Monthly Archives: June 2016

Personal project, Stage 5, Translating ideas into textile samples

28 June 2016


Considering the outcome of my first stage of sampling, and as a result of making the storyboard, I have decided to concentrate on an idea of an artwork based on the following samples: 

SAMPLES FP1 (below top) combined with sample FP16 (below bottom) – i.e. The lamination to be used as the source of “cut pieces” in the yarn.



Sample FP5 (below) to be considered too, to provide contrast.


Sample FP20 (below) to be considered as a background to the piece.


Incorporation of sample FP7 (below), not to be completely ruled out at this stage.


So my thought is to combine these samples and make an artwork piece which reflects the delicacy and spacing of tree leaves and the light and shadow created as sun passes across them.


Next steps:

My starting point was to make a series of further samples investigating different constructions of “yarn” and to test the theory that lamination would be a suitable technique to make the “cut pieces”.


SAMPLE FP21: Revisiting FP5 – paper bows strung on handspun yarn

I started by making some coloured newspaper, painting both sides with acrylic paint.

I tore and twisted pieces of newspaper as before:


However, this time it was not possible to ply them between two sun singles. By painting the newspaper, it had become very brittle and simply crumpled and broke as it went through the spinning wheel orifice. Instead, I simply tied the pieces of paper along the length of the handspun yarn. I used a canvas stretched frame (9″x12″) as the support. This enabled me to assess how the yarn would look when strung vertically, and when placed against different backgrounds.

The first configuration (above is in front of a plain light blue wall). I also tried placing the sample in front of a dark blue  background (below)

And in front of sample FP20:

Although I liked the depth effect of placing in front of FP20, I felt that the yarn was lost because the background was too dominant and the colour schemes too similar.


SAMPLE FP22: Revisiting FP1 and FP16 – Laminated paper and fibre strung on fishing line

I started by made a laminate in the style of FP15, using woollen fibre, and handmade turquoise tissue. 

I then cut out small pieces to use in my sample. This time I chose to not to thread them onto handspun yarn, but fishing line instead. It had occurred to me that the handspun wool was very stretchy (not particularly desirable), and in the way it was being used, had no particular advantage over commercial-spun yarn. I chose to use fishing line because I knew it would give the impression of the pieces being suspended in space, and I thought that this might add interest and intrigue to the finished piece. I used the same sized stretcher frame as before. 

I am really pleased with the outcome of this sample, particularly how the pieces hang in space and the interesting negative spaces which are produced. Of particular appeal were laminated pieces which only contained strands of fibre, or an area of clear laminate, leading to a degree of transparency. 

Technically, I did notice that the laminate tended to separate In regions where a large amount of fibre was used (although this didn’t really matter, as it didn’t spoil the visual outcome).

I photographed it in different configurations. Firstly against a white wall:


Then against my patio doors:

And finally against FR20:

Again I felt that using FR20 as a background confused and muddled the piece. 

I particularly like the effect of holding the sample up against a window. It gave me the idea that this would be an ideal piece to customise for a site-specific installation (thinking of the work of Sheila Hicks), and as Sheila Hicks does with her installations, it could be viewed in different settings with very different outcomes.

I also placed the two samples (FR21 and FR22) side-by side (see below). The resulting contrast of shape and negative space was very pleasing.


SAMPLE FR23: A step forward from sample FR22

Whilst I liked the effect of sample FR22, I thought it could probably be made more interesting by using more varied colour and material, so I made a very similar sample but starting with a different sheet of laminate:

This time I included torn pieces of the double-sided paper I had made for FR21, hand-dyed fleece, pieces of chopped up commercially-dyed and spun fluorescent yarn, and chopped up pieces of hand-spun/yarn which had gone wrong and become tangled during plying. (see below):

From the laminate sheet, I cut pieces and threaded them onto fishing line. When I strung my length of yarn vertically from the stretcher frame, I spaced them more closely together, allowing the to overlap slightly.

The image above shows the sample placed against a white wall, and below, against sample FP20.

It is at that point that I conceded that placing the samples against FP20 does not work, being just too confused. Either I will have to rework FR20 and tone down the colours and pattern, or decide not to use a backing (the latter being my favoured approach at present).

Finally I looked at all three samples FR21, 22 and 23 placed next to each other. The two photos below show them viewed from different angles:



The second photo, in particular shows up the beauty and three-dimensionality of the pieces.

Looking at SAMPLE FR7 again

I did investigate briefly how FR7 might look incorporated into the final piece (i.e. against a large frame)

Whilst I love the three-dimensionality and negative spaces I can’t see how this sample fits in with FR21-23, so regrettably I have decided to leave it out of my finished piece. Maybe it can be developed in a later project.


Combining FR22 and FR23

Finally I looked at putting FR23 in front of FR22:

Whilst the effect is interesting, I feel it is slightly muddled. It would probably be better just to place the vertically strung yarns closer together for a more overlapped effect.

Still to investigate:

In samples FR22-23 The frames have not been large enough for me to investigate the effect spacing the cut pieces differently along the fishing line, and placing the vertical lengths of yarn different distances apart. I feel that this can only be done on the large frame (30″x42″), as I work the finished piece.

In thinking about outcome, Swedish designer Johan Carpner’s print “Utsikt”, has read across. However, I would like my work to by more 3-dimensional and play with light effects through semi-transparency. I am thinking in particular about a drawing I made in my sketchbook (below), and the possibility of replicating depth and shadow by incorporating light and dark groupings of leaves by similar groupings of my “cut pieces”.


Further thoughts: 

As I went on a morning walk I passed many oak trees and noticed that some leaves were damaged. It got me thinking that maybe it would be worth considering a more representative approach to the “cut pieces”. I decided to collect some leaves so that I could study their shapes. As I did so, I noticed that almost all were “imperfect”.

I started to think about the significance of the oak as a symbol of England, and parallels between the leaves and the people of England came into my mind. I thought about the work of Polish artist Magdalena Abankanowicz, which references populations, identities, similarities and differences. Leaves make good analogies – they all have the same basic shape, but like people there are differences and most have some sort if imperfection, just as most people carry physical damage (e.g as a result if accident, illness or disability) or personality flaws. 

I decided to do a further sample using oak leaf shapes from my collection.


SAMPLE FR24: SAMPLE FR23 but using the oak leaf shapes

Using the oak-leaf photo as a template, I cut leaf shapes out of my laminate sheets and used fishing wire to string them vertically on a small frame.

The result (shown above) is somewhat disappointing. I can explain why by comparing FR23 and FR22:

FR22 (right) has simple, bold shapes with sharp straight edges and points. In contrast, sample FR23 (left) has rounded and more ambiguous outlines and the result in more confused. Also (it is difficult to see on the photo), the weight distribution of the oak leaf-shaped pieces meant that when tied and strung, they do not hang in such a varied an interesting way.

I am reluctant to ‘clarify’ the shapes in FR23 by making them green because I feel that this would be too representational, so I have decided to proceed with my final piece using the angular, somewhat abstract leaf shapes of FR22. 


Personal project, Stage 4, Making a storyboard

26 June 2016

Having finished my first stage of sampling, I moved onto making a storyboard, thinking about what materials I might use and influences.

My board includes pieces of coloured paper, tissue, hand-dyed and hand-spun yarn and laminate, which I might used in my finished piece. It also includes an idea of how the components might be arranged. Alongside, is the inspirational oil painting “View of the lilypond with willow” (1917-19) By Claude Monet.

Unfortunately, I have not been unable to include a photograph of the storyboard in my blog because it contains images which would, if displayed, be in breech of copyright.


Personal project, Stage 3, Developing design ideas

20 June 2016

Since I wrote about by thoughts for the personal project in stage 2, I have completed a whole sketchbook on the theme of “trees”. In many areas I have been able to draw on the experience of assignments 1-3 and where appropriate, I have referenced successful samples where there is read-across. 

The core idea which I have decided to develop further for my personal project is that on page 3-4. It is centred around the inclusion of small “cut pieces” to make an art yarn which can cast beautiful shadows when suspended (see sketchbook extract below):


It reminded me very much of the vertical strands of “bead curtains”, and I produced a Pintrest board to investigate possible variations. I thought that this could become the basis for my project.

There are several possibilities for the direction which the project could take. The choice of material for the “cut pieces” for example – could be opaque or transparent, made from fabric, plastic, paper or other material (or a mixture). They might be embellished with paint, stitch or collage. They might be identical each side, or different, and how might they be attached to the carrying thread, and how thick, textured, coloured might it be? Once this has been decided and the “yarn” has been made, what might it be used for and how might it be displayed? (i.e. as a hanging in the configuration of a bead curtain, maybe In another configuration). 

In order to answer these questions, and to narrow my choices down, I set about making a set of basic samples. In this blog entry I will explain how I have gone about making each, and my thoughts regarding their suitability.

First, I looked at a series of yarns using different “add-ins”. I explored how these would look wrapped around a card (similar to a weaving warp), and knitted up in a garter stitch swatch (similar to being used as a weft).


SAMPLE FP1: Card pieces stung onto dressmakers’ polyester thread and plied with Handspun merino

I started with some simple card, coloured on one side, plain on the other. I cut randomly shaped triangles or quadrangle a and used a crewel needle to thread them onto some polyester cotton.

Using the Ashford Country-spinner II, I plied the cardboard pieces with some merino handspun yarn. The size of the cardboard pieces were about as large as they could be (because they only just fit through the spinning wheel orifice). An alternative might be to simply tie the pieces, as I did in my sketchbook sample (although this might leave an undesirable bulky knot with anything much thicker than ordinary sewing thread)

Below is my sample yarn, threaded onto a card and lit with bright natural sunlight from the window.

I am very pleased with this first sample. The card, being stiff, stuck out at different angles around the yarn creating interesting shadows. The shadows from the bumpiness of the plied merino also gave added interest.


SAMPLE FP2: Sample FP1 knitted on 19mm needles into a garter stitch swatch


Because the yarn was fine and the needles large, this sample knitted up to an interesting net. The card pieces were light enough in weight not to distort the stitches and fell interestingly in different directions across the body of the sample.


SAMPLE FP3:Pieces of polyester voile incorporated into handspun merino single

Using a method described in reference 3., I inserted strips of cut polyester voile into small sections of drafted merino top (see below) before incorporating it into a spun single.

The finished yarn is shown below, again lit by strong natural light from the window.

I didn’t find the yarn (or the shadows) as interesting as sample FP1, although it would be possible to embellish the voile inserts, maybe by printing or machine stitching, to give additional pattern and surface interest.


SAMPLE FP4: Sample FP1 knitted on 19mm needles into a garter stitch swatch

I found that the voile pieces tended to slip/drift out of the yarn when I knitted with them, so I tied them with a knot. As it turned out it made little difference to the finished appearance/feel when I tied some additional insert onto the yarn after it was spun, during the knitting process (see darker areas of this sample). Again, I preferred sample FP2 – I don’t think polyester voile pieces were as striking as the cardboard inserts.


SAMPLE FP5: Strips of newspaper integrated into handspun merino single

I used the same method as FP3 and the sample is photographed in the same lighting conditions.

This sample didn’t cast such interesting shadows as FP1 and FP3. The newspaper also needs to be secured more carefully too (maybe by the addition of a “twist” where it is spun into the yarn), as it tended to slip out.


SAMPLE FP6: Sample FP5 knitted on 19mm needles into a garter stitch swatch

I was really surprised how effective this yarn was when knitted – see below (viewed from above)

The pieces of newspaper (of which more could be added to increase the effect), looked like textured outgrowths and reminded me of my sketch of an oak tree trunk (see below)

The texture of the sample is fabulous, especially when viewed from an oblique angle:

I can imagine it might be enhanced further by colouring/patterning the newspaper strips. I would probably keep the patterned newsprint instead of using plain paper because I like the added random effect of the newsprint and photos.


SAMPLE FP7: 0.6mm wire, core-spun with hand dyed merino

I decided to make this sample because I thought it might be useful in conjunction with FP1, 3, or 5, to give form and structure to an open weave woven piece, and as an alternative to bare wire. 

I had never spun with wire before, but I found it remarkable easy, and very effective. I like the thick and thin sections, and the coiled and twisted shape which it naturally made, reminding me of tree roots in the Marais Poitevin region of France.

The image above is an example of root grown into the canal (which unfortunately I had to omit from my sketchbook work due to lack of time).

My main interest in this sample is that it can be bent, twisted or formed into interesting shapes, and the structural nature of the wire means it could be used to define a 3-D shape.


SAMPLE FP8: Fishing line knitted in garter stitch on 12mm needles with bead inserts

I decided to make this sample because nylon line was a very effective medium for sampling in assignment 3. I thought that it might add a contrast to the other samples I had made – possibly to be used in conjunction with them? I was also keen to capture the feeling of light reflecting off leaves (see inspiration photo below)

Although interesting, I can’t see Immediately how this sample might be combined with the others.

I  also think that some of the textural qualities of the sample have been lost because it was knitted on larger needles than the one I made for assignment 3.


At this point I decided that I would make a series of samples to experiment with different materials and techniques for making the “cut pieces”, and to explore transparency.

SAMPLE FP9: Lamifix gloss, single-sided onto Japanese tissue with trapped threads and fibres

I chose the Lamifix gloss in preference to matt, based on my sketchbook experimentation. Lamifix needs to be ironed onto a surface, and I chose Japanese tissue because of it’s relative transparency and because it’s strength means that it could be coloured/dyed (if desired)


The Lamifix adhered well, although the sample remained soft and pliable (more than I would have liked). The tissue was more opaque than I had hoped and the threads didn’t really show through on the opposite side.


SAMPLE FP10: Lamifix gloss, single-sided onto polyester voile with trapped threads and fibres

This time I used the same method as for FP9, except I used polyester voile as the backing instead of Japanese tissue.

Although more transparent, the voile was less satisfactory because the Lamifix it did not adhere as well and also curled at the edges. Like sample FP10, the handle was soft and floppy. 

SAMPLE FP11: Lamifix gloss, double-sided onto polyester voile with trapped threads and fibres

Finally, I tried using the Lamifx double-sided (first one side of the fabric, then the other, not both at once). I used solely black thread on one side and solely green coloured thread/fibre on the other so that I could assess the transparency.

The photo above shows the side to which the black threads were adhered. The green thread and fibres are easily visible.

And visa versa, the black threads show through nicely on the other side. The handle of the sample is also improved (being stiffer), although there is some “rippling” in the Lamifix film, which I don’t really want for this application.


I then thought I would experiment with a lamination machine. I had not tried this workshop in assignment 3, so it was a new experience. I ruled out paper lamination, because I knew from the workshop results that the samples would not be stiff enough for my intended application.


SAMPLE FP12: Lamination of threads and fabric pieces

This was the first time I had ever used a lamination machine and my sample got stuck! (hence the concertina crinkles). I’m still not sure why, because I only used very fine fabrics and threads, and I have used more bulky materials since without a problem. I can only think it may have been because of the unevenness of distribution of trapped material.


SAMPLE FP13: Magazine cutting laminated with trapped threads

After the disaster of my first attempt, I chose to laminate a cut-out from a magazine and laid very fine threads on top to add texture and disrupt the image.

I was very pleased with the results – now to push the boundaries a bit more.


SAMPLE FP14: Lamination of larger pieces of fabric and Japanese tissue

I used polyester voile, heat set-creased polyester, metallic net and strips of Japanese tissue.

This sample looks uninspiring because there is very little colour, however the aim was to see whether larger pieces of fabric and paper laminated well and to see if I could successfully introduce a thicker sample. The first success was that I did not cause a jam in the lamination machine. However, the larger pieces (particularly where the tissue overlapped the voile) did not adhere well to the laminate. The heat-creased synthetic was disappointing because the lamination process effectively removed the creases and texture.


SAMPLE FP15: Lamination of Procion dyed Japanese tissue, commercially-dyed tissue, inkjet printed design and trapped threads

For my next sample I tore pieces of dyed Japanese tissue, regular tissue and inkjet printed paper with some threads thrown in for good measure. The inkjet printed paper was one of the designs from my sketchbook.

I was delighted with this lamination. Technically it was perfect and I like he overlapping colours of the tissue and the fact that the threads could be seen from both sides and through the tissue.

The inkjet printout was single-sided so the back it white. I would make sure I printed double-sided if I was making the lamination to use in my final project.


SAMPLE FP16: Lamination of magazine cuttings, origami paper and trapped threads/fibres

For my final lamination I tried to pull together the knowledge from my previous experiments and I am really pleased that I have produced a sample which is visually and technical exactly what I had been hoping for.

The photo above shows one side, the photo below the reverse.


I purposely chose origami paper because it is double-sided, but the magazine cutting works well too (the reverse by chance being a gardening advertisement) The get trapped fibres and threads add a lovely 3-dimensional feel. For this lamination I used a pouch which was thicker and gave better results in terms of both adherence and reduced curling. It was one I’d purchased, whereas in previous experiments the pouches were those provided as free samples with the laminator. 


SAMPLE FP17: Handspun merino plied with paper and acetate metallic ribbon

Exploring the theme of reflected light on leaves and inclusions in yarn, I decided to ply some metallic ribbon with  merino single.

I had to split the ribbon lengthways, and it kept breaking. I’m not especially taken with the sample, so don’t think I’ll be using it. I feel that the metallic is too overpowering.


SAMPLE FP18: 1mm basket cane knitted in garter stitch using 19mm needles

I had wanted to try this material for assignment 3, but hadn’t managed to buy any in time. Thinking about sample FP7 being analogous to large tree roots, I thought this might be analogies to finer, thread roots and could possible be used to add a contrast of texture to my piece.

Shown below is the undyed sample:

This would need to be dyed if I decided to use it in my final piece (which I understand can be done simply using Procion dye).


SAMPLE FP19: Scored and painted acetate sheet

As an alternative to samples FP9-16, I also considered using acetate for my yarn “cut-outs”. Firstly, I took a projector-weight sheet and scored different marks using dry-point tools. I rubbed black acrylic paint into The scored areas to highlight the marks. I then turned the sheet over and painted the reverse side thinly using green acrylic paint, and a credit card in places to disperse the paint and create textured marks.

The effect is bold but still transparent. The black marks show similarly on the scored side and the reverse. It is an effective yet simple technique which I found in reference 4.

Review of progress:

At this stage of experimentation and sampling, I had decided that my preferred technique for making the “cut pieces” for inclusion in the yarn was the laminating machine (FP16), the next stage being to try out different patterned and coloured papers and the inclusion of threads and yarn and see which I liked best.

I was also really keen to incorporate samples FP2, FP6 and FP7 (and maybe FP18) if possible, because they complemented the laminate samples by adding a contrast of texture.

At this point it was necessary to give consideration to the form and scale of the finished piece. Because my sketchbook work had initially conjured up thoughts of bead curtains, this seemed the natural way to proceed with developing the piece.

I had a large wooden art canvas frame which reminded me of a window frame (a fitting place to hang/display a bead curtain).

Holding samples up against this frame seemed like a good way of testing how they might be used in a woven piece of this size. I had intended that the yarn would be strung vertically in the frame, then viewed against a plain (probably white) background. I therefore had in mind that my leaf-like “cut pieces” would be coloured and patterned.

SAMPLE FP20: Patterned newspaper

I patterned some newspaper ready for laminating and cutting out for use in my yarn (also referenced from my sketchbook sampling). I had intended to leave this to dry before painting and patterning the reverse side. However, when I pinned the paper up against me frame I realised that the paper had real depth and movement and that I felt reluctant to cut it.

The photograph below shows a close up of an area of the paper, the one below of the paper pinned onto the frame.

There are many aspects of this paper that I really like, and It got me thinking as to whether it could be used as a backdrop for vertically-hung yarn with plain “cut pieces” rather than patterned ones?

The features of the patterned paper that I like are:

  1. The colour scheme really works!
  2. The turquoise accents are like shafts of rain and give movement and excitement.
  3. There are subtle yellow accents in the green background – like tints that are visible in leaves, especially when they overlap and have sunlight pass through them.
  4. The brown and ultramarine textured sponge roller paint marks remind me of glimpses of twigs seem through leaves, or shady areas in the canopy.

There are differences I would make compositionally if I were to use this paper for my finished piece:

  1. I would use the patterned roller/brown marks to emphasise the vertical more than the horizontal.
  2. I would extend the patterned paper down to cover two-third of the frame.
  3. I would probably make the marks more dense towards the bottom of the piece, and more spaced out towards the top.


Ideas for extended sampling and resolving/consolidating the work:


1. To string lengths of sample FP1 vertically on a small frame, and hold it up against my backdrop to see how it looks and to check proportion and scale. (see photo below). To determine whether this simple idea gives sufficient interest, or whether it would be enhanced by the incorporation of one or more of samples FP2, FP6, FP7, FP18.


2. Layering really interests me, and in particular I am inspired by this photograph:

I thought that maybe I could explore making small swatches (FP2, FP6, FP18) and layering them. In particular being able to hand-spin, I could explore the differences between very thick, bulky yarns and extremely fine lacy yarns, but unite them by using identical fibre. I also really like the idea of “patchwork” (or joining small swatches to make an overall visually interesting piece).

A further thought was that I might use the same backdrop paper (FP20) for making laminated pieces which I could also incorporate into different areas of the finished project.

I am aware that combining too many of these ideas might produce a muddled, over complicated or confused result, so I would need to experiment.


3. Weaving 

I particularly like this analogy from my assignment 3 sketchbook, especially the use of a transparent warp or weft.

I could imagine sample FP20 being woven in an area of the work – maybe using some laminate, or semi-transparent coloured tissue.


4. Colour palette 

I am really pleased with the colour palette in sample FP20, which I intend to carry on using.



One of the stated aims of this stage in the course is to identify the core of an idea and try out variations on that theme and I feel satisfied that I had done so through my experimentation and sampling. My work is united by the theme of trees and in particular the core idea of using cut pieces strung onto a thread or yarn to represent leaves, their different colours, shapes, movement and shadows. Unlike the samples I made for assignment 3, this work feels coherent and purposeful. I can see relationships between samples and the whole process is making sense and helping to move my ideas forward.

Another aim of stage 3 is to develop ideas of size of the scale and clarify whether the interest is in a repeating pattern or a single unit. I have looked at my samples in the context of the frame on which I plan to make my weaving/piece. I will have to do more sampling and experimentation to find a composition which gives balance yet excitement. I now feel ready to move to stage 4 and make a storyboard.



  1. Walsh, P. (2006) The yarn book: how to understand, design and use yarn. London. A&C Black publishers Ltd.
  2. Fisch, A. (1997) Textile techniques in metal. London. Robert Hale Ltd.
  3. Martineau, A. (2013) Spinning and dyeing yarn: The home spinner’s guide to creating traditional and art yarns. London. Jacqui Small (an imprint of Aurum Press).
  4. Thorne, D. (2009) Transparency in textiles. London. Batsford.


Personal project, Stage 2, Sketchbooks and portfolio work

6 June 2016

Thoughts on developing sketches and ideas

During this stage of the course I was asked to think about my existing sketchbooks and portfolio work and how I might build on or develop my ideas. 

The techniques of semi-transparency and layering from assignment 3 (reveal and conceal) are most appealing. They are powerful ways of generating visual depth and texture, whilst providing possibilities for exploiting the effects of light and shadow. 

Looking at my two sketchbooks, I especially like the effects of the thermofax screen printing on the semi-see-through butter muslin (Sketchbook 1: Part 3, Reveal and conceal, Stage 4, page 11).

In the photo below the top image is the right side of the fabric. In the lower image, the reverse of the fabric is presented for viewing. Even though there are only two colours used, it has tremendous depth, and reminds me of gnarled bark texture.


Leading on, the woven inkjet printout and Japanese paper analogy (below), has the effect of gently fragmenting the image, reminding me of loose, moving reflections of tree branches on the surface of water, or a tangle of matted tree roots (see Sketchbook 1: Part 3, Reveal and conceal, Stage 4, page 13)

I also find images of tree leaves and branches inspiring. For example – patterns formed by branches against the sky (image below and Sketchbook 2: Assignment 3, Reveal and conceal, Stage 4, page 9)

Another powerful image which I have used in my sketchbooks and for sampling shows a country lane wet with rain and shadows of tree trunks and branches (image below – see Sketchbook 2: Assignment 3, Reveal and conceal, Stage 4, page 24). I have used this image successfully for computer imagine layering and inkjet printing.

This image of Autumn Beech leaves shows interesting colour variation, overlapping semi-transparent leaves and small areas of negative space in which the brightness of the sky is just visible (Sketchbook 2: Assignment 3, Reveal and conceal, Stage 4, page 10):

Foliage also features in SAMPLE IP4: Flowers on ExtraOrganza (below). This technique started with computer layering and manipulation of images, which were then printed onto silk organza fabric. I feel that I may be able to either use this sample, or the technique to develop further ideas for my personal project.


A theme of “Trees”

I could have decided to take my ideas or samples direct from assignment 3 for further development. However, I do not feel that I had the freedom to explore all the possibilities that I would have liked. This is because I had to limit my choice of workshops, and in doing so didn’t get the chance to consider techniques such as fabric manipulation, stitching and deconstruction.

Trees features frequently in my work for Assignment 3. They are a theme which can readily be interpreted both in the context of “reveal and conceal” and the techniques I used in the assignment workshops. Last module I chose the subject of “depression” for my final project. As a highly conceptual theme, I found it easy to get distracted from the visual focus of the project. In contrast, trees can easily be interpreted visually in a literal and straightforward way. However, there is an still an appealing element of conceptualism in the myth, folklore, personification and identity often attributed to trees.  

Whilst thinking about the samples and ideas which worked well, I also want to use the assignment 5 as an opportunity to open my mind further. I feel that the materials-led approach does not suit me in the same way as working with sketchbooks, so I want to revisit some source material and make new drawings/analogies. One area that I feel I could improve is by experimenting more as part of my sketchbook before I start sampling. I think this would give me the information I need to narrow my choices earlier. I intend to apply this to my personal project.

As of the time of publishing this post, my preliminary sketchbook work can be found here: Ash tree – experiments, and here: A series of tree-related experiments and sketches 


Personal project, Stage 1, Reviewing your work so far

6 June 2016

The course instructions asked me to use a table and pin board to display the drawings, design ideas and samples that I particularly like, or that I feel represent ‘breakthrough’ points. Unfortunately that was not possible because most of my sketches and experiments are stuck into books (a way in which I like to work because it helps me with progression and development of ideas). Instead, I shall include the examples in this blog entry.


‘Breakthrough’ points:

Undoubtably a breakthrough came in the first assignment when I started to use computer software to manipulate, tile and layer images. An example is SAMPLE 6, assignment 1 (below), in which I explore different arrangements of Indian bead designs and variations in colour schemes. 

Another example is SAMPLE IP2, assignment 3: Portrait in ExtraOrganza) in which I have layered one of my drawings over a photograph and printed it onto silk organza fabric.

Ideas and samples that I particularly like:

From the first assignment (cultural fusions), there are three samples which I particularly like:

The first is the “Fallen feather” (SAMPLES 4a and 4b, assignment 1):

I think that the printed background works well because of the changing tonal qualities of the marks and how they contrast with the bold feather stencil shapes.

Secondly, I like the tiled bead design below – particularly the colour scheme and the texture of the squares (see assignment 1, design development book 2, pages 17-19). It was made by printing one repeat with acrylic paint and a carved rubber stamp, then scanning into the computer, replicating and rearranging the design to make a pattern.

Finally, I feel that the Shoshone lake weaving (SAMPLE 9a, assignment 1) is very effective, both in terms of colour contrast and texture. The idea originated fro a series of drawings/paintings using different media, which I interpreted from a photograph.

Looking back a screen printing (assignment 2), I found lots of techniques which produced really interesting textural results and which I imagine could be used effectively in conjunction with fabric manipulation and/or stitching. Some were not obviously appealing to me at the time because of their subtlety didn’t make them outstanding as ‘stand-alone’ samples. 

Examples are as follows:

Above: Acrylic spray paint used to make a stencil (SAMPLE 10, assignment 2).

Above: Cobweb stray used as a stencil (SAMPLE 16, assignment 2).

Above: Acrylic paint used to make a mono-print stencil (SAMPLE 13, assignment 2).

Above: Vilene used with acrylic paint and stencilling to make a screen which gives prints with a range of tones and surface qualities depending how much paint has seeped though (SAMPLE 9, assignment 2). 

One of the samples which was outstanding on it’s own was made using a resist/stencil of masking tape (see below, SAMPLE 8, assignment 2). It is bold and confident, yet has subtlety of colour variations where the two prints overlap.

I have lots of “favourites” from Assignment 3, but to pick just a few:

From the netting workshop, organza strips (SAMPLE N2):

Because of the incursion of frayed edges into the negative space as well as the semi-transparent properties of the fabric strips.

 – and SAMPLE N5:

For the same reasons as SAMPLE N2, and also because of the beautiful shadows it creates.

From “Knitted nets”, SAMPLE KN20:

The colour contrast is great and I like the way that the organise ‘core’ forms a spiral which is ‘followed’ by the blue semi-transparent ribbon bows, which emphasise the 3D structure and giving the sample a feeling of movement.

From the “Woven structures” workshop, SAMPLE WS1:

Lots of subtle variation due to some of the weft materials being transparent, some not (meaning that some are visible and others are partially or completely obscured). A strong contrast between the soft, brightly coloured weft fibres and the shiny, hard, bright copper wire warp.

And from Inkjet printing, SAMPLE IP4: Flowers on ExtraOrganza:

A contrast of light and dark, fine detail contrasted with strong edges, giving a definite depth to the sample.

Set questions:

What approach to drawing works best for you? 

In Assignments 1 and 2, (because of the themes I had selected) I didn’t have much choice but to work from photographs. Although I feel very comfortable with this approach, I am aware that photographs are themselves interpretations, so I always try and capture as much information from real life as possible. Although I haven’t explored the approach much in this module, I also like to use words/phrases to stimulate my creativity.

Which materials and ways of working do you enjoy most? 

I like to sketch and make analogies using as many different media as possible (including computer software), because this approach stimulates my creativity in different ways. I particularly like acrylic paint because of the texture and movement which can be implied with bristle marks and other implements. I also like oil pastels because they make it difficult for me to work in fine detail, and in so doing, both discourage copying and help me to focus on the most important visual elements. Collage has similar advantages.


Which ways of developing ideas have proved most fruitful?

I try and use as many methods as I can, including selecting areas of drawings which I find most interesting, changing scale, using printing to give exciting textures to my mark-making, cutting out and re-arranging or collating sections. I also try and think about how designs might be combined.

Here is an example which was particularly fruitful. It started by making a pencil drawing from a photograph of a Sioux breastplate (I selected an area which I was interested in rather than drawing the whole object):

I then made a 3D paper model:

Which I used to make prints and rubbings:

I also photographed and digitally manipulated the image of the model to come up with ideas for fabric design:


I then used the computer-manipulated section as a prompt for a sample using fabric darts:

Returning to the original pencil sketch, I took the elements which I liked best and made a foam printing block, which I used to recreate the design in white acrylic paint on black paper:

I used this design as a basis for some abstract collage.

Then also used it in conjunction with an earlier feather design, as the background for stencil screen-prints:

Which textile technique appeals to you the most?

That is a difficult question, because with the exception of Assignment 1, the work has been quite prescriptive (screen printing for assignment 2 and I had to limit myself to just 5 workshops in assignment 3 because of time constraints). I certainly feel at home with all types of printing (screen printing, thermofax, inkjet printing), but I can’t imagine not wanting to combine these with at least one other technique. I also very much like weaving (although probably not a natural choice to combine with printing!). I find weaving very constraining which actually helps me to think creatively, and be more abstract; freeing me from having to copy or represent the idea or object literally.

During this module I discovered computer manipulation of images. It means I can draw or photograph my samples, and use them in conjunction with other ideas. I particularly like the idea that drawings or paintings can actually be used as part of a final piece because I find that they can produce very expressive visual outcomes.

One of the techniques which I enjoy, but haven’t yet had much chance to incorporate yet is hand-stitching (as a method of mark-making, embellishment, or to join pieces of fabric or paper). It can be very powerful as a technique for introducing texture or colour accents, and I will certainly consider it for my final project.


Visit to Yorkshire Sculpture Park

1 June 2016

Yorkshire Sculpture park (YSP), which opened in 1977, is a 500 acre site near Wakefield for the production, exhibition and appreciation of modern art and contemporary sculpture. 

As well as several indoor galleries, the parkland has carefully designed vistas, hosting both permanent and temporary sculpture exhibits, which include some of the leading figures of the 20th century art and sculpture; Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Joan Miro, Anthony Gormley, Magalena Abakanowicz, Elisabeth Frink, Andy Goldworthy and Jonathan Borofsky. 

Whilst visiting, I was lucky to also see major exhibitions by Not Vital (21.05.16 – 02.01.17) and KAWS (06.02.16 – 12.06.16 Longside gallery, until Dec 2016 open-air), as well as “At Home” (19.03.16 – 17.07.16) an exhibition highlighting over 40 works of home and domestic objects from 1930-2010. Also in the galleries was the major exhibition “Eduardo Paolozzi 2016” (12.03.16 – 12.06.16) whose approach is widely viewed as a precursor and driver of the British Pop Art movement. I also had the opportunity to view Roger Hiorns work “Seizure” (2008); an empty council flat (originally in Southwark) whose interior had been pumped with copper sulphate to produce a sparkling blue coating of electric blue crystals. 

With so much to see, and without the luxury of living close enough to make a return visit, I focused on visiting as many of the exhibits as possible, recording them photographically, collecting as much information as I could through boards, leaflets and official publications.  

“Ten seated figures” (2010), Magdalena Abakanowicz 

Magdalena Abakanowicz’s, sculpture, “Ten Seated Figures” was of particular interest because she was one of the artists I had researched for Assignment 4, Project 1, and consequently I knew something of the artist and the background to her work. Born in Poland in 1930, to a Polish-Russian family, her practice reflects Issues of war, post-war oppression, the concept of crowds and loss of identity.

The sculpture consists of a series of ten giant figures (less heads and arms), each seated on a bench. Although currently at the YSP, they are on loan by the artist and Galerie Scheffel, Bad Homburg, Germany (2). The period of the loan is not known. Made in 2010, the sculptures are typical of a series of works made by Abakanowicz from 1974, when she started to make seated figures, first in Burlap fabric, and later in metal. (6)

I have not been able to find out the exact dimensions for the figures, although I estimate each is between nine and ten feet tall and maybe some 4 feet in width and depth. Made from cast iron, they are positioned in a row, one iron “seat” directly alongside the next, forming a corridor along which the viewer is invited to walk. 

The fact that each sculpture is resembles the human form means there is a figurative element to the work, and because heads and arms have been omitted, this also points to it being a reflective piece. Knowing the background to Abakanowicz’s work and the themes that she likes to explore, allows me to suppose that she is representing the anonymity of the figures, and asking us to question their identity (particularly to contrast their similarities and differences). Indeed it is characteristic of Abakanowicz’s work, is that whilst each figure initially appears identical, close examination reveals that each is in fact unique, having subtle but discernible differences in surface texture and form.

In common with much of her work, I feel that these pieces are are very much concept-led. Ingot (6) has likened her work to the sculptures of Wladyslaw Hasior (which were also headless and seated), and Josef Szajna. She believes that the fragmented and multilateral body forms are metaphors for Abakanowicz’s own wartime memories (her family were subject to a Nazi assault). Further, it is readable that these sculptures explore not only the physical injuries, but a degradation of human dignity and loss of personal identity.


“Moon” (2015) Not Vital”

Born in 1948 in the small village of Sent on the boarders of Austria and Italy, Not Vital now lives an almost nomadic existence, choosing to divide his time between residences and studios in Sent, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro and Niger. Despite being recognised internationally as a leading sculptor, the YSP is his first major exhibition in the UK and reflects the diversity of his work including paintings, works on paper, as well as indoor and outdoor sculptures in a range of materials such as plaster, silver, gold, marble, glass and coal. His work is informed by both his rural and secluded upbringing (mountains, animals, snow, the Alpine environment), and the cultural elements derived from his travels.

Choosing one piece to discuss was extremely difficult. Although I found his outdoor sculptures the most compelling, I also particularly liked his handmade paper pieces in which he had sculpted the surface (either using his hands during manufacture, by tearing, or by embedding objects within the fibre itself – see example below from the “Laos series” (2016), frog permeating handmade paper)


I chose the sculpture “Moon” (2015) to discuss because I found it the most awe inspiring. It consists of a large sphere of polished metal featuring depressions or “craters” within it’s surface. The reflective qualities means that it acts a spherical mirror, both reflecting and distorting the environment around it. In the photo below I have included my 9 year old son to give an idea of the scale of the piece.

Situated on the gallery lawn of the YSP with a backdrop of clipped yew hedging, the piece reflects the horizon, sky and long lawn and path of this area of the park. Thinking back to Pointon’s remarks (3), this artwork exemplifies the importance of location and juxtapositioning because of it’s reflective surface. By comparison, a similar but smaller sculpture by Vital, “Moon” (2011) looks very different when photographed in the environment of a workshop/studio. According to Sperone Westwater’s website (4), the moon sculpture is one of a series of three. “Moon” (2015) was displayed on it’s own at the YSP.

“Moon” (2015) has a diameter for 300cm (5) and was fabricated by skilled craftsmen in China using chased steel. Each crater was made individually then welded to the main structure (1). This use of skilled artisans (whose expertise has been acquired over generations) is a central feature of Vital’s practice, and often brings positive financial benefit to the communities.

Partially materials-led, and partially conceptual, the highly polished surface and the reflections it generates seem to suggest Vital’s own way of absorbing the nuances and peculiarities of the places he visits. Reference to the moon, and the size of this sculpture make us think about it in a similar to the sun and sunset (also themes of Vital’s work), as a reliable constant in a changing world. 


“Small Lie” (2013) KAWS

Before visiting the sculpture park, I was only vaguely aware of KAWS large sculptures and knew nothing of the background behind the artist or his work. I didn’t have high expectations – I was anticipating a frivolous display of large, whimsical plastic characters, which at best I might have found slightly amusing. Instead, I discovered a deeply moving series of work, exploring emotion through body language (especially posture). KAWS uses the medium of pop art, cartoon characters, advertising/consumerism and the influences of American and Japanese culture to convey his ideas. 

KAWS (Brian Donnelly) is an American artist whose early work included graffiti and modifying advertising posters. The exhibition at YSP surveys sculptures made over the last ten years representing his trademark characters Companion, Chum, and Bendy, all with soft skull and cross bones and crossed out eyes.

“Small Lie” (2013) is the most massive of all the sculptures in the exhibition. At 10m high and made from Afromosia wood, the scale of the piece and beauty of the material contribute to it’s impact. The sculpture is a character, which sports the buttoned breeches, braces and gloves of the early Micky Mouse cartoons the nose of Pinocchio. It is the reference to familiar cartoons which contributes to a feeling of intimacy and association with the emotions that this sculpture conveys. It is shown with a stooped posture, it’s head hung in shame. As if despondent, a child who has been reprimanded for telling a lie, yet not quite understanding what has happened to it or what it has done. 



Undoubtably figurative, the feelings conveyed by the character make the viewer feel that it needs consoling, or comfort, yet the scale makes this seem at the same time impossible and the character somewhat distant, helpless and out of reach. This only adds to our empathy and heightens our emotional response to the piece.

Although inextricably linked with Pop art, KAWS work takes the movement on into the 21st century, by drawing on popular culture and blurring the boundaries between fashion, art and design.

It was interesting when reviewing photographs in the exhibition catalogue (7), that very different moods and interpretations could be given depending on the weather and light conditions. “Good Intentions” (2015), for example, appeared warm and comforting when photographed in bright sunlight, yet sad, subdued and almost dejected when photographed with a covering of snow.

The YSP setting was the first in which a group of several large KAWS sculptures had been shown together. The artist commented that when grouped, the sculptures “change from being a pea into something massive” (7), i.e. that interplay between them adds an extra dimension, increasing their gravitas.

By referencing popular culture, toys and consumerism, KAWS work reaches to a wide audience including children, youths and those who may not normally associate themselves with the type of art seen in galleries. In this way, by breaking down the boundaries between fine art and design/fashion/advertising/consumerism, KAWS is able to transcend high and low art and avoid elitism.

  1. Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2016) Not Vital. Leeds. Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
  2. Yorkshire Sculpture Park [n.d.] Exhibitions: Magdalena Abakanowicz. [online]. Available from: [Accessed 3 June 2016]
  3. Pointon, M (2014) History of Art. A student handbook. 5th Edition. London and New York. Routledge.
  4. Vital, N. (2011) Moon [stainless steel]. 150cm diameter. [online]. Available from: [Accessed 3 June 2016]
  5. Vital, N. (2015) Moon [stainless steel]. 300cm diameter. [online]. Available from: [Accessed 3 June 2016]
  6. Inglot, J. (2004) The figurative sculpture of Magdalena Abakanowicz: Bodies, environments and myths. California. University of California press.
  7. Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2016) KAWS Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Wakefield. Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Contextual studies, Reflective commentary

4 June 2016

Textiles 1: Exploring ideas – Assignment 4

Reflective commentary

Now that I have completed assignment 4, I can appreciate just how much more there is to understanding a piece of art than just simply describing it and stating whether it appeals to my taste. For instance: what motivates artists/designers to work in a particular style, with certain materials, and with or against a certain narrative? Were they pioneers or followers?

In stage 1 of the first Project (researching from the set list), I initially found it difficult to know where to focus, and how to provide sufficient detail without being overwhelmed by the volume of literature. I developed a structure which helped me to achieve a balance between overview and depth, and as a consequence I feel that I have a good working knowledge of each of the artists. I also decided to annotate the information which I had collected, because it is the process of collating and summarising that allows me to formulate mental links, rationalise arguments, codify ideas and draw conclusions.

The in-depth study for stage 2 was tricky because the limit of 2000 words meant I had to be highly selective about what to include and what to omit. Necessarily, my investigation of Judy Chicago focused on her most well-known work, “The Dinner Party”. This was because of the controversy it caused, its impact on feminist art, and art made by women. In hindsight, maybe I should have focused more on the textiles element of the piece, and perhaps been more specific about collaboration and the timing and context of criticism?

In stage 3, the questions posed by the course notes stretched me to widen my thinking on works of art/design. They we’re illuminating and inspiring and will certainly form the basis of any future research or review. I was able to apply this approach to my review of a medieval retable in Thornham Parva church and Jonathan Lloyd’s “Retable in dazzle camouflage”; a woodcut print inspired by he medieval painting.

At the beginning of June I was able to visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Of special interest was a sculpture by Magdalena Abakanowicz “Ten Seated figures” (2010). Having researched her work for Project 1 it was enlightening to be able to see one of her sculptures in real life. The park also features the sculptures of some of the leading artists of the 20th century, including Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Anthony Gormley, Elisabeth Frink, and many others, including major  exhibitions by KAWS and Not Vital.

For Project 2, I repeated the general research and questions on specific artworks using artists of my choice. A general observation is that many artists/designers collaborated closely with their husbands (for example Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh, Anni Albers and Lucienne Day and Sonia Delaunay). There has been a tendency for the art establishment and public to overlook the skills and achievements of all these women; a fact which is only properly being recognised now, as we move into the 21st century.