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).

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