Meet the artist; Virginia Lake
What is your background / where are you based?
I was born in Kent, have lived in Northern Ireland, Compton Dando, Warwickshire, and now in Paulton for the last nine years. All my family have been artists and makers of some sort, be it painting, drawing, woodwork, model aeroplanes, gardening, DIY, dressmaking (I remember an awful mustard and brown suit I had to wear as a child…) and all kinds of needlecrafts. There were always sewing projects on the go, which produced scraps and leftovers for me to create with. I suppose this is where my love of textiles came from – the chance to make something I wanted out of very little.
When and how did you get started in your art / craft?
After school, I completed a Foundation Art course at Filton Polytechnic – one of the tutors was a weaver, and he taught me how to spin using a drop spindle to create yarn. Over the years, I have tried many different art and craft forms and materials but have always come back to handspinning. Again, it appealed to my interest in being able to make something beautiful from a very simple, basic material – it still amazes me that a lump of smelly, tatty-looking fleece can be completely transformed, using methods and equipment that have been around for hundreds of years. I have recently learnt how to spin using a wheel, from an excellent teacher near Crickhowell in Wales, but I still enjoy the portability and simplicity of using a drop spindle.
What inspires you?
All sorts of things – I do get easily distracted just by looking at things and sometimes have to remind myself to concentrate on the task in hand – I saw some beautifully patterned grey cows the other day while I was driving round a roundabout…
I like learning about how and where other people find inspiration as everyone looks at things differently.
I find colour very interesting, especially when a small amount of one colour comes alive when it is contrasted against another. These subtle yet sometimes unexpectedly bright colour combinations can often be seen out and about in the countryside, such as a piece of lichen against a stone, or a single berry on a muddy path. This is something I have been experimenting with when handspinning, and would like to develop further using natural dyes.
I also like drawing small details or parts of natural objects, such as shells and bones, and am fascinated by the structures and patterns that are revealed by looking really closely.
What are your ambitions as an artist in the coming months / years?
In the last 2-3 years I have decided to concentrate on one main activity, which is to develop my understanding and skills in handspinning. I have enjoyed dabbling in many creative activities, and I like the energy that comes from learning new skills, but I feel the time is right to focus on just one. This will involve continuing experimenting with different types of fleece, using different types of spindles, and mixing in small quantities of other materials and colours. At the moment I don’t produce any work to sell – I just like becoming absorbed in spinning, and, through the Artstrail, talking with people about what I am doing and about ‘woolly’ things in general.
I would also like to spend more time on drawing.
What is your most memorable piece of work and why?
Several years ago, I did an Open College of the Arts textiles course in Birmingham. One piece I did explored using folded fabrics in neutral colours, mainly white, grey and cream. This started my interest in using a limited palette of colours, and exploring texture and pattern by using light and shadow, and is a theme I might explore when I have had enough of spinning! Or find a way of combining these…?
What hints and tips would you give fellow artists?
From my own (bitter??) experience – to try and be organised! Creating anything seems to mean equipment and materials soon build up, and if these are not easily available or usable the next time I want them, all I achieve is to waste precious time and get cross looking for them. So I am really trying hard to keep on top of everything (this is mainly making a large collection of ‘useful containers’ at the moment).
When experimenting or trying out new ideas, I find it essential to scribble notes / comments as I go along – as I will have completely forgotten what I did by the next time I pick things up again…
And to have fun, and to acknowledge the role that creating has in our lives.