|Me posing next to my board at the Gothic Creative Showcase - part of the Reimagining The Monstrous Gothic Conference at Sheffield University on Saturday 8th May|
It's been a really busy few days and it's going to be a really busy few days too - one conference down, two to go and one guided walk still to do. Hence this blog being written on a Tuesday instead of my usual Monday as I took an executive decision yesterday to take the afternoon off after a morning of two loads of laundry, tidying round and an intensive physio appointment on my knee...which thankfully though still twingy and sore and leaving me limping a bit is improving.
But I am pleased to report that the work is all on schedule so far in that I've finished drafting the paper I'm delivering this Friday so all I've left to do for it is to polish and practice it, and I'd finished mounting the digital tracing paper prints I'd had made for the Gothic Creative Showcase on the Thursday night before the showcase on Saturday morning. I really hate running around doing stuff at the last minute - though I worry I might be adding more stress for myself by panicking if things aren't done ahead of schedule as opposed to on schedule. Mmm might need to rethink my to do list so it's not quite as frantic - as after all I've built in enough lieu time to be able to take some...though I am also guilty of putting things off that I'm not looking forward to doing and so sometimes I have to force myself to do it - like the mounting of the prints for the Gothic Showcase.
It had to be done in the garage aka pop up meth lab as that has a big door that can be left open for more than adequate ventilation as I don't want to unintentionally intoxicate the cat on spraymount as she's goes mad enough on catnip and b) my workroom does not have a big enough space to lay things out flat to dry or c) give either me or my husband a cause for coughing.
It says on the side of the tin of spraymount (using the 3m repositionable stuff) that working in a well ventilated space is very important. Mmm it might make you cough but spraymount does smell intoxicatingly lovely (as does developer, stopbath and fixer) and I'm glad I got the stuff that doesn't completely set straight away as positioning A3 size prints can be a bit tricky. In fact mounting them on white card made me realise and appreciate the skill of the professional framer all the more. More than once I had to peel them back off and put them back down again and I was feeling stressed that they might all go horribly wrong and wrinkle and just look rubbish. Understandable but thankfully not realised fears - there was a teeny bit of crinkling but they looked okay.
I knew the boards they'd be displayed on would be dark hence my mounting them on white card as otherwise the digital print on tracing paper would have been lost and too difficult to see. Plus I didn't want to put pins through the work itself but rather its mount - though these can still be trimmed so that they only show the image itself rather than a white border.
I bought both black and white card and different coloured paper to see which background would look best. Some of the positives looked okay against the black and one of the big ones I've had done of St George's Fields look positively malevolent (exactly what I had hoped) against the pink but all look good against white. And as I'll be exhibiting against dark boards for the next couple of weeks I decided the best thing to use is a white background.
I also made a list this time of the things I needed to bring - pins, sticky rather than sew on velcro, tape measure, mini spirit level, scissors, extra work just in case and put them in a bag by the front door ready and ticked each item off it so I knew I had packed them and so could just pick up the bag when it was time to leave. Undergraduate me would have thought I was being ridiculously anal and so would have been rushing round like a headless chicken having to scrounge things off others to complete the task. As it was it was a case of get up, wash - put on clothes and make up left out the night before and pick bags up and go. I hope I can always be this organised.
Plus being organised helps minimise my anxiety levels to just about manageable...and it is quite anxiety provoking (for me anyway) going to a strange place, and putting up my work on display. Which of course begs the question - why else make it if not to show it as after all doesn't art need an audience to make it art or else it's just a private hobby. And I don't want it to be just a private hobby - I do want it to be seen and it was very gratifying to overhear someone just as I'd finished putting the board together say 'wow' which reassured me that as well as me thinking that it looked good - so did at least one other person.
Plus planning things in advance made me realise that all was not lost (though it may have felt like it for a few minutes) when I realised I'd not had every image I had planned on printing printed. I must have miscounted when I was putting all the images on the usb stick to take to the printing room and I hadn't added all the inverted and mirrored images I'd made and there wouldn't be enough time to get them redone. But as I had already got all bar two of the prints made I wanted I still had more than enough to make a creditable looking ensemble. But note to self - make actual list of images I want printing and tick them off said list before clicking button to safely remove usb stick and putting it in bag ready to take in.
Thankfully this time I had my ever supportive husband with me who helped me both arrange the board at the other end and push in the pins as that was really difficult. So much so that next time when I will be doing this solo I am going to put velcro on the back of the prints (but leave the adhesive cover on) so that all I'll need to do once I've decided where I'm putting them is to take that bit of sticky off plus that way there won't be anything like a visible pin to potentially detract from the image. I'd been unable to source enough black or white headed push pins to pin all the images on the board with one or the other - hence the decision to pin printed material (it's thankfully getting much less difficult to write about my work and inspiration for this kind of thing) with black pins, along with negative images and use white on the positive ones.
It was lovely as ever to meet up with other gothicists and chat potential phd plans as well as hear about what they're working on and to hear about other potential opportunities. I am quite fortunate in that my work is interdisciplinary and so fits potentially within art, gothic, and history academic settings.
But although the Gothic Creative Showcase was the culmination of the week there had also been the excitement of getting my first experimental burial plot size printed image back from the digital print room and steaming it which was rather tricky as a) it's so big - approximately 2.14 metres by 1.06 metres wide or 7 foot long by 3 foot 6 inches wide in old money) and b) the hessian backing you wrap it up in to put it in the steamer is as a consequence very heavy. But I am well chuffed with how it looks - the image I had printed is of a lumen print I made of a head on a headstone from a graveyard in Chapel Allerton inverted back into a positive. And that cost £37.80 so now it is all systems go for the next three which I hope will form part of my piece for the MA degree show in late October.
Things I learnt from it are: how to use the steamer facility and don't be a numbskull next time and take in a bag to put it to bring it home and also beg/borrow/steal an old cardboard inner tube from either material or paper to wrap it round to store it once it has been washed so it doesn't get creased.
The other receipt pictured is for black bias binding and embroidery hoops as the experiments using coffin lining offcuts are continuing. Bias binding on the hoop helps grip the material more tightly, plus am thinking putting black around the outer hoop will look good for display purposes - once I've decided what it is I want to put on it and got both the embroidery and the image transfer techniques are good enough. Things I've learnt so far - embroidering straight onto the material puckers it regardless of width of needle used/amount of threads, covering it in gloss medium shows less than matte medium and it puckers less BUT you have to be very careful about placing the needle or else it leaves a hole plus if you pull the thread too tight it then tears through the material....room for more experimentation methinks.
I bought the hoops,bias binding and embroidery thread off the Habiknit stall on Leeds Market - the same place I go to for all my sewing stuff, it's opposite the wool shop at the entrance on Vicar Lane. The ladies that work on the stall are lovely and really helpful and the lady who sold me the hoops said she wanted to buy her daughter a cardigan like the one I was wearing - it's a Banned one with day of the dead skulls either side. Apparently her daughter now has her own room after having to share with her sister and wants to go all out skulls everywhere - and it was really nice to be able to tell her about the matte medium image transfer technique and she said she was going to try it out on some stuff for her daughter. She also said she'd like to come to the end of year show when I explained what I was working on.
So what else? also went to a really interesting talk at Kirkstall Museum on the Victorian Underworld and learnt all manner of titbits about crime and punishment during the Victorian era as well as a really interesting nugget re Victorian novels in that reading was much less of a solo activity then - and the long monologues often found in Victorian serialisations were to give the reader the chance to perform.
Think that's enough for now - still to make notes on what I've been up to today but now it's time for some tea and a bit of my beloved Eurovision.