Category Archives: 01 Textile work

Storytelling with colour

After my last post, I had a nice chat with the lovely Bridget and tested my provisional show plan with her. Her reaction was good (apparently my ideas have much more me-ness in it). She noted the ethereality apparent within both the paper weaving samples and my latest calligraphic poems. [I don’t think I have talked about these on the blog yet – so as a quick summary, I have started looking at my ‘place identity’ using my asemic, consciousness poetry – calligraphy on top of monoprinting]

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So after meeting with Bridget, I’ve been making more weaving samples, experimenting with different ways of mark-making using the weave. I’d like to incorporate my story physically into the weave (as opposed as to just writing on top of it).

The latest samples:

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I love the effects with the colour pieces, and am less convinced by literally weaving in the words. Not sure this looks great and it is just too……well, too readable perhaps? I tried different warp dyeing experiment following on from this, which turned into a horrible mess. I then decided to follow this with baking a batch of chocolate muffins (after giving away 16 cakes yesterday), only for this to result in a horrible mess too and end up in the kitchen bin. Urg.

Some days go like this I suppose!

Something different then, and instead of making, I’m thinking about form instead. What object am I creating with all of these weaves? Something wistful and ethereal with fragments of words and poetry drifting into and out of focus at certain points? Oooh, I like the sound of that [blogging is a great way to empty the mind, instead of just talking to yourself]. I have been wondering about the forms I made in Unit 1 – looking back to pieces such as desire line from last September. Can I do basketry with pieces of weaving, would this be some sort of meta-weave?  This is conceptually very attractive.

Initial 3-fold and 5-fold paper maquettes and a quick material test with the samples I’ve got so far. I think I may need to find a form that is a little more open.

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Turning towards the show

Time is running short and I need to start formulating a plan for the final show. There is still a little time to test – and the faster we have a plan, the faster we can begin testing each element.

Let’s begin with a re-statement of my final project proposal:

I am investigating the concept of self by examining the subjective reality we construct as we experience the world. By unravelling our sense of self as strands of multiple co-exisiting identities, I am looking at how these strands are built from places which become part of us through our lives. Shadows of real and imagined places embed themselves into the self, an interconnection of experience, memory and fiction. These shadows haunt us as we pass through the spaces of the world, generates belonging, displacement, familiarity or isolation.

My project is based upon the process of weaving, as it echoes my ideas of universality and locality: a single cloth constructed from countless individual strands. Within the fibres, I am seeking an expression of the complexity of our existence. Fragments of past, present and future co-existing for a fleeting moment, never to reform.  I am interested in bringing in my poetry and asemic calligraphy work into my fibre work – combining the the abstract and conceptual influences with the physical, viscerality of making. As of yet, I don’t know how I’m doing this…but let’s see if I can update this paragraph in a few months time!

To experimentation then….

Well, I started by going back to weaving paper yarns, and looking to see if I could incorporate marks onto the woven cloth. This piece was tested by painting the warp with my calligraphy ink.

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Then I followed this will another experiment using raw silk yarn and playing a little with the tension of the loom, seeing what changes in texture this would make by itself, without needing to paint over any marks in ink:

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So far the paper is winning!

Rolls, folds and scrolls (part 2)

So from 2d to 3d. That was the overall theme of the day using the papers we made yesterday. The tutor showed us some ideas and basic structural techniques to make different book forms – based on folding, rolling and scrolling. It was really interesting how everyone took very different approaches to putting their books together. Some worked with a “traditional” idea of a book – cover, content, pages etc. And others were keener to use the idea of a book as object.

I tried to make a range of samples, using each of the techniques the tutoe demonstrated and expanded on them with my own knowledge. I carried on with my theme of mapping and ended up with a loose series on “which way is up?”.

First one was reinforced paper with some scrolls. This would be great for old fashioned book covers as well as more sculptural stuff.

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Next were some samples using concertina folds, my favourite was this one with little pockets.

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We also got the sewing kits out and did some basic bookbinding, I did a sample based on a set of clock prints. This came out a bit fan-like but is a neat technique. There are a range of different stitches that would work well here.

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The next set of samples were rolls, one I did with some weaving (I really like this one) and another based on navigational ideas.

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My favourite piece was my final one – which I am calling a 3d poem!

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Rolls, folds and scrolls (part 1)

August has arrived and with it my annual pilgrimage to the Festival of Quilts. As this is the first year I have not needed to take time off work, I am making the best of it and attending my first 2-day masterclass before the show starts.

The masterclass is focussed around paper, led by Cherylin Martin – mark making / surface design techniques first, then book forms and sculptures using folding and scrolling. I thought this would be a fun thing to do, but I will also see how I can use my overall MA topic as a backdrop to just ‘being creative’. Today we got stuck into mark making, using a vast range of collected papers we brought with us. Of course I had a collection of old maps to play with too! It was a bit of a roller coaster of techniques, most of which I had done before, but were still fun. I ended up having a bit of an indigo day colour wise, I wanted to keep all of the work themed rather than just have lots of bits of brightly coloured paper I can’t do anything with…

Today’s work so far….tomorrow we go onto structures!

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Spring Journal Quilts done

I decided to create a new series of JQs after deciding that it would not do to have one which was 1/2″ smaller than the required size (thanks to a miscalculation of the finishing). So just five days before the deadline I managed to make four new JQs from scratch and get them in on time! woo!

This is the result:

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The series I am calling: memories of home and I think this also fits in nicely alongside my Genius Loci work for college. The inspiration has been about trying to capture the spirit of place, thinking back to my childhood home in North East England. I have created a series where each month’s fabrics and techniques feed into the next month, continually building additional layers of memory. These pieces try to capture the fading feelings of a place we long for, where we cling onto snapshots of our most vivid memories.

Each piece was created from different strips of unbleached calico which have been hand-dyed using materials found in the environment around my home – tree bark, dried leaves, flower petals, rusted iron wires. These were imprinted onto the calico through tannin dying using leftover red wine and black tea. Once patchworked, I added handwritten calligraphy onto each piece based on extracts from the local Newcastle folk songs I sang as a child. All of them were then hand-quilted using raw tussah silk threads with additional machine-quilting embellishment from some of the song lyrics.

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‘January’ starts with my first piece of dyeing, onto which I wrote lines from the song “The Waters of Tyne” using acrylic ink before machine quilting.

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‘February’ is a combination of the January fabric with new dyed fabric before hand-quilting and adding glimpses of song lyrics cut from a larger, unseen, whole.

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‘March’ adds new calligraphy techniques, with italic script using an edged nib and indian ink. The lyrics are taken from the song “Felton Lonnin”.

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‘April includes pieces of all of the fabrics used before as well as a larger piece of rust-dyeing embellished with lyrics from “The Keel Row” using white drawing ink and tape nib calligraphy pen.

Now I wonder, where do I go from here for the next four?

The lure of the local

In the endless cycle of thinking and making, my making work continues to focus on looking at the haunted place as inspiration for a bunch of competition quilts I have on the go. I made the decision to try to make these as resolved pieces based on my MA project proposal, partly to further my research but also to try to reconnect with my practice after going down a dark rabbit hole over the last two terms.

As I alluded to a couple of times in previous posts, I have been looking at mark making with found materials from a particular place: trying to embody the genius loci within my work. So far, I have been experimenting with different processes for natural dyeing of plain unbleached calico. First was using materials found within half a mile of my front door: tree bark, dried leaves, willow ash, flower petals, steel wires. Here are a couple of examples:

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and the results of the psychogeographic ramble I had the other day:

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so! What next to do with all of these lovely bits of fabric?

Well, I have been considering what I now think of my research question – and how my interpretation of place and placelessness has changed so far. I have been taken by the idea of the local and how this relates to place. I believe that each place has multiple identities existing in the same space simultaneously, which each person (with their own multiple identities contained within their sense of self) interacts with differently based upon how they connect with the local knowledge. That local knowledge may be about memories of histories of the place itself, or it may be a completely distant narrative overlaid onto a new place, allowing you to connect your own ‘locality’ with a new alien place. This is how you can feel at home in a place you have never been. Lucy Lippard [1] offers the following:

“Inherent in the local is the concept of place – a potation of land/town/cityscape seen from the inside, the resonance of a specific location that is known and familiar…Place is the latitudinal and longitudinal within a person’s life. It is temporal and spatial, personal and political. A layered location replete with human histories and memories, place has a width as well as depth. It is about connections, what surrounds it, what formed it, what happened there and what will happen there.”

Placelessness, then could be said to an inability to feel connected. Your locality, your local knowledge as it were, so alienated from the dominant narrative that it becomes meaningless. In his introductory book on place, Tim Cresswell [2] quotes the geographer Edward Relph who uses the language of authenticity to describe this connection with place.

“..”to be inside a place is to belong to it and identify with it, and the more profoundly inside you are the stronger is the identity with the place” (Relph 1976). At the opposite extreme, existential outsiderness involves the alienation from place which is the antithesis of the unreflective sense of belonging that comes from being an existential insider…..in the modern world, Relph argues that we are surrounded by a general condition of creeping placelessness marked by an inability to have authentic relationships to place, because the new placelessness does not allow people to become existential insiders….”placelessness that is a weakening of the identity of places to the point where that not only look alike and feel alike and offer the same bland possibilities for experience.”

On this subject of authenticity, Creswell goes on later in the book to quote geographer David Harvey:

“The issue of authenticity (rootedness) of the experience of place (and nature of place) is for example a difficult one. To begin with…the problem of authenticity is itself peculiarly modern. Only as modern industrialisation separates us from the press of production and we encounter the environment as a finished commodity does it emerge….The effort to evoke a sense of place and of the past is now often deliberate and conscious.”

This brought me back to question more deeply the work of Lucy Orta with the Genius Loci / spirits of place that were created to enshrine the story of a river, through sculptural form. What can be said of authenticity when deliberately enshrining the past through such an intervention? I have never really liked the direct personification of spirits (whether you think go spirits as an essence, a ghost or whatever else) as that’s not how I personally choose to interpret them. Nor do I think I want to make work specifically for a precise location. When I started this proposal I had wanted to create site-specific work and initially understood it as being quite literal – you take a place and make some work inspired by that place and for that place. I now am looking towards a more conceptual view of site-specific: work speaking of a place, using a connection from that place – but across the spectrum of spatial and temporal, literal and virtual. I will need to understand more on how this aligns with current thinking on site specific art.

Anyway, I think I digressed a little – back to what I am making. So the plan, is to work with my own understanding of the Genuis Loci and a sense of place, which I would capture as: We feel the essence of place as an echo of the earth, and we become the medium of the storytelling.

My first resolved piece is now done and waiting to be framed: Genius Loci I (Star field); here is a sneaky preview of the detail.

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[1] Lure of the Local, Lucy Lippard (1997)
[2] Place, a short introduction, Tim Crewell (2004)

Catching up with spring JQs

Both my February and March Journal Quilts are now finished. Yay! Now just to complete the piece for the month I’m actually in and I’ll be up to date.

February was a continuation of the bloodlines theme, using different methods to imprint poems onto fabric before stitching. This is the finished piece first with handwriting then painting, before being patchworked with finally the quilting now finished…although I have to say I actually prefer the back!

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My next test for the March JQ was to try to use transfer techniques to get the text onto the fabric. This was the poem I was using and the resulting words transferred onto hand-dyed grey cotton.

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As you can’t quite see from the photo, the transferred text is not only slightly distorted from passing through my rubbish inkjet printer, but it comes with a thin layer of polymer which makes it look darker and plasticy, which I just don’t like, so I decided to move away from is and go back to ink. Using a piece of practice calligraphy from my sketchbook as a starting point, I found a new font style to use, this time using my dip pen with tape nib and Indian ink directly onto the fabric while it was still wet. I like the way this has come out – especially the layering of barely / not-quite readable text. There are actually three layers of writing here (graphite, ink and oil), four if you count the calligraphic stitching on the top.

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