Saturday, 25 May 2013

Stage 4: More about making my final piece

While sewing the fabric onto the frame with stem stitch, I decided not to stick to the two shades of olive green I had picked out, because it interfered with the light sharpness of the overall impression when I used it against areas of yellow and the brighter grass green. So for these areas I picked colours which were less contrasting.

Close-up of stitching

Once this was done, the next step was to weave the fishing line along the bottoms of the wire uprights. From my previous experiments I knew that trying to weave it directly around the wires was doomed to failure. So what I did was to string a loom with the yarn, as if I were going to be weaving on it, then attach the piece by sewing the wires to the yarn in the way I learned to do when first preparing the warp, then cut it all off the loom together, fixing the ends with wire at the narrow front end, and scotch tape at the back of the neck. If I had been making the whole collar, as opposed to half only, the fishing line strip would have been in one piece all the way round the neck. As I am only making the right half of it, this part of it is unfinished and will have to be kept in place by tape.

This shows the lines made by the fishing line, and the effect of sewing them
onto the vertical wires. 

I was originally planning to extend the green yarn sewing sideways from the wires and make the lines into the pattern of sound waves, but once I saw the effect of a few of these verticals, I decided that this would be an unnecessary additional complexity. I like the way the horizontal parallels and vertical emphasised lines work together around the neck.

This photo is just to show how the wires come down to a narrow bunch
at the lowest end, and that it is fixed by winding the vertical wire around it.

I was pleased at the way it was looking. It hadn't lost it's lightness by my working on it, and still looked fragile and teeming the way I had hoped.

After doing this, I folded the vertical wires into sound wave shapes, hoping that having enough of them like that would give something of the impression of my original messy pile of white noise rising sketch in my sketchbook.

The next day the sound recording kit arrived in the post. Once the sound is recorded onto it, you play it back by opening the card. My plan was to fix it at the back of the neck, and have the two halves of the collar folded on each other, so that when you unfold them to put it around your neck it automatically activates a minute of the sound of cicadas. The position of it at the base of your skull reflects the place where I personally experience the sound when hearing it in 'real life'.

Although the electronic device was designed for recording sound for greetings' cards, it was bulky for this purpose, and bigger than I expected when I ordered it. So I had to think seriously about how I was going to attach it without it being visible or changing the 'sit' of the collar. After some deliberation I decided to cut some of the backing paper, tuck it between the inner side of the collar and the person's back, and cover the machinery in white fabric to make it more comfortable.

Add caption

Activating the sound:
Since the other half of the collar is not there, I have attached a card showing how to activate the sound.

This is what it looks like when the sound is on. (Before the machinery is covered up).
The square card is opened up to the side, and the whole thing is placed on the neck in that position.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Becalmed by doubt

For the last few days I have stopped sailing easily forward towards my creative horizon and been becalmed by Doubt. About whether I have chosen the right way to express my theme; that my piece will end up being twee and reveal my English soul in all its narrowness; that I should have taken the abstraction one step further, or done more planning before I started making.

It may be that the abstraction idea has some merit, and that given more time I could have 'started again' in this direction. I suspect that this will end up in my sketchbook in one form or another over the next weeks. I think I am not, and could never enjoy being, the kind of person who does all the planning up front. I want to make things and see how it looks, or feels, or in this case, sounds! Like Thomas Heatherwick I like to make models and prototypes because it gives me more feel for the materials and their potential. But also, like now, because it allows me to step back and see where I have missed expressing the thing I wanted to express.

Looking back on this vision- and Vision-expaanding course I can see a series of moments like this, when I reassessed what I was doing and found it somehow unsatisfying. And from this perspective what I see is that every time, whether it resulted in any change in direction or not, experiencing Doubts in this way always opened the door to new ideas and improvements in the final piece.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Stage 4: Starting to make my collar

This entry in my blog is following the way that I went about making the collar.
I decided that I was not going to have time to make the whole collar, but in order to get the idea of the whole thing, I was going to make at least one whole side of it.

To start with, I cut a piece of pongee silk bigger than I would need for half the collar.

I attached it to a frame and drew the outline of the wing using gutta. I then drew around the small areas which I wanted to be darker. Then I drew lines to show myself how the direction of the sound waves needed to change over the surface of the wing to take into account the 3D end shape on the body.

Because of the long thin shape I had to paint part of it, and then move it along to attach the second, and then third parts of the fabric to the frame.

 This photo shows that once I had the directions correct, I softened a small part of the inner tube of a biro into the gutta bottle, so that it came out more thinly. Then I drew the more complex pattern of the sound waves onto the fabric.

I didn't mention before that I made the gutta in the pattern of the sound waves themselves, so that they show as transparent, while the colours of the paints indicate the negative spaces between them.

Once that was dry, it looked like this.

I painted the squares a contrasting greyed down mauve colour, and then gave them two levels of more texture by sewing either crosses of metallic machine embroidery thread, or tiny red/purple beads. These colours and textures were inspired by the patterns and hard lumps on the legs of the cicada.

My next task was to fix the grass-green gauze over the top.

In order to do this I had to push the wires through the gauze in some places.

Halfway through doing this I realised that while it looked interestingly complex and organic, ding this gave the whole thing a texture and softness which took away a lot of the crisp cleanness that appealed to me in the painted sound waves.

I don't have a picture of this, but this one, of the green gauze sample superimposed on the wing, gives an idea of the effect. What it doesn't show is that the colours of the silk alone are much clearer and brighter.

So after a day or two of soul-searching, I took the green gauze off altogether.

I then tacked the silk onto the wire frame.
This one is a close-up of the painted silk tacked to the frame. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Developing my design continued

Looking back at what I've done so far in the light of my over-heavy design, I wondered if the coursework instructions could help direct me. I had thought about the part where it says 'A strong but simple ideas is often more effective than an overcrowded and unnecessarily complicated composition.'

I went back to the feeling that I wanted to convey, that related to the sound of cicadas and the wing pattern. The feeling is clear, sharp, and with upward movement. The overall impression needs to be of lots and lots of little complex things contributing to an upward sweep of vibrations. The colour impression is the colour and moistness of grass in the Spring. The problem with my first drawing of the whole thing was the lumpy bits with dark greens on.

So I thought about using only sound wave images.
But I want the whole thing to have an upward movement, like the direction of the cicadas' song around you as you walk through them.

I rotated the silk painted images, and squeezed them to see how they would be within wing sections. 

The wing sections themselves need to be slimmer and more wing-like in shape.

The colours should be dictated by the colours in the green cicada photo, with plum contrasts, perhaps beads, perhaps embroidered.

I made some samples to try out some ways of doing this.

These three little shapes were painted onto green polyester gauze to give them a green translucent background.

The paints I used are, from left to right, Pebeo textile paints, silk paints, and Pebeo translucent fabric paints.

I thought the left hand one turned out most interesting, although the colours were better in the right hand one.

 Then I had a look at how each of them changed with wire 'veins'.

This one was OK

This one looked bad. The colours were interestingly blotchy, so could be useful in another context but not for this piece.

This one didn't work either.

At this point I decided that I would revert to using the silk paints on silk as above, in sound wave shapes, for the 'wings'.

SO I took the first one and tried sewing it onto the frame using yellow machine embroidery thread, of the same shade as in one of the cicada pictures I had found. Although this looks quite good, it doesn't give the impression I had wanted, of a single line of yellow. And not surprisingly the machine needle broke on the wire.

I also tried various ways of sewing the wires onto the fabric with embroidery stitches, and I think the best one is a zig-zag stitch in a more olive green colour that is a couple of shades darker than the fabric.

I also tried machine embroidery of the geometrical sound waves onto the fabric.

This sample is rather messy but showed me that it might look quite good. It certainly has the clear light directional lines I am after. However, this would be a bit too fussy if I did it with the painted sound waves so I don't think I will be using this.

This photo shows me trying out the effect of different layers of green on top of the silk-painted sound waves. I think it looks interesting and will allow me to make a graduated look to the wings.

Finally, I found some beads with the iridescent look of insect eyes in the right colours, and tried fixing them in pairs at the ends of some of the wires.

During this reassessment process, I completed the wire support for the collar, and realised that it needed to be curved on itself at the back in order to allow the vertical wires to stand a little away from the back of the neck of the wearer.

After making these samples, and thinking about my final piece, I drew a picture of what I hope it will look like at the end.

Impression of final collar. This is only the left half of it, the right being a mirror image.
The 'wing' at the front sits on the chest, and the wires with pairs of 'eyes' stick up in a
spray around the back of the head.  This photo doesn't show it very well, but there is a
section of transparent lines above the fabric parts joining the lower parts of the wires and
supporting a grass green sound wave.
While drawing this in my sketchbook, I saw that it would be better for the sound waves on the front 'wing' to be vertical compared to the body of the person wearing it, rather than along the line of the wing as in the drawing.  

Other things I have decided about this collar which are not in this drawing are
1. I have found a way to record and play a minute of cicada sound, that will be played when the collar is put on.
2. An  idea for a title - 'The Grass is Singing'. 

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Stage 3 Developing my design.

Using viewing frames on the images from my theme book and stage 2.

First, I used a frame in the shape made for the moth eye development:

This, from my mark-making folder, has something of the quality of lightness and rising lines that I think expresses the sound quite well. It also has a bit of iridescence and an organic look ecause of the spots of blurred dark on the right.

This one has a good rhythm to it, and again the spiky sound waves appeal.

This one looks more like a sea plant than an insect or sound - because of the dull colours and the thickness of the lines I think. The combination of the star in the middle and the fan shape is appealing but not for this project.

The horizontal straight line just doesn't sit right in this curved shape.

This section is interesting and complex with lots of texture contrasts.

I tried it the other way round, but again the horizontal line doesn't work so well for me.

Finally, this was the head of the cicada, with eyes. I like this image and the eyes especially are contrasting in shape, texture and shininess. But it isn't really abstract enough for this shape of viewer.

Using a section of wing as a viewer:
The shading from dark and the curved
bottom to lighter at the sharper top
works well in this one, but the 3D effect
makes it look too plump for my purposes

This one has an insect-like minute hair
quality to the curves that appeals to me,
as do the colours and shading.
This has more of an abstract look.
I think it may be very interesting if repeated.

Drawings made through wing section frames:

Although there isn't much difference between this and the sections above, drawing them clarified for me that the sound waves worked better on the edges than in the middle of the shape, and that the scales made it easy to graduate the shade/ colour within the shape while adding texture. 

Drawings made through square viewing frames:

Some samples:
I made some samples from the square images, using silk paint and gutta:

This one reflected the sound wave shape.

I like the way the yellow and lighter green seem to melt into each other, and I'm thinking I could use the darker, less continuous shapes to go at the edges of the wing sections.

There's a shininess to the gutta which is interesting and perhaps useful in this context.

For this one I made the wing vein shapes, and some texture marks along the bottom of each section, graduating to dots in the middle. Each section has darker bluer green at the bottom, and grass green at the top. When I had done these greens it looked rather boring and I thought it might be good to have a contrasting reddish purple, like the colour of the insect's legs. I put spots of this colour where the texture was graduating. It would have worked better if i had made rings so they remained small circumscribed dots instead of spreading out. But the additional colour was a good idea. The grass green perhaps isn't quite yellow enough to make a good contrast in this one - more yellow at the tops of the sections?

Then I flipped the first image on the computer, and saw what it looked like when reflected.

This certainly appeals to me, and the top one looks quite like the sound wave. I think there is something very busy about both the sound of a cicada group, and about the idea of a million tiny insects all chorusing together to make that loud loud noise.

The busyness of this image is a bit like that for me.

I'm also starting to like the greens a bit more than I did.

This one was trying to see what it would look like in the context of variably-sized and shaped wing sections.

This was my first attempt at making a sound wave with wire.

This one is the same wire, interwoven with lines of fishing line attached to a frame.

This appeals to me, although it is a rather literal representation of sound waves, and doesn't have any of the insect part of the experience of the sound of cicadas.

This started as an outline of the veins of the wing, and finished when I tried to do some tapestry weaving with fishing line vs green embroidery yarn.

The veins worked reasonably well, although I need to pay some attention to where the wire starts and finishes. The tapestry weaving failed showing me that I cannot use it like this. The ends have to be secured elsewhere, and then cut off, so it's not suitable for something where I want them to wind round the supports

Drawings of 3D shapes:
These were fun to do but didn't seem to have much to contribute to my design.

These, on the other hand, were interesting, and made me think more about what  I was going to do inside the wing sections. The top left and bottom right ones appealed to me especially and made me think about the three dimensional effect of these patterns a bit more.

To get an idea of how the piece might look against a body, I drew the wing vein shapes onto a white T-shirt, and then used white machine embroidery within one of the shapes. It didn't work very well. Putting the texture between the veins destroyed the light fragile wing appearance. 

I have been thinking about how to make a frame for this collar that will be strong enough to keep its shape, but still flexible enough to tremble a little when the person wearing it moves around (to reflect the vibrations of the sound). I tried making a wing out of wire. I didn't want it to be shiny, and luckily had some very rusty wire left in the basement by a previous resident of the house. The thickness of it was not enough to support any shape on its own, but when twisted into a wing like this it did have more strength to it.  

This is the frame for the front, in the process of construction.

After this I thought about what the final piece would look like, and drew this...
This idea used the wire veins to support a collar, with a green wire sound wave with projecting wires around the back of the head, topped with pairs of bead 'eyes'. The fabric behind the wires is painted with fabric paints in a pattern suggested by the moth's eye. There are contrasting squares of plum colour as there is on the legs of one of the actual cicadas.

Once I had drawn it out, this pattern seemed too heavy - in the complexity of the pattern, the intensity of the colours, and in the size and shape of the collar support.

Time to think again.