Biographies · sallyharrisonart

Kind of wrote an Artist Statement today!

It took some coaxing out of me, I’m putting it down to my artistic temperament but really I was just being a huge pain in the butt!!!

Despite having to work within the limiting confines of a degree pathway of study in textile art, Sally’s own visual language remains instantly recognisable. 

Her playful approach to research, design and the development of ideas goes beyond the traditional expectations of an artist’s sketchbook, particularly by incorporating into her methodology the inventive use of mixed media and specifically, digital mediums to transform historical influences and sources into modern textile responses.

Art · MMT - PT1 - Pj2 - Ex4 - Cutting Holes

MMT – PT1 – PJ2 – Ex4 -Cutting Holes

I’ve just had a look back at the course materials for this exercise and realised that I’ve missed an important instruction. 

My samples are worked in paper and the instructions ask you to experiment with other materials. I had thought about it, thinking about leaves and plastic and then whoosh! the thoughts went. 

So here are my paper samples. I’ve got some ideas for other materials and I’ll follow those up later.

As usual Pinterest has been a fantastic source of information and inspiration for this exercise. I am starting to think this might be becoming too easy and I think I need to use some other sources for research. 

Pinterest is good but it only gives you a picture and, usually just a sound bite. That’s really not going to be enough to give real integrity to my research, I don’t want to just skip through this stage each time. For these preliminary exercises I’m hoping this will be sufficient as long as I promise to do better next time.

On my Pinterest board OCA – Portrait – Distortion I have pinned lots of images with holes that incorporate portraits and a couple that don’t. These 3 images stood out for me.

I think the burnt holes are inventive, simple but very effective. The collage work incorporating the 2 images is fascinating to me, the overlaying is very cleverly done and like the ladies face it looks very simple but it takes skill to make the cuts in the right places so the image doesn’t become confused or worse dull.

As I thought about my samples I knew I wanted to use printed pages and recently I had bought a book by Micheal Von Hassal, a huge tome full of bright, detailed and mesmerising photographs.  The book is called Compendium

This is the first time I’ve looked up this book on the internet after buying it (brand new) for £4. The cheapest copies for sale are £50. Maybe I shouldn’t have cut it up after all!

Okay, back to the book. Michael has an amazing eye for seeing form and replication. His colours are strong and vivid  and my fingers were itching to make something with the images.

One of my source pictures used lettering so I started there with a long page of description in German.

The flaps intrigued but also irritated me so I tied and sewed them down and added another page behind to test the overall result.

Then went on to cut out more rectangles. 

Once I was happy with the balance between text and image I put the piece into my sketchbook.

But only after having a sneaky peek at the back.

After seeing this image I just couldn’t do a sample without using one of these crazy collage photographs.

It took a lot of cutting and I got a sore shoulder but I got there in the end. 

It’s not my favourite sample, I don’t think my cutting and collageing has improved the original image. 

In fact I think the cutting away of the carefully selected background images has weakened the composition. It’s still a pretty picture with nice colours but the narrative behind the image has been cut away and cast aside.

My development doesn’t do homage to the original or act as a tribute. 

This is a lesson learnt and has helped me to understand better the complexities of ‘stealing like an artist’


Art · MMT - Part 1 - Surface Distortion · MMT - Pjt2 - Tearing and cutting · MMT - PT1 - PJ2 - Ex3 - A Meandering Cut · Textiles 1 - Mixed Media for Textiles

Playing with ‘a meandering cut’

I’m still here plodding along, once I sit down I’m hooked and love what I’m doing but it’s far too easy to procrastinate off into the distance! So what have I’ve been up to?

Raised surfaces and textures are something that I really love, it must be something to do with the way the light gets distorted by the highs and lows and alters the surface into something of wonder and interest. Heck, ignoring the flowery works, let’s just say they make me happy!

Playing with meandering cuts has therefore given me a fabulous technique for creating really interesting and surprising surfaces.

My first sample is very simple and is made from soft handmade Japanese paper.

It was very plain so I decided to add some gentle colour to highlight and draw more attention to the edges of the folds.

And finally I had a little play around with light and camera angles to increase the tonal changes to create more of a dramatic feel to the piece. It struck me then how important it must be to have your work put in exactly the right place at an exhibition and how frustrating it must be when this isn’t possible.

I’d enjoyed working with the simple paper but the idea of working with photographic and pictorial images was still playing on my mind and I was chuffed to find this little book for 50p in a charity shop. Ummm? Could I make a long cut and distorted sample?

The book is full of page after page of images of paintings of horses. Just perfect for me to continue the theme of manipulating and transforming a flat picture to alter the viewers immediate first look, to keep the eye darting round trying to make sense of what they have just seen. 

I make a few quick note and a sample in my sketchbook book.

This isn’t going to be a quick or simple sample to make this time, the basic strip of pages is quite long and quite unruly (but I have tamed it a little with a quilting clip!)

I’m also a messy worker so I’ve only got a small portion of my work table to use for the cutting and sticking. It all soon got out of hand but then I remembered I’d got some lollipop sticks which might help stabilise the structure.

Things are coming along nicely and this method of exploration and ‘working with the faith that it’s going to be okay in the end’ made me think of Matthew Shlian, I’d researched him via an article in Uppercase magazine when I’d started MMT and I definitely feel some of his words had sunk into my subconscious. 

I can never resist taking a few photos and publishing them on Instagram. There’s still looks of cutting and sticking to do!

Oh and on another note my submission for formal assessment of ATV has been posted and received. Let the nervous waiting begin 😬

Art · MMT - Ex 7 - Rotational Crumpling Technique · MMT - Part 1 - Surface Distortion · MMT - Pjt1 - Folding and Crumpling · Textiles 1 - Mixed Media for Textiles

MMT – Surface Distortion – Ex 7 – Rotational Crumpling Technique

This technique almost beat me and although I’m okay with the results, I’m not entirely sure that they met the brief. After 3 attempts I made a decision to not do any more searching for a better paper choice and to move on.

So what did I do.

First I tried the technique on brown paper but it was far too fibrous, far more than the brown paper used to wrap parcels. I just couldn’t get the folds to hold, crumples I had galore but the circles just wouldn’t appear. So, heck I added some pen to give the impression of rotation.

I chose some soft handmade paper but it was far to fabric like to make the folds hold. In the end I resorted to holding the centre into a circle with a loom band.

But most things can be rescued with a good iPhone filter.

I’d always wanted to use some Japanese calligraphy paper printed with grid lines on one of these exercises and because I’d gone in a different direct with the folding I decided to have a go at crumpling it.

This didn’t really work any better, the folds, textures and shadows are nice but my circle just forced itself back into a square.

Art · MMT - Ex 4 - Incremental & Twisted Pleats · MMT - Part 1 - Surface Distortion · MMT - Pjt1 - Folding and Crumpling · Textiles 1 - Mixed Media for Textiles

MMT – Surface Distortion – Ex 4 – Incremental & Twisted Pleats – Teeth

Teeth! This image was just too good to not fold, just what could I do with this! 

I made lots of folds and once the folds were rough and thin I sprayed the back of the image with some blue acrylic paint so it soaked through the folds to the front.

I then has some fun twisting and turning the image. Making the teeth move as if the mouth was opening and closing.

And then getting up close so the gums were closer and looking swollen and slightly slimy. 

Then far away so the fingers look huge and almost in your face whilst the teeth are receding into the background. Are the racks of teeth plastic or real?

I wanted to manipulate the image more, making it more abstract whilst still keeping some hint of the teeth.

Finally at this stage I just made them look creepy, with just a touch of alien about them.

After I’d taken the photographs of the folded paper, using different angles and lighting to alter the image further on from the folding I used some iPhone editing apps to throw some different colour and texture into the mixture.

One of my MMT challenges is to learn how to better explain my reasons for liking and disliking an image. This is what I wrote in my sketchbook about folded photograph of false teeth.

“What appeals to me?

“The macabreness and strangeness of the teeth, it’s a normalising and mechanising of the essential naturalness of teeth. To take something that is so unique (dental records are after all used as a maker for identification) and to record and categorise so many of the individual pieces is such a human process. The simple hospital blue colour palette allows the pinkness of the gums to stand out and highlight the teeth”

Staying with the creepy feel I applied an invert filter to give the effect of an x-ray, the cooling of the colours actually made the teeth less unpleasant to look at.

Using green as the dominant colour then warmed the image and made it easier to identify the lines that make up the image. Highlighting these lines creates a grid of interesting shapes .

This final image is my favourite, I like the composition: the way the thumb nail acts as a focal point drawing the eye and then allowing it to run down the 2 sides of the images and finally ending with the teeth. The use of the painting effect filter defined the fold lines, segmenting the image adding fractures that gives energy.

I hope my teeth (their not mine I promise) haven’t grossed you out and the few puns dotted about have not had you rolling your eyes too much!

Art · MMT - Ex 4 - Incremental & Twisted Pleats · MMT - Part 1 - Surface Distortion · MMT - Pjt1 - Folding and Crumpling · Textiles 1 - Mixed Media for Textiles

MMT – Surface Distortion – Ex 4 – Incremental & Twisted Pleats – Japanese Ladies

Before I began folding some larger samples I decided to fold a few small papers to discuss and explore in my sketchbook. I had some old pages from an exercise I had completed using cut silhouettes. I couldn’t help making my mark on the sample so added some dark lines to define the folds.

As I’m doing this course I am trying (mostly in vain) to do more drawings so I drew the top sample with some success. I’m still find it hard to draw an accurate depiction and not start doing more meandering doodle lines.

 Looking at the drawing I was satisfied that simple folds in an interesting paper gave me far more areas of interest and inspiration than using either a flat picture or a folded piece of plain paper (though I could see the value of doing this and using strong lights and shadows to create shapes and motifs) so I moved onto making a larger sample using a page I had altered, by painting with gesso and acrylic inks to make the first pleated sample.

I made the pleats and sat back and looked at it, to me it looked too flat so I did some rubbing down and added some spray acrylic.

Then I just couldn’t leave it alone and ended up with a heavily browned mess, I tried making more interesting folds but I’m still not pleased with. I felt down looking at it. 

I returned to the altered book to find another page but I wasn’t inspired by anything, humph! I looked for a while at the other photographs taken to record and advertise the people and places in Kyoto in Japan. After visiting Japan as a child I’ve always had an interest in their art and culture. A beautifully coloured photograph of ladies dancing in a line horizontally across a stage caught my eye and I wondered if I could make vertical folds to highlight the 3 ladies, drawing attention and focus where I wanted it.

This immediately grasped my interested and gave me that little glow of potential that I’m becoming quite addicted to.  

I wrote down my thoughts and attempted to capture my feelings as they floated around.

” the folds give pleasing shadows and reflections. It would be interesting to link the folding, highlighting action with the image. Could this this to how humans like to display only part of themselves. How we all keep some parts of ourselves hidden. And how this changes depending on the situation we find ourselves in. 

” Shown – hidden – shown – hidden.

” then some elements (the edges) that can be seen from one side and not the other. Only visible when you look at the folds from a different angle” 

In the book I found a full head photograph of a Japanese lady in full traditional dress titled,  Flower-serving ceremony dedicated to Yoshino-Tabu, a famous, Edo Period courtesan.  Courtesan? Geisha? It felt appropriate to use an image of something that for years has been shrouded in mystery, that is all about presenting an image, living a role that is all consuming.

Before I folded I noted in my sketchbook –

“I’m going to try to fold it to give a sense of mystery and duplicity to the scene. Do I hide the eyes? Is that the key? Hide/disguise some of the symbolism on the outfit? Does this take the folds from mechanisms of attraction to transporters of message?”

As I made the folds and continued to manipulate the piece trying to hide elements  I became fascinated will how the expression of the lady altered, how I could totally change her face so the balances moved and attractiveness became kooky, became less attractive, smaller, larger, more open, slightly angry and on and on.

I could see a series of these using different faces, it would be a good vehicle to translate a specific theme, like exploring anger or shyness.  On Pinterest I found the work of Aldo Tolino, he has done some amazing folded portraits. He is the master of abstract paper folding and well worth viewing. 

I did a little more folding of some photocopies of the montage of different folds and decided to part the portraits idea, especially after seeing Aldo’s work and move on to something else.

Art · MMT - Part 1 - Surface Distortion · MMT - Research · Textiles 1 - Mixed Media for Textiles

Mixed Media for Textiles – Part 1 – Selecting the exercises to complete.

The first assignment for MMT is similar to the one for ATV, it’s mostly limbering up and an opportunity to show your skill levels to your tutor. There are a large number of possible exercises using different paper manipulation techniques and you choose 10 that catch your interest. 

This is the page from my workbook showing my simple selection process.

After I had decided which exercises to complete I decided to think about the papers I would use. The techniques are very simple so the paper will be my vehicle for creating interest.

This is the page from my workbook with my preliminary ideas.

Art · MMT - Research · Textiles 1 - Mixed Media for Textiles

Edinburgh – A Visit to the Dovecot Studios

I never go to Edinburgh without making a visit to The Dovecot Studios, and as always, yesterday’s visit was wonderful. 

If you’ve never been I would highly recommend a visit, but go on a Thursday or Friday after 12 so you can climb the stairs to the viewing gallery and walk round looking down at the looms and work in progress of the Edinburgh master weavers. 

My friend Lindsay and I slowly completed a full circle of the gallery whilst a young lady and her Mom were having a tour of the rooms to discuss holding her wedding there, what an original idea, it’s a shame I’m already married! Down in the studio was a huge gun tufted rug being worked by Victoria Morton. The work required to complete this piece must be immense and the skill needed enviable, we were in awe of Victoria’s ability to translate a very complex abstract work of art into a beautiful and tactile object. 

This led us onto a discussion about ‘was this art or craft?’ We had the previous day been to an exhibition at the Fruitmarket by Mark Wallinger. The exhibition was definitely ‘art’ because it included paintings and conceptual pieces but I had been almost offended by the lack of work that had gone into the actual pieces, they were simply black paint slapped on canvas and a rather dull iPhone photograph collage and here lies the crux of our discussion. Is art about the object or the feelings it elicits?

Should art always be expected to challenge our feelings and views? Is it enough that it makes us go ‘what!’ or ‘grrh!’ Or ‘yuk!’? Should it not also make us go ‘wow!’? And can that sometimes just be a happy feeling of awe and delight? 

Where do traditional crafts fit in here? Where does the line between craft and art fall?  Previous research into Ptolemy Mann made her views on this very clear, Ptolemy states her weaving work is art and this is because of the skill required and it frustrates her that the artistic community cannot see that. 

Does the current contemporary art community have a level of elitism about it that demands that art should always be intellectually challenging? Is being pretty and attractive frowned upon? I wonder if their delicate egos have caused them to collectively agree that their work should elicit negative comments and that this was their intention all along so they do not have to work towards genuine positive feedback therefore protecting their inflated opinions of themselves. And worse still this allows them to look down and undermine the extensive work and skill that does into a piece of work that uses a craft technique as its medium. Thank god for Grayson Perry! 

So back to The Dovecot and it’s current exhibition, at the moment only one of the rooms are open, but although compact The Weavers Apprentice exhibition was very interesting.

In the centre of the room there was a loom set up with apprentice weaver Ben Hymer’s work, sometimes he is there demonstrating but not on the day we attended. Ben is working this rug from the front and the back which I found particularly fascinating.

It was very interesting to see a display of the design work that had gone into his piece Penelope. I like the fact that he worked the design from a character in a book and not a physical object.

The walls of the room were the back drop to a considered display of old and new rugs and tapestries completed at the gallery.

Art · MMT - Ex 2 - Rotational Accordion Pleats · MMT - Part 1 - Surface Distortion · MMT - Pjt1 - Folding and Crumpling · Textiles 1 - Mixed Media for Textiles

MMT – Surface Distortion – Ex 2 – Rotational Accordian Pleats

Just a quick summary tonight about the first exercise I’ve selected to do for the first assignment from Mixed Media for Textiles.

Folding generally requires precision which is quite a challenge for me, so unfortunately my folds are not perfect, not yet anyway!

I started this exercise by digging out some papers that I liked, looking for a variety of textures. And I started with some trusty khadi paper.

I folded it like a fan, added some stitch and because I love to add colour I dipped it in some watered down Brusho pigment.

For a while I’ve had a notebook with pages for copying, like a receipt pad without the carbon paper and I really fancy folding the 2 sheets together to see how the lines of the folds looked when they were transferred.

The paper was far more pliable and I soon found myself playing with the folds making them even less precise and even.

I worked the 3 pieces together into one sample after randomly dipping and dripping paint onto the papers.

The pva glue I used to stick them down enabled me to manipulate and fix the folds.

This sample is very me, it reminds me of dragon lizards 🦎 and I like the way the added colour highlights the folds. This could easily become very addictive.

I really wanted to make some small folded fans but I didn’t feel that today I had the drive or the patience to make them and I was given the perfect get out by having, on my chaotic worktop some fairy cake cases with beautiful delicate folds. As an added delight I’d got some that had been used as ink and paint pots so we’re already delicately coloured.

Working with inspiration I’m still carrying from ATV I worked some snipped off pieces into a pile with tread.

Then, just because I dipped them in the Brusho paint and after some drying and manipulation I mounted them on a very old piece of paper that I painted way back on my first textile art class on Pointillism.


It was cheating and maybe one day I will actually fold some myself but I’m pleased with the results. There is lots of texture and variation in the colour. The mix of original dried colour and the newly dipped colour adds depth and interest. I even felt inspired to do a little drawing.

One of the things I like to do when working on a series of samples is to have an element of focus that ties the pieces together, such as colour, or materials, or a theme.

With this type of exercise this is difficult as you are an explorer looking for treasure and limiting yourself can hinder you by not letting you travel off map. 

I had originally thought I would tie these samples together by only using pages that are currently in altered books. I liked the idea of using papers that I had painted and distorted as the base to be folded. 

I’m glad I didn’t stick strictly to this plan and experimented with some different papers first but I couldn’t completely let the idea go and did make one sample with a painted page that I further distorted with sandpaper rubbing. And of course I dipped it too.

The end result is not totally satisfying, it started off looking very amateurish. Making me think of the paper lanterns we used to make as kids! It took some manipulating and tweaking to get it into a shape that I like. 

Although I’m not sure about the final shape but I do love the colours and the way the paint has worked with the original gesso and the sanding and pricking that I added today. 

Art · MMT - Part 1 - Surface Distortion · MMT - Research · Textiles 1 - Mixed Media for Textiles

MMT – Research – Paper Folding

And there was me thinking I wouldn’t find very much of interest on paper folding on Pinterest. 

How wrong could I be! I’ve had to stop pinning my head is spinning.

Here’s my board on Pinterest.