Moving forward with the concept of working my samples as a series of bracers I decided to take the wrapped sample out and photograph in 3 differing locations:
Wrapped around my washing line pole with foliage in the background – this worked well as the acrylic paints gave the impression of something that was rushing and decaying …. it felt branch like in appearance which was the intention of the piece.
Wrapped around the rusting arm of a bench – the colours of the paint and fabric blend with the metal of the arm and give the impression that it is meant to be there although it could have been held tighter to really enhance this impression.
Wrapped around a wine bottle – ok this was purely fun to make me look further at the sample and consider possibilities …. does it work? no! The only I gain from the wine bottle is the possibility of some kind of wine cooler – maybe this was just too obvious!
However the first two locations worked well in terms of the fact the sample blended well with the surroundings and gave an impression or a feeling of the essence of the decay on which it was based so at this point I felt I was on the right track at least.
I decided to definitely run with the idea of bracers – in effect they are sleeves or arm guards for the lower arm but were part of the armour of Medieval soldiers and usually used to prevent the string of a bow or the arrow injuring the arm and they were also effective in prevent loose threads or fabric from the wearer’s sleeves catching the bow string too. There is evidence of decorative bracers being made by the Navajo tribe of North America and these could be decorated with turquoise stones and made of silver but finding information on the history of bracers is more difficult because there little evidence it seems in historical art works. There is however a wealth of images available due to Hollywood and television series such Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings and my images found are taken from Pinterest and show a variety of ornate styles and also a plainer version (top centre) which may be closer historically to their original form.
Working from the rough sketches I did when considering the idea of sleeves I worked a series of stitched samples investigating possibilities with felting, slashing, fabric strips and fabric manipulation.
I also did a further series of samples looking at heavily gathered ideas using a soft cotton or silk fabric – the exact nature of the fabric I am unsure about because it has been in my collection for some years but was purchased from a sari shop locally.
The top samples proved to be ones I could take forward albeit with a change in the fabric choice for the Suffolk puffs and also changing the top fabric for the slashed sample. Everything else appeared to work well and gave the impressions which I desired which was a variety of textures and colours which strongly relate to my theme. The only diversion from my theme was the use of a ‘fabric’ created using left over threads and water soluble fabric which I inserted into strips of hessian – I felt this technique was appropriate as I looked further at my photographs and wanted to create an impression of the moss or lichen or small fungi and plants that grow within the crevices of fallen branches.
The only thing I decided against taking forward was the use of a gathered frill which I thought could create the impression of a fungi growing outwards from a branch – the tea stained muslin and hessian did not work sufficiently well in terms of stiffness or colouration and I felt if I included it in my sample it would prove a distraction and an element that was unnecessary. The idea was good in that I am wanting to create those fungi but the result was poor so perhaps the way forward with this in the future would be to consider a different fabric or the use of starch or even fine wire.
The gathered samples however proved to be disastrous. The bottom sample is what is left of a larger version – it just did not work in any way. I felt the gathers were too far apart and too loose and would be better tighter and smaller but also in a stiffer fabric. When considering the sample in conjunction with the other samples at a later point it was also obvious that this one stuck out like a sore thumb – the colours and techniques were just completely wrong and did not give me the cohesion in my series that I desired.
I worked a series of 4 other samples – rather daftly I did not take individual photographs! The first was a layered and slashed sample which created an almighty mess in our drier with various bits of thread! The second a felted sample in the colours of the woodland and taking inspiration for the texture from the soft moss on the trees – I worked the felting onto cotton quilting wadding. The third I worked with the painted upholstery fabric and was directly worked with from the tucked and manipulated sample seen on page 13 of my sketchbook and also in part 2 of this exercise (Exercise 5.1 Review part 2) – I added hessian panels at each side to create the edges for the bracer and enable me to add the ties. The fourth was a combination of thread and water soluble created fabric and painted strips with felting ‘moss’ detail over and the final piece that can be seen is the distrastrous gathered sample. The first four I felt worked well and were worked to a bracer-style shape which I had roughly drawn on scrap paper – this shape was directly inspired by the images discovered on Google and on Pinterest.
I decided to work a lace style fabric using thread and water soluble stabiliser taking inspiration from the work of Lindsay Taylor and my first sample was too small and too much stitching used so a second version was made before trialing it over the top of each of the four ‘successful samples’ … two trials can be seen here. I do like the contrast in textures and colours which this lace created with the differing backgrounds – it is slightly stiff in texture due to not having all the glue rinsed out (a technique Lindsay Taylor uses and I was directly inspired by).
I find the white thread is a little harsh against all the samples and feel that a mix of cream and ochre threads would be more suitable but this overlay has distinct possibilities and was in fact used with a second painted sample that was yet to be made at this stage.
At this point a second critical review I felt was required in order to progress my samples further:
- Basic samples have been worked but there is a feeling of incompleteness and concern that the techniques are not experimental enough or do not interpret my theme in the way that I would like.
- Of the 5 pictured the gathered sample on the right feels out of place and does not work well – this I feel will be cut down and kept purely as a sample in my sketchbook.
- The bottom middle sample I feel is the most complete and just needs the felting needle to do a little more work before it is cut into the required shape.
- The two left hand samples both need more work – considering stitching heavily on the top left sample to secure the hessian threads that have come loose when drying in our drier (something which I am now barred from doing due to the extreme number of small threads that covered the subsequent wash oops!!). I feel this could also do with additional texture – considering using felting to add the feeling of moss or lichen covering the rough bark.
- The bottom left sample is too plain although I like the leather-type effect and feel that the painted upholstery fabric has created. The hessian sides are there to be able to create the fasteners of the bracers but unsure as to how this could happen at this point – something to consider…. I also feel there needs to be more texture added so thinking of adding crochet ‘fungi’ in some nature that covers over the top of the central panel and fastens at either side through the hessian – consider minimal stitching on the panel itself.
- The top felted sample I am happy with the colours and the texture – idea in my sketches is to simply add Suffolk puff ‘toadstools’ with the gathered side showing … want to keep this particular bracer simple so that the emphasis is on the colour and soft texture.
Going forward I feel I have the basis of 4 good samples/bracers but do not feel at this stage my collection is complete – the majority of my ideas are working but also want to consider:
- Wrapping fabric with different yarns and stitching to the background fabric to create texture and form – thinking of not having a specific shape for the upper part of the bracer so that it becomes slightly rougher and looser in the way that a fallen tree trunk often splinters and there is no smoothly cut end.
- Can I use tucked painted fabric with a lace-cotton overlay? The lacy ‘cotton/watersoluble fabric’ circles could also be folded over and used as cuff-style edging for one of the first samples – the edge can be secured in the seam with the backing …. Thinking of the lacy mushrooms and how the cage-like body hangs down from a more solid tip.
- Going off in a totally different direction but thinking of Caryl Fallert Bryer-Gentry’s Fibonacci quilts wondering about working with the proportions of colour in two different photographs – one image I use to create 2 sets of strips of fabric in appropriate colours and weaving them together and the other taking the same fabrics but creating varying size Suffolk puffs and stitching to the background fabric …. The weaving could be backed with wadding and quilted in tree trunk-like lines and the puffs am thinking of using embroidery threads in the same colours to attach in either French knots or a simple stem stitch.
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