Reading: The Gee’s Bend Effect

Cooks, B (2014) “The Gee’s Bend Effect” In Textile: The Journal of Cloth & Culture. (12) 3 pp. 346-363

I’ve written before about concerns with appropriation – see for example 24-Dec-2014 and 12-Dec-2014. Cooks’ article has really challenged and extended my thinking.

The arguments presented and overall flow of the article is complex (to me at least), so I’ll start with an overview:

  • Quilts have come to be seen as a tradition in American culture, although often devalued as domestic, women’s work.
  • Gee’s Bend quilts have received particular attention, with multiple touring exhibitions. “… a popular sensation not only because of their visually stunning designs, but also because the identity of the makers themselves stirred powerful narratives of racial nostalgia” (Cooks, 2014, p 348)
  • The quilts have become even more visible through merchandising (stamps, interior decorations, menus), literature, use in political campaigns…
  • Link to American spirit, endurance through tough times, triumph of values – but without recognition of the failure, horrors, hypocrisy, the exclusion of Black people from freedoms and ongoing discrimination
  • Cook’s three specific lines of inquiry (p 350):
    – “how does the citation of Gee’s Bend quilts inform the interpretation of art made by artists outside of the historical and geographic framework of Gee’s Bend?”
    – “in what ways do references to Gee’s Bend quilts re-entrench traditional exclusionary racial boundaries of the art world?”
    – “how do allusions to a Gee’s Bend aesthetic lend cultural capital, along the lines of economic, racial and gender identity, to work by other artists outside of Gee’s Bend?”
  • On this foundation Cooks discusses the work of specific artists, art historians and critics. A sentence of particular interest to me: “Because of the ubiquity of the quilts in the art world in general, and quilting practices in particular, I am not particularly concerned with whether or not artists consciously intended the references to Gee’s Bend” (Cooks, 2015, p 350).

  • Artist Jen Pack uses mixed media (chiffon, wood) and techniques to create structures with a translucent, quilt-like covering.
  • Art historian Jane Livingston has compared Gee’s Bend quilts with abstract paintings, thereby suggesting an inappropriate hierarchical relationship.
  • The context of the quilts is changed by hanging them on walls for display, rather than using them on beds. “This recontextualisation devalues their original intention and context of the quilts as it seeks to appreciate them as if they were another form of traditional ‘fine art'” (Cooks, 2014, p 353).
  • Given aesthetic similarities, Pack’s work is an appropriation, a commentary on the Gee’s Bend quilts and their entry into the art world.
  • Pack’s work has been connected by viewers to Ghanaian kente cloth, Korean hanbok dresses and Mexican textiles. She finds these connections made by viewers “pretty fascinating to me even though it isn’t the origin or basis for me creating the work” (Jen Pack, quoted in Cookes, 2014, p 353).
  • As an artist Pack has a privileged position, is given authority to appropriate, to play and invent, to create from aesthetic rather than utilitarian concerns. “The similarity of aesthetic design coupled with the intentional change of materials marks differences in the class and social agency of the artists” (Cooks, 2014, p 354).
  • Cooks finds in Pack’s work references to the labour of textile production and the making of a new whole from scraps. Is there an aestheticization of poverty in her work?
  • “What’s at stake in interpretation is the perpetual repetition of cultural appropriation – the major thematic narrative in the historiograph of Black creativity” (Cooks, 2014, p355). Examples are cited from music, poetry and fine arts.
  • Cooks examines the Foreclosure series of quilts by Kathryn Clark, again finding many connections to Gee’s Bend quilts.
  • The links provide additional depth, strength and credibility to Clark’s work.
  • In the artists’ works poverty becomes stylized, there is a nostalgia for the past, there is a celebration of American spirit – all ignoring “the reality of continued exploitation and structural inequality” (Cooks, 2014, p 359).
  • There is a lot more to think about in the notes to Cooks’ paper, including discussion of a reference to Alice Walker’s story “Everyday Use”. A college-educated Black woman now discounts the values and context of her home, treating the family quilts as objects of (monetary?) value, of nostalgia, to be displayed rather than used.
  • I’ve tried to test some of these points.

  • Changing the context of the quilts, thereby demeaning the intent and value of the women who made them. Is that how the women themselves view what’s happened? I found an article quoting Loretta Pettway in 2006, around the time of an exhibition at the Smithsonian: “Now I see my quilts hanging in a museum. Thank God I see my quilts on the wall. I found my way.” (Pettway quoted in Wallach, 2006). The change of context has given her opportunities, changed her life.
  • Cooks also raised concerns about the change of materials, to chiffon and to specially bought rather than frugal and clever use of the scraps which was all that was available. Wallach notes of one of Pettway’s recent works: “an explosion of red polka dots, zany stripes and crooked frames within frames (a dramatic change from the faded colors and somber patterns of her early work-clothes quilts)”. Another Gee’s Bend quilter, Mary Lee Bendolph, said of an early exhibition it “spunked me to go a little further, to try and make my quilts a little more updated” (Bendolph, quoted in Wallach, 2006).
    The quilters worked with what they had. When circumstances changed, they welcomed the chance to change their work.
  • Do exhibitions of the quilts feed a romantic nostalgia for past days, ignoring cruel, racist, discriminatory treatment of Black people? Again basing my response on Wallach’s article, no. There is a lot of detail, a lot of bad detail, describing the past treatment of the women and their families. The past is not forgotten and it’s not romanticized. The quilters are able to tell their own stories in their own words. They now describe themselves as happy, as enjoying themselves.

    One could argue that these are the voices of only a few, that many still face discrimination and disadvantage. That’s true. That a few are fortunate doesn’t change the situation of many. I’ve never been to the US, but from TV and newspapers the ongoing issues and wrongs are impossible to discount. I don’t see that celebrating a positive for some is equivalent to denying the ongoing different experience of others.

  • Further to that, the general tone, the reference to the Alice Walker story, leads me to ask – what does Cooks see as a good outcome for the many? If education or success or a little extra money lead to a change or evolution in values, is that bad? Are new ideas and ways of doing things so dangerous? If in the past necessity led to making quilts from scraps for warmth, and now one can choose whether to make a quilt for the bed or the wall, or whether to buy blankets, or fabrics for a different sort of quilt – have people lost something critical in having and making those choices? Perhaps “yes” if it also means turning their backs on others who don’t yet have choices, but is that inevitable?
  • Turning now to the question of appropriation by the artists: Cooks is not concerned about any actual conscious connection to Gee’s Bend by the artist – if a work’s appearance is similar it must be influenced, and if it doesn’t look similar it lacks “mnemonic power” (Cooks, p 354). Ellen Caldwell, the curator of the group exhibition “Recrafting History: History, Nostalgia and Craft in the American Memory” which is referenced by Cooks, has written of Pack’s works “They speak to history, using craft as both the medium and subject. Her colorful patchwork aesthetic conjures conflicting memories of familiar cloth from many different places and cultures: patchwork quilts, Ghanaian kente cloth, Korean hanbock dresses, Mexican blankets etc. As such, she plays with the fluidity of cultural or national identity in addition to memory.” (Caldwell, 2011b). In conversation with Calwell Pack has said “I love learning this about kente cloth! I think all cultures are continually appropriating and fusing aspects from different cultures, it is inevitable and hybridization occurs everywhere we turn at this point. It is something that interests me to no end because of my own heritage (Korean Caucasian) and what I think of as my own subtle version of ‘in-betweenness’ when it comes to expressing gender norms. I think of the work as collages rather than creations, because the fabric is already speaking while I’m using it, it already has a voice I’m just letting it sing.” (Caldwell, 2011a). There is mention of multiple cultures – including Pack’s personal experience – and of appropriation. Like any artwork, Pack’s is open to interpretation and connections made by viewers, including Cooks. This feels to me like a theory looking for affirmation.

    And if there is a connection to Gee’s Bend, and kente cloth, and Mexico, and Korean hanbok (although the work reminds me more of pojagi) – should the artist be expected to deeply research them all and more?

    I’m not convinced by Cooks’ argument, which seems to include some finessing of logic. And yet, and yet… there is an emotion, an anger, a sense of cultural loss and ongoing damage, which I cannot answer. I think of my own country, of my research on proppaNOW (see 5-Jan-2014 and https://proppanow.wordpress.com/), and that same anger and sense of ongoing loss is expressed by Indigenous people here. I compare that to the lilting excitement and fun of Austin Kleon in Steal like an artist (15-Jan-2015). I look at various posts on the OCA college blog – “Whos afraid of appropriation?” and “Stealing from the unknown” and even “So what is research?”. “Stealing” from people who are playing the same artworld / academic game – fine. Where does it become an abuse of power, theft from someone who feels that so much has already been taken?

    The only answer I can find – “it depends”.

    References

    Caldwell, E. C. (2011a) ‘Fabrications with Jen Pack (NAP #73) | New American Paintings/Blog on WordPress.com’. New American Paintings/Blog. Available at: https://newamericanpaintings.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/fabrications-with-jen-pack-nap-73/ (Accessed: 27 February 2015).

    Caldwell, E. (2011b) ‘Crafting & Curating: “Recrafting History” at Taylor De Cordoba | New American Paintings/Blog on WordPress.com’, New American Paintings/Blog. New American Paintings/Blog. Available at: https://newamericanpaintings.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/crafting-curating-recrafting-history-at-taylor-de-cordoba/ (Accessed: 1 March 2015).

    Cooks, B (2014) “The Gee’s Bend Effect” In Textile: The Journal of Cloth & Culture. (12) 3 pp. 346-363

    Wallach, A. (2006) Fabric of Their Lives, Smithsonian.com. Available at: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/fabric-of-their-lives-132757004/ (Accessed: 28 February 2015).

    Technology detour

    This blog has been quiet a few weeks while I changed up my use of technology. I’ll give a brief outline in case any is of use to others, and so I can compare to actual outcomes later.

    Issues:

  • My existing smart phone was a few generations old. I rarely used the phone functionality and found the screen too small to be comfortable for reading or internet browsing on the go. The battery life was getting shorter and shorter.
  • I’ve been doing heaps of textile-related reading, but with no specific college assignment in mind. Interesting and I will remember major concepts, but my notes were scattered in various notebooks and pieces of paper. I’d never be able to find things again.
  • A minor point that tipped me over the balance point – I have a new wrist fitness tracker (www.fitbit.com/), and my mobile phone was too old to talk to it via bluetooth.
  • Wish list:

  • Ability to take notes on the go – say when reading on the bus.
  • All notes stored in one place.
  • Search facilities for all my notes.
  • Screen large enough to read comfortably – saved pdfs, internet browsing, …
  • Still a phone, with my existing phone number – as a secondary requirement.
  • Stylus.
  • Able to snip internet text and photos, annotate, highlight parts, and include search info for use with other notes.
  • GIMP or other image manipulation software.
  • Camera, possibly with ability to connect to my big camera.
  • Earpiece to listen to podcasts, recorded lectures etc.
  • Ability to sync with fitbit.
  • samsung_noteResult:

  • Samsung Note 10.1″ 4G (2014 Edition) (www.samsung.com/au/
    consumer/mobile-phone/tablet/tablet/SM-P6050ZKAXSA
    ). This includes a styles that fits neatly in the tablet, and software that integrates its use.
  • BlueAnt bluetooth earpiece (www.myblueant.com/products/headsets/q3/).
  • Evernote (https://evernote.com/) on both my PC and the new tablet. All my notes end in the same place. There are good search facilities. There are download/export options so I can make my own backups without relying on the cloud, or the ongoing availability of the software.
  • GIMP Inkscape (play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.gimp.inkscape&hl=en). The basic layout and facilities are familiar, but I’m still getting used to the smaller tablet screen and slightly different implementation.
  • It took some effort, being referred to more and more technical helpdesks, but I was able to transfer my existing phone number to the tablet with a suitable sim only plan.
  • A minor point which rounds it out. Not only will it sync with my fitbit, so I can immediately watch my wiggly heartbeat line, but the fitbit has caller id. It vibrates and displays the name of the incoming caller.
  • After only a few days I’m still learning, but loving it. I’m still experimenting with the mix of apps, but the data input is great – there’s a keyboard form that intelligently suggests words etc, but also handwriting recognition that can cope with my lousy running writing on a bumpy bus. I can sit on the bus, reading Textile (www.bloomsbury.com/au/journal/textile/) (paper version), search on the internet for more information about an exhibition or artist mentioned, make notes, snip quotes and photos – all with ease and knowing it will be available on the desktop when I get home. Walking along I have the tablet in my backpack, the earpiece safely in a pouch hanging from the shoulder strap. If a call comes in I get a discreet buzz on the wristband, and can have the earpiece in and call answered faster than I could ever fish out the old phone.

    The next question – is this still the honeymoon period, the rush of new technology toys? I’m hoping it’s the start of much more effective work methods that will support my ongoing studies as a part of general life.

    Indigo sketchbook

    20150104a20150104bThis sketchbook was first seen 9-Jan-2015, freshly made and ready to go. Most days since I’ve been working in it, trying different media to see what results I can get.
    Some general lessons:

    • The paper (110 gsm cartridge paper dipped into an indigo vat) was very absorbent. Thin colours like inks and most felt-tip pens just soaked in leaving little trace.
    • The surface was very fragile. If the paint on a stamp was too tacky the paper’s surface would lift away with the stamp, leaving white paper, rather than the paint being deposited on the surface.
    • The surface would also lift if the book was closed while something was still tacky, with the paint adhering to the baking paper between each page.
    • It was hard to find the right media in the right colours to stand out against the busy patterning of the surface.
    • It was easy to lose the beauty of the indigo patterned surface by covering too much with opaque media.

    indigo_sketch_32A couple of sketchbook pages didn’t make it in. Some were basically repeats. One was overstamped in indigo, which was awkward to do into the book format. The separate A3 page on the left was much better. I really like the effect of the layers of indigo – the initial full dip, then dips of various found things as stamps.
    indigo_sketch_34indigo_sketch_31Another extra followed a suggestion from Nola to use coloured crayons as a resist before dipping into indigo. The results from my quick test were unexciting and I haven’t done a followup. I think more solid areas of colouring would work better, as well as sticking to the lighter colours like yellow and orange.

     

    Reference

    Issett, R. (2007)  Print Pattern & Colour for paper and fabric London: Batsford

    Exhibition: Pop to Popism

    This huge exhibition is currently on at the Art Gallery of New South Wales – http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/pop-to-popism/. I’m going to focus on some works with textile elements in this post.

    Robert Rauschenberg Dylaby 1962
    http://www.rauschenbergfoundation.org/art/artwork/dylaby
    This is one of Rauschenberg’s “combines”, with elements from painting and sculpture. According to Wayne Tunnicliffe in the AGNSW catalogue “Rauschenberg often said that he aimed to bridge the gap between art and life” (p. 20). This isn’t slick and consumerist, yet it incorporates found items of consumer culture including a battered coke sign. The flat surface was a focus in abstract expressionism. Here the canvas has escaped to fall away from the underlying frame and to drape down to the floor. Also in the AGNSW catalogue, Chris McAuliffe writes that instead of an expression of the personal, inner life of the artist seen in abstract expressionism, “Rauschenberg proposed … an art premised on engagement with the world, in which ‘the imagery and the material and the meanings of the painting would not be an illustration of my will but more like an unbiased documentation of my observations’. This suggested that what American art required was not wild acts of assertion but a kind of realism that registered the artist’s responses to the everyday world of affluence and consumerism, media and technology. Rauschenberg charted these responses in layered arrays of found media imagery” (p.62)

    The idea of “combines”, including both painting and sculpture, seems very close to some of the ideas in Fiber: Sculpture 1960 – present (see 26-Dec-2014), particularly in the use here of the canvas.

    Tony Tuckson Pyjamas and Herald 1963
    http://cs.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=63776
    This works seems to contain narrative, the signs of an individual life. The newspaper placard gives a specific place and date – Sydney, March 1963. From a recorded interview with Tuckson’s wife on the NGA website I learnt that the pyjamas were her’s, discarded in a waste bin, and the hessian sacking was some of that roughly sewn by Tuckson to make studio curtains.

    There seems to be the gestures and dramatic sweeps of paint of abstract expressism combined with these found domestic objects. Denise Mimmocchi notes in the catalogue that this work “has clear affinities with Robert Rauschenberg’s combines, the hybrid form of painting and sculpture” and “Tuckson may also have intended a personal narrative through his collaged objects, yet of greater significance was his use of the canvas as an experimental ground for investing the painted gestures of abstract expressionism with the impact of real-life objects” (p. 152)

    As well as occupying an interesting place in art historical movements, this work has an impact, it holds the viewer’s gaze. For me the textile elements are particularly effective in evoking the domestic, the personal, the story, as well as in helping the artist break away from the flat surface.

    Enrico Baj General 1961 http://artsearch.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=107603 and Le Baron Robert Olive de Plassey, Gouverneur de Bengale 1966 (I couldn’t find an online image)
    In the AGNSW catalogue Anneke Jaspers writes “Baj noted that his creative agenda was not explicitly political, but had long been engaged in debunking ‘official stupidity'” (p. 128). Both the works in the exhibition are collages or assemblages of found items, including a lot of textiles (fabric, braids, tassels…). The General is posed like a child jumping from behind a door and shouting “boo”. His body is made of ineffective “camouflage” fabric, a visually noisy mix of cream, red and green, his chest is covered in sash and medals, his hair a mess of twisted fibres. The General is overtly masculine, apparently powerful, and yet quite ridiculous.

    The Governor of Bengal is happy in his bubble of power, also clearly masculine, with the trappings of power in medals and braids, backed by fabrics that are everything traditional, and apparently dazzled by the modern and hip with eyes of Beatles badges. A ridiculous figure, a puppet – and to me quite sinister, a potential petty dictator blind or indifferent to his misuse of power.

    In both works the textiles used are more than random found objects. They bring layers of history and meaning, showing the pomp and military/political power of these dangerous, stupid, limited men who fill the frame with their self-importance.

    Colin Lanceley Love me stripper 1963
    http://cs.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=45148
    The textile elements of this work are small in area, but very effective in the information they give. Lacy stockings and holed undergarments leave no doubt about the profession of the women shown.

    Claes Oldenburg Giant Soft Fan—Ghost Version 1967
    http://www.mfah.org/art/detail/giant-soft-fan-ghost-version/
    This is a very large sculpture of a desk fan – made of canvas, wood and polyurethane foam. Suspended from the ceiling it droops, deflated, casting grotesque shadows. It is shaped by gravity – Oldenburg’s “favourite form creator”. From Alexandra Gregg in the AGNSW catalogue: “With its oversized scale, lumps, bumps and crevices, the sculpture takes on an anthropomorphic guise and reminds us of the not-so flattering parts of our bodies. Its droopy limpness gives it a feeling of being tired or bored”. Also “By making us pay attention to these familiar objects in such unexpected ways, Oldenburg’s art is more an acceptance of the everyday world than a critique of consumer society” (p. 106).

    I find humour and a wonderful clear-eyed observation of the world in this work. It’s also exciting to see one of the major (potential) qualities of a textile, its drape or response to gravity, used to such good effect as an integral part of the work.

    As a group these works had me thinking again about all the different qualities and associations textiles can bring to an artwork.

    Reference
    Tunnicliffe, W. and Jaspers, A. (eds) (2014) Pop to Popism Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales

    Reading: Bauhaus weaving theory

    Smith, T. (2014) Bauhaus weaving theory: From feminine craft to mode of design. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

    I found this a difficult book to read. It’s academic writing, with lots of references to ideas and philosophies and people and work that I don’t know, using words that I don’t know or know only in a more general sense, not the precise-in-this-field sense.

    It was also difficult because of my expectations, my desires. I want to find a compelling reason for hand weaving today. Not a joy of craft or handmade functional/wearable item way, but an expressive or conceptual way in which weaving provides unique perspective or insight. That may seem narrow, or a backwards approach, it may combine with other things or develop or change out of all recognition as I progress in my studies, but to me today “weave” seems to contain more, to offer more, to have more in processes and materials and metaphors and allusions and human history, than any half lifetime could explore. So a “weaving theory” – what answers would I find in weaving theory? None really for my personal quest, not in Bauhaus weaving theory. After reading this book I have more questions – which in the long run is probably more valuable.

    Smith’s book begins with the original manifesto for the Bauhaus published by founder Walter Gropius – an art-craft unity, joining “practical and scientific areas of work” (p. xiv). Weaving was there at the start, and continued throughout the Bauhaus history. And the weavers wrote about their work. “Through texts that explored weaving’s material elements, loom practice, and functional applications, a Bauhaus theory of weaving emerged” (p xv).

    Their early weavings were “pictures made of wool” – not taking advantage of weaving’s specific nature, but translating other media, in particular painting. Later Anni Albers “argued that weaving’s processes, structures, and materials are best explored through direct experimentation on a loom” (p xvii). New fabrics were created from experiment, using advantage of what the medium weaving could offer.

    The book explores the changing goals of Bauhaus, driven by individuals, politics and economics. Gender issues are explored. In 1922 weaving generated significant revenue, more than any other workshop at Bauhaus. However its status was low – “As the social and economic history of textiles haunted the Bauhaus weaving work, the textile medium, it seems, was dismissed as mere labor, as ornamental form without ‘intuition’, whose ‘inner sound’ could only ever ‘simulate internal necessity'” (p 32).

    As time passed the Bauhaus developed a functionalist rather than expressionist approach. The weaving workshop responded. “At once modernist, or insistent on the distinctness of this thing and its space of practice, and acknowledging a specifically modern civic identity … early weaving theory joined together the rhetoric of functionalism, modern marketing, and the new women’s movement” (p 44). “Color and form as an abstract, autonomous terrain of inquiry remain integral to the object, even as it shifts toward use. Utility and formal concerns occupy the same matrix” (p 67).

    By 1931 Gunta Stölzl in her writing “declares that there is a rhetorical cleavage between … the development of textiles for use in interiors (prototypes for industry) and speculative experimentation with materials, form, and color,” she also insists that any ‘cleavage’ between utility and experimentation is also bound within the very structure of the woven prototypes” (p 67). [By this stage the theory is definitely moving away from my own agenda – but I wonder, what is the modern day’s art rhetoric?].

    The third chapter of the book, “The haptics of optics: weaving and photography” struck some resonances for me, beginning with “tactility”, which for me is one of the great strengths and interests of textiles generally. “The Bauhaus weaving workshop explored the possibilities of color and formal composition through the interlacing of threads, tacitly placing it in comparison to painterly composition and architectural function. Yet the specific palpability of threads and cloth surfaces required a new set of terms” (p.79). Photography, able to show the “intimacy”, the textured detail, the tactile nature of a fabric, provided a new language.

    Previously I thought “haptic” was to touch as “optic” is to sight, but here I learnt it is more. Otti Berger “through a subtle and perhaps counterintuitive response to photography, … insisted on the tactility of different materials (the smoothness of silk or the roughness of jute, for instance) as well as the fabric’s contact with the kinesthetic movements of the body within architectural space (with curtains or upholstery fabric)” (p 81). Berger “queried the limits of the visual as modernism’s prized term of formal inquiry” (p 84). There is space and movement within haptic – is this part of the unique perspective or insight I am seeking? Moving beyond the visual to incorporate other senses? (I’m reminded of Hiromi Tango – see 30-Oct-2014).

    Smith continues to examine Berger’s work in the next chapter Weaving as invention: Patenting authorship. In a traditionally anonymous field, Berger sought acknowledged authorship of her textile designs. Her initials appeared on sample books. She took out patents on innovative work. “Berger was not the typically creative author-artist – at least insofar as that would have signaled the deep recesses of her inner life, the projection of her soul onto her work. But neither was she the anonymous factory laborer” (p 111). Berger was an inventor. Smith explores ideas around the inventor as author, the anonymity of textiles, a link back to gender.

    It was in the final chapter, Conclusion: On weaving, on writing that I lost my tenuous grip on Smith’s arguments. “Recall that the Bauhaus weavers, in their practice and in their essays on their craft, absorbed the languages of other media. In their wall hangings, for example, the weavers adopted the formal principles of expressionist painting; in their workshop’s prototypes for architectural textiles, they assumed the functionalist vocabulary of the Neues Bauen; for their fabrics found in Neue Sachlichkeit photographs and glossy magazines, they considered the limits of optical and tactile perceptions; and within patent documents, one weaver sought intellectual property protection for her textile inventions” (p 141), seems a good summary of earlier chapters. Much that followed was beyond my grasp. The subtleties of “media” or “mediums” are clearly important, but I don’t have the background knowledge to appreciate them. “Weaving is not just a set of processes: it is also, as I’ve indicated, a certain mediation of the semiautonomous zones of form and history” (p 172) I want to understand, I suspect is relevant to my own inquiries. The following sentence, “Textiles are so overtly bound up in the modes of production that define precapitalist and capitalist societies, and the gendered problematics that circumscribe labor, that they are rarely called ‘art'”, seems to point to areas I have been keen to avoid in my thinking, that I want to move beyond.

    So yes, a difficult book. It began as a doctoral dissertation, and it shows. There is nothing wrong with either of those things. I’ve learnt from this book and I’m convinced there is much, much more I could learn. I just need to work up to it.

    ArahPaint

    This morning I’ve been playing with ArahPaint, free software designed as “a drawing tool, which helps textile designers in editing pictures in repeat” (from the User Manual). It’s intended to support the first step in designing jacquard woven fabrics, but I was thinking of stamping and printing.

    First some links:
    http://avlusa.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/new-program-arahpaint-free.html The AVL blog which alerted me to the software. It has direct links to the software download, user manual etc.
    http://www.arahne.si/The Arahne website. Their main product is weaving software for jacquard and dobby looms, and there’s also a draping or texture mapping program which looks complicated but fun (there are demos for both, but I don’t think they’re open source).
    http://www.gimp.org/ Gimp is my preferred image manipulation software (also free). I found myself swapping between gimp (to adjust my basic image) and arahpaint (to produce pattern repeats) and it worked pretty smoothly. The windows snipping tool came in handy too.

    p4s4_02I used a design based on a shell, from A Creative Approach (sketchbook here and blog post 11-Feb-2012). A few of this morning’s new patterns are in the slideshow below.

    I didn’t get into the details of ArahPaint, just tried the things that worked without too much trouble. A few times either the program or I got confused, which was generally solved by starting a new image, closing and reopening the software, or getting a cup of tea. With my gimp experience most things worked pretty much as I expected, and the User Manual helped out.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.


    Overall a very useful tool which I will explore further when a project suggests itself.

    OCA textile student get-together in Sydney

    Kath, Eva, Claire, Judy

    Kath, Eva, Claire, Judy

    Today the stars aligned and four of the five Sydney based OCA students were in Sydney, and in the Art Gallery. It was great to meet up, to share stories and support, and to show each other a bit of what we’ve been doing.

    OCA_Sydney_201501_04Kath has recently done an online workshop with Dionne Swift – Developing Sketchbooks http://www.dionneswift.co.uk/store/developing-sketchbooks-online-workshop-2/.

    OCA_Sydney_201501_03Her results were really exciting. What had started life as a standard A5 spiral bound book of cartridge paper had been transformed. Pages were added, moved, larger foldouts inserted (changing dimensions and orientation), cutouts, mini-flips, plus there was development of a theme with lots of ideas to explore, extract, combine, change… There was a real sense of energy, the book now bulging with ideas.

    OCA_Sydney_201501_05Kath also showed us some stitching in progress, including a microprocessor and stitches in conductive thread. Apparently there is a light that will flash. A very interesting area to become involved in.

    Eva described some of her recent work, sketching and also stitching on her mapping theme. No photos – her kayaking on the harbour in the morning had run late, and she didn’t have time to pick up her bag of goodies. What a very Sydney problem :)

    OCA_Sydney_201501_02Claire brought some examples of her printing-stitching combinations. The photo on the right shows paper that has been marbled and then stitched. Other examples are in her blog here. She also gave me a goody bag of samples from our indigo dye day – a range of different fabrics, with matching swatches dyed and undyed. A great addition to the resource folder.

    Claire has recently done a two-day masterclass in printing, which has revolutionized her work. Some of the drawbacks of distance study with OCA – no demonstrations, no immediate feedback and advice from tutors, and instructions that can be rather vague and brief to keep options open for students with access to different tools and materials. Frustrating, but on the other hand we’re building self-reliance, experience in our own toolsets – and it’s said you learn a lot from your mistakes! Still, with so many short courses available, including many online, there are ways to supplement our learning as required.

    OCA_Sydney_201501_06I was wearing my show-and-tell – a light summery top from indigo dyed cotton.

    Getting together like this is another way of supplementing our learning. Fun, informative, invigorating – a real boost.


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