Sunday, 22 October 2017

Gansey Symposium and Creative Steps

Before our trip to America and quite by chance, I discovered that a Gansey Symposium would be held in late September at the museum in Sheringham.  I booked for the two days and it more than lived up to expectation marrying the social history of ganseys and their creation. 

A knitting workshop revealed how traditional patterns were charted and we were able to test out ideas on paper and in wool.  A number of experts, Stella Ruhe (collector and writer), Rita Taylor (designer and knitter) and Deb Gillander of Propagansey, guided and inspired, giving us insights into the significance of these garments.

The museum displayed beautiful examples of ganseys hung on poles above boats and other fishing paraphernalia. These were both from Holland and our own coastlines, some so fine they had been knitted on size 17 needles and with three-ply worsted wool: the stitch count 13 stitches and 19 rows to the inch.  Such beauty created on the move, in spare moments within a busy day.  The single-coloured surfaces carrying motifs connecting maker and wearer to the sea and the landscape of home.

These fascinating two days were an ideal way of trying to get back on track.  I am attracted to the repetitious way gansey motifs are used. I wonder whether it's possible to create knitted surfaces out of these patterns not in wool, but in string and then use these surfaces either to emboss handmade paper or make rubbings.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Using Your Time Well

So here I am again, using writing to try and establish what's going on.  The "just do it" mantra has worn thin of late and though I have a number of half started projects, the materials laid out ready on trays, the impetus to move on with them isn't there.  This feeling isn't trivial: it's the result of layers of concern and upset brought about by the death of friends, a neighbour's palliative care and my niece's late breast cancer diagnosis.  All this woven through with my elderly mother-in-law's reluctance to move into care.  These events are happening now, and they are quite enough, but their existence also wakens the past linking the two in a connective web which twists and tightens at the most inopportune moments.  It brings emotion too close to the surface, making all but the simplest things hard work.  I've called this post "Using Your Time Well" and that, especially given the circumstances, is still my intention but I'm not quite sure how to re-engage my creative drive.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Chapter 4: Paper Making

Early Paper Making  Sessions:

A year or so ago I had the really lovely experience of making paper with Jean Mould Hart.  She's expert in this area.  She's also a very encouraging teacher who tries to build success into her workshops.  On the day our vats were filled and the paper pulp had already been made.  All we had to do was don our aprons and follow her demonstration: readying the deckle, swirling the paper pulp with our hand, swooping the deckle through the water, allowing it to drain.  That day we produced beautiful paper with paper linters and tried out masks, embossing and fringes.

It is quite another thing to paper-make yourself from scratch.  Two books have been helpful: "Paper Pleasure" by Faith Shannon, on the recommended list, and "The Handmade Paper Book" by Angela Ramsay."  They complement each other well.

Here below is my assembled kit: 14 litre clear plastic container, B&Q bucket bought for a pound (I have two -- one for light, one for dark), J-cloths,1  litre measuring jug, plastic spoon and deckle.  Also a small measuring spoon for dyes and essential rubber gloves.  I have added to this a sieve, helpful for straining pulp from water.  The processor is a charity shop buy for a £10 and very effective.


The following four images show the first phase of experimentation.  Initially I tore up, and added about a litre of water to between ten and fifteen envelopes with blue/grey/brown patterned insides, leaving it overnight.  The next day I processed it in short bursts then adding it to the vat with water to around the two thirds level.  The paper in image 2 is the result.

Already I'm learning from error.  I was not prepared to see lilac paper,  though the next time I used the same pulp I added Brusho and produced turquoise paper instead -- nothing wasted. Secondly, I need to allow the paper to drain fully before releasing the frame.  Thirdly, the j-cloths must be smooth otherwise creases and folds show on the dried paper.  Not bad though for my first solo attempt, the paper is even in thickness and there are no holes.


The paper in image 2 seemed rather solid, so this time I made some paper pulp from white tissue hoping to make something lighter, possibly translucent.  The tissue wasn't particularly good quality, however the paper is lighter the result of controlling how much pulp I took up on the deckle.  There are one or two thin patches and I later read about the importance of "throwing off the wave.  This is a quick shake side to side and front to back of the deckle done before all the water drains away.  It helps even out the pulp.  Another explanation for thin patches is that there isn't enough paper pulp suspended in the vat.

To some of these tissue samples I added thread or fabric snippings and stamp fragments.  The thread was metallic and did not seem to adhere well to the paper, however is presence left snail trail indentations.  The fabric and stamps are a pretty addition.


Retrieving the lilac pulp proved very simple: I added a teaspoon of Brusho which I diluted and added to the bucket, leaving it overnight.  By simply squeezing a small amount of pulp and leaving it to dry it's possible to see what shade it will be. The paper in image 5 was true to test.  I can see how easy it is to make a series of papers in different tones.


My final experiment in this phase was to try fringing. I layered wet paper from image 3 over dry from image 5 with lengths of string horizontally between. After it had dried a little I pulled it back sharply. Initially the results were spectacular with lovely white ripped tissue contrasting both in colour and texture with the turquoise paper.  As it dried, however, the tissue absorbed dye from the turquoise paper, a slightly disappointing result -- the shadows in the photograph are more interesting.


Next steps:

  • More embedding
  • Making paper on a range of meshes 
  • Adding shapes to paper.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Chapter 3 : Grids

Below are a range of grids.  Those in image 3:1 are made of fairly rigid materials: metal, plastic and petit point canvas painted black.  In all but one sample, where diamond shapes are created, square shapes of various sizes are enclosed by the warp and weft threads.  In 3:2, the sample pack of wire- form from Artvango, there are eleven different styles.


In image 3:3 I have included a range of mesh made from silk, hessian and linen.  The image also includes black silk net, cotton scrim, a plastic net for holding oranges and in addition two handmade nets I knitted from two different thicknesses of string.  Both were knitted using 15mm needles.


Computer Generated Designs

I've been fascinated and also thrilled to see what can be achieved with the computer.  I have a very basic version of Word and at the beginning found importing and manipulating my lettering samples a real struggle.  Fortunately my neighbour's daughter showed me a few simple techniques and I was able to take it from there.

 The samples below have been created in such a simple way: stretch and squeeze, rotate, copy and paste and yet the designs are so effective.

The white samples are light and sketchy; the blue ones much more complete, especially samples 5-8. Little surprises are also revealed: a bird's footprint, tiny birds perched on wires, a set of library books; a certain delicacy and ghostliness prevails in some.

All the samples are beautiful and expressive.  They're subtle too and I found the rhythmic results created by the repetition of elements really pleasing to my eye: the echoing of a mark is so much greater than using it singly.  And mirroring, another technique, is a powerful way of integrating a design: compare samples 7 and 8 to understand this observation.











What a useful tool the computer can be.  It's possible to design, save, print off, undo a change and compare the two.  Although it shows the handmade-design's potential, and reveals some of the nature of the handmade it only hints at its tactile quality.  I suppose what I'm saying is the computer helps increase objectivity, and now I've learnt these techniques I will use them again, though nothing can replace running a hand or eye over a cloth surface, though making designs this way can be quite addictive -- below the first is a child's smocked dress, the second a trail of bird prints, ready to interpret in thorn stitch.



Sunday, 9 July 2017

Working Away

I was very disappointed with the run of samples 4:2:9 - 4:2:12, feeling they were hardly worth posting.  I'm not quite sure why this works but tidying my stuff, dusting and hoovering my workroom has helped me start again.  Maybe it was also having firm words with myself. Anyhow, today I set about producing a new set of samples.

So what I've done is review last session's work and pick out what I liked, which were the very angular letters and look for a different tool to work with.  I found a bag of corrugated card in various grades and used both cut and torn edges to apply black ink.  I found quite a lot to like:  the double line, both with a crinkly edge and more appealing still a sort of stitched mark.  Example 7 was just a single tube of the card.  My favourite was example 6, printed with a curved piece of card, forming each letter needed careful thought.

And now for bleach marks on Brusho, using the same tool, possibly there's some potential here though I'm not sure.

In 4:2:21 I've used the print sample 6 and created an allover pattern by working it continuously.

Below are examples of  lettering which has been layered onto 4:2:21.  Immediately below strips of crisp white tissue paper, which were first written on repeatedly with brush pen, allowing the ink to run out, have been cut and placed diagonally across the first layer. The first layer can be seen through the tissue.


In the following two examples a crayon rubbing of an individual PVA word has been cut in half lengthways and overlaid on the first layer.  This time the paper used was 40g Mitsumata Washi which as well as being transparent is closer in colour to the first layer.  The abstract marks also seem to have something in common so that accents and areas of density are created.



Reviewing today's work, I feel better pleased.  It is a relief to feel I have a sense of direction, but these results seem too rigid. I'd like to apply layers more directly.  The samples below show layers of rubbings on black tissue which is thin and soft and takes rubbings well.  On it I've used a variety of materials: wax crayon, pastels, chalk, Woody etc.

Two sorts of rubbing boards have been used for the three samples below: the word "encoded" stitched in string on canvas -- different thicknesses of string for different sized lettering.  I also wrote the word encoded in thick PVA glue.  These letters became very blurred as they dried but were an ideal when applied in black wax.  I particularly liked the black on black effect as it breaks up some of the uniform and opaque appearance of the black tissue.  It also adds depth.

In sample 4:2:27 the tissue was marked with bleached first with chalk and pastel string rubbings on top.




Now for two samples, 4:2:28 and 4:2:29.  In these white candle wax has been used as a resist.  The paper has then been flooded with dilute Brusho, revealing the letters and creating a patchy background.  Finally handwriting has been applied with a thick graphitint.  A final black wax rubbing has been applied to 4:2:29.



In sample 4:2:30 a Brushoed sheet has been printed all over with a corrugated card edge, then turned at right angles and "encode" written on it in gold Woody.  An attempt to add gold rubbings is disappointing.  The thicker paper does not respond to the technique as well as tissue.

Back to thin paper in 4:2:31, his time the Mitsumata Washi.  Whilst it takes rubbings it's really not strong enough and the addition of a wash causes it to tear.  In 4:2;32 two rubbings have been applied over each other on thicker paper.


I like the delicate markings of 4:2:31 so I take a PVC rubbing board with the word "encode" on it, cut it vertically and then reassemble it.  The delicate marks are made in candle wax over-painted with dilute Brusho.


A return to the ideas in 4:2:17, but this time black ink and bleach have been applied to a Brusho wash.  Further writing has been applied at right angles.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Experimenting and Just a Few Glimpses of Delight

Further experiments and I'm still thrashing about producing little that I really like.  This is a familiar feeling and I've learned not to take it too seriously, but to let my imagination play with the ideas and apply some patience.  I'm also looking for a colour scheme.  As I said in the previous post I was particularly taken with 4:2:8, a bleach and Brusho sample which is blue-black, deep turquoise with greens and rich creams.  Many of the successful samples below are created with Brusho.

Lettering Techniques:

4:2:9 shows writing samples using black ink following the suggestions given in Chapter 2.   The final two examples use a cork and a stick.

4:2:10 and 4:2:11 show bleach on Brusho experiments.  4:2:12 rubbing with wax candle on canvas, paintstick writing, glue applied with a card strip and finally glue writing using a pipette. These four samples are all painted over with Brusho.


At last a glimpse of  a technique that appeals -- glue printing. The card printed shapes remind me of an embroidered piece based on the shipping forecast which I did last year (4:2:13).  The letter shapes are angular, reduced to simple unembellished lines.

The rubbing idea also seems to have potential but the canvas surface here is too regular, something rougher and less uniform would be better.  Below in samples 4:2:13 and 4:2:14 I've tried the techniques again.



And what is it I like about this rather rough and ready piece?  Well, the Brusho covers the glue rather than sliding off it and that surprised me. What I'm seeing here are letters subtley gleaming, the slightest hint of a change in texture on the surface.

Now a candle wax rubbing, lettering done on a curved and rough textured fossil.  This time the writing is distorted by the surface, the Brusho runs off to reveal white marks.

Blocks of Writing:

Creating these blocks of writing are the most delightful way to spend time.  They are experiments using a range of writing implements: fine to thick felt tips, some with chisel ends, soft pencils and a water pen. Again the word written is "encoded", sometimes in capitals, mostly lower case and joined.  The paper has been turned, sometimes frequently so that the words run in opposite directions or at right angles to the first layer of text.  A variety of networks are created.  On the two middle samples only part of the square is covered by a second layer.  Tonal effects result. All these samples hark back to 4:2:4 and 4:2:5 in an earlier blog, but this more recent group shows greater intensity.  Each square has been worked into again and again.  None of these though have the appeal of 4:2:5 and 4:2:6.


Below, in sample 4:2:17 the words have been written repeatedly in wax, then flooded with Brusho and further worked into.  I was very taken with this piece, so much so that I printed it out on a piece of silk organza and stitched into it.



This is as you can see is only a start. I like the variegated stitching using the same shaped letters as on sample 4:2: 14.  In the navy markings I tried to hark back to the Alice Fox piece I talked about in Chapter 1 (4:1:26). Each stitch shows the first marks of each letter, resulting in a series of curved and straight lines.  I took this idea a step further and in the ecru markings only an acute accent and line are made.  The thread's too heavy creating a sinuous breaking with the angularity of the whole and part letters. What is attractive is the shadow of the thread beneath, something I remember noticing in Sarah Burgess' workshop.  Overall I think the ideas I'm grasping at here have merit, but the selection of threads and stitch execution need much more careful consideration.

Jewels in my Pocket:

We always talk at home about those facts, insights, stories, memories that you squirrel away as points of reference.  What are mine from this chapter so far?
  • Glue Writing and Rubbings densely worked
  • Angular Lettering with its potential for further reduction
  • The Colour of Brusho which will provide a Colour Scheme

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Grasping the Illusive

Trying to grasp the illusive, isn't that what we often try to do?  Fleeting thoughts, connections, glimpses of something that could be profound and that really is why I'm trying to explain my choice of words for these exercises.

"Encode, encoding" to me they have a meaning for then and now: the past, that world of cyphers and spying, the mysterious world of John Dee; it is also part of the present with its computer resonances.  But the idea of using the word wasn't linked to either of these things, instead it occured when watching a short interview of an elderly couple on television.  Though long retired he had been a fisherman and she throughout her life had knitted his ganseys, those densely patterned, navy or cream close fitted pullovers designed to fit snugly, to protect and keep the cold at bay.

Herring Girls knitting, filling the time 'til the catch comes in.

So where is the link between ganseys and encoding?  Well, she explained how the many patterns knitted into these pullovers had names: Marriage Lines, Tree of Life, Fishnet.  They were in fact a form of abstract art connected to families and to places. passed down the generations.  It also occured to me that encoded in each gansey were similar messages to those I found in the envelopes arriving from my family, messages of an enduring connection that goes well beyond surface meaning.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Chapter 2 : Lettering Designs

I'm feeling rather muddle-headed about these activities, in spite of working through them twice.  I think I expected instant success, though I'm not sure quite how I'd define that: liking the results, I suppose, is the bottom line and many of them seem contrived without the flow and naturalness that I'd expected to be the case.

Using handwriting is a curious thing, it's such an intrinsic part of self.  Therefore it seems to me my samples work when my writing flows, slopes, is semi-joined.  For the other samples (those for example using a card edge) seem to push me towards an upright hand, the chalk board one with its precision and legibility, but little comfort.  Also, the sloping hand self is attached to the self that jumps ahead seeing the next phase of experiments, their untried nature being the very thing that attracts me.

So, if I discuss the story so far I'll be able to decide where the gaps are so that I can fill them in, decide what I should try again.  These samples are from my very first session.


Some warming up handwriting exercises on a piece of printing paper leftover from a dressmaking pattern download: testing out a range of felt tips -- thick permanent marker, fine super colour marker, the brush and felt tip ends of an Art and Graphic Twin.

Now with Brusho: a waterbrush, feather, piece of metal tubing, then my Grandmother's dip pen.


On the inside of an envelope: a 5.0 calligraphy pen with Brusho.


A metal calligraphy pen with Brusho allowing it to partially run out.


Now much more exciting results using two directional writing. 4: 2:5 is achieved with a water brush, 4:2:6 with a calligraphy chisel ended felt tip.  Both samples use Brusho,

I particularly like the impression of entanglements and knots.  In 4:2:5 there is a sense of disorder, the very opposite in 4:2:6.  The pressure of my hand on the pen is noticeable in 4:2:6.  Both have energy and have started me thinking about how they can be achieved in stitch.


The final experiment of this session where I try out different pens.  The lines of writing in samples 4:2:5 and 4:2:6 used the same pen for each direction.  In 4:2:7 I have used a dip pen horizontally and a waterbrush for the vertical writing.  Interestingly the sample is upside down. Clearly legibility is a thing of the past!  I can see there's scope for plenty of permutations.

And below an example using bleach, which I like very much indeed.