Thursday, 27 March 2014

Conceal/reveal images - Shadows

There are a lot of ways of looking at conceal/reveal. Some of the broad groups that come to mind are shadows, reflections, layers. Today I am finding photos I have taken recently which are about shadows in various ways.

This was taken in the dark basement restaurant Belgo in Covent Garden.
Because it was dark, the light was directional and the way the glasses
changed it was interesting to me.

I seem to have lots of photos like this one, showing the
effect of leaf shadows on the texture of a knobbly trunk. Why does it appeal to me?
I think the complexity of it makes the eye keep being interested because it wants to
work out the shapes. The subtle variations in colour add interest too, intensified by the
limited range of intensity.

This one, which was taken under a very large old spreading tree, is very different but
interesting in the same sort of way - that my eye notices the similarities and differences in
the shapes of the shadows and the roots, and flits between them.
This was taken in Southwark Playhouse just before a play started.
I particularly liked the way the shapes of the people at the right
are revealed by the patches of red light, like a Dutch portrait.
I tried and failed to enhance this aspect of the photo on iphoto. But
will try out something like this in my sketchbook.

This is what shadows can do. I took this photo at Avebury where there is a prehistoric ring of stones surrounded by a deep ditch. This is what grows on the almost vertical sides of the ditch - mossy vegetation in clumps. The shapes of the clumps are almost entirely revealed by the shapes of the shadows alone.
This reminds me of the shadows made by knitting or crochet in regular patterns, that give plain garments their texture.
And thinking of other ways that shadows work with textiles, reminded of quilting, and especially white-on-white quilting, which is all about making shadows. I should do some of this in my sketchbook too.

I have put this image in here because it appears to be about shadows.
It's by a textile artist called Brent Wadden.
This photo is from

Monday, 24 March 2014

Caroline Broadhead and other artists

Born in Leeds, she started off as a jeweller, making things in relation to the human body for 40 years. She has followed her interest in the human body into dresses, textiles, installations using light and shadow, and dance.

'In the 70s and 80s, I was exploring ideas about jewellery, the way it could be handled, change on or off the body etc, ideas that were best expressed through materials of a certain colour, weight or flexibility. I made work out of coloured cotton threads and rope and my tufted bracelets used very fine nylon threads. And as my ideas were developing, I became more interested in the non-precious materials, ones that did not have a recent history in jewellery. By the mid 1980s I was making much larger scale pieces in woven nylon - veils, collars and sleeves. This scale was exciting as it allowed me to examine a spatial awareness around the body in a new way. For example, the Necklace / Veil was woven out of nylon line. It married something that you could wear round the neck with something you could also twist up to become a veil. It became a screen to look through to the wearer, or for the wearer to look back, as much as something to look at. These larger pieces that covered more of the body led me to clothing forms which gave me greater scope to express ideas about the whole person. These were not fashion but there didn’t seem to be a particular category for my pieces to be located, except art.' (from an interview in

Link to photo of Jerwood Applied Arts 1997 prize-winning objects

Why textiles? 'I enjoy the sense of's already had a human touch.'

You can see how this may have developed from the perspective of jewellery,
and it has so much movement in it you can also see how it might progress
into dance. There is something very feminine about it - the translucency,
hiding and revealing at the same time. 

'I used the garments, and subsequent work, to explore notions about a person. The first shirts I made gave form to the gestures a garment makes you do when you put it on. For example Wraparound Shirt makes you ‘put the other arm in’, you keep repeating that gesture to put it on. But I also wanted to create pieces that had a strong visual impact when they weren’t being worn. In my work with dance, gesture and movement are also important. I have created dresses that direct the dancer’s movements and set the scene for these movements.'

Back to the wall tulle, paint
This piece has movement and shadow and certainly has a big visual impact.
It makes me want to get closer and touch it, and also makes me think about
how I could use overlapping translucent materials to make something interesting myself.

Tunnel dress mixed media
This appears to be made from opaque wires or something which then makes a shadow on the wall.
The tunnel being the path for the light through the dress shapes.
This is exactly the kind of thing I need to be looking at, so that I can open my mind to
new ways of thinking about light and shadows.

Spot elastane, tulle
This one appears to have fine filaments acting like rays of light, delineating the dress-shape.
It's a bit difficult to work out from a flat photo, but I'm imagining that it makes you feel the space
 and the light going through it in a more three-dimensional way than usual.
I like the idea of using threads as light rays and might try it out for one of my samplers.
What would happen when the light became a shadow.....?

This one is intriguing because it makes me think about metaphorical aspects of fabric,
clothing, how a woman is her house in some way.

Sources of information: Maker of the month Nov 2009 Central St Martins (where she is programme director for Textiles and Jewellery

After learning about Caroline Broadhead's work, I did some pages in my sketchbook inspired by her.

Other artists I read up about for this project (with links to relevant webpages)
Shelley Goldsmith - visual depth through layers of image
Norma Starszakowna - vertical strips of fabric with variations in translucency - architectural
Machiko Agano - wonderful dreamy filminess, like spider silk at dawn
Koji Takaki - another striking architectural three dimensional vision, shadows, surface detail, contrasting opposites and relating it to the viewer.
Shihoko Fukumoto - traditional japanese shapes used in a new way. Loved this image particularly
Masakazu and Naomi Kobayashi - space, infinity, natural fibres
Kyoko Kumai - stainless steel wool as textile

Pamela Hardesty - not textiles - paper and glass, but her aesthetic seems to be all about light and texture. Some very powerful abstract images here.

Assignment 2 tutor report

Open College of the Arts
Tutor report 

Student name
Christina Rogers
Student number 
Textiles 1: Exploring Ideas
Assignment number 

Overall Comments
Well done Christina, you have submitted an interesting and well thought through project.  The work is well laid out in the A4 Sketchbook with supporting work in the smaller ‘Man Made’ sketchbook and ‘my textured world’ blog.  The print work is experimental and full of colour, with evidence that you are willing to test and work through new possibilities.  

Assessment potential
I understand your aim is to go for the Textiles Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, and providing you commit yourself to the course, I suggest that you are likely to be successful in the assessment.

Feedback on assignment
There is evidence that you have explored with some thoroughness screen-printing.   You have made a good start to a new technique, producing work that appears to be looser than assignment 1 work with some dynamic results. The designs have been carried out on a range of fabrics with some interesting results.  There is good use of colour, a variety of shapes and evidence that you have used your sketches to create and think through the design process. 

The scaffold motif is very simple but you have used it well, exploring a wide number of colours and layouts – playing with shape and line.  You have added texture with stitch and weave, thinking about scale and placement.  The work is usefully annotated with reflective ideas and technical information.

Continue to follow the course material with diligence.  When executing the work remain thoughtful about placement and the scale of the design elements.  Be experimental, remembering not all sample pieces can be successful but in trying several ways of forming a design there is the possibility that exciting and energetic results can occur.

The drawing for this project consists of mark making and working from life and photography.  You have used a number of different mediums, occasionally on coloured papers.  There is evidence that you have taken your sketches through to the print processes and continued to develop them there.  This assignment shows you to use drawing to generate design ideas, explore a subject matter and to work out design ideas.  

I would suggest you keep pushing your drawing forward, developing and perfecting your skills in using the mediums and capturing what you see.  Look at the way others draw.  There are a number of oca films where students drawing work is shared.  There is one in last week’s oca e-bulletin of a painting student, Jereme Crow.  Look at how many times he paints the lemon until he finds the best way of expressing it. Try Googling sketchbook images and see what you come up with.  

Learning Logs or Blogs 
Your online learning log is straightforward to navigate and is updated regularly.  The blog contains information about the research you have conducted on Constructivism along side your responses to this art movement.  I can see how Constructivism has influenced your own creativity.  You could have possibly written about how this came about for you.  There is also imagery from your sketchbook and the print work you have carried out for this assignment.  Your photos could do with being clearer but I do like the way you have used the grid of images to collate and explore the work to take it forward.  

There is some very personal and relevant self-reflection about the creative process, which shows you to be articulate and self-aware.  There is analysis of the print work and how you have used drawing to solve design problems.  It is nice to see you are looking out for and capturing those serendipitous moments (blue filler and tracing paper).  There is thorough colour work in finding pleasing colour combinations from magazine snipping’s then capturing them in paint ready to use in the print work.  

Continue to write at length your experiences of working through the course material, reflecting on how things are going for you, detailing any design ideas that may occur and the ways your visual research influences your design work.

Suggested viewing/reading
Books you may find useful to enhance your drawing skills.
  • Draw to Stitch: line, drawing and mark-making in textile art.  Gwen Hedley 2010. Batsford. London 
  • Henry Moore textiles.  Anita Feldmen. 2008. Lund Humphries. Aldershot.
  • The encyclopedia of drawing techniques.  Hazel Harrison.  2004.  Search. Tunbridge Wells.

Books you may find useful for the next assignment.
  • Folding techniques for designers. From sheet to form.  Paul Jackson. 2011. Laurence King Publishing. London.
  • Supersurfaces. Folding as a method of generating forms for architecture, products and fashion.  Sophia Vyzoviti. 2010. BIS Publishing. Amsterdam. 
  • Folding Architecture. Spatial, structural and organizational Diagrams. 2010. BIS Publishing. Amsterdam. 

Look at magazines such as Embroidery, Selvedge and Crafts to research methods and design ideas.

Pointers for the next assignment
  • Continue to advance your skills in drawing.
  • Maintain in supporting your design ideas from a wide range of visual research.
  • Continue to develop your reflective and analytical skills
  • Retain your good working practices

I look forward to your next assignment.

Tutor name:
Rebecca Fairley
24th March 2014
Next assignment due
26th May 2014

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Assignment 2 :Reflection

I took a long time over this assignment because of work pressures (which are due to finally recede at the end of April). The result was that the intensity of my engagement with the process was less than for previous assignments, and I have been very much aware that this has reduced the richness and resonance of what I have learned from it. I am sad to be moving on now, as I feel I have probably missed out, especially on finding out about contemporary artists and how they have responded to the 'man made' theme, but realise that I must move on at some point, or never finish.

Despite this relative lack of intensity, during this module I have moved from complete ignorance about screen printing to at least an understanding of what I don't know! I have much more appreciation of the beauty of some man-made things than I did, and a collection of sketchbook starting points for further exploring. I have found myself more self-directed in my explorations than I have previously been, and more able to recognise the fork in the road that I want to follow- either for aesthetic reasons or to learn new ways of doing things. And found myself valuing many of the processes I learned in the previous level 1 course- enough to want to follow them spontaneously (especially the shape/ texture/ colour exercises to finalise a piece).  I guess that's what is meant by developing your own creative process.

Looking back, what still needs attention is the way I do my exploring - I've really missed the feel of the materials in my hands during the last few months. It's been a big departure for me to beaking something so two dimensional and textureless. My style is usually much more material driven - Thomas Heatherwick my hero. This can't be right!  I'm looking forward to the next part of the course as it promises much more of that.

Notes on my design decisions for assignment 2:
I think that the decision to go with the scaffolding design was a good one, as it benefited from my having explored it more than the others in the rest of the section. I am generally pleased with how it turned out.

The size of the pattern is a little large, and could be slightly smaller. The decision to make the A3 size only a corner of a much larger piece turned out well, even though the decision was made after the rectangles exercise as opposed to being as part of it. I think making the border small enough go all the way round the A3 would have made it technically difficult for me to get the detail, and would have lost some of the visual impact it has.

I could have chosen to make a single larger image, as seen in some of the examples of constructivist art I found, but in some ways I like the way this image leads you to think about the larger piece of cloth it comes from, and the use it could be put to, and that this is more relevant to the ethos of constructivism.

The background texture does not show very well, despite being the most effective printing. This is disappointing. I had expected that it would give another layer of geometric pattern on a smaller scale, adding to the depth of the image. However, this has not happened, perhaps mostly because of the relative lack of contrast between the pink and the white background.

I am glad that I chose to pursue the red colour scheme rather than the cooler blue one once it became obvious I couldn't continue with the screen printing. I was pleased that I was able to get the colours relatively accurately.

Finally, looking back, I think the samplers with machine stitching for the straight lines over printed shapes worked nicely and have more intrinsic interest to them than plain printing. I will certainly be exploring more of this in future.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Designing assignment 2


First I had to choose which image to go with.
I made some little squares and had a go at various ideas.
The image from the dark hall still appeals a great deal, and my start on weaving it showed me that it has a lot of potential, but needs more work on getting the juxtapositions of colours right, so not for this time.

For the scaffolding variation I wanted something dramatic with strong contrasts, that doesn't lose the strength of the parallels that appealed in the first place. 

I tried various ideas, and the most appealing was the one with the most impact and apparent simplicity. The background has the pattern from my machine-sewn sampler.

Having decided this, I tried it out on rectangular shapes to work out which arrangement (and whether large scale design, repeat pattern or border) would be best from a composition point of view. Most of the variations had the flat quality that I associate with constructivist design. I ended up with a border, but then realised that in order to retain the features that appeal to me I would have to make the repeat larger than was possible on an A3 sized background.

I therefore decided to use the final piece as if it were the corner of a larger piece, to show the border at a good size.

I found a large piece of white cotton and cut it into several A3 pieces.

I drew out what I think of the poles layer first, to get the corner right. I traced one square 'block' and turned it over to give me the reflection at the corner.


Then I drew out the background texture on a piece of A3 tracing paper, keeping some of the same lines to give me something to align myself along. This background texture was based on this piece of embroidery sampler, but extended to cover the whole background of the border.

I used tracing paper as a template for the screen, painting in the negative spaces with the filler liquid (blue). Because of the tracing paper underneath it made a beautiful pattern, a little like the wave patterns on a beach.

I was anticipating that this pattern would have to be washed away before printing, but in fact the tracing paper stuck to it, meaning that the pattern stayed in some places.

An example of serendipity.

Because of my own awareness of the need, and because of the comments of my tutor after assignment 1, I have deliberately done more colour work in my sketchbook than would have come naturally. One of the exercises I set myself was to spot interesting colour combinations in Vogue, and put feelings to them.

Doing this I found two colour combinations that I thought would work well with the image I was using for assignment 2.

This pink-brightred-brownypurple colour scheme was more fun, young and lively, with big contrasts. My notes show that it reminded me of 1960s images.

This skyblue- bluewhite - midbluegrey combination was very cool and like a Northern horizon, with a much narrower range of tone and was responding in a different way to the geometric pattern - more to the mechanical, inhuman aspect than to the hope and freedom aspects of it.

I did what I could to match the colours by mixing acrylic paints, to see approximately the effect of using those colour combinations with the image.

At this point I decided not to choose between them, and see if I could try them both out.

While the course notes suggest we could either make the print, or do a sketch of it, I was excited about the possibility of following the design through to a finished print, so was aiming to do that.


The geometric lines are the most dramatic aspect of the shape. I drew them with blue gel onto the screen, and once dry, covered it in wax according to the instructions. I noticed that the new pot of wax was much thinner than the old one, and seem to need more than one coat to cover the screen properly.

Unfortunately the viscosity of it meant that it stuck to the paper underneath, and that it dried in streaks.

This photo shows the paper stuck to the back of the screen.

I decided to try printing it anyway, to see how it would turn out, and it looked like this, with dark squiggles, presumably where the layers of screen block dried differently from each other. The bars we printed well, but I couldn't use this because of the background.

I cleaned the screen and re-prepared the geometric lines, this time using only one layer of wax. The first test print was good, but subsequent ones barely printed at all. I have kept one of these in my larger sketchbook. I tried washing the paint out but it was already dry. I do not understand why this might be, other than that it was a hot day.

This is the trouble with a correspondence course - that you can only learn from what you have at home, and the CD that came with the screen printing kit, and the instructions in the course work file could not tell me what I had done to speed up the paint drying.

At this point it was obvious that the screen was ruined and it would not be possible to complete all three layers of the print. So I reverted to the idea of a sketch, using the first background texture layer I had already printed as the base of it. That is why my final sketch is on cotton.

For the scaffolding poles I painted them on with acrylic paint and a paintbrush, using the same template as I had used for the screen. This did not give the same blocky quality as screenprinting them, as the edges were more blurred and the pressure less intense and equal throughout.

For the final layer, I cut a stencil out of sticky vinyl, and sponged the paint on through it.

My final sampler for assignment 2

Monday, 10 March 2014

Ways of thinking doing and being

Today I want to try to put into words something that has become gradually obvious to me over the time I have been doing this course. It will be no surprise to anyone else, no doubt, but there is a striking difference between the way my mind works, and the way I am, while doing the coursework, and the way I am in other contexts in my day to day life.

This isn't just about how I go about solving problems. It's also about the way I think about what I'm doing. And the state of my body when I'm doing it.

So here I am writing in sentences and lists. This is the way I sort things out at work. How I am expected to express myself - with verbal clarity and without too much ambiguity if I can. My ability to do my job is judged, to an extent, by the effectiveness of the editing I impose on my writing and speaking. And how cleanly it results in the hoped for outcome.  

I have experienced a very different way of going about things during this course. 

For a start, there is no hoped for outcome. No one knows what the result will turn out to be. That's the fear and adventure of it. Especially, I suspect, for someone like me with a lifetime of goal-directed living behind them. Setting out on a journey into the unknown without a map or a phone. Who knows where I will end up? Or if I am up to the challenge. 

It is quite uncomfortable. My confidence is built on experience. And I haven't done this before. Each time I start an assignment I am a novice again. 

This means that instead of gathering information and organising it, I am imagining and experimenting. Imagining what is possible, trying it out visually, seeing what it looks like and where it takes me. There is a swing from opening up to possibilities, to deciding which to try out, to opening up again to all the experiments that can flow from them, and back to deciding again. 

It's rather a clunky process in fact, this switching mode (more like reconfiguring the machine than clicking a switch) and often accompanied by a lot of self-doubt and some procrastination. Mairi Hedderwick (artist and illustrator) on Desert Island Discs this week said 'all creative people' feel discouraged as part of the creative process (or words to that effect) - when they reach a point where what they produce is not quite what they had envisioned. If I were in fact in a strange country without a destination this method would get me walking around in spirals and sometimes deciding to stay in the place I had already found and getting to know it better, rather than always looking for new places. I'm not used to that idea at all - no goal but to follow my nose. 

And wow what a brave new way of deciding where to go - by tapping into a  neglected part of my humanness that quietly pulls me back to one thing rather than another, without logic. Without any words. 

It's not attractiveness in the conventional sense. If I had to put words to it it's because something about it seems right, intriguing, enlivening. More about my inner state than about the thing I'm looking at. 

But I'd rather not put words on it because all my life I have been trained to put words to things and I have noticed some resistance in myself, because this sometimes separates the thing from something important in itself. Especially things like this, that are about responding to the essence of myself. (At times like this I can understand why you might not want your photo taken.) 

So, here I am, nearing the end of this module, and suddenly there's an 'outcome' to aim for again - assignment 2 - and I'm feeling regretful that I have to leave this intriguing no-man's-land and fix myself back into the map. 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Trying out screen printing textures

I had seen the idea of bleaching out the dye as a way of making a pattern on fabric with a screen. I thought I would give it a try, and could perhaps use it to create texture for my assignment piece.

I sketched this pattern onto the screen, based on background patterns in the shady parts of the scaffolding.

I kept some of the lines double, and some thick, in order to find out which had the better effect.

Then, printing onto a piece of dyed (but not fixed) cotton, I used thick bleach instead of paint through the prepared screen.

The colour was bleached out very quickly. So quickly that the design spread before I could wash out the bleach.

It was easy to see that the double lines looked better and more scaffolding-like than the thicker ones.

This is what happened when I washed the bleach off immediately - it didn't work enough.

And this is the result of diluting the bleach 1:1 with textile medium to slow it down - it didn't bleach the dye out at all and all you can see is stained areas where it was.

After doing all that i thought it would be worth checking that you can in fact dye on top of bleached areas once the bleach is washed out.

You can.


I tried some other ways of altering the texture of screenprinted paint.
String underneath the screen made very little difference, but string above it gave loopy variations in the texture of the paint, but it was not very predictable because the string inevitably moved when I moved the squeegee over it.

Talc sprinkled on the paper was a good way to get a starry sky image.

Washing out the wax a bit, but not completely, gave a grainy texture in some places, which I rather liked.

Sprinkles of drying paint on the screen, interspersed with talc, was my favourite effect (bottom right), but not recommended if you want to reuse the screen!


Finally today, I made a weaving, trying to explore other ways of making the parallel lines and shadowy horizontals that appeal to me about the scaffolding.

I used translucent fabric for the weft, and twisted it for some of the rows.