Coursework Part 5: Project 2: Building A Response: Research

I borrowed several books from the library featuring the work of David Hockney and Vincent van Gogh because I admire the lively and colourful way that those artists depict flowers in their artwork, but felt that their work did not really represent the direction that I feel drawn to, of simplified or abstract landscapes and plants based on observation. I therefore identified a few artists and a jeweller that I feel are working in a way that I feel empathy with. So although these artists do not all depict flowers or plants, their way of working is something that I wished to examine.

Sarah Symes is a Canadian artist, who has also lived and worked in the UK and USA, but is now in Squamish, Canada. She trained and worked in graphic design before becoming a professional artist.

Sarah Symes (titles added to each image)


Sarah works by cutting textiles into the shapes she requires, pinning them to a base textile, before machine sewing the pieces into position. The image shown at right, above, was digitally designed and printed onto banners and was one of three award-winning designs that she produced for display in her local town.

The artist describes her working process as beginning with sketching. She then selects forms which suggest the landscapes she is depicting and aims to depict feelings, memories and emotions through her chosen colour palette. Textiles are purchased, washed and some are hand dyed to suit her requirements. The finished artworks are built up in “… an improvised process, like painting or collage, enabling the gradual build up of colour and texture.”

I like this artist’s work because the pieces are very evocative of the subject matter she depicts, but allow the viewer to bring their own associations to the shapes and colours she uses. For example, I can see buildings and windows in the Havana piece, and the colours evoke brightly painted buildings, dry earth and sun to me. Others may see something quite different.

 Leisa Rich is a Canadian artist whose work I had seen when researching drawing for this part of the coursework. Her layered work and experimental combinations of media are of particular interest to me.

Leisa Rich, titles appended to each image


Leisa takes an experimental approach to her artwork, but states that her favourite techniques are 3-D printing, and free motion machine embroidery. She mentions an interesting, heat-sensitive base material that she enjoys working with, called ‘Fosshape‘, (which I see is out of stock with the UK supplier, but is worth noting for future experimentation). Other materials used by the artist include:- thread, plastics, fabrics, mixed media, and re-purposed waste materials.

The framed pieces shown above are made from two or three layered frames featuring plastic with cutaway areas, stitch and paint or other media. The frames can be recombined in different configurations according to the viewer’s whim. The layering gives an added dimension to the artwork, and I like the simple method of presentation, and the technique of building an artwork out of smaller units.

Her artist’s statement has a touching story of how she came to make art. In it she says “… it is art I come back to, to notice, to capture, to recreate that feeling” [of a peaceful childhood in which she noticed everything]. Tiny objects which are often ignored are recreated in her art, through suggested structures, forms and textures.

I came to see Anna Gordon‘s jewellery through reading Kyra Cane’s book “Making & Drawing”. Stylised versions of plants, with abstract additions in some cases, have lingered in my memory.

Anna Gordon

Sources:- and Cane, 2012

Anna draws on all sorts of sources in her environment for inspiration, including nature and the repeated motifs found in textiles such as Japanese silks. She sketches her ideas before making the pieces by hand, trying to capture the quality of her drawn lines. Thought is given to how the “sketch” (ie, jewellery) will appear on the body, causing light reflections, shadows, movement and contrasts. The artist works with simplified organic and geometric forms in metal, combined with natural media, gemstones and/or enamel.

I find these reinterpretations of natural forms very successful, and the strange little additions give a moment of added surprise. The artist’s method of development, trying to capture the nature of her drawings in a new media is particularly pertinent to the forthcoming projects in the coursework.

Philip Hughes is an artist interested in landscape and the affect of man on that landscape. His work includes paintings, drawings, murals, rugs and tapestries. I recently discovered his work in the form of a book called “Patterns in the Landscape: The Notebooks of Philip Hughes“. I was captivated by his drawings and notes made in situ, showing landscapes in the UK, Australia, Iceland and the USA, amongst others. He worked, at that time, on recycled brown paper sketchbooks in pencil, making linear, contour drawing-type marks to describe the view in front of him. Small amounts of painted colour are added for later reference when making the finished artworks. I loved the look of the flat colour and pencil lines on the textured brown paper so much that I have ordered a kraft paper sketchbook (which I hope will be similar) to try for myself (and the paper seems appropriately ‘earthy’ in texture for representing plant life upon). In Philip’s drawings, some of the land forms are quite recognisable, but others evolve into abstract patterns. The colour palettes are very evocative of the particular country (or area of the country) depicted, and together with the artist’s notes (which might mention the weather, an animal seen, or details about the location) make a fascinating journal of his travels.

Philip Hughes


Colour palettes and carefully observed forms in the landscape seem to be key to this artist’s work.

Yesterday I went to the New Quilting exhibition at the Rheged centre in Cumbria. The work of textile artist, Janet Twinn was particularly relevant to this part of the coursework. For the art quilt shown below, the artist made a number of drawings and took photographs of garden plants to inform the shapes she would use in the piece. She then considered the colour palette. Janet dyes her own fabrics and/or paints or prints them, and keeps records in a separate technical book. In her artist’s statement, Janet says that colour is the most important aspect of her work, and that she is interested in its “… emotional effect on our senses and in how it can convey mood and atmosphere.”

Janet Twinn, Green Blooms, and developmental work for the piece

I felt that this art quilt was successful in conveying a sense of vibrancy and growth both in the use of colour and in the suggested plant forms. The palette used has analogous greens, including muted shades, combined with contrasting orange and purple from the secondary triads of the hue continuum. The use of hand coloured and decorated fabrics allows the artist control over the pattern and colours she creates.


What can I learn from these artists?

Sarah Symes – begin with sketching from first hand source material. Consider the forms used (representative of the source material), and colour palette (what associations does it evoke?).

Leisa Rich – take the time to notice small details (through use of the sketchbook and careful observation). Adopt an experimental approach and consider using new technologies and novel methods of presentation. Build a large artwork from smaller units. Consider the possibilities offered by layering and compositions that can be reconfigured.

Anna Gordon – concentrate on drawing from source material, then capturing the nature of that drawing in the new media (ie, paper, yarn and textiles, for me). Consider mixing unexpected elements with natural forms, such as geometric shapes.

Philip Hughes – make carefully studied drawings from first hand observation of source material. Keep notes and colour samples for future reference. Develop abstract forms from accurately rendered sketches.

Janet Twinn – use drawings and photographs of directly observed source materials. Use further drawing and painting to simplify and develop designs and colour palettes. Consider altering materials to your exact requirements.



Cane, K Making & Drawing, 2012, Bloomsbury, London, pp 14 – 17

Hughes, P Patterns in the Landscape: The Notebooks of Philip Hughes, 1998, Thames and Hudson, London

Websites:- Accessed 18/04/17 Accessed 19/04/17 Accessed 18/04/17 Accessed 18/04/17 Accessed 18/04/17 Accessed 19/04/17 Accessed 18/04/17

Coursework Part 4: Project 2: Creating Linear Forms: Exercise 4.3 Re-interpret, Re-invent: Research

I tried out French knitting on two of my yarn concepts for Exercise 4.1, and plaiting on two others, so I decided to have a look at knotting/macramé, which I had touched on with my net yarn concept for Exercise 4.2.  I found a book on the subject at Carlisle Library, (Williams and Mann, 2011).

I tried some of the techniques in the book:-


Knotting Samples

Lark’s Head Knot / synthetic mix yarn (top left)
(uses: anchoring knot, net making)

Ring Hitching / vintage linen embroidery thread over washers & nut (bottom left)
(uses: (traditionally) covering metal rings bolted to ship’s deck; earrings, jewellery)

Half Knot (macramé knot) / dyed raffia cord (second from left)
(uses: necklace cord, bracelet, macramé projects)

Double Flat Button Knot / gardening string (second from right)
(uses: closure with a large loop, focal point for necklace)

Button Knot / synthetic cord (right)
(uses: buttons, cuff links, spacer knot in jewellery making)

I have to say that I was not ‘grabbed’ by any of these samples, although they all might have their place in different types of project (the Lark’s Head Knot had been used to anchor the threads when making my net yarn, for example). I enjoyed making the Half Knot macramé strand, although I think a more regular cord would lead to a better outcome (I had tried it with natural raffia cord). The sample was further distressed by our cat. However, it is quite a rhythmic and soothing activity to make and I’m sure it would become more regular with practise.

One idea that occurred to me was to make some sort of vessel. I had seen such forms in Jean Draper’s book, (Draper, 2013).

Jean Draper, and Margaret Raine, assorted vessels

Source:- Draper, 2013

Jean Draper works the vessels seen at left, above, over a rice bag mould using a knotted buttonhole stitch to make the sides; the vessels seen on the right hand side, above, are randomly hand stitched over a mould.

Margaret Raine’s vessels (centre, above) are coiled, using an ancient basketry technique, wherein a firm, but flexible core is spiralled around and held in place with a finer thread. The resulting form can be flat or three-dimensional. Margaret’s vessels are delicate, hand-sized pieces made from cotton embroidery thread over a silk core.

I found a tutorial on coiled rope vessels, decorated with embroidery thread by Lisa Tilse, which is similar to that used by Margaret Raine, mentioned above.

I made a Pinterest board which includes images from artists working with vessels and similar forms.

Shannon Weber is an artist living and working in the US. She makes three-dimensional woven objects and sculptures from unusual materials, such as found natural materials (seaweed, wood, etc), and manmade items likes pieces from table games.

Shannon Weber, Dizzie


Both the colour palette and materials used by the artist are noteworthy. The lines of the coated wires or cords appear like a spinning top in motion in this swirling mass of vibrant colour.

Lizzie Farey is an artist whose work I saw at last year’s Spring Fling event in Dumfries & Galloway. She uses willow and other natural materials to make organic forms such as bowls, balls or nests, wall-mounted art works and sculpture.

Back to previous page

Lizzie Farey, Pussy Willow Bowl, 2005


This bowl appears to be quite loosely coiled without the regularity of normal basketwork. The interwoven coils that weave in and out of the structure diagonally are, I think, what holds the piece together. As well as the slightly ‘random’ look to this piece, I like the imaginative use of the pussy willow as decoration.

There seem to be numerous tutorials about weaving or coiling bowls: some use paper; some use flat grasses or fibres; others use willow or more traditional materials; and some use textiles, including braided textiles. I will try a number of samples first before embarking on a completed piece.

What can I learn from these artists?

  • there are numerous ways of connecting linear media to form a 2-D or 3-D form (stitch, weaving, coiling)
  • the media and colour palette chosen can give a very different feel to a piece (compare Shannon Weber’s Dizzie with Lizzie Farey’s Pussy Willow Bowl, for example)



Draper, J. (2013) Stitch and structure: Design and technique in two and three-dimensional textiles. London: Batsford.

Williams, L. and Mann, E. (2011) 75 decorative knots: A directory of knots and knotting techniques plus exquisite jewellery projects to make and wear. United Kingdom: Search Press.

Websites:- Accessed 08/02/17 Accessed 07/02/17 Accessed 06/02/17

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


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


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, selecting colours


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


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


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.


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


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.


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


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)


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


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


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)


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


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.



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.



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.




Christopher Jobson, 271 Years Before Pantone, an Artist Mixed and Described Every Color Imaginable in an 800-Page Book, on, 5 May 2014,

Nickie Shobeiry, Margrethe Odgaard, 12 January 2017, on Accessed 20/01/17


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:- Accessed 13/04/17 Accessed 20/01/17 Accessed (in vain!) 20/01/17 Accessed 22/01/17 Accessed 25/01/17 Accessed 18/01/17 Accessed 20/01/17 Accessed 19/01/17 Accessed 18/01/17 Accessed 20/01/17 Accessed 19/01/17 Accessed 22/01/17 Accessed 17/01/17 Accessed 25/01/17

Dumfries & Galloway Embroiderers’ Guild: Needlelace, Feltwork and Performance Costume

On 5 January the Dumfries & Galloway Embroiderers’ Guild had a session called ‘Corners’, for which we were split into three groups and spent 15 minutes with each of three speakers.

Liz Griggs, our Branch Chairman, spoke about her Needlelace work. (Follow the link to see a description of how this intricate textile is made.) Liz spoke about the method for making needlelace (a button hole stitch is worked over a pattern mounted on a sturdy background fabric. The main lines of the pattern are couched down and the stitches are built up around them. The finished piece is eventually snipped free from the background). Liz discussed some of the variations of needlelace-making, such as using layers of organza, which can be left in some areas and removed in others. We were able to handle some antique samples, such as a baby’s bonnet covered with tiny embroidery stitches. Liz’s own work for a City and Guilds qualification, was inspired by a 1920s fan pattern that she had extended to make this beautiful collar. My photos sadly do not do the piece justice, thanks to the light and other reflections in the hall.

Elizabeth Griggs, Needlelace Collar

Frieda Lyburn spoke about her wonderful feltwork pictures. Her first piece was based on a picture found in a calendar, of a Fife harbour with houses. She photocopied the image, cut that apart to form template pieces, cut those out in felt, sewed them to the background fabric, (which was painted with acrylic paint) and embellished the image with hand stitch and appliquéd details. I was interested to see how her work had progressed over time: a later piece had been glued together, and more recent work included some unusual materials such as shells and sand; tinsel that had been ironed flat between sheets of bakeoglide to represent seaweed; the silver material used behind radiators to reflect heat had been cut into slivers to represent highlights in the water. Her colour palettes included some almost fluorescent highlights, along with more ‘realistic’ colours. Very ingenious use and combinations of media!

Denise Shaw presented some performance costumes from the wardrobe of the Guild of Players, a theatre group formed in 1913, who perform at the Theatre Royal, Dumfries.

Myrrie Norman, 1970’s dress (left)

Edwardian dress (reported to be either a wedding or bridesmaid’s dress) (middle and right (detail of lace)).

Two pieces that particularly caught my eye were the 1970s ‘Abigail’s Party’-style of dress, with its lavish sleeves and floaty, synthetic fabric; and the blue and white striped Edwardian dress. Its silk lining had disintegrated, but the cotton lace and outer garment were still strong (although showing signs of water-staining). (Denise described problems of conservation, following the recent flooding in the town, and clothes moth infestation that had to be eradicated – garments and accessories made from animal fibres being the target, such as fur stoles). Other pieces on display included modern pantomime costumes – now made from more durable, synthetic textiles in exaggerated styles and bright colours. 1920s dresses, coats and jackets are often used in Agatha Christie adaptations. Shoes, hats and undergarments all have their place on stage (the latter often pinned to washing lines as part of the background!).

This was an interesting and informative event, broadening my knowledge of textiles and textile art.



Websites:- Accessed 06/01/17 Accessed 06/01/17

Textile Samples: Machine & Hand Sewn on Soluble Fabric

I bought some booklets on embroidery techniques, by Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn recently and thought I would try one of the exercises in ‘New Dimensions in Hand & Machine Embroidery’: Book 9, p5.

This involved making a machine sewn grid on soluble backing (I used some by Brother, which resembles thick, flexible plastic and is usually used as a temporary backing when making machine embroidered motifs. I also have another type, generously given to me by my friend, Margaret, which handles more like a fabric, but having tried a sample, I find that it really requires a frame to hold it taut, without one it is gathered into a scrunched bundle (below, right), so I have a frame on order as both types of soluble fabric would benefit from being held taut in a frame to avoid distortions).

The fabric is pinned to polystyrene before washing away the soluble backing, then it is dried before removing the pins and it can then be used as it is, or it can be decorated with further stitch. I tried adding a variety of yarns, ribbon and fabric strips.


The resulting fabric is reversible, and could be further oversewn by hand or machine. It resembles a loose weave. A possible texture to add to a wall hanging, or even a three-dimensional piece if it were shaped over an armature. A handy technique to call on, in any case.


Book:- Beaney, J. and Littlejohn, J. (2002) New dimensions. Double Trouble Enterprises, p5.

Contemporary Knitting

My Tutor, Cari, suggested, in my last feedback, a book by Francoise Tellier-Loumagne, called “The Art of Knitting” as a book to study.

The book has inspirational photographs showing what is possible using knitted techniques. Starting with the basics: knitting is a textile with …”fabrics structured from a series of loops, such as weft knitting and warp knitting”.  Weft knitting is formed from a single yarn, linked in courses. Warp knitting is formed by lengthways fibres fitted to a beam (as in weaving). Chains of loops are formed along the length of the fabric and can be linked crosswise using various techniques.

Fine mesh nets; Jacquard layers of different fibres; puckered surfaces; fur effects; ripples, ridges; voids and more, are possible using either hand tools or knitting machines. (There is a Guild of Machine Knitters, whose website has advice on buying knitting machines.)


Examples of ripple variations

Source:- (Tellier-Loumagne, Black, and Black, 2005), p235

This opens up a vast area that I know very little about (I was taught to knit plain and purl stitches by my Mum, and was briefly a member of a ‘knitting club’ at primary school – my sole output from the latter being a pink and white striped beanie hat, with quite a lot of help from my teacher). However, it may be an area that I return to in the future. In the meantime, prompted by this book recommendation and Rebecca Fairley’s article on the OCA website, I decided to take a look at some contemporary practice in knitting in the art world.

Emilie Zanon is the designer behind Capouche: a French company making one of a kind hats, that can be worn in a number of ways. She uses vintage fabrics and trims, sculptural forms and individual embellishments to ensure that each hat or garment is unique, and suited to its owner.

In her Vert de Gris Collection, she made a knitted garment with a strange and unsettling silhouette. Some parts of the garment hide and distort the shape of the body, while in other areas, it is closely fitted and revealing. The over-sized, knitted area on the back resembles pebbles and appears to be made from a fine stretchy tube textile (?stocking material) that has been stuffed and knitted. Knitting needles are part of the piece, giving the impression that the wearer is knitting their own costume. This is a fascinating mixture of textures. I can imagine performance costumes and soft sculptures made using these techniques.


Emilie Zanon, garment from Vert de Gris Collection


Australian performance artist, Casey Jenkins‘ Casting Off My Womb, involved the artist knitting from wool lodged in her vagina for the 28 days of her menstrual cycle. Her blood colours the white wool in places, and is knitted into the work providing a record or journal of her 28 days’ knitting and of her menstrual cycle. She describes the process in a YouTube video as “natural and uneventful” and of being “intimate with my own body”. Casey draws a link between a warm, fuzzy, “boring” pastime and the negative associations and fears that people have about the female body. I can see that her worst fears about how people react to the female body, and a natural process of the female body, were borne out by the overwhelmingly negative public reaction to the piece. The less of a taboo there is around menstruation, the better, in my opinion, so good for her!

Casey knitting vagina

Casey Jenkins, Casting Off My Womb (detail), 2013


Freddie Robins is a British artist, who questions the viewer’s ideas about the gentle craft of knitting by using her, sometimes humorous, work to explore themes such as violence and fear. She describes her method of making art as an evolving process (rather than working to a pre-conceived design), most recently incorporating samples and found or re-purposed items. In an article for The Guardian by Tamsin Blanchard, her home/’museum’ (shared with partner, Ben) is described as being filled with their numerous collections, which have influenced their art work.

Freddie Robins, Collection of Knitted Folk Objects – Pocky, 2014, machine knitted wool, reclaimed knitting needles, 700 × 400 × 120 mm


Isabel Berglunds is a Danish artist who uses knitting to make art such as the installation below, as well as art objects. Members of the public can explore and interact with the work, including garments that you can wear, that are part of the artwork. She seems to have a very imaginative and joyful approach to art, taking knitting from its usual, utilitarian place in the world, and turning it into an unlimited medium to explore different forms, scales, textures and functions.

Isabel Berglunds,  Monument of Stitches – A Social Art Project, 2016 Assembled at Trapholt Museum of Modern Art


The Fries Museum in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands had a recent knitting exhibition that included work by Isabel Berglunds, as well as Sarah Lund’s jumper from The Killing!

Wang Lei is a Chinese artist who uses different types of paper to meticulously knit his artworks. He is interested in how history and society changes over time. In the piece below he has used the paper from a Chinese bible to knit a traditional garment. In this way he is questioning the use of the language, culture and tradition, and of how people may forge new identities.

Wang Lei, The Chinese Bible , 2015, Paper Art with Frame, 84 x 8 x 99cm


Magda Sayeg is said to be the first ‘yarn-bomber’. Her website explains that she is now exploring new materials, such as lights with knit. She enjoys transforming hard, everyday objects with soft wool, which still allows them to remain functional and recognisable. She works to challenge the limitations of her chosen medium.

Magda Sayeg, knitted/crocheted covered bus in Mexico City



What can I learn from these artists and designers?

Emilie Zanon – use unexpected materials with traditional techniques. Exaggerate and combine different scales of stitch and forms.

Casey Jenkins – a simple craft can be subverted to ask wider questions of society.

Freddie Robins – use knitting as an artistic medium like any other. The juxtaposition of a craft that is traditionally performed by women, with an important point can add to the meaning of the piece. Be inspired by what interests you.

Isabel Berglunds – ‘limited only by your imagination’ is a phrase that springs to mind! Large scale and interactive pieces are possible.

Wang Lei – use of unusual and meaningful raw materials. Recreating traditional pieces in new materials.

Magda Sayeg – use wool to transform objects and change the viewer’s perception.


Articles:- Accessed 18/11/16 Accessed 18/11/16 Accessed 26/10/16 and 18/11/16


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

Websites:- Accessed 18/11/16 Accessed 18/11/16 Accessed 18/11/16 Accessed 18/11/16 Accessed 18/11/16 Accessed 18/11/16 Accessed 18/11/16 Accessed 18/11/16 Accessed 18/11/16

Design Inspiration

I borrowed two books on design from Carlisle library and found the following designers’/companies’ work of interest.

Droog Design is a Dutch designers’ collective, founded in 1993. Their work focuses on the process of design, as well as the outcome. They sell all sorts of household objects, from furniture to kitchen ware, lighting and decorative objects.

Tejo Remy for Droog, Rag Chair

The chair is made of layers of discarded ‘rags’ held together by packaging binding. The owner can customise the seating, by adding their own clothing to the design.

I feel that I ought to like this, because it contains recycled textiles used in an interesting way. As an art work I could admire the layers of clothing equated with layers of memories, and the fact that it points out how much waste we generate in our society. But as a chair, I am rather repelled by it. It doesn’t look very comfortable and I feel that it would smell musty, and it would remind me of a pile of laundry waiting to be dealt with. (I should say that I buy lots of textiles including clothing from charity shops, but they always get a good laundering before I use them, and that may also be the case with this chair!).

Tejo Remy and Rene VeenHuizen, Accidental Carpet (Rug Made From Recycled Blankets)

From the same designer with his design partner. This is much more to my taste and reminds me very much of the standing wool rugs that I have experimented with, except that it is made from strips of blanket glued to a base, rather than sewn together, as is traditional. Gluing is certainly a faster construction method. It reminds me of a slice of agate.

Lucienne Day designed textiles, wallpaper, carpets and tableware. She and her husband, Robin Day (a furniture designer) had their own design company. She also wrote books, presumably on the topic of design, which I will look out for. Her work was inspired by Modern Art (such as work by Jean Miro, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee). Her Calyx textile was featured at the Festival of Britain and was sold through Heals department stores. It is an abstracted version of plant anatomy with lines and cup shapes.

Lucienne Day, Heal’s Wholesale and Export, Calyx Textile (Grey) 1951


Lucienne Day, Heal Fabrics, Dandelion Clocks, 1953


I love these designs, very much representing the ‘atomic’ era in which they were designed. The mixture of observed and abstract plant anatomy mixed with lines and strange forms is wonderful.

Takuya Niimi and Yuki Niimi are Japanese designers. They won a Gold Award from Muji in 2007 for their “Towel With Further Options”.

Takuya Niimi and Yuki Niimi, Towel With Further Options, 2007


This clever design has the potential for various uses throughout its life cycle built in, by adding densely-woven strips that can be cut into without causing fraying. The bath towel can be used until worn, then cut down to make a smaller hand towel, bath mat, face cloth or cleaning cloth. The designers were inspired by the re-use of Japanese yukata kimonos as nappies/floor cloths, etc.

I find this simple, but thoughtful concept very appealing. Thinking about how a textile is manufactured, used, and recycled is a topic I will return to. Rebecca Fairley’s blog post on sustainability will be a good starting point for this future research. I see that the term “Design for Disassembly” applies to this product.

An unusual, ‘Sonic Fabric’ was invented by Alyce Stantoro in 2000. It is a textile woven from discarded audio tapes, and is playable using a cassette recorder head run over the fabric. (These heads have been set into the fingertips of gloves for performances using the textile). In 2006 production of the Sonic Fabric was also taken up by US textile company, Designtex. The textile is reputed to be practical to wear, soft and durable, made from a tape and cotton mix.

Alyce Stantoro, Dress made from Sonic Fabric


The musician/conceptual artist mentions that the idea came to her through an association with Buddhist Tibetan prayer flags, that contain mantras that when intoned are supposed to affect thoughts and physical matter. She connected this with a childhood use of audio tape on toy boats to show the wind direction. She had imagined being able to hear the taped sounds on the wind. Alyce records her own choice of significant music and specially collected everyday sounds onto the tape before it is woven, making this a piece of conceptual art as well as a unique textile.

The combination of sound and textile and being able to add ‘memories’ or ‘messages’ to the textile is an interesting one. Another possible layer of meaning is added to the narrative of the fabric, perhaps autobiographical?, or celebratory?, or simply refering to the time and place in which the textile was made.

What lessons can I learn from these designers?

  • Think about the sustainability and recycling aspect of a project. Perhaps work from a waste product, such as old blankets, and find new ways of using and recycling them.
  • Mix abstracted forms of real objects with abstract lines and shapes. Reflect the age in which you are designing.
  • Think about the ‘cradle-to-cradle’ approach when designing a product. How can its life be extended? How can it be disassembled for recycling?
  • Consider mixtures of traditional and non-traditional materials. The five senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste) could be brought into play to make a memorable art work.




Düchting, H., Hellman, C., Kozel, N. and Duchting, H. (2012) 50 designers you should know. Munich: Prestel.

Fairs, M. and Dixon, T. (2009) Green design: Creative, sustainable designs for the twenty-first century. London: Carlton Books.

Websites:- Accessed 24/10/16 Accessed 23/10/16 Accessed 24/10/16 Accessed 24/10/16