Friday, September 18, 2009

What's brown and sticky?

A stick!

(that one still makes me laugh)

I've been working on quite a few pictures (a dozen or so) based in and about Mid Wales. You may remember me mentioning that I work on them on-site and then bring them back to base camp to finish them off.

Recently, I realised that I had run out of the sticks and stones and other bits and pieces that I use in these pictures.

I could have just gone outside and picked up some more.

But oh no.

I had to wait until I was next there and then take a couple of hours to go collecting.

For some reason, the materials had to be from Mid Wales for the Mid Wales pictures. It wouldn't have been right to have pictures from Mid Wales with sticks from Pontyclun or Cardiff.

It's something about authenticity - even though no-one else would be able to tell. I'd know though.

I am working on lots of ideas, sketches, studies and pictures from different geographical areas, and I have bags of bits from each area.

Wherever I am, I find myself shuffling around with plastic carrier bags full of 'stuff' - like some old bag lady.

I have a bag of bits from Mid Wales for pictures about "the land";

I have another bag of bits from the coast in the boot of the car for pictures on "fluid";

Another bag of bits is from Bute Park in Cardiff for pictures about "chaos";

And I've started collecting material from a cemetery for pictures about "transition" (yes, I know, that last one is a bit weird).

So far, I've been trying to retain a naturalistic style to the pictures even though I paint the natural elements in different colours. Now I'm toying with the idea of doing some pictures in neon and flourescent colours.

It might be a bit more zeitgeisty.

(shoehorned that one in)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Coming Soon!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tree Farm

Some time ago, as I was travelling through Mid Wales, I stopped at a Forestry Commission place for a wee.

While I was there I noticed they had various walks and nature trails mapped out.

So, picking the easiest-looking one - I went for a walk.

I had a packet of Mini-Cheddars so I knew I was well prepared.

The path I chose was actually a wide, made-up road, with picnic benches and tables along the way.

Not very intrepid, I know ... but forests scare me so I wanted to stay as far away as possible.

Also along the way, were these various sculptures.

Animals also scare me, so seeing things like a hedgehog this size was a bit unnerving.


I got to thinking about art in public places, and what a good thing it is.

I thought it was great that the Forestry Commission had commissioned and installed these pieces.

They weren't very zeitgeisty, but someone had made an effort.


Something wasn't feeling right.

It was all a bit bland, a bit sanitised. It didn't feel like I was in 'nature'.

It was a bit creepy, but not in a good way.

As I came to the top of an incline, and rounded a corner, I saw this.

Devastation for miles around.

I suddenly realised that I really wasn't in nature ...

I was walking through a factory farm for wood

... a slaughterhouse for trees.

It was genuinely upsetting.

I walked back past the picnic benches and the sculptures and the whole place suddenly seemed very bleak.

It's a place to avoid, not visit.

No matter how desperate I am for a wee.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Over the last few weeks I've been very focussed on the 2 commissions I'm working on. I'm very excited about them and feel I have some good ideas.

I'm doing a lot of preparatory research and studies, including reading, taking photos, making photocopies, getting tear sheets from magazines, producing drawings and getting samples of materials.

I have a deadline of 20th September to have all the preparatory work done, ready to present and, hopefully, get approved.

So not long.

The pictures I'm producing are a series of 4 based on the theme of growth and decay. The reason for producing 4 is that the number 4 represents the number of the earth (4 corners of the earth, north / south / east / west, 4 seasons, 4 winds etc.) Each will be 2 feet square. As is my usual style, the pictures will be colourful, highly textured and will have natural elements embedded into them.

The sculpture I'm working on is based on an upright human figure. The lower half of the figure will be covered with sticks, leaves and other natural elements suggesting that the figure is rising up out of the earth. It will be about 4 ft 6 ins tall. I am exploring the materials to be used but they will be very robust and weatherproof. The sculpture will be painted white.

Because of the size of these pieces, their physicality, and the nature of the materials being used, I need a dedicated studio space to work in. I have been offered a large space in a disused building in Central London, so I am checking that out. I will travel there for 2 or 3 days each week to work (probably more as the deadline moves closer!).

I am working on both pieces simultaneously and allowing 2 months for their completion. I am working towards installation and viewing at the end of October, so I'll also be working on publicity materials and a launch event(s).

While these commissions are my priority for the next few months, I also have a number of other projects on the go. These include a number of pictures that I'm working on, and plans for a new business-type initiative that I want to develop.

It was quiet in the weeks before I went to Brasil, but I knew it would be busier when I came back.

I'm enjoying it.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Interview with Joanne Aguilar - Textile Designer

Joanne Aguilar is working as a freelance printed textile designer; producing and selling collections of textile samples for fashion and accessories, with a focus on menswear.

I've found it fascinating to learn more about what a Textile Designer does ... I hope you do too.

(Full disclosure - she's also my daughter!)

During your time at university, what did you REALLY learn? People often study a subject that they never refer to again (like me with History!), but yours seems very practical, hands-on and business-orientated. Was it?

My main aim in going to university was to learn the skills involved in textile design. I picked a course that was particularly traditional and craft based so that I would learn the processes step by step – I thought that if I knew how to do all these things properly I could then start to change the processes and experiment with the variables involved. So yes, the course was very practical but not especially business orientated or modern in terms of digital printing and new textile processes.

What does a Textile Designer actually do? Do you produce the fabric for making clothes? If so, what about the machinery you would need?
If you don't need a lot of machinery, what do you need? How do you produce samples?

My goodness – what a lot of questions! Textile Design is basically split into three disciplines – print, weave and knit. The designs can then be used for fashion, interiors or architectural spaces. If you think about it, textiles are everywhere in everyday life – inside and outside - so the possibilities are endless.

Personally, I specialised in designing printed textiles for fashion. I design patterns and prints in collections and make portfolios of small samples, which I then sell to fashion designers. I don’t need a lot of machinery as my samples are hand made and hand printed. I don’t make the clothes or produce any lengths of fabric – the fashion companies I sell to have their own manufacturers for that.

Why did you choose to focus on menswear? It doesn't seem so glamorous, colourful, tactile or exciting - things I'd have thought a textile designer would have been looking for!

Well, firstly, I think menswear can be glamorous and exciting - and it definitely is tactile. If pattern and colour are less obvious then the feel of the fabric really comes to the forefront. So touch is important to me when I design, and I am also really excited by high performance fabrics – fabric that has specific qualities such as being waterproof, reflective or protective. Good quality fabric is key, as are warmth and comfort. I’m much better at designing for a specific context than just printing pretty patterns in pretty colours.

All in all I think menswear suits my design style perfectly, and it’s definitely what I feel passionate about – menswear presents so many possibilities and challenges as there is still a lot of scope to innovate, all the while keeping it practical and wearable.

How do you begin working on a project? Are there any deadlines or timescales you have to work to? What about fashion seasons?

I start by drawing, taking photos and putting together sketchbooks and mood boards of ideas. One of the first things I decide on is a colour scheme and I like to get into the dye room pretty quickly and dye fabrics and papers to give me a palette. I also check all the upcoming trends as my collections are made for specific seasons in the fashion cycle – either Spring/Summer or Autumn/Winter. I research contemporary designers to keep up to date with current fabric and fashion developments and also read a lot of magazines and visit exhibitions so that I’m aware of what’s happening in general. I’ll set myself a brief and a deadline and choose which fabrics I’ll start with, but once I start printing and sampling I quickly get carried away and new ideas and processes start presenting themselves!

Where do you find your inspiration? How do you get an idea and then translate it onto a design for fabric? How can you know if it's going to be commercial?

Phew! I tend to play with contradictions – for example between traditional and contemporary menswear, printed and constructed textiles, traditional tailoring with elements of sportswear. I consider and exaggerate the inherent qualities of the fabrics I am working with. For each project the inspirations are different but I often look at architecture and graphics and for previous projects have researched suits of armour and military uniforms. I’ll then continue drawing and designing patterns and thinking about which processes I might use for each.

As I said before I try to design fabrics that I know will be wearable and functional for clothing and according to the trends.

Who do you sell your designs to?

I sell to fashion houses but also in the future I would like to collaborate with designers, especially young designers; developing fabrics alongside them for their upcoming fashion collections. I can also sell through textile design agencies.

What kind of environment do you like working in? Is a studio space best for you? Do you prefer working alone or with others?

I don’t like working alone! Even though I produce my collections on my own, a studio in a creative environment is really important for me in terms of meeting people designing in different disciplines, sharing ideas, possibilities of collaborations and having friends nearby for cups of tea! Working in isolation is not conducive to my creativity and I need to build and maintain a network of peers, supporters and friends. Also in practical terms I need studio space – what I do is quite messy!

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a new collection of samples, my first post-university! You can see how I’m getting on at

What's next?

The next step for me is to set up a print studio as soon as possible to enable me to continue designing and making samples.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?