Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Quillwork - chapt 7

When I had briefly glanced at this chapter initially I thought quilling had been done by inserting the flattened porcupine quills under the back stitches first made.  When I came to read up about it I found of course that the quills are sewn in and folded as the back stitches are made.  This allows the zig zag patterning to be closer and overlap.
I had great fun studying various U-tube videos (as you do of course) on quillwork covering the traditional zig zag patterning, edging of stitched leatherwork, and linework, and decided to make some samples by the traditional method of backstitching by hand as the quills are laid.

7.1: Quillwork with various materials
Photo 7.1 shows various strip materials on permanganate dyed cotton -
(top row) discarded cleaning cloths, swimming pool salt bag (like tyvek)
(2nd row) swede leather, embroidered homespun
(3rd row) clear acetate, dried teabag seams
(bottom row) shaped band using swede leather strips

7.2: detail of quillwork samples


NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art
Lacota Quillwork - art and legend

Monday, January 25, 2016

Beads galore - chapt 6

This chapter looks at making collections of beads - found and created by various means.
I began by 'finding' small items that could be described as beads in that they could be threaded or attached in some way to create or embellish a surface.
6.1: Found items (clockwise spiral from top left) - bread ties, cut negatives, leaf and round sequins, plastic press studs, curtain hooks, collar extenders, small pegs, plastic paperclip, decorative metal paperclips
6.2: Metal found items (l ti r) - washers, key, eyelets, magnetic bag clasp backs
6.3: Vegetation found items (l to r) - gumnuts, bark pods
Paper pulp beads
Made some paper pulp from discarded computer paper printouts using a hand blender and used this to prepare some beads.
6.4: Paper pulp beads
These beads were formed around a knitting needle - round, rods, and some separately -  'gumnut' and flat button shapes.  I tried to emboss the surface of the button shapes using a ridged grip (for opening bottles) and a pasta scoop as shown in 6.5
6.5 Paper pulp buttons detail
I left these to dry then painted them with metallic acrylics, gilding and wrapped some in threads.
6.6 painted pulp beads
6.7 painted pulp beads - detail
Shrink plastic beads
Next, I painted some shrink plastic (3 types - matte translucent, white gloss, and clear) ready for beads.

6.7 Flow acrylics on shrink plastic (from top to bottom) - matte translucent, white gloss, and clear
These pieces are obviously before any shrinking; each piece is about 7cm by 20cm.  I've put a piece of white paper behind the painted clear plastic to illustrate the transparency.  I painted both sides and the reverse side is shown below in 6.8.
6.8 Painted shrink plastic (reverse side shown in 6.7)
 I cut various shapes and sizes from these including the shapes from chapter 4 and here then used a heat gun to shrink them down by about 50%.
6.9 Shapes cut from painted shrink plastic (pre-shrinking)
6.10 Shrink plastic shapes after shrinking
I found that retaining the shape of some that were quite intricately cut was difficult when the heat gun tended to blow them away - maybe use the oven next time.  However I particularly liked the clear plastic motifs (shown on black in 6.11 to highlight the holes precut in them).
6.11 More shrink plastic 'beads' after shrinking
Toggle beads
Some rolled beads were made using various polyester sheer fabrics - 2 layers bonded together with vliesofix webbing.
6.12a Fabric toggle beads
The ends the fabric strips were stuck down using the tip of an iron.  These are about 2 to 2.5cm long.
6.12b fabric togggle beads in detail
Some of these were further decorated by wrapping in embroidered kunin felt and heat gunned (6.13), by burning with a soldering iron tip (6.14) and by wrapping in fine wire, rolling in puff paint, heating and surface painting with metallic acrylics (6.15).
6.13 fabric beads decorated with burnt felt
6.14 soldered fabric beads
6.15 wire wrapped and painted fabric beads
Stitching and Threading
I recycled some wooden beads from an op-shop bag and used them to embellished some jute string crochet in 6.16, photographed on pot permanganate dyed cotton.
6.16 embellished jute crochet
The same beads were threaded with other seed beads to mimic the wave patterns of indigenous painting (6.17).
6.17 threaded beads on raffia lace background
6.18 painted shrink beads attached
6.19: Painted shrink beads in shape off gumnuts thread through jute twine and interlaced with 'leaf lace' background from chapt 2.
Loom Weaving
I used a small commercial bead loom for this part as I'd not had much luck in the past with keeping the warp threads taut enough in my 'homemade' box and string efforts.  I was still not looking forward to it and as expected it took me hours to complete even a small length.  On retrospect, it would have been much easier had I not used cheap beads that were subtly irregular in size - note to self,  false economy!
6.20: bead weaving
6.21 Weaving on loom with design
I used seed beads and drew a pattern up based on my little boomerang shape
So here is my weaving (approx 2cm wide by 13.5cm long) photographed on a couple of related backgrounds.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Exhibition overload but it was wonderful!

In December I was fortunate again to get back to London for 2 weeks; the timing really for husband's work and to meet up with family but I did manage to 'cram' in a number of exhibitions.  I'm mentioning them here in a post more to remind myself rather than to critique them in any great depth.
I started another sketchbook on my travels and I've included some photos of pages where I could not photograph.

Ai Weiwei's work at the Royal Academy was great to see from his marble grass and pushchair to his bicycle chandelier.  Despite being packed out the day we visited, everyone was very quiet and subdued as they walked around his pieces.  I loved the settings chosen for his work particularly the chandelier and stacked rods.  When we left Sydney he was in the news there receiving donations for the contentious lego block installations but I believe the chandelier will also feature, so it will be interesting to see this in a new location.

 "The Fabric of India" exhibition at the V&A was wonderful - a major overload of pink, gold and orange.

Couldn't take photos but made so many notes of traditional patterns and dyeing/ weaving techniques, and of contemporary Indian designers to check up later.

At the Tate Modern I took in the Alexander Calder exhibition from his wire portraits and figures to his better known mobile installations.

It was the shadows created by the installations that appealed to me and I tried to sketch them repeatedly.  The closer I looked the more I appreciated the balance and movement created in the mobiles through open and closed links - very tempting to touch!

Another exhibition on in the gallery at this time that I loved, included pieces from their permanent collection and some on loan, called "Making Traces".  These works were full of layering of paint, techniques and even layered collages torn back.
Part of a series entitled "Pavement Karaoke" by Laura Owens
Features layers of impasto and fake 'drop shadows' to give the illusion of depth
detail from "Pavement Karaoke"
 I loved the torn graffiti look to this huge canvas:
Christopher Wool
detail from above
The last piece reminded me of something I'd seen in an Anthropologie store earlier that day.

This abstract textile was inside the store and caught my eye.  It was only closer that you could see it was made out of cloth and staples like layers of fabric had been ripped off the wall.

 Incidentally I love to see that shop's display windows - way too expensive but the displays are great.

Anthropologie on King's road, Chelsea

I hadn't seen much of Frank Auerbach before going to Tate Britain other than a few of his portraits but I was amazed by the colour in this show.  The sheer volume of paint used in his work almost gives it a sculptural quality but his colour combinations - red with green and orange/coral with blue were amazing.

The British Museum also got a visit - to the Celts: art and identity exhibition.


So many sketches and notes taken but still couldn't resist getting the catalogue. The lighting and layout was wonderful with swathes of voile at ceiling height guiding your passage through the exhibits. For pieces so old the shine and the detail was breathtaking.  It was fascinating to see how these ancient designs and jewellery styles influenced the designers of the Arts and Crafts movement for one.

For those who have never been before, the Saatchi Gallery on King's Road, Chelsea is so worth a regular visit and this time was no disappointment.  The space and light inside set off the pieces well and you get the time to study everything without crowds around.  Plus it's free!
"Illusory Body" 2014 byAnna Sorokovaya

One place I had never been to before was the William Morris Gallery at Walthamstow
 and I was so pleased I managed the rather long tube journey out there.  The gallery is in one of his family's previous houses there, a rather grand stately house and grounds, and has a great permanent exhibition of his life and work along with numerous samples of his designs and technical detail of the printing process.  I bought some gorgeous postcards of his designs hand drawn and coloured in part.  You'll find some more information about William Morris here.
There is also a room for invited artists' exhibition and while I was there pieces by Bob and Roberta Smith (aka Patrick Brill, a rather brilliant contemporary UK artist) adorned the walls.  Check him out if you're not familiar - reminds me of Rosalie Gascoine's road signs a bit.

Off Piccadilly area is the White Cube gallery at Mason's Yard and I came here to see "Losing the Compass", an exhibition which focussed on  "the rich symbolism of textiles and their political, social and aesthetic significance through both art and craft practiceas traces the poetic and subversive use of the textile medium through works by Mona Hatoum, Mike Kelley, Sergej Jensen, Sterling Ruby, Rudolf Stingel, Danh Vo and Franz West, wallpaper by 19th century English designer, craftsman and socialist William Morris and a series of quilts made collectively by the Amish and Gee’s Bend communities in USA during the late 19th and early 20th Century."

It is always great to see textiles in an 'art gallery' setting but not sure if it really lived up to the hype here.
So many seen but, oh, so many yet to see....

Sunday, January 10, 2016


The design exercises of Chapter 5 concern totems.  Like other students before me, I looked into the definition to find a contemporary equivalent or twist I could use here

  • a natural object or an animate being, as an animal or bird, assumed as the emblem of a clan, family, or group.
  • a representation of such an object serving as the distinctive mark of the clan or group.
In this design context the totem should be representative of my personal research and development through this course so what better way or encompassing my work than to use the decorated papers, fibre materials and photos that I created during each module of the diploma. 
I chose to create a collection of gumnut motifs torn out from these papers as it was symbolistic of my overall vegetation theme and motif had been used in some form or another throughout the diploma eg Module 1 sketchbook, Module 3 strapwork and Module 4 3D shapes).

5.1: gumnut shapes torn from decorated papers monoprints and photos used during modules 1-5
I decided to arrange them threaded through 3 lengths of jute twine as I had made in previous chapters of this module, and hang them from a hook to photograph.
5.2: hanging 'totem' of gumnuts
Indigenous Australians were very much into the spiritualism surrounding totems particularly shown in representations of 'Dreamings" so I wanted to link my totem with something more indigenous.  I prepared an open net 'cloth' using the jute fibre with the intention of making a bag akin to a traditional dilly bag to hold and thereby "connect" the motifs together.

5.3: jute net preparation
 I used a canvas frame approx 50cm x 40cm to support the net while I made it with jute string and lark head knots. Traditional dilly bags are made quite differently but I felt the visual connection would be evident.
Once made however I found the totem shapes were more interesting when interlaced in the net of the bag rather than contained as a bundle inside.

I photographed the totem in 5.4 all ways and cropped to achieve some more interesting close-ups that I could play with.
To develop these photo shots further into another design or totem, I merged them with sections of the original collages and drawings (5.8 and 5.9) of the gumnuts that I had made in my sketchbook.


Without access to a great program like Photoshop I cut out these cropped photos and played around with them to make another totem in 5.10

Certain areas of this totem I think are worth cropping further and pursuing eg the end on the left with the split gumnut but maybe another time.  For this exercise I simply looked at border edge designs with repeated units as in 5.11 and 5.12

Going back to the original photo (5.2) of the 3D totem, I cut out the totem and treated it as a 2D shaped edging and used these as stencils.
The cut totem was then placed as a design motif on a background of recycled black paper stamped with these stencil outlines (5.14 and 5.15).