1.4; Joining: Overlapping Edges, Pattern and Ptolemy Mann

I finished my last post explaining that I had rediscovered my passion for pattern. After playing with the ideas of translating drawings into patterns on layers of stitched felt I started reading Jane Callender’s book: 2000 Pattern Combinations¹. This book might not be a lot of peoples cup of tea but I adore it! It is a very in depth, step-by-step guide to the development of repeating pattern. One evening I happened to notice that as I read it my pulse rate dropped to 56 bpm, which is significantly lower than my resting heartrate even when I’m asleep. (Thank you Fitbit!) This illustrated to me just how effective surface pattern can be, even without fancy textures and techniques (a slightly worrying discovery considering I’m studying a mixed-media course).

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I chose one of the pleating tasks in Part One (1.4) and my tutor Cari, advised that I look at the work of Ptolemy Mann in relation to this. Although she directed me toward to the ‘architectural and spatial works’ I also found inspiration in her colour work and fabric designs.

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I confess to not actually knowing what IKat was until I researched Ptolemy Mann’s weaving process. I was fascinated by the characteristic blurry effect created by the difficult of lining up the pre-dyed threads. In a way this is similar to how I exploited the weave of the fabrics as they met at the overlapping joins photographed here:

The design below was inspired by Alacha, a geometric fabric design that the description claims has an ‘architectural edge’. If you view Mann’s consultancy work, particularly for the Healthcare Projects you can see how the different aspects of her art/design career overlap via the use of blocks of colour.

I considered how Mann’s Ikat threads overlap as they intersect their neighbouring colour block and decided to represent this through the overlapping of sheer organza. I like the way different colour is formed by the layering, pleating and joining. I thought about ways to embellish this and make it more ‘mixed media’ but decided to keep things simple.

As my design developed I spent a lot of time thinking about Colour Theory. I returned to texts by Josef Albers and David Hornung brought for ATV Pt 3: Colour Studies. This helped with the organisation of the blocks, the proportions and the relationships between the colours.

I was also inspired by Heather Jones, author of Quilt Local². Like me, Jones has a background in the Fine Arts and we a share fascination with colour theory. Her process and approach to Textiles makes a lot of sense to me.

This quote by Denise Schmit, talking about Jones² summarises my aesthetic perfectly. I copied it into my sketchbook to remind myself:

“I know how deceptively difficult it is to produce work that is restrained. When I began making quilts, the medium had an ingrained habit of ‘more is more’. It can be easy to impress with virtuoso sewing skills, use of abundant and vibrant colour and complicated visual tricks. Plenty of prints and patchwork can distract our attention, but it is much more skilful -and brave- to find the purest expression of form, to let the poetry of composition and colour have its say, not to overcomplicate or muddle the message with needless flourishes.”

Although technically I had some difficulties, the sample is quite firmly made. I am absolutely thrilled with it. Last year I received feedback for a project in ATV where I had used my characteristic earthy palette where Neil said:

“.. A few pages on from that there is some more strong colour work using stitch and referencing painters. At some point in the future it would be good to see you explore this use of brights and focus on how gentle harmony can still be created with intense colour.”

I feel that I have achieved this here, the blocks represent the whole spectrum and through pleating I have altered the saturation allowing the colours to sit together without jarring.

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Recording the sample gave me an opportunity to once again explore the opacity of watercolour. I enjoyed mixing and matching the colours and the composition is very much representative of my interest in Agnes Martin.

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I want to spend more time developing this idea, perhaps as a series on a larger scale. I had been thinking about using this newly created fabric in quilt design, then I discovered Sanne Schuurman’s Light Filters, which added yet another perspective and another possibility.

I also like the idea of producing paintings of the finished works. I was recently reading about Cayce Zavaglia, who has spent many years creating hyper realistic embroidered portraits. She recently fell in love with the reverse of her work and has made some really large scale paintings of them called ‘Versos’. The impact that these have had in the exhibitions of her work is similar to Karen Margolis including Sonograph alongside Containments. It adds so much more depth and shows the scope of Textiles as being more than just the ‘craft of knitting and crochet’. Maybe thats a post for another day!

Thinking about painting the final piece of work, I do need to be careful that the concept of ‘finished’ doesn’t interfere with what I consider to be a resolved piece. At times I manage to capture an energetic, almost aggressive painterly style but when I try to produce something ‘best’ I most certainly lose a certain some thing. For example compare:

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The five minute sketch has the edge on the 3 hour painting. What happened?

¹CALLENDER J, 2000 Pattern Combinations. A step-by-step guide to creating pattern (2011) BATSFORD

²JONES H, Quilt Local. Finding Inspiration in the Everyday. (2015) STEWART TABORI & CHANG

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