I am a DIY nut from way back; I was brought up with the attitude that, sure, you can pay an expert to do a job....or you could have a go at learning to do it yourself. That way you gain the skills and, ostensibly, save some money. Not that the saving money bit always works out by the time you've bought the tools and materials, had a couple of do-overs!
Over the last year I have been planning work for my exhibition, which is now three short weeks away. I really wanted to explore some different ways of mounting my fibre art - a more clean-cut look than my previous work. I also love the look of my fibre art framed, but these pieces needed to be round for a start - cellular forms encompassed. I also didn't want to have the barrier of glass in front of them. They were to be tactile, asking to be touched (with clean hands, of course ;-).
A year may seem like a long time to be preparing for one exhibition, but the reality is that a fair amount of that time is spent chewing over ideas and trying things out. My artistic practise relies on communication with God and there is a parallel to be drawn between the way I work and my DIY background. I know that I am more productive, focussed and have a higher success rate (in terms of how happy I am with the work I produce) when I am consulting with Him throughout the process. Sometimes I forget this and try to DIY things - leave the Creative expert out of the picture. Not on purpose, just because I'm busy, usually. I'm trying to squeeze in a bit of work time between school sports day and kids swimming training. That sort of thing. And that's when I end up with a HUGE piece of felt that I never want to have to look at again or I forget to order the wool that I need for a project with a deadline. It's not that God isn't still with me because I forgot Him for a bit, it's just that, because I forgot Him for a bit, I'm not tuned in to all the little prompts and suggestions that He pops in to my head with His still, small voice.
I decided that this was no time for DIY. I needed to find some local expertise.
A large part of my exhibition is made up of a series of 25cm (10") round fibre art pieces. These are to be mounted on custom wood disks, with the edges bound with a stainless steel band. The design was based on a traditional embroidery hoop.
Keith is a fabrication engineer with his own company, Mobile Services.
I called Keith and described what I was after in detail. By the time I popped in to visit him a couple of days later with a drawing, a custom wood disk and a piece of fibre art to show him, he had already made up a sample! We discussed a couple of possible modifications but it was really already what I wanted and didn't need changing at all, so I ordered 50 of them!
Keith enjoys the variety of his work - no two days are the same. I don't know if he would consider himself a craftsman but I look at him and I see the incredible skill, the decades of experience with metal fabrication. The trial and error, the lessons learnt, built upon and applied in creative ways to different projects. Isn't that the practise of a craftsman?
I was asking around for a cabinet maker who would have the gear to cut the 50 custom wood disks that I needed and a friend recommended Corin. It wasn't until I went to pick them up that I began to realise that Corin is not just a cabinet maker - a quick check on his website confirmed my suspicions - and made me a little embarrassed to have asked him to do such a basic job! Corin has a company called Aerowood and he specialises in aircraft woodwork. I'm not talking about the interior detailing (although I expect he does all that too), but actual light aircraft! Real precision stuff, using the finest quality materials (spruce, I understand).
I'm not even sure why, but I was nervous approaching Corin and Keith for their help - I mean, it was a relatively small and straight forward job, not exactly the big bucks for them. But they were both genuinely interested in what I was doing and more than happy to make the time to help me out. I love that my artwork is going to be presented in bespoke mounts, made by local crafts people that I can put a name and a face to.
If you're local, I hope that you have a chance to check out "Created" next month - even better if you can make it to the opening preview and join me for a drink and nibbles ;-) If you do make it, I know that you will be looking at the exhibition and seeing the efforts of three craftspeople from Franklin, brought together to create unique artworks.