I have been working on the Pages Gallery section of the blog to show other aspects of my work, and to make some sense of how I could develop this site further I went for a consultation with David Abbott at Chesapeake Design in Bristol, who specialises in Word Press systems. I have already got the Hearts section organised for the Pages Gallery, but now I want to start to show other areas of my work which are important to me, like my enamelled garden.
The Enamelled Garden was a research and development project, funded by Arts Council England, that I undertook several years ago. The idea was to develop my stitched work into another medium, vitreous enamel, and I undertook to develop “collections” of different types of fabrics to decorate large scale metal sculptures for gardens.
The collections comprised, embroidery, lace, chintz, Japanese stencils, crewel-work and darned topiary. The decoration was taken from my past work which has always featured traditional embroidery designs and techniques. I liked the idea of making weather resistant textile designs – enamel can last indefinitely – unlike fabric when exposed to light and weather.
I wanted to take the fabric flowers back to the garden
I had the original steel plates laser cut and ground – coated by the commercial vitreous enamelling company A.J.Wells, who undertake innovative work with artists and designers in their workshop /studios on the isle of Wight. I then made the decorative additions at the Enamel Research Department run by Elizabeth Turrel at UWE. Bristol. Elizabeth kindly consented to act as my technical advisor. The size of the plates to be enamelled were up to 60 cms wide, most enamelling kilns are very small as this is a craft medium used mostly by jewellery makers. The kiln at UWE is industrial size taking metal plates up to almost 2 metres in length. I also cut copper shapes using a hand held plasma cutter at the university metal centre, it was a tough and challenging learning curve. Not least bcause I had to enamel all the backs of the garden sculptures, usually enamels are placed into jewellry or framed, here the backs would be viewed from all angles
The whole of the finished garden project and the later additions are now included in Pages Gallery. It has been widely exhibited, I have lectured about it several times and it profoundly changed my working practice. I am now the proud owner of 2 enamel kilns, my small kiln takes plates up to 30×30 cms and my large kiln will take a piece of metal 45 x 60 cms – just about half a yard of fabric! Both these kilns were made to order from the Northern Kilns Company, as was the industrial sized UWE kiln. The garden however now lives with me as part of a constantly changing set of sculpture in my own garden, the pieces get moved about as and when I need some changes, and they are particularly useful in the winter even though they are now well weathered by all the wind, spray and water that the Bristol Channel throws over our garden wall.
Originally I had decided to embroider the entire garden, so my first piece was this cross stitched rose, it took 3 days to stitch in wire and that was after a week spent, cutting, drilling just under 300 holes and then enamelling – the skin on my hands was shredded while stitching the wire; 5 stitches at a time was all I could manage as the copper wire broke with the friction of the repeated action entailed in stitching. Time to re-think, the next set of flowers was beaded and appliqued into position, this lead to many variations.