I’m sorry that the blogs for this part of MMT have mostly been pages from my sketchbook but I’ve been on a tight deadline (I want a good 12 months to finish Ideas & Processes and I’ll have done 3 years of Level 1 in March) and because I’m not going to send all of my work for assignment I’ve had to be more visual and explicit in my sketchbook.
This blog covers the work I’ve done with plaster and Polyfilla. This just leaves me with the resin samples to write up and the selecting for assessment. I’m really hoping to have the package on its way tomorrow or Wednesday morning at the latest.
As I had with the Polymer Clay I decided to be a little more playful with my second go with the Paperclay.
I picked out the print textures that I liked best and tried some repeat pressings, some twisting and some more considered trapping of fabric.
I had quite a bit of clay left so I tried making some more specific items; some beads, a linear thread twist and a vase like shape. I don’t think they were very successful and I was happier with the tiles.
These little tiles were easily glued to a scrim background and they took paint very well.
The square tile made a nice little piece.
But the vase was a sad mess.
I discovered that working with clay requires even more forethought than working with fabric. It pays to make holes for stitching and adding wires or threads to make it easier to attach the modelled pieces to a background.
One of the hardest things I’ve found about working with clay has been trying to stop the end result looking like some odd or unpleasant. Like food or mud. Small tiles that can be made into bigger compositions seem to be the best use for it so far.
I was pretty chuffed with Faye’s feedback. I had submitted a huge amount of work and I really appreciated her patience in pounding through all of it. We have agreed that with Part 3 Moulding & Casting I will send less of the actual samples and submit photographs instead. This will allow me to be more experimental with scale, though this is being slightly hampered by the weather and not being able to get outside to do any large scale sampling. But for that I might just have a plan.
Faye highlighted the samples that I’d made that were more pared down and simple. This pleased me because I had tried very hard to produce some more considered and refined pieces. The only problem is there is a little voice in my head questioning if following this route blindly is the best way, am I losing a little of myself and my style my paring my approach back just a little too much.
I thought this was an interesting comment and I’m going to have to adopt this approach if I am to finish Level 1 of this degree within the prescribed timescales. I’m really trying not to worry about time running out but seeing it as an opportunity to fine tune my working processes.
I think that is the main thing to take from this body of work, Sally- try to start extracting more from your ideas and see the value of things being a little more muted. Don’t stop having that initial burst of play, but just be aware of what things have more visual value than others.
Your blog is good, but like we discussed, you don’t have to write so much for each post- often a lot can be said visually with just a few bullet points.
Look forward to seeing what you create within the next project!
I have also been thinking about submission for assessment after this feedback, with A Textile Vocabulary I sent pretty much everything and the left out bits were forgotten not omitted on purpose but this time I’m going to be more selective with the items that I chose to send and I’m going to look at ways to present my work so it creates more of a story for the assessor. I’d like to make it into a 45 minute demonstration/presentation rather than just an outpouring of work.
For the first sample I wanted to test some sewing methods of holding overlapping edges together, the results were okay but I did have to resort to brads to keep the joins secure.
The reverse ended up being quite interesting, helped along by the spotty tape.
I started by making 3 samples using a mixture of white fabrics and natural materials.
A couple of years ago I went to a talk by Ruth Isset and I was intrigued by her way of working, she often makes her pieces in white and creams using different materials and then added dye so she can enjoy the unpredictable way the colour develops on the different fabric/thread compositions.
Once I’d done this I put the samples into metal trays and added a blue procion dye. This worked well on the natural fibres but it didn’t like the synthetic fabrics at all. I would need something else.
The final samples are okay but I’m still finding it very difficult to analyse what I do in an impersonal, considered way, not here on this blog anyway. I think I’m going to have do practising in my sketchbook.
Heck, I’m really quite chuffed with the structural pieces that I’ve made during this exercise, they twist, turn and can be moulded into individual shapes that can be photographed at various angles with different lighting.
Each resulting image, even though they are of the same object invoke their own individual feelings; some are gentle, with similar tones and few angles and others are more dramatic with stronger tones and contrasts. More interest can be evoked by lighting the subject so the texture and pattern is more visible and therefore becomes a stronger element than the tonal contrasts. If you like lines and corners the piece can be manipulated so the edges created by the slashing and sewing are highlighted and bought to the fore.
My second piece is still a paper sample but this time I experimented with a highly patterned origami paper. I’d like to say that I thought long and hard about my colour choice but that wouldn’t be true. I picked this because I liked it.
Surprisingly the origami paper didn’t adapt to my technique as easily as the handmade paper. It stitched beautifully but it was harder to assess (by touch) when it was ready to twist and mould. The paper felt happier and more comfortable when it was flat and only started to move once it had been scrunched up a little bit.
In the end I was still able to get some interesting shots of subject, the pattern made it harder to get the same contrasts in tone as before and I had to rely more on lighting and twisting so the front and reverse of the paper was visible to get an interesting composition.
The big sheet of paper (note the blue – that’s my colour palette now!) was also difficult to mould into interesting shapes once it was cut and sewn a number of times. It was fiddly to stitch because of its size when being fed through the sewing machine. I have to admit that I probably didn’t carry on cutting and sewing enough times but I had lost interest and wanted to move on.
Keeping with the blue and wanting to experiment with a softer more fluid material I repeated the cut and sew action on a jay cloth. I keep these around the place for moping up spills and it looks like they might be now saved from a life of servitude!
It was difficult to keep the join flat and I ended up with rather a nice ridge, I also had a happy accident when I put one of the pieces to sew the wrong way round and I lost the formal rectangular shape. I did play with that for a bit but I’m going to keep that idea tucked away for now or I’ll never finish this exercise.
Now the little ticket is my favourite, it was small so easy to cut and it fed through the sewing machine nicely resulting in a loose join that was easily manipulated. It didn’t take long before the whole surface of the ticket had been altered and affected by my action, I’d put my mark on it but it still kept it original identity; there’s still no mistaking that it’s a train ticket, which journey it was for is less obvious which reminds me of my husbands yearly expenses nightmare where he creates a landscape of little piles of tickets and receipts all laid out in painstaking sifted monthly records mapping his previous 12 month work routine ready for the accountant to assimilate into that years accounts for his company.
As it say’s on my sketchbook page this got me to thinking about all these tickets that I keep as trip souvenirs; would they make an interesting time focused design? Just perfect for the call for submissions for the next edition of Uppercase magazine – if I hadn’t missed the deadline, grrh!
The only good thing was this did make me think about using the passage of time as a theme, this is another idea that I e carefully tucked away for another time, but not before looking up Michele Fandel Bonner who was featured in the Uppercase newsletter and having just a little go at making my own passage of time based collage.
This final piece gives me the most pleasure, it always breaks my heart when I see embroideries and tapestries for sale in charity shops for pennies. We all know how much time and effort goes into the making and it seems so sad to see them undervalued in this way. I often buy the item and take it home, hoping that I can later repurpose it into my own work.
I’ve had this tapestry for a while, it made a small appearance when I was doing my City & Guilds course and as a bonus it’s blue, so I can keep to my colour palette.
It was still sad in a way cutting it up and resewing it back together, it felt quite brutal – especially when I broke a needle on the beads, it was almost like it was fighting back, struggling against the movement of time and it’s rebirth as a less twee and modernised version of itself.
That’s exercise 1 finished, it’s been quite a journey. I thought I would never find a way of making flush joins that would be interesting and inventive without having to result to power tools to cut holes in solid materials. I have an innate fear of drills and an even worse one of welding machines and grinders. Maybe that’s another idea I need to tuck away – face my power tool fear!
Faye’s feedback suggested that I try working an idea in a methodical fashion and it’s a good suggestion. I’m not very happy with the results of my first go at being more methodical but I did like the process.
Before I quite liked this mixed up method but I decided it’s actually better when the edges are finished off with more care.
It was interesting working through a pile of different elements, it made me realise how much value there is in taking this more regimented approach; you do get a sense of satisfaction from watching your result developing and improving.
You also get a nice spread in your sketchbook.
Yesterday after a day of sewing joins you’d have thought I’d had enough but I was getting very frustrated with not being able to find something that I wanted to repeat and experiment with so in the evening I did some hand stitching.
I thought it might be nice to work with some small pieces of fabric and because felt is quite solid and cuts with a smooth edge so that’s what I used.
I made a few structural pieces, the shapes don’t gel very well for me and I think they need more elements to make them work properly.
Using a feather in the joint worked better and I particularly like this first sample. The feather sinks into the felt in a very satisfying way, it looks very comfortable tucked between the 2 edges and the brighter and defined stitches keep it help there safe and secure.
The final sample also benefited from a little iPhone enhancement, the fabric was very soft and it was difficult to sew the feathers across the gap. In the end I gave up and rubbed the feathers to make them frayed and flighty. Pretty but not what I was looking for.
Today I found the cut-sew-cut-sew repeat technique that I really like and would like to explore with different materials and in various sizes but before that I was trying to find a way of joining straight edges together that got me feeling interested and creative.
Whilst I had the sewing machine out I spent some time slicing and sewing some different materials. I had a play with some plastic, keeping to a grey, black and white colour palette to start off with. Mixing in some paper to add a little bit of contrast.
It was easy but didn’t light my fire, apart from this piece where the plastic got caught up between the sides of the feet and made a lovely gentle ridge. I repeated the stitching until the whole piece was stitched through. The ridges and stitches made the plastic look like smocked fabric which always appeals to me.
I felt a bit syntheticed out after sewing the plastic so I stitched a couple of organic, natural items. The feathers were cheating really and although I love the seed pods I think this is very me and doesn’t show me pushing my boundaries enough.
Then I had a play with the balloons! They are fab! The colours are bright and I chose fabrics to join, frame or complement that I thought worked well with the balloon colour and contrasted with the smooth rubber.
The line of bright balloons are stitched together and stand side by side with a soft, white textured slab of felt. They make me think of carnivals and beach huts. I ran out of balloons or I might just have done a few more!
The first few samples I did for this part of MMT involved hand stitch and for this next exploration I decided to have a play with the sewing machine and invisible thread. I was wondering how ‘hidden’ I could make the join.
On the bubble wrap it was visible but looked more like a glued edge.
On the kitchen towel the stitching was hidden but the walking foot on the sewing machine left a repeated indentation. I actually quite liked that and it might actually be useful one day; I love the kitchen towel that I often have left over after a dyeing or painting session. The fabric is really tough these days but still absorbs the dye/ink/Brusho etc without dulling down the original colour.
On the felt I was again left with the marks around the stitches, if not the stitches showing. The join looks almost like a scar running down the centre of the piece. It’s pleasing to look at and adds just a very subtle piece of detail to the base fabric.
This sample using hand made paper with daffodil flowers included in the mix had the best hidden join but that’s probably more to do with the texture in the base paper. It almost felt pointless; I could just have punctured a few holes across the centre of the piece to get the same effect but this did prove that I could stitch easily into this kind of paper and in future I could try with a coloured thread. Or maybe join lots of little pieces together, in a cut, join, repeat manner until there’s not really any conceivable way to cut and join again.
So that was what I did. This piece of paper has little bits of marigold in it which didn’t stop me being able to make smooth cuts.
At this stage the cuts are nice and clean and most of the paper has survived being stitched and sliced a good few times.
I had set out to keep cutting the paper as many times as my nerves would allow. As I continued to slice and sew the paper lost its 3D quality and it started to get more supple, more fabric like. Small scraps of paper broke away and it was impossible to reattach them so there are now some nice organic chinks to add to the distruption of the slashes and holes.
This time I really like the back, it now looks almost ceramic. It’s difficult to tell of the holes and lines haven’t simply been pressed into a soft material. This surface could be made into a stamp for printing or small areas selected and then replicated onto clay.
I went back to when the cut and sewn piece had got a 3D quality to it. I made a second item and twisted it into different shapes.
What a delight! This looks like a little bird, I wonder if I will ever be skilled enough to make more of these in different bird shapes?
The shape can be twisted, turned and manipulated into more abstract compositions and photographed in different lighting to change the areas of light and dark.