Collaborating with: Rachel Duckhouse
Rachel Duckhouse is a Glasgow based visual artist working primarily in drawing: mainly focussed on research based projects. Each project often takes the form of an investigation of new landscapes and new drawing or printmaking processes simultaneously.
An important part of Rachel’s developing practice is responding to place and people, which is also a significant part of our own research at Page\Park. These correlations between our working practices have encouraged several creative collaborations in recent years and another currently underway.
Earlier this month, we asked Rachel to share some insight into her processes and evolving practice.
Describe what you make/do?
I make drawings – either works on paper or 3D public art or design commissions – I’d say it’s all drawing. I work on research based projects to explore repeated rhythms, patterns and structures found in different contexts, including landscape, architecture and the flow of water. I seek out flows and forms that can be visually investigated through conversation, archive research, observation and sketchbook drawing, and developed into pen and ink drawings, etchings, or objects. I love to develop line based drawings using geometric abstraction to explore the complexity and beauty of our place within and our perception of the elemental forces of nature.
Where do you source new ideas and inspiration for project briefs?
It’s different on every project, but my favourite way is to physically walk around a place and then see what’s appeared in my mind’s eye later on. It could be a whole or partial architectural structure, like a shopping centre or a broken-down sheep fank that starts things off. I’ll just get a notion to draw it and things start from there. But more often than not it’s through conversation. Someone will be talking about something and it will trigger an image in my head. Then in trying to draw that, something completely different comes out.
If I’m working remotely, books can be a huge inspiration. On a recent project with anOrdain watches in Glasgow, they sent some books on horology which triggered a series of studies on the oscillations and rhythms in mechanical watches.
How important is collaboration to you and your work?
I love working on my own but I also really love collaborating. It’s fascinating to see how other people respond creatively to your idea or drawing and turn it into something it would never have become without their input. Working with people with different technical skills or with specialist knowledge allows my work to shift from paper based drawing into all sorts of materials, scales, and functions, becoming a work that I’m only partly responsible for, which is very freeing. I have to feel like I’m learning something new or exploring a new idea or place, in order to make new work, and collaborating with others is a wonderful way to feel that sense of the unknown, to relinquish control and to listen, learn, respond and experiment with them, to make something unexpected and interesting happen.
What can’t you live without in your studio?
Tea, sketchbook, rapidograph pen, pencil, music.
Which project have you worked on that you learned the most from?
The first ever artist residency I did was the one that continues to influence me the most. It was with Watershed+, led by artist duo Sans Façon, for the City of Calgary. I was embedded within the City’s UEP (Utility and Environmental Protection) department and was asked to develop new work about the city’s relationship to its watershed. It was the first time I made work based on research into something outside my own head, and I’ve been making research based work ever since. I was given time to explore the city, meet people, and learn about the flow of the city’s water, from its source in the Rocky Mountains right through the infrastructure of the city; how that flow changes so dynamically, how it’s managed, what happens when it can’t be controlled, how much we depend on it, and how to think about all this through drawing.
Which project do you feel has been the most important to date?
Designing the entrance gates for Edinburgh Printmakers is a huge highlight for me so far. It was the first time I developed sketchbook drawings into large scale sculptural works. The building was beautifully redeveloped by Suzy O’Leary of Page\Park and I was honoured that the gates formed a functional element of such a fantastic space. Every element of the new building, both exterior and interior works so well together. The heritage of the site and the original material of the building was so well considered and brought back to life. The art commissions were woven into the fabric of the building and used to make connections between its past use as a rubber factory and its new purpose as a printmaking workshop and gallery. I loved that the gates commission was produced in parallel with the whole building project rather than bolted on at the end. I worked with fantastic fabricators Sculpture & Design who provided all the parameters I needed to work within in terms of structural engineering, while I focused on research and development of pen and ink drawings that became a 3D line drawing in powder coated galvanised steel.
I explored the factory’s archives, which included illustrations of workers tending their machines, reminding me of printmakers at their printing presses. Calenders were used to flatten the raw material of rubber into sheets using a series of huge rollers. These cylindrical rolling shapes also appear in traditional and contemporary printmaking practice. Once I realised that this roller shape and movement was the link between past and future production processes on the site, I developed drawings to create a repeat pattern that would work within the functional and visual context of the bi-folding gates.
Find out more about Rachel Duckhouse’s work here including her most recent exhibition of work: The Gathering which includes some of the beautiful monochrome graphic works we have shown within this article.