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.

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