Tuesday, 25 August 2015

An interlude - a dyeing (experiment) project

It is that time of year again - the blackberries are out and I decided to go picking on a quiet Sunday. I have this absolutely beautiful yarn of a singles DK Wensleydale wool - I believe I have praised the qualities of Wensleydale wool before, but here it is - it is smooth, is lustrous and there is enough for a jumper (900g):

The plan was to dye two lots of 300g in solutions of berry dye, to get two different shades of a purple colour, and then dye the last 300g in the colour derived from leaves of the bramble plant. I picked a large volume of berries, and focused on snipping the fresh shoots from the plant. The yarn was prepared in an Alum (8%) and cream of tartar (7%) mordant - here it is soaking before it went into the dye bath:

Here the berries are being cooked to draw out the juice for the dye:

Here the leaves and shoots are soaking prior to being cooked up to get the most of the dye:

And what results did I get out of it? Well, I had a bit of a disaster with one of the dye baths. The colour was a bit insipid and I found a blog where someone suggested she had tried to change the PH of the dye-bath to change the colour by using washing soda, so I poured some in, and the colour changed so dramatically that I had to pour it out almost immediately to prevent the yarn from getting too dark a grey colour, and then poured some left-over fruit juice into that bath to re-gain the purple tones. I then also read on Jenny Dean's blog, Wild Colour, that one should not add washing soda to wools in warm water as it breaks down the fibre, so I had to rinse the wool in huge volumes of water to try to get it all out. I do hope it will be OK.

Anyway, in the end I have two tones of grey-purple, and the silk fabric I added has also taken the colour fairly well:

On other blogs I had seen that the leaves of brambles would dye wool a pale green. This would be a perfect complement to the purple, so I had high hopes for the leafy dye-bath. However the colour that came out of it was a bright yellow - at least on the wool fabric I dyed. The wool and mohair yarns also took the yellow, but is slightly paler. Unfortunately the photograph does not show how yellow it has all become.

I am now contemplating doing an indigo over-dye on the fabric, as the yellow is not good for making garments of, if I was to wear it myself:

Wool fabric, fine tightly spun mohair and wool yarn.

An outing to Compton Verney

Compton Verney is a large house in Warwickshire that has some quite good collections and show temporary exhibitions.

I went there recently with a couple of friends, they hadn't been to the house before and I wanted to see the temporary exhibition - The Arts and Crafts House: Then and Now - which is currently showing.

The collections the house shows includes Northern European works, Italian, mainly renaissance works from Naples, and Chinese collections. My favourite pieces are in the Chinese and German collections: there are very fine Chinese vessels in various forms cast in bronze that has this beautiful deep blue and green patina from lying in the ground. And the German and Flemish paintings include a great wooden sculpture by Tillman Riemenschneider, paintings by Cranach and some religious paintings of saints, standing there solemnly in lovely colours with gold backgrounds.

There is something very precious about seeing fine art from the renaissance and middle ages. Not just that it has survived for so long, in countries that have undergone wars, the Reformation and any manner of moves from being bought and sold. The paintings by the Flemish masters, with saints with long slender fingers, draping costume and shining colours are a joy to look at. Although we may not share the beliefs that made these works happen, they still remind us that people sought some sort of solace in spirituality, and great art was made to try to show these thought, and to become focusses for reflection.

Last time I went to Compton Verney was to see an exhibition of Dovecot tapestries, and before that an exhibition in 2008, The Fabric of Myth, that contained much inventive textile art including outsider art and a large Henry Moore tapestry woven by West Dean tapestry studio. This time the exhibition suggested placing the arts and crafts of the 19th and early 20th century side by side with current crafts. There were some good pieces on show, including some Ashby silver vessels with wide swinging handles and beautiful detailing in the choice of materials for finials and handles.

There were plans and drawings and selected pages from The Studio of the architecture of Baillie-Scott and Voysey, and as I love Voysey's style I was happy to see these, but wished there could have been more on show, especially I missed some printed or woven textiles of Voysey's designs, that would have been good. There was a very interesting room with a film showing current craftsmen working in silver with drawings and objects from their workshop indicating the historical legacy of the family business that had passed through generations from the early arts and crafts roots to the current generation of makers.

But overall I was a bit disappointed of the show. Although there were good examples of arts and crafts in the older pieces, with some textiles by William Morris, and plenty of silverware and little furniture, I thought the selection of contemporary crafts was very limited and followed a disappointing line that suggested the 'retrospective regret' of certain strands of craft. There was little suggestion of contemporary crafts using new materials (no Perspex, titanium or other novel metalwork, nor textiles were on show), and the crafted objects they showed were objects for use, wooden brushes, garden tools, stools, wooden bowls etc, but no inventive ceramics, or discussions of say, Bernard Leach's search for a ceramic language looking at Japanese methods. The focus was mainly on function in the contemporary object, although a nod to the current domestic luxury object was suggested by three panels of gold wall paper hand-printed with an organic image by Timorous Beasties. So, it was a long journey to see this partial exhibition - although I was very happy to find that a copy of the catalogue for The Fabric of Myth exhibition was on sale in the show, so I got that belatedly.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Feedback - Assignment 4 - with my reflections

My first comment - on assignment 4

For this feedback review I will comment in a different colour throughout my tutor's text. This is to respond to the specific points. On the whole she has provided positive feedback, so I am satisfied, but occasionally I have been surprised at some omissions, and I will mention these here and there.

[Tutor's] Overall Comments

Lorna in general this is competent body of work where you have developed your abilities and understanding of textiles.  All the samples you have sent me have been made with care and attention to detail.  There is a pleasing use of colour and texture in your weave pieces.  The work could be better organised with more labeling that includes your name student number and which assignment the work belongs to.  This will help enormously at assessment.  Your learning log is organised, it includes both your work and any research you have done.
LG: this is quite good commentary and I am happy with this; the note about the lack of labelling does not worry me, I will be labelling up everything for the assessment.

Assessment potential

I understand your aim is to go for the Textiles Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to succeed at assessment.  In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.   

This is a standard comment that seems to be included in all feedback

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

I think from your learning log you have not sent me all the work from assignment 4.  I suggest that you are clear with your tutor about what you have sent and what you may have left out.  This helps in making informed judgments and giving the appropriate feedback.

[LG: not sure why says this here - I had sent her an email prior to submission saying I would not be sending two items that did not fit in the box with the rest of the work, and she had said that was OK in a reply email.]

The sample work you have sent has been made to a high standard of craftsmanship.  There is consideration to colour and texture.  You have used some interesting materials in some of the weaves including the one with the central blue square.   There is evidence that you are skilled and conscious of the quality of your outcomes.  What I suggest you need to work on is your creativity.  Your blurry photographs are really interesting.  They are energetic in limited but pleasing colour palettes.  Here I feel I am getting a taste of something that stimulates and excites you that is quite individual.  But I feel you are struggling to express this in your drawings and textile work.  To be honest this is the tricky bit but it is also when you get it right the part that will get you a good degree. 
LG: This good feedback, I am glad she thinks my work has some technical quality, I try to work with quality in mind (up to a point though, especially in machine embroidery) - but then I have woven for a bit. I have enjoyed doing the photography and I agree that they could be worked up, what is not said here is that I printed out some of these pictures, and I am planning to work up these more in my workbook on trees (she would not have been able to see these plans, they are still in my head).

She is also partially right about the creativity element, I occasionally think about interpretation of design, it is not easy, and I will work on this more for assignment 5. However, I am also a bit concerned about what she means with 'creativity'. As she has not mentioned my colour matching elements, and as the course handbook allowed for free design on the loom I am surprised that the texture samples are not referenced here, although she does go on to mention the green sample and its links to the leaf photographs:

You are some way there, for example in your sketchbook there is a loose drawing of a photograph of what looks like peeling paint.  You have used a mixture of media to express the hard lines of the cracked paint and the soft rust colours.  This sort of drawing functions really well as inspiration for textile work.  I suggest you explore the blurry photos in the same way.  Using different media and ways of adding them to the paper to create what you see.  When I say different ways of adding the media to the paper I mean how you use the tool (pencil, paint brush, finger).  This could be by pressing down hard or lightly, moving quickly or slowly, filling your brush with paint or keeping it dry.  Repeat drawings of the same image but in different mediums or style – this will help to develop your skill but also find the best way of drawing a particular image.  For more information about your drawing please refer to the feedback on Foundations in Textiles: Sketchbook assignment.

LG: yes, I agree with all of this, that will be my next steps for assignment 5, as well as more photography now we are entering a darker, autumnal season

You are also some way there with the green weave; it has the abstract feel of the blurry photographs.  There is movement, texture and highlights of colour that balance nicely in the space.  I suggest you continue to explore the visual world through photography, drawing and sample making.  Starting with the photo that you explore through drawing and mark making which leads to textile sampling.  Documenting the journey in your learning log.
LG: so, overall I am satisfied that I can build on my learning from assignment 4.
Again surprisingly, she has not mentioned any of the colour work and samples in project 8. Not that I mind, this was preparatory work for the wider project 9 work. Neither has she mentioned anything about courses I have undertaken, I am not sure what to make of this.

It would be good if there could be some sort of debate about what 'creativity' means. I believe that the making process itself is creative, I think what the tutor is trying to get at here is the actual designing and 'artistic' process which of course I am still a novice at.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays/Research Material

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis  

Your learning log is easy to navigate and articulate.  However I suggest you include less surplus information.  For example

We had a day out in Chichester recently. I had been promoting this to my husband for some time now, as soon I will be travelling to near there quite a bit, so before the journey becomes commonplace, I thought it would be good to do it for pleasure. And there are antique shops there, which we both like visiting...”

Concentrate on the artwork you saw and what you thought of it.  For example why were the St Ives paintings dull?  Was it the colour, texture, form, etc.?  You ought to be analysing the work so that you can learn something from it.   When looking at an artwork spend some time looking at it – several minutes.  Think about what you see, the materials used, the composition and how the artist has achieved their outcome. 

I didn’t realize there was a Marc Chagall stain glass window in Chichester.  What was it like?  Did it still have the dream like qualities of his paintings?  Did his strong use of colour work well in the window?  Was there anything you learnt from the window that you could bring to your own creativity?
LG: Hmm, I have to admit that I was quite tired after the Chichester visit, so did not want to spend much time writing in detail about the visit. In the blog I had separately included an object analysis of a brooch and a short analysis of woven obi, but these have not attracted any commentary. They were ways for me to practice short object analysis, but were not expected by the course book - I wonder whether the learning log should only be about the required learning material, or how far one can move beyond it?

Your reflections of your own work when prompted by the questions in the course material are thorough and enlightening.  You could do with examining your work more closely in the other areas of your learning log.  Start with description – materials, techniques, composition and then (this is the important bit) go on to discuss how well these elements work together.  Are there some parts of a sample or a drawing that are stronger than others?  What would you change or develop?  I also suggest you write in your learning log more regularly, very time you have worked on something even if it isn’t finished or you are not that happy with.  

Assignment 5 work on trees is a nice big topic to choose.  I suggest you use the feedback from this and the sketchbook assignment to improve your drawing and the creativity in your sample making.  Try not to be in a rush to make the final piece.  At assessment we will be looking at how you use your research, drawing and sample making to come up with an idea for the final textile sample.

LG: OK - the note about writing more commentary has been made before. Writing the learning log takes a long time, and writing more reflective thoughts is going to be more time consuming, when I am also going to be drawing more. I work full time, I am frequently tired when I get home from work, soon I will be doing some voluntary work which will be a stretch, so I reserve judgement on whether I can manage this additional work. This is about balancing my energy resource with time and demand of the course (goodness me how that sounded like something I sometimes say at work!).

Suggested reading/viewing


I recommend Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.  This small book is packed with easily digestible information about how to do research and act upon it. 

Drawn to Stitch: line, drawing and mark making in textile art by Gwen Hedley and Mark-making in Textile Art by Helen Parrott.  These are both excellent publications with tips and inspiration on how to use drawing in your textiles. 

 Pointers for the next assignment

  • Include a contents list and labeling
  • Invest some time in improving your drawing skills
  • Use your drawings to come up with textiles sample ideas
  • Analyse the work of others
  • Reflect on your drawings and samples
  • Reflect on this feedback form in your learning log
Well done, Lorna I look forward to your next assignment.

LG final comment
So, a reasonable feedback and good advice for next steps, thank you to my tutor for these comments.

The recommended reading is fair, I have the Hedley and Kleon books already, so will re-visit these, and look at the Parrott. I will try to get in more observational drawing, continue to look at art and design through visits, do courses and continue to write about it on the blog. How much more writing I can do is a question to be addressed when I get to it, maybe it is more about saying the right things at key points, rather than to just add more narrative with little meaning.

Feedback 1 - Sketchbook assignment

My tutor has provided feedback on my sketchbook module, and here is what she said:

Feedback on the sketchbook course

Overall Comments

Well done Lorna for completing this extra assignment.  There is evidence that you have in tackling the exercises set begun to develop your own style and skill.  The work is experimental and responds well to your research material.  You have written a description of your work and how it links to your research material in your learning log/blog this is good. 

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

As I am sure I have said before how drawing is an essential part of visual creativity and doing a degree in textiles.  So it is great to see that you are investing time in improving your skills and developing your confidence.  As you say in your blog your drawings are often childlike but please try not to worry or feel ashamed of this.  We all have to start somewhere and we all start with childlike drawings.  I suggest you try to forget how you may be judged and plow on. 

Drawing and sketching is about connecting your hand and your eye to reproduce something that you see.  As we all see the world differently what we put on the paper is also different.  A lot of your drawings appear childlike because you are not drawing what you see but rather what you have learnt represents the object.  For example a tree; your trees look like what we all know to be the representation of a tree.  However not all your drawings are like this.  For example there is evidence in the sketch of the shackle that you have really looked at the object and transferred what you see to the page.  This is great and I suggest you spend a few minutes each day drawing an object in this way.  It could be the remains of a meal on the table or an arranged still life, it doesn’t really matter what it is.  The important element is training your eye and hand to work together better. Try and draw what you see, it is not often we see trees from top to bottom, don’t worry if your drawing doesn’t ‘look’ like a tree, you will be learning about what you see and improving those hand/eye skills.

There is something of the looseness I would expect in your drawing of the petrol station.  You have quickly, with energy captured the shapes and their arrangement creating an interesting composition.  I can see how you could develop these elements further by drawing them again and again to create a drawing suitable to be made into piece of textile work. 

You have used lots of different media in this assignment.  There is lots of paint that you have used in different ways including painting into a wet surface and also scratching into a dry surface.  There are also pages where you have stitched into the painted to surface to add colour and texture.  This is really nice and experimental and I suggest you continue to explore different ways of making your marks.  I suggest you also include charcoal, Indian inks, collage and water soluble pencils in your range of media. 

In this assignment there is evidence that you have drawn at different scales from the small to about A3.  This is a really important part of learning and improving your drawing skills.  Working at a range of scales encourages you to look in different ways and to use more or less of your body to achieve an outcome.  I suggest you try out drawing at a larger scale.  I use wallpaper liner that comes in a roll, you can cut a size that suits you and it is very cheap.   Stretch a piece across your kitchen table and use the whole of your arm to fill the page with marks.  I suggest you start by making simple doodles and marks then progress onto creating larger than life still lives.  Use charcoal, jumbo felt pens and soft pencils like an 8b. 

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

Your learning log remains well organised and I am pleased to see that you have kept this section separate from the A Creative Approach work this will help at assessment.  Your learning log describes well your work and the approach you have taken.  This is good but I suggest you should also be analysing your outcomes.  By this I mean discussing whether you achieved what you set out to do asking yourself if you chose the right materials, the right colours, etc.  Also consider if your placement and scale works well to create the composition.  There are no right or wrong answers here; in asking yourself these questions you will learn more about your work and abilities.  It is also part of the academic thinking that is essential to gain a good degree. 

Suggested reading/viewing

To improve your drawing I suggest Drawing Projects: an exploration of the language of drawing by Mick Maslen and Jack Southern.  This is an excellent book as it covers the history of drawing, how artists use drawing in their practice and guides the reader through a series of projects to develop your skills.

I suggest you also look at Keeping a Sketchbook Useful and Marking Making 1, 2 and 3 in the OCA recourses for textiles.

 Pointers for continuing to develop your drawing

  • Draw regularly from life
  • Use a larger range of media
  • Explore large scale drawing and mark making
  • Look at the OCA resourses on drawing and consider working from the recommended publication
  • Analyse your own work and record your findings in your learning log.
  • Reflect on this feedback form in your learning log
Well done, Lorna I look forward to seeing your developing drawing style.

My reflections
The reason I have included this feedback and the feedback from assignment 4 in full on the blog is that this is the penultimate feedback on the course, and I need to focus for the final assignment, so although I may have learned quite a bit from previous feedback, this is the culmination of pointers for the future.
So, what do I feel about this feedback - and what have I learned?

Firstly, the feedback is pretty positive and supportive on what to do next. I am encouraged that the reading she has suggested I already have, and it reminds me to read and digest it during drawing exercises.
  • Clearly I do need to do more drawing, so I will think about what to do about this. I think I will continue to draw things I like, bottle shapes, vases and so on, simple shapes to help we work out modelling, shading, curves.
  • I am also encouraged that the media I have used is OK, and that she suggests widening this a bit more. Surprisingly she says I should use water soluble pencil, I already use these and a bit of inktense; but I do agree that I have not used charcoal, and inks yet; maybe I will try these, I am a bit nervous of the charcoal side of things.
  • Similarly ,I will have a go at working with scale, I have some A1 size papers leftover from making some of these concertina books, so the scale could explode if needed!
  • She wants me to do a bit more self-analysis of the drawings - what went well, what didn't work. I guess the reason I do not do this is that most of the time I don't find my drawings particularly good, but I will try to look a bit more carefully at my drawings and consider these in writing.
What surprised me - that she barely mentioned my box of samples and knitted squares on papers. In spending so much space on her review on my drawing, there was no mention of the artists' references, or the dyed papers, the small 'woven' 3D braided samples or any other element in the box (which I had been quite pleased with), not sure why these were omitted, as she did mention the stitched samples in a couple of my painted papers.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

A day out to Chichester

We had a day out in Chichester recenty. I had been promoting this to my husband for some time now, as soon I will be travelling to near there quite a bit, so before the journey becomes commonplace, I thought it would be good to do it for pleasure. And there are antique shops there, which we both like visiting, Pallant House has interesting collections of fine art, and the cathedral has two large tapestries!

So off we went, and I can say that I was very pleased to have visited Pallant House. The exhibitions on at the time dealt with Walter Sickert's work in France (Walter Sickert in Dieppe) and another exhibition on the St Ives artists, on the theme of British Modernism. But there were also works on show from their regular display, and there was a very beautiful landscape by John Hubbard, and many other late 20th century artists that we do not normally seek out - it was a very good day.

We had lunch in the garden there, and the curators had placed sculptures there based on the outsider artist Nek Chand's garden sculptures, which was kind of nice, as they brought a bit of atmosphere to the relatively open dining area

I got a lesson in how to take pictures with my husband's Galaxy, as I forgot to bring my camera (which bothered me all day - and you will see that the pictures in the cathedral suffered the consequences) - however we took a picture of my glass of water and milk jug, which was quite a good small composition of a still life:

Overall I thought the St Ives paintings were a bit dull, although there were a few interesting sculptures, and some  occasionally interesting use of shapes and marks. I know that these artists were working to be visionary artists in the vein of the French modernists, but maybe it was just the ones on show, I did not feel particularly inspired looking at them. Of course the Hepworth sculpture was great, a wooden totem of a thing, vertical and very well placed beneath the stairwell so you could see from above and from floor level as well. And I was surprised that when there were a few interesting art items on show they didn't have a label, in one room was a Victorian chair with an opulent upholstered flowing extension drooping over the chair's side and onto the floor, but nothing in the room to tell you its title or its maker. There a glass artist's work (Michael Petry) on show as well, coiling coloured rods hung from the ceiling and various pieces showing poured glass (A Twist Time I believe it was entitled), with some smaller pieces amongst the silver collections in glass cases. I liked these small things, with clear glass having been poured over and into various silver vessels. They were totally unobtrusive amongst the historical objects and I noticed one couple didn't notice they were there (again no title, although these smaller pieces were probably part of his wider work).

We 'did' the antique shops, the bookshop in Pallant House and then lastly went for coffee and a good look around the cathedral. I did like the cathedral in Chichester. It had plenty of visitors, but did not feel busy in the way some of these places feel. I like it when great buildings become homes for new cultural expressions, and that these seem to fit so well into the fabric of the place, which was the case here.

When we go to visit large churches it is usually the windows, the font and the architecture that usually impress the most, and at Chichester there was a fine window by Chagall to admire:

In churches there are also the soft furnishings to think about often embroidered altar frontals, and kneelers, and I was very impressed by the latter here - they were beautiful crewel-worked works showing abstracted angels on a green background, the designs of them was very good:

And there were smaller kneelers for chairs:

I think there may have been some sort of planned event coming up that evening as a bunch of people were milling about in the choir, and I took a very blurred picture of a woman that I think works quite well as an abstraction (this was due to the camera in the Galaxy) - with her dark shape gently flowing amongst the lights:

The colours in the background are from the John Piper tapestry that hangs behind the altar:

This was the only reasonable picture of the Piper tapestry - every other one was in some way out of focus. Hanging behind the screen is another tapestry by Ursula Benker-Schirmer, a German tapestry weaver who learned her craft in post-war France.

It must be a gift to get a commission from a large organisation to enable you to work so fully on your own work, or direct it in some way. Tapestry really lends itself to large scale works, and I using these string colours the works stand as almost jewel-like wall hangings against the stoney architecture.

....and finally a detail to show how she managed to design a tree or two into here design, which otherwise is dedicated to St Richard, and in German is called the Versöhnungsgobelin (the reconciliation tapestry, or as it is described on a label, the Anglo-German tapestry). You can also see here some fine candlesticks, and in general the cathedral seems to support contemporary art and crafts work.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Photographic and design exercise

I regard this exercise as a bit of experimenting with colour-matching (up to a point, and subject to the wools I have at hand) and tapestry weaving on my new loom.

As I dyed blues and brown linen and found some similar colours in tapestry yarns (as in embroidery) I will use these for the sample. I have drawn a blank as to design in the sense of hand-drawn, as I don't have much time before I need to get on to the final pieces.

The basis for the sample will be the use of manipulated photos of some blue hydrangea that are drying up in the window, and have been so for week - they actually look very beautiful even as they are shrivelling up, so I have not yet found the right time to bin them.

I took some pictures and played around with the colours - First a couple of shots of how the dead flower heads look at the moment

And with enhanced blues they start looking like they were still fresh

And then I played with colour mixes on different pictures of the petals, and had a go at using the reflection tool for some:

These blues look close to indigo blues and petrol blue-green, some may lie close to the ones I achieved in the dye bath

A detail of the dried-up flower head with enhanced colours - I do think the blues and browns look great here, there is real tension and sparkle between them across the whole picture plane - and then a swirl applied to mix things up:

And a reflected image followed by a detail of this image

...and coincidentally there is, what looks like a moth or perhaps a strange greeny-blue bee amongst branches, hiding in this Rorschach of a picture (this 'animal' has appeared unintentionally, but it is interesting how such details can suddenly arise from the design process) - I am not planning to weave from this image, it is too detailed for the weave. I have seen young designers apply such reflected images to print designs in textiles though.

In tapestry weaving artists have applied the digital image as a design tool. There are artists who take selfies to tell stories about their lives, such as Erin M Riley, whose work is maybe disturbing at times but seems quite current in its expression of young people's social pre-occupations.

The Swedish weaver, Anika Ekdahl weaves the most tremendous tapestries having used Photoshop-ed collages of images and applied these in great detail to her works. I think it is amazing how detailed she works; using each bead (the point at which the weft yarn sits on top of the warp) as a pixel in very elaborate works. I saw one of her tapestries at the decorative art museum in Stockholm in 2013, at the Slow Art exhibition. It was one of her verdures, with renderings of wildlife on a mainly green background.

Another weaver who uses the colour manipulation technique and simplifies the image to enable bold and strongly coloured images to be developed is the Danish weaver, Jenny Hansen. Her work uses a lot of blue (at least they do on her web-site), and the colours are striking; her motifs seem drawn from nature, including the woodlands and the landscape. She is a member of Dansk Gobelinkunst, the group of Danish tapestry weavers who regularly show together and who individually show a great range and level of quality in tapestry weaving.

I am not going to aim at a simulated reproduction of any chosen image. Instead I will lay out the yarns and see how they speak with the bundle of pictures I have shown above to see which is most suitable and then have a go at some approaches to make up what will hopefully be a unique sample.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Tex 1 Ass. 5 - project 10 - a design project

The final project for the 'A Creative Approach' course is a piece or sample of one's own conception and development. If you look at some of the other posts I have created you would see that there is a series of work growing on trees. That is the theme for the work book, and that is the theme that I have been exploring through photography and reading texts, e.g. the Herman Hesse literary extracts on trees, some (patriotic) Danish songs/poems about woods as well as looking at trees as I pass through, or sit in the landscape.

Trees are what makes this world what it is, through photosynthesis we get oxygen, trees absorb water and their root systems sustain the earth to enable life, preventing erosion, the environment amongst trees we can enjoy as part of our search for stillness. Woods, jungles, and freestanding trees, all provide life for animals.

So, there are many angles to take to thinking about trees, and as this is potentially a large topic, I have decided to think about trees in nature, as providers of shelter and quietude. I have also already decided what I want to do - I had been intending to weave a tapestry of some sort, based on the idea of trees, and I now have decided to do something site specific using tapestry and drawing. I won't share too much at this stage as there may be technical or permission-related obstacles to what I have in mind. It would be even better if I could incorporate words, but this all needs to be tested out.

So, the course book says we should pull everything out, look at all the drawings, samples etc., but I have decided on tapestry weaving and this will be the starting point for understand which tree-related themes I use, and how they will be developed towards the final work. Certainly there will still be plenty of drawing/painting and photography to do.

Here are a few more drawing-water colours I did of trees recently

I am not convinced I can do representational drawings from observation, this is meant to be an old yew or other pine-like tree and in the drawing it looks more like a willow. In the end I don't think it matters too much, it looks like a tree and that is the most important point at this stage.

This second drawing is of a tree with yellowy-green leaves and next to it stands a small tree with branches that shape the crown in an almost semi-spherical shape with branches that turn down-ward. Behind some very tall oak trees.

There is a remnant of an ancient wall that encloses where these trees stand. I did an abstracted take on the wall.

A diversion of sorts

I also got myself a very fancy tapestry loom, second-hand, a Mirrix loom. It is not big, the maximum width you can warp to is around 30cm, but it has extension rods for making long tapestries or numerous samples in succession. It has a warping bar which basically enables you to mount heddles onto the warp, and a lever to enable the heddles to be drawn. I usually just use the separation of the warp by the frame of the loom itself, and pull out the warp threads when I need to. The heddle approach may force me to have to weave across the width of the loom more evenly than I have done before as I usually have just built up sections as I go along. It is all very new and I am looking forward to trying it out.

Here's the loom, with a blue  linen warp, set up for some sample development

I thought that I would try out this loom alongside the development and exploration of the tree theme. I have dyed some cotton, linens, sisal and hemp yarn in blues and browns and thought that I would make some samples based on colour, material and texture that may or may not suggest the tree theme - the main thing initially is to understand how I work with the loom. Design comes later when developing the final piece.

Here are the blue yarns - I really like the way the sisal took the dye (centre two balls). This string was just a roll from the DIY shop, but it is a robust and shiny yarn that will be interesting in a tapestry - it is probably a bit too thick for the fineness of the warp currently mounted.

Here are the browns dyed in 'Koala Brown' from an old Dylon cold water dye - I have found that it goes a very long way, if you soak some elements from the first these bits take the stronger colour, but you can continue to add more yarn or cloth over time to get various lighter tones. I planted a blue ball amongst the browns to show how well they resonate:
You can also see how well the sisal takes the colour (right), and the various tones of brown on the linen and cotton cloths.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

What is handwoven tapestry’s place in contemporary art? - 31st July

On Friday I attended the symposium on tapestry organised by West Dean College. This was one of those rare occasions which, if you are a little bit interested in tapestry as I am, you grab and join. I took a holiday day and went along.

A number of tapestry weavers spoke of their work: Anne Jackson, Shelley Goldsmith, Katherine Swailes, Philip Sanderson and the felt maker Liz Clay, and there were talks by others to contextualise tapestry weave, Lesley Millar and Yvonna Demczynska from Flow Gallery. It was a very successful day, the talks were varied and showed how broad or narrow you can interpret this particular weaving process.

Jackson's work on witchcraft, its history and metaphorical uses in current language was informed by a depth of reading over several years. She uses a knotting technique using half hitches which allows for flexibility of shape, and she can still achieve a great deal of detail in her expression. Swailes showed pictures from her background in costume making, and I was very happy to see she had made costume for Cate Blanchett in Oscar and Lucinda, which I had recently watched again. Katherine uses materials as a starting point in her personal works, but also works at West Dean as a studio weaver, interpreting art for commissions. Similarly Philip Sanderson is a studio weaver there, but he also teaches and has his own practice, having worked on major commissions for Parliament, Portcullis House.

Shelley Goldsmith described her work, which was conceptually oriented, using both tapestry, print, stitch and any other techniques that would support her ideas. Hers was a very lively talk and there were many ideas present in her work, which she described as mixed media. Liz Clay on the other hand is a felt maker who works experimentally sometimes for the haute couture industry. She is a highly reflective practitioner, deeply interested in her technique and has been looking at British wools and their uses in felt making, especially those wools normally disposed of. She had spent a month with two Aubusson-trained weavers in Felletin, working on a shared project linking tapestry and felt, creating in the end a very fine tapestry made in 13 long strips mounted side-by-side to enable the variety of techniques to be cohesively joined. 

The talk by the Flow Gallery owner placed tapestry amongst other crafts in order to show how crafts can be marketed to the collector's market. There were images of the gallery and how it had been re-designed moving away from being a white cube to be more 'home'-like. She also discussed the large crafts fairs such as Collect in London and SOFA in the US. Interestingly she had a liking for Aino Kajaniemi, so I am quite excited about that and will go to the gallery when I am next in London, I love Kajaniemi's work.

Lesley Millar discussed how tapestry might be a vehicle for dissent and subversion. She started off talking about Hannah Ryggen's work - as I mentioned in a different post, Hannah Ryggen is now being re-discovered in discussions on the politics of fibre art - and went on to show a number of tapestry artists' work. On a couple of occasions she stated that this work was both beautiful and subversive, a point that I am struggling with. My question would be; at which point does the beauty of an object over-ride the point being made in the work - if an object is to speak of difficult themes, how 'difficult' should the object be? If one chooses to be representational in one's expression how does one speak - using an illustrative style, or metaphorical, or both?

In any case in finishing off with Millar's talk, the day left much to think about.

After the talk there was a tour of the West Dean tapestry studio, and then on to a private view of the current tapestry exhibition, Hallreef, which had quite a number of tapestries on show, in a smaller format, it covered works by both professionals, new graduates and amateurs, which was refreshing. All in all it was a full day and I went home feeling there is still some mileage in tapestry, and so much more to think about.