Photographic artist Mary Woolf shares her creative process

Photographic artist Mary Woolf has been commissioned by FrancisKnight on behalf of Craven District Council to design boundary signage for the Great Places Lakes and Dales public art project.  We asked Mary to tell us what motivates her practice and why research is such an important part of this process.

A photographic artist currently living and working in Settle, North Yorkshire, Mary moved to Horton-in-Ribblesdale in 2016 after achieving a first class honours degree in photographic arts from the University of Westminster. Mary's work explores ideas surrounding perception and experience, in addition to pushing the boundaries of photography as a medium. She says, "My aim is to inspire people to look a little bit closer at their surroundings - to take more notice of the experience of being in a place."

Her creative process always starts with research. "My art comes from an informed background, and my research encompasses a wide range of sources of inspiration and information, from academic essays to popular culture. Part of what motivates me as an artist is my desire to learn, and to share my experience of the world.  This inspired my 2016 Yorkshire Dales series. It took me a year to only fractionally share my experience of living in Horton-in-Ribblesdale for seven months, and the research resulted in other projects inspired by the shifting light and colours of the unique landscape, shaping my current creative processes."

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Mary continues, "I started questioning my relationship to photography and to this landscape. I began questioning the nature of photography itself: what a photograph actually is. Light and colour are one and the same: light cannot exist without colour and colour cannot exist without light. What we see as colour is the process of light interacting with everything around it. A photograph, by definition, is light captured and recorded by a photo-sensitive (light-sensitive) surface. In my case the photo-sensitive surface was the sensor in my digital camera.  So if you were to isolate the colours out of the information from a digital camera’s sensor, you are still making photographs, but not in the way we have come to expect. Using these ideas, I worked digitally to create what became the series The Yorkshire Dales. I built up these images that portrayed my experience of this landscape by drawing out the colours that I noticed. It was almost like digital screen printing on top of a photograph, building up these layers of colour."

This has become Mary's philosophy for creating her photographic art.  "It is why I say my art is rooted in the photographic, even if it doesn’t look like it on the surface, and why I insist on being called a photographic artist, not a photographer. Since moving to the Dales, I have continued working on representing the place using this philosophy of image making, including the Craven District Council signage project, which will be installed in September 2019."

The first public showing of some of this new work will be part of Mary's first solo exhibition at Gallery on the Green, in Settle, from July to September 2019.

You can find out more about Mary here

To read the extended version of this article, please go to

marybooks       marygreen       maryshelf

Wonder-ful creative workshops for local children at Conningbrook Lakes

A series of public art workshops involving local schoolchildren are being held at Conningbrook Lakes in Ashford which celebrate the location's unique environment.  The workshops are part of a public art strategy which we have organised on behalf of The Chartway Group Ltd, Latimer Developments Ltd and Ashford Borough Council.

Seed Journeys, organised by artist collective Outdoor Studios for Kennington Primary School pupils, took place on 7th May, led by artist Laura Thomas.  Informed by the work of commissioned artist Julia Clarke, the pupils used mini-journals to record the seed journeys, and natural soil pigments and found materials to draw or write with, before learning Hapa Zome, a printing method to make fabric images of plants. 

The photographs are testament to the inspiring creative responses of the children participating and the sense of wonder and engagement the event generated. 

There are further workshops in June and we can't wait to see the outcomes. 

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GUEST BLOG Lakes and Dales re-imagined

I am lucky enough to be involved in the Great Places Lakes and Dales project with consummate professionals FrancisKnight, and accompanied them on a site visit last week.  The amazing varied palette of colours and textures, and inspiring people, have brought out a surprising creativity in me, too!

Through rain and mist, sunshine and snow, we moved through ever-changing landscapes; from green satiny pillows of fields, ribboned with silvery drystone walls and tufted with sheep; to smooth slate twisted trunks sprouting from bright green moss, with a green haze of anticipated leaf burst against purple grey earth and rust coloured bracken.

The beauty and magic of the landscape are reflected in the abundance of natural creative activity, from lounge room gigs and paper bridges to creating gardens, ecosystems and functional living spaces - transforming the quotidian to the unexpected, a wonderful surprise around every corner.  As one person we interviewed said: it is about thinking differently about what we do, turning perceptions upside down, recognising creativity in the everyday and taking it to other places. 

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Photographs and words by Fran Toomey


FrancisKnight Spring Newsletter

FrancisKnight were asked to present the Chatham Placemaking Project by Rother District Council, as part of a two day workshop focused on the public realm of Bexhill Town Centre.

The presentation took place at the De La Warr Pavilion against the backdrop of a calm sea and included the appearance of the sun... With this anticipation of Spring just around the corner Our Spring Newsletter highlights our public art projects and continues the theme of new shoots and creative developments.


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A Valentine's Day Love Letter from Francisknight

Developing working relationships with clients requires time, energy and commitment.  Sometimes, it can feel one sided, like unrequited love, and as we hit Valentine's Day I'm going to reflect on my tenacious pursuit of clients that are paying me to work on their behalf.  It can be an awkward relationship. I can feel ignored and forgotten and I don't enjoy having to literally hound an answer out of the client.  I would much rather spend my time doing the job than persistently ringing/emailing and texting someone.  I know in my personal life I would never continue with such a one-way relationship.  Of course, with a rational head on, I realise the client is probably extremely busy and public art, and the decisions associated with it, may be low down on their daily agenda. 

Contracts can be a hard win but I know our business, FrancisKnight, brings tremendous benefits and value to a project. We take the stress out of a planning condition by finding the right artist, commissioning stunning art and making developments look amazing. Which means we provide fantastic collateral with research, good news stories and genuine engagement with the community. What’s not to love?  

Effective working relationships are a match made in heaven. It’s always such a joy when a client gets it, responds, feeds back – when they are genuinely interested in what public art can help deliver. We love those clients and the feeling is mutual. 

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Thanks to Julia Clarke, one of our artists working on Conningbrook Lakes, for the willow heart.

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