Art · ATV - Assignment 5 - Your Capsule Collection · Textiles 1: A Textiles Vocabulary

ATV – Part 5 – Capsule Collection

What a wonderful experience this first course with OCA has been. It’s had it’s ups and downs but in the end I can confidently say that I have learnt loads during the process and I am so glad that I persevered and got to the end, even though I had to skid across the finish line just before the deadline!

I made the decision 13 March to submit what I had completed up to the point for feedback from Rebecca my tutor. I did it with trepidation because I personally didn’t think the 6 capsule pieces were completed, luckily Rebecca didn’t agree but more about that in the next blog.

In the package to Rebecca I posted the cheesecloth shirt. I labelld the front of the garment up as 2 pieces. Further details are on my previous blog post

 On the back of the garment I made a piece with some of the manipulated paper that I still had after completing Part 2 of ATV and one of the design trials I had done during this part of the course that was a my translation of the lines made by the folds in fabric smocking. I also wanted to try another experiment with the rippled yarns that I’d been working on at various stages during the course.

It was the movement and the scrunched up textured nature of the layers of fabric that appealed to me here. There is a rough look to it that points towards the traditional use of layers (smocking, kantha, quilting) to make a piece of fabric stronger and more hard wearing then I have used delicate lines and fragile fabrics to soften the image.

 I really wanted to do far more work on piece 5.  The garment I used as the base is a treasure and it’s made with some delightful linen and white fabric. It’s simple lines are practical and clean. It made a perfect flat base for a fabric painting.

After reading an article in Embroidery magazine I was drawn to the story of the Kibbo Kift, a group of storytellers, nature loving types and illustrators. I don’t have much to say about their politics, that is also for another time but I loved their hand made symbology and garments. They used simple, almost pop art methods (before it’s time) to develop their designs. 

For this part of ATV I had also wanted to use parred down images with strong tonal contrast. I had worked a number of different paper and fabric samples using the image of folds in smocking and the one I thought worked the best was this digitally manipulated design translated using fabric paints and machine stitch.


 I didn’t think I needed to do much with this idea other than enlarge it and trace onto the front of the garment. 

It took quite a while to get the paint mix right to paint in the black, white and greys. I trialled various mixes, from simple textile pens to screen printing paint (to maintain the straight lines) but finally I was able to get a fairly matt and densely opaque finish with acrylic mixed with extender and a fabric medium. 

I could have spent forever trying to get the surface finish exactly as I wanted but time was of the essence so I started the extremely fiddly job of machine stitching the lines. In truth I would have liked to have added loads more stitch, I don’t think it needed more colour but just loads more stitch.

The final 2 pieces I completed on another linen garment that I’d been able to buy off eBay. The fabric on this tunic is very dense but it was perfect for printing on and dyeing.

My first experiment involved using the Lino print block that I had made for my stitch samples. I can see me doing far more Lino printing, the blocks are very easy to make and give a nicely finished print on a variety of fabrics. The lines on the shoulder I did on a whim because I had enjoyed painting directly onto the fabric so much.

For the final piece I wanted to work more freely and organically with a mixed of materials, bringing together my photographed images of the original source documents, my Lino print, my colour palette dip dyed threads. I only managed one collection sample before I ran out of time. I’ve learnt that I need to speed up my approach to the design stages and devote more time to the actual making.

Art · ATV - Assignment 5 - Your Capsule Collection · ATV - Reflections · Textiles 1: A Textiles Vocabulary

The Crazy Scientist 

“The studio is a laboratory, not a factory. An exhibition is the result of your experiments, but the process is never ending so the exhibition is not a conclusion” Clive Ofili 

This is a statement that I can agree with wholeheartedly. I find finishing anything difficult and in the early days I always called my painting and doodling practising and playing. It allowed me to work without judgement and to let my own thoughts direct my hand not all of those beliefs and worries about what makes good art. I happily tried and tested ideas; what could I paint? How flat could I paint? Could I draw a perfect circle? Could I make a surface without any brush strokes? 

I’m still drawn to this kind of work and often love the work of others that is in the preliminary, preparatory design stage; like the unseen work of Louise Bourgeois, these beautiful drawings form part of her extensive sketchbook and drawing collection that would not usually have been seen as exhibition worthy but my goodness me they are!

It appeals to me this idea that my studio is a laboratory, not a lavatory as the spellchecker tried to make it! Though if you were to see it you might be forgiven for seeing that way too, it’s certainly not a factory I would have been shut down by the Health and Safety executive years ago if it was. My room is full of just about to tumble piles of papers and heaps of searched for and now abandoned fabric and fibres, the table is a mess of pens, pencils, jars of strange looking fluids and an ever decreasing spare for a sketchbook or sewing machine to be squeezed into! Even the floor space is covered in curling bits of tape and dogs and cats!! It’s a wonder I ever get anything done. Who wants to work in a factory anyway! 

I can see the advantage of a factory environment if you’ve got a commission to produce a certain number of similar items or you’ve decided to batch together a series of similar actions, Pam Carriker recommends this style of working in her book Art at the Speed of Life. And it can be very useful to paint a batch of sketchbook pages or canvases ready for use later. I used her advice when working on some book shop finds I was turning into altered/sketch books.

Generally I like to work in an exploratory way, my higgledly piddly way of working means I can work in a more random way; I can start making a piece with a pile of materials that I have gathered but as the mood takes me and the piece is coming together I can pick up bits of detritus and left over elements and work them into the piece. Sometimes it’s the leftovers that form the best bits of my favourite pieces. This happened when I was working on my yarn concepts and just lying about were the abandoned in frustrate dye pots from my failed dip dyeing project, they are wax paper and are lovely colours and bam! They soon became one of my favourite yarn concepts. I would have missed this entirely if I’d cleaned up after my last unsatisfactory session.

My inability to ever finish anything and my view that most of my work is a bit weird and really not of any interest to anyone else has always made me shy away from exhibiting, that and the fact that’s it’s always looked like hard work! 

All that blasted stretching, framing, hanging … it sounds all very organised! How do I display my preparatory work? Matthew Harris has got this nailed; his beautiful paper designs and small sample quilts are art works in their own right and are probably far better suited to most homes, rather than his large quilts (as wonderful as the are).

I love this piece of Matthew’s work on Stitchlopp’s blog and her statement about its frame.

A piece by Matthew Harris that I’m pleased to have had on my studio wall for a few years. It is unmounted and unframed but I’ve pinned it to the wall and placed an old frame around it – so you see, I did frame it Matt!

I’m actually really starting to like the idea of being in an exhibition, a bit like writing these blog pages I’m sure it must be a good way to make a halt in what your doing; create a milestone. A time to reflect on what you have created. A time to see your work through the eyes of others and for you to see it in a new light too. Maybe I should order Austin Kleon’s book Show your work!  I love his books and the reviews give an indication that this’ll be as good as the rest!

Yep, so for me I agree with Clive, I love the idea that I am some mad crazy scientist brewing up new ideas and testing out mad theories and that at some point they will be displayed up on a wall or in a cabinet to make other’s tut or smile.