Nina's Textile Trail

My OCA Textile Tales

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Supplementary research to Assignment 5 in response to Tutor report – Sonia Delaunay

Sonia Delaunay

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 (

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, 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.


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Supplementary Research to Assignment 5 in response to Tutor Report – El Anatsui

El Anatsui

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.’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.


A Creative Approach – Assignment 5 – Final Reflections on the course

At the start of the course, my aim was to be able to develop original work as an artist which I am now in a position to do. I believe I have a very good understanding of what A Creative Approach was aiming to teach, but that it is a process of continued development and as this is my first experience of art education and first Level 1 course, there is considerable room for development.

I have been asked to reflect on ‘what has happened to me during the course’.  I have learnt so much, have enjoyed much of the work, but there have been highs and lows.  Distance learning is flexible but sometimes difficult, particularly with a practical subject.  So much was new to me that at times it was overwhelming and I have spent considerable energy worrying. Worrying whether I had interpreted the instructions correctly or if I was doing the ‘right’ thing.  I spent far more time on it than the suggested hours and wonder if I’m slow, too thorough, not focussed enough.

I can see how important drawing is and even enjoy it now, but still find it difficult to do regularly. I understand the design process and how generating lots of ideas allows the process and materials guide the outcome, although I may not have demonstrated this.  My horizons need broadening to help identify more things I am drawn to visually, which helps with motivation.  My biggest hurdle is a lack of confidence, I need to loosen up and let go.  I am inhibited by a ‘neat and tidy’ approach and my work is often tight and lacking energy.  I need to work directly into a sketchbook regularly and visit more galleries and exhibitions showing a variety of artists’ work.

I have gained confidence and skills and am pleased to have produced a unique piece that is all my own work.

Considering the Assessment criteria, I feel I have made significant improvement since Assignment 1.

Demonstration of Technical and visual skills – these are continuing to develop, but taking more risks, drawing more, identifying areas of interest and manipulating these will aid the process.

Quality of outcome – I think that generally this is good although there is always room for improvement.

Demonstration of Creativity – I believe I demonstrate creativity but understand that repeated experimentation and invention will improve and contribute to the development of my personal voice

Context reflection, research, critical thinking.  I think I am a harsh critic and sometimes need to let go but that overall I have shown the potential for developing good self reflection and research skills with more focus on other artists required.

In conclusion, I have really developed as an artist and have improved confidence but am aware of my shortcomings and need to get a more positive balance so that the pleasure outweighs the angst, get out more, loosen up, let go, take risks and keep persevering.

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A Creative Approach – Part 5 – A piece of your own – Stage 3 Developing your Design & Stage 4 Making your Textile Piece

Following a review of all coursework to date and my theme book, I identified a number of ideas to take forward, but am still really keen to develop the idea of collaging hand-dyed plain and printed fabrics, in particular the tile spacer block originally based on a sketch of footprints in the sand submitted in Assignment 1 as a Sketchbook sample.


In addition, I have identified a vital need to ‘loosen up and let go’.  My angst about doing the right thing and my subconscious or learned ‘neat & tidy’ tendency is inhibiting me, so I am keen that this piece should fight against that a bit and be big and vibrant with visual texture provided by printing and visual and actual texture added with stitch.

From my Theme Book, I am looking to use colours inspired by page 10, heuchera collage, page 16, some hand-dyed velvet and page 60, a magazine cutting of Mark Hearld’s work.  The following colours were mixed using gouache paints


As mentioned I am looking to develop the following from Assignment 2:


Inspired by the colours mixed above, I gathered different types of plain cotton from my stash (cotton sheeting, cotton percale, muslin nappies, calico bandage, heavy curtain fabric, medium calico) and dyed them using procion dyes. The specific colours used are listed bottom left of photograph.


Having stuck the small samples randomly onto the page, I arranged out fabrics in various ways and decided that I would work on a similar scale of pieces to the following in a similar layout


I intend to make a piece approximately 100cm x 60cm on this basis definitely including the grid like block.  This will be the background fabric and will be further enhanced with stitch and possibly other printed fabric.

In considering additional prints, I explored the fern and calla lily work started in the theme book.

First looking at printing ferns using transfer dyes:



The above were all interesting developments, but the synthetic nature of the tyvek, lutrador, sheer and the evolon didn’t seem suitable for the hand-dyed cotton, collaged background.   However, I was really taken with the possibility of stitching the fern and considered different soluble fabric approaches.

I determined that the pattern of the fern could be transferred to soluble paper with transfer dye and stitched a small sample in green, orange and aqua, which were successful.


So I embarked on a larger fern, which was less successful.


It was quite a feat to produce the stitched fern on soluble paper and I might well revisit it in future, but I rejected it as unsuitable for the planned background on this occasion.   It was less successful as I had added a soluble fabric to the paper which made it considerably easier to stitch but much more difficult to wash out.  After three attempts there was still a residue of paper which affected the colour of the thread which wasn’t as good a match as I’d hoped.  Also I used a different fern for the pattern  (it needs replacing each time you iron it to transfer the design), the fronds weren’t as delicate as the first sample and I didn’t stitch them as neatly, I also used different bobbin threads throughout which showed through and affected the overall look.

I continued to explore the calla lily leaf shapes as started in the Theme Book on pages 66-69.



Having waited for some bigger easy cut lino arrive, I was a bit disappointed with my efforts, much preferring the smaller section of a a leaf with some background lines inspired by Mark Hearld’s work.

I also revisited discharging colour as introduced in Assignment 2.



Whilst I was very pleased with one of the prints, the discharging didn’t add value and I felt the same when considering the leaves in conjunction with the grid print, they didn’t work together.

I had also really appreciated the texture produced by printing with bubble wrap and experimented on fabric with ink and discharge paste.


Although quite pleasing the fabric discharging to cream/white didn’t match the chosen background, with the exception of the hand dyed fabric which contained turquoise dye which discharges to a paler turquoise rather than white.  This is included below with the prints chosen for the piece.



After trialling the leaf designs and the grid print, I concluded that the piece could include either the grid or the leaves but not both.   I am still really keen on progressing the grid like print, the attraction is that is that it is an ‘open’ design which lends itself to being continued in stitch.

Also, exploring the different ways I can stitch or echo the grid of the pattern feels like unfinished business.  I have chosen to combine my hand-dyed, recycled fabrics and applique them to calico, then review and consider how the fabric can be used at that point.


Auditioning fabrics. Poor quality photograph but gives an idea of the decided layout after much rearrangement, deliberation and revisiting.

The fabrics were then cut, pinned and machine stitched to calico.  The edges were left raw and the pieces stitched and overlapped by eye.  Some areas were further embellished with with hand and machine stitch before the piece was reviewed to decide how it would be used.


To really appreciate the stitch and piece as a whole, it lent itself to a wall-hanging.  It needed a little more added detail in print and stitch and different combinations were considered.

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I even checked the leaf again to be sure it wasn’t suitable.

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I looked at some artists who add stitch to layered fabrics and trialled some stitches.


The more I looked, the more I realised that there was a need to keep it relatively simple and based on lines, crosses or diamonds.  Running stitch, herringbone, cretan and cross stitch all looked well together.

Hand stitch is time consuming and I trialled many stitches on the final piece, unpicking them if they were unsuitable.  I understand that separate samples may have been preferable.

As the piece was nearing completion and I was trying to decide how the stitches could lead the eye, I completed a quick sketch to plan out the remainder of the work.


When I was happy with the stitching, I felt it needed more weight as a wall-hanging.  As it also needed to be posted, I decided to back it with black felt which would give it a bit more substance but be easy to fold for posting.  The felt was stitched to the reverse.  To hang, two small rings were stitched to the felt.   For the photograph, a clothes hanger was used.


The final piece, above, and some detailed shots (a little over-exposed), below.

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Looking back over the assignment, I can see a continuous thread of development from my original idea and the final designs. I felt I made the right decisions at each stage of the design process and was easily able to interpret my ideas within the techniques and materials chosen.

I am pleased to have made ‘a piece of my own’ and think it is successful in terms of being inventive within the medium and coherent as a whole.


A Creative Approach – Part 5 – A piece of your own – Project 10 A design project – Stage 2 Focusing on your Theme Book

This section asks us to focus on the theme book to identify drawings, colour mood or pictures which ‘hold my attention strongly’ and consider how they might be developed through further drawings and design ideas, ensuring that there is enough information to work with in terms of colour, texture, shape and composition and that I “feel enthusiastic enough to sustain interest throughout the project”


I really enjoyed finding papers and snippets of fabric to match or complement the colours of these heuchera and love the colour combination of the strong lime, orange, green and aubergine.


I wasn’t particularly inspired by the rusty bolt, but loved the turquoise and rust colour combination.


I enjoy visual texture produced by printing.


I like the positive shapes of the fern and leaves and the negative space between each leaf, also the painterly look of both the transfer painted print and the spray onto fabric and paper.


The curves of the animal fur on dark paper with pastels and charcoal, developed into stitch on painted canvas would be interesting to develop.


I can see some energy and potential in producing this type of lino print and playing with the shapes, having experimented with an easy cut lino print after looking at Mark Hearld’s work (mustard & black print right hand side).


The magazine cutting far left (an illustration by Mark Hearld) confirmed how petrol blues and oranges appeal to me, and continuing on an earlier theme, prints of leaves and ferns produced some lovely visual texture, as did experimenting with decorating papers, all inspired by Mark Hearld.

A reminder of the fabric covers from Assignment 2 inspiring further development:


Having reviewed my theme book and all work to date, development of ideas will be inspired by petrols and oranges, the greens and aubergine of the heuchera, printing with leaves or lino-cut, layering fabric & prints, free machine and hand stitch.

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A Creative Approach – Part 5 – A piece of your own – Project 10 A design project – Stage 1 Reviewing your work so far

The instruction in this section is to think about how different techniques could combine to create a further development of ideas.  To look for shape and form in samples and drawings for ideas for a larger more defined piece of work.  To generate lots of ideas and make a selection of the strongest and most interesting to take forward.  …   its all about selection, development and evaluation … Explore the full potential of an idea and evaluate to determine the direction to pursue.

It was interesting to revisit all the work completed so far and ascertain what interested me.  From Assignments 1 & 2; free machining, black thread on white; markal paintsticks on paper drawn or brushed, then rubbed with finger;


colour collages of papers, fabric magazine, thread etc;

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envelope scrap books, really helped me work more freely;


stitch samples; discharging complex dyed cloth; using textured wallpaper for printing;  multi or 2-3 coloured tray dyed fabric; stencil discharge; printing on paper; monoprints off glass; printing with thickened procion dyes.


Most inspirational work to take forward from Assignment 2 was the envelope scrap book covers, using printed, tray dyed fabric randomly pieced without much thought to present other assignment samples.  Using this type of fabric, printed and/or discharged, combined with hand and free-machine stitch is very exciting to me.

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From assignment 3, the mixed textural paper, linen, newspaper, hessian final piece is quite appealing

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From the Sketchbook Foundation module; printing on fabric with acrylic paint to give texture, black on white/white on black?; print block created with tile spacers; layered printing; crumpled paper as a background painted and stitched; black quink bleached back.



Assignment 4.  Enjoyed image transfer; daisies stitched on crumpled paper joined with stitch,


combining natural cotton, linen, silk yarns and colours; the combination of magenta & turquoise textured paper/hessian weave,


wrapping; orange/blue weave with worsted wool as warp;


colours of following painted papers;



Preferred Techniques: free machining, hand stitch on cloth & paper, textural printing on cloth, discharging, dyeing art cloth for that purpose, printing on paper, mixing paper and textural fabric, painting using roller on fabric to give texture.

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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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Assignment 4 – Textile Structures – Reflective Commentary & Self Assessment

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills: I think I have demonstrated reasonable technical skills throughout the assignment, am working on my observational skills for drawing and have shown an improvement in design and compositional skills.

Quality of Outcome: I have been disciplined in completing workbooks during this assignment which I think are presented in a coherent manner. Research work was more thorough and considered. I might have missed an opportunity to experiment more with structures and materials. I continue to be discerning and have shown more evidence of the conceptualisation of my thoughts and attempted to communicate my ideas more visually.

Demonstration of Creativity: I enjoyed working through the assignment and think I demonstrated creativity. Whilst I was interested to experiment and develop a new skill and used a variety of materials, I wasn’t inspired by unusual materials such as plastics & polythene and this perhaps limited my imagination, experimentation and invention. A careful review of my work identified preferences and strengths, which will contribute to the development of my personal voice

Context: I think I have a much better understanding of Graduate Textile Art in context, having investigated the research points more thoroughly, visited a comprehensive local textile exhibition and the UCA Farnham Graduate show, enabling me to make some valuable comparisons. I think reflection and critical thinking continue to be amongst my strengths.

My new regular weekly three hour art class has introduced me to the work of more artists and I can clearly see that regular drawing is an essential part of my development and success as an artist rather than a desirable skill.

I feel I need a more relaxed, experimental approach but am finding it difficult to let go of a ‘school’ mentality of being set a task, completing it and moving on to the next thing.   This tendency to ‘follow rules’ ie coursework instructions, means that the allocation of my time is still in favour of coursework to the detriment of independent work such as research, exhibition visits, sketchbook work and in this assignment, the Theme Book. I’m very frustrated that I didn’t spend more time on the Theme book as it was an exciting prospect at the start of this assignment and I kept putting it off in favour of finishing coursework, which still took me a week over my deadline.

Strengths include identifying areas for improvement, working with colour, clear presentation.

Weaknesses: allocating time effectively across all course requirements, a lack of confidence in pushing boundaries, experimentation and invention, particularly in 3d.

Areas for continued attention: observational drawing, sketchbook, research artists and exhibitions.

Immediate requirement to continue work on theme.

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Assignment 4 – Books

Books that have supported this section include:

Jefferies J & Quinn B, Monem N (ed) (2008) Contemporary Textiles: The Fabric of Fine Art  (Black Dog Publishing)

Very useful for the Research point at the beginning of Assignment 4

Lee R. (2010) Three Dimensional Textiles, Coils, Loops, Knots and Nets Batsford

Colourful book, lots of photographs of ‘Three Dimensional Textiles, Coils, Loops, Knots and Nets’!

Maslen, Mick & Southern, Jack (2014) Drawing Projects an exploration of the language of drawing (Black Dog Publishing)

A book, reviewed by Rebecca Fairley, which claims to contain ‘a set of aims and objectives within an established framework that collectively assemble into what might be called “a Foundation Course in Drawing”.  I have tried some of the exercises and have found it very interesting so far.

Monaghan, Kathleen & Joyner, Hermon (2000)  You Can Weave  Davis Publications Inc

A book containing ‘Projects for Young Weavers’, well photographed and useful for the beginner.

Sheehan & Tebley S (2003) Ann Sutton Lund Humphries

Walsh P (2006) The YarnBook A&C Black

Lots of information about the history, production, fibre content and construction of yarn 

Wilcox T & Penny C (2011) Tapestry A Woven Narrative, Black Dog Publishing

Big reference book containing a little history and lots of colour pics and profiles of contemporary weaving & artists