In the first part of this stage (blogged 1-Jan-2013) I found some shapes that looked really good. Before going further I decided to do some sampling – could I create those shapes in textiles?
First I reviewed my very small experience in creating 3-dimensional forms. On the right is Blue Mountain Venus, created for ATASDA’s From the Earth exhibition in 2007. This has a foam core (like mattress foam), roughly carved to shape then wool felted over (wet and needle felting). It’s about 39 cm high. The result is very rigid (after all, it was meant to have emerged from a sandstone cliff), and I didn’t think the method would work for the finer limbs and sense of contortion I want for the current project.
This little face is about 5 cm long, and was made a few years ago following instructions in Patricia Spark’s Making Faces: using wet and dry felting methods. The level of detail isn’t needed for the figure I want to create, it could risk becoming doll-like, plus I was interested in using materials that suggested an aged body.
My first sample for this project used a wire mesh sold as an armature base for modelling. I have an old dress of Nancy’s and used torn strips of the fabric to wind around and cover the mesh. Some stitching helped to form the shape and hold the fabric. I like the idea of the figure being overtaken by the suffocating binding of society and law – in the final piece the black could be replaced by something that reflects the material(s) of the container/cage. The sample is around 15 cm long.
I don’t like the shape – it is too rounded. The fabric pattern is too obvious. The scale is too large, and I don’t think I could go smaller using this kind of armature. The whole thing looks like a bad hand-puppet. The spiky yarn encroaching works quite well.
In sample 2 I ran the torn fabric through the spinning wheel. This breaks up the pattern of the fabric and also creates more of a “binding” look. The fabric is wound around some old stockings and wool to form the shape. The whole thing is about 12 cm long.
This sample doesn’t work on any level. It is a rounded, shapeless shape. In terms of the theme it makes little sense for the figure to be bound by its own clothes (although Nancy is bound by her own beliefs and upbringing that isn’t the focus of the work). I used wire inside to help create shapes, but it’s never going to be angular.
I made starts on a few more wound/bound samples, thinking back to Judith Scott’s work (http://www.judithandjoycescott.com/artwork.shtml
), but with nothing to show for it.
This sample is about 11 cm long and I think is promising. There is a wire core to support shaping, and the “arm” proportions (relatively thin and long) allow for some fairly angular shaping. I used wool around the wire, then wrapped and needle-felted with the fabric strips. The scale of the pattern appears a little smaller and distorted by the needle-felting – it could be effective in suggesting an older woman in the shape. The torso would still be shaped as in the plasticine model, with the fabric forced into it. Perhaps it would be interesting to leave a “skirt” loose, ruckled up a bit and falling towards the floor of the container. However the head and neck were still a question mark.
This started as a felt ball, with the “scream” sliced into it. It’s around 11 cm long. I like the flat plane of the open mouth within the rounded head. The neck shown here was an accident. I started going for the thicker and rather rigid neck of earlier modelling, but while working on the head and inserting a wire for shape-forming it started thinner and those folds appeared.
Here’s a closeup from the back. To me those folds are really exciting. Adding that to the shape, together with Nancy’s dress fabric, has good potential to resolve the “generic trapped person” concern.
Current plan and questionmarks:
* Figure shape felted over wire.
* “Skin” colour could be constant, or if binding creeping on could change to reflect the incoming poison.
* Folds in neck (and other skin?) may slightly soften lines, but supports aged look.
* Nancy’s dress fabric needlefelted in, generally following shape of model but could have a loose “skirt”. Could leave existing colour or stain/over-dye all or part.
* Open mouth could be a contrast colour (make felt ball with different interior, then layer of “skin” around).
Colour(s) is a big outstanding question – after all the “skin” doesn’t need to be skin colour or any single colour. I’d like to have a clearer idea of the container before considering colour further.
I found a see-through shoe storage box and tried it with my model. It has somewhat of a suffocating look, but also makes it look more like a specimen. So the container will be my next focus for sampling.
Spark, P. (2004) Making Faces: Using wet and dry felting methods Albany, Oregon: Fine Fiber Press.