Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cas Holmes course

West Dean College
Last weekend a friend and I attended a course at West Dean College near Chichester. The tutor on the course was Cas Holmes, author of The Found Object in Textile Art, which readers will know is a favourite of mine.

The course ran over 3 days and was pretty intense, leaving us all exhausted at the end of each day. The college, its gardens and workshop facilities were excellent and I would recommend anyone to try a course there.
Cas demonstrating





We started by exploring textures in donated textiles. A theme of the weekend was the giving of pieces of fabric to each other, either willingly or randomly, to see what we could make of them.

I discovered that very interesting and subtle designs could be achieved by making rubbings of fabric with  fabric pastels. See example bottom right using white pastel on previously dyed fabric that was donated to me.

I also had success applying the pastels to lace and then ironing off the image onto plain fabric, even though these were not transfer crayons. On paper you can do the same with wax crayons.
Next we explored printing from fabric. I have several pieces of curtain fabric, that were given to me by a local shop, with a raised texture so I experimented with those.

You can either apply acrylic paint direct to the fabric and print it or brush paint onto a sheet of thick plastic first and press the fabric on to pick up the paint and then print.

The advantage of using the plastic is that a monoprint is created on the plastic which can also be printed. E.g. bottom left is the print from the fabric far left and the piece of fabric mid left above it shows the mono print.
Then we moved on to creating texture in fabric ourselves to print from. These were some examples that Cas had made previously. The joy of this is that you can use up any old fabric that you wouldn't know what to do with and it becomes useful.
I used a piece of old denim as a foundation and attached an off cut of fabric that had tucks sewn in and a piece with a lace edge. I sewed a fold in the fabric for extra texture.
We were also encouraged to sew pieces on the back to give a 2 sided printing block.
Then to print from it using acrylic paint, the same way as above using paint on a plastic sheet. I also used pastels to make rubbings of my block. A couple of these pieces have been stained with blue Brusho.

I also added extra detail by adding some free-machining.
As before, taking a mono print from the paint left behind on the plastic was equally fruitful. These print were on 'tea-bag' paper, which is very thin.

We were then encouraged to start assembling pieces of fabric together to a theme. I had taken along this image from the New Scientist magazine because I liked the colour combinations.
After much changing of mind this is what I assembled and then stitched. Another theme of this weekend for me was to be resourceful - we couldn't take all our threads, fabrics and trimmings to the course so we had to make the most of what we had. I wanted something more muted for the background so turned some fabric over and used the back.

We also tried out Cas' technique for using wallpaper paste to temporarily secure layers of fabric and paper together so that they can be stitched, printed on or otherwise worked into. I have tried this before - see my previous blog.


Another joy from this course was to see all the waste paint from my work mopped up with this drop cloth, which I also used to test out a few prints first. It could be cut up and incorporated in a future piece of work and this is one of the ways in which Cas works, she explained to us - keeping a thread from once piece of work to the next to spark new ideas in the future.

On the last day I gave up my blue/brown theme and moved on. I had taken with me some items of clothing from my daughters and so I focussed on making a piece with these. It would not have dried in time if I had pasted it so at the moment it is still pinned.

On the course I was most taken with the techniques to be able to create your own prints using stitched print blocks. finding uses for previously un-useful fabrics and discovering fabric pastel crayons.

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