An Introduction To HE: Research Trail Assignment: Notes, etc, 1

Some initial key words to search for: looks rather blank at the moment!

Bridget Riley Mind Map 1

This is the page of notes I made as a checklist for starting research.

How To Research Notes

The areas I am interested in researching in particular are:-

Riley’s inspirations

The Op-Art Movement

Her process for producing art works

Her body of work – range and development – including some key artworks

Riley Books Carlisle LibraryRiley ExhibitionRiley Mind Map 2Riley Notes on Bio T RiggsRiley Sooke Review

Definition of ‘Pointillism’:- “technique of neo-impressionist painting using tiny dots of various pure colours, which become blended in the viewer’s eye. It was developed by Seurat with the aim of producing a greater degree of luminosity and brilliance of colour”. Source:- Google search for meaning of pointillism

Riley Sooke Review 2

I decided to see which, if any, colour theory might apply to Riley’s paintings and consulted David Hornung’s book “Colour: A workshop For Artists and Designers”.

Riley colour theory + notesRiley colour theory + notes 2Riley colour theory + notes 3

Riley Carlisle Library Research 1Riley Carlisle Library Research 2Riley Carlisle Library Research 3Riley Carlisle Library Research 4Riley Carlisle Library Research 5Riley Louisa Buck BBC Documentary 2Riley Louisa Buck BBC DocumentaryRiley mind map 3Riley process imageSeurat Bridge at Courbevoie

Thoughts on the day’s research: disappointed that the library didn’t have more books available on the subject (just one). The most helpful source was the BBC documentary, which had some excerpts of Bridget Riley herself speaking about her influences and inspirations. Hoping to find out more from the exhibition on Saturday, when I will be doing my primary research. The more general art books were of no or little use. The hardest thing is trying to focus in on the questions you want to find the answers to, so good to start the research with those in mind. There is so much information even in one book that it is easy to go off at a tangent. I am particularly interested in Riley’s inspirations, process, the reason for making her artworks; and to learn something about Op Art.

An Introduction To HE: Research Trail Assignment

I understand that by completing this task satisfactorily I will be able to show competence in the techniques covered in the Introductory Course. I will summarise the findings of my research, and write a short evaluation reflecting on my work and the experience of producing that work.

My learning log will be used to collate and evaluate my research. The completed work and development of that work will be presented on the learning log. Finally, I will reflect on the process of studying the whole induction course.

I will choose a topic or person from the 20th century that I am interested in to investigate. The research must be taken from two or more books, two or more journals/magazines, one reputable website and a set of notes made from primary research in a gallery or museum.


Well, I had a false start yesterday, after deciding to research Louise Bourgeois, I made a mind map of key areas, researched keywords using the ‘graball’ meta search website, and spent a couple of hours researching books/articles that I might be able to use, quotations by the artist, images of her work using the OCA’s online resources section, and the best website to use as my ‘reputable website source’, only to find that I would not be able to carry out the primary research aspect of the task, as none of her artworks are currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art in Edinburgh (I am going to Edinburgh for a study visit on Saturday, so had hoped to combine the research with the visit).

The research will be kept for future use and reference, and I will look out for the next time her work is exhibited nearby, to complete the primary research aspect.

After thinking it over, I have decided to start again, but check that I can do the primary research before deciding which artist to research. I will try and find any books I need at Carlisle Library, which is my nearest city library, when it reopens after the Bank Holiday.

Exhibition Visit: Spring Fling 28 – 30 May 2016

Spring Fling is an art and craft open studios event, held annually in Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland

94 artists and makers selected by arts industry professionals showcase their work.

I visited the WASPS Studios at 117 High Street, Kirkcudbright, DG6 4JG

Of particular interest to me were the works of:-

Morag Macpherson Textiles, this artist and designer creates limited editions of digitally printed fabrics, made into scarves and cushions; and one-of-a-kind patchworked kimonos, skirts, throws and wall hangings. Fabrics used are silks, wool, linens and cottons.

Process:- “Morag Macpherson Textiles creates surface pattern inspired by art movements in history, urban and natural forms and different cultures. The research process and ideas behind the designs are an important part of the process and it is fundamental to the final result that these visual creations stand on their own before being applied to a surface. These usually bold and colourful designs are digitally applied to natural linens, crisp cottons, pure silks, fine wools and most recently, wallpapers.”

Quote from Morag Macpheron’s Personal Statement on Craft Scotland’s website.

Morag’s colourful pieces have strikingly unique and clashing patterns, linked in each garment by the chosen colour palette.  I see from her personal statement, that she has a background in graphic design and has studied ‘Design for Printing’ and I felt that this was evident in her work. She had used a professional photographer, Kim Ayres, to make high quality images of her finished designs, which project a young, arty, decadent image. Some of the photos can be seen here.

Her work interests me because I can see the potential for designs to be printed on fabrics and used to make other items: clothing, soft furnishings, accessories etc. A great way to make maximum use (and financial return) from each original design. The combination and patchworking of different original patterns is a modern take on a traditional craft. Research:- companies printing designs onto fabric; software required for digital designs. Consider using professionally-taken photos of finished pieces.

Rosie Reid/Colour Rosie

Rosie was exhibiting a wide range of items for sale, including:- prints, cards, bags made from her fabric designs, mugs printed with her designs etc. She also uses this as her workspace. Rosie states on her website that she loves “…designing colourful compositions based on the beauty in natures imperfections. After graduating as a textile designer from DJCAD [Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee] I was fortunate to have many textile opportunities that allowed me to develop my degree work further. As an intern at Harlequin I created floral works with my quirky abstract style and got a great insight into how a successful textiles company operates.”

Quote from Colour Rosie: About Page


The artist has a variety of styles inspired by colour in nature: abstract pieces, collages, illustrative artworks, florals etc. I admired her simple, colourful designs and patterns with pretty colour palettes. The artist has tried out different products to find out which ones sell best, and also includes reproductions of her work on fabrics and in prints. As with Morag’s work, this diversification of products using reproductions of her original designs is appealing. Combinations of sketchbook images can be combined to make an overall pattern for fabric production. Great examples of her mood boards are shown on her website.

The third artist that we visited was Heather M Nisbet, whose studio can be found at:- The Fox Hole, Kirkcudbright, DG6 4XD

Heather works in a variety of media (oils, acrylics, watercolours) and paints villages, boats and landscapes inspired by local scenery, and that of the Scottish Islands.

Heather’s process, which she had on display, and describes on her website:-

“Using on location sketches supplemented by photographs, I work up paintings in my studio, employing a variety of techniques and media, including oil, acrylic, watercolour and charcoal.”

“Other work, including figures and portraits, are sometimes based on life, sometimes on snippets from photographs and otherwise from my imagination.”

Quotes from Heather M Nisbet Art

I was very interested in Heather’s process, which involved making preparatory sketches and taking reference photographs. The sketches were on smaller pieces of paper, rather than in a bound sketchbook. Heather had framed selections of the preparatory drawings (examples shown in my photos of her studio below). These images were ‘collaged’ into a pleasing composition, before being enlarged to the size of the canvas using a grid system, and then painted. We are now the proud owners of BA 465 – a painting of boats in a harbour.

Thinking of my own work, I have used a similar enlarging technique to get small drawings to a suitable size to become paintings. I often use the enlarging capabilities of my printer if I am making template pieces for a textile work. The method for composing an imaginary scene based on a variety of original source materials is one I will try out.

In summary, it was very interesting to see these thriving artists and get an insight into their process. I learned that it is important to maximise the reach of a design by producing diverse products at a variety of price points using manufactured processes, such as fabric printing. Combining a variety of images, from sketches and photos, into a new, decorative, imagined composition was inspiring.

Notes and Reflective Writing About Visit to Clarencefield Quilt Show & Fabric Sale: Featuring The Work of Pam Ducker

I made a short visit to the McFarlan Hall, Clarencefield, Dumfriesshire today, where the quilts of the late Pam Ducker were on display. Fabrics, second-hand books and magazines were also on sale. The event is run by Ann Hill, a quilter, teacher and quilting supplies shop owner. The exhibition runs from 20 – 28 May 2016.

[My notes appear in plain text, my thoughts are shown in blue italic font.]

“Quilts of the late Pam Ducker

Pam was an active member of Romsey Quilters for many years including two years as Chair and was fortunate to be inspired by many talented quilters and to attend many wonderful workshops. In a move to Singapore she discovered “Red Work” … Pam created many fine quilts and wall hangings in just over 25 years…

Quote from The Quilters’ Guild of The British Isles website.

 The first thing that struck me as I walked into the exhibition was the range of quilting styles that Pam Ducker had explored. There were traditional block pieced quilts, appliqué, Bargello quilts, pieces which reminded me of Hawaiian layered appliqué, and charmingly embroidered red work quilts. A mixture of hand and machine quilting was evident in the pieces.

I am a slow worker, so this often dictates the size and complexity of the piece that I am working on. I prefer the look of hand stitches and the process of hand stitching, but must consider that if I want to make larger pieces, machine quilting has the advantage of speed and producing effects that may be more appropriate for a particular piece. Tying quilt layers together is something that I would like to try, and it has the advantage of adding a different texture to the piece.

The yellowish light in The Hall and the height of the displayed quilts did not make for easy or accurate photography, but I took some reference photos. This beautiful yellow and white quilt (below left, with detail shown at right) was made and hand quilted by Pam. It features eight pointed stars set into a grid with squares divided into triangles, between. It was made to celebrate her Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1994. Another small quilt top in the traditional style with pin wheel blocks in red and white, with a blue border is shown as the featured image above the title of this article.

When I consider why this appeals to me, I think it is the combination of colour, pattern and shape that work so well. The star block is one that I have explored in my own work. (Please note that the piece shown was made before I started this course and is not part of my coursework). I  made a small wall hanging (‘Harvest Stars’, shown below) featuring autumnal shades of scrap fabrics, combining my love of making something out of tiny ‘waste’ scraps of fabric, with the use of multiple colours and patterns. The aim in making this piece was to emulate the ‘doll quilts’ made by girls in the USA in the 19th/20th centuries as a first practice piece. I tried to evoke the past traditions and hand work of antique quilts, but giving it a contemporary twist with a ‘random’ border.

An interesting duo of wall hangings called “Design in a Circle – Black Hole” (April – May 2008) and “Design in a Circle – Nebula” (May – June 2008) showed a brightly coloured appliqué, with a narrow satin stitch attachment to the black background fabric, and surrounded and covered with dense machine quilting.

The use of a positive and a negative shape mean that the two art works have an instant ‘yin yang’ relationship between them. The repetition, with variations, is a good theme for a series of work which will be viewed together, and could be adapted to show change over time, for instance.

I purchased this small sample, or unfinished wall hanging, made by Pam.

The three-dimensional appearance of the stitching is very effective. A closer view of the stitches shows that a variety of green threads were used for the ‘recessed’ area of the shape, these have been over-stitched in places, and highlighted with pale coloured thread on the edge that appears to ‘advance’.

I was grateful to have had the chance to see this talented quilter’s work and it has encouraged me to practise machine quilting techniques in order to speed up my process and allow me to make more, and larger art works, or to experiment with tied pieces. The use of repetition with variation is another theme I would like to explore.

To put Pam Ducker’s work into context, it seems to span an exploration of the traditional, artistically pleasing and functional quilts of the 18th and 19th centuries (appliqué, ‘presentation’ quilts and pieced quilts) to more modern art quilts, primarily for artistic expression and decoration. This has prompted me to do some research into the history of quilts in the US and Britain which I will discuss in a separate blog post.

Disintermediating Craft: Lecture By James Boardwell, at The Shipley Art Gallery: Notes and Reflections


As well as being a co-founder of, James Boardwell’s other company, Rattle (Design Research), states “James has a PhD and MSc in social research combined with over ten years experience researching and designing digital products and services for clients such as the BBC, Channel 4, Comic Relief, INQ, OIX and the Cabinet Office.”

[The lecture notes appear in plain text, my thoughts appear in blue italic font. Link to the lecture on YouTube]

James started his lecture by saying that there is a current movement for people to be interested in the provenance of what they buy and that there is a ‘craft ubiquity’ with corporations cashing in on the scene. He went on to discuss platforms and sharing, and how crafts people can succeed in the new landscape.

Agree that this seems to be the case for craft, food, and purchases in general, for people with higher incomes, purchasing at the higher end of the market, but I guess that many still shop by price. A case for aiming your work at those who value individuality, process and quality, and have the money to pay for it.

He mentioned that the talk was aimed at those selling to retail, rather than artists.

He talked about the Folksy ethos of ‘meritocracy’* and fairness. He said that there were often disputes about what constituted ‘handmade’ (this required proof), or ‘craft’ (decided upon by Folksy).

[* Google defines meritocracy as “government or the holding of power by people selected according to merit.”; “a society governed by people selected according to merit.”;  and “a ruling or influential class of educated or able people.”]

An interesting debate to be had about when ‘handmade’ becomes ‘manufactured’. Folksy allows designers to have their products manufactured for them. In my opinion, handmade should mean made by the designer/maker, if it is made by another company, even if designed by the original maker, it is surely manufactured.

I have also seen disputes in the forum on Folksy about what is crafted versus assembled. (Eg silversmithing v. threading commercial beads onto a commercial chain). I believe that there is room for all forms of creativity, but makers should be clear in their ‘meet the maker’ sections about how much personal input there has been into a product. This leads to a discussion about pricing: most people would expect to pay more for the piece that has been entirely made by hand, but some hobby makers are happy just to cover their material costs, which annoys the professionals who need to make a living, but are undercut by those who ‘under price’.

James went on to say that many people on the Folksy website were makers in their spare time. The turnover of the site was £1 million last year, with an average spend of £19 and that there were 162,000 items for sale.

He describes the customer as looking for something unique, different and personalised (not available on the high street). There was a competitive marketplace with Etsy, Dawanda, Amazon and many others operating in this area.

The terms ‘handmade’ and ‘crafted’ were becoming ubiquitous, often used by big brands (eg, Levis’ ‘Made & Crafted’ range), making it harder for people to understand what it means.

A way to make this more understandable for a buyer might be to have a clear statement of process and lots of ‘work in progress’ images or videos on the artist’s website, to ‘tell their story’, ie to add context to the work. Shared across social platforms to reach potential buyers.

Underlines the necessity of keeping sketchbooks, experiments and research for each project and documenting the process well.

James then discussed the way in which consumers buy today, through social sites and sharing, word-of-mouth recommendations, and browsing. The mobile phone being the main way of searching.

He said that there were fewer destinations/goals apart from Christmas and birthdays.

I think he means that people tend to browse at random, as a pastime, to see what they come across, rather than always looking for a gift for a particular person or celebration.

James recommended that sellers need to market themselves in these same arenas.

He said that some Folksy sellers complain that they don’t sell a lot. He put this down to a lack of framing and contextualising. The key to success was that product descriptions should offer potential buyers a story about the maker and the piece.

Speaking from experience, I think that there are other factors to consider, such as:- the quality of the products offered; their desirability; the pricing; and the quantity and range of products offered for sale; and the quality of the images and descriptions. Also whether the shop has a professional and coherent look and feel to it (uniform branding, etc).

Skill level and the element of craft used – the process – was important. He cited Ernest Wright & Son Ltd, scissor makers, as an example of a business that turned its fortunes around following a widely viewed video of their process.

I bought into this manufacturer’s story, quite literally, and am a proud owner of a pair of their napping scissors.

He said that people must believe in what they are doing so that buyers will believe in them too, and become fans.

Ask yourself ‘What is your journey about?’. Articulate your goal. (He mentioned that Kickstarter have some good advice on this topic).

Skill and effort lead to good earnings. Makers should build a pricing model aimed at the luxury sector. A materials + pricing model doesn’t take account of the 50% of a maker’s time which should be devoted to marketing. Implying that prices should be doubled to take account of this activity.

Taking relevant courses (!), honing techniques and acquiring lacking skills, to improve confidence in self, and the public’s perception, and the quality of work produced.

Also, pricing can affect perception of a product. Low pricing = ‘cheap’; High pricing = ‘luxury’.

He gave advice that you should find a niche in the marketplace, and focus on that niche for success. The rise of the micro brand.

I hate the thought that I should have to stick to one small area: I like variety! However, if you outsource the manufacturing, or sell on the business, that might not be a problem for a designer. Getting ‘pigeon-holed’, (like an actor in a long-running soap), might apply to artists who only ever stick to a narrow range of output. In sticking to one small niche, you may have problems if fashions change and your niche is no longer relevant or popular. Staying flexible and following new technology and trends seems to me, to be important, too.

In summary, James Boardwell outlined what he felt people were looking for in terms of modern craft. He pointed out that it is no longer just the individual maker’s domain, but that big corporations were cashing in on the popularity of consumer’s awareness of, and demand for, provenance when making purchases. He commented on the change in the way that people shop online, using recommendations through social media, and browsing. He indicated a way forward for designer/makers, suggesting sharing their stories through social media and focusing on a niche area that is a passion for them.

 Thinking of what this might mean for my own work: it indicates that documenting and sharing your process through social media is an important activity for engaging interest from the wider public. This reiterates the OCA’s Introductory Course’s advice on keeping a sketchbook and log.

Sketchbook Study: Clouds

I started to use my sketchbook today with a quick series of sketches of some eye-catching clouds, which my husband aptly described as ‘an approaching avalanche’. The sky was a fairly uniform bluebell (blue-purple) colour and the clouds looked dramatic and white against it.


I initially tried to draw a rough outline of the scene, but the clouds formations were changing by the second, so I tried to make a number of smaller studies. I used B and 6B pencils with Caran D’Ache Prismalo I Aquarelle pencils, used dry, and one pastel pencil.

Clouds Small Sketches and Notes

The first attempt to show the edges of clouds (middle top) left a dark outline that wasn’t visible in reality, so I later tried to fill in the negative space of the sky (bottom left), which I felt was more accurate. The white edges looked a little hard, so I tried to soften them with a white pencil, but I think a pencil-shaped eraser might have given a better effect: something to add to my shopping list for future use.

Drawing is certainly something I will be doing more of: I am aiming for a page a day on average. It is something that I do not feel confident in and am sure that regular practice will improve my skill.

I felt glad to have made a start in my sketchbook. I have learned that moving subjects are probably better sketched in a series of small studies, perhaps backed up by a photograph. Next time I would probably do a pen or pencil outline more quickly when trying to capture a ‘moving target’. The page has given me some potentially useful reference material for future projects. I have added a sketchbook, notebook and pencil to my handbag, so that I can make sketches when I am out and about.