Friday, 31 May 2013

Spring Fling and the Prize Draw

Last weekend was the mighty open studio extravaganza in this corner of Scotland which is Spring Fling. Ninety-three artists and makers across our region opened their studio doors to welcome in the interested and curious public.

There was an enormous amount of preparation to get my studio and all the work ready and a level of exciting adrenalin-fuelled panic that far surpassed rational sanity.

The doors opened while the final signage was still being tied into place on Saturday morning at 10.30am and the fun began.

Even though I have taken part in several Spring Flings by now, I was still surprised when nigh on nine hundred visitors came to my studio over three days.

They smiled, looked bemused, chatted, asked very pertinent and informed questions, and explained how my painting based on feelings of loss of self, resembled a dolphin cavorting in the waves.

Some managed to control the urge to reach out and touch textured surfaces and some did not even try, caressing the surprising and irresistible silky warmth of beeswax and resin.

Generous words abounded and my ego bathed in the unctious balm of honied compliments. I was thrilled when people spent a great deal of time looking and looking and was careful not to seem too inordinately shocked when some wished to spend much more than the price of one of my newly printed cards.

During the event I was offering the chance to win one of my pieces in a free draw. Again I was amazed when over 100 people entered, showing such enthusiasm to win!


A small display showing some of the influences and processes in creating the work

Today my daughter Meg drew a strip of paper out of the box. And the winner is...

Kathleen Amoore

and I hope she will enjoy my work.


"Ready 3" - the prize painting

So my thanks go out to all of you who took the time to come and see me. In so many ways it was worthwhile and a pleasure to welcome you.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Workshops Begin

Last weekend marked the start of my new season of studio workshops.

The Creative Process is one I'd offered several times before so it had been prepared and tweaked and honed and previously very well received. I had notes and inspirational book of quotes to hand.

I had taken hours to tidy and prepare the studio for my visitors. Everything was in place: boxes and baskets of myriad fibres; fabric and threads to inspire; stacks of papers for drawing and printing; jars full of brushes; old yoghurt pots for decanting gesso, glue and paint. Canvases were sitting ready in the corner awaiting their first tentative markings.

In the kitchen downstairs, a tasty, nourishing lunch awaited. Hot and cold refreshments were laid out in anticipation of workers needing to be comfortingly restored with the additional aid of shortbread and juicy grapes.

The scene was indeed well and truly set.

And I was nervous, really stomach quiveringly nervous just as I always am before a workshop begins.

That's because it matters a lot to me that everyone who has invested time and money to be in my studio feels looked after and nurtured as individuals, just as I encourage them to nurture their creativity and value the opportunity they have given themselves to play and explore.

Last weekend I was joined by Julie from County Durham, Lorna and Kathleen who live near Edinburgh and by Ruth and Mari who had flown over from Switzerland.



The weekend flashed by but there were quiet moments when I realised with some incredulity that I had made this all happen. Because I wanted to share my passion, these lovely and very varied women had chosen to spend time with me working in my studio.

How lucky and privileged I am!

Thank you Julie, Lorna, Kathleen, Ruth and Mari for such a good weekend!

I so hope you all enjoyed it too.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A Maggie Line

"It's a Maggie line!" - shorthand instigated by my husband Kim, describing my obsessive preference for bendy, non-parallel soaring and sinuous lines usually observed in nature and enthusiastically photographed for future enterprises.

Tree branches entwining skywards.

Markings and rivulets left behind on lowtide beaches.

Strata of stone layers on exposed rock formations.

Random discoveries of tumbled pebbles.

Twisted gnarled water-seeking roots revealed.

Creases in the land where hills enfold fields.

Crackings on mountainsides as water takes its course.

And with the last snow and drifting of a couple of weeks or so ago, we saw the achingly stunning white folds and billows, creating yet more "Maggie lines" to wonder at. A joyful beholding of a sympathetic landscape.

Here are just a small sample.











Feel free to click on the images for larger versions

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Opening for the Weekend

Nothing unusual in unlocking the door to my studio, except now I am forced to see it with the prospect of visitors walking around, taking notice of what's on display, being able to stand back for optimum appreciation.

So now I have to transform my space and remove most of the evidence of my everyday working abandonment. When I work I am messy, careless and immediate. I allow no time for the tidy replacing of tools and materials. This in itself would be a fine illustration and conceivably quite sociologically of interest to those who would favour the artist in their natural habitat, but issues of health and safety must take their toll and force me to clean up my act.

So it is a necessity to tidy away and order my accoutrements at least just enough to allow for the visitor to walk through the door and not immediately stumble over unfinished canvases, slide on dropped pastels and become entangled and immobilised by windings of thread and fibre.

It's a tricky balance to achieve between maintaining the enticing romance of the tortured artist's garret and the safe and comfortable access of a public gallery space!

So I'll be delighted to welcome you to my studio this weekend. You'll be able to see a selection of my work, some previously seen and some on view for the first time. I won't even mind if you notice ill-hidden piles under tables and the teetering stacks of fabrics and paints. These all just serve to lend enchantment to the view!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Back to Acceptable Flesh or "It's not just pretty lines and colours!"

In my last post I spoke a bit about the themes which drive my work. I realise these have been less explicit of late than when I started out with my blog.

I think it is about time that I revisited them, not least for my own benefit. Over the last couple of years these themes have been no less important to me, but have influenced as a gently embracing undercurrent rather than as a forceful driving energy.

I recognise I lose sight of the bigger picture so often and need to take time to re-evaluate and remember.

When I started writing this blog I was motivated by a passion to communicate the meaning behind my abstract work. "Acceptable Flesh" as a concept was the focus I needed to make a body of work which I planned to exhibit as an immersive experience and as such, an entity in itself. In reality, every piece I make mines the same seam of inspiration.

"Acceptable Flesh" is primarily about my struggle to deal with my socially unacceptable body. I have neither been sublimely delicate and waiflike, nor seen myself as lusciously buxom and desirable. I am, and always have been fat, from babyhood to the post-menopausal present day.

It is really important though that this statement is not seen as an invitation to overweight, middle-aged women to unite and wallow in the injustices of unfair and unkind treatment by society.

Rather what I want is for all of us, irrespective of gender, age, race or size, to question a society that favours the pursuit of artificial, flawless youthfulness, when it is an insidious illusion, which damages, devalues and disables.

In the context of the power and drive of the capitalist market to sell us a vacuous myth, the Feminist declaration of "the personal is political" is no less relevant today.

Feeling "less than" and being regarded as unacceptable is just not good enough.

And these feelings are big and they are overwhelming. Abstraction offers me the means of expressing them in a much more immediate and intuitive way.

Perhaps that notion is itself worthy of a future blog post.

But let me say here - with some force - "it's not just some pretty lines and colours!"


"Parts" by Maggie Ayres

Monday, 18 March 2013

From my gallery: "Bloom"

When I began working on "Bloom", I felt a bit overwhelmed and excited at the same time. This piece is one of the largest I have worked on, measuring 100x150cm.

But I do love to work on larger pieces, allowing more free rein to be bold and expressive. I think it feels a bit like being able to speak out louder and truer and more likely to be heard while the rest of the time in the "real world" it's more like voices lost to the wind.

I suppose that's one of the most important aspects to me of being an artist: the work I make is witness to my feelings of being alive in this body even if my voice is unheard or pointedly ignored. I'll write more about this in my next post.

"Bloom" is about a sense of growing stronger, more vital and vibrant.



I built out from the canvas with wireform mesh stitched and stabbed through the surface to accentuate the idea of expansion and growth, not constrained by the tiny box which is deemed fit for us to inhabit. Those of you who know my work will recognise this striving to step across societal boundaries as a recurrent theme.

Layers of torn calico, scrim and gesso were applied before I introduced acrylic paste and colour. If you look at the detail in the image you will see that there is a lot of texture worked there. Society is a complex entity relying on the infinitely varied abilities of its individuals in order to evolve and survive.

"Bloom" is my unapologetic response to those who favour conformity and would deny individualism and diversity.

To view more of this artwork, see it on my website here:
http://www.maggieayres.co.uk/gallery/bloom.htm

Friday, 15 March 2013

Encaustic Comments (part 3)

For the last couple of weeks I have mixed:

beeswax
damar resin
chalk pastels
India ink
graphite powder
carbon paper
encaustic pigments
silk fibres and yarn
rusty metal shards
torn cotton scrim
paper fragments

with heat from table top stove and blow torch
with assorted natural hair paint brushes
with various scraping, gouging and engraving devices
with manipulative hands

and a HUGE amount of wonder, excitement and fun

This is what I made...






















All original pieces are 15cm x 15cm

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Encaustic Comments (part 2)

I have been experimenting all week with my newest encaustic accoutrements and I have had such a good time!

Melting, stirring, dipping, dripping, brushing, scraping, marking, embedding, rubbing, gouging.

I have spent more time that was reasonably necessary smelling the beeswax and lifting still warm globules to mould with my fingers. Watching the bloom on the surface fade under the smoothing of my hand.

Fusing the layers of wax to each other with my heat gun was fine when I was working on the little boards but when I progressed to the first bigger piece, I realised that I definitely needed something more powerful.



I always knew I wanted a proper blow torch, although I think in my head I was confusing blow torch with flame thrower...

There is a huge array of flaming tools out there! As I wended my confused way through the ranks of blow torches I worried over temperature degrees, weights, burning attachments, safety features and costs. All kinds of wild scenarios flashed before my eyes of out of control fusing where my studio caught fire and I am left like some cartoonish figure with soot blackened face and scorched hair, blow torch still in hand!

Eventually I decided on a quite modest (though suitably hot) version with easily replaced gas canisters. It arrived in the post yesterday.

Tomorrow the burning begins...

Thursday, 7 March 2013

From My Gallery: "Impressions"

With broad palette knife, thick acrylic structure paste was applied in adjoining swathes across my canvas.

Next a well distressed strip of beaten mulberry bark pressed down repeatedly, making its mark and memory.

Then as mirror image, the bark embedded for balance alongside its imprints and left to dry out.

Paint poured and water sprayed and dropped from a height.

Last thoughtful and well placed brush strokes and smudges.

The marks we leave in thought and action as we move through our lives.



To view more of this artwork, see it on my website here:
http://www.maggieayres.co.uk/gallery/impressions.htm

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Encaustic comments (part 1)

I thought encaustic art was all about painting with a little electric iron and brightly coloured wax. That singular notion didn't offer enough for me to explore further with the result that a vast rich seam of gloriously sensual artistic activity passed me by for so long.

I don't quite remember what led to the earth-moving moment when I looked again but I did and it did!

I do remember I was left breathless when I saw work by artists such as Roberta Lee Woods and Alicia Tormey. I was enthralled and immediately set off on new travellings to unexpected and unconsidered places.

There followed several weeks of gathering pieces of required paraphernalia including a little table-top stove, cradled boards, and surface thermometer. To these I added some tools I'd used for ceramics, along with carbon paper, pastels, graphite powder and India ink. My trusty heat gun would take on new fusing dimensions.

I read books, looked at lots of images online and watched YouTube videos to expand my perception and knowledge of what encaustic art could be for me.

This one by Kandy Lozano gives a real flavour of the possible.



While I waited for my wax to arrive I consciensciously prepared my tiny 15x15cm boards ready to begin... and I waited... and sighed.

Then one morning as the sun was loosening its rays like spreading fingers the wax lay waiting for me to melt and slip into a new phase of discovery.

So I did.

(Look out for more to come...)

Friday, 22 February 2013

From my gallery: "Flourish"

"Flourish" is about letting go, allowing growth and not hiding from the world.

I want it to say: "This is who I am, I'm going to fly and I am not apologising!" It taps right back into my concept of "Acceptable Flesh". (See "Not Whining But Screaming") Oh for all of us to feel nurtured, nourished and valued unconditionally irrespective of our physical or monetary status!

I suppose it is more the way I want to feel than how I am most days.

Exuberantly aspirational...

"

When I think about how I made this piece it seems like I threw everything at it; highly textured painted canvas, fragments of polychromatic silkscreen printed calico, constructed silk fibres, dyed mulberry bark, mixed threads.

And it's red, shoutingly RED!

Because it had to seem bold and unapologetically blooming.

Exuberantly alive.

To view more of this artwork, see it on my website here:
http://www.maggieayres.co.uk/gallery/flourish.htm

Monday, 18 February 2013

Notebook winner.

With being fairly new to Facebook and all its seemingly arcane workings, I was quite unprepared though hugely pleasantly surprised when my "win a notebook" competition achieved 105 shares. I have received some really lovely positive comments too. It has been so heart-warming and I am really grateful to everyone who took the time and entered to show support.

So here is the big announcement...

...and the winner is Maggi Birchenough!

Congratulations!

As a thank you to everyone, I have arranged a 20% discount (£2) on the soft back version of my notebook until Sunday.

http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/3380405-graphite-ink

Thank you!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

From my gallery: "Core"

Creative potential at the heart of all...
or
The paint does it by itself...

"Core" is important to me for two reasons. It was one of the first pieces I made when I moved into my studio just over two years ago, remaining in my mind as a revolutionary time.



Yet more memorable still was the beginnings of a new way of working with paint that has carried me on ever since. I had been using an acrylic structuring paste for some years already that had allowed me to add texture with fibres and threads to my canvases. It was only when I started to paint "Core" that I realised how porous this made the surface as the acrylic paint (mixed wetter than usual) was bleeding out like watercolour. A door opened enticingly!

I proceeded to water down my paints even more, laid the canvas on the floor and poured colour in tentative streams from above to splash and puddle and swirl. I added more sprays and drips of water to encourage movement. Quite often there was a flood over the edge of the canvas onto the floor which suggested a line to encourage and examine. I merely followed and embellished!
It really does feel as if it is the paint itself which is behind the creative process...

...I am just a channel.

To view more of this artwork, see it on my website here:
http://www.maggieayres.co.uk/gallery/core.htm

Monday, 11 February 2013

Inspired by Robert Burns

There is currently an exhibition at The Artroom in Dumfries of textile work in response to the life and work of poet Robert Burns. Eight Spring Fling artists, including me, are showing work at this new exhibiting venue until February 23rd. Our pieces are so varied in both technique and style yet I think complement each other so interestingly.


Gloamin Grey by Maggie Ayres

Mine is called "Gloamin Grey", taken from the poem The Lea-Rig. (Gloaming is the Scots word for twilight). It is suspended in the space and casts shadows against the wall behind. I wanted to make the hanging light and airy to evoke the magical in between time of day and night.


Detail of Gloamin Grey

I worked the piece using a mix of dyed silk fibres (tops, throwsters waste and laps) and merino wool tops with Solufleece dissolvable stabiliser and free machine stitching. I also incorporated some split silk carrier rods and rows of hand stitching.

The Lea-rig is one of my favourite Burns' songs. The line I focused on is:
Gie me the hour o' gloamin' grey,
It maks my heart sae cheerie O.

For the whole song go to www.robertburns.org/works/380.shtml

One of my favourite renditions is by singer Roddy Woomble. His voice is raw with emotion... it makes me cry every time...
Tell me what you think


Friday, 8 February 2013

Win a free copy of my notebook!

I have created a notebook, which features 10 of my graphite and ink drawings to inspire your own imaginative explorations along with 28 blank unlined pages for sketches and musings – also available for sale at blurb.com:

http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/3380405-graphite-ink

.
For the chance to win a free copy then you need to make sure you have "liked" my Maggie Ayres Facebook Page:

http://www.facebook.com/maggieayresart

and then you need to "share" the post about this draw

I will randomly draw the winning name on Monday 18th Feb.

Good luck!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

New look website

For months now I have been aware that my website - www.maggieayres.co.uk - needed to be overhauled and revamped.

With huge thanks to my ever patient and indulgent husband Kim, the latest incarnation is born and I present it to the world with chest fair bursting with pride!




The main attraction for me (and I hope for visitors) are the new gallery images which are enhanced by the clean uncluttered look of the site. Big white space always does it for me!

I love the fact that it is an uncomplicated doorway to the rest of my online presence including Pinterest and Facebook. It keeps everything simple and that suits me well.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Pinterest

I kept hearing about Pinterest. I would love it. It would feed my creativity. It was a great way of sharing. It was not only inspirational but fun too!

Follow Me on Pinterest

I didn't go and look - dismissing it to the ever-growing pile of never ending "things I should know about/ be interested in, if only I could find the time".

I kept on ignoring in ignorance until one day inspiring Julie said "Take a look at my Pinterest pages. Here's the link!"

Eventually I opened my eyes and dared to steal a look and a glorious world of potential flew around me.

I'm just peeping through the windows still.

But I love it.

Thank you Julie

---

If you'd like to follow me on Pinterest, then click here:
http://pinterest.com/maggieayres/