Archive for the '1.2 Developing source material' Category

T1-E1:P1-p1-s2 Developing source material – themes

Stage 2 is around development – identifying interesting aspects of my source material, inserting some of my own ideas.

I started, as suggested, with a brainstorm and mind map. The little sketches and changes of colour are part of trying to put myself off balance, to move away from words a bit.
Three potential themes particularly attract me.

Duality vessel Matlatzinca, 1250-1521 Fired clay, pigment Aztec exhibition, Australian Museum

Duality vessel
Matlatzinca, 1250-1521
Fired clay, pigment
Aztec exhibition, Australian Museum

Duality was a key element in Aztec thought. This vessel shows a warrior, healthy and sick, alive and dead, possibly a victim of sacrifice.
Most of the Aztec gods had both male and female forms. The bones of death were the seeds of life. There was light and dark, order and chaos, dry and wet, active and passive… They divide, complement, complete. They are parts of the same process, a cycle. I think it’s more complex than black and white – there is ambiguity.
sketch_20141205cExperimentation in my sketchbook was based on a mask held at the British Museum. Creating one mask left remnants that suggested another – the complement. More detail is on the research page (click here).
A Journey
A number of the codices follow the journey of the Aztec people, including the Codex Azcatitlan.

I love the symbolic elements, the presentation of movement in space and time, in the case of the Codex Azcatitlan that there is already a kind of cultural fusion in the sporadic use of western conventions such as aerial perspective. I’ve found myself thinking about what journey I could present, of formats such as a bound book or a long concertina fold (elements of connections through space, folding of time and place???).

During Stage 1 I didn’t have time to write about Federico Navarrete’s 2004 paper The hidden codes of the Codex Azcatitlan, but that’s relevant. I’ve tripped over some other sources of ideas recently too:

  • the Bayeaux Tapestry
  • Grayson Perry’s All in the best possible taste (for example, see
    , which could be seen as a journey through the class structure of Britain – an overview, or an individual’s path
  • An exercise in a book I’m currently reading, Kim Thittichai’s Experimental textiles
  • A possible use of techniques from the class with Alex Falkiner (see 21-Nov-2014)
  • I especially like the footprints, and I know I’ve got some photographs stashed of tracks and footprints in different places.

    This is more a grab-bag of ideas.

  • The emperors’ cloak (see 17-Nov-2014). This could be the textile itself, or the way we display status using clothing.
  • Cloth as a form of currency (see 25-Nov-2014). It was so valuable, required as tribute, gifted as reward (and to confirm allegiance), requiring the industry of many women… There could be an interesting contrast to our modern culture, where clothes are cheap, fashions change, discarded clothing is shipped around the world. It could go even further into our footprint on the world – see for example Martin Medina’s 2014 article The Aztecs of Mexico: a zero waste society. However I think this idea would suit a written assignment better.
  • Spinning and weaving as an activity for everyone. This one’s a bit fuzzy, but for a “product” I’d love to come up with some kind of kit that could bring creating textiles into anyone’s life. It doesn’t really fit the brief, but I find it wonderful to think of a society where spinners and weavers are accorded such status.
  • Codex Mendoza Folio 61 r (detail)

    Codex Mendoza
    Folio 61 r (detail)

    The mat of power. Often a person of authority is shown sitting on a woven mat. They speak, command – others listen. Again, I haven’t thought this through, but it feels as if it could go somewhere interesting.
  • I haven’t included any idea based on the bright colours and jazzy lines that I associate with “aztec” design. I just haven’t found them in my source material, or only in limited and muted ways which seem common to many other cultures as well. Even so, I think my next step will be to explore the fabric stash, grabbing out anything which catches my eye as having potential.

    Codex Azcatítlan (1501 – 1600) [online] Available from (Accessed 19-Nov-2014)

    Codex Mendoza (1541 – 1542 ?) [online] Available from

    Maffie, J. ([n.d.]) Aztec Philosophy Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy [online] Available from (Accessed 6-Dec-2014)

    Medina, M. (2014) “The Aztecs of Mexico: a zero waste society” In Our World web magazine United Nations University [online] Available from (Accessed 6-Nov-2014)

    Navarrete, F. (2004) “The hidden codes of the Codex Azcatitlan” In Anthropology and Aesthetics, No. 45 (Spring, 2004)[online] Available from (Accessed 15-11-2014)

    Thittichai, K. (2009) Experimental textiles London: Batsford

    T1-E1:P1-p1-s2 Developing source material – themes
    Textiles 1 – Exploring Ideas
    Part 1: Cultural fusions
    Project 1: Interpreting cultural sources
    Stage 2: Developing your source material
    Developing source material – themes

    T1-E1:P1-p1 Taking a step back

    I started drafting this post a couple of weeks ago. There were a a couple of things about this assignment that bothered me, that I wanted to think through. In the last week there’s been a major twist, which I’ll get to at the end.

    Fusion or Appropriation?
    The project topic is Cultural Fusion. How close is that to Cultural Appropriation?

    Given Australia’s history I try to be aware of damage already done by people from another culture sweeping in and taking over. I wouldn’t dream of using Australian aboriginal sources, as I think it has been made clear by members of the indigenous community that this would not be welcome.

    The Art history course had plenty of examples of the influences of other cultures – Japanese prints in the late nineteenth century, or African masks and Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. On the textile side, in around 1919 the Brooklyn Museum established a study room, for the specific purpose of allowing designers access to the ethnographic collection as a source of inspiration, and held an exhibition within the collection halls showing products and the museum objects which inspired them (see Whitley, 1998). More recently Margarete Ordon (2008) examined the way a clothing company “self-consciously markets the ways their products distort the textile designs, objects, and cultures of a colonized region that they also claim to celebrate and keep alive”.

    Teotihuacán mask Maker unknown, 900 - 1521 Greenstone with obsidian eyes

    Teotihuacán mask
    Maker unknown, 900 – 1521
    Greenstone with obsidian eyes

    The Aztec themselves used images and ideas from earlier cultures for their own purposes, including as a source of authority and legitimacy (see discussion of the Emperors’ cloak, 17-Nov-2014). Even more relevant: “Whether through tribute, looting, or the collection of heirlooms, the Aztecs were the recipients of many works of art that they studied, cherished, buried again, or incorporated into their own visual imagery” (Miller, 1986, p. 210). Unfortunately I suspect it’s faulty logic to say that because something was OK in their culture it’s OK for me to do it to them.

    My tentative idea was to learn what I could of the Aztecs, and try to find connections to my present – perhaps see my world a little differently, or new parts of it. That feels more like fusion – being open to change oneself, rather than say taking a motif and producing it in different materials. I feel I’m splitting hairs, but I’m definitely uncomfortable and somehow I have to manage this.

    Products and colour trends
    I’m sure the OCA website used to include use of colour forecasts in its high level list of degree outcomes. Happily it appears to have vanished. When re-checking my goals before re-enrolling, this most strongly made me hesitate.

    Codex Vaticanus 3738 58r (detail) with colour picks

    Codex Vaticanus 3738 58r (detail)
    with colour picks

    For this current project I might want to use colours taken from an image, such as the palette I’ve developed on the right. Or I might want to use colours important to the Aztec, such as turquoise, scorpion (a gray orange) and tawny, as explored clumsily in my sketchbook (18-Nov), or colours suggested by emotions – or almost anything other than what some stranger thinks is going to be exciting in New York fashion week spring 2015.

    I work very slowly. I make a reasonable living in a quite different field, which allows me to indulge myself in my passion. I have no desire to make or design products for market. Which is a requirement for a part of this project.

    From recent discussion on the OCA student forum I now accept that for others fashion colours and market trends are not just a necessity but really interesting.

    It’s just not for me. One of the advantages of doing a course is being taken to places you thought you didn’t want to go, and finding out you were wrong. I’ve been wrong before, I’ll no doubt be wrong again – but I’d be amazed if this was one of those times. For whatever reason, colour forecasts make me retch.

    At the start of the course (6 Nov-2014) my goals were:

  • I want to make the course my own – interpret briefs and make selections that reflect me and my interests.
  • I want to take risks and challenge myself.
  • I want to surprise myself.
  • I was trusting the course to give “the opportunity to build on previous learning and to gain valuable knowledge and skills.”

    When I started drafting this post I wanted to put myself on the spot – figure out what was bothering me and find a way to make it work, to meet my goals and the course requirements. I think I could do that – say do some colour trend research then show it wasn’t relevant for my chosen product, which could be perhaps a concertina book of a journey with stickers for children to move around and all the imagery based on textile work – or something else quite different.

    The twist is that I won’t be doing that. OCA has just announced a new level 1 course for textiles, and has agreed to allow me to transfer. I think it will take me even further out of my comfort zone. I suppose I’ve achieved one of my goals – I’ve totally surprised myself.

    Miller, M.E. (1986) The art of Mesoamerica from Olmec to Aztec London: Thames and Hudson

    Ordon, M. (2008) ” ‘I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas, anymore:’ Cross-Cultural Design in Peruvian Connection’s Textiles” In Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings. Paper 277 [online] Available from (Accessed 7-Nov-2014).

    Whitley, L.D. (998) “Morris De Camp Crawford and the ‘Designed in America’ Campaign, 1916 – 1922” In Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings. Paper 215 [online] Available from (Accessed 7-Nov-2014).

    T1-E1:P1-p1 Taking a step back
    Textiles 1 – Exploring Ideas
    Part 1: Cultural fusions
    Project 1: Interpreting cultural sources
    Taking a step back


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