Jolene, model for motorbike wear, is currently on loan to artist Catriona Stamp. Though initially excited by this new opportunity, Jolene is now expressing doubt and concern. ‘I thought an artist would have more appreciation for my face and figure, and help me get more interesting work, but the first thing she said to me was that I was too fat to fit into a picture frame, and she was going to have to make me slimmer! Well, as I am sure you can see, I am one of the slimmest models around, so that was a bit of a shock.’
‘I am not sure about her first piece of work which I am currently modelling. She says it’s a singlet, and she will be cutting it down to form a base for further work, but I don’t think much of it.’
‘She has offered to give me a make-over, if she has time and my employers approve. As if she thought I needed one! It’s true they don’t handle me too carefully in the motorbike shop, but I do my best to cover up the scratches on my arms and damage to my lip and buttocks, and I think she was very rude to refer to it. I am worried about accepting the offer in case she does something too contemporary, and then I couldn’t work in motorbike wear anymore. I can tell you she has some pretty weird stuff in her studio.’
When asked for comment Stamp said, ‘This is all a terrible misunderstanding. I would never make derogatory comments about someone’s body shape. I was only trying to explain what I needed for my next project. I think it is fair to say that nobody would be flat enough to fit into a picture frame. And as for the make-over – if she doesn’t want it, no one is going to force her to have it. I was just so sorry for the way she has been treated in the past which has left her with a lot of scarring, and I thought I might be able to help.’
So readers, what’s your advice for Jolene?
It is a long time since I did a print run – I have either made a collection of one-offs for prints in a suitcase for Holocaust Memorial Day 2014, or made digital prints – mainly due to body problems. But it is a particular pleasure to make a whole lot the same. I remember how delighted I was with my first ever print experience at Laurieston Hall of making 100 flower screenprints from a paper stencil – I didn’t know that was thought impossible, so I just did it.
I learnt to make lino prints from Mike Pemsel at a class run by Mid Pennine Arts way back in the 80s.
This week I set up a tiny print space with plastic sheet to protect the other stuff eg the sewing machine. Today it was a challenge to relearn old skills. First of all I forgot my colour mixing principles and squeezed out too much black in proportion to the green, so I have a lot of ink left on the board. Then I had to remind myself to get into a meditative space, as it is the only way to avoid mistakes.
It is a bit bad to blame the tools, but I began to wonder if the roller was slightly warped due to age, as inking up took me ages. But the plate is pretty good – there is only one small area of background that sometimes catches. And it is so hard to keep my fingers clean.
I can’t apply enough pressure to the press with my arms, so I have it on the floor and use my foot on the handle. I am much better pleased with these prints than the test ones I rubbed with a spoon, and I am glad to say that I can’t see the place where I had to glue a piece of the lino back on after a mistaken cut (lack of meditation clearly.)
I made the 20 prints of the whole lotus design that I needed for the dress, (it was another challenge to find enough drying space) then it was time for a break – coffee and burritos were on offer in the Forgebank Cohousing Common House for brunch, so I was very grateful for that.
Back to the studio to make 60 prints of flowers onto maps of Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Gujurat which used up 3 maps. The ink takes very differently on the map paper – which I should have foreseen. I am not sure that all the flower prints will be usable. Although all the maps are by Nimes, one map seems to have a different finish, which is causing problems. I was getting very hot and stripped off my T shirt and just wore my overalls.
Still lots of ink left, so I made 7 more prints and 21 more flower prints using other parts of the map of India, but I was beginning to make more and more mistakes, so I decided to clean up, using vegetable oil and an old toothbrush, and took the rags straight out to the bin to reduce fire risk.
We had fire awareness training last week at Halton Mill, which is where I have my studio. I was pretty useless and decided I would only start the alarm and then run away if there was a fire, and not try to use the extinguishers.
I ordered some maps on line – they turn out to be double sided, which is not so useful for me, and they are also rather boring in colour range. I need to visit my favourite second hand bookshop in Carnforth which has a wonderful collection of old maps, and these tend to have a more interesting colour range.
I have been wondering whether to work with the size of tofu paper I have, which will mean a lot of joins, or to source some larger sheets. If I use larger sheets can I buy them precoloured (in the shades I want to match each map colour) or will I have to buy a larger gelli plate to colour the white sheets?
I need more information about which countries people came from to Preston.The Lancashire Records Office has been very helpful too and sent me a huge list: Handlist 69: Sources for Black and Asian history. I had a great day in the Lancashire Archives in Preston on Tuesday, and discovered some early work by Gulab Singh. I will have to ask for permission to use the info, but was so pleased to find extracts from the 1981 census of Preston giving me accurate statistics of minority ethnic groups at that time.
However it can’t be very interesting to read a blog about statistics, so here is some of the art work I have been experimenting with this week – 2 test pieces; a stencilled shamrock design with cut out flowers and leaves from a map of Ireland, and a lino cut lotus with flowers cut from a map of India.
I wonder what style of dress design to create? Am I going to mirror the styles of the times, or am I going to imagine myself as a fabric and clothes designer and create my own style? In a way that is inevitable, and of course I am going to be careful not to make direct copies of Horrockses designs.
The other question is about process; what is going to be the most effective way to create the designs? I have experimented with making a stencil, which will work well for close repeat patterns, and with making a lino cut, which will work better for the larger more spaced-out designs.
I have just booked a large gallery for a solo exhibition in March next year – The Storey Gallery in the centre of Lancaster – and only £125 + VAT for a week. Why is it not more used?
Anyway, time to concentrate and make new work, though it is obvious that I will be putting up some of my old work too. I made a list of 15 possible ideas – and knocked off 12 – some of them still good, but requiring community input and/or professional help in the making, so probably needing more time. 3 ideas left. I thought I would want to do more site-based work, but these have been knocked off the list, so I am left with a desire to make work relating to migration of people, a) to Preston in 20th century, and around the world now.
The Preston ideas are more fully formed as most migrants worked in the cotton industry, so I will make paper clothes loosely based on Horrockses’ ready-made designs from the late 1940s to 1970s.
Need to research which countries people came from, and have enquired at the Harris Local History Library and Lancashire Records Office. History too recent for the census. Preston’s web page says ‘Asia and Caribbean’. Does that mean mostly Indian subcontinent post partition? Are there any personal stories collected anywhere? Lancashire Evening Post? And clearly I need to have a good look at some Horrockses’ designs in the Harris Museum.
I thought I would replace the flowers on the fabric with national flowers of the countries of origin and cut out of maps ditto. Time for an experiment. I tried making a base pattern on white Washi paper using my gelli plate, cut a rose out of a Shropshire map, and glued it with acrylic matt medium. I am pretty pleased with that. It would be nice to have larger sheets, perhaps pre-dyed. More research.