Friday, 31 August 2012

Assignment 1 - and my intentions for the next few weeks

Choosing what to send off to my tutor for Assignment 1 has made me think about what I've learned and achieved on this course so far in a slightly different way. Perhaps I should have done the choosing before I wrote my reflective piece.

To start with, I thought I was going to send my whole sketchbook, because of being unsure whether I was doing it 'right' (again!). But actually I think I am doing OK with it, while being very aware that these are early days for me in this artistic mode and I don't want to send in pages which I am not satisfied with to some extent, or the ones I did on days when I had only 3 minutes and dashed off something without really focussing. (Even if those days teach me something or open up a new area for exploration). I am enjoying playing with images and ideas, and trying out new things all the time. There's always something to add to the infinite list of things I want to try out.

So in the end I sent off the pages which were directly related to the course work exercises, and whatever was on the adjacent pages to that.

Visual Workbook
I am aware of making choices every day about what I am going to do in my visual workbook - choices which will take me down the path towards my own personal style. I think sometimes I am choosing to rework an image which is already there ready rather than work on a new one. And I am also aware of how many interesting images and ideas and new techniques are just sitting there waiting to be chosen. I don't want to narrow myself down too soon in the course, so I intend to deliberately choose the new thing rather than the familiar one for a while.

Reading List
Thinking about what might be missing from my assignment, I am aware that I haven't read as much of the book list as I thought I would in the last 6 weeks. I have 'The Textile Book' and 'Textiles Today' which I have dipped into but not read through. I also have the 'Colour Workshop for Artists and Designers' and intend to read the long introduction in the next week to inform my doing the colour exercises.

I still haven't signed up for an art school library - I intend to do that this week if I can. Particularly because what I saw of 'The Art of Colour' made me want very much to spend a day looking through it.

Studying great artists
And if I'm going to get through anywhere near the number of artists to investigate I will have to get moving on that too. (I realise this isn't a prescribed list but my early investigations of Uccello and the mark-making session showed me quite how much could learn by doing it.) The obvious ones to go for during the colour section of the course, from my position of ignorance at least, are the impressionists, Mondrian and Rothko. (Are they even on the list?)

I had been hoping for a textiles study visit soon, and was excited to see the Thomas Heatherington design exhibition at the V&A is the next one. I had felt rather frustrated when I went to the fashion exhibit there recently because it looked intriguing and possibly enlightening but I didn't have time to get to it that day. I have signed up and I'm looking forward to it.

Studying contemporary textile artists
I had a look at some of the other textile students' learning logs today, and found a reference to a textile artist called Linda Hutchins who uses light delicate fabrics to make representations of heavy things  - like a hammer. A quick look at her website shows me that her aesthetic is intriguing and I think I should look into her work more too.

Linda Hutchins (from
Detail of Fall 2008 organza, thread

Presenting my work professionally
And finally, I enjoyed working out how to present my assignment in a 'professional' way. I loved the way my embroidered pieces looked all ironed and labelled. But as this was an afterthought I could do better at it next time.

Timing/ deadlines
I'm thinking that the colour section could take me another 6 weeks, taking me to mid-October. This has to be flexible though. My experience of the first section was that I got a lot out of each part, and wanted to do more of most of them. I should leave myself the option of doing that.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Canadian textures

We are in Canada visiting relatives. I haven't been doing my sketchbook every day, which has resulted in my losing the creative head that I have lived with and enjoyed for the last 6 weeks. What I mean is that when I was doing it every day I felt inspired by many things every day, noticed more, and tended to wake up with new ideas about what I was doing or could do. The loss of this has shown me how powerful the sketchbook is as a tool and trigger for inspiration.

I have been able to take some photos of things that struck me as being interesting to look at, that I will be adding to my collection at home. Some of them are here.

A snail trail on an old wooden step in Madison Avenue, Toronto.
I like the way the grain of the wood is revealed 'negatively' in all its detail by the passage of the snail.
It reminds me of Turkish painting because of the unexpected level of detail. 

A rock in the very clear green water of Georgian Bay.
I liked the combination of the shapes and colours of the rocks, and the distortion of the waves overlaid.
And the colours add another layer of subtelty.

I am standing on a block of concrete in Kelso Beach Park in Owen Sound, Ontario.
 I found the swirling waves of parallel lines kept me fascinated,
and the vertical lines superimposed on them were surprising
and looked 3 D even though they I knew they were not.

The gusts of wind add an extra layer of ripples to Lake Huron, making it look like elephant skin.

This plant had leaves that lined up evenly along the branches
at the same angle as the one above so they looked almost artificial.

Lichen on a wall.
As a result of the last few exercises in creating textures on this course,
I am interested in what happens at the transitions between textured areas.
This photo and the rock surface below are photos I took as examples of this
for me to use in my workbook to work on this.  

Surface of a rock beside the boat launch at Big Bay, Ontario.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Stage 6 Sampler finished. And reflection on this Textiles 1 project

Review and reflection for this project:
I find that the questions given at the end of the section are very much the ones I am thinking about in my head....

Can you begin to see the relationship between stitching and drawing?
Yes. I was surprised that the first exercises were drawing ones, and that the whole course was so much like a general art foundation course at the beginning. On reflection this reassured me that this course was what I had hoped for - an art course with textiles as the materials used more often than not. The result of translating drawings into textiles was not immediately obvious, however, and I suppose this must be different for every textile artist. For me the initial session of this with the lines was a little confusing, it being so engrained that lines of stitches should be done in a certain way. Once I had moved beyond this, however, I found a whole new world of possible ways of expressing drawn lines in stitches. Working on further, the texture sessions were again perplexing at first, because I had never done stitching in quite that way before.

I am only just understanding that different stitches and layers of stitches can reflect such different drawn effects and that this is the basis of different styles and impact of embroidery work.  that stitching is an elaboration of the drawing, an extra layer of abstraction a bit like the abstractions when I draw or paint inspired by an old drawing. Stitching from a drawing also allows for extra qualities to be brought in (or brought out) with the kind of yarn I use and the way that I use it. It can intensify the feeling of sharpness or lightness, or softness for example, or the complexity of the finished image (when it works). I have become powerfully aware of how much experimentation and recording I will have to do to become slightly proficient with some of these techniques!

Were you able to choose stitches which expressed the marks and lines of your drawings?
I enjoyed working out which stitches would do that. For the flower/ dandelion head sample I liked the way the exercise made me vary the kind of stitch I did and this resulted in it being a lot more interesting to look at when it was finished.

For the marbled example, I started with the spikiness, which meant lots of linear stitches, but quickly had to find stitches to fill in the arches above them, and I tried out a few different ways of doing this - some more successful than others. I think that in some ways the more risks I took with that the better it expressed what I was aiming for. For example I wasn't at all sure about couching with fraying strips of fabric, but once it was there the frayed eneds did a good job of expressing the floating in the waves feeling I was hoping for. I found that the combination of a variety of different stitches in the middle section, with some of the colours overlapping, did a good job of making it complex and coral-like, without, I hope, losing the rhythms of the arch pattern.

My final sampler for this section of the course, referred to as the 'marbled example'.

Did you choose the right source material to work from?
When I had started the flower/ dandelion one I thought I had made a mistake in choosing it as it was representational so I thought it was not allowing me as much freedom as a more abstract detail would have done. Because of that I did a second sample of tabby cat stripes taken from an old master drawing, which gave me more freedom in one way, but did not inspire me to try out new things in the way that the other one had. I think they were both successful in that I learned and tried out new things,  but the dandelion one was more so for me as it led me into a whole new area (of transparent work) that I had not thought of before. Did it do the job it was meant to for the exercise? Very much so - In the sense of making me think about linear stitching; encouraging me to experiment; and working towards finding my own particular style.

The marbling piece I chose, even though it wasn't a 'drawing' as instructed, because it was what I was feeling most interested in exploring further on the day I decided. And because it had good shapes, more than one area to work on, and a reasonable variety of colours. (Most of my drawings are grey-scale). I enjoyed working on it, and learned a lot about using different stitches for texture. t has made me want to explore the use of stitches for texture more, and especially this interesting use of different layers of different stitches. I also think that while some of it works well, there are some aspects that I need to work on - most particularly the light floatiness that is in the source material but comes out as heavy and sharp in the sample. So I have to say that I think it was good source material to choose for this exercise.

Do you think your sample works well irrespective of the drawing? Or is it merely a good interpretation of the drawing?
I think the sampler is interesting in its own fight. In fact I think it adds something tactile to the flatness of the marbling pattern that makes it look more like rather hard and sharp in waves - like a large shel for example. There is more detail to look at than in the picture - perhaps because in the back of my mind I had some ideas about sea creatures while I was making it (although I did not do this deliberately). I wasn't sure while I was making it that I was doing anything but translating it into stitches, and I was a little worried that it would end up looking bland. But once I got to the middle sections I felt freer in my experimentation and saw that it would be more than that.

Which did you prefer - working with stitch to create textures or working with yarns to make textures? Which worked best for you and why?

I liked using different thicknesses of yarn in all the samplers, starting with the first. And especially with the very matt yarns I used right at the beginning of this project. The differences in shininess were more problematic for me - I don't particularly like the way it draws attention to the line of stitches so brazenly. I don't know if I will be able to learn to make it more subtle. I certainly need to work on it.

Of the texture pieces based on drawings, I think the blanket stitch one of my hand drawing was the most successful, and I used that later to decide to what to do in the middle of the marbled one. the one relating to the drawing of a felted eggcup didn't work because I wasn't responding to the feeling of the texture but the shape of it, and didn't experiment enough. The grey one based on the bedcover worked all right, but I didn't leave enough room between the diagonal lines to allow the satin stitch beneath to show through. I think this one is worth trying again sometime because it's interesting to look at and very tactile.

Around the edges of the marbled piece, when I was working on the spikes, I was confined to linear stitches for much of it, and had to use the qualities of the yarn more to make the texture. (Although I tried using other stitches I dont' think those bits worked so well for the spikes). In the other parts of the sampler I found that the yarn I used didn't matter nearly as much as I thought, and I very much enjoyed using different stitches to make different textures. It was exciting to see the results of different combinations or different forms of the same stitch.

I also enjoyed the way different yarns gave different feels, volumes and intensities to the stitches in the other samples, but overall I think the potential for variety and complexity is greater with the different stitches and that is what I like to look at myself.

Makes some comments on individual techniques and sample pieces. Did you experiment enough? Did you feel inhibited in any way?
For the tabby stripes sample in green, I was a little worried about putting small close satin stitches and beaded lines in the same piece, having previously believed that stitches and yarns of similar size went together better. I found that I need not be as restrictive in future! I particularly liked the way the individual chain stitches looked and want to use that, and the beading again.

I particularly liked the way the rows of fly stitches in diamonds looked like coral. And how it worked well to have Van Gogh swirls of running stitch in the middle of the marbled piece. The rows of chain stitches at the top of some of the arches didn't work so well because it was too rough and hard-looking for the place it was in.

I did some experimentation but would like to do some more because I would like a broader vocabulary of stitches and yarns to draw from, and it would be helpful to have more idea of the final effect before I choose what to do (at least some of the time). I found it difficult at the beginning of each exercise to allow myself to experiment much, because of wondering what was the 'right' thing to do. Each time it took me a little while to work out that the lack of specific instructions was deliberate to allow creative experimentation, and during the delay I did feel inhibited by this. Looking at other students' blogs and at the inspiring books on the reading list (particularly the Double Trouble ones) helped to overcome this.

Do you prefer to work from a drawing or by playing with materials and yarns to create effects?
I am surprised to find myself preferring to work from drawings now. Those exercises have produced far more interesting results for me. I found the exercises playing with materials quite difficult to relax into. I think this was because I was aware that millions of needlewomen have done the same thing before. My inhibitions tended to reduce when I persisted with these exercises, but I am still not entirely comfortable doing them.

The exercises I did from a drawing more obviously don't have a 'right' answer, which makes it easier for me to experiment. With a drawing I found my imagination and intuition coming into play more, and I woke up with ideas about how to do particular parts of it. This is even true when I have no drawing but a mental picture ( but this is less effective than having a drawing to refer to repeatedly).

I think there is obviously value in experimenting with yarns and materials, but I find this easier and more natural when I have a drawing to give me a look and a feeling to aim for.

Are there other techniques you would like to try? Are there any samples you would like to do in a different way? 
I have been thinking that I would like to try out some different ways of gathering fabric with stitches.

And do more samples, including samples of more than one layer of stitching in different colours or stitches, so that I can make myself more reference samples to use when I try something new. I have made a sample already of cretan stitches relating to some work I am doing in my sketchbook, and intend to do more of this.

I would also like to try out some transparent yarn to see what it looks like when it is used in various stitches.

I haven't done much with very thick yarns but I think it might be useful to me as  I have been looking at bark and roots a lot recently, which have a much thicker stronger quality than my samples.

I have already mentioned in the sections above a few things in the samples that I would like to do differently. As well as those, now I am better at French knots I may try doing the felted eggcup again. I think the rice grain stitches in the middle of the marbled piece needed to be bigger and more evenly spaced, in order to reveal the negative pattern I was hoping for there.

Is there anything you would like to change in your work? I so, make notes for future reference.
I am not sure about the combination of colours in the last sampler. The turquoise seems too strong for the other colours. I am happy to see that the next section of the course is about colour as I don't feel very confident about using it. I like the way this sampler has a rhythm or pattern to it, and I think that is something that generally appeals to me, but I am not sure how to do it without becoming boring or too constrained by it.

Something I am aware of wanting to change is my tendency to rush in and use whatever I have to hand,  rather than taking the time to get materials that are just right.  Even though this has serendipitously resulted in showing me new ways to do things, it generally ends up making the outcome less what I had envisaged than necessary.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Tutor email

christina rogers
to Charlotte
Dear Charlotte

1. I have reached the end of 6 weeks and the eve of my holiday and I
have a couple more things to do before sending things off to you. So I
am writing to tell you to expect my Assignment 1 package to arrive on
or before 3rd September. Thank you for the flexibility.

2. Would it be possible to get a letter from you confirming that I am
enrolled on this course and would benefit from access to an art school
library to pursue my studies? I am hoping that would allow me to get a
readers ticket.

3. A different sort of question - Are you aware of any textile artist
who is particularly known for using transparent materials?

I hope you enjoy your holiday,
- Show quoted text -
[Message clipped]Download entire message
11 days ago
Show details
Charlotte Grierson
to me
Dear Christina
Attached is a letter from me confirming that I am tutoring you on this course.  I don't have access to OCA letterhead paper.  If the letter I have attached is not sufficient I suggest you contact OCA and get them to send you a letter on headed paper.  Probably Adele Fitzpatrick or Debbie Hodson would be the people to contact.  

In relation to transparent materials, there is a book by Dawn Thorne called 'Transparency in Textiles' which would be a good place to start.  I know I have seen the book and from memory it is of the inspirational sort containing a range of artists who work in transparency.  This would be a good place to start.  Dawn has a website with a limited amount of information but there is also this website that has artists listed in connection with the book.  I think not all are working in transparency but again a good place to start.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Stage 6 Sampler - half done

Doing the textures sampler using my favourite marbling sample and the colours of yarn I picked in the same proportions. I found I was not going to have nearly enough of the yarns so I found some more in the same colours - including some more yarn I made by making strips of fabric. I found myself getting excited about using non-embroidery yarns. I thought about doing it on hessian, as the instructions suggested a strong fabric, but after looking some more at the marbling sample I saw that would not at all be in keeping with the texture of the thing. Between the stitches cannot be rough like that, or dark coloured, or it will lose its essential light floatiness.

Initially I was sewing more or less along the lines and using the colours of the picture I was working from. And trying to fill in some of the background of the parts I thought I wanted to do more textured stuff. I got a little worried that i was using more lines than textures. I started doing some patches in parallel chain stitches, and the curve of the shape meant that they were of diminishing size. Just doing this helped me feel more free to experiment with the different ways of doing it.

For me this work seems to be a tension between fear of doing something that looks rubbish versus trying out new and interesting things. The kind of yarn I use does influence what the texture stitches looks like, but less so than I had thought, and doing texture stitches in different kind of yarns has less influence on the final product than which stitch I choose to do. I thought the couched silk strips would look odd but although they are shaggy, I like that, and it doesn't look as different as I expected.

This is as far as I've got with this before leaving on holiday

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Matching colours to a drawing

I spent some sketchbook time today trying out marbling from the book Arteffects by Jean Drysdale Green (pub 1993 Watson-Guptill Publications NY). A great book which gives you the basic necessary information to try hundreds of new ways of making marks and textures, with no waffle and with pictures for everything. And it has a practical playfulness to it that really encourages me to get my hands dirty and try out new things.

It took a few tries to get the right combination of paper and thickness of wallpaper paste, but in the end it worked beautifully and I started feeling I had a little control over the result. I scanned the most sea urchin- like one of them into the computer and used picmonkey to alter them in various ways. Some of which I can see could have potential for future playing around. I particularly liked one called 'edifice' which merges the image with a  wall with peeling plaster on it. Lots of texture there. And was surprised to find that the simplification of the image by 'posterize' produced a satisfying image, and 'sepia' made something that looked contoured. I stuck my favourite ones into my sketchbook along with the other marbling samples.

Yellow marbling 

Looking at them again I saw how interesting the lines were, and how very spikey the spikes. I played around with them for a while in my work book.

I haven't really written much in this learning log about the work I am doing in that book, even though it has rather taken over recently. I have found myself getting into the 15 minutes a day to the extent that it has sometimes become a couple of hours. I have found myself waking up with ideas in my head for what to do, or an image to be represented in there. Some of my previous drawings/ studies/ photographs have taken on new relevance in the new objects in my head. I have always done this to a certain extent, but never so consistently recorded the progress of my imagination. And of course this process has been accelerated by working on it outside my head every day and following through with this course work. I feel as if there were a river of ideas fluxing through my head. I could draw that!

I find that my unconscious works on things I have seen and done and felt until there is a fairly rounded but indistinctly detailed image hanging there. The most obvious theme at the moment is the repeated reappearance of thick spheres, often spikey, hiding something inside. The image of the texture of that sphere, and what the inside looks like, is becoming clearer to me. But what's inside is confusingly a pile of newspapers or glass slides. Odd.

I have diverted myself. I was going to write about matching colours to the yellow marbled picture of what I have called a sea urchin. I am assuming that this kind of distraction - by my imagination working hard to create something - is to be followed through, as long as it doesn't stop me doing the coursework.

At first I wondered if I would have all the right colours I needed, or might have to go to the haberdashers again (what a shame that would be!).  But I found the first few colours easily in my colour bags. And the more I looked at this picture made from only 3 colours of ink, the more colours I saw in it. I went on and on until I got to the turquoise and found I had no yarns to match. I didn't want to wait till I could go shopping, and I cut up an old piece of fabric I had dyed long ago in those colourss. Initially the thickness of the strips was too much, and the colour looked too intense, but when I cut them thinner it looked just right.

I wasn't sure how to guestimate the relative proportions of each colour, and eventually plumped for copying the example in the coursework by wrapping the yarns round a bamboo stick. (Rather less tidily than the example!)
The colours of the ink are much greener in this photo than in reality - see the scanned version above - and the contrast with the dark background and relatively low light levels means you can't see the colours of the dark greens and purples at the bottom of the photo.  I need to pay more attention to these things with my photos, even if I can't fix the colours on my computer.
This exercise has certainly started me looking more closely at colours, and making me aware that I've a long way to go in developing my perception and understanding of them. I had a surf on the internet and found a copy of 'The Art of Colour' by Itten (pub Otto Major Verlag Regensberg Germany 1961 and 1973) which I could look inside a few pages of. It looked really interesting, and for a large expensive German beautifully photographed book it was remarkably easy to read. I will have to find a library that has a reference copy so I can spend a day browsing through it.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Inspired to Stitch

I decided to look for contemporary textile artist on the internet today, and found it difficult because there isn't any quality control, for example like going through galleries for painters. So I looked for a book and found one called Inspired to Stitch by Diana Springall 2005 A&C Black Publ. Ltd. It won a Textile Book Award in 2006, and I found it a good inspiring read, about 21 British Artists with lots of good pictures of their work. I was pleased to recognise the work of two of them from the Embroiderers Sketchbooks book on the reading list - it was like having a couple of friends in the room. There were two others who particularly interested me visually - Rachel Quarmby and Dawn Bates.

There was some discussion in this book about the status of textile art as an invisible art, and its position straddling the art/craft boundary, reminding me of something I read in one of the other set books about how textiles are both ubiquitous and disregarded, and the relationship between this and our historical male dominated culture. I am a little reluctant to engage with this idea, as I do not want to be caught up in other peoples' bitterness or chippiness about it, while appreciating that there may well be a lot of truth in this interpretation. (Although I can think of male-dominated arts which are not valued too).

I don't want my pleasure in exploring and creating to be tainted by the idea that it is less worthy in some peoples' eyes than other art forms. I guess if I ever get to the point of wanting my work to be valued by others, then it will become a problem for me too. But in the meantime I intend to skim over those bits of the narrative. We live in a world where there is a strong possibility of change

Dawn Bates's design for wearable art appealed to me, especially the line drawing she made with curls of what looked like goat's hair or feathers coming off it. Looking at her website, though, I see that her creations are prettier than this had led me to believe, beautifully put together and somehow less appealing to me personally. I find I was hoping for some more of the disgust factor in it! Perhaps I should have a theme book named 'Disgusting/ Feminine'.

If she is the same person, Rachel Quarmby shows up on an internet search as a costume designer for dance companies and films. Looking at her website made me gasp in delight. Each production illustrated has a very different set of costumes which are intriguing and idiosyncratic. I felt awed by the costumes I saw there - I can't imagine ever being able to create something so perfect and curious myself.

I haven't copied any of the photos of the costumes, as I assume there are copyright issues, but they can been seen by following the link. I loved the dresses in Forvandlingar with dangling strings instead of skirts which give the costumes a beautiful line and I expect they move wonderfully (if the dancers legs don't get entangled!). I was particularly drawn to the costumes for Spleen, which are like membranes with blood vessels going through them - part transparency, part disgust - just my kind of thing. I couldn't tell from the photos what they were made of, but it looked like some kind of plastic film.

This reminded me that I would like to find artists who have used transparency or translucency in their work. I expect there have been a lot, but as a starting point I found a book called Transparency in Textiles by Dawn Thorne pub. 2009 by Batsford. It wasn't quite what I was looking for, and the illustrations didn't appeal much to me personally, but it had a lot of interesting breadth to the subject which I hadn't thought of. For example, there was a section about dissolvable materials, and how to make holes in what you create by working round something that is then dissolved away. This appeals to my attraction to negative spaces, and made me think about what I could use it for. I have wondered in the past whether you could make a DNA double helix shape by crocheting round the holes, and this might be the way to do it. The thought of it is rather mind-boggling!

I looked at the author's website, and found that the airy structures she makes, and the colours she uses really appeal to me. They are more dry and spindly than I would have made myself, but some of them have the twisted faded qualities of seaweed and others are more intriguing in that you want to explore them.

I went on to look at her studio website, and found a variety of other textile artists there with very different styles and inspirations. that gave me back my hope that if I keep working on it I may find a style of my own, even if it isn't as marvellous as some others. I made some sketches so that I can work on them in my visual workbook another day.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Stage 5

This part of the course instructs me to write something about it in my learning log, as well as considering putting some memory-joggers into my sketchbook.

I liked the inclusion of colour into this exercise, because I have not been very confident about using colour up till now, and it let me see that there isn't anything so frightening about it, and in fact it adds interest and liveliness to the thing. It made me start thinking about and looking forward to the colour exercises more (which I suppose is the point).

Again I at first felt rather restricted by the instructions at the same time as feeling they weren't specific enough, but once I had reminded myself that I was 'allowed' to follow my inclinations, I really enjoyed this section and discovered a whole set of new ways to produce marks and textures. Here are a few of them.

HERRINGBONE - wide - works well with different shades of the same colour close together. Looks a bit like Bargello work which has always appealed to me.

 - when worked closer and further away again it looks rather organic, like fish scales or the fold lines on skin.

 - very close together, it looks woven, could be used to make a plaited line, gives a more intense colour and the reflection of light from shiny threads used in this way is knobbled rather than smooth or linear.

CRETAN STITCH - there seemed to be a bit more variety of shapes to be had from this stitch. Close together it makes a neat rope-like good covering of the fabric. Wider stitches in close rows are very attractive to me. They make ridges, fences, curved scales, and if arranged carefully squares or honeycomb shapes. I wondered if this would make a good 3D surface if i tried puckering it - something for future experimentation.

BLANKET STITCH - turned out neat and tidy however hard i tried to be random. It could be useful for shading along a line or edge. It catches the lightin one direction but not another.

CROSS STITCH - Smaller cross stitching makes the colour more intense, as does overlapping them. I tried using thick yarn in one direction and thin in the other, and it made some interesting unusual patterns like art deco or 1950s textiles. Depending on how I crossed the crosses, I could make zigzags or a woven look. Shading seemed particularly effective with cross stitch. I tried using them widely separated to make texture, but they became separate from each other in my perception when they were still quite close together, so it was not very effective.

FRENCH KNOTS - I think I need more practice doing these because they so often turned into circles rather than knots. I can see potential for rough knobbly textures, but I think it would need something else going on underneath in most things I made. I found that the size of the knot was more predictable than I expected from the type of yarn used.

SEEDING - I didn't do much of this because I have used it quite a lot before and think I know what I can use it for texturally.

I have a little time and I'm looking forward to having a go at some of my textures. This exercise has opened my mind to lots of other possibilities for doing so than I thought of at the beginning. I'm also more aware, after the mark-making exercises, that you can use several of these stitches together or on top of each other to get different and richer results.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Research Point: V&A Fashion permanent exhibition

Victoria & Albert Museum - Fashion Department - Permanent Exhibition


Theme - The development of fashion in the last 200 years.

Display - Behind glass (of course, although this was disappointing as of course I wanted to touch everything). Each case contained clothes and furniture and some little items from one specific period of time.  This gave some information about style in other art forms at the time. In each case there was a screen with a magnified detail of pattern from one of the exhibits, which compensated a little for the distance the glass enforced.

Lighting - The hall itself was approximately circular, with the path between the cases being a ring shape. The ceiling was very high (2 or 3 stories) and the floor mosaic, making it quite a loud environment. The lighting was dim, except inside the cases, and there it was subtle, diffuse light, making it easy to see the exhibits clearly without straining. Presumably the dimness of the light was intended to preserve the exhibits.

Explanation - While there was a summary of the movements in each period, under an explainatory general title eg the pursuit of perfection in the 1950s section, the exhibits themselves only had the basic museum cataloguing details. I would have liked to know much more about them.

Visual - It was more stimulating than it might have been if the clothes had been exhibited on their own. I thought the context could have been made more overt, with other references to artistic movements during the period.

Nicolas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga A/W 2004

This outfit was made for Balenciaga's designer collection for Autumn/ Winter 2004.
It has a fitted tunic and skirt, and knitted wool details over the arm and upper chest and shoulders. The overall look is 'female street warrior', fitted to the shape of the body, flexible and firm, celebrating freedom of movement without excess bulk.

The knitted bits are striped ridges, black and white, referring to padded armour present for practical reasons, and to the ropes of an officer's dress uniform without being bulky or getting in the way. The colour and pattern on the clothes seem to refer to the colours and patterns of ceremonial military uniforms while actually being the colours and patterns of graffiti. It isn't camouflage in the usual sense of the word, but could be in a sense camouflage on a busy city street.

I can't really say if this is decorative, expressive, functional or symbolic, because in some ways it seems to be all of these. It refers to tradition - dress uniforms and traditional tailoring; another culture - street and comic culture and the influence of samurai warriors costumes on it (not least by the cut of the hem). It also plays on the rather feminine cut of some 18th century men's uniforms. emphasising the waist and hips. The assymetrical neckline exposes a piece of the neck and shoulder which makes it look vulnerable in contrast to the ridged padding next to it.

I very much like the way it makes you think that the woman wearing it is strong, healthy, active, a free spirit and perhaps a little dangerous. I like the witty and not in your face references. I love the unexpected combination of black and white striped knitting (rather folk) with the spray-paint blurred colours and slickness of the fabric. I don't really like the use of graffiti writing on this haute couture piece of clothing.

Voisin Evening Dress c.1925 Paris
Tangerine silk velvet and gold glass bead fringes.
Exhibited with a large orange ostrich feather fan with shiny black spokes.
In the 'Bright Young things' section dated 1920-1930

The fringes are not really visible in this photo. There are strings of gold glass beads about 2 inches long attached by one end only down the sides of each of the triangular dangling bits of the dress. The effect would be amplification of any movement of the wearer, particularly any twisting movement I expect, with some subtle sounds of the beads clashing and rubbing against each other.

The inspiration may have been from recent developments in visual arts. The colour is bright and sophisticated at the same time. The combination of this colour, the luxury of the silk velvet, and gold makes me think of Klimt. Perhaps Art deco as well. I am not completely sure of the dates of these two. Maybe Klimt could be my next artist for research.

This dress is functional in the sense that it is ideal for dancing the Charleston and other fast-paced dances of the day. Revealing the new relative freedom of the legs. I am interested in the way it does not flatter the top half of the body at all, in fact rather negates the femininity of it, while accentuating the movement of the lower half in a very feminine way. Although on second thoughts they didn't wear supportive undergarments at that period so there would have been a lot of jiggling under the velvet when they danced!

It refers to tradition in its use of fabric and beads that would have been used on evening dresses for the previous 50-100 years. It may refer to other cultures' use of dangling grasses/ leather straps to allow for dancing in ceremonial dress.

I love the texture of the silk velvet combined with the warm soft colour. I like the way the texture of it makes the colour paler around the sides because of the reflection of light. I love the idea of the movement of dancing being exaggerated and celebrated by this dress. I wish I could see it and hear it moving. I like this fringe of gold beads and wonder if I could use this on a wind chime or something similar. I don't personally like the straightness of the bodice, even though this makes the skirt so much more what it is.

Evening Coat 1895-1900
Marshall & Snelgrove
Purple velvet embroidered with cream silk thread and wool velvet
No T.49-1962

Marshall & Snelgrove was a shop in Oxford Street which became part of Debenhams after the first world war when the luxury clothing market shrank. It is in a style that reflects more than one of the artistic movements of the time, combining the luxury and show of hand-embroidered purple velvet with references to the natural and rustic in the flowers and the felt showing through the false slits in the coat.

From a distance it looks almost oriental in the detail of the embroidery and the long stems interrupted at intervals by thin leaves. When you look closer you can see that the florets are attached only in the middle, leaving the petals loose to flop and fold in a naturalistic way. The stems are indicated in back stitch, and the leaves in satin stitch. I was surprised to see felt in the list of materials on the label, and looking more closely saw that the false slits in the velvet surround large areas of felt. This seems to me to be very unusual.

There is a large felt skirt in one of the other showcases, but that is from the Buffalo collection of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McClaren 70 years later. It too refers to the use of more basic and rough fabrics in the countryside. The difference is that in this coat the felt has been decorated all over with a delicate lacy film of thread, contradicting the roughness of the felt, and outlined in large decorative chain stitch.

This is a decorative piece of clothing, although it would also have been very warm. Its design refers to tradition in the luxury fabric and contrasting embroidery, but it seems to me that it also refers to the Arts and Craft movement in the informal design and realistic representation of the flowers, and the apparently more casual style of the sewing. And in the use of felt in a grand evening coat to make the shape and appearance refer to their idea of a medieval style of dress. There may be some reference to this in the shape of the waist and sleeves of the coat too, but I do not know enough about dress designs from that period.

The flower shapes, and the way the petals are sewn on to move with the wind or movement of the person wearing it, appeal to me particularly. I personally think that the felt sections detract from the luxurious glory of the coat and those panels might have been better off made of another luxury fabric.

There were so many other things that interested me in this small permanent collection. I particularly noticed the way silk had been gathered into lines of squashed 3D forms on the bodice of a princess-line evening dress from the 1870s. (How did they do that? I want to try it out.)

And Barbara Hulaniki's 1970s take on the medieval princess dress with trumpet sleeves and tiny covered buttons, all in her dramatic trademark gold and black Art Deco style wave-knitted rayon.

And the paper dresses from the 1960s impressed me with how deliberately designers tried to do things differently during that time. It reminded me of an exhibition of architecture in the USSR - the tried to go back to the drawing board completely, and came up with some strange and sometimes strongly geometrical designs like this.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Kew Gardens

I took my camera to Kew Gardens today and found a lot of new ineresting textures there. I've put a few of them here which particularly made me look closer.
This was a thistle plant on the bank of the Thames before we even got to Kew Gardens!
I like the signs of stickiness in the middle, the way the white lines are arranged there, the yellowness on the edges, and the brightness and sharpness of the green spikes. Could I use this roundness and spikiness somewhere?

This was a tree trunk that reminded me of the ridges in the sand at Camber. I keep liking these kinds of textures. I should try out different ways of making them.

The bark of a cork tree has great rips in it, like the incredible hulk is about to burst out. I wonder if I could use this bark as the shell surrounding something hidden.

Monkey puzzle tree - this was just amazing once I got close enough to see the details. Layer on layer of succulent triangles packed on top of each other.

From the palm house, branched fronds, and orange stripes on the trunk.