VARC Residency

In May this year I had the most amazing time at Highgreen Manor in Northumberland. My first residency was a total joy. It was hosted by VARC as part of their ENTWINED programme, and I was lucky enough to be co-hosted by Unison Colour Pastels. Somehow, since I got back, time has flown, and the blog posts which I fully intended to write about everything I saw, the people I met, and the work I have produced, have so far failed to materialise! I am now back off up to Northumberland to set up my part of the ENTWINED exhibition. When I get back, the blog posts will be written, and there will be a myriad of photos for you to look at…

The California Printmaker

My first journal article! Published in the April 2021 edition of The Journal of The California Society of Printmakers, ‘The Californian Printmaker – Printing in Color’

Pocket Handkerchiefs

What do you do when you have a voucher to have some fabric digitally
printed? Design some handkerchiefs of course. This is an idea that has been
niggling at my mind for some time.

The colour circles share the same DNA as my ‘Colour of Place’ screenprints, but whereas in the prints many of the colours arise from the overlapping of layers of ink, in these circles each colour is pulled directly from a photograph of a specific place. The example I am showing in this post comes from a walk to the Wainstones in Yorkshire, I have also made a second handkerchief based on a walk to Maes Knoll Tump, to the South of Bristol.

The idea of making a handkerchief comes from wanting to make a memory of a walk that you could keep with you, a way of remembering and sharing colours. Also a handkerchief can be a keepsake, a treasured gift, a token to give to a loved one – it’s a lot of responsibility to put on a small square of fabric.

When my fabric arrived I admired it in its entirety for about a week before being brave enough to cut it into squares.

I wanted my handkerchiefs to be large and flamboyant, so they are based on the size of the largest man’s handkerchiefs I could find online – coincidently this means they have ended up approximately 42cm square, a number that pleases me immensely.

An unwillingness to lug my very heavy sewing machine downstairs led to my
hand sewing the hem of the first handkerchief, and what a revelation that was!
I was expecting to find it annoying and frustrating, and instead found it relaxing, therapeutic and thoroughly enjoyable. The handkerchiefs seemed to demand that I committed the time to it.  To wiz along the hem with a sewing machine would seem totally out of keeping with the whole idea.

I am not sure how my handkerchiefs will progress. So far I have sent them as gifts to those who have helped me get through the last year. I think I want to work them into some sort of project, but what, I currently do not know. Rather than calming the niggle in my mind, they have started other thoughts clammering. This is a good thing.

Latitude and Longitude

I realise that the titles of my recent prints are a bit of a mouthful, but I am quite excited about ‘51°51’42.2”N 3°03’21.5”W’.  It is the first one of my ‘colour of place’ series to be based on somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere.  The previous seven have all been inspired by places in Australia and so had ‘S’ and ‘E’ (South and East) in their titles.  This one is inspired by the view from Sugarloaf Mountain in Monmouthshire, Wales, so is North and West.

The titles give the latitude and longitude in degrees, minutes and seconds (this is where Google Maps comes in very handy to pinpoint exact locations).    Latitude tells you how far North or South a place is, from 90° North at the North Pole, through 0° at the Equator, to 90° South at the South Pole.

Longitude lines run from Pole to Pole and tell you how far East or West you are of the Prime / Greenwich Meridian in London.  Anything east of the Greenwich Meridian is in the Eastern Hemisphere and is labelled °E.   Anything west of the Greenwich Meridian is labelled °W.

I always feel it is more like drawing than writing when I name my prints.  I like the idea that the titles I give my work can mean everything or nothing – you can use them to pinpoint the exact position where the photo that inspired the print was taken, or just accept them as additional information like that found on the key to a map.

Bristol – Colour of Place

42 sand and crushed rock samples displayed in a stand made from reclaimed wood. All the samples were collected during August this year, many of them from the building site at Temple Gate.

This piece is going to be on display in Centrespace Gallery from 12-16 October as part of the Centrespace Open Studios. Please come along and say ‘hello’, I will be in studio 27 on Friday evening and all day Saturday.

Eastbourne – Colour of Place

Subtle colours collected on my walk from Eastbourne Pier to Holywell.

The bottom of this flask is filled with chalk that was collected as either small rounded chalk pebbles, or chunks of chalk that had broken off much larger boulders. I crushed the pieces in a pestle and mortar to make the powdered chalk. Some pieces crumbled almost instantly, others put up an almighty fight.

From left to right – Eastbourne sand from the middle of the beach, and then near the shore line, different coloured chalks from the cliffs, and shell sand from just past Holywell.

Bristol Colour

Test tubes filled with different coloured sands. Bristol

My sand collection, started in Australia last year (Collecting Colour) continues to grow whenever I visit the great outdoors, but I hadn’t really considered the fact that I could add to my collection whilst I was in the city.  I have been reading ‘Origins’ by Lewis Dartnell and the following sentence made me think – ‘the story of civilisation is the story of humanity digging up the fabric of the planet beneath our feet and piling it up to build our cities.   Everyday my walk to my studio takes me through the building works of Temple Gate – a huge road improvement scheme that had meant for the last two years you are never quite sure which way you will end up going to get past Temple Meads and into the city.

As I wander past in my morning or late afternoon daydream, I have seen constantly changing piles of sand, aggregate, concrete etc. as great holes and trenches  have been dug , had mysterious things happen within their depths, and then been filled in again .  But because these sands were building materials, they didn’t fit with my idea of collecting colours specific to place.  Reading the text by Dartnell made me realise that these imported sand would become the colours of Bristol.

Eurovia site, Temple Gate, Bristol

So, on a slightly soggy Tuesday at the end of August, I could be found in the company of Becky, the site Quantity Surveyor, in full fluorescent gear, searching the site for sand.  We found 24 different sands (including a lovely soft grey that Becky went out of her way to track down for me, remembering that it had been one of the first sands to be delivered to site), gravels, and rock fragments that I was able to crush into powder.  I am amazed at the variety, if asked beforehand I think I would have expected to find just one or two different types of sand on building site.

Emily Ketteringham in fluorescent jacket and hard hat
Test tubes filled with different coloured sands. Bristol

As well as adding to my test tube collection, I had enough to make this tower of sand – I feel a trip to Alum bay in the Isle of Wight might be needed…

Measuring tube filled with layers of sand from Temple Gate, Bristol

Thank you very much to all at Eurovia for letting me visit the site.

Collecting Colour in Australia

Over the two months we travelled round Western Australia, I filled 119 tiny test tubes with sand, gravel, ochre, ore, and if I am very lucky, one test tube might even have tiny bits of fossilised stromatolite in it. None of my samples were taken from sacred Aboriginal sites. I found more colour, and more variety, than I could have dreamed of.

119 test tubes of sand from Western Australia collected by Emily Ketteringham
119 Small test tubes of sand and rock from Western Australia, collected over a two month period in 2018

I had been to Western Australia before in 2011, and the thing that really stuck in my mind was the colour. When we were preparing to visit again in 2018, I wanted a way of physically bringing that memory back with me. I had just finished my MA design project ‘Shifting Sands‘ where friends had been collecting sand from around the UK for me to turn into concrete pebbles. As a result, I had a house full of left over pots of sand – the perfect inspiration for a holiday project to collect colour.

Over the two months we travelled round Western Australia, I filled 119 tiny test tubes with sand, gravel, ochre, ore, and if I am very lucky, one test tube might even have tiny bits of fossilised stromatolite in it. None of my samples were taken from sacred Aboriginal sites. I found more colour, and more variety, than I could have dreamed of.

Close up of test tubes filled with sand from Western Australia

I started being restrained and collecting only one sample a day. That went out of the window on the day we found this extrodinary place by the side of the road. I think I collected 10 colours in under an hour.

Close up of test tubes filled with sand from Western Australia

I have samples from places that are contradictory – such as this iron mine
that was wondrous and horrendous at the same time.

My favourite is dark metallic sand collected with a magnet from a perfect circle
of sand around the top of an ant hole found behind Dales camp site in Karijini
National Park. Just steps away, in one of the most beautiful, magical place I
have places I have ever been to, we saw this graffiti – you do have to wonder.

Every time I look at this collection, I am back in Australia.

119 test tubes of sand from Western Australia collected by Emily Ketteringham

119 Small test tubes of sand and rock from Western Australia, collected over a two month period in 2018

Finding a Language

I spent July and August 2018 travelling around Western Australia in a camper van with my husband Laurence.  I went to indulge my love of rocks and to revisit the layers and colours I have had stuck in my mind since our last visit nine years ago.  I left feeling saturated with colours.

Since we got back I have been struggling to find a way to make work about the landscape we travelled through.  The photos I took don’t do justice to the vastness of the landscapes, so how could a print? I didn’t want to make representational work as my brain doesn’t work that way, but more abstract ideas refused to resolve themselves.  Several false starts left me disheartened. 

In this print I think I have finally found a way to explore my memories of Australia.  By focusing in on a specific circle within a photo, I am containing part of that vast landscape, selecting an area to analyse in detail, rather than being overwhelmed by the whole.  The colour of the place becomes the all-important subject of the print.  I have found a visual language that works to express what I want to say, as well as being challenging to me as a print maker. I hope this is the start of a whole new body of work.

Syntax of a Circle

My starting point is a photo taken just before sunset from the top of a small hill, at Cheela Plains Station camp site, on the way to Karijini National Park.

I chose a circular section of the photo, and a focal point within it (the yellow flowers above right of centre).  As this had the potential to be a highly complicated print, I did something I don’t often do, which is to try a mock up on the computer first, just to check it wasn’t going to be another false start.

To create the computer version, I looked carefully at the colours within the photo, and in particular, at the colours that touched the circumference of the circle.  I choose the colours that covered the largest areas of circumference, drew a point where they first and last touched on the circle, and used the focal point as the third point to draw a wedge shape.  As some of the colours mixed and intermingled within the photo, I ended up with some wedges overlapping.  As my inks would be translucent, these would create additional colours. 

I received positive reactions; I decided to try it in print.  I could have started with a simpler image, but where would be the fun in that?

More precise analysing and planning of my layers followed.  What amazes me is that I could look as this photo one day and plan one set of colours, then come back the next day and think that I needed something totally different. 

Two afternoons of colour mixing and three days of printing later…

The dots down the side show the 24 different ink colours that I used (some were printed more than once).

The only problem now is that because I had no faith in myself or my idea, I only printed five prints, and everyone has a mistake or flaw of some kind.  So if I want to have a edition of this print, it means I have to print it all over again.  But actually I think this is no bad thing.  I was quite seduced by how the print looked when I had printed about 5 colours.  It was very calm and quite minimal, the temptation was to leave it as it was, but then I wouldn’t have known if my idea was worth pursuing.  So the fact that the prints had flaws from the very beginning meant that I was less precious about them, I felt that it was OK to keep going to the very end, that if I ruined them by putting a bad colour on it would be justified as they were only a proof of concept.  And it worked, and I am happy, and it is OK to print 30 layers all over again, I just hope I don’t run out of any of my colours.

Exploring Memories of Landscape in Print

I’ve been working on a new way of creating images in response to landscape. These smaller circle prints are created in a similar way to my big geological circles in that I use a single circle stencil and mask off areas to create the different shapes. I have placed each section of colour in a different position on each print, so although each one in the series is created from the same shapes and colours, each one is unique rather than being part of an edition.

The forms and colours in these prints come from a memory of a walk along the coast near Minehead. I find it very difficult to hold an image of place in my mind, but colours seem to stay put.