When you find an artist whose work you like in Pinterest, not only can you pin/collect that image, but you can then search online sources for further information in statements, blogs and other writings about that person, exploring their art in some depth as you might if visiting their exhibition in a gallery, or better still talking with them in person. A few weeks ago, while browsing through someone’s mark making site, my eye was taken by an image of a single one of Richard McVetis‘ textile cubes, 6cm x 6cm x 6cm.
I don’t know which little cube is which, but I can tell you that each is identified by the number of hours and minutes it took to make, as in ’25:17 ‘, which I made up, not having a detailed title+image list to hand. It’s an interesting way of naming/identifying things, and I wish I’d thought of it. Like all craftsmen, I’m sure Richard has often been confronted by this question from people looking his work (and I don’t think they can help it) They’ll open a conversation with ” So how long did that take to make?” In my experience, whatever the answer, this is nearly always followed by some version of “I don’t know where you find the patience….” signifying some degree of awe from someone who hasn’t the skill (or thinks they haven’t) and can’t imagine planning and completing such a project themselves.
I found Richard had done a bunch of these, covered with cream wool worked with really fine embroidery in black thread. Through these cubes, collectively titled Units of Time , he explores the passage of time and works “to visualise and make time (,)sic a tactile and tangible object.”
To get the obvious gee whizz technical details out of the way, Richard’s stitches are so fine that, whatever his age (I’m presuming mid 30’s) surely he must have really good, strong lighting focused onto his work. I’ll bet he uses an Ott light or chest mounted magnifier, possibly needs reading glasses, and maybe all of the above. There’s nothing fancy about his stitches – they’re plain and simple; the glorious straight stitch (as I call it) predominating, and together with seed stitch and french knots, these appear to form the bulk of what I have seen in his work. In this group image, the stitching on the centre cube is breathtakingly fine seed stitches, possibly including a few tiny french knots – and the same texture appears to be here I adore french knots clustered for texture, but I don’t think I’ll ever again refer to anything of mine as ‘encrusted’ with them. Spattered, maybe.
The fine black stitchery on white works like a fine marker pen ‘drawing’ onto paper, imbuing his work with a very graphic quality. Richard expands on the significance of this cream background in an interview published on the blog of London’s Flow Gallery to introduce his recent exhibition there (09/2016) As you follow the links to commentary and statements about his work, you begin to understand the importance to Richard of the repetitive process of hand stitching, and the element of slight variation that comes from this process of endlessly repeated routine steps. As every embroiderer knows, when you put your work down and return to resume stitching later, it takes a little while to get back into the same rhythm you had earlier – and the resulting slight differences may not be apparent until much later.
As I write, Richard is part way through an artist residency in Iceland, and a few days ago his first journal post from this temporary location included photos and initial observations, and some insight into what he plans there.
Images supplied and reproduced courtesy Richard McVetis.
(“Units of Time” won a Juror’s Award in the prestigious Craft Forms 2015 International Juried Exhibition of Contemporary Crafts, Wayne Art Center, PA, 01/2016)