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Bath at Work: Philip Raby

Posted: 08 Jan 2019 04:56 AM PST

Our series of photographic portraits by Neill Menneer shows Bath people at work.

Philip Raby, FilmBath Festival organiser

I was born in the same town as Keith Richards (Dartford), and grew up in Kent, before being shipped off to boarding school for 10 years; an experience I wouldn't wish on anyone else. I recovered slowly in my twenties, and worked as – among other things – a roadie, an au pair, a driver and a sewage farm employee.

In 1977, I visited Bath for the day, and never left. More bizarrely, it turns out that my family lived here for the whole of the 19th century and half the 20th, including a great great aunt who died aged 107 in 1926 in Great Pulteney Street. My dad was born and died here; my mum died here aged 100. Bath is my home, and was – in a sense – even before I got here.

The first proper job I had was working in Harvest from 1978 to 1985, during which time I learned how to run a business and helped turn it into a cooperative. Immediately after leaving Harvest, I started On The Video Front, a film rental shop on Bog Island, which closed in 2012. During that time, I also reviewed films for the Evening Chronicle.

In 1990, I was invited to help create Bath Film Festival (now FilmBath), at that time a modest enterprise, but one which has expanded to become one of the leading film festivals in the country. My main (but not only) job is to programme the festival, something which I take great care over, and enjoy enormously; not least working with a team of other programmers with a variety of tastes. We have just held our 28th consecutive festival.

In 2007, I took over the management of Oscar Windebanks a timber yard in Box, which was owned by Peter Gabriel. Despite knowing very little about timber, I had a great time helping to bring one of the area's oldest businesses back to life.

Since 2012, I have been part of Bath Bridge, and am always looking for ways to help Bath achieve its full potential. I initiated the Elected Mayor for B&NES campaign, which fell short of its ultimate goal; and now I am involved in BIG, a campaign for independent councillors. I passionately believe that we deserve and need significantly better political leadership at a local level, and we will never have that as long as we rely on national political parties as a source of councillors.

I have lived in various parts of Bath, and now live in Southstoke. I am married, and have two sons who both went to school in Bath. I recently added a grandchild to the family tree.

My passions are friendship, films, music, books, fun, conversation and finding better ways to do things. I read endlessly, listen to The Grateful Dead too much, and teach people how to watch films. I recently gave a TEDx talk at Bath Abbey which scared me to death, but which turned out much better than I expected. My philosophy (which I expounded in the talk) is to say 'Yes', 'Please' and 'Thank You'. I try never to take things personally; but I am concerned about the capacity of the human race to ignore the impending calamity of climate change.

I am aware of how fortunate I have been in my life.

PORTRAIT: Neill Menneer at Spirit Photographic.
Visit: capturethespirit.co.uk, tel: 01225 483151

The post Bath at Work: Philip Raby appeared first on The Bath Magazine.

Andrea Cryer: In free motion

Posted: 08 Jan 2019 01:31 AM PST

Creating an artwork on location while being filmed is no mean feat. Add in a sewing machine, disperse dyes and an iron and the pressure's on – Andrea Cryer tells Emma Clegg about taking part in Landscape Artist of the Year

Landscape Artist of the Year and its partner series Portrait Artist of the Year are hit shows on Sky Arts, with more than 600,000 people on average watching each episode. Hosted by Joan Bakewell and Stephen Mangan, it's a fascinating format for artists and non-artists alike. The landscape version of the programme takes eight weatherproof pods, finds a location with a dramatic landscape, and puts an artist in a pod. Each one has four hours to produce a piece of work representing the landscape around them. A stop-motion camera runs behind each artist capturing their every move. They work in conditions ranging from sizzling sunshine to gusty grey storms, with only their respective pods protecting them from the elements. There are also a valiant band of 'wild cards', 50 artists who come along to paint the landscape armed with easels, chairs, umbrellas, packed lunches and family cohorts, with the chance of one of them being put through to the next stage.

I was watching the beginning of the third episode of the latest series – set in Inveraray Castle in Argyle, Scotland – as it introduced the artists and showed their submission pieces. I saw an artwork of a building that looked resonantly familiar flash onto the screen. It was a view of Topping & Co. bookshop on The Paragon. Suddenly an impartial evaluation of landscape artists from different parts of the UK turned into a thrilling local celebration – of the view from my office, of a much-loved local bookshop and of an artist from Bradford-on-Avon called Andrea Cryer.

"It was raining, completely grey, shrouded in mist and you couldn't see a thing," says Andrea, describing the conditions on the day.
A hard context for any artist working outdoors, but doubly so for Andrea as her technique involves machine embroidery, and so a sewing machine and an iron. "It really didn't suit my way of working," Andrea laughs. "It was the same for everybody, but with painting you can put on lots of grey and make it really interesting but with stitch I need a shape. So I do my outline and then I apply my colour – so I don't start off with colour, I do it the opposite way round. Also when I work normally, I stitch it and then I leave it for a while. So it will be left hanging up. And then I go back and I make notes telling me what I need to change."

Andrea in her studio

There were also the logistical challenges of the filming. "I had my sewing machine and my iron in a big suitcase. I put it all on to my table and then the camera crew came up and said 'can you put it all back in the suitcase because we haven't filmed you doing it.' They also wanted to show me threading the machine, but I could not get that thread through the eye of the needle. And normally I do it straight away at home. But I've never worked outside – I am used to working in private."

Andrea uses an old Bernina sewing machine as a drawing tool, using freemotion embroidery. "Freemotion embroidery allows the needle to go in any direction. It means that the needle can wobble a little bit when you're doing a straight line. This is how I get lines that are uneven, which I like." Andrea tends to work bigger because it's then easier to manipulate the sewing machine.

"The only problem is that you have to use a hoop. So the size of the hoop limits how much you can stitch at any one time. So if you're doing a tall building you have to keep moving your hoop down to get the line."

"I sketch out roughly but not perfectly. Because when you are stitching with the machine you work intuitively. I might put in a little line and decide not to use it, or make a different one. So it's all about the marks."

The embroidery is only one aspect of Andrea's technique, which involves layered stages. She starts with rough pencil marks establishing key lines and positions. Then she applies the 'drawn lines' with the machine stitching and applies colour with disperse dyes, which are made up from powder into a liquid. The dye is painted on paper, creating a dye sheet that is then cut to shape and then ironed on. The fabric base is also washed after the application of each colour to take some of the intensity out. The cutting of the dye sheets can be intricate – the Toppings image has fiddly architectural details, which Andrea cut out with a scalpel. "I started with the stitching but I took too long so I didn't leave myself enough time to add depth to the colour – so I had one layer of colour, whereas normally I'd have maybe three or four."

Andrea's work starts with a photograph. "I tend not to do images that would be a straight-on view of a shop or a building. I like to take photos by wandering around Bath with my daughter. Or I drive and she has the camera and she just clicks as we drive. And that's how we get interesting images. I chose the Toppings image because I thought it was a good composition and a good piece. And also it's just such a fantastic shop – it's like a Tardis for books."

Milsom Place, Bath, machine-stitched drawing on canvas, hand-tinted using disperse dyes

The work Andrea produces includes people portraits and urban landscapes. The sewn thread, with its characteristic trembling lines, is so effective a drawing tool that the lines look as expressive as any marks made with standard artists' media. Up close you can see the threads – and the random trailing thread ends that are left give a looseness and movement that animate the whole piece.

Andrea, who trained originally as a lawyer, started to create her sewn artworks at Bath Spa University where she did a degree in Creative Art (Fine Art & Textiles), specialising in printmaking and textiles. She had a variety of work in her degree show, but it was the two large portraits that she had created of her mother-in-law, as an adjunct to her main project, that stood out. "Visitors were peering closely at the two canvasses, surprised to discover that they were actually drawn with thread and not pen and ink. The portraits are a treasured reminder of 'a very lovely lady.'"

A portrait of Mary is mesmeric. Haunting eyes form the basis and the energetic, scribbled thread marks with hooped trails of ends dragging down from the eyebrows and the hair, swirling here and there into small thread clusters, are intense yet fragile. There is a blush of pink on the cheeks and lips and a faded brown dye and hand-stitched thread in the hair, but the overall effect is monochrome.

"With the portraits I tend to stick with monochrome," says Andrea. "When I introduce colour it is in the background. The whole point is the stitching and the marks that you can make." Despite this, Andrea uses many shades of grey. Another portrait of artist Chris Ofili has as many as 20 greys in his hair, with a dense collection of hand and machine stitching.

Andrea's submission piece of Topping & Co. ended up being bought by a collector. She wasn't selected to go through to the next round of the competition, but she says it was fascinating taking part: "I knew it was a competition, but I went into it because I thought it would be a good thing to do and it would challenge me, and take me out of my comfort zone. It's also good to bring textile art into focus."

Andrea has some landscapes planned for 2019, including one of the Royal Crescent, and produces portraits and landscapes to commission. Her ambition is simple: "I want to stick with what I do because it's different. And I like doing it."

Originals and prints available through Andrea's website: andreacryer.co.uk; skyartsartistoftheyear.tv

Featured image: Topping & Co., Bath, freehand machine-stitched drawing, hand-coloured using disperse dyes. Photography by Darren Strange

The post Andrea Cryer: </br> In free motion appeared first on The Bath Magazine.