More experiments in the dimensional stitching stream today, this time working with different fibres I started from the swirly worm-hole like stitches from the weekend and tried to make this into a stable 3D form. I used rice paper (a calligraphers’ most common carrier of information) to represent the structure – which is in a sense, an information portal. This is the result:
I liked working with this type of structure – I think this is what appeals to me from Naomi Kobayashi’s work – but I do need to identify a new process for making it. Currently feels a bit makeshift, and I know Maiko won’t settle for ill formed objects. Worth exploring more – and I will see if I can source more info on Naomi Kobayahsi and her husband.
Next came the completion of my brain bones type object, following on from the one I made in wood, just with all colour and symbology removed. My ‘bones’ pieces were finally finished and out of the kiln. Not sure this one really works and I think I might put this one to bed. I do however like the outcome of the paperclay. The texture is amazing and unglazed, has such a nice feel to it as well as being featherlight. If I come back to clay in some way, it will most certainly continue to be paperclay or paper porcelain.
Finally, an unexpected and surprisingly successful dimensional object. I like this, and I like the natural fibres. There was beautiful sunshine coming through the windows making interesting shadows – hence the photo:
Final notes for the day – we are still prepping the objects for the Getting Making mini exhibition in the college library. Our tutor did a quick survey and vetting of what we had all put out for display. After ‘vetting’, I am putting two objects out. Maiko felt the others didn’t really reflect my project / didn’t really articulate my idea very well. I entirely agreed, but at the time it was the best idea of my proposal I had – I still had my multiple streams of project ideas right up until my proper reflection on Thurdsay last week. I didn’t know these final objects would be exhibited, so I was still experimenting. I am beginning to learn that we need to experiment with more finesse – even samples need to be made with intent and with care and attention. No more sticky tape holding things in place… I entirely respect Maiko’s views and I know she is trying to keep us pushing towards a suitable high quality and representation of our work which fits with the level of discourse viewers will expect. We represent not only ourselves as practitioners but also the MADM course and the college. In retrospect however, I would have liked an extra week in the workshop series – to give us a chance for us to reflect properly on what we had done over the previous weeks (which was all done very quickly, with little time for thought) and then have one final assignment to make something which incorporated that learning. It wasn’t until the workshops were over that I really started to get some of the key things around materials, process, context etc. that we’ve been exposed to so far. Perhaps this is simply as a result of me not having studied an art course at BA level, or maybe the others are feeling this too. Either way, this is what is going out in the library tomorrow:
Suil air ais, ceum air adhart… which in English means: looking back, moving forward.
Recently I have been listening to a lot of music from one of my favourite Scottish Gaelic singers, Julie Fowlis. I find her singing very beautiful and emotionally expressive. In particular, she sings a type of traditional Gaelic song known as Puirt-a-beul, or ‘mouth music’. Puirt-a-Beul originates from a time when instruments were scarce, so the singing alone became the instrument itself – it is rhythmic and dynamic – pure vocals driving the music, so you could work a repetitive beat to the words. This music is how I currently feel about my project after reflecting on yesterday’s session and a useful chat with our tutor Maiko. This is an obscure comparison even for me, so I will explain, but if you are new to Gaelic music (which I suspect most of my followers will be), here is an approachable example of Julie singing a Puirt-a-Beul set. It isn’t unaccompanied, but you will still get the idea.
So how is this relevant?
Well, a few things happened today which has driven my thinking. Firstly, I went into our weekly seminar still feeling very “Lost at Sea” this morning after yesterday’s session. The session through up some very interesting questions and ideas; also I had already arranged to chat with Maiko (to get her to stop me panicking), so I got the chance to air my newly re-arranging thoughts into order with her. First, my more considered reflection from the Getting Making workshops and everything which happened today.
- I looked back on the whole series of items I have made to look at what has connected my ideas. I’m working on instinct, so what is that instinct telling me? The key connections seem to be stitching, threads, a sense of dimensionality and in a number of pieces aspects of deconstruction.
- Although the works fit with my project proposal, do they fit with my context? They fit philosophically yes, but I’m doing a Designer / Maker course, not anthropology. So for the at & design context, I’m not so sure they do fit. In fact, I’m not so sure I haven’t just tried to just hack a bigger art context onto my ideas.
- I clearly don’t really understand my context yet, nor do I have confidence it is the right one. I need to continue to consider this in light of the direction my making is going. Don’t over think in isolation!
- I’ll repeat for emphasis – don’t think too much!
- Maiko made the very good point about me doing a design course, not philosophy, so “what do i want to portray though our experience of objects, or through the experience of making?”
- Don’t just consider cultural or societal differences, look to what unites us as part of the human condition – perhaps my question about changes in the digital age is just a small part of the bigger picture, not the big thing in itself.
- Try not to look inwards all of the time, step back and look outwards to other people, other artists and references for your wider context.
- I may not be as confused as I think, I just need to give it time for thoughts to settle and not panic. Don’t beat yourself up.
- You can oscillate your level of focus – from very fine details, out to the biggest context for your work and back again. I think I may have been trying to do both at once.
What will I do differently / what will I do next to improve?
- I have decided to follow my fingers as it were, and take the strands of work which I have found most enjoyable to make and most resonant materials from the series of Getting Making workshops. These will drive my next set of mini-projects and experiments. If this means I stray from my project proposal so be it; I will re-write it. I intend to experiment with the strands of DIMENSIONALITY, DECONSTRUCTION and VIRTUALITY. I will explain more about what I mean by these in later posts.
- I am going for the moment, to focus right down on using only threads to express my ideas. This has been the biggest material consistency so far this term, and what I keep coming back to. I don’t mind not using fabric, but it pains me to think about giving up using thread – hence a good sign I should be using it.
- I have been thinking from proposal to object, not context to object. I am going to try to switch mindsets. At least I will when I re-assess my context.
- I will review more of my artists references in depth, and see exactly what it is about their work which connects to me. Perhaps actually reading all of the books which I have borrowed from the library as well.
If you are still wondering, the connection with the Puirt-a-Beul singing is simply: this music to me encapsulates beauty through repeated use of a single vocal instrument. No bells, whistles or expensive set ups needed, just the singing. Can I achieve the same purity of material by making using thread to create different scenes which pull at different aspects of our perception? Simplicity through the beauty of complexity.
Enough thinking for one day!
We had our fourth getting making workshop with Bridget today. I will need to give some more considered thought to the session and the question of “what next” over the next few days, but I wanted to capture my immediate reactions to the day.
First off, this was my full set of objects I presented this week. 1) Temari ball, deconstructed; 2) mesh in a box: 3) Solid box (opposite); 4) Intersecting planes, 5) Pieces of interacting planes
I came out the session with mixed feelings, is ambivalence the right word?
What I liked:
- I have come on a long way from my first set of objects, which were nicely crafted light shades but without any content or context.
- I have a couple of pieces from today which offer some real potential – I like the ideas of using curves , threads and planes; I am really enjoying the mixture of embroidery in unusual places.
- I liked my ideas around dimensionality of squashing 3D objects into 2D (the temari ball, deconstructed) and uplifting 2D objects into 3D (mesh in a box)
- Some of the other girls thought the objects were a really interesting insight into my brain – however disturbing that might be. This could be a theme to work with – and perhaps make my work an expression of a really personal journey?
What could be improved on:
- Where am I going? Such a big topic was always going to have lots of leads, but as I have been following instinct for Bridgets’ sessions, I am now not sure where that leaves me in terms of the bigger picture. Just feeling confused at the moment.
- Are my objects actually objects? or just random artistic expression of an ethereal concept? Does it even matter which they are just now?
- Are they too obvious / literal? I am really worried that Maiko thinks I’m not being ambitious enough. I’m not sure how to push hard with technical skill, when I am still exploring and looking for the right process / materials to push on with. I don’t want to end the course and become a ceramicist, although I do enjoy playing with clay. I want to evolve my textiles work and create a new practice from it, in some exciting and new way, but not losing the integral threads that make it mine (no pun intended!).
- Am I worrying too much? Is my stuff all actually fine – and is what making me nervous is in fact the knowledge that we now need to start driving our work ourselves and the initial honeymoon period for the course is over?
I decided on the bus home that what I should do soon is re-read my project proposal, and pull out a few of the key threads on which I have been making objects over the last month. I can make these into a new list of themes from which to make a series of objects. Some, I will be able to explore over our 10 week off-site study period; others may need to wait until term 2 in Jan. I do want to be able to start the 2nd term knowing what elements of techniques and processes I want to investigate. All seems rather scary from this side at the moment though – there is so much to do. Maybe I will feel better tomorrow.
Time to sleep on this, and remember in the words of the bright blue Dory from Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming”.
Imagine for a moment, that you are out walking in the hills. It has been raining hard all day and you decide to rest in the entrance of a small cave to escape from the rain. You light a small fire and sit near it a safe distance away. The warmth is comforting and other than the fire, the cave is in darkness. Tiredness overcomes you and soon you are asleep. You awake suddenly and see the light of the flames flickering on the cave wall. In the flames are pictures and images dancing across the walls. Are you still sleeping? Are the images real? If they are just in your imagination, then are they any less real just because they are in your head? If they are real, are they just shadows, or are they being made by something outside of your perception that you cannot see? How would you ever know which is true?
This scenario, is a thought experiment which I have based on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which essentially describes how we cannot know the truth of reality. What is real may be invisible to us if we are trapped within our own plane – a 2D shadow made by a 3D object you cannot see. I think this is true not only of our physical known universe but the internal workings of our consciousness – which, even in this age of information is still a vast frontier in modern science. If the universe has 11 dimensions, or there are other universes entirely out floating the void, how would they connect with us – would they project shadows onto our own visible 4 dimensions? What would a 11D shadow look like? Does our brain see flickers of the unknown as we stare into the darkness of the future? How does our consciousness interact with our subconscious mind? Does it also offer us shadows of truth flickering upon our mind?
This, fundamentally is the premise of my project proposal, currently in divergent stage as opposed to narrowing down my specific question just yet. I have been working on visualising these concepts for next week’s Getting Making workshop 4 – which I think is the final workshop in the series. I’ve made some objects representing different aspects of this to present to the class on Wednesday. We need to do 6 objects in all, and these are glimpses of three of them finished so far.
This week saw us present tutor Bridget and the class with our series of objects which progress from each other. Having made quite a few experiments I decided to drop the dodgy clay balls from my set and took in the paper swirls, my thread ball and the new piece I posted about on Tuesday. These seemed the most developed ideas. I added a few extra embellishments since my last post – some stitched thread sentences that often occur in the mind during meditation – will post a new photo shortly.
Response from the class was mixed – the paper swirls were first of thought as flowers, although one person eventually suggested they look like brains (perhaps that is because she remembered my topic?). The ball and wood things caused the most interest. Thoughts
— space inside wooden structure was viewed as the most interesting, with the strong lines and the tension caused by the interaction of the wood and string.
— I got a question on the clearly deliberate use of colour (white, red and black) and the mix of shiny v matte. Perhaps I need to be more obvious I am making a reference to the balance of visceral v intellectual mind.
— lots of excitement about my thread text (which was nice!), Bridget suggested it need not be legible. Wouldn’t it be interesting to do something like a Stream of Consciousness in stitch?
— ball too solid, can’t get light or space though a solid object. Try shaping, cutting or carving it?
I have clearly moved on from last week, and I do feel more excited about creating something firmly expressing my proposal ideas instead of worrying about the outcome for the moment (e.g. making a light). There will be time to apply functionality later – or not as the case may be! I feel like I am starting to get better at expressing my ideas, although I worry they may be a little too naive. As a newcomer to the art scene, I don’t really know what is seen as naive and what isn’t. That’s the cruciality of peer review I guess.
Next week’s workshop is the big one and last of Bridget’s making assignments I think – 6 new objects. 2 using ideas from this week (I think I will carry forward and develop the ball and the wood bones ideas); 1 object being the opposite of these two; 3 of the objects should embody your proposal as closely as possible. Lots to think about and lots to do!
Action look up Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth
Action carving text?
I had time today to do a little more experimentation with my ideas for Bridget’s Getting Making workshop tomorrow. This was taking the idea behind my thread ball from yesterday’s post (which used the Japanese Temari as it’s inspiration) and pushing it a bit further. This was the result:
The piece came out reasonably well I thought considering I was following instinct rather than a plan. The curved wood pieces are meant to represent the curved bones of the skull, which is the physical container for our Minds, together with the neurones, blood vessels etc which make it all work. So what then are thoughts made of? I quite like this concept, I think it is really rich and has a lot of potential. I am also quite pleased with having unshackled myself from the constraint of making something useful straight away. These last few pieces were a lot more interesting than the ready made lampshades.
Also today I stared investigating the properties of paper clay – making a pierced pot and a small model. I am looking forward to see what they are like once fired. I am keen to push the transparency qualities that paper clay can have when very thin.
Our task for this week was to take our favourite object (or the one with the most potential) from last week’s workshop and explore a series of objects working from it and take our ideas somewhere new. I quite enjoyed this exercise, having been experimenting over the last few days. It was almost the feeling of being allowed to make something completely different which expressed a part of my project narrative – but not worrying at all on the outcome or what the resulting object is for. Is this the freedom of experimentation we actually have during this first year?
I started from the little wound polymer clay balls which were made to use up the scrap clay I had leftover, based on a sketch I drew in my notes during my first week of term. Funny how this turned out to be so interesting! Perhaps it is because it is not clearly ‘a useful thing’ as opposed to what was rather obviously a series of lampshades. Anyhow, this was the starting point, and the pictures below show the resulting experiments.
I am curious on whether the class will see the narrative I have with these objects, they are the most expressive I have made in a while I think but what will others see in them? This has all been as a result of focussing on the concept and not on the skill. Perhaps Shane W was righter than I thought in saying I should not worry so much about technical skills. I don’t know for now where I will go next, but that’s the fun of the game I suppose!
We shall see what happens on Wednesday.
We repeated last week’s exercise on discussing our objects, but this time on stuff that we had made in relation to our project proposals. Really interesting mix of making and experimentation across the class. I was pleased with how the session went – I had worked hard on trying some new things out for my objects and seeking to develop away from my current style and materials – looking into new things. These were the objects I took in:
They were a series of shades designed to cover a tealight, starting from a textile version (such as my current practice), moving through some of the ghost candles I have been doing – using paper and stitched plywood; finally yesterday’s creation with polymer clay mosaic tiles. The polymer clay tiles represented the inside of the meditative mind – while looking at the candle often used in mindfulness techniques. The chaotic day to day mind gradually quietens as relaxation deepens. Until stillness.
Oh and one more….made from the leftover clay from the work on the tiles – and perhaps my favourite objects of the day.
The key things the others thought (without prompting) were exactly the sort of messages I had hoped they would pick up. They spotted the interplay of light and shadow, and even used the word projections (which has been my word of the day), noting that I had been trying to make different light effects with the different materials. Bridget commented that it was a good attempt at trying to take such a vast idea and give it physical form – which gives me hope that I am starting to align my thoughts in the right direction.
Things I would improve – be braver and more fearless. There are no rules to break so try whatever you want (which doesn’t burn down the studio or my house). Anything can be used as art – we had sponges, polystyrene, cups, wires and even leftover cucumber today. Focusing on one aspect of my proposal (such as the ‘meditative mind’ concept) gave me my favourite objects (the spiral balls).
The other key thing I have realised on thinking about today’s session is that one of the things I want to add as context to my work, is a harmonisation of the old: traditional craft techniques and the ancient search for human answers with the modern, technological age we are now living in. I value and appreciate the natural world immensely, and I care just as much as anyone about recycling, re-use and natural materials….but….I also recognise the world has changed, and I really do believe we can embrace this new world and embed it into our old world without losing anything, gaining richness along the way. Using the polymer clay for example got my thinking on this, using digital media and digital art techniques, 3D printing etc. These can add much to ancient techniques – sewing, pottery, woodwork and so on. Not sure how this might manifest in my work yet – apart from wanting to borrow the college video camera to film the rain – but I will keep an eye and see how this develops.
Long but useful day
Just double-checking what I need to do for our next Getting Making session on Wednesday and there is some more thinking and doing needed. From Bridget’s instructions: (i) reflect on what interests you about last week’s objects and why. (ii) Make 4 – 6 new objects which respond to those objects, 2 in new materials you have not used before.
First off, (i) as I have not really reflected on the objects yet:
- I am interested in capturing, filtering and channelling light – the torch, glasses and moon jar. I am fascinated by the interplay of shadows, and the different moods you can achieve just through changing the lighting in a space. The moon is also a powerful factor in our lives, more so from older, rural times – this links to my more esoteric interests.
- The poetry book interests me as I am a closet poet, although this book was just what I had to hand to express this. I think that words carry so much meaning, and removing them (aka Zen teachings) or exploiting them (think Sara Impey) can add a lot to visual art. I have been experimenting with text in textiles this year in my City & Guilds work, so perhaps this is still on my mind.
- The jigsaw was my attempt at describing the incomplete, complex narrative of life, where we strive to fit our personal stories, learnings and meanings together – without knowing the picture we are making, or knowing if we will have all of the pieces at the end – whilst taking a lifetime to learn it is only the journey which is important. Visually, I know what I had in mind for picking this object: such as the absolutely stunning work of Christopher Gryder, with his clay tile installations, so clearly showing a strong narrative across the set of pieces. I absolutely adore this man’s work.
Brief diversion to include artists’ summary of Chris Gryder (extracts and photo from his website): “I create sculptural ceramic objects that engage with a deep sense of time and history; a geological time and the time of civilizations. There is a visceral joy, a complete indulgence in tactile geometric form that evokes a world where wonder still reigns. A place at the edge of the wild. Ultimately, the work is my humble attempt to make manifest underlying structures of the physical universe….the tiles come alive in strong light, creating a mesmerizing play of shadow”.
Action to add: further explore process CG uses to make his work
Action to add: playing with tiles to add to making projects list
Whether or not my objects said what I wanted them to, I was trying to convey a sense of searching, a search for the nature of reality – things which we can’t quite see or examine which lie outside of observable physical reality. Be this hidden dimensions, new physics, paranormal, spirits or otherwise, this feeling taps into what we understand by our humanity, and what lies just a little beyond it. Poignant quote from a book I was trying to find on this topic: Search for the Real in the Visual Arts, Hans Hofmann.
“The significance of a work of art is determined then by the quality of its growth. This involves intangible forces inherent in the process of development. Although these forces are surreal (that is, their nature is something beyond physical reality), they, nevertheless, depend on a physical carrier. The physical carrier (commonly painting or sculpture) is the medium of expression of the surreal. Thus, an idea is communicable only when the surreal is converted into material terms. The artist’s technical problem is how to transform the material with which he works back into the sphere of the spirit.”
Part (ii) of Bridget’s challenge was on the making of the objects in response to our original objects. I am about halfway through this – more work to do on this tomorrow and will post an update then.