These two elements are distinct yet connected. One can be wonderfully skilled technically, but have weak observational skills and so may be less likely to translate the visual idea into a technically and visibly coherent and balanced piece. I think I am still learning the visual side of things. I enjoy making, enjoy stretching materials and techniques to what they can do, and strive to create this balance I am thinking about. I think ideas about aesthetics are important and these two elements would make that happen better together. Some good things are coming out of my work – discovering that looseness and openness, the organic and free are ways that I work with drawing techniques. Knowing that gives me more confidence. This needs careful working in terms of textile techniques, because it can be easy to slip into something tight. I think the design exercises in Project 3 and 4 are helpful to look at this issue, but needs to be developed through my practice more.
Quality of outcomeI guess what I am talking about in the previous paragraph has an effect on quality. I read Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorbike Mechanics some years ago, and more recently read Matthew Crawford’s The Case for Working with Your Hands: Or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good as well as chapters on the idea of the hand-made in the crafts. There is something in this about quality, the structural impact of the made object, and what the effect of the machine or tool has on the finished object – and where the hand fits in. I enjoy making and using my hands and hope that the intention of showing the hand’s contribution to my objects is visible in my pieces. So far there has been a lot of drawing to do in Assignment 2, so the hand has been instrumental. Since I am learning the quality of work has been varying, I lack the time to do a lot of practice, which is needed for good observational drawing, but the quality of the colour work for example seems reasonable at times, for example in the mood pictures and themed drawings.
This sounds bit like an arts and crafts type of discussion; the joy in making using the hand, and I need to ponder this when I think about the purpose or intention behind the work. What is it about the process that creates quality, the focus, attention and aim of the work?
Demonstrating creativityI think I am fairly creative. Somehow, once starting this type of work, I have a lot of ideas. The ideas are sometimes on a very grand scale and seeing other people’s work or work by historical artists and grand masters will trigger further ideas. They need not be textile artists to trigger ideas – ceramicists, jewelry and print designers, painters, sculptors – anything that contains a germ of something inspirational. Assignment 2 speaks of tensions and balances, and this must relate to aesthetics and visual quality. I discovered El Greco during this assignment, and returned to the German Expressionists and Emil Nolde over and over again during the two months I worked on colour and composition for projects 3 and 4 - this study is still unfinished. It was very enjoyable and shows me that all this work by the giants can be visited and re-visited over and over again – and can lead to new ideas when it is combined with other impressions that are more contemporary.
Context and critical thinkingI see that I have just commented on this a bit. For Assignment 2 I have also written a commentary on Alice Kettle, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Sheila Hicks, and am now looking at Michael Heard, Klaus Haapaniemi and other more narrative designers for some of my latest design ideas. As I said above, I think context and history is vital. I trained as a design historian at a design college in London. It was a theoretical course and the only contact we had with the craft and design practitioners would be at shows where we saw their work, or in the bar socially. The designers were buzzing with ideas to develop new impulses, new directions and what influences they might bring to bear on the world. I befriended some designers and went to see their work in progress in their studios and learnt a lot. However I think with a bit of sadness now that I was probably studying design history as a vicarious means of ‘designing’ and making.
We did though, see and touch many a historical object as part of our studies, and I remember being touched by some sort of aura through a piece of Italian renaissance majolica, although my chosen period of study was the turn of the century around 1900. I did not make any ‘thing’ or object (not even knitting), but tried to contextualise my historical analysis through the contemporary. What I did create then were texts and studies using words, I undertook archival research and studied objects. It was great, it had its own craft and discipline, but now I use those skills to help locate another set of ideas and inspirations to make and build using material.