I work with old books, maps, prints; anything on paper, sometimes with the addition of small objects, stitching or colouring. My studio is in Folkestone’s Creative Quarter. I started out as a language teacher but, finding something missing, went back to college and did a Fine Art Textiles degree and have since taught Art, run workshops, projects and made my own work. I have been working as a full-time artist now for about 10 years.'Doing something small everyday, even when you are feeling blocked; usually turns into something worthwhile' - Thurle WrightClick To Tweet
I feel really lucky to be able to make my own work and that people like my work enough to support me. Going into my studio in the mornings is usually a release and a pleasure, despite the hard work. This time of working quietly on my own projects, especially one they’re on the go, has been the best phase of my career so far. Previously I have worked on large community projects, in schools, universities, with galleries and festivals. A residency in India, followed by an exhibition at The V&A Museum of Childhood remains a highlight. It was also wonderful to know my work was bought by The National Library of Queensland for their collection. I enjoy both the teaching and making side of things and have phases of both, though find it very hard to combine them. Must learn!
Weirdly enough, the most productive time for me is often in the bath or when I’m not actually trying to think about work. That’s when I get ideas and make connections. I work most days from about 10am til 3pm and then again later in the evening when all is quiet. My current studio is the best I’ve ever had; warm, quiet and light. It’s hard working on your own sometimes and maintaining focus. Also tricky, is balancing the domestic side of my life with ‘work’ as it all tends to blend into one. Think rather than fight this, I must go with the flow more. Watch this space! Keeping track of all the admin side of things is also not a strong point. I have recently become dependent on a wonderful studio assistant, a few hours a week, who helps with all this.
Method and Approach
It is hard to define any one particular process, style or theme in my work but I am often categorized as a book or paper artist. My works are usually made from multiples of cut, folded or stitched text and images taken from books. They are intricate, labour-intensive, usually delicate, perhaps slightly obsessive. Ideas usually begin with a book. I try and translate the written words of the book into the feeling it gives me when I read it. Sometimes it works the other way around; I have the idea of a pattern/shape/format first and then find a book that fits the idea; hard to explain… But, the books I usually work with are those that reflect my own interest in language and learning (classic novels, set texts, school atlases, dictionaries etc). The time scale to complete a work varies hugely from a few days to a few months. Sometimes I make quite large-scale installations and wall-pieces. Most of the work is in the preparation and thinking.
Marketing and Promotion
Marketing and promotion is, for me, the worst part of my job. I really don’t enjoy it and am not good it. I am fortunate to have a few galleries who help with this, both here and overseas. I try maintain a presence on social media but to be honest I would rather be making work (wouldn’t we all!). Instagram is probably the most immediate/effective tool for me though I’m not sure I make the best use of it. I am inspired by looking at other artists’ work though and keeping up with shows/exhibitions etc. Keeping in touch with other artists who are better at such things is also useful. Word of mouth is still a great resource in this age! Making more time for this is one of my ‘to be improved’ targets… (hence doing this Blog interview for Ashleigh).
Exhibitions and Shows
Most of my work is exhibited in London, through commercial galleries. I moved to Folkestone five years ago and have recently shown work locally, which I have really enjoyed as it links me to the community and has brought me some local commissions and connections; much needed to keep sane. I also show in various specific Book Art exhibitions (Lithuanian Book Arts Triennial, ‘Between the Sheets’ in Australia) and taken part in public art festivals, most recently in Norfolk and Romney Marsh. These are good quality curated exhibitions and a good means of exposure to a wide audience. I try not to enter competitions where you have to pay to enter; it’s hard enough making a living as an artist without having to pay people to look at your work. When I started out, I did do artist fairs (Battersea, Islington) which was hard work but useful and was how my first galleries found me (it never seemed to work approaching galleries?).
Obstacles and Challenges
Keeping faith in what I am doing has always been a challenge; valuing it and not giving in and getting ‘a real job’. I suppose artists are often their own worst critics. Financially I have had to be brave and trust that something will turn up. It usually does but it often involves juggling and feeling quite insecure (on going!). Being clear about which (paid) work or applications are going to help my career and which are just because I’m feeling anxious or wanting to please. Knowing when a work is finished, whether it is any good and how to present it continues to be a challenge. As does balancing home life with work. Can’t say I have overcome any of these challenges yet. Having a studio assistant a few hours a week has helped enormously in terms of talking things through and keeping track of things (my own head can be quite a solitary and convoluted place!). Oh, and taking time for long walks/baths and having ‘tidying days’ (just not too many!).
Tips and Advice
Tips for artists starting out? Hmmm… I’m not sure if ‘starting out’ ever ends. It’s an on going learning curve as our practice develops. I am still learning/changing and have a long way to go. I have noticed though that things go in cycles, like moods. The skill to ride through it all and keep true to the need to make is the hardest but most important. Trying not to worry about what people think (impossible when doing commissions!). Doing something small everyday, even when you are feeling blocked; usually turns into something worthwhile (thanks Dad). Being really flexible and open to opportunities; something good usually comes from any endeavor even if it is not what was expected. Allowing yourself down-time. Taking time to reflect; write, draw, doodle. Maintaining a strong network of colleagues or people interested in talking about your work. Looking at other artists who inspire you, going to exhibitions… Oh, and being playful. I must remember that! Tra la!