Project 8 Review and refine: Exercise 5.1 Review – Final Critical Review amended

So finally a body of samples that have been developed from my theme of Beauty in Decay.  It is almost daunting to write this and review this body of work as a collective and cohesive series – it is the result of this course as a whole.

Overall I feel the series has worked reasonably well and the samples have developed gradually and almost organically as I worked through each stage – the methodology of concept, practical response, critical review and then refinement worked in the cyclical manner in  which it is supposed to but felt like it was now a natural part of my working practice rather than done because the coursework instructs me to and this is exactly what I had hoped it would achieve.

On the whole I have stayed with my chosen colour palette of muted mossy green, ochre, deep browns but added an accent colour of a bright citrus green in the felting – this citrus colour really enhanced the other more muted tones and brought a brightness to the palette whilst not detracting from the decaying theme … it was like a shaft of sunlight hitting the decaying logs or moss.   If I was to take the theme forward I would play further with the colour palette and consider even changing it to one of brighter tones of the same hues or changing it completely to one of soft pastel colours, a romantic theme but with the same overall theme – this could create a new narrative based on the fairy tales which are so intrinsic in folklore and also such a part of a child’s life and provoke happy memories of reading such stories.

I do feel that I have been forced to really consider my materials and techniques and this is where I have a personal doubt – have I used enough techniques or been exploratory enough?  I am happy overall as my samples have developed into a series of bracers and the theme is cohesive through the techniques used but and this is a big BUT I feel I could have used crochet more in terms of creating fungi and textures – there were possibilities for using a variety of yarns and a some silver wire so this is something to consider after my feedback from my tutor and whether to work either further small samples or a larger bracer using a variety of crochet stitches to create the effect I desire. I am also questioning whether I could have worked more with a variety of fabric manipulation techniques – gathering and pleating is still appealing and looking back through my sketchbook now I see an idea of using small areas of gathered fabric stitched or pushed through slashed fabric to create the impression of layers of fungi growing from a branch and again this is something to consider further.  Distressing and decaying – could I have explored this technique further or am I happy with what I have done? I struggled slightly with distressing and slashing fabrics early on in this course and hence I feel I shied away slightly from this technique and I now want to push myself further to use it in my work. I also now feel that I could have been more experimental with embroidery or quilting techniques – whole cloth quilting using differing coloured threads could have been used to produce impressions of textures and forms particularly when combined with embellishing selected areas with embroidery stitches.  Going back to the felting there were further possibilities of including other threads to add further textures and effects.

I do feel that I have used materials and techniques sympathetically and appropriately in my chosen theme and concepts and this I am happy with – the resulting samples do reflect the theme well and as I have seen the bracers, at sample stage, worked well actually in decaying locations and appeared to blend in naturally.  The techniques used have been covered extensively in my sketchbook and my previous critical reviews but the one which I have found most intriguing and useful has been needle felting which I do want to develop much further.

I note that on review of my sketchbook work in my first critical review I had considered working with differing scales of work and this I have not done – the bracers or the theme would work well on a wide variety of different sizes from postcard size to extravagant and over-sized textile pieces which would enable me to incorporate a larger variety of techniques or really play and develop singular techniques combined with textural elements and the colours of the theme.  If working on a much larger scale there are possibilities of three-dimensional form really coming into play – with my theme there is room for working with wire armatures or developing costumes or clothing with three-dimensional embellishments and accessories.

Looking back to the questions posed in the first part of this exercise I wanted to be able to incorporate a second theme into this body of work – the use of words but now feel that that is something to consider in future projects as the theme has a strong unspoken narrative which I am happy with.

I do feel that my original grouping was successful in producing a new body of samples successfully and that my decision was correct

I have taken a final series of photographs taken in my garden which is not the perfect or ideal location for any of the samples but does give at least an impression of their final effect.  The only bracer I am not happy with is the one with the light coloured background and lace cuff – this I now feel is out of place amongst the others and could not find a location in which it blended or harmonised with its background …. this is one that definitely needs a stone wall or similar stone background to really set it off and create the impression of decay and moss that is intended.  The other samples were able to tie and wrap around a tree sufficiently well and I felt gave the impression that they were growing out of or into the tree and that the branches were decaying or becoming hosts to a new organism – the bracers/samples create a new narrative for the branch as it creates new growth albeit in a textile form.

Finally what could I change or would I do anything differently?  Yes without question and this is a question I have largely answered above – there are techniques I would want to explore much further and techniques I have not used for this body of work and I now feel I could have done so but on the whole I am still happy at this stage with what I have done.  I have had some difficulties throughout this assignment due to the aforementioned bout of flu but this also gave me thinking time and that enabled me to work through at least one of the critical reflections.  I feel now as I look again at the completed samples/bracers that I would consider the edging more carefully – it now feels like an afterthought and something I had been stuck on how to do as I hoped it would become obvious as I neared completion.  The edging needs to be considered at an early stage of a design process and this is where my approach on this assignment has let me down – working with samples as my primary sketches, albeit stitched ones, neglected an aspect of design work that I need to correct for the future …. I need to plan carefully, and if necessary make a working plan through bullet points, and go through a series of design steps that include all aspects including any fasteners, edging, or embellishments and not just the main front piece as each build up to create the finished piece.  However on further reflection I realise that I have without intention worked through a process-led methodology that has really enabled me to explore the techniques and materials without the restriction of having a specific design drawn out and this is something I really enjoyed doing – I found myself enjoying exploring what worked and what didn’t in a very direct manner and do feel this is something I want to take forward although without neglected the details that did suffer from not being design-led.  Although at the point of writing I have submitted my assignment work for my tutor’s feedback I  do feel I want to work on further samples prior to assessment to address some of the issues or areas I would wish to change or correct and this includes the planning of the pieces and also considering whether the ties need to be changed or improved in some capacity – the ties are another aspect I feel were more of an afterthought despite being an integral part of the bracers themselves.

On reflection overnight I have come to the realisation that one sample I am really not happy with and considered taking out of the work sent to my tutor and this is the wrapped sample/bracer.  This bracer was deliberately done in a rough and loose style to try and convey the impression of a series of twigs or debris cobbled together to form some kind of protection for the wrist but I have come to the conclusion that the reason I have struggled with wrapping as technique is simply that I just do not ‘get’ it!  I feel I wanted to use the technique due to coming across it in a book by Janet Edmonds and also seeing the work of other students in our Facebook group but at this point I suspect my Asperger’s brain simply does not understand the point of it if I am totally honest – however, I am not dismissing the technique at this stage and have set aside some time to thoroughly read the chapter in the book and to consider how I may improve the sample or use the technique.  I question whether a smaller scale would be appropriate or more effective or whether I could use the technique to develop another aspect of the theme – for a separate project there is the potential of using wrapped coils to create three-dimensional toadstools or mushrooms so it is definitely worth giving another go.

My final statement is a simple one – this body of work is not the end of my theme but rather the beginning of a concept that I want to continue to work and develop in my practice as I have discovered a way of combining my love of history and in particularly my interest in art and historical costume in a contemporary manner with a theme that I am intrigued and excited by.


Dolan, W.  2015.  Layer, Paint and Stitch  Create textile art using freehand machine embroidery and hand stitching.  Tunbridge Wells, Kent.  Search Press Limited

Edmonds, J. 2005.  Three-dimensional embroidery. London.  Batsford

Hughes, V. 2015.  Felt & Fibre Art  A practical guide to making beautiful felted artworks.  Tunbridge Wells, Kent.  Search Press Limited

Small, A.  2017.  Layered Cloth  The Art of Fabric Manipulation. Tunbridge Wells, Kent.  Search Press Limited

Wolff, C.  1996.  The Art of Manipulating Fabric.  Iola, Wisconsin.  Krause Publications



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