Jilli Blackwood Lecture at The Embroiderers’ Guild, Dumfries

I attended a lively and entertaining talk by Glasgow-based textile artist, Jilli Blackwood yesterday. Her famous ‘Slash and Show’ textiles are a riot of colour and texture and embellishment. They include hand-dyed fabrics, layering, weaving, pleating, with freely worked hand and machine embroidery. She has a loom in her home studio, and this informs her work, and she returns to weaving between her embroidery projects.

I had researched this artist in respect to contemporary embroidery in an earlier article, so will not repeat that material here.

As a third year graduate, Jilli had been invited to meet fashion designer, Jean Muir, who encouraged her to make a 1 metre square version of a layered and cut sample. She also offered Jilli a job, which she turned down, despite being a huge fan of Muir’s designs. Jilli strikes me as a very independent person, who was keen to develop her own ideas.

Her breakthrough moment for the future direction for her work came with the Millenium Kilt, an altered, second-hand kilt with a three-dimensional surface created with the techniques mentioned above. She told us that she had had a last minute moment of doubt about exhibiting the kilt in The McManus Galleries in Dundee (2000) as part of an exhibition called ‘Textiles for the 21st Century’. Was an ‘altered’ garment an original work of art? However, she need not have worried, as it went on to win the award for first prize and was then exhibited at the V&A as part of an exhibition called ‘Men In Skirts‘. Despite several offers to buy this piece, Jilli retained ownership of it, but went on to create a series of similar pieces for sale. A collection of ‘Art to Wear’ pieces, forms another series, including kimonos.

Jilli Blackwood, Millenium Kilt, 1999-2000

Source:- https://www.jilliblackwood.com/projects-millenium-kilt.html

It was interesting to hear about Jilli’s working practice: the piece above started as a sketch on an envelope, before hands-on work on the kilt itself. At other times she will dye the fabrics first. She uses Kemtex dyes because of their light-fast qualities. The dyed fabrics will be hung together so that she can see how the colours interact, as she selects a colour palette for the project in hand. Next, an A4 – A3 sized sample may be made, before the full sized piece is worked on. The work moves from floor to wall to sewing machine as Jilli works on it by hand and with her sewing machine, adding and subtracting elements until she is happy with the outcome. This process can take several years to complete on a single piece. Although, The Glasgow School of Art can make digitally rendered prints if large scale production is required.

One piece that she brought along to show us had not, she felt, worked, but instead of discarding it, she ended up cutting it in half, re-joining it with two upward arcing lines now meeting in the centre. This gave it a new dynamism that resembled various buildings she had seen, and Jilli wondered if the influence of this architecture had subliminally affected her development of the piece. The colour was altered by folding and over-dyeing the wall hanging several times, and it now has a background of dark lines with the bright pink elements glowing against it.

She advised us to try to develop our own ‘handwriting’ through playing with materials (much as we have been doing on the course!), because everything has been done before, it is just a case of putting one’s own mark on the different techniques available.

Another piece that I found interesting, consisted of a black ground fabric with machine sewn, irregular rectangles of silver leather attached. This had started as a landscape-format wall hanging, had been cut in half and joined to make a long portrait-format wall hanging, and had ended up being made into a skirt as a wearable piece of art. Jilli was sporting some of her wearable art in the form of a hat and tunic dress as she was speaking to us.

For the Flag Handover Ceremony at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Jilli designed an eye-catching red tartan for the entire Scottish team. One aspect that she had to give thought to was that it had to be ‘larger than life’ as the human figures would be tiny in the huge stadium to the audience there, but would also be seen around the world on television. The design had to work in these two, very different situations.

After she had designed the Team Scotland parade outfit for 2014 Commonwealth Games, she was dismayed to find that the outfits had been photographed for publicity purposes, against a green countryside background, instead of the grey or dark background that she had envisaged. The interaction between colours is very important to this artist.

However the green in the photographs went on to inspire a bright green tartan which was used in the World Anti Doping Agency space at the games.

Jilli Blackwood, WADA design, Commonwealth Games 2014

Source:- https://www.jilliblackwood.com/news.html

More recent work has been embroidery over worn, antique, South African rugs, echoing the existing pattern. Jilli mentioned that as well as being extremely hard to work on, she was amazed to find all the ‘errors’ in the seemingly perfect patterns on the rugs.

Her future plans include re-branding her website and producing a luxury catalogue and generally ‘raising her game’.

We were allowed to handle some of her artwork and samples, which brought home the highly textured nature of the work.


What can I learn from this artist?

This was a timely example of how wonderful textiles can be created or altered, and will feed into my experimental approach to creating textiles on Part 5 of the course. Jilli’s playful, colourful, ‘anything goes’ approach was very refreshing, as was her persistence with pieces that aren’t quite working, but can be altered and re-formed by changing the format or colour palette, for example.



http://www.jeanmuir.info/pages/secret_life.shtml Accessed 12/05/17

https://www.jilliblackwood.com/ Accessed 12/05/17

http://www.kemtex.co.uk/ Accessed 12/05/17

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/m/men-in-skirts/ Accessed 12/05/17

Part 5: Research

For this research, I will focus on the developmental work of these artists.

Jenny Ellery is a textile artist whose work explores the human silhouette as a format for presenting her art, which comprises machine embroidery, printed textiles and handmade textiles. It focuses on the work of the textile designer in fashion, and reminds me somewhat of Marie O’Connor‘s work in that it references the body as a canvas that can have the outline distorted and decorated in infinite ways. Coincidentally, I found these images in the newspaper today, which also show ways of ornamenting and changing the human body, which are perhaps part of the wider context for this idea, and for fashion, jewellery and make-up in general.

african photos

Mario Gerth, photographs of members of the Suri tribe, Ethiopia

Source:- scanned image from The Times newspaper, pp 38-39, 01/04/17

Jenny Ellery’s practice involves “Hands-on and intuitive experimentation…”, from which the artist can make new and interesting discoveries. On her website, she mentions working from 2D to 3D and back again, which echoes the advice in our course guide, and via tutor feedback, for drawing, sample making and more drawing in the developmental process.

Jenny’s tumblr account feed shows some inspiring images illustrating her developmental work.

Jenny Ellery RCA MA Textiles

Jenny Ellery RCA MA Textiles // dye tests

Jenny Ellery Source:- http://jennyellery.tumblr.com/

The artist’s practice seems to involve gathering source images on an inspiration board (prints of other artists’ work, for example), taking photographs, drawing, making samples including mixed media and stitch on textile, and making painted colour palettes. (This is sounding familiar as I work through the Textiles 1 course!)

Chris Ofili is a British artist, now living and working in Trinidad. He won the Turner Prize in 1998 and was one of the ‘Young British Artists’ to exhibit in the Sensation exhibition of 1999.

He has explored many themes, such as religion, black history, nature, high and low culture, through the medium of mixed media, painting, prints, drawings and, more recently, woven textiles.

He sees his studio as a laboratory, where he has experimented in the past with a variety of media (elephant dung, paint, resin, collage, map pins and glitter), and assorted techniques.

His practice seems to me to involve phases of interest, which culminate in an exhibition, before he launches into new fields of exploration. At one time, he made a watercolour painting each day (exhibited at the Studio Museum, Harlem in 2005), after that he moved to making more use of sketchbooks, and photography to record his environment in Trinidad, and drawing to test ideas that will become finished artworks. He describes this approach as giving his pictures “… a more automatic, stream-of-consciousness approach.”

Chris Ofili Studio

Source:- https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/jan/16/chris-ofili-gary-younge-interview

I have reflected on Chris’s quote about the studio being a laboratory, here.

Alicia Galer is a London-based textile artist and designer. Her development method is to make expressionist-style drawings, from which she selects marks and textures to produce further drawings and patterns.

In an interview with Grafik the artist describes deriving inspiration from travel, interiors, fashion, photography and graphic design. She draws one or more of her source inspirations, then simplifies elements of that drawing to develop further. Alicia favours oil pastels, marker pens, colouring pencils and acrylic paint as her chosen media.

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Alicia Galer, illustration for House of Plants, 2016

Source:- https://www.grafik.net/category/talent/alicia-galer

Josh Blackwell is an American artist and teacher based in Brooklyn, New York. The artist’s interest in the throwaway consumer culture led him to gather plastic bags from various sources, which were incorporated into his studio practice, working with mixed media, painting, sculpture, performance art and installation. The tension between convenience and excess being one focus for his work. Trained as a painter, his use of thread and textile to embellish the plastic bags shows similar mark-making. The finished pieces are transformed from a vilified and discarded piece of rubbish into a playful, colourful and highly textured art work.

Josh Blackwell, Neveruses (Siemensstrasse), 2015, plastic bags, wool, silk, twine, acrylic yarn

Source:- http://www.joshblackwell.com/index.php?/ongoing/recent-works/

Josh Blackwell Neveruses

Josh Blackwell, Neveruses exhibition (detail), 2016/2017 at The Museum of Arts and Design, New York

Source:- http://madmuseum.org/exhibition/josh-blackwell-neveruses-report-progress

On The Museum of Arts and Design‘s website, it describes the artist’s diverse influences as including Italian futurism, and the outsider art of the American South. In the image above, I can see drawings, collections of objects, patterns and the ubiquitous plastic bag, altered by having holes cut in it, hinting at the types of development work the artist undertakes. Other artworks have included lively and colourful drawings of children’s jumpers, cut out and attached to the gallery wall, Juniors (shown at Kate MacGarry, London, 2010).

Barbara Hepworth made numerous maquettes, drawings, screen prints and full size working models and prototypes of her bronze sculptures. I visited The Hepworth Wakefield on 22 March 2017 and was able to view this fantastic collection in person.

Over 40 plaster or wood, working models and prototypes at different stages of work can be seen. Barbara herself carved back many of these pieces to achieve the surface finish that would represent her ideas. Her tools and drawings illustrate her developmental process. The drawings could be simple, functional, small, line drawings, working out composition and construction. These 2-D diagrams are then made into 3-D models, allowing the artist to refine textures and test patinas before the final bronze sculpture is cast. One exhibit showed an assortment of patina samples that she had commissioned: the equivalent of our ‘sampling’ work on the course. She also made gouache and oil drawings, with pencil marks over the top. She made abstract drawings and drawings from life, such as a series made in a hospital. In quotations on the official Hepworth website, the artist makes it clear that carving was the most important part of the process for her. Once the idea had formed, she could choose the material, but it was the carving rather than the modelling that was important to her, as she could achieve so many variations depending on the material in use, and felt that it allowed her to put her accumulated experience and knowledge into the work. Her selection from the numerous types of stone and wood available, would influence what it was possible to achieve, and only by working with these materials over many years, could she master and exploit their unique properties, “… a complete sensibility to material – an understanding of its inherent quality and character – is required.”


It has been rather tricky to find details of some of the artists’ processes, as I suspect that they would understandably prefer to keep them private, having honed and refined them for their own use.

What can I learn from these artists?

Jenny Ellery’s ‘hands-on’ work with materials chimes with explorations that I carried out on Part 4 of the course – physically combining materials to find which worked well together (in colour palette, texture and scale). In Part 5 of the course, I will aim to emulate this through sample-making and drawing.

Her use of inspiration boards, colour palettes and drawings will also influence my process for the forthcoming coursework.

From Chris Ofili, I will take an attitude of experimentation and exploration of media.

Alicia Galer’s practice felt like a good fit for what I would like to achieve – making both realistic and more abstract drawings in a variety of media, then selecting and refining aspects of those pieces to take forward. I can imagine using a viewfinder to pick out almost abstract lines and marks from a drawing.

Josh Blackwell’s main focus on one material – plastic bags – links his artwork to the theme of consumerism. I will try to select appropriate grounds and media for my drawings and art work. His use of mixed and unusual media is another point of interest.

Barbara Hepworth gathered inspiration for her work through careful observation and drawing. Her total dedication to her artwork is an inspiration in itself, and I love many of her abstract sculptures with their variations of form, surface and colour. I will continue to derive inspiration from many sources and carry out more drawing and sample-making.

Barbara Hepworth’s intimate knowledge of her media and the effects that could be achieved with that material is something to aspire to. Spending time getting to know and understand my chosen media fully will be an ongoing process.





https://barbarahepworth.org.uk/texts/ Accessed 01/04/17

http://www.chrisofiliprints.info/biography.php?cur=EUR Accessed 31/03/17

https://www.grafik.net/category/talent/alicia-galer Accessed 31/03/17

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/jan/16/chris-ofili-gary-younge-interview Accessed 31/03/17

http://www.hepworthwakefield.org/collection/the-hepworth-family-gift/ Accessed 01/04/17

http://www.jennyellery.com/ Accessed 31/03/17

http://jennyellery.tumblr.com/ Accessed 31/03/17

http://madmuseum.org/exhibition/josh-blackwell-neveruses-report-progress Accessed 31/03/17

http://www.marieoconnor.co.uk/ Accessed 31/03/17

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/chris-ofili-weaving-magic?gclid=CP-F4MXdgNMCFQ8TGwodwmwGMw Accessed 31/03/17 (Chris Ofili exhibition)

http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/f/futurism Accessed 31/03/17 (Italian Futurism)

Sketchbook: Keri Smith

One of my tutor’s recommended books in my last feedback was Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like An Artist”. I mistakenly ordered the Journal version of the book and find that, near the beginning, there is a clue on one page to search for the work of Keri Smith (obviously one of the artists that has influenced his own book).

Keri is a Canadian artist and author of books such as ‘Wreck This Journal’ and ‘The Pocket Scavenger’. She specialises in books that are ‘open works’ that are completed by the reader or user. Her latest Vimeo film shows her method of collecting inspiration from her daily life and environment, called ‘Bricolage‘. Google defines the word as meaning “construction or creation from a diverse range of available things”.


These illustrations that she has made for magazines show her patchwork style of composition. They remind me somewhat of mind maps with the interconnecting ideas and images. I like the naïf style and simplicity of the images.

This artist’s work is a reminder to me that everything and anything can become an inspiration if you stop to observe and record it and consider its potential.

Talk: Isabell Buenz – “Paper and Book Art”

Hosted by Dumfries & District Embroiderers’ Guild, 3 November 2016

Isabell Buenz is an artist working in recycled materials, such as paper (waste tea bag paper off-cuts, re-purposed books and newsprint). She makes artists’ books, altered books, paper sculpture, paper shoes, paper fashion (including dresses, fascinators and jewellery) and also has an interest in writing and photography. She has studios in the Scottish Borders and in Dumfries & Galloway. Her work has been exhibited in the UK and Germany.

Isabell began the talk by discussing her childhood interest in sewing, and in making things from paper (her father worked for a local newspaper, and often bought home rolls of waste newsprint paper). These early interests coalesced into her current practice. She is self-taught, apart from some short courses for specific skills, and says that she is always looking to try new techniques and does not like to make repeats. She freely admits that her work does not convey ‘messages’, but is meant to entertain and make the viewer happy. Her sense of humour shines through her work and she had the audience at this talk laughing on numerous occasions.

This altered book sculpture, ‘Kerching’,  was created for an exhibition celebrating the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta. It is made from a book on taxation (therefore relevant to its new life as a cash register). Isabell worked as an accountant for a number of years, which also fed into her choice of subject matter.


Isabell Buenz, Kerching, 2015, altered book, card, acetate, wire, buttons

Source:- https://www.flickr.com/photos/isabellbuenz/albums/72157650026762924

This fantasy wedding dress for a mermaid, (modelled here by Nicki McBirney), has a fish tail train, net shawl complete with fish, and fish bouquet. Isabell made it for the Dundee Wearable Art Show in 2014, where it was a finalist.


Isabell Buenz, Mermaid’s Wedding, 2014, tea bag paper, fabric, thread

Source:- https://www.flickr.com/photos/isabellbuenz/albums/72157647902120839

These fragile shoes were one of a set of shoes incorporating parts of a felled wych elm from The Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. Parts of the tree were distributed to a number of artists and crafts people to make new objects from. Isabell had long had an interest in fashion, and shoes in particular, so she had previously seized the chance to make some imaginative examples for an art exhibition in Fife. The shoes were displayed perched in a chicken coop with button ‘food’, and she has since gone on to make many variations, from tiny to giant in size. The smaller shoes are formed over a clay mould, and kept quite translucent in some cases, so that they look delicate and fairy-tale-like.


Isabell Buenz, Fairy Stiletto, 2009

Source:- https://www.flickr.com/photos/isabellbuenz/4016561039/in/album-72157622473714065/

Isabell has had an installation exhibition, ‘Little White Dress‘, of themed fantasy dresses, displayed on eight paper manikins (moulded on two shop manikins that she bought second hand: each paper one had a different theme: crosswords, places, faces etc), surrounded by circles of strip banners hanging from the ceiling of the gallery, explaining her inspiration for each dress (diving for the dress called ‘Bubbles’, and her photographs of nature for other pieces). Her planning folder with drawings of the exhibition space was available for us to examine at the end of the talk, along with numerous pieces of her work. The artist describes her sketchbooks as “…more like mood boards holding my ideas and interesting images” and she starts a new notebook for each new project.


What came across with this artist was her sense of fun and enthusiasm for her art work; her talent in imagining something and making it a reality using simple tools and recycled raw materials; her engagement with the art community and willingness to enter her work for competitions, exhibitions, projects and other events. I got the feeling that she was willing to take risks, seize opportunities, and ‘make things happen’ rather than waiting for the world to discover her. An inspiring talk and an interesting insight into the life and work of an artist.



http://www.isabellbuenz.co.uk/paperart.html Accessed 03/11/16

https://isabellbuenz.wordpress.com/about/ Accessed 03/11/16

http://www.textileartist.org/isabell-buenz-paper-textiles/ Accessed 03/11/16


Coursework Part 3: Research Point 1

In this research, I will look at the work of a range of textile artists and designers and consider the way in which they control colour in their designs; and whether they have a ‘signature’ use of colour.

Marie O’Connor was one of my previous research subjects so I will not repeat that work, but will analyse a couple of her artworks/designs.



Marie O’Connor. No titles for work given on artist’s website.

Source:- http://www.marieoconnor.co.uk/

This artist uses colour in an amusing and bold way: to define forms and patterns that sometimes entirely obfuscate the wearer of her clothing (example above). The top artwork shows repetitions, and a mixture of real objects and two-dimensional shapes which find echoes in each other, but toy with the viewer’s perception of what is in front of them.

Marie seems to use predominantly black and white, but in some of her work both chromatic and pale, muted tints are added to the palette. The backgrounds (as shown in the images above) constitutes a large proportion of the colour, with the small, distinct, colourful forms highlighted by it. The colours are, on the whole (her digital work being the exception), distinct and separate, rather than being blended. Red seems to be a small, but prominent ‘highlight’ in a number of the designs. I think that her use of colour in her clothing is successful in redefining the perceived shape of the body, and in re-directing the focus of the viewer. In her artwork, it leads the eye over the work, trying to find patterns, repetitions and variations of colour and form. I feel that the colour and design are interdependent: the artworks and clothing would not have the impact that they do without each other.

Eduardo Paolozzi formed the company, Hammer Prints Ltd, with fellow artist, Nigel Henderson in 1954. They designed textiles, wallpapers, ceramics and homewares until 1975. Designs were based on a variety of sources, such as:- Victorian transfer prints, botanical and marine illustrations, wood rubbings and children’s artwork. Designs (eleven or more) were silk screened onto the textiles, papers and other objects.


Eduardo Paolozzi, Hammer Print Textile, Portobello

Source:- https://www.nationalgalleries.org/object/GMA A40/7/13


Eduardo Paolozzi, and Nigel Henderson, Hammer Prints, Screen printed cotton twill furnishing fabric, Barkcloth, c 1954

Source:- http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1223160/barkcloth-furnishing-fabric-paolozzi-eduardo-sir/

The Hammer Prints designs illustrated here, are complex and detailed. I think that the artists chose simple colour palettes to accentuate the modernity of the artwork, and also because it is suited to the silk screen printing process. The company was working at a time when pop culture and mass production were being embraced. Other textiles and wallpapers that I have seen, designed by these artists, might be printed onto a coloured background (green or red or brown), but the modern, graphic feel, that is their ‘signature’ remains the same.

The Portobello pattern has more of the grey background fabric, balanced against a more sparse white pattern. It looks ‘softer’ and gives the eye more of a chance to rest and investigate the individual motifs in the pattern. The Barkcloth pattern has a much more equal distribution of white and black, giving an intense, overall pattern. I feel that the colours chosen are ideal for the designs: any greater number of colours would have taken away from the pattern and striking impact of the designs. I think that the design is dominant over the colour in these pieces: I think they would be adaptable to a number of colour combinations: red and white, or yellow and black, for example.

Voyage Decoration is a company that sells luxury wall paper, wall art, and textiles for soft furnishings.


Voyage Decoration, Myanmar Samui curtain fabric, 100% silk/embroidery

Source:- http://www.voyagedecoration.com/myanmar-collection/samui.php

This gorgeous textile is an embroidered silk design with medium and light muted greens contrasting with muted purples and pinks, with just a touch of orange/red to give a spark of liveliness; and the dark eye of the peacock feather adding another focal point. This range seems to be inspired by both Asian embroidery and crewel work. There are five colour variations for the textile: some are paler and appear to have more analogous palettes with fewer contrasts giving a more subtle and restful appearance. The textile featured here has a balance of light and dark colours, and green and pink/purple giving a varied and lively feel, which I find very successful. Because the colour palette can be varied so much with this design and still work successfully, I think that the design is dominant.


Voyage Decoration, Country 3 – Hedgerow – Autumn, 53% linen, 47% cotton print

Source:- http://www.voyagedecoration.com/country-3-collection/hedgerow.php

This design features 10 or more colours in the palette. I think that it must be a digital print derived from original art work. When seen in the repeat on their website, this pattern has waves of colour: autumnal shades of reds, greens and browns, contrasting with areas of soft pinks and misty purples. These colours are set on an off-white background, which, I feel, gives the fabric a vintage/cottage chic vibe. Regarding their signature use of colour: the company has a number of different collections: some have more formal patterns with a focus on texture and a limited colour palette. But many of the prints have a painterly look to them, with lots of blended colour that reminds me of watercolour paintings. I think that their use of multiple colours in the palette of a textile, like the one illustrated here, works well in making a product that will mix and match with a wide variety of other textiles, wall papers and furnishings. The design of this piece is as important as the colour: the images of autumnal subject matter requires a certain colour palette, although the pink/purple areas are unusual in a more traditional autumn palette of reds, greens, browns, oranges etc.

Marimekko is a Finnish design company, founded in 1951. The company sells clothing, accessories, textiles and tableware.


Maija Isola for Marrimekko, Pieni Unikko 2, printed cotton

Source:- https://www.marimekko.com/gb_en/065205-001-pieni-unikko-2-cotton?nosto=nosto-categorypage-1

This four-colour, smaller flowered, version of the Marrimekko iconic textile designed in the 1960s, Unikko (poppy), is bold, fun and joyful in its simplicity of design with a bright, contrasting use of colour. Five other colour variations are available (although, I personally prefer this one). The company seems to favour limited palettes of contrasting colours, or monochrome (black and white) treatments of the designs. In this design, one colour (the two shades of pink) dominates, but is offset and accented by the golden yellow and black and white background. I think that the colour and design are interdependent (although other colour variations exist, this variation is still on their best sellers list).


Aino-Maija Metsola for Marrimekko, Tuppura, printed cotton

Source:- https://www.marimekko.com/gb_en/067921-530-tuppura-cotton

This design has a palette of 8 colours and comes in three colour variations, one greys/pinks and another darker values (greys/blues/khaki/pink/red). It is one of the new designs on the website and is reminiscent of folk art paintings. It has a higher number of colours in the palette than other textiles on their website. Again, the shapes that make up the design are coloured in bold, flat colour, with the small overlaps forming new colours, but there is no blurring of colour. The strongly contrasting dark blue background makes the lighter colours more vibrant. Different values of reds (red, pinks, peach), blues (dark blue, and denim blue) and yellowish browns fight it out with the strong stripes and florals of the design, making the design and colour palette interdependent.

Mary Katrantzou – is a Greek-born designer of womenswear with a focus on digital print. She has an interest in the way that printed textiles can be made to change the shape of a woman’s body.


Mary Katrantzou, Theia Dress, Look 4 Spring/Summer 2017

Source:- http://www.marykatrantzou.com/collections/ready-to-wear/spring-summer-2017/runway

This dress features strong contrasts of orange and purple, with a printed pattern inspired by classical Greek imagery in black, white, brown and golden yellow. The use of digital print allows a wide palette, but the effect seen from a distance is of an orange dress with purple arms and black pattern. I think the use of unusual patterns, digitally printed in contrasting palettes such as red and blue, with black is this designer’s signature.


Mary Katrantzou, Look 17 Spring/Summer 2017

Source:- http://www.marykatrantzou.com/collections/ready-to-wear/spring-summer-2017/runway

This striking outfit consists of a polo-neck, long-sleeved top printed in black, white and yellow, with a ?perspex chain-mail dress over the top. The chain-mail dress has subtle patterns printed in shades of brown and black, with an orange ‘hem’. The see-though aspect of the dress allows the bright top (and the wearer’s body) to show through, adding another layer of interest to the look.

Some of the pieces in the designer’s collection have a 1960s, psychedelic feel to them; some have Bridget Rileyesque op art effects. The collection is quite varied as to colour palettes and proportions of colours used, as can be seen in the two examples here. The first outfit has more plain, bold areas of colour, whereas the second outfit has overlapping, clashing patterns and materials. So I find her work hard to make generalisations about. I think that her use of clashing colours and patterns, combined with the digital printing gives the clothing a modern, young feel to it. I think that this is another case of colour and design being interdependent.

Wallace Sewell is a UK company featuring the work of designers: Harriet Wallace-Jones and Emma Sewell. They design accessories such as scarves, and textiles which are used in furnishing and even on public transport seating. Their work is inspired by Bauhaus paintings.

An example of a Bauhaus painting.

K VII 1922 by L?szl? Moholy-Nagy 1895-1946

László Moholy-Nagy, K VII 1922, Oil paint and graphite on canvas

Source:- http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/moholy-nagy-k-vii-t00432


Wallace Sewell silk scarves inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe artworks, for Tate Modern, 2016

Source:- http://www.wallacesewell.com/blog-post/tate-modern–wallace-sewell-collaborate—georgia-okeeffe-exibition

The designers have analysed the work of artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, (in a way that I feel is very relevant to the coursework I am about to undertake), and have used her colour palettes and proportions of colours used, as inspiration for their scarves. Looking at the scarf on the top left of the image above, there seem to be 10 – 12, or more, different colours woven as either weft (greens, blues, black) or warp (reds, pinks, browns) in the scarf, and these form stripes of colour that yield more subtle variations where they cross. At a first glance, blue and red are in the largest proportions, with touches of green, pale yellow and brown providing contrast and variety. Although the colours are kept in distinct lines within the textile, there is a great deal of interplay where they intersect, and in the proportions of each colour used. The designers’ signature is stripes, checks and/or blocks of colour. Personally, I prefer the colour palette shown on the scarf at right above, as the left hand one is too busy for my taste (with the muted reds, blues, greens, black and yellow all vying for attention.)


Wallace Sewell, Barcelona Stripe Cushion, 50% wool/50% cotton

Source:- http://www.wallacesewell.com/product/barcelona-stripe-cushion

The larger image of a cushion on their website appears to consist of a palette of six autumnal shades, forming stripes and blocks of colour. In some areas the warp and weft are different colours giving rise to subtle variations of mixed/marled colour providing further variations from the original palette. Ochre and reddish brown dominate the earthy palette, with small highlights of red, black, grey and pink. I think the use of colour in this piece is very successful and works well with the design. I am sure that the colours could be varied with other palettes (for example blues, or greens, or pastel tints, or monochrome blacks, greys and whites), so I think that the tonal design is more important than the colour.

Cole & Sons – design and manufacture wallpaper and wall coverings. They were founded in 1875. Their archive comprises around 1,800 block print designs, 350 screen print designs, many original drawings and wallpapers, representing styles from the 18th – 20th centuries. Their collection is historically important, containing designs used in both Buckingham Palace and The Houses of Parliament.


Cole & Sons, Caledonia, Eriskey wall covering, river grass fibres set onto dark slate background

Source:- http://www.cole-and-son.com/en/collection-caledonia/wallpaper-101/19039/

This highly textured wall covering features a natural grass with all its variations in colour (and shape) highlighted by the dark slate background. A very simple colour palette, relying on just two colours (although there is a variation in the shades of brown in the grass). The designer has used roughly equal proportions of brown to dark grey. I really love this combination and think that the blue grey of the background perfectly accentuates the warm browns of the natural material. I think that colour works perfectly and is an integral part of the design.


Cole & Sons, Whimsical, Punchinello wallpaper

Source:- http://www.cole-and-son.com/en/collection-whimsical/wallpaper-103/2007/

This simple diamond pattern, evoking associations with the harlequin costume, has been rendered in six colour palettes by Cole & Sons. The version illustrated here has seven colours, with the shades of turquoise/sea greens closely situated on the ‘colour wheel’, the warm, pale greys and the dark grey giving a marked contrast, but no vivid colour clashes. In this variation, the dark grey dominates, with the greens next in proportion, and finally the pale greys. It gives a restful colour combination, despite the geometric pattern. The design works equally well in other palettes, so I feel that it is more important than the colour palette.

This company has numerous collections, with many of the wall coverings in subtle, ‘liveable’ colours such as muted greys, greens, blues, creams etc. There is usually a vivid and interesting ‘feature’ design that would probably be used on one wall only, in a room. Their signature use of colour seems to me to be a mixture of traditional and modern (‘something for everyone’), but with subtle colour palettes that can be enlivened with bright, ‘eccentric’ patterns with vivid colour palettes by those who like them. The colour palettes are made to mix and match, with some examples showing the top half (of a wall) in one wallpaper, divided from a different, but matching pattern below, with a border strip, again in matching colours. This method allows customers to produce many variations from a set of colour co-ordinated options.

Norma Starszkowna is a Scottish-born textile artist, now living and working in London. She is renowned for her exploration of printing and dyeing techniques, and for her politically-inspired textile works.


Norma Starszakowna, Hinterland, 2004, 18 panels, with digital print, hand painting and embossing on silk organza

Source:- http://www.parliament.scot/visitandlearn/24488.aspx

The artwork was commissioned for display in the Scottish Parliament.

Norma has used colour to represent her own interpretation of Scottish history. For example, the colours of blue, green and brown represent sea and landscapes; and more abstract connections are made, with the bright colours standing for education, science, medicine, etc. The colour has therefore been given an emotional and/or literal connection with its subject matter. She has been able to produce a wide range of colours in the artwork by using digital reproduction techniques. The colour seems to be intimately entwined with the design of this piece.


Norma Starszakowna, Diasporas, 2005, Screen printed silk organza, heated treated latex rubber

Source:- http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O128510/diasporas-hanging-starszakowna-norma/

The artist focuses on the textural effects that can be achieved by the dyeing and printing processes that she uses. This piece, investigating the history and memories embedded in walls and buildings, has a subtle background palette of muted and blended areas of pink, brown and black, evoking the subject matter. A bright highlight of red draws the eye and mimics a pamphlet nailed to a wall (one of her childhood memories). Graffiti-like words and cracks or lines, can also be seen. The artist works with colours linked to her memories and to the actual subject matter (walls, in this case). The signature use of colour seems to be layering and blending, sometimes with a distinct highlight of pure colour, as seen in the piece above. Of the artworks I have seen, the artist seems to tend towards an earthier palette of browns, greys and blacks, with some red. The colour and subject matter/design is interdependent in this piece.

Paul Smith – is a British designer, who opened his first shop in 1970. His designs are described on the company’s website as “unmistakable Englishness augmented by the unexpected”, and include garments for men, women and children, and household goods.


Paul Smith, Women’s ‘Wildflower’ Print Cotton Shirt, current collection

Source:- http://www.paulsmith.co.uk/uk-en/shop/women-s-wildflower-print-cotton-shirt.html

The design of poppies, cornflowers and buttercups is rendered in a palette of triadic primary colours: red, yellow and blue, set against a white background. On closer inspection, small proportions of pink, orange and purple are included. The colour is used in a realistic way and is integral to the design. Personally, I prefer the design seen in close-up detail, because it all blends (optically mixes) when seen at a distance. Enlarging the pattern would overcome that effect.


Paul Smith, Boys’ 7+ Years Wool-Cashmere Striped Beanie Hat, current collection

Source:- http://www.paulsmith.co.uk/uk-en/shop/boys-7-years-wool-cashmere-striped-beanie-hat.html

Perhaps best known for his striped shirts, the designer continues his signature stripes using seven colours of yarn in this hat. It features a complementary colour clash between red and green, with a mixture of primary (yellow), secondary (green and purple) and tertiary colours (eg, dark turquoise), and some muted colours (such as the green). This makes for a visually interesting mixture, leaving the eye jumping from light to dark tones to vivid clashes of colour. The interaction between the colours leads you to think that there are more colours than actually appear in this garment. The varying width of the stripes allows for optical mixing of the thin stripes, adding to the illusion. There is yet another interaction between the cool (light grey, dark turquoise) with the warm (red, yellow, brown) colours in the palette.  I think that this design and colour palatte are interdependent and very successful.

Vlisco – was founded in 1846 in The Netherlands. It designs, produces and sells textiles, predominantly to Central and West Africa. The company (and its sister companies) have 2,700 employees, (900 in The Netherlands and 1800 in Africa). The company encourages its customers to name some of the textiles and to share their stories related to the company’s textiles. The company calls colour its “obsession”, with indigo being their most important dye. Also, “…colour is an integral part of our craft, which fuses with design to create wonderful optical illusions and eye-catching new looks. The combinations we use can entirely alter the appearance of one design creating several new visual designs.”


Vlisco, One Nation textile, embellished wax fabric, 100% cotton

Source:- https://www.vlisco.com/en/vlisco/types/wax-hollandais2/vla1617.030.02/

This printed textile mimics traditional batik textiles. The symbols are iconic Vlisco designs and are surprisingly large in scale. A dress featuring the textile, shows just three of the figures on the front of it. The colour palette features analagous green and turquoise blues, paired with muted ochre yellow and black. Small proportions of indigo blue and white are seen in close-up. The’grey’ at the front of the plinths is made up of tiny dots of black on a white ground (more optical mixing). I find this design quite fascinating and different to traditional European textiles: the large ‘realistic object’ motifs and batik-like patterns with strong contrasts, are what I think accounts for this. I feel that the design dominates this textile, and the colour palette is secondary.


Vlisco, L’Oignon, 100% cotton, printed textile

Source:- https://www.vlisco.com/en/vlisco/types/super-wax/vl02921.043.06/

The vibrant colour palette uses three shades of yellow contrasted with black and white. The signature ‘crackle effect’ is present in the diagonally placed patches of colour in the background (white paired with one of two shades of yellow) forming a subtle background pattern to offset the bold black and white ‘onion’ motifs in the design. The proportions show more of the yellows, followed by black, then white. At a distance, the eye sees the black motifs and solid areas of golden yellow, then the ‘batik’ areas with white and yellow can be seen as diagonals forming a secondary pattern in the design. The design is the more important feature of the textile, with a second choice of colour palette of pinks/purples and black being available. I think that this palette of yellows with black is the more successful of the two, as it shows greater tonal contrast.

Ptolemy Mann – This designer set up her studio in 1997. She designs and makes wall art, housewares and furnishing textiles. Her signature use of colour is based on hand dyeing and weaving.


Ptolemy Mann, Ikat Lampshade (Gold, Teal Drum), current collection

Source:- http://ptolemymannshop.com/collections/lampshades/products/teal-yellow-wave-ikat-drum-lampshade

This textile-covered lampshade appears to consist of yellow and teal in equal proportions, separated by a thinner greyish-white band. On close inspection it can be seen that each colour is made up of streaks of pure and muted colours (for example the white-grey area contains warm chromatic grey (pinkish) mixed with white, and cool (bluish) chromatic grey). I think that this design has been digitally printed, and mimics (as its name suggests) the woven texture of Ikat weaving, (in which the yarns are tie-dyed before weaving). The subtle colour mixing gives a secondary pattern to the design and brings more interest to the piece than plain stripes alone.


Ptolemy Mann, Circle #08 / 2011 / 60cm Diameter

Source:- http://www.ptolemymann.com/circles.html

Ptolemy’s hand-woven artwork in the Ikat tradition features strong stripes of colour with the typical feathered overlap where the yarn changes colour. She has used rich, warm, saturated oranges and pinks (in the same quartile of the colour wheel), contrasting with dark, cool purple, black and greys. Personally, I very much like this colour combination and feel that the contrasts play off against each other well, while not overpowering the feathered sections. The largest pink section has more subtle colour variations with the warm, dark value in the centre transitioning to a cooler, darker violet at the bottom. I think that the design dominates this piece, with the tonal contrasts being more important that the colour palette used.

Kaffe Fassett is an artist and designer, whose work in painting, knitting, patchwork, and textile design is world-renowned. Handling vibrant colour palettes and designing vivid patterns is his métier.

Kaffe Fassett, GP158 Rolled Paper Fabric Design in Black and Pastel variations, Fall 2016 Collection

Source:- http://www.kaffefassett.com/Fabrics.html

This design comes in six different palettes, all evoking different moods, and getting the most out of a single design, as it will appeal to a range of customers with their different end uses for the textile. Each fabric contains 8 colours, including the background. The designer has worked here with strong triadic contrasts in different values. The result is an exciting, fun combination that will mix and match with many other textiles in a patchwork quilt, for example. His signature use of colour is to use a fairly large palette (I have counted 7+ in the fabrics of his that I own) of contrasting colours, sometimes scattered uniformly over the pattern, as in the example here. In other designs, much larger, bolder motifs are used, but still with a large palette of complementary colours. The design can then be varied with a different proportion of a main hue, or a different saturation or value of palette to form several variants.


Kaffe Fassett, GP128 Chard, in Autumn variation, Fall 2012 Collection

Source:- http://www.kaffefassett.com/Fabrics.html

This is one of my favourites of his fabric designs, featuring large proportions of orange and violet in different levels of saturation, with chocolate brown and golden yellow. The orange and purple secondary colours provide an (almost) complementary contrast. The muted mauve background recedes, while the vibrant large areas of colour on the leaves and stalks advance. There is a strong tonal contrast. This design is available in five colour palettes, so I think that the design is more important than the colours used: however, Kaffe’s colour choices are, I think, particularly successful.

Two short YouTube videos of Kaffe’s thoughts about colour and design can be found here:-

Summary: What can I learn from these artists about their use of colour palettes and how to control colour in a design?

The same design can be rendered in different colour palettes, giving a different mood and feel to the textile. Colours may reflect changing fashions (with reference to trendforecasting); the seasons; colours found in the natural world; different cultures; modern or traditional outlooks; different emotions, etc.

Marie O’Connor – A wide range of colours (from bright primaries to pastel values) can be combined. Colour can bring focus onto a particular form in the composition. A black, grey or white background makes the colours ‘pop’ and unifies the whole arrangement.

Eduardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson – a complicated and detailed design may be more striking with a simple palette. White or black can be used against a variety of backgrounds to change the impact of a piece.

Voyage Decoration – unexpected colours (eg, pink and purple in an ‘autumn’ palette can make the design more adaptable in use. The same design can look quite different in mood in a paler, simpler palette.

Marimekko – I find this company’s designs very appealing, with their combinations of bold, bright, flat colour combined with simple shapes and patterns.

Mary Katrantzou – explore clashing patterns and bold colour palettes. Digital print allows a larger range of colours in the palette, compared to traditional techniques such as weaving or printing.

Wallace Sewell – I like their use of simple patterns in woven textiles (stripes and blocks of colour), and admire the chenille cushion range in particular. I am less keen on the muted, muddy colours (chromatic greys) and clashing colour schemes in some of their pieces. The woven textile allows for optical mixing of colours where the warp and weft cross.

Cole & Sons – use of natural materials; ‘mix and match’ patterns and palettes; inspiration from a variety of modern and traditional sources.

Norma Starszakowna – linking colour to feelings and memories, evoking subject matter with realistic colour palettes. Exploration of layering and blending subtle colour palettes, with a bright highlight to draw the eye of the viewer.

Paul Smith – use of optical mixing, using different proportions of colour; mixing warm and cool, light and dark, primary, secondary and tertiary colours. Taking care with which colours are next to each other in a design.

Vlisco – use a colour paired with white to produce a ‘lighter’ area using the same colour palette. Consider scale in the design (eg large motifs or areas of colour); using strong contrasts in colour (black and white with another colour).

Ptolemy Mann – pay attention to tonal contrast within a design. A bold design (stripes, for example) can have more subtle secondary patterns.

Kaffe Fassett – be inspired by design motifs to be found all around you. The same design can be rendered in a variety of colour palettes to achieve a different outcome and ‘mood’ to the fabric. A large palette can produce a striking and vibrant design, however, some muted tones provide a restful contrasting background, or place for the eye to pause in an otherwise bright design.



Hornung, D. and James, M. (2012) Colour: A workshop for artists and designers: A workshop for artists and designers. 2nd edn. London: Laurence King Publishing

Stevenson, F. and Steed, J. (2012) Basics textile design: Sourcing ideas: Researching textures, colors, structures, surfaces and patterns. Lausanne: AVA Publishing SA.


http://apracticeforeverydaylife.com/projects/nigel-henderson-and-eduardo-paolozzi-hammer-prints-ltd-1954-75#digital Accessed 16/10/16

http://www.cole-and-son.com Accessed 19/10/16

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1223160/barkcloth-furnishing-fabric-paolozzi-eduardo-sir/ Accessed 16/10/16

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O128510/diasporas-hanging-starszakowna-norma/ Accessed 19/10/16

http://www.kaffefassett.com Accessed 21/10/16

http://www.marieoconnor.co.uk/ Accessed 16/10/16

https://www.marimekko.com/gb_en/ Accessed 18/10/6

http://www.marykatrantzou.com/ Accessed 18/10/16

https://www.nationalgalleries.org/collection/artists-a-z/p/artist/eduardo-paolozzi/object/hammer-prints-textile-portobello-gma-a40713 Accessed 16/10/16

http://www.parliament.scot/visitandlearn/24488.aspx Accessed 19/10/16

http://www.paulsmith.co.uk/uk-en Accessed 20/10/16

http://www.ptolemymann.com/ Accessed 21/10/16

http://www.tate.org.uk/ Accessed 19/10/16

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/m/album-with-nested-carousel18/ Accessed 21/10/16

https://www.vlisco.com/ Accessed 20/10/16

http://www.voyagedecoration.com Accessed 17/10/16

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlisco Accessed 20/10/16

Research for Part Two: Surface and Stitch

Sandra Dufour

This artist’s work has been featured in magazines, she has illustrated magazine articles, written books, made installations and undertaken commissions.

mep broderies.indd

Sandra Dufour, Pages from the artist’s publication “Broderies Fifties” Dessain et Tolra, 2014

Source:- http://sandradufour.com/index.php?/edition/broderies-fifties/

Dufour has taken iconic imagery and designs from the 1950s and turned them into embroidered pictures. The art works show a variety of stitches, densities of stitching, different backgrounds, depictions of objects as well as shapes and patterns, thoughtful colour choices.

Sandra Dufour, Image from the artist’s publication “Mette et les cygnes sauvages”, Thierry Magnier, France 2012

Source:- http://sandradufour.com/index.php?/illustrations/mette-et-les-cygnes-sauvages/

This piece features layered lace, appliquéd shapes, embroidery and a stitched frame.


Sandra Dufour, From the artist’s series, Fumées (fumes):-

Source:- http://sandradufour.com/index.php?/serigraphies/fumees/

Dufour has made two series of art works mentioned on her website: one on things that give off fumes (house chimneys, people, industrial chimneys, trains, kettles) and another on mountains. Both series show variations on the theme – different embroidery used and differing images, stitches, techniques etc. Some use machine stitching, others appear to be hand stitched. Some feature holes made by a sewing machine in one pattern (swirls, for example), oversewn in places by hand in a more geometric style.

Pages from Dufour’s artist book “Ouvrage”, 2009

Source:- http://sandradufour.com/index.php?/grandsformats/ouvrage/

The altered book contains decorated pages featuring cutting, tearing, textile inclusions and patches, stitch, layering, translucent pockets etc.

What can I learn from this artist?

  • Be experimental
  • Combine all sorts of materials and threads, yarns and papers to create texture and interest
  • Use a variety of stitches in the same piece
  • Work out different ideas in a series of art works
  • Pay attention to colour choices

Stephanie Tudor

“… Stephanie juxtaposes unlikely materials to create highly textured wall panels and interior objects.” Her tactile tiles, wall panels and objects invite touch with their intriguing surface treatments. Different types of surfaces are juxtaposed. Unusual material combinations are used.

stephanie tudor 1

Source:- http://www.stephanietudor.co.uk/#!super-tactility/uw1dr

These pieces use a number of techniques including mixing media; printed images on textiles; and shredding or fraying textiles. There looks as if there is paint or printed colour on the ?wooden elements.

Stephanie tudor 2

Source:- http://www.stephanietudor.co.uk/#!super-tactility/uw1dr

Another fascinating set of material combinations: string emerging from painted wood, clay beads threaded onto fibre and suspended from a twig, and painted/dipped plant material.

Setphanie Tudor Wearable Textures

Source:- http://www.stephanietudor.co.uk/#!wearable-textures/ck2o

I love these wearable, highly textured pieces, which include: specks or broken material suspended in another substrate; natural material embedded in a substrate, impressed lines, printed images, and carefully considered colour combinations.

Other work created by the artist includes dipped threads, thread-wrapped objects, painted wood segments attached with nails to sticks, painted sticks, etc.

What can I learn from this artist?

  • Combine all sorts of materials
  • Use bold colour contrasts
  • Experiment with wrapping, embellishment, natural materials, dipping, threading through, sandwiching between two layers, embedding, fraying, printing, painting

Elena Stonaker

Stonaker is a Los Angeles-based artist/designer. She makes exuberant, colourful and highly decorated soft sculptures and wearable art and performance costumes. Her pieces are hand sewn, and include beading, quilting techniques, appliqué and embellishment. She works with her intuition rather than pre-planning the work and the pieces may evolve and change over time. She incorporates beauty, humour and the unexpected in her art work. Some motifs, such as eyes, are a repeated feature in her work.

Elena Stonaker 1

Elena Stonaker, Detail: Domitille’s Dream. Wall Tapestry. Beads, sequins, hand dyed velvet. 2016. 4’x6.5′

Source:- http://www.elenastonaker.com/sculpturaltextile/i77m6kj5ib8jjxoz21t66d5ueqxijt

An exciting combination of shapes, recognisable forms, patterns and textures. A palette of creams, pinks, greens and black.

Elena Stonaker 2

Elena Stonaker, Detail. The Offering. Ongoing sculpture 2013-present. Beads, fabric, stuffing.

Source:- http://www.elenastonaker.com/sculpturaltextile/c96qwi6y6bmpid6xa3ech9xc8t5k3r

A very three-dimensional piece, with repeated eye motifs, encrusted embellishment with sequins and beads, embroidery, couching, hand stitch and appliqué.

Elena Stonaker Wearable Art

Elena Stonaker, Wearable Art. Detail of Photo by James Cromwell Holden. 2013. 

Source:- http://www.elenastonaker.com/wearable/oun9o556lmh7si03r484t6vvwymr5l

Some flat, graphic, printed and/or painted patterns, two rather frightening, mask-like faces, contrasting with plain areas on the sleeve and front, padded additions, unusual garment shapes displayed on the body.

What can I learn from this artist?

  • Bold pattern and colour choices
  • Surprising and unexpected design elements
  • Embellishment with beads, stitch, appliqué, padded forms
  • Unique vision based on own experience, imagination and observations
  • Use of repeated motifs and patterns

Marie O’Connor

This artist and designer uses found materials, stitch and collage techniques alongside digital and animation processes.

She creates unusual shapes and outlines for clothing and experiments with “…interplays between the body and clothing, image and reality and scale and distance.”


Marie O’Conner, Make Shape (mixed media)

Source:- http://www.marieoconnor.co.uk

This piece looks like a playful assemblage of toy-like items that begged to be handled and explored. She has used silhouettes of familiar and unfamiliar shapes and objects; geometric pieces; flat and three-dimensional items; items with cut outs; lots of colour against a mid-toned background, itself a circle (rather than a straight-sided background); smooth and textured inclusions. Some pieces evoke links to real objects such as a swingball and record player. There is repetition and variety included.


Marie O’Conner, Source:- http://www.marieoconnor.co.uk

This piece shows use of yarns winding and connecting two separate elements of the composition. The arc on the left is a yarn-wrapped flat shape, giving it a variable striped and textured finish. The element on the right has pins marking out the corners of an octagon, around which more yarns are twisted and woven forming new geometric shapes. Knots are visible, creating a clear connection between the yarns and accentuating the colour changes. The yarns used vary in thickness and texture. Shapes come forward and recede depending on which colour(s) of yarn you focus on.


Marie O’Conner, Source:- http://www.marieoconnor.co.uk

Three non-traditional outfits that play with form and pattern, with unexpected additions and cut-outs. The patterns and shapes on the textiles draw the eye, further distorting the perceived outline of the garments, and adding interest and detail to the pieces.

What can I learn from this artist?

  • Use colour and pattern to create depth of interest and several areas of focus for the viewer
  • Bold use of colour and shape can give alter the perceived outline of a piece (rather like camouflage or dazzle ships)
  • Mix shapes, colours, surfaces, textures, dimension; but include repetition

Lauren DiCioccio

This artist has worked with fibre and hand stitch in her earlier work, which examines our relationship with everyday objects. Her more recent work, ‘Familiars’, includes sculptural forms that explore the tools she uses in her art. She starts with a form, built intuitively, then embellishes it with embroidery, wrapping, weave, etc. The resulting sculpture evoke an anthropomorphic reaction in the viewer, with their almost recognisable shapes.

Lauren DiCioccio  Sculpture  2007-2012  paper pad reconfigurations

Lauren DiCioccio, Source:- http://www.laurendicioccio.com/sculpture/2007-2012/paper-pad-reconfigurations/242

This piece shows a flat piece of paper cut and edge-sewn to form a three-dimensional structure, rather like a cross between a sea urchin and a patchwork quilt. The simple ‘found’ pattern on the paper gives further layer of interest to the piece.

Lauren DiCioccio  Sculpture  2013 - present  Familiars (large)

Lauren DiCioccio, Familiars (Large), 2014, Hand-woven cotton, wood, stuffing, felt, thread

30″ x 20″ x 17″

Source:- http://www.laurendicioccio.com/sculpture/2013-present/-familiars-large-/668

This piece reminds me of the yarn-bombing displays. A wooden form has been closely covered with woven strips of fabric, some left loose and unfinished to provide added texture and interest.

Lauren DiCioccio  Sculpture  2013 - present  Familiars (medium)

Lauren DeCioccio, Familiars (Medium)

Source:- http://www.laurendicioccio.com/sculpture/2013-present/-familiars-medium-

This collection of sculptures are indeed like little creatures or figures. Padded or wooden forms are decorated with additional ‘limbs’, threads, and colour. Most are stuffed, smooth pieces, one has been wrapped.

What can I learn from this artist?

  • Consider the papers and textiles you are using carefully (texture, pattern, drape, colour etc)
  • Pattern and texture can provide another layer of interest
  • Simple additions to a form can evoke memories of an actual object/subject
  • The same materials can be used in several ways in the same piece


Plenty of inspiration and food for thought for the next part of the course! There seems to be endless variety in the possible choices of colours, forms, textures, surfaces, material combinations, pattern and so on.

Exhibition Visit: Not to Scale: Costumes for Performance By Alex Rigg

The Not To Scale exhibition is on at the Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries from 16 July to 10 September 2016.

Alex Rigg is an artist and performer, making designs for theatre and dance, and also site specific pieces. Rigg says “Costume and make-up help both the performer and the audience to suspend disbelief and enter the story fully”.


This costume caught my eye, having recently researched Sanquhar knitting. It looks like a Samurai warrior’s outfit. Behind and to the left are a pair of crab pincers made from agricultural waste and aluminium. I admire the artist’s imaginative use of unusual materials and recycling.


This Mushroom Skirt & Jacket are made from Geotex, plywood, castors, and upholstery fabric, for a performance called Pollen, in 2012. The Geotextile is normally used in gardening and agriculture, so it was interesting to see how effectively it could be worked with in this costume: pleated, swirled, shaped, cut and paint-splattered.


Alex Rigg explains that the way the costume behaves when worn by the performer is an important part of the rehearsal process. The design of the pieces is an integral part of the choreography. The performers develop a language of gestures derived from the landscape and from specific performance sites, including the architecture. His work has been inspired by the landscape paintings and architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.


For example, for a recent performance called “Un-looking“, the costumes were derived from abstracting forms from Mackintosh’s 1920s landscape watercolours of Southern France – featuring rocks, buildings, land and sea scapes.


Lizard Coat, Half Chaps, Waistcoat and Trousers, upholstery fabric, silk, leather. Performance: Polleniser, 2014

I thought that this suggested the colour and texture of a lizard in an interesting way, without being ‘realistic’. Fine pleats are oversewn to give directional waves.


This costume featured leather and other fabrics, cut to resemble muscles or ribs across the chest. The interesting yellow and metal objects are electrical connectors. The artist seems not to be limited in his choice of materials, using many non-traditional textiles and embellishments. I would imagine that the geotexile is a fairly low cost material, but transformed by the use of various techniques in making and decorating the costumes. It also appears to be non-fraying, which allows a cleanly-cut and shaped edge.

gracefield August 2016

A bird like costume had white plastic ribbing sewn into the fabric, showing at the tips of the ‘wings’ like feathers (detail top, middle). The sporran is in the shape of a fish, made from leather (bottom, left). The lizard mask at bottom right is moulded over a trilby hat, made from aluminium.


An inspiring and illuminating exhibition, showing how textiles and found materials can be transformed, with imagination and skill, into unique costumes.

Thinking of what I can learn from this artist: his use of a wide variety of materials, including recycled and ‘found’, and non-traditional ones was fascinating, and something to bear in mind for my future experimentation. Manipulating a two-dimensional textile into a three-dimensional structure may be something that I will need to try in forthcoming assignments. I was very interested to see how the artist took inspiration from a particular source and transformed the shapes from buildings and paintings into forms that would fit the human body – there were pages from his sketchbook on display. The importance of drawing and working out the designs was apparent. Although I am not planning to make costumes, I am interested in sculptural forms.