Archive for the 'Techniques' Category

First stabile and other making

After initial attempts making mobiles (20-Aug-2017), I’ve moved on to a stabile. I’d never heard of them before starting Keith Lo Bue‘s Poetry in Motion: making marvelous mobiles DVD workshop. They balance just like a mobile, but instead of being suspended they pivot on a table-based stand.

So here in all its glory, full of blemishes but actually working … (drumroll) …

Galvanised wire and corrugated cardboard.

Gregory Hodge
Mime

I had some idea of making a variety of shapes and painting them, then drawing/painting the result (following Gregory Hodge – see 31-Aug-2017). Perhaps as well weights could be inserted in the cardboard, causing some apparent “impossibilities” in balancing.

The stabile isn’t right. Some clumsy connections that don’t hang well, the main balance is tilting to the side, obviously I haven’t gone on to painting, the “design” (let’s be kind) is awkward with parts hitting each other and the central support. Still, fundamentally it works!

I still think there are possibilities with the cardboard, but another idea has come up that loops around to experiments from a year or two back. More to be done šŸ™‚

In other news, the ceramic earrings seen in progress 13-Aug-2017 are finally resolved, after multiple attempts. I’d rate them as OK, wearable, but not exciting. It was a good opportunity to play with wire, and a library of shapes is gradually building up.

Neolithic twining??

Neolithic twining? A video on Lanny Mackenzie’s instagram feed had me intrigued. I’m not sure my attempt is the same, but regardless it’s interesting. Unlike most weaving and basketry which structurally use two sets of elements – warp / rib and weft / weavers – this technique uses a single set of elements. Each length of material (yarn, wire, whatever – let’s call it “end”) follows the same pattern as every other. In her class Judy Dominic showed us that the same end can change function, a rib changing to weaver or vice versa. Neolithic twining, or whatever it is I ended up with, goes further – no differentiation. What possibilities does this bring? How could it be exploited?

Later edit: just so I remember: working end goes over 2 (a and b) and under 2. new working end is b. repeat.

Approaching wire

I’ve been circling around, making different starts with wire, seeing what might come together.

Egg head

Ages ago (last year?) in a drawing class, tutor Sue Vesely brought hard boiled eggs marked up to show various angles and spacing of the human head. I’ve since made a version of my own, using Sue’s notes and a toy (rubber?) egg. Could I make these shapes and lines using wire and random weave basketry techniques?

It turned out I couldn’t. Nothing to show – it was quickly dismantled, cut up, reused…

… some of it into this face.

Which also doesn’t particularly thrill me. Clumsy lines, not the right selection of which lines to include. This weight of steel (construction wire, annealed steel, 1.57 mm diameter, 16 gauge) was difficult to work with at this scale (slightly less than life).

Not a dead end, but not an enticing path for now.

Another experiment using broken ceramic and wire in random weave also didn’t quite work for me in its first form.


The same steel wire, smoothed and drilled fragments from a cup and saucer, random weave.
The blu-tac is to hold bits in place until I could stabilise placement. Each shard has 3 holes, which I thought would allow enough connections to create a stable non-vessel.

Once again the gauge of the wire, its stiffness when working, caused me grief. When bending wire I was constantly at risk of breaking ceramic, and without sufficiently bending the wire to hold them the pieces kept sliding around.

More recently I’ve been introduced to galvanised steel wire. Lots of different gauges in the hardware store, doesn’t rust (although the shine wouldn’t suit all purposes), not a good choice for jewellery, but a great new option in this kind of work. The old 16 gauge wire has been cut off and new work begun. It’s going reasonably well, but needs to progress before any more photos.

More of the same 16 gauge wire and the ceramic, and still not satisfied with the various possibilities I’ve generated so far. The proportions of the ceramic and wire elements isn’t pleasing. The curve of the wire (from my new dapping set) doesn’t sit well with the different curves of the ceramic pieces. Beads of different sizes have been trialled at different positions, and then the earrings get too long.

I’m really not in a grouchy mood and I don’t think the inner critic is getting out of control. There are possibilities here, just so far none I would wear. It will come.

Now some happy snaps. My friend Claire and I got together for a day of dipping wire in paper pulp. Neither of us had previous experience, so it was all free experimentation. Claire brought the pulp – made from waste cardstock. We both had different types of mesh and wire. There’s more detail and process shots on Claire’s blog – https://tactualtextiles.wordpress.com/2017/08/07/paper-pulp-dipping/.

Here are some of my results.


Above: the pulp built up well on bird wire mesh. On the left is the form as dipped. When dry I was able to change the form, the paper remaining attached.

Above: two views of a form created before the mesh was dipped. A much firmer and sharper end result (compared to re-shaping a dipped piece).

Above: two more vessel forms, quickly random woven together using galvanised wire. I’d like to try this again with more preparation time, creating smaller spaces that the pulp would span better. It tended to slide off these.

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Above: a range of forms, wire and an offcut of bird mesh. The pulp held better on the smaller spaces.

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Above: the “flower” wouldn’t hold the shape. Some extra fine wire across the leaf helped marginally. The two views of a single “earring” show the impact of lighting on this material.

Above: the two sides of a piece of copper mesh that I had distorted.

Above: more mesh and pulp experiments. Love the combination of copper and the warm cream of the paper.

There’s lots of promise in these results. Some lessons learnt, some really nice effects. I’m hoping Claire and I can arrange another day – with enough lead time for more preparation. Maybe a series of days (or in summer??), so we can let things dry between dippings.

Finally, some first steps following Keith Lo Bue’s Poetry in Motion DVD workshop – http://www.keithlobue.com/product/poetry-in-motion-making-marvelous-mobiles-dvd-workshop-set.

This is what led me to galvanised wire, opening various doors as mentioned above. I’ve worked through the first couple of exercises, and am feeling excited and inspired.

First up was a clever way to straighten wire, plus practice in creating precise shapes and angles. I think a series of these piled up has much more promise of an interesting and dynamic composition than my earlier attempts at wire lines at the top of this post.

Next was an exercise learning to find and fix balance points. Back to 16 gauge wire (galvanised this time), plus corks.


Above: my very first mobile, in two variations. On the left, a flat, horizontal form that spreads out in space. On the right, a simple change in the orientation of one looped end changes the form to a broken straight line, descending in space.

I can see potential for a number of the approaches above to combine into a fruitful line of investigation – even those that left me cold as stand-alones. It’s the end of the weekend, work tomorrow, but I’m rubbing my hands in anticipation.

Workshop: Bolga basket weaving with Godwin Yidana

I was attracted to this workshop by the ideas of working with recycled plastic and of learning some new weaving techniques. Big ticks on both of those, but the main event was so much more. Godwin tells stories – about the history of weaving in northern Ghana where he grew up, weaving as an embodiment of culture. He spoke of home life and challenges, the wisdom of his grandmother, the g-lish foundation and its impact on the lives more than a hundred who now have a way of earning, saving, having access for themselves and their families to food, training, and more.

Work in progress. Materials were hand-twisted cord from 500 ml water bags, recycled and scrap fabric, plastic shopping bags.

Godwin and fellow co-founder of g-lish, Gayle Pescud, were warmly welcoming, sharing, supporting. Right from the start it felt different to other classes as we were gently taught to listen attentively, not fidgeting with our materials and phones, as we heard of the significant spiritual role of circles in Ghana traditions, connectedness, and how all both give and receive. As the day progressed everyone shared stories, made connections, some plans for future ventures…

Finished basket

New techniques included a variant on making cord (Godwin’s repurposed thong technique – a short video at https://www.instagram.com
/p/BXJppVbAaSq/
– I’ve adapted at home using a non-skid mat offcut); a neat setup technique for the basket; lots of detail on handling materials, joining, adding “legs” and more. Everyone finished a small basket, and seemed to feel warmed, refreshed, re-energised.

Some links:
http://www.glishfoundation.org/
https://www.facebook.com/GlishFoundationGhana/
http://www.godwinyidana.com/
https://www.instagram.com/godwinyidana/

Germination I and II – in Basketry NSW Transformation exhibition

Next Sunday is Basketry NSW’s annual Exhibition and Open Day. See details on the flyer to the right (click for larger view).

This is the first one I’ve participated in. I saw last year’s exhibition (see 10-July-2016), and as I wrote back then it influenced me to make basketry part of my creative practice and indeed to join the group.

I’m showing two objects in the exhibition, and will also be one of those demonstrating on the Open Day.

Germination I and Germination II

In early 2016 I decided to change up, transform, my creative practice. Previously textiles-focused, I undertook a week’s Creative Research Masterclass with Ruth Hadlow (13-Nov-2016), other weeks working on Welding Sculptures with Paul Hopmeier (22-Jan-2017), Basketry with Brooke Munro (15-Jan-2017), and a week with Keith Lo Bue exploring forms with steel wire and the poetics of found objects (23-Apr-2017). All this plus shorter classes in life sculpture, drawing, basketry, wearable technology, a sculpture conference, and of course joining Basketry NSW.

Germination I

The first growth from this intensive period is seen here. Germination I melds wire-forging skills from Keith with basketry’s random weave, informed by my loom-weaving background. The steel is construction wire, the same used in Germination II, and with hammer and hand-polishing explores the mutable qualities of this wonderful material.

Germination II Sideview

Germination II was begun in the class with Paul Hopmeier. Scrap metal and factory floor waste combines with construction wire in a tangle of growth, expansion, transmutation.

Soft sculpture Twining and more

Judy Dominic, wrapping up two days of exploration

The highlight of recent days was a workshop with Judy Dominic – Soft Sculpture Twining – organised by Basketry NSW.

Two days, two apparently simple techniques – twining and a ribbing/edging – , two weights of seagrass cord, infinite possibilities.

The combination of material and technique produced a malleable fabric that could be turned, punched, folded, stretched out of shape… Spokes and weavers were moved as needed. As long as you have the length, you have options. And if you need to, you can always add length in different ways.

Judy moved around the class constantly, encouraging, supporting, challenging. One piece-in-progress, and in discussion there were possibilities for a few years’ investigation.

Class work

A general photo doesn’t capture the individuality, the wide range of responses of the participants. A few highlights below (click on a photo for a larger view):

I concentrated on a sampler of options rather than finished work. Two samples in fact, which then were joined, twisted and pummeled, pulled into a possibility for the group display, and since partly dismantled so I can keep playing.


Next will be trying out some ideas using some of my more familiar materials. It will be interesting to see how that changes the performance of the results.

Exhibition
Adman: Warhol before popAGNSW

Andy Warhol
Progressive Piano (hands on piano keys)

The exhibition is huge, lots of photos and ephemera from Warhol’s life as well as his work.

I followed my eye.

Warhol’s blotted line technique results in some fascinating lines, sometimes strong, sometimes tentative, with rhythms and hesitations that had me holding my breath as I followed them across the page.
The use of collage, especially in blocks of colour that draw the eye and emphasize areas without directly responding the the lines, is particularly exciting.

Andy Warhol
Marbleized paper (detail)

The AGNSW website has videos demonstrating a number of Warhol’s techniques, including blotted-line and marbleizing. Definitely techniques I would like to explore myself. I’ve challenged myself with collage in the past (see for example 22-Sep-2016 and 31-Dec-2016 – it doesn’t come naturally to me), and combining it with a monotype-ish technique would be an interesting extension.

Andy Warhol, Julia Warhola
‘It’s a real genuine fake’

Text is another excitement in many of the displayed works, most the work of Warhol’s mother Julia Warhola. It brings a level of detail, intricacy, and draws the viewer in to read and see more. There’s more of the quirky individuality, like the blotted lines, where smooth flowing progression is replaced by a fragmenting rhythm, syncopated, stretching, bending, crowding unevenly down the page. (OK, so the example shown isn’t the most extreme on a number of those counts).

Andy Warhol
Cosmetics

Cosmetics combines lines and dynamic forms brought together with transparent colours, some duller, following the drawn line, others brighter, linking and framing.

I wasn’t expecting to like this exhibition, not “serious” enough perhaps, but I’ve been back a couple of times and felt invigorated, energized by it. It’s in its last days, so you’ll need to hurry.

Dance
Orb Sydney Dance Company

Two newly commissioned dance pieces, one with beautiful costumes and flowing, rippling movement, the other more street gritty, confined, with an amazing sequence of bodies weaving in space.

Had me thinking about what “rhythm” means.

Talks
All part of the AGNSW lecture series Site Specific: The power of place.

Jane Messenger: “Soap suds and white wash: JMW Turner and the Sea”
Turner’s innovation and his influence on other artists such as Monet and Pissaro were interesting, but what has stayed with me are the closing two paintings, one from early in Turner’s career, one late, both showing a vortex of ships, water, spray.

Dr Ruth Pullin: “Eugene von GuĆ©rard and Cape Schanck”
Von GuƩrard was a traveller with an ability to quickly discerne the essence of a place, and an eye for seeing the picture in nature. He was also a man of his time, interested in geology and other science, a convergence of the romantic (the enormity of space) and the scientific (accurate topology). Seeing sketchbook and finished works is always illuminating, especially the open air painting in the German tradition, oil studies rather than a standard sketchbook.

Von GuĆ©rard spent just 30 of his 90 years in Australia, 1852 – 1882. I knew him as a painter of Australia and New Zealand. It was odd to see early work, from his extensive training in Germany and Italy, showing his intimate knowledge of the Neander Valley.

While writing this post I came across the abstract of Ruth Pullin’s PhD thesis (link). Impossible to follow up everything šŸ˜¦

Dr Alison Inglis: “Sir John Everett Millais – the allure of Scotland”
The paintings we looked at showed an emotional sincerity, psychological spaces, collapsing perspective, slightly flattened space and emphasis of silhouettes.

Sometimes. The paintings also showed a journey of technique and style, to a much lesser extent of subject, over the course of a lifetime’s work. That doesn’t make it less sincere, a young man controversial and anti-establishment, the older man president of the Royal Academy of Arts – the establishment. A sell-out or bolder? Does it matter? – focus on the work.

Dr Chiara O’Reilly: “Barbizon and Jean FranƧois Millet”
Something noble can be made of the humblest of life.

O’Reilly argued that in Millet’s works, even those apparently empty of human figures, there is a theme of labour, of the shaping and defining of the land by humans. In many pictures of course the figure(s) are strong, powerful, dominating – The Sower, in ways The Gleaners. The figures of the poorest are given dignity by the attention Millet gives, the scale, layering the real with memory and inspiration.

As a textile person I need to point out the knitting – much knitting. We’ve lost touch with the cost, the effort, of clothing ourselves.

Workshop: Figure Sculpting with Kassandra Bossell

This one day class at Sydney Community College in Rozelle was engrossing and satisfying. Kassandra is a warm, supportive and encouraging tutor. For me it was a wonderful combination of my recent learning in life drawing with my interest in developing my work toward three dimensions.

Our material was clay (Keane’s white raku), and just a few simple tools. We were given the task of modelling an elephant to introduce us to the clay. It is so pleasant to work with. This really brings the haptic element to work – very welcome to one with a history of working with textiles.

Then our model arrived and we were introduced to the work process. The model posed on a table set in the centre of the room. Touching and almost surrounding it were more tables, with just a short gap at one corner for access. We worked on boards, 10 of us distributed in a circle around the model. After a short period we would move to the next position, reorient our board, and continue working. Eventually we would work our way around the circle and have seen the model from every angle (we could climb up on stools for a top view).

In the first pose we were to focus on the torso – no limbs. For me this made apparent a difference to drawing. Normally you’re fighting to ignore what you “know”, to draw from observation. For this sculpting I found using my own knowledge and experience of the body was helpful, especially when an arm obscured the torso.

However what we know is always a dangerous thing. Some of the heads in the class looked more like a ball balanced on a short cylinder, and I think virtually all of us had the head too small. Kassandra asked us to focus on the head and how it sits on the body in our third attempt.

A reclining pose raised new problems. Parts of the body were pushed around or hidden by cushions. It was difficult to avoid having the body look like it was emerging through the table.

Throughout the day Kassandra continued to introduce new ideas, or refinements of technique. We needed to think about proportion, weight, volume. Light shows form, and I love the way light almost seems to caress this clay (I haven’t seen it fired, but presumably it could look quite different).

There was a wide variety in results. Some students used transformations, interpretations – definitely not literal representations. I tried hard to reproduce what I was seeing. I also noted again that I naturally use an additive style, building up material rather than carving out.

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The timing of poses varied. First time round I think we had 2 minutes at each position in the circle. Later it was generally 4 minutes and sometimes completing two circuits but moving two positions each time. We all became more and more reluctant to move on, always wanting to do just a little more.

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In the final pose of the day the model was hunched forward, putting a lot of weight on her arms. Without an armature my work kept sagging forwards. Kassandra showed me how to build up and strengthen the arms. In theory I could work on the clay when it is dry, fix up the shaping a bit.

A week later and the clay is far from dry. Sydney has seen a lot of rain, but none of the winds and flooding the north has experienced. Kassandra finished the workshop with a lot of information on how to prepare the work for firing. I haven’t decided yet which if any I will take to be fired. There’s also the question of finish. I never had time to blend in the extra material as I was adding it so the figures look very patchy, a little Frankenstein’s monster. I actually really like that, the way light is broken up, and wouldn’t want to do a lot of smoothing or try to “correct” any mistakes.

No hurry to make a decision – but I was in a hurry to book into Kassandra’s next life sculpting workshop. Given my place is secured I am happy to recommend the class (link) to you all.

Workshop: Vivien Haley The Mono Printed Brushmark: Experimental printing techniques

This one-day masterclass was run at the lovely Hazelhurst Gallery & Arts Centre. Vivien Haley, the tutor, studied sculpture and print-making at Art School. Her varied career has included exhibiting as a sculptor, hand block-printing fabrics, and most recently exploring digital printing of her original work.

In this class Vivien showed us the expressive power of some deceptively simple techniques – mono-printing, block-printing, sgraffito. In one way it was a reminder of what I already knew, given the printing assignment of Mixed Media for Textiles, but with the particular materials and tools and techniques I chose, all the textures and marks I made, none produced a printed brushmark. Incredible in hind-sight!

Print 1

Print 1

After a general introduction of herself and some show-and-tell of some beautiful fabrics (some hand-printed, some digitally printed collages of her hand-printing), Vivien introduced printing in the most simple and direct way – using black acrylic paint, painting onto some xray film or a wooden block, scratching in marks, and printing onto paper. I set off with a wooden block, experimenting with different amounts of paint, scratching, painting on some hessian and printing that by pressing with the wood… a little variety of tones but nothing exciting.

Print 2

Print 2

At one point I started playing with some colour, printing off a scrap of cardboard. There’s a sense of depth in areas, a little movement contained in the structure of the pattern. What started getting my attention was the mark of the brush itself, more than the shape of print or the scratching into the paint.

Print 3

Print 3

Print 3 detail

Print 3 detail

I returned to this print a number of times over the day, adding layers. It started with a glass printing plate, brushed on paint, and some yarn as a resist. At this point I was deliberately choosing brushes which gave a broken mark. The second layer was red paint on hessian, with a border mask of newspaper to give the overall shape. Finally I wanted more lines at a different scale, so covered some yarn with paint, arranged them on the glass, used a circular mask, and took the print.

As a whole it doesn’t work, but I like the detail of the layering, the different scales of mark and the energy in them. We were using primary school grade acrylic paint, not top artist quality stuff, and for this technique it was wonderful. Rich and creamy, just the right consistency for printing without modification, and quite slow to dry – plenty of time for manipulation on the plate or block.

Print 4

Print 4

More experimentation with layers and marks. The printing inks I used in my earlier assignment were transparent, so I got interesting layering and mixing of colour. The acrylic paint is basically opaque, with the layering coming from the broken marks. A very different effect. I wonder what could be done with combining the media, playing the different kinds of layering against each other…

VivienHaleyClass05The last print I’m showing (we all produced a lot of work) brings together the major ideas that had caught my interest. The energy and the lines in the initial layer reminded me of the movement of water in the harbour, so I played on that in my over-printing using pieces of heavy cardboard as a stamp.

Print 5 detail

Print 5 detail

The detail photo shows that the acrylic isn’t fully opaque – the layer below can still be seen. There’s a lot happening with very basic materials and tools.

There were 10 or so in the class, everyone working pretty independently and with a variety of approaches.


One worked on fabric (I didn’t get a good shot of that). Quite a range of different marks and use of colour. There’s more to see in Claire’s post.

A sobering aspect of the class was the reason Vivien has turned to digital work – she developed an allergy to the printing ink. A good reminder to be thoughtful in how we use materials and protect ourselves. Vivien had worked for years with the inks, including quite a lot of spraying backgrounds. The positive is that she has been able to make the move to digital – with all sorts of advantages, such as adjusting colours, changing scale, mixing images of different works to create new designs, and flexibility in print runs (shapes and designs). The results can be seen on her website, vivienhaley.com/, and all the work evidences the original handprinting. Vivien works closely with a printing house and gave quite a detailed explanation of the process from a designer’s point of view, but out of scope here.

During the class Vivien came round a few times and made suggestions, asked questions, pointed out possibilities. One was drawing back into a print, bringing out and developing areas. I wasn’t able to turn my mind to that on the day – I was firmly in printing mode – but it’s something to come back to. Writing up this post reminded me of the collage effects she’s working with. I’m not feeling drawn to a digital approach at the moment (I spend enough time at the computer), but I’d like to print up a range of papers and colours and try working with collage.

Vivien also talked about the nature of printing a brushmark. It becomes a memory, a record of something gone. That could add a nice depth of thought in the right context.

The biggest immediate impact for me has been renewing excitement in making marks. The printing process captures, flattens and makes the painted marks more graphic and I want to keep doing that – especially the broken marks that are so expressive. But the impact I mean here is more general. My sketching has been languishing, but now I’m keen.

I’ll write some more in my regular roundup, but here will show the results of a session printing acrylic ink.


These are based on a video on Croquis Cafe (www.onairvideo.com/croquis-cafe.html), and clearly show the available scope for improvement.

Ignoring that – I see a lot of potential in some of the lines and marks. I also now know that not all cheap acrylic paints are created equal. The one I was using dried much too quickly. Even a two-minute pose had dried too much before I could print it.

The important thing is – I’m working on it.


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Goodyer girls long weekend in Hobart

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