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Would you like to see how I got to my first solo exhibition?

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

The Telephone call

I still remember the day Jenny phoned, last year. By Jenny, I mean Jenny Gunning of Gunning Fine Arts. I have to say I am a fan of many of the prints made by the Gunning family. So I was excited picking up the phone and perhaps should have played it more cool as I answered 'Yes...' before she got to the end of her sentence, asking me if I would exhibit in the famous Gunning Gallery.

How I Was Discovered

I had been 'found' as an emerging or early career artist and printmaker due to adding the hashtag with my print press name and through showing a multitude of process vids, as I have familiarised myself with an art form I have grown to adore. This in part due to the nature of the balance of the control and uncontrollable elements, but also how I have begun to love the nuances of every print pull.

Some Things I Learnt

That was back in 2022 and since then I have discovered how to create certificates of authenticity, as well as finding a super picture framer capable of the high standard needed to frame print to Archival Level 2 standard (which means having a high level of protection). Previously known as Conservation level, Level 2 framing gives quality materials and the best techniques. Using this as the standard, a framer can give your work protection from physical and mechanical damage, airborne pollution and acids generated by many framing materials. So work presented this way should be good for 20 years.

Oh yes, and of course I created the 11 artworks. I had aimed for ten, but then got a little carried away.

Working Towards the Solo Exhibition

The lovely folk at Ironbridge Fine Arts, had seen my work on socials and trusted me to create pieces incorporating subjects of my choice. Pebbles portraits, and detailed botanical imagery filled the papers I printed. During this process, there were many experiments and new explorations, some moments of self doubt, but their belief in me meant that I wanted to live up to their high expectations.

Printing From Nature

I pushed the boundaries of both what my print bed could do- aiming to create bigger and longer pieces than I had done before, making artwork more meaningful to me, as well as asking myself what mattered; which included looking at endangered woodland species near home.

The subtleties of printmaking that are intriguing to me involve the characteristics of each technique, the fine lines and intricate details I can achieve with intaglio, using botanicals along with bold, and graphic images I can produce in collagraph. I gain subtle tones when inking up my solar plates and I love how each print in an edition has its own unique imprint. Additionally, the physical process of creating a print, such as the pressure applied by a press or the texture of the paper, can also add to the elements to the medium and I continue to learn my preferences, what suits my work, discovering more each time I spend time in the studio.

Late in February 2023 I carefully packed up my prints and travelled down to a place I hadn't visited for more than a decade (or maybe two). Life flies by!

At The Fine Arts Ironbridge Gallery

The building the gallery is housed in is so special itself. We, as a couple are fans of gritty, industrial style, so were in awe of the rust coloured bricks and steel bones of the old foundry, as soon as we encountered it. Situated right next to the River Severn, it was a place where iron parts were fabricated for engineering and building, so there is a heft of importance and history which greets you at the door.

Meeting the other print presses and printmaking ephemera

I own an Etching Printing Press No. 1 and it was interesting to meet some of my presses' relatives and dream of one day (following a hugely successful kickstarter campaign!) owning a larger bedded model. It will be a while yet as I am really happy with mine and in fact sometimes revel in exploring the tiny, as much as 'going large'!

Once inside, we were met by one of the Gunning family, the lovely Sarah who, plying us with mugs of tea, explained that she was the only non creative member of the family but then contradicted this by showing us her attention to detail and creative passion when framing. She is a qualified Guild Commended framer and a talented individual.

I only did a little arty shopping and although I stopped writing to Santa some years back, I may start up again following my visit, as there was a particularly lovely glass baren, which I am sure he would be understanding and generous when deciding what to add to his sack.

Being a paper aficionado (read 'hoarder') I wanted to try out some new paper for my solar plates (which consequently have proved to be a great decision and a type I will use from now on). It was great to see and moreover feel the paper textures rather than just taking someone else's word for the velvety, satin or silky feel.

There was a bear shop near by, which thankfully explained the initially macabre looking bears heads on sticks, above.

Exploring the beautiful holiday location of Ironbridge

Having dropped off the prints we meandered along the river bank, catching site of huge fish (which I initially mistook for otters- wishful thinking). There were also mallard ducks doing mating dances, which looked more than a bit vicious. Wandering towards the underside of the famous bridge, we discovered an Arts Council England funded coracle hut (as shown by the wonderful peeling paint above). The building was illuminated inside, with tools and coracles in various states of completion. A great few moments of peering and imaging what it would be like to travel down the River Severn in such a small vessel, made me think we'd have upturned them rapidly though and an Australian adventure in a supposedly un-rollable kayak, came to mind.

Solo Exhibition Curating

I love how Sarah has put up my work, creating an exhibition I am really proud of and I am so grateful for the opportunity they have afforded me, to present my work to a new audience. I have already had a lovely message from a new, Instagram friend, explaining that she enjoyed seeing the work in person. If you do manage to see it I'd love to know what you think.

I think it proves that, in my 50s, you're not too old to take risks, embrace change and have a ball discovering the new, don't you think?

The 4 photos above (of the exhibition) were all taken by Sarah at Ironbridge Fine Arts and Framing. All other photos were captured by me, Su France.

My exhibition runs from 1st March, right through to 25th May.

Ironbridge Fine Arts and Framing

Merrythought Village, Ironbridge, TF8 7NJ

Tel: 01952 434033

They are open Tuesday – Friday 10 am to 5pm and Saturdays 10am to 3pm.

Find out more about my exhibition here.

My artwork for the exhibition can be bought here.

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