Sunday, 27 April 2014

Tex 1 Project 2 reflections

Can you begin to see the relationship between stitching and drawing?

There are a number of ways that stitch and drawing come together: depending on the tool for drawing, pencil, watercolour media, crayons and wax resist for example, the choice of threads, fabrics, whether they are block colour or variegated, have harder or softer surface textures, and how they are applied in the stitching, will evoke the drawn media. I used dyed linen for example that had been in a cold water dye bath and silk dyed in an onion bath with an iron modifier which caused the fabric to have modulated tones. That is not too far from a background watercolour or soft ink wash effect, which would be a foundation for further drawing, and that I what I was trying to achieve with the cone sample. However, I tried to do one hand embroidered sample in a hurry towards the end of the study period, and I have learnt that it is just not possible to get a good result using this method working too fast, or not getting sufficient work done to it to get the result I intended.

Were you able to choose stitches which expressed the marks and lines of your drawings?
Yes, I think that that is something I am beginning to understand better, although I think I need to think about how hand embroidery and machine embroidery could work together in a more synthesised way. I had fun creating the snowy backdrop to the earth in the ‘landscape’ sample, and where the blues were a wash on the drawing, I worked the blue threads quire hard on the fabric to try to achieve the quality of a drawn-washed surface. Another short-cut sort of way would have been to choose a transparent blueish chiffon or net and sewn a little over that, which would have given a wider span of blue surface. But I think what I did was interesting and makes the sample it own thing, there is not always a need to make the textile piece look exactly like the drawing.

Did you choose the right source material to work from?
I am interested in textured surfaces, although I think in the end these are really only the first step. There has to be a purpose for using something, what pictures or raw material to draw on. At this early stage, in trying out, working out the mark making and the actual making of drawings and samples, I have not yet explored the ‘meanings’ that will be needed if a bigger idea will need to be represented.

For example – what would a cone design do – I have suggested that my sample could be used as a cushion design; but do I want to design interior furnishings and be part of a certain market, or do I want to think about bigger themes such as evolution, nature, the state of the earth (in a political sense) and use natural themes to explore that? This is something I think about as I choose materials, but for the sake of these exercises I have not pursued that direction. I suppose the ‘philosophy’ of one’s work comes when there is a grounded direction to the work and a solid repertoire for the visual language to express it.
In short though, yes, whether using close-ups of textured surfaces, or using a landscape as a basis for further stylisations, I think these worked mostly all right.

Do you think your sample works well irrespective of the drawing? Or is your sample merely a good interpretation of your drawing?
The cone sample could probably need a bit more work, although overworking something is also a danger. I did like the drawing for that sample and felt quite proud that at least one of all the different drawings I had done in the two month period I had given myself for this assignment was an independent piece in itself. I probably did try to translate the drawing, but removing the sample from the drawing would also let it have its own space.

Looking at the rose petal sample that is less the case. That is weaker, as it is trying in places to look at the drawing in some ways, and maybe I should have tried less hard to do that. But it was good to try out certain techniques, and in using whipstitch for example it became more textiley than drawing-like.
Which did you prefer – working with stitch to create textures or working with yarns to make textures? Which worked best for you and why?
I think I prefer yarns and fabrics as a starting point, although the two cannot be separated too hard. I get very excited about interesting fibre textures, and the feel of the stuff of the textile material. I like looking at colour and feel the textile that has its own life and suggestions. I like to look at the work moving between my fingers when I am making something. That is why I continue to have thoughts about the use of the machine in sewing, or any other elaborate technology I might be considering for the textile work I make. I am working that into some separate writings that I have running alongside this course material.

When I chose the silk for the background for the cone sample I chose this firstly because it was there, secondly because I knew it would take the dye well, and thirdly because the slight texture of the dupion would help soften the surface for the sake of the organic cone-ness of the sample. Had I chosen a very shiny silk or satin that would not have worked at all, and that is also why the tweed wool of the backing worked so well when I looked on the reverse.
Stitching is the route into the use of the material, it is the disciplined way of shaping the material, a kind of tool together with the needle or machine. I think I come to the material first and then let that suggest techniques, although I am not sure you can divide the two very far as the material can only be shaped by the work and the tool applied to it.

Make some comments on individual techniques and sample pieces. Did you experiment enough? Did you feel inhibited in any way? Fix them into your sketchbook if you want to or start a separate book of sample references.
In the end I quite liked the whip stitch. For some reason I had always been concerned I might break the machine or something, but it is a technique I might consider using again. For this work I used it in the rose petal sample.

I also used couching, which is an interesting technique I believe I need to do more of to really stretch its possibilities. I did some quite heavy work on the hand-embroidered sampler, using thick threads and attaching them closely together. This might be the approach to go, as when couched line are made, such as in the weathered lead sample, they just become part of other lines, rather than an independent statement. Using couching would also let me used hand-spun yarns, the texture of which have good potential and so I could combine my spinning and sewing in that way.

Do you prefer to work from a drawing or by playing with materials and yarns to create effects? Which method produced the most interesting work?
I think I have in the past worked quite experimentally, although I often start with a strong visual image that I ponder for a longish period. In the past I have always done very loose sketches or none at all as I have relied on the inner picture I have of the thing I want to make. As designs become more complex or there is a growing sense of ‘idea’ or intentionality behind the work, I think that drawing will need to become a growing force in my work. I am glad to have done some of these sketches here for this assignment because it is giving me more confidence to draw again. I see from OCA student forums that keeping sketchbooks can cause trouble, and I am still trying to find thinking space at home after long tiring working days to get down to drawing.

My ‘heroes’ of fibre art, Sheila Hicks and Magdalena Abakanowich, and other art-fibre makers seem to have started out as artists first and then took up fibre as their raw material for expressing their work. I am interested in the qualities of fibres and what they do, some ancient techniques (such as tapestry weaving and sprang), and often the techniques demand certain fibres are used or, when working experimentally, the materials can be stretched by being used in un-traditional techniques. Sometimes that is a different way of working from trying to reproduce an image, and the drawing might then become more technical-analytical, rather than pointing to symbols or sign in themselves. I am keeping an open mind at the moment – either way as its merits, it depends on the purpose of the work.

Are there other techniques you would like to try? Are there any samples you would like to do in a different way?
Maybe stumpwork, creating a 3D feel to stitching might be interesting to explore. As I mentioned above, I think couching has more potential than I have had time to work through at this stage.
I worked on the sample using hand embroidery to reflect the weathered lead and am not sure that was fully rounded off. It could probably have benefited from some machine stitching as a base for hand stitching. Also, the lines in the drawing were more horizontal at times than my stitching allowed for, and maybe the choice of stitches could have been different.

Other techniques I might try might be something lacy, or at least stretch the lace stitching on the machine further. I also feel uncertain about French knots and need to become more comfortable with them. I do still think a lot in terms of constructed textiles and look forward to knotting and perhaps netting. I also think the stitches will be useful for the 3D work coming up in a later assignment and will explore any new stitches that would be relevant for that as well.

Is there anything you would like to change in your work? If so, make notes for future reference.

The main thing I would like to change in my work is the intention behind it. With time I hope to find the statements I would like to make using my preferred techniques.

I am not sure I have a fully formed notion of my work’s purpose yet. The technical expression of it will come with time and practice, trial and error. I think, looking back at some of the work for this assignment, that it continues to be experimental, which is good enough for now. Maybe with time the intention will become more visible.

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