Done and still not finished

I wanted to keep developing my drawing and mark making skills whilst I await feedback from my tutor and whilst preparing my work for assessment.  When I have my feedback I hope to move on to my second course unit. In the meantime I am working in a sketchbook on an idea about producing a very small sketch or mixed media element on a regular basis – I’m calling this project ‘fragments’.  image







These examples are fragments of a collaged and painted series of ‘sketches’ of the River Tay as it passes under the Tay rail bridge. its the view from the window of a flat I stay in for work and which I am shortly to move out of.  The view from the window is inspirational and alongside the many photographs I have taken over the last couple of years I wanted to do some quick responses that I might return to as textile work later.image






As well as the fragments I am producing some quick, slightly larger sketches which are also abstracted elements.   I think there is the potential for exploration in fabric which could come from these.


Done but not finished

I have now sent my final assignment to my tutor but have kept working at a few things I was exploring on the course.  As posted in this learning blog earlier I extended my work at part 4 by learning to weave on a loom. Whilst just at the very rudimentary stages I am really enjoying it and considering investing in a table loom.

imageThese samples were worked on 4 different table looms which had already been warped up.  It provide an opportunity to experiment with pattern and colour.  I also used different yarns, mainly cotton, cottolin  and fine lambs wool.

It was really interesting to compare and contrast the process and the effects of loom weaving and tapestry weaving.  The placement of the warp and interplay between the warp and the weft in terms of colour mixing and pattern is of paramount importance in weaving on the loom.

I had the chance then to design my own piece of cloth and to learn the process of warping the loom.  I wanted to go back to the lotus seed head ideas I had and wanted to weave a piece as a accompanying piece to the tapestry cushion I produced for my final assignment.


I thought that that this pattern had potential to weave some cloth which referenced the blue seeds in the pink/ brown pod. I also wanted to introduce the sharp greens and yellow in the image and reference my tapestry piece.  I also referred back to some research on Anni Albers suggested by my tutor and drew ideas from this design by the artist.image


I  sourced these lambs wool yarns which changed the tones from my original piece but reflected the colours I was interested in from the photograph.

I have now warped up the loom using a rose pink with a pale pink every 6th warp thread. My plan now is to weave in bands of pink and blue with a stripe of greens and yellow to tie in with the design in my assignment piece.  I had not appreciated the number of steps and the length of process in warping the loom but each stage was really interesting, including learning how to correct mistakes!

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Having completed my final assignment for part 5 I can now look back over the last 11 months to review how I have progressed. Towards the end of this final project I looked back at the work I did at the very start of the course. We started with making marks. Looking back now these marks look quite tentative and very contained in terms of size. I decided therefore to create a sketchbook of new marks. I was interested to see if my mark making had changed. I have tried to work in a freer way. I have taken a number of workshops as well as having used the course materials and have, I believe taken more risks than I would have done had I not been encouraged to do so by the course and especially by my tutor.

Starting with some very large and rapid sketches I developed a number of sheets based on a very simple still life and using a range of materials in black, white and grey. Working in this large format I was challenged to make as many different marks as possible.100_7495

I then set about editing and cutting out the most interesting parts of the large sketches. I ended up with a range of small sketches which I am already excited about and can see the possibilities for translation in to textiles. I will add this sketchbook in as an example of my other work along with my work for review to my tutor.








When I started the course I wrote a brief note on what I hoped this course would do for me. At the time of writing I wanted to be stretched more than I had doing craft based textiles course. I was keen from the outset to pursue a degree and stated at the time that I wanted to develop my skills in art and design and was inclined to move in a fine art direction. It was my ambition to complete the course within a year. I have done that and whilst the demands of more advanced courses will increase I feel more secure now that I can manage to complete and enjoy my course alongside my full time job. I am keen to work and mixed media and have done a bit of that this year but can the potential to explore this further in later course unit.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the course. My work has not always gone in the direction I thought it would and I enjoyed parts of the course I thought I would be less keen on. I think that is a very big positive.
Working to a large extent in isolation is a bit challenging  in distance learning but I got a lot of support from the study visits I went on and making sure that I got to lots of exhibitions and read widely was a key part of helping me build a context for my work despite the distance element of the learning. I felt the further reading and exploration suggested by my tutor was really very valuable in that regard. One of the first questions my tutor asked me when we first spoke was ‘ who are the textile artists you are most influenced by’. This question had me stumped. I knew of some textile artists of course but was certainly not fluent in talking about their work, context and influence in the way that I able to do with painters or sculptors. Whilst I have still much to learn in this regard I am much more confident now  and have really widened my knowledge and understanding of many textile artists. I look forward to continuing this aspect of my learning as well as developing my own skills and capacity to grapple with complex concepts in my work.


Having decided on three main elements for the chair project and two possible designs for cushions I decided to try to execute all of the parts. I calculated that I had enough time and materials to achieve it all.


There are some technical problems that had to be solved in terms of the upholstery of the chair and I needed to caluculate the size and shape of each piece so that I could design and make the panels and know that they would come together at the end. I stripped the chair and used the old fabric covers to make templates for the new panels. I knew that if I had a project plan for each section of the chair and the two separate cushions that I could work on each section in tandem rather than in sequence which allowed me to do all the printing, all the painting and all the stitching in a way that made best use of time and, more importantly, let me see whether the design decisions I had made for each elements would in fact work together as a coherent whole. If it did not then I had opportunity to adjust as I went along. In fact I did do this. When I printed the trellis on the fabric for the seat cover I had intended to quilt in green and brown only (the colour of the poppy stems) however it looked at that stage like two very separate elements and I changed the plan and introduced some pinks and purples to the trellis quilting to tie it in more closely with the back. I was also able to balance up the intensity of the text once I saw the impact of the density of colour and stitch on the poppies.100_7526



I also varied the tones I used in the tapestry I was weaving for one of the cushions to introduce some brighter tones in green and yellow. This lifted the piece and tied in better to the other cushion which used yellow and orange tones in the seed pods design which was painted. I also had to make decisions on the type of thread I would use to stitch the background to the second cushion and after I had done some sampling I changed my original decision to create more lustrous background.
Constructing the seat covers was a little nerve wracking. I had spent time creating each panel and was nervous that they would not fit or that the shapes had not been calculated correctly. In fact it came together easily. I have never done any upholstery but did a lot of dress making when I was younger and there are transferable skills and knowledge. Helped of course by a very simple design of chair. I fitted the coverings but will remove them again to send them to my tutor but the pictures of the finished chair can be seen below.
I think there is a clear thread of development running through the theme book. I used my theme book for the development work, interweaving that with the earlier images and drawings and I hope this allows the development to be seen clearly. I did change some of my decisions during the making process. They were not fundamental changes to the design and concept but they were important in terms of integration and balance I think. I was able to use the materials I had and selected to realise the work. I did go looking specifically for textiles that I could re-use that were suitable not just in type of fabric and colour but also that they had a history and fitted with the concept.

At the back of my theme book I have stashed away a small list of further development I would like to do which arises directly from my exploration of this theme. I would like to weave some cloth on a loom that could add to the project and have started on that at a weaving class. This is based on the lotus seed heads. I would like to make some wall pieces taking the printing and painting of the poppies and the seed pods design further. For example I have sketched out a possible design for a wall piece that brings together poppy heads and honesty. I am sure there is a further development in the red and green colour and texture of the dock plants. Some of these might get realised or returned to later in the course of my degree of might simply be part of my own work so I have stored them as potential ideas.


This process is described in a linear way in the course notes however I find it quite difficult to separate entirely the second and third stages. As I was reviewing my theme book I was working in to it and adding development work and further ideas so that some of the design development got done as part of this iterative process. I went back and forward on several different sections of the theme book and the ideas began to come together and got selected or deselected. I now wanted to think about the overall coherence of the components that I am now beginning to bring together. I have decided that the recovery and renewal of the chair is the idea I am going with. I want to combine the idea of a trellis through which we see the colour of the poppy seed heads and which will form (literally) a base from which the poppy stems will grow. I am also aware that whilst this project is not being constructed in such a way that it will withstand many years of wear I do want it to be robust enough to have at least some functionality or utility. My choice of materials therefore needs to take account of that.
Staying with the concept of recovery and renewal I decided to hunt for textiles for the base fabric which were already used and showing some sign of wear. I unearthed two curtains from charity shops. One is a printed textiles and was 100% cotton and other is a viscose linen mix. The latter is less likely to stand much wear and tear. The cotton fabric caught my eye because it is blue / green and is commercially printed. It already has a design on it that suggested stems and seeds. Even when washed it had some water mark stains on it which appealed to me in terms of the concept and I wanted to incorporate the stains in to the surface decoration. I wanted to see how the fabric would look when it was over printed and worked in to with stitch.
My ideas about the colour and design of the lotus seed heads and the screen I had made from my design on seed pods are still at the front of my mind and I don’t want to lose them but neither do I want a cluttered final piece of design for the chair so I am still thinking I can do something else with them.
Printing out the screen print of the poppies on to different fabrics and making a colour board with yarns and beads to give a sense of colour was helpful.Dried poppy heads end up quite brown but just after the flower petals have dropped and before they have dried out they can have a range of hues from pink, through purple to blue and it was this colour that I wanted to capture in both the development work which I have added to my theme book through to the choice of yarns for stitching. Having decided on the fabric which is already commercially printed I wanted to create several layer: the original printed fabric, the over printing with the screen printing and the layers of yarn and thread.









Bringing all these ideas together I used ideas for print, colour and stitch from across my theme book and the development work I have added. I tried out the print for the poppies as actual size and developed my final idea for the chair back from this. I had already developed some actual size cartoons of the trellis print which I then developed further with the grass prints and with the addition of colour to simulate the colour in the poppy heads which would bring the seat and the back panels together.
Having chosen the text I wanted to use I experimented with fonts and materials to get a readable image but which would have a sense of decay.


Developing these ideas and deciding on the elements I would bring together meant sampling the printing, the stitch and the painting elements.
I am now keen to realise the two additional cushions. I plan to make a tapestry piece based on the colour and some patterns elements developed from the lotus seed head and will use the seed pod screen to print then paint a piece which can for the centre for a second cushion. I have found a fabric which can be used on both sides giving two colours in the same pattern which would work well with both the tapestry and printed pieces for the two cushions. Having planned all of these design elements I now need to plan how this can be realised in practice to ensure I can execute each part and that I will have all the right materials.


Focussing on my theme book

My theme book is now beginning to fill up with development work on top of the original source materials and ideas. I made a decision that I wanted to combine several ideas and sources and build towards an end product in the form of the recovered chair. I was particularly keen to develop my ideas around the work I had done on the poppy seed heads and the seed pods. I also liked the printed trellis shapes I had produced on paper. I thought these might work well on fabric and would create an interesting surface. I began to think about the kind of marks I might want to make and revisited the work I had done in part 2 on making marks with both stitch and in part 3 where I was making marks with printing. I have sketched some ideas for what components could be used in the chair and am now starting to think that as well as creating a panel for the chair seat and back I could think about including some text round the edge of the seat. I also have a number of ideas that could form small cushions which could extend the project a little further. Of course putting a small chair in the post for review by my tutor is not really practical but I didn’t want to let the idea go for reasons of practicality. I checked with my tutor that I could send the textile part of the project and plan to send photographs of the finished pieces on the chair if possible.
As well as having decided that I would like to do something with the poppy seed heads and the seed pods idea I didn’t want to lose the response I had to the lotus seed heads, especially the colours which I was very drawn to. I do not however, want to clutter the final project – it’s a very simple design. I think there is a danger that I try to put too many ideas in to the one piece. Making one or two additional cushions might be the way to try out some of these ideas.


This first part of project 10 was about reviewing all my work so far. I sorted through the development work and earlier course projects that I thought were successful and / or where I had enjoyed the techniques or materials. And of course, I reviewed my theme book. I had collected my theme materials together and put them in my theme book leaving space between each section for further development work. I realised that I might need more space for developing some of the ideas and less for others but since I could always add and subtract pages this was not a major problem.
Looking back over my work to date it was hard to decide what I wanted to rule out. I had really enjoyed the stitch, had been very engaged with print making and, surprisingly for me, I had really enjoyed the weaving section. I took the opportunity to go back though my theme book and began to think about how each of the images and sketches I had in the book could be translated or further developed in stitch, or textiles, and how texture and pattern could be developed. I was, above all, interested in the concept that was now forming in my mind of taking something that was seemingly spent and re-imagining it or renewing it in to something new. The dead seed head, the miracle of the seed and the subsequent renewal and flourishing of the new plant began to form ideas for me. Linked to the metaphor and concept I had read in quotes and poetry I was increasingly thinking I wanted to recover or renew an object rather than create a wall hanging. I had liberated an old Ikea chair when my son was moving out of his flat last year when he graduated. He in turn had rescued it previously from a skip at the art college he was studying at. It had seen its fair share of studio life. It was grimy, covered in paint and was tatty. I began to think that this too could be given new life and that it could be regenerated through seeds. I’ve never upholstered anything but it looked like quite a simple shape. I thought it might be worth considering.



I found an black and white image of what looked like an x-ray of a seed pod.  This took me off in quite a different direction.  After a few drawings of some seed pods (again in red and green) I began to stylise my ideas to reflect the very interesting shapes that the  x-ray image seemed to suggest.  I began to think about the seed inside the pod and had found a poem where the seed is referred to as the secret within.  I wanted to portray the seeds as precious, almost like gems.  Bean and pea pods and the seeds inside provide a perfect basis for this.   I began to develop the shapes in a more abstract way whilst still keeping the distinctive shape of the pods.  I had collected some lovely dark coloured broom bush seed pods from the garden and within a couple of days of being in the warm dry house they had popped open and the seeds had sprung out.  I wanted to try to capture what they would have looked liked just before that happened as if I could see through the case of the pod. Decided to work with Koh-i-noor paint which is a dye rather than a paint and can be used on fabric.  It provided jewel like colours which were very vibrant.  The lines of the drawing were decorative and quite simple and I decided to have a thermafax screen made directly from my drawing as a possible development for my final piece.  At this stage I was thinking about recovering an old battered chair but was also still thinking about a wall hanging so could afford still to keep my option open.   I experimented with a few other pod shapes but none were quite so pleasing. In fact some looked rather more like sausages than seed pods!








Putting aside the work on seed pods for the time being I then began to look at the lovely poppy seed heads a friend had gathered for me from her garden. I had done a little sample piece earlier in the course unit based on poppy seed heads and decided that I would like to think about and expressive way of portraying these in paint. My drawing can be rather laboured so I experimented with pencil and pen attached to a piece of dowel rod so that I had to stand back from my sketch book and work, literally at arm’s length. I was pleased with the effect. A much more free style of drawing emerged and I had a lot of fun using different media developing a more expressive painting and colouring style. I really liked the contrast been the long stems of the poppies and their complex and architectural seed pods. I realise that I have gone beyond simply collecting images for my theme and was now going along a path of development and refining and changing the images. I am already thinking there was something here that I will return to for my final project To that end I am also going to have a thermafax screen made from one of my poppy drawings. I am really interested in the idea of printing then painting on textiles.



Continuing with my theme book I have been exploring the effect of complementary colours in nature. I had a photograph I had taken of dock plants in a hedgerow and had brought a part of the plant home.


The contrast between the green and the red led to some exciting colour study and again I created a little woven sample and explored ideas of how I might represent seeds in stitch using silk and cotton yarn and with aptly names seed beads.
This green and red contrast led me on to thinking about a piece of green trellis which is worn and broken in our garden. I began to experiment with how I could print a trellis shape which would describe the weathered worn edge of the trellis wood and was interested in the shapes and colours we see in the strong negative shapes in the trellis. Creating stamps from cardboard and thin craft foam I created some interesting background papers on which to work.


Using thermafax purchased screens I began to work on the shapes of grasses trying to create interesting backgrounds on which to print and bringing this experimentation together with the trellis backgrounds I had created. In this part of my theme book I wanted to experiment on backgrounds that looked worn, weathered or distressed.



On deciding on a theme I had thought to choose a topic which was wide enough to allow for development and experimentation and yet not so wide that I would never narrow down my choices.   I also wanted to choose a subject which would also lend itself to a concept or concepts that went beyond the representation or interpretation of the topic.  To that end I think that my theme will serve me well.  The concept of renewal from what looks like the dead end of plants will provide much food for thought and I am already thinking about the process renewal and recovery in textiles as well as in the human experience.

Having sorted all my own photographs of seeds and seed heads, grasses and seed pods out, along with other source material I realise that there is enough scope here to keep me going for several years!  So I set about the process of selecting what I was most interested in exploring.  These included seed and seed heads of: umbrella shaped plants;  poppies; honesty; and grasses.   I also collected together some quotations and poetry in which the concept of seeds is explored.   I started working us some sketches and ideas using honesty seed cases.


What I love about honesty is the transformation from a somewhat ordinary purple flower to the shiny, silver seed cases that are both architectural and fragile.





I also worked up some sketches of plants which, in their skeletal seed form have umbrella spokes.  I had a bought screen and did some experimental printing on fabric with these shapes.  They are pleasing in their simplicity and give a sense of silhouette against the sky.

Part of this development work took me in the direction of lotus seed pods.  These alien shapes are intriguing with their amazing colours as they turn from bright green with blueberry shaped seeds through to brown and reddish dried pods.  Abstracted the shapes create wonderful patterns.  I was particularly interested in the colour combinations of green, purplish blue and browns and enjoyed weaving some samples in these hues.    These sample weavings were enjoyable to do and I might return to this idea later as a possible avenue of development