Projects

RESIDENCY LANCASTER AND DISTRICT HOMELESS ACTION SERVICE

I have been volunteering at Lancaster and District Homeless Action Service for the last two years. The service works with people from many varied backgrounds where circumstance has led them to be sleeping rough, or struggling to manage their own accommodation. The service is committed to helping people find accommodation and learn the life skills essential for independent living and provide help and support to engage with the job market. To begin with, I helped in the kitchen giving out breakfasts and preparing lunch for the clients who use the centre. Initially, I wanted to use the time working in the kitchen and get some time away from making art in the studio. But the staff, knowing I was a working artist, asked if I would deliver a few art/craft workshops for the clients.
For a while I had been thinking of doing some of my own art work related to my time at the Service. Eventually I broached the subject with a few of the regular clients with the idea of producing a series of portraits. Initially, I felt the clients would find this process patronising or uncomfortable, and be apprehensive at maybe having their image shown in a public arena. But, to my surprise, most of the clients I spoke with thought this was a good idea.
I began the process by taking photographs of as many clients as I could and then began a series of quick drawings using different techniques i.e. pen and ink, pencil, paint. After that I moved on to working on the sewing machine using a free straight stitch to sketch with. This gave me a feel for the faces that I thought would work best for this project. Initially, I was going to work straight onto cloth as is my usual method, but after discussion with the sitters I thought it would be more appealing to them if I produced a large finished drawing that was an accurate representation of them. This transpired to be a laborious task, with a lot of measuring, correcting and pondering. The drawings produced were appreciated by the sitters and when shown to the group everyone became an “art critic” in a friendly and humorous way. The drawings were then used as the basis for producing textile portraits. My textile work usually consists of the reverse applique technique (where material is cut away as opposed to applique where material is put added) and freehand machine embroidery. On these portraits I felt I needed to work more with tonal subtleties and devised a process of using netting cut into various sized circles and shades to build up the complexities in the textile portraits. I settled on a process of bonding the net circles onto the cloth using a soldering iron to build up the required shade.
In this era of austerity and new draconian changes to the benefit system, with at least 32000 recorded homeless people in Britain, and this figure growing at an alarming rate, it seems to me that this under- represented sector of society needs to be seen and acknowledged in whatever ways we can make possible. My recent work showing some of the people at the forefront of this situation has not been produced to pile pity on them, although some live a pitiful life. I made the work to celebrate them as individuals who, when you get to know them, can display a richness of human values and take the opportunity to laugh far more than a lot of people.

Artists inspired by creative workshops

It's not just music that brings people together…so does art. 🎨In Lancaster, a local artist is holding workshops to inspire homeless people to create their own work. 🖌️🖼️

Posted by BBC Radio Lancashire on Thursday, 14 March 2019

 

 

MUIR TRUST ARTIST IN RESIDENCE

For this Muir Trust residency James will be selecting items from the varied museum collections in store and responding to these through his work to create new readings and interpretations. He is fascinated by political protest and trade unions and also by craftsmanship and groups on the fringes of social history. His residency will complement The Beautiful Stitch exhibition of treasures from the Embroiderers’ Guild Collection also at the Museum.

James Fox Residency – Gallery

 

HARRIS MUSEUM AND GALLERY

ARTIST IN RESIDENCE

 


Merging archive detail, local history, printing and textile techniques to create a piece of work which would represent ‘The People’s Preston’.

Use of archive materials

In writing this article I will try and give an insight into the investigations and outcomes of my recent commission from the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston Lancashire, which involved using the extensive archive at the Harris as inspiration to produce an artwork for the Gallery. This was a daunting task as the museum has a massive archive with thousands of historical artefacts.

However, the process was full of surprises and I delighted in using the archives given to me as I deemed fit, as well as learning completely new techniques like lino and other types of printing. So, with the help of the history curator, I slowly started to investigate the archives and was drawn to the museum’s photograph library, which covers all aspects of Preston’s history for over one hundred years.


Accidental art

The images of Preston at the height of the Industrial revolution were especially interesting. There was also hundreds of what at first appeared to be small black and white close up images of pavements and streets which looked like semi-abstract artworks.

This museum has the largest collection of trades union banners in the country and keen to continue with these themes I felt the images available from Harris’s collection would fit well with this.

After enquiring what these images were, the curator asked me to look on the back of the photo where was written the date of the image, where the picture had been taken and most interestingly that this was the scene of a fall, and gave the name of the person who had been involved. These photos had been taken in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and all involved women.


Source material

The museum also houses a collection of fashion photographs and designs from the famous Horrockses Fabric and Fashions, which were produced in the area, and also from the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

As part of the invitation from the Harris Museum I had free access to the fantastic fine art print studio at the University of Central Lancashire, as well as superb technical help from the staff there. Utilising these facilities I worked my designs into lino prints.

The process of numerous cuts using lino was intriguing and led me to do a series of 5 colour prints based on a repeat pattern I devised around the idea of ‘protest’.

The prints produced in relation to my investigations dealing with the accident photos were then used to develop the idea further. The culprit paving stone responsible for the falls I decided to make a feature of the images. In the 1960s and 70s, there was a television programme called “The Golden Shot” which featured a target in the form of a golden apple.

From this era, there was also a newspaper feature called ‘Spot the Ball’ where you had to find the missing ball from an image of a sporting event, usually football. I combined both of these and called the intended work ‘SPOT THE FALL’.

The guilty stone would be embroidered in gold thread, which would also pay homage to ‘Simpson’s Gold Thread Works’, a manufacturer in Preston which produced gold thread and constructed badges and emblems for the military, royal outfits, the White star shipping company and the masons to name but a few.

With this in mind, I wanted to bring in a textile element and to work with reverse applique which would lend itself to the pavement grid design and the different patterned material I wanted to incorporate.

I had previously produced a series of works which were based on protest, emancipation, social justice and trade unions. This investigation culminated in a solo show, Fabric of Society, at the People’s History Museum, Manchester in 2015.


James Fox Sketches

James Fox – Prints

James Fox – Textile art

She was imprisoned eight times, set fire to Lord Leverhulme’s house and splashed paint over a statue of the Earl of Derby in 1912. Using this act of protest I applied a splash pattern and incorporated it into a few designs both printed and embroidered.

Thinking about the Suffragette protest and the methods they used I came up with a design which could be used as a quick method to distribute a protest message in the form of print. I wanted to use images from the suffrage history, the window smashing campaign and Edith Rigby’s cycle through Preston, as well as slogans from the labour movement like ‘Unity is Strength’.

I wanted to bring a contemporary element into this design as well as something slightly more light- hearted, so I used ‘Austerity my arse!’ as a punchy statement on the design. This led me to take this term literally and developed into a cushion which was embellished with piping and embroidery.

James Fox – Textile Art

James Fox – Pillow

Incorporating Preston’s determination through history

During my investigations into the trade union movement and social emancipation, I encountered the suffragette movement in Preston and especially a Preston woman called Edith Rigby who was a key player in the working class struggle and women’s fight for the right to vote. She was the first woman to ride a bike in Preston, where she had eggs thrown at her.

Previously at the People’s History Museum I was struck by how much pride the makers of trade union banners had in the craftsmanship of even the smallest detail in the making of the banners- and the pride felt in all craftsmanship of that time.

While photographing Preston for my fact finding I was drawn to the detail and artistry in a drain cover.

At the time, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party leader had been derided for collecting photographs of drain covers. I used the exact size for the cover I had photographed to make a template to develop three designs to be shown in conjunction with the three screen prints of the tobacco factory.

From this era, there was also a newspaper feature called ‘Spot the Ball’ where you had to find the missing ball from an image of a sporting event, usually football. I combined both of these and called the intended work ‘SPOT THE FALL’.

The guilty stone would be embroidered in gold thread, which would also pay homage to ‘Simpson’s Gold Thread Works’, a manufacturer in Preston which produced gold thread and constructed badges and emblems for the military, royal outfits, the White star shipping company and the masons to name but a few.

With this in mind, I wanted to bring in a textile element and to work with reverse applique which would lend itself to the pavement grid design and the different patterned material I wanted to incorporate.

These textiles would be placed if front of the prints with the words ‘SPOT THE FALL embroidered around the images.

Having fulfilled the requirements of the commission I have been left with a whole new set of destinations to head to on the art bus, and a few new skills to use along the way.

She was imprisoned eight times, set fire to Lord Leverhulme’s house and splashed paint over a statue of the Earl of Derby in 1912. Using this act of protest I applied a splash pattern and incorporated it into a few designs both printed and embroidered.

Thinking about the Suffragette protest and the methods they used I came up with a design which could be used as a quick method to distribute a protest message in the form of print. I wanted to use images from the suffrage history, the window smashing campaign and Edith Rigby’s cycle through Preston, as well as slogans from the labour movement like ‘Unity is Strength’.

The People’s History Museum has been an ideal reference point; I have been utilising their archives and collections to fuel my inspiration further and ultimately to exhibit the results of these investigations and interpretations. In particular, I am inspired by their collection of Trades Union banners, their history, design and construction. The use of textiles to present messages of protest through history has been powerful and enduring, from the intricate and colourful banners of the previous centuries to the hastily daubed instant statement or woven badge.

The People’s History Museum has been an ideal reference point; I have been utilising their archives and collections to fuel my inspiration further and ultimately to exhibit the results of these investigations and interpretations. In particular, I am inspired by their collection of Trades Union banners, their history, design and construction. The use of textiles to present messages of protest through history has been powerful and enduring, from the intricate and colourful banners of the previous centuries to the hastily daubed instant statement or woven badge.

The People’s History Museum has been an ideal reference point; I have been utilising their archives and collections to fuel my inspiration further and ultimately to exhibit the results of these investigations and interpretations. In particular, I am inspired by their collection of Trades Union banners, their history, design and construction. The use of textiles to present messages of protest through history has been powerful and enduring, from the intricate and colourful banners of the previous centuries to the hastily daubed instant statement or woven badge.

The People’s History Museum has been an ideal reference point; I have been utilising their archives and collections to fuel my inspiration further and ultimately to exhibit the results of these investigations and interpretations. In particular, I am inspired by their collection of Trades Union banners, their history, design and construction. The use of textiles to present messages of protest through history has been powerful and enduring, from the intricate and colourful banners of the previous centuries to the hastily daubed instant statement or woven badge.

The People’s History Museum has been an ideal reference point; I have been utilising their archives and collections to fuel my inspiration further and ultimately to exhibit the results of these investigations and interpretations. In particular, I am inspired by their collection of Trades Union banners, their history, design and construction. The use of textiles to present messages of protest through history has been powerful and enduring, from the intricate and colourful banners of the previous centuries to the hastily daubed instant statement or woven badge.

The People’s History Museum has been an ideal reference point; I have been utilising their archives and collections to fuel my inspiration further and ultimately to exhibit the results of these investigations and interpretations. In particular, I am inspired by their collection of Trades Union banners, their history, design and construction. The use of textiles to present messages of protest through history has been powerful and enduring, from the intricate and colourful banners of the previous centuries to the hastily daubed instant statement or woven badge.

The People’s History Museum has been an ideal reference point; I have been utilising their archives and collections to fuel my inspiration further and ultimately to exhibit the results of these investigations and interpretations. In particular, I am inspired by their collection of Trades Union banners, their history, design and construction. The use of textiles to present messages of protest through history has been powerful and enduring, from the intricate and colourful banners of the previous centuries to the hastily daubed instant statement or woven badge.

PEOPLE’S HISTORY MUSEUM

In an exhibition entitled ‘Fabric of Society’, my work was most recently displayed at the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

The initial inspiration for this exhibition stems from my lifelong interest in, and passion for, the representation of human beings in the contexts of work, culture and politics; how they are viewed and how they view themselves.

I have made a series of works which will deal with various topics prompted by this motivation, including the class struggle, imperialism, modern political choices (or the lack of them), whilst using humour and irony to question ideas about expectations regarding gender roles, working life, history and culture and other aspects of our social and personal lives.

The concept of protest underlies all the investigations and resulting imagery in the exhibition. My criteria in choosing the slogans and protest images in my work were initially based around the discovery of early Trades Union banners. However, as my research continued, I found countless slogans, motifs and illustrations which have become instantly recognisable as symbols of protest and which proliferate during times of economic hardship, social injustice and desperate need. They provide their own concise commentary on our shared social history.

Nowadays, we utilise the convenience of social media, instant access to, and redistribution of news in sound bites and photographs, via the myriad of gadgets which enable this instant and ever-changing communication network. However, when people require a high-impact visual show of protest, they still often employ the traditional public demonstration complete with signs, badges, flags and banners displaying their pithy and incisive slogans.

I hope that the visual effect of the exhibition will evoke not only recognition of the broad and far-reaching purposes of protest, but also awareness of the sense of pride in the craftsmanship of the protest message, evident in the traditional union banners. The craftspeople of the past took the task of presenting their message seriously, with great attention to detail, colour and clarity. My aim in this exhibition is to deliver a hard-hitting modern political message using the historical and creative medium of textiles in banners, badges and insignia, whilst maintaining the artisanal aesthetic appearance in the use of font, fabric choice, composition and construction.

My professional development as a textile artist has been enhanced considerably by this opportunity to create work based around such ideology. It follows on creatively from my previous exhibited work on domestic gender roles, social groups and fraternities e.g. criminal gangs who use tattoos as a language of protest and unity, perceptions of individuals or groups based on their appearance, dress and culture.