Frequently Asked Questions
Should you have any questions that haven't been answered on this website, I am happy to answer enquiries providing they are specific and concise (2/3 questions) - I ask this due to the sheer volume of student enquiries I am currently receiving. (Please also ensure that you spamguard is set at a level that will accept mail from the yahoo servers).
Do you have an resources or publications available?
Yes, I have a 16 page printed booklet that has details of all the different techniques and work that I produce, these are £7.00 each. Please click here for more details.
What are your inspirations?
The materials themselves that I use to make my work are my biggest inspiration. I find a media and try to think how I can use it in my work and transform its function. Also I gain inspiration from the places I search for materials, such as flea markets, charity shops, fruit and veg stalls, antique shops etc. Whenever I am really stuck for an idea I seek inspiration from literature or poetry. The original concept for the dresses and shoes came from the novel 'Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit' by Jeanette Winterson, which I used as the basis for my degree show at university.
Would you say that your work is based on the idea of nostalgia?
This has not been a conscious decision, but due to the nature of materials I use they always spark memories for the viewer. People tend to attach their own nostalgia to my work by recognising a place on a map, a book they have read, an item they have used. I believe that the work should not have to be explained too much and that the audience can construct their own meanings and narrative.
When and where did you study, and has your work changed much since then?
I did a BA (hons) Textiles, at Manchester Metropolitan University, which was a traditional textiles course specialising in print, knit and weave. Toward the end of the course I started experimenting with different materials, weaving with orange peel, melting fruit bags etc. Most of the techniques I use in my work now are things I have taught myself since graduating by experimenting with different media and techniques.
What techniques do you use in your work?
Weaving, layering, laminating, stitching, waxing, embedding, fusing unusual and found materials. I use resin to embed objects to make some of my jewellery and my coat hangers. Most of my dresses are simply the materials (such as the letters, maps etc.) sewn together to form a fabric, others are treated to create a more stable, 'sewable' fabric. Most shoes are formed over a mould, using a moulding medium, but the stilettos are made from a flat template I have designed, then constructed into a three-dimensional shoe shape. I also use heat transfer printing in my work to create my own printed fabrics.
How long have you been working as an artist?
Since I graduated in 1999, but have only been completely self employed since 2002, as before this I had part time work to support my practice.
What are the best and worst things about being an artist?
The best things are that I am able to produce my own work and be my own boss for a living. I have luckily got to the stage where I only undertake the workshops I enjoy and am able to say no to those that I don't. The worst things are no sick pay, no holiday pay and VERY few days off. I may be my own boss, but my boss is a slave-driver! It is very hard to turn down paid work, so I really struggle to fit everything in. I am trying to sell work, whilst trying new ideas, to run workshops, do exhibitions and undertake commissions and residencies. Also there is a lot of paperwork to be done, which I didn't expect when I started out. Tax returns, updating the website, replying to emails, producing publicity material etc. And I had such romantic visions of sitting sewing all day!
How easy is it to find work/ make a living?
I have been very lucky, and have had some amazing opportunities, such as getting a place on the North West Arts Boards 'Setting Up Scheme'. This gave me a free studio, as well as a maintenance and equipment grants, so I had money and time to set up by business when I was starting out. However I would say that it only has been within the last year that I have finally got to the stage that I am actually making money. So you do have to be really determined and pro-active in finding work and opportunities. You also have to get used to getting rejections, which used to really upset me, but now I realise most of the things you apply for you probably won't get to begin with. Luckily, I have got to the stage where people approach me for exhibitions and workshops, as most work I undertake now is gained through word of mouth and recommendations.
Where do you work?
I have a studio in Stafford, which is where I am from. Before this I was based in Manchester for 10 years, where I had a studio in Stockport. My first studio was at the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester, as part of my setting up grant.
Can I visit your studio?
Yes, I have just launched Unit Twelve, which is my workshop and exhibition space open to the public, Thursday to Saturday 10am til 4pm. www.unittwelve.co.uk
How do you make money?
By selling my work, through galleries, shops and shows (both trade and retail), by running art workshops, undertaking residencies and doing commissions.
How do you price your work?
How much time and materials it takes, but mainly it is dictated by how much people are willing to pay for it. Over time you get a feel for how much people are (and are not) willing to pay for things and are able to price work accordingly.
Which other artists inspire you?
Lucy Brown, Betty Pepper, Claire Coles, Janet Ledsham, Cas Holmes, Zoe Hope, Sara Fanelli, Susie Freeman, Su Blackwell, Julie Arkell, Magie Hollingworth and Jane Lennard.
What is the biggest piece of work you have made?
The largest to date is a dress that is 4 ½ m long. I tend to make work that is both extremes of scale, either really big, or really small (which sells better) to get across the fact that my work cannot be worn, that it is fine art textiles rather than fashion.
How would you class your work?
I am not too worried how people choose to class me and my work; whether I am classed as a textile artist, crafts person, maker or simply an artist. For this same reason I do not title my work; it's called whatever it is made from.