Exhibition Visit: Glasgow School of Art Degree Show 2017

I spent yesterday with my friend, Margaret, at the Glasgow School of Art Degree Show. The first port of call was the Fine Art Show in Trongate.

Gemma Eun Bin Kim, Blue No 7, acrylic paint and mixed media on canvas

This student’s abstract paintings were very striking, with their limited colour palette of shades of blue and white. The marks seem to have been made by using a combination of letting the paint run by holding the canvas at an angle, and using bubbling in the blue paint (would washing up liquid added to the paint produce this effect?). I felt that the controlled runs in the paint gave a dynamic feel to these pieces, as well as evoking associations with Jackson Pollock‘s Abstract Expressionist work. I found the ‘bubbled’ areas interesting and may try to incorporate something similar into a painting that I’m working on at the moment.

Hannah Mooney

I loved this artist’s subdued colour palettes and her style of painting that reminded me of Paul Cezanne‘s work, and that of the Scottish Colourists, such as Peploe. The artist was born in Ireland and has painted numerous landscapes from that region. Her work was proving popular with the public and every piece had sold.

Reflecting on what I might learn from this artist:- use of traditional media, with a nod to previous artists’ work; simplified forms; carefully chosen palettes; beautifully observed subjects.

Dougie Blane, Elements of Easterhouse (above left), installation made from cubicle walls (above right)

This artist had made the small sculptural objects (balls) from materials taken from the Easterhouse area in Glasgow. The balls show the marks of the tools used to make them while retaining the properties of the source materials (earth, sandstone, vinyl, foil, wood etc). There were some missing as they had been stolen from an exhibition held in Easterhouse. The artist was philosophical about the public ‘interaction’ with his work. I found the mixture of textures and the marks of making on the pieces and the differences in the materials used, together with their link to a particular place an interesting record of the area. The huge ‘urn’-like sculpture made from part of the cubicle itself evoked associations with Andy Goldsworthy‘s work, using materials found in specific locations. I’m not sure how this could relate to my own work, unless it is in re-purposing textiles found at home and in the local area, or incorporating found objects into my work.

Over at the main site, opposite the Glasgow School of Art building, (which is still shrouded in scaffolding and undergoing extensive refurbishment following the fire), we visited the work of the students studying jewellery, textiles, fashion and design.

Adrienn Pesti‘s jewellery, silk clay, enamel, metal

This colourful collection was larger than life: like a small sculpture to be worn on the body. The black presentation ground set off the colourful palette of enamels well. The technique appeared to be using a very fine clay extruded through a mesh to form the ‘tufted’ texture, which was then mounted into silver settings. It appeared to be a fabric at first glance. I liked the mixture of metal and ceramic; the colourful enamelling and playful shapes of the arranged forms.

Miki Asai, various brooches

This Japanese-born jeweller conveys the “fleeting moment” in her jewellery, and espouses the wabi sabi aesthetic (a concept I had researched earlier). She uses a wide variety of materials for her work (paper, eggshell, seashell, pearls, Japanese lacquer, metals, gold leaf etc). The pieces had associations for me with micro mosaics and Gaudi’s architecture (such as Casa Batllo in Barcelona). I liked the sculptural shapes paired with interesting surfaces; the irregularities and variety.

Laura Herdman, final year project

This student had produced a highly textured collection based on her photographs of flowers (hydrangeas, in particular). She had conveyed the delicacy of petals and faded flowers in her choice of translucent fabrics and use of a subtle colour palette of faded watercolour tones. She also had developed a black and white version of some of the fabrics.

This reminded me of a sophisticated version of a prodded rag rug texture. The use of ?silk or organza-type fabrics gave a blurry, frayed, fragile look to the resulting textiles, however, unlike the more traditional heavy wool and cotton fabrics used.

Chantal Mcleish, A Repetition of Lines Creates a Pattern (samples and inspiration)

This student had taken inspiration from lines found in shipping containers and bins, which she collaged into images such as those above, and made drawings from them, before translating them into knitted samples. She used various weights of cotton paired with lycra to give stretch and raised linear elements to the textiles. Her textiles were created as a menswear/unisex knitwear collection for commercial Fashion.

These textiles appealed to me because of their linear pattern and the raised textures created. Although I don’t work in knitted fabrics, I can imagine creating raised lines (or the impression thereof) through print or sewn textile manipulation. The simplicity of the source material and its presentation looked very professional. I liked the bold contrasts in the colour palette, but would choose different combinations of colours for my own work.

Natascia Forte

Italian student, Natascia’s, collection used her home town, Pescara’s, architecture to inspire her. The resulting textiles show a mixture from highly textured: fluffy, bobbly, woven-look, to smoother, patterned knits, with a vibrant colour palette of pinks, creams, greys, and yellows. These would make an exciting collection of accessories or fashion clothing.

The creation and juxtaposition of different textures is something to bear in mind for my own work.

Becky Moore, printed textiles collection

This student’s bold, graphic prints seem ideal for this year’s trend of ‘tropical’. The collages used for exploring shape and colour are shown above right. The flat colour and forms of the patterns combining recognisable images (leaves) with abstract marks make a pleasing combination, and remind me of Lucienne Day‘s fabric designs (such as Dandelion Clocks, 1953). I like the combination of black and red in parts of the fabric, and can see this working well on wall hangings, curtain fabric and furnishings, such as sofas and rugs.

Joanne Mearns, a Scottish-born student is a Fashion designer whose final year project is a Womenswear collection inspired by Mediterranean and Caribbean locations. The garments created had a feeling of layering, collageing of materials, colours and textures. I enjoyed the updating of a tweed fabric as a ‘cut and shut’ coat. The highly textured fabric and high contrast palette worked well close up and at a distance.

Summary

This was an inspiring visit to see the students’ work. I especially enjoyed seeing the development work and varied interpretation of third year projects. I have given a tiny taste of the work on display, but will take away ideas on gathering inspiration; keeping sketchbooks; using considered colour palettes, and presenting work professionally. Other aspects to consider include the sound, (some students had sound installations) and explanations available. Some students provided outlines of their thinking for the projects: these were helpful when viewing and interpreting the work; also some provided business cards and contact details. While writing this article, I noticed that not all of the students had set up an up-to-date website showcasing their work. In this age of online connections I feel that this is a serious omission: most people who are interested in their work will search online for further information.

The student who had sold all of their work, seemed to be the one using the most traditional of materials: oil paint on board. Something to think about if one wishes to make a living from art!

References:-

Websites:-

https://www.facebook.com/adriennpesti Accessed 16/06/17

http://www.goldsworthy.cc.gla.ac.uk/ Accessed 16/06/17

http://gsapress.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/final-year-fashion-design-students-to.html (Joanne Mearns statement included in link) Accessed 16/06/17

https://www.hannahmooney.co.uk/ Accessed 16/06/17

https://www.jackson-pollock.org/ Accessed 16/06/17

https://www.mikiasai.com/ Accessed 16/06/17

https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/paul-cezanne Accessed 16/06/17

http://picbear.com/beckymooretextiles Accessed 16/06/17

http://www.robinandluciennedayfoundation.org/lives-and-designs/1950s Accessed 16/06/17

http://www.scottishcolourists.co.uk/peploe/gallery/ Accessed 16/06/17

https://the-dots.com/projects/final-year-project-158666 (Laura Herdman link) Accessed 16/06/17

https://the-dots.com/users/chantal-mcleish-206350 Accessed 16/06/17

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casa_Batll%C3%B3 Accessed 16/06/17

http://yooying.com/fortenatnat (Natascia Forte link) Accessed 16/06/17

 

Coursework Part 5: Project 3: Experimenting and Taking Risks

My first task was to evaluate the work completed so far in this part of the course. I laid out my drawings, paper manipulations, paper with stitch, yarn concepts and evaluative sketches and realised that there was too much to cope with, so I split the material into five groups. Each set of materials was inspired by a different subject. I will show each set of source material followed by the textiles that I created, inspired by it.

My approach was to continue in a spirit of experimentation, with a view to creating a collection of mixed fabrics, using some unusual materials, that can perhaps be layered with one another, or would create a strong contrast when placed next to each other, either in a fashion context, or for the interiors market. I am currently reading two books which have helped to shape my ideas and to give me some context for designing textiles: Briggs-Goode (2013) and Ginsburg (1991).

Alexander Calder Black Furrows Tapestry

Alexander Calder, Black Furrows, 1965, tapestry design

Source:- Ginsburg, 1991 (1995 reprint) p 181

Kontiki Liberty

Liberty’s Kontiki fabric, 1958

Source:- Ginsburg, 1991 (1995 reprint), p 94

Lucienne Day, Calyx, 1951

Source:- https://www.cranbrookartmuseum.org/artwork/lucienne-day-calyx-drapery-fabric/

paul nash cherry orchard

Paul Nash, Cherry Orchard, 1930-31

Source:- https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/180988478751040862/

I particularly admire designs such as those shown above. The use of strong contrasts in the colour palettes, paired with a bold, graphic style and abstract imagery are all elements that appeal to me.

Tulip

P1290942

#1 plastic bag, cut with scalpel into fine strips, joined at top and bottom

#2 postal sack, as above, with added ties

#3 polyester fabric with 3-D, cut and applied ‘tulip heads’ made from the same textile

The first red textile was directly derived from a sample made in the ‘plastic manipulation’ stage of the process. I felt that it represented the lines seen on the tulip petals well and could be layered over other textiles to give movement and an interesting shiny texture to an end product. It had quite a ‘punk’ feel to it, as did the next textile sample. Although, I felt that both might work on a larger scale as room dividers, or similar.

I introduced ties to the second variation, which was a bi-coloured plastic, and therefore has a different appearance when viewed from the front or reverse. The red ties give a random highlight of colour and perform the function of holding areas of the strips apart. Both of these textile samples have a very floppy, drapeable, lightweight feel to them. I have used a dramatic combination of colours from my chosen palette, giving strong contrasts.

Aiming for a more luxurious take on the idea, I made a repeated ‘tulip head’ shape from cut and gathered squares of a polyester, medium weight, faux silk fabric and attached them to a background of the same fabric. I chose a more muted, orangey shade of red from the palette. The three-dimensional aspect worked quite well, and I could imagine this fabric as a long evening skirt, or as a cushion cover.

Chard

P1290943

#4 cotton fabric with ‘paint on’, liquid batik dye, batik technique using paraffin and bees’ waxes

When I was drawing the plastic samples that I made, inspired by the chard leaf drawing, I was particularly taken with the one seen at centre above. The marks would, I thought, be suitable for representing in batik. I watered the dye in places to give the ‘shiny’ effect seen in the drawing. I did consider adding stitch to this piece, but decided that I preferred the simple and striking marks as they were, in the monochrome palette. I had tried and enjoyed making batik pictures about 35 years ago at school, and had recently purchased a second-hand wax melting pot on Ebay, so this was the ideal chance to try it out. The pattern contains more random dots than the original drawing thanks to wax drips, but I felt that these added to the variety and spontaneity of the design. One unexpected outcome occurred when I washed three samples together in the washing machine: the wax cracked, and the cracked areas re-dyed themselves with the mixture of dye in the water, so a faint secondary colour appeared, which softens the design, compared to the original drawing. Using a cold water dye would probably avoid that happening.

The resulting textile sample feels rather stiff from the dye and wax residue, but I think it would soften with repeated washing. I think that this design could be extended to form a fairly random-looking all-over pattern on fabric and could be rendered in a number of colour combinations, although I feel that the design suits a strong colour contrast. I think it would be suited to a dress or shirt fabric, a curtain fabric, or rug design.

Plum Tree/Blossom

P1290944

#5 cotton textile with cut petal shapes, wetted and crushed

#6 cotton textile with large lines of petal shapes

#7 pongee silk with cut voids, textile marker, net inserts, layered appliqué and French knot embroidery

Trying to emulate the cut paper samples from the source material, it was not so easy to cut folded fabric, so I felt that the first two samples were not very successful. I imagine that a laser cutting service could provide a much better outcome. On the positive side, the samples were quite interesting with the cut areas giving the possibility for layering, and good drapeability. In a finer fabric, such as silk, they might be suitable treatments for wedding dresses. Using laser cut felt, on the other hand, the textile samples might inspire interior fabrics. One unfortunate outcome was that I discovered that my ironing board cover bleeds colour onto wet fabric, so sample #6 ended up with a pink tinge in places.

Textile sample #7 was looking at the distant blossom, and exploring a more delicate scale. I had hoped to find a very fine cotton, but none was available at my local fabric shop, so I opted for pongee silk (sadly cream, rather than white). I was aiming to create a variety of textures and patterns. I thought that this piece had some nice aspects and it felt like a very feminine, light and ethereal fabric. I can imagine a blouse made from this, paired with a skirt made from #4. It might also be suitable as a Summery window treatment.

Catkin

P1290947

#8 cotton fabric with ‘paint on’, liquid batik dye, batik technique using paraffin and bees’ waxes

#9 as for #8

#10 re-purposed linen table-cloth, cotton embroidery thread, textile marker

Following on from my batik experiment with #4, I decided to try my hand at a larger, single motif that could be repeated all over a fabric, giving a large-scale pattern suitable for both clothing and home furnishings. (This reminded me of some earlier research into the Dutch company, Vlisco, as many of their fabrics sported large motifs in a printed, faux batik for the African market).

#9 concentrated on an all-over pattern that might have a number of end uses, such as for a craft fabric or wallpaper.

#10 simplified the colour palette to an all-white scheme, highlighting the subtle self-coloured textile marker pattern with added texture in the form of needle-punched ‘catkins’. This was carried out at a half-size scale of the previous sample. The combination of drawn marks and textured embroidery worked well together, and the embroidered aspect could be expanded to include all of the catkin heads and the stems for a more textured version. Its delicacy made me think of wedding dresses and veils, if it were executed on silk or satin fabric.

Distant Mixed Foliage

P1290949

#11 printed acrylic paint, embroidered ‘leaves’ on cotton fabric

#12 discharge dyed marks, painted marks, embroidery thread ties on cotton fabric

#13 couched, crumpled polyester fabric, wool chenille, and disassembled pom pom trim on dress net

#11 was inspired by the embroidered texture of one of the sewn paper manipulations, and the resulting yarn. I chose the burgundy from my colour palette with printed white stems and an orangey red for the leaves. The asymmetry would have to be reigned in a little to create an all-over pattern, but I think that this would make good curtain or cushion fabric, and could be turned into a printed fabric in a number of colour palettes.

I decided to continue the linear theme with the next textile sample, using bleach to create some marks inspired by the tree twigs and resulting yarn concept. To give the fabric a little texture and movement, I added embroidery thread ties in the soft green from the palette. I thought the reverse of this fabric was interesting (the white-painted aspect doesn’t show and the ties appear as little dashes of green). It is a very strong pattern, quite masculine in feel, and has a 1980s vibe. It reminds me of Chinese painted brush marks. It is possibly suited to a bedding or rug design, but I think a simpler version (similar to the reverse) would have been more successful.

#13 was a playful take on an idea inspired by the distant plum tree in blossom. I used bold shapes and colours from the palette on an almost transparent background, introducing exaggerated texture, with the intention that it could be layered over other fabrics. In a larger scale, I could see this embroidered on a dress bodice, or full skirt. I think it would also work well in a pastel or monotone palette. It could be developed into a simplified tree shape for printing in a repeated pattern (such as the design by Paul Nash at the start of this article).

Summary

I could have carried on this project for weeks: I have so many ideas generated by this work, and I barely touched on printing, as the textile paint I ordered has yet to appear! I will certainly return to this source material in the future, as I think that coming up with more stylised repeat designs for printing would be a fertile area for further exploration. I would also like to use a similar development process for making textured, abstract wall hangings based on landscapes.

What have I learnt during this Project?

I seem to be narrowing down my preferences to bold, abstract patterns and strongly contrasting colour palettes. I prefer very simple, uncluttered designs.

It has been interesting to try the batik technique after all these years, and it is certainly a technique I will revisit. The discharge dyeing with bleach was new to me and another way of altering fabric to add to my ‘toolbox’.

The idea of layering textiles has great potential for creating exciting combinations of colour and texture.

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References:-

Books:-

Ginsburg, Madeleine. The Illustrated History Of Textiles. Studio Editions, London, 1995

Briggs-Goode, Amanda. Printed Textile Design. Laurence King Publishing, London, 2013

Textile Samples: Knitted Fabrics

Since I have recently been studying contemporary work in knitting, I decided to look at how knitted fabrics are constructed.

Few early examples of knitted fabrics survive, so its origins are not certain. It is thought to have arrived in Europe from Asia c. AD 711-12. Stockings have been found dating to c.1200-1500 in Egypt, and knitted cushions from the late 13th century in Spain. By the 17th and 18th centuries knitting had become widespread as a suitable pastime for European ladies. Rev William Lee invented a knitting frame used for manufacturing stockings in 1589, but patterns and different shapes using the frame, were not possible for another hundred years. The knitted garment below was made to imitate woven silk.

knitted-silk-jacket

Knitted Silk Jacket, probably Italian, early 17th Century

Source:- (Harris, 1995), p173

Knitted fabrics can be made by hand or machine, and include jersey (such as tee-shirt fabric), tubular knit fabrics, hand knitted Arran jumpers, sweatshirting, airtex, ribbing etc. Yarn is looped together either along the weft, forming courses, as seen in hand knitting; or in vertical columns known as wales. Warp knitting is similar in structure to woven fabric with long columns of interlocking fibres, which can then be joined in various ways, meaning that the resulting textile is less likely to ‘run’ than weft knitting.

Knitted fabrics are popular for clothing as they have some stretch in them, can be warm and don’t tend to crease easily. But they can easily be damaged by stretching out of shape; shrinking with excess heat; are prone to insect damage if made of animal fibres; and can show piling.

The thickness of the textile can be varied depending on the type of stitch used, the size of needle, the thickness, or ‘count’ of the yarn. The finish can be altered by softening the fabric; felting; or brushing.

Pattern can be added by using decorative stitches, or alternating colours of yarn using a slip or float stitch (the yarn not appearing in a particular part of the pattern is carried across the reverse of the fabric, for example, Fair Isle knitting). This method makes the resulting textile less stretchy and thicker. Intarsia knitting uses colour changes which do not carry the unused yarns across the back of the fabric. This is a better technique when larger areas of one colour are required, as opposed to an all-over small pattern.

Bubbled, indented or puckered effects can be achieved by knitting some stitches and holding others on the needle. Holes can be controlled in the knit by transferring stitches to another needle, thus producing lacy effects or button holes, for example. In cable knitting groups of stitches are transferred during the knitting process to produce twists and patterns in the textile. Other techniques include weaving or laying a yarn onto the knitted fabric so that it is caught by the stitches into the design. Designs in a contrasting colour can be hand stitched over the knitted fabric.

Hand Knitting – carried out on needles of varying sizes, allows the individual maker to customise their knitted work regarding colour, texture, size, thickness, pattern and design.

Machine Knitting – yarn can be knitted to produce flat textiles or tubular ones. Both domestic and industrial knitting machines are available. Many use pre-programmed cards for selecting needles in the machine to produce particular patterns. Jacquard and knitting machines can produce detailed patterns from images, using computer technology. Machines use beds of horizontal needles, each producing a wale in the fabric. Single-bed machines produce stocking stitch (knit on one side, purl on the other), while double or V-bed machines (with two sets of needles) can produce double-knit or rib fabrics. Ribs are often used to finish necks, cuffs, and lower edges of garments to aid better fitting with their extra stretchy quality, but can be used to make a whole garment.

Warp knits are usually made on flat knitting machines: the best known makes being Tricot for use with fine yarns; and Raschel for textured work with thicker yarns. The latter can also produce open work used in net and lace textiles.

At Linton Falls in Yorkshire, a maker called R A Horner sells socks (tubes without soles) made using an antique sock knitting machine, using mixed recycled yarns. The fabric feels a little scratchy, but they are useful as a second pair in walking boots.

R A Horner, socks knitted from mixed recycled yarns, 2015

Source:- photographed by J K Walton

Designing Knit Fabrics

student-board-designing-knitted-fabrics

This image shows a student’s presentation board with inspirational photograph, knit textile samples and resulting garment.

Source:- (Stevenson and Steed, 2012), p70

Sandra Backlund is a Swedish fashion designer, who often works with knitted fabrics to produce dramatic and unique garments.

Sandra Backlund, piece from current collection

Source:- http://sandrabacklund.com/current-collection.php?page=51

Tata-Naka is the company run by Georgian-born twins, now living and working in London. Their new collection features knitted pieces, like this skirt and jumper, together with hand-embellished accessories such as beanie hats.

Tata-Naka, High Neck Ribbed Jumper

Source:- http://shop.tatanaka.com/index.php?id_product=273&controller=product

Knitwear can be knitted in one three-dimensional piece, or can be cut from lengths of knitted fabric, or constructed from individually knitted, shaped pieces.

High performance wool textiles are now being created, which can be crease resistant, or water resistant, “surface hardened” to survive outdoor wear and tear, stain resistant or light reflecting to maintain a cool temperature in hot conditions. Even without treatment, wool is durable, and has flame-resistance.

Deirdre Hoguet in an article for The Guardian praises wool for its environmentally friendly properties: “… it is rapidly renewable, biodegradable, recyclable, and can be produced organically. There are also new wool traceability standards and animal welfare standards to track its production.”

Summary

This research into knitted textiles has encouraged me to practise a bit of hand knitting and I managed to make two samples: stocking stitch on the left and plain knitting or garter stitch on the right.

knitted-samples

I’m not sure if I would want to specialise in knitted textiles, but they are certainly an interesting area for experimentation, with great potential for fashion, jewellery, household textiles, art and soft sculpture.

References:-

Books:-

Harris, J. (1995) Five Thousand years of textiles. Edited by Jennifer Harris. 2nd edn. London: British Museum Press in association with the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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

Udale, J. (2014) Textiles and fashion: Exploring printed textiles, knitwear, embroidery, menswear and Womenswear. Lausanne: Distributed in the USA & Canada by Watson-Guptill Publications.

Websites:- 

http://sandrabacklund.com Accessed 21/11/16

https://voormi.com/ Accessed 21/11/16

http://www.zegnagroup.com/lanificio/tessuti/high_performance Accessed 21/11/16

 

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

Source:- https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/102668066477716836/

Lucienne Day, Heal Fabrics, Dandelion Clocks, 1953

Source:-  https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/391953973800295426/

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

Source:- http://www.dezeen.com/2008/02/27/towel-with-further-options-by-niimi/

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

Source:- http://www.sonicfabric.com/about.html

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.

 

References:-

Books:-

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:-

http://www.alycesantoro.com/ Accessed 24/10/16

http://www.droog.com/ Accessed 23/10/16

http://www.remyveenhuizen.nl/ Accessed 24/10/16

http://www.robinandluciennedayfoundation.org/lives-and-designs/1950s Accessed 24/10/16

Assignment 2: Base Textiles and Stitching Into The Base Textiles: Piece Three

Choosing and Preparing The Base Textiles

I wanted to make something more abstract on the theme of re-wilding, inspired by the grass drawing, and paper manipulations shown previously. I thought I would include a photo of what it looks like ‘on the ground’. The tarmac is slowly populated with moss, then clover and daisies, and then grass and larger plants.

rewilding-photos-collage

Continuing with the red, white and black colour scheme, I decided to set some constraints for this third piece: I would stick to knots for the stitched aspect, and roughly rectangular shapes for the three different areas.

I started by considering the layout and where each colour should go, also the colour and type of stitch in this drawing.

assignment-two-piece-3-drawings

I thought about what the colours might mean in connection with the theme and decided upon:-

  • white in the centre for the lowest stitched area, representing sterility of the ground (when it is concreted over or built upon);
  • black for the medium ground, representing alchemy/change (thinking of formal gardens and farmland);
  • red for the wild area (back to my earlier theme of ‘nature red in tooth and claw’).

Considering the base textiles, I picked the thin, white table cloth textile for its fragility and slight translucence, rejecting various other textiles that weren’t white enough, or were too thick.

For the black area, I thought of a shirt that had lines like plough furrows on it, but decided that they would be too distracting against the stitch. A plain black felt was a possible choice, but the corduroy I found seemed to fit the bill better, as it had the raised ‘furrows’ on it, but no extra colour.

For the red section, I wanted to manipulate the textile to produce a ‘wild’ and varied surface, so I sorted out lots of different red fabric scraps, yarn, and some different types of textile (eg found orange net bag, red silk, darker red from a silky dressing gown, jersey, cotton etc). I experimented with the sewing machine and found that I could attach them to a base textile while introducing some folds, pleats and overlaps.

Stitching Into The Base Textiles

1 Directions of stitch and creating lines. 

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The stitch I decided to use was based on knots: small, self-coloured French knots for the centre in a random pattern (returning to the idea of hidden potential in the sterile surrounds); the black section would have medium-sized ties set in rows and quite tightly packed (like crops in a field); the red section would have very large and random ties, hopefully with a certain feeling of vigour to them. Another constraint I set was to use white for all the stitch (this after trying different colour placements in the drawing at the top of this article.)

2 Using stitch to create texture.

I tried different threads and yarns on the selected base textiles and chose white embroidery thread for the ease of sewing French knots, and it showed up well through the thin white base textile (like roots underground); the stiff, fairly thick linen thread was chosen to represent the farmland/formal garden marks (the embroidery thread split into individual threads after it was tied, the crochet thread was not white enough and too fine); for the red section I tried a nubbly yarn (too floppy and hard to sew through the base textile), string (same problems as the yarn) and chose the paper cord as it had a good springiness to it and was the easiest to sew with. I picked up a couple of techniques while sampling: the loops for the tied stitches had to be left long enough to be cut and tied easily before being snipped to the desired length; and to make holes in the ground for the thicker threads, I had to use one sharp needle, followed by a large blunt needle to make the holes large enough for the cord to pass through. I think that these three different threads, types of stitch, sizes of stitch, and placement of stitch, with the different densities, will provide quite different textures.

3 Deconstructing and recessing. The white base textile will be fine enough to enable the viewer to see (on close inspection) the lines of thread on the reverse, like roots underground.

4 Building relief. The white base textile will be on top, overlapping the black textile, and the red textile will be below them and surrounding them in places. I will applique the pieces into place. I was initially going to make all of the areas clean rectangles, but have decided to leave the red, manipulated textile with uneven edges, as if it is spreading ever outwards.

5 Looking at the reverse.

The reverse of this piece does not look as interesting as the first two pieces. The stitch on two of the sections is hidden, as they are appliqued to the largest section.

6 Repetition/scale/placement. There is repetition in the choice of stitch (all varieties of knots), the colour of stitch (white), the shape of the base textile sections (rectangular) and in the stitch within each section. Thinking of the scale in this piece, I wanted to exaggerate and contrast the difference between the smallest, the medium and largest stitches. I had made a small sketch to consider this, seen at point 1, above. I had deliberately arranged the placement of the sections so that all areas would touch at some point to produce the comparison between the texture in each. (Illustrated in the first drawing in this article.)

The Finished Piece

Re-wilding #3, 50 x 38 cm

Summary

I felt that this was the most successful of the three pieces I made. I certainly enjoyed making this piece the most. I think that the simplicity focuses the eye on the contrasts in the stitch (and what that might mean to the viewer), whereas the earlier pieces were perhaps too ‘busy’, with too much variety in the materials used. All of the textiles in this piece are re-purposed, which underlines the theme of caring for the Earth. If I was making it again, I would use a firmer backing for the red textile (I used thin quilt wadding, which was a bit too stretchy in places); and I would mount the white textile over card or plastic to give it a hard, crisp edge, rather than the soft, slightly uneven edge it has now. I had considered covering the white section in cling film, but, although I liked the idea of the ‘seeds’ being ‘shrink wrapped’ below the surface, when I tried it, I decided that I preferred it without the plastic overlay.

 

Assignment 2: Base Textiles and Stitching Into The Base Textiles: Piece Two

Choosing The Base Textiles

For this piece, I wanted to depict a series of interconnecting sections: one with damage, but hidden potential; the second showing healing and growth; and finally abundance. The idea initially came from my grass drawing, but is also influenced by the paper manipulations below:-

To make a needle punched wool section, I needed to use a loosely woven base textile, and considered three: monk’s cloth (white cotton); grey polyester rug backing and hessian (natural jute colour).

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The monk’s cloth was rejected because it would not contrast well enough with my red, white and black colour scheme. The hessian proved to have too loose a weave for needle punching, but the grey polyester was a good colour and would take the stitches and needle punching, so that was my choice of base textile.

Preparing The Base Textiles

In order to show the damaged aspect of the re-wilding idea inspired by the grass drawing and paper manipulations, I needed to make holes in the grey polyester. One of my paper manipulations had included burnt areas, so this was where I began my sampling.

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Unfortunately the polyester just buckled and shrank unevenly but did not form a hole when a match was applied (sample at left). I tried making holes first to see if a flame would singe the edges of the holes, but the loose threads melted leaving open black holes: not quite what I was looking for (sample second from left).

The central sample shows scissor-cut holes, which I preferred to the burnt ones, however to supply the blackened look to the edges, I tried adding felt pen and then acrylic paint. I opted to use the sample at far right with the paint, as it gave a bolder colour, and stiffer aspect to the cut edges, which I hoped would enable me to manipulate them open to reveal a layer beneath.

Stitching Into The Base Textiles

1 Directions of stitch and creating lines. My plan was to make three connected circles (Earths). The first showing damage (with potential); the second circle healing; and the third would have an abundant, wild feel to it. To show potential, I decided to have a ‘hidden’ layer with tiny ‘seeds’ of potential below the damaged surface. A random seed stitch seemed the ideal way of depicting this. For the second section, I wanted to show healing, by repairing the holes (using a straight stitch surrounding the hole, and then a darning stitch over some of them), and also including ‘germinating’ plants. The stitches I selected for the latter were French knots, then tied threads with ends on the surface, finally couching some organza-like fabric in place to give a more densely-covered appearance to the surface. The third circle would be fairly densely covered with needle punched wool with inclusions of other yarns, threads, the organza fabric etc.

I made some sketches and notes about how I thought the piece should look, with the stitches I envisaged using.

2 Using stitch to create texture. This piece would be very much focused on textures. There would be increasing density of stitches and thickness of the threads and yarns employed, with each successive circle.

I tried out some stitches and couching on small samples. Some yarns were rejected as they would not fit into the needle punch and run through it smoothly. A stiff, wiry thread was found to represent the germinating plant life, however, it proved to be too stiff for making French knots, so a vintage embroidery thread was used for that purpose. A combination of cut and looped yarns would be used in the ‘abundant’ circle, along with some strips of organza-like fabric, and bound cord, to give a three-dimensional and layered feel to the piece.

3 Deconstructing and recessing. The first and second circles will have holed and damaged areas, with a ‘hidden’ layer under the first circle featuring the seed stitches. I selected a black felt for the under layer as the seed stitches embed nicely into the surface (sample shown above right, middle).

4 Building relief. In the second circle, some of the stitches will be on top of ruched and frayed textile strips. The third circle will have a three-dimensional texture with threads, yarns and fabric standing proud of the base textile.

5 Looking at the reverse.

I find the needle punched area (largest circle) very interesting on the reverse: it looks like a running stitch, giving little clue as to the texture on the other side.

6 Repetition/scale/placement. I have aimed for repetition in the use of three circles or Earths in this piece. The scale is explored in starting with tiny, almost hidden, seed stitches, increasing to more texture and boldness in the second circle and a riot of texture and variety in the third circle. The three circles themselves, increase in size as they descend from top to bottom. Placement is highlighted at the areas where the circles meet and overlap. This was explored in my sketch shown at point 1, above.

The Finished Piece

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Re-wilding #2, 23 x 45 cm (stitched area)

The first circle has cut and painted base textile; the circle is outlined in straight stitch. A circle of black felt with red seed stitches is attached to the reverse. Small stitches hold the holes open to reveal the hidden layer.

The second circle has embroidery thread French knots; the damaged areas showing signs of repair (‘healing’); moving downwards to tied knots in a wiry thread suggesting small plants, then the same tied stitches are couched over red fabric scraps to give an impression of thickening plant cover.

The third, ‘abundant’ circle has needle punched wool yarn at two height levels and increasing density of stitches towards the bottom of the circle. The top section has contrasting wiry, tied threads emerging, together with small clumps of plant like, cut yarns in red and black. These elements increase in scale towards the bottom and are joined by bound and couched cord (suggesting exotic plant or animal life), and prodded and tied red textile to give an added dimension and layer of interest to the textures. The tips of the red textile are cut to points, suggesting leaves.

Summary

The first two circles had some interesting and, I think, successful elements to them: the damaged surface with layer below, just visible; the tied stitches, and French knots outlining the top of the circle were pleasing. I was less keen on the third circle, which although it looks dense and ‘alive’, could also be said to resemble an unsavoury pizza, which was not what I was aiming for at all. Thinking about why that is, I think the colour scheme, and the patches of red and black cut yarns were not successful in suggesting plant life. Although, for this exercise, I have nominated red, white and black as my chosen colour palette, I think that a more ‘realistic’ green ‘plant life’ would probably work better. I may return to this theme at a later date and try that, however, for now, I will stick to my chosen colours. I did, however, like the wool yarn with its differing heights and some areas of the base textile showing through.

Macclesfield Silk Museum: Paradise Mill Tour

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On Saturday 6 August, as an optional extra of the study visit to the ‘Making Space’ exhibition at the Macclesfield Silk Museum, four of us also took a tour of the Paradise Mill with tour guide, Derek.

In 1743 Charles Roe built the first water-powered mill in the town, and Macclesfield soon became Britain’s main centre of silk production. Paradise Mill opened in 1862 and is preserved in the condition that dates to the 1930s.

Our guide first explained how the silk used in the Mill was obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm (fed on white mulberry) Bombyx mori. These insects are reared in captivity (known as sericulture). The unfortunate creatures are killed (by boiling or piercing with a needle), allowing the whole thread to be unwound from the cocoon unbroken. The white fibre obtained is dyed and wound into skeins (seen at the bottom of this machine).

This pirn winder (above) transfers the silk fibre from the skein, to a neatly wound reel, ready for weaving either the warp or the weft of the fabric. Pirn winding could also be worked on manual machines, forming a single reel of thread at a time: a job often carried out by children.

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The creel (shown at right of the photo above) is loaded with reels of silk ready for preparing the warp threads.

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The creel machine tensions the warp threads onto a beam, ready for warping, when transfered to the loom. 9,200 warp threads are attached for a full width of fabric. Smaller reels of thread are inserted into the shuttles for weaving the weft of the fabric.

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The looms in this part of the Mill are Jacquard looms, operated by a series of ‘instruction’ cards with holes punched in them (similar to those used in early computors). The design was drawn out on graph paper with 8 sections per square (shown at right, above). The design was transferred by skilled and highly paid workers to the cards, using four fingers of each hand to work finger levers, while their eyes travel along from left to right of the design, ‘reading’ one line at a time, on a machine that punches the holes. The Jacquard loom has pins that mechanically read the cards, causing the loom to create the appropriate sheds between the warp fibres for the weft to pass through, thus creating the pattern.

To distinguish between the different sets of cards, each has a label with a sample of the cloth produced, and written details on the reverse.

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A sample of the very fine pattern that can be produced by this method. A good weaver could produce 15 yards of fabric per week. Many of the looms have been restored to working condition and Derek gave us a demonstation of one in action, involving a foot pedal to select the next instruction card, and manual action to propel the shuttle back and forth and to do the ‘beating-up’, when the weft is pushed down to line up with the already woven fabric.

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The Mill produced silk that was used, for example, for covering buttons, in the late 18th century, but was taken over by Cartwright & Sheldon in 1912. The company manufactured hand-woven silk for use in tie making (examples shown above). The Jacquard system allowed for a more intricate design than the power looms could achieve at that time. Nowadays the Jacquard process is performed electronically using CAD (computor aided design).

Paradise Mill ceased production in the 1960s, when cheap imports from China began to dominate the market. It had managed to keep going that long, by manufacturing specialist fabrics. An example of a commission undertaken showed a photographic portrait of a man, converted into a chart on graph paper, transferred into the punched cards and so to a tiny, detailed, one inch version in the finished silk textile.

Two YouTube videos shows tours around the Mill.

Source:- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCI4xFcKYLVjMNfIfa7C2z1g

This was a clearly explained tour of the Jacquard looms, and, because of the state of preservation of the Mill, it was easy to imagine it in full production, with a busy workforce, 25% of whom were children. Derek had demonstrated some of the machinery and the noise of all of them running at once must have been tremendous. It was poignant to think of the once thriving industry reduced to a museum; with the loss of many livelihoods and skills.

Thinking of my own work, I had tried simple weaving as a child with cardboard looms and wool, and later I had used a table top loom to make experimental textiles out of mixed waste fabrics with string warps. I’m not sure that I have the patience or temperament for the careful warping process required before weaving, and it is not something I have returned to, although I admire the tradition, the process and the resulting textiles.

The silk fibres and textiles are quite beautiful, with their fine handle and shimmering, quality. I love the bright colours that can be achieved by dying the fibre. I was interested to read that the gleaming look of the fibre is due to its structure: a triangular prism-like form that refracts incoming light at different angles. ‘Wild silk’ collected from cocoons gathered in the wild, from which the silk worm pupae have emerged naturally, seems like an ethical alternative to the farmed fibres, but it does require carding to produce a fibre from the shorter lengths of silk obtained from the damaged cocoons, and is therefore less fine in texture.

Sources:-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silk

http://www.manchester2002-uk.com/history/victorian/maccsilkmill.html

http://www.silkmacclesfield.org.uk/silk-museum/paradise-mill-ibid

https://textileapex.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/pirn-winding.html

http://www.tikp.co.uk/knowledge/technology/warping/

All consulted 12/08/16