Creativity slumbers within each of us, you just have to pursue these ideas a little and give your imagination a jolt. You should also keep your eyes open to allow inspiration and conception. Art is timeless, just as there are no prescribed rules, a minimum or maximum age, a condition of academic art training or other certificates. The ideas and creativity come from within yourself, the other elements that are certainly helpful are just building blocks that you can use when the time comes. The artist Beth Williams went her own way and creates beautiful pictures and thought-provoking collages with hidden messages.
She calls herself an Art Student, Designer, Textiles and Mixed Media Creator, Fierce Feminist, Domestic Goddess, Earth Lover and Optimistic Dreamer. An artist from the heart and with a vivid imagination. I became aware of Beth through Instagram and I really liked the way her artwork was presented and documented. Beth describes in great detail and in an entertaining way how she goes about her work and shows in steps what she has created. These are also simple instructions for others to become creative themselves.
In an interview, the artist from Folkstone in the British county of Kent tells us about her stellar and threadbare art, the craft methods she uses and the many ideas that still lie dormant in her. Here is the podcast, the conversation is also in the following part written and peppered with works by Beth.
Explain me a bit more about your art and how you do it.
I am doing a little bit of everything. Mixed Media definitely. I´ve just really started doing it last September when I started art school as a mature student. But actually I´ve been the whole stuff for about 30 years now. I like collages quite a lot and I didn´t realize that was a valid off room until just recently. So that´s good and I´ve been doing that for quite a while.
The way how people or creatives going into the art can be very different. Some start studying art after school and others are doing the art for a while and add an university education afterwards.
Yes, I am really enjoying all of the research which is involved. That´s quite cool and I am learning a lot of new things. I have as well to refresh my memories about things that I´ve already learned. There is a lot of scope for individuality on my course which is really good. I am really enjoying that.
I came across your artworks via Instagram and I really liked how you documented your doings. It is as well part of the study, you have to make this maps, but it is as well a kind of explanation how you are doing it yourself. You put in all the materials and all the little steps of the development of the creation.
Yes, I’m kind of using it as a diary. I like to show people on what I´m working on. I never was used to do that at all, because everything I worked on was very personal and just for me, friends or close members of my family. Instagram is a way of showing people what I am doing. I like to have a bit fun with it as well. And then it is kind of lazy in a way because the stuff that I am putting on Instagram there I can get my lecturers to have a look at. So I don´t have to be looking for my sketchbook which is good. And I was told that people liked to see the stories behind the bits of artwork. That´s what I am really doing now. I never used Instagram seriously until this year. So it´s like a fresh page for me and it´s new tool that I am learning how to use as well. So that´s good. I like to document the stuff and I like what you said about the constructional part so that other people can look at it and can do it too. Some of the stuff is quite simple but really effective.
You have a lot of smart nice little ideas which I haven´t seen before. For example your Blue Series, the ones with space and the sky. They are nine I think. There you combined threads, some texture and you made constellations of stars. Did you sew it on the canvas?
Yes, I did. That was with embroidery thread and some little bits I used to make the stars. I just like playing around with stuff and I really enjoy doing that. I liked the idea of stitching into the canvas itself to make it 3d and textural. And then my sister came in to school with me and did a embroided Haley´s Comet for me. That looks amazing! Those were the materials I have been playing around with for quite some time. Now I´ve got an outlet to get them out of my system I suppose. I am creating these things which I had in my head for the last twenty years or so. That´s good! I am really enjoying the opportunity to do it. And I am glad people like it too.
And you like bees? There are some artworks with bees.
Yes, I do like bees. Yes, quite a lot. That was one of the first projects, the bee project, that we had to do at university. And I didn´t really know what to do. So I just stuck with something that I liked and printed some honeycombs. Then I took it from there and there is the “Push the Matriarchy” slogan that I used to tie it with the bees. There is the fact that the bee hives predominately female and they work really well. That was in a direct response to the slogan “Smash the Patriarchy”. Every time we mention the patriarchy we will give it a voice, so maybe we should just stop mentioning the patriarchy and push the matriarchy instead. So I tied the two things together and it works quite well. I put it on shopping bags and t-shirts with my slogan now. That´s pretty cool.
You started already putting some messages into the artworks. Some people just paint and copy landscapes or try only to make a visual effect like with abstract art. But you have like a second layer, there is the picture and when you look closer and think a bit about it, you can find some message and some more about it.
Yes, that is exactly what I want. I love hidden messages. I really like to have to think about a piece. Also if you don´t want to think about it, you can also just look at it and like how it looks like, because you think it´s really cool. But if you take your time to study it and to think about it further on, you will find a lot. I like the layering of that and I like messages that only a few people would pick up on. It´s like a “if you know than you know” kind of thing. I like that and I like as well the hidden language behind things. So I try to get a bit of that in there. I suppose anyone can make something that looks good or can try it. But if it looks good and makes you think about stuff at the same time, that´s even better.
Tell me a little bit about the study. At which university or school is it hold?
I am studying at the Edge Creative School of Business and Design. There I have some wonderful teachers, Nick and Jacky. They are amazing. At the moment I am doing an extended diploma which is the equivalent of AAA levels apparently. And I probably should have done that years ago, but I have been busy having babies and growing human beings into good people. So the time was right to do it now. And it´s good, I am very enjoying it. Folkstone itself is a really developing area of the country. We have the Creative Quarter which has been active in Folkstone for the last fifteen years and we are a hotbed of creatives and artists. There is a lot going on in Folkstone artwise, so I figured now would be a good time to jump on this bandwagon. It seems to be going alright so far. As well at the moment I am doing a podcast and that is quite exciting, I´ve never done that before.
Some people like to do art for their hobby or in their free time, but you went a lot more steps further. You started studying it, you really go into theory and you spend a lot of time with it. So what are your plans, when you have finished the diploma?
I think I should probably go and study a higher level. I would quite like to see that. My mum would be very excited if I got my degree. And this at an age of fourtysomething. I am going to look into that now and I desperately need some studio space. Because I have taken over the whole flat with equipment. I have boxes of stuff in my various lofts for the last twenty years, so I need somewhere to really get all that out properly and start using that all. I am quite excited about getting boxes out and finding equipment I forgotten I had. And I would just like to centralize it all and have more space to do work.
A shared working place would be possible. Did you think as well about renting an atelier with others together? Because that would be cheaper and easier.
Yes, that is definitely something I am going to look into. I think my sister could probably need some space as well to do the artworks she creates. So yes, it is definitely worth considering. And that is one of the really good things about being in Folkstone. They support new artists, there is studio space and new studio space is being created all the time for people to rent and work from. So it is a really good place right now. I´m hoping to take advantage of that once I´ve finished. I am not sure really, but I would like to be able to make a living out of it. I need to support my family as well, because now I am supported by my family. If I can make some financial gain on the things that I create that would be good.
About the educational part, are there possibilities at the university that you get courses like in social media or marketing or how you can put on a website? These necessary wisdoms for artists besides doing the art about how to promote the own art and work.
Yes, there definitely is. There are all these kind of courses. There is film production, multimedia, there is a computer games department as well. There is also some stuff that I probably should look into a bit further. I am quite focused on my course at the moment which is “Art and Creative Design”. They do sort of encourage you to look at it from a viewpoint how you can make money from this. So it´s not fine art. It´s definitely with skills you can take into the grown up world I suppose.
Most of the artist I think would say they hate this part of self promoting and they would prefer if somebody else could do it, so they can do what they love and spend the time with just doing the art. But unfortunately you have to learn all those skills as well. You have to know how to work with Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or how a website works. And often this takes a lot of time.
Yes, it´s really surprising as well the amount of time you do have to spend on the self promotion. I am currently working two days a week with a wonderful designer called Heather Owl. I started working with her back in October 2019 and one of the reasons she was taking an intern on was because quite a lot of her time in the studio was taken up with self promotion and contacting people and finding stockiest or arranging the different fairs she does and the workshops. That takes just a lot of time and really she would quite like only keep on working on her products which she is making herself. It is definitely a lot of hard work which is again one of the reasons why I am using Instagram. Because if I can get into the habit of doing that now, then when I have finished my study and I am actually trying to make a living out of this I am already in the habit of self promotion I suppose which isn´t something I have done ever before ever. I am quite a shy person I think. All of my friends would probably laugh about that.
I am looking at the Instagram photos here and it looks like you made for each project like a little small magazine. You show how you made it, you wrote a little bit and described everything. Is this part of the study to make these step by step explanations for the sketchbook?
Yes, it is. You have to show your workings out basically. So the exam body and my tutors they want to know how we have come up with our final pace. We are supposed to experiment along the way and show our research. We have to do add all the references, so every little image that goes into my sketchbook I have document who was it by and when was it made. Any quotes that I put in I have to sight and I have forgotten to do that for this particular project. So I spend just the last days backtracking and putting in the references, because you get also marked on that. And actually I am really enjoying filling my sketchbooks, which I´ve done like two now. It´s getting really intimidating when you get a brand new sketchbook and it is empty. The pages are beautiful and clean and I sometimes don´t know where to start to put stuff in, but once I´ve started I really enjoy it. It´s like scrapbooking. I like to keep a lots of bits to put in there to show my experimentation I suppose. It is really satisfying to see what you have done. I am definitely enjoying the sketchbook process.
Somewhere you wrote about the Blue Series that you didn´t expect that it would be like that in the end. Did you have from the beginning the idea that you would make something from space and then you did the research for the star constellation?
Yes, kind of. I had virtual sketchbooks in my head full of ideas for the last twenty years. So I´ve been sort of steadily working them through and I am using the courses as an excuse to get them out. To get the ideas out. And I´ve always been fascinated with space itself and the fact that it is so vast. The series with the pieces where I started to stitch into the canvases, the center one there with the tiny blue button, that is supposed to represent planet earth. I was inspired to do that by a photograph that was taken by the Voyager probe that they send up in 1977. When it was like 4 billion miles away from earth it turned around and took a photograph of planet earth. And earth is just a tiny little speck of dust surrounded by this vast amount of empty space. I think if we consider our place in the universe a bit more then humanity as a species might be able to practice a bit more humility and be a little bit more kinder to each other. So in the Blue Series that I´ve just done I really wanted to put this across. We are a tiny insignificant speck of dust floating around in this huge, vast, wonderful, beautiful, mostly empty space. And we shouldn´t take ourselves too seriously. That is what it was about.
I did it on the canvases because my original idea was to do a big giant wall hanging made out of fabric and lots of bits which I gathered over the years attached to the artwork to make it 3d, shiny and beautiful. But I run out of time and didn´t have enough fabric. So luckily my exam body they like it when you change your mind halfway through a project, but as long as you can explain why you changed your mind. They were okay with that, so I sort of scaled it down a little bit and did the series of nine small canvases with the different constellations and the comet and the planets. For my next project I am going big on it because I have a lot more time to do it and I can gather a lot more fabric to do it. But what I was saying before about the hidden messages, so those nine canvases were really good together. They are all sparkly and shiny and the blues are really beautiful. And there is a little clue on one of the canvases which says you are here with an arrow. I wanted people to read that and think, oh, we are actually just tiny and insignificant. That might help people think about that a bit more.
You finished this one with the stars, is there another project coming? What is the idea for the next one?
I am going to use the same topic so “The Pale Blue Dot” is the name of the photograph that inspired me to make those pieces. And I am going be continuing that into my next project, but I am going be doing it a lot bigger. I am toying with the idea introducing more text into the piece. I´ve just recently got into Jenny Houser in a big way. I love her truisms and her survival series. I think there is a lot of scope to take inspiration from her along with the similar lines that humans should be nicer to each other. Live would be a lot better for everybody if we could just get over ourselves and act like decent human beings. For all of us. So I wanted to incorporate the part that we are insignificant into the we should be nice kind of thing. I want to develop that a bit further but I´ve got another whole year to go after this year and I have still so much to say and to get out of my system and different things as well. I am very interested in the symmetry of the microcosm and the macrocosm, so I would like to study sacred geometry, spirals, seashells and galaxies.
It will stay interesting and there will be coming a lot more exciting artworks from you.
Yes, hopefully. I definitely think so. At least I am interested in it! I am curious and I haven´t worked it all out yet. So I will keep you all posted on my Instagram page.
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