Exercise 3.4 Weaving

Right from the beginning I will happily admit I enjoyed this exercise considerably more than the previous one!  I discovered a love of weaving in A Creative Approach and spent some considerable time making a rough but effective A-frame tapestry style loom but then promptly discovered the easiest way of weaving for me is a simple cardboard loom – easy to make in different sizes and cheap as chips too!

For these samples the idea was to explore a range of experimental samples as before with an emphasis on experimentation, innovation and imagination.  Unlike in the crochet/knitting samples this time I paid close attention to the course notes and worked with yarns and materials that fitted in with my theme and colour palette – due to the weaving projects from ACA I have several yarns that fitted well within my theme happily and was able to purchase some additional paper yarn and plastic string in appropriate colours.

The first sample I tried was moving on from an idea in Exercise 3.2 when I crocheted a small sample using green garden wire – I took this one stage further and added strips of a floral plastic bag woven through the sample before securing opposite corners together.

What I do find appealing is the shapes the plastic bag strips make as they are randomly woven through the wire – they create new patterns and the indication of fencing or stronger branches with foliage sprouting in spring.  I have done 3 relatively simple sketches concentrating on the curling nature of the wire as it was crocheted combined with the individual shapes of the plastic strips.  At present I am not sure where this sample could go with regards to my theme or even if I will use it at a later date but knowing that this garden wire does work up in crochet is useful due to its flexibility – it may not be firm but it does give a base that could also be woven with yarns or other materials potentially.

The  next sample I tried using rug canvas as a base – I cut a rough 4 petal shape rather than using it as a flat square/oblong and then woven through strips of lilac voile and also yarn which had been twisted into the voile. After weaving I folded the petals over into the centre before securing with an iridescent voile strip.  I do like this sample when I put it into a setting within my garden …. on its own I find it less inspiring but when it is in the contest of the place which inspired it it works well I feel.

The only difficulty I found was with ensuring the voile did not catch on the roughly cut edges – I purposefully kept the edges unfinished to give more texture and because I feel that I have chosen my garden as my place of inspiration because it is a part of my identity and life does have a tendency of throwing rough times at a person but the beautiful of life is captured with the use of voile as its contrast.  The rough edges are also a throwback to 15 months ago when this garden was nothing more than a lawn and hedges – rough and spiky with little attraction.

The next sample is one I started and immediately scrapped!  I wanted to try using some garden netting but found it too fiddly and flimsy for any real use …. I am not sure whether it was due to the ‘yarns’ I started to weave through or whether it was just never going to work.  Some experiments work well and some you just give up on …. worth trying but maybe the netting will have a use elsewhere!

At this point I was not overly happy with what I had tried and wanted to start working on things that were going to be more successful so I had a good dig through my fabrics to find some hessian.

I decided to weave muted coloured yarns in purple, pink and pale blue hues through the hessian – ok this looked like running stitch but I guess that ultimately is a woven stitch in itself!  I also removed some of the horizontal threads in order for dried lavender heads to be woven between the rows of stitches before finally adding a rough stem stitch which was woven through the lavender stalks.

The sketches are basic in their execution but still give me a rough idea of what this looks like for the future if I decided to incorporate a similar woven piece into a design …. yes I now understand why I am doing these sketches to record the samples!

I find this sample again has echoes of the beginning of this garden – lavender was one of the first plants that I wanted due to its scent and ease of growing and it is very much woven into the very structure and framework of the garden design.

I decided to try a more conventional woven sample using a dark green yarn as the warp and a combination of fabric strips, plastic string and plastic bags as the weft.

I find this sample is reflective of the varying layers of the garden – it effectively started from scrap and does encompass a mixture of purchased ‘posh’ tubs and also plastic tubs used to hold fat balls as well as tyres and old boots so the plastic bag strips are a reminder of that recycled nature that forms the foundations.  The pinks and purples are our favoured colours regarding flowers but I now realise that what is missing from my theme palette is the golden oranges and yellows of some of the nasturtiums that form a vital part of the summer for us but I also do not want to extend my colour palette either …. I like the restrained palette I have chosen.

Looking at this sample it does all feel reflective of the differing layers of my personality – some of the layers are clear and straightforward whilst others are mixed up and intertwined so I question whether this was a part of my subconscious as I worked this piece.

With regards to the sketches to record this sample I instinctively decided on the soft pastels as I felt they would reflect the soft colours and the soft pliable nature in the way that I wanted to.  I also tried a simple crayon sketch with a watercolour wash and finally a simple diagrammatic sketch using Sharpie pens …. both of these sketches could be used in different ways in design work.

I decided to raid the garden for some twigs to see if I could use as the warp ‘threads’ when combined with a variety of fabric strips, yarn and those beloved plastic bags – this was one of the most difficult pieces to work up initially due to the fact I could only hold the twigs in my hand until the yarns secured them together.

Once I had got the weaving going the piece became considerably easier to work and the result was a piece that could be bent into a narrow tube … obviously more twigs would have created a wider tube or even a spiral but I am not sure how I would be able to hold them successfully -thinking about it now a simple solution would be to push the sticks into some thick polystyrene.

As before I kept my initial sketches relatively simple but I also felt this sample was an appropriate one with which to try strips of colour paper in a collage style – this worked really successfully and I feel that this would enable me to play with different combinations of colours in the future.  I also used Inktense sticks to create a diagrammatic sketch that although it does not show the textures or the knots and loose ends of the fabric strips and yarns it does enable me to see how I can work out possible designs and ideas clearly and simply.

During the course of developing my final project design for ACA for a quilt show I built a small wooden loom to attempt a different style of weaving and felt this would be a good time to experiment with different yarns and fabrics.

This style of weaving is done by working 4 layers – the first 3 lay on top of each other and the final is woven through them.  I used a combination of yarn, plastic string, paper yarn and fabric strips – the paper yarn was the final layer and woven through with the help of a large plastic needle.

I really like the effect of this type of weaving and it would be easy to make a larger loom to create larger pieces.  My original sample for my earlier work using just yarn had a lacy effect but this combination created a new fabric which I can see being used in some capacity or developed using different combinations of yarn and fabric.  I can also see how I could make up a number of these squares which could then be sewn together to create a larger piece or if I made a combination of different sizes of loom and squares how they could be combined.

The one thing I am really not happy about is my sketches – they are too basic and too loose and really not capturing the textures of the piece – I have added a small pencil sketch just to the right of this sample as an extra to try and rectify this but feel I need to work on my sketches of my samples generally.

As I reflect on my sketches for the whole of this assignment so far I feel I need to go back to basics and practice my textural marks with a concentration on fabric textures so that I can more accurately record samples.  However I am also finding that a diagrammatic format is also working for me in terms of how I can work with design ideas in the future – I am aware I have touched on this above but this style is something I can develop or play with in terms of working out colour combinations without the distraction of the textures or materials initially before moving on to the more detailed textural sketches.

The final sample was an extra and a play with an idea – not a terribly successful one but worth recording nonetheless. At some point I had cut out a cardboard circular weaving template and decided to see how it work up with a combination of yarns …. mmm do I like it? not really but do I see possibilities? yes if I worked outward in sections rather than in a spiral format.  I am unsure of my combination of yarns due to the fact it seemed to throw the circular nature of the piece into an oval and question whether a simpler material palette may have been more effective.

Overall I have found this exercise really interesting and enjoyable and am certainly happy with some of the resulting samples – in particular the one using sticks as the warp, the one done on the cardboard loom and also the one done on the square wooden loom and certainly feel I can these forward although they almost feel too conventional in their foundations.  I also love the hessian sample with the lavender woven through it and question whether this could be done with dried grasses once some are collected – is this an excuse to add a grass collection to my garden in time? or I just have a valid excuse to collect grasses I really love on trips!

The one aspect I am really not happy about and this also goes for the crochet/knitting samples is my sketching of the sample pieces – I feel they are too loose and not capturing the textures or colours of the pieces accurately enough.  I have experimented with a more loose style with less concentration on detail but merely trying to capture the idea and the essence in order to give me a the impression of the samples when doing future design work – a loose style could certainly work in the initial stages so this experimentation does have its place but I also feel I need to develop my more detailed sketches and as stated above go  back to basics and practice sketching textures and fabrics.  The more detailed sketches are needed in my sketchbook work in order to accurately record the samples and also to be able to accurately sketch possible ideas in the aforesaid design work – I am aware that over the coming weeks I can and without question will come back to some of these samples and do further sketches to try to improve this aspect which I consider a weak point.

As I think now about designers and artists – throughout this exercise I have been well aware of my love of the work of Martina Celerin who does wonderful dimensional woven pieces.  Martina’s work can be see at:  http://www.martinacelerin.com/index.php/gallery.html .  I love the way she incorporates a variety of objects into her work and how the woven pictures have a simplicity in design with a wonderful use of colour but also have that three dimensional aspect.  I realise now too with my use of wooden sticks how one of my favourite artists has also influenced me – the work of Laura Ellen Bacon I know personally through the large scale willow sculptures at Derby Royal Hospital and a former installation at our local museum.  Laura weaves organic sculptures using willow with the forms taken on the appearance of nests or cocoons – there is an immediate impression of safety or wanting to be enclosed within these forms.  At the hospital the works have become overgrown and part of the gardens in which they are placed and as I now think about this I feel this could become something I can develop further in my own work.  Finally I have discovered the work of Maryanne Moodie whose work can be seen at:  https://maryannemoodie.com/commissions.  I like the appearance of some of her more muted wall-hangings which are really full of texture – colour places a lesser palette and lets the light and shadow play together with the textures in much the same way as a piece I have seen by Mig Holder which can be seen in my blog:  https://janemurdockmytextilesjourney.wordpress.com/2017/05/28/derbyshire-open-arts-may-2017/ .

I am fully aware of my love of weaving but as I reflect I also love the crochet pieces of the previous exercises and do wonder how at this stage they might develop with regards to my final project for this course – there is no doubt I am favouring certain samples that have possibilities but at the same time I am not yet dismissing the samples that have not worked quite so well as ideas may yet arise from them.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Ideaform Inc. 2017.  Format magazine – 5 Textile Artists That Make Weaving Cool Again [online].  [Date accessed:  30 May 2017].  Available from:  https://www.format.com/magazine/galleries/art/contemporary-artists-weavers

Martina Cellerin. 2014.  Gallery [online].  [Date accessed:  30 May 2017].  Available from:  http://www.martinacelerin.com/index.php/gallery.html

Maryanne Moodie. (date unknown).  Commissions [online].  [Date accessed:  30 May 2017].  Available from: https://maryannemoodie.com/commissions

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Derbyshire Open Arts – May 2017

Interesting afternoon spent visiting Banks Mill Studios as it took part in the Derbyshire Open Arts festival.  The studios had 8 artisans/artists taking part and their work varied from the fine art of Lor Bird to the upcycled garments and textile art of Mig Holder to the glass art of Stevie Davis – the variety of techniques were of great interest and fascination.

The actual event I confess to wishing more of the studios had been opened as there looked to be a wide variety of artists based at Banks Mill although from both an art student point of view it was still more than worth going – also from a consumer point of view as I came away more than happy with couple of small gifts.    With regards to the artists I was able to take photos with their kind permission to upload in this blog and was also able to talk freely – they were all there to sell their work but all were happy to discuss it too and this was much appreciated.

Thinking about my current studies there were 3 artists whose work held particular fascination – that of Stevie Davis, Susan Bedford and Mig Holder.

Stevie Davies is a contemporary glass artist whose work is inspired by colour and light as she works with fusing glass and wire.  Unfortunately my photos have not come out well enough and so I have had to rely on the photos I can take of the small pieces I purchased from Stevie.  I was really entranced by the use of colour in all the pieces – the light reflected and bounced off the glass and was particularly beautiful in the pieces of dichroic glass which I now understand to be a composite of incredibly thin layers of metals or oxides combined with layers of non-translucent glass.  Dichroic glass first appeared it seems in Roman times around the 4th century and the appeal for me is the shifting colours as you view the pieces from different directions.  I have to purchase some of the dichroic glass jewelry from Stevie and instead chose a variety of small pieces that caught my eye – I particularly love the red and grey lozenge shape with the delicate glittery decoration and also the green oblong piece with small flower detail which is in keeping with my current theme.

I really loved the range of jewelry and other items such as coasters and bowls which Stevie makes which all reflect the beautiful and colours of her materials.  As I think about my own work I reflect on how one of my strengths is colour and I am realising that this is something I want to develop and I am also realising I love the play of light on colour particularly if there are iridescent touches or reflections – looking at Stevie’s work has made me think how much I want to develop this side of my studies and own work.

Susan Bedford is a mixed media artist/textile artist whose work can be seen at:  http://susanbedford.weebly.com/textile-art.html . In person I found her use of colour and textures with the fabrics she used inspiring – unfortunately I was unable to talk to her for long but loved her use of painted fabrics or dyed fabrics which she was able to combine in her pieces.  As I read her website I note that the pieces that Susan works on are a personal response to whatever captures her interest – this is something I am currently trying to do but now see how I can develop my responses in a more abstract manner.

Mig Holder – this is a lady who works with upcycled garments or accessories and this is no question that those pieces were exquisitely and beautifully made but what really captured my attention was her textile art with its use of texture.  This particular piece seemed to be rolled strips of fabric with the abstract arrangement reminding me of water and reflections in a lake or the sea and caught my attention for the deceptive simplicity of the design.

A second piece was this cream/ivory toned highly textural work – my photograph does not do it justice but it really reminded me of the crocheted coral reef although using very differing forms and fabric manipulation.

The simplicity of the monochrome palette demonstrates to me that sometimes colour is not needed and a single hue can make use of light and shadow to great effect particularly when combined with a variety of textures.

As we looked around we also met the other artists …

Sue McNair’s work is primarily in ceramics now using air dried clay which she moulds to create a range of small delicately coloured and textured items but on her studio wall is this textile piece which involved stripes of blue fabrics stitched together very much in the same vein as the exercise 3.4 – the reconstruction of fabrics into new fabrics and although this piece is a wall art work the colours draw your eye across it almost in gentle ripples or waves.

Sue’s use of colour caught my attention in part because on the whole it was more restrained and muted than other artists I currently like but that restraint is appealing – her bright red clay poppies really pop and shout out at the viewer but other pieces speak just as loudly through their use of texture or simple lines.  I purchased a beautifully simple hanging decoration in muted colours that would sit well in any location and maybe that is also something to think about i.e. a simple muted or even monochrome palette can speak to a viewer or speak of what the artist is trying to convey just as much as a highly coloured palette can if the design and materials are chosen carefully.

Lor Bird is a fine artist who has come back to art in recent years and much of her work is abstract  or semi-abstract and she appears to really play with colour and form as she experiments with different media.  My favourite piece of the ones she had in her studio was the only one not for sale – a detailed and delicately coloured watercolour of a sycamore tree leaf.  I suspect one of the reasons I loved this leaf is that I have a sycamore in my front garden and so I can relate fully to the colour palette chosen which so Lor has chosen clearly carefully to reflect the colours of the leaf.  From a budding artist point of view this simple composition of a singular leaf does demonstrate to me how I can pick individual elements out of my garden to work with and this is something I do and want to develop to become more abstract forms or designs whether as paintings or three-dimensional textile pieces.

Barbara Colbert’s work is incredibly striking as she works primarily with charcoal with gold highlights which really bring the large-scale pieces to life.  The work is highly detailed and appears to be full of strong forms which come from nature – either landscape or animal forms and each has a real sense of energy and movement which she captures with inspiring mark making.

At this point I am only just beginning to experiment with charcoal and find it wonderfully expressive but Barbara’s work shows how it can be used to create images that speak of power and life – the gold highlights act to increase the physicality of her subjects as they add a real sense of drama and almost theatre to each piece.

Overall as stated at the beginning this afternoon has been an incredibly interesting one as I was able to meet local artists and see their work – there are pieces that I wish I had had the finances to buy as I am sure they would have liked too but all the work that I saw was inspiring in differing ways.  As I look at my own work I am aware of the fact that I am being pulled to work with colour and texture as I seek to discover my responses to things that inspire me or seek to express myself through my art and today I saw artists who are doing just that – each artist is responding to whatever inspires them and intrigues them and each is individually expressing in their work.

This may have been a small event but it is one that could prove incredibly useful in my own work.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Susan Bedford.  (date unknown).  Susan Bedford Mixed Media Artist [online].  [Date accessed:  28 May 2017].  Available from:  www.susanbedford@yahoo.com

Barbara Colbert.  (date unknown).  Barbara Colbert [online].  [Date accessed:  28 May 2017].  Available from:  www.barbaracolbert-fineartist.moonfruit.com

Stevie Davies.  (2017).  Stevie Davies [online].  [Date accessed:  28 May 2017].  Available from:  www.stevie-davies.co.uk

 

 

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Constructing textiles and the crochet coral reef

Before starting on three exercises regarding constructed textile samples the course material instructs me to watch a talk by Margaret Wertheim on a project that she did with her sister Christine – they constructed a crochet coral reef which sounded absurd on first reading but in fact is really fascinating.

My first impressions are that these sisters must have been insane to take on such a project but the coral reef is based on mathematical ideas in a physical form but also the involvement of women as 99% of the crochet work has been done by women and what started off as a singular reef has grown into multiple versions worked and exhibited in different countries and exhibition spaces.  The actual reefs are literally works of art in their technicality and it is hard to believe looking at photos that they are in fact crocheted – they are textured and as colourful as actual reefs.

I do the like the fact there are recycled materials such as plastic bags and packaging which as the course material states highlights the plight of the polluted waterways throughout the world as well as the bleaching of the reefs caused by rising water temperatures – this raising of awareness of such an essential part of our ocean health and ecosystem I feel, like so many, is desperately important and with luck the crochet reef will continue to grow.

The sisters are using the power of women to create the reef but it does not feel that this is a feminist or political reason but merely that our voices, as women, and our skills can be used to raise awareness of such an important issue and in a different way to how it has been done before.

I really really love the idea of creating this hyperbolic reef although the mathematics has gone straight over my head – Margaret Wertheim is a science writer and interested in the cultural history of physics and all I will say is that physics and myself regarding studying have never mixed and mathematics at the level  of which she talks is far beyond my understanding.  I am interested personally in Fibonacci sequences in nature and have studied them in my art history module in regards to how they were and are applied to architecture but hyperbolic mathematics? mmmmm I will leave that to the experts!!

If the mathematics can be shown in a crocheted work and in particular in this reef I do think it is an awesome idea but I am more interested in how the reef is constructed, what stitches are used or what materials and seeing photos of the project it does inspire me regarding my use of crochet in my own final project for this course.  I have done the exercise on crochet and knitting before watching this talk as I had misread the instructions but really do think now it is to my advantage as I can see potential for some of my crochet ideas and would certainly like to take the crochet forward in combination with other techniques.

What I am starting now to discover is the fact that the textile world can draw on multiple techniques rather than one repetitive one is now playing to my advantage ….  I was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and struggle with repetition and this explains my struggles with the crochet and knitting exercise and why I found it tedious at times but having a multitude of techniques at my disposal means I can play with ideas freely and satisfy a restless mind as I seek to find my voice.  Now more than ever my textiles are not just becoming my voice due to my partial deafness and a wish to express myself through the use of art but they  will become my voice as I seek to convey and express who I am …. my work becomes my unspoken voice and the crochet coral reef inspires me to explore further experimental materials as a form of expression.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

crochetcoralreef.org.  (date unknown).  Christine Wertheim Crochet Reef Co-creator [online].  [Date accessed:  May 2017].  Available from:  http://crochetcoralreef.org/contributors/christine_wertheim.php

Ted Conferences, LLC.  (date unknown).  Margaret Wertheim:  The beautiful math of coral [online].  [Date accessed:  May 2017].  Available from:  https://www.ted.com/talks/margaret_wertheim_crochets_the_coral_reef#t-911661

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Exercise 3.3 Knitting and crochet

This exercise is the first of 3 concerning constructed textiles and is with a view to translating some of my visual research from Part 2 into constructed textile samples – this is where I have made the mistake of not reading the page before the exercise thoroughly before embarking on the samples!  However in my defence I have had a medical diagnosis that has thrown me somewhat and I feel has affected my concentration to a degree …I think making a note of this here is reminding myself of the fact that I cannot underestimate the mental effects of this diagnosis and  I am still relatively happy with the resulting samples.

I have also now realised that I have not watched the Ted Talk on the coral reef constructed using crochet – this will be my next blog and I am now of the opinion that by doing the samples in crochet and knitting first it has enabled me to work instinctively and without any preconceptions or ideas of what I could do with them and let my thoughts develop as I look at each sample in turn as to how I can use them if at all.

I have not knitted or crocheted since my teenage years and even then did far more crochet due to the movement caused by knitting was problematic for me for some reason and moving forward 40 years a very long term RSI injury means I have found a similar problem ….. however I have discovered I can knit for short periods if I rest and am patient so if I decided to use any knitting in my theme or future textile projects it is still more than possible which I am delighted about.

At this point as I have said I had not fully gathered together materials and yarns etc for my theme so concentrated on using what I had and what I felt would be suitable for my samples including wool, acrylic yarn, garden wire, fabric strips and plastic bags and also trying to be experimental which does not come naturally to me.  I have since been able to find some floral plastic bags which have been added to an ever growing bag of materials along with plastic string, a pink and white rope and paper yarns – I had been looking to purchase all of these but previously all were too  expensive but luck was on my side and eventually I have been able to get them at sale prices.

So onto the samples:

The first selection are using a variety of unconventional tools to knit or crochet with in conventional yarns.

The first 3 samples have been done with different sized knitting needles (the purple sample on the left), small wooden dowels (top sample worked in a red yarn) and wooden diffuser sticks (blue yarn sample).  I have used a combination of watercolours, charcoal pencil, Inktense pencils and marker pens … due to the fact I used the most basic of all knitting stitches the pattern was the same in all 3 samples but varying in size.

The only thing I now regret is not using the same number of stitches for each sample so that I would have had a clear idea of the change in size by using the different implements but all samples were done with between 15 and 25 cast on stitches.

The next sample was done with a thicker ribbon style yarn using the finger knitting technique – I really loved the braid effect this produced.

The yarn itself is in keeping with my colour scheme for my theme although I do not have more than 3/4 skein of it.  I do feel this yarn in the finger knitting technique has distinct possibilities as it could potentially be made stiffer using wire woven through it or several braids could be stitched together to produced a chunkier almost fence like panel or even curled and stitched in the way coil bowls are made.

I also tried finger crochet – infuriatingly difficult initially but once I got the knack of it I really loved doing it!  The technique produces a large and loose but wonderfully textured sample with the stitches able to be seen clearly – I choose a yarn of unknown content for this sample (I had been sent it by a fellow student some time ago and believe it may be wool).  Due to the loose almost fabric like effect I can see possibilities of this being twisted or gathered or even woven into  to create textural or coloured effects that could be used to produced a variety of petal or flower shapes if I do not actually crochet a petal shape directly.

Finally I chose to try knitting with cardboard inner tubes from tinned foil – again this took a little getting used to but eventually I was able to produce an incredibly loose sample which was very ‘holey’ for want of a better description!  For me this sample is reminiscent of tendrils of plants interweaving or trellis fencing and if done in a different colour has distinct possibilities for representing these – again it could also be woven through or used layered with fabrics or other textile techniques.

Throughout all the samples the course material asks you to record your sample using photography and also a variety of sketches using different media.  I fully confess to finding the sketching initially very tedious – ok more than just initially!!  I also found the sketching quite difficult to reproduce the stitching and samples accurately but eventually started to relax and work in a looser more representational style which seemed to work much better for me.  I decided to try to look for shapes and patterns that were appearing rather than to accurately reproduce the samples and be experimental in my style – some of the sketches appear repetitive but others show emerging patterns as I look more closely or change my viewing angle as I work.

Although I have only done the required 6 samples I do feel I now have the confidence to look at other tools that could be used to knit or crochet with and this is something to bear in mind as I move forward – as soon as the weather dries out sufficiently I am searching my garden for some suitable twigs for instance as I would like to experiment directly with them with perhaps garden string to see what textural effect it produces.

Going forward in the exercise the next section was to try using unconventional materials – mmmmm initial reactions were I was not looking forward to this but in the end I absolutely loved the experimental nature although I did have to order a new set of crochet hooks as I broke the first 2.

For this sample I raided the garden shed for some strimmer cable …. and unfortunately I have since had to give it back to the strimmer as unbeknownst to me that was the last bit!  I will be purchasing some more and redoing this sample in the coming weeks – finances at this point did not allow it in part because it is a question of buying more strimmer wire or just finally purchasing a new strimmer!  However the sample produced is really effective and has a natural curl – it is very stiff although still flexible and the cable produces a heavily intertwined curly effect that looks like it has been layered rather than crocheted.  For the sketches I concentrated on reproducing the shapes or the curly nature of the crochet in a combination of white pencil and marker pen.

The next sample I used a combination of 3 different ropes which I had tied together …. this is the sample that broke the 2 crochet hooks!  This sample is very heavy and inflexible with a combination of textures due to the differing ropes used.  For my sketches I tried to reproduce the stitches and how the rope is worked together although I am unsure of how successful I have been at this point.

The next sample used what is proving to my new favourite material – paper yarn and I found this one in a pale green which perfectly fits my theme.  Due to the way in which this sample worked up I have since purchase a pink and cerulean type blue skein  – the sample was relatively easy to do and produced a sample that for me feels very much like a fabric although very textured.  I am finding I feel this sample reminds me of the textures of trellis fencing or again the way climbing plants intertwine together but now as I  look again I can see the veins of leaves being represented in the sketches.

At this point in the sketches I had started to develop my ideas and how I was using my different media – I was wanting to be more experimental in my approach and use marks to reproduce the individual stitches rather than overlapping them so that you loose the definition.

Raiding the shed again I found some garden wire and decided to try crochet – yes infuriatingly difficult and I had to be very careful with my fingers to prevent cuts but it has worked well into a flexible piece that can be molded or twisted.  My sketches I concentrated on the structure of the sample and the square almost trellis effect that happened naturally as the piece progressed.  One sketch was more of a doodle on a newspaper article on gardening which I felt was appropriate – I appreciate the paper means the Sharpie pen can barely be seen but it also gives me an idea of how this same sample could be reworked and layered over other fabrics or papers and  is therefore becoming a possible design inspiration.

I do not have a lot of electrical wire but luckily my neighbour was throwing out some which I was able to have …. will I ever knit or crochet it up again? not on your life!!  The sample is very stiff and has a natural curve to it and  I do like the combination of colours but I just do not see a use for the sample plus it was very tough on my wrists to work.

However what I do like is the two sketches using Inktense pencils and acrylic paints – both are given an impression of textures and plants clambering over each other so maybe the sketches themselves can be used.

Another favourite sample was done using fabric strips knotted together  – the fabric used was hand dyed last summer and I have added it to my theme bag.  I loved the simple nature of the sample as it has produced what I would term a new fabric – I also like the ends of the fabric which I have not cut off or tried to weave in.  The sketches are very simple and similar to the first knitted samples – simple marks to convey the individual stitches.

I also tried using crochet with cellophane – not the easiest sample to work due to the delicacy as the cellophane kept breaking.  The resulting sample is one of iridescence and light with closely worked stitches plus the delights of the ends producing a wonderful petal like effect – I am enamoured by this sample and am wondering how it could be used with my theme or whether I can use the cellophane in combination with other materials.

Finally I tried working with plastic bags – these were just two standard shop bags but as I have stated above I have since managed to acquire some floral bags which I have saved for later use.  I found the bags easy to work with and produce a distinct texture in which you can see the individual stitches.  I am unsure of how I can potentially use the plastic bags but I do feel I am wanting to in some form or another.

What may be important to note at this stage is that my garden which I am using as an inspirational space has been done very cheaply and often using recycled materials such as old tyres and old boots as planters and hence I am aware I do want to use some recycled materials in some form or another or materials direct from my garden such as the green wire or twigs as well as garden or plastic string.  I am aware I am creating a cottage garden style sanctuary but one in which you know an artist (albeit student one) lives …. something that inspires us both but one that is also the aforesaid sanctuary hence the choice of colours that can be found on my theme board.

An additional very small crochet sample made with jewelry wire has in fact been done twice – the first has totally disappeared in the detritus or chaos of my working desk and so a second using the remnants of the wire was done.

Working with the wire was very fiddly in part due to not being able to twist the ‘yarn’ around your fingers to control the tension as I would normally do and in part due to the fact that the piece was so flexible and bendy that it created its own shapes as I worked it ….. hence it is just 2.5 cm by 8 cm (the original was about the same in width but 8 cm in depth).

The sketches are very basic sketches as the individual stitches are intertwined much more haphazardly due the fact it was almost impossible to see which stitch I was working into – it was literally see a gap and work into that!  However I do like the very fine and delicate effect the wire has produced and will be picking up some more in the coming week or so as I think it possibly has some uses in my theme – the sample reminds me in some ways of skeleton leaves or could be used as an armature (wire base) for perhaps a felted piece.

Overall working these samples has I will fully admit been tedious – not always enjoyable in truth but the end results have produced some interesting and thought provoking results. I have discovered that I really love the paper ‘yarn’ and also the effects produced by using plastic bags or torn strips of fabric perhaps even more so than using the more conventional yarns but I am not so keen on some of the wires perhaps due to the difficulty in crocheting them or knitting with them.

The ones I feel best fit my theme are definitely the paper yarn, plastic bags and interestingly I do like the green garden wire as I feel its flexibility or ‘bendability’ could potentially work well particularly considering my ‘place’ is my garden …. it would be good to use some items that I use directly in  the garden but I also I feel that the green wire crochet sample has potential to be used as a base for weaving so will be making a new sample up for the next exercise to try just that.  I also like the cellophane sample due to the iridescence of the material and wonder how I could use it …. I wonder if the weaving or fabric deconstruction/reconstruction exercises may work better for the cellophane?  this is something I want to experiment further with.  Finally I am also curious as to how I could use either the finger crochet, finger knitting or even the knitting with cardboard tubes could be used as I love the looseness of the samples – again there is possibilities for weaving into these in some manner or using them as part of a reconstructed fabric perhaps as part of as a layered process.

Overall the results have, as I say, produced some interesting and thought provoking ideas so although I have admitted to finding this a tedious exercise and one I have struggled to do I am interesting in the resulting ideas …. I am discovering that sometimes you have to work through something you don’t enjoy and cannot see where it is going to develop new ideas and inspiration.  Although I do not particularly like working with the electric wires or the rope purely due to the difficulty I am happy I tried them – if I do not use these in my theme I now have a record of what can be done and I do really like the sketches produced from these which provide inspiration for patterns or design work in their own right.

Sylvia Cosh patchwork sweater

Looking at artists or designers for this exercise I decided to concentrate purely on crochet or knitting designers and  I was recommended by a Facebook group to look at  the work of James Walters and Sylvia Cosh who developed the process they termed ‘scrumbling’  in the 1970’s and which was a free form style of crochet which makes it up as the piece progresses – literally the work involves changing stitches, textures and yarns to produce unique pieces.  I love the random style of their work and the heavily textured results and wonder how I could use this style in combination with my own favoured materials.

 

 

Sophie Digard. Scarf titled Emeline – https://www.selvedge.org/

Sophie Digard has been another revelation and a joy to discover – all of her work involves colour and texture again and  some appears to be based around flowers and plant life which obviously is of major interest.  I really love the intricacy of her designs – some appear very simple but this simplicity hides the complexity and some are obviously highly complex but all display an elegance that speaks of her Parisian roots.

I am note that this designer is someone who is working with the local women in Madagascar which has been her home for a number of years – these women are artisan crocheters who are paid a fair wage in return for their work.  I like the fact that this Parisian designer is helping women in a local community support themselves – as a women trying to do a textiles degree so that she can work for herself this is hugely appealing and resonant.

Finally I cannot not mention the work of Kaffe Fassett who I have known about since childhood as my late Mum was a fan of his knitting designs and use of colour.  I have come across him many times over the years and have one of my late Mum’s books of his on some tapestry designs.  Kaffe Fassett’s use of colour is extraordinary and inspiring – colour appears to be his focus and he designs for knitting, patchwork, needlepoint, painting and ceramics with inspiration being taken from many differing sources.  If I was to work my theme inspired by this designer my colour palette would be considerable brighter although I have also seen some of his work in more muted and toned down hues too.  I have always loved the floral designs that Kaffe Fassett produces with the large bold flowers that seem to shout to be seen and almost heard – his designs are ‘busy’ in that he is not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination and certainly does not take a less is more approach as he seems to have the opposite viewpoint!  This designer packs his designs full of life and bold statements and I wonder if this approach is something that could really work for me as my theme progresses.

As I sit here typing it is now late May and I will be working on this theme as my garden, my place of inspiration, comes into life and bloom and so I will seek further inspiration from the designers I have discovered and in Kaffe Fassett’s case, long loved, as I go forward and play with ideas from which my final project will develop.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Cosh, S and Walters, J. (date unknown).  Sylvia Cosh and James Walters Crochet [online].  [Date Accessed:  May 2017].  Available from:  http://www.crochet.nu/scjwc/

Crochet Concupiscence. (date unknown).  1970s Crochet Designers James Walters and Sophia Cosh.  [online]. [Date Accessed:  May 2017]. Available from:  http://www.crochetconcupiscence.com/2013/02/1970s-crochet-designers-james-walters-and-sylvia-cosh/

Crochet Conscupiscence. (date unknown).  Sophie Digard Crochet Scarves:  France, Madagascar and Fair Trade [online].  [Date Accessed:  May 2017].  Available from:  http://www.crochetconcupiscence.com/2012/07/sophie-digard-crochet-scarves/

The French Needle. 2017.  Sophie Digard [online].  [Date Accessed:  May 2017].  Available from:  https://www.frenchneedle.com/collections/sophie-digard

 

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Reflection on Exercise 3.2

This has been a difficult exercise in terms of motivation, confidence and creativity – the first two I have realised are down to passing my marks from my first assessed textiles course and the latter a combination of the confidence and also having been ill for the majority of this assignment so far.  However even though I am not entirely happy with many of my samples I have recognised the issues and will be working to add further samples before the end of this course module – as I have stated in my blog on the actual exercise I have written the verbs out and pinned them up so as inspiration strikes I can add further samples to my sketchbook.

I was fascinated by the difference in appearance of the samples in differing fabrics and found that I really liked the contrast between harder fabrics such as calico and the softer ones such as silk or velvet – the poly-cotton I had available is one I use a considerable amount on a daily basis and was really not enamoured by the results because I was more intrigued by the other fabrics. I loved the play of light on the velvet samples – the technique was irrelevant and almost secondary because no matter how you use velvet it captures the light and shadows beautifully and this perhaps is an aspect I really did not expect and can see me wanting to use it in my theme and future work …. I am aware that a better quality velvet will produce either better or differing results but I am also not dismissing the cheaper version either because each have their own unique qualities.

I did find some of the fabrics infuriatingly difficult to work with – the voile, silk and muslin but have never liked working with these generally and have recognised ways in which to overcome these difficulties in the blog on the exercise but as much as anything it comes down to having more patience than I had due to the aforesaid illness.

I have not done a huge amount of research into other artists for this exercise but have discovered Rowan Mersh whose work I have seriously fallen in love with and am really entranced by – I am not as yet sure how his work will influence mine or what techniques he is using and more research is most definitely needed.  However I have been to a local quilt show which exhibited a wide range of techniques including felting and fabric manipulation and these quilts and ideas do have a direct influence on me – the use of felting in an innovative wall quilt was particularly intriguing …. the show is blogged under the Research heading.  I am finding the quilt world, which is familiar to me as it is my background, is one that is really starting to embrace innovative techniques which will no doubt have a direct influence – I am aware of quilt blocks using origami style techniques to give a three dimensional effect as an example.

Finally I am asked to collate together the samples which I feel represent my theme and I have specifically chosen the gathered and shirring samples including Suffolk Puffs, the pleated sample with the pleats stitched down and the felt samples.  I feel these samples represent the textures of my garden and could be combined with further folded and pleated samples specifically worked to represent different textures.  The felted samples have really got my attention as this is a new technique and I am aware that I can purchase wool roving in my required colours if necessary.  I can see at this stage the possibility of combining techniques and now as I look at this photograph I would also add the layered and torn samples as well – the layering could be used to represent the different layers of the garden and be representative of the different layers of my life which the garden itself represents.

As I stated at the beginning I have really struggled with this exercise and am still not happy with the outcomes as a whole but there are aspects that give me a level of confidence in that I have recognised issues and problems and made note of them or made notes of how I feel I can overcome them.  On the issue of lack of confidence I put a post on a Facebook group stating how I felt and the response of my fellow students was incredible with each stating that it is totally normal to hit these crisis in confidence and that everyone does from time to time – those responses have been enough to give me a lift because distance learning can be a lonely journey at times and the support of your fellow students is desperately important.

The problems I have had with the fabrics have felt easier to solve – patience and taking your time being the primary solution!

FOOTNOTE:

I am writing this having completed the final exercises on this part of the course and reflect on the fact that for this particular exercise that I had not done any sketches of the samples – I noted in Italic font in the exercise to really read through the exercise thoroughly in future to note any instructions so lesson well learnt!  However I am not sure I regret not doing the sketches at that stage due to struggles with textural mark making and this is something I am trying to work on so will go back to these samples over the coming weeks and prior to assessment to add in new sketches in order to improve my area of weakness.

Regarding artists I am already a huge fan of Jinny Beyer whose quilts are full of vibrant colour influenced hugely by travels in India.  I am also fascinated by her use of tessellations although I have not yet had the confidence to try some of her designs!  A quick internet search lead me to an article on textiles artists who use recycled materials and in particular I love the work of Louise Baldwin primarily again for her use of colour …. the techniques for me are the not the first thing I look at but how she uses colour but I do like the fact she uses waste packaging to create her wallhangings which she stitches with machine and hand stitching.  I also note the work of Jennifer Collier who creates objects using paper – on the website there is a wonderful photo of a manual typewriter which is immediately appealing considering I learnt to type on one such devil-made machine ….. the photograph can be seen at:  http://www.textileartist.org/textile-artists-using-recycled-materials/n   …. this website also shows the work of Louise Baldwin.

I think what I am now discovering is a range of artists who use a wide variety of influences and one the reasons I also love Jennifer Collier and Louise Baldwin is that they are using the objects and materials that surround them so I guess their work could be based on either place or identity but in terms of the typewriter in particular also encompasses words.  I have bookmarked the above website page for further reading and research because the use of recycled materials is something that interests me – in part financial reasons force me to use what I can find around my home at this time but I am also interested from an environmental point of view too so can relate to the artists who use recycled or upcycled materials in their work.

 

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Exercise 3.2 Fabric manipulation

This exercise concentrations on simple methods of fabric manipulation and also exploring the effects of scale and repeat.  The methods used are ones I am familiar with but the exercise asks me to think about them in different and exploratory ways using words taken from Richard Serras’s verb list from Exercise 1.5.

I admit to not having thoroughly read the exercise in its entirety and so initially interpreted the words simply and literally with 2 or 3 samples each before turning the page and then adding some further samples following the course instructions …. lesson learnt to thoroughly read the exercise first!

So for my first set of samples I tried the verbs fold, twist and cut …. for the first I tried something different thinking of origami style folds which I quite liked and thought they could be used as potential inserted blocks in a larger piece.  I also did a simple sample using a strip of fabric pleated.

For the ‘twist’ verb I simply twist fabrics together effectively creating new ‘yarn’ before cutting into a square of fabric randomly for the first sample for the very ‘cut’.

 

 

I added a further sample for the ‘cut’ verb which can be seen  on the left hand side of this image before moving onto two basic layering samples and also knotted samples – my imagination had got up and left the building for these.

I admit I had been trying to do this exercise during a period of illness and found I was seriously struggling with being experimental and hence do not feel the majority of the samples were even remotely successful and feel that I will be returning to this exercise and adding further samples at a later date but pre-assessment – I have already taken the step of writing out the verbs and pinning them up so that I can consider how I might interpret them into fabric manipulation and when inspiration strikes I can immediately act on it!  I also realised during this particular exercise that I have suffered a dip in confidence due to my assessed mark at ACA and having recognised it I am aware of how it has affected my creativity and this is something that I am hoping will rectify itself during the exercises that follow.

Going forward to the verb ‘crumple’ I regret not having some spray starch as I just wanted to crumple and scrunch the fabrics to produce texture …. I admit to using hairspray instead here and soaking the fabric pieces before scrunching them up and letting them dry which was relatively successful.

The following 3 samples (2 on this page) were for the verb ‘felt’ – felting is a new technique for me but one I had really wanted to try and I loved it!  I had to purchase a small felting kit and some wool roving but feel now it has been worth the expense as it is a technique I can see me using further.

On my samples I tried using denim and felt as the background fabric initially – the denim produces a firm effect and I love the colour contrasts whilst the felt is softer and blended better with the roving.

The third sample can be seen in the top left of this photograph and for this one I decided to forego the background fabric and just blend the roving together to produce a new fabric – the shades I have used produce a lovely soft effect which I really love.

The final three verbs of ‘tear’, ‘gather’ and ‘roll’ can also be seen on this page – for tearing I simply tore 3 different fabrics into strips, gathering encompassed a simple strip gathered into a circle and a second one which was gathered on two sides and finally rolling was interpreted by rolling two fabrics together …. as I said early my creativity seems to have deserted me and I am far from happy with these samples.

At this point I turned the page and read more of the course material!

It is suggested to take a strip of fabric approximately 6 x 30 cm which I folded down the middle and ironed before finally using a small running stitch along the crease in the fabric.  I gently pulled on one end of my thread to gather the fabric to approximately half its length and arranging the gathers neatly.  I repeated this exercise using 6 different fabrics exploring this technique and did feel it was very worth while – I particularly liked the contrast between the calico in the bottom right of the photo which produced wonderfully stiff gathers and the silk or velvet which produced soft and delicate gathers.

I am entranced with the use of velvet both using gathering or pleating techniques due to the effects of light and shadow and although difficult to work with feel the effort is really worth it.

Shirring is another method of gathering executed by sewing two parallel rows of either running stitch or machine stitch (with the tension adjusted as necessary) before gathering – usually this is done with a thin elastic but my initial sample was done just using running stitch.  I am however adding a further sample trialing a machine sewn  method as I have purchased the required elastic.

Folding can be interpreted as pleated as the course material instructs and in this area I felt considerably more confident.  I tried simple folds along one edge in 4 differing fabrics – poly-cotton, voile, muslin and velvet and loved the very differing results.  I am aware the calico would have produced a very stiff pleat which I would have ironed firstly before stitching but the samples I stitched I decided to leave the pleats unpressed to produce a softer effect.

I further tried using tucks as small folds and again tried in different fabrics – poly-cotton, muslin and also pink felt.  The poly-cotton and muslin produced very soft tucks which were loosely done and not pressed whilst the felt produced tucks that actually stiffed the felt considerably which is interesting to note with future projects in mind.

I added two further samples at this stage which combined techniques – layering and cutting for the sample shown on the left hand side of the photograph and cutting and knotting for the right hand sample.  I now feel combining the verbs gives me the opportunity of being more experimental and I felt more confident in my interpretations.

I could not resist doing some samples of gathered Suffolk puffs in calico, voile, felt and velvet – this is a technique I know and love.  There are two ways of doing Suffolk puffs but both start by drawing circles onto your fabric and cutting out.  Some people choose to turn over the edge of the circle before using a running stitch around the outside and some people choose to leave the edge un-turned depending on the project they have in mind – for these samples I chose the un-turned method.  Once the running stitch has been done I drew the gathers together before securing.  I have not used any of these fabrics before with the puffs and loved the felt version as it reminded me of a French beret but I am also entranced by the voile due to the lovely soft result although I found the voile difficult to work with.

As I have stated previously for this exercise I had suffered a combination of a dip in confidence combined with a bout of illness and do not feel my creativity has been what it should have been or could be and as a consequence I am not entirely happy with many of the samples.  However I am aware that I will be revisiting this exercise, if not during the course of the rest of the assignment, certainly before this course module is completed to add further samples exploring the different techniques and perhaps using other fabrics that I have made such as knitted or woven samples.  My biggest problem has been lack of confidence I feel.

Regarding the samples the most effective have been the gathered, felted and Suffolk puffs – all 3 of these seems to have worked well and I can see the potential in them to capture the mood or essence of my theme as they could be used to ‘describe’ flowers or textures within my garden.

Thinking of my theme I tried a further pleated sample but this time stitching the pleats down the length and this produces an effect reminiscent of the veins of a leaf or petal which I do really like – this is an idea that could be explored further using differing fabrics but when I have more patience!

I think some of my problems with the fabrics has been the difficulty in using them – velvet, voiles or silks are notoriously problematic and if I had done this exercise when fully fit I may have had more patience than I had at the time!  These fabrics need handling with care and accuracy and for some techniques ensuring cutting on the grain would produce a better and crisper result. I also feel that for some of the techniques careful marking with the appropriate pencil or chalk could have also helped to produce the effect required – straighter lines for instance or even the stitching line around the circle for the Suffolk puffs.  Some of these finer fabrics I have intentionally avoided using in the past and I am well aware of why – I do not like working with slippery fabrics although the final effect and finish is definitely worth it and this exercise has shown me that perseverance, patience and a little determination means I can now see a place for them in my theme.

The next part of the exercise was to look at the effect of a change in scale on one of my samples and for this I chose the felting as I wanted to explore the technique further.  I decided to work a petal shape as a new sample before recreating it 50% larger and 50% smaller – I am aware my shapes are not as accurately repeated as I would like but the technique is still very new to me.  I worked all 3 samples on a cotton background before cutting them out.

At this point I note that the course material has stated to document my samples through drawing and photography – the drawing I feel I have neglected as I, again, had not read the exercise thoroughly but also because I found it difficult to draw what I was doing when for me it is an obvious step by step procedure but now understand it is those steps that are worth drawing. Lesson learnt – READ the course notes THOROUGHLY and highlight or make notes of each stage!!

I am really pleased with the 3 samples as I can see the change in scales clearly and this gives me a clear idea of how this changes the look of each sample – I love the delicacy of the smallest shape which contrasts with the boldness of the largest.  The colours blend delicately with the smallest shape before becoming more obvious with the largest – they seem to want to be ‘heard’ more in the largest shape despite the fact I adjusted the proportions of each colour according to each shape (in effect the proportions were the same is what I am trying to say).

At this point the course material points me towards looking at the work of Rowan Mersh and recording my response to his experimental and intuitive approach to ordinary materials.  Oh wow, omg, oh I love it, intrigued, fascinated, want to know more, how does he do it?, oh I wish I could see these works in person …. all these were my reactions as I sat looking for a considerable time at the gallery on his website.  I rarely find I respond with such enthusiasm or even an emotional response but something about the style or maybe the way these sculptures and works are done just sends a tingle down my spine – I just love love love the fabric sculptures in particular.  It feels like this artist is a cross between artist, textile artist and almost an architect and each material whether it is leather, wood or corn is used in intricate and fascinating ways that make you look twice to discover what material the art work is made of – the artist almost defies your eyes and challenges your perceptions of the materials used.  I was also particularly entranced by the Iambic Rhythm from 2011 – the whole installation looked incredible and I love the mechanical but somehow natural rhythm the art work produced or captured.    I can honestly this is an artist who I will be following now without question – something about his work has seriously got my attention but it is indefinable and indescribable but there are just some artists that touch your soul through their work and for me Rowan Mersh is one.

The final sample is one that was created through making 8 identical samples before joining them in a variety of different methods.  I chose to work with Suffolk puffs and used a combination of knots, herringbone stitch (not overly successful), French knots, running stitch to create a hinge before roughly slip stitching the resulting edges back down on themselves, machine stitch in two differing methods (a hinge and also a semi-circle on top of 3 other puffs) and also a simple overcast stitch.  I am not entirely happy with the result and feel it may have been better had I worked my puffs on a larger scale but on the other hand I like the effect created too – it is random with no specific design or desired outcome other than to become a more complex sample and this is something that is new to me … running with just a series of motifs or samples and seeing where the process leads me and I found it exciting and almost freeing to do.  This complex sample could have been made larger with other puffs added to it with either side of the puffs showing – it is not a sample that has a ‘right’ side.  I really liked joining the puffs with French knots in particular as this gave an area of added interest and texture – thinking of my theme this would look effective in different coloured threads particularly if the knots were repeated in different sizes and in the middle of the gathers.

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Mersh, R.  (date unknown). Rowan Mersh [online].  [Date accessed:  April 2017].  Available from:  http://wwww.rowanmersh.com/gallery-category/2016/

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

 

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