Monthly Archives: September 2014

First experiments: stitching without thread

After an accidental day off yesterday due to being totally exhausted, week 5 began in earnest today. We had our last induction this morning – to the metalwork resources. My only experience of anything remotely resembling metalwork was in my second year undergrad electronics classes – the worst possible compulsory module a theoretical physicist could be forced to do. I still recall (with mild terror) being given a pile of resistors and a soldering iron and being expected to know what to do with them.  Urg!

This morning’s session was much more exciting and I think there are many things I will come back to look at. Metal is such an interesting material – malleable, flexible yet strong and unyielding.  People think it is unnatural, but many metals are pure elements, and as such are just as organic as trees growing in a forest. From a certain perspective tree to plywood board has a similar transformation as that of ore to metal rod.  And the plasma cutter!  Very cool.

After that, I thought it was time – 5 weeks in – to get making and begin experimenting on my newly clarified proposal area. My starting point, that of a mini-project around ghost candles is focussed around seeing what happens when a point light source is filtered through different materials. I had the pleasure of starting one of my new sketchbooks (bought with the gift vouchers given to me on leaving my railway job).  Two artists have offered initial inspiration: first, Laura Kemshall, quilt artist extraordinaire.  I was at her talk at Festival of Quilts 2014 on “digital quilts” over the summer and she had mentioned accidentally running out of thread on a quilt and not noticing. Due to the thick gold paint she was using on the fabric, the holes were permanent – but added an incredible and unexpected feature.  Take a look at the quilt on her blog here. The other artist in my current spotlight is the work of Jane Blease who pierces and stitches wood veneer panels to make lamp shades and a range of other stuff. Love this effect.

So where to start then?

I am starting to work with paper first, using a variety of paper types and thicknesses, having had an expedition on the weekend to the fine paper store. The first out of the roll was the tracing paper.  I found a heavyweight tracing paper at 110gsm in my local art store, and put this to test in my Bernina with no thread (neither top thread nor bobbin). Pattern wise, I decided to start with two simple geometric symbols which mean a lot to me and my proposal: the circle, in its form as ensō; and the line, as the unending horizon.

As a quick aside, the ensō is a symbol used in Zen Calligraphy (on which I had a beginners course in 2010).  The ensō is a circle hand-drawn in one stroke to express the fleeting moment when the mind is free to let the body create. Wikipedia offers that “The ensō symbolises absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and mu (the void). Once the ensō is drawn, one does not change it. It evidences the character of its creator and the context of its creation in a brief, contiguous period of time.”

This was the result of my first samples for each pattern (held up to a ceiling light), and combining both patterns into a shade for a tea light.

Photo 30-09-2014 18 52 04

Photo 30-09-2014 18 52 20

 

 

 

 

Photo 30-09-2014 18 53 49

 

Initial thoughts:

  • I like the effect of the clean holes through the material, and I really very much like working with the heavyweight paper.  It will be interesting to see how the other papers I have change the effect.
  • Balance of action and emptiness is very interesting in creating the pattern sample
  • The filtering of the light is subtle, although a tea light isn’t the brightest of light sources.  My set of fairy lights were so dim as to not to demonstrate much at all, so will get a brighter set. Considering I have already spotted Christmas stuff in the supermarket, this shouldn’t be too hard.
  • I like the simple, clean geometry
  • What about colour?
  • You can’t see from the angle I took the photo, but the cylinder is made from two curves of paper stitched together with an unbleached cotton thread – I think putting the thread where it wouldn’t normally be and not where you would expect it to be is good, and something to continue on with.
  • One of the most interesting features is the line of light and shadow which you see just above the top of the tea light. What is this from?  Nice effect – must investigate.
  • Finally, next time move the cup of tea and water jug before taking blog photos. (oops)

Good start! Tomorrow we start our getting making workshops with the lovely Bridget – very much looking forward to seeing what she has in store for us.  Will share more tomorrow!

Happy stitching all

ANT xx

 

MA Project proposal v1.3.1

Tweaked again (and hopefully improved) from the paper version I shared with Maiko at my tutorial last week – including a research question now, general tightening and the first steps in a plan.


 

MA Project Proposal draft v1.3: Seen / Unseen

Research question

What can the interplay of light, shadow and space represent about reality: our visual perception of what we believe reality to be filtered through the inner world within our own minds?

Light is the fundamental information carrier in the universe.  It has an infinite reach – no information can travel faster.  Light has an immense spectrum far beyond the minute fraction of wavelengths which the human eye can observe.  It pervades our entire universe – it is both the flicker of the flame and the warmth of the fire. Modern physics suggests that the universe has more dimensions than we can observe – the rest are hidden, compactified, mysterious. Light however can only travel within our known four dimensional universe – it is bound onto the plane our own existence.  What if the theory is true, and there is something beyond this plan which light cannot penetrate – out into the void and these hidden dimensions of space or time – other universes, other realities?

Context 

Philosophical debate: How can objects help provide a lever for us to contemplate meaning in our lives and existence, and encourage us to question the nature of reality. How can society reconcile mankind’s search for meaning in the modern age through a journey of reflection, contemplation and revelation.

  • What visual cues or impressions can we use to connect our ‘inner selves’ with the wider universe around us?
  • What mindset change can occur for the user of an object / viewer of an image – what emotions can be invoked – a sense of transcendence or meditation?  of curiosity?

The objective of my research study is therefore to ask:

  • Can an object represent something of the things we cannot see or which exist at the boundary of our perception? The hidden meaning / worlds / realities we search for?
  • Can I create works which describe the unseen depths: appealing to the edges of our senses? (Is this a question about the phenomenology of perception?).  Visually obscuring / only partially seeing something?
  • What hidden understanding can only be revealed in the shadows (hidden spaces, hidden messages)? Add what becomes clear in the light?

I would like to make a series of contemporary objects which explore these properties which combine my traditional craft skills with functional art and with modern design (using my inspiration from modern Scandinavian aesthetics).

Relevant artists and collections (extract – full table is on written document):

James Turrell
Frank Lloyd Wright
Anthony Gormley (Another Place, Blind Light, Event Horizon 2007)
Fred Eerdekens (Shadows)
Ekkehard Altenburger (Mirrorhouse, 1996)
Leonid Tishkov

Methodology 

I am interested in looking at semi-transparent materials, or changing the nature of a material to be able to reveal something (e.g. holes, carvings etc).  I also plan to make use of natural and LED lighting to experiment with light and shadow within an object (making an “object space”) and seeing what alteration or embellishment of the object space can say or change about the user’s mind (the “inner space”).

1. Main project thread, initially starting off with a mini project: “Ghost candles”

Ghost candles: aim to complete by end of term 1

Ghost candles (or will o’ the wisp) are a swamp phenomenon often associated with seeing fairies or spirits (perhaps of the dead); these are observed as diffuse misty lights which disappear as you get closer to them. A string of fairy lights will represent the range of spirits which people may see as they observe the lights – everyone sees something different based on their own mind and experiences – but be careful not to follow the lights, else you get lost and make little candles of your own.

Method:

  • Taking a string of simple white LED fairy lights and using them to create light covers for each one using different materials including fabrics, papers, glass, paper clay.
  • Will need to design a simple construction method and use the same form for each cover to be able to compare
  • Reflect and select ideas to take forward and asses which materials I enjoyed working with

Objectives to test properties of different materials in a quick and simple way and see what effects the materials have on the way the light is diffused and filtered through the covers. What effect on the mood of the space does the light intensity and the pattern (light / shadow) have?

2. Research and literature study on historical and contemporary context including the art v craft debate; how non-fashion based textiles (and stitched textiles in particular) are viewed by the community; and looking into other connected artists works.

3. Experiments – current plans:

  • Photographic narrative – what is revealed through darkness, shadow and partial light
  • How is an object seen through distortion (reflection, water, moonlight) and does this change how we perceive the object?

28.09.14


 

Reflections on my current practice

I have always enjoyed the process of taking and completing actions.  Crossing things off a to do list is one of life’s simple pleasures.  So, after writing down my first set of things to do from this week’s push on “getting moving”, I have attempted to tick one action off – that of reflecting on what I have done up to now.  It seems logical to me to do this before looking to move ahead – why not celebrate your successes, you are probably much more awesome than you think.

(You really should open that link before you carry on reading, you won’t regret it.)

Well then, down to business. I have tried to do some honest reflection on ‘my practice’ by answering a number of different questions I have asked myself over the last few days.

1.  What is my current practice:

I am a contemporary quilter.  I started quilting in 2008 using traditional patterns, and very quickly moved into modern, contemporary work and designing my own patterns.  Over the course of my City & Guilds study, I have been edging further towards art quilting, and an expanding repertoire of surface design techniques.  I have also dabbled with polymer clay and when I was younger I did a lot of calligraphy.  Oh and I am also an avid art journaller, baker and chocolate truffle maker.

2.  What techniques, processes and materials have I enjoyed working with to date:

I like making a mess.  I don’t go out of my way to be untidy, I just always end up dirty somehow.  I am the girl who goes out walking in the midst of a hot summer drought and ends up muddy. Unsurprisingly then, many of the techniques I really enjoy are those that involve wet and mess-making materials.  I like working with:

  • Paper and ink – brush movements, expressive calligraphy. Currently obsessing about acrylic inks and japanese paper
  • Words – writing poetry, using text directly in artworks
  • Surface design – with fabric, paper or canvas – I love colour and texture, particularly starting from a blank white page and building upwards.  I do like working with limited colour palettes, and have recently noticed a trend around earth + blood colours (brown, sepia, cream, red).  Haven’t yet been able to figure out why this is.
  • Patchwork techniques which display a beauty through incricate designs with clear forms and striking geometry.  Maiko did say “what about geometry” the other day and I believe (of course) that she is right – I am not going to be able to drag myself away from this part of my nature.  These techniques include things like english paper piecing (hexagons!), foundation piecing, Japanese folded patchwork and stained glass applique.  For the non-patchwork practitioners out there (and for my own records), I’ve photographed some of by favourite bits of my samples book that I have built up with City & Guilds over the last three years.
  • Hand-quilting – especially using sashiko stitching and thick Perle cottons for quilting.  This revelation actually surprised me, as this would not have been the case a couple of years ago when I would have been ‘arrested’ on sight by the quilt police for the poor quality of my stitching. My sewing machine is a Bernina quilting machine and it is a wonderful, wonderful piece of kit, but I have noticed becoming increasingly drawn to the more imperfect but more personal feel you get from stitching by hand.
  • Mixing paper and stitch – been getting more into this recently, driving on from what I’m doing in my art journal. Occasionally I have visions of creating grand steampunk like mixed media creations with clockwork owls and motors and wheels, but then I realise all I really want to do is dress up in the Victorian costumes and get a parasol.

Extracts from my sample book of techniques I have tried and taken to heart:BeFunky_candg

3.  What new techniques or materials would I like to adopt:

  • Making handmade paper
  • Learning how to make Temari balls
  • Photography
  • Polymer clay jewellery – something organic and with movement
  • Playing with lights, LEDs and glass beads in materials

4.  As question 3, but if resources were unlimited:

  • I would absolutely love to work with glass, perhaps making handmade glass
  • Silversmithing (to go with the polymer clay!)
  • Porcelain, especially precision work a la Jennifer McCurdy (This one is in this list instead of question 3 as it is rather skill constrained!)

5.  Where would I like my practice to evolve to:

First off, I realised recently, that whatever I do I would like to continue making art quilts, and aiming to create some exhibition quality pieces. I am going to submit something to Festival of Quilts 2015 (I decided this yesterday), and whatever happens in the future, I think I would like to continue having art quilting as one of my strands of work.

As for the rest….well I’m currently open to ideas.  I like the idea of mixing and mashing up techniques and materials.  Stitching other things than fabric (parchment paper is currently top of my list), using fabric on other things than a quilt.  The question of what I want to do in the future is to big to answer just yet, so for now I feel more comfortable just exploring options.

That exercise was actually more fun than I expected, perhaps I have been underestimating just how much stuff I have done – not having a BA art degree or a fancy website doesn’t mean I don’t have a practice!

Awesome indeed.

ANT xx

My project context: explaining the unexplainable

I can’t write my project context or research topic in sensible words yet. But here is a poem which tries somewhat to explain it. Or me. Or both.

Soul Mirror
Copyright Angelique Talbot 2014

Hold a mirror to your soul. What do you see?
I see that which is clear in the light,
The shadows of truth in the darkness
I look for the nature of reality;
The point where all breaks down: the quantum foam, 
The chaos butterfly, the liminal space,
The complex plot and the interwoven life;
Where all is not what it seems to be.
I seek to unearth the fundamental truths,
the smallest particle, the arrow of time,
the inner values;
What lies beyond, what lies beneath;
Other universes, other times, other realities,
Interconnected.
The puzzle, the maze: the mystery and magic;
The natural silence of the passing cloud;
The flowing stream and the grain of sand.
I inhabit the infinite spaces,
The bell ringing in the darkness,
The ghost in the machine.

Seminar – design culture

Class seminar on design and design culture this morning.  Interesting to see things from someone else’s perspective.  My experience of design practice to date has been focussed around graphic and information design, where the user’s needs are more intangible (about the user experience through a technology flow for example), so similar but subtly different from product design.  However function is still key.

We discussed a little of the history of design across the last few decades, and I was intrigued by how much of design has been used as a social commentary on current culture, environment etc.  I have to admit that I entered my non-comfort zone here – as I have always had a bit of a problem with people on ‘grand causes’ using non-political means to make large political statements. Not sure why actually, but for example I find ‘lets all be zero carbon’ really annoying even though I am as much of a driver for environmental change as the next person. I noticed this when Maiko showed us a TED talk of a chap making a toaster from scratch (literally) – by going on a quest to mine his own ore and make his own copper wires etc. It really annoyed me to an unexpected degree.  I did understand the point he was making after Maiko explained it to me, but it still seemed disingenuous – the sort of thing I find unauthentic and patronising. Do people really think all consumers know nothing about what they buy or the complexity of the supply chain? Or is what is really annoying me just assumption and vast generalisation?  Or am I just being harsh because I have a headache?

I still believe that people can’t really make anything fully from scratch by themselves in a collaborative human society – of course you can have as handmade as possible, but to be really fundamental you won’t be using any electricity then, or mains water, or any metal tools (unless you have mined the ore yourself), or any natural fibres you haven’t grown yourself, plus you can’t rely on any principles of science or engineering someone else has developed within your construction?

Anyway, rant over.

The other thing Maiko asked us to do was to address which contexts and debates our project is fitting into.  Currently a challenge while I re-frame my vague ideas, but the best way I can express this at the moment is resorting to a beautiful poem I found on a library bookmark in week at St Andrews University back in the day.  I am an old fashioned girl, and I love poetry, so here you are: Leisure by William Henry Davies – a nice contrast to my earlier ranting 🙂

“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare”

By three methods we learn wisdom

Confucius once stated that

By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is the noblest; second by imitation which is the easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

Reflective practice was today’s underlying theme – whether by planning or good luck, in both of our sessions. The aim is to make us more aware of ourselves and what we are doing.  We had reflective practice initially defined as “the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning”. Working with the lovely Bridget we went through a couple of very interesting exercises.  The first one was being presented with a block of play dough and given 2 minutes to make something with it.  We then had to reflect with a partner on what, why, how we had made what we had!

Photo 24-09-2014 10 24 47

This was my resulting object(s).  Curious, I thought.  I started smoothing out my lump of dough, and in making a smooth ball, was inspired to make more of them.  I liked the repeated form, the simplicity of the ‘perfect sphere’. My colleague suggested it looked like stars in the sky with the different scales – I hadn’t noticed this when making it. Why you make something is always the hardest question to answer, especially when you are asked it seven times!

After this exercise we had a more in-depth piece of reflection to do based on a recent event of our choice, following a useful set of questions we can use.

  1. Introduction: What was the event?
  2. Description: What happened?
  3. Analysis: What were you thinking?  What were you feeling?
  4. Evaluation: What went well, what didn’t go so well
  5. Surprises: What surprised or puzzled you?
  6. Improvements: What can be learnt or improved for next time?
  7. Action plan: what next?

Having had my tutorial with Maiko only yesterday, this seemed like the ideal event to analyse and reflect on.  Doing the exercise was quite surprising in what pearls of wisdom you can pull out that you didn’t even realise you were thinking….highlights below (full original notes in my notebook).

  • Good dialogue and discussion but I rambled too much, and I don’t think I articulated my current proposal very well.  Perhaps this suggests it is not yet a very clear argument / question and if I can’t explain it to my tutor it needs a bit more clarity.
  • It is clear that I am not sure of what my ‘right materials’ are yet either or how to align my proposal with my current practice.
  • I think I listened well and will take on board all of the suggestions Maiko made; I have a good list of actions to work on which came out of the session.  (see yesterday’s post)
  • I took in my sketchbook but didn’t get a chance to show Maiko.  Perhaps I am so keen on having a real fine-art style sketchbook that I am restricting my natural research style.  I need to do what is true to me and not someone else.  Don’t try so hard!
  • I am very good at planning and managing very complex projects – but I haven’t used any of the skills or tools I would have on starting a consultancy assignment.  Why not?  I don’t need to disregard my last decade’s worth of experience!!
  • While we’re talking about planning, it is good!  You can’t rely wholly on instinct, and although I am sure following my instincts will be essential I don’t need to make life hard for myself.  Echoes of my City Lit course where I got myself in knots trying to develop an instinct (being told not to plan didn’t help) but ended up making my project twice as hard as it needed to be.

Actions:
1) do some proper reflection on my practice and why I do what it is I do;
2) define some mini-projects which are part of my bigger context and 
a bit of a plan;
3) chill

So that was this morning.  Then came our afternoon lecture with Jonathan Kearney (leader MA Fine Art Digital).  A genuinely awesome lecture, and I have been to a lot of lectures in my time.  Very useful and very engaging, great buzz in the room. The topic was action research, and how we can use this as a methodology for our MA work. He made a few interesting observations about the difference between scientific research and artistic research (some of which were a tad cliched – not all scientists are old men with glasses and beards).  His introduction however said the following on what artistic research is for:

The task is not merely to understand and interpret the world, but to change it

Grand indeed. So this is achieved through ACTION and RESEARCH, seeking to question what it is you are making as the practitioner – not through any independent or outside observer. Your feelings and mindstates matter.  There are four key elements to this:

  1. Cyclical: the old Plan-Do-Review cycle, never quite as simple as the management books show.  Everything is iterative and complex and you go backwards, sideways and upwards as well as forwards. Puzzlement is good – it offers a chance to do something new and change something. Get out of your comfort zone!
  2. Collaborative: with people, but also with materials
  3. Qualitative: my inner physicist says “you’re not in Kansas any more”; success in qualitative research is about a different type of value with the outcomes achieved – not just objective interpretation of data.  Much more like the constructive ‘waffle’ I have got rather good at as a consultant. Emphasis on words.
  4. Reflective: our MA programme is essentially two years of critical reflection.  You need to not look at your work in isolation, but to look at all of you while you were doing it, how did you feel, what frustrated you etc.  This is just as true of any professional practitioner, not just creatives.

We could tell this was a big topic:

Reflection could be argued to be the essential stage where learning is integrated within the whole learner, and added to existing frames of reference and internalised and personalised.  (RACE, 2006)

We were right: we were asked to answer a few simple but incredibly hard questions and discuss them with our neighbouring students. There are some big fish in here – and bang on what I was thinking about this morning.

1. What do you make: I currently make quilts and chocolates

2. In what ways do you want to change or improve what you make:

  • I would like to make work more thoughtfully designed pieces of functional art – that crosses or straddles the craft / art divide
  • I would like to expand out of just using textiles and use a broader range of materials which offer different ways to interact for the users
  • I would like to be able to make an emotional impact or experience for the user in interacting with my creations

3. What have you done so far [on the MA]: well as you can see from my earlier posts, this is actually rather a lot in a short time – inductions into new materials, talks and exhibitions galore, I have made a pot, a clay dinosaur and a metal bowl, oh and three iterations of my project proposal in three weeks!

4. What have you discovered so far: 

  • That I actually really enjoy research; I didn’t realise how much I missed it.
  • The difference between scientific research and artistic research
  • That I don’t currently have a defined enough vision, which is why (I suspect) that I am finding it hard to set objectives.  Breaking the rules of strategy 101!

5. What will you change because of what you have discovered:

  • I will ensure to draw upon all of my past experiences, everything I have ever done has brought me to this moment – everything you know makes you YOU.
  • I will accept that this is my journey, and I need to shape it in the way I need to in order to achieve my objectives (within the framework of the course)
  • I will learn to balance meticulous planning with raw intuition. Both can live side by side.

6. What will you do next: 

  • Reflect on my current practice – it may be craft-based and not uni taught, but it is just as valid as an expert potter or a fine artist.
  • Answer what I want my practice to look / feel like in the future
  • Set out an initial post-MA vision 
  • Make a plan

Phew.  I realise I have now hit 1400 words for this post so thanks to any committed readers who have made it this far.  This was a big day.  On Jonathan’s suggestion, I am going to file this post under LIGHTBULB MOMENTS to come back to as turning points for the course.  Now of course, I just need to get on and start answering the questions.  I think I will settle down to this over the next few days and seek to start making in October with a proper thought through plan for the rest of term and beyond.

How’s that for a decisive day!

ANT xx

 

 

 

1:1 Tutorial with Maiko #01

The main event of the day has been my first 1:1 tutorial with course leader Maiko. We went over my draft proposal, as well as I could manage to explain it. I still have a tendency to wander off into philosophical discourse and forget that we are supposed to have a visual object somewhere in there. Current working title: Seen / Unseen

The main points I came away with were the following:

  • split main project into smaller sub-sections which have specific outcomes – this will help not only to focus my making but will ensure that what I am doing is with intent and aligned to the overall proposal
  • don’t learn new skills for the sake of it, experiment with purpose, make with intent
  • Maiko asked if I was intending to continue using with my current main medium, namely fabric and stitching – the answer is most certainly yes in some form, although I am keen to explore the properties and synergies with other materials. I am reminded of the tale of one of the second year MADM students who tried for a year to break away from her medium only to end right back there at the end. Babies and bath water?
  • Making is good, reading is good and experimenting is good – but keep on making. I will need to balance this as I go. Also need to balance how much I try to do with formal plans (I am known for a lot of meticulous planning – I did have a spreadsheet and Gantt chart for our wedding) with working on instinct.
  • what am I doing all of this for? Not having a clear objective for the end of the course means that it is not as easy to focus my efforts to achieving this at the end. Perhaps it is time to put a line in the sand, or at least define what personal objectives I have for doing the MA

So a lot there, and all very helpful comment and direction.

I have been mulling this over a little this evening while watching despicable me (minions!) on TV and flicking through the pile of library books I’ve not yet found time to open. A quite unnerving co-incidence met me when I opened up a random book on the basics of thrown ceramics (by David Cohen) on the chapter on technical vocabulary and visual vocabulary. I was so taken by the relevance of this, I have a captured a long extract below:

“Technical competence and knowledge in any medium are never enough to realise visual intention. Technical knowledge responds only to the mechanics of how material and physical relationships function. Although important this competence will only serve to answer technical questions…critical questions [which] lead to the deeper investigation of personal choice in relation to design [are]:

  • What am I to do? (intention)
  • How am I to do it? (Selection)
  • Why this way….what if I….? (Critical assessment)

Intention is a conscious consideration applied to the process of selection. Critical assessment can only be realised in relation to a series of forms, based on the same intention, which are assessed when side by side. It is through critical assessment that subtle changes are made, not only in developing the form, but adding other elements which can enhance personal expression.

  • The intention is to investigate a series of works within a particular idea
  • Select a form or combination of forms to be used in the series
  • Apply abstract analysis for critical assessment of the series”

Technical and visual vocabularies in relation to the final product cannot be separated.”

Uncanny indeed. My first action is going to be to define some mini-projects using this principle which will contribute to my project context. Oh and to finish my pot!

More to follow….

ANT x