Posts Tagged 'CA1-P5-P10-S4'

Project 10 Stage 4 – part 2

After making the figure (blogged 9-Feb-2013) the second major phase of construction was the binding tape.

p5_text_choicesIt turned into a multi-stage process to decide just what I wanted and how to achieve my design. Since this course is so much about process I want to show the various steps and decision points. I’ve been trying to observe myself work, and one standard sequence is that I ask myself a question or come up against a problem, it rumbles around in my mind – conscious and unconscious – I have various conversations with myself, and generally an answer, or part of one, or a new question, comes up in minutes, hours or days. This time multiple iterations of that pattern were needed. It’s not inspiration, it doesn’t come from nowhere – but it’s hard to explain where it does come from.

p10materials031. Initially I collected a reasonably wide range of ribbons, tapes and yarns. The sampling during Stage 3 clearly showed that using all of them was way too busy (blogged 28-Jan-2013).

2. I pruned the proposed bindings down to just two widths of black tape, plus the spikey over-twist yarn (which I think is reminiscent of barbed wire). In the top photo step 2 shows the text stitched in bright rayon threads. I purchased some matt cotton thread in the colours of the figures’ “dress” to use on the actual piece.

3. Although I have completed the various Research Points of my current course I have continued reading, particularly on the subject of “craft”. In an essay on the genesis of “Craftivism” Betsy Greer writes about the impact of a parade she watched in Greenwich Village (1). Puppets floated along in the parade, omitting words but powerfully conveying anger and frustration on a range of issues. The tangible visual imagery seemed potent, hard to dismiss, more powerful than raised voices.

I don’t think my work really fits within Craftivism and it’s not a term I would choose for myself. However I did stop and re-evaluate my purpose and whether the use of text could weaken rather than enhance any impact of the work. For me a critical point is that the text itself does not contain the protest. Instead I am showing the words of others and the consequences of those words in practice. These words, however well-intentioned, however much based on deeply held beliefs, are trapping individuals who themselves are voiceless. The contrast of the harsh impersonal words to the experience of the voiceless individual is the whole point of the piece. So the words stay, in the hope that one day they will change.

4. Having decided to keep the words, I wondered if it would be more effective to make them less prominent. The focus should be on the trapped figure. Perhaps the nature of the trap should be less obvious, only understood at closer range and with some effort on the part of the viewer. I experimented stitching with various values of grey on the black tape, and found intriguing the darker values that looked more like texture at a distance then revealed their message when close.

Unfortunately when I did an initial trial wrapping of the final figure in the container using my prepared tapes the result was awful. The black tape was just too dominant, even when just using the narrower version. I would try a new wrapping, walk out of the room a while, come back – still ugly and uninteresting, concealing the figure way too much.

5. After some walking and pondering I decided to try organza – ribbon and torn strips of cloth. Shopping fitted into a lunch break didn’t produce many options. I couldn’t find black organza ribbon in a width that just fit the sewing machine stitched letters. The white organza looked great at first, but reflected too much when I used stronger lighting. Another problem was legibility. Using a wash-away stabiliser helped the sewing machine to form the stitches, but they distorted and became unreadable. I quite like making the viewer work a little to gain information, but I don’t want them to get frustrated and quickly turn away. Torn or handcut edges didn’t seem to fit the harsh impersonal nature of the words.

6. I tried writing by hand on the narrow black organza ribbon using a variety of pens, pencils and crayon. It was difficult to make the lettering legible. Also it felt important that the text had a impersonal machine-made look.

7. A way to print on organza ribbon was needed. Next lunchtime I was over to the art supply store where they recommended Grafix Rub-onz. On the way back to the office I remembered a very early idea about red tape – perhaps I could find red ribbon in a good width. While making a short detour to the fabric/craft store I realised that since I would be printing from the computer I could scan in my spikey yarn and use that image in the gap between printed phrases. Suddenly I was very excited.

Using the Rub-onz product is fiddly but do-able. There’s a bit of a plastic sheen from the film – but since the ribbon is organza the lettering film could show through from the back, much reducing the problem.

8. (not shown). There was quite a bit more thinking and experimenting with the extra choices now available. What font to choose? I chose Arial – bland and impersonal. All upper case, all lower or a mixture? I chose all upper – to me it looks more spikey, harsh and angular, plus there’s the idea that these phrases are being shouted out so that the individual can’t be heard. The end result also reminds me of police tape around a crime scene.

Earlier today I finished creating text on 5 metres of tape, which is now in a test wrap on the container. I look at it every now and then, wondering if I’m happy with the placement or how it could be improved.

(1) Greer, B., 2011. Craftivist History. In: M. E. Buszek, ed. Extra/Ordinary: Craft and contemporary art. Durham and London: Duke University Press, pp. 175-183.

Project 10 Stage 4 – part 1

This Stage involves making all or representative part of the designed textile. I should be able to complete my piece in an amount of time appropriate to the assignment – fortunate since it would be difficult to isolate a representative part!

I started by making the figure – the most critical element and also the one most technically challenging and beyond my existing experience and skillset.
figureconstruction01First up was the head, which you might be able to see middle left in the photo – a core of the purple merino, then a “skin” of the blend I chose in the earlier colour mixing process in Stage 3 (posted 28-Jan-2013). Next the torso, needle-felting using Border Leicester wool. At this stage I didn’t incorporate the wire frame, thinking that it could cause broken needles and also repeated flexing of the wire could weaken it.

figureconstruction02Inserting the wire proved difficult, but after some tense moments not impossible. There is one wire running from the head, through the torso to the right foot – a spine. A second wire forms the arms, with a twist around the spine. A third wire is the left leg, one end twisted around the spine. Most of the mass of wool above the shoulders was cut off later.

figureconstruction03Some additional pieces of wool were added to give some additional shape to the torso. The mouth has been cut, revealing the purple interior. I intended to make the figure slightly larger than the plasticine model, but at this stage was concerned at just how much bigger the figure was becoming.

figureconstruction04A merino skin has been added to the torso. This photo shows the process of wet-felting the arms and legs. There are four layers of merino, long but just one fibre-length wide. The dark blue “veins” are only in the final layer. I’d been thinking of trying to keep a wrinkly look to the skin, or perhaps that falling away from the bone affect from loss of weight and muscle, but found it too tricky at this scale.

figureconstruction05The basic figure pretty much finished – and much larger than the plasticine model. That’s a 30 cm / 12 inch ruler on the left. There were some technical issues getting to this point.

shape_sample_05I had wanted to get a wrinkly neck like the earlier sample (posted 6-Jan-2013), but while putting it on decided that could only have been done by starting at the head, because the torso was pretty much fixed and I couldn’t move it to compress the felt.

I then partly proved this wrong by changing the way the head was attached. Relying on the strength of the felt alone seemed dangerous given all the travelling this figure is going to do. Eventually I put the wire entirely through the head and bent the end at an angle (covered by a needle-felted “toupĂ©e”), plus a dot of hot glue at the base of the head.

The big concern at this point is that the figure looks like a puppet alien in a low-budget movie.

figureconstruction06Next a dress was created, first shaped and slightly attached to the body using the felting needle. This worked well in terms of shaping, basically breaking down and softening the structure of the cotton fabric so it conformed quite well to the torso shape. I snipped away unneeded material as I went. It wasn’t well attached, so after some experimentation I used a dilute glue, painted all over the fitted fabric.

figureconstruction07This is almost the finished figure. The arms and legs are unfinished because I wanted to do some dry-fitting in the container, see what shapes could be created, before making a final decision. I’ve also put a few stitches in the skirt of the dress, hoping to hold it in place while travelling, plus couched some black yarn winding its way up one leg. Those details can wait for the final “reveal”.

Overall making the figure went well. A few details didn’t go as planned, but given I was taking multiple leaps in dark, unfamiliar territory it went better than I expected. On a more sombre and real note, the greatest difficulty during the making of the figure was a health challenge for Nancy last weekend – probably a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) from what one of the nurses said. I was visiting her at the time. Without going into detail it was very disturbing to witness and I was relieved later to find that she has no memory of it – just woke from a little nap to find I had vanished and nurses were bustling around her with an oxygen tank. One of the hardest parts was trying to understand or know what Nancy wanted. I know she’s refused medical or hospital assistance in the past, that she not infrequently says she hopes that each day, each night, will be the one she dies. At one point early in the attack she was trying to say something but was incomprehensible. Did she want help? I couldn’t sit there passive. I went and got the nurses. I feel a hypocrite and that I failed her, but more important is what Nancy is feeling – and that’s unbearable to think about.


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