Nina's Textile Trail

My OCA Textile Tales

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Supplementary Research to Assignment 5 in response to Tutor Report – Gee’s Bend Quilts & African Images in African American Quilts and identified se en

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:

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 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.




Additional research to Assignment 5 in response to Tutor Report – Contemporary Patchwork

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.

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Roanna Wells

I have really enjoyed looking at the work of Roanna Wells, the texture of the tiny stitches, the movement and the depth and tone created with a limited palette.

Some of her work explores the idea of converting drawn marks into stitch and by using various shades of thread and different densities of stitch, she creates depth and tone in her work.   Other work reflect the shapes people create when gathered in crowds if viewed from above.  These can be seen on her website titled Sea of Faith, Diamond Jubilee, World Youth Day, and Tour de France.

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Soon Yul Kang

I came across the work of Soon Yul Kang in Tapestry A Woven Narrative, a book from the reading list for A Creative Approach, Assignment 4.  I particularly liked her tapestries of landscapes and the subtle tones achieved in the weaving which invoke a a feeling of calm and tranquility.  Examples of my favourite works are included in the following galleries:

and also here:

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Part 4 – Textile Structures – Research Point – RUTH ISSETT


I have looked at Caught Vista III 2013, Equal on all 4 sides 2013, Equal on all 4 Sides Paper 2013, Foliage 1 2013, Shropshire Tree 2011.

Some examples of her work can be seen on Pinterest here

Material paper (tissue, cartridge, watercolour, handmade cotton-rag, lokta, kozo, abaca & lens tissue), fabric, usually natural fibres (cottons, silks, hemp, jute, linen, viscose, rayon), thread (medium-weight threads, couched or stitched by hand, cotton, silk, viscose cord, gimp, unusual knitting yarns, bamboo, hemp, rayon and cotton mixtures, stitch, dyes, inks, acrylics, Markal Paintstiks, coloured pencils and pastels, resists.

Colour vivid use of colour, often contrasting, dyed, painted, stitched. In these pieces, cool primaries are dominant but often combinations of warm and cool colours can be found in her work and always vibrant. The transparency, translucency and opacity of colour is exploited to enrich and enhance the use of colour. Transparent fabrics like silk organza, silk crepeline, synthetic chiffon and silk chiffon are layered to give deeper tones.

Technique Using cloth & paper, dyeing printing, painting, collage, thread and stitch. Uses a number of sketchbooks simultaneously, some for drawing and/or painting, to document dyeing recipes, fabric samples and colour combinations.   Papers are torn, folded, crumpled, layered or collaged to create rough and smooth surfaces, numerous trials have been undertaken to establish how different weights of paper react to different media, such as inks, coloured varnishes, acrylic and wax resists. A variety of different white or neutral fabrics are layered and stitched in their original state before dyeing, to investigate and note their differing qualities and surfaces.   Others are layered and stitched after dyeing.

Imagery Abstract, reflecting her personal observations of places and times. Translation of careful observation of colour (eg in changing light, of objects).

 Consider how she has used the elements listed above to express the concepts behind her work .

Her Artist Statement on the Textile Study group indicates that “her work is anchored in her observations of different environments. These are interpreted into colour studies, noting variations achieved using collective media and process.”

Years of meticulously documented experimentation with the elements listed above in pursuit of the perfect colour have enabled her to build up a vast knowledge of how different mediums behave and colours are achieved. This thorough knowledge of materials and colour have underpinned her ability “to understand colour and its application to different surfaces to achieve the ultimate visual effect” which has always been her priority according to the Artists Statement on the Textile Study Group website.

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Part 4 – Textile Structures – Research Point – MATTHEW HARRIS

Chose 2 internationally known textile artists whose work you find particularly inspiring.

Describe their work, in terms of materials, scale, colour, technique and imagery

Consider how the artists has used any of the elements listed above to express the concepts behind their work



I have looked at his textile pieces titled Crumb Cloth, Lantern Cloth, Aoyama Window Cloth and Echo and paper works titled, Cartoons for Cloth, ‘Studies after Crumb’, Aoyama Window Notebook, Temple Notebooks, Cartoons for Cloth and Factory Cartoons for Cloth.

Examples of these found on Pinterest are as follows:

Material: cloth, paper, hand stitch, dyeing and cutting.

Scale:   Textiles : Approximately 1m x 1.5m square or a little smaller at approximately 1 metre x .5m

Colour: The works studied seem to start with a neutral putty coloured background and stitch with a combination of black, sepia and grey mark making, presumably in dye. Some pieces have the addition of red, quite bright perhaps Cadmium Red, in Lantern Cloth 2 and a Red ochre-like colour in Lantern Cloth 1. Aoyama uses darker shades, with more black and greater contrast. All have quite a limited palette.

Technique: The fabric, cotton, quite coarse, is heavily worked, it looks old, worn, but has been subjected to many processes. Michael Brennand-Wood’s catalogue essay ‘A quiet sense of the Invasive’ suggests “Cloth is slashed, cut, brushed, stamped, folded, torn, pierced. Needles pierce, stitch, suture, darn, sew, laminate areas of cloth together. Colour is stained, bled, dripped, rubbed, printed, ground into the surface”.

Technique drawing: works though different processes, referencing imagery, using ranges of tools and brushes, makes a variety of marks in a series of long ink drawings, these are then manipulated by pleating, cutting and patching until something interests him. The manipulation breaks up shapes, brings shapes together and interrupts lines, creating a discordant image, incomplete in some areas. He uses this process to bring about a visual jot or jarring.   The whole process produces a fragmented sketch, which he uses as a template to produce the textile piece. (Drawn to Stitch, Gwen Hedley page 116)

Imagery: Abstract, translation of drawn materials onto cloth. In Trace Elements by Paul Harper, he describes “The rhythm of mark making is broken up, they disappear and reappear in reverse. “. There is repetition and the eye “moves restlessly across the surface”. For me the detail is inviting, I can’t help get close to examine the construction. Some elements slightly extend beyond the overall rectangular shape increasing the visual interest.

Consider how he has used the elements listed above to express the concepts behind his work .

In his own words, Matthew Harris aims to create pieces that explore repetition, pattern and the disrupted or dissonant journey of line and image across and through the surface of the cloth.

He seems very disciplined, using a series of processes. His approach in notebooks where he draws, then manipulates the paper by pleating, cutting and patching is repeated when making the textile work, which is pieced, patched and assembled. This has the effect of disrupting the lines and allows exploration of pattern and repetition. His use of a limited palette enhances the elements of repetition and pattern. The coarse cotton used at the outset, takes the dye well and lends itself to his processes, the texture of the looser weave giving a uniformity to the whole.

Bibliography (accessed 12.4.15)

Brennand-Wood, Michael, A quiet sense of the Invasive, Catalogue Essay ( (accessed 12.4.15)

Harper, Paul,  Trace Elements, Catalogue Essay ( (accessed 12.4.15)

Hedley G, (2010), Drawn to Stitch, Batsford


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TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbooks – Exercise 4.3 Collating a sketchbook – Stage 1 Research and preparation

I have chosen to use Dorothy Caldwell’s work to inspire my sketchbook, “material development and design methodology based on her use and handling of colour and materials, mark making, imagery and composition”.

Dorothy Caldwell studied at the Tyler School of Fine Arts, Rome, Italy.  She has travelled and researched in India, Japan and Australia which has influenced her work and provided sources of dyeing and stitching practices.  She studied Shibori in Japan, worked with women’s co-op’s and the revival of Kantha stitching in India; Researched Aboriginal map imagery in painting and textiles and also worked on projects in the Australian outback and Canadian Arctic.

She says her work is “a map of land and memory”. She is interested in ‘landmarks that give a sense of place and how humans mark and visualise the land”. “The early surveyors , of Canada, … made notations on certain rare plant growth, unusual geological formations and other points they were personally drawn to.  Identifying my own personal landmarks, through gathering, touching and recording is how I create a sense of place”.

She has also said that: “The vocabulary for her work is drawn from studying textile traditions and ordinary stitching practices such as darning, mending and patching.  She is drawn to cloth that has been repaired and reconstructed and in that ongoing process encodes time and the richness of lives lived.”

There is a interesting post, written by Dorothy Caldwell, on the following blog, about her love of cloth, it’s breaking down and re-use.

The following is a selection of her work:

What do I like about her work?

I really like the components and detail of her work, perhaps more than the overall pieces.  Before I had really begun my journey into Textile Art, I remember seeing ‘How do we know when it is night?” at The Festival of Quilts 2013 and being drawn in to examine the stitches and detailed aspects of the work but not really understanding the whole piece.

I love the detail of her mark-making, the stitch, the patina of the fabrics, the texture, both visual and actual, the colours of fabrics dyed with indigenous plants and earth materials, the contrast of patches of colour amid black, white and grey tones, her patched-type applique.

How would I describe her work?

Layers of natural fabrics stitched together, predominantly black and white or earthy tones brought to life with patches of colour, patterned with a myriad of intricate, intimate marks using print, stitch, dye, discharge, and applique techniques. Highly textured visually and in reality.

The overall effect of her work is calm and still in spite of the hundreds and thousands of marks.

Its difficult to talk about the composition as I haven’t had the opportunity to examine large scale works, but coloured patches and couched lines seem to draw the eye around the pieces.

Simple vessel shapes appear to be couched in large scale on the surface of some work.

How does the artist work with materials and develop subject matter and ideas or create a colour mood?

She works by immersing herself in the subject, with hands on experience and research, followed-up with further intellectual research.   Confirmed in her own words in the following YouTube clip:

A colour mood is dictated by the colours of the area and the land, fabric and paper is often coloured with a sample of local earth, mixed with water and rubbed onto the surface.  After the fabric has been coloured and patterned with dyes, print and discharge processes, it is manipulated with stitch.

What materials does the artist use?

She uses cotton and other natural fibres, which are treated with dyes, wax resist, silkscreen printing, silkscreen discharge printing, applique and stitch.  Colour samples such as earth ochres are mixed with water and rubbed into textured paper which appears to be similar to khadi paper.  Marks are recorded in small books.  Many small items are gathered.

Ideas & Materials for Textiles-inspired translation

Papers:- old music, manuscript and maps, khadi, teabag, used teabags, abaca, scrunched up paper, lace paper,

Materials: cotton scrim, hessian, black cotton – purchased?, dyed? to discharge?, Evolon, Lutrador, plasterers scrim

Tools: soldering iron, heat gun, candle, matches, insense sticks, ink, paint, walnut ink, potassium permanganate? lemon juice, bleach, discharge paste, soya wax, tea,

Mark making: stitch, burn, scrape, wax, drawn, scratched (scraffitto?), pierce, stitch through holes, wax resist, discharge, cold wax scrape. dye, tear, melt (Evolon), rubbings, manipulate (hessian), couch line drawings on surface (accessed 18.3.15)

http://www.troutinplaid,com/2013/08/31/dorothy-caldwell/ (accessed 19.3.15) (accessed 18.3.15) (Monday, May 5, 2014) (accessed 18.3.15)

BarbaraLee Smith’s curated exhibition catalog (pages 26/27) (accessed 22.3.15)

YouTube: Artefacts from Silent Ice/Deep Patience:Dorothy Caldwell Touring Exhibition

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TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbooks – Exercise 4.2 Customising a sketchbook – Stage 1 Research and preparation

Elizabeth Blackadder b. 1931

British painter and printmaker who studied at Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh University.  She paints in oil and watercolour.

In a number of the still life paintings, the objects are painted quite small in relation to the size of the work making interesting use of negative space.  The flowers are well observed and detailed.  The colours are often vibrant but overall the paintings were the least appealing to me of the four artists. (accessed 21/02/2015 & 22/03/2015) (accessed 21/03/2015)

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

American abstract painter and draughtsman.  The website dedicated to the artist states that he was “Inspired by ancient Mediterranean history and geography, greek and Roman mythology, and epic poetry”.   I find it difficult to interpret his work.

What do I like?  The texture of oil on canvas; house paint & earth on canvas; bitumen & oil based house paint on canvas; oil based house paint, wax crayon and pencil on canvas.

I also like the energy of some eg. Free Wheeler 1955 oil, crayon & pencil on canvas.

Gallery 1  ( includes about 200 paintings.  Although as mentioned I like the texture and energy of some of the paintings, they don’t appear to relate to specific objects to me, rather an all over style of seemingly random scribbles and scrawls,   I can only assume that he is expressing his emotion at that point, channelling his own energy.  They are abstract, emotive paintings which have movement and a rawness that is interesting, but in this instance I cannot relate to them or imagine how to paint ‘tea time’ in the style of Cy Twombly.

Ben Nicholson (1894-1982)

Influential British painter and sculptor, said to have painted some of best known abstract paintings in 20th Century British Art and one of the first painters in the community of artists know as ‘St IvesSchool’

1930 (Plate, Cup & Jug)  Oil & graphite on board.

What do I like about Ben Nicholson’s 1930 Plate Cup & Jug painting?    I like the texture of the background and the jug, the limited colour palette with some red as a contrast.  I prefer the more irregular curved representation of the jug and plate as opposed to the flattened planar, angular representation of objects in some of his other still life work.

Patrick Heron (1920-1999)

British painter, writer, and designer. His early paintings were influenced by Braque and Matisse, but in 1956 he turned to abstraction. Like Ben Nicholson, he was a member of the St Ives School in Cornwall.

I chose to use Patrick Heron as my inspiration for this section.

I was particularly drawn to his use of colour, the complementary and split complementary combinations give the paintings vibrancy.  I liked the energy created by the sketchy, quickly drawn look achieved with the use of charcoal or a dry brush for the outline and the background paper showing through.

I though his style would particularly lend itself to being painted in an old book, allowing the text to show through.

I used the following paintings to inspire my customised sketchbook: (The Blue Checked Tablecloth:1948) (The Long Table with Fruit:1949) (Kitchen at Night:1950) (Anenomes and Lemons:1950)


Part 2 Building a visual vocabulary – Project 3 Colour – Stage 6 Combining textures and colour effects

During this stage I have looked at the work of the French Impressionists (after 1870) who painted colours in dots or small brushstrokes with the effect that the eye of the viewer mixes the colours.  We are recommended to look at Seurat’s paintings.  A good example of ‘pointillism’, the name given to using dots of colour to achieve optical effects, is

The Channel of Gravelines, Petit Fort Philippe, 1890 (oil on canvas) Seurat, Georges Pierre (1859-1891)

In Seurat’s paintings, he uses dots of colour whereas Henri-Edmond Cross uses dashes which are more directional and I think give more movement to the painting.

A Pine Grove 1906  Cross, Henri-Edmond (18556-1910)

I love the stillness and moonlight of this painting:-

Camaret, Moonlight and Fishing Boats 1894(oil on canvas) Luce Maximillien (1858-1941)

Colour interaction is also discussed in David Hornung’s book in Part Five: Colour Interaction Optical Mixing (Hornung D (2004) Colour, A Workshop for Artists and Designers).  He states that “When a field of colour is composed of small, particulate colour shapes, your mind fuses the disparate visual phenomena into a comprehensible whole”.  To try and illustrate this I have photographed a mosaic made for me by a friend of mine close up and from a distance.


Hornung says that with mosaics and some woven textiles where the units are big enough to be seen but still merge into a whole picture, the eye can alternate between the two views and that this sensation can make the experience of seeing them ‘almost tactile’.   I think I can relate to this although I would describe the experience of looking at mosaics as almost three-dimensional.

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Artist – Sam P. Gibson – Hand embroidered Eye Illustrations

I admire the eye illustrations embroidered by Sam P. Gibson in the following link.

I particularly like the way she has used the background to depict the reflection of light on the eyeball and the effective use of the thread to create light and shade.