Archive for the 'Techniques' Category

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.

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 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.

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.

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 Guérard and Cape Schanck”
Von Guérard 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 Guérard 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 😦

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 François 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,, 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 (, 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.

Workshop – 3D printing

2015-03-103dprinterThis was an evening class, a 3 hour introduction into the huge range of materials, techniques, possibilities and opportunities in 3D printing.
On the left is the printer demonstrated in class by Mat, our tutor. He described it as “really a glorified glue gun”. It lays down layers of material, using a spool of plastic that looks like whipper-snipper line (which was actually used in earlier days). It’s a resource-friendly additive process – I quite like the parallel to weaving, adding picks (layers) of weft to create the cloth.

There’s been chatter in the past about printing plastic guns and so on, but while theoretically you could they wouldn’t be very good guns. Better examples are shoes from a scan of the foot, prosthetics that fit exactly and are cheap enough to upgrade each year as a child grows, a coconut cutter that was everywhere in your village but nowhere to be found in Sydney. With 3D printing you can create unique and/or customised items, or replacement parts not kept in inventory, or prototypes while developing that new gadget that will take the world by storm. For actual manufacture in bulk you’d move to injection moulding or other faster and cheaper methods.

Mat took us on a whirlwind tour of the various methods in use – extrusion, wire, granular, powder bed and inkjet head, laminated and light polymerised. He talked sintering and stereolithography and ceramic plaster… but what I was really focused on were the techniques and materials available to me now, reasonably locally and economically, with my Mixed Media for Textiles course in mind.

FDM (fused deposition modeling), as in the printer Mat showed us, is the most affordable, using polymer filaments – many types available in a wide variety of TLAs (three (or two) letter acronyms). There seems to be a lot to think about when printing – the grain of the printing (greater weakness on the z-axis), adhesion to the printing plate, temperatures, nozzle diameter, printer speed, layer height… and that’s after you’ve actually designed your item. It seems like a lot, but there is a very active community on the internet, lots on YouTube, and various service providers including Mat.

The workshop includes printing of a small item of our own design, so I’ll be sending my file off to Mat soon. I’m really excited about the possibilities for combining the printed items with textiles, so the plan is to start experimenting with that. I also want to get hold of some polymorph plastic, which melts in hot water and you can then mould by hand, and perhaps a 3D pen.

Some links: – website of our tutor, Mat Danic. – videos Mat has shared. In particular, which shows the polymorph plastic. and The Makers Place in Sydney. You can join and access their equipment, including a number of 3d printers There’s another class coming up at the Sydney Community College

Free design software:

Reading: Bauhaus weaving theory

Smith, T. (2014) Bauhaus weaving theory: From feminine craft to mode of design. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

I found this a difficult book to read. It’s academic writing, with lots of references to ideas and philosophies and people and work that I don’t know, using words that I don’t know or know only in a more general sense, not the precise-in-this-field sense.

It was also difficult because of my expectations, my desires. I want to find a compelling reason for hand weaving today. Not a joy of craft or handmade functional/wearable item way, but an expressive or conceptual way in which weaving provides unique perspective or insight. That may seem narrow, or a backwards approach, it may combine with other things or develop or change out of all recognition as I progress in my studies, but to me today “weave” seems to contain more, to offer more, to have more in processes and materials and metaphors and allusions and human history, than any half lifetime could explore. So a “weaving theory” – what answers would I find in weaving theory? None really for my personal quest, not in Bauhaus weaving theory. After reading this book I have more questions – which in the long run is probably more valuable.

Smith’s book begins with the original manifesto for the Bauhaus published by founder Walter Gropius – an art-craft unity, joining “practical and scientific areas of work” (p. xiv). Weaving was there at the start, and continued throughout the Bauhaus history. And the weavers wrote about their work. “Through texts that explored weaving’s material elements, loom practice, and functional applications, a Bauhaus theory of weaving emerged” (p xv).

Their early weavings were “pictures made of wool” – not taking advantage of weaving’s specific nature, but translating other media, in particular painting. Later Anni Albers “argued that weaving’s processes, structures, and materials are best explored through direct experimentation on a loom” (p xvii). New fabrics were created from experiment, using advantage of what the medium weaving could offer.

The book explores the changing goals of Bauhaus, driven by individuals, politics and economics. Gender issues are explored. In 1922 weaving generated significant revenue, more than any other workshop at Bauhaus. However its status was low – “As the social and economic history of textiles haunted the Bauhaus weaving work, the textile medium, it seems, was dismissed as mere labor, as ornamental form without ‘intuition’, whose ‘inner sound’ could only ever ‘simulate internal necessity'” (p 32).

As time passed the Bauhaus developed a functionalist rather than expressionist approach. The weaving workshop responded. “At once modernist, or insistent on the distinctness of this thing and its space of practice, and acknowledging a specifically modern civic identity … early weaving theory joined together the rhetoric of functionalism, modern marketing, and the new women’s movement” (p 44). “Color and form as an abstract, autonomous terrain of inquiry remain integral to the object, even as it shifts toward use. Utility and formal concerns occupy the same matrix” (p 67).

By 1931 Gunta Stölzl in her writing “declares that there is a rhetorical cleavage between … the development of textiles for use in interiors (prototypes for industry) and speculative experimentation with materials, form, and color,” she also insists that any ‘cleavage’ between utility and experimentation is also bound within the very structure of the woven prototypes” (p 67). [By this stage the theory is definitely moving away from my own agenda – but I wonder, what is the modern day’s art rhetoric?].

The third chapter of the book, “The haptics of optics: weaving and photography” struck some resonances for me, beginning with “tactility”, which for me is one of the great strengths and interests of textiles generally. “The Bauhaus weaving workshop explored the possibilities of color and formal composition through the interlacing of threads, tacitly placing it in comparison to painterly composition and architectural function. Yet the specific palpability of threads and cloth surfaces required a new set of terms” (p.79). Photography, able to show the “intimacy”, the textured detail, the tactile nature of a fabric, provided a new language.

Previously I thought “haptic” was to touch as “optic” is to sight, but here I learnt it is more. Otti Berger “through a subtle and perhaps counterintuitive response to photography, … insisted on the tactility of different materials (the smoothness of silk or the roughness of jute, for instance) as well as the fabric’s contact with the kinesthetic movements of the body within architectural space (with curtains or upholstery fabric)” (p 81). Berger “queried the limits of the visual as modernism’s prized term of formal inquiry” (p 84). There is space and movement within haptic – is this part of the unique perspective or insight I am seeking? Moving beyond the visual to incorporate other senses? (I’m reminded of Hiromi Tango – see 30-Oct-2014).

Smith continues to examine Berger’s work in the next chapter Weaving as invention: Patenting authorship. In a traditionally anonymous field, Berger sought acknowledged authorship of her textile designs. Her initials appeared on sample books. She took out patents on innovative work. “Berger was not the typically creative author-artist – at least insofar as that would have signaled the deep recesses of her inner life, the projection of her soul onto her work. But neither was she the anonymous factory laborer” (p 111). Berger was an inventor. Smith explores ideas around the inventor as author, the anonymity of textiles, a link back to gender.

It was in the final chapter, Conclusion: On weaving, on writing that I lost my tenuous grip on Smith’s arguments. “Recall that the Bauhaus weavers, in their practice and in their essays on their craft, absorbed the languages of other media. In their wall hangings, for example, the weavers adopted the formal principles of expressionist painting; in their workshop’s prototypes for architectural textiles, they assumed the functionalist vocabulary of the Neues Bauen; for their fabrics found in Neue Sachlichkeit photographs and glossy magazines, they considered the limits of optical and tactile perceptions; and within patent documents, one weaver sought intellectual property protection for her textile inventions” (p 141), seems a good summary of earlier chapters. Much that followed was beyond my grasp. The subtleties of “media” or “mediums” are clearly important, but I don’t have the background knowledge to appreciate them. “Weaving is not just a set of processes: it is also, as I’ve indicated, a certain mediation of the semiautonomous zones of form and history” (p 172) I want to understand, I suspect is relevant to my own inquiries. The following sentence, “Textiles are so overtly bound up in the modes of production that define precapitalist and capitalist societies, and the gendered problematics that circumscribe labor, that they are rarely called ‘art'”, seems to point to areas I have been keen to avoid in my thinking, that I want to move beyond.

So yes, a difficult book. It began as a doctoral dissertation, and it shows. There is nothing wrong with either of those things. I’ve learnt from this book and I’m convinced there is much, much more I could learn. I just need to work up to it.


This morning I’ve been playing with ArahPaint, free software designed as “a drawing tool, which helps textile designers in editing pictures in repeat” (from the User Manual). It’s intended to support the first step in designing jacquard woven fabrics, but I was thinking of stamping and printing.

First some links: The AVL blog which alerted me to the software. It has direct links to the software download, user manual etc. Arahne website. Their main product is weaving software for jacquard and dobby looms, and there’s also a draping or texture mapping program which looks complicated but fun (there are demos for both, but I don’t think they’re open source). Gimp is my preferred image manipulation software (also free). I found myself swapping between gimp (to adjust my basic image) and arahpaint (to produce pattern repeats) and it worked pretty smoothly. The windows snipping tool came in handy too.

p4s4_02I used a design based on a shell, from A Creative Approach (sketchbook here and blog post 11-Feb-2012). A few of this morning’s new patterns are in the slideshow below.

I didn’t get into the details of ArahPaint, just tried the things that worked without too much trouble. A few times either the program or I got confused, which was generally solved by starting a new image, closing and reopening the software, or getting a cup of tea. With my gimp experience most things worked pretty much as I expected, and the User Manual helped out.

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Overall a very useful tool which I will explore further when a project suggests itself.


Germination II
In Basketry NSW Transformation exhibition Sunday 2 July. More info

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