiful horizon lines, across fields, marshes, the broads and beach.  Stunning light resulted in ever-changing colours that really showed the landscape off at its best.

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season’s colour

A beautiful pocket of Norfolk provided this colour palette for us at the weekend. Surrounded by greying reeds and rotting down leaves the bright sunshine lit up the sulphur-yellow lichens, orange shooting willow whips and mauve feathery seed heads of the reeds. The more we looked the more colour we saw. I took several photos and as I focused the lens on details the overall variety of colour and tones were lost, hence the palette I’ve made here.

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If you ever get the chance to visit, I strongly recommend this place. Wheatfen is a nature reserve in Norfolk, managed by the Ted Ellis Trust, founded to continue his valuable work in raising awareness of this fragile environment and to make accessible this landscape for others to learn about and to enjoy. It doesn’t feature dramatic mountain passes or high waterfalls, but for me it is perfect. If you are lucky, as we have been over the years, you might spot an otter, a heron or a Swallowtail butterfly, and lots of reeds! It’s a pocket of tranquility that I could lose myself in for hours.

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an alternative view

I’m not so keen on this time of year. Despite the crocuses being up it doesn’t feel anywhere near summer, and there is still a small chance that snow will fall before anything but parsnips can be harvested on our plot. Having been brought up in the Norfolk countryside I miss what the countryside offers. It is important to me that I notice the seasonal changes that shape our year, despite the suburban home I find myself in, here in Birmingham. I miss the big skies, the open fields, and the greens of each season, still in existence, I just can’t see them from here.

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Looking though photographs from last summer I found this shot. I took it from the car as we sat aboard the Windermere ferry, crossing back towards the motorway, heading south to the Midlands from our final holiday of the season. It really was a grasped shot of the closing summer, peering through the window, breathing in the view. A last look across to the beautiful hills of the Lake District, unaware of what sort of wet winter was in store for so many in the region. In getting the link to the ferry for this post I’ve just discovered there’s a ferry-cam. I’ll check back to it in daylight, and dream of the summer holiday.

Today it was sunny in Birmingham. I had a short run around the park nearby and pretended it was the countryside, imagining I really could feel the heat of the sun through my hat, gloves and coat. I think we have a while to wait. The ground underfoot reminded me all to well of school cross-country in winter!

I think I’m in need of another holiday to the country!

 

 

Design inspirations 3: winning games

I have always felt that one’s upbringing has a huge influence over the aesthetics of that designer. The house, the landscape, the products and fabrics that are present in the early years; everyday things, that at the time may not have been seen as important then can be blamed or celebrated in the later career of artists and designers. No doubt plenty of people would disagree with me, that’s not the point. I can clearly see a link between my own aesthetic, and my upbringing, and I’ve written about it in the past- read here  &  read here

On a trip back to the family home in Norfolk I came across the old games we used to play and was mentally transported back years before, simply by seeing the beautiful graphic qualities, clean lines and visual communication that I hold dear in my own practice. My visual language doesn’t necessarily mimic those designs but it’s more of an approach, a set of values & expectations that I set myself. We can expect things to be very different in the future with such digital aesthetics taking firm hold of so much of every day lives for my children and those of tomorrow. From how we create art and design, to how we view it on screen as well as on fabrics and surfaces much is very different. It is not necessarily a criticism of today, but more an appreciation of the inspiration I had and continue to thrive by. I sincerely hope that there will be art and design education in place over the next few years which will inspire the future textile designers, setting the benchmark for beyond that.

Here’s some of the graphic wonders. Red is a very popular box colour and it’s worth noting that many of the games proudly state they were made in England. Pieces were metal, wooden, proper card, nicely printed and beautifully boxed… there, a bit of nostalgia too! It also might be worth noting that in the ‘careers’ game The Arts was kept firmly in the box while ecology, sports, politics and big business made it on to the cover of the box!

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The season of textile design portfolios

As a student traveling up and down the country for interviews for a place on a degree course back in the mid 1990s I had little idea of what I would do on the degree course, let alone beyond the eternity of three years studying. My A1 black portfolio demonstrated my love of drawing, printmaking, pattern and ‘potential’. Now, in my role of lecturer at Birmingham City University each year I participate in the rounds of interviews to select the new members of our textile community and each year as I help them open the black A1 folio it reminds me of the journey I started all those year ago. The industry has changed, the world has changed, technology is utterly different and yet those nerves belonging to those individuals are as real as ever, and I remember that feeling so clearly. The unknown, the untrodden path I stumbled along; the Norfolk girl living in Leeds to turn drawings in to designs.

I’ve questioned most decisions I’ve made along the way, worrying about whether I should study art or design, printmaking or illustration, book art or textiles and yet somehow I seem to have all of those elements in my everyday practice, and that suits me fine. I remember the challenging task of confirming a description of myself and practice for my graduation show and degree postcard. (I opted for Artist / Designer, in case you wonder.) I couldn’t get the wording right, and really thought it mattered.

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Having spent last Saturday interviewing students, on introduction I described myself to the visitors as a Printed Textile Designer, which in so many ways completely fails to describe what I do, but somehow seemed right to say at the time. Now I ask myself why it doesn’t fit and maybe I conclude that the term feels too predictable, so tidy, so comprehensive, and yet the thing I am most proud of in my career to date is the breadth of art and design experience I have gained, the materials I’ve designed for, the clients I’ve had, and the lessons I’ve learned, despite as a student, no idea that all that was possible on graduation.

Many times through the day I spoke with interviewees about their art and design experiences and came to realise that their own understanding of art and design had more to do with the educational delivery they were currently receiving and far less about how they defined themselves. An interesting conundrum, and after all that, does it really matter? What made me most excited about being part of the interview process was that all the students were starting out on their own journeys, some of which I hope I shall be involved in, and with the potential of a great course to guide them through, inspiring staff and great facilities they really can do all they understand they want, and so much more than that. Daunting, and exhilarating, and I wish them all good luck!

I didn’t know it at the time but the work I was creating all those years ago as a student still holds such relevance to me now, and it doesn’t matter what label I give myself, it’s all about the creative process, and I don’t worry about boundaries there…