Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Week 22 - Preparing samples

More work on my final hand-stitch piece this week. I have made myself a swatch board with all the different colours of painted paper in my design, together with notes of how I mixed the colours. This was very useful when I went to the shop to buy the embroidery cottons I needed to sew the stitches.

As we are not allowed to use Brusho to colour our fabric for the final piece (because it is not light-fast) I now have to work out how to achieve these colours using acrylic paints.

Getting the colours right was not too hard but painting the fabric so that it didn't streak too much was. These samples are on cotton, linen and evenweave canvas. I have decided to use linen for the background and leaves and evenweave for the blackwork flower heads.

I have also been creating stitch samples to try out the different stitches and techniques. You just have to do enough to prove to yourself that you like or don't like the effect you are getting.

The bit I still have to focus on is getting the birch trees right. Although I like the stitch sample on the right, the black is too strong so I need to have another go with more muted greys.
This weekend a few of us from college went to the Art and Craft Show as Owlesbury - a village the far side of Winchester. Our class support from college, Alison, was demonstrating the use of her embellishing machine. This is a machine with 12 barbed needles and no thread. It rapidly meshes the fibres of the threads and fabrics together in a kind of machine needle felt.

I bought one of her cards - see left.

There was lots of other textile art on display.

These pieces are by Caroline Bell, a degree student at Eastleigh College. She obviously admires Angie Lewin as much as I do as the left, top and right hand pieces are very similar to prints in the book I am using to inspire my final piece.
Quilt inspired by Matisse by Sue Chapman, a lecturer at Eastleigh College

Monday, March 19, 2012

Week 21 - Designing first final piece

 At college this week we started to design our final hand-stitch piece. It had to be based on something that we referenced or created in our zig-zag line book last November. From what I had done my choices were something based on my pylon page, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cerne or something based on Angie Lewin's Birches print. I think that the pylon is more suited to machine stitching and I couldn't find any good quality images for the LHC when I was putting the book together so I opted for the Angie Lewin influence. She is a print maker who creates pictures of the natural world in a very stylised way with 50's era colours. I like the way with her work that you can still tell what the plants are as she is good at capturing their habit.

I started by selecting some common wasteland plants and sketching them out of identification books to understand their habit.
I chose Plantain, Knapweed, Goatsbeard, Goosegrass, Cow Parsley and Shepherd's Purse. They all have different habits and distinctive characteristics. They are also all ones that Angie Lewin has captured in her prints.
Then I created a composition to put them all together. This in an A3 pad and I have ruled 2 wide margins either side to make the central panel tall and thin. In the background I have put silver birch trunks on the right and the foot of a pylon on the left. I went walking with my Dad to take a photo of the foot of a pylon growing in a field to see what this looked like!
Next I had to create a full colour mock-up of the piece to demonstrate to my tutor which colours I was going to use. I painted pieces of lining paper with Brusho and then collaged the whole piece. The silver birch trunks are created by rubbing a candle across the paper before applying the wash of black Brusho to resist it and create the stripes.

This is as far as I have got and it has taken me ages. I am not sure that I have got the background colour quite right and I am also not sure whether I will include the pylon in the finished piece as I think there is a danger if it all being too busy.

The embroidery is shown in black pen - some stems and patterns of stitches on the flowers and leaves. Angie Lewin's treatment of flower heads reminds me of free-form Blackwork embroidery so this is what I am aiming at.

I am pleased with the way I have captured the plants - you can still identify what they are.

The next stage is to choose some fabric and threads and work out how I am going to construct this piece.
I have completed my stitch challenge. This was a free-form piece of hand-stitch depicting Bokhara Couching - irregular - diagonal. It was quick to do and I enjoyed doing it. It measures about 14cm square.
I have also constructed by Shape Book. It makes a 3D shape when unfolded and so is impossible to photograph! To see the individual pages look at my blog post for Week 20.

Finally, the 2 Mother's Day cards I have made. For this one I printed anemone type flowers in orange on a paler circle of orange and then printed a black centre, all using Brusho. I ripped them out and mounted them on circles of brown sweet wrapper along side a strip of printed paper. The whole lot is mounted on a tall thin yellow card blank and finished with lengths of co-ordinating wool and threads on the spine.
The second one was again printed using the method described in last week's blog. I used blue and purple acrylics to print a kind of bouquet and cut this out smaller than the card. I finished the centre of each flower with silver and white gel pens and edged the whole square in silver. It is mounted onto a white square card blank that I painted with deep purple all around the edge first.
My Mom loved it!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Week 20 - Printing

This week at college we started with printing for our shapes topic. We began by making our printing blocks out of self-adhesive foam stuck onto off-cuts of mount board. It was quite difficult to cut the foam accurately.

To prime the block and stop it from disintegrating we painted the whole thing with acrylic paint and let it dry before experimenting. These are the blocks I made and my test sheet to see how they came out.
Then we got printing. I decided to restrict my colours to black, orange and magenta so as to focus on the shapes and patterns.
Here I put a wash of yellow Brusho over the acrylic prints once dry.
I like the way that when you print more than once from the same layer of paint you get see-through overlaps.
I tried combining the shapes to make new ones. Overall I loved doing this and will definitely do more in the future.

Then we moved onto a Stitch Challenge in the last part of the class. Using a random selection method we were given a stitch and its characteristics to create a small sample of hand stitch. Mine was 'Bokhara couching - irregular - diagonal'. Bokhara couching is where you stitch down a thread with small slanting over-stitches. I didn't get very far so I will have to finish it  and post a photo next week.
At home I have been concentrating on completing my texture and shape design work.

This is the first page of my Shape Book. When assembled it will resemble an origami star, hence the diagonal folds on some of the pages.

The book has to show the use of:

  • random and geometric lines to make shapes and patterns 
  • manipulation of regular and irregular shapes to make patterns
  • exploration of the void between shapes
  • the understanding of how 2D shapes make 3D forms.
Above top left is an experiment with a Paint programme on the computer - if it's good enough for David Hockney...! 
Top right reminded me of being a child again, where I loved colouring in Altair Design Pads to make patterns on holiday, but I didn't learn anything new.
Bottom left is my photo of a pylon hand coloured with Brusho and marker pen. I think this is really striking and you can hardly recognise that it is a pylon.
Bottom right takes inspiration from a found image of a building where I repeated the same 2 blocks in columns, keeping the bottom block constant and changing the pattern in the top block. Some interesting new shapes and patterns emerged this way.

Page 2 opposite features my previous blackwork created using machine patterns and my printing from above.
Page 3 shows exploration of tesselation and counterchange using Escher prints as inspiration.
Page 4 looks at the void between shapes. I doodled the pattern top right and coloured in the void with marker pen. Then I wondered if I could create something similar by printing with white acrylic and putting a black wash over with Brusho. It produces quite an interesting result.

Finally I included my card net for my embroidered box, which happens to be made out of gold card. I had to hold it flat with a split pin pushed through a sheet of backing card so I covered this with a scan of the actual fabric I used on my box.

Inside the card net I stuck the photo of the inside of my box - lucky that I took a nice clear photo of this when it was still flat. I love that this is so unexpected when you open up the box.

Next I need to make the book covers and assemble it - see photos next week.
Finally to finish off the presentation of my texture work I have mounted it all onto stone-shaped pieces of backing card.

Here is how the monoprints look. Some of them are plain and some have been layered with printed acetate or sweet wrappers or both. I gave them a black edging with a marker pen to make it look like they were slices of polished agate.

These will be displayed in my paper pulp bowl for final assessment.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Week 19 - Paper Pulp

This week we made paper. It was very interesting, creative, fun and wet! Prior to the class we prepared our paper. I ripped coloured serviettes, used white envelopes and old Primark bags into 1 inch strips. You have to keep the colours separate else the resulting pulp can turn a murky colour.

Each batch of ripped paper is soaked briefly in water and then whizzed in a blender until reduced to a pulp with lots of water. The pulp is tipped into a large plastic tray half full of water.
You then put a piece of mesh into the pulp tray and bring it up to the surface to trap the pulp. We used car body repair mesh. This is laid down carefully onto a kitchen cloth sitting on a pile of old newspapers to soak up the water. You can repeat as many times as necessary to get the size and thickness of paper you want. It is amazing how much water it holds onto, even on the mesh.
You can layer different colours of pulp on top of each other, make holes or embed things in the pulp. Here I did a layer of black, added some old stamps and then did a thin layer of white.

After each sheet of paper you just lay another kitchen cloth on top and make another piece till you have a big stack of wet paper sheets.

To squeeze out the water you put a piece of wood on top and carefully stand on it. It is recommended to do this outside and also for another person to hold onto you for stability otherwise you can aquaplane. Unused pulp is chucked on the compost heap as it will block the sink!

I put the stack of damp papers, still on their cloths in the airing cupboard for a few days and ironed them to remove the last bit of damp as I separated them out.

Here are some of my dried pieces. Trapped in the papers are hole-punch waste, bits of thread, dried flowers, tea leaves, onion skins and postage stamps. Unfortunately the red colour from one pulp bled through into its neighbours in the stack and likewise with the onion skins.
This was my favourite one - black pulp with threads embedded.
You can also drag unravelled sisal string through the pulp and add extra bits with the mesh to create something more dynamic than a flat sheet of paper.
Then we moved on to create a paper pulp bowl using the old brown bags. We started by covering an object that would be the mould with layers of cling-film. To give the final bowl strength and texture we unravelled lengths of sisal string - enough to cover the mould.

Then we dragged the string, bit by bit, through the pulp and laid it over the mould to provide the foundation layer.
We added more pulp with our mesh to cover the string completely and make an even layer all over. It was pretty easy to do - much easier than trying to make a bowl using the traditional papier mache method.

Then I had to get it home in the car and leave it to dry next to the radiator for 3 days.

It was difficult to get the bowl off the mould once it was dry. I pulled at the cling-film and wiggled it as much as possible. I was scared of tearing the edges as they are naturally much thinner and more fragile. Eventually it just popped off.
I was very pleased with the result. It has much more texture on the inside than the outside because of the string.
The uneven edge adds a lot to its charm.

I was itching to see if I could sew into it so after checking at college that it wouldn't ruin my machine, I gave it a go.
I did free-machining in 4 colours in a band around the edge. You cannot get the bowl any further under the machine anyway and stitching it was a lot easier than I expected.
I think I will paint the outside a dark colour for contrast and it is advisable to also give it a coat of PVA glue to make it moisture resistant. We have made this bowl to display all our texture design work in, in the form of 'stones' so I will need to finish those off next.
This week we also started on the topic of 'Shape', the last of our design topics. We began with tessellation. Take a square of paper and cut a random shape out of one edge and stick it on the opposite edge.
You can then transfer this to card to create a template to draw round and then start tessellating!
I tried switching the direction of the template and also making the zig-zag lines join up but it is still a bit boring.
So then I tried a curvy shape, which was a bit more interesting.
Finally I went for it by cutting into 2 of the edges and creating this. It can still be improved on a lot so I will no doubt be reflecting on this over the coming weeks as we need to more of this to put into our Shape design books.