Archive for January, 2012

Recent reading

Itten, J. (1975) Design and form: the basic course at the Bauhaus, revised Edition, London: Thames and Hudson

This is one of the recommended course texts, and I was lucky enough to find a copy in the local library. In it Itten writes about the foundation course he developed and taught over many years, from Vienna in 1916 to the Bauhaus at Weimar, to Berlin, Krefeld then Zurich in the 1940s. It’s not a syllabus or course in itself, more a presentation of what and how he taught.

Each chapter has some discussion about the topic, how Itten approached it and his observations about students responses, then page after page of students’ work, sometimes with more comments by Itten.  Some of the work is beautiful and complete in itself, some – well, they’re student samples, repeating with variation, trying ideas, focused on aspects of the particular topic.  I found this much more helpful than either finished works that include elements on topic, or careful cut-down samples by the instructor that don’t show a lot of variety.

There are multiple works from some students, and it’s really interesting to see how their personal style was apparent in different exercises. The index is very helpful in tracking this … there was just a pause in writing as I looked at a few illustrations of Gunta Stölzl’s work, saw one was of weaving, checked the internet, suddenly made a connection and checked the Mad Square exhibition catalogue* – and yes, it was her design I stared at just a few months ago. All very logical, quite reasonable that Itten would include the work of a student who went on to become a Bauhaus master (the only woman, and a weaver) – but it feels very exciting and personal (although the catalogue mentions Paul Klee’s influence, not Itten’s).

Notes for future reference: Chiaroscuro (tone value; light-dark harmony); colour (contrasts: hue; light-dark; cold-warm; complementary; simultaneous; saturation; quantity); materials and textures (fibrous, rough, smooth, hard, shiny, grooved…); forms (contrasts: triangle; rectangle; circle; cylinder; point; line. horizontal-vertical; long-short; broad-narrow; large-small); proportion, contrast, harmony, balance, positive-negative, 3D-projected onto plane, visual paths, picture space/line/value analysis, scattered points of accent – distribution; rhythm (repetition, stresses; regular; irregular; continual; free flowing); expressive forms (heart, hand, eye); subjective forms (the nature and talent of individuals).

 

Gordon, B. (2011) Textiles: The Whole Story, London: Thames & Hudson

I first wrote about this book here,  last October, when I was very excited about it. It’s taken me three months to read it – admittedly with many other books coming and going in the meantime. I think it’s a great book – an ambitious scope, a clear point of view and purpose, lots of clear and relevant images, an engaging style of writing. The author has managed to select examples that illustrate each of her points and is willing to allow them enough space, enough surrounding detail, to give them substance and make the book more than just a long list of facts. Even so I found it difficult to read. There is just so much information that it got overwhelming. Gordon continued to make connections, to refer back to previous sections, but I wasn’t able to retain the mass of detail. I have a lot to learn, and don’t have enough framework of knowledge for the brief touches on such a broad landscape to hang together (mixing metaphors with abandon).

However I think that this may in the long term turn out to be the book’s strength. There are lots of notes and information about further reading and resources. I suspect this book will be great to dip into with a particular focus, get what I need or pointers to other sources. I’ve heard that a review pointed to some inaccuracies in the text, but unfortunately don’t have specifics. However for me that isn’t a major concern (some trembling in case this is academic heresy). No history is ever complete, there is always selection, differences of emphasis, perspective, context… No matter how well researched and edited, there will be errors and omissions. There is a wide enough range of examples within each major theme even if a few of the supports are suspect.

As it happens, I have a very small and indirect connection with this book too. In the final paragraphs Gordon writes about The Thread Project, a project creating a physical reminder of our global family united by a common thread. One of the participants in weaving the banners was Kaz, who mentions it here and here, and my brush with fame is that the loom Kaz used now lives with me. Typical but human – to take that huge mass of information in the book and make it about me 🙂

I’m looking forward to reading and using this book for a long time to come.

* Strecker, J. (editor) (2011) The Mad Square: modernity in German art 1910-37, Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Back to work!

The last time I posted about actual OCA assignment work was in late December. I can be confident that not a day has gone past that I haven’t thought about it – the one thing I’ve been able to maintain is at least at little sketchbook work every day (started 14 Dec, so 39 days including Jan 21). This weekend I’ve finally been able to get some time together.

I had produced a design and really liked it – so much so that the next step, doing three more drawings based on the first one, was really difficult.

The distance in time helped. I also was very clear that I wanted to base the new drawings on the old, not reproduce it. I wanted to see if pushing further even when you’re happy with something helps to find new possibilities.

Stage 2 Exercise 3

Version 1 uses dry media – conté pencils on black watercolour paper.

The instructions were to keep one’s point of view clearly in mind while working. I wanted to focus on pattern and texture development within the very rigid geometrical grid.

The end result is still very close to the original, but I think successful in the texture and pattern focus. It now looks much more “stitcherly” in nature, while the first looks like a graphic print.

The columns are now much less distinct against the heavily patterned “background”. I considered putting some white onto the columns to give them more presence, but decided it would all get too busy and start fighting for attention in an unpleasant way.

Version 2 asked for wet media. This gave me lots of trouble, in large part because the original was in watercolour (? or gouache – can’t remember just now).

My first idea was to move away from the heavy geometry to a more organic, less controlled image. I wanted to use watercolours to form those hard drying lines to make the patterning of the background. This went very badly – way to much water around for a start. The end result was ditched as an assignment exercise, but recycled into sketchbook work. You can see it here, but it’s still unexciting.

Plan b was to continue the focus on patterning, this time using stamps to create the texture.

First I created a cardboard stencil, to protect areas of the image while stamping. Since I had it, I used the stencil to gently colour and texture the background with sprayed, diluted, sepia coloured ink. I have a motley collection of stamps gathered over the years. This image has some chinese stamps carved with my sons’ names, a couple of (maybe indian) wooden blocks, and a variety of business stamps that were being thrown away at a workplace. I used acrylic ink (black and burnt umber).

Ignoring the clumsiness of various things, I find this result interesting. I like the reduce colouring, which makes apparent how strongly coloured the previous versions were. The columns don’t work well, but I like the overlapping and incomplete stamping on the lightly coloured background. Some very nice marks there.

I like the result on the stencil too. I think the colour combination is one to use again.
The image on the left is another experiment. To create the stencil, I used my stored photo of the original design, and using gimp created a layer with all the major lines. This was printed onto a light card and I cut out along lines as required – you can see some of the construction lines I didn’t need on the stencil under the stamping.
Further work within gimp produced what might be an e-stencil (I just made that term up). It’s made up of layers, and I’ve put in a screen grab of my layers dialog hoping it makes some of the following clearer.

The bottom layer (ignoring an info layer where I’ve put some reminders to myself) is the background or wall. In the example shown I filled it with a stone pattern (extra detail – to get the slope of the pattern right, I created a separate image and filled it with pattern, then rotated that image by -64 degrees before selecting a square, copying and pasting into my background layer).
Next up is the column layer. It has two parts – the layer and a mask. The mask controls which parts of the layer are actually seen. Where the mask is black, the layer is blanked out – it doesn’t show in the end result. I have the column shapes in white on the mask, so that part of the layer will be seen. I used the same technique as for the background, this time using a purple lightening pattern and rotation 26 degrees. The purple lightening columns are seen on top of the background.

The spray decoration is another layer, again with a mask so only selected areas of the pattern are visible. This time I rotated the pattern by eye to get what I wanted (there’s nothing magic about the other rotation amounts, just what works for this particular design).

Finally I have a layer at the top which puts a little frame or border on the image. I now have a file which can be used to audition colour and patterning ideas for the design. I could even scan or photograph some fabric and use that in a simulation.

Back to the assignment. The third media was collage materials. I used some calendar and magazine images, plus some tissue paper from a shop. The black spray area is actually a calendar photo of lava (maybe?) by Frans Lanting. I think this is the least successful variation. Perhaps there isn’t enough contrast between background and columns, plus the different background images don’t meld well. It reminds me of patchwork, and if it really was it would need significant stitching to reinforce the directional lines and perhaps differentiate texture – say leave the columns relatively unstitched and slightly puffy.

Hopefully in all of these my textural/pattern point of view is apparent. I’m still mulling over my texture questions from my earlier angsty post. I emailed my tutor, Pat, who gave some helpful advice and reassurance. The other day I came across a book in the library, “Capturing texture in your drawing and painting”, and have been reading through. It’s full of techniques in all sorts of drawing and painting media, some interesting stuff that I want to try out… but I’m beginning to get the idea that you get so involved in producing an image that a lot of the freedom and gestural mark-making gets lost. It all gets very controlled, which might be fine if I wanted the image as an end product, but perhaps not so much as an exploratory, resource building for other work exercise. A lot of the stilted problem is due to being a beginner and it all being new to me of course. Always more to learn and think about.

Warr, M. (2002) Capturing texture in your drawing and painting London: B T Batsford Ltd.

Contemporary Weave with Liz Williamson

Some images from last week’s class with Liz Williamson, in Mittagong at Sturt Summer School, starting at the end with our final day exhibition.

My 4 Trail Markers on the left. Des's work in black on the right.

Natural dyeing, and tube in fishing line by Des - a brand new weaver.

Chris, also a new weaver, used her own prints and handmade paper

More dyeing and weave from Chris. She picked up the pine needles on a class shopping excursion.

Exciting weft selection from Chris

Mary produced a prototype piece ...

... developing extensive work done previously.

Gail played with colour, texture, openings...

A closer view of some of Gail's work

Susan created a "book" using double weave

Dianne made mobile phone pouches and jewellery. Now you see it...

... now you really see it. The flash doesn't do justice to the subtlety of mother of pearl buttons captured in reflective tape double weave

The weave room

Unfortunately I didn’t get decent photos of the other class members’ work. There were nine of us in the class with Liz, a particularly pleasant and companionable group. Liz provided a really rich and varied learning experience. We examined examples of cloth that interested us – everyone brought some, including heaps from Liz, and talked about how they could be explored or reinterpreted for contemporary designs.

mud cloth

stripes, dyeing, colour

cloth weft and beautiful colour


Liz demonstrating

Liz had a fast way of getting a sampling warp onto the loom, demonstrated various options for warping, gave us extensive notes… but most impressively was able to help two brand new weavers do some really interesting work. Liz gave them just enough theory at each stage for what they were doing, to avoid problems and produce a viable structure while exploring and expressing themselves. Both Des and Chris brought lots of experience in other areas of textiles and creative work, and I think both are now enthusiastic about learning more and incorporating weave into their repertoire.
Liz also organised visits to the weave room by Elisabeth Nagle, a master weaver from Europe who ran the Sturt weave studio for around 50 years, and Melanie Olde who currently teaches there. Plus a number of us sat at dinner with weaver Sally Blake and her fellow exhibitor Vedanta Nicholson following their floor talk at the Rain Gauge exhibition in the Sturt Gallery.
With all that inspiration available, Liz guided each weaver in their own chosen exploration. Many of us used double weave as a structure, but with widely different materials as weft. I decided to challenge myself by avoiding strong colour, instead focusing on texture, light, and shadow. I tried to be really free and spontaneous, exploring the properties of some new-to-me materials – a couple of different paper yarns, cut strips of hessian, garden jute twine, paper rope… I struggled for much of the time, but was very happy and excited by the results. I like the things in themselves, but also that as weaving progressed I continued to learn, to experiment, to examine what happened in one piece and build on it in the next. In the end (!) it was a very satisfying process that I want to continue in my OCA work.
There was one part of the class I didn’t participate in, and I want to write about it here not to get into any big discussion but because in the past I’ve had definite opinions which I’ve later reversed and I’m wondering if this will be another. So to my future self, wondering if one day I won’t believe I thought this… I don’t get natural dyeing and its current huge popularity. Yes, there can be some incredibly beautiful results, but use of synthetic dyes can also give really stunning results – and both can produce blah. It’s the assumption that “natural” dyes are somehow intrinsically gentler on the environment, safer for the user, and generally “better” that bothers me. There may be studies out there which looking at the whole chain of production and use (mordants?, commercial cultivation/production of madder/cochineal/…?, packaging and transport?, …). I don’t know, and in any case as a hobby dyer I suspect the difference would be negligible in comparison to my impact on the environment as an urban dweller who is happy to drive my car around the state going to weaving classes.
Rant over. This was a great week, I really hope to keep in touch with the others in the class because they were an amazing group, and I’m looking forward to seeing influences from the class in my future work.

 

A day in the life of looms

Meg has once again put out a call for photos of our loom(s) and 1st January. Looks like I missed last year, but here is 2010.

Today’s photos are a little sad.

The 4 shaft Robinson table loom still has the remains of the warp from Jason Collingwood’s class in April (blogged here). There was so much more that I wanted to do – but I haven’t touched it since except to take out the reed for a different planned project.

 

 

 

 

 


The 24 shaft Noble has a warp beamed but not threaded, intended for my P2P2 project, and untouched since my last relevant post in September.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally there’s the 8 shaft Ashford table loom. It has some glittery thread on it, intended as part of the PP2 project (I had some complicated plan to handle the two different warps and was nervous about trying to manage the fine glitter on the Noble’s second beam).
On a positive note, this loom will look different by the end of the day, or tomorrow at the latest. I’m off to Mittagong, to Sturt Summer school and a week of weaving with Liz Williamson. I’m very excited, and totally unprepared!

Side excursion

This is an angst-y thing trying to work through some thoughts – no promises about coherence, conclusions, or consistency with previous writing.

Last post I was pleased with my results. That’s viewing the work in context, as an exercise or sample in the ongoing process of developing my skills and knowledge and understanding. There is an element of emotional response (“I find this pleasant or interesting to look at”), but I expect (hope!) that at some future time I’ll flip back through the work and see it as just the beginning of future progress. I try to approach my work critically in the sense of can I identify strengths and weaknesses, how can I improve or develop, but trying not to compare too much with any “objective” standard or work produced by others (not easy).

I was pleased and felt I was making progress – so was taken aback yesterday to discover what seems to be a big hole in my understanding to date.

I’m trying to approach my sketchbook each day with purpose. Not just showing up for 10 or 15 minutes and covering some blank paper, but answering a question. Not a big question about life or the world, but things like how is that painting structured so my eye moves around it, or can I combine those colours I found on the inside of the lychee skin with one of the line designs from my project work. There is the idea of producing interesting marks for future use and development, plus I’m trying to improve my observational skills, so I may draw my hand – resulting in the next day’s question of what went wrong with those fingers, how do the knuckles work.

So yesterday I was thinking about drawing texture. Texture as the thing being drawn. Why? I’m not comfortable with it. I don’t understand it. Texture is an automatic or integral part of textile work – in fact one of the things that draws me to textiles. Reproducing texture seems forced, unnecessary. Is it a question of visual versus actual texture? When does a set of lines or marks become visual texture? Is drawing texture a way of creating content, a subject of a piece? Is it a way of understanding or seeing an object?

By this stage of thinking I was off the bus (favourite thinking place) and walking in an area with brick paving (through Sydney Eye Hospital, for those who know Sydney). No camera with me, so I’ve done a little simulation. The bricks were scored in a diamond pattern, and laid in what I think is stretcher bond (just found a fascinating page on wikipedia which I need to explore later). There was variation in colour of the bricks. There had also been considerable subsidence, so the surface undulated, creating distortions and variation in light and shade. Altogether I found it a visually interesting and complex texture – but as a field within a design, not as a standalone thing.

I finally negotiated the crowds queuing for good positions for the night’s fireworks, and met my friends for a wander through the Picasso exhibition followed by lunch. Last visit I was looking at line and colour. This time I was preoccupied by texture. One painting in particular caught my eye. “The Weeping Woman” (Paris, October 18, 1937) has what looks like scraping back through wet paint. (I finally found an image of the right weeping woman here – it’s the bottom image on the page). Texture and mark-making and colour integrated. What is texture, what is mark, what is line?

When is texture a thing in itself, rather than a field, something filling a space? Making marks makes sense, and a series of marks can create texture. In early projects I created texture in a random way, for example by laying plastic wrap or waxed paper on wet paint. Yesterday and today I created texture a bit more deliberately. With a photo of treebark beside me (the top image in my botanical photos collection here) I painted a base of various browns and greys in acrylic paint. This morning I mixed up a lighter brown with some matt medium in it, used a plastic trowel to spread it over the base, then scratched and scraped and smoothed to expose the base. It doesn’t look like bark and it doesn’t express anything, but maybe there are bits that can be developed in some way.

I’m not getting anywhere and I’m not even sure if there is a particular somewhere for me to get to. Re-reading this I think it’s something I struggled with before (the last stitch sample in project 2). Guess I’ll just let it sit in the back of my mind, read back through the course notes, and see if it develops or goes away.

In the meantime I’ve just done an update on my sketchbook, and the pages I’ve mentioned can be seen here. 19 days straight (including today).


Instagram

No Instagram images were found.

Calendar of Posts

January 2012
M T W T F S S
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

Categories