New concepts – new samples inspired by tutor feedbacks

As I have prepared for assessment I have spent considerable time checking all my tutor feedbacks, watching recommended videos again and reviewing my samples along with re-working a couple in accordance with my tutor’s suggestions and adding a couple of new ones.  During this period of reflection and re-working I came to the realisation that despite my best efforts I had still been too literal in my approach to my theme and that caused restrictions in my creativity – once I am set on an idea I do find it very hard to alter my mindset and this is clearly one of my Asperger quirks (which I am finding somewhat infuriating at present due to my self-awareness of it).

I decided to look again at the theme after reviewing the tutor feedback for Assignment 4 and in particular re-watching a video of Alexander McQueen’s 2017 collection as mentioned in my blog which can be seen at: which is entitled “Response to research suggestion in tutor feedback for Assignment 4”.

I felt that it would be prudent to work a small selection of samples which could be the basis of a variety of textile projects – they could form part of an interior design piece, clothing or period costume, or accessories as examples or they could be developed further to create the whole piece as part of collection … here I take direct inspiration from how Alexander McQueen’s designers took inspiration from a variety of sources and used individual elements in small or larger forms in the design process.

I decided to go back to my sketchbook whilst looking at my original sets of samples and collection of photographs for specific elements that I really liked or inspired me.

I absolutely love the lacy style fungi which inspired me to use free-motion stitching and water-soluble fabric to create a rough ‘lace’ style ‘fabric’ which can be as loose or dense as I require and this was something I really felt would be appropriate to take forward.

During the reflective process and sketchbook work I was really looking at how I could re-create some of the different textures and linear qualities of the decaying trees and fungi that so capture my attention whilst moving away from a reliance on needle-felting and fabric Suffolk puffs which I had begun to feel were almost a safe option although they do still work well with my narrative.

I also wanted to consider how I could combine the ‘lace’ with linen or calico to create new ‘fabrics’ – the ‘lace’ could take on the appearance of a semi-opaque panel whilst being reminiscent of the lichen and fungi that cover the decaying logs or grow in crevices.

A Facebook group post demonstrated how to make crocheted yoyo puffs – similar to fabric Suffolk puffs.  I had never attempted making these crocheted puffs before but felt that the result was reminiscent of the underside of toadstools or mushrooms.  I felt I could potentially use these puffs in groups or individually taking inspiration from the work of the photographer Jill Bliss – they could be a small detail on a pocket or form part of a larger grouping on a panel or cushion.  One of my sketches suggests a needle-felted base with free-motion stitched ‘lace’ overlay and topped with the puffs but when it came to working a sample I decided against the base of wool roving – I felt that I would be going back to throwing everything at the sample rather than the more restrained feel I am aiming for in this collection.

I have noted the possibility of using these crocheted puffs in three-dimensional forms and this is something to bear in mind for the future – could I effectively use the puffs to create yarn ‘sculptures’?

I also noted an idea of using a blanket stitch edge to be able to add a crocheted detail to fabric – this could be in the form of a semi-circular design or simply a border or insert … again something to consider.

The next page of my sketchbook worked through some ideas regarding creating textures reminiscent of the decaying logs – could I use tucks, couched yarns or distressing or even back and forward post stitched crochet?  however I decided to hold back on the crochet for the time being but there is definitely potential with this style of stitch. I confess to finding distressing fabrics quite difficult – the quilter and dress maker in me still does not like rough edges despite loving the theme of decay  and hence there is an internal battle for me still which the decay will win eventually!  However due to this battle I have considered how I can create a distressed look with using Inktense pencils or fabric paint and either tearing into strips or cutting into the chosen fabric or in the case of hessian pulling through the threads.

My sketchbook work seems quite short and basic for this collection of samples and in essence it was really getting ideas out of my head and on paper that I knew some of which I wanted to go forward with – in effect it was a development of the concepts from the rest of the assignment with a large influence of the tutor report and the aforesaid re-watched recommended videos.

Before  I started work on the samples I did a some small test patches of Inktense sticks and acrylics on calico – with the sticks I used them directly on to the fabric with either a water wash or textile medium wash over the top and for the acrylic paint it was either used undiluted or with the addition of the textile medium.

I do like the addition of textile medium to both the sticks and the acrylic paint as it makes it easier to blend the colours and also created a slightly more muted and toned down appearance.

I also added to this page of my sketchbook small samples of the hessian, calico and linen I decided to use and also a left over scrap of the water-soluble stabilizer – the latter is not my chosen one as it has a cling film like feel and it causes my sewing machine tension to go haywire. I much prefer a stabilizer that has the feel of a fine interfacing but my scrap promptly went missing before I could add it to the sketchbook although I did use it primarily for the samples.

So now on to the samples! My intention with them all was to create a pared back collection in comparison to my original set – I wanted to be restrained in terms of fabric palette, colour and design whilst still creating samples that are directly reminiscent of my theme but with no direct textile project specifically in mind which could restrict my creativity.

1.  This sample is the one of two that I felt worked from the start.  I painted calico with the Inktense sticks and textile medium and once dry tore it and some linen into strips before weaving them both with some cut hessian strips.  I decided to add two sections of the above mentioned ‘lace’ to create the impression of  lichen or fungi with the woven section being reminiscent of decaying logs.  To hold the weaving in place I minimally stitched down the weft strips with the thread adding a further  subtle linear element whilst also serving to hold the whole piece together.

I am happy with this sample – it has not felt that it has needed altering and it does what it set out to do.

2. This sample was worked directly from an idea in my sketchbook with ‘lace’ inserts being added to a linen background.  I machine stitched around the outside of the inserts with a blanket stitch before colouring using Inktense sticks the background (again with the addition of textile medium). Once dry I cut slashes into different areas before finally zig-zag stitching the cuts closed.  I wanted this piece to look worn or even muddy as if the cloth had been left in a decaying building or even a fallen branch.  The ‘lace’ lichen I feel create both texture and interest in the fact they are almost transparent so whatever this sample is placed upon the background can be seen through it.

3. The third sample I used purely hessian for.  I have loved seeing crevices and gaps in fallen branches or tree trunks over the course of this year and am intrigued by the lichen or fungi that grow through them – the organisms appear to be knitting two edges together whilst still continuing the process of decay and this sample reflects this.  I have used a simple combination of pulled threads woven through with yarns, sewing-machine made ‘lace’ and also crochet –  the lace and crochet stitch their adjoining edges together.  I have left the hessian edges rough with some threads being caught in the machine stitched edge of the ‘lace’ – the piece feels that it has a narrative of times gone by and could be perceived to be a scrap of fabric from an old garment so takes on a different concept of decay.

4.  For this sample I wanted to try working with a combination of the crocheted yoyo puffs, that directly represent fungi, couched yarns that represent the linear qualities of decaying logs and also a small section of ‘lace’.  This is one of the samples that I really wanted to be very restrained whilst still with a strong design element – I spent considerable time trying different combinations or arrangements as I thought seriously about the composition.  Originally the sample did not have the small circular ‘lace’ panel which is placed between the puffs but when I looked at the sample with an towards critical reflection I felt that something was missing – this is where posting in Facebook groups really helps so that you can get the feedback of fellow students with one pointing out that this sample and a couple of the others did not feel the puffs or ‘lace’ were grounded to the background and that they appeared to be floating.  I did agree with the student in their observation although I often feel that when you see fungi, particularly mushrooms or toadstools, from above they can indeed appear to be floating when you cannot see their stem.  I decided to add the small ‘lace’ panel between the fungi as it does pick up on the yellow and green yarns used for two of the fungi plus the same yarns that were used for some of the couched areas plus the yellow and cream threads of the longer ‘lace’ panel – in adding this small element I now feel the different elements work in harmony with each other and there is balance in the composition whilst still retaining the contrasts that I desired.

5.  The second sample using the crocheted puffs proved trickier with regards to composition – I wanted to create a piece that used some calico with I had machine stitched tucks into in combination with patches of the linen and hessian as I was thinking directly of a gown in the 2017 Alexander McQueen collection that was made of stitched patches of fabrics.  Initially I added the puffs along with the longer ‘lace’ panel but this was one of the pieces my fellow student felt was not grounded to the background – the addition of the smaller circular ‘lace’ panel I felt resolved the issue  whilst connect the colours of the yarns, threads and fabrics together.  I did try adding some needle-felting in a variety of different areas in an attempt to further harmonize the piece but in the end removed it because the simplicity and restraint I was looking for was lost – I was on the point of over-egging the pudding again which I had been guilty of in a couple my original samples before re-working.

6.  This final sample was a second variation using the tucked calico with the linen and hessian patches.  I really liked using the couched yarns combined with the ‘lace’ panels – the yarns and tucks really represent the linear qualities of bark and decaying logs as they decay with the ‘lace’ still being reminiscent of the lichen and fungi.  I feel this sample has an almost architectural quality about it and I wonder if my love of architecture is creeping through here subconsciously as an influence.

At this point I feel a short critical review and reflection is needed regarding these samples and in comparison with the original samples for this theme:

Overall these samples I do feel have a stronger and more coherent appearance than my original set although both the colour palette, fabrics and composition are more restrained.  I have felt more comfortable and confident really pulling back my designs with a less is more approach – instead of thinking ‘what can I add?’ to make a sample better I have instead asked ‘what can I take away?’.  I have used my camera considerably to photograph various arrangements of elements before settling on the final one – this has the effect of enabling me to step back and look with a critical eye and it is a technique I will continue to use.  The samples I am most pleased with are the first four – the latter two I am unsure as to whether I have added too much in terms of couched yarns or too little in terms of what I have left out but I know this is something that will come with further experience.

I note I have taken considerable influence from contemporary artists such as as Jill Bliss and Valerie Gardiner but can also see a subconscious influence of abstract or expressionist artists such as Wassily Kandinksy who I have studied in my art history module – the influence of the latter I feel can be seen strongly in samples 4 and 6 in particular and this I am happy about as it proves to me my studies and passion for art history is coming through my work and that is something I desperately wanted.

Am I happy with the restrained colour palette as opposed to the colours used in my original samples?  both have their appeals but the restrained palette has, for me, demonstrated the theme in a much stronger way with the colours directly reflecting the decay of the logs and details of the fungi and lichen.  The original palette I now feel is more reflective of the moss and fauna that surrounds the decay although has elements of some of the fungi which of course come in such a wide variety of colours and textures.  Am I happy with the textural or linear elements of this new set of samples in comparison with the original samples?  again I feel this new collection is stronger with the simple contrasting textures of the fabrics and yarns working in harmony to create a unifying appearance to the collection whilst also demonstrating the variety of textures found in a decaying woodland.

Overall I feel that I have worked with my chosen materials in a sympathetic manner to produce samples that communicate my theme across both sets of samples – I should say all 3 sets (one is my original tutor assessed set, the second the reworked versions plus new samples and the third this final collection).  I have worked through this last collection with a mind to the working methodology – through the use of my camera I was able to critically review each sample as I worked and this method of developing through direct experimentation does seem to suit me and is therefore something I will take forward.  The working methodology of concept, practical response, critical reflection, synthesis/refinement is now without question part of my psyche and one that now feels natural.

As I reflect on the samples I have done I am considerably happier to have done this last set as it is showing how my work is developing and taken the theme that next step further so that it can be used in a variety of textile projects as mentioned above. I would still like to develop the idea of the Medieval bracers as an ongoing project but will be curious to see how the Beauty from Decay theme as a whole develops further throughout my studies.

The one area I had doubts upon was the development of my personal voice and it seems to be taking two parallel but contrasting paths – one a love of colour and detail and the second a calmer, restrained and pulled back appearance and I do feel these different paths are ones I wish to develop … two different personal voices which are two halves of myself.

My weak area is still regarding working on different scales and this is something I really need to work on – I am lacking in a little confidence I feel here but understand this come.  Part of my reasons for working on these samples has also been to work on a secondary weak area which is transferring my ideas in my sketchbooks to my working textile samples and I do feel I have benefited from this additional work – by not trying to over-work or over-complicate I feel this set of samples is stronger and more defined.

So my samples are done – I have 3 sets of samples which portray the same theme in two different ways demonstrating different thought processes, techniques and concepts.

Finally a brief note of the criteria for the course:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills:  I feel more confident that I have demonstrated a development of materials, techniques, observational skills and visual awareness also vitally for me a development of my compositional skills which I feel has been a weaker area.  I do feel that these technical and visual skills can be seen in all the work from Assignment 5 but for me personally particularly in this final set of samples. I want to continue to develop my compositional skills further and have made notes to ensure I pay close attention to this area going forward.

Quality of outcome:  I feel I have been able to apply the knowledge I have gained  and work in a coherent manner throughout this course and have learnt to judge my work in a more considered manner – my critical reflection skills were previously a weaker area and I feel more confident in my ability in this area now and will continue to work to improve.  I also feel now that I am able to conceptualise my thoughts considerably better and communicate my ideas through a combination of my learning log, sketchbooks and textile work – I have often included the critical reflections in my sketchbooks in order that they make sense to me or a viewer when combined with samples without necessarily the need to be able to view my learning log which is obviously very comprehensive.  I feel considerably more confident in the quality of my work overall and feel this has developed enormously throughout the duration of this course.

Demonstration of creativity:   I have felt more confident working in my sketchbooks where I have been able to communicate my imagination, experimentation and invention and although I have experienced some difficulty in transferring these aspects to my ‘made’ textile work I now feel I am beginning to do so particularly in the last set of samples.  My personal voice is starting to develop – I feel I am developing two different paths that will run parallel to one another.

Context:  this is where I feel my strength lies in research, critical thinking and reflection and I have developed considerably throughout the duration of the course although I still need to be focused in my notes and written work.

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Response to research suggestion in tutor feedback for Assignment 4

Reading through assignment 4 feedback my tutor suggested I read a blog post by Pere Brauch one of OCA’s own tutors and who also works as a freelance textile designer for Alexander McQueen.  My tutor thought I would find the blog post useful as I have a tendency to be too literal but I am writing this after the end of Assignment 5, although I read the blog and watched a suggested video prior to it as well as a second video but frustratingly I now realise my collection of samples is still too  literal either directly with some samples or at the core of the others and understand this is an aspect of my Asperger’s I am going to find a way around in order to go forward.

I am certainly a lover of Alexander McQueen’s designs but had not understood the influences, or if I am brutally honest, had not really considered them in depth before but now find myself studying them closely and understanding how the designers have taken snippets of inspiration or influences from a variety of sources.  In some clothing the influences are obvious – there are strong references in the fabrics, embroideries or overall designs whilst in others these influences are more subtle and refined with just glimmers or hints to the origins.  What is common throughout is that the designers have not been literal – they have focused on areas that inspire them whether it is a piece of embroidery in the V&A or the landscapes or traditions and Medieval history of the Shetland Isles or Cornwall as is seen in the autumn/winter collection for 2017.   The details or embellishments may simply range from v-shaped stitching to heavy embroidery or fabrics rich in detail or the simple fluidity of silks and chiffons contrasting against either soft or structured leathers.

My tutor recommended, as indicated above, watching a video of a spring 2001 collection and I also watched the video of the 2017 collection which Pere Brauch’s blog post provided the link for on which I have based my comments above. However in addition to my observations on the design collection  what is common to both is the audience being in darkness before and during the shows with the models either unable to see them totally or only through the darkness.  The shows were not mere runway shows but theatrical performances full of drama and intrigue – in particular the 2001 show seemed to be inspired by sci-fi movies or books with the models coming in and out of the room and demonstrating ever more bizarre behaviour along with ever more experimental and exploratory designs.  I loved the later show for the appearance of the models appearing to walk in what could be construed as a jousting area with the audience being separated by vertical railings – the banners above the models were also at the side and all were raised at the start of the show and again this could be construed  as referencing the Medieval period.

I now find myself considering whether to look again at my work and feel that I do want to explore a selection of samples based on my theme but that could be used in a variety of ways from my thoughts of Medieval bracers, sleeves or other parts of clothing from a variety of eras whether as a small section or expanded to become the whole or even used as accessories such as bags, belts or interior design.  I feel this small selection would give me the opportunity to explore a couple more ideas without any restrictions of a specific use and this is something I now realise that I wish I had done throughout Parts 4 and 5 – however, realising what in retrospect I should have done I do feel is important to my progression as I become more self-aware of the restrictions of my Asperger’s syndrome.  Watching the videos again has really made me think about how I wish to progress and how I can use simple images, sketches or other source material as inspiration.


Alexander McQueen Trading Limited. 2017.  Women’s Autumn/Winter 2017 Show [online].  [Date accessed:  August and September 2017].  Available from:

Brauch, P. 2017.  Collection review:  Alexander McQueen Aw17 [online].  [Date accessed:  August and September 2017].  Available from:

Satterfield, R. 2017.  Alexander McQueen Spring 2001 “Voss” [online].  [Date accessed:  August and September 2017].  Available from: https;//



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Performance art

I have been recently checking back through my blogs and notes prior to assessment and realised I had written some draft notes about some performance art videos my tutor had recommended I watched in her feedback for Assignment 2 but for some reason I not written the blog.

I have re-watched the videos that are still available and understand again why my tutor had suggested watching them – having completed the course I feel that my understanding is now greater than perhaps it was when watching them for the first time.  I find myself watching the movements of the artists more closely and how they have turned their art into a performance with spectators – in effect the artists become the actors on stage as they create their pieces and there is no place to hide.  The art becomes something more for being done in front of an audience – it feels more emotional and expressive and this is something that really appeals to me.  As a rule I do love watching street artists work and will now do so with fresh eyes as I take into account their art is also performance art in its own right.

Starting with the work of Kim Mookwon I found myself somewhat intrigued and fascinated by both her style and her performance.  This artist paints using large oriental brushes on what appears to be an semi-opaque screen – she stands behind it whilst her audience is in front.  The painting appears to the audience as it worked so I question whether the screen is either a specialised oriental paper or perhaps it is silk treated with an anti-spreading medium which also makes me question whether the artist uses silk paints.

Ms Mookwon has a group of musicians accompanying her and playing what I can only assume is the folk music of country – she sometimes appears to paint in time with the rhythm of the music whilst at other times she appears to be inspired by it so I wonder whether there is a narrative in the music which is perhaps a folk story or similar and the paintings are influenced by this.  Research suggests that Ms Mookwon is either South Korean or Chinese so again I question the narrative aspect and whether the paper is silk or a very specialised paper – I know this is repeating myself but I do so as written thoughts from an enquiring mind.

Regarding the marks and the way the performance is executed I find the marks very expressive and gestural – they are large and loose but there is also a refinement and knowledge that each mark is deliberately and carefully positioned.  The process appears to come from within the artist but the execution is very much of the conscious mind.

In contrast I also watched a performance by a break dancing artist – this dancer produced a work that was incredibly reminiscent of the Abstract Expressionist artists of the post World War II era.  The dancer covered first his hands, then t-shirt and clothes and finally his shoes with differing coloured paints and used his body as the tool in which to create the art work – his movements executed the marks and although you felt they were random I also felt that the dance was at least considered if not choreographed and so like the Abstract Expressionist artists the marks appeared to be spontaneous but in fact were well thought out.  I appreciate each individual piece of art by this dancer will be different but the methodology and process almost confines the art to within the parameters of a style or personal voice – there is the aforesaid illusion of spontaneity and also a feeling of the art coming from within the artist, again like the Abstract Expressionists and also the Surrealists before them, but there is an aspect of crossing boundaries whilst staying within them.  I feel this style of art brings me to a question post in my art history module and that is ‘what constitutes art?’  the question is answered only by the individual spectator.

I also found Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker who is a dancer and choreographer – this is an artist/dancer I discovered watching one of the recommended videos.  This dancer does not use an artistic medium or papers to ‘draw’ with and nor is her intention to be an artist from what I can discover but she does draw in sand with the movements of her feet as she dances to the music of Steve Reich (a violinist).  Watching the video clip was interesting as she talked about her work and how she felt that working with geometry and geometric patterns becomes akin to measuring the earth and about how dance becomes about relationships within a specific amount of time where precision becomes crucial although as she demonstrated precision becomes more difficult with the use of the sand – both comments were interesting to note as I find I want to be precise when working within a time frame but my media dictates whether I can achieve preciseness or whether I have to accept a looser style.  I am also interested in the fascination with geometry – the sand enables the patterns to be drawn by a dancers feed in much the same way as waves do but the artist is able to draw due to her choreographically and dance skills.   I find the way this artist works is very similar to the work of Tony Orrico in her use of geometry and her fascination with it as stated above – geometry also appears in the work of Jennifer McCurdy and so clearly holds an almost natural fascination with many artists so maybe I need to brush up my school-time mathematics! Finally it was interesting to note that the work of this dancer is viewed at its best from above so her audience looks down as she dances – this will remind me to look at my own work from differing angles and indeed in differing lights with a view to creating new ideas.

Tony Orrico works in a different way to Ms de Keersmaeker in that he holds graphite in his hands and using the limitations of his outstretched arms to create boundaries which he works within using a variety of repeated patterns – his body provides the tool to create these patterns as his arms and hands move to create contours and shapes. In some ways I found myself thinking of old fashioned spirographs as I watched the video but I was also fascinated by the movement of the body not just a hand and wrist to create works that have a hypnotic impression not only in their patterns but by the fact that they can only be achieved by the physical limitations of the artist’s body and also by the pressure exerted on the graphite or carbon used.

To summarise – these performance artists have given me food for thought and certainly make me think about how I can inspired by music and movement.  I am a fan of dance, ballet and ice-skating and love photographs of dancers caught in the middle of movements and this style of  performance art often takes those movements and translates it on to paper – I would love to have space and the size of paper to experiment myself which would also give me further understanding of the Abstract Expressionists whose work I am only now fully understanding as I have progressed through my studies.  I do love the work of Kim Mookwon and this ties in with an increasing love of oriental art – I want to watch more videos of her work and see how it can inspire me in either personal sketchbook work or whether there is something I can link into my studies.

As I move forward into the next course I have made notes in my study journal to bear in mind these performance artists when researching contemporary artists – how they influence my work at this point in time I am unsure of as a whole but their working methodology which is still often based in research is something I can take forward and be inspired by along with looking further at geometric influences.


Mookwon, K. 2011.  Kim Mookwon live drawing art [online].  [Date accessed:  July and September 2017].  Available from:

Museum of Modern Art. 2011.  Performance 13: On Line/Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker Jan 12-16, 2011 [online].  [Date accessed:  July and September 2017].  Available from:

Orrico, T. 2010.  Tony Orrico Performance [online].  [Date accessed:  July and September 2017].  Available from:

RMVideomaker. (2016).  Break Dance Painting Art [online].  [Date accessed:  July and September 2017].  Available from:

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Critical Reflection: refining of samples post assignment 5 tutor feedback with additional new samples

I decided to take my tutor’s advice and re-work some of the samples but also to add a couple of new ones – my tutor had very kindly offered to let me send photographs of these so that she could give me brief feedback.

Note:  I have decided to write this blog with the samples that my tutor feels were the strongest first in terms of my control of the design and materials used.

This is a completely new sample which takes inspiration from the work of Billy Kidd in terms of the black background.  I wanted to give an impression of the striped colours of a decaying log with fungi growing over and near by – the fungi are worked so that the centres are much thicker and have a slightly more three dimensional appearance. The coloured rings are reminiscent of the actual coloured rings I have seen on various fungi – I love the fact that the colours do not blend on these fungi but are separate and distinct with the outer edges being the strongest darkest hue and I really wanted to capture that appearance. As I look at the colours I now question whether in August I was looking ahead to the approaching autumn.

Initially when I worked on this piece I had made the felting too heavy particularly on the left hand side with the colours being almost too separate from each other but having posted a photograph in the Facebook page for OCA textiles  I took the feedback from a fellow student in how to improve the appearance and sensitivity.  The result of the advice meant that I removed some wool roving on the left hand stripes but also blended them a little so that although the colours are still distinct there is a gentle overlapping and blending which softens the appearance a little.  I decided not to soften the ‘fungi’ as I wanted the roving to be much thicker to create a different appearance to the ‘log’ although I did take my fellow student’s advice and do more needle work over the whole piece.

Overall I am relatively happy with this sample and do agree with my tutor that it is one of the stronger ones – the black poly-cotton backing really makes the colours pop although I would not use this fabric again as it proved difficult to work with and I now realise was unsuitable.  If I was to do further work on this sample I would look for a black wool for the background which would make a considerable difference both in terms of appearance, sensitivity to the materials and also how much easier it would be to work with.  I would also consider how I could develop the fungi in terms of shapes and colours and do likewise with the ‘log’ – I feel my colours could be improved by using a deeper green instead of the limey-green for the log as this would give the appearance of it being more in the background.  I feel paler shades of the same colours or even changing completely to a palette of soft fawn and greys  with a pop of a contrasting colour, perhaps the aforesaid limey-green to indicate moss, for the fungi could be used – these colours would also bring the fungi forward in the composition with the combination of the darker log improving the overall composition.

The second sample is a re-worked version of my original piece that included Suffolk puffs.

Again I took advice from fellow students with this piece – it was felt that the wool roving was too heavy and the colours again too distinct …. I had taken my tutors advice too far from the colours being muddied to the colours separated too much.  Having taken this advice I re-worked the sample by reducing the amount of wool roving and also blending the colours just enough to soften the effect whilst not losing their own identity.  I worked this sample on a piece of calico which was considerable better than the black poly-cotton as it enabled the fibres to blend together much better and was easier on the needles too.  The Suffolk puffs I did time arranging – I took particular inspiration from the work of Barbara De Pirro and also Valerie Gardiner in terms of colours and composition.  I decided to attach the puffs simply using single French knots in ochre yarn – I reused some of the original puffs and also added some new ones in a different fabric albeit one from the same range and this resulted in what I feel is a greater variation of patterns and illusion of textures.

Overall this is one of my favourite samples and have thoughts on how I could develop it further – could I add more French knots, change the shape of the design or add the felting in circular shapes echoing the Suffolk puffs?  or could I simply use this sample in a totally different project perhaps as part of something considerably bigger?   I do feel this piece could be improved also by simply changing the background colours to darker tones so that the background recedes and really pushes the foreground fungi forward.

The next sample is the second new one and again took inspiration from the work of Billy Kidd with the black backgrounds and also the work of Lindsay Taylor but also took note of an early thought on changing my colour palette.

My tutor felt that this sample was one of two which were an improvement on my earlier samples but lacked the sensitivity to design and materials that the first two samples have.  My problem with this sample is that I was trying to do something different in terms of colours and design as I introduced French knots to the right hand fungi suggestive of the polka-dot toadstools or mushrooms that can be found and also the straight stitches of the left hand fungi which I wanted to be suggestive of the undersides of mushrooms or toadstools.  In addition the centre ‘panel’ is to represent the decaying logs  with the overlying ‘lace’ fabric being representative of a the lace-style fungi.  I feel the design now is too cluttered and needs simplifying – one set of fungi could be removed and the ‘lace’ be moved so that it covers that area whilst slightly overlapping the central panel is one idea whilst another is to remove the central panel felting completely whilst leaving the ‘lace’ ….. looking now I can also see one of my quirks has clouded my judgement  as I am naturally inclined towards symmetry and I feel it is the symmetry, albeit it is not total symmetry,  that is throwing the composition and design off kilter. The design lacks a balance and harmony that I had initially thought I had achieved – it does not feel calm and harmonious but slightly chaotic and jarring – if the same design used reds and oranges this chaos would become more striking and intentional.

In terms of sensitivity and materials – there is too much felting in this piece I feel and the ‘lace’ could replace some of this rather than just be an overlay.

I like the concept and idea of the sample and my tutor’s evaluation means I now understand how I could refine this piece if I decided to take it forward.

The second piece that my tutor again lacked the sensitivity and design that the first two samples had  is this one – this is a re-worked piece from my original collection.

I do feel I want to ditched the edges, take off the ‘lace’ and add a further stronger coloured thread to it (thinking a very dark grey, green or even black).  My issue with the lace is how I attach it to the hessian or acrylic painted fabric and whether I add the crocheted edges?  If I add the aforementioned stronger coloured thread using water soluble fabric I question whether I can add a crocheted edge using a fine yarn before I rinse the piece out – this crochet would potentially enable me to stitch it to the background (thinking the hessian) whilst giving me the leeway to then crochet some kind of edging albeit one that is more subtle and refined.

Finally the wrapped sample – this was initially an idea that never made it out of the sketchbook as I hated it! However my tutor felt that sample in the sketchbook had real potential …. wrapping is still something I do not quite ‘get’ although I appreciate how it can be used too.

My tutor does feel that this piece could be improved with considering how the colours sit together but there is a part of me likes the slightly chaotic look as it does represent some of the patterns, textures and colours I have directly seen on decaying tree trunks and logs whilst at the same time understanding the observation.  I am questioning whether to re-work in accordance with my tutor’s advice or whether to effectively have this piece ‘sit on file’?

To summarise this reflection I do feel that this re-worked selection of samples which includes new pieces is, as my tutor has felt, an improved collection.  I still do need to pull back my work and take a less is more approach, at least in the immediate future, to produce more refined work.  I am frustrated at this point in my studies that I have not yet been able to transfer the skills  to my making of samples and work that I have developed in terms of thinking and creativity but also take reassurance from my tutor that it it will come and the penny will drop – this is something that I really need to write in big letters on my  noticeboard as I move forward.  I know what I want to achieve in my work and the samples above are representative of concepts but I really need to concentrate on not overworking – it is easier to add more than it is to take away!

I decided at this point to work two final refinements working on the two samples my tutor felt were improvements but still lacking a little sensitivity to materials and design as I wanted to take her advice one last time for this course as I absorb the lessons learnt and try and really instill them into my psyche.

With this sample I removed the crochet edges as planned and in the process of removing the ‘lace’ realised and remembered I had threaded an ochre coloured yarn through it and pulled on it accidentally which resulted in the heavier stitched areas gathering – some accidents have happy results! I played around with this lace for a period of time trying out differing placements and finally settled on one seen in the photo – the off-white thread picks up on the lighter areas of the background and creates a more harmonious feel whilst the darker colours of the background now appear to recede and create depth to this sample as they emphasize the illusion of textures which represent the decaying logs.  In addition.  I decided to add some free form crochet to one edge of the lace to add a secondary texture which creates a feeling of a more dense form whilst also enabling me to stitch this lace to the hessian borders of the bracer.  To echo the lace ‘fungi’ I added a small free form crocheted ‘form’ to the bottom right edge – this represents a secondary fungi growing out of the ‘log’ in an adjoining area whilst also again adding a feeling of harmony and balance to the whole sample.

I am considerably happier with this sample – it is certainly less cluttered and I feel more refined through taking a less is more approach plus the colours work in harmony whilst also giving the impression or illusion of textures and depth which is further emphasized by the different materials used and the gathering of the lace.

The second sample involved the black poly-cotton and pastel ‘fungi’.  I decided to remove one portion of the fungi and essentially flip over the ‘lace’ into the space left before free-motion stitching that down whilst also adding stitching to the central felted panel. A fellow student felt this new sample was reminiscent of a sea theme with the lace being either sea foam or weeds washed up, (I also feel it could be fishing net in retrospect), with the remaining fungi being reminiscent of sea shells and hence the gathers could be seen  to represent the rucks and movement of the sand.  I decided to gather the bottom edge to add a further simple textural element and also backed the sample with a hand-dyed blue-pink soft cotton fabric (this is a bit of up-cycling as the fabrics was originally a bed sheet).  When stitching the backing to the fabric I was very conscious not to catch the ‘lace’ as I wanted this to go beyond the edges – it blurs the edging on one side and draws the eye towards the other elements.

If I was to remake and develop this sample and concept further  I would not machine stitch the central felting but rather use simple French knots signifying small shells or spots of surf and I would let the felting also go off the edge very slightly as I take inspiration from  the sea or sand going beyond the boundaries of sea breakers.  Although this sample essentially changes the theme it is a change I am happy to see due to my Plymouth roots – a sea theme was a consideration during Part 3 to take forward in Part 4 and 5 of this course so clearly this is a secondary theme that is crying out for me to now take forward in my studies and in my working practice.

I do feel that the re-working of two samples and refining them just that bit more has been hugely beneficial as it has enabled me to again take on board advice as stated above whilst really understanding and reinforcing compositional lessons which I feel I have needed to do.


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Jennifer Collier – artist research and further reflection on the craft lagoon

During the course of checking my blog prior to assessment I have come across some artists my tutor’s have recommended looking at with Jennifer Collier being one suggested in my feedback for Assignment 1.

Ms Collier is an interesting textile artist in that she primarily works with paper that she has sourced from charity shops and flea markets – her work is based very much on upcycling often using the actual paper to suggest the narrative with further inspiration also coming from other sources such as poetry and literature.

Using a combination of techniques that include not just hand or machine stitching (including embroidery) but also bonding,  waxing or trapping Ms Collier creates two or three dimensional forms which can either be decorative or functional in the case of items such as lampshades.  The paper is often manipulated as well as stitched which brings me back to Exercises 1.5 Action which instructed me to use paper to interpret a verb or Exercise 3.2 where I worked on samples whereby I manipulated fabric – my samples I do not feel were very successful but looking at Ms Collier’s work does demonstrate just how far you can manipulate and stitch paper which she obviously has learnt over many years.

Jennifer Collier. Typewriter. Pinterest

During the course of the research I found this photograph on Pinterest of her paper typewriter which had a serious personal resonance – I am a former secretary who learnt to type on a manual typewriter so can understand how Ms Collier’s work has taken on a nostalgic theme due to the memories of the people who collect or view the pieces.  For me this image evokes memories of thumping that keyboard and a resulting injury that 30 years later still lets me know it is there – oh how I loved the electronic typewriters that we alternated with and then the delights of a computer keyboard!!  On a more academic note I love the fact that the paper has been used to create the typewriter – the words on the paper echoing the typed words created by the machine with every small detail relevant and correct.  If I could collect one piece of Ms Collier’s work this surely would be it – the machine that has formed part of life and continues to do so!

Jennifer Collier. Sewing machine. Pinterest

A second piece that has obvious resonance for a student studying textiles is this sewing machine that appears to be have been created by using dress making patterns as the papers used.  This use of the patterns directs the narrative and the form which is one of the techniques of the artist and something to bear in mind as inspiration for future work – maybe some of the dressmaking patterns I have lost other pieces for but not thrown out may yet have their uses.

Jennifer Collier. Dress. Pinterest

A third piece of work I found on Pinterest uses music paper as a basis for a child’s dress – I have also seen a second dress made up of postage stamps with both no doubt evoking memories for the viewers.

Something I find particularly interesting is the use of words in the work of this artist – words form such a major part of our lives and the use of the papers to create the form and the narratives shows me a different use of words to create either the aforementioned two or three-dimensional forms.  I also like the use of the music paper used to create this dress – appealing because in my background is a great love of music and I am a former flute player.  The music paper demonstrates a different way music can be incorporated into art – it is not just there to be listened to and worked to but the scores themselves can be used as part of the media itself.

I did not expect to be quite so entranced by this artist’s work – I am unsure if it is because she uses papers from books or other sources that may have been once much loved or that are being discarded and hence they each have a history and narrative of their own.  When my tutor suggested that I might like this artist she did not know that my very first job as a secretary was working in an antiquarian bookshop – books or papers with their own history is at the very core of my identity.

As I think about the crossing boundaries of this artist in terms of where her work would fit in regarding the themes of the early parts of this course I feel that she obviously does cover music and words but also personal experience as the books or papers were once used and read but also because of the memories they evoke to the viewer or collector.  The work also crosses boundaries in terms of mixed media – Ms Collier mixes fabric manipulation with stitch and hence although her work is of a textile artist it is work  that is rooted in paper and that paper creates the narratives and forms and evokes emotions or memories that other media and techniques can sometimes fail to do in quite such a direct manner.

Finally I am intrigued by the fact that Ms Collier does not class her work as fine art but rather as contemporary craft and here I think back to the craft lagoon which formed my first research point for this course – Grayson Perry’s description of it being for those too afraid to cross over into the art world or the fact that he feels that craft concentrates on technique whilst lacking the emotions and ideas of fine art. Ms Collier’s work without question has the ideas and has the emotions that match any fine art work but it does have the techniques at its foundations so hence it brings me back to my original research.

I do now ask myself the question does the craft lagoon still exist or have contemporary crafts people taken down the barriers so that the two worlds of craft and fine art are starting to merge together? Ms Collier’s work and the work throughout this course have certainly made me think – personally I think the worlds are merging but whilst doing so the artists themselves are still keeping the separation in order to preserve their techniques, traditions, new skills or purely their own boundaries that enable their work to be seen in their own individual lights.


Jennifer Collier (no date).  Frequently asked questions [online].  [Date accessed:  6 September 2017].  Available from:

Jennifer Collier (no date).  Statement/CV [online].  [Date accessed:  6 September 2017].  Available from: (2016).  Jennifer Collier:  Paper & Stitch [online].  [Date accessed:  6 September 2017].  Available from:

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Susie Freeman – artist research

As I work through my learning log prior to assessment I have realised that I have missed looking at one or two artists or videos as recommended by my tutors – even though the research is no longer strictly relevant to the work ahead in terms of specific exercises I still feel that is worth doing in terms of understanding the lessons covered which give me the  basis for moving forward into level 2.  One of the artists mentioned by my first tutor Lisa Wolfe is Susie Freeman whose work crosses boundaries and covers identity and labels.

Susie Freeman has intrigued me due to her use of a finely knitted semi-transparent fabric she makes with monofilament thread to create pockets that are filled with a variety of objects representing our lives – the objects are reflective of the way that we collect or choose items that are reflective of the time of their choosing and are then kept or discarded depending on their relevance at  later dates. These pockets and objects create a fabric that effectively demonstrates the fabric of life – the fabric illustrates a collective or independent aspect of either a singular person or group of people that shows how lives develop, the histories of our lives or constrasts and similarities which I find fascinating.  As humans we are all individuals but our lives are intertwined with many similarities and shared history as well as the aforementioned contrasts. Ms Freeman’s work primarily involves clothes, fabrics or framed pieces each involving the pockets and with themes ranging from personal to medical to artistic themes although some can just be purely decorative too.

Susie Freeman. Jubilee. 2000. Pinterest

Researching Ms Freeman’s work I initially found on Pinterest  this wedding dress which was originally made for an exhibition, Sexwise, which was based on women’s health.  A little further research told me that the main ‘fabric’ was made with 80 dernier nylon monofilament thread and made on an industrial knitting machine and the pockets are filled with the lifetime average 6279 contraceptive pills that the average women will take during her reproductive years of 22-50.

This dress is demonstrative of Ms Freeman’s  interest in medical issues and was part of a collaboration with a family doctor, Liz Lee and an artist, David Critchley.  Together these 3 people formed Pharmacopoeia which primarily works on art that reflects the aforementioned medical issues.  Seeing a dress such as this really makes you stop and reflect on just how many pills we take over a lifetime – in this case if a woman uses contraceptive pills these 6279 take account of interruptions to have children but the sheer number is almost quite frightening.

Susie Freeman. Cradle to Grave. 2003. Pinterest

A well-known collaboration of Pharmacopoeia is the 14 foot long piece Cradle to Grave which was commissioned by the British Museum for their exhibition Living and Dying.  This huge art work was the result of considerable research which eventually involved taking 4 males and 4 females at different stages in their lives and with different medical issues – these 4 people of either sex became the average man or woman from which to work out the average prescribed pills that a person takes over a lifetime.  The research was done through the fact that Dr Liz Lee is a working doctor and therefore has access to the prescribed records of 13,000 people in her practice.  The pills formed a diary which ran along the centre and which was supplemented by a variety of photographs supplied and with notes written on by their owners, documents relating to daily lives and also objects which not only belonged to the people but were to do with the medical aspects of their lives.  Some of the objects were straightforward and obvious and some more diverse as they represented the complexity of a life lived and our sophisticated thinking.

I was fascinated to read the article on the website of Pharmacopopeia and which was originally written for the Crosstalks project and which also eventually formed the epilogue to a book (‘In Sickness and Health, The future of Medicine:  Added Value & Global Access’) as it described the process including research that went into this project.  I would love to have been able to see this particular art work in person as there is a personal resonance for myself – I take levothyroxine on a daily basis to counteract the effects of low thyroid levels caused by radiotherapy and at present I have taken 2 tablets a day for 3 years and 1 a day for a further 4 so this alone adds up to over 3500 which really makes you think and consider how much medication you are requiring …. I am aware my medication is essential to my survival but it is still somewhat scarey how many pills I have taken and that does not even take into account any antibiotics or over the counter medication.  The un-prescribed medication is not included in the 14,000 pills for each average man or woman in the pockets that are taken in a lifetime and all the drugs used were actual prescribed drugs (although none with restricted use such as morphine) and artists endevoured to ensure that a variety of common medical conditions were included – our reliance on these drugs has become effectively part of the necessity of day to day life but the piece also  reflects on the false promises that some drugs can give which as the article on the website mentions is not unlike the gods or spirits of different cultures.  This last sentence of false promises is something I personally understand all too well – I have been a cancer patient for 17 years even though I am No Evidence of Disease to date (the best you get with my rare cancer) and contact with other fellow cancer patients really shows on occasions the false promises both prescribed drugs and alternative therapies can give …. with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma there is no ‘set’ path for the disease and it progresses differently in every person plus it is so far resistant to many drugs or treatments.  Patients have often found the doctors are very honest and make no promises regarding the drugs but I understand the artist’s statement because they also refer to pills taken for depression or other illness – can a pill really make you happy or does it just mask a sympton?

If I go back now to the original assignment or exercise I fully understand how Ms Freeman’s work relates to identity, labels and personal experience as her work is very much based on both but it also crosses boundaries in terms of techniques and media – she uses not just a textile technique but also objects and documents ‘artistic media’ and this is an interesting concept to consider going forward.  I do feel this is an artist whose work I will come back to and take further inspiration from for aspects of my own work – instead of just considering fabrics and yarn I need to look at objects to inspire and form part of my work if they are relevant to the context and the theme.


Contemporary Applied Arts (no date).  Susie Freeman [online].  [Date accessed:  6 September 2017].  Available from:

Pharmacopoeia (no date).  ‘Cradle to Grave’, In Sickness and in Health’ [online].  [Date accessed:  6 September 2017].  Available from:

Pharmacopoeia (no date).  Susie Freeman [online].  [Date accessed:  6 September 2017].  Available from:

The Rowley Gallery. 2017.  Susie Freeman, Artist [online].  [Date accessed:  6 September 2017].  Available from:

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Tutor Feedback – Assignment 5 – video

Summary of tutorial discussion
This is summary of the conversation we had this afternoon.
For this final assignment in the course you sent be a sketchbook with initial sampling and a more resolved collection of samples. In general I feel that your understanding of the
creative process and the methodologies of creativity have really come together for you in
this course. There is a marked development in your thinking skills and therefore your
approach to creativity. This is yet to be fully realised in your making but I think this will
happen in time. Stay excited about your creativity and the ideas that are revealed to you.
Final samples – Playful and exploratory but feel thrown together and overworked. I suggest you rework these aiming for more control, consideration and a pared back feel. To illustrate this we discussed your contextual research. Taking a look at the strengths in the work of Valerie Gardiner, Barbara De Pirro, Billy Kidd and Lindsay Taylor. I suggested you take another look at the work from these makers, the way they use colour and composition in order for you to make finer more restrained samples.

Learning Log – Here you demonstrate a growing understanding of the creative process
including the value of reflective thinking, analysis of contextual research material and critical thinking skills. I suggested you can improve this area by making your thinking more focused and refined by giving yourself thinking space to really consider with depth your work and the work of others.

Drawing – As with your sample making less is more, your brief light of touch colour
sketches work well as do the watery ones. Continue to develop your use of sketching and

Pointers for assessment
• Include all work at assessment
• Reread your feedback forms to check you have used all the tutor suggestions
• Look at the learning outcomes and the assessment criteria to judge whether your
work has met the requirements
• Refer to the assessment guidelines on the oca website, Research ▷ By Course Area
▷ Textiles ▷ scroll down to page 2 ▷ Assessment Guidelines: Textiles
• Aim to organize your work so that the assessor can see the five parts of the course
clearly, that samples can be handled easily and your strongest work is seen first

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