Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Project 8 Stage 2 Experimenting with Structures

The idea of this group of exercises is to 'expore different possibilities, concentrating on developing interesting structures, colour combinations or contrasts of texture.'

Exercise 1:

It took some practice to get the two sheets to sit comfortably and squarely together.

Varying the size and shapes of the strips...

Narrow in one direction
Wide in another

Straight in one direction
Getting narrower in the other

Straight in one direction
Spiral in the other

Experimenting with printed words
didn't work well

I tried various combinations of tissue and coloured paper, with and without
gaps between the strips.
I find the way the colours of the tissue interact interesting and want to
try out other combinations and patterns in future.

Wavy lines in both directions.
This makes interesting shapes
at the intersections so I did
the same with different colours...

Undyed recycled paper and
red linen showing the wavy shapes
made by wavy lines in both directions.

Using different materials........
I crushed the strips of paper in one direction, leaving the other direction
uncrushed (although the paper wasn't really flat being packing paper)
I like what this did to the texture. This kind of roughness appeals to me
in an organic kind of way.

The textured strips are fashion fabric treated to look like leather,
and the matt strips are thick tracing paper.
The contrast works better in real life than in this photo- accentuating
the textured surface, and contrasting the subtle shine/matt.
I also like the rather stylised look of the alternating widths.

I cut strips from the thin textured plastic of some overshoes
that I was given for an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery.
These are interwoven with plain white card.
Not immediately inspiring!

Following on from my experiments with tissue paper,
I wanted to try out the effect of other semi-transparent materials
This one is the sellophane wrapping from baby bel cheese,
interwoven with strips of linen. The red of the sellphane
seems to be much darker and more intense when it's over
the linen. I wanted to try it over a lighter colour...

...which had unexpectedly little effect.
I cut out one area to see the effect and think it would be
well worth exploring this more too,
but I have run out of time for this exercise.

I have been reading about Anne Sutton during this exercise. She seems to have worked within relatively narrow rules (as this exercise was), which allowed her to experiment with the few degrees of freedom she had with originality. I found that the restrictions of this exercise did that for me too, channelling my exploration into areas I may otherwise have passed over quickly unawares.

Ann Sutton 2003 by Diane Sheenan & Susan Tebby pub. The Crafts Council in association wth Lund Humphries. ISBN 0 85331 885

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Project 8 Stage 1 exploring the qualities of yarns

The aim of this exercise was to make a collection of yarns of as wide a range of different qualities as possible, label them, and consider their qualities.

 I have always preferred natural fibres and not surprisingly I have a large selection of woollen yarns, some untreated.

I was surprised by how many of these turned out to be mixes when I looked properly, often with man-made fibres. This is what was left when I took out the mixes.

These are wool mixed with mohair or alpaca.
The mohair makes them softer and hairier.
The alpaca (in the Purity wool on the right) was far from obvious to my fingers.

The feel of 100% cotton varies a good deal.
Some of these are very soft - specifically for babies' skin in fact,
And some harder and dryer, like string more than wool.

Man-made fibres. I don't particularly like the feel of these against my skin so I think I have rather dismissed them before I started this course.
The variety is enormous, and there are textures, stretchiness and shininess that you can't get any other way.

Paper and metal.
Reading the book on multimedia sculpture has opened my eyes to some the range of uses of paper, and I expect to use it much more from now on.

Silk has a distinctive subtle glow to it.
I have some affection for the silk embroidery thread I have in my collection because it belonged to my grandmother (including darning silk for stockings!) I haven't used any of it, perhaps for that reason.
The pink fluffy ball behind it is a mohair silk mix knitting yarn that was so soft and light I couldn't resist.

Finally, some upholstery yarn - jute and linen.
These are hard, strong and dry, with to me a no pretence feel to them.
They are not suitable for clothes but would be good for structure.

What I learned from this:
  • Without doing anything else, the act of sorting through and thinking about them in this way is both educational and inspiring. I know more than I thought I did about the qualities of different yarns, just by having been interested in the way they look and feel. Doing this exercise has made this experience and knowledge more explicit to me.
  • I also learned some new things, most interestingly that the way I think wool feels is actually slightly skewed by the fact that most knitting wool is either a mix or pre-treated.
  • And that man-made fibres, rather than being poor reflections of the natural ones (as has sometimes been my prejudice), introduce another range of qualities and potential effects which I am now excited to be able to explore.
  • Again an exercise that has broadened my horizons and opened up the possibilities of unusual materials being used in textile work.
  • Thinking about what feeling these yarns might give to a piece was interesting and gave me some ideas of things to try out. It also reminded me that a particular kind of yarn could give different effects depending on how it is used. So trying it out first is important.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

More colour matching

Very inaccurate colour copy of the postcard showing the winner of the

2012: The Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Species

Kim Wolhuter (South Africa)
Dog days
African wild dogs at Zimbabwe’s Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve
From my sketchbook: 1. Pencil sketch of a section of Dog Days postcard
2. Colour palette in gouache
3. Colour palette with more accurate proportions in yarns
I wanted to capture some of the harsh hardness of the dried mud reflecting the sun, and in the yarns this came out in some metallic yarns being included in the mix.

From my sketchbook: 1. Faint print out of Rowan Marsh
2. Colour palette (of the print out rather than the original) in gouache
3. Colour palette with more accurate proportions in yarns.
I wanted to capture the softness of this image and thus included some chenille, and particularly soft wool mixes. I was surprised to find that unusually for me I did not want to try anything other than knitting and embroidery yarns for these colour matching exercises. On reflection I think that perhaps paper or string might work well for the top one, and for the bottom one something like strips cut from thin fabrics might be even softer.

This exercise showed me:
  • There are many more colours than I initially saw - the virtue of looking and trying to match them. 
  • Doing it in blocks of colour in this way misrepresents it because it does not take into account the relative proportions of the colours. The blues in the top image are much more subtle than they appear in the painted colour section. 
  • Choosing yarns was much easier for me than mixing the colours with paint, because the colours were already there. I have noticed some improvement in my ability to mix colours to match, and more practice will make it easier.
  • Having said that, I can see that mixing the colours first made me really look at them much more carefully and understand the colour relationships more accurately than I would have done if I had gone straight to the yarn stage. For example there are two different 'families' of blues in the second image - sky blues at the back and more greeny blues at the front. I suspect that I would have missed the sky blues if I had not done the gouache exercise first.
  • At the end I re-read the instructions and found the part about winding the yarns on in an order representing the change of proportions through the piece. That would have been useful in analysing both of these images more thoroughly. 

Saturday, 16 February 2013

'Textile Perspectives in Mixed Media Sculpture'

by Jac Scott
pub The Crowood Press Ltd, Ramsbury, Marborough 2003 (2010 impression)
ISBN 978 1 86126 578 4
All the photos in this section are all from the book, except where indicated.

Book cover showing 'OFFICE BLOCK' Jac Scott 2002
Plaster, recycled office workers' shirts, plaster sealant, paint
Photographer: Rachel Elliot

Wow what a book.

Reading this has given me so much already, and I suspect will keep on giving me new inspiration and broaden my horizons as I absorb it more thoroughly, and follow up some of the references. Most importantly it has given me a vocabulary to talk about what comes out of me when I allow my creativity to take over. Since the introduction sets out the author's hope to distil her own thought about the place of her own work in contemporary art, for me she has done this very effectively, filling out a whole landscape for me in a way that I can now think about and talk about more clearly.

I was initially very excited by this book, because of the range of beautiful photos that drew me in and motivated me to adapt my reading to the intellectual art language. And because of the familiarity and directness of some of the more powerful female images.

I am not going to go through to review it more than this here, but just make some notes for myself of things that struck me, or artists I want to find out more about as a result of reading it.

The History of Textile Art
Magdalena Abakanowicz 'transformed weaving into a dynamic sculptural technique'.
Joseph Beuys 'credited with being one of the most influential artistic figures in the last century.' Worked with felt and fat.
Louise Bourgeois

Sculptural Materials
Traditionally malleable, castable, carvable and/or constructional.
Structure, weight, balance and scale.

For the sculptor, tactile values are not an illusion to be created on a two-dimensional pane, they constitute a reality to be conveyed directly as existent mass. Sculpture is an art of palpation.' Causey, The Art of Sculpture 1998.

I completely relate to this statement, although I would have used more sensory language! I have definitely found it difficult at times to understand why one would make a drawing of a texture when one can make a metaphor which can be experienced with the fingertips.

Creative Journeys
I found it helpful to have the design process reiterated here, but with the proviso that some artists do it differently. Of course they do. And I have found myself that I have tended more to the side of having a vision and then working out how to produce it. Sketchbook work and experimentation with materials inspires with ideas of what is possible, but the real work is done in my dreams and in prototypes.

In Art Textiles of the World - Great Britain 2 (Harris 1999) Shelly Goldsmith describes something I have noticed about myself, that she does not find it satisfying to make a complete and final design which she then transcribes literally into textile, but prefers to work using a 'sketch' which she works on as she makes it.

Working directly with materials
For me decay and neglect brings in the organic nature of the world, and therefore it's beauty. Rust, lichen, nature, the cycle of birth and death.

The next few chapters are about the use of particular types of material for sculpture - not just techniques (including safety tips) for using them, but relevant information about deterioration, suitability for outdoor use, and discussion of their metaphorical and cultural meanings.

Transparent plastics - casting resins, acrylic sheets and monomers.
Sonja Flavin fibre optics.

Jac Scott 'ARE YOU SITTING COMFORTABLY?' (detail) 2001
Materials: coiled carrier bags in the seat of the sculputre, melted with a hot air gun. Photographer Andrew Morris.
This reminds me of some very mundane pleasures - things packed into shop shelves - at the same time as grating slightly because of the contrast between the softness of rolled plastic bags and the hard sharpness or these ones no doubt. Sitting on them would be like sitting on a rock full of barnacles.

Anniken Amundsen '1-01 PARASITE' (detail) 2001. Materials: woven fishing line. Photographer: Jan Ahlander.
This is fantastically organic looking, with the arteries and semi-transparent weaving and the apparently intentional but very irregular shape. I find it fascinating and want to try out using fishing line for myself.
I want to try out impregnating fabric with catalysed polyester resin to make if firm, and also try putting sand or other things into it as it dries to see what it does to the texture.

I love the way it looks so organic and slightly obscene. It does sound as though it decays rather quickly, which I remember from hot water bottles as a child. It can easily 'pick up fine detail from other objects and surfaces'.
Carole Andrews 'SENTINELS' 2000.
All her sculptures in this book look as if they grew there - like termite mounds or huge mushrooms. I love the scale, and the fact they were folded out of roofing felt. I want to feel them.

Look up Eva Hesse who worked with different materials including latex rubber, 'I want to be surprised.'

See 'Office Block' Jan Scott  2002 on the front cover.
Fine casting plaster, can be reinforced with jute, scrim, burlap, hemp or gauze.
Can be coloured, but this affects the qualities of the material.
This seems to express something I am familiar with - the false self, the difference between the simplicity we present (or try to present) to the world, and the complexity beneath. Texture difference is a good way to express this. 

Alexander Calder spatial diagrams
Barbara Hepworth stitched and tensioned strings
For strength and rigidity, and the combination of this and delicacy and flexibility in wire. Wire as weft.
Look up basket weaving techniques of twinning wave, randing, 3 rod wale, and coiling.

Caroline Murphy, untitled, 2001. Photographer: James Forbes Smith
Made of folded copper sheets. Surface altered to give it even more of an organic feel. Beautiful.

Susan Cutts, ASHES OF ROSES 2002
These boxes of roses and shoes are made of paper. It gives such a fragile look to them.
I feel awe at the amount of work and meticulousness that has gone into this.

photo Bob Curtis
Fiona Gray 'FUSION' 2002
photo David Lawson

Gemma Smith' HEADLESS WOMAN' 2001

Finally, it seems to me that I have included particular works of art here for two separate reasons. Some are included because they express something profound that I identify with, and some because they give me pleasure for some other, aesthetic reason. The first group include Gemma Smith's uncomfortable expression of femaleness, and Maggie Henton's confusion under the surface. The second group are more calming to experience - Fiona Gray, Susan Cutts, Carole Andrews.

When I have made things in the past in my untrained way they have generally been of the first more visceral type (although much less successful than these).

I am hoping that the things I am learning on this course will help me to express my personal versions of these more powerfully.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Part 4: Colour matching

This photograph is from a Sunday supplement. It seems to be a reference to grand still lives from a bygone era. It has rich colours and interesting texture in the breast feathers of the game birds. My biggest difficulty was matching the violet colour. Interestingly, when looking more closely it appears that there is actually no violet, but adjacent pale blue and pink feathers. I tried to match both these and the pale purple I see as well. 

This is the section I chose to colour match. (The colours here are not accurate)

I found it much easier to match the colours with yarn, than to mix them with paint. The most difficult in this case ws the pale blue. It turned out that this twisted combination of pale blue and off-white that I pulled from some tweed gives the closest match.
And I enjoyed choosing yarns with the right texture -  in this case often subtly shiny ones like silk or plastic.
The darker brown feathers looked less shiny and more fluffy to me and this seemed to require felted wool.
This has taken longer than I expected because of the need to do it in natural light. It is going to be another week before I will be able to do more of it, so I will get on with some reading, and build myself a loom, in the time being.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Open College of the Arts
Tutor report

Student name
Christina Rogers
Student number
Textile 1: A Creative Approach
Assignment number

Overall Comments
This is an excellent assignment and one in which you have taken a significant step in your journey of discovery in your textiles work.  What really comes across is your ability to see beyond the techniques and samples and work with ideas and experiment with them.

Just a note about presentation.  It was a little confusing initially until I looked at your blog how things related.  This is mostly because mounting work on both sides of the sheet you need to be careful of the sequence.  They didn’t always follow on and weren’t in order when I first opened them.  

Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity
Project 6: Manipulating fabric
In this project you were required to experiment with various ways of manipulating the surface of the fabric including applied fabric techniques and raised and structured surface textures.  You were asked to take a selection of 6 drawings or source material and develop them into compositions based on shape, pattern and texture.  

You are continuing to develop your design work through various stages on paper and computer before taking them into samples. The development of your water sketch and the one of roots are particularly successful as you have explored the options in putting them into repeats.

This assignment is good for making you think about the properties and characteristics of the fabrics you are working with and that does seem to be the case with you.  As well as the colour, pattern and texture of fabric there is it’s quality and behaviour too.  You have used a good range of fabrics and thought about their use in relation to the techniques. Manipulating fabric brings out these qualities and you really have been able to identify elements of fabrics that you like to work with and the possibilities of what you might want to do with them beyond these exercises. 

Final samples for stages 3 & 4 
Finally in both stages 3 and 4 you were asked to review your work and produce a sample from your drawings using some of the techniques you had learnt in your experimentation.

Again in both cases you have successfully developed design work on paper into your fabric designs, refining and dealing with the challenges of fabric and techniques whilst keeping the essence of the design idea.

Applied fabric techniques sample
This sample is dynamic and bold and uses the fabrics well.  The background herringbone twill contrasts with the shinny fabrics and creates a sense of layering and depth.

Raised & structured surface techniques sample
With this sample you have learnt a lot about planning when combining techniques.  You have packed a lot into it and therefore had to tackle some complex problems.  The results have worked well and relate to your original idea, although it has moved on somewhat as a result of the practicalities.  I agree that the padded column on the left doesn’t quite fit in terms of the composition, it is a bit to smooth.  If it had textures incorporated into it like the one in the top right it might have worked better, by echoing that column.

Project 7 Starting a Theme Book
Theme: ‘The sound of cicadas’
Following our email discussion on this theme, you have started with some great images both drawings and your collected images on your blog.  Some of the artists you have found using 3D textiles are really relevant here too.   

Sketchbooks Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity
It isn’t entirely clear if any of the drawings you sent are particularly sketchbook, but it seems some of your drawing might have come from sketchbooks and were not originally directly related to project work.

Your general sketchbook is for observational drawing, ideas and themes which can also include practice in techniques or how you want to use techniques. 

Learning logs /Research points Context
There were 2 research points in this assignment.  One dealing with market research, analysing the diversity of style and design within an area of fabric available to the consumer, and the other looking at craft based production.

Diversity and style in consumer fabric
Through your market research project you were able to learn more about fabrics, what is available, different mixes of fibres in fabrics.   Your comments particularly your review on your blog for this is excellent.  It has lots of information, your comments are articulate and well thought out.   Your work in looking for fabrics that relate to the fashions has really make you look and think about what is available, styles and influences in the fashion world.

Craft-based production
Your thoughts about this subject again are very articulate and well researched.  You have raised some interesting points in your commentary and it is obviously a subject that you feel strongly about. You have raised some very pertinent points relating to the definition of the terms ‘craft’ and ‘traditional’ in relation to skill, design, creativity, and pattern.  These terms are used differently by different people and therefore it makes for confusion.

The point you make about traditional textiles being no less useful than they have always been outside the developed world, I think is debatable. There are many traditional craft skills around the world that are being lost.  For example I visited Nigeria in the early 1990’s  where I found only a small number of weavers weaving the traditional Ase Oke narrow strip cloth because there wasn’t the demand for it.  It was too expensive for the majority of people to buy and so it was only used by a small number of people and mostly for major life celebrations such as weddings.  The traditional style of costume I did see worn was mostly made from printed fabrics that were widely available in the markets and printed in Holland.  Have a look at some of the early work of Yinka Shonibare MBE, a British -Nigerian artist whose artwork seeks to highlight this phenomenon.   

The point ‘who is asking the question what do craftspeople call themselves and why?‘ is a very interesting one.  As a craft maker myself I do get asked that question, usually by people who are themselves working or studying in the crafts world.  It is a discussion that is held as crafts people of any discipline try to work out how to present themselves to the public as a whole.  My own experience is that the public interprets the terms we use to describe ourselves in accordance with their own knowledge and experiences of the crafts world and disciplines but don’t often seem to question them. Like it or not (and for many craftspeople it is the selling part they like the least) we make products to sell and need to sell them in order to live and continue working.  How we present ourselves is important if we want to get our own personal message across accurately about what we do.  This relates to the points you make about crafts as a marketing term.  Increasingly, and especially with the help of the internet, craftspeople are seeking to present not just their finished product but the process and skills involved.  A way of engaging with their audience and explaining the value of their work and revealing the person behind the work.  See sites like www.seekandadore.com or shows such as Art in Action, not mention all the social media options now available.

Suggested Reading/viewing Context
The book in the book list ‘Tapestry Weaving’ N Harvey is sadly out of print now.  There is an alternative with the same title by Kirsten Glasbrook and is quite a good practical book if you feel you need more than the instructions in the manual.

See additional references in above.

Pointers for the next assignment
In this assignment you are will be concentrating on construction of yarn and fabric which is quite a different way of working from the stitch and print work you have done so far.  Weaving as a technique is more structured and some students find this daunting.  From your comments you are looking forward to it.  Follow the instructions carefully and do email me if you have any problems.  

Tutor name
Charlotte Grierson
9 February 2013
Next assignment due
15 April 2013

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Part 4: Textile Structures

Preparing for Project 8, I have been looking through some of the images I have collected, to find the ones which appeal especially from colour and texture point of view. Today I am finding it difficult to choose, so I have picked all these.

Tomorrow I will start work on matching the colours in some of them.  

Friday, 1 February 2013

Sound Waves

Images of sound waves from the internet.

Digital sound from gizmodo.com.au
This is rather 30s and huge, like a stage set.
Black lines on irridescent colour.

From privateline.com
An image of the sound coming out of a loud speaker.
This one looks like the waves in the transparent wing
in one of the cicada images. Looks somehow wet too.
The interference shapes are interesting as well
 - something to work on in the theme book.

Sound waves, from Kirraweehighphysics.wordpress
The spikiness relates to how I think about high pitched
sounds, but not how they feel so much.
The several different shades of similar colour works
to make it clear that this is a complex sound.

Sound waves from www.officialpds.com
The blurred edges and patterns within patterns make this more interesting to look at.
For some theme book work.

Cover of The Silver Album by The December Sound
This image has a very white noise quality to me, and lots of texture. These parallel but not quite identical linear images are very appealing to me. I'm wondering if I can use something like this, or make something similar in 3D by folding fabric. Perhaps something like italian smocking could be a starting point.

From Wikicommons:

From wikicommons:
Although this one is a diagram, there is something appealing and potentially more useful about the proportions ie the distances between the lines vs the sizes of the waves. It also shows the effect of having spots along the lines - I'm thinking fewer and more interesting might be better for my purposes. 

From www.math.umn.edu\
The wave form of a chord with 3 notes.
I like the regular/irregular repeating pattern. Reminds me of the regular sleep/ wake cycle of the cicada.
Something more to explore in the theme book.