Guest Blog - Gill Edwards
Gill has an impressive CV as a designer but she made a life change when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. One that has left both her and us, richer in many ways. Gill is a painter and printmaker. We live quite near each other, (bordering counties), and I contacted her because I couldn’t make it to her Open Studio.
Gill has a magical way of working. She begins lots of paintings at the same time and names each painting. Her reflective work appeals to my love of Japandi, that fusion of Japan and Scandinavia which feels considered and calming. To me, the perfect way to create a home interior. I had been so looking forward to going to her studio and ﬁnding out more about each piece.
Gill has said, “I believe that if I love what I’m doing then somebody somewhere will love it too.” I do hope you’ll love Gill’s work as much as I do. It was so generous of Gill to give me the opportunity to hear what inspires her and how she approaches her work. This interview was definitely something I had to share with you.
Laura: Welcome to the Guest Blog Gill, tell us a little bit about yourself and where you’re based?
Gill: I’m based in the historic town of Southwell in the East Midlands and have a studio overlooking Southwell Minster. I have a degree in Printed Textile Design and have been lucky enough to spend my entire career in design for interiors, fabrics and wall coverings. My career began at Laura Ashley where I was lucky enough to work with LA (as she was known) herself for a few months until her sudden death. During my 13 years at LA I worked on designs for everything from fashion and interior fabrics and wallpapers to scarves, tiles, greetings cards and table linen! I then moved my family from mid Wales to the East Midlands to continue my career working for the Romo Group. I had the opportunity to work with fantastic teams of designers and suppliers world-wide. I travelled regularly and even spent some time overseeing production of fabrics in Thailand. I became Print Design Manager for both Romo & Black Edition, two of the six brands in the Romo Group.
L: How did your journey begin as a painter?
G: I was trained as a designer in the traditional way, lots of drawing and painting so I’ve always done that. After a diagnosis of breast cancer in June 2017 I had to take time off for treatment and when I returned to work, I felt like a different person. A life changing illness often makes people reﬂect on their lives and I decided that now was the time to follow my dream of painting for myself. I rented my ﬁrst studio space in August 2019 and have been painting since then.
L: Describe your work. What’s your style?
G: I have an enduring love of simple shapes and patterns and colour is my main passion. I love circles, semi circles, squares and rectangles and of course bowls, vases and other vessel shapes. I enjoy creating juxtapositions between textured mark making and smooth controlled lines I like differences, smudgy free pencil lines and broad painted brush marks, very dark blue/black and almost white. Shocking pink and exuberant orange next to soft chalky pastel and neutral shades. I love intense areas of detailed pattern and large seemingly empty spaces but there’s usually a hidden history in the empty spaces, hints of earlier marks and colours reappearing after I’ve sanded and scraped through an area. I love aerial views and flattened shapes, organic shadows, Japanese kimono patterns. The list goes on and I’m bursting with ideas.
L: What is your studio space like and what are your “must have” tools, those that you cannot live without and why?
G: My studio space is a room on the ﬁrst floor of the old Grammar School in the conservation area of the town. It has high ceilings with picture rails and a beautiful sash window, which is always open whatever the weather, letting in the regular chimes of the Minster (every 15 mins!) I have shelves on two walls and a desk facing one of those walls so I can keep looking at ongoing work. I always work at a desk rather than an easel. I have a couple of other tables where I keep colour swatches, sketchbooks etc. and I have lots of drawers full of collage papers etc. and so many materials, paints, brushes, mediums etc.
I mostly work in acrylics on boards but I also do some printmaking and collage on paper and sometimes incorporate that in the painting. I use lots of tools and collect them from places as varied as hardware stores to antique centres! I use plasterer’s tools, squeegees, credit cards, metal scrapers, a silver knife and even dental tools. I use brushes too but my love of mark making means I’m more attracted to using alternative tools. I love the resistance a wooden board gives me but I love the freedom of working on paper and knowing it can be cut up. I’m now starting to explore canvas as my paintings are getting bigger and boards can get very heavy.
L: What do you enjoy most about being an artist and about painting?
G: I feel as if my paintings are an extension of myself and painting intuitively allows me lots of freedom to play and explore new ideas. I can’t imagine not painting and being a creative person is such a gift. I love sharing my paintings both on social media and in person at Open Studio events and I can’t pretend that it’s not such a fantastic feeling when a buyer loves a painting enough to want to live with it in their home. I also love connecting with other artists and sharing ideas.
L: What or Who influences you?
G: I’ve always admired the work of artists like Mary Fedden & Elizabeth Blackadder, Craigie Aitchison, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth. I love Anni Albers’ textiles and have always had a passion for the Japanese aesthetic.
L: What’s your next project? What have you got coming up?
G: I’m still enjoying exploring the idea of vessels in different ways. It’s an enduring passion and I have lots of ideas of where I’d like to take this next. I’m thinking of bigger paintings, simpler compositions, softer colour palettes but maybe also more brighter ones. I might make the shapes more abstract or make them more realistic! I love the process of exploration and don’t generally know where the painting will end up until I’m making it. I’ve just had a 3-day Open Studio event and I sold lots of paintings so I’ve now got room to make more. I’m also considering offering some small workshops and possibly some 1:1 mentoring days in my studio.
L: What do you like to do when you’re not painting?
G: I love walking and am lucky to have some lovely places to walk to around Southwell. I am at my happiest by the sea and as we can now travel more, I intend spending more time by the UK coast. I do yoga, and ﬁnd that particularly useful as an antidote to being at a desk or computer. I also read lots of books and am so looking forward to visiting more galleries again soon. I also love laughing with friends and feel that hasn’t happened much over the last year.
L: Do you paint just when you feel inspired or do you have a routine?
G: Over the last year I’ve painted about 5 days a week because the opportunities to do anything else were so limited. I found my studio to be a bit of a haven during lockdown and wondered how I would have managed without my creative outlet? I like to be in my studio every day but only ﬁnd the ﬁrst few hours of painting to be productive. There are so many other things that an artist has to do, website updates, newsletters, blogs, social media etc. that I don’t always paint in my studio. I also love to create colour inspiration boards, work in my sketchbook, make collage papers etc. so there’s lots to do that isn’t painting
L: Tell us about your Kintsugi Vessel’s What inspired you to paint this series? Explain what are they?
G: The Japanese practice of repairing broken ceramics with gold – Kintsugi - has fascinated me since I ﬁrst read about it, such a beautiful way to treat something that is broken. I was thinking about this whilst printing using my Gelli Plate last year and I started to experiment with just using black & white and simple stencil shapes … they could have been any shapes but my love of rice bowls and simple vase forms seemed perfect. I found a way to marble the colours together and the beauty of Gelli Plate printing is that you can produce lots of prints from one Plate … in fact you have to work fast so I had lots of different paper to hand to use. I noticed that the prints were beautiful when I used a linen effect heavy cartridge paper. From there I experimented with various forms and once satisﬁed that I had the best ones I then applied imitation gold leaf. Sometimes this was just in a single line around the vessel, sometimes it simulated the crackled path of a broken bowl. I didn’t want to put these behind glass so I found a method of bonding the paper onto a cradled wooden panel. The edges of the panel are painted black and there is no need to frame this so it is very easy to hang. The vessels look particularly effective when hung together in a group and they have just been used in that way in a beautiful show home in Nottingham. Next in this series I am hoping to make some bigger prints and maybe incorporate some crackle glaze effects.
L: Thank you Gill, it has been such fun to talk about how you create your work and consider colour. There’s so much more we could talk about, your fascination with shadows for example. You leave me bursting with enthusiasm, especially wanting to know more about what you will explore next!
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