Category Archives: Development work

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 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.


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


Acting on tutor feedback part 4

As ever I found my  tutor feedback on part very helpful.  It was very encouraging and positive however there are also pointers to develop my work further and good advice for personal develop .  For this assignment, one of the key areas for further development suggested by my tutor was :  I would encourage you to include visual notes of your responses as you develop your ideas, for example as above with the series of samples which included Chairman Mao.  Looking back at my work I appreciated that I was so focussed on moving from source and inspirational material to finished weaving sample I had neglected to show, visually, the process I went through.  For some samples  I did have some rough working sketches in a note book but had not included these in the material submitted.  In other samples I had simply worked from the image on to the weaving sample.  Never having done work of this type before I think I was very focussed on developing the skills and didn’t capture the process.  I went back  to the work therefore and tried to recapture the thought process and decisions I had made.  I think the colour decisions were quite well demonstrated in the material I put together for tutor review but my tutor was quite right, what decisions had I made about composition, form and shape in moving from my source material to the woven samples?   So whilst it was rather post hoc I did a little work recording the process and sketching out what I believe were my decisions at the time and have added these to my development work.



I had tried to read quite a lot about weaving whilst doing this part of the course but I had been concentrating on technique.  Reflecting on what my tutor had said I wondered if I could find out more about how weavers work and further develop my skills.  I was beginning to think that I could include some weaving in my final project so I researched workshops being taught by weavers in Scotland and signed up for a number of workshops.  I went to a workshop with Fiona Hutchison, a tapestry weaver in Edinburgh, whose work I admired and had a day learning more about the basics of weaving and the techniques which could be used to create the kind of marks and shapes that could be used in my own work. I also plan to attend  a further weekend workshop with her looking at how to develop sketches and marks for weaving, the workshop is aimed at practising  textile artists and those who had a little experience.

Also during January and February I have been attending evening workshops with Cally Booker, a Dundee based weaver who produces beautiful cloth on the loom.  This course teaches the basics of weaving on a table loom and goes on to enable participants to develop their own ideas from sources and create an original piece.  The process is very similar that being taught on my OCA course and has been really useful.  A Creative Approach  course notes point out that it is not practical at this stage to introduce students to weaving on the loom and focusses on tapestry weaving but I found it very interesting to understand the difference and similarity between tapestry weaving and weaving cloth on a loom.    I have used what I learned in this in developing some of my ideas in my theme book and have added my woven samples of basic weaving patterns to my part 4 work.

What was interesting for me to reflect on in looking at the process and the work of these two textile artists was the extent to which you can see the process as well as the product of their work.  Moving from inspiration and source material to finished product each works in a different way.  But both move through a process of ideas, design, testing samples, refining and finally working on the finished piece.  Websites for the two artists can be seen at:

I plan to do a separate post reflecting on what I have learned and produced as a result of these workshops later.

I always look forward to reading the section at the end of my tutor report on further reading and viewing.  In this feedback my tutor suggested look at the work of Polly Binns and its relationship to landscape.  She also invited me to consider the work of Audrey Walker and Liz Harding and to reflect on the influence of the weaving of Annie Albers.  She also recommended  reading ‘Thinking Through Craft’ by Glen Adamson.

I had looked at Audrey Walker’s work earlier in the course and revisited by notes and the sources I had found at the time.  It was really instructive to go back to that again.  As I progress in my own development its clear that I can bring something new to the understanding and appreciation of earlier research as I develop more skills and knowledge.  It prompted me to go back and look again at the exhibition notes and photographs I had taken of the 62 Group exhibition last year including the work of Audrey Walker.  I was really excited to see the work of Polly Binns and Anne Morrel from the exhibition last year entitled light and line.  Although unable to go I had read a number of reports and blogs about the exhibition and was really interested in the themes of mark making and memory drawn from the landscape that seemed to run through the work.

It was very useful to be prompted to look at the work of Annie Albers. A very well know textile artist I looked again the work she did in designing her work.  The Museum of Modern Art in New York holds a number of her drawings and colour sketches for woven pieces.  I was really interested in that and how she had been influenced  by her studies at the Bauhaus in the production of abstract designs.  I was also very interested in the way she pioneered the use of unusual materials in her weaving.   I will certainly go on to find out more about and research further all of the artists above.  I am awaiting the delivery of the Glen Adamson book which will certainly take further my thinking about the relationship between art and craft which was the subject of short research and reflection point in block 4.

Part 4: Project 9 Stages 1-4

Weaving is a new skill for me so setting up a loom, researching weaving and trying out samples was really very interesting and a bit challenging.  Most of the projects to date in this course unit involved using skills which I had already developed in some way but I needed to spend a bit of time reading about weaving in its different forms and working out what was required from the course notes.   I didn’t always find the course notes clear.  I think that was because it was less easy to interpolate from past experience.   That said there are lots of helpful books and websites that I was able to research to better understand the very basics of weaving.

This part of the course focuses on tapestry weaving and I looked at the work of some weavers here in Scotland including tapestry weavers.   I have really had my appetite for weaving whetted by this section of the course and have taken a place on a beginners weaving course using table top looms in the spring in Dundee.  This part of the course will be over by then but the additional learning will extend my knowledge and skills.  I have also found out that a tapestry weaver in Edinburgh is to run some one day and weekend courses in the new year so I will try to get a space on one of her courses too.

In the meantime I was able to source some basic equipment to get started on this introduction to tapestry weaving.

This blog post starts by focussing on how I got on with setting up the loom and the basic weaving techniques and stitches pointed up the course notes.  However, having read through the rest of Part 4 and noting that there would be later development work I decided to work across stages 1 – 4 of the project and to build on the work I had done in project 8 in matching colour and proportion.   I found that a more coherent way to work rather than simply to develop a sample for each stitch.  Consequently the work I produced largely followed the process of identifying source material of ideas, developing colour studies, working a sample and including in that sample some the techniques and stitches specified in the course materials.

In preparing for this work I became really interested in the vast history and range of weaving styles across the globe.  I was very interested in the traditions of making, the utility of many products of weaving and the cross over in to art both in the past and now.   An earlier visit to the Dovecot in Edinburgh also brought this alive.

In beginning project 9, I set up weaving frames in a number of different ways.  I purchased a ‘school’ loom which was easy to warp up and held the tension very well.   I was able to use long shuttle sticks as well as some weaving bobbins.  It came with a comb for beating down the rows of weaving.  I also acquired an A2 sized frame with simple notches already in the frame which was ideal for weaving with bulkier yarns and materials.   I used a medium weight warp thread to start with but also experimented with silk and then bought a finer cotton warp thread to see how different yarns would work in the weft in relation to the warp threads.

The samples I produced were small (it’s a very time consuming activity) and were based, to start with, on the images and colour studies I had done in project 8.  I already had a good collection of yarns and added to it as I went through this section of the course.   I managed to include all the techniques mentioned in the course materials including plain weave, curved wefts, Soumak and Ghiordes knots (Rya).  These pictures show some of the samples worked at this stage in the course.

Development and soumak sample

Development and soumak sample

Simple weaving using silk yarn on both warp and weft.

Simple weaving using silk yarn on both warp and weft.

Moving on the work with different yarns and materials in stages 3 and 4, I wanted to base a piece of work on the image of painting by William Gear which is a study in black, white and grey.  I worked in a much looser way.  I did use the colour study work I had done but interpreted the work in a more direct way. I liked the loose nature of the textile that was creating and the very restricted palette created an interesting harmony. This piece required weaving by hand as most of the materials were either more chunky or more flimsy than the wool blends I had been using.  I also wanted to curve the weft in places and that required using several yarns or materials at the same time.

Weaving with different materials

Weaving with different materials

I wanted to try out Rya on a larger piece and I developed my design idea from the work I had already based on a painting by Patrick Caulfield.  I wanted to do something quite playful as this seemed to be in keeping with Caulfieds work.  I did not attempt weaving in a representational way but took the colours and some of the shapes from the image and created this piece which demonstrated plain weaving and Rya and tries to use colours sourced from the Caulfield image.

Further development of Caulfield image with samples of Rya

Further development of Caulfield image with samples of Rya

One of the larger pieces I created was developed from some work I had done at stages 1 and 2 on curved wefts and was based on the colours and shapes in the Scottish landscape.  I took this further looking at other images and developing a wider palate.   I wanted to combine weaving with other textiles and with some stitching.  I created a piece of weaving that included a number of the techniques in part 4, building on a number of sources.  I  wanted to develop some ideas of mixed media and mixed textiles.  The weaving was done of the large weaving frame to create a longer narrow strip then, using colour studies and matching techniques I built up a piece with weaving, other textiles, embellishment and stitch to create the colours and shapes of a Scottish hillside.  It was an interesting process and I thought it came together much as I had planned it.

Project 8: Exercises 3 and 4 – Wrapping, binding and interlacing

These two exercises are precursors to the section of tapestry weaving. The first task, Exercise 3, was to take a structure and wrap yarns across the shape. I chose in this sample to use an old embroidery hoop.

Wrapping yarns

Wrapping yarns

Being circular it was difficult to get the yarns to stay in place. I applied some temporary adhesive which held the yarns on until it had built up enough to hold the later layers of yarn. It was held in place finally by the outer part of the hoop being put in place making it a strong and more permanent structure. I used different yarns but all analogous colours. Where the yarns cross over each other it creates a more dense texture. I was particularly interested in the relationship between the more dense wrapping and the light coming through the less heavily wrapped areas. It created interesting negative space.

Exercise 4 took the exploration of wrapping and binding further and introduced interlacing. I created a grid from wooden plant stakes and wire. I wrapped some yarns across several part of the grid and interlaced and wove in different ways in different parts of the grid. I used a range of different threads and yarns. I tried to leave some squares on the grid quite open to have the effect of light coming through and by contrast I made some areas quite dense.

Interlacing on a grid

Interlacing on a grid