A Textile Vocabulary – Textile Archive

The aim of the next exercise in the Observing and Capturing part of A Textile Vocabulary is to work from an archive to generate a folio of visual work. I have had to identify an archive and select 3 textile pieces to work from.

In Shrewsbury, 17 miles from me there is a new, Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery. I have approached their Collections and Curatorial services and have received a brilliant reply with a link to a database of textiles kept by Shropshire Museums. 

I had a quick look through the collection online, just scanning to see what grabbed my attention.  There are lots of dresses and costumes but I’m not especially interested in fashion (I’m sure my friend’s will agree!). There was also some beautiful examples of embroidery used as decoration. These immediately made me feel inadequate and I was worried that should I select these pieces I would focus on the technical aspect of the stitching and although they would be interesting they would not, for me, be a good primary source for exploration and design. 

With this in mind, I found myself immediately drawn to a driver’s dustcoat, because of it’s pale cream colour and the immediate visual evidence of use which gives the impression of experience. Here is a garment with a function, well used and full of organic detail.

This lead me to consider a theme to link my three pieces and to help me to select my next two pieces. I like the idea of looking at used, stained fabric garments, in a pale colour to reduce the distractions of colour. And where possible with destinct signs of wear & tear, including repairs, stains and creases.

I looked through the catalogue and found this simple smock. I love it’s naive construction and the folk embroidery  in the same colour as the smock. There is also some staining and a small repair. Which I am hoping will be a perfect model for observation drawings and mark making.


My final selection is a far more detailed smock, to tell you the truth I find this piece quite spooky and I will be interested to see if the actual garment gives me the same feelings. I specifically chose this smock because the catalogue description states there is a patch repair on the right arm, which I am hoping will give some interesting texture in the form of some darning or appliqué. 

In addition to these items the collection includes some needlework samples from the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century that show darning and repair techniques and the very helpful curator at the museum has offered to include these in my request. 

This is the first time I have ever had to do anything like this and have been very impressed by the helpfulness of both the regimental museum in Lichfield and the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.  

I am hoping to be able to make a trip to see my selection next week. In the meantime I might just do a bit of research into the 3 types of garments and start thinking about their stories.

It’s a great relief to be actually making some progress on this exercise. 


Regimental Colours & Standards – Textile Archive – Research

Regimental Flags

Whilst on a visit to Salisbury I was struck by the visual impact of the torn and battered regimental flags hanging in the beautiful interior of their cathedral. There were plaques that explained where the flags had been taken into battle, how some had been lost and how now they had found their way to a place of reverence. My immediate thought was ‘what stories these flags could tell if only they could speak’. Just looking at the wear and tear got your imagination running wild.

When I got home I started investigating.

Regimental flags are called Colours & Standards and were taken into battles right up until 1882 by the line infantry battalions.

In 1881/1882 it was agreed that the flags were an ‘impedimenta’ and there was an increased likelihood of loss of life due to the altered formations of fighting and extended range of fire. Warfare had changed, flags were part of the old world. Now they are kept with the battalions for official ceremonies only.

My knowledge of wars and warfare is very limited but this did make me think about how, even though we dropped the flags we continued to use traditional line infantry methods right into the first world war and how this outmoded approach caused so many deaths. I’m glad the flags weren’t there to see that story played out.

South Staff’s Regiment

The last flag to be taken on active service were those of the 1st Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment in Alexandria in 1882.

By some strange fluke my Grandfather, who was born in Boningale close to Albrighton had been part of the South Staff’s regiment during the first world war, he had joined as a boy, been booted out and then later signed up and sent out to France. He was one of the lucky ones and came home.

My investigations lead me to find records of my Grandparent’s life including a Google Earth look at the 2 of their homes in London before they returned to Wolverhampton where my mother was born. My mother’s family name is Dimbylow and I remember going as a child to Patshull church where my Granddad was buried for picnics and to see the names of my ancestors who had fought for their country displayed in the church. It’s very sobering to know that 2473 South Staffordshire soldiers died during the first world war, I’m a very lucky girl to be here.

The regiment has a museum on the outskirts of Lichfield, it’s not especially close to my home but is within daily travel and the flags are kept at Lichfield Cathedral.

This has now presented me with a dilemma. I cannot handle the flags, the current ones are kept with the regiment and are not an archive textile. I’m not interested in the soldiers uniforms and have racked my brain to think of other linked textiles that I do find interesting enough to study in detail.

The OCA guidance states under the title Engagement & Research that this is developed through:

‘Personal handling, manipulation and transformation of textiles and their components’

I’m not going to be able to do that if I can’t touch them!! So it’s back to the drawing board for me.


A Textile Vocabulary – Textile Archive.

Heck, this is proving a tricky one for me. I am now seriously behind on my deadlines and all because I find it difficult to complete tasks that involve other people. For this project I need to contact a museum and ask to view 3 textiles from their achive. Sounds simple. No, not for me. I’ve spend a stupid amount of time thinking, ruminating, procrastinating and making this one as difficult as possible.

It all comes down to asking people for help, I am so concerned/convinced that they will think I am stupid and will refuse I can’t even pluck up the courage to ask! 

I had a good idea, worked it through and when it didn’t quite work out I just stopped. Thump, I sat down and refused to budge.  

Nothing has gone to waste and the research I did will make a good blog entry on the stories behind textiles but that in it’s self is procrastinating.

There is another example of this, from my safe cave I though about looking for subject matter closer to home.

Do I have any old textiles? Nope nothing, nada. But I do have access to a vintage campervan and all of its currently being renovated. I have some wonderful abstract photos that would make great subjects for painting or embroideries but no, they are not fabric!




So its back to the drawing board and a sheepish apology to my tutor about my late submission.


It’s Offically Festival Time. Too Drunk to Draw!!

It’s that time again, we’ve got Nancy packed and we’re chasing round the country following the sunshine, ticking off our favourite bands and generally drinking and eating ourselves stupid. Not good for my figure and definitely not good for my study. 

I really try to do some drawing every day and of course I take loads and loads of photographs. My blog time has been seriously hampered and even using my ipad isn’t helping. So I’ve given myself a good talking to and over the summer expect some serious study blogs (I flipping hope so anyway!) when my partner in crime is away and lots of quick photo orientated blogs as I grab a minute between halves of Korov and bacon sarnies!  

This weekend we were in Perrenporth at tunes in the dunes catching up with Mad Dog McCrae and discovering Reel Big Fish and Dub Pistol. I took the point and shoot camera with me, which has a dreadful autofocus system, that makes taking band photos a nightmare but which is great for abstract, light splash shots.

Next to the stage were the obligatory flags and when the light show was in full swing I got some nice dreamy shots. This one has been edited to bring out the colours.



I then played with some filters to create a more spooky, disturbing feel.

The camera really struggled to focus when the lights were yellow but it actually gave me some good light splash abstracts. 

This next one I can see printed out and used as a base for a doodle or some abstract mark making. When, of course I eventually get home!!


Now for some serious work and then it’s off to the Hay Festival on Friday for some Frank Turner and maybe look at a few books!


Textile Degree – A Moment to Reflect – Where am I now?

The feedback from my first assignment has arrived, very prompt and very easy to read and digest. Thank you Rebecca, I was very flattered and pleased with my feedback and the suggestions for further development.

I thought now might be a good time to review my progress, my feedback, my working practices and what I have to do next.

No small task, but necessary because if I don’t my brain is going to explode!

Even trying to write this blog so its coherent and makes sense is proving a challenge. I’ve spent some time emptying my head into a mind map in my sketchbook and that has helped. This is where my tendancy to over think and analysis everything becomes a real hindrance to my progress. I find it very hard to see the wood from the trees, to gain clarity and to set my priorities. I’m so concerned about writing too much that I often end up not developing ideas enough, not exploring my thoughts enough and just ending up with them all jumbled up in my head.

Thank God for clear course materials, mind maps, to do lists and lots and lots of notebooks!

Lets start at the bginning then,

Assignment 1 and Feedback

Here I did keep it simple and just got straight down to writing, planning and drawing, I was nervous but I really enjoyed myself. Consistently writing a blog was a new experience and I find it both time consuming and rewarding so I’m not going to stop. More about this later.

I was very pleased to receive positive feedback about how I experiment and take risks and I will be continuing to do this as I work though my projects.

Rebecca recommended that I recorded more about my working practices and my research in my learning log after reading the OCA guidance and following some links to look at the blog learning logs of other students.


The OCA guidance makes it clear that you need to devote sufficient time to recording in your learning log and that it is good practice to genuinely engage in reflective writing.  Now don’t get me wrong I love to talk and I love to write so this shouldn’t present a problem for me but that would be okay if I wasn’t always so busy, if I wasn’t a born procrastinator and if I didn’t like to over analysis myself into a corner. So how do I resolve this?

Knowing what I need to write is a good start so I have sat and read all the guidance through and made lots of notes. One of my main goals for taking this degree course is to learn how to get more integrity into my work. I want to learn how to be more focused and how to explore ideas and learn how to reflect this in my work. So I am more than happy to follow the guidance and put in the hours.

My next challenge was to review how I am recording my actions and if my current methods are serving my purposes.

Learning Logs

When reviewing how many or how few books, blogs, notes etc etc I should keep, the main points I considered were: how can I make them useful? How can I make sure I don’t end up with loads of duplication? How can I make my learning logs look attractive? How can I take advantage of time as it becomes available?

So far I am happy with my blog format, to improve it I will be adding more information about any research that I do and more information about the development of my practical work. There will be more thoughts, ideas, confessions and hopes and fears, I will do my best to keep it relevant and interesting, though at this time I feel I need to relax and let go a little bit more so I apologise in advance if at times I drone on or waffle.

There will be a new tab/category in which I will keep all of my research and throughout my blog I am looking to increase the number of links. At some point I’ll find time to eat and sleep, anybody who knows me will laugh now!

In addition I will be keeping an A4 square sketchbook, I find this size perfect for mind mapping and brain dumping but too big for taking away from home so I have started a new A5 travellers sketchbook to carry with me to gather ideas and thoughts on the go.

My sketches, drawings and mixed media work I will continue to complete on a wide range of different surfaces and for now I’ll keep these in A4 paper folders in a shoe box. These may become a handmade book later.

So what’s next?

Now the real study begins. There are 2 parts to complete before the next assignment (no panic there – my deadline is only a week away. Might need to revise that one).

The first step is to identify an archive and to ask to view 3 textiles pieces. I am finding this very difficult to complete. I got off to a good start, looking at regimental flags but hit a snag when it came to handling the actual flags so I am about to try another couple of routes.

Then the fun begins again with exercises like; mark making, lines & edges, collage & creases for example. Now that I’m looking forward to.


A Textile Vocabulary – “Textiles”

What is a textile? What does the term mean to me? 

Well, before I expanded my interests from knitting and cross stitch I would have said a textile was something to do with fashion, it was a printed or woven fabric usually used for clothes or soft furnishing. Then through a process of synchronicity and a desire to increase my stitching skills I found a world of stitch and fibre art that I didn’t even know existed. I found myself learning about dyeing fabric, making surfaces for stitch, learning about embellishments, using found objects as surfaces and basically learning about how embroiders, quilters, fashion designers and artists are pushing their imaginations and experimenting to create amazing pieces of textile art. 

There continues a thriving interest in traditional methods running along side this more contemporary and experimental work.  But how do you categorise this new work? City and Guilds were still separating hand and machine embroidery when I took my level 3 course even through the two methods of stitch were being seen more and more together on pieces of embroidery and then what about quilting? The world and traditional views of quilting are changing every day. Art quilts are pushing the boundaries around the globe and the divide between embroidery and quilting is blurring more all of the time. We are using unusual surfaces more and more and many Textile Artists are not just stitchers they are also art journallers,  felters, potters, painters, sculpters and inventors. Artist’s like Grayson Perry are blurring the lines by producing stunning embroideries and tapestries. Beautiful pieces of fashion design; kymono patterns, Kylie Minogue’s outfits including those gold hot pants and wardrobes designed and made for film and theatre are on display in museums. Then how about that meat outfit of Lady Ga Gas’?

This all makes it very difficult to give a clean and tidy definition of what a textile object is.  At first it brings to mind cloth, something soft, with a drape. Something woven, but then felt is a textile but its not woven and what about synthetic materials like crisp packets and hard substances like metal and stone that are often used in textile pieces.  Is the carpet in my home a textile? Are leaves stitched through a textile? Is the definition then about purpose rather than content? Purpose I think? Are we taking about decoration? Are we talking about the intent of the maker? But then many textile pieces have very practical purposes and their design / invention was the driver for the maker.

So is it content? Must a textile include fabric, thread, pattern? But what about textile artists who work with stone, metal and found objects like bottle tops and newspapers. Well, what the heck how about it being a combination of the 2 and more besides? 

The umbrella term I use for all of these skills and different aspects of creativity is ‘textile’. I call myself a textile artist, how else can I express how my interests stretch across so many different genres. This definition lets me leave the door wide open, it lets me explore lots of different techniques, surfaces and subjects. 

So that’s it for me. I could list all the items I think are textiles, I could list all the substances and implements used to create textiles and all the methods by which textiles can be made but wouldn’t that just limit our imaginations? This doesn’t mean that I don’t look at textiles, or research materials or makers but all that information is recorded on my Pinterest boards and I think there are more than enough words here as it is!


Morocco – A very different experience.

They say the desert gives you what you need not what you want and during this year’s trip to Morocco I had to dig deep to understand how true this is. Last year I did the same trip through Morocco, taking in Marrakesh, the Atlas mountains and the Sahara desert. It was a dreamy, colourful journey of discovery. I was caught up in all of the imagery, the beauty of the desert, the gentle flavours of the food and the joy of being amoungst a group of like minded people. This year was a very different experience, I hardly got to know any of my fellow travellers, I only caught glimpses of the desert and I didn’t eat properly for days!! The dreaded desert belly caught me hard and fast in its grip and refused to let go. It was my destiny to be trapped in my weakened body, to think about my future and to be encouraged into a re-invention, to adjust the roles I take in life.  

The journey into the desert was as beautiful and awe-inspiring as before, the Atlas and particularly the anti-Atlas mountains are amazing structures, the geology and vistas are amazing and I had high hopes for this year’s trip. After 11 hours we arrived in Dar Sidi Bounou, our home for the week and it looked as beautiful as ever and we all soon settled in.



I’m not going to dwell on the sickness, it came during a thunder storm and it was no bodies fault, the desert spoke and we were struck down. It effected different people in different ways and for me it banished me to my room. With time to contemplate I discovered a need to be alone. Quite an alien need for me and only usual when the black dog bites and therefore usualy a bad sign for me and something to be very wary of.  But before the trip this desire to be at home, in the quiet had been building for a while. I had noticed small changes, people asking me if I’d been on holiday or poorly because they hadn’t seen me for a while and then a very quickly taken, almost totally on instinct decision to enrol on a distance learning degree.

When the dust had settled and I had realised what I’d done; that I had signed up for student funding and at least 3 years of study it was soon clear to me that the demands of the degree would require changes in my life. I would need to be more disciplined with my time, there would be less socialising and my thoughts would need to be more focused. I am a master of procrastination and distraction, it is no effort for me to waste hours avoiding what I really should and often want to be doing. They say this is bore out of a fear of failure and lack of confidence. Now, anyone who know’s me would say that is not the case for me, but is that just a front I am putting on? Last year I would have said yes, but now things are changing and I was left searching for a way to be comfortable with my growing faith in my abilities without becoming full of inflated ego and executing a cruel abandonment of my friends.

So now I can see that I needed that time in the desert, in pain and desperate to go home. It still worries me that I didn’t help everyone else with their desert experience, that I was so absent and unsupportive of everything that was going on, both good and bad. I was forced to be withdrawn and of course everything was okay, everyone had a good time. In the overall picture of things it was difficult but not impossible. I am still not comfortable with shouting out that I am going to put myself and my studies first, it’s hard for me to say that what I do is important, that I am important and deserving of the opprtunity I have been given to concentrate on my studies but isn’t that a sign of ego too? 

 In reality I don’t need to be this withdrawn to focus on my degree but if I need to be then I can and I should.  I can make plans and decisions that enable me to have time to do my studies, there has never been anything to stop me in the past except my own mind and my own habits. I don’t have the words to explain exactly what I mean and how this trip has been such a turning point for me; it is a shift in my priorities, an opportunity to change my habits and the start of a new phase in my life. I have the desert and my desert friends to thank for that.

Despite the desert bug there were still a few days of gathering imagery and treasures and I’m very happy with my photographs and the beautiful lock and jewelry that I bought home.

The cushions at Dar Sidi Bounou had typical Moroccan weaved designs and the wear and tear enhanced the textures.

At Shtouki’s wonderful and expanded boutique I haggled hard for a good price on a Tuareg lock with an intricate mechanism and 3 keys. The locks were used traditionally on the crates used to transport salt and spices along the old trade routes. I am intrigued by the decoration and the symbols used by the Berber tribes. There is more detail on the cloak weight that I also bought. Finally I fell in love with 2 hairpins, including a beautiful simple ebony pin which is probably from Mali, they made a lovely addition to my small collection of hair and cloak pins.


But it wasn’t all about soul searching and collecting treasures, there was of course also camels!! 

The last 2 shots are curtesy of feature photographer Said Himodi who happily swapped me a camel for a go with my camera!! 



A Textile Vocabulary – Assignment 1 – Review & Access

The drawing and mark making is now complete for my first assignment. I was very excited when I started the work, I decided that my watchword would be ‘simple’. I really didn’t want to get into the habit of overthinking my every move. So I made a quick decision and decided on ‘Nature’s Larder’ as my theme. My first thoughts were, get some veg and have a go. So that’s just what I did. I bought some cabbage and found some other interesting edible items and got to work. 

I selected a number of papers and painting tools and thought about the texture of the different items as I chose which ones to use. It was particularly nice using the actual vegtables as stencils but I was also pleased with the line drawings. It was interesting researching other artist’s as directed by the course materials and I’ve find Pinterest very useful for investigating and recording specific photographs and articles.

 Many of the pieces developed as a result of the fallout from the original piece, soak throughs and prints were particularly effective and I would like to persue this ‘accidental’ method of producing marks and reditions of items.


In my sketchbook I also made some notes and did some brain storming so I could have a sense of what I was looking at, not just food but the traditions and culture around food. This is an area I really want to work on through out the course, I find it comfortable making marks and recording the features of an item but going deeper and finding and expressing meaning and thought is something I do not yet find easy. 


Experimenting with different mediums is something I love doing and I did this with the vegtable selection, limiting my pallette to black, white and grey. Something I found very difficult at first because I love colour and am drawn straight to playing with colour and shapes. Often working in an abstract style.

An idea did start to develop as I worked on the drawings, I started to see egg shapes and it made me start to think about parental conditioning and the issues we have at the moment with child obesity, but that was as far as my thoughts went. In the future I would like to work towards developing these types of ideas and to start working these in a more defined way into my work.

Whilst working on the drawings I also kept a blog as my learning log, I have dabbled before with blogs but this time I was more organised and strict with myself about making regular posts. It was quite scary being so open and public about my work and my thoughts. This is a learning process and I will be continuing with my blog throughout this course. 


A Textile Vocabulary – Assignment 1 – Nature’s Larder

It’s been a busy few weeks and yesterday I finaly found a couple of hours to make a few more observational drawings of my items I gathered for my Nature’s Larder.

The veggies and seeds have been sat in a box in my workroom, they are slowly rotting, except the leaves covered with paint that have gone all crispy.


The cabbages just get more interesting all of the time. The textures are getting deeper and accentuated as the water dries out of the cells. The solid green cabbage has started to get some very interesting swirls and veins.



In my first sketch I used ink on a brush on a textured card, I varied the tone of the ink, applying it quickly. Aiming for a sense of shape and detail rather than an accurate representation of the green cabbage.



In this section sketch I applied the ink slowly letting it flow out into the texture of the card so it almost looks as if the lines are made up of lot of little crosses.

In additon to the 2 larger piecces I played around with the ink and made 3 little close up sketches of the leaf details.


I moved on to a more defined drawing using a fineliner and adding tone and texture with grey, white and black ink. The heavily textured paper is to represent the dimples on the drying cabbage leaves.



Working even smaller I recorded a few of the small shapes, repeating them, playing with them and doing a little bit of stylising.


One of the previously painted leaves is now very crisp and the paint has clung to and dried on the veins of the leaf.  Considering this I selected some synthetic yupo paper and made a fine line drawing of the leaf. At the time it looked very detailed but now I feel an urge to add more lines with an even thinner pen.


  Again using the yupo paper I drew the white cabbage which is breaking apart as it dries.

I really couldn’t finish this exercise without one little doodle. It’s not one of my best but I’ve got to be true to my roots!



A Textile Vocabulary – Nature’s Larder – Observing & Recording 2


Previously I had decided to do some impression style pieces next, I was going to use the white cabbage but in the end it just felt like an unidentified Moroccan tea seed day. I made a simple cut out and had some fun with an acrylic paint spray bottle making a circle shape like the seed in its pod and then laid the seeds in the pod to define first the seed and then the actual pod.


It was quite apt that the results had a passing resemblance to eggs with the day being Easter Saturday. 


I particularly like this shot of the whole page before the actual seeds were shaken off. Working in black and white is a real challenge and I just can’t help sneaking in a little bit of colour.

The left over paint splattered seeds I make into a collage with gel medium reminiscent of playschool pictures made with pasta shapes.  I’ve been thinking a lot about childhood today and the beliefs instilled in us at a young age about food as a treat and  a gift and how this impacts on the lives of adults, me included as they battle through an Easter weekend of excessive offerings of food whilst knowing that for their health and well being they need to resist.  The collage was amaturist and not very satisfactory so I took a few shots of it with my iphone to make it more dynamic.

The cabbages are starting to wilt now, not too smelly yet and displaying some nice dewy wetness. The green cabbage is soft but still holding together well so perfect for making prints. I used white emulsion paint brushed onto the veined side of the leaf to make some prints and then because the layers of the white cabbage are breaking apart, I took advantage of this by using them as a stencil of a cabbage shape outlined with the spray acrylic paint. 



The little cabbage tops are still stable so I brushed them with a specialist cupboard paint, testers from DIY stores are perfect for trying different paint formulars. When dried this paint acts as a resist and I experimented with different strengths of black drawing ink painted over the top of the prints to generate images with the impression of texture.

The actual piece is a bit of a hotpotch and I was very impatient when it came to letting the paint dry but I can definitely see me using this technique again, using more control in future. 

The painted leaves gave me a nice opportunity for some arty photographs too.  I have some with colour too, but they are for another day.