Assignment 1 Tutor Report Nina O’Conner 513049 (1)
Assignment 2 Tutor Report Nina O’Conner 513049 (1)
To improve both the presentation of both assignments 1 & 2, the pages were bound into book form in response to the Tutor’s suggestions.
Tutor Report from Assignment 3
There were many helpful pointers in this report which have influenced that way i have worked since its receipt.
As suggested by the tutor, in preparation for assessment, I have improved the presentation by sewing down all the samples and making a book of the pages. Also included is a fourth A5 booklet of drawings, explorations and research undertaken during Assignment 3, but not submitted to the tutor.
Tutor Report Assignment 4
I was frustrated that I hadn’t identified that the blue and grey yarns used in my final piece were too similar, didn’t provided the contrast I sought and didn’t match my painted paper sample. In addition, I found some shapes difficult to produce.
My tutor’s comments: “I think you sensed you had some issues with achieving the colours and proportions you wanted here (page 36). I think this is because surface texture will change how a colour is perceived, so although a colour/tone may look right in the paper collages, you have to make adjustments when working with fibre based materials. One issue with weaving is that it is such a slow process, that often you might see something is wrong, but you haven’t got time to put it right. This is why both wool windings are so useful, to explore both texture and proportion of colour. (It would have been useful to see one at this stage – don’t think of them as simply analysis tools).
You would have also solved your problems by sampling in fibre based materials for the final collages, rather than confining yourself to paper. (You might want to re-visit this in the period after assignment 5 and assessment – improve your assignment by adding some alternative designs in fabric or wools on a small scale. )”
In response to the above comments, the following small windings and samples were produced. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t think to do either at the time as both windings and a small sample would have solved my problems before I started. The windings give a very quick indication if the colours work well together and the samples are ideal for trying out designs. This has been a useful exercise.
As previously posted, my Tutor Report for Assignment 5 included some suggestions as to how I might re-think my final piece and consider some more areas of relevant contextual research to improve my submission.
I wondered just how far I could/should go and decided to begin the suggested areas of research with the tutor’s comments in mind and see where it lead.
To summarise, I looked at
Tutor’s Comments: Looking at these three, what struck me was the freedom and the liveliness of the rough patchwork sketch on paper (page 4 book 2), which was lost in the other two more finished pieces. Thinking about this, I came to the conclusion that the white base was significant; Some patches freely move out and away from the mass, out of the boundary – almost escape – allowing the white to play a positive role. The white background is much larger than the mass of patches, allowing a margin of white space around the composition. This earlier composition has a dynamic quality which was constrained in the two later ones by the rectangular outer edge which reinforced the static nature of rectangles. This encloses and confines the composition.
Considering the Tutor’s comment that the “freedom and liveliness of the rough patchwork sketch on paper was lost in the other two more finished pieces”, I can see there is more movement in the paper and fabric sketch on the left (below) and think the outline shape against the white is interesting, particularly along the bottom edge. Also the simplicity of the plain colours with no printing adds to the contrast.
Tutor’s Suggestions: Before assessment, try to re-look at this final piece.
I began by laying out my original piece on a white background, which did nothing for it, the intensely coloured piece just looked like a block of colour in the middle of the white, there was no interaction at all between the two.
I tried covering all the multi-coloured and printed patches with white patches which improved it a little but not significantly. I then covered the multi-coloured and printed patches with plain patches in a mix of the colours already used (Green, Orange, Claret & Petrol Blue). This was more pleasing on the eye, removing the orange was also interesting.
So, re-thinking the number of patterns, colours and stitches combined in the piece, I concluded that limiting the palette to the plain dyed patches, green, orange, claret & petrol blue or, even further, to green, claret and petrol blue was worth pursuing.
I decided to produce some samples. The first was on a single piece of white cotton sateen with petrol, red brown and chartreuse patches machine stitched. The cotton sateen was horrible, too limp, no substance to sew into, a bit shiny, the machine stitching on the patches was too straight and even, making the patches look like badly cut out squares, not adding any character at all. I subsequently unpicked the patches for re-use and omitted to take a photograph first.
The second sample used a single layer of base cloth of white 55% linen/45% cotton which I scoured first in the washing machine with synthrapol and washing soda to remove any sizing and give the fabric a softer, worn look to create properties similar to fabric used in Boro patchwork. Raw edged patches were hand sewn onto the cloth. This sample was a pleasure to sew, the background suited the different weights of hand dyed soft cotton patches, felt good to sew, had more substance than the cotton sateen but still some drape.
The hand stitch and textures married together with the patches becoming more a part of the cloth. Running stitch was used so as to be comparable to sashiko used in Boro textiles, initially in thread to match the coloured patches. I wondered how it would look with white thread and if running stitch was enough or would a freer Dorothy Caldwell stitch be more dynamic? I concluded that I liked the simplicity, rhythm and harmony of the running stitch.
As the sample was successful I decided to develop it further by adding a small piece of 80% cotton/20% polyester batting and another layer of the linen/cotton. I am not a quilter and haven’t made a quilt before but thinking about the Gees Bend Quilts and the Boro patchwork wondered if I could combine ideas from both.
The packaging for the batting suggested it might shrink up to 5% if washed. Hoping this would add to the character, I decided to wash the sample again once it was hand quilted. I had also looked closely at samples of Boro patchwork to determine how the edges were treated and in the main, the futon covers had raw edges enclosed either in blanket stitch, oversewn in a vertical whipstitch or edged with two or three rows of running stitch. Knowing that the fabric was inclined to fray heavily, I added backstitch to the list and edged the sample with all four stitches.
I concluded that running stitch was useless at preventing fraying, the other stitches reasonably successful, but the backstitch was preferable.
Boro patchworked futon covers are created with layers of fabric and do not contain any batting so, for comparison, I stitched a similar sample with two layers of linen/cotton and patches, held together with running stitch. I used white thread horizontally and vertically at varying distances apart. The contrast between the intensely coloured patches and fairly dense stitching on some was distracting, particularly when the stitches were horizontal. I preferred the bigger wider spaced stitches in the white thread. The two layers of fabric were also lovely to stitch into, but when they were both washed I preferred the sample with the inclusion of batting.
Just to be sure I was developing the right sample, I briefly investigated improvisational quilting and made a sample with white cotton sateen and dyed strips to consider if I wanted to take more inspiration from the Gee’s Bend Quilts rather than the Boro but I disliked it intensely, it was too clean, crisp and lacked character.
Everything about it repelled me in comparison to the soft, loosely woven hand stitched sample. I pieced a small sample using the linen/cotton fabric but wasn’t drawn to the neat, machine stitched seams.
I panicked a bit at this point. I had re-thought the piece in response to the tutor’s comments and concluded that the limited palette definitely looked better on a white background like my original sketch. I also considered various colours, paler than the patches as a background, but decided if I was intent on using green, petrol green and claret, white was the best option. Having considered my final piece in detail, i felt it was not worthy, but how far could I go? Should I cut it up and use some of the original pieces, should I dye some more fabric? Was I seriously considering hand stitching a quilt three weeks before assessment with my other assignments still to tidy up? I re-read Rebecca Fairley’s blog post “How to use your Tutor Reports”and decided that I would proceed and use the opportunity to make improvements to the assignment which would involve re-making the piece.
I looked again at the original piece, to decide whether to ‘patch’ over any offending areas or cut it up. I did remove the backing and all the hand stitches, cut away the coloured machine stitched areas and laid the remainder on the white background, it just didn’t work, the patches would be too small if I cut them all up and in their current blocks didn’t allow for any interaction between the white background and the coloured patches.
So I set about arranging newly dyed recycled fabric onto the newly purchased, scoured and washed linen/cotton mix. I had intended to use the three colours, green, petrol blue and claret, but retaining the orange from the original piece definitely added value. I considered whether I was making a wall hanging or a quilt and decided that the materials, samples and research had led me to a quilt.
Once happy with the design, I hand stitched the patches onto the background. Although I had washed my samples, I decided to machine wash the top layer of the quilt to be certain the colours didn’t run and to assess the extent the patched fabric frayed. It was a good move as the recycled curtain fabric frayed out of some of its stitching and was repaired with backstitch.
I then added a layer of batting and another layer of scoured and washed linen/cotton fabric and hand quilted it from the middle in vertical lines, back stitched the edges, trimmed away the fabric and machine washed and tumble dried the finished piece, which measures approximately 65″ x 50″
REFLECTION ON HOW THE PROCESS OF RE-THINKING THE FINAL PIECE IN RESPONSE TO THE TUTOR REPORT HAS HELPED TO IMPROVE THE ASSIGNMENT
This process has been hugely beneficial. Researching patchwork in different contexts really helped me to plan, sample and develop my idea in an informed and considered way. The benefits of good research, combined with careful sampling influenced my choice of materials which led to the final outcome, which in turn was very satisfying.
I think the result is a far more considered piece of my own, influenced by the boro patchwork and colours from my theme book (pages 4 & 18), my tutor’s observations and research suggestions, investigations into other artists’ work and techniques and the quilts of Gees Bend.
In addition, I learned the importance of really narrowing down ideas and considering the value of each mark or action so as not to over-complicate the final outcome.
Considering patchwork of other cultures, I have been looking at Japanese Boro. I have admired these textiles in the past and included a magazine cutting in my theme book (page 18)
Japanese Boro textiles are part of a cultural heritage where need and scarcity led to garments being repeatedly repaired and patched, enabling them to be re-used for generations. I find beauty in such work which is now seen as collectible textile art, fetching high prices.
I really admire these artefacts and their character, the subtle differences in the shades of the worn indigo-dyed cotton, the white stitching against the blues, the texture of the loose weave hemp/cotton, frayed edges, layering, lines of stitch and sashiko stitching on some.
Boro textiles are created by a practice of layering several pieces of cloth, predominantly indigo-dyed cotton, held together with sashiko stitching. Sashiko is a simple running stitch usually in line with the warp or weft, reinforcing the fabric. Working scraps of fabric together, a stronger, heavier material is produced.
Gee’s Bend Quilts
I’m looking at these quilts in relation to their composition and my final piece for Assignment 5.
Generations of quiltmakers in Gee’s Bend, Alabama have recycled work clothes, feed sacks, flour sacks and fabric remnants to make improvisational quilts creating outstanding abstract textile art. I found it fascinating to look through the quilts on the Souls Grown Deep website and admire their artistry.
There is a more detailed explanation of the quilts and their makers here: http://soulsgrowndeep.org/gees-bend-quiltmakers
and some examples here:
The simpler designs are more appealing to me (bars, string pieced, blocks and strips and blocks of different sizes) and I particularly like the quilts made from work clothes, the patina of the fabric and their limited palettes. I like the movement created by the freehand cut pieces, the slightly irregular squares and rectangles, the gentle curves created by the improvised methods. The white in the middle and right hand quilts contribute to the energy.
The quilt above on the left has some similarities to my piece, although mine is much busier. I like the simplicity of Lucy Mooney’s design, I can now see that my piece has too many little patterns fighting for attention. Although up close some of that detail is inviting, it might benefit from being simpler. Looking at both converted to black and white (see below), there is less variation in tone in my piece when compared to Lucy’s which makes my piece less dynamic. I’m also keen on the gentle curves in the quilt and although I set out to achieve a softer, less uniform look to the edges and shapes of the original pieces, the addition of the smaller rectangular pieces has detracted from the original shapes.
SIGNS & SYMBOLS: African Images in African American Quilts by Maude Southwell
Maude Southwell and her colleague, John Scully curated an exhibition of African American quilts at the Yale School of Art Gallery in January 1980 and identified seven traits that appeared to distinguish African American quilts from Anglo-American traditional forms.
They tended towards vertical strips, bright colours, large designs, asymmetry, improvisation, multiple patterning and symbolic forms.
I haven’t been able to borrow a copy of the above book and am reluctant to purchase it at this point. I have looked at it briefly on http://www.amazon.co.uk and see that it includes several of the Gee’s Bend Quilt Artists. There is an emphasis on symbols which might be interesting but I feel I have more than enough information to work with at the moment without adding signs and symbols to the pot at this late stage.
I’m having difficulty determining what ‘Contemporary Patchwork’ might be in 2015. If I had been asked to describe my wall hanging, I might have referred to it as ‘collage’, rather than ‘patchwork’.
As a textile artist, I consider some of Dorothy Caldwell and Matthew Harris’ work as a form of contemporary patchwork:
I first looked at and posted about Matthew Harris’s work on 15th April 2015. Looking again now at his Lantern Cloth in relation to patchwork, I notice that it includes multiple squares and rectangles of fabric, with frayed edges but stitched close and small so each layered piece melts into the next.
I like this effect, lots of small pieces and layers becoming one. There is a soft worn look about the fabric and the colours. The cloth is printed in red and blue with slight changes of tone or width of stripe providing much visual texture and interest. I like the use of reverse applique in this piece, the Andolan cloth and Fragments.
I posted about Dorothy Caldwell on 15th March 2015. Looking again at her work and concentrating on a detail of ‘Meeting Place’ thinking about patchwork, I note that she too has used printed cloth with slight variations in the size of the grid used in different patches of material.
There is imperfect printing adding texture. Tiny hand stitches secure some of the fabric whilst other pieces are freely stitched with lots of long stitches in the same direction creating energy.
As mentioned before, Dorothy Caldwell says “The vocabulary for her work is drawn from studying textile traditions and ordinary stitching practices such as darning, mending and patching.” Both her work and Matthew Harris’ is suggestive of such practices.
More decorative, Mandy Pattullo’s work has elements of patchwork, although she describes it as based on collage techniques. She uses hand stitch and combines patching and piecing of fabrics, applique, found objects and vintage embroidery.
Louise Baldwin and Junko Oki also include some patching in their work, although decorative stitches dominate.
A copy of my Tutor Report for Assignment 5
I appreciate the positive comments, suggestions for further contextual research and how I might re-think the final piece to improve my mark.
So, looking at all my work for Textiles 1: A Creative Approach, I am preparing for assessment with the help of Rebecca Fairley’s article on how to use your tutor reports. http://weareoca.com/fine_art/how-to-use-your-tutor-reports/
Whilst waiting for my assignment to be returned, I made a start on researching the artists recommended by my tutor thinking about how I can relate their work and techniques to my own.
Now reunited with my work, I am re-thinking the final piece in the light of tutor comments and recent research.
I’m looking at Sonia Delaunay’s work in relation to patchwork.
I wasn’t fortunate enough to visit the recent exhibition at the Tate but the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris of their exhibition Sonia Delaunay – Les couleurs de l’abstraction, have a virtual tour (http://www.mam.paris.fr/en/expositions/exposition-sonia-delaunay)
I read various reviews of the exhibition at the Tate which are listed below looking for details of how patchwork was significant in her change of direction, but particularly enjoyed Freire Barnes’ article in Time Out http://www.timeout.com/london/art/the-ey-exhibition-sonia-delaunay, which included the following paragraph:
“The transition from representational expression to abstraction happens quite suddenly. Paintings of overlaid discs of various hues capture the vibrancy of Paris, lit by electric light. The colours clash and pop against each other with dizzying effect. Yet it’s Delaunay’s interpretation of Simultanism – a synchronised use of contrasting colours and shapes created with her painter husband Robert – into patchwork pieces ranging from a cradle cover to an evening dress that is most impactful.”
Both the bedcover made in 1911 and the evening dress (included in the Pinterest board above) are rich in colour and texture. Both include triangular pieces which successfully lead the eye around the piece. There is a range of tones in the colour used, the lighter hues contrasting well with the dark. The dress appears to include black velvet which is a really striking contrast to the other colours and fabrics. Its difficult to see from the photograph but shinier silks also appear to be included, the delicate creasing of the finer fabrics also in contrast to the velvet. The bodice has a central seam and elements of symmetry but overall the garment is asymmetric. The dress is a real statement and must have been really striking in its time, although I’m not sure I like it. I don’t like some of the colours, but appreciate I cannot tell their true nature from pictures on the computer, I’m not keen on black, gold, bottle green or fawn. However, I can imagine that on Sonia Delaunay’s slender form, it was a sight to behold.
The ‘Blanket’ made in 1911 of appliqued fabric measuring approx 43 x 32″ is made of similar colours to the dress, but I like it more. I think there is more contrast in tone, it feels livelier, more energetic, the darker colours are less dominant. I like the balance of colour and slightly haphazard look of the piecing.
I wasn’t familiar with El Anatsui’s work and have looked at it in relation to patchwork. It is so much more, I have concentrated on the incredibly dynamic, textural sculptures he has created by piecing together bottle caps and other found metals with copper wire.
http://www.design-milk.com’s website, David Behringer, reporting on an exhibition at the Jack Shainman Gallery from Nov 2012 and Summer 2013 describes El Anatsui as “one of the greatest recyclers on the planet. Dirty, rusted and smashed liquor bottle tops are transformed into incredible tapestries that sparkle like precious metals.”
One of the most fascinating things to me is that the pieces take on different forms each time they are installed. The enormous sheets have a ‘fluidity’ and can be manipulated in many ways. Some are designed as wall sculptures and others for the floor. The following youtube video of Brooklyn Museum’s installation “Gravity & Grace: Monumental Sculptures by El Anatsui” shows their versatility to change state:
The artist describes his work in the following clip:
El Anatsui has worked with bottle tops for at least the last 10 years. He feels it is important to work with a newly discovered medium until you really understand it and can “get something intrinsic out of it”.
He was initially inspired by a bag of discarded bottle caps and began linking them with copper wire. He made blocks containing 200 or so tops and then arranged and rearranged the blocks on the floor until happy with the composition. On hanging a sheet of bottle tops for the first time, he discovered it creased in different ways which he found “very interesting and worthy of exploration”.
The art work is very textural with each small piece of metal joining another, with slight differences in angle, reflecting light at difference intensities. Some pieces are coloured, others just shiny silver, the bottle tops are used whole, flattened or distorted, cut to leave a flat disk and a ring. In some pieces, many rings are combined to give a chain-mail type curtain. Tiny pieces of the same colour are massed together to create blocks, or placed to produce pattern, contrasts or harmony. A close inspection will reveal the brand names of the beers, an overview, a completely different visual.
Some of the floor pieces are constructed with milk cans, also linked with copper wire. These cans too are retrieved and recycled from rubbish. El Anatsui feels that the layers of people who have handled the cans or bottle tops, from the producers, consumers to him and his workers give the final pieces a spiritual dimension.
The scale of his work is big, described as ‘monumental’ in the Brooklyn Museum Exhibition, pieces are large enough to hang on the sides of buildings several storeys high, others suspended from high ceilings in galleries to fall in gathers on the floor.
The structures are strong. In the following clip, his workers are seen to pull blocks of pieced bottle tops demonstrating their strength.
It has been a delight to be introduced to the work of El Anatsui and a very contemporary approach to piecing materials when compared to traditional patchwork.