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?!!  


Clearing some space.

Its been very quiet on the degree work front the last couple of weeks. I was throughly enjoying doing the small drawings in the altered sketchbook but finding it very difficult only having a sette nest and a very messy workroom to work in. In truth it was driving me barmy!

I really couldn’t bear it any longer so the big tidy up began!! I think I’ve clearered out Argos of plastic drawers and for a while both this room and my bedroom were in complete turmoil. But now, after a week of sorting, throwing out and gathering bags of stuff for the charity shop I am done!


It is wonderful to have this lovely bright room to work in, I’ve no idea how long it will stay this way but I’m going to give it my absolute best.


Textile Archive – Making Marks

It wasn’t easy trying to make some observational drawing in a short space of time with 3 items from a historical archive. I was restricted to using a pencil and my sketchbook, I also had my cameras so I was able to take plenty of photographs. 

I found this article in the Craft magazine, I like the advice and the lines and marks that Nik has made but all of the drawing items look expensive to me!


So then I found another article in Cloth Paper Scissors which really caught my eye. I love the way Yukimi uses unusual items from nature as drawing tools.  The environment in the archives meant I was not able to be this experimental but I have stored this ideas for the next exercise: Line & Edges.

Drawing on the Go

With this quick sketch I was aiming to quickly draw the complicated darning. To create a feel of the general shape and the lumpy quality of the stitch over laying the linen fabric.

In Helen Birch’s book freehand she says you can use ‘the drawn line to show what is in front of us, or to depict an idea that is in our mind’. I would highly recommend this tactile little book. It is very contemporary and full of great photos and guidance.  The artists are are very accessable and most can be found on Pinterest


It can be very daunting looking at a large object, like a smock coat and it can be so much easier to handle in bite sized pieces as described by Gwen Hedley’s book Drawn to Stitch.  In Chapter 3 she tells us ‘ It is the nature of the line that you are trying to capture, and not the entire object. If, for example, you are observing a complex linear marking on a shell, isolate an area and study the lines out of context. We are looking simply at a line. 

I took Gwen’s advice and started drawing stitches, folds and textures on the bodies of the garments.



I find it incredibly difficult to draw with complete accuracy, it left me feeling very inadequate when I was at school. Drawing a portrait or a landscape would bring me out in a cold sweat. So after 2 years of being demoralised and just scrapping through with a C in my O’level Art exam I accepted my art teachers prediction that I would just not be good enough for art school and left my art aspirations behind. 

Over the last 20 years views on art and creativity have changed considerably and thank goodness they have. Mick Maslen and Jack Southern’s book Drawing Projects explaining this very eloquently. 

When completing the observational drawings I found these old insecurities resurfacing and I almost found myself limiting myself to drawing some elements of the garments. But then I remembered that is not just about reality; a drawing is ‘an approximate attempt at depicting a perceived truth’ (Maslen & Southern)

This drawing gave me a little panic, it shows the gentle flow of the fabric but without the label you would have no idea what it was a drawing of.

So I loosen up, dropped my sholders and reverted back into a doodle style that I am more comfortable with.



For me the bible of observational drawing is Helen Parrott’s book Mark-making in Textile Art, she explains in very clear and simple terms how to gather visual information to be developed and used later in considered designs. 

I used her methods for a sketchbook I prepared after my first trip to the desert in Morocco. I particularly like Gwen’s advice about keeping enough information to enable you to recall what you have observed and to add written notes alongside your observational drawings. 


I am fascinated by the construction of the sleeves on the 2 smocks so put my best foot forward and made a more accurate drawing of the sleeve of the smock shirt.


The next exercise will enable me to explore and experiment further with these drawings and my photographs. Maybe I will use my new handmade/altered notebook from Manchester.



Planning Exercise – A Textile Vocabulary – Part 1 – Observing & Capturing

Suddenly I have realised I have a load more work to do on this part of A Textile Vocabulary! Time for a planning exercise (procrastination or sensible idea, I’ll let you decide!!)

I’m looking forward to all of these exercises, it’s all about drawing, mark making and collaging. My favourites so although I’m running behind on my deadlines I’m not going to let it get on top of me and let the deadlines suck all the fun and excitement out of what I’m doing.

Project 1 and 2 revolve around the pieces I selected and viewed at the Shropshire Museum Archives and I’m going to focus on these during this planning exercise.

Project 1 – Selecting and Identifying

Exercise 1.1 – The Archive.

After some hiccups at the beginning this exercise is now all done. 

Exercise 1.2 – Substance & Story

After the visit to the archive I have written 3 blogs using 3 different styles. I have chosen this route because the brief asks for you to review the items in terms of their substance and stories.

Duster Coat – This blog I wrote in a simple report style, with lots of photographs and information about what I observed during the visit. There is a small paragraph about the story I could envisage for this garment.
Linen Smock Coat – I took a risk with this blog and decided to write it as a story, weaving the ‘substance’ information into the narrative. 
Linen Smock Shirt – I found an application called Adobe Slate and used this to write this blog. It’s very visual and makes a capsule of photographs and information that slides upwards with information and photographs on ‘slates’ moving across base photographs. Perfect for displaying a lot of information is a smaller space than a normal blog layout. The only issue that I really had was that it doesn’t currently link seamlessly to my blog. 

Project 2 – Recording and Capturing

All of the 4 exercises in this project are a progression of mark making and different methods to capture the substance and qualities of the 3 textile items. My plan to work through these but not necessarily in a linear fashion. I’m not going to seperate the items but look at them as one collection of images and work from there.  

The danger with this is that I lose the value of the ‘story’ information and depersonalise the garments. This will need some more thought.


Exercise 1.3 – Making Marks

I actually think I might have enough information to complete the exercise, I made a number of drawings at the archive visit and I’ve done some research on simple mark making in my sketchbook. I have already included the drawings in the previous so I’ll need another angle that keeps them interesting and not just a simple repeat!

Exercise 1.4 – Lines & Edges

This is going to be an interesting foray into using simple methods to take some observational drawings. The brief asks for 8 to 12 drawings.

My planned process is:

Select some photographs with some interesting lines — Select some drawing tools, have a walk and gather some unusual items and create some personalised tools — take a line for a walk; drawing with my left hand, drawing with my eyes closed, lots of free form — chose different types of lines to express the different qualities of the items.

Exercise 1.5 – Collage & Creases

I have aleady started this project and it only asks for 2 to 3 collages, so I’m well ahead here, there is more likely to be a problem with me actually stopping!

Exercise 1.6 – Detail & Definition

The 3 textile items are full of interesting details so this shouldn’t be too difficult at all. 



A Little Break – research and contemplation.

After finally finishing the 3 garment study blogs for the Textile Archive exercise I felt I needed a day of Pritt and scissors. I’m always ripping articles and interviews out of magazines, some because I just like them and some because there is a link, sometimes very tenuous to what ever project I am working on at the time. 

My three textile items were selected because of the textures created by the use of embroidery and smocking and the clear signs of wear & tear and examples of repair work. 

When I saw this article with a project to create a shirt decorated with rufffles and lettering I was immediately drawn to it. The colours are perfect and the rough edged ruffles reminded me strongly of the fraying around the holes and rips on the 3 pieces.

I made these 2 collages using extracts and pictures from Ruth Roe’s article and photographs of the fraying on the dustercoat and the back of the smocking on the smock coat. 

It is very frustrating that my workroom is so packed I can’t even fight a path through to my sewing machine to have a go at making some ruffles and to write some text using Ruth’s instructions for free-motion stitching.


No repair work had been done on the dustercoat but both the smocks had small darning patches and this bought to mind an article I read by Celia Pym and Richard Wingate about a project they were involved in called Parallel Practices. 

They had come up with the crazy idea of Celia setting up a sewing station in a Dissecting Room being used by medical students where she would sit and repair clothes bought in by the students. The article talks about how this highlighted previously unacknowledged similarities between the too seemingly different practises of repairing and dissecting. My favourite quote was from one of the students who told Celia that she pieces together the signs of wear on the body she is dissecting, like clues and evidence; she puts the story of the person together. This resinated with the purpose of my visit to view old textiles and how from the signs of wear and tear I was also seeking clues as to the life and the story of the garment.

Celia’s darning is wonderfully artistic and I have collaged her pictures with ones of the darning I had photographed whilst in Ludlow.