Sunday, 28 June 2015

Reflections on feedback received

The OCA asks us to show how we may have reflected or acted on feedback received from our tutor. I thought that rather than pasting all the feedback in from all assignments, I would comment on the feedback elements that had substantive contents, so that I can work out whether these will be useful for the last assignment.
Feedback from assignment 1-3
Overall I think the feedback I get is positive. Tutors (I have had two on this course), have commented that my commitment is coherent, that I choose good exhibitions etc to visit and that my learning log is consistent and clearly laid out.
My work is' thorough' one said, and I have worked experimentally on samples. Connections between my own work and that of other artists was given favourable comment, and I get a feeling that my work style and process is OK.
you have used drawing to explore photographs as a way of generating design ideas.  This is an excellent way of working and I encourage you to continue to develop this method of working.

On the learning log - one tutor said I was using an academic style, the other said that it is 'articulate and reflective in a loose functional style'. So, not sure what to make of this. One also said that I should spend more on my practice and less on writing, while the other said that I should include all my information from the workbook, and to describe my work more fully. Well, this is a finely balanced thing. I have throughout stated that I will not put any images on the blog that carry risks of breaching copyright, I will be placing links to other people's work instead. And in terms of describing my work, I find this a difficult thing to balance - the blog takes a lot of time to complete, it is a slower process to write than to talk, which is a short-coming of not having face to face tutorials with the work in the room to discuss with a tutor. 

Learning points

In assignment two the advisory pointers included:

Explore a theme, create mind maps and observational drawings to respond to through your assignment work.

Further, from assignment three:

     Continue to work experimentally with your materials
     Maintain the development of your online learning log
     Draw and mark make regularly in a personal sketchbook
     Consider doing a section of the Foundations for Textiles Course.

For my second assignment I also got some surprising feedback - The tutor thought I hadn't machine stitched into soluble fabric to create new fabric before. I am not sure what made her say that, I had used that technique for my textiles A-level (the final exam piece she had seen in a separate email), and she also suggested I might stitch into my final printed sample, which I had done. Of course she had not seen the final sample, but I am sure I had explained this about the piece in the blog. 


You have mentioned that you’d like more time creating the work; perhaps this is worth considering? I’d like to see you extending your pieces, when something has gone well, recreating and extending it whilst neglecting what was no so positive about a piece until you have reworked a piece several times with reflections at each stage. 
I suggest you explore the colour you use for your samples in more methodical way by creating colour palettes.  Use either paints or a computer programme like Photoshop to make colour chips arranged in suitable palettes.
On the final learning points and advice on artist's work to consult provided - this is a funny one. Some of this advice relates to a given assignment and is given in retrospect, and once one is entering another assignment when the feedback arrives from a previous assignment the skill set being tested has changed or may warrant a different approach.

And, not surprisingly, both tutors encouraged drawing more. I do agree with this, but the issue is two-fold - time and skill. I have a busy job and am tired when I get home. I have had some lulls in the course work for that reason, and find that when I get home and work on samples there is little time for additional work on drawing. Hence I voluntarily asked for, and was advised to do, the sketchbook work as I thought that might inspire me further. I will probably do the drawing course after this one to gain in confidence with my drawing skills.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

A course in acid dyeing

I organised a course in acid dyeing by Martin Weatherhead for my Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers which ran over a 2 day period. The aim of the course was to create a colour card of carefully calculated gradations and mixes of colours. If there was time left over we would then be able to dye, and aim to colour match something - I suppose in case of any future projects that need a particular colour scheme. I went on the course so that I know how to be systematic about dyeing, but I know that deep down I am more experimental and will try out things that will not be repeatable, and so just use whatever is at hand when that day come for a project to be developed. This is mainly because I work with materials over representational work. Colour matching is something one might aim to do once a specific project is defined using particular colours.

This was a terribly busy course - the first day we managed to dye most of the samples, with the second day devoted to mixes to get browns and shades of green. I think we probably worked at speed and accuracy suffered somewhat, we ran out of wool and vinegar, and on the second day the wool was barely wetted properly so the uptake of dye was a bit uneven in places.

So what did we learn?
  • Wetting wool with warm water and a bit of soap for 20 mins or longer enables uptake of dye
  • Water, dye solution to a particular dilution, vinegar is heated with the wool, stirring at the beginning to enable even distribution of dye onto the wool (or other protein fibre)
  • Dye solutions can be calculated and mixed to enable any colour needed to be dyed (apart from black and white), mainly using the primaries, violet
  • Leave the dye bath to heat up to boiling point, then turn off the heat source and leave to cool naturally, as the dye apparently takes optimally at 80 degrees and it spends more time going through the right temperatures on the cooling phase
  • Keep records meticulously and accurately - if you want to reproduce the colours in the future
  • Don't hurry these steps otherwise you may not get the results you need(!)
Dye baths on the second day, a red-range with small amounts of turquoise (left) and blue (right)
Dyed wools drying an approximate colour order

On the second day the skeins were wound into balls in preparation for cutting into short sections for our colour cards
I was not planning on doing this course, but am glad I did. It taught me a few things that will be useful when I come to dye my own yarns for some future projects.
The final shade card looks quite good:
And now to the admission of a horrible mistake I made. I was not feeling well on the second day - had a terrible headache and quite frankly could not think straight. When I got home I thought I better give the yarn another rinse, as the vinegar could make the wool brittle. So I put all my yarns into the washing machine in pillow cases and put the machine on the rinse programme with extra rinse - well, what can I say?! the wool felted and the whole bunch came out in various levels of fulling, apart from the silk, and the superwashed wool.
Here's the dreadful pile of yarn:
The green and pink wool is quite felted and the wool has shrunk in all skeins. In the case of the green that is not really a bad thing, as the wool was quite loosely plied before fulling. Now it is a denser yarn and will be better for tapestry weaving, although it does have a hairy surface. The wool-silk ply has fared worse though. I wanted those skeins to be smooth and that is no longer possible, the wool shrunk and the silk had stayed as it is, making the yarn more fluffy. I had dyed some a pale coral red to go into the shell tapestry, I will need to see how this works when I blend it.
So what did I learn there? - not to make radical decisions when unwell, and certainly not any decision that suggests an easy short-cut when it plainly will not work. I know how wool behaves quite well, and this issue could have easily been prevented. Nevertheless the wool is still usable, so all is not completely lost.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Tapestry weaving workshop with Weftfaced

This weekend I went on a workshop with Caron Penney and Katherine Swailes. They are, or have been, tapestry weavers at West Dean College, and make work in their own right. This workshop was a mixed ability class, and there were people there who had never woven before and other who had woven for many years.

The course was run in Arundel museum, many miles from where I live, and it took two hours to get there, over rolling hills, along fast roads and through pretty villages. Hampshire is so very English in its landscape - hedgerows, woodland and arable fields. It was a very enjoyable trip. I listened to John Stein beck's The Pearl as an audiobook in the car. It is a great story, I read it when I was a teenage, enjoyed it then, and it is gripping, touching and true throughout the terrible tale it is telling.

Anyway, the class was split in two depending on what we wanted to learn: Penney was introducing tapestry weaving to newcomers and spoke on blending and interpretation of designs. Swailes works intuitively and experimentally with materials, which is the way I am inclined, so I joined that set to learn some new techniques, working on the surface of the tapestry. Katherine Swailes showed some samples she had made. In one case she had placed black wax behind a small piece and heated it with an iron to make the wax melt into the fibre, and oil had then seeped fro mthe wax wider into the tapestry creating a dark halo effect. She had also done the same with another sample, but instead of ironing it she had zapped the piece in the microwave for a minute which had melted the wax onto the back of the piece and burnished the fibre around it. That was quite effective, the burned fibre was tonally darker but blended well with the unburned base fibre.

A table of reference material - a book on Coptic tapestry, Katherine Swailes' samples, a frame loom with samples in progress for demonstrating technique.

It seemed to me both of them work with very simple motifs, paring designs down, down to elemental shapes - whether geometric shapes in Caron's case or working with the structure of weaving techniques in Katherine's case. There were a number of techniques to learn, including creating loops on the surface, carrying over floating wefts and weaving some of these as crosses.
I decided to use the day to practice some of these techniques to learn them properly and have a record of these. Since my work on this course is moving into trees I chose to work with greens. Hence the foundation fibre was a blend of pale green, thin wool and a white linen (I love this linen, it is from Texere Yarn, I have some at home and look at it longingly from time to time, waiting for  project to come along when I can use it). To keep things easy I went for a 50-50 mix of these, with the exception of a centre section where I reduced the green and added a linen strand to create a contrast to the loops which became tufts of bright greens.
Here's the sample:
From the bottom - crosses of floating wefts, loops cut open to create tufts, wefts carried over in greens and gold, and the top elements started as random vertically inclined wefts. This last element was not terribly successful, so when I got home I added to the padded nature and randomness by embroidering strands over it. On the photograph you can't see the green wool in the background very well, but it was there to balance the whole. I liked that, it softened the pure white. One person did weave with a pure white slightly heavier weft and the beads (the bumps of weft lying on the warps) cast bluish-grey shadows across her sample. Katherine thought the tufts were an 'explosion'. I liked that, I wanted some drama in the thing, so often samples are just a flat record, but here I was striving to create a 'nice' sample, so that it would be a more pleasurable thing to refer to.