4.1; More Sampling: Embossing

The next material I embossed was foil, which I found instantly more accommodating. When I last used kitchen foil in 1.4.4, I felt I didn’t gain much from it. I now found that I could press it onto objects and with much less pressure than paper required, create a facsimile.


The texture of the embossed plastic canvas was transferred clearly and neatly onto regular kitchen foil. However, when I tried embossing the dots from earlier samples, I began to see the limitations:

The pattern was recreated by the kitchen foil without breakages but with only minimal handling the surface began to deteriorate (you can see in the photograph some of the ‘bubbles’ have popped!). This meant that recording these samples would be more important than ever, since they were not going to last long.

One of the things I really liked about the kitchen foil is that it revealed exactly how much stress a material is put under when it is embossed. No wonder there were so many breakages when I used paper! The drawing above records these stresses and I rather like the strange sunburst shapes that have created a pattern like a secret cipher or code. Once again, I considered embossing with Diane Reade’s themes of concealment and revelation in mind. What if my drawing is secretly revealing the stress it was under?

SAMPLE  4.1.5

Since I have been thinking so much lately about the texture of bark, it would probably have been more appropriate to have directly embossed a tree. Unfortunately, that was impossible this week so I had to use a substitution: I used a Lotus flower seed head from the florist.


I had intended to draw the seed head as it was because I thought it related really well to the Exercise: Cutting Holes, instead I embossed it.

I liked the craters that appeared in the foil, I also thought the lines and creases in between them were really interesting. The three dimensionality of the sample, from wrapping around an object rather than pressing into a surface, put me off a bit. It simply extenuated the problem of the foil being so delicate and liable to roll into an unrecognisable ball at a heavy touch. I put it to one side for a while….


I have mentioned before that I like to incorporate knitting into my work, this exercise was no exception. After knitting two swatches in cotton DK, I coated them with Gesso to harden them.

I did not manage to successfully emboss the knitted texture onto the foil (or paper). The knot was still too soft, I wonder coating with PVA might have produced a harder surface? Interestingly, I thought I would have more chance of transferring the second swatch (because it had a larger gauge and therefore more spaces for the foil to sink into) in actuality it made the problem worse because it was more springy than the tighter knit.

SAMPLE 4.1.6

The failure of my experiment above, was really important because it encouraged me to keep looking… this hideous piece of free-machine embroidery was my first attempt at using water soluble fabric during ATV and has been kicking around my desk ever since! Curiosity, frustration or serendipity made me pick it up and try to emboss it.

This unlikely combination of failure and foil actually produced something I found really attractive. It was similar to 4.1.5 in appearance, only better: the series of lines and creases between the irregular circle shapes was wider an more pronounced than when I used the Lotus head. I decided to draw it before the tiny web of lines flatten out (which they did, the sample no longer ‘exists’):


I first used a black pen to record the creases and folds and then recreated the drawing by scratching marks into a surface prepared with oil pastel.

The drawings remind me of my plastic fusion images because of the bubbles but they are different: there is no hard line between the circles. What is more important? The shapes or the spaces between them? The holes or the lines? I like this dichotomous relationship: one can not exist without the other.

I am reminded of Karen Margolis’ three dimensional work which explores a similar theme. In pieces like ‘Containments’ http://www.karenmargolisart.com/containments made from looped cotton, bound and linked by wire, the space exists because of the boundary. Yet without the boundary we would not see the space. Hmm…

SAMPLE 4.1.8

I tried combining kitchen foil and sheer fabric to ascertain firstly whether embossing could be transferred through fabric without a press and secondly to see if this would strengthen the foil making the emboss last longer.

I found that I quite liked the way the organza toned down the shininess of the foil, the shapes showed clearly, although they were no stronger or permanent than before. The silk tested the limits of this way of embossing, the shapes were ‘readable’ but only just. In order to emboss thicker fabrics I believe a different technique is required. I did not have the equipment, so I returned to foil alone.

SAMPLE 4.1.9

I found the foil of a disposable serving platter was much more suited to embossing. I was able to make deeper marks, without damaging the surface. I had to wrap the edges with electrical tape because they were really sharp (it was like self adhesive bias binding- now that would make finishing a quilt simpler!)

Having discovered that I could emboss quite deep and dramatic marks into the surface of this thicker foil I returned to the embroidery from 4.1.7. I was able to produce a sample that wasn’t in danger of disappearing!

The irregular circles have become scale-like. The linear mark that have created each scale are clearly visible and are all orientated in one direction. I feel the sample has an air of mystery- What is the foil concealing? I like that it is not immediately obvious. What does the emboss texture reveal? Is it too abstract?

SAMPLE 4.1.10

Finally, I used the little scrap of foil from the neck of a wine bottle to emboss the Lotus flower head.

This foil acted more like thin sheet metal, which I guess in essence it is. I was able to push the material deep into the recesses, creating a really three dimensional effect. The fact the surface is not especially shiny makes it more pleasant to look at. It also leads me to question my choice of materials for this exercise, have I been looking in the wrong places?




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