Hanging an art exhibition : 6 most important lessons I learnt

Do you ever walk around an amateur art exhibition and think fantastic I love it? Do you ever walk around an amateur art exhibition and think what a load of rubbish? What makes the difference between the two? Is it the art or is it the way it is all hung? I learnt many lessons in recently hanging an art exhibition.

Hanging an art exhibition: my first lesson

Think ahead. Think a very long time ahead. If you are going to invite other artists to participate ask them at least 6 months of more in advance. If you don’t you will find them too busy to take part.
Think about the artists and their work, before you ask them. Is your exhibition based on a theme or a technique? Make sure everyone is very clear what the theme of the exhibition means.

The second lesson: Pricing problems

Everything needs to be priced.  Of course.  A tricky and controversial subject. Here is an informative article on the pricing textile art.  I have recently faced the problem, of great discrepancy in prices for similar work in the same exhibition from different artists.   All I could do was advise that the prices be increased.    I think we all need to remember when pricing our work that people are trying very hard to make their living out of selling art, and amateurs should not underprice their work too much.

Lesson Three: Flexible hanging systems

Most gallery spaces will have a rail and wire hanging system. These systems give great flexibility in the positioning of pieces and make hanging the art exhibition easier.   But they do require the pieces to have D rings fastened to either side to give some stability of the pieces when hung. It’s possible to hang a piece using just one wire, but then they tend to hang out a long way from the wall and are difficult to get level.  You can see this below.  Does not look too good really.

 

This problem also occurs when the D rings are not near the top or when you try and hang more than one piece on the same wire.

Hanging an art exhibition: Lesson 4 – Avoid the committee.

Minimise the number of people involved in making the hanging decisions. Definitely not all the artists. If you do there will be too many debates and discussions on where to hang or display pieces.

Lesson 5. Keep the labelling discrete.

I personally think small discrete labels are more professional in appearance. I would always go for something like this.

 

I would also insist that everyone has the same labels.   In fact, I would make them myself to ensure this happens.

 

Lesson 6. Maximise the publicity

Don’t be shy, tell everyone you know that you are having an exhibition. You need as much publicity as possible, through all the possible mediums. The local paper, posters in the town, personal invites, FB etc etc. This is the lesson I really need to take to heart, I try but don’t do nearly enough self-publicity.

 

 

Time will tell if our exhibition Diverse Arts at The old school House Leyburn will be a success, but I hope regardless it looks professionally hung.

 

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Should I dye with an aluminium or a brass pan ? 

A few weeks ago I was lucky to come across this beautiful brass pan in a charity shop. Of course, I bought it. How could I not?
So I now have two aluminium jam pans, one enamel pan, one teflon coated pan and my new brass pan. All either bought second hand or given to me. The question I want to answer is does the pan I use for dyeing make a difference to the final dye colours.  Brass I understand from Wikipedia is made from copper and zinc.  Copper acts as a mordant as does aluminium.
I thought the only way to answer to my question was an experiment. The same dyestuff, the same fibres and the same dye process. Then I can see if the pan material makes a difference.
I just happened to have quite a large quantity of hawthorn flowers. So the terms of my experiment could be set:

  • BFL wool fibres, previously mordanted with Alum
  • Unmordanted silk yarn.
  • Hawthorn blossom freshly picked.
  • Same dye process
  • One brass pan
  • One aluminium pan

After the extraction of the dye from the hawthorn blossom, the difference in the dye bath colours was quite noticeable.

The brass pan liquor is on the left.

This effect cannot be anything to do with mordanting. I had cleaned both the brass pan and the aluminium pan thoroughly so I am not sure what caused the deeper colour from the brass pan. Has anyone any suggestions?


Following the dyeing process, this difference remained.

The silk from the brass pan on the right, slightly richer in colour

 

The wool dyed in the brass pan is at the bottom.
There is only a very slight difference between the two colours, probably undetectable in a photo.
Of course, now I have completed this test I realise that I should have also had a control pan. Something neutral like enamel.

Oh well, that’s a test for another day. !

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It’s May : Harvesting time for natural dye materials 

Suddenly the weather in the North East of England has got sunny and reasonably warm. Of course, it is not forecast to last long! One of the challenges of making naturally dyed felt art is to keep sufficient stock of your natural dye materials. So while the sun is shining and the sap is rising I need to get out and harvest supplies of natural dye materials to store for the rest of the year.

Nettles

Abundantly available and easy to pick with some sharp scissors and some good gardening gloves. I am now drying my harvest, to use later.  I have not dried nettles before so it will be interesting to see how the colour is affected by the drying process.

Dock

One of my favourites. as it dyes silk such a wonderful olive colour.

 

 

I have used dock successfully as a dried natural dye material and so out in the sun is another batch of dock leaves being dried.

Comfrey

Last weekend I sat reading my herb encyclopaedia trying to work out what the furry leaved plant was in my herb garden. Today a short walk from my house I was picking comfrey and it suddenly came to me! The plant I could not recognise in my garden was comfrey.  How weird that I could recognise it in the hedgerow but not in my own back garden. The good news is that it gives me, even more, material to harvest.

I have dried some and also used some in a new dye bath.

Hawthorn blossom

Flowering in profusion on the south and west facing bushes.  I have use hawthorn blossom as a fresh natural dye material before but I have never dried the flowers.  Here it is drying on my studio floor.

Hawthorn blossom

Weld and wold

On a slightly longer time horizon for harvesting, I have planted some seeds that I bought from Susan Dye of naturesrainbow. All germinated and growing well.

 

Marigold

I have had got some lovely yellows and greens from last years marigold harvest. Here are this year plants slowly being hardened off.

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So for me, May is a busy month for natural dye materials, both for harvesting and planting.

My secrets for framing felt art work

I have explored many different ways of framing felt art. For my next exhibition, I want wooden frames to hang on the gallery walls. I know that framing felt art and textiles in this way is controversial but if my textile work is competing with other art I believe it must be framed.  Here is an interesting article from the textileartist site on framing.  I choose to simply frame with no glass because I wanted the textures of the felt to be highly visible – within the grasp of the viewer.
Getting my felt art professionally framed is not an option as it is just too expensive.

My first secret for framing felt art

The first step is to stretch the felt art across some stretcher bars. I am a big fan of stretcher bars, they are simple to use and come in multiple sizes.  Far far more flexible than buying canvases.


I stitch my felt art onto a strong backing cloth and attach the cloth to the stretcher bars or if I have made a felted margin I attach felt piece directly to the stretcher bars.  The felt is attached using a staple gun.  These are easily bought at DIY stores.  When the felted work is attached it becomes a felt canvas.

To give a professional finish, I trim the excess material and cover with self-adhesive sealing tape.

 

The secrets of making a frame

So now you have a canvas and it needs a frame. Making a frame is fraught with difficulties!  The first one being cutting the mitres.  So get someone else to cut them for you.  You can find a vast range of frames here and get them cut to size!


Next problem is glueing the mitres together. Use mitre glue, suggests my husband. It’s wonderful.   He had used it during a kitchen construction project. Well,  it is very fast acting but it leaves no room for error and once the pieces touch the joint is made, and can’t be undone.  After three stressful frames builds using this technique,  I resorted to good old PVA glue.
Glueing is not enough to hold the frame together. It is essential to also underpin the joints. You can get some wonderful underpinning machines,  costing thousands. A simple manual underpinner works fine for me.

The secret of attaching the felt canvas to the frame.

I am using L frames. The stretcher bars sit neatly inside the frame and are attached with S clips.

Just mark the positions. Drill a small marker hole, and attach using screws. I am very careful to clean up as a go along. I have had a bad experience were someone else drilled my felt picture to hang it. Weeks later I discovered the felt had wood shavings embedded in it which could not be removed.

To ensure I get the picture central in the frame, I use some homemade spacers simply cut from cardboard.

Hanging your framed felt art

This is simple, just attach two D-rings near the top of the picture. Just one tip, I like to photograph my framed work with it lying on the ground. So take the photographs before you add the D rings then the picture will lie flat.

I am pleased with this technique for framing felt art. The effect is professional and I have achieved it at a fraction of the cost of professional framing.

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I am also really delighted that this framed felt art is made using 100% naturally dyed materials!