Nina's Textile Trail

My OCA Textile Tales

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Supplementary Work to Sketchbook Module in response to Tutor Report

Tutor Report for Sketchbook Module

Nina O’Connor 513049 (3)

In response to the tutor’s feedback, I signed up to a local drawing class which has been hugely beneficial.

it was also suggested that I might try to finish the customised hardback book “possibly using another artist as a starting point. You might also change the cover, by collaging, texturising the surface, maybe adding text“.  I made a start on this, looking at Georgia O’Keeffe’s work which was very enjoyable, but didn’t do as much as i’d hoped.  

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I loved the exuberance of her work but found it really difficult to achieve a similar effect with paint.   It was a very useful exercise in mixing and made me appreciate her skill.

As suggested I also looked at altered books, including Tom Phillips’ Humament’, which I hadn’t seen before.

I enjoyed the artistry of the altered books but had no desire to try it for myself, although I am drawn to artists’ books and would definitely like to further explore bookmaking skills.

I added to the sketchbook how much i enjoyed working in the book and how it encouraged a playful approach.  


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TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbook Module – Tutor Report & My thoughts

Nina O’Connor 513049

Click on the above for the Tutor Report for the Sketchbook Module I have recently completed as an extra unit alongside the Textiles 1 course.

The feed back is positive and very useful, giving lots of pointers on how to develop my drawing.  I am pleased with the suggestions and excited to proceed with developing my drawing and extending the sketchbook work started in this module. However, I feel overwhelmed and daunted at the prospect of working on this alongside the coursework, theme book, looking regularly at the work of textile designers and artists, remembering to reference and use visuals where appropriate, visit the occasional exhibition etc, etc.   I’m certain I will have difficulty fitting all that’s required into the 10 hours per week recommended in the course notes. Fortunately, I am able to spend more time than that on my work but I’m more aware than ever that part of the development required for a degree level course is to manage time and work effectively and this is perhaps my greatest challenge in Assignment 4.


TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbooks – Additional Reading

Bleiweiss, Sue (2012) The Sketchbook Challenge  Potter Craft

A nicely presented selection of different artists journals sketchbooks and techniques.  Nothing new to me but a very enjoyable read.

Brereton, Richard (2009) Sketchbooks the hidden ART of designers illustrators and creatives Laurence King Publishing Limited

An interesting, eclectic, collection of the working sketchbooks of designers, illustrators and creatives, accompanied by a short narrative from each artist.

Gooding, Mel (1994) Patrick Heron (Phaidon)

A comprehensive, illustrated look at the work of Patrick Heron.

Greenlees, Kay (2005) Creating Sketchbooks for Embroiderers and Textile Artists

This is a more comprehensive book than The Sketchbook Challenge and Artists’ Journals and Sketchbooks.  It focuses on creating ‘Sketchbooks’ rather than journals.  I have revisited this book many times throughout my studies to help improve my confidence and each time, something else clicks into place.

Hornung, David ( 2004) Colour, A Workshop for Artists and Designers

A thorough and complex exploration of colour.  This too I have revisited several times. When I first encountered this book, it was a daunting tome, but the more I learn, the more valuable it becomes.

Perella Lynne (2004) Artists’ Journals & Sketchbooks Quarry Books

Similar to The Sketchbook Challenge above, this has a  selection of ideas and techniques for Journals and sketchbooks and different artists’ work.  My preference is for The Sketchbook Challenge as it’s a little more contemporary.

Piyasene, Sam & Philip, Beverly (2013) Just Draw It  Search Press Ltd.

An excellent book for those of us who just need to draw!  Lots of fabulous, user friendly ideas to get you putting pen/pencil to paper with details of specific Artists’ work to reference on practically every page.  Just do it!

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TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbooks – Reflection

This has been an interesting assignment, a very timely suggestion from my Tutor and much appreciated opportunity.   I was really lacking confidence in my drawing and sketchbook work and feel much more positive having completed these exercises. My preferences on sketchbooks and materials also became clearer.

4.1 Making a sketchbook

I didn’t like the concertina type sketchbook, it was stiff and unwieldy, starkly white and smooth.  Sketching from memory was difficult and frustrating for me and it was far more satisfying to sketch from life.  It was very apparent that regular sketching improves skills. I was very slow and need to work on quick sketches.  I didn’t particularly like working with fineliners or black media in this case and found the aquarelle pencils very versatile.

4.2 Customising a sketchbook

I loved working in a old book.  I liked the size, how it felt in my hand, the quality of the paper, the rough surface, the creaminess of the pages, the deckled edges.

It was enjoyable exploring Patrick Heron’s still life style and particularly his use of colour. I was pleasantly surprised by how much pleasure I got from painting and really like gouache as a medium.

4.3 Collating a sketchbook

This also suited me.  It was very flexible to work loose leaf, working with the textured papers was very satisfying, as with the last exercise, I liked the smaller size, the ease with which the A7 papers sat in my hand, the colour, texture and feel.  I had so many ideas, I was a little overwhelmed and perhaps lost focus, getting carried away with the recreating the qualities of visual and actual texture and forgetting about adding pops of colour and translating more aspects of Dorothy Caldwell’s work.   I wanted to stitch to create texture but wasn’t sure if that was the point of the exercise.  I fretted about whether I should be sketching more but loved it all and could happily have dyed, printed, discharged, stitched and explored for a few more weeks.  I feel indebted to those who have shared their knowledge on blogs and pinterest so generously and eloquently, making the task of researching Dorothy Caldwell’s work so accessible and enjoyable and helping me to develop a love for her work.

All in all, an enjoyable and useful interlude to my ‘Creative Approach’ studies.

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TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbooks – Exercise 4.3 Collating a sketchbook – Stage 2 Textiles-inspired translation

In this section we are asked to work with paper and materials and explore ways of customising these to resemble the qualities noted in our chosen artist’s work, considering ways to alter the appearance and be imaginative.

I was quite inspired by Dorothy Caldwell’s Collecting Cards and decided to used A7 and A6 Khadi paper for some of my experiments.  I liked the way the small papers could be held in the hand and leafed through, so continued with these sizes throughout the exercise.

I continued with the ‘Tea-time’ theme and based my initial explorations on ‘tea’


A7 khadi rag paper coloured with fruit tea bags, tea and tea bags stitched onto the cards.


tea stained paper (left), emptied, used tea bags bonded onto vilene (middle),  kitchen roll paper coloured with regular and fruit tea bags bonded to vilene (right)


Top: inside of recycled envelope crumpled, ironed to vilene, rubbed with black oil pastel and fixed, monoprinted recycled curtain lining appliqued and silk boucle couched in tea cup shape. (18). Particularly like the effect of the grey patterned paper and oil pastel and love the couching method to create simple outlines.

Bottom left: Black recycled envelope crumpled and ironed to vilene, rubbed with white oil pastel, stitched bowl shape. (19)

Bottom right: Black Quink onto dampened khadi 150gsm discharged with thin bleach applied with No 1 paintbrush. Used teabag paper stitched on.  (17)  Like the pale blue/greys produced with the black quick wash and the rusty colour it discharged to with thin bleach, and the variegated grey thread stitching on the tea bag,  It made me think of stormy weather.


Top: Shibori attempt indigo dyed cotton, used, emptied fruit tea bag bonded to surface, hemp couched. (20)

Bottom:  Used tea bag papers ironed to black vilene, teapot still life couched free hand. (21) Had to extend the fabric to fit the tea pot spout!   Like the effect of the couched hemp thread onto tea bag background.

From this point on, my explorations are based on the qualities of Dorothy Caldwell’s work but not relating to the Tea theme – wondering if I should have been drawing/collaging onto these papers?  Either way, it has been a really useful exercise with mostly positive results and a good resource for future reference.


Cotton rag paper coloured with tea bags, black acrylic applied with roller, walnut ink applied with stick and brush, fineliner pen and stitch, fibre and rag paper pierced from both sides.  Like the visual texture and colours of top left (22) and the combination of drawn line and stitch bottom left (24).


White wax crayon resist, walnut ink stained rag paper and gesso, directory paper crumpled, ironed to vilene and dripped with black quink ink, same paper with white acrylic applied with roller and credit card and yellow ochre acrylic. Really like bottom right (29)


White packing paper crumpled, shaded with black aquarelle pencil and brushed with damp brush, brown paper crumpled and rubbed with brown oil pastel, cartridge paper crumpled. lightly sanded, brushed with light wash of blue quick ink, and used regular tea bags,  not very effective so stamped and rollered with black & white acrylic. (35) Much improved.  Bottom right, directory paper crumpled, gesso and acrylic added.


Evolon coloured with disperse dyes/transfer paints.  Top, layout paper painted with transfer paint, sprinkled with salt, allowed to dry, ironed onto Evolon. (36)(37)  Very pleased with this effect.  Bottom: Transfer paints painted over wax resist onto layout paper, ironed onto Evolon, bit vibrant, so white acrylic monoprint off gelli plate added.


Top left, Black cotton borsolini and two layers of muslin stitched, then white acrylic applied with roller and monoprint off gelli-plate added. Ironed onto vilene (39).  Like the effect of painting after stitching and the monoprint.

Callico, muslin and felt coloured with walnut ink.


Top left: Evolon coloured with transfer paint, not very effective so brown, yellow ochre, black and white acrylic paint added with roller.

Top right: Black and white collon jersey ironed to vilene, monoprinted white acrylic off gelli plate. (44) pleased with this effect and monoprint.

Bottom, calico and old black denim printed with plastic grid, roller, black & white acrylic. (47) (48) Both effective.


Top: Black denim printed with credit card, grid and white acrylic paint. (49) & (50). Effective.

Bottom Left black felt monoprinted from gelli-plate, white acrylic drawn into with kebab stick. (51) pleased with print.

Bottom Right. painted bondaweb ironed to vilene, black & white acrylic applied with roller. (52) Good visual texture.


Indigo dyed cotton with gesso, wax resist with monoprint, grid and acrylic, lines painted with No 1 brush and fine bleach to resist. (52,53,56,57) good visual texture.

As the pieces were so easy to handle and look through, I wanted to present them in an accessible format where the textural nature of the bundled pages could also be appreciated.  Linking back to the ‘tea’ theme, I chose to recycle a tea bag box, with a small extension for the A7 samples.

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I like the tactile nature of this sketchbook, it was good to work with small pieces, to allow things to dry and then go back to them.  The textural look and feel of holding a bundle of pages is pleasing to me.  I appreciate actual and visual texture, found Dorothy Caldwell’s work inspirational and thoroughly enjoyed working through this exercise.

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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


TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbooks – Exercise 4.2 Customising a sketchbook – Stage 2 Painter-inspired translation

Before moving on, I tried to paint a room setting, from a photograph I set up at my parents house, inspired by their 1950’s chairs!  I had difficulty painting it directly, as I had done with all the pictures in the previous post, so resorted to sketching it first with charcoal.


I was pleased with the result at this point.  Once I started painting, I felt I lost my way a bit with the colour.  I was intending to use the bold complementary combinations previously observed, but found it difficult with the muted colours of the actual room in mind.  Referring to Patrick Heron by Mel Gooding, I found a painting in a earthy colours that appealed (Night Still Life 1948).

I was reminded that earlier in this process I thought that the colours used were based on a limited palette, for example, the three cool primaries or the three warm primaries and some of my paintings in the previous post used one or other of those combinations.

Referring to David Hornung’s book,  A Workshop for Artists and Designers, I realised that the that the colours I was hoping to achieve could be mixed from an earthy tones triad, plus white.


This is the beginnings of my testing, the top four circles painted in yellow ochre, red ochre, indigo & white (all Winsor & Newton).  It was good to explore this and I will revisit it again soon.


The above is my finished painting.  Whilst i am quite pleased with it, I lost my spontaneity somewhere near the beginning, deliberated over it for far too long and definitely over worked it,  but I was delighted to discover all the colours that could be achieved with an earthy tone primary triad and feel that working in an old book in a Patrick Heron-inspired way has been truly inspiring and improved my confidence.

Gooding M (1994) Patrick Heron Phaidon Press Ltd

Hornung D (2004) Colour, A Workshop for Artists and Designers Laurence King Publishing Ltd


TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbooks – Exercise 4.2 Customising a sketchbook – Stage 2 Painter-inspired translation

This task has been very enjoyable.  I had in mind that I would like to find and old book with a stitched spine so it would lay flat and was fortunate enough to find one in a charity bookshop.


Initially when considering the painter’s work, I painted out the text with white gouache or gesso so I could write on the page.


but once I got into painting, I liked the added effect of seeing some of the text showing through.

The paper is of good quality with a slightly textured surface and easy to paint on. I mixed colours, matching them to computer prints of his paintings, although I later discovered that the colours are stronger in Mel Gooding’s book about the artist (Phaidon).


DSCF4321       Had a go at painting a ‘Checked Tablecloth’.

DSCF4322       Painted one of my Mum’s dining chairs.

DSCF4323 DSCF4324 DSCF4325 DSCF4326 DSCF4327       Some other mugs, cups, teapots, flowers.

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Tried ‘The Long Table with Fruit’ and ‘Anenomes and Lemons’.

DSCF4329  DSCF4332and some more crockery and flowers, concentrating on using complementary colours.


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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)

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TEXTILES: Preparing for Higher Education – Sketchbooks – Stage 3 – Drawing from Life

I chose to draw a journey around my garden which was a bit ambitious as it was difficult to find sixteen different views!  I didn’t work very quickly.  I found I lost focus if I tried to work faster, so quick sketching is definitely something to work on.   However, I did feel more confident drawing and observing as the task progressed.

I enjoyed adding a bit more detail, but didn’t feel very confident working with coloured pencils.  Derwent coloursoft pencils are lovely to use, soft and vibrant, although I only have a small selection.  I like the effect of the water soluble pencils but used them quite tentatively, although adding some felt pen helped improve visual impact.  I found the concertina type sketchbook a bit stiff and awkward to work with.

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Drawing from life was definitely easier for me than drawing from memory.  It was just so much better being able to constantly refer to the subject rather than rely on memory and imagination as with the drawn from memory journey.  Both sketchbooks were just a collection of images, although using the same media for each individual book gave it some unity.  I can see that the concertina type sketchbook would be a good way to present some projects, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for regular use.