Archive for May, 2012

Reading – Elissa Auther: String Felt Thread

Auther, E. (2009) String Felt Thread: The hierarchy of art and craft in American art, Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press

Point 1: I was way out of my depth for much of this book. I have no training in art history, and it would have been helpful to know about minimilist art, process art, post-minimilism, appropriation and installation art, and probably a whole lot more.

Point 2: I enjoyed reading this book very much. I learnt lots of things about stuff I was already interested in, and I learnt about lots of new things that now interest me. While reading I had debates with the author in my head, agreeing and disagreeing on points and maybe a few pages later changing my view and/or deepening my understanding. My copy of the book is like a porcupine with all the post-it notes sticking out.

With all of that, there’s no way I’ll be able to do justice to the book in writing about it. I’ll try to give my understanding of some of the points being made, then a few of my thoughts / questions / opinions (provisional, since I’m hoping they will evolve over time).

The book starts with an exhibition in New York in 1969 – Wall Hangings, organised by Mildred Constantine and Jack Lenor Larsen. It was ground-breaking, challenging the perception of weaving and the use of fibre as necessarily “craft” and impossible in “fine art”. It received one review in the national art press – negative. The work was decorative, engaging, not demanding. It was not art. It was less than art.

The book examines the distinction between art and craft, the history, the link to “women’s work”, the implications and changes in perception. It also examines the power and privilege involved in defining and policing “art”, and points out that art requires a not-art from which to distinguish itself.  The hierarchy of art above craft seems to begin in Western Art in the Renaissance, with fine arts (painting, music, poetry) valued more highly than mechanical arts (useful crafts like bricklaying and weaving). The materials used seem to be important, plus the utility or purpose, and perhaps whether it is agreeable or labour to produce it. At some point “decoration” became a negative and concept, inspiration and idea became all important.

On page xviii of the introduction there is a quote from art historian Terry Smith and the critical factors are:
Material – for art a vehicle, for craft “sacred”, a given.
Composition – for art an imposed purposeful arrangement of imagery, for craft surface effect.
Purpose – communicating something of significance versus production of a useful object.
For the recipient – cognitive and related to sight (optic), compared to the significance of touch (haptic) in a craft work.

String Felt Thread examines and questions all of this, focusing on the changing status of fibres and textiles in art in the 1960s, 70s and beyond, and looking at the experiences of artists (artisans?) using fibre in fibre art, process or postminimalist art, and feminist art. It also touches briefly on other movements or spheres in fibre art such as weavers and designers with connections to the textile industry and the designer-craftman model of the Bauhaus; a popular revival of craft in the US in the 1960s (think macramé); the rise of the counterculture…

Sheila Hicks, Barbara Shawcroft, Lenore Tawney and Claire Zeisler are among those used to illustrate “fibre artists”. They used fibre as a material, often in large scale off-loom works, and disregarding connotations such as utility and domesticity. Their work at times existed in a a kind of limbo between art and craft – aspiring to one, perceived as the other. I’m missing out a lot of information and nuances, but I think Auther posits that in challenging the definitions of Art to include constructs using fibre, the fibre art movement actually accepted the validity of the Art hierarchy – they wanted to be included in it, but were met with frequent rejection by curators and critics and seen as acting in the realm of textiles and craft, not sculpture, painting and Art.

In contrast, there were established artists who began to use fibre in their work in the postminimilism movement. Robert Morris did extensive sculptural work made of industrial felt. His existing reputation as an artist and his published articles and essays concerning his work allowed the acceptance of that work as Art. The intellectual content shielded any negative connotations from textiles and fibre. A critical difference seems to be that Morris in his work might choose to address issues of femininity, whereas for many fibre artists their femininity was intrinsic. Eva Hesse was another artist who had sufficient credibility and connections to avoid the suggestion of craft in her work.

Artists in the feminist movement challenged the negative associations of craft. They recognised the connection of the art – craft hierarchy to the social hierarchies of gender and race. They identified with the history of fibre art, and the anonymous or amateur women who produced it. However there could be a divide between regard for the possibly idealised past and the attitude towards current non-artist female textile crafters, who didn’t necessarily appreciate the need to be rescued from any low status. Auther personalises and focuses her review by examining the works of individual feminist artists – Faith Ringgold, Miriam Schapiro, Harmony Hammond and Judy Chicago. Regarding the latter’s work The Dinner Party Auther writes “… the work stands as an emblem of the feminist embrace of craft as the antithesis of elitist art and the problems associated with feminists’ appropriating the language and materials of women’s craft while insisting on their own status as noncraftspeople”. The distinction of art and craft was not the particular materials or techniques used, but whether they were used to express meaning, or the process was an end in itself.

In her conclusion Auther brings the book to present day practices and concerns. Fibre is now accepted as as material used in Art. The social and cultural meaning of textiles can also be included in artistic examination, although possibly in an ironic approach (in contrast to the Martha Stewart style use of craft).

Finally, I recommend you click here, to go to a post on the University of Minnesota Press blog which includes a short video of Auther talking about her work.

A fairly random selection of my thoughts:

I don’t agree that an object which is useful cannot be appreciated for its aesthetic qualities.

I think there’s an awful lot of painting between the Renaissance and the twentieth century that would generally be regarded as Art but was basically decorative, not about concepts. Also those working in fibres and textiles can explore a wide variety of materials (eg today I spent with heat gun, soldering iron and plastics (I think? tyvek and lutrador)). I don’t accept fibre work is more personally limiting in material terms than say those who prefer to stick with canvas and oil paint.

I value the technique and skill of traditional craftwork and feel strongly about the preservation of craft (see blog post here).

Considering the thought, decision-making and calculations involved in producing high quality woven work I don’t see it as non-intellectual or rote work.

The whole feminist slant on art <–> craft is tricky and only works with a narrow view on fibre crafts where women dominate in participant numbers. What about ceramics, or blacksmithing or … (the list goes on).

Drawing a line on a continuum can be bad / random / subjective enough, but art <–> craft is not a nice neat two dimensional line, but a complex, multi-dimensional space.

Boundaries are about exclusion and inclusion, about access and resources and acknowledgement and value and saleability. My preference is not to move them (the boundaries) but to … I don’t know, not rise above them but make them irrelevant. The same with hierarchies although I guess in honesty I do see a hierarchy because I prefer conscious, thinking, serious (in the sense of being serious about it, not that it can’t be funny or lighthearted), honest work.

I’d like to make conscious, thinking, serious, personal, honest work. I’d like it to communicate, be meaningful, be beautiful  – though not necessarily all those things all the time. I couldn’t honestly say if Art or Craft would be more important.

(Not an OCA) Textile Study Visit

OCA frequently runs study visits for students in various disciplines. Last month Lizzy wrote an exciting post here, about a Textiles Study visit to Whitworth Gallery in Manchester led by tutors Liz Smith and Pat Hodson. It sounded wonderful, with preparation and tasks and group discussion. I was very jealous. It’s 30 years since I was last in the UK and I can’t see a trip happening any time soon, so no study visits for me (cue mournful music).

Trying to content myself by living vicariously I read the various forum posts of students on the visit. I also contacted Lizzy and OCA, and Liz Smith was happy to send me her briefing notes, visit plan and a sheet on a Critical Approach to viewing works of art.

Then Claire and I came up with a Plan – we would have our own Textile Study Visit.

Today we met up in the city, and caught a ferry over to Manly on the north shore (note yellow and green ferry plus fortuitous rainbow). Our destination was the Manly Art Gallery and Museum which currently has three textile-related exhibitions showing. Contemporary Quilt Textiles is a biennial juried exhibition, a collaboration between the Gallery and the Quilters’ Guild of NSW. The Gallery is running a number of events in conjunction with the exhibition, so Claire and I timed our Visit to include a discussion on narrative threads in contemporary textile art by Australian textile artists Liz Williamson, Cecillia Heffer and Paula do Prado.

The exhibition theme is Regeneration, and Manly Art Gallery has provided a downloadable pdf of the catalogue on their website (here, if the link still works). This was particularly handy because it meant Claire and I could Prepare, and I even wrote up some briefing notes and Tasks with timings and options, drawing heavily on Liz  Smith’s notes (Claire was kind enough not to laugh at the instruction “Get together with the rest of the group members”). With information from the catalogue I was even able to give a choice of themes, and since I thought that was pretty good for an outing for two, I’ll share:

Theme 1: The stories behind the works. From the catalogue: “We know there is heightened public interest in the stories behind the material object – who made it, how, why and with what intent – for whom?” The exhibition has “creative process displays [which] complement and enrich the primary display of the finished art quilts”.

How is this done? Is it successful? Should artworks speak for themselves, giving space for the viewer to participate in giving meaning to the work?

Theme 2: regeneration.  A variety of general approaches/responses to the exhibition theme were identified based on information in the catalogue – the human condition; the natural world (fiery regeneration and Other); process/technique. Select one of these for further investigation.

Do the works identified actually fit the sub-theme? What are the differences in approach within a theme? Does one of the works particularly appeal to you or appear more successful? Why? Use the Critical Approach list to examine that work.

Theme 3: technique. The catalogue highlights the use of computer technology and in particular photography and image manipulation. There is also a wide range traditional textile techniques, some of which may have been applied in new ways or to new materials. Select one or two works which demonstrate these trends and contrast their approaches.

Theme 4: narrative threads in textile art.  Based on material in the catalogue or your own scanning of the exhibition, select one or more works which illustrate the use of narrative threads in textile arts. Use the Critical Approach list to examine the work in more detail. Consider the nature of the narrative and how well you feel it has been communicated in the work.

The gallery staff were incredibly friendly and helpful. In general photography is not permitted in the exhibition, but they allowed us to take general photos of the rooms as long as we didn’t focus on particular works. Later when we wanted to spend some time focusing on our Selected works, they fetched chairs for us, and even offered a cup of tea at one point.
We started by going around the two rooms of the exhibition, getting a general impression and choosing one work in each room for detailed study.

The tables you see in this photo contain the “creative process displays” which are intended to “complement and enrich” viewing of the finished art works (quotes are from the catalogue). I had mixed feelings about these. I found it hard not to look at the process displays before spending time with the actual works. There was a lot of variation in the contents – I think the artists had mixed opinions too.
The first piece I focused on was Black Water #32: into the light… by Judy Hooworth. It’s the diptych right of centre, a light colour piece over a brownish one. (Check the catalogue pdf – link above – for a better photo). I sat with it a long time, considering content, form, process and mood as suggested by the Critical Approach notes. The amount of information available in the catalogue and process display was almost too much. For example while I was attracted to the scribbly swirls of the work I didn’t see them as abstract – they were clearly representational of the ripples of water in the rain. I might have wondered about ecological concerns being expressed, not knowing of the artist’s personal journey of grief and loss expressed through depiction of a favourite location. In the talks later both Cecillia Heffer and Paula do Prado spoke about works that were private. They still made the work, but chose not to include imagery, instead allowing their audience to find their own story and meaning in the work. Cecillia described it as gaps, silences and unanswered questions in another’s story.

Originally I had thought my timetable for the day allowed ridiculous amounts of time, but after intense focus on just one piece I was ready for lunch. Claire and I walked back to Manly Wharf for some very nice thai food, and a great chat about our assignment work and what everyone’s doing (all the student blogs really help in feeling part of the student community).

I’ve added some photos of the plantlife around, just for some local colour.

After lunch we returned to focus on a work in the second room. However we didn’t have much time before people started arriving for the scheduled talks. An advantage was that I could take a photo of an individual artwork. This is Toni Valentine with her work Regenerating Colour.

The speakers were all interesting. Cecillia Heffer illustrated her talk with a series of slides of her works, but rather than commenting on them directly she read from letters she wrote and received while developing them. Lace is her major focus, organising spaces as well as the solid motif, and she talked about the gaps and spaces of our homeland, of absences and immigration. Paula do Prado has just completed her Masters at COFA. An immigrant to Australia she talked about inclusion and exclusion, about cloth as an archive and capturing the family history and knowledge she fears losing.

Liz Williamson started by saying that every textile has a story attached, even the (very ordinary) tablecloth on the speakers’ table. She talked about textiles reflecting a peoples’ attitude to the world, for example in an area of India where weaving is predominantly men’s work, and embroidery women’s. A later slide showed Xanana Gusmão around the time East Timor gained its independence, wearing a scarf woven on a backstrap loom – a particular cloth, woven in a particular way, using particular motifs. The meaning, the sense of place and time that a textile can give!

Overall I feel our first Study Visit was fun, worthwhile and exhausting. It’s a strange approach to scan the works as a whole and then focus deeply on just a few. I think that Claire and I to some extent both felt we were somehow not showing full respect to those artists whose work we didn’t concentrate on. However I wouldn’t have the time or stamina to give that level of attention to all. By making selections I was able to clarify some of my own interests and objectives, as well as gain a deeper appreciation of those works. I definitely want to use the Critical Approach again, but probably with some rebalancing of time so I have a bit more of a general understanding and appreciation of the exhibition as a whole.

Project 6 Stage 2

Developing Ideas.

Despite (or because of) past difficulties I really like the way this course is structured – new skills are being introduced, but plenty of practice is given to earlier ones. In this case that means selecting drawings or other source material and considering ways to develop or change them.

This drawing done last October has nice flowing lines and contrasts of texture.
The obvious development was to add colour, and for that I went to a recent photo sneaked of a woman’s shirt in the bus.
In this muddle I tried a few variations – from squiggles to little blocks of colour, gray and/or bits of orange in the negative spaces, different amounts of outline dividing up the space. While doing this I was thinking about how it could be converted into a textile – adding shiny and matt, some textural interest in the negative space etc. It would be better to focus on what is in front of me, not rushing ahead.
Next were these rhythmic, flowing lines from Mark-making in Project 1.
For contrast, I added the spikey weed flowerheads sketched earlier in the week.The sketch also has vertical lines, but they are more eccentric, individual and uneven.
Again, the new sketch doesn’t really capture my intention. I wanted a striped effect (I’ve been noticing and enjoying stripes in scarves lately), but further work is definitely required.
Recently I took this photo (altered in gimp) of some fruit, after a lack-lustre drawing effort.

I tried to capture colours and textures, which had some interest but I started wondering if the underlying lines and shapes were as strong as I first thought.

The photo of the first sketch looks better now than it did at the time (not an uncommon occurrence!), but at the time I changed focus in a monochromatic version. I still think there is potential here, so will probably return to it at some point.
Next I decided to try some computer work. I keep coming back to this bird shape, started in the class with Peter Griffen. I tried all sorts of computer manipulation, tiling, kaleidoscope… nothing. This attempt was meant to be a play on “love birds”, but the grouchy eyes in the middle don’t work well with that!
Finally I tried the spikey weeds again, playing with scale and line.

This is a combination of a greatly magnified section of the weed sketch, overlaid by some of the leaf and stalk lines in one of my photos.

I like the contrast of scale and the syncopated rhythm of the lines.

The next step in Stage 2 was to start playing with fabric, experimenting with overlapping sheers, combining textures, altering surfaces, then moving on to make a few small collages of fabric.

In my first attempt I stayed with the weedy flowers theme.

The base is an off-cut of some felt, and the green fibres make a good background for the theme. The flowers are all slightly different – silk organza, with some glittery fabrics underneath or on top to bring some light to the piece. I like the balance of colour – the touches of purple aren’t hugely obvious, but they add some variety and depth. The uneven top started in necessity – I’d obviously cut a piece off in the past – but I added to it and I think it brings a liveliness to the work. I’m pleased with this one – bright, quirky and cheerful.

Next I decided to use the bird motif. It stubbornly refuses to be part of a larger design, but I like it so much I really wanted to use it at least once.

The background is a silk and hemp mix fabric I dyed some years ago. I think both colour and design suggest feathers, but in lines that contrast with the curves of the actual bird. The trim used to form the line of the bird was dyed in an ATASDA class with Lynne Britten from Batik Oetoro. The central feathers were originally a wax resist silk painting of boab trees against a sunset (a class with Robyn Carver when I first started playing with textiles 10 or so years ago). The eye is felt, with some silver lamé behind to bring some light and sparkle, and there’s some black tulle on the body of the bird to give it a bit more definition. I love all the memories that making this brought, but I don’t think the result is very exciting. It feels rather static.

I returned to the colour scheme from the shirt photo near the top and combined it with my current interest in stripes. This is a mixture of ribbons, and the black is from a roll of material from the hardware store, intended for tying up plants. I like the result. The various reds work well with the dull yellow-green of the background. To my eyes the size and spacing of the stripes looks balanced and interesting.

This is the disastrous one.

I wanted to experiment with overlapping colours in sheers. I had “matching” sheers – a shot red/blue with red stitching and a shot blue/red with blue stitching. I wove with them, some fuchsia, and a blue tulle which was scrunched up to give varied density of colour. There was meant to be contrast of straight lines and curves, pattern and plain, interesting mixes of colour… It just looked a mess. I tried layering it over lots of different fabrics, trying to find something that would provide interest, variety and cohesion. In the end the best of the bunch was an old silk painting, swirls of pink and purple. Blah.

Finally I wanted to try working in monochrome. The basic design here is very static, but I tried to vary it with a series of experiments using some hessian. I think this worked well, giving a balance of structure with variety and interest. The small  spots of texture in the black rectangles contrasts with the squares of the background. Hessian copes well with having threads removed and the different density of cover adds to the overall effect. It reminds me of a picnic table, set with nice treats for the eyes!

Edited to add: I was putting things away and realised I missed one of my design attempts.

This was a development of some sketching based on feathers done in January, and obviously was itself the basis for the hessian picnic!

 

Project 6 Stage 1

It’s Sunday night after a busy weekend – the normal domestic stuff, a day at the Art Gallery enjoying all the special events celebrating the reopening and new hang of the Australian Galleries and (drumroll…) a start on Project 6 – a rush of sketching (starting a new stetchbook page here), through Stage 1 and most of Stage 2.

Project 6 is all about Manipulating Fabric (applied fabric techniques and Raised and structured surface textures). Stage 1 is Preparation – basically preparing some space, sorting fabric into colour groups, and pinning up samples of each type and colour.
My fabric stash is mostly bits and pieces I’ve dyed, scraps from past projects and short lengths bought for various classes. I sorted it into colour groups earlier in the course – a small tub each for the primary and secondary colours, plus some containers for neutrals and multi-coloured. Each tub has a jumble of fabric, a bag of threads, plus two bags of “snippets” (at the front of the photo)- bits of fabric and thread that are too small for anything much on their own, but may be Just Right for something one day.

At first I wasn’t going to do the cutting samples and pinning on a board bit, but then I remembers to Let Go and Trust The Process. Rather than getting lost in all the small bits I focused on synthetic sheers, and was rather surprised at the range I had. I’d have said I was a natural fibres gal. These are the ones where I had a reasonable amount  – say 40cm or more.

I’ve also taken a look along the bookshelves and reading over the next few weeks will be:

Wolff, C. (1996) The Art of Manipulating Fabric, Krause Publications. This is on the course list, but I actually bought (and part read!) a few years back.

Beaney, J. & Littlejohn, J. (1999) Bonding and Beyond, Double Trouble Enterprises. Purchased last year for the course.

McGehee, L.F. (1998) Creating texture with textiles, Krause Publications.

Beal, M. (2005) Fusing fabric: creative cutting, bonding and mark-making with the soldering iron, B T Batsford

The books I’ve paused over but left on the shelf relate to creating fabric with texture, through weaving and felting. Definitely extracurricular – but so much potential. Clicking on the thumbnail of a cream scarf in collapse weave will take you to my post in October 2009 with all the detail.

The felting on the right was done in pre-blog days – the small orange/green bowl in a class with Jorie Johnson. Tempting – but most definitely not at the price of another 6 month marathon assignment!

Assignment 2 Reflective Commentary

I began work on Assignment 2 in early November 2011 – six months ago. Over the past week I’ve been selecting work to send to my tutor, making three neat folders to represent six months of work. It’s interesting to look back at earlier project work when it has become less familiar to me. It’s been with me so long I’m having trouble letting go!

There is a huge amount of work in the assignment – colour, design, printing and painting. From blogs and student forums I know others have struggled with Assignment 2. I’ve found the work interesting and challenging, it’s all material I want to learn – but I’ve found it hard not to panic at times, feeling I’m not making progress. Possibly OCA should consider rebalancing the division into assignments, given I’ve heard that other Assignments are considerably lighter (they need to be if I’m to finish within the two years!).

After Project 3 I am even more aware of colour combinations and their impact. I enjoy colour mixing in paints and dyes. Stitching I find more unpredictable and harder to adjust, with additional considerations of texture, shadows, direction of light etc. I think it was worthwhile to work in both hand and machine stitching.

I found Project 4: Developing Design Ideas very challenging. I was often grinding through, almost trying too hard. In the end I was pleased with some of my results, but I don’t feel I have developed a strong working method in designing – the beginnings are there, but unless I am careful I easily fall into old habits. Having said that, I feel I am building a personal vocabulary of images and themes that are beginning to recur in my work. Without wanting to limit myself, I think this can be a strength if I continue to develop the material, almost working in series.

My initial approach to Project 5: Painting and Printing was methodical, building up a resource library of different fabrics printed and painted using the same techniques. Later I was able to experiment more freely with technique and design, and was very excited by some of the results achieved.

In every stage of the course I’ve been challenged by the need to balance breadth versus depth of experimentation. In general I have probably erred on the side of taking ideas further rather than quickly trying a wider range of things. For example I wonder if my large jug printing in project 5 stage 4 is too similar to the orange/black scribble – a blocky effect, reduced palette, positive and negative versions of motifs. However there are significant differences in design and technique and I feel it shows I have developed and extended ideas.

Often I found I had to break work down into smaller steps. If I am trying to think about and learn too many things at once I can get overwhelmed. However in the end I think I was able to meet the major objectives.

Throughout the assignment I’ve continued working in my sketchbook, going to exhibitions and reading. I feel I am looking around myself each day in a different way. I’m definitely interested in formal assessment and continuing development.

Project 5 Review

I covered aspects of this review in my post on Stage 5, when pushing last weekend to finish Assignment 2 before the end of April. I now feel a bit more is needed to support the work I’m sending in for tutor review. It leads to repetition in blogging, but more clarity in Assignment presentation.

Selection and interpretation of design material: I was able to select a range of design material from sketchbooks and earlier assignment work. Different elements were developed as stencils, stamps, resists and also in a more spontaneous way with the perspex printing plates. The most successful was the black/orange ink scribble, which combined with the technique I chose to give a lot of room for energy and spontaneity while doing the actual printing. The colours used were also well suited to graphic 2D printing. The tutankhamen design led to some of the best and the weakest work. Interpreted as two stamps, positive and negative, it allowed development of some interesting designs. However I found my initial work reproducing the fully developed design so flat and boring that I didn’t continue. Possibly I’ve just overused that design, but also it would be more interesting with extra dimension – perhaps some stitching to develop the background, and the columns appliqued or padded.

Fabric choice: I used a range of fabrics in my initial experiments – natural and man-made fibres, a range of textures. In later work I gravitated to cotton and silk, most often with smooth surfaces. Using dyes on silk allowed me to maintain the hand and sheen of the fabric. Touch is an important part of my response to cloth and when using the textile paints I preferred the samples which didn’t become too stiff. The more transparent fabrics have a lot of potential for overlaying, creating more complex imagery. This is definitely something I want to explore.

Scale, spacing, contrast and harmony: In the initial set of fabric tests my focus was on the marks made using different application methods on different fibres and textures. In all the other sampling I was aware of positive and negative space forming as I worked. The shell stencil repeat wasn’t as successful in practice as in my earlier development work. I wanted a bold print, but the paint was rather thick and stiff. The spacing between rows of printing wasn’t right – I think slightly closer lines would have been more interesting. Also I would prefer either more randomness in placement or less. It just looks a little sloppy.

The tutankhamen-based stamps were particularly successful – the effort of producing two matching stamps was worthwhile and gave a lot of opportunities in building up designs and in combining multiple colours. In the two larger samples – the scribble and the jug – I was able to get positive and negative motifs by using the ink remaining on the silk screen and print plates. This has additional benefits in providing different amounts of coverage and so intensity of colour.

Success of larger sample: This is covered in detail in my post of 26 April. There are specific aspects I really like, but it doesn’t quite work as a finished piece.

Other comments: I was fairly narrow in my printing and painting experimentation. My major focuses were different ways of applying fabric paints to mainly natural fibres, and attempts to use thickened lanaset dyes on silk, with a tiny amount of inktense pencils and fabric markers and crayons. I concentrated more on the range of marks and textures I could achieve. As with other parts of the course I was only able to scratch the surface and make a start.

To an extent I was building on previous experience – in class situations I’ve used indigo, various dyes for cellulose fabrics (procion, drimarene K), dye discharge (that one at home too, using TUD), disperse dyes and bleach. I’m also enrolled in an ATASDA workshop using disperse dyes later in the year. More importantly I think, I feel confident about being able to extend my skills with other materials and techniques, using all the different sources of information available and my own experimentation. Rust dyeing in particular could fit with a theme of memory and aging.

One major difficulty for me has been energy levels and the poor choices I make when tired. For example one day I didn’t feel up to original work and instead washed a bundle of samples. It was a bad choice not to sew over the edges of the more loosely woven fabrics but at least I thought briefly about it – unlike how unwise it was to wash black and white samples together. I was lucky that nothing ran badly, and some concentrated work with a clothes brush fixed the rest. Another day I’d just put my orange/black scribble fabric in a bowl of water when I realised I hadn’t ironed to fix the textile paint! Fortunately it had been pinned on a notice board for a few weeks and there was virtually no runoff.

There were two highlights during the project for me. The first was the work with perspex plates on the orange/black scribble. The whole process from selection of design material, through figuring out techniques and materials, to actually producing the sample went really well, with a good balance of preparation and spontaneity. The second was resolving the problems I had with the thickened dye paste. I still haven’t been able to make good use of a gelatin plate, but I was able to adjust my methods to get effective results.


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