Happy New Year to everyone and I hope 2019 brings you all you want for yourself. Over the coming months I will be sharing the progress I make with my new project that explores an area of the North West Highlands of Scotland, an area I know very well from years of happy holidays when I was a child, but more of that soon. Today, however, I’m very excited to share with you another Studio Conversation, this time with my friend, Rosemary Campbell. Like me, Rose is a graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee and she has gone on to have a long and very successful career in teaching, passing on her skills and knowledge to many people, indeed she still works with some groups as a mentor. She was a founder member of Embryo, the Dundee Art College creative artist group, and of the New Scottish Embroidery Group and is currently a member of edge – textile artists scotland. Rose has been a member of Textile Study Group for many years and exhibits regularly with both the Textile Study Group and edge – textile artists scotland so I was really pleased that she found time for a chat as I was interested to hear more about her practice.
As we had the shared background of training at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and being taught by Marion Stewart, I started by asking Rose how influential did she feel the education she received at DJCAD had been. Has what you learned there Rose, influenced your work as a professional artist?
- The working process I was taught at college has proven to be the backbone of my practice throughout my artistic career. My embroidery tutor Marion Stewart didn’t stand any nonsense, she was a teacher who took her subject very seriously, demanded the highest standard and expected you to work hard, despite the fact that my major subject was screen printing. This was lesson number one! We were in the design department which meant that your paper work had to be of presentation standard. You had to be able to achieve the results in textiles and embroidery you had produced in paper for your client or imaginary client. Your paper work was good but the textile had to be better. Any line, tone, shape or form was achievable in stitch.
- I learned this lesson at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee and from there I expanded my skills when I went teach City and Guilds Creative Studies at Edinburgh’s Telford College. Many of the traditional techniques such as shadow work, whitework and blackwork, methods of quilting, to name but a few, we didn’t learn at art school but were part of the course I was now to teach. It was a steep learning curve. However, my method of teaching stemmed from working creatively, designing first, interpretation into textiles came second. Ideas for textiles can be developed in so many different ways. There is an excitement in deciding how you will interpret your ideas which I still find unbelievably fascinating. Initially my paperwork acted as a ‘cartoon’ (in the painters sense) and was then worked up as a textile. This allowed me to confidently produce large scale work for commission. I still maintain this process but to a more limited extent. I feel with experience and more confidence that I can allow the work to grow and change more so now, as I progress. However when doubts creep in, I return to the paperwork and work into it to find a solution.
We are both members of Textile Study Group and edge – textile artists scotland. How important do you consider the membership of groups of like-minded people is to their practice, the shared collaboration of spending even brief times together
- Absolutely invaluable. Working within a group towards common aims brings with it a sense of responsibility. You learn to organise yourself as well as help to organise events for the group. You become aware of all the other important facets in getting your work on show. You learn to write proposals in order to acquire exhibition space, to curate and hang exhibitions, to label, pack and deliver work efficiently, to organise workshops as well as teach them. Thankfully, there is also a more social angle of working together, having tutorials and workshops led by eminent artists outwith the group is a great stimulus and pleasure. The time spent talking over the direction your work may be taking with friends and colleagues is immeasurably beneficial and then there are the annual lunches! These friendships are one of the most important features of my life, my life would be so much poorer without them.
I think people are always interested in the working spaces of artists so can you describe your studio – do you like to work listening to audiobooks or music or do you prefer to work in silence
- I do not really have a studio as such. Twenty years ago I had a studio space to die for but due to personal circumstances and a move to a smaller house I had to relinquish this space. Currently I have a small workspace in my spare bedroom. My visitors have to show a little tolerance, it also means I have to keep it fairly tidy! Normally I work on the dining table in my sitting room, as the light is far better there but do the messy work in the ‘studio’. Contrary to what I initially thought, having a limited space to work in has little affect on what I do. ‘Where there is a will there is a way’ Now when I want to produce a larger piece, I butt two canvases together but I also want them to be able to stand alone successfully. I think the only down side of a lack of studio space is storage! I work in silence, in the main, particularly if I am hand sewing, I find the process quite meditative. If I am working alongside a number of people, in a workshop for instance, I find it quite easy to block out and ignore general noise and ‘ get my head down’. I regularly work alongside my friend, artist Moira E. Dickson. This means I am less likely to opt out when I am going through a difficult patch and could get sidetracked into putting on a washing or making a cup of coffee!
What are your favourite materials and processes.
- I love to work in mixed media, using paper alongside cloth, mark making alongside stitch and combining contemporary and traditional techniques. In the past I often layered up images using silk organza to create depth but in recent work I aim to compose a narrative by blending several images into one another. They may be machined or embellished, hand stitched or printed, I often use reverse applique. I use a lot of hand dyed fabrics and threads and presently am partial to using a pre- prepared canvas as a base.
You have been an influential teacher since graduating – how important is teaching and mentoring to you and how does it inform your practice
- I always wanted to be a teacher but while at college I picked up on the fact that this wasn’t a very prestigious occupation in some people’s eyes. . Unfortunately, I think this is still the case. I began my career as a designer in a studio and for me it was a very unhappy experience. After a couple of years I decided I would do what I had originally intended to do and train as a teacher. It was my best decision ever. I loved every minute of my teaching career. No two days were ever the same, every day presented a different challenge. I enjoyed working in primary and secondary schools before moving into further education. I taught at various levels, from 16 year old school leavers training to be nursery nurses, hairdressers and beauty therapists, to National Diploma, Higher National Diploma, BTEC Foundation and City & Guilds. I also taught many workshops for the Embroiderers’ Guild as well as for the Textile Study Group and edge-textile artists scotland. I retired some time ago, however I still mentor two textile groups which I continue to enjoy very much indeed.
What are the main influences on your work – do you have recurring themes that you explore or do you respond to different sources of inspiration.
- Two of my main bodies of work are based on Scottish landscape, the banks of the Tay where I grew up and Shetland where I spent many a holiday. However, I have also been inspired by the urban landscape. Responding to a brief takes you out of your comfort zone. The recent Textile Study Group DIS/rupt exhibition was a prime example of this. It can prove difficult and uncomfortable and for me I have to find a personal connection. I chose to reflect on the aspect of divorce, which happened long enough ago for me to choose a more analytical, rather than, an emotional response. I built the work on the use of text and phrases which were reflected in the way I worked. ‘Cracks appearing’ resulted in the use of waxed and cracked organza, ‘fingers burned’ suggested burning edges, ‘out of tune’ suggested the use of music. I disguised the headphones by making them into a ‘fascinator’. There is humour in every situation when looking back!
Do you have a regular or daily drawing habit and how important do you consider observational drawing is to an artist’s practice
- I draw regularly but not daily. I like doing drawing exercises that concentrate on the essence of what you are studying rather than traditional observational drawing. I am a great admirer of Sally Payne, a fantastic teacher, who years ago encouraged me to draw in this manner. If someone were to give me a sheet of white paper and a pencil and ask me to draw an object I would die of fright, while if I can look at what I am drawing and create a surface first to work on then I feel much more comfortable.
What plans do you have for the coming year
- I am exhibiting in the Spring with Embryo members in a tribute exhibition in memory of Marion Stewart, our college tutor, whom I mentioned earlier. I will also exhibit with edge- textile artists in Kirkcubright early in the year and again in Dundee at Discovery Point in the Autumn. In the summer I am joining my friend and colleague Alison King for a two man show at the Tweeddale Museum and Art Gallery. It will run from mid July to the end of September. I am very excited about this and working hard to get a number of pieces together which relate to Glentress Forest. It will be a busy year ahead, busier than normal but I am sure it will be fun.
You’re going to have a busy year Rose but very exciting. Hearing all you have coming up it was good of you to find time to speak to me, so thank you very much. It will be really interesting to people to learn more about your art and your processes.
If you would like to see more of Rose’s work you can find her on the Textile Study Group website and also on the edge – textile artists scotland website. In the meantime keep an eye on the forthcoming exhibitions Rose mentions – Kirkcudbright, Dundee and Peebles. In the meantime