Above is the featured poster for “Beautiful Mess” - an exhibition at Fibreworks Gallery, BC.
Often, I create my artwork working towards a ‘theme’ for an exhibition.
Sometimes, the constraints are useful; they force me to explore ideas that I might never have thought about, or media and colours that I don’t normally select to explore.
But sometimes, constraints can inhibit you or cause you to get stuck.
Maybe the subject doesn’t excite you, for example, and it may stifle your creative process.
This is where “random” and “joyful” play comes into the picture!
It’s very freeing to just play with what’s at hand; not having a theme or colour palette or medium in mind. Often, I find some of your best work comes out of these unfettered play sessions.
This call for entry (CFE) at FibreWorks Gallery allowed us to explore any idea, without those constraints, or even aiming for a particular theme. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to enter art into a show with an open ended theme?
I ranted on this very topic in a previous blog post back in November 2019(!) - catch up on it here: “Finding Your Own Voice”.
I’ve been working with encaustics for about 20 years now, and I’ve been trying to incorporate encaustics with my textile work for (what certainly feels like quite) some time! I love encaustics, and the translucent effect one can achieve with this medium. (Daniella Woolf did a pretty good job in her book and subsequent video on trying to combine the two.)
But I keep finding that it’s tricky to combine these two; I love the variety, composition, and textures that textiles can give with my stitches and collage work, but when I add wax into my process for a piece, I immediately embed the textures, and thus hide all the stitches and detail I’ve spent lots of time creating.
When I tried doing it the other way round, e.g. adding stitch on top of wax (afterwards,) it wasn’t really a viable option, at least not until I discovered Encaustiflex™ fabric.
I’ve had this Encaustiflex™ material lying around my studio for a few years now, and I hadn’t really given it a chance in any of my more serious start-to-finish compositions. It’s a synthetic ‘fabric,’ that you’re able to monoprint or paint onto, with wax, and the substrate remains flexible enough (after applying wax) to stitch and mold into different shapes.
So I thought, “What if...?”
As you’ve probably seen from my previous blog posts and my Portfolio, I’ve been working on the recurring themes of “The Nest” and “Murmurations,” on and off, for the past several years.
This exhibit, “Beautiful Mess,” upcoming at the FibreWorks Gallery, gave me the chance to try something new; I mono-printed and applied encaustic wax onto Encaustiflex™, then I was able to stitch back into the piece, and successfully create and add texture afterwards.
I felt inspired by this, and I created several more samples/test-runs to continue my experimentation.
These two finished pieces, to be featured in the show, are just the beginnings of my exploration. I employed minimal stitching on these, but this may have opened up a whole new technique for me to explore, and (longer term,) to finally try and combine the two media more fluently into my artwork/practice.
Have a look.
So that's what I've been exploring recently.
But I'd love to hear what you might be experimenting with and combining too!
What do you think about being able to create with no theme? When you get opportunities to just to go into your studio and play... does it work for you? What kinds of surprising or "happy mistakes" do you find?
I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments below!