Monday, 22 August 2016

Slashing and Rhythms

Yet another thought I brought along to discuss with Sian was the idea of slashing.  The ground of my piece is made up of four layers: a piece of dark grey silk, a silver metallic cloth, bronze-grey shot silk and the top layer silk organza.  In stitching narrow parallel lines of varying length and slashing through the three top layers I thought the surface could be further enriched, bringing toning colours and rough texture to it.

1.1 Close-up

1.2 Close-up

1.3  Still Small Voice of Calm

1.4  Left Edge Detail
1.5 Right Edge Detail

Sian talked to me about using a rhythm to apply the cords and this I have tried to do, and with the slashing and later with the application of fine stitching and beads.  Hopefully all the techniques are fully integrated and look right.

Here then are views of the finished piece, though it may be a little premature to say so.


So I have confirmed the ideas about the ground for this piece it's time to work out how best to apply the cords and threads.

Before the summer school I had made a selection of fine cords in my colour scheme and in her feedback Sian had suggested grouping them together then applying them, but how to achieve this.

In the back of my mind was  a television programme, part of a series made by Dr. Jago Cooper, exploring ancient civilizations (something I find endlessly fascinating) of South America.  What was appearing through the fog in my mind were knotted cords made by the Inca.  They were arranged in various lengths, knotted along their length and tried to a base cord.  In the image below they almost look as if they might be a collar.  On investigating further the knots turned out to be formed by twisting and knotting the cord in three different ways.

Even more exciting than the look of this artefact was its purpose.  My preferred explanation for its creation was as a story-telling device, a holder of history and memory.  Another explanation is as an abacus or some way of keeping accounts, but that's not really to my taste, though I can see how that idea sprang to mind.

1.1 Inca Quipa Knots
1.2 Forming Quipa Knots

Possibilities and Making Decisions

And what a lots of possibilities there are and so many as a result of Summer School and the opportunity to discuss this work so far with Sian and where I might take it next.

Alone in my workroom the possibilities juggle one with another: if I take this decision, then that may be the result, on and on in a never ending range of combinations.  If you don't actually sample those combinations there is no way of seeing how each one works -- no compare and contrast -- no making a choice of what works best.

When Sian initially told me she thought I wasn't particularly good at making decisions I wasn't completely accepting of the idea.  Now I've had some time to digest the thought, I've decided she may well be right.  So here then is the ebb and flow of sampling and deciding how my resolved sample should look.

At my tutorial we discussed the smaller complex circle, based on the paper-cuts, and whether it had a place at all as part of the design.  Though the colours of this element were in my colour scheme it did jump out as possibly too strong both in colour and texture: it was made of cotton and felt rather than silk and organza, and unlike those I'd dyed neither of them myself.  (Interestingly having too broad a colour scheme was the same error I made at Summer School with Flint Brocade.)  The way I had tried to integrate the two circles work was by adding fine springs made of cords and clustering beads around them, but it wasn't sufficiently successful to continue along that path.  Instead Sian and I talked about cutting into the main circle to reveal the shot silk beneath; this toned much better, but felt rather an extreme action to take.

My next thought was, if I'm going to cut into my piece of work do I need a minor circle at all?  I did,with just the knotted cords across somehow the piece seemed to lack any purpose, so to me the minor circle was a must.

Orientation was also a discussion point and we decided not only to turn the piece, but also to crop it.

Sample 1: Starting Point

Sample 2 : No circle at all

Back home and with so much in a state of flux, I sampled different size minor circles: smaller or even smaller and came to the conclusion that the proportions of the original size were in fact just right.

Sample 3 : Smaller Circle

Sample 4: Smallest Circle

Sample 5 : Just right

  And still resistant to the idea of cutting through the lovely top circle of carefully dyed, printed and pieced organza I began to explore other possible treatments of my perfectly sized circle, trying printing, trapunto, and printing and trapunto combined.  Finally I recreated a circle, like the felt and cotton one but only in shot silk, gradually cutting into it until it needed reconstructing and supporting on another circle resembling by this point a skeleton.  This was  a wholly unnerving experience.

Sample 6 : Printed

Sample 7 : Printing with Trapunto

Sample 8 : Deconstructed and Reconstructed

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Flint Brocade

Here I am at home trying to make something of the samples I started and tried not to finish while I was away, wanting to work on them in a more considered way and becoming even more emotionally engaged with some of the pieces.

I'll start then with the solufleece challenge and try to work out what I've learned through the process.

Flint Design Stage 1

So here is the piece when I finished Summer School.  I've used the threads in the colours and textures I had available, quite proud of myself for getting on with the job rather than prevaricating too much.  When packing my threads I recalled the restrained palette of those travelling from abroad and tried to emulate it -- just bringing the colours that would match my images with an eye to their texture too.  As you can see I changed my mind when I got home.

Flint Design Stage 2

When I used the grey-brown Herdwick wool Jean had said, "You've nearly got away with it."  She was right, I hadn't, and in spite of the lovely couching and wrapping the first thing I did was to rip it out and replace it with a taupe colour.  It's tonally more in keeping, though texturally perhaps not so good.  If I were doing this piece again I would go still more shades paler.  And here's the thing, I used flint walls as the jumping off point for my Foundation Module and had a range of threads and colour sampling there at my finger tips in the lovely little book I made.  Another lesson learnt: don't forget to refer to your archive you probably have been through these thought processes before.

Flint Design Stage 3

So here we are very, very many layers of sorbello stitch on -- what a wonderful addition to my stitch repertoire.  I've used a huge range of muted threads to create a connective web between the rows of flints.

Flint Stage Stage 4: Flint Brocade (4"x 3")

 The final image shows the piece after washing and drying.  It's hard to put into words quite what I think.  The fact that I'm not enthusing tells me there's a mismatch between the expectation of Stage 3 and the reality of Stage 4.  Being new to this technique I find myself wondering whether the choice of visual reference was appropriate or is it the way I carried out the task?

Could the way the piece looks be the result of how it was washed out?  The water was only luke warm when I washed the piece, but the fibres do seem to have shrunk tightening the lovely lacy sorbello bands and flattening the piece's depth and the threads with sheen have become matte.  Maybe it's a case of less is more and next time the stitches should be less dense.

For the most part I'm pleased with the thread colours, though the blue-grey variegated thread seems more prominent than I would like them to be.

Next steps: perhaps a little more sorbello stitch in fine threads to recreate some of that cobwebby effect I so like.  And perhaps another go.  I saw this wonderful concrete wall yesterday . . . complete with ribs of rough-cut stone mixed into the mortar -- Concrete Brocade, now there's a thought!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Chapter 9 : A Resolved Sample

The image below is a photograph of the many spiral staircases giving access to various buildings at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich.  It was manipulated in Photoshop for my photography course some years ago and when I last discussed this resolved sample seemed like the ideal material.  However, a year's a long time and having taken other photographs of this and other spiral staircases at UEA I'm feeling less certain.

1. Manipulated close-up Spiral Staircase

2. Window Exercise

I tried out the windows exercise not only exploring the idea of composition but also trying to look at the range of tones.  The triangle, semi and full circle produced the most dynamic compositions, but I was rather disappointed with the tonal drawing: it seemed to lack boldness  Maybe it is true to the image?  Maybe the tonal range is subtle which I would like it to be but does it have enough interest?  I was also unsure about how much movement there was in any of the compositions.  Hence the expedition to photograph these other spiral staircases.

3. Mid-distance Spiral Staircase

4. Mid-distance Spiral Staircase

5. Close-up showing glimpses of landscape

As you can see there's a surfeit  of spiral staircases at UEA, and yes I do have even more!

Below is an attempt to create the spiral staircase in image 4 as a paper cutout.  I used a semi-circle taking an off centre position on its diameter and using Fibonnacci sequence divided the shape into imperfect sectors.  Each shape is larger than the next and placed to make a repeating pattern.  The background can clearly be seen between the imperfect sectors.  (By imperfect I mean they don't actually fulfill the mathematical definition for a sector.)

6. Paper cutout version of Image 4

This idea seems more fluid than the initial one, though in being fluid it might simply look muddled.  While waiting for some advice it might be worth trying out some paper cuts to test out my ideas for image 1 of the spiral staircases, and what a difference colour makes.

7. Paper cut of Image 1

8. Paper cut of Image 1

9. Paper cut of Image 1

Paper cut 9 is orientated in the same way as Image 1 and below interpreted in fabric,  The background dark grey is fabric strips which have been overlapped and stitched.  The lighter grey element is strips stitched along their centres and folded in half.  Finally the ice blue element is cut from felt, now half the width of my original design and more in proportion as a result.  All are bought fabrics from stock.

10. Paper cut interpreted in fabric

11. As above with the addition of a rich brown cord

My concern with taking this design forward is that it may not sufficiently convey movement.  With that in mind I traced Paper cut 9 and then extended the lines beyond the circle.

12. Tracing of Papercut 9 with extended lines.

This does, I think, give a sense of movement. The result is almost like a planet orbiting.

Two possibilities occur to me as ways of interpreting this idea.
Firstly, mount the circle offset on another larger circle which is printed and stitched. possibly including some Tyvel treated with the heatgun.  This larger circle will be tonally paler and will include the extended lines.
The second is not dissimilar to the first except that smaller circle is cut out of the larger one.  In both cases the treatment of the circle edges will need great care as to their finish.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Chapter 8 : Beads

 Reading the comments of others about these beading tasks I recognise their surprise at enjoying getting to grips with this type of work.  There's something exacting about it: the mere threading of such fine needles until you discover those with the very clever collapsible eye, though they're not suitable for every task.
I marked the area to test out each idea making it I thought quite small (4cm x 4cm), though in many cases I reduced and reduced it again.  I tested out shapes, sizes and colours of beads in combination, many I rejected as too clumsy or unsubtle, discovering on the way that tiny mauve seed bead with a gold core was indispensable.
The samples were stitched on calico and hopefully show a balance of both structured and free.

My samples then are as follows:

Key to Beading Sampler

     Row 1
1. Graduated lengths of dark grey shiny bugle beads to create a spiral.
2. Grey straight bugle beads (as above) arranged in alternating lines with multi-faceted oval crystal          beads.
3.  Tiny spiral in matte grey-brown seed beads.
4.  Brown medium and tiny mauve seed beads worked densely in rows.
5.  Bugle beads as in (1) worked in four pointed stars to create a diamond pattern.
6.  Stitched diamond pattern studded with small silvery beads and the tiny mauve seed beads.

     Row 2
7.  Rows of clear sequins threaded and arranged in alternating directions.
8.  No beads, but knotted wire in plastic randomly arranged.
9.  Bronze and grey shiny seed beads densely, but randomly arranged.
10.Oval copper sequins (the hole at one end) stitched so that they pivot and created a raised irregular        surface.
11.Circular and oval rings paired and stitched randomly, anchored with a tiny mauve seed bead.
12.Clear sequins topped with small brass cupped sequins and tiny mauve seed bead arranged in rows      and stitched with metallic bronze thread.
13.Dark grey bugle beads threaded with tufts of ice-blue floss and arranged in rows alternately with         groupings of metallic grey seed beads.
14.Oval copper sequins acting as a leaf shape and enhanced with stitching in metallic brown-black.

      Row 3
15.Parcels of long twisted gold and shorter grey bugle beads couched in position with thick soft gold        thread.
16.Groups of three brass cupped sequins interspersed with loops of mauve seed beads.
17.Rows of grey metallic bugle beads a brass cup sequin and mauve been attached to each end.
18.Chevrons of gold bugle beads.
19a,Dark grey bugle beads attached as towers with ice-blue thread.
19bTiny gold sequins arranged in rows and couched with a cross in metallic brown thread.
20.Clear large beads topped with tiny mauve seed beads and couched with three double thickness            stitches.

      Row 4
21.Spirals of small brass cupped sequins face downwards with self-dyed silk organza seed stitched on      top, then beaded with mauve seed beads.
22.Double holed grey oval beads applied in rows with brown metallic thread.
23.Grey beads as in 22 topped with two mauve seed beads and edged with metallic grey bugle beads.
24.Curves of metallic grey bugle beads alternating with curves of mauve seed beads.
25.Rows of a range of different beads from the selection.
26.Double holed clear oval beads stitched to create beetles.

Beading Sampler

I decided to mount the beading sampler on a piece of foam board covered in polyester fleece.  I then beaded three edges in the same way, initially a long grey bugle bead followed by a medium sized brown bead.  In a row behind this I stitched loops of five mauve seed beads, as is shown below.

Beaded Edging -- top and two sides

The sampler's lower edge shows a range of fringing ideas:

B. Lines of grey bugle and brown seed beads arranged in various ways with loops of mauve seed              beads to finish.
C. Three lines of mauve seed beads with a gold bugle beads, sequin and double holed oval to finish.
D. Single line of mauve beads, grey bugle bead, clear sequin, finished with a brass cup sequin and yet      another mauve bead.
E. Continuous edging alternating large clear seed bead and grey bugle bead.

Beaded Edging - lower edge

A final word on mounting: in spit of, I thought, very careful measuring and cutting it is difficult to be really accurate.  I also found spacing the beads for the edges needed a combination of measuring and eye.

This is complete, and yet when the edging was half stitched I wanted to add some sort of border as a bridge between the density of the centre and the lightness of the edging.  Unfortunately I'd stitched through so many of the calico layers and though I might damage the sampler if I started unpicking. What I had in mind was to allow the little bead beetles to scurry amongst the copper leaves with trailing foliage (26 and 14).  Maybe there will be time to test out the idea, certainly it was something that needed careful planning and well before the mounting stage.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Chapter 7: Simple Button Making

This collection of buttons has been waiting on my desk ready to photograph and write about. During that time I've continued collecting threads and beads excited by their colour, texture and potential.  Worse than that the books on my self are full of post-it notes, to say nothing about the browsing and borrowing of library books.  What did Victoria Wood sing, "Just do it!"

So here then is my button collection using fabric, threads and beads in my ice-blue, rich brown and greys colour scheme.

Wrapped Cores, starting from twelve o'clock:

1.  Round core covered with self-dyed  cotton,with gold rub on spiral enhanced with beading.
2.  Round core covered on matte silk gathered in several small spirals topped with small gold sequins.
3.  Rectangular core covered with silk and enhanced with threads and bits, then wrapped with beaded       threads.
4.  Padded wrapped rectangular core wrapped in chiffon and beaded threads.
5.  More obviously wrapped rectangular core (parcel-like), using bought patterned hand-dyed fabric         and wrapped with beads and small sequins.
6. Round core covered in chiffon and decorated on the top with a hand-dyed chiffon strip gathered to     create a flower the centre studded with tiny springs, beads and sequins

Buttons using wrapped cores
  Toggle Buttons, from left to right:

7.  Layered and different width fabric (cotton and silk) rolled round cylindrical core and tied with            faux leather strip.
8.  Another cylindrical core wrapped in cotton enhanced with threads and bits, then decorated with          band of velvet which has been beaded.
9.  Layers of corrugated card covered with cut thread stretching beyond the core.  This was then              wrapped with a gathered and beaded strip of chiffon -- utterly impractical as a button, as many of        these ideas are.

More buttons using wrapped cores

Dorset Buttons, starting from nine o'clock

10.  Metal ring wrapped in soft silk floss.
11.Double card ring wrapped randomly with soft silk floss and strips of blue nylon knotted at                  intervals.
12.Metal ring wrapped in multi thread cords, leaving the centre free.
13.Metal ring wrapped in multi thread cord filling the centre.
14.Medium size ring wrapped in hand dyed sari silk the ring then parcelled round in fine irridescent        thread.
15.Double card ring solidly wrapped in a silk strip and enhanced with beaded thread.

Dorset buttons

Domed Buttons:

Domed buttons

Four samples showing a combination of felt and thin copper sheet then machine using spirals or zigzag to distort the shape.  Further distortion created by applying pressure in a circular motion to the copper.

Tyvek Toggle Buttons:

I haven't used Tyvek before so I carried out a little bit of research including watching Carolyn Saxby's blog which was very helpful.

 I had a Gwen Hedley pack languishing in my cupboard already cut into A4 pieces.  I painted both weights of the Tyvek on each side using acrylic paint in my colour scheme. I also sent for some Lumiere light body metallic acrylic in old brass, metallic rust and pewter which I'm hoping to use at some stage.  The instructions about using Tyvek given by Carolyn Saxby on her blog were very helpful.

Painted Tyvek sample colours 

Sample 1
Above are four samples of Tyvek layers molded by playing the heat gun over them creating interesting surface textures and profiles.  Tempting though it is to try and speed up the process it's not a good idea to hold the heat gun too close as the Tyvek can become molded on to the kebab stick and become impossible to remove.  Slower is also good for another reason: it's important to consider the effects made by the heat gun: is it time to stop or push distortion even further.  Ensure that the ends are treated.

Sample 2
The above four samples show the addition of threads and beads.  The colour combinations are more subtle and therefore more pleasing.

Sample 3
These three samples show an experimental sequence in the use of adding text.

From the left the first sample uses a strip of an art flyer (advertising the Giacometti exhibition at Sainsbury Centre in Norwich which is now on).  Although I thought the strip was fairly narrow it was too long and the paper too thick for the heat to mold the Tyvek and in so doing change the shape of the paper.
The middle sample uses a small piece of newsprint and here I was concerned about setting fire to it. This did not happen and the hot Tyvek and the newsprint together with the threads are melded into one, though maybe the proportion of newsprint to coloured Tyvek leaves the newsprint too dominant.
The third sample  shows better proportions of newsprint to Tyvek.  I also included some metallic fabric in copper and this has also partially melted.  The threads too -- silk slub and a polyester rainbow thread works well.

I do like the idea behind these samples.  There is something of John Dee, the Elizabethan spymaster, about them, as if some secret code or instructions are wrapped inside and only half revealed.  I could also imagine using pieces of map, a postcode . . .

Incised Toggle Buttons:

Toggle buttons incised with a Soldering Iron

Flat buttons incised with a Soldering Iron

Like some new skills I found using a soldering iron quite tricky.  The design needs  careful forethought as the soldering iron affects the materials instantly.  Some of the buttons I layered with a number of fabrics both man-made and natural, but unlike my heat gun samples I don't feel the effect shows this. Maybe a soldering iron is a tool for very specific work, though much more practice would be needed to answer that question.