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.

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