Do your finished samples fulfil your expectations? To what extent do they reflect the initial research you undertook for this assignment? Can you see a clear line of progression from source material to preliminary ideas and finished sample, or did you have to change direction at any point?
First I should say that in retrospect I can see that it would have made more sense to pick only one of the 'cultural sources' to inspire both pieces. But I used medieval imagery and ideas for the concept piece, and Ghanaian wax resist and cowrie shells for the product piece. This definitely added to the time I have taken over finishing this part of the course.
For the conceptual piece I was hoping to produce an object that would make the viewer think about what had been lost, and regret that it was a softness of heart. This required me to make something that looked enough like a heart to be a little grotesque, in a container enough like a medieval saints reliquary to hold meaning. I think it does this to an extent. The plain wooden box with worm gold clasp indicates a worn container for something well used. The blue decoration with gold squares inside works to indicate Catholicism and something special without being too kitsch I think. The heart was difficult because of the shape colour and texture being complex and not very easily recogniseable. I am quite pleased with it, but wonder if there might not be a clearer way if demonstrating the same concept? I am sure it works better than my first idea!
Without all the medieval research I would never have got to the idea, nor to the colour or pattern on the lid of the box. In fact, that colour blue has been fashionable this summer and I have been aware of not liking it at all. But in this context it seemed right in view of it's being one if the few frequent colours they used in the 13th century. The heart is not really medieval except that they did keep pieces of real peoples in their reliquaries and appear to have been less squeamish than us about them.
I started thinking very early on about embroidering a cover for a reliquary with scenes and people, but, perhaps because This idea was so early In my explorations I did have a change in direction later on. I wanted something more clearly delivering the concept. And to an extent realised I would not have time to make the first idea. (It was only much later that I re-read and understood that I was not expected to complete the object, just produce samples.)
The second sample - a scarf - turned out better than I had expected in some ways, and less well in others. I was not expecting the pink paint to stiffen the cotton much more than I was planning for. The result is a rather stiff structure that wouldn't hang well round your neck. I did not have time to try it again with more textile medium, or in silk, either of which I expect would improve the flexibility. What turned out well were the batik pattern, and the shapes formed by putting in stitches at different levels of the folded fabric.
Looking at this sampler you may not think it bears any relation to cowrie shells. But there is a reasonably straight line in my working to get here from the initial research. (Other than a short detour into thinking I was going to weave the final piece). I did quite a lot if sketchbook work exploring different aspects of cowries, and different patterns thou could make with them, and was drawn to both repeated lines of them, and to emphasising what was hidden inside. For most of the time I was exploring how to emphasise the 'lips' with texture or colour, but in the end I did a pattern/ground switch and too that colour and pattern into the inside of the 'shell'.
Did you make the right choices and decisions when selecting and developing your ideas? If not, what would you change, and how might that alter the outcome?
For the reliquary, I think I made the right choice. This imagery is much stronger than the original one would have been. I regret not using the anglicorum embroidery technique at all, and many if the images I found were inspiring to me so will no doubt come up again in future.
For the cowrie piece, there was a point at which I decided to go more abstract and I am glad of it. However, the idea I had of making a purse in the shape of one large cowrie is appealing and again something I might develop separately from this course.
How important was the choice of material in determining the qualities you achieved?
I have already mentioned that I might have done better using silk for the cowrie piece, and perhaps silk painting instead of cotton and batik. This would have produced a much floppier result more suitable for wearing as a scarf, but perhaps less pleasingly regular shapes from the fabric manipulation.
For the reliquary, the battered wooden box worked well, resulting in the contents being a surprise. The blue stretch fabric needed to be matt and exactly the right colour. I thought about trying to find velvet for this, but this fabric gives the contrast and feel without being too obviously rich and showy. It gives a good contrast with the shinier gold braid and wire patterns on top. I like to be able to make things with recycled materials, and in this case it was particularly appropriate (even though you can't tell by looking at it). The materials used for the heart are intrinsic to the texture of its surface, which is complex. I am particularly pleased with the two different methods I used to reflect the texture of the fat around the heart.
How did your choice of colours contribute to the overall results?
In the case of the reliquary, the colours I chose were derived from my painting of a real animal heart. I hope that what they do is to differentiate this heart from the cultural expectation of what a heart looks like, and draw the eye to the curious and disgusting realisation that this is what the real thing looks like. The colours of the fabric lining of the box could really only have been bright red, this blue, or gold, in context. Red would have detracted from the impact of the heart, and gold would have made it too much a glorification.
For the cowrie-inspired scarf, I had two options - the fashionable pink/black/white/grey combination, and the warm rich shiny brown/mustard/purple of the back of the shell. I used the black/pink scheme for several reasons:
- it better reflected the sketch of the intriguing inner world of the cork bark that inspired me initially
- some of the attraction of the other palette was in its curvedness, and I couldn't use that in this context
- it was in fashion and therefore conforming more to the instructions for this assignment, and potentially more saleable.
What it did to the overall result was to make it cooler, and more stylised, and more in line with the feeling I had at the beginning about the shell colours being 1950s. I think if I had used the other colour palette, the scarf may have turned out curvier.
Did you try the brainstorming exercise? If so, did you find it useful?
I did use the exercise for both, and found it very useful as it focussed my mind on what aspects I was most interested in exploring and emphasising in my final pieces. I often found myself coming back to the lists I made to remind myself of which choice to make as I went along the design process, in order to keep these priorities alive. Without it, I can easily imagine going a very different way and not knowing why. In other words, I think it allowed me to have a bit more control of the process.