OCA Study Visit – Making Space at Macclesfield Silk Museum

On Saturday I went on my first OCA study visit to view the 62 Group of Textile Artist’s exhibition called Making Space, which is there as part of the Barnaby Festival in Macclesfield. The exhibition is being held in the Macclesfield Silk Museum, and as well as seeing Making Space, we were also able to visit the museum and the accompanying silk mill to see the original silk cloth looms.

After a brief get together in the cafe we made our way to the exhibition and immediately went our separate ways to look at the exhibits.

My initial impression was that this was a light and airy room but with not a lot to see. Then I realised that almost ever space and corner was filled with textile pieces. There was a very eclectic and varied mix of interpretations and techniques in evidence. In fact after a longer look round I could see that the room was quite cramped and although efforts had been made to place the pieces in the most flattering and pleasing way some of the exhibits had missed out and there was evidence that some pieces had been shoe horned into awkward corners.

It was difficult to really study all of the displays on a limited time budget so you had to gravitate to the pieces that caught your eye and the first piece that drew me in was Lucy Brown’s Ladies Companions.

They were inside a glass case which was a good idea because they just asked to be touched, to be examined but they were so delicate and intricate that I wouldn’t have trusted my clumsy hands with them!

The use of human hair woven into vintage sewing items gave them a slightly disturbing feel, not everyone agreed with me when I said they were macabre and made me think of strange talismans and voodoo dolls.

Reading through Lucy’s interview in Radical Thread (1).  I was drawn to why and how she uses weaving as a language and a method to reconstruct/ re-invent raw materials to explore ideas about re-telling/re-working histories’ What a wonderful idea and so relevant to Part 4 of A Textile Vocabulary.

The next piece I was drawn to was Caroline Bartlett’s piece Journey. I was bound to be drawn to this one because it included smoking in its design. I loved the look and design of this piece, I liked the way it was self contained and simply hung on the wall without a frame. The clock likes shape links well to her description of the piece and links to time and duration.


I loved the use of smocking in this piece and the gentleness of the shape. The use of blue and the red bought the composition together, gviving it interesting points of light and focus.

I find Caroline’s particularly interesting and relevant to my own work on ATV.  In Radical Thread she says ‘I like to work across a breath of practice, switching between gallery based work and responses to site; historical, museological and archival’

There is evidence in her work of the adaptation and transformation of traditional methods into thoughtful and considered pieces of contemporary art.

This is something I would love to be able to do successfully and I will take her words with me as I tackle the next exercise in ATV.





Ann Goddard’s pieces were the ones that engaged me the most, I really did have to stand on my hands to stop myself from touching and poking and prodding the textures and individual elements. I was helped by the fact they were displayed on the floor and getting down there would have meant getting back up, not an easy task these days!


I just loved the way these little cocoon like pieces were held within the harsh concrete mood. I wanted excavate down and dig them out to see what lay beneath.

I wrote in my notebook:

” you want to dig your fingers in and see if the concrete will release it’s captor. I feel the need to release the bud/large type pieces, pull them free and investigate the hole, what is left? What is behind/beneath the cotton?”

















The other piece by Ann Goddard I found equally arresting. I loved the folded and spiky forms that were all the same but all also unique, they all lay in tantalising ways. There was a sadness about the piece, it was difficult to accept that these may have been dying or dead creatures struggling to survive in the wake of man’s destruction of their environment. It was particularly alluring that they had been laid out with distance between each piece and in their position below the window the pieces cast little or no shadow.


I love the way the pieces are called ‘twisted constructions that represent small life forms’















Already this exhibition had demonstrated the aims of the 62 Group to ‘show strong, innovative work to the widest possible public through the continuing exploration of this most basic medium which touches us all’. (1)

I particularly liked this quote from Ann Goddard, in the book of interviews of the members to celebrate their 50 years called Radical Thread, referring back to 2005, when the group (62) was questioning the relevance of calling themselves ‘textile’ artists.

Ann says ‘ because of my border position (between ceramics and textiles) I have never really known what to describe myself myself as, but I know I personally need the parameters of textile practice as an unlying influence on my work’ (2)

She goes on to say that she hopes the group continues to promote, and encourage awareness of, contemporary art practice using or referencing textile elements and processes in the broadest sense.

I’m was very aware that at this point I had not been drawn to any of the traditional style textile pieces, the quilts the embroideries. This in a way demonstrates the changes that undertaking this OCA course is bringing about in my personal view of textile art, at times this has been difficult, and yarn and linear explorations have particularly boggled my brain but as I stood in that bright room in Macclesfield surrounded by so much variety I felt suddenly revived and inspired.

It is wonderful how looking and appreciating the work of others can change your mind set in such a positive way.

The next pieces I looked at were Debbie Lyddon’s stunning beautiful pieces, Holed Cloth 1 & 2.














As I said, they are stunning, the pieces had been soaked in sea water for 6 weeks and grown a beautiful organic skin of salt crystals. At first the surface appeared matt but as you looked closer there were little glimmers and reflections of light. The pieces are folded so that your view through the holes is impeded, at times the holes are huge spaces of nothingness that then crumples and is blocked by the stiff fabric that surrounds it.

I love the way that the pieces have been displayed, it isn’t framed or protected but left open to the elements and I wonder how this will alter the salt cover? If I see it again will it be different?

At this point I made this observation in my notebooks:

“Change and the ability to alter (by my hand or nature) – I see this as a theme that I like in this exhibition”

There were 4 pieces that I felt linked in directly to my current project in A Textile Vocabulary and yarn collections.

Firstly there were Shuna Rendels own linear exploration and her larger resolved piece Reflect. I love the way she calls her technique: Complex Linking.


It was wonderful to find something at the exhibition that so perfectly demonstrated what has been required by the exercises in this part of ATV. I’m still not completely sure that I’m following the brief exactly but now I can see how the pieces you produce can be worked into pleasing forms and textile related pieces. Later this will be further demonstrated by Jean Drapers beautiful organic thread creation.

Shuna’s sculptural design was very fluid and tactile, it looked like it had grown out over the confines of its display plinth and was trying to see how far it could go before it toppled to the floor. I loved the contrast of the dark and light in the brown fibres and the gentle sweep of the base was very pleasing to the eye.









Jean Draper’s book about using structure has been one that I have referred to often during Part 4 of ATV and I was looking forward to seeing one of her pieces. I wasn’t disappointed but I did feel that it had been hung in a very poor location and in fact that was one of the low points of the exhibition; so much has been squeezed into such a small space that some of the pieces hadn’t been displayed to their best and both Jean’s and Jan Beaney’s work suffered for lack of space.

I loved Jean’s piece despite this and wrote in my notebook ‘beautiful twists & turns & links, layers of depth and texture and again a stand alone structural piece’











Dorothy Ann Daly’s exhibit was a more traditional selection, I wasn’t particularly wowed by the piece but I loved the description.





















Finally I was taken by Atsuko Yamamoto’s beautiful lace called Time Warp. Again this piece wasn’t displayed to it’s best advantage, it was hung in front of a white background in shade so it was difficult to see the intricacies of the weave. It still had a beautiful ethereal quality to it and still cast some delightful shadows.












These pieces I have chosen to blog about were only a very small part of a very eclectic and varied exhibition and then the museum and the tour around the silk mill next door and the company of like minded artists made for a fabulous day.


The 62 Group of Textile Artists

Radical Thread (1) (2)

Making Space

Macclesfield Silk Museum

Lucy Brown

Caroline Bartlett

Ann Goddard

Debbie Lyddon

Shuna Rendel

Jean Draper

Dorothy Ann Daly

Atsuko Yamamoto

Priscilla Jones





ATV - Ex 4.2 - Experimental yarns & concepts · ATV - Part 4 - Yarn and Linear Exploration · ATV - Reflections · Textiles 1: A Textiles Vocabulary · Uncategorized

Review Point: Demonstration of Creativity


This has been another interesting and inventive assignment from the OCA. I’ve ventured into area’s of textile art that I’ve never been into before. The idea of making my own yarn or thread has never occured to me, so I’ve had my eye’s well and truely opened.

Looking back at the full collection of yarn concepts I can see variety but also a similar style. I’m not sure I can describe my style yet. I seem to be drawn to natural materials, no plastic here and more natural colours, no bright florescents, well maybe just a little bright orange! Can I honestly call this variety? I’m not so sure.  I do have some ideas for materials for the next project but I’m still going to find it difficult to experiement with more synthetic materials.

My original plan to drip dye my yarn concepts was, I felt was more inventive than my final pieces but I fell at the first hurdle because the concept didn’t work very well. I know to make this work I have to apply more time to the preparation and mechanics of what I want to do. At the time I didn’t feel I had that time and I wasn’t sure if it would remain relevant throughout the project so I decided to place it aside.  So I don’t feel that I can say that I went above or beyond the brief for these exercises, but I did show the potential to do that and I’m sure I will in the future.

It’s not been easy to present the yarns but I am happy with how they look in my sketchbook, I particularly like the ones that I’ve wrapped around card with a tail hanging down. I’m not so sure the sellotape was a perfect choice so I might go back later and find a more attractive way to attach the yarns to the page.

I’m happy with how I source my materials, I’m a total magpie and I never leave anything behind. Those cupcake cases covered in dye from the drip dyeing experiement are still my favourite elements. I’ve got some nice melted glass from an abandoned and burnt out car that I’d like to use in the next project.


ATV - Ex 4.2 - Experimental yarns & concepts · ATV - Part 4 - Yarn and Linear Exploration · ATV - Pt4 - Pj1 - Exploring Lines · Textiles 1: A Textiles Vocabulary · Uncategorized

Tones & Textures

This is the last part of exercise 4.2 Experimental Yarns & Concepts, it involves looking back at the neutral fabric explorations done in previous colour studies.

I decided to use these 3 studies that I did with a very pale piece of devore fabric with different coloured backgrounds. I really like the subtle colours and had been hoping for an opportunity to explore with them further.


I’ve used the winding method again; it’s become my favourite way to make these yarn concepts and I can see that they will make excellent bases for adding more detail if I decide to explore with them further.


I’ve still tried to use a variety of threads and played with putting some of the colours together in different amounts and combinations. I also tried to make sure there were interesting changes in the tonal values of the colours.

IMG_1147 (1)

I’m finding it very difficult to photograph these yarns. I’ve tried some close ups but it’s still hard to show the full pieces.

After completing these tonal concepts it was time to try and translate the textural qualities of the fabric sample. The devore doesn’t immediately say texture; I sat for a while and rubbed the flurry bits of velvet and the rougher rivers of lace inbetween. I noted that there was a clear contrast between the 2 areas and that the edges were cut quite sharp, but the piece had frayed edges.

IMG_0028 (1)

For the first sample I found some rough ribbon and some frayed ribbon to this I tied some softer and smoother wool and then ran the whole thing through the sewing machine. I see this as a direct translation of the ‘words’ I used to describe the textures of the fabric but I didn’t feel that it did that visually.


So I sought out a base surface that was similar to the devore and found some mozaic felt that I had previously made.  So for this sample I cut the felt into strips and backed with the frayed ribbon, I attached these together with a running stitch on the sewing machine, adding little blocks of felt to create more raised areas. To excentuate the inlayed orange felt I hand stitched the lines and then stitched on the orange beads that have a devore/velvet surface. I felt I was getting closer to what I could see in my mind but that I was trying to cram too much detail into one piece.

As a translation I’m much happier with this concept. I highlighed the edges of the orange and brown felt with machine stitch and also caught the edges of some lacy scrim into the brown areas to replicate the ‘burnt out’ lace areas of the devore. I then cut the felt into thin strips and sewed them together.

The colours look more interesting in real life and I caught see myself actually using this concept as a yarn. I’m not completely happy with it visually but I think it’s a good first sample.


Finally I found some metal edged ribbon poking out of a draw and decided to use this as a base for some scrim, cut in a thin strip and some chenile knitting yarn held down with some zigzag machine stitch. I was able to crumple up the construction and fold and overlap it. It was just a bit of fun but I quite like the result.


This is them altogether with my simple notes. That’s all of the yarn concept experiements done now so after a more indepth review, have I been creative enough? it’s onto creating linear forms. I’m slightly worried about this, I’m sure my C&G pals will smile when they remember my attempts to rip tower shapes/linear forms from paper. I’d soon created a number of shapes that would have made my Mom blush and my teenage son’s giggle, or a should that be the other way round!!


ATV - Ex 4.2 - Experimental yarns & concepts · ATV - Part 4 - Yarn & it's Manufacture · ATV - Part 4 - Yarn and Linear Exploration · ATV - Pt4 - Pj1 - Exploring Lines · Textiles 1: A Textiles Vocabulary · Uncategorized

Constraints of Colour

The next part of ATV and development of yarn concepts has taken me into the world of colour. I am far more used to letting colour develop, its rarely my starting point unless of course I’ve picked some beautiful threads or fabric and I’ve linked their choice by colour.

I had to select one of my colour textile studies completed in the previous project; I chose this study because I have always been fascinated by the colour palette and intrigued by how the selection worked together in a slightly unsettling way.

It didn’t take me long to gather together a huge pile of thread, yarns and more unusual elements to use to make the yarn concepts.


Let me just say that making yarns is fiddly, one of the most fiddly things I’ve ever done. The visions in my head of the yarns I would like to make soon prove to be too difficult or complicated to work through so I decided to keep the colour explorations very simple.

It was lovely winding the different threads around a centre made out of stiffened mulberry twine. I could see plenty of uses for these ‘threads’ to make 3D pieces and to use on stitched pieces; couched down to fill large areas in a more interesting way than simply using close stitches.

I was very surprised that the individual colours from the colour palette worked together well in different combinations, I always thought it was the full combination that made it work.

These 2 concept yarns I actually made before I did the simple colour combinations but I soon felt that these fitted more into the ‘unusual materials’ category.

The little leaf piece was worked using a dark brown synthetic fabric, I cut it roughly but wasn’t satisfied with the result; the fabric was too floppy and looked unfinished. To remedy this I mixed some Pavapol (a textile hardening agent) with some Stewart Gill textile paint and painted and modeled and leaves in to more pleasing shapes.

I used the orange fabric beads to replicate the circles in the original textile piece and worked at including all of the colours in the colour palette. I like the thin outlines in this extension painting that I did so used slender pieces of white and yellow to replicate those links.


After a detour back to make the four colour combination yarn concepts I went back to translating the colour palette using unusual materials. I’d been looking for ways to include feathers into my work without them becoming twee or passe, I’m not completely sure I have accomplished my mission but I have used some feathers and I like the result.

The final piece is worked using beads, metal wire and some thin threads sewed in and out of the twisted base.

Once I get started I find that I can run easily with these challenges, it’s taken me a long time to see the potential of making my own yarns and threads. I would never have thought of doing this; I might have bought new threads, or even dyed some threads but I would never have gone down this route. This is why even when I feel like throwing in the hat and admitting that I’ve bitten off far more than I can chew I keep going. I fight down this urge to bow out because I am learning so much and when I do concentrate I love every minute of this course.

ATV - Pt4 - Pj1 - Exploring Lines · Textiles 1: A Textiles Vocabulary · Uncategorized

Down the garden path and back again

Linear Studies? These have been giving me some hassle. I took quite a running jump into this part of A Textile Vocabulary, I filled in some sketchbook pages and worked though some worries about how to make the outcomes my own and decided on a process that involved using dripping dye to make the individual strands more interesting.

On a visit to Bilston Art Gallery I was very lucky to see an exhibition by the Through Our Hands group and specifically a piece by Clare Jones. Clare’s piece made a statement about our treatment of the environment and particularly about our use of water and dye. She hung the most beautiful strips of pieced silk and above she placed tubs of dye. On the ground were bowls of grains to symbolise the bounty that the earth gives us. Over time the dye slowly ran down through the fibres of the silk, following their own paths and creating their own organic patterns.

It was no small ask but I wanted to try and replicate this idea using yarn instead of dye. My brain buzzed with ideas but it soon became evident that I had bitten off more than I could chew. So because of the tight timescales I decided to have a go at implementing some of my ideas in a very simple way.

First I experimented with one length of yarn.

I was very excited and in my haste I made a good few mistakes, I didn’t wet the yarn so the dye just bounced off where it hit. I didn’t put enough work into making the dripping tray fit for purpose and the dye struggled to get out of the pot in a nice steady stream. It was an interesting exercise and I learnt a lot about what needed to be done next time.
I chose a variety of 30cm pieces of yarn in lots of different thicknesses but all in creams or whites with a few pink and green variegated elements.

They looked very lovely and nice together.

For a while I included some eco- dyed threads but decided they were too drab to be included.
Using these yarns I made some interesting threads by adding knots of some of the yarns along the lengths of the others. I used my instinct to decide what should be a length and what should be a knot.

I decided that this time I would use coated paper fairy cake cases to hold the dye; this would enable me to make a bigger whole with a nice jagged edge. I attached the knotted lengths to the cake cases using a nice big solid sewing pin.

This I then hung these between a variety of jars I had sitting around my workroom. This bought on feelings of doubt, I knew I was rushing and that things would become very messy!

This time I had actually thought to wet the lengths but I’d still not done this properly and had to spray the yarn with my expensive Elemis face toner just because it had a spray top and was to hand. At least the smell was very nice.

The dye still wasn’t dripping properly, I couldn’t see any movement and I soon became impatient and started to add water to the cake cakes. Let the messiness begin!!
Thinking quickly I grabbed some plain cloth to catch the dye as it ran quickly, too quickly down the lengths. And mopped up any mess with kitchen towel, not quite saving my notes!

In the end I forced myself out of the room and let the dye drips take their own course.

After they had dripped for a while I let them dry and then cut of the threads leaving just the knots.

In the end this just didn’t inspire me. They are not the delicate organic pieces that I wanted. They are stiff and quite drab. I really love subtle but I’m not very comfortable with drab.

It felt so deflating to have had, what had felt like such a great idea, an idea to turn to something I didn’t like. I blamed myself for rushing and not taking the time to be more considered and accurate with my experiments.

I ignored the whole exercise for some while, probably sulking and definitely procrastinating. The whole exercise has left my workroom sticky and dirty and me feeling frustrated and ready to abandon the whole course. Really, I promise I’m not a drama queen, really, I’m not!! Okay, okay I can sometimes take this all far too seriously.

The best outcomes have come from the unexpected accidents and ‘tools’ I used. Typical!!


Why Color Is Irrelevant

So relevant for me at the moment.

Susan Carlson Quilts

I like color. No, I mean, I really like color. Often, I like more color than appears naturally in my subjects. A pink rhino? Been there. A multi-colored dodo bird? Done that.

Despite that, it’s actually value that allows me to indulge my passion for color.

In a comment on a previous blog, a follower asked me if I would describe how I inject vibrant, non-realistic color into my pieces:

My pieces are natural and realistic and I feel a bit intimidated by the abstract pieces I see around me but I know what speaks to me. I would like to make the leap to translate the actual colors to the bright and fanciful as you did with Croc. That would be my next step. Will you be talking about how you translate your color values to the palette you have?It’s wonderful! For now I can’t ‘see’ beyond the real coloring.

—Ginny from 

View original post 1,031 more words


Where was day 3?? (Alberto Burri)

When I came back off holiday I set myself the challenge of blogging everyday. Now anyone who knows me will know how unreliable I am and disorganised so it’s no surprise that I only managed 2 days!! 

As a result of these behaviours I’ve also had to learn to be very forgiving of myself and have had to surround myself with very forgiving and understanding friends, I love you all!

So please accept this as yesterday’s blog, much like the 2 parcels I sent yesterday that I promised to send over 3 weeks ago!!

One of my degree research points was on Wabi Sabi, a Japanese concept of finding beauty in decay and the impermeable. This sits very well with me and researching artists has been a joy. 

In my search I discovered Alberto Burri, an Italian gentleman who passed on in 1995. He had been in the Italian army during WWII and had spent time as a POW in America.

There he had begun expressing his feelings through art using what came to hand, mostly burlap fabric which he stitched and burnt. There is a delicate rawness to his pieces from this time and on his return home, where he continued to use burlap in his work.

Where as the archive textile garments I have studied have only general wear and tear, that tell of happier times, Burri’s pieces speak of destruction and a need to repair (he was an army doctor). Holes and frays remain, reminding us of the long term damage to bodies and minds caused by war. I personally find his work very moving and sad. 

I have gathered more pictures and articles about him on a Pinterest board

Burri continued to develop his skills and developed a technique called  Combustione.

It’s funny how serendipity can guide you in a direction and it’s a while before you can see where you’re going; only a few weeks ago I was drawn to a new book New Ideas in Fusing Fabrics. I’ve always steered away from these techniques because of the H&S issues and quite frankly it’s all started to look very dated.
Using synthetic fabrics has gone out of fashion and I couldn’t understand why I was buying a book that recommended it’s use when I was working predominantly in traditional fabrics like cotton and linen. I’ve even bought a soldering iron!

So maybe here in Burri’s work is the answer, I’m not sure exactly what yet but there’s something calming about letting coincidence take the lead, like floating on a river on a lilo. Hopefully it won’t turn out like my last kayak ride down a river in a huge black & blue bruise.


ATV - Ex 1.3 - Making Marks · ATV - Ex 1.4 - Lines & Edges · ATV - Ex 1.5 - Collage & Creases · ATV - Ex 1.6 - Detail & Definition · ATV - Pt1 - PJ2 - Recording & Capturing · ATV - Reflections · Textiles 1: A Textiles Vocabulary · Uncategorized

Nearly done – archive textiles sketchbook

Its taken a while but I’m almost there. Following on from the visit to the museum to observe 3 archive textile pieces I’ve been working on a sketchbook to record and capture the qualities of the 3 garments.

I made this sketchbook using a guide to Manchester I found in a hotel room, some pva glue and a load of torn papers.

Over the last few weeks I have filled it up with:

Line drawings    

Definition and detail records



I couldn’t resist a little bit of stitch! 


So now nearly all the pages are full. There is very little writing so I am going to add more detail about my choices and methods.

And to finish it all off I’m going to decorate the cover with this wonderful piece of fabric given to me by a friend.



Wabi Sabi – Research

What a wonderful concept and a brilliant excuse for me to carry on taking photographs of holes in walls and broken bits of metal!

And, indulge my slightly odd love of abandoned leaves and feathers.

I also hope it means I can keep on collecting broken shells and others bits of ephemera that I see lying around on the floor.

And best of all I don’t have to be a completer/finisher!


ATV - Ex 1.3 - Making Marks · ATV - Pt1 - PJ2 - Recording & Capturing · ATV - Reflections · Textiles 1: A Textiles Vocabulary · Uncategorized

Making Marks – Lines & Edges – Collage & Creases – Detail & Definition

The alterered sketchbook is working very well for this next stage in Project 2 – Recording and Capturing. The pages are filling up with my adventures into making marks and recording the qualities of the 3 textile pieces.

I became a little worried that I maybe concentrating on the details too much and not gathering a sufficently varied picture of the pieces so I went back to the course materials and reviewed the first exercise on mark making. Making some notes on materials and mediums.


One of my favourite books on design for textiles is by Helen Parrott and is helpfully titled Mark-making in Textile Art. Helen has written this book with clear, practical instructions and excellent photographs. It’s very easy to follow and I have used her guidance often before. 


It therefore seemed obvious to use Helen’s guidance to gather some notes on the 3 textile pieces, to help me ensure I covered all the aspects of the garments that I wanted to include, to build up a treasury of shapes, motifs and patterns to consider later for design work.




Now the workroom is tidy and I can get to all of my supplies and now that I have some more comprehensive notes I can really get down to completing the required number of drawings and collages. But, first Art in Action. Does that really count as procrastination?!!