Archive for the 'Basketry' Category

Components, sampling

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

Why do we need permission to play?

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

The looping on a 3D leaf shape is complete.

The twining sample has grown.

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

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

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

Vincent van Gogh
Bank of the Seine

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

print p4-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Design exercises

Encouraged by Claire at Tactual Textiles, I’ve been playing with some design exercises based on a book we both own. See Claire’s posts at https://tactualtextiles.wordpress.com/tag/design-experiments/. I see my approach as slightly different. Rather than building a resource to use directly, I’m hoping to train my eye to recognise and enhance potential, exciting things happening, when I am building sculpture in a playful and “instinctive” way. Muscle building exercises for instincts?

Rules are made to be broken, but so far I have two. First, use forms that have already captured my interest (particularly sculpturally) as a base. Second, make this primarily a physical exercise, not too computer-based (for muscle memory?).

So far my base forms have been sculpture play following the workshop with Matt Bromhead, incorporating a piece from Marion Gaemer’s class (4-Aug-2018), sketching based on that work (some seen 5-Aug-2018), and a painting by Rodchenko that excited me in the MoMA exhibition (15-Sep-2018).

Exercise 1 – splitting shapes
This started focused on one of the plaster bases, and only really came to life when I added vertical elements based on the wires in the sculpture. I had trouble getting enthused on this exercise, avoiding actual collage by moving the pieces around then taking a photo. I wanted to get my hands dirty.

Exercise 2 – Cutting stamps
This is meant to be 30 days of cutting stamps, with 30 stamps produced. I’ve made just three, and haven’t decided whether to continue.
First was in ezi carve, based on the black-covered wire form. Then string on cardboard for Rodchenko’s descending row of lines, and some looping in paper-covered wire mounted on cardboard from the sketch and my sculptural component making. They had been used before I thought to take a photo.

Attempts to print onto cartridge paper using acrylic ink were mixed. Some I used the stamps to stamp, some I used them more like a printing plate, putting cartridge paper on top and using a brayer.

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Then I got out the gelatin plate I made for OCA (first post way back – 7-Dec-2015! that thing has lasted well). Below is a selection of my favourites. The dark|light ones had the plate inked on one half. The stamp went into the inked side, then was “cleaned” by pressing it into the un-inked side.

Have I learnt anything so far? I’ve been reminded of things I done and enjoyed in the past. I’ve played, explored, made.

Good.

Workshops with Mary Hettmansperger

Three days, two workshops back to back, spent in the company of fellow NSW Basketry Association members, inspired and led by Mary Hettmansperger – what a fabulous experience! The first two days were Sculptural Basketry – soft materials, the third Sculpture, Surfaces & alternative designs in Baskets & Vessels.

In physical terms there isn’t much to show for it:
There is some waxed linen thread, coloured with acrylic paints. This is the only thing you could term “finished” – and it’s a potential input into other projects.

Painted linen thread


A small, unfinished sample of twining. Lots of ideas here including the shaping, internal stiffening with modpodge, three rod wale, the painted linen, a bridge to create two tubes…

Twining wip


A barely started form in aviary wire, with three rows of knotting and the intended twining yet to begin.

Knotting wip


A complex form created with wire, pantyhose, glue and dress-making patterns, full of potential.

Bizarre form wip


Looping on a twisted and hammered wire form, progressing quite well.

Looping wip


All exciting in their own way and with their own potential, but the most exciting thing is my notebook, filled with ideas and lists and diagrams with arrows.

Mary’s underlying approach is just what I’ve been working on – creating components over time, ready as input to a faster, intuitive construction process. There were periods of quiet work throughout the days, punctuated with demonstrations by Mary when she threw out ideas, techniques, possibilities, alternatives… We all chose different things to experiment with over the time – I don’t think it would be possible to do it all. There was lots of metal play which I haven’t tried yet. I have lots of notes and photos, and plan to do my experimenting at home with the tools, materials and setup I already have.

A final photo – of Mary’s work with my own twist. Mary brought with her a lot of the jewellery she makes – but no earrings! Unacceptable!!! So two neckpieces came home with me and have since been appropriately modified. 🙂

Mary Hettmansperger neckpieces earrings

Clarifying the beginning

After the excitement of the workshop with Matthew Bromhead (10-Jul-2018) I felt inspired and keen to start working.

I wanted to combine lots of the ideas from Matthew’s class with techniques and materials I’ve worked with in the past. For a start, from Ruth Hadlow – not knowing where you will finish, be very clear on where you start.

A few weeks have passed since I started writing this post, there’s been some activity, but at the moment it feels like a tangle of threads and I can’t find a loose end to start work on.

Ideas percolating:

  • Chance, intuition, intelligent and thoughtful play
  • Elegance, decorum
  • Precipice, counter balance, leverage, impetus, precarious, shimmer, shiver
  • Glide, hesitate, teeter, catch (of breath), instant of focus, moment of coherence and balance, the space between – spark, pivot point, point of balance (mobiles!), tipping point
  • Would like a build | draw cycle – keep responding
  • Maintain the energy & excitement of the class
  • Blocks of time. Make space to work in the moment.
  • Mine my history of materials & techniques. Remind myself of what I know
  • Joins. Matt showed us air drying clay for joins. I did a whole project on joins for Mixed Media for Texiles (see link). Surely there’s something there I can bring forward. Plus on reflection I’ve been searching for joins – welding, soldering, rivets…
  • a shared weight
    Elyssa Sykes-Smith

  • Scale. Personal, domestic. I thought of Elyssa Sykes-Smith – I seem to recall a video in which she talked about measuring things with her own body. Then Luke Sciberras talking about the scale of a painting absorbing him bodily (27-Jul-2018). Which doesn’t quite fit where I’m going…
  • What’s happened so far:

  • Casting plaster using a clay mould (demonstrated by Matt Bromhead).
  • Plaster, wire, mouse mesh

    Sample p5-11

    The clay was lined with ribbed plastic, thinking of sample p5-11 from the Mixed Media course (23-Feb-2016).
    I don’t like the proportions. The plaster is a bit squat. The mouse mesh is too orderly, too fixed. But there’s some movement and shimmer in the wires.

    Plaster, wire. Cast in rough clay, wood on one side, wire inserted through clay sides

    The second cast tried a couple of ideas – different surface textures, different angles for wire insertion. An ugly lump.

    I used these together with one of the experiments from Matt’s class to try some joining methods.

    Sample From Matt Bromhead Class

  • Joins

    Small lengths and pieces made by looping with florist’s wire. This version the larger wires were threaded through, in another a slightly longer, thinner looping was twisted around, almost like a bow. Stays in place fairly well. Brings a level of detail and interest that I like. It also works on a single wire, not a join, as a small focal point.


    Another variation, this time a larger, square piece of looping.

    I had great hopes of this. A hole drilled through the thick brass rod, rebar wire threaded through, a bit like an incomplete rivet.

    Drilling the hole was slow and awkward. The end result is effective as a join of two wires, but doesn’t really contribute anything else. It might be useful in some circumstances, but hardly exciting.

    Holes drilled in a shard of resin and wires threaded through. Great introduction of colour and shine. Possibilities.

    Two lengths of rebar wire were connected by weaving across them with florist’s wire. An extra length of rebar wire was added in. Lots of movement and form-building potential.

    I like the level of detail that can be achieved.


    A simpler variation of weave also works quite nicely.

    Unhappy with the mouse wire used in the earlier plaster cast, I took a couple of photos with a wrapped wire sample from a class with Marion Gaemers (26-Dec-2017).

    Sample from Marion Gaemer’s class, posed with plaster cast


    Now that gets the blood moving. I’d want to wrap the wire after it is cast in the plaster. I also like the way the wrapped wire goes to the side, below the top of the plaster. How much manipulation could be done after casting?

    I wondered about making my own variant of a larger grid.

    Some lengths of rebar wire, quickly joined with simple wrapping of florist’s wire. The sample has a unfortunate suggestion of a trussed chicken ready for roasting.

    Still feel like I’m groping around the room wearing a blindfold. I might spend some time drawing, or I might take some of my favourite things from above and throw them together…

  • Happy 90th birthday mum!

    Recently my mother celebrated her 90th birthday, with a big party for friends one week and a weekend away with family (four generations, 22 of us) the next. For many years her mantra for a healthy life has been to include physical, mental and social activities in every day. The pace is a little slower now, but the interest in and care for others, her curiosity and keenness to explore the world around her, are constant.

    I’m the middle one of five children, and we worked together to organise the celebratory Festival of Margaret. Among many other activities, mum used to run a Friday afternoon Craft Club, not just for the five of us but for all our friends around the neighbourhood. That’s the genesis of my joy in making, and I really wanted to bring one or two elements of that into the party.

    First, how to identify the hosts – the children? Matching nametags, a photo of the five of us, modified to highlight who was who. Below is mine, plus me in full flight giving a response to mum’s speech.

    Second, how to help people mix given they were such a diverse crowd? Make-your-own nametags, with lots of coloured pens, pencils and stickers to play with. Some were more elaborate than others, and only a couple were left behind for me to photograph.

    Next, my sister suggested a wishing tree. One thing led to another.

    Instead of simple tags, something big enough to write a little story about shared times? So everything got a little bigger and it became a message tree.

    Instead of a plain or generic back, why not personalize it and bring in some colour? Mum has always been a keen traveler. I used the background of photos of her on her journeys and printed them onto the message cards – 88 different images. The example on the right is from a beach on King Island, a wonderful and eventful weekend together back in 2012 (7-Oct-2012).


    For the tree I used straightened 2.0mm galvanised wire, twining with 0.7mm wire. Given the number and size of cards it needed to accommodate it had to be fairly large – around 85 cm tall and 69 cm diameter. It’s very stable on the wide base.

    You can see a bit of the tree in action behind mum in the top photo. Shown here is a mockup before the party when I was testing the idea.

    The tree and basket of cards were on the same long table as the gear for making nametags, and there was a real buzz around them. People shared some funny and happy memories, and wishes for the future.

    It was a great party, a really positive and friendly vibe. Other siblings were responsible for organising an extensive slideshow of mum from baby to now (my goodness she’s traveled far and wide!), some yummy afternoon tea, a beautiful cake, colourful decorations, set up and smoothing things along on the day… everything to make sure that mum could relax and enjoy her day. I felt so proud and happy for her, and also so lucky to have such a family.

    The next day I used the hanging loops and some more ribbon to join the cards into a book-like form. It’s sitting on mum’s kitchen table, a momento of a happy day.

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    The second, family only weekend was great too. More talking, laughing, eating, and a lot of activity enjoying time together. There will be a little making coming out from it, but that hasn’t happened yet.

    Diversion talk

    Today seven of the artists showing in Diversion gave talks in the gallery space. There was a very positive and energetic vibe to the event. I continue to enjoy very much the experience of exhibiting and it gave me a real buzz to have people interested in my work. I had some great conversations both before and after the actual talks.

    Artist talk
    Photo: Nicole Robins

    My contribution (or a variant of it):
    Our curator Meri chose a wonderful theme with “Diversion”. From many possible interpretations I quickly focused on ideas around distracted attention and departing from your “true” or “proper” path.

    I love going to classes, mixing with people as a change from the quiet hours in the studio, the inspiration, the new techniques and materials. For many years I was fairly focused, working with textiles although using a range of techniques. A few years ago I did a course in Mixed Media for Textiles and my creative world exploded – suddenly a wide range of media and techniques, plastics, plaster, resin, printmaking… – and away from two dimensions into space. I could definitely be off “the path”.

    Happily some of the classes were with Australian artist and academic Ruth Hadlow. Her model or way of understanding a creative practice or indeed life provided a structure or framework for what could have been chaos.

    In Ruth’s model there aren’t discrete bubbles of projects, each a separate series of steps: research and develop idea; plan outcome; produce outcome; deliver or display; full-stop. Instead there are series of strands of investigation co-existing, like the many currents in a river. A particular strand may start, fade, grow, join with other strands, resurface… It isn’t a progression to a Goal. You go where-ever most engaged at the moment.

    There are no diversions! Anything could lead anywhere, at some future time. You never know the end point when you start – there aren’t real end points in this ongoing process.

    Given you don’t know the end, you need to be very careful and clear about the beginning. What are your points of reference, what interests you, what attracts (not distracts) your attention? Analyse inputs and influences – be very specific about exactly what is drawing you.

    Then you can develop a brief – a question or challenge. Explore, not committing to a single direction early. Sample constantly – often sampling becomes the work. Sampling avoids predetermining the work.

    Ruth’s ideas have stayed with me. I haven’t applied her rigour, but my general approach is framed in those terms.

    The Diversion theme – distracted attention and straying from one true path – felt a challenge. Could I work using the model and have an outcome bringing many paths together for the exhibition?

    My brief for work towards Confluence:
    o Use elements of the river – currents and eddies and flashes of sunlight
    o Reflect my diverse interests
    o Keep sampling as long as possible, keeping it provisional
    o Capture that moment of coherence and balance when everything comes together just before it all flows apart.

    Confluence as exhibited in Diversion:
    o in my eyes elements of water or river or channel in each part
    o There are textiles, including my hand-dyed threads from my weaving days, metalwork and cold forging, resin, making mobiles, virtually a beginner’s sampler of basketry techniques
    o I’m disappointed there’s no welding or printmaking or cast plaster, or broken ceramics, or drawing, or …
    o There’s a literal approach to the idea of momentary balance, using my recent and ongoing experimentation with mobile forms.
    o There was lots of sampling (I took a sample-bag of the samples to illustrate the talk!). Some “samples” are incorporated in the exhibition work, some led to elements in the exhibition , some stay in the bag and may resurface in the future
    o As for keeping work provisional, my misreading of exhibition deadlines meant I didn’t have the mobile element ready and fully documented in time. Fortunately for me curator Meri was very accommodating. After the deadline the flow of work continued as I kept sampling and experimenting. Somewhat bizarrely it was a surprise to me when I suddenly recognised it – the basin element – was a finished object, really not at all the form I was thinking of at the start. It was the day before installation that I emailed Meri and she so kindly agreed to the addition. Other than sitting in the exhibition space working, I don’t think I could have pushed provisional and sampling further.

    At the end of the talk I briefly mentioned Waymarker, a sentinel of a stream of enquiry, of possibility, that I want to return to one day. An alternate stream that I’m hoping will allow me to experiment with some similar ideas albeit on a different scale has been progressing in the background. Fingers crossed, more on that soon.

    —–
    Most of what I spoke about has been recorded in this blog.
    * Mixed media for textiles course – see Categories listed on the right of this page.
    * 25-Feb-2016 has the main information about Ruth Hadlow’s workshop Articulating Practice, but do a search on the blog for lots more references.
    * Keith Lo Bue’s dvd workshop Poetry in motion: making marvelous mobiles (http://www.keithlobue.com/) teaches all about creating mobile forms. I wrote about some classes I took with Keith 23-Apr-2017, and a blog search will turn up lots more references to him.
    * Summer school in Welded Sculpture with Paul Hopmeier (22-Jan-2017) taught me all I know about welding. Waymarker was made there, although named more recently.

    Diversion

    At the opening
    Photo: Desdemona Foster

    The latest Basketry NSW exhibition opened last Wednesday. It’s the first time work of mine has been shown in a formal gallery space, my first evening with drinks and nibbles opening, and I had a great time. There were lots of other artists to chat with (I think there are 21 artists being shown), plus I had family and friends who continued the evening with me later with dinner at the local pub.

    The exhibition looked great. A team of us had worked hard on the installation the previous day under the leadership of curator and president Meri Peach. One of the strengths of our group is the wide range of materials and techniques, the different perspectives and focus of members, resulting in a showcase of current trends in contemporary basketry.

    Most of the umbrellas from Shades of Red (9-Mar-2018) were reunited, installed lining the outside terrace of the gallery. Gallery Lane Cove is up a flight of stairs from the street, and it’s great to have such a statement visible from below.

    Shades of Red installation

    Waymarker

    As well as my two umbrellas I contributed two works to the exhibition.

    Waymarker has been seen before in this blog, but looks a bit different with the gallery lighting and hanging system. It was made in the Welded Sculpture summer school with Paul Hopmeier at the National Art School last year (22-Jan-2017).

    Confluence had a last minute addition which really pleased me. When I last photographed it just a couple of weeks ago it was a mobile (19-Mar-2018). In the installation it was joined by a second element, which given the watery theme I’ll call a basin (some ambivalence here – “eddy” could work as well).

    Confluence -basin element

    The idea for this element came up during experimentation and development for the mobile. One Sunday, just three days before the entry deadline and feeling the time pressure, I made the resin section – and it didn’t work. Threads clumped every which-way, the simple form I intended became a misshapen mess… A total disaster and waste of materials. Confluence the mobile was entered into the exhibition.

    A week or so later I decided I might as well try the wire looping edge experiment, just to get some value from the thing. As work continued I planned all sorts of extra elaboration, piercing the internal mass with more metal and perhaps voids … but suddenly, quite unexpectedly, over the Easter long weekend it was finished. And I liked it. All those extra plans seemed busy and pointless. The accidental form was way better than my original intention would have been. It sat for a couple of days under the mobile and in my eyes the whole was more than the sum of the parts. So the morning before installation day I emailed Meri, no expectations, thinking it was an unprofessional thing to do, but feeling I owed it to the work to at least ask the question. With incredible generosity, Meri said yes. Right from the start (21-Jan-2018) my thinking was of Ruth Hadlow’s model of practice, and keeping experimental and open as long as possible. I feel very fortunate to be supported in pushing that to the absolute limit.

    Confluence installed


    Finding the right position to hang Confluence was tricky, and in the end fortune continued to favour me – the air-conditioning vent nearby keeps the work in almost constant gentle motion.

    Eight or so of us will be giving brief talks in the exhibition on Saturday 14 April starting at 11 am. The exhibition continues at Gallery Lane Cove to 28 April 2018.


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