Category Archives: 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.
This research point is an investigation in to the work of the textile artist. There are two main areas of focus. The first is to explore the hypothesis that textile art is a relative newcomer to the art scene. The course material notes that it emerged in the 1960s and has been dominated by women moving from Fine Art in to textiles. The research notes below set out some of the ways in which the work of the textile artist differs from that of the designer and designer-maker or craftsperson.
The second part of the research was to focus on the work of two textile artist whose work I find inspiring. The course notes call for research on two artists however I wanted to look at two UK artists: Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn and as they work very closely together. I also wanted to look at the work of the Canadian artist Dorothy Caldwell. I had the opportunity to see each of these artist work on two or more occasions in the last year while I have been studying this course unit so I am able to draw on my own first hand observations as well as written and internet research.
Part 1: The work of the textile artist compared to the work of the textile craft person or designer – maker
What cross over is there in terms of approach, how ideas are used and the textile processes and skills used?
The question of what is art and what is craft is not only much debated, it has been long debated. It is a huge subject and these notes for this research point can not address either the breadth or the depth of the debate. What I hope to note here are the main points in the datable and the implications of that for those working in and studying textiles.
The source I found most helpful on this research point was The Textile Book by Colin Gale and Jasbir Kaur. In a series chapters about the craftsperson, the designer maker and the textile artist they set out the debate, examine the key ‘technical ‘ difference and focus on the nuances and the philosophical underpinning that make this a difficult, sometime confusing and often contested question. I found the arguments they made helpful though the grey areas of course remain grey. What was most helpful, and this is reflected in a number of the articles I read on this subject was the analysis that if we move the debate away from what is superior: art or craft, and focus on the integrity that the work brings then it becomes less about good or bad and more about quality and allows for artists and craftspeople to move back and forward along the continuum. The distinction between artist and craftsperson or designer maker is not understood in the same way around the world. The basis for the Western view of what is craft and what is art was articulated by Kant when he divided the arts in to mechanical and aesthetical areas. This has largely persisted in the description of art in general and is at the heart of the debate about when the use of textiles is art and when it is a craft based pursuit.
The very endeavour to describe the differences between crafts, designing / making and art is of itself and attempt to categorise. Ironically the nature of conceptual art itself if often to challenge and oppose categorisation and this further complicated the debate. Both textile Art and textile Craft and indeed the product of some designer makers usually encompass works made wholly or partly of textiles, fabrics, fibres, threads, yarns, and mixed media. All can include one or more of a variety of techniques including collage, appliqué, patchwork, quilting, embroidery, tapestry weaving, knitting, felting, dyeing, painting, in combination and with other mixed media. Gale and Kaur argue that some of the categorisation of craft and art comes about because of the perceived fiscal or aesthetic value of both the product and the process. Views on what is, and what is not Art or Craft seem also to vary in cultures and different periods in time.
Some of the key properties of textile and art and craft could be described as follows.
• has positive aesthetic properties – it is more concerned with the aesthetic or the concept than the making. In other words – it is about some idea or concept
• is original and creative
• is complex and conveys meaning, ideas, emotions or a standpoint. It makes a statement and it communicated that meaning to the viewer
• it fits in to the art world paradigm, in other words it is seen to be art by the art establishment.
• a craft product is seen to be ‘ about’ its material, structure and
• relies on having been produced by a person with skills. The makers hand is an important aspect of the finished artefact
• often has a basis in or refers to a tradition and ‘speaks the language’ of that tradition.
• is not mass-produced and its appeal is the uniqueness of the object
• Can be useful either in terms of its utility or for its decorative properties
That said works of art and textile craft objects often exhibit aspects that appear in both lists. Both can demonstrate a high degree of skill; both can be complex and creative. However the textile craft works may exhibit originality and creativity, but their basis is in tradition. Textile Art works generally requires a more originality and creativity and indeed can subvert, reinvent or oppose tradition. Textile craft work need not have a utility however textile art works do not attempt to be utilitarian other than to provoke thought and response. A key feature that characterises textile art seems to be the central process of creativity and innovation and having ‘something to say’ or a concept to describe or struggle with.
Part 2: Focussing on three textile artist
Dorothy Caldwell describes her work as ‘a map of land and memory’ . She states that she is interested in the landmarks that give a sense of place and how humans mark and visualize the land. Her work describes her own personal landmarks and she is very interested in portraying a sense of place. Another key feature in the work of Caldwell is that she draws from traditional textile techniques and uses practices like darning and mending not only as part of her mark making but also to convey a sense of repair and reconstruction that links cloth to the marks that generations leave on the land. This sense of both the geographical and the historical reflects rich connections between generations and indeed long periods of human existence. Often working on a very large scale, Caldwell uses concept, line and technique to describe the human condition in relation to the land.
Dorothy Caldwell is a graduate of Tyler School of Art, in Philadelphia. She is internationally renowned and she has travelled widely including working and teaching in India, Japan, and Australia. She has been influenced by the textile practices she has seen and experienced when on her travels and has had a particular focus on the integration of history, including textile practice into contemporary contexts and styles.
In the 1970s a new wave of textile artists were influencing how fibre and textiles were viewed. Whilst work using stitch or textile / fibre had in the past been described as ‘women’s work’ artists like Magdalena Abakanowicz and Ritzi Jacobi reshaped how textiles were used as part of fine art and sculpture, in the 1960s and 70s which influenced Caldwell. Caldwell had begun her art career as a painter but began to explore the possibilities of textiles in the mid 1970s.
Much of Caldwell’s work builds on the traditions of hand stitching and mending. Making marks with stitch, which express ideas and concepts she constructs often very large works, almost monumental in scale. She makes extensive use of resist and discharge dying, screen printing and stitching. Many of her large scale pieces have a palette of black and white or grey tones with patches of brighter colour. Her work is concerned with the relationship we have had through time with stitch, textiles and the land. Her painterly works conveys concepts and have a strong emotional pull.
Jan is the longest serving member of the 62 Group having joined in 1963. She has written many books, teaches and exhibits in the UK and many countries overseas. She started her studies at Southampton College of Art and discovered lithography which she says has been very influential. She then went on to West Sussex College of Art and studied Painting with Lithography. It while was studying afterwards at Hornsey College of Art for her art teacher’s certificate that she discovered the potential of textiles in Art.
Interpreting and being influenced by the landscape is important in the work of Jan Beaney. Her work captures the effect of light and the changes of light on her subject matter. Recent work portraying the tangle of hedges and local environment close to her home has been exhibited this year.
Beaney’s work often portrays the changes of time of day, weather and seasons. Her use of colour is often startling and she created contrast through the use of strong hues and dark rich tones. Like Caldwell her work has been influenced by travel abroad, for example to Australia and, by contrast to the Greek Islands. These very different landscapes have influenced the palette she uses and the nature of her work.
Much of her recent work uses hand and machine stitching which she applies to soluble film to create new surfaces. She develops this further by additional stitching and embellishment to create very rich and textured surfaces. Other techniques such as transfer printing and bonding materials together also characterises her work. The media she uses includes not only fabrics and threads but also paints, dyes, beads, wire, and other mixed media.
Working with Jean Littlejohn, she has set up Double Trouble to promote interest in embroidery and textiles in art.
Also a member of the 62 group In her profile on the 62 Group web pages she is described thus: ‘Jeans works reflect a continuing fascination with pathways and journeys, routines and rhythms and traditional patterns of worn carpets. Her surfaces describe echoes from the past, layers of life and experience and aspects of decay.’
In that respect she is working in similar territory to Dorothy Caldwell focussing on the impact of the past on the present. Her focus on the everyday: surfaces that show time passing when we observe closely and the impact of human interaction with them is a feature of her work. Her work describes the fleeting nature of human presence. She also has a body of work which examines the effect of coastal erosion – again the effects of time in covering up then uncovering the past.
Littlejohn uses a wide range of techniques including layering materials, hand and machine stitching, print and often uses needle punch to integrate layers in her work.
This artists works in mixed media and she varies the materials and techniques she uses depending on the work she is doing.
Also trained as an artist and a teacher of art Littlejohn describes what drew her to textiles when she states that she was interested in the ‘qualities of surface, tactility and the endless palette of materials available for expression of ideas’. Working from observational drawings she develops a range of ideas from which final designs emerge. She also references history and geology and pulls these concepts and design ideas together. The resulting images are a synthesis of observation and historical references that.
The Textile Book, Gale C and Kaur J, Berg 2002
Traces: Mapping a Journey in Textiles, exhibition catalogue
Short video clip of Barbara Lee Smith, the curator of ‘Traces’ talking about the work and the processes of working of Dorothy Caldwell
Interview with Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn
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.
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.
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.
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.
I enjoyed constructing surfaces. I think I could have made more samples but felt I did enough to get and understanding of the principles and put these in to practice. I did end up producing some samples that I might not have produced otherwise.
I was interesting in exploring the properties of the materials I used and the way they behaved in the structures I constructed. Clearly the finer the yarn the more work goes into creating surfaces and consequently thin threads and yarns lend themselves to more detailed and smaller scale pieces. It would be interesting to work on larger scale if time permitted. When I was at the garden centre buying the plant stakes to make my small wooden grid I was tempted to buy garden trellis material and work on much larger scale – perhaps with cut up jumpers or clothes. I might do this yet as I think it would be really interesting. I can also see how I could consider this idea as part of my theme development of seeds and seed head. The connection between a garden trellis and attaching yarns and textiles constructions on the theme of decay and renewal could be quite and interesting line of experimentation.
I found the exercise in colour matching quite instructive and it built on the colour matching exercises we were asked to carry out earlier in the course. The matching I did with threads and yarns was to some extent dependent on the materials I had in my collection but I did manage to get reasonable matches for the sources I used. I especially like the effect of not just matching the colour but also thinking about the texture when choosing appropriate yarns. Again I applied this activity to my theme book and found it quite helpful.
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.
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.
This stage of the course is about structure. In essence it is about converting line in to area. In exercise 1 we are asked to weave together two paper images. I chose to use an image of a stained glass window from a collection I have of saints associated with the coast (St Columba) and for the other a picture of the coast at Iona.
Although it is a simple task I liked the idea of weaving two images which are woven in time and place as a concept. I had been collecting coastal images and coastal saints as part of a possible theme for exploration a later date and the idea of weaving two or more parts of a theme together literally as well as figuratively is something I could come back to.
Exercise 2 was about making ropes and braids. I wanted to use a variety of yarns including some I had made myself. I made some yarns from plastic bags and from t-shirts cut up and stretched into a sort of rolled yarn. The contrast in these two materials was really interesting, in particular the amount of stretch in the t-shirt yarn compared to the plastic.
I made a number of different ropes and braids. I experimented with thickness of yarn and in combining two or more yarns together in braids.
One practical application of braiding is to hold embroidery threads whilst in use. I learned to this as a child as it protects the thread and prevents kinks. These lovely Egyptian space dyed yarns I was given as a gift are attractive in themselves when braided.
Part 4 of the course unit is about textile structures. Building on the work in part 3 on creating texture and 3D it will be predominantly about interlaced structures. This will include processes of weaving, plaiting and knotting. At the heart of this is the process of turning line in to area. Looking at everyday textile items I noted that almost all were woven textiles. A few were knotted,, my bathmat for example, but even that was on a woven base. Window cords and washing lines were examples of plaiting.
My first task was to collect together all my yarns and to sort these in to colour groups. These images below show a selection grouped in that way. A lot of my scrap yarn is not a single colour so I needed to judge the overall colour group. I will need to build up my collection of yarns as I have gaps in both colour and in the range of weights of yarn that I have.
The next activity in this part of the course was to analyse colour, texture and proportion. This exercise was designed to develop skills in working directly from visual sources as a means of generating ideas for structures, texture, colour and pattern.
I chose 5 images to work from. Each was a postcard of a painting or a print. I like to use cards which I have collected at exhibitions or galleries in part because I have seen the actual work first hand and have an idea of the scale of the work, the curator’s notes and the space in which it was hung. I chose two images of paintings I had seen in the art gallery and museum in Orkney, a painting by Philip Cauldwell from the summer exhibition at the Tate Britain and two images of prints by David Hockney I had seen a couple of weeks ago. I chose the Hockney for the bold colour.
The exercise involved identifying and matching the colours in the image and painting or colouring these in my sketchbook. I chose to used acrylic paint as I find I can get better colour matches. The second stage was to match yarn. I used mainly wool and threads of different composition. What was really interesting was to try to reflect the texture as well as the colours. Each of the 5 images were very different and this gave rise to some interesting selection of yarns. This example was from a print by David Hockney.