Monthly Archives: February 2016

Animal mummies

22 February 2016

What I love about studying textiles is that it frequently leads me down fascinating avenues of exploration which I never would have imagined. When I took my son to the “Gifts for the Gods” exhibition at Manchester Museum this half term (1), I was not expecting to be so enthralled by the display of animal mummies.

It became apparent that the mummies were wrapped differently and and in distinctive ways, some in ‘chevron-like’ strips of linen, others in elaborate designs similar to log cabin patchwork. As the example below demonstrates, it is obvious that the wrappings had more significance than simply a casual covering for the preserved animal body (photo taken with permission at the Manchester museum).

Animal_mummy.jpg

Animal mummies can be prepared for one of several reasons:

  1. Votive specimens (i .e. as offerings to the gods)
  2. As ‘provisions’ for the dead, accompanying human burials
  3. To preserve the bodies of cherished pets into the after life
  4. Because they were living representatives of the gods
I found an interesting article in the National Geographic online (2) and also purchased a book specifically relating to mummy wrappings in context to the special cultural value of linen in ancient Egyptian society (3). 
 
In the past, textiles were often disregarded during exploration of tombs and mummy wrappings taken off without being recorded in an effort to reach the (more interesting) corpse beneath. Animal mummies (of which at least several hundred thousand, maybe millions have been discovered), were often offered to tourists as mementos, or even sold to be burnt on fires. 
 
According to Riggs, understanding this cultural significance is essential in understanding wrapping of the dead body and other sacred objects (3). She argues that linen takes on a completely different meaning in this context, compared with that of our industrialised capitalist societies. She goes as far as to say that the cloth that wrapped the sacred image was analogous to it’s new skin, muscle and tissue, so that the textile object – or the textile and body, became a unity (3).
 
I have only just started exploring this topic, but I know it will be one which will offer a rich and varied source of ideas for textile projects, possibly starting as part of a sketchbook exploration alongside my investigation of skeletons and taxidermy.
 
  
References:
 
  1. “Gifts for the Gods, Animal mummies revealed”. Manchester Museum, 8 October 2015 – 17 April 2016. Available from: http://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/whatson/exhibitions/giftsforthegods/
  2. Willian’s, A.R. (2009). “Animal mummies”. National Geographic, Nov 2009. Available from: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/11/animal-mummies/williams-text/1 [Accessed 25 February 2016]
  3. Riggs, C. (2014) “Unwrapping ancient Egypt“. Bloomsbury. London.

Tibor Reich retrospective, Whitworth Gallery, Manchester

17 Febrauary 2016

Travelling to the north of England during the school half term seemed like a great opportunity to visit to the Tibor Reich exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester. Ideally, I would have liked to have gone on my own, but with my 9 year old son being not particularly taken with the exhibits, the visit was shorter than I would have liked. I did, however manage to take some interesting photos and get a flavour of Reich’s work, which was so influential in post-war Britain.

Reich was a Hungarian immigrant who was born in 1916. He was a designer of textiles and ceramics and set up a business (Tibor Ltd) in London, which continued until 1978 (1). Reich was very good at expressing both colour and texture through textiles, which included printed and woven household fabrics and rugs. 

The most valuable part of the exhibtion for me was to understand Reich’s design methods. A breakthrough came for Reich in 1948, when he sought to incorporate textures inspired by nature into a fabric range of woven furniture fabrics. Following on from this, it was in 1956, that he bought his two interests of nature and photography together in a design process. Taking a photograph, making positive and negative prints of part of it, and rearranging the prints in a way which together gave a ‘virtual texture’.

These are two examples which I saw at the exhibition. Firstly, a dried, muddy surface which had shrunk and cracked.

The photographed image was used to create a design for a rug (above). I like the way that Reich has also explored the effects of changing the colours, and making the image negative (colour of cracks are a lighter value than the mud). This makes the cracks appear in the foreground of the design, ‘above’ the black background.

My second example is taken from a photograph of Reich’s family on holiday. This display board from the exhibition explains how Reich designed fabric from the wall textures in the background of the photograph.

 

You can see the sections which he cut and pasted, some in negative image, some positive. The resulting fabric (“Florida”, 1957, cotton sateen screen print, part of the Fotexur series), appears almost three-dimentional, as if it were pleated.

With regards to colour work, I would like to make particular mention of Reich’s series of woven “Madison colour blankets” (1957). Reich believed colour was energy (5) and cleverly used colour combinations together with innovative weaving techniques to produce amazing textiles.

There were three different colourways of woven blanket exhibited –

This first one is my favourite (photo above). The juxta-positioning of colours and the use of different values makes for some interesting colour interactions and gives the piece depth and energy. 

Although still effective, I don’t feel that the blue and red colourways have the same impact. These are much simpler representations, using a single hue with grey and white/black. The exhibition gave a single year of manufacture for all the blankets. However, I have wondered whether they were a developmental series, and if so whether the more complex blanket with lots of different colour hues was the final piece.

The Madison blankets were supposedly inspired by a photograph which Reich took in Madison Avenue, New York. Unfortunately I have been unable to track the photograph down, but can only assume the blankets to be inspired by the architecture of the high rise buildings.

Reich had a long and distinguished career in textile design (although he also produce pottery and tiles). His firm, Tibor Ltd, rapidly gained international reputation working on comissions for the Festival of Britain, Expo ’58 and Concorde. He bought a new area of colour and texture into British homes in the post-war era. Because there are too many works to mention in this blog and to keep a record of my visit, I have made a Dropbox link  to all my photos of the retrospective, which I have annotated for my future reference. This has also enabled me to share my experience with fellow OCA students, my Facebook textile page followers and friends.


References:

  1. Wilson, M. (2013) Tibor Reich’s grandson relaunches his iconic brand. Startford-upon Avon Herald. 26 September 2013. Available from: http://www.stratford-herald.com/1802-tibor-reichs-grandson-relaunches-his-grandfathers-iconic-brand.html. [Accessed 25 February 2016]
  2. Anon. (2016) What’s on: Tibor Reich Available from: http://www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/currentexhibitions/tibor-reich/ [Accessed 25 February 2016]
  3. Powers, K., Hann, M.A. And Cousens, J.A. Tibor Reich: A life of colour and weave. Arts Textrina no. 39. An accompaniment to the exhibition Tibor:Reich: A life of colour and weave. University of Leeds international textile archive. Leeds. Available from:  http://l8lj4w45xq24rooa1c6upxke.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/files/2014/06/Tibor_Reich.pdf [Accessed 25 February 2016]
  4. Hann, M.A. And Powers, K. (2009) Tibor Reich – a textile designer working in Stratford. Textile History, 40(2), 212-228. November 2009. Available from: http://l8lj4w45xq24rooa1c6upxke.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/files/2014/06/Reich_Article.pdf %5BAccessed 25 February 2016]
  5. Ellis-Peterson, H. (2016) Him indoors: Tibor Reich, the designer who brightened up Britain forever. The Guardian. 1 February 2016. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/feb/01/tibor-reich-the-whitworth-manchester-interiors-britain-designer-bright-colour [Accessed 25 February 2016]
  6. Tibor. Available from: http://www.tibor.co.uk/1960-s–tibor-reich.html [Accessed 25 February 2016]
  7. ULITA – An archive of international textiles. Available from: http://emuseum.leeds.ac.uk/view/objects/asitem/4/87/title-asc?t:state:flow=516570f7-cce0-46d0-b738-b51c2f8015d9 [Accessed 25 February 2016]

 

A screen print with paper scraps

15 February 2016

I hadn’t done a screen print using paper off-cut stencils with fabric, although I had done prints with torn paper pieces during a course in September/October at Gainsborough House printmaking workshop.

Still using up print-paste from assignment 2, I scattered some hole-punch cut outs over some pinned-out cotton sheeting which had been pre-mordanted with soda ash solution. I used a blank screen to print squares over the fabric, and as I did so, the small paper circles were picked up on the back of the screen, so they appeared as a resist on subsequent prints.

The initial image when the print-paste was still wet was crisp and quite stunning due to contrast of white and dark (see below)

After batching, rinsing (first with cold water, then Colsperse solution) and drying, the dye-paste had bled slightly into the white areas and the pattern was not as pronounced (and unfortunately no longer dramatic, and somewhat lacking impact).

I think this is just the nature of dye-paste (e.g. prints are not as ‘clean’ as with fabric paint or Selectacine). My understanding is that dye paste penetrates the fibres, staining them through, whereas paints colour the fabric surface.

I also took the opportunity to use the blank screens for printing a background. Below are the results.

 ……… Some interesting fabric which I will keep for future use (possibly overprinting, or discharge).

 

Screen printing using drawing fluid and filler

13 February 2016

I had successfully used Speedball screen filler during Assignment 2, but had not actually used in in conjunction with drawing fluid. This is my first experiment.

The subject was a window in an old military building at Orford Ness, Suffolk.

I find the subject matter intriguing- a window is a boundary between an ‘inside and an outside’. It functions like a gate. You can feel safe inside or feel imprissoned inside….it all depends on the circumstances. The image has a lot of potential.

In started by tracing the image, and transferring it onto the back of a printing screen with drawing fluid in the negative image, using a paintbrush.

After the fluid dried, I flooded the screen with filler. Once the filler was dry, I removed the drawing fluid by rinsing and gently scrubbing under warm water. This gave me a ready-to-use screen.

I printed on pre-laundered cotton sheeting with Selectacine print medium. Initially, I had planned to print just the immediate area around the window, but some smudges of filler on the edges of the screen made an interesting texture which looked like a rough wall. I could have decided to blank these off with some newsprint, but I rather like the effect.

 

This was just a sample to test the screen. Ultimately I would like to explore printing, stitching or dyeing a ‘view’ through the window. I also think the print would work better in black or dark grey (on this occasion I was just using up some medium in a colour that I had already mixed).

As a side note, when I fixed the dry image by ironing, I noticed that a frayed thread had got trapped underneath the fabric during printing. This left an interesting subtle variation in the background of the print (see below).

I have also digitally manipulated the photograph to produce a ‘cleaned’ image in the positive and negative.

I have a freind (a fellow OCA student) with a thermofax machine who is going to produce a stencil for me. I am looking forward to comparing the outcome that of with my drawing fluid and filler screen.

 

 

More screen printing with Procion dye-paste

8 February 2016

Having discovered the reason for my ‘washed out’ screen prints in assignment 2, I wanted to repeat some of the work use the improved dye-paste.

I had made a second stencil using a different pattern of acrylic paint resist, which I taped to the back of a screen.

Using the same method as before I printed with dye-paste in progressively different colours, starting with yellow at the top left.

 

Order of printing

  1. Top left: yellow
  2. Bottom left: brown, 1st pass
  3. Top middle: brown, 2nd pass
  4. Bottom middle: green, 1st pass
  5. Top right: green, 2nd pass
  6. Bottom right: green 3rd pass
I was pleased with the vibrancy of the cloth and the interesting marks which evolved throughout out the process.

Interpreting creativity

12 February 2016

I have always considered creativity as one of my strengths, however the mark I received in formal assessment of module 1 was disappointing. 

It was only after receiving my tutor’s feedback from assignment 1 of Exploring ideas, that the penny began to drop. I was praised for being particlarly creative in one of my designs. In the example, I had first made a 3-D model based on one of my drawings. I then photographed the model, manipulated, duplicated and arranged the images to make a pattern. I had considered this as being a bit ‘off topic’ because my design had only the most tenuous of relationships to the original idea, and had been created by a convoluted process. 

My idea of creativity had been concerned with “the ability to translate concepts into textile projects – i.e. the ability to communicate ideas through the medium of textiles”. I now understand that translation of concept is not necessarily essential, providing a good visual outcome is achieved, and so long as the artist is not intent on projecting a particular message. In other words, it is permissable to arrive at a point of visual exploration which is far removed from the original topic (this is actually a very creative thing to do!)

The OCA assessment criteria for creativity define it as “imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a creative voice”. I feel that I now have a better ideas as to how this should be interpreted.

 

 

The visual imagery of words

12 February 2016

I have started writing poem again. Poetry is linked with songwriting through lyrics – something I did a lot of in my teenage years. 

Trying to express the value of poetry in creating art is difficult. For me, the act of writing poetry brings new thoughts and ideas to the surface of my consciousness. I also find that it is a catalyst for visual imagery; when I read a poem, a picture or series of pictures start to develop in my minds-eye, expressing the emotion of the written word.

As well as being thought-provoking, poetry and/or words can also be used literally as text within a piece of art. Tracey Emin is an example of an artist who frequently includes text in her work (1), but there are many others.

I am keen to explore all avenues and I will be including poems alongside my sketchbook work to see what visual outcomes they suggest.


References:

1. Colchester, C. (2009) “Textiles today”: a global survey of trends and traditions” Thames and Hudson. London.