Archive for the '3 – creating shapes & 3D' Category

Research point – Diversity of textiles available

One of the OCA research points asks for an investigation of “style and design in textiles available to the consumer”.

During the Olympics many of us will be seeing a lot of the latest technology in sportswear and I thought it would be interesting to see what’s happening at the elite level, and how much of that has filtered into the general marketplace.

Starting with the Australian team,  the use of Adidas technology gives the expectation of enhanced speed, strength and temperature control. Adidas TECHFIT™ PowerWEB technology is used in compression suits and uses Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) material in a design which supports muscle movement. Adidas ClimaCool® technology uses “heat and ventilation zones, moisture management fabrics and conductive fibres to draw heat away from the body”. With all this technology it’s interesting that the use of “traditional hand-crafted techniques” together with “acute attention to detail” is credited as part of creating lighter shoes.

Not necessarily related to sportswear, but something I find very interesting, is the DryDye technology that Adidas has introduced. Instead of the 25 litres apparently required to dye one T-shirt, this process uses no water, 50% less energy and 50% less chemicals (although I don’t know if that means in weight or toxicity or variety or…). Information in the video included in this article took me to DyeCoo Textile Systems who can dye natural and synthetic textiles in supercritical carbon dioxide.

An implementation partner of DyeCoo is the Yeh Group, and suddenly I’m back on topic. Yeh Group sell innovative fabrics for sports and outdoor wear. Moisture management keeps wearers drier and the technology includes special knit construction, topical treatments and/or “technology inside the yarn”. I suppose that could include possibly the spinning or yarn-construction process(es) or the chemical composition (polyester is mentioned in bold at the top of one page, but some technical info well beyond my understanding also mentions wool, spandex, cotton and “Cocona”). Other fabrics are made from a spun polyester to provide the hand of cotton with polyester performance. The pages on Laminated, Polypropylene and Melange are still under construction, which is disappointing.

Not having heard of Cocona, I followed that reference to Cocona Inc. Their technology incorporates natural active particles with a micro porous structure in fibres, polymers and films, greatly increasing their surface area. Benefits include moisture management and reduced drying time, UV protection and odor management (the particles absorb odor then release it during normal washing). The benefits continue as one layers garments, with high breathability and comfort.

Going wider in my search, I found textiles designed to provide real-time scoring data in combat sports. CSIRO has worked with the Australian Institute of Sports on the development of an electronic fabric that can be made on a commercial knitting machine. The Automated Impact Sensing System detects impacts in the boxer’s gear (glove, helmet, garments) then uses Bluetooth to communicate with the software. If impacts register at the same time for one contestants glove and the other’s helmet, objective points are awarded. This development seems to be a bit late coming into use given today’s controversy on boxing judging in the Olympics.

Looking through a series of websites, it appears all these technologies and many more are available to consumers. There is often a premium price to pay, but that’s generally the way with new developments. None of the innovations I read about appear to have a direct application to my own textile work, being generally industrial rather than crafts-based. A number of the organisations referred to positive environmental aspects of their processes – the waterless dyeing is particularly interesting, as long as there isn’t a matching downside somewhere. As a consumer – well, I tend to the cynical when manufacturers are extolling their own and their products’ virtues, but perhaps I will be a bit more openminded when my gym gear comes up for replacement. I’m not trying for anything more than personal bests, but being a little more comfortable in the process would be nice.

Resources accessed 3 August 2012– “adidas’ DryDye garment dyeing process delivers significant water and energy savings” by Enid Burns dated August 2, 2012 and accessed 3 August 2012 accessed 3 August 2012 accessed 3 August 2012

“Getting Smart with textiles to revolutionise combat sports” dated August 2010, accessed 3 August 2012

“Ring of ire: judging standards under attack as spotlight falls on boxing” by Chris Barrett

Project 6 Stage 4 – tucks

I’m continuing my exploration of raised and structured surface textures. Although my sore finger coped well in Effie’s class last week I’ve decided to continue with the constraints from the gathering experiment – using the sewing machine and attempting similar transformations on a set of undyed fabrics. I think this is building up a very useful reference resource and helps me maintain an open and inquisitive mind – fuel to spark and develop ideas.

I have a “pintuck” foot and a “deep groove pintuck foor” for my machine. They are used with a twin needle and high top tension to create lines of tucking in light weight materials. Actually you may be able to get the same effect without the special foot, but with more difficulty keeping an even distance between tucks. I wasn’t interested in maintaining a set, narrow spacing, so with hindsight I could have tried it.

Once again I started with the mid-weight cotton. It tends to be the easiest to sew on, so a good place to try initial ideas and get some experience with the technique. Each following fabric follows the same basic pattern. On the left, lines of deep groove, first straight then curved. On the right, the smaller pintucks. In the lower part the previously parallel lines start crossing and interacting. Horizontal lines of both deep groove and pintucks were added later, to check the interaction of the different sizes of tuck. (Note: they are different, so I guess the special feet are contributing to more than spacing).

On this fabric, without the strong directional lighting, the results are somewhat bland. It could be used to frame and subtly emphasize an area. I found tight curves difficult, but perhaps with more experience this could be used as a drawing /mark-making tool.

I did try the hessian, but wasn’t successful in creating any tucking.  I tried different tensions, stitch lengths, trying to pull threads tighter after sewing… It was just too heavy and coarse to respond.

The cheesecloth was a total contrast. The weave distorts easily into a lace-like quality. With the deep groove foot the fabric quickly started forming a deep pleat, and I had some success with varying the depth/amount of material in the tuck by  the amount of tension in holding the fabric in front of and behind the needle. The major difficulty was trying to keep the material from catching on the foot or other parts of the sewing machine.

The level of distortion really opens up possibilities in manipulating this material. Later in this stage I plan to experiment with moulding using PVA, and I think this could be really interesting in combination with “ribs” of tucks. The differing densities produced also offer possibilities when playing with light and transparency.

The paj silk has such a beautiful shine, it always looks good when some distortion helps it catch the light unevenly. It was very difficult to control, with the tucks easily catching additional material. Its fluid nature means that the fabric remains flat overall even with substantial stitching and puckering. As always I wonder about potential applications given the delicacy of the fabric. It would be interesting to experiment with nuno felting the pintucked material. The wrist support I use as I type is covered in a felt made with merino and paj silk, which has a lovely soft pebbled texture in the silk. The additional rigidity of pintucks could add an extra element of interest and coherence to the felt.

I was expecting wonderful things from the silk organza, but was disappointed. I thought the crisp fabric would produce beautiful, clearly defined tucks. Instead the tucks are poorly defined – perhaps the firmness of the fabric resisted the pull of the stitching. Experimenting with thread tension might help next time. In addition I find the clear show-through of the thread visually distracting.  In another application this could be an advantage, especially if coloured thread is used in the bobbin.

Like the paj, the tissue silk deformed easily under the sewing machine foot and I could somewhat control the amount of fabric in the tuck by the amount of tension with which I held it behind and in front of the needle. The result looks gentle and pretty, but the additional weight gives the fabric a bit more control and less drift in the draping. There is also very nice variation in colour intensity depending on the number of folds and the stitching itself. This technique could add visual interest while also giving form and drape to the fabric.

After the difficulties with the hessian I almost didn’t attempt the panne velvet, thinking it was too heavy. It actually takes the tucking very well, and the result here reminds me of a cable knitting design. However fibre snob that I am, I find the appearance of this trashy, cheap and unattractive. I think this is both emotional and influenced by what I know/expect, rather than objective, which is rather annoying. I have some prejudices to overcome, simply because almost anything could be just what you need in a specific situation.

Future experiments with pintucks could include different spacing, planned to form “ribs” and achieve three dimensional effects.

Project 6 Stage 4 – gathering

Stage 4 focuses on raised and structured surface techniques, giving a long list and the instruction to “try out … as many as you can”. These tasks are so open!

I did have one constraint – the hand stitching in the final part of Stage 3 (here) had left me with a sore and swollen knuckle on my right hand middle finger. I’m going to be doing lots of hand-stitching at a workshop this weekend and wanted to rest the finger and give it a chance to heal. I looked for ways to progress using the sewing machine as the main tool. In addition I decided to do a similar set of transformations on a variety of materials, to explore their different properties. I also stayed with light, undyed fabrics as I was interested in looking for shadows and at the effect of layering.

The photos of the work include some unusual lighting and angles to highlight the dimensionality of my results. I think the work is going to suffer badly in the post – 4 times for some work, as it goes to the UK and back for tutor review, and again for final assessment – so want to capture what might be lost.

This is a mid-weight cotton, and this overview shot shows my basic approach. On the right is a strip of fabric on-grain. One side is cut and the other torn (on later fabrics I changed this to one side straight cut or torn and the other side a sawtooth cut using pinking shears and/or a shaped rotary cutting blade). On the left is a strip cut on the bias – one side straight, the other sawtooth. I did a row of machine stitching down the centre of each strip, using the longest stitch length available. I used that thread to gather the cloth, then machine stitched it to a base of the same material.  I tried to vary the amount of gathering as I went.

The cotton gave quite crisp and firm results, and some good height especially on the tight curve at the end of the bias cut strip. The fabric is fairly opaque, so no real layering effect – just frilly stuff on top of a flat base. It’s not exciting, but it provided some useful experience for my approach to the rest of the samples.

Next up was hessian. This is fast becoming one of my favourite materials. Unfortunately my stock is running low and the I’m having trouble finding more in this nice unbleached cream.

The gathers are firm and I think will cope reasonably well with travelling. There is some nice lift and movement, especially in the bias-cut strip.

I particularly like the effect of the tight gathering of the bias strip. I think it would work very well to suggest the centre of flowers.

It looks good back-lit too. I really like the crossing lines in the weave and the different densities of light.

This cheesecloth looks very light and delicate. After the effort of gathering up the hessian I was surprised by how easily the cheesecloth compacted, and strips were finished before I attempted a tight turn.

The frayed edges of the straight-cut strip have a kind of delicate wireiness which I find delightful. It wouldn’t cope with heavy use or laundering, but in the right application it could give a lovely sense of fragility or possibly age.

The cloth is quite transparent, and the back-lit view is attractive too.

The gathering doesn’t have a great deal of height. I think it may actually travel quite well. Although it will squash I think it would regain as much height as ever with just a shake-out. We’ll see.

This delicate confection definitely will crush easily and I think will be very difficult to iron or restore to its current form.

This is the very light paj silk which is so nice in felting. It’s almost transparent flat (an aside – Mary Louise got a really interesting effect shown here, stitching on newsprint and tracing paper. I wonder if the paj would work for a textile variant – or perhaps organza would be better…).

It has a beautiful shiny frothiness. Fraying is currently minimal – I don’t know how it will stand up to handling.

The backlit view is rather nice – reminiscent of an xray film I think.

This is the silk organza I was thinking of above – although this is 5.5 mm and maybe something a bit heavier would be more like the tracing paper.
It’s a very crisp froth, as you’d expect from organza. The sheen is perhaps more apparent in the photo than in life. I also see a little bug of some kind decided to join in on the photo shoot, although there’s no sign of it now. Silk organza is very meringues and wedding dresses, especially in this style of gathering, but like pretty much everything could be just what you need in a particular application.

Back-lighting really shows up both the transparency and the crisp character of this fabric. I like the tonal variation as the number of layers change in the gathering.

Another light silk – look at the beautiful flowing line of the edge of the ruffle!

This is tissue silk, 3.5 mm georgette, very light and airy and very easy to gather up to get that dense mass of fabric movement. The effect is very soft and gentle, not at all crisp. I’m very taken with the effect of the fraying, quite long threads that further soften the edges.
The same soft texture is apparent in the back-lit photo. I’m sure this fabric will also suffer in transit.
The three light silks – paj, organza and georgette – make an interesting combination of texture and lustre. I think there’s a lot of potential for playing off one against the others.

This sampling process could go on and on. I had some heavier and more texture silks out, plus wondered about the different effect I might get with synthetic versus silk sheers. In the end I have decided to finish my gathering exploration with just one more fabric.

What a contrast! Lots of showy shine but not perhaps elegance. This is crushed panne velvet, 100% polyester, knit. On this one I have no real concerns about travel survival.

As you can see I used three strips on this sample. The knit fabric has a quite different behaviour length-wise versus width-wise, so I cut strips of both in addition to a bias cut.

Each strip gave quite different results. I find the centre strip interesting, with a rounder kind of scooping effect. This is the lengthwise cut, with very little stretch in the material.

Altogether a satisfying set of results.

Weaving Nancy’s blanket

Weaving content!!

Back here I posted this photo of the blanket on Nancy’s bed at the nursing home and speculated on the weave structure. I thought I’d try it out as part of my development in the final project.

Then I read this post by Noreen Crone-Findlay on her blog Tottie Talks Crafts. She has a super-fast way of putting on a short warp using s-hooks and has some detailed video tutorials, including doing leno (look around at her posts before and after the June one in the link above, as there is a series). Brilliant!

I don’t have that particular kind of loom but the same ideas could be used on almost any, I should think. I decided to try with my Robinson loom, seen here in a photo from February 2010 when I was working on Cacophony. The castle (the high structure that holds the shafts with levers to raise and lower warp ends) can easily be removed, as can the beater, leaving the basic frame with a mechanism for adjusting tension.

Here is the same loom, castle and beater removed, and leno warped and in progress using Noreen’s method.

The closeup shows that as well as my shed stick I used a string and pin setup to keep the second shed. This is another idea from Noreen (here), using a knitting stitch saver instead of a kilt pin. I’ve attempted a slightly different version of continuous string heddles on a stick when playing with backstrap weaving, following instructions by Laverne Waddington (blog, but this slightly different form worked well here.

One of the beauties of Noreen’s warping method is that most of it could be improvised using stuff around the home or at the nearest hardware store – for example I used tent pegs for the metal bar supporting the s-hooks (the apron rod was too thick to use the hooks directly on it). Life is easier with a tensioning system, but Archie Brennan’s diagrams show how to manage that with copper pipe and a threaded rod (see his page and scroll down to the “small copper loom” diagram).

In a very short time this afternoon I had this little sample done. I chose a large, coarse string, thinking of the rough and impersonal treatment Nancy has experienced (not the nursing home particularly – the whole situation and sequence of events). It’s actually a single continuous piece of string, used for both warp and weft. There are various tension problems, but that seems to fit with the theme pretty well!

I think I’ve got the structure right.

I’m really excited about the fast sampling this method offers, especially with a weaving project coming up in the OCA course. I think that’s tapestry and experimentation focused, so this could fit. Imagine unhooking a few areas of warp and doing some braiding, or crossing warp ends over to create diagonal elements. Possibilities!!!


Reading – Glenn Adamson: thinking through craft

Adamson, G. (2007) thinking through craft, Oxford: Berg.

This book looks at craft in all sorts of ways, showing how it isn’t and can’t be art. It takes an analytical, academic, theoretical approach to “craft” the idea and contrasts it to modern avant garde art. It is, I am sure, deliberately provocative. The author has clearly done a lot of research and thinking, and he aims to get others thinking.

Adamson proceeds in a systematic way to examine five perspectives or ways of thinking about craft – Supplemental (not autonomous); Material (versus optical); Skilled (more complex, but perhaps beside the point in art); Pastoral (that is nostalgic and limiting creative freedom); Amateur.  He begins with a survey of theory, then history, then a critical analysis of specific works or texts. In one sense I enjoyed the book very much and felt I was learning a lot. Adamson covers a lot of territory, much of it new or only faintly familiar to me, and he generally explains his terms and concepts clearly and carefully. He certainly gave me a lot to think about, and I expect I’ll be re-reading the book in parts and as a whole many time in the future. I’d definitely recommend it to others.

On the other hand the book made me cranky. Very cranky. Two main reasons – first, I don’t like his conclusions, which wouldn’t be a problem (after all it’s interesting when people hold and discuss different views) except that second, I think he indulges in some sleights of hand and leaps of logic which make his conclusions suspect.

In most of the book Adamson is specifically referring to avant garde art. It has a theory and expressed concept behind it. It is autonomous (self-standing), generally optical, has an underlying principle of freedom, can transcend any limits, not necessarily created with great manual skill, in theory with intrinsic (not just market) value. On the other hand Adamson deliberately doesn’t define craft closely. It is a process and way of doing things, it has core principles, it limits itself.

In my mind the tricky part is that this allows Adamson to select among all that is “craft” some examples that don’t meet the particular art criteria being considered. For instance in chapter 1 “Supplemental” he writes that art, a painting, stands apart and exists in itself. He then takes the extreme example of the frame around the art as representing craft, and shows that the frame supplements the art but isn’t art in itself. Not a hard sell – I suggest only in particular cases is a frame presented or claimed as art. Adamson does go on to give some more convincing examples, but one thing he doesn’t convince me of is that avant garde art is autonomous. It requires an “accepted critical account” (page 32). Some other recent reading suggests I’m not original in pointing this out. For example, in an article on the new hang at the Art Gallery of NSW John McDonald wrote that when considering contemporary art “one can be a fashion victim rather than an art historian and no one will notice the difference” (1). Or much earlier Tom Wolfe: “”Without a theory to go with it, I can’t see a painting … Modern Art has become completely literary: the paintings and other works exist only to illustrate the text.” (2) So much for autonomous.

In chapter 4 “Pastoral” Adamson writes about the “sentimental escapism” of attendees at summer crafts schools. I certainly don’t accept that as an accurate description of the work we did in Liz Williamson’s class last January (post here), not that I’m claiming avant garde status but there was certainly no “air of crabby conservatism” (p. 168). This is one of many places where it’s convenient for Adamson’s position that he limited himself to avant garde art, because otherwise he would have to figure out how to accommodate in his theory all the art classes held at Sturt at the same time. The attendees there are covered in that “there is no such thing as an amateur contemporary artist, only an unsuccessful one” (p. 143). I wonder if artists who choose or need to earn at least part of their income by teaching thereby lose any status as Artists.

One final sleight of hand. Adamson suggests that in its inferiority craft performs a useful function, acting as a “horizon” to art – “a conceptual limit active throughout modern artistic practice” (p. 2). Craft seems to act as some kind of foil to art, helping to intensify its art-ness. “The limits embodied by craft are not only psychologically comforting, but also conceptually useful” (p. 5). For me though as Adamson explores this frontier he seems to accept as art some work that has pushed into territory previously seen as craft. Adamson sidesteps the difficulty that an area or process or material that was part of craft is now to be seen as art –  he has already dismissed as banal any circular argument that something is art because it says it is, but in this situation he doesn’t offer any other explanation for the discontinuity.

So why did I keep reading, when the book made me cranky and had me muttering and scribbling copious notes (possibly a concern to other bus travellers)? Simply because it did give me so much to think about, and helped me further in my understanding of what I want to do and how I want to develop. A very worthwhile read.

1. McDonald, J. In with the new accessed 6 July 2012

2. Wolfe, J The Painted Word, quoted in Ellsworth-Jones, W. Never mind the theory…–20120629-21792.html accessed 6 July 2012

Adamson, G. (2007) thinking through craft, Oxford: Berg.

Project 6 Stage 3 – Part 3

I started my exploration of applied fabric techniques here, with small samples of a range of methods. I continued here with more extended work on two larger samples. The final sample for the Stage has specific requirements, which I interpreted as:
* working from drawings(s) in my sketchbook
* a background of a firm fabric like calico, no more than 30 cm square
* applique the cut shapes by pinning then stitching unobtrusively
* do surface stitching if desired.

After reviewing all the work in my “sketchbook” (which other people might think looks remarkably like a plastic tub) I chose this photo – first seen in my sketchbook in April here, an initial exploration of some shapes in May here, then more versions in Stage 2 of this project, Developing Ideas, here.

I wanted to keep my focus points in mind, so did another quick sketch. Curves, shine, texture/edges and pops of colour.

I did consider changing the colours a bit, based on this sketch in May (sketchbook here), but in the end the original black background really called to me.

I wanted to go for a more free-flowing development approach – purposeful but loose. This worked well for me I think, especially as the shiny overall, black background, texture and colour pops combination was challenging. I won’t go through all the many, many variants I auditioned – and photos of the total tip I made of my workroom are right out! Instead, straight to the result:

The base is a black mystery fabric from the back of a cupboard – I suspect largely polyester – overlaid with a shiny black synthetic organza. Most of the shapes are a sandwich – base of synthetic organza, then misty-fuse to hold it together, then glitz (sparkly trilobal nylon) in swirls, snippets and strands, topped with tulle. A couple of the smaller pieces have tulle both top and bottom instead of the organza.

A particular dislike is the stitching. I used a fine black cotton but it is anything but unobtrusive. At one stage I was intending to do something like machine cable stitch or couch yarn over the edges, but I currently feel that would be too visually intrusive. I considered bonding the shapes down then doing just a little supporting stitching more unobtrusively, which I think would generally be reasonable depending on the end use, but that didn’t meet the exercise requirements. With hindsight I think the best result would be to control the placement of the glitz then leave a small edging all around of just organza and tulle to stitch through. I also don’t like some places where I cut the glitz and it sits in jarring clumps. I got better at handling it as the work progressed. Finally I’m not totally decided on the final size. I’ve cropped the photo, but could perhaps pull out just slightly on the bottom right for a bit more breathing space before it becomes boring.

On the plus side, I think I was able to experiment and improvise while keeping my points of focus – in fact to achieve them. It’s hard to photograph, but there’s a nice shine from the organza, while the tulle acts to both hold in the glitz and modify colours (eg the strawberry is red organza and green tulle, while the reflection on its left is magenta organza and black tulle). I’ve put in a thumbnail of another photo, trying to give the idea of the variation in colour and shine depending on the angle of viewing. There are also lots of curves and I think some interesting negative shapes.

I don’t know if it’s apparent in the result, but I did feel I was working more smoothly and spontaneously, identifying problems and opportunities as I was going and adapting to suit. For example when I started looking at my stash of synthetic sheers I found many of them too dense in coverage and rather “loud”, but without them I didn’t have the colours I wanted. I was able use disperse dyes to get a range of colours all based on the same white organza so with similar levels of transparency and shine. Overall a very enjoyable and absorbing process and I am moderately pleased with the result.

Nancy’s story

I’m continuing to build my theme book on Ageing. A subset of it is on a page of the blog, but the main book is physical.

As was apparent from my earlier posts here and here, I’ve been quite nervous about some potentially controversial or distressing aspects of my theme. I thought I might touch raw nerves, or get caught in a political / ideological debate.

I didn’t expect, and very much value, the thoughtful comments and personal stories that people have shared with me in comments and emails.

Today I added some material to the separate page – standard disclaimer, please don’t click through if my exploration of the theme Ageing could cause distress or offence: some dark humour about good intentions that missed; some photos of Nancy’s view; and a brief version of Nancy’s story, her journey from home to nursing home, in which I finally use the words I think might be a trigger.

The comments I’ve received have challenged me, helped and/or forced me to think more deeply about this theme. I would be very interested to read more and to understand different views. If you want to read the theme page from the top, click here.

The importance of scale

I’d been doing some research on an artist – Sheila Hicks. At the Sturt Summer school tutor Liz Williamson had a beautiful pile of inspirational books (or an inspirational pile of beautiful books) including Sheila Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor which was an exhibition of Hick’s small works and also the most beautiful book in the world.

Amazon has some links for the book – $1,200 new, maybe $400 used (I found other sites listing cheaper, but they seem to be outdated or non-functional). I couldn’t bear to buy at such a price, but I did find Sheila Hicks: 50 Years, a book published in connection with the exhibition at Addison Gallery of American Art.

It may not be the most beautiful book in the world, but it is a very nice book indeed and includes lots of great photos as well as three essays. So I flipped ahead looking at the photos, started reading the essays and was thoroughly enjoying myself when I came across this post on It has photos of Hicks with some of her work at the Textile Arts Center – and it’s huge! Go back and look at the photo of the book’s cover. That work is lying on a road, with people standing around it. I guess because of seeing the other book first I totally misinterpreted what I was seeing – definitely not hold-in-your-hand scale. Perhaps not an exciting anecdote for you, but a jolt and a powerful reminder to me about the dangers of preconceptions and assumptions.

Hicks was mentioned a number of times in Auther’s String Felt Thread (blog post here). Hicks was one of those working in fibre in America in the 1960s, somewhere on that border between art and craft. In her essay “Unbiased Weaves”, Joan Simon writes that throughout her career of fifty plus years Hicks has through her work questioned categorization of art, design and craft. Hicks has produced an incredible range of work – different purposes (architectural, conceptual, ephemeral, exploratory…), different scales, materials, ways of working (studio work, collaborative, for industry…). A significant facet that interests me is Hicks’s knowledge and honouring of traditional textile making while pushing to new and innovative methods and materials.

I know I should aim to interpret what I read and use my own words, but this sentence from Simon on Hicks’s work in the 1977 Artiste/Artisane? exhibition resonates with me (it’s also on the edge of my understanding and I couldn’t possibly write it myself!): “For though these were artisanal works, her conceptual reclamation of these objects into the realm of artwork signaled that the exhibition’s fundamental question was not the neat binary choice between artist or artisan – rather, that the history of twentieth-century art had widened the territory to incorporate one kind of thing into the field of another.” (page 110).

Combined with my interest in art <–> craft is a focus on weaving in particular, and though Hicks has used many techniques in her work weave has recurred throughout her career. In her essay “Ancient Lines and Modernist Cubes” Whitney Chadwick writes of the pliability and temporality that comes from the repetition in weaving. There’s a conceptual basis to Hick’s work that I frankly don’t understand, for example “new relationships between wall and plane” (p 169), the idea of a formal vocabulary, even “form”. Whatever the conceptual basis, Hicks has taken weaving in directions I have never seen before, and it’s both beautiful and fascinating.

Getting a bit more solid, why do I like Hicks’s work and what have I learnt that could be useful for my own? (this based on Emma Drye’s advice, originally posted here and mentioned in my post here.) Using a thread (or bundle of threads) as a means of mark-making. The benefit of extended study of traditional textiles and weaving techniques – but not just the theory and drafts in a book, but looking at actual (in person or in photos), historic textiles and how they have been created. Looseness and freedom in the use of the basic grid of weaving. Bare warp and wrapped warp. Slits and volume and light. The impact and importance of scale! Practice – do the work. Try to avoid preconceptions and assumptions. Don’t define yourself or your work into a box. Be open.

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

Chadwick, W. (2010) Ancient Lines and Modernist Cubes In: Simon, J and Faxon, S (2010) Sheila Hicks: 50 years, Andover, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy in association with Yale University Press

Simon, J. (2010) Unbiased Weaves In: Simon, J and Faxon, S (2010) Sheila Hicks: 50 years, Andover, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy in association with Yale University Press

Simon, J and Faxon, S (2010) Sheila Hicks: 50 years, Andover, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy in association with Yale University Press

Stritzler-Levine, N. (ed) (2006) Sheila Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor, Yale University Press

Project 6 Stage 3 – part 2

In earlier work on Stage 3 (post here) I did lots of small samples. I wanted to do some more extended work before moving on to the final sample (which has specific requirements).

The original idea of more synthetic organza + soldering iron didn’t go ahead. Anything that involves major mess or fumes I do in the garage, and it’s unpleasantly dark, cold and damp in Sydney’s current weather.

This is bonded layers of silk – shot dupion mostly so it looks quite different from different directions.

It’s based on a photo of Nancy’s husband. I used gimp to posterise it to around 9 levels of values, then created separate versions for each value which I printed out.

The thumbnail photos show the idea – slightly different because of changes when scaling.

I traced over solid areas of each colour to use as patterns in cutting fabric – lots of little decisions about where to draw the boundaries.

I used Misty Fuse on the back of the silk. It’s a fusible web, but it doesn’t come on paper – just the sheer web. I use baking paper or a teflon sheet to protect surfaces. I’ve found that the glue on some fusible webs will come through finer silks and create a blotchy effect and I think Misty Fuse gives a better result.

In my last tutor report Pat commented that I tend to be rather tight and controlled, working things out in an academic way, and I need to challenge myself and allow for a more intuitive, fluid approach. Obviously this is extremely tight and controlled – even without Pat’s comments I felt this method doesn’t really fit with the approach of the course, development of one’s own designs from one’s own mark-making etc.

I consciously chose to go ahead anyway. The idea interested me (it’s definitely not original but something I’ve seen in the past – I didn’t look up references because I don’t think I’ve got it from one particular source). Plus a small copy of this photo is one of the few personal items that Nancy has in her room at the nursing home, so the image feels very important to me. I’ve put some more information about it on my theme page – standard disclaimer, please don’t click through if my exploration of the theme Ageing could cause distress or offence, otherwise if you wish to read more click here.

All the bonding work is done, but I haven’t finished the piece. It needs stitching to add detail, especially in the eyes. At the moment I want to leave my options open, in case I decide to use it as an element in my Theme work in some way.

I’m quite pleased with the result in terms of the technique I chose, but I think as it stands it’s not a creative use of appliqué.

So for my next attempt I tried very hard to throw any tightness or control out of the window, and to work in a free and spontaneous way.

This piece makes me smile. It’s messy and exuberant. I keep thinking it doesn’t make sense in design or compositional terms, but I still find it interesting to look at and somehow satisfying. There are things about it that aren’t right, but it’s still fun.
It started when a friend (blogless 😦 ) suggested tifaifai, a Tahitian appliqué technique. I have a copy of Tifaifai Renaissance by Dijanne Cevaal, so took that out – very tight and controlled (her current work shows a lot of change – her blog is However I was interested in the idea of a pierced layer of fabric bonded onto a background.

Maybe I could combine that with my scribble “design” (now I think about it, I need to be sure I move beyond this as my “spontaneous safe place”). I didn’t actually look at the original or the interpretation I did in Project 5.

I put some fusible web (the standard stuff) on the back of some black hessian and attacked it with scissors. Next step was considering backgrounds.

The mottled background looked a bit busy while the plain orange has some texture which I think helps it hold its own against the black.

With the black fused onto the background, I went through all my tubs and drawers of thread and yarn, pulling out blacks, whites and variants of orange. I wanted a range of weights and textures, preferably in each of the colours (so a bouclé in black, in white and … well, orange-ish). Referencing information in Bonding and Beyond by Beaney & Littlejohn I sprinkled bonding powder over my base, then started layering on yarns. There are wools, cottons, silks, rayon and glittery threads. I tried to focus on using them for mark-making, just going with what looked good to me as I worked. After a small final sprinkling with bonding powder I put some fine black tulle over everything and fused it all together.

The final step was to free-machine over everything to supplement the bonding, which was pretty patchy. I went for simple, swirly scribbles in black. I didn’t check my tension – I was working hard at just following one idea after another, just as fluid as I could manage – and (again!) I rather like the back of the work, where there’s some nice feathering.

I don’t know if this is finished. I thought of doing some cable machine stitching on the top, but can’t see what that would add. Maybe some appliqué that would provide some coherence and movement across it. The four people I’ve shown it to (non-textile and non-arty family and friends) all mentioned Jackson Pollock – Blue Poles was a highly controversial purchase by the Australian government, so is widely known and I think with the passing of time people think the government was pretty clever and not duped after all.



Beaney, J. & Littlejohn, J. (1999) Bonding and Beyond, Double Trouble Enterprises.

Cevaal, D. (2002) Tifaifai Renaissance, Rozelle, Pride Publishing.

Separate theme page

After a brief email discussion with my tutor I have decided to go ahead exploring the theme of Ageing. I first introduced it in this post. I appreciate the comments that people left sharing their experiences, but I’m very aware that this is basically a textile blog and the material I might get into with this theme could potentially distress or confront readers on a personal level. I’ve decided to put most future information I choose to share on a separate page of the blog, here. In a post I might refer to theme work in a general way, but readers will be able to choose whether to click through to the detail.

The photo shows the blanket on Nancy’s bed at the nursing home. I’ve spent some time looking at the weave structure – leno, with areas of plain and almost basket (?) weave. I think I could weave it, but would have to use doups rather than bead leno, since that doubles up warp ends. I’ve commented a bit further on the separate theme page – please don’t click through if my exploration of the theme Ageing could cause distress or offence. If you wish to read more click here.


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April 2021

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