Category Archives: exhibitions

What’s in a name?

When my super intelligent, super talented sister decided to write a blog, her biggest challenge was not how she would find the time to write (newly retired from keeping the NHS afloat, time for personal pursuits is a novelty) or what she would write about (cooking, touring, history, walking, living in the beautiful Welsh Marches etc).  No, it turned out that what caused her embryonic career as a blogger to stutter was finding a title for it.  After trying to match the expectations of her potential readers with her own ideas and aspirations she came up with this which I think works pretty well (as, indeed, do her blogs).

Duro and Helen
Duro and Helen

When I started out as a Textile Artist I wondered whether I should use my own name or come up with something a little less personal.  There were a couple of reasons: firstly, my name is not that uncommon and, coincidentally, there’s another Maria Lalic in the art world although she is higher profile and exhibits in places like the Tate; secondly, as much as I love textile art, I also love primitive craft, writing, teaching workshops, gardening and loads of other things.  I wondered about having an all-encompassing label for these things because I thought that people who liked my artwork might think that there was a multitude of people with the same name doing loads of different things.  I couldn’t come up with the umbrella term in the same way as my sister did so I settled on giving each activity a different name.  Textiles to Treasure showed off my attempts at crafts,

Mumma Doll
Mumma Doll

Rebecca Alston wrote short stories, book reviews and magazine articles and Simple Country Folk reflected my interest in gardening, simple living and self reliance.  When Lorraine from Greenweeds Web Design got involved she was adamant that everything should come under my name because she said – quite rightly – all of the different aspects of my character affected the work I produce as a Textile Artist.

I wasn’t convinced but I said goodbye to all of my alter-egos and carried on as just me.  Nowhere is this more obvious than on my twitter account where I use my 140 characters to micro blog about textile art,

Lleuadra
Lleuadra

my cat Lily,

What now?
What now?

how the garden looks,

After weeding ...
After weeding …

the weekly Porthcawl Park Run

and my treks through the local countryside.

Early morning on River Garw
Early morning on River Garw

 

Weithiau, wrth gwrs, rydw i’n ysgrifennu yn y Gymraeg achos bod diddordeb mawr ‘da fi yn yr iaith Gymraeg ac Hanes a Diwylliant Cymru ac mae llawer o bobl yn defnyddio twitter am yr un peth.   

We pretty much get stuck with the names our parents give us but of course you can wreak revenge when you name your own offspring though that is easy compared to naming pieces of artwork.  When I had my usual pop up exhibition at the year’s Wonderwool I was struggling with what to call this piece but my problem was solved by my pal, the wonderfully talented artist Miranda Bowen , who came up with a great title.

The Guardian
The Guardian

At the same event I showed some work that I had made for an exhibition that I’ll be having at Bryngarw Country Park on the 30/31 July 2016.  Exhibitions also need names! I found a snippet of a quote from the Book of Isaiah which referred to a ‘habitation of dragons and a court of owls’ so the name for the exhibition is ‘A Habitation of Dragons’ and all of the pieces of work will be inspired by dragons or dragon-lore.

The Dragon of Cwm Garw Fechan
The Dragon of Cwm Garw Fechan

That’s a lot of titles to come up with and whilst they sound a bit fictional (Heuldra, Lamia, Sreca for example), all of the names have their roots in mythology or the Welsh language.  So whilst I was standing there at Wonderwool, waxing lyrical about the variety of Textile Art I had on display, talking about the things which inspire or interest me and giving information about our NGS open garden day to just about anybody who stopped long enough to listen, a lady came up to me and said “Is this all yours?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“There’s too much,” she said, “and it’s all too different, too confusing.  I can’t cope.”  And she walked away.

I wonder what Lorraine would have to say about that.

A dweud y gwir, does dim ots ‘da fi nawr. Yn yr Eisteddfod Genedlaethol eleni, byddaf i’n gwneud sesiwn crefft ym Maes D yn y bore ac yn siarad am fy ngardd yn y prynhawn Ddydd Gwener.  Dewch a dweud ‘Helo’ pe basech chi yno. 

Light is a place

“Dark is a way and light is a place”              Dylan Thomas

We all have ups and downs in our lives.  If you are lucky (as I seem to be) you have people in your life who counterbalance the downs  by their presence, character or complete weirdness.  All of my counterbalances have one thing in common – something to do with the world of art and craft.

RWAS Winter Fair 2014
RWAS Winter Fair 2014

The run up to Christmas is a busy time for craftspeople.  It’s when the great, buying public are likely to crank open their purses and wallets and actually part with some cash.  That may sound a bit flippant but consider this:  a recent study said that most professional artists and artisans  are content if they are making £5000 a year.  Given they are probably working at least 25 hours a week at their chosen discipline, that means they are actually earning less than £4 an hour.  And lest we forget, out of that money they are buying raw materials, dealing with marketing and insurance costs and spending extra hours on thinking up ideas and experimenting with techniques.  As one of the craftspeople who sits behind tables at Christmas Craft Fairs, let me into some of the comments which are guaranteed to dowse my seasonal spirit:

” I’ve seen them for sale at  *insert the name of a bargain shop here* for *insert some ridiculous price here* ”  . 

My silent answer to this is “No, you haven’t.  You have seen something which has been mass produced in a sweat shop where workers have no rights, no living wage and terrible working conditions.

“I could make that for you!”

My silent answer to this is “No, you couldn’t.  Not unless you got taught to sew when you were 7 by my mother and have lived my life ever since.”

”                                                     “

That is the sound of no comment at all.  It is usually accompanied by a stare.  There is no answer to it, silent or otherwise.

So, if you should go to a craft show – whether at Christmas or at any other time of year – let me assure you that most makers are in it for something other than the money (remember the less-than-£4-an-hour?).  Most of them are there because they love what they are doing and most of them want to share it with other people.  You have the chance to be the ‘up’ which counterbalances their ‘downs’ by stopping to talk, asking them about their craft and perhaps even buying something.  On the other hand, feel free to pass by the ones who are not generous, chatty or enjoying themselves but give them a smile and a cheery “Hello” to show them what they are missing!  You can find out which shows I’ll be at over on my events page.

My second counterbalance is the wonderful Textile Artist Melissa Warren.  It was a joy this morning to spend time (and money) in her lovely craft shop and gallery, Lemon Blues.  Melissa produces wonderful knitting & silk art work, runs a craft club for anyone who wants to drop in, is a role model and mentor for enterprising women anywhere but particularly in the South Wales valleys and is one of the founder members of Made in the Valleys – a collective of artists, artisans and creatives.  Made in the Valleys are about to have their Christmas exhibition at the Giles Gallery in Pontyclun.  You can see some of my work there as well as some of the best of what is being made in the South Wales valleys at the moment.  Again there are details on my events page.

Footfall - Creative Embroidery on hand made felt.
Footfall – Creative Embroidery on hand made felt.

My third and last counterbalance to the downs of life are the delightfully named yarnbombing group, Lily’s Posse.  Like most yarnbombing groups, the members of Lily’s Posse like to remain anonymous and interact with the world through an independent ‘Communications Officer’ – in this case, me.

Agents Balaclava and Chullo
Agents Balaclava and Chullo

Agents Balaclava, Burger, Chullo, Captain Beanie, Jaja, Le Bobble, Red Hat and 007 recently yarnbombed Bryngarw Country Park to celebrate autumn and Hallowe’en.

Knitted Giant Green Tick
Knitted Giant Green Tick

If you need an ‘up’ in your life, then forming a yarnbombing group will do the trick.  Finally, there’s one other way to deal with the not so good things that go on in your life and that’s to remember the happier days.  As Dylan Thomas says:

“Yet, though I cry with tumbledown tongue, Count my blessings aloud:”

Thanks for the memories, Myfanwy.

Miss Myfanwy Price
Miss Myfanwy Price

 

 

Too much of anything isn’t good

“Nid da rhy o ddim”

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first:  Aunty Betty the chicken has made a full recovery and rejoined the rest of the flock.  I can hear your sigh of relief from here but before you get too comfortable and secure, you should know that Miss Myfanwy Price (our Jack Russell) has developed a problem in the Waterworks department.  It is like going back to her puppy hood: the familiar little crouch coupled with the guilty look – I’m talking about her now, not me – followed by a new stain on the carpet.  Is it any wonder that I’m having ‘stitcher’s block’?

Miss Myfanwy Price
Miss Myfanwy Price

Actually the reason I’ve been having ‘stitcher’s block’ is not because of a dearth of ideas but because I’ve been having too many of them.  If you’ve ready any of my previous blogs, you’ll know that I’m not brilliant at keeping journals or sketchbooks which means all the ideas jostle about in what passes for my brain.  Add to the chaos a garden which demands more attention that I can give, animals with genitourinary issues and a bit too much interest from other people in my work as an artist and you have a perfect recipe to stop someone like me from threading a needle.

mumma doll

Luckily at this time of year, the pressure builds in the form of Christmas Craft Fairs.  I wish I could say that I only do these to earn the money but I don’t.  I do them because I love being part of events like the RWAS Winter Fair.  Two new events for me are the Green Fayre and the Christmas Fairs at The Wildlife Trust’s Parc Slip Reserve.  More pressure has built because I have agreed to demonstrate crafts at these last two.  I’m going to showcase my abilities (!) at needlefelting, free form knitting and free weaving.  If you’re in the area, come along and say hello.

Needlefelted Robins
Needlefelted Robins

But it’s not enough to just say you are going to do something; showing is always better than telling so I’ve decided the time has come for me to make some things too.  This means grabbing a couple of ideas and making them come alive.  I’ve found a craft that I really want to have a go at (I’ll tell you what it is next month) but I needed to get hold of some fabric, hopefully cheaply and preferably free.  I called in on Clem, a mate of mine who runs an upholstery business.  As luck would have it, he was clearing the stock room and I staggered back up the road carrying armfuls of fabric that was heading for landfill until I arrived.  This is the first thing that I’ve made out of it – cute or what?

I was nearly landfill!
I was nearly landfill!

Now that I have fabric, a garden which has been harvested and a stock of puppy pads on the floor to mop up after an incontinent Jack Russell, there should be no obstacle to me producing some craft after too much of a summer break.

All is safely gathered in
All is safely gathered in

Hefyd, wrth gwrs, mae llawer o ddosbarthiadau Cymraeg yn dechrau yn yr Hydref.  Rydw i’n hapus i siarad Cymraeg â phobl (yn enwedig pobl sy’n dysgu’r iaith) felly pe hoffech chi ymarfer eich Cymraeg, byddai’n bleser i gwrdd â chi.  Hwyl am y tro!

 

Etifeddiaeth

“Hawdd cynnau tân ar hen aelwyd”

“It’s easy to kindle a fire on an old hearth”

I love the word ‘etifeddiaeth’.  It means ‘inheritance’ or ‘legacy’ and is the title I chose for a series of Textile Art works inspired by the tales of Cynddylan and Heledd.  I’ve written about them in previous blogs and you can read more here.

Elfan Powys
Elfan Powys

This year the National Eisteddfod of Wales is being held in Meifod, the homeland of Cynddylan and Heledd .  I was disappointed ‘Etifeddiaeth’  wasn’t selected to be part of the occasion but, it turns out, something just as exciting came along and the work is now being exhibited in a completely different context.

Caranfael
Caranfael

Dydd Llun diwethaf, ces i neges oddi wrth Rachelle Barlow yn gofyn am fenthyg o ‘Etifeddiaeth’ ar gyfer arddangosfa am yr Eisteddfod.

I once had music lessons.  After two years my piano teacher called a halt and said she couldn’t keep taking my money because nothing she did would work – I didn’t have a musical bone in my body.  So you’d have to wonder how I’d know such a talented, knowledgeable and respected ethnomusicologist as  Rachelle Barlow . I shall leave that for a future blog or possibly Rachelle’s autobiography.  Suffice to say that we spent Monday evening with me issuing forth my opinions on what makes art, art and Rachelle eating her way through a plate of Jammy Dodger biscuits.

Eglwysau Basa
Eglwysau Basa

Rachelle had done her homework and came armed with copies of R S Thomas poems – I  am particularly fond of  the imagery in The Journey and Resevoirs – and a manuscript of ancient Welsh songs which had part of Cân Heledd set to music.  It was really interesting to see the way in which two completely different creative practices could come together and find a common ground.  In this case, it started out as introducing the ethos of the Eisteddfod to the students, staff and visitors who use the Library at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama but by the end of the plate of Jammy Dodgers, Rachelle and I realised that there was a much wider appeal on the shelves of the Library itself.

Pengwern
Pengwern

So much art – of what ever genre – is interpreting another art form or reality.  I look at the poems of R S Thomas and say they inspire me but actually what I am doing is interpreting his words in a technique which I can use.  R S Thomas in turn, had used words to interpret his reality – though in some of his poems, he was clearly inspired by works of figurative art.  ‘Etifeddiaeth’ is my interpretation of Heledd’s Lament and The Death Song of Cynddylan but both of those were written by someone who was interpreting a reality.  When you understand that art can be interpretative as well as imaginative, the possibilities become endless and endlessly exciting.

Hirwaun - inspired by The Journey (R S Thomas)
Hirwaun – inspired by The Journey (R S Thomas)

Diolch i fisgedi Jammy Dodgers, penderfynodd Rachelle lydanu pwnc yr arddangosfa i gynnwys diwylliant a llenyddiaeth yn ogystal â’r Eisteddfod.

Much of the artwork has been left out on shelves so that it can be handled by the students and visitors to the Library.  I think that this is an important part of Textile Art.   One of the things that I gain from being at events like the National Eisteddfod and having a ‘pop up’ exhibition is encouraging people to touch and handle the embroidery.  I hope that the actors, musicians and designers from the College will take the opportunity to experience my work and use it to inform their own.  As I said to Rachelle, in my opinion, there are three things which make art, art:  first, it evokes an emotional response; secondly, it provokes thought; last, it demonstrates skill or good technique.

If you create something – craft, art, music, literature, dance, dramatic performance – and you can apply those three criteria, then you will be satisfied but probably not for long.  Creativity likes to leave updated legacies because you keep coming up against new realities or genres to interpret.  I love R S Thomas and Cynddylan and Heledd but I have just discovered the existence of Celtic Coin Art.  Oh my word!  I can see a whole new world opening up!

If you have some spare time between now and the beginning of September, why not visit the Library at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.  Not only can you see ‘Etifeddiaeth’ but the chances are you will come into contact with a huge range of creative people and practices, cultural resources and works of music and literature, any or all of which could start you off on a new creative journey.  Happy kindling!