© Carolyn Saxby

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ARTIST STATEMENT



ARTIST STATEMENT

CAROLYN SAXBY


I am incredibly flattered by the response to my work and by the number of students of textiles, art and design contacting me, all seeking a little more information about my work.  Thank you very much for your kind words and support

I felt it appropriate to prepare an artist statement to address some of the more frequently asked questions about my work, background, design process and continuing professional development

Early years and background
I was born in Berkshire in 1962 and I enjoyed art and crafts from a very early age.

One of my earliest memories was of learning to sew using sewing lacing cards aged around 5 years old and at school in Reading learning to weave on cards, basket weaving and French knitting on a dolly.

I was taught by my mum and both grandmothers to knit, crochet and sew, including how to cast on and off myself and the various stitches.   At aged 8 years I completed knitting and sewing up my first ever garment, a short sleeved jumper!  I still have the pattern somewhere!

I would come home from school and my mum would always be knitting, with her sewing box at her feet. I loved her old sewing box that was made for her by her father, who died before I was born.   I was drawn to the box, which I imagined had a secret compartment in the drawer.  I imagined secret love tokens, special buttons and treasures.  It was a very special box, that I hope to own one day.  I used to love to help darn and repair clothes for our family and became proficient at it.  I learnt to sew buttons, hooks and eyes, make darning repairs all by hand and to hem neatly.  I was fascinated by the iron on transfers (I own these now) in Mum’s sewing box which she used to embroider our little dresses, her box of knitting patterns, some vintage sewing patterns from the 1950’s and 60’s, a particular Vogue dressmaking pattern for a beautiful 1950’s wedding dress, her big pot of knitting needles and other curious things that I later knew to be bobbins and sewing machine tools

My mum would knit clothes for my dolls, sew pram covers and make our dresses.  Mum had a Singer sewing machine but I wasn’t allowed to use it until I started learning dressmaking at secondary school in 1973.  It was a natural progression for me to start making my own clothes.  For one thing, there wasn’t a lot of spare money to go round the family for new clothes and also fabric and dressmaking patterns were much cheaper to buy in the 1970’s.  The first garments I made for myself were from a pattern for a bibbed pinafore.  I made it in mini, midi and maxi lengths (well … it was the 1970s) and I walked around barefoot in those hippy days

I have a lot to thank my needlework teacher for.  She would sometimes remark that my work needed more attention to detail and I tried so hard to please her by getting my stitches as neat as could be.  I learnt about naps and bias in fabrics, choosing the correct weight fabric, how to read the sewing patterns symbols, how to cut accurately, make darts, sizing the pattern to a tailor’s dummy, the importance of tacking and piecing

I plugged away at teaching myself the various embroidery stitches that I saw in books.  I did struggle with this quite a lot as the designs were, quite often, “old fashioned” and I could never quite emulate the detail.  I couldn’t see a place for the designs.  Later, I came to love and enjoy these stitches in a more contemporary free style way, so it was good grounding

During the 1970’s I sewed checked woollen hot pants, ditsy floral pinny dresses, hippy skirts, corduroy “bomber” jackets and flared trousers!

I knitted lacy batwing jumpers, crocheted shawls and hippy headbands!

And I also enjoyed, and did well at, art.  However, I was encouraged to regard these talents as homemaking skills rather than to pursue them academically and as I went into my final two years I chose all academic subjects (English language, English literature, French, Maths, Physics, Chemistry, History, Economics and Typewriting) that would help me get a job when I left school in 1978.  I went on to study English, Law, Business Studies and Secretarial Studies at Newbury College.  I worked as a sales secretary for five years and then for sixteen years as a legal secretary in Reading, where I gained experience in all aspects of law and property matters

Houses and interior design have always been of interest to me.  I studied interior design at home (self taught) and have books full of photos, magazine cuttings, swatches, paint cards and design notes relating to themes, patterns and colour schemes that interest me.  These, I suppose, were my early sketchbooks.  Meanwhile, I sewed curtains, table cloths and cushion covers for my own home and also continued to make my own clothes throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s

I started to feel that there were only so many cushions a girl could make for the home and wondered where it was all leading to and then in the mid to late 1990’s I discovered textiles as an art form.  I began gathering images in my sketchbooks and studying other artists’ work and things started to click into place for me.  I found the outlet I was looking for, I discovered a new purpose for all those design ideas I had been saving

Meanwhile, in 2000/2001 my husband and I worked at renovating and decorating five houses.  In 2002, looking for a larger project, we moved to St. Ives, Cornwall, to a 200 year old cottage in need of complete renovation, improvement and decoration.  It has been a long project, now nearing completion, but a fruitful one

Living in St. Ives in Cornwall has given me the wonderful opportunity to work on the cottage and spend more time at my art and textiles, design and studies, to visit galleries and learn so much about art, photography, sculpture, ceramics, famous St. Ives artists, local, modern and contemporary artists.  I love to visit as many art and textile exhibitions as I can get round, time permitting, and I collect art images prolifically.  I was also able to visit the exhibitions at the local colleges and, in particular, I really enjoy the annual exhibition of fine art textiles at Cornwall College, Camborne where my most favourite thing is to be able to leaf through the sketchbooks of the textile students

Socially, I joined a beading group, and for a couple of years I enjoyed learning lots of beading techniques and jewellery projects, an extension of learning  the embroidery stitches.  I was a Member of The Beadworkers’ Guild and The Embroiderers Guild (although not currently)

I also joined a textile group, an opportunity to play with design techniques, creating backgrounds to work on such as knitting with unusual materials, crochet, weaving, wet felting, playing with resists, tie dye, flour and water resist, silk painting, shibori, painting and dyeing fabrics, surface design and embellishment

Everything collided and fell into place.  My love of houses, interiors, art, design, photography, ceramics, sculpture, mixed media textiles, embroidery and recording everything in sketchbooks, admittedly,  in an obsessive and prolific manner

I love to learn new techniques, keep up with new products and experiment with recycled materials and, up until this point, I was mostly self taught, being disciplined to work on my own and push myself.  I thought it would be nice to have a qualification in the subject I love the most so in 2005/2006 I studied Art Textiles at AS/A2 at Penwith College, Penzance.  I was modestly pleased to gain Grade A for each of my six projects and overall Grade A (93%)

I hoped it would be a stepping stone to further studies in art and textiles and in 2008 I started my foundation degree in Art and Design at Cornwall College but wasn’t able to continue due to personal circumstances.  I was very disappointed, at the time,  not to able to continue with my studies at College, so I have been working hard, on my own, to continually study design, technique and improve on quality.  I regularly attend workshops and take on-line courses.  I read textile books and magazines all the time and enjoy having two blogs where I share my work and things that inspire me.  My blogs are virtual journals for my photography and an outlet for my creativity

Inspiration
I am inspired by so many things.  Nature inspires me the most.  I love looking at colour, pattern, texture and structure of things in nature such as seed pods, seed heads, seeds, structure of plants, leaves, berries, petals, stamens, the hedgerow, trees, bark, lichen, acorns, pebbles, shells, seaweed, rock pools, flotsam and jetsam washed up on beaches, feathers, birds, nests and eggs

For the last couple of years I have been experimenting with using natural plant materials to dye fabrics for use in my work

I walk a lot in the country lanes near my cottage and on the beaches of St. Ives.  I take a lot of photographs, record my thoughts and feelings and draw a little, I take found objects home and use them in my work

I also love vintage photographs and old lace and like to mix these with contemporary finds

I am a poet at heart and I love words

St. Ives, where I live, inspires me so much.  There are many aspects that interest me such as the white washed Alfred Wallis style cottages with lichen covered roof tops, cobbled streets, the harbour full of peeling paint and rusty fishing boats, beach debris which I pick up and use in my work

My style
I would describe my style of textile art as a mix of contemporary and country, inspired by nature and incorporating traditional materials, found objects, recycled materials, text and surface design

My favourite fabrics are silk dupioni, silk ponge, satins, chiffons and heavily decorated metallic fabrics, as well as the versatile calico which I use a lot

Recycling in Textiles

Recycling in textiles is very important to me.  I love to recycle old papers, cardboard packaging, plastic carrier bags, acetate, brown paper, cellophane, sweet wrappers, old clothes, fabrics, buttons, fasteners, threads and vintage book pages.  Time permitting, I am continually experimenting with painting, heating, melting and bonding various materials and products to manipulate them into interesting textures which I use in surface design or make my own beads and interesting surface trims

Current projects
Current and ongoing projects include:
  • Attending local workshops and courses and taking part in online workshops and projects including bookmaking, textured art canvasses and working with wax (encaustic)
  • The Erosion Bundle Project - a project involving  experimentation with the effects of nature, climate and weather on bundles left to the elements (buried, placed on the surface, hanging in trees) and using the eroded pieces in a final piece
  • A collage paper swap and paper/art tags and inchies swaps
  • The Brooklyn Sketchbook Project - an 80 page moleskine sketchbook filled with my textile art which will travel on tour across USA in 2011 finally being archived in The Brooklyn Library, New York
  • The Festival of Quilts 2010 and preparation for my art quilt entry for 2011 (based on my work for The Brooklyn Sketchbook Project)
  • Various other personal sketchbook projects - continually ongoing
  • Personal development and experimentation - image transfer, working with wax, textured paintings, altered books, collage, playing with my embellisher (a needle punching machine), construction of art dolls and figures, further experimentation with natural dyeing fabrics with natural plant materials, painting and printing on fabrics,  and keeping up with playful techniques new products becoming available to textile artists
  • I also regularly add work to my two blogs, flickr, face book and twitter updates
  • I am a member of the Fibre Arts/Mixed Media network & the Hand Embroidery network
Personal Aim
I shall be offering work for sale online and locally in St. Ives and Cornwall and will also be exhibiting locally in St. Ives and Cornwall during 2011.  I hope to sell some of my work so that I may finance and continue with my art and design studies by working at home/online.  I hope to complete my City & Guilds in art & design sketchbooks with a view to completing my degree in textile art and design, however long it takes

Conclusion

I thank you for your interest and hope I have provided enough information for study.  Although I don’t have loads of qualifications, I am always keen to encourage and help students of textiles in any way I can by sharing information and techniques and I think it’s great that so many students are interested in textiles as an art form

Carolyn Saxby - December 2010

Love Stitching Red
Carolyn Saxby Mixed Media Textile Art