Archive for August 21st, 2012

Assignment 3 Reflective Commentary

In feedback on Assignment 1 my tutor Pat commented that this course has become a personal journey for me, very much part of my life. As I reflect on Assignment 3 I can see how true that is. I’m currently on a three week holiday, spent at home with some course work, some sketchbook work and some exercise every day, a couple of outings with friends to a gallery or exhibition each week, some family time – a totally satisfying and fulfilling way of life (and note course work came first).

At this stage of the course I feel I am seeing the world more keenly, more thoughtfully. I haven’t blogged about Biennale yet, but previously I might have looked at Nicholas Hlobo’s Tyaphaka and thought about preconceived notions of gender (which I’ve read is one of the artist’s interests) and would pretty certainly have looked closely at the stitching and weaving in ribbon on the paper. However I wouldn’t have been so conscious of the line, the mark-making, or specific use of colour. I wouldn’t have been putting markers in my memory about the use of positive and negative space. I probably wouldn’t have had a conversation about textile techniques used in fine art, nor gone to the exhibition a second time with a different friend and looked forward to seeing this work again.

I’m satisfied, moderately pleased, with my appliqué – no more than that. I was more fluid in my working method but the results are lacklustre. I was much more engaged by the fabric manipulation sampling and feel I explored reasonably widely and deeply. I had a point of view, a personal set of constraints (machine stitching, undyed fabrics, translucency…) which gave focus and purpose. I believe there was more spontaneity and responsiveness in my approach, but more a question of degree than a real breakthrough at this point.

My sketchbook work has had a few dry periods, but I’m slowly gaining confidence and (relative) skill – at least sufficient for my purposes. It’s certainly beginning to feel natural as part of development of textile work. (see more of the sketchbook here).

Project 7 is my theme book – ageing, and suicide among the elderly. I’ve been doing most of my work on this offline and focusing on an individual, but may rethink this following a  conversation last weekend with someone personally connected to two other stories. At the moment I’m basically collecting information, ideas, some images that may or may not fit in.

The next Assignment is on Structures – yarn and woven structures. I’m going to have to let go of everything I think I know, and make sure I approach everything with fresh eyes, an open mind, and a spirit of adventure.

Project 6 Reflective Commentary

Project 6 began back on 13 May with a fabric review, then came collage, appliqué, 3-D, and always sketching and design development work. As I worked through this project I had some specific goals in addition to the standard course requirements. In feedback on Assignment 2 my tutor Pat commented on my tendency to tight and controlled work, working things out in an academic way, and the need to develop a more fluid approach, going with my intuition and allowing myself to acknowledge my emotive response. So in writing this commentary I’ll be reflecting on that as well as the specific questions in the course notes.

How does working with fabric in this way compare with working directly with stitch?

I find working with fabric more direct. I can hold it in my hands, feel its properties, layer and fold and twist it. To me stitch is an addition to fabric, hopefully enhancing it. Fabric is the core. It’s a matter of emphasis – fabric isn’t just the foundation for stitch, it is the foundation. (Having said that, I’m reminded of Maria Laet’s work in the Sydney Biennale. Her photographs show stitching in snow, the sandy shoreline…).

I found it easier to work intuitively in the 3-D section. Even though I chose to do a controlled set of comparisons, with each individual fabric I was delighting in its specific response to the transformation. For example I could see the cheesecloth bunching under the pintuck foot, and immediately respond by varying my tension and direction holding the fabric.

Are you pleased with the shapes and movements that you have created in both appliqué and fabric manipulation? What would you do differently?

The appliqué samples are all pretty static and boring, except for the “orange scribble” piece (sample 3). After all the prissy, dinky mini-samples (sample 1) and the very tight portrait in silk (sample 2) it was a relief to relax with a high level idea and responding to what I was seeing.

I became very involved and excited with the 3D work. There are some really interesting and lovely results, and heaps of potential.

In terms of doing things differently, I’ve tried to note lots of ideas and things to try as I’ve written about each stage. I’ve stayed for a large part of the time with my preferred natural fibres, but I’ve also challenged myself to work with some other fabrics. There are lots of places where I could do more, but I think the approaches I’ve taken have provided good learning, opened my eyes, extended my skills and created a resource to help drive further work. I’m also becoming aware of personal preferences and attitudes which could be the kernel of my own unique voice and style. So I want to challenge and push, but also nurture what is natural and meaningful to me.

How did the pieces work in relation to your drawings? Were the final results very different from the drawings? Did the fabric manipulation technique take over and dictate the final result?

Both the appliqué and the manipulation final samples remained close to the drawings. In the appliqué I wish it had remained closer, because a couple of nice curves from element to element were lost (eg on the right hand side, two reflections leading up to the stalk dimple (is there a proper word for that? navel?) of the top right fruit).

With both of them I did a series of drawings just before starting work, additional to the original drawings. Then I basically put the drawings to one side while working with the fabric. This meant detail adapted and changed as work progressed, but the overall result clearly relates to the source material.

In the 3D sample my drawings were based on three zones of different textures. I actively used my previous samples to select a fabric and techniques to use. When I introduced the silk cocoons to support the fabric puffs, then still more cocoon for lower relief texture, it was part of a flow, a back and forward between my ideas about the drawings and the shapes and possibilities I saw forming in my hands. I’m looking forward to Pat’s feedback, because I really feel I’ve made steps in the direction she suggested and I’d like some external perspective on it – whether I’m right, what and how to push further.

Was it helpful to work from the drawings in the appliqué exercise? Would you have preferred to play directly with cut shapes and materials?

My work shows three different approaches. Sample 2, the military photo, was basically a totally mechanical exercise of reproduction. I achieved my objective but for me see no future in such a rigid approach.

Sample 3, the orange scribble, is in the spirit of the original drawing rather than directly working from it. I keep saying it’s a bit of a mess but I liked having that sense of a general direction, a reason or guide in making decisions as the work progressed. Without drawings or some kind of plan, I generally feel I am just tinkering around until/unless an idea comes along to give at least a short term guidance to the experimentation.

My final sample, the fruit, is somewhere between those two extremes. I don’t think I could have got the result I wanted without doing the drawing work first (well to be honest I didn’t really get the result I wanted, but I think I got close).

Since I’m trying to develop the spontaneous, intuitive side it would probably make more sense to play directly with cut shapes and materials. At the moment I like the idea of play and experimentation both in the sketchbook and direct with fabric, as a foundation to work and a way to discover new possibilities, combined with working purposefully and flexibly based on drawings and prior experimentation. Perhaps one constantly moves through different modes of work, especially on a large piece.

How do you feel about working with stitch in general? Is it an area you would like to pursue in more depth? Do you find it limiting in any way?

I’m a bit perplexed by this question. Is “stitch” a typo?

At this stage I don’t want to limit myself. Internally I still see myself as a weaver, augmented by stitch, appliqué, print, manipulation…  I like the idea of an arsenal of tools, techniques, materials, all available to be used and extended to meet whatever current purpose I have. If I wanted to excel in a particular area I could have tried a master weaver program. I have found satisfaction and interest in all the techniques introduced in the course so far. I want to pursue all of them in more depth. None of them stand alone.


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