Whilst many artists have had exhibitions cancelled, galleries closed and workshops cancelled, I am in the strange position of having to keep working steadily to create work for a solo show which is still currently scheduled to open on the 10th July at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes.
The show is a part of a funded project that celebrates the life and work of Marie Hartley MBE (artist, cultural historian and founder of the museum) and I have already completed the first part of the project in that I have printed all 127 wood engraving blocks created by Hartley to illustrate the books she wrote with Ella Pontefract in the 1930s. The wood engraving prints are now in the museum archive and I am creating my own prints inspired by places written about in the three Dales books.
This piece has been inspired by ‘Haytime’ in Swaledale, the time when the hay meadows are cut to create winter food for the cows and sheep. To help conserve the endangered hay meadows, which are such important ecological and cultural habitats, hay cutting takes place in early July so that the wild flowers have a chance to seed and it tends to be a race against the weather for the farmers as all across the dales you see tractors out creating swathes of gold amongst the dark green fields.
The printing plates are created from cardboard using textured paints such as gesso, carborundum paste and PVA glue as well as cutting and peeling of the surface board. I print the plates in my garden studio on my etching press and this particular design has proved quite tricky due to the colour separations and the size. I’ve had two full days of printing before getting three that I’m happy with and it is safe to say that it will be a ‘variable edition’.
Whilst it is a bit hard to focus at times, I am really glad to have something specific to work on when everything around us feels so unsettled and disturbing. My studio has become a haven where I switch off from everything, immerse myself in an audio book and try to make prints that illustrate my own experience of the places that Ella and Marie wrote about.