Project 10 Stage 1

The final Assignment and Project of this module begins! I need to design and make a textile piece – entire in itself or part of a larger piece (for example a panel that could be used on a jacket). This post is about the first of four Stages – 1: reviewing work so far (samples, sketchbook, techniques and processes); 2: focusing on my theme book about Ageing; 3: developing the design; 4: making the piece. The process is at least as important as the final work – probably more important. And we’re meant to start with an open mind, not hurrying to a decision on an end-product.

This is difficult, in large part because I’ve been collecting materials and thinking about my theme and potential textile work for so long. The first notes in my theme book are dated 26 March, almost 9 months ago! That first page was headed “Growing old gracefully” but the rest of the page was darker and “gracefully” has always been in inverted commas. The overarching theme of “Ageing” has developed over the months, together with my ideas of potential textile products. I now have a sharp focus on a particular element of my theme, and I have what I believe is a strong but not fully developed idea of a product. I need to challenge those ideas, to look for alternatives, to trust the process, let go and be open to significant or even total change. Not easy.

An open mind doesn’t mean an empty one. Some clusters of thoughts within the theme:
* reflecting on the past: memories, fading, nostalgia, a life well lived
* change and stages of life: perhaps exemplified by views – extensive, distance views through large windows; a small window, view into the neighbouring garden, the occasional bird in a tree; lying with back to the window.
* view(s) of the present: emotional: trapped, claustrophobic, invisible, passive, compliant; physical: pain, frailty, immobility; social: isolated, moments of connection; political: individual or symbol, personal choice. These are the aspects I am currently most interested in expressing.

When considering potential end product my mind is not entirely open. Given I have chosen a theme which is highly emotional charged for me, it seems very unlikely I would decide to turn it into a source of decoration on a functional item. The end result may take the form of a functional item, but that should be because it makes sense in terms of the theme to do so. Similarly I don’t want to choose a technique or material or process just because it is something I’ve enjoyed doing earlier in the course. I don’t want to trivialise something important to me, nor the life and experiences of Nancy – the individual who has been the focus of my thinking.

OK, baggage acknowledged if not dealt with, time to review sketchbooks and samples looking for connections and combinations which could lead to development of my ideas.

Strong emotion

Angrynewspaperpaper towelStamping - bottle tops, string, cardboard, comb and cancelled
Project 1 introduced mark-making expressive of emotions. Looking back I was drawn to a number of sketches which suggest sharp, jumbled, chaotic, vivid emotions.
p2s501aLater in the project were some spiky stitches using cretan stitch. The layers of stitch bottom right make me think of brains for some reason – lots of sparking synapses. That would be useful if I was following the line of Nancy’s failing health and series of strokes.

p3s4e1_02In project 3 there was more work on colour, marks and emotion, and it’s interesting to see “agitated” in the top of this image. There is repetition of some earlier colours as well as marks in this. In the same stage there was an exercise on identifying a colour mood or theme and making a “colour bag” as a “quick and direct way of creating a bridge between source material and textile work”. That’s definitely a technique I’ll need to do as part of this current development work.

Thinking of colour, I made a note to myself back on 27 July about the impact of a risky colour choice in a thread. It was a bit out of the main colour theme, but the small amount visible really added some subdued complexity. My working theory was to try to be bold in the early stages. If it doesn’t work it can be covered or adjusted somehow. Better than being bland.

p8s2e2_03The yarn second from left has a very effective agitated, emotional appearance. It’s from stage 2 of project 8 (blogged 16-Sept). One component is a rusty/blood red paper yarn, which could suggest “red tape”.

Traces and remnants
sketchbook20111031This rubbing of some glass ornaments (from Sketchbook 1) suggests to me some of the confusion and distortion of a faulty memory. Paper doiley used as stencil, dilute ink sprayMonoprintStencils and monoprints in assignment 1 left traces or memories of things. They could suggest the traces a person leaves behind them as they pass through life, or a fragile, fading memory. We try to hold onto the past, but it slips away from us.
p4s2_e3bIn project 4 there was some more stencilling. The characters and lettering suggest meaning that we can’t fully interpret, as well as providing more complex layering and patterning. There’s another example of stamping words in the emotion section above.
p5s3_r3_05p5s3_r3_10Some of the stamping and printing on fabric from project 5 stage 3 has effects I think would be very effective in suggesting fading and distorted memory.
p6s3_12I’m putting this bonded applique from stage 3 of project 6 here because for me it fits with the ideas of memory and traces. Since making it I’ve had the idea of stitching over it then distressing it – maybe rust dyeing, some sandpaper or other abrasion etc – to create an item in a box of memories.
p6_s4_slash17When I first blogged this sample here I wondered if it could work as a metaphor for an ageing mind, not so sharp any more, having trouble holding or grasping ideas and memories.

Light and shadow
sturt20sturt18In the class with Liz Williamson I became fascinated with the texture of light and shadows that can be exploited with textiles. This could also lead into layering, changing density, revealing and concealing. This could be used to suggest traces left by a life, or the fading of life and gathering of shadows, the sunset of our years, the mists of time. Alternatively there could be the attempt to see the person through the layers and in the light of our expectations and assumptions, or hiding and obscuring unpleasant realities, our future that we fear.
05s1_02p5s3_r3_13In project 5 (also here)I played with layering fabric, creating shadows, overlapping and different density of stamps.
p6_s4_gathering05In project 6 (starting here) I was very interested in the effect of light through samples. Reviewing this just now I was thinking of how different things look from different perspectives (or directions of light) – the individual’s experience, my projection of emotion onto an individual, generic pronouncements about “them” and “their needs” by people with concerns or beliefs/agendas to push…

Fragility and decay
p6s3_03p6s3_08In project 6 stage 3 I played with heat distressing various materials, creating effects that suggest fragility and decay. Some of these materials could also be useful in creating containers / traps where it is still possible to see what is inside.
p6_s4_gathering07Frayed, torn strips of cloth also give the impression of frailty and age. I’ve used torn strips to stitch (see some of the green stitching in a photo higher up), and here in a sample of gathering.
helen_macritchie_05At a workshop with Helen MacRitchie (blogged 15-Sept) I learnt this technique with machine stitching on scrim. Suggesting fragility, age and failing memory, I think this could be used in creating containers-with-visible-contents. It probably fits better with an earlier idea of a memory box, rather than the current “trap” concept. I could try including text in the structure, which could be interesting.

Traps / constraints
a4p8s2e4_01I’ve mentioned possibilities for this above, but this sample from project 8 (blogged 27-Sept) could work well, and certainly has the advantage of visibility of any contents.
a4p9s2_06In my first weaving sample (blogged 14-Oct) I made a couple of attempts at binding warp threads together. Loss of choice and personal control is a major part of my Ageing theme. I’ve been thinking about smothering blankets, and areas of binding/caging could work with that. There’s also the idea of a bound figure within the trap.

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Fabulous figure sculpting workshop with Kassandra Bossell!

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