Components, sampling

It’s a freeing thing, working with components. No expectations of outcome – it’s just creating options for future making. Experimenting with a new skill is fine – wobbly technique in one small part of a whole won’t be obvious, and “flaws” may hold exciting potential to take advantage of later. Follow a chain of thought and making, see where it takes you, respond to what’s in front of you.

Why do we need permission to play?

Mary Hettmansperger
Work has continued on items begun in Mary’s workshops (17-Sep-2018). I’ve also ordered a couple of her books, here soon I hope.

The looping on a 3D leaf shape is complete.

The twining sample has grown.

On the aviary wire form, the knotting has been following by twining, including some colour mix experiments with brass wire combined with the waxed linen.

I’ve also had a session working through techniques with metal which Mary demonstrated. In the class I took lots of notes, but wanted to do the experimenting at home with my own setup and materials. Lots more to be done here.

Coiling, painting, van Gogh
An image of a painted basket on instagram combined in my head with a painting by van Gogh in the John Russell: Australia’s French impressionist exhibition currently on in the Art Gallery of NSW.

Vincent van Gogh
Bank of the Seine

Yay! to the van Gogh museum for providing great photos plus easily available, generous and understandable copyright policy.

Boo! to me, not able to trace the instagram photo that inspired me. Those baskets were painted with abstract blocks of colour, with white painted interiors.

I made a coiled basket. The core was spaghetti yarn from Lincraft, a curled in length of stretchy, fine knitted fabric, 90% cotton, 10% polyester. Stitching was with Sullivan’s paper twine, 50g/32m. Quick and easy work – I love great long lengths of materials with no preparation required! The firm twine pressed into the spongy knit fabric, creating a lovely bobbly texture.

The thing was painted inside and out with gesso. At this point the structure was quite flexible and sagged when damp with the gesso. Reshaping was attempted a couple of times, with limited success. After drying overnight the basket felt firm and strong, no longer flexible.


Originally I planned to paint the watery colours on the outside, then continue inside with colours lifted from the bank in the painting. As it happened I got impatient and tried to complete the outside in one sitting. Colours mixed more than I wanted. If I did this again I would try a layer of underpainting, establishing the base colour areas, wait for it to dry, then do stippling with the wider range of colours.

It’s the way the textured surface of the basket catches little dots of colour that has me excited.

The basket form doesn’t suggest “component” in my mind, so experiments in creating a flat form using coiling followed.

Using the same materials, I found some ways to manage the turn-around at the edges which looked OK. However, the form itself … there’s a fair amount of torque there.

I was thinking of flat panels, building materials. Was the twist a function of the materials used, the knit fabric, the plied twine, or inherent in the technique, that lovely diagonal of stitching, with forces that balance out in the standard circular form?

The next attempt used a very stable braided cord from the hardware store, still stitched with the paper twine. The torque is still there, much reduced. Possibly it could be forced flat when damp, but the price is the loss of that beautiful bobbled texture. Onto the stamping / printing experimentation pile for both of them.

(Not) printmaking
Speaking of which, it looks like I’ve run out of time this long weekend for a print making session. Preparations have continued, but instead of cutting stamps I’ve focused on more basketry techniques.

There are a couple of panels of looping in a chunky, soft, loosely plied cotton yarn from the hardware store. I’m hoping this fabric will print more clearly than the previous looped version in paper covered wire.

At this point I haven’t mounted the pieces onto a backing to form a stamp. Perhaps some interesting partial and folded forms could be made by dropping the pieces onto the print surface.

print p4-15

I’m thinking back to an earlier accident experimenting with printmaking in OCA days (18-Oct-2015).

A final stamping experiment is more looping, this time around a piece of card, simplifying any mounting considerations and taking advantage of the nature of the technique. This is a thick wool yarn, the looping based on a demonstration from Mary Hettmansperger, deliberately making angles and variation, changing up the traditional technique. I should probably seal it before attempting to stamp.

Looping components
Turning from stamps and print-making back to components for future projects, what are some other shapes that could act as a base for looping? Mary has done a lot with a leaf shape, which could be modified to a boat – neither of which fit with the more abstract, geometric vibe of this theoretical future sculpture.

It turns out doodle-ing shapes flat, in gimp or on paper, is hard! After a while I turned to paper covered wire, which was a bit too flimsy, then a heavier wire.

I wanted to create the frame with a single length of wire, no doubling up – like Mary’s leaf. A cube frame just did my head in. The thought chain leading to that started with The Modern Art Notes podcast, https://manpodcast.com/. It’s been going for ages, but a recent find for me, looking for something to listen to while working on slow twining and looping. Turns out when I listen and make at the same time I do both badly. Anyway, Giacometti sometimes used rectangular frames, and in the podcast discussion (No. 353) I think there’s also mention of Francis Bacon. Quite how that enclosing / framing structure became a small component…

Whatever. Moving to triangular forms generated a lot more possibilities – all needing refinement. However the brain has grasshopper-ed away from that to thoughts of looping around a geometric form, which (stroke of genius?) could then be used as a joining element in the sculpture. Think of something like the foam florists use (the dry type for artificial or dried flowers, not the stuff that soaks up water). Cut to shape, paint to colour scheme, cover with looping, then stab wire through when building. I wonder if that stuff is stable over time?

Not having any to hand when the idea hit, instead I looped around a wooden block. There’s still joining component potential, drilling holes as required.

The prototype used 28 gauge black wire. The wooden block was painted orange/red, which keeps it in the colour scheme of the painted yarn created in Mary Hettmansperger’s class, and I think is light enough to show up the dark wire. This photo is a fudge, because I haven’t actually finished the final side of the looping.

The empty looped cube is pretty nice on its own. Possibly not sturdy enough for frequent handling, also less practical as a joining device. But good-looking.

Another experiment using a thicker brass wire (0.5 mm) around a larger rectangular block is in progress. I’ll probably complete that, but I should also play with covering just parts of painted blocks.

All of these things are going on in a huge muddle on my worktable. Picking up one thing, going back to another, brain fizzing with ideas. It feels good to be playing making.

4 Responses to “Components, sampling”


  1. 1 Claire B October 1, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    Love all the samples here, especially the painted (originally white) basket. Although all the things you’ve continued working on from the Mary Hettmansperger classes are also outstanding.

    • 2 fibresofbeing October 1, 2018 at 6:52 pm

      Hmm… you’ve got me looking at the basket again.
      I wonder how quickly I could weave up a batch for us to play with.
      Why do I reject traditional basketry forms? It does catch the paint and light in a really nice way.

  2. 3 Nicole de Mestre October 1, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    Your experimentation is incredibly inspiring…love your blog!


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