Artist Elizabeth Blades was our Gold award winner at the January 2016 exhibition launch of our climate change and environment awareness exhibition, ‘Fairytales, Myths & Legends’. The awards were voted for and presented by Michelle from Remade In Britain, Olivia from Preloved and Jen from Make do and Mend-able. Liz’s winning piece is a collography print ‘How does your garden grow’.
“My image was created to illustrate the juxtaposition that can occur between our good intentions for the environment and what we actually do. The perfect garden is emblazoned on the girls clothes, yet her actual garden is dying and in turn also the
bees. The image drives us to question are we doing enough for the environment or are we just paying it lip service. Perhaps it makes us think that as much a sentiment is important, action is what will save our bees and our planet. How does your garden grow isn’t just a fanciful question but a direct reality we must all face head on.”
We asked Liz to tell us more about her work ….
Please tell us a bit about yourself
Where are you based?
I am based in Derby, not far from the city centre but travel around the Midlands due to the freelance work that I do in school’s and community settings.
Do you run your business full time?
Yes, It has been very hard work but over the past two years the offer of freelance work has gradually increased. I first began just selling my artwork when I registered as self employed, I soon learnt though that this did not give me a very reliable income. I did discover though a passion for teaching my knowledge of art to others. This worked perfectly alongside selling my own work and doing the odd commission.
How long have you been a professional artist?
About 9 years now, since graduating I have been developing my professional practice.
Did you attend college/university or are you self taught?
I graduated from Derby uni with a degree in Illustration about 9 years ago. After regretfully having to leave my much loved student life style I returned back home to Birmingham and decided to attend an evening class in printmaking. The one technique I had briefly learn at uni but wanted to become a master at.
This lead me to joining the Birmingham Printmakers an open access studio where over the next few years I would create many pieces of art on any day off I had from my various jobs. I also gained experience from planning and putting up group exhibitions as one of their members. A few years ago I even had the privilege of hanging my work in Birmingham’s museum and art gallery as part of the 30 years of Birmingham Printmakers exhibition.
After saving relentlessly I applied for a printmaking masters, thinking this was the next step I should take. Unfortunately the course was withdrawn due to funding cuts. I decided to take an alternative route by travelling around the country booking myself onto short courses at printmaking studio’s to learn new techniques. These were taught by professional artists, I made great new contacts, produced interesting and experimental new art pieces and picked up tricks of the trade for selling work.
Please tell us about your work
What do you create?
Aside from my printmaking and Illustration work I love to make clothes. Two years ago I attended a sewing school to learn the basics of dress design and pattern cutting. I am mostly self taught with this though, by unpicking unworn clothes I have figured out how they were put together. I now take great joy in up-cycling fashion. In a few months time I will be attending a corsetry course where I will learn how to work with more delicate fabrics and complicated patterns.
Do you use eco friendly methods?
As previously mentioned I up-cycle clothes and mostly use fabrics sourced from the play and recycle centre close to the centre of Derby. For my printmaking practice my preferred method is collography. This techniques requires the use of cardboard or a thin piece of aluminium for the base. Scraps of fabric, lace, ribbon, string etc to be layered when designing the image or Illustration.
Do you have a favourite piece?
My favourite print is actually a type of collograph/Intaglio print titled ‘my tail’.This a one off piece with added embellishment. The gold glitter represents magic, the woman, possibly a witch, steals the cats tail to claim as her own and gifts a magical replacement tail for the cat.
My favourite piece of clothing is a black and white dress I created using an old lace curtain. I am very fond of this dress pattern which I use over and over adapting it to suit my needs.
Are you working on any new lines?
I am creating a range, titled ‘Aubrey’s Daughter handmade and up-cycled clothing’
Which will feature a selection of my sarong dresses.
Do your undertake commissions?
Yes I always welcome commissions and take it as a great compliment that someone wants to own artwork I have created especially for them.
Do you teach?
Yes, I currently run a weekly after school art and craft club and life drawing classes in Birmingham. I offer one to one teaching to all age ranges and learning styles in various art techniques. Such as printmaking, drawing, painting and basic pattern cutting and sewing skills. I can tailor sessions to suit the students needs.
After discovering my passion for teaching I began creating drawing games that are used as warm up activities for workshops. Over time I have produced dozens of activity and colouring in sheets inspired by my original art works. These are always with me when running children’s workshops.
My partner and I have recently set up a weekly after school art class based at our house. We have also began a day time art class aimed at home schooled children. They have already proved to be successful, we hope to eventually offer art classes for adults too.
Have you won any awards?
I am very excited to have won this award as it is the first notable prize I have received, and it’s first place…yay! Great start to 2016 for me!. It means a lot to get recognition in this form, and has given me a confidence boost and inspired my artistic practice.
Do you have any advice/tips for aspiring artists?
Best advice I could give is to draw as much and often as possible. The best way to improve your skills really is by practising. Drawing is a great starting point, ideas and designs for future projects can start from just a doodle on the page.
Where can your work be seen and purchased?
I have a website – www.elizabethblades.co.uk a facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethBladesArt/ and Instagram site – https://www.instagram.com/elizabethblades/ which is updated most days.
I will also soon have an online shop selling my handmade and up-cycled clothing called Blades McDowell Art, on the eco create marketplace so watch this space!