Discussion 4

Helen commented on the nature of response and how it changes with each piece from an immediate instinctive response born of  similar ways of working/subject matter to that of a ‘slow burn’ that comes from seeing a different approach to looking at something as an outsider. Gemma has found that reflecting on responses has helped to inform each collaborator of the boundaries of their own practice. Helen wondered where ones own practice emerges when working with other peoples ideas.  More so than at any other stage each collaborators’ practice informed their final pieces on the fourth exchange.

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Boxes 4

printed fabric boxes

Kiran interpreted the original boxes piece by developing the scale of the fabric boxes and using the idea of form that they presented to explore her own prints in 3D. She experimented with stiffening the boxes, enlarged about 8 times, with starch and bonderweb. Different treatments make the boxes behave in different ways. Kiran also experimented with the opaque prints, which is one of her signature techniques, on tracing paper to build up a collection of boxes. She tried heat pressing the paper to flatten it but decided she preferred the texture of the print rather than the wrinkles that came out the heat press.

There were some technical issues with the development of the larger boxes and the function of the boxes in being a display for her fabrics. To begin with Kiran tried an all-over print copying the box construction initiated by Gemma. This involved too many layers of fabric as Kiran wanted to boxes to be as translucent as possible. This random distribution of the pattern was also not entirely satisfying.

Kiran re planned the next box to use half the fabric and designated certain panels to display the print. The nature of fine fabric also contributed to the design as the boxes rely on a structure of squares and the fabric was too flimsy to retain any linear structure. Kiran used Gemma’s idea of the method of construction being the decoration and designed a print of grid lines representing the folds and containing the panels of decorative print. This ‘decorative print’ is one of Kiran’s prints that are silk screen interpretations of shibori dye patterns. She uses these in her own work creating textiles for interiors.

Kiran used a combination of bonderweb and starch to hold the print as a more rigid sheet and to make the folds more permanent.  She feels that this is a starting point for making an entire body of work exploring form and presentation, a step towards a ‘product’ or way of defining an object interpretation of the prints. Kiran also feels that she could incorporate other characteristics of her work blending print and dye, by dunking the boxes in dye.

This exchange gave Kiran the opportunity to use her signature style of working, utilising someone else’s idea with techniques which she uses in her own practice. It was a relief to find a way of tackling form and structure, starting with something flat and creating a structure from it. Kiran found it an ‘acceptable’ way to incorporate the ideas of others as she always feels obtusely reluctant to take advice “ oh you should try this or that” Having the suggestion in a physical form rather than helpful advice was much easier to swallow and actually use.

There was some discussion about trying too hard to come up with a ‘product’, not letting things emerge naturally, the conflict of creating and selling work professionally. Kiran has been doing some ‘craft fairs’ but found them un interesting in that it was adapting ideas for items that did not have enough integrity. She has resolved to explore more artistic avenues than commercial formats of fairs and markets. There is a conflict between being a visitor at such events, enjoying them and appreciating the work and thinking ‘I can do that’. It might not be the best thing to do creatively or perhaps at this time.

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Pony 4

Pony antimacassar in situ

Helen says the Pony piece of work confused her for ages, she liked it and had looked forward to working with it. Perhaps at the beginning it was the piece she would have chosen if the participants had selected the first piece to work on. However she was unsure what to make of the work that had been done to the pony piece and how to respond to it.

Helen liked the fact that it had been taken from a kneeler in a church and the character of the kneeler as an object. She started doing stitching and distressing the photograph further but felt unrewarded and frustrated as if that was what was expected of her rather than something she considered that she wanted to do. She continued with this enjoying it less and less but unsure what else to do.

This in a physical and intellectual sense was not fun, a property Helen had felt that the piece did posses. She really wanted to embrace this fun characteristic again so she cut out the horses head! This was revealed with exclamations of surprise from the rest of the group. The piece now appeared as if a giant fuzzy felt of a horses head had been added as the hessian showed through the distinctive silhouette. It did seem something had been added rather than taken away.

Helen had enjoyed peeling the photo away from the hessian and the back of the picture layered with glue and fragments of hessian had looked like an interesting surface. She felt liberated. The horses head was liberated and the photo piece had also developed, becoming more fabric again.

Helen wanted the horse’s head to be incorporated in something interiors and home furnishings based, though originally a kneeler the object was seemingly more domestic than religious artefact in character. The horses head was revealed to be superimposed on an antimacassar, stitched down and looking very much ‘at home’.

detail of Pony antimacassar

There was brief discussion about antimacassars being an historical domestic accessory to protect chair backs from hair products, and the fact that this was also the idea behind the traditional large white sailor’s collar, it was designed to be removable and washable to protect the rest of the uniform.

Back to Pony, Helen felt that she was initially burdened by taking the piece too seriously, where as that was not her instinctive response to the piece, she felt she had been rewarded when she loosened up and took seemingly drastic action; trusting the instinct to play about with the piece.

Helen felt the entire process had been revealing and highlighted certain aspects of her practice. The nature of having a brief is quite rewarding sometimes the control or choice of subject matter is a burden. She felt it was benificial to have the peer group to talk things through with and most rewarding was the recognition that her own artistic voice was in fact unique, her contribution would be her own, not what anyone else would do, in that way it gave a kind of definition to her voice.

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Bridges 4

leafing through the book made for the Bridges piece

Gemma had inherited a sizable body of work with the bridges piece. The original lino print had provoked Mandy and Helen to break up the image and interpret the mark making and positive negative relationships of marks and collectively seemed to inspire an examination of colour charts and documentation. Gemma felt it was quite a treasure hunt sifting through all the sheets of paper and accumulated ideas.

Gemma also spent some time planning the piece and thinking things over, ideas took shape over the Christmas period when the landscape, disguised by snow, seemed to reflect the layered nature of the collective piece.

The idea of isolating and emerging marks repeats through the archive of material and Gemma took this up as a theme. She took snippets from each aspect of the project, compiling and finishing, coming full circle back to printmaking, a characterising aspect of Gemma’s own practice.

A series of landscape prints are compiled in a book covered in black felt. The first image is clean white embossed marks resembling snow drifts, this progressively breaks up print by print as sticks and stones, hollow spaces and time break up the snow. The prints are accompanied by a series of colour codes documenting the colour choices of the other participants through each stage of the project.

pages of the Bridges book

Gemma loves colour but does not use a great deal of it in her own work. She enjoyed collating the colours involved in the project, naming the colours in response to their nature in the respective pieces. Each person is allocated two pages of the landscape series, one documenting their own colour pallete, the other reflecting the collective colour selections. The book is reminiscent of a fabric swatch book in principal and has the character of an archival document.

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Rabbit Hood 4

Detail of an embroidered bird looking at darning visible through the lining of the cloak

Inspired by the folding, secretive nature of Gemma’s book, Mandy was struck by the idea of hidden narratives; unfolding, seeking, finding and secret compartments.

We discussed how the original hood and added cloak had merged in to a single piece, even though the hood was added at the second stage.

Although we had not specified that the final stage of the project must result in a completely finished piece work, Mandy felt it important that this was addressed, yet in advance she was unsure of how she would respond to the piece. The practical implications of finishing a textile work are an essential part of her practice in her own work, needing to finish items to a high standard for shows and exhibitions.

Mandy was attracted by the photos of the cloak and hood taken in the woods and decided to continue this woodland theme. Inspired by the illustrations of William Morris, Mandy took this opportunity to interpret an embroidered ‘mando manderin’ version of William Morris’ ‘Strawberry Thief’.

Homage to 'Strawberry Thief'

Mandy has taken on the task of lining the cloak but with a secret twist. She discovered some sun bleached fabric that complimented the existing colours of the hessian and threads of the decorative darning. The cloak now has a double lining, the surface immediately visible looks worn and well used, it is broken only by a row of buttons and ribbon button loops. These open to reveal a concealed layer of decorative fantasy.

The embroidered birds (worked from toy birds in the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood’s collection) peck at and steal vibrant stitched strawberries scattered over the cloth. Using bound button holes Mandy creates portholes in the lining making patches of darning visible.

Cloak lining opened out

Mandy talked about how she had planned this stage in great detail and this came though in the work. We discussed the nature of planning, thinking and doing. Helen felt that the project had helped her lighten her attitude to planning and doing, some times she feels caught up in unconstructive thinking, but having something specific to respond to has been a useful process.

Mandy had explored a colour pallet slightly beyond her normal choices, which was nice to pursue for a specified project. We discussed the benefit of having the opportunity of doing something that did not have to relate to the ongoing narrative of our individual practices.

There was some discussion about resources and historical sources, William Morris exhibition at Wightwick Manor in the midlands, Kiran had visited and the collections at MMU. We also taked about photographing the pieces for a collection of postcards.

Photographs by Liz Lock.

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Discussion 3

Discussions over tea

Ideas about new creative work centred on all working on a piece simultaneously in contrast to working on a piece individually one after the other. Having learned more about each other’s ways of working it seems we feel more confident about combining creative impulses, pooling all our skills to work on one piece.

We talked about wider issues of creative discipline, time constraints and the problems of concentration. We all share this impulse to represent and interpret our experiences though it is manifest differently in each of us. We share certain concerns like preciousness, responsibility to do something justifiable and complimentary to the piece currently being worked on. Some pieces had been easier to find a way into, or get to know. Others have proved more difficult and more demanding but may have been more rewarding.

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Rabbit Hood 3

Working with the character of the piece Gemma was inspired by textile artefacts and techniques that she may use from time to time but not necessarily within creative work. There is an Egyptian top in the Whitworth Gallery that is gossimar thin and appears to be heavily darned so the darning seems all that is left of it. This idea of darning was also in response to the structure and colour of the Hessian that makes up the hood and cloak.

Hood and cloak decoratively darned with a variety of yarns, some hand dyed and hand spun.

Gemma has decoratively darned the hood and cloak with hand spun yarns some of which are dyed with natural dyestuffs like onion. One of the yarns is spun yak darn and is very soft. These were materials Gemma had stored away awaiting use or inspiration.

In order to explore the character of the piece Gemma also photographed Bunnyears and produced a beak book (so called for its structure). Photographs of the hood and cloak in autumnal sunshine against a backdrop of leaves and shadows evoke childhood playtime and the essence of autumn.

Gemma felt looking back she had been less conscious of the piece being passed on, worrying about how to leave it for the next person and instead responded in a much more instinctive way to qualities within the piece.

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Boxes 3

Mandy had had an almost gut instinct, strong response to aspects of Helens work on the “Boxes” piece. To Helen the most satisfying response to the boxes was a photograph of a folded piece of satin with an embroidered motif. In the picture the folds in the cloth stand out as a geometric structure of light and shadow that is very striking.

Mandy felt drawn to the patchwork piece Helen produced, starching and stitching down the pieces as Helen had laid them out, in one corner in a regular pattern, in the opposite corner breaking out of the structure into a jumble of patches. The whole cloth then was given folds similar to the satin in the photograph, making the surface much more 3d, inspired by the photograph.

Patchwork piece embroidered and creased to provide structure.

Mandy was also inspired by the military character of the brooches Helen had developed from the pattern of the boxes. She has incorporated the military badge of her grandfather, who during the war flew for the navy inSquadron 816.

Using her industrial embroidery machine Mandy scanned in the badge and reworked it to produce the motif in the centre of the patchwork piece. She felt it was important to incorporate some personal imagery in response to the elements introduced to the piece by Helen.

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Pony 3

Kiran experienced similar initial response to Gemma with the Pony photograph, it felt important to break into the surface. She soaked the photo in water for quite some time and then worked at it with a scouring pad, rubbing the surface of the picture away on the creases and folds that emerged.

Pony showing a significantly distressed surface and vinyl motifs.

To work back into the piece, Kiran started researching needlework and tapestry stitches on the internet, downloading a needle work book full of gorgeous black and white images and technical diagrams of stitches. There was also a certain amount of material concerning the proper execution of stitches.

For motifs Kiran was taken with the idea of the horse and horseshoes being a slightly incongruous image for a church kneeler, though probably a very typical secular image. Kiran researched the history of the motif of the horseshoe and why it should be considered lucky, it seems the image is linked with the church though the story of St Dunstan and other similar stories.

Kiran is currently learning to use a Vinyl cutter and saw this as an opportunity to explore how certain aspects of the drawing programme and cutter worked. Generating a pattern of stitches, she cut shapes out, a pair of horseshoes and some leaves, playing with the positive and negative images the vinyl cutter produced. She cut the motifs out of flock vinyl in order to reintroduce some textile characteristics to the piece. The whole thing was heat pressed to flatten it out after the soaking and to attach the vinyl. It was then rubbed with graphite to take away the extreme whiteness that was the result of scrubbing the surface of the photograph.

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Bridges 3

Helen told the group this exchange had felt like a journey. Helen felt her approach to the piece was similar to Mandy’s, there was some concern of doing the print justice and similarly to the photograph Pony it seemed inaccessible in some ways. Helen was inspired by the stitched pieces Mandy did but again felt they were self contained works. She responded most to the negative Mandy produced which presented all the printed marks as motifs, broken up by the white background.

Taking this negative image and using other found images including a favourite textile, Helen built up compositions on tracing paper, responding to the general theme of landscape and the winter environment (there was a great deal of snow). She had also worked on selected parts of the black and white image taking circles and dislocating them from the original composition.

Then on an unrelated research trip to a recycle centre (Grumpys) Helen came across the remnants of a tapestry kit. This struck a cord with her and inspired the final push on the Bridges piece. Helen was drawn to the foliage and landscape aspects of the kit design and felt more inspired by this object than by some of the other processes she has explored. Out of the background of the tapestry backing cloth, Helen has stitched motifs that are inspired by her drawing process and the mark making from the bridges print.

Bridges reinterpreted as abstract landscape in stitch.

She reflected on the journey that she had undergone with the piece concluding that she is drawn to found objects and (make do and mend) philosophy rather than drawing from observation. There is some reluctance left over from ‘Art School’ to give yourself permission to work in the way that you want rather than the way you have been told will be the best. The difficulty of having so many options and choices, making decisions and knowing what you want. Helen wants to explore print to expand her painter’s tool kit.

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