Part Five, Stage 3; Sample Making, Nets

I thoroughly enjoyed making samples from nets. There was something incredibly satisfying in the manipulation of a flat sheet into a three dimensional form. Perhaps the comfort I experienced came from the mathematical nature of the task. I am not usually one for enjoying maths but I did enjoy geometry at school and did a lot of technical drawing for my Design A Level (taken just before CAD took over).

This connection between art and maths made me think about Post/Inter disciplinarity. Did I derive a feeling of certainty from knowing the forms I created were right because they belong to a discipline where right and wrong exist? Are my samples more mathematical than artistic? Or perhaps pattern is where maths and art naturally diverge?  -Many patterns in nature can be mathematically explained (Fibonacci and the Golden Ratio). -Successful geometry gives art a timeless appeal, like a statue from Ancient Greece.

If my printmaking is to be Sloppy perhaps geometric shapes provide the perfect structured foil? However, having gone to great lengths over the course of MMT to shake off my perfectionist tendencies, am I in danger of returning to them now?

DSCF5843I love the quiet simplicity of the above form. The straight edges, emphasised by heavy black line, intersect the soft organic curves that now wrap around the form. Here I think I have found a balance between Sloppy and skilful.

Pentagonal Pyramid  Viewed from different angles the manipulation of the pattern is clear. Do I allow the viewer to see the form from all angles by presenting the 3D object itself? Or do I select how I want it to be viewed, in a photograph or drawing?

Rhombic Prism  This is an interesting shape to manipulate pattern with because as a form it already appears to have been manipulated. It is like a cube with the perspective all wrong, my eye applies knowledge of experience and thinks it understands, then it gets a shock when strange things happen.

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Icosahedron  It sounds silly but I think this is a bit too round! I like the print but as a whole the sample reminds me of a Champions League football that my sons would have begged for as children!DSCF5848

Hexagonal Prism  Again,  I like the print but not the shape. I was toying with the idea of an open box or container but this isn’t what I’m looking for.

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Dodecahedron  Having said the Icosahedron was too round, I expected not to like this sample yet it is one of my favourites. I stopped constructing it because I can see the potential for joining multiples to form an undulating surface. I think would be worth exploring this shape further to see whether a surface or a form develops. I could also consider applying the print to what should be the inside.

DSCF5850The print that I manipulated for the dodecahedron was particularly successful at this scale. I used a comb to remove paint from the plate. The different widths of the teeth have created variation in the density of colour which forms additional bands of stripes. Despite reducing my palette even further there is still much to look at.

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Part Five, Stage 3; Sample Making, Origami

I was quite overwhelmed at the vastness of Origami as a technique, to avoid the procrastination trap I decided to select one site and gave myself just one hour to experiment. This strategy was useful because I only made the designs that really appealed. I would definitely employ this tactic again as it produced results quickly, however, I realise it couldn’t be relied on full time as so many opportunities could be missed.

I made five models, sketched below: a pinwheel, a bamboo letter fold, a water-bomb, a cube (designed by Fujimoto) and a butterfly (by Matthews). This gave me more than enough to work with when it came to adding print.

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Pinwheel  Disappointing. Perhaps too simplistic?  I was hoping for more changes of direction.

Bamboo Letter Fold  I really like this one, there is a rhythm to the oppositional folds. The sample is quite thick and solid which suggests there are many hidden layers beneath the folds- originally the contents of a letter. This has connotations of secrets and concealment.

Of all the origami samples I think this one holds the most potential. I experimented with folding a print which has created an interesting distortion of the stripes (below) but there are many alternatives that could be explored through the use of translucent materials that reveal what is going on inside.

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Water-bomb  I didn’t like the way this came together, the cube that was formed was quite Sloppy in appearance. To compliment it I would have to use a very regimented formation of stripes which doesn’t interest me at present.

Fujimoto Cube  This was really cool- a cube created from a flat sheet, no net required! The stripes of my printed paper have been successfully manipulated to work with the form. Spirals are formed on two sides where the folds become triangles, straight lines traverse the remaining four. Although I folded an existing print there is the potential to fold first, then print because when unfolded the form will be recorded on a flat sheet.

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Matthews’ Butterfly  I was drawn to this model because of the earlier sample that was suggestive of a moth. I tried making it from printed paper and printing it once folded. The latter is pleasing but perhaps too obvious?

I am reminded of Cari’s comments that my prints don’t need to be ‘of’ anything. By providing such a figurative representation of the butterfly, nothing is left to the imagination. By comparison, the form below merely suggests it’s link to nature, leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusion. I have not encountered this subtlety in my own work before, I am keen not to spoil it by going down the more obvious route.

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Part 5, Stage 3; Sample Making, More Pleats

This IS the post I intended to write today! I am very aware that I need to concentrate on recording the results of my practical investigations and get on with Part Five! (Although I continue to consider the implications of the Art/Craft debate alongside trying to find a resolution of my Part 5 brief, I am still unclear as to how they will relate in the end).

Aiming for a slightly more complex arrangement of pleats, I decided to explore Rosettes and Columns. I found that this involved a small amount of measuring as the construction relies on the angle of the valley fold between two vertical mountains. Using a protractor, set square and ruler did not cause me to return to my previous over controlling state. The experience I gained from the experiments in my last post taught me you need to be precise but not exact. I was able to use the tools as an extension of myself, rather like one would use a crochet hook or knitting needles.

Rosettes.

I was instantly attracted to the pattern formed by creating a rosette. The photograph below show how when the top quarter is removed, the form becomes more complex. I like the secrets this reveals about its construction. The hexagonal shape seems inextricably linked in my mind to the traditional paper piecing of quilts. This suggests the possibility of joining multiples to form a new surface.DSCF5775 Also revealed, is the reverse side of the print, I decided to explore the possibilities of adding pattern to this central portion, either sympathetically or in opposition.

On the left, the tube was folded to form a flap of the same pattern, in the same orientation. The stripes appear parallel to the edges, the result feels organised and regular. I notice comparisons to concentric circles which I always find interesting to look at but rather than feeling drawn into a spiralling depth, I find the sample pushes me away. There is something suggestive in folds that makes me think of contained energy, rather like a coiled spring. I feel at any moment the sample could leap out at me. (Is this perceived danger once again linked to the colouration?)

The centre portion of the sample on the right was created by adhering a different pattern to the reverse. Although the colour and pattern are matched to the front, simply changing the orientation of the stripes creates a very different effect. Some of the structure of the sample is lost, I don’t find it as powerful as it predecessor.

I found playing with this configuration of folds quite enjoyable and found myself comfortable enough with the technique to try and invent my own form. The result is umbrella like and shares the concentric circle pattern from before. I like the way the pattern disappears into folds only to remerge in just the right place to continue the pattern.

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What makes this sample successful for me is the way regularity is balanced by irregularity; Order is drawn from chaos. The stripes survive the undulations and become more powerful because of their concentric arrangement (which compliments the overall shape). The print contains many blemishes and incidental marks in the yellow sections, these do not spoil the pattern because they are balanced by the regular repetitious rhythms of the folds.

Columns

Columns were an enticing prospect. When a vase or vessel shape is present, I think an object is more easily understood because of our familiarity with it as an object. This is an opinion formed from reading about Hella Jongerius ‘Breathing Colour’ ¹ which I made notes on in my sketchbook as it helped me understand how colour and form can relate. This was an important discovery because as the photograph below shows, the intricacies of the pleated columns are perfectly suited to a plain white surface.

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Twisted columns proved a useful way to fragment a striped pattern. Reviewing my samples I noticed some were more attractive than others; if I use a column in my final resolution to the brief I need to be considerate of height/width. The taller thinner columns appear more elegant, although this is difficult to judge because the horizontal bands on the centre and right are too bold and heavy.

When arranged vertically, the stripes were much more sympathetic to the shape and form of the column. Two similar prints have been combined, the twist allows both patterns to be viewed from the same angle. I like the apparent complexity of this sample.

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For some of my samples, including the one above, I reworked my acrylic prints using watercolour pencils. Although I was looking to redefine the stripes, I was careful to maintain the spontaneity of the original. The idea that folds are controlled and regular, while the prints are more chaotic and imperfect continues to be a central theme.

I like the idea of presenting my solution to the brief as a set of vertical columns. However, I still want to consider that multiples could form a fractured undulating surface like Giles Miller. I tried viewing the columns from different perspectives to see if they could be used in this manner but wasn’t convinced.

What I noticed as I viewed the samples was that the internal space at the top and bottom of each column holds potential for decoration. The shapes are the same as a rosette but are angled. Perhaps instead of joining flat rosettes (which would be like patchwork piecing) I could link the edges of the columns to create something far more three dimensional?

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¹ CRAFTS MAGAZINE 268, GREENHALGH I, Capturing the Essence, Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius. P80/1

Part 5, Sample Making and Reflections on Sloppy Craft and Postdisciplinarity.

This isn’t the post I sat down to write this morning. I intended to record my next set of pleated samples, instead I have reflected on the relationship between Art and Craft. The following are observations based on my research of Sloppy Craft and Postdisciplinarity. It should be understood that I am not claiming to be ‘right’ or that I have made any definite conclusions. This post simply records my thoughts:

Making Rosettes

At first the rosettes were really tricky to form. A cylinder of paper containing the necessary folds is created, then there is a push and pull struggle as you try to collapse the structure -will it, won’t it? It is really exciting when the folds eventually contract, revealing their new form. It feels almost magical the first few times but repetition dissolves this feeling as you begin to understand how and why it happens.

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I found myself admitting that I am familiar with this chain of events, new processes fascinate me. When I see objects, my mind is trying to figure out how they are made, I am willing to investigate and try it out myself. However, process led my approach might be, once I understand how it works I am likely to lose interest and move on to the next thing that grabs my attention. Perhaps this is why I have so many unfinished projects?

I wonder if this is endemic in our modern YouTube/Pinterest society? It is possible to learn and teach yourself as many processes as you have time for. Shops like Hobbycraft and a multitude of online stores tempt us with the materials required. A lengthy apprenticeship is no longer necessary: you don’t have to dedicate the rest of your life to being a ceramist just to experience playing with clay. You don’t even have to attend a pottery class. Order a lump of air-drying clay from Amazon and a few days later it will arrive at your doorstep… We can have it all! -At little cost to both time and money. Does this make you a craftsman? -I don’t think so!!!

Does this availability of knowledge and materials create friction in the Craft world? As I have considered the art/craft debate, I have been quite shocked at the how the Craft World turns on itself. On several occasions reading Crafts Magazine and the Sloppy Craft book ¹, I noticed the derision and marginalisation of the amateur, DIY crafter. Particularly in Sandra Alfoldy’s chapter: ‘Doomed to Failure’ P79¹

Perhaps availability is central to the increased popularity of Crafts, or maybe people are seeking a therapeutic antidote to fast living, similar to the Back to the Land Movement of the 1970s? Instead of feeling happy that multitudes are experiencing the joy of creation (that Industrialisation stole from the masses) many seem to be afraid of Crafts association with the amateur, although this can be countered by the number of professionals organising community craft projects and Craftivism.

Historically, a skilled craftsman commanded a certain degree of respect and power (think of Guilds and Unions set up to protect their status), and I believe this was their right: compensation for both talent and dedication. However, what if the avant-garde decided to adopt a Sloppy aesthetic? Are they undermining traditional values? I think they are and the danger of this is that now an amateur could produce the work of a professional. No wonder Craft is turning on itself, instead of concentrating on aligning itself more positively with Art.

Maybe it is Craft’s insistence of being viewed equally to Art that has led to the unkempt aesthetic? To cutting corners? To learning only what is essential? Instead of concentrating on quality of finish, the ‘idea’ behind the crafted object becomes the focus. Perhaps ‘Conceptual Craft’ would be a more suitable term than ‘Sloppy’, this would help explain that the aesthetic is secondary to the work without implying that it is unskilled?

Forgive me if I am over simplifying but I see the difference between Art and Craft as similar to the relationship between Football and Rugby. They are the same because they are both sports and they both are played with a ball, by a team. BUT you can’t play the same! You can’t pick up the ball and run with it when you are playing football (nor can you stamp on anyone’s head!) You can’t sustain an injury on the rugby pitch and writhe around the floor in over dramatized agony. Football fans are separated for fear of violence and hooliganism; Rugby supporters from both teams sit together in civilised harmony.

Perhaps what I want to say is, instead of competing against each other Art and Craft should admit they are different games with different rules. They share similarities but they fulfil different purposes. They are perceived by the viewer in different ways. An amalgamation of football and rugby would equal an entirely different game -American Football? -and what an odd game that is! It mixes the rules of football and rugby to produce something in between (that is both and neither). American Football seems to rely on the spectacular, it’s players wear costumes are designed to make them look bigger than they are and nobody really understands the rules… Maybe it is Conceptual Art in this analogy?

 

 

Part 5, Stage 3: Sample Making, Pleats

Moving into the sample making phase of Part 5, I tried to bring forward what I had learned about imperfection and the implications of a Sloppy Craft aesthetic and apply it to pleating. As I explained in my last post it was first necessary spending some time familiarising myself with the process.

Learning to divide the paper into 16ths, 32nds and 64ths without using a ruler to measure the increments was extremely useful. Once again I was forced to recognise that I didn’t get the most from pleating in Part 1. I was so preoccupied with accuracy that I failed to appreciate the simple rhythms of folding. Without the intervention of measuring equipment the process becomes less mechanical; I felt more ownership of the product created by hand and eye alone.

Accuracy was not compromised, in fact it was easier to create the tiny increments without measuring. The samples that were folded into 64ths were particularly attractive, their increased handling gave the paper a softer feel. The straight geometry was challenged by the organically crumpled appearance of the paper. They also seemed to bridge the gap between flexible and rigid by being both in part.

Exploring the orientation of the pleats was also useful: folding the paper diagonally or radially from either a corner or a central point produced a different type of pleat.

Since the object of my investigation is to explore what happens to print when folded, I realised I needed to limit my use of plain white paper, despite enjoying the simple, clean and elegant appearance of these early samples. I produced a series of striped prints using acrylic paint on the Gelli Plate, using the knowledge I gained from Pt 4.

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I selected a tight colour palette of yellow, grey, black and white. This was partly informed by my sunflower prints but actually came from a tiny stone picked up on holiday in North Norfolk. (Unfortunately photograph doesn’t capture the intensity of the colour in real life)

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I tried to balance the limited palette and regularity of the folds by being far more relaxed about the stripes themselves. I didn’t overly control the width, spacing or straightness as such the prints demonstrate some of the Sloppy aesthetic I have been researching.

Accordion Pleats

DSCF5833When the stripes were aligned with the folds my results were disappointing but when arranged perpendicularly to one another interesting things started to happen. I really like the slight staggering of the stripes on the sample above. Despite the simplicity of horizontal crossing vertical, there is a great deal of movement, I want to draw or paint this.

Diagonal Accordion Pleats.

As I handled the diagonal accordion pleats I discovered once again that the geometry of the starting square and the straight folds could be manipulated into a much more organic shape. The temptation was to break from the chosen colour palette and translate this leaf shape into greens. Resisting this resulted in a monochromatic design that is neither geometric or organic, or perhaps it is both at the same time?

Radial Accordion Pleats (from a central point).

I found this sample above quite threating, there is something rather spiderlike about it. This reaction is due to both the angular shape and the colouration. I realised I will have to be careful when using my chosen palette because of the associated connotations with danger and poisonousness. Could this be an avenue to explore? -I wouldn’t normally associate fear and pleating (other than a papercut!). Incongruous or exciting?

Beyond associations with fear, it was the fractured fragility that attracted me to this sample. It certainly fulfils the brief in the way it manipulates the orientation of stripes by introducing three dimensionality. In my sketchbook I experimented with the idea of returning it to 2D by drawing it flat. I have made no attempt to capture the undulations, merely to record the direction of the stripes in a Cubist manner.

Radial Accordion Pleats (from a centre point along one edge).

Changing the origin of the pleats and trimming the edges, formed an elegant fan shape. I noticed when I used plain white paper all the radial samples had an Art Deco style of simple symmetry, which was lost when print was introduced.

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As I photographed the sample, I played around with the angle and lighting. I like the arrangement of the image above. The stripes are much less dominant but still help to describe the way the once flat print has been manipulated into a 3D form. The double row of shadow also informs the viewer of the three dimensionality of the sample.

DSCF5855I explored the shape of the shadows in my sketchbook, I find them quite intriguing although I have yet to decide what they mean. I also compared the shape and colour of the sample to a moth. A connotation that wasn’t so obvious before the print was introduced. I think it is interesting that it is a moth not a butterfly, it makes me think of darkness. Perhaps this is why the shadows are important, maybe they are adding something sinister?

I am wary of the figuration of the sample since Cari and I discussed that prints need not be of anything in particular. I wonder if the link between my sample and the image it conjures is broad enough to escape being considered representational?

Conclusion.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I managed to achieve from such a simple process. My prints were successfully manipulated into something else. I have identified that the transition from 2D to 3D back to 2D is an idea that still interests me. (Perhaps it is this process of metamorphosis that led to the suggestion of butterflies and moths?)

I am keen to delve deeper into Jackson’s book to explore more sophisticated pleating processes, although I have decided to avoid knife, box and upright pleats for now.

Part 5, Review and Research: Pleating

My brief is to explore the manipulation of a print from a flat surface into a relief or sculptural form. I have identified pleating, origami and nets as possible means of manipulation.

Reviewing my use of Pleating 

Pleating was one of the exercises that I began MMT with, I don’t think I really appreciated the process a the time. Looking back at my sketchbook, I note that I became very distracted by the instructional diagrams, enjoying their regularity as if they were patterns in their own right.

This was a natural development from ATV, where through Agnes Martin, I learned to appreciate uniformity and structure as a means of making sense of the chaos that surrounds us.

I actually recall thinking at the time that the pleating exercise didn’t really do me any favours; it brought out the very controlling part of my personality that often rears its head when I am anxious (a state Martin knew well).  I have spent the rest of MMT in pursuit of irregularity and imperfection, learning to relinquish control and how to incorporate play into my practise.

My application of the process in Part 4 was more successful in exploring the rhythmic patterns of pleating. I stopped agonising over measurements and folded spontaneously, the results became much less static. I became interested in how printing could be used to record folds, which mirrored an earlier investigation into how wrapping could be used to remember the essence of an object.

Researching Pleating.

I brought a wonderful book about pleating by Paul Jackson¹ and instantly realised the scope of possibilities. Jackson uses ‘pleat’ to encompass

“a furl, corrugation, ruff, drape, crimp, plait, gather, ruck, tuck, dart, ruche or wrinkle, or even plisse, smocking, shirring or gauging.” ¹ P8

This suggests that pleating is so prevalent in making (across many disciplines, eg, fashion, architecture, design) that we almost cease to consciously notice it. Often what draws attention to a pleat is an area highlighted by light or shadow. I paused to once more consider Anne Kyyro Quinn’s smocked wall hangings and soft furnishings. (SEPERATE POST???)

In Jackson’s description a pleat can be:

“straight or curved, sharp or soft, geometric or organic. It can create a two-dimensional surface or a three dimensional form; it can be made once, or made as an endless repeat. It can be flexible or rigid, decorative or functional, made from one piece or fabricated from many pieces, and made from one material or from a combination of materials.” ¹ P9

Quite a list! As well as being overawed at the vast range of choices that stood before me, I was excited at the number of dichotomies that pleating can represent. The relationships between opposites fascinates me. I find the fact that one state can only exist because of the presence or absence of another quite irresistible. (For example: we can only feel joy because we understand pain.) Will I choose to celebrate one property through the absence of the other? -Will the form be geometric with no organic properties at all? Or will the properties be explored in combination with each other? -Could a flexible fabric made rigid?

Just as I was set to begin, the introduction to the first chapter stopped me in my tracks…

“You are very strongly advised to refrain from diving deep into the book to make something spectacular and instead spend time in this chapter learning the basics of dividing paper…… So curb your enthusiasm and take the time you need to learn…Every minute you spent in this seemingly unglamorous chapter will enable you to fold and create for unlimited hours afterwards.” ¹ P22

This was exactly the point I was making about Sloppy Craft and Inter/Post Disciplinarity! I don’t have time to master pleating as a process; Jackson has 30 years experience. How can I learn the skill, in order to de/re-skill in a short time period? Or does the fact I never mastered the skill mean my work will be Sloppy by default? Or worse still, am I  an amateur to be marginalised even further because although my work looks Sloppy but I didn’t intend it to? ARGH!

I decided the most sensible approach was indeed to begin at the beginning, but from there to pick my own way through the exercises in the book. After all, I am not looking to master any one of the processes covered by Jackson’s definition of pleating. I am not looking for the minimalist elegance of one of the examples he includes. I am searching for a means to manipulate my prints in such a way that they take on a new form. In a sense it would be easier if I knew what it was I looking for but then I would be in danger of preconceiving the outcome!

There was only one way forward… start making and stop thinking!

 

¹JACKSON, P. Complete Pleats. Pleating Techniques for Fashion, Architecture and Design. (2015) LAURENCE KING PUBLISHING.

 

 

Research: Making Sense of it All!

In an earlier post I mentioned Thomas Trum whose large scale murals are created through what I would deem as a playful ‘exchange between 2-D and 3D’. I can now see exactly what it is that attracts me to his work: I love the exploration of process and material. I don’t miss the mimesis, I like the simplicity of the pattern and colour.

When I look at Trum’s work I can evaluate it using Formalist values, I understand it. I see broad confident lines that traverse large planes. The use of a single colour, the scale, the type of mark-making and the location of the work (being displayed on the wall) causes me to relate it to my own experiences of decorating walls with a roller. As my eye follows Trum’s lines I have a bodily involvement, I imagine I too am reaching up, stretching for the hard to reach areas. This provides me with a feeling of satisfaction, as I rest I notice where the strokes overlap they create different tones of the same hue, emphasising particular shapes. I see the painting in a new light and begin to follow the path of the roller once more. Then I notice the quality of the lines themselves, I register the imperfections, the slight shakes and wobbles. I wonder, did Thomas Trum do a ‘Sloppy’ job?

NO! I realise the imperfections are there on purpose. In a similar way to the tremor of an Agnes Martin grid line, the wobbles evidence the presence of the human hand. They emphasise the stresses and difficulties of the technique, whilst at the same time serve to add variety and create interest. Clever? Very, he did do a ‘Sloppy’ job- on purpose!

I found an interview with Trum, in which he was encouraged to give short answers (link). When asked: When did you decide to become an artist? He explains that he used to be a house painter but decided to treat paint differently. This fits my theory of needing to master a craft before it can be subverted.

The answer he gave to the following question has been swirling around my brain for weeks: What do you find most fascinating about your work?

“When I’m finished, it looks so simple, but it took weeks.” ¹

When I read in one of Julie’s posts that she attributed success to:

“Sitting down to making having prepared (research, materials, understanding the brief) but then being open to what happens next.” ²

it reminded me of Arlene Shechet talking about her studio days:

“You are prepared but then you don’t know anything.” ³

I suddenly realised, in order to see the answer to my previous question: How can something that is thrown together in minutes be more appealing than something I have laboured over? I needed to stop viewing it in isolation. None of the pieces I selected that had this ‘undone’ raw aesthetic were created in a vacuum.

Washing Machine Spoon occurred at the end of a long wrapping session. The stencil I cut rapidly came after I laboured over several more intricate designs. In short I had already attained some degree of skill which I then used loosely (Or ‘Sloppily’!)

For quite sometime I have been identifying this pattern of my best work occurring as I tidy up. Connecting the observations of Trum, Shechet and Julie to Conor Wilson’s explanations ∗ of Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “flow” and the Taoist concept of “the totally free and purposeless journey”, made me realise that although my work might appear less refined or even be executed quickly, I have always put in a lot of effort beforehand.

So, maybe time is a consideration in valuing art after all? It is not necessarily the time it took to produce a single piece of work that should be measured but the time dedicated to learning the skills and practising the mind set that enabled the piece to be made in the first place. If this is true, then intentionally ‘Sloppy Craft’, could be more closely aligned to the ‘Slow Movement’ than I originally thought. I find this a more attractive proposition than reading Sloppy as Crappy! Mindful rather than mindless.

¹ http://www.horstundedeltraut.com/dutch-artist-thomas-trum/

² Julie Bancroft. OCA Textiles Student. IAP.

³ SHECHET, A. https://art21.org/watch/extended-play/arlene-shechet-pentimento-in-paper-short/

∗ CHEASLEY PATERSON & SURETTE. Sloppy Craft. Postdisciplinarity and the crafts. (2015) BLOOMSBURY. P151