Thursday, 9 June 2016

Soft fabric and heavy metal, part 2

(This continues from part 1.)

So I'd decided that I wasn't freaked out enough by the thought of exhibiting my (currently non-existent) artwork to pull out of the exhibition. And that I was going to do something on Bedford's engineering history. What now?

I had an idea of doing some kind of big collage and stuck down a few ideas...

I really hadn't a clue how to do a collage so it 'hung together' properly as a whole, so I started to Google industrial art and fabric collage to get some ideas.

I discovered Grayson Perry's tapestries (click here for examples) and thought they were fantastic. I'd heard of Grayson - hasn't everyone? - but had no idea of his work, so this was a great find. Aside from the work itself, I love the way he's doing something you don't usually see in textiles - modern, political, angry in places. I'm used to textiles being practical or decorative and this was something different.

It also hit me that I didn't really have the skill or experience to pull off a decent collage and I'd be better zooming in on one aspect instead of trying to cover a lot of ideas in one go.

During my Googling it became apparent that I needed to decide what I wanted to say and then remove anything that distracted from that. To decide my goal, in other words. This made things much easier as I dropped the 'what the hell am I doing I'm not an artist' mindset and thought about what I wanted to say and achieve instead. Here's what I came up with:

- I want to show people a snapshot of Bedford's proud industrial past, which is actually surprisingly recent but all-but forgotten.

- I want to try some new techniques, learn some new things, meet some new people.

That made it seem much more doable.

After that I tinkered around with my paper collage and found there were two things that attracted me:

- The machinery in the old photos of the Queen's Engineering Works. Could I 'do' this hard metal in a soft fabric?

- The Britannia Iron Works Clock Tower. It's one of the very few signs of Bedford's engineering past that's still visible. I believe it narrowly escaped being demolished a few years ago and it's now crumbling in places. What did it look like when i was first built? And what had it seen in the years since then?

A photo posted by Helen Lindop (@helenlindop) on

I mentioned to Kathryn and Rachel at the Beds Archives that I was looking at WH Allen and the Britannia Ironworks and they said I might like to take a look at one of their blogs on Bedfordshire at war, where I found this photo of the Britannia clock tower taken in 1865. What struck me is that the clock tower has hardly changed in 150 years, but everything around it has changed dramatically. It was an industrial time-traveller. I could definitely do something with this.

So now I was feeling much less overwhelmed and I had a plan. Time to start work!

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