Exercise 5.1 Written statement

For this body of work  I have taken a mixed textile approach as it combines a series of techniques to produce a range of resolved pieces which take on the appearance of bracers, (arm protection), through the theme of Beauty in Decay.

The samples are reflective and impressionistic of the decaying logs and fungi I have discovered and am intrigued by at the National Trust properties in my locality and are also combined with the practicality of a decorative bracer.  I came to the realisation that an arm could be interpreted as the branch of a tree and serves therefore as the log on which the moss or fungi grow.  I also wanted to convey the message that from decay and darkness new life and beauty grows even when you least expect it and perhaps this is a personal reflection on my own life – even in the darkest times light and growth find their place. I have used a combination of materials and techniques to create this message or the impression of the textures and colours of the plant life and organisms which grow from the decaying wood.

I decided to use historical research as a background to this body of work  as I have a desire to combine my interest in history and art history with my practical work and want this to be at the core of my textile practice so have felt now is an appropriate time to start to introduce these interests into my studies.  I have been able to take inspiration from historical clothing at this stage through simple research into images on the internet and combine it with researching images of contemporary textiles and clothing  plus concepts and techniques used by contemporary textile artists – this combination of research into the past and present has enabled me to produce a small collection of process-led resolved pieces that have a decorative purpose.  At this stage the bracers serve no actual practical purpose as they could not be used as the arm protection for which they would have originally been used – that of protecting the lower arm against the string of a bow or an arrow and hence I take more inspiration from the decorative bracers of Hollywood or the Steampunk  style of design.  I have wanted to use the bracers as an tool or piece of clothing to convey my theme in an effective but simple manner.

I do feel that this body of work is only in its fledgling status and that is is purely the start of an investigative journey into this theme and there is a strong desire to develop it further both in terms of the bracers, which I wish to develop further in terms of refining and developing the designs, and also to take this forward with my original thoughts of the theme being used to develop a range of sleeves that form part of a larger costume based on the historical clothing of the Tudor or Elizabethan era.

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Exercise 5.2 Written statement – planning

Planning and points to consider:

  • area of textile practice that the work sits within in – mixed media
  • the concerns of the body of work – theme is Beauty in Decay with an eventual concept of Medieval bracers for the resulting samples/pieces
  • ambitions for the work:  samples are reflective and impressionistic of the decaying logs and fungi of a local environment combined with the practicality of a decorative bracer – the arm serves in effect as the log on which the moss and fungi or bark grow whilst also getting across the viewer the theme through the techniques and materials used.
  • What have I achieved and what motives and ideas underpin it?  the ideas and motives behind the final resolved pieces result from an interest in history and art history and there was a desire to combine this interest with my textiles – this concept is at the very core of my studies and the aim of my eventual practice.  For the first time I have been able to take inspiration from historical clothing periods through research on the internet and paintings of a historical period, albeit found at this point discovered on Google images or Pinterest, and combine it with research into contemporary textiles in particular looking at other textile pieces done using a combination of techniques all of which resulted in a small collection of resolved pieces that have a decorative purpose – at this stage the pieces are not practical in the sense that as a piece of arm protection they would not be suitable but they take a practical piece of equipment (if a bracer can be called this) and really play with a decorative idea to convey a theme.
  • Where do I hope to take this is body of work? there is a feeling that this is only the start of the journey with this theme and I wish to develop it further both in terms of the bracers as I look to further refine the designs and add new ones and also to take this forward with one of my original thoughts of the theme being used to design a range of sleeves which could then form part of a larger costume.
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Exterior influences: what lessons and influences have I gained from the study of other practitioners and how have I implemented these into my own work? What impact has doing this course had on my studies?

Throughout the duration of this course I have been encouraged to research a variety of practitioners with regards to their techniques, working practices and resulting works.  Initially I was unsure as to what the reasons were behind this research or what effect it would have on my own work and studies but being introduced to the personal research methodology, (concept, practical response, critical reflection and finally synthesis/refinement), has enabled me to really understand the benefits of these investigations – artists such as Velda Newman, Yayoi Kusama, Jennifer McCurdy, Sacha Grossel,  Lindsay Taylor and Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry all work with colour or form or explore their own environments and identity in a wide variety of media with their own highly individualised interpretations.  I have discovered that each artist has their own way of working and their own techniques which have developed over time and with experience and this in turn is teaching me new ways of looking at my work, new techniques or new ways of working. The words that follow attempt to describe how I have incorporated the lessons and influences of these artists into my own work combined with the overall impact on my working practices.

Velda Newman. Foxglove. 2006. Pinterest

Sacha Grossel. Fuchsia Macro. Pinterest

I am increasingly finding I am being influenced by strong or direct narratives and have been taking note of composition elements with particular emphasis on colour and form.  I have really come to admire the work of textile artists such as the quilt artists Velda Newman or Caryl Fallert-Bryer Gentry whose bold use of colour creates form and a specific atmosphere or emotion. The colour is almost explosive in its energy and even without the lines of quilting adding texture and linear elements there is a clear narrative to each piece of work – the artist Sacha Grossel’s work is very reminiscent of these quilt artists but in watercolour painted form with the light of her native Australia clearly being a major influence.  This narrative can also be seen in the work of Lindsay Taylor whose three-dimensional embroidered works are so heavily influenced by the environment in which she lives – the sculptural pieces she makes have a delicacy and romanticism that is created by intricate use of thread and fabric in colour palettes that are chosen according to each theme.

Jennifer McCurdy. 2017. Porcelain composition. Photo by Gary Mirando

My own work – Part 4 sample working on theme of Beauty in Decay but echoing work of Jennifer McCurdy in its shell-like structure.

Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry. Fibonacci Series #13. Pinterest

By studying other genres of artists, not just painters or textile artists, I am also learning rapidly how these different groups can create new ideas and inspiration – there is no question the work of Jennifer McCurdy with her organic ceramic vessels ,often in forms reminiscent of the shells that surround her island home,  are a major influence on my work on decay as I have almost automatically depicted the theme with a shell-like structure covered with tendrils of seaweed as one of my samples in Part 4.  The shells or vessels that Ms McCurdy creates using white porcelain sometimes have the interiors gilded to further emphasise the lines and forms. This very restrictive colour scheme can also be seen with Takumasa Ono’s Sumi-e paintings or the rope sculptures of Judy Tadman and demonstrates to me that as much as I love vibrant colour it is not always necessary and that a piece with a simplified or monochromatic colour scheme can have a very bold and direct impact on the viewer.  I find myself being heavily influenced by two contrasts – one of simplicity in colour and form which is in opposition to intricacy and boldness or energy in a dynamic and vibrant palette and the lessons learnt are also almost opposing as with the former I find myself being taught restraint in design, line or palette and yet with the latter I feel myself cutting loose in style and scale and wanting to really bring out a side of my personality that is now really coming back after being hidden for some years.  Interestingly I am now learning about the lessons of the Golden Section or Fibonacci sequences – Carly Fallert Bryer-Gentry has done many quilts based on those sequences and I find myself wanting to study them further for their use of mathematics combined with her aforementioned use of colour.  I say interestingly because I am someone who finds mathematics is something I have to work at but I am fascinated by the use of Fibonacci sequences in nature.

Lindsay Taylor. 2009. Poppy teacup and saucer

The lessons learnt by the study of the artists are really beginning to be implemented into my work as I am wanting to heavily explore a wide variety of differing colour palettes and themes as well as the above mentioned Fibonacci sequences at some point in the future.  Some of the themes seem to naturally develop from each other or combine with each other – for me personally my identity is very much caught up with a theme of place for instance as ‘place’ is my home environment which is a third theme in its own right but these can also be kept as very separate and individual ideas which warrant separate investigations and are influenced by different factors or artists.  These themes can also be worked on with a variety of the aforesaid differing colour palettes which in turn affects the way a viewer will perceive the resulting pieces of work.  I have discovered the personal research methodology from Part 4 of the course has been particularly useful as it also covered compositional elements which I am aware has been a weak area – the cyclical nature of the methodology which incorporates critical reflection is enabling me to refine my work particularly when combined with placing samples or pieces in different locations which then enables me to create new ideas or inspire new themes.  This way of working has also enabled me to understand the repetitive nature of re-working samples in a variety of different ways – again Carly Bryer Fallert-Gentry’s online gallery demonstrates this continued refinement really well in her series of Fibonacci quilts.  Looking at the finished works of artists has also enabled me to study their compositions and the different elements of each piece – this is something I understood from my art history studies but was unsure as to how to translate it into my own work or how it could be relevant.  However I now find studying the techniques, the aforesaid composition and the different skills required of the artists enables me to extract different elements that I may be able to use within my own work – the large polka dots of Yayoi Kusama for instance is reminiscent in a small way of the pointillism style of Georges Seurat although on a considerably different scale and with a much bolder colour palette.  The techniques of Lindsay Taylor I am also finding I want to dissect in terms of her use of free machine embroidery and soluble stabiliser to create almost a new lacy style fabric which can be combined with other techniques and fabrics to create her artistic works.  I finally feel at this point I need or want to do more research into the Golden Section and how contemporary artists use this to design compositions but am aware as I do so the theory will sink into psyche and become an automatic part of my everyday work.

Overall I have found the exercises throughout the course have been teaching me to really expand my repertoire of techniques and explore and experiment much more freely with a wide variety of media and styles in order to start to find my own personal voice which is demonstrated by the photograph on the left – felting is a totally new technique to me and I have combined it with a familiar technique of Suffolk puffs to create a work that explores texture and colour within a specific theme.  The course and in particular the research methodology has made it clear the importance of ongoing research into other artists/designers and I am reminded how each generation  of artists has influenced each other either during the same years or across the decades and centuries and in turn have pushed forward developments in materials or techniques and also styles – the styles of the day/year can only be developed through the study and influence of artists on each other.  I now feel my mind is becoming ever more enquiring as research into one artist often leads to another who may have been a direct influence on the other – here I bring into question whether Georgia O’Keefe has been an influence on Sacha Grossel due to similarities in their works particular in terms of scale and use of colour which can be seen in Ms Grossel’s watercolour flower paintings.  I finally feel that one of the most useful aspects of the course, other than the aforementioned methodology, has been the use of Pinterest as a research tool – I have previously resisted this online pin board but now find it is proving a valuable tool to find artists across a variety of genres and cultures and it can also generate new and unexpected ideas which I may not have considered and to give an example I have discovered the work of Mr Finch which I would otherwise not have seen.

Mr Finch. Portfolio. Pinterest

As I reflect on this course I am learning and realising how much practitioners are strongly influencing my work and I am doing the research because I want to investigate my chosen theme or idea more thoroughly and find other artist designers in order to create further ideas as well as furthering my own studies and practice.  The study of these practitioners is no longer tedious but really exciting as it now feels that I am on a journey of discovery into an unknown world and bringing back the treasures of creativity with which I can enrich and enhance my own work and help develop my personal voice.  Finally I do feel the course has totally changed my working practice due to that study no longer feeling like a chore – this course and in particular the aforementioned methodology including the practitioner research is providing me with a core knowledge which is forming and will continue to provide the basic foundations of all my work.


Bryerpatch Studio.  (date unknown).  Bryerpatch Studio:  Fine art quilts by Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry [online].  [Date accessed:  July 2017].  Available from:  http://www.bryerpatch.com/

McCurdy, J. (date unknown).  Jennifer McCurdy Wheel Thrown Porcelain [online].  [Date accessed:  July 2017].  Available from:  http://jennifermccurdy.com/

Pinterest. (date unknown).  Varying artists [online].  [Date accessed:  ongoing].  Available from:  https://www.pinterest.co.uk

TextileArtist.org.  2016.  Velda Newman intereview: colour, shape and texture [Date accessed:  July 2017].    Available from:  http://www.textileartist.org/velda-newman-interview-colour-shape-texture/


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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 and that is working with words – my plan has been to do an interpretation of a poem using calligraphy and either sketches and photographs to go alongside the bracers but I have been waiting for a book to arrive to learn a new script so at the time of submitting for my tutor feedback this piece of work is yet to be done.  I have also been unfortunately laid low with flu and lost several days which had been put aside to do the initial work on this written piece and hence it will now be done over the coming days – the poem selected is one that I feel is appropriate to my theme and will enhance and describe the samples in the way that I wish and is posted on the inside cover of my sketchbook.

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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Project 8 Review and refine: Exercise 5.1 Review part 5

The final part of my sketchbook work itself involved the simplicity of adding some further photographs taken of fungi at Ilam Hall …. this area proved to be a positive Aladdin’s Cave and fortunately my fiance has now got used to me getting excited when I find new forms and colours!

These photographs will prove to be useful references as this project continues long after the end of this course both in terms of stitching and sketching and may yet give further ideas for an additional sample prior to assessment.


Finally I worked a series of loose sketches thinking of colours, textures and to a lesser extent form and line – this is again in terms of further work but also reinforcing the areas of this theme which I am still entranced and intrigued by.  I am still working in a rough and loose style and now experimenting much further with a combination of pastel, charcoal and a water wash to blend either fully or partially to create different areas of texture.

I also did an additional sample of the thread-fabric and painted fabric but this time to remind myself to look at the back and this can be seen in my photograph above – the actual sample can be seen on the right of this smaller photograph which my fiance took and unintentionally left it the wrong way up but it also gave me the opportunity to consider that the ‘right’ side is not always right and the wrong may in fact be right!



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Project 8 Review and refine: Exercise 5.1 Review part 4

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.



  • 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



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Project 8 Review and refine: Exercise 5.1 Review part 3

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.


myArmoury.com.  2003-2017.  Discussion Forums [online].  [Date accessed:  July 2017].  Available from: http://myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.16206.html

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