Home About By Still Contact

Commissions Talk

continued from part 1

Not actually a commission, but I use it as an example of a brief which influenced my studio work you will know of Andy Goldsworthy's sheepfolds. In order to promote the sheepfolds programme an educational project was set up for junior schools. Artists working in different crafts were invited to work with a school, visiting a sheepfold and then working with them to make work for the school in response to what they had seen. I worked with Bridekirk Dovenby School, and we visited Mungrizedale sheepfolds.

Again inside the sheepfold, a strange sheltered experience.
This was the felt hanging we made in the school. We used black natural wool to make a felt of this size. Then the children cut out a stone shape each and made their stone reflect a bit of what they remember. The stones were fitted back into the holes they had come from and felted again.


Sheepfold  2001  A small version of my own, and then a year later during the foot and mouth troubles I made this more ambitious piece. This felt to went through a very morbid phase.



The whole sheepfold, with a black central shape using young herdwick fleece. About 1.5m diameter. Whether I would ever have got to this felt without the school work I doubt. This felt went through a very morbid phase and was only rescued by completely cutting out each segment and re felting in white.


Two years ago I was invited to Norway to work on an art in Nature project with 10 other International textile artists. And it really was art IN Nature. I had never considered making for outside, at least I had and ruled it out. It seems to be a growing thing to have textile exhibitions outside the gallery. Anyway I was invited to Norway not really knowing what it was about. We gathered on the island of Bremanger off the west coast. And were taken for a walk on a forest Trail and it transpired that we were each to make artworks in felt to remain in the open forever, or for as long as they lasted!
One brave soul worked outside all the time, and it was wet! Most made the pieces in the local Prayer House, which was rather austere. We had five days before the official opening of this art trail in which to create and install our pieces. You must imagine how hard we had to work.


Photo: Karin Flatoy Svarstad

I recently saw photographs of the pieces first 6 months after when they had gone through a winter of snow and gales, that was February of last year, and then in March this year. They are all still intact, though fading in the strong light.


 Copperbeech felt x12 matrix   May I take you back to this felt. The Copper Beech, seen some time ago at Lowes Court, Egremont and the drawings which led to it. I applied for a commission for the Q.E. Hospital in Gateshead, for their entrance, with this idea


Study for Copperbeech enamel

which were to have been on enamel panels though I did not get this site to do, it was awarded to Paul Scott with a ceramic mural, they later called me to carry out my design for the A. and E. dept. I worked up the design again but to a wider format having seen the space,


Copperbeech study II
Here is the design but in tempera for York Signal Box. I was beginning to learn that as commissions can be pretty elusive and the proposal never well paid it is a good idea if the design proposal can become something in its own right. At least you have something tangible.


Copperbeech enamel(unfired)
I approached an enamelling works in Keighley which I had visited some years earlier and arranged that they provided me with the white enamelled panels, and they would fire with just one firing when I brought the panels back to them already worked on. They allowed me half a day working with their lab kiln and I tested out colours and took them home with the panels. You can see them here on my studio floor. I have finished working on them and you can see from the light reflection that the colours are unfired. I was rather worried that even the minimal overlaying of colours, or oxides, would cause problems with colour change with only the one firing. I made trays so that they could be transported in the back of a car.
I wish that I had photographed them as they were coming down out of the furnace, the colours so terrifyingly wrong in the heat, but as they cooled down the colours appeared pretty much as they should. Here it is installed in the waiting area of the A. and E. At the same time I worked on a second piece, quite different, for the Children's waiting area nearby.


QEH pattern III Here I turned once again to the patterns of the 70's and re-worked this gouache. If you try to imagine what this would be like just in outline drawing with no colour. The design is a linear pattern depicting four shapes. Each shape is repeated vertically or horizontally and resembles a fish, figure, bird or flower. Though this outline pattern recurs some thirty times, each is made special by the detail and colour of the creature it outlines.


Childrens Puzzle Here is the same outline re-worked for the children's area. Each of the vertical lines of images was figures or fish, and the horizontal lines birds, and flowers. The outlines are identical but the filling in just a bit of enjoyable fun.

I probably would not have done any enamelling were it not for the opportunities offered by these commissions which can really throw one in at the deep end. I enjoyed the challenge of course but wanted to experiment more for my own benefit so I signed on to a fortnight's workshop run by Pat Johnson, this time in a South London enamelling works.


enamel. And was able to do more personal work like these pebbles; 


Rock Pool And also experiment with spraying techniques which I had not used before, working in an abstract way.



Pebbles enamel 2000 And using the same technique but harnessing it to the pebbles again


and to Sandstone and Sea, which I have shown you already in a different context.

I have brought some samples made there and some earlier ones to do with Heworth, and also some colour trial panels showing dabs of colour before and after firing.

When I have talked about painting with tempera, I do mean pure egg, just the yokes, an egg/oil emulsion mixed with pure pigment. I learned this from my father who was a painter and etcher, and an R.A. He, many years ago had painted a series of 12 murals for the Harris Brush factory canteen, near Bromsgrove in Worcs. There later was a fire and some were lost and others smoke damaged.
This is September, and Harvest Festival in the local church. Corn dollies and vegetables round the pulpit. It just happens to be a black and white slide and was photographed before the fire. But it did become smoke damaged. Some panels he was able to clean and re-touch others had to be replaced to retain the full 12 months of the year.
He replaced two damaged panels with new subjects, Pigeon Loft, an Aspatria subject
and Whitehaven Harbour. He had retired from his post as Principal of Brighton College of Art, moved to Whitehaven with my mother and spent an artistically productive 10 years there. The harbour with its activity of boats and tides, and the light and skies at different times of day kept him busily drawing and photographing. The job of replacing the panels was done at this time. He died in 1986, leaving three to do The next one he was to replace was November, and he had already chosen a subject in Wasdale; a small waterfall over rocks overhung by two ash trees. He had worked out the composition on paper.


November I was asked by Leslie Harris if I would finish completing the three not yet replaced. So Wasdale was my first. I had to learn my father's recipe for the egg/oil emulsion and also for the first time making a composition work as a vignette, which I found difficult.

October For October I chose my garden at that time with ducks and rosehips and weeds

and September which was a replacement for his harvest festival I chose our own garden harvest, apples, the vine, a turnip on the shelf and all the tools to do with gardening, all set in our conservatory. I enjoyed painting this one most of all and it was the studies for it, like the slides I showed earlier, which have made it an ongoing subject.


This is another more recent painting which I call Conservatory, Times of Day. Because seen as one moment in time it just doesn't work; After all it was painted on the spot, looking at the subject, actually over a period of many months. The condensation is only there sometimes. The colour of the white painted doors varies, it changed every second


And a small painting in tempera of light and flowers in a window. 


Fell Wall II 2004 Tempera has also been used in conjunction with felt and drawing media. I call these felt/gesso's because warmed gesso is stippled into the felt, onto board, and if enough coats are applied it dries to a hard surface which can be drawn or painted on. This Felt gesso is one of many looking at garden Leafmould.  

‘Ancient Wall, Young Herdwick’ shows a steep Cumbrian fell side divided by a fallen dry stone wall.   It attempts to reflect a landscape shaped by the presence of sheep, particularly the Herdwick.     In the piece the majority of the fell side is indicated by a simple piece of felt made with young Herdwick fleece, then applied with gesso to canvas.  Areas broken with scree and the wall itself are picked out with gesso and then represented with monochrome drawing in tempera.    The sunlit top of the fell with its scrubby trees, and the border area in shadow around the felt is painted with tempera in order to ‘put in perspective’ the simpler inner areas.


Retreat Farm Sunderland Two private commissions using tempera. This to record details of a property in Sunderland before a conversion was done. Here painting on small primed boards for each detail. 


The Folly (middle) The second private commission was to make a large painting on the wall of a garden folly or summerhouse, a painting in which to escape. It was necessary to make a design which was acceptable and finally a composite picture from studies was submitted and accepted. This proposal is on board in tempera. You see the shape of the wall, with areas left blank in the top corners and where the fire place is.


The Folly  The wall was impossible to photograph all in one so here we have the left side


The Folly  and here the right. This was completed some five to six years ago. 


The Folly Tempera on board Recently I retrieved the tattered looking board from the back of my studio and decided to carry on with it, changing its shape and continuing with the painting. This is now its finished state. It plays with the landscape seen in front as well as behind as seen in the reflections, with reality and unreality.

The commission I am at present involved with is for Bridlington Hospital, again a corridor.
It is in part a residency, which means I worked with people there for a while to introduce what I do to them, and allow input from them in some way. I worked with students in the local college and also with elderly patients.
I decided the commission should be about Sewerby Hall Gardens, which I was very pleased to come across, and spent some time drawing there in February and March. Pleased because the people really use these gardens as a special place to visit. All the patients I talked to spoke warmly of them, so I think that images in felt from the gardens would be a bit special to Bridlington.


Sewerby Hall Gardens a pastel one of many


 and another pastel  

These are some of the felts.








A series of 12 felts, 6 frames with two felts in each.





  Home About By Work Contact
Design & Layout ©2011 
Furness Internet Ltd.

Powered by: webteam@furness.net

Content ©2011 Raymond Higgs