Part 5: Project 1: Reflection: Stronger and Weaker Points of My Visual Research

Having reviewed my drawing and mark making work so far on the course, these are my thoughts on what worked and what I need to practise and improve upon.

Stronger Points

I felt that I had been experimental with regards to the range of media used (traditional paints, charcoal, pencil, ink, felt pens, etc, and less traditional: mud, mown grass, slug trails and flour, flower seeds, glue, etc); tools (such as feathers, a boot, fingers, paintbrushes, a bunch of sticks, etc); and the types and sizes of grounds that I had worked on (3-D surfaces, digital screens, and everything from tissue paper to corrugated cardboard, 1″ square drawings to A1 size – larger for the lawn drawing).

I had explored various lighting options (daylight, to a dark room lit with a faint red light) and compositions (extreme close-ups to full views of the arrangement, drawings focusing on form, outline, texture, pattern, colour); and techniques (spoken word, digital drawing, blind contour drawing, blind touch drawing, both fast, and more detailed drawings, simple, printed images, abstract and more representational drawings, hand sewn and machine sewn, collage, etc).

Weaker Points

I did not always link the observed source to an appropriate ground and/or media.

Looking back at the drawings from Part 1, some of them were rather similar. This was partly due to the museum only allowing pencil next to the exhibits, but some of them were made later, at home – lots of pencil, charcoal, and ink on white paper – rather safe and boring, however, I may still find this a good starting point!

As well as using white or black grounds, Cari recommends using more subtle combinations, such as white media on grey grounds, which I have taken on board in more recent coursework.

Including more variety in the compositions is certainly something I need to aim for (close-ups, small thumbnails to test compositions, perhaps including some background or other objects to give context).

There was a lack of variety in marks made within one drawing. Standing back to get an overview of work in progress and looking at the scale and type of marks I have used needs more attention. Using different densities of mark and a mix of bold/strong/large marks with small/quiet/delicate marks combined in one drawing is something I need to work on.

The quantity of sketchbook work, developmental (eg, testing different compositions), analytical and evaluative drawing needs to increase, as does drawing for proposing potential developments of the work.

I have made a summary of reminder notes, covering drawing, in this article, which I will refer to in the forthcoming projects.

Assignment 4: Self Evaluation: Performance Against Assessment Criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Materials – use of traditional and unusual materials, eg, toy snakes in Ex 4.3.

Techniques – colour analysis, colour palette selection and reproduction in yarn, abstracting elements from source materials to develop as yarn concepts, selecting, combining and joining a variety of media, designing, laying out and assembling a yarns book (YB).

Observational Skills – used in all of the exercises, eg evaluating paper and stitch samples for colour palettes and textures, to be translated into drawings and developed into yarns.

Visual Awareness – choices made for colour palettes, patterns and textures, eg, the clear plastic tubing cut into rings for Ex 4.4 represented the grey/white colour palette and the circular objects of the glass arrangement.

Design and Compositional Skills – selecting the size, layout, covers, labelling font, content and order of presentation for the YB, and assembling the book.

Quality of outcome

Content – selection of yarn ideas to create, derived from drawings made from source materials; choosing particular samples to pursue and develop (eg, the coiled sample led to a coiled pot and so to a snake vessel).

Application of Knowledgeresearch on basketry techniques and the work of designers fed into my work on this part of the course. Eg, Lucy Brown‘s use of hair in her artwork inspired my hair yarn.

Presentation of Work – the YB presents my work in a simple, clear, logical layout, presenting the created yarns in the order of the exercises, adjacent to the inspirational images.

Demonstration of creativity

Imagination – eg, using ice to make an ephemeral yarn; including surprise elements of sound, smell and taste in the YB. Using drawing, sampling, mind maps and play with materials to explore ideas. Linking snakes as media to the source image.

Experimentation – eg:- using unusual materials (jelly beans, glass buttons, coat hangers, etc); different scales of work (eg, French knitted linear concept on a large scale, gesso-dipped yarn on a smaller scale); different techniques (net making, binding, machine sewing, knotting, weaving, coilingorigami, etc) have all been explored.

Invention – Altering materials (eg, fraying, cutting, melting, painting, dipping, etc); and combining unusual materials (eg, washers/twigs/yarn, slate/pebbles/thread, wooden snakes/gardening wire, etc) have enabled me to approach the subject from a new direction.

Personal Voice –I feel that my selection of source materials, colour palette choices and combinations of media used, demonstrate an emerging distinctive identity.

Context

Reflection – I have continued to reflect on and evaluate my ideas and work in my learning log. I have carried out more drawing and sampling during this coursework, and have found it helpful in focusing my attention on successful outcomes.

Research – The artist/designer recommendations made by my tutor, have led to research on colour that has felt very exciting in suggesting ways of developing and presenting my work. The research carried out for the coursework also helped to inform my choices, and expand my expectations of what was possible.

Learning Log – I have recorded my research, course and assignment work and reflections in my learning log blog.

Research and Reflection: Colour

In my feedback for Assignment 3, Cari gave me some suggestions of artists to research to feed into my current coursework for Part 4.

Sanne Schuurman  is a Swedish designer, working from her studio in Eindhoven. Her interests lie in devising unusual and unexpected combinations of materials and colours that highlight the technique she is using and the “…essence of an object…” (by which I think she means, echoing the functionality and properties of an object, such as lightness or rigidity, transparency or opaqueness). Her playful explorations seem to be her way of finding out what works well, and for sparking new ideas: a great way of working as I am finding out on this course!

The designer has a section on her website about her use of and inspiration for colour palettes in her design work. Her work with plastic has been inspired by the animal kingdom. An example of a translation of colour and form is given below. In this example she has selected just three colours for her palette from the image. Her piece has a large proportion of the background colour (light brown), with black stripes and tiny highlights of the mint green. The sample has translated some of the mood of the original image in Sanne’s lines and spots of colour, which still have an insect-like feel about them.

Sanne Schuurman, colour use: plastic research, 2013

Source:- http://sanneschuurman.com/portfolio_page/color-use-material-collection

She also has a colour magazine  where inspirational images and resulting colour palettes are shown and some are translated into abstract objects/collections of materials, made from mixed media, drawings and exploratory samples, which may go on to be used in one of a number of applications (window treatments, lighting options, textiles, interior design features etc).


Sanne Schuurman, colour magazine, 2013

Source:- http://sanneschuurman.com/portfolio_page/color-magazine

In the example above, Sanne has used Google Earth to focus in and out on regions of the Earth’s surface, and has picked specific areas to make her colour palettes from. I like this as an idea for finding colour inspiration, and I have begun to make colour palettes from specific localities (analysing photographs and observed colour on site).

What can I learn from this designer?

  • inspiration for colour palettes can come from anything and anywhere
  • one inspiration may provide a number of different possible colour palettes
  • use playful experimentation to inspire new colour and material combinations
  • associations can be made between the source material and intended end use (eg insects -> plastics)

Margrethe Odgaard is a Danish textile designer working in Copenhagen. Her main interest is in the colour, pattern, and feel of the created textiles.

Her process is described in images on her website, including collage, paint samples on ‘lolly sticks’, which can then be placed next to each other and interwoven to help with decision making about the final colour choices for the woven textiles. Small bundles of yarn in many hues, values and saturations are on hand for informing choices.

margrethe-odgaard-google-chrome-18012017-103920

Margrethe Odgaard, selecting colours

Source: http://margretheodgaard.com/process/

Margrethe toured Japan and observed and recorded manmade colour combinations from buildings and objects that interested her.

She made an artist’s book out of a selection of her colour palettes to use for future inspiration. The colours in the book were recorded on location. She chose three colours for each of the palettes to equate to the harmonious musical chord where three notes are heard at one time, however she also notes that some palettes have “dynamic asymmetries”.

margrethe-odgaard-google-chrome-18012017-105511

Margrethe Odgaard, Artist book, 2016 (crayons, markers, cotton paper, cardboard)

Source:- http://margretheodgaard.com/work_post/colour-diary-japan/?ref=w

I really love this idea, and the beautifully simple layout of the book. The placement of the colours on the page, so that they can all be seen next to each other is perfect. The designer has used both markers and pencil crayons, allowing her to translate something of the texture she is observing (smooth or grainy, for example), as well as the colour. It has inspired me to take some colours and a sketchbook in my bag with me to have a go at something similar. The brief descriptive labels showing whence the colour was derived are a nice feature, adding to the feeling that this is also a personal travel journal.

Margrethe muses on the question of cultural preferences and traditions in colour choices. Looking through her book, I can see palettes that I would think of as typically Japanese (browns, indigo blues, greys, teal and dark pinkish reds). There are other palettes where, for example, a dark burgundy and muted pink are enlivened by a coral. Some palettes are all dark or mid toned, others have a pale tone with two dark toned colours. Muted and pure hues jostle for attention. She plans to make similar ‘diaries’ for Brazil and Rwanda, and I’m sure that the palettes will be quite different in tone and saturation, with more bright, pure colours in both of those countries.

See this article on the Selvedge website about Margrethe Odgaard. As well as her solo designs, she also works with furniture designer Chris Halstrøm  of Included Middle producing functional and beautifully designed furniture and interior decoration, such as hanging embroideries.

[Edited 03/04/17:- thanks to Inger for finding this link to Margrethe Odgaard talking about her colour palette gathering activity.]

What can I learn from this designer?

  • abstract colour palettes from your environment (manmade as well as natural)
  • keep an ‘on-the-spot’ record of observed colours with a notebook and coloured pencils/markers
  • keep presentation and labelling simple, yet descriptive
  • think about ways of subdividing the palettes (natural versus manmade, for example)

Raw Color is a design company, owned by Daniera ter Haar & Christoph Brach, based in The Netherlands. They take an experimental approach to their work, focusing on materials and colour, and take their influences from graphic design and photography.

Raw Color, Graphic Time, 2016

Source:- http://www.rawcolor.nl/project/?id=475&type=ownProduction

The designers have made clocks with kinetic parts rather than moving hands. Sometimes a series of three faces, one each for hours, minutes and seconds; sometimes three moving, perforated parts that allow for patterns to form, interact and change as the timepiece moves. The designers have chosen very different colour palettes for each clock: one with black and white stripes on each of the three sections; another a series of three overlapping grid like forms with varying sizes of holes; a third has an analogous selection of turquoise/sea greens in layered rings. Each of these designs and colour palettes creates a different mood: fun, office-like, arty, sophisticated etc. The pattern can have meaning too: the dense pattern grids representing seconds; the medium density, minutes and the low density, hours. These clues allow the viewer to read the time without the need for numbers.

Heimtextil_Mixology

Raw Color, Mixology, created for Heimtextil Colour Trends 2015/2016

Source:- http://www.rawcolor.nl/project/?id=455&type=assignment

Heimtextil’s trend forecasting team commissioned Raw Colour to make four videos and some still images to illustrate their colour palette predictions for 2015/16. (Heimtextil is a trade fair for textiles.) They use the simple device of sheets of coloured paper and stop-motion animation to create interesting movement and interplay of colour.

The Mixology palette above contains clashing colours and muted shades, which I must admit to finding rather unpleasant. I don’t like muted colours such as the flesh tone pink near pure hues like the red and blue. However, having researched a number of designers’ use of colour, I see that it is common for them to include these seemingly disparate colour selections. I think it is because they create unexpected combinations that jar like dissonant musical chords, and perhaps grab more of the viewer’s attention than a harmonious, analogous palette.

What can I learn from these designers?

  • patterns can communicate information as well as looking decorative/interesting
  • movement allows layers of patterns to form new and changing interactions
  • experimentation and imagination can transform everyday objects into something original and engaging

The 1692 Colour Book is a hand painted and handwritten book called Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau, although the text is in Dutch. It runs to c.800 pages. It was created by an artist called A Boogert in the year mentioned, and is thought to have been made as an educational resource, although only one copy is known to exist. It contains all the hues, (with different values), tones and tints that the maker could produce from the watercolour paint pigments available at that time, with notes on how to reproduce them. What a wonderful object! The online version of the book is not currently available, sadly. The modern versions are the Pantone colour guides.

colors-1

A Boogert, Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau, 1692, currently owned by Bibliothèque Méjanes, Aix-en-Provence, France

Source:- http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/05/color-book/

What can I learn from this artist/writer?

  • the importance of keeping technical records
  • the usefulness of building a library of colour inspiration to refer to
  • a simple, but beautiful method of presentation

David Adey is an American artist, who lives and works in San Diego. His artwork are formed by setting himself constraints, as a metaphor for human life. He uses deconstruction and reconstruction techniques. (These techniques are relevant to an exercise in an upcoming part of my coursework).

David Adey, Swarm, 2007 (skin coloured sections punched from magazines, pinned to a foam panel)

Source:- http://www.davidadey.com/Swarm

This beautiful artwork is made from the found palette of human skin colours (he now works with google images in a similar way). I find this a very interesting idea, as I like to use ‘found’ colours in my own artwork. This says something more in its deliberate use of one source of material, taken together with the title of the piece, it points to overpopulation, mixing of races, and perhaps the harmony that could be found if there were no racism. Therefore, the linking of the source materials to a narrative gives added impact to an artwork. (Incidentally, I found skin tones very useful when constructing my recent pixelated collage).

The aforementioned collage prompted my tutor, Cari, to recommend the following artwork, in particular, to me.

David Adey, Anatomic Particulars (detail), 2007

Source:- http://www.davidadey.com/Anatomic-Particulars

This artwork is formed from 1 inch square, urethane plastic cubes, coloured with pigment and glitter, and configured into partial blocks up to 5 inches square. The colour palette, viewed with the hollows and protrusions, and the translucent character of the materials have the visceral quality of human flesh, suggesting both internal and external body parts. I like this piece a lot, with its abstract quality, self-imposed constraints, and considered use of colour, texture and media. Something to bear in mind when I am selecting colour palettes and media for my own work. David has now embraced the new technology of 3-D printing in more recent artworks, such as Hide, in which his body was subjected to a 3-D imaging device, the resulting information was converted into triangulated 2-D pieces (like a macabre jigsaw puzzle). These sections were split in half and reformed into a diptych of 2-D artwork, like a split human hide. Although in this case the artist has chosen a single creamy white colour to represent the skin, perhaps to focus attention on the Rorschach test-like, non-human look to the piece.

Sophie Smallhorn is an artist and consultant working in London. She “… explores the relationships between colour, volume and proportion.” The ‘Making‘ section of her website, shows her process: working with small colour chips/sticks/dots and colour samples in different media (yarns, vinyl, paint, printing pigments etc), and exploring different colour combinations and proportions, before translating these into her chosen media (eg, screenprints, or sculptures, or architectural features such as a coloured glass roof in London Victoria Station).

New work for Galerie Wenger 1

Sophie Smallhorn, work for Galerie Wenger, Cube 64/5, 2014

Source:- http://www.sophiesmallhorn.co.uk/works/new-recent/galerie-wenger/

In this series of work, the artist has constrained her medium to small cubes measuring approximately 36 mm cubed. These have been coloured, using different colour palettes in each sculpture. Sometimes the side is obscured, so you are left to wonder at what is hidden from view. The colours go from combinations of muted, analogous hues to bright contrasts. These mixtures of hues, values and saturation confuse the viewers’ eyes and minds, with the pure, saturated colours advancing and the muted, and darker value colours receding (compare the orange and dark blue-green in the example above, although placed next to each  other, the orange leaps forward, while the darker hue recedes). These optical illusions are further enhanced by the fact that the cube is incomplete in places.

ColourWare 1

Sophie Smallhorn, collaboration with Sebastian Bergne, Colourware, 2011 (Corian, wood, bronze, felt)

Source:- http://www.sophiesmallhorn.co.uk/works/new-recent/colourware/

The artist’s Colourware collection shows an interesting colour palette and use of pattern and surface qualities. The pale wood with its natural lines, knots and rings contrasts with the bright pops of colour from the felt and Corian. There are tiny injections of black and white marbled Corian; and shine from the smooth, reflective metal, creating an impression of cohesion with contrasts, in the repeated shapes (circles/rings/cylinders), and repeated and varied colour combinations.

What can I learn from this artist?

  • experiment with different colour palettes (actual colour chips) using different proportions, and materials with different surface qualities
  • consider repetition and variation in art and design work
  • saturation, value and hue can appear to change, depending on the placement of colours next to each other
  • a small injection of colour can enliven an otherwise ‘quiet’ and harmonious palette

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To put my new knowledge into practice, I have begun to take photographs when I am out and about, such as the ones below of a walk at Talkin Tarn. I make collages of the colours that interest me and import them into Adobe Color CC software to highlight some possible colour palettes.

talkin-tarn-january-palette

adobe-color-cc-colour-palettes

The three palettes shown at the top of this screenshot are derived from the photo collage above, focusing on different aspects of the images. The resulting palettes are certainly more subtle than my usual high contrast ones: lots of chromatic greys and muted pinks, purples and greens. These might have potential as inspiration for interior decor such as rugs, furnishing textiles, fashion accessories etc.

Here are two pages from my sketchbook showing the observed colours from two locations: a hospital waiting room and a lakeside walk. Using a limited selection of coloured pencils (I may start to include felt markers to give more contrast) means that I have to try my best to recreate the colour I’m seeing, with blends of colours optically mixing to produce an approximation of the correct colour. When I have enough samples to choose from, I will make a book like that of Margrethe Odgaard, shown earlier in this article. And to follow that artist’s example, I took some images of manmade colour palettes at IKEA today.

ikea-jan-2017

Summary

I have learnt:-

  • Colour palettes can be derived from numerous sources.
  • A variety of palettes (bright, muted, analogous etc) can be inspired by one source: by varying proportions, selections and combinations of hues, values and saturations.
  • Including jarring colours (such as muted values) in a palette can make a more exciting combination than gentle, analogous or purely contrasting, complementary combinations. However, selections will depend on the mood you wish to convey.
  • A technical record is a useful educational and inspirational resource for future work, and can be a beautiful object in its own right.
  • To link the narrative or meaning of an artwork to the media used, or to the source of the palette selections.

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References:-

Articles:-

Christopher Jobson, 271 Years Before Pantone, an Artist Mixed and Described Every Color Imaginable in an 800-Page Book, on thisiscolossal.com, 5 May 2014, http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/05/color-book/

Nickie Shobeiry, Margrethe Odgaard, 12 January 2017, on Selvedge.org. http://www.selvedge.org/blog/?p=25206&utm_source=ALL+CONTACTS&utm_campaign=549d8123e5-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_01_19&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4d59adca29-549d8123e5-55700417&mc_cid=549d8123e5&mc_eid=5bc8e82d5c Accessed 20/01/17

Books:-

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.

Websites:-

http://channel.louisiana.dk/video/margrethe-odgaard-colour-diary-new-york Accessed 13/04/17

https://color.adobe.com/create/color-wheel/ Accessed 20/01/17

http://www.e-corpus.org/notices/102464/gallery/ Accessed (in vain!) 20/01/17

http://www.davidadey.com Accessed 22/01/17

http://www.eyestorm.com/Pages/Magazine.aspx/NEW_ARTIST___%7C___INTRODUCING_SOPHIE_SMALLHORN/391 Accessed 25/01/17

https://www.google.co.uk/earth/ Accessed 18/01/17

http://www.halstrom-odgaard.com/ Accessed 20/01/17

https://heimtextil.messefrankfurt.com/frankfurt/en/besucher/messeprofil.html Accessed 19/01/17

http://margretheodgaard.com/ Accessed 18/01/17

http://www.pantone.com/pages/pantone/index.aspx Accessed 20/01/17

http://www.rawcolor.nl/welcome/ Accessed 19/01/17

http://www.re-title.com/artists/david-adey.asp Accessed 22/01/17

http://sanneschuurman.com/ Accessed 17/01/17

http://www.sophiesmallhorn.co.uk/ Accessed 25/01/17

Assignment 3: Self Evaluation: Performance Against Assessment Criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Materials – use of usual and unusual materials, eg, recycled paper used in the monochrome collage; found/made linear media in Yarn Wrap #5.
Techniques – colour analysis, colour palette reproduction in paint, collage, designing, laying out and assembling a colour resource book (CRB).
Observational Skills – used in all of the exercises, eg evaluating textiles for colour palettes, painting watercolour stripes of glass arrangement.
Visual Awarenessselection of glass arrangement; and Old Master subject; seeing potential in a simple scene, for collage.
Design and Compositional Skills – selecting the size, layout, covers, cover decorations, labelling font as well as the subject matter and running order, for the CRB, and assembling the piece.

Quality of outcome

Content – selection of material to be included in the CRB.
Application of Knowledgeresearch on the use of colour palettes and proportions of colour by certain designers fed into my choices for colourful textiles to analyse and the colour palettes selected for collage work.
Presentation of Work – the CRB is arranged in a logical manner, following the learning from the exercises during the coursework for Part Three. I chose to put the Ex 3.3 watercolour analysis of a glass arrangement following the other painted work, leading into the work on linear media, as it felt like a more natural ‘flow’ from painted work to yarn wraps to collage. (Illustrating my learning about colour analysis/reproduction to effects of lighting/proportions of colour, then introducing texture, the importance of tone, value and saturation with the collage work and grey studies and ending with image analysis with found colours (felt pens and textiles)).

Demonstration of creativity

Imagination – eg, coming up with a CRB that fit the criteria of being simple, well presented and expandable.
Experimentation – eg:- trying different lighting effects, backgrounds and compositions with the glass arrangement; using software to suggest ways of altering the collage in colour and through pixellation.
Invention – making and using ‘found’ linear media for Yarn Wrap #5; using different types of paper media (shredded, crushed, sanded/holed, cellophane, painted, magazine print etc) in the collage work.
Personal Voice – choice of colour palettes (often bright!), subject material (eg, for the collage: cat cushion, textile scraps, yarn) is starting to reflect me and my interests.

Context

Reflection – evaluating and reflecting on my learning and what it means for my future work is starting to become ingrained in my practice. Visual evaluation (eg, revision of Assignment 2, and cat cushion drawing) have led to new ideas.
Researchstudying designers and collage artists was extremely useful grounding for this Assignment. I also followed up on my Tutor’s advice for reading (Kleon, 2012 and Tellier – Loumagne, 2005) and this led me to a more wide-ranging study of knitted fabrics and contemporary knitting.
Learning Log – I have recorded a selection of my research, course and assignment work and reflections in my learning log blog.

 

References:-

Books:-

Kleon, A. (2012) Steal like an artist: 10 things nobody told you about being creative. New York: Workman Publishing Company.

Tellier-Loumagne, F. and translated by Black, S. (2005) The art of knitting: Inspirational stitches, textures and surfaces. London: Thames & Hudson.

Reflection on Formative Feedback for Textiles 1: A Textiles Vocabulary: Assignment 2

Formative Feedback from Cari, my tutor, followed by my reflection.

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Overall Comments

Thank you for submitting another varied, playful, lively and enjoyable body of work. You’ve clearly acted on advice from earlier feedback and are constantly evaluating your work and reflecting on your approach to it to ensure continual improvement. The work is all well-presented, clearly structured and well-labelled, making it very easy for me to move through your response to each of the projects and exercises.

Feedback on projects 1 & 2

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

You’ve submitted a great range of samples in response to projects 1 & 2. The paper manipulation library incorporates such a lovely range of techniques, scale of mark and varied materials, which have been employed to alter both the surface and structural qualities of the papers. I particularly like the cut and layered paper samples and those which use paper like thread, e.g. to create raised loops on the surface. This translation of textile techniques (like hooking) is a real strength. There is a wealth of approaches in this body of work that you could draw on in future projects – use this like a dictionary and return to these processes to exploit in future.

I’d have liked to see a clearer visual journey of how you developed your selected drawings (ex.2.1) into these tests. Whilst there is some sketchbook work for the assignment, there isn’t much use of drawing to analyse and develop work for earlier exercises or to propose the myriad ways that they could be developed into patterns, textures, processes and materials. You work so well in response to the tactility of the materials and processes, but try to shift some of the emphasis onto using drawing to help you analyse, plan and propose throughout the development process. You’re using your blog very well for this but using a sketchbook throughout the journey of the course would prompt you to draw more regularly.

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

You’ve documented your research well on the blog and in how you’ve presented your small fabric tests alongside your larger, refined samples. The logic of how your ideas progress into physical investigation of materials and processes, and then into the final piece, is clear.

You’ve done well to challenge your urge to jump straight into creating larger samples without the prep work, and the small tests of different techniques and processes have had a clear impact on the development and success of the refined samples. Now you’ve seen the value of smaller samples, increase the quantity of this testing and start to use drawing as part of this preparatory, exploratory process. (You said it yourself in fact: “More sketching needed”.)

You’ve used drawing to plan out different compositions in for the assignment pieces- the range of media used to explore piece three is particularly effective. Try to draw far more extensively to test different compositions. I really like the texture, pattern and colour of piece two but something about the composition feels contrived and the shapes distract me from the wealth of detail within. I wondered whether this could have been resolved with more planning.

Consider using drawing to propose further developments for the pieces as well – like a form of visual evaluation. For example, your inspiration images for piece three show a sense of repeat pattern. What if piece three repeated in a similar way? Whilst making this sample would take far too long, a drawn idea of how you could extend it could provide a way of further reflecting on and evaluating the strengths of the sample. Again, this could be done in a sketchbook. This will all hugely help your exploration of design and composition, which you felt needed more practise. The close up photo of piece two in your log shows the huge potential this piece holds for further refinement too – I’d love to see it as a repeat design, or equally as a simpler design that focuses on selected elements.

Applying constraints to the development of piece three has worked very well- I agree with your evaluation that the simplicity that this approach created is the strength of the piece. There’s a lovely sense of rhythm in the regimentation of the design, which highlights the nuances of each knot beautifully – a feeling of ordered idiosyncrasy. The change in scale provides variation without distraction, so there’s an overall sense of harmony. You stated that the earlier two pieces are comparatively too busy. Piece one is nicely unified by the monotone palette – the muted tones allows the eye to focus on the movement of the cuts and details of the stitch, though there is quite a lot going on.

Though the presentation of the assignment is good, I wonder whether it would have been better to send it to me in a simpler manner and then present it later for assessment. The boards have got a bit dented in transit, for example, and it wouldn’t want you to have to waste time re-presenting it for assessment. An A3 sample file of the smaller presentation boards with the large refined samples folded alongside them would have been sufficient for me. (In fact, that would also sufficient for assessment. Some students do submit A2/A1 boards though.)

Research (including sketchbooks and samples)

Context, reflective thinking, analysis, Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

– Playful interpretation of textile processes into paper (e.g. stitches, hooking).

– Strong crafting skills.

– Continue to do small samples and tests to explore your ideas on a smaller scale before selecting those to develop.

– Draw more regularly to think, to plan, to propose and to document and learn from your samples.

– Use a sketchbook to prompt you to explore your ideas visually more regularly. – Continue to use varied media to create lively images that reflect the energy of your samples, as you did for piece three.

– You’ve learnt the value of constraints to focus your creative exploration, so return to this idea to focus future work. (Austin Kleon’s Steal like an Artist book has a good section on how constraints broaden our capacity for creativity rather than diminish it.)

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

– Good ongoing reflection on the process and your evaluation of specific pieces. You evaluate the processes and materials, stating what you’d change if you did it again, and also evaluate the aesthetic and formal qualities of the work.

– Your analysis of contextual research (the work of artists / designers) is highly relevant and discussed critically in relation to what you’re doing. It’s clear the research is informing your work (e.g. into the American quilt books).

– Continue to explore work of both artists and designers to develop a good understanding of the context of contemporary textiles.

– The ‘Strong points of my work’ focuses on the techniques and aesthetics – also consider strengths in your approach, your development process and your thinking around the projects.

Suggested reading/viewing

Context

– Austin Kleon’s Steal like an Artist

– Your playful adaptation of textile techniques into paper reminded me of a lovely book by Francoise Tellier-Loumagne called The Art of Knitting, which is full of knit structures but also inspiration images, like tyre tracks in sand which look like a knitted fabric. (The front cover of the English version looks like rather un-inispiring – the original French book that I have is much more engaging.)

Pointers for the next assignment

  • Reflect on this feedback in your learning log.
  • See bullet points above!

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My reflection on the Formative Feedback, above.

Good

Cari had picked up on the fact that I have acted on previous suggestions for improvements made in her feedback for Assignment 1. My presentation was clear and logical, (but could be simpler). I have worked with a good range of techniques and media in a varied and playful manner. The Learning Log blog has been well used in documenting and reflecting on my work. Preparing small samples prior to making bigger pieces of work was useful and should be expanded upon. The use of a monotone palette in Piece One allowed a focus on the movement and variety of stitch. Piece Two showed good use of texture, pattern and colour. Applying constraints to Piece Three led to a coherent rhythm and harmony in the outcome. My crafting skills were strong. Reflection in my Learning Log about the pieces made was good, as was contextual research.

Needs Work

Providing a clear visual journey in the selection process, (eg, Ex 2.1), using drawing to analyse and develop work, and to experiment with ways in which the patterns, textures, processes and materials can be developed. (I am having to overcome my usual method of working, which is to think about alternatives for a few weeks, before starting on the final piece with little, if any drawing, and no sampling. I am becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of drawing/sampling in exploring and refining ideas and saving time and materials with unsatisfactory pieces that end up in my bin!)

Cari noted that the composition of Piece Two felt contrived, and that the use of shapes (circles) distracted from the detail of the textures. (I had chosen circles to represent The Earth, which I thought made sense with the theme I had attributed to the piece, but I can see that sticking to a rectangular shape would have brought the focus back to the surface treatments.) Cari agreed with me that Piece One was rather busy and could have been simplified.

I should stick to a smaller, A3 format, where possible, for submitting Assignment work for tutor assessment.

To Do [links to examples of my responses in square brackets]

  • Store paper samples carefully to use as an inspiration library for future work. [A chest of drawers purchased for storing work].
  • Spend more time using drawing to analyse, plan, and propose during the development process. [Ongoing, examples in this post.]
  • Use more drawing to test different compositions.
  • Draw further possible developments arising from finished pieces (visual evaluation). [Assignment 2 visual evaluation.][Ongoing, example in this post]
  • Use my sketchbook regularly. [Ongoing, Sketchbook examples]
  • Use my ideas to make more small exploratory samples during development work and to draw before and after making these to aid in documentation and learning.
  • Make a drawn idea for extending Piece Three. [Assignment 2 visual evaluation.]
  • Make visual evaluation drawings for Piece Two (eg, a repeat design and a simpler design focusing on selected elements). [Assignment 2 visual evaluation.]
  • Simplify presentation of my Assignment work. Use A3 format and fold larger samples. [simple presentation and smaller format chosen for Assignment 3].
  • Continue to use varied media to create lively images (eg Piece Three).
  • Employ constraints to focus creative exploration. [eg, colour palette constraints used in this exercise]
  • Read Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist. [Read and reflected upon here].
  • Continue to explore the work of artists and designers to develop an understanding of the context of contemporary textiles. Examples of research into collage artists, designers who use colour effectively, knitwear designers]
  • When reflecting on my work, consider strengths/weaknesses of my approach, development process and thinking around projects (as well as techniques and aesthetics). [Ongoing, example in summary of this article].
  • Read Francoise Tellier-Loumagne’s The Art of Knitting. [Read and commented on in the context of contemporary knitting].

Reflection on Two Books on American Quilts

I now have two favourite books on the subject of patchwork and quilting:-

1 Beardsley, J. et al (2002) The Quilts of gee’s bend Atlanta, GA: Tinwood Books in Association with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

2 Kiracofe, R. (2014) Unconventional & unexpected: American quilts below the radar 1950-2000. United States: Stewart, Tabori & Chang.

The former concentrates on the lives and quilts of the isolated African American community of Gees Bend, Alabama, USA. The descendants of slaves, this community lived a hard life, working from morning until night in cotton and food production. Originally living in wooden log cabin-style homes, without insulation, quilts were a necessity and were made out of whatever discarded clothing and other textiles they had available. Later, offcuts of corduroy from a nearby factory found their way into the quilts. What strikes you immediately is the asymmetry and non-traditional interruptions and improvisations in the patterns of the quilts. The use of colour and pattern speaks of the makers’ African heritage, but is fused with the American quilt making tradition. Colour combinations, bold florals and plain fabrics, all types of textiles: cottons, polyesters, furnishing fabrics, cords and more, are mixed at will. Simple, fast-to-assemble, patterns such as bars, strip piecing and housetops (a series of concentric rectangles or borders) are used, but with such ‘random’ variations that you cannot help but be captivated when studying the patterns and movement in them.

I put ‘random’ in quotation marks, because although the pattern and colour choices appear haphazard, there is obviously a great deal of thought about the placement of the colours, lines and resulting patterns. Having tried to make my own versions of one of the quilts, I have found it hard to replicate the freedom and spontaneity evident in the original pieces.

gees-bend-quilt-2

Essie Bendolph Pettway Two-sided quilt Blocks and One Patch stacked squares and rectangles variation. 1973. Cotton, polyester knit, denim. 88 x 80 inches.

Source: book mentioned at #1 above

The side of the quilt in blue and white, might have become a chess board pattern in most people’s hands, the artist here has varied the dimensions of the squares and rectangles in a way that resembles the op art paintings of Bridget Riley. If it had been ‘neat’ and regular, it would not have held my attention for long. As it is, your eyes dart about the surface trying to make sense of the way the shapes vary and join to make new patterns. The multi-coloured binding (folded over from the other side) gives an added dimension to the composition.

gees-bend-quilt

Plummer T Pettway Roman Stripes variation c. 1967. Cotton twill, denim, cotton/polyester blend, synthetic knit. 89 x 68 inches.

Source: #1 above.

I found this image so arresting that I attempted to make my own version of it (please note that the two pieces below were made before I started this course), below left. I cut and pieced squares of black, white and cream cotton and cotton mix fabrics, re-cutting and sewing some at 90 degrees, to give those unexpected interruptions to the pattern seen in the original. It was machine sewn, and hand quilted.

I was quite pleased with this piece, but felt it was too stiff, with too many straight lines.

I went on to try a different method of construction for a different variation (shown above right). I cut templates by hand from newspaper to give more variety to the lines, and introduced more colour. This piece was hand sewn. I felt it was more successful than the piece above, but still lacks the spontaneity of the quilt that inspired it, which I suspect was cut and pieced without templates or rulers. Having the confidence to not make the edges straight is something I need to work on!

 

Above left: Original Design by unknown maker c. 1930 – 1960. Cotton, denim work clothes, string ties. 81 x 69 inches

Above right: Original Design attributed to Sarah Patric and daughter, Mary Meed. c. 1925 – 1965. Cotton, upholstery fabric, pieced and appliquéd. 74 x 64 inches.

Source: book #2 mentioned at the start of this article

The worn denim quilt has used the natural variations in colour of the clothing: areas of wear, and staining contrasting sharply with the parts where pockets protected the original dark indigo colour. What makes this so successful for me, is the white string ties which add a unifying, yet still variable, layer of pattern to the piece.

The quilt shown above right, started out with the muted, plain fabrics making a simple, understated quilt, but the bright florals and checked blocks were appliquéd on top at a later date by the original maker’s daughter. The heaviness of the quilt suggests that it may contain an even older quilt sewn within, as batting. It is wonderful to think of it passed down the generations, undergoing changes and additions along the way. It reminds me very much of the ‘Boro’ tradition in Japan (that I touched on in my Wabi Sabi research.) It is not known whether the additions were purely decorative or to repair damage.

Kiracofe, 2014 contains a wealth of interesting quilts with essays from experts in the field. The book is unique in concentrating on these later 20th century quilts and on such improvisational and unusual examples. 

Summary

I find the work contained in these two publications very inspiring for a number of reasons:-

  • the creative reuse of found textiles, including mixing different types and textures
  • the exciting handling of colour and pattern (taking traditional patchwork blocks (or no blocks at all) and using them in new and unexpected ways)
  • the asymmetry and ‘liveliness’ conveyed in the designs
  • the stories behind the people who made them
  • the functionality of the quilts combined with artistic aspirations

I am sure I will return to making wall hangings and other items using similar techniques. I would like to explore making works that are not square or rectangular, maybe incorporating abstract landscapes or colours from the landscape.

Reflection on Janet Rae’s Book: Warm Covers: A Scottish Textile Story, Sansom & Company, 2016

This book concentrates on several key areas of Scottish textile history, illustrated with examples of relevant textiles in both text and images.

The author examines quilts as mirrors of the processes, raw materials and technical skills available at the time they were made. One example is the inclusion of Turkey Red cotton (a vibrant, non-bleeding dye derived from the roots of the madder plant, requiring a 15 step process to achieve) in 19th century quilts.

This ties in with an exhibition case seen in my recent visit to the National Museum of Scotland, which showcased unusual materials that had found their way into the arts and crafts of different localities. Brazilian armlets were made from beetle casings and toucan feathers; a prisoner had carved a miniature tea service from fish bones. In these cases the artist has looked around them for organic materials that could be altered to fit their needs. Did the material inspire the artwork, or did the artist already have the idea in mind, and just use the material because it was available? In my own work, I have used ‘natural resources’ such as old clothing to make quilts and rag rugs, so this resonated strongly with my interests and values.

The second chapter considers the education of women in the art of sewing and embroidery, originally ‘plain sewing’ (for mainly utilitarian purposes) within the home, and in 18th and 19th centuries in finishing schools for young ladies, or with a governess, where embroidery and decorative work such as quilting, might be included in the repertoire. By the 19th century, industrial schools emerged, where young women could learn skills that would earn them a living. Towards the end of that century, a more academic offering was the norm, but still with a needlework element to the curriculum. Two larger schools in Edinburgh and Glasgow taught women domestic science, centred on cookery and basic sewing.

Phoebe Anna Traquair, (whose work I saw at The National Museum of Scotland earlier this week), along with Ann Macbeth, trained at art college to achieve the technical skills that were required to earn their works the distinction of being labelled ‘art’ rather than ‘craft’. Rae points out that most women depended on the ready-made designs of other (male) artists, rather than developing their own themes and designs.

This is an interesting observation, as I have always felt that I missed out by not having an art degree: one can only learn so much from books, websites and short courses. One of the reasons that I signed up for the OCA degree course was to remedy this deficit in my education. Learning to systematically develop art work from my own observations and areas of interest is what I am aiming for. Although, I have made unique work in the past, it has been a rather haphazard process!

Quilts are ‘covered’ in the third chapter, including those made during times of war. They include a signature quilt which was raffled to provide ‘comforts’ for soldiers; and another, made by Elizabeth Pamela Hamilton, known as ‘The Land Girls’ quilt which features embroidered scenes from the artist’s war-time service. As well as being interesting art works, they are emblems of the time in which they were made, the social and national history of the day.

A theme which I have noticed occurring on the Forum is whether or not art needs to have a deeper meaning or message behind it, or can merely be an interesting painting of a flower, for example. I have read that the difference between fine art and decorative art is purely one of art object versus artistic, but functional object. The association with functionality is perhaps one of the reasons that textile art has been overlooked when compared to, for example, painting, in the ‘art world’. Although, with the advent of artists such as Tracey Emin and Louise Bourgeois perhaps the importance of textile art is now being recognised.

The book goes on to feature important textiles in stately homes, ecclesiastical settings, and museum collections. These include some of the finest examples of quilts made in Scotland.

I particularly liked Veronica Togneri’s patchwork textile art pieces, which are influenced by the Glasgow School of Art and Bauhaus movements. The artist buys cotton and linen from charity shops rather than dying her own fabric, and makes quilts based on geometric patterns and variations, that concentrate on colour and ‘movement’ in the designs. She works with the simple techniques of paper piecing and hand sewing, without quilting or pre-drawn plans. The design stage occurs with arranging and rearranging the fabrics, experimenting with colour and form. Togneri studied at the Glasgow School of Art for four years.

Tognieri Quilt

Veronica Togneri, Abstract wallhanging inspired by Edinburgh’s International Festival, 1980s, 257 x 361 cm, Owned by City of Edinburgh Council Museums and Galleries (silk, velvet, handwoven fabrics, hand sewn).

I feel an empathy with this artist’s use of recycled textiles, concentration on colour and form, and use of simple shapes to form highly complicated patterns. The constraints that she sets herself seem to facilitate her work.

This book is a welcome addition to my library. Janet Rae has carried out meticulous research, which I will refer to again and again. The main message that I will draw from the book, for my own work, is the importance of gaining a formal art education, which I hope will help guide me in making better art work in the future.