Nina's Textile Trail

My OCA Textile Tales

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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)