When I was a student in the seventies I studied printed textiles at “The Manchester School of Art” which was then part of Manchester Polytechnic and is now known as Manchester Metropolitan University. As a student I fell under the spell of the practitioners of The Arts and Crafts Movement, a fascination that has lasted a lifetime. Manchester School of Art had strong links with the Pre-Raphaelites and exponents of Art Nouveau; many treasures are now on display in an exhibition “Art Nouveau” at the Sir Kenneth Green Library. If you are a fan of Archibald Knox, Jessie M King and Aubrey Beardsley or the like you will find this exhibition most interesting.
I owe much to my time at Manchester, in particular to the excellent teaching we received. There was always a strong emphasis on drawing both from life and from plant forms. One of the more celebrated teachers was Adolphe Valette, a French painter who was at the school from 1907 to 1920 and taught L S Lowry. The great designer and illustrator Walter Crane was also director in the eighteen nineties and left a legacy of drawing directly from nature.
It is always strange visiting old haunts; my student days are so fresh in my mind it is hard to believe that over thirty-eight years have passed since I studied there. Much of the old buildings remain although many new ones have been added, the character of the place seems unchanged. I decided to take some photographs to share with you some of the decorative details of the old Art School building.
The modern glass buildings across the park now house the beautiful Sir Kenneth Green Library where you can find The Special Collections Library which includes artist books, decorated papers, a children's book collection: featuring 19th and 20th century children's book illustration and book collections exploring aspects of the book as an artifact. There is also a collection of Victorian ephemera featuring 19th century albums and scrapbooks.
I spent many happy and inspiring hours in the art school library and am delighted to say that some of my illustrated children’s books and artist books now have a home there.
I’ve been playing around with a few new ideas and have created a set of three printed ACEO’s for my shop and am in the process of offering some original artwork in that form too. I have always been drawn to miniatures and have always had a tendency to paint on a very tiny scale. My husband jokes that is because I have always been so poor and art materials so expensive. I think he may have had a point!
The lovely green Celtic binding decorates a volume of Irish literature, a book I bought whilst in the student area in Manchester at a roadside sale. I really don’t have room for any more books but that cover was talking to me, I am sure you know the feeling.
Despite several attempts to pretend spring has arrived, placing daffodils in vases and filling the house with the smell of hyacinths, winter still has us in its grip. As I type this, the snow is falling outside my window and the sky is a leaden grey. I don’t mind the snow so much but I hate the bitter cold winds and the gloom.
For the last couple of months I have been busy creating a new collection of designs for the various trade shows. I had a day walking around the Spring fair in Birmingham and enjoyed chatting to my agent, other artists and manufacturers, I even spotted a few of my own products which was gratifying. The show seemed much smaller than in previous years but still a great place to visit and trend spot.
In between days of incessant rain we have had some lovely bright sparkly days, blue skies and light. Heartwarming days that lift the spirits and make me want to paint. Nature is always the most inspiring of subjects and walking Ted in all weathers provides many opportunities to observe wildlife. I decided to start a new painting, trying to capture the colours of winter and the shapes and patterns of the fern stems, seed heads and dead grasses that appear beneath the melting snow. I love the repetition of natural forms, the details on the tree bark, the way the light gives a richness and warmth to a winter’s afternoon. I decided that the painting needed life so added a fox, a familiar sight around these parts and can sometimes be seen in the daylight.
I like to work on stretched Bockingford cold press paper, which allows the paint to be lifted when water is applied and then removed with a tissue. I first painted a wash over the entire piece and then worked on top, slowly adding the details to create the desired effect. I use tiny brush strokes applied with a series 7 Windsor and Newton Finest Sable brush. I used bleach, process white, gouache and white pencil to create the snow-covered areas and to pick out the details on the seed heads. As with all my work I never feel entirely happy, often adding bits, removing, changing and fiddling until a point is reached where I have to say enough is enough. It is not perfection but it is as good as I can make it and overall I am happy with the result. If you click on the images you will see more details and see how the work develops over time.
I first came across the work of Jeri Landers when I saw her fabric designs several years ago. This lead me to her website and later her blog at Hopalong Hollow Gazette.Over the years we have become better acquainted but distance has not allowed us to meet, however let that not be an obstacle. Today we are taking tea together and invite you to join us, so pull up a chair and prepare to be charmed by this amazingly creative lady.
How do you take your tea and in what kind of cup do you like it served?
My tea of choice is Red Rose, a simple black tea. Since 1969 they have placed a small porcelain figurine inside the tea box, some are quite sweet, and I like the tradition. I take mine strong and very sweet, please. I love this tea cup, because it is covered in acorns.
If you could choose anyone, past, present or future, who would be joining us for tea?
Our tea party would include the writer James Herriot, (he would delight us with his marvelous animal tales), Anton Pieck, Dutch Illustrator and master of meticulous detail and perfect perspective... (Perspective is my nemesis; maybe he could give me a few tips). And last but not least, the beloved Beatrix Potter. How she would delight in the fact that her "little books for small hands" are still in print, over 100 years later! But, I would actually love to talk to her about her sheep, because I have sheep as well... in fact, one of them is named Beatrix.
Will you tell us a little about your background in art and design?
My only formal art training was an oil painting course, straight out of High School. I learned 2 things: Oil paints are very expensive and I do not like using them. We were required to turn in 3 canvases at the end of the class and I turned in 3 eggs. Really, I did. I painted miniature gardens upon the surface of blown out eggs using model car paints. My teacher was impressed and I passed the class. Aside from that, trial and error have been my constant guides. I probably do everything the wrong way, but it seems to work out for me.
Growing up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado was perfect for an animal and nature lover and I spent many years creating realistic wildlife art, until I discovered Traditional Folk art, and taught myself German and Swiss style Scherenschnitte and Early American - Painted Papercutting
This was a complete flip from realism, with a naive look and a folky feel. Over the years, I’ve utilized watercolor and papercutting for the basis of much of my work, including a line of greeting cards and lithographs. I also “grow” papercut gardens.
My art is an odd combination of folkart, realism and illustration. A few years ago, influenced by my love of beautiful storybooks, I wrote and illustrated a book about a character on one of my greeting cards, a rabbit named Hopalong Jack. During the year it took to illustrate the book, I wrote 8 additional stories and Hopalong Hollow was born. Nowadays, I spend most of my art-life working on these books, which is pure joy!
Where are you based and does it influence your work?
Twenty-one years ago, we bought a 40 acre homestead with a rundown century old farmhouse in East Tennessee. My husband and I have spent years bringing it back to life. We’ve filled the property with cottage gardens and all creatures great and small, everything from donkeys to peacocks. It is here that I get my inspiration, my models and my stories. It is the world of Hopalong Hollow.
What have you been doing/working on today?
I am finishing up a book illustration, here-
I hope that you have brought along something wonderful to show us, what is it?
We started with tea, so I guess we should end with another cup poured from the acorn pot. This is one of the latest illustrations I have completed for new book. Thank you so much for inviting me!
Thanks for coming all this way and for sharing your world with us. I hope it won't be too long before you visit again. Your work is a delight. I especially love your paper cuttings.
My name is Valerie Greeley. I am an artist, surface pattern/textile designer and illustrator. I have a special interest in the book arts including illustration, bookbinding, printmaking and artist books. I also have an interest in quilting, nature and bumblebees.