Before I progressed further I worked a smaller series of samples with a view to adding details or a further sample based on Caryl Fallert Bryer-Gentry’s Fibonacci quilts. The samples include a simple gathered frill, looking at whether I could create fungi that grew outwards from its host, crocheted fungi and the aforementioned final sample …. this idea was to use painted paper and fabric taking inspiration from both Ms Bryer-Gentry and the work of Els van Baarle and thinking of an exercise from A Creative Approach which asks you to work out the proportions of colour of an image. The concept for this final sample was there but as I realised later the execution most certainly wasn’t and it needed more careful planning than I did at the time.
Working with the ideas stated in my second critical review (in part 3 of this exercise) I developed my samples further adding in details such as crochet fungi, felting, Suffolk puffs and the lace overlay which was added to a second painted fabric sample which was also subject to be tucked and stitched. A sixth sample was also created using roughly wrapped fabric stitched onto a backing fabric (loosely intentionally) and with the addition of two sections of felting over the top. The slashed sample shown here at the top right was heavily stitched and had the addition of felting to create the impression of moss and lichen – as stated in my second critical review I am barred from drying this type of sample again in the drier due to the immense amount of threads that were left and this was largely due to the hessian of the second layer so lesson learnt!
I was unsure of how to go forward with the samples and develop into bracers – how to edge and finish them was proving a conundrum and so a break was needed. I decided to take them out on with me when my fiance and I visited a favourite location – that of Ilam Hall and see how each of 5 of the samples looked in a natural location.
I was looking in effect to find the perfect location for each piece – one that really enhanced the sample whilst also creating the harmony and sense of calm I feel when I find myself enjoying finding the scenes of moss covered logs and fungi.
Finding the perfect location for each sample proved to be highly enjoyable although slightly frustrating at times too due to unfinished edge or the shapes of the samples. The result of this trip can be read in the critical review below and which is posted in my sketchbook:
A trip out to Ilam Hall and Park in Staffordshire resulted in a series of photographs that can be seen on the opposite page but unfortunately did not resolve the issue of how to finish these samples – do I add a ‘cuff’ or braided fasteners or backing fabric? These are all areas on which I have felt I have hit an artistic block on.
I decided to try finding the ideal location for each ‘bracer’ albeit as a flat unfinished sample with the idea I see how well my overall theme has worked – are the textures, materials and colours sympathetic to the theme? The shapes of the flat samples were less of an issue but rather I wanted to create the impression or convey the essence of my theme and this is where I was surprisingly delighted – 4 out of 5 of the samples I was able to photograph in surroundings in which they seemed to blend into the background or become a part of the background. The only sample which was an issue has the wrong colour fabric and some red wool roving that stood out too much but I will come back to that.
I will deal with each sample individually with the best photograph for each:
The ‘fungi’ sample – this appears to almost grow from the moss covered log on which I placed it. I had to tuck the unfinished edges in but the effect of fungi and tiny toadstools (created by the French knots) appears to be really effective and in fact this is my favour photograph and sample of them all. I feel the location is perfect and the colours both stand out whilst also creating a sense of harmony and calm. How do I change this piece so that it creates the bracer that I wish? I am considering adding a gathered edge along the cuff and wonder whether I could add further felting but added in between the rosettes on a horizontal plane to recreate the fungi that grow from log edges …. This has the simple potential to work or look completely wrong but it feels that an element is missing without the additional fungi or I have not pushed this piece far enough.
The ‘crocheted armour bracer’ I felt had two really good locations but this was my favoured – the sample almost blends into the stone and appears to start to give the impression of something growing over it whilst the green ferns and slight green tint of the lichen really pick up on the muted green and ochre tones of the background fabric and yarns.
I feel this bracer has a simple option of background and feel I want to use the same hessian as the front – this will be cut down to size and only be at the very edges of the piece.
To tie the bracer simple crochet braids can be used and I am considering adding further crocheted detail along the top or bottom edges …. Consider whether this additional crocheted ‘fungi’ will overegg the pudding?
Second painted fabric bracer – this is one of the simplest of the bracers with the tucks of fabric manipulation being used in conjunction with the heavily painted upholstery fabric to create the impressive of the lines and colours of a decaying tree trunk. The lace is created from stitching over water-soluble fabric and then the majority of the fabric rinsed away – not fully rinsing it leaves the cotton thread slightly stiff which I do feel has worked well. I used simple stab stitching in a metallic brown thread to attached the lacy ‘fungi’ to the ‘log’ but now question whether to add a further lace fungi to the bottom edge? For this piece I feel the shaped edge should be at the top of the bracer (research on Pinterest seem to indicate the shaping can be either at the wrist going over the hand or towards the elbow). Pinning on the lace before stitching also reminds me of the lace cuffs on the ornate men’s shirts/blouses of the early 1600’s particularly in France.
I am inclined to use plain calico as the backing fabric to echo the colours of the cream and ochre thread of the ‘lace’ however on trying the calico against the piece the colour is incorrect and so fall back on the hessian which seems not just the right colour but the texture as well – it adds another texture but one that is reminiscent of the bark and fallen trees in its roughness plus being also reminiscent of the hessian of Medieval times.
There is a feeling of decay with this sample/bracer as the paint has not covered the whole fabric and this I am happy to keep rather than paint over – it also creates a feeling of paint flaking away on an old door or building which I find really attractive as it speaks of times gone past and the buildings in their former glories as they now have tales to tell.
It was interesting to find the ideal or perfect location for this bracer but finally discovered this fallen branch – the colours and linear quality of the paint echo the colours and lines of the log particularly where the bark has worn away and the wood is being worn and shaped by the natural decay caused by organisms, fungi and the aforesaid weather. It will be interesting to take this piece out after I have added the backing and any ties/cords and try it in unexpected locations and also before assessment to take it out once more to find a new ‘ideal location’ but perhaps higher up a living tree and where it can echo the branches which have become hosts to new fungi.
The cords or ties I feel on this piece should be reflective of the colours – I have some ochre string which would work but wonder about making a simple twisted cord with that and some dark green wool – it is a question whether I attach these in the seam line or do simple knots and stitch carefully (I do not have eyelets and would prefer to work with what I have.
Striped moss sample … this is the one I thought would be the easiest to find the ideal location but in fact took a little considering and hunting and ended up going back to some stone steps near the Hall. The sample I feel would have created more opportunities for photographs which generate further ideas if it had been more complete – at this point the flatness of the sample was proving a disadvantage and I had not taken out any safety pins (lesson learnt for future investigations). Against the stone step the sample is starting to blend and certainly the colours of the surrounding foliage perfectly echo the main colours within the felting, fabric and stitching with the lighter stripes picking up on the lichen and stone. However I do feel that further photographic explorations are needed with this sample which will generate further ideas of how the concept of this piece could be further improved or explored – I like the combination of painted fabric, thread ‘fabric’ (created with scraps of thread and water-soluble fabric) and felting which combines to create a variety of textures. A dyed green calico backing, un-ironed so it is rumpled and scrumply is appropriate with a soft felting edging recreating moss or lichen flowing over the edges of the wall or stone-work and this has been directly suggested by the photographs I have taken.
The final sample I took out with me also proved infuriatingly difficult to find a location that it really fitted due to the uppermost fine tea-dyed muslin fabric being too pale combined with the red wool roving too red … it was too vibrant despite the hints of the deep red fabric that was used for one of the layers.
I did eventually find a lichen covered stone area which was surrounded by foliage and the sample was able to blend and harmonise with the background to an extent … the red felting prevented total harmony but now as I look at the sample it takes on the appearance of a crack or break in the stone with a real feeling of depth and form which I did not notice at the time.
I feel this is the second piece which can use a lacy style cuff at the bottom but I would like to turn the piece around so the lace is at the top and falls down over the rest of the bracer and then add wispy areas of felting that delicately fall over the hand and wrist when worn.
The backing fabric for this one can be the calico and the ties I am considering just a simple combination of cotton and a second colour yarn which is as yet undecided – I feel I must complete the other elements before deciding on the colours. I want there to be a delicacy with this bracer now – an element of something softer but broken as the photograph suggests so maybe there is the possibility of slashing into the lace to create that feeling of decay further.
Finally there was one sample I was undecided upon whether to take further and hence did not take out with me – it is a development of the sample on page 20 and 22. The wrapping has been done with a variety of fabrics and yarns used before being roughly, but securely tacked to a backing fabric and felting added over the top although this needs some stitching down.
I am not entirely happy with this sample but have now cut away the backing fabric so that only the wrapped fabrics and felting can be seen and this is the photograph above – the backing fabric was distracting from the wrapped ‘twigs’ or roots as they appear to be with the textures and colours that I really wanted to sing. The felted moss turns the wrapped fabric from something I feel was incomplete and pretty scrappy sample into a piece that begins to really take shape and has the essence of the decaying woods and trees – there is the impression rather than a realism about this sample. At this moment I feel this is the piece I would like to leave unfinished albeit with the hessian backing that I would choose stitched but not finished and the ties or cords tacked in place rather than a neat finished stitch – I want to leave this as a sample with possibilities rather than a more finished sample …. It feels that the story of this piece is yet to be told and its narrative yet to be written.
An additional bracer sample was worked in order to trial a concept – basing my idea on the work of Caryl Fallert Bryer-Gentry and also the work of Els van Barre who is a new textile artist to me, (and discovered through an OCA student Facebook group – one of my fellow students has mentioned her work), but who works with fabric and paper I decided to try weaving acrylic painted paper and some of the fabrics I have used throughout this final project.
In terms of success – the concept is there but the success is not!! To make this work I need to choose a clear photograph and going back to an exercise in A Creative Approach I need to work out the proportions of colour and then find appropriate fabrics or paint the appropriate colours before weaving them together in the style of Ms Bryer-Gentry’s Fibonacci quilts – this is something to consider over the next week or so and discuss with my tutor. I like the concept and I certainly like the colours but at this point the piece is merely a failed sample – what does not help is the stitching as it is not even enough considering I am relatively skilled at free-motion quilting although you would not know it to look at this sample!!
Overall at this stage the bracers are finally beginning to take shape – I have had major doubts on this concept over the last two days but now realise I needed to step back and take them out and find the locations upon which my theme is based and see how they work in their idea or perfect places.
PROGRAM TO FINISH THE SAMPLES:
- Stitch the backing
- Add any additional felting
- Add any lace cuffs
- Do any additional sampling which I have missed
- Add any crochet edges I feel is appropriate – on both sample 4 and 5 I am wondering about adding a delicate free-form crochet edge along the curved sides but want to see how I feel at the point of working it