2.6; Sampling: Tearing

I started this exercise by tearing plain white copy paper. It was interesting to compare the difference between fast and slow movements. I also found the orientation of the paper affected the appearance of the torn edge: width-ways the tear was jagged and uneven, length-ways it became much more straight. The reason for this seems to be the direction of the paper fibres (I found a simple scientific explanation here).

I find that one of the most attractive things about tearing above cutting is the soft textured strip that looks similar to a deckle edge created when you make your own paper. I am right handed, I found the textured ‘deckle’ edge occurred on top of the paper in my left hand and beneath the paper in my right. (I also noticed the paper in my right hand always seemed to curl and coil like a spring, whereas the left remained flat).

SAMPLE 2.6.1 (a) (b) (c)

I decided to work with the ‘deckle’ effect that tearing creates. I chose one of my favourite papers from an old sketchbook. I like it because it is thick and strong, it feels soft but has a grainy tooth, it is also very absorbent.


Long, slow  gentle tears across the grain created broad and uneven edges. Using what I learned from previous exercises I did not glue the layers flush, I used double-sided tape sparingly to leave space in between. This definitely added more interest and contrast particularly as all the layers were white.

The sample reminds me of the sea, I am reminded of the way the surf breaks on the sand. I worried that this was an obvious interpretation but decided as I have lived next to the sea all my life I could be forgiven. I wondered if I lived in a different location if I would have seen mountains, or hedges or clouds?

I was keen to use colours that I don’t normally use (to try to push myself out of my comfort zone) so I decided to pursue the idea of the sea by using blues and greens.

Sample 2.6.2 b, (below left) shows how colour was added using a light ink wash before tearing; 2.6.2c, (below right) was torn and coloured after tearing.

Sample b, seems much more successful. Even though the ink wash is very pale there is still contrast between the blue and white. The diffuse line between them adds to the watery feel. The torn edge is similar width and unevenness in both samples but in c the colour has had a more ‘all over’ effect. I was expecting the ink to behave differently on the surface and edge of the paper but it didn’t. Perhaps because it is so soft and highly absorbent?


I used Brusho with a wax resist to record the tears in these samples:

I tried drawing with wax crayon and a candle. The marks that replicated the tearing best were made with the edge of a wax crayon with a sheet of sandpaper beneath the paper (far right) I found this produced thick but uneven lines. The mottling created by the roughness of the sandpaper has created some unusual shapes, I drew these in pen in my sketchbook also.

The following photographs are of the piece I created as I used up the Brusho I had mixed. (I often find I like these spontaneous ‘clean-up’ pieces better than anything I plan to do!)

This piece builds on the samples I created and embroidered when recording 2.4.5 (below) I still used Brusho and salt but this time in this more unfamiliar colourway. I also used Deli Paper rather than Abaca and was pleasantly surprised at its crispiness (also Brusho doesn’t bleed through layers below it, so you don’t lose any intensity).

SAMPLE 2.6.2 (a) (b) (c)

The results of sample 2.6.1 c, were surprising, I expected ink to behave differently on the surface of paper than it did on a torn edge. I realised the absorbency of the paper had nullified the effect. When I tore some very smooth card I could immediately see the difference in texture between the surface and edge. Since the textures were now markedly different, I hoped the ink would be lighter on the smooth surface areas and darker where the card was torn.

a) The torn circles were glued to the same type of card which was then coloured with Brusho:

The colour did as I expected. I particularly like the way not only the torn edge is darkened but the area surrounding each applied shape has also strengthened where the dye has pooled. The wet-to-wet application of Brusho has made the colours merge and mingle in waves that echo the shapes of the torn edge.

b) I also coloured some of the card the circles were torn from:

The irregular shapes became rather fragile having been so wet, I was able to peel the card apart in layers. This showed just how far the dye had seeped into the card through the torn edge. Finding areas that had remained untouched at the of core of the paper was an exciting discovery.  

c) As I tore the circles I thought about how Maud Vantours sometimes stacks the shapes cut from a paper design. I realised it would be quite difficult to emulate her clean cut style with its sharp edges using a ragged torn line but I tried:

It was actually quite difficult to stack circles so that they didn’t look like fried eggs, which is why I spread the shapes out. I am pleased with the colour effect in this sample, I find it sympathetic to the shapes. The darkened edges contrast well adding form to the circular discs.

SAMPLE 2.6.3

I also tore some circles from card that had already been dyed. I was looking forward to seeing the same Brusho coloured circle shapes but this time with a plain white torn edge.

My findings were once again unexpected! I found I could tear almost perfect circle shapes but only in one direction- meaning the torn ‘deckle-like’ edge was on reverse of the circles and the front of the sheet from which I was tearing. Try as I might I could not achieve such accuracy by tearing in the opposite direction; I like the irregular shapes though, the negative space between them is much more interesting.

I produced yet another ‘clean-up’ piece with potential. This time a sheet of tracing paper that I had placed beneath Abaca paper to protect my work surface from the Brusho.

I am really excited by the way the paper has wrinkled, meaning the dye has only stained certain areas. The shapes that have been formed remind me of a watery version of the ‘Smocked Landscape’ pieces I was working on last year for ATV. I am really keen to revisit this in machine embroidery- when I get a chance!


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