I had good intentions when I started Part3, pending tutor feedback. Part 2 felt large and sprawling, this time I was determined to focus on what was really important: the material investigations. However, two weeks in, I began to suspect I was already making mistakes, which was corroborated by the feedback I received last night.
I need to evaluate what I have done so far, draw a line under it and move on. I have decided to use the blog differently, using questions tweaked from information Cari gave me. I will be using this pro forma until I get the hang of it!
Rachel Dein’s Plaster Tiles:
- To relate my experiments to a contemporary practitioner (Rachel Dein).
- To develop idea of preserving the transient (related to previous project: Retaining the Memory of a Wrap)
- To explore recording imprinted objects in clay.
- To translate these marks into a more enduring material: plaster.
Degree of Success:
I was able to achieve a good transfer of the leaf’s veins into air drying clay. I did not enjoy the experience of working with this material, finding it stiff and hard to manipulate. It has the consistency of wet toilet roll tubes and smells revolting. It is hard to achieve a nice smooth edge- especially when cutting (I need to explore if I can sand the edges) It took a long time to dry and as it did almost all of the samples suffered some degree of warping and shrinkage. The resulting tiles are very lightweight and feel brittle.
Pressing the textures into kiln clay and then casting the imprints in plaster (as Dein does) was highly successful. The materials were much easier to work with – the clay being much softer and more mouldable. The plaster was easy to mix and picked up an exquisite level of detail, drying hard with no warping. The tiles feel very solid, although perhaps rather heavy.
Future Applications: (sample/process/material/research)
This process (clay imprint recorded in plaster) could have a great many applications, since I doubt that it matters what surface was pressed into the surface of the clay. A good imprint should always be possible and is easily transferred into plaster.
Placing objects at different depths could possibly be achieved by supporting layers of clay. This would add more depth to the relief’s surface.
Adding colour would be high on my agenda if I were to use this process again. Research and observation showed me how cold and clinical plain plaster can be.
I would not use air drying clay again if I could avoid it, the disappointing results (warping and fragility) do not seem worth the smell!
THIS IS WHERE I GOT IT ALL WRONG! This reflection was informed by reading what my tutor said about my last assignment and applying it to what I have done since.
I almost immediately became distracted by my research. I focussed on the provenance and evolution of Dein’s work inspired by Early Botanists, (which I think probably relates more to Part 4: Printmaking, than to Part 3) I concentrated my evaluation of her work on the composition of the tiles and the effect of leaving plain, smooth space around an image. This was interesting to me, but was tangential and missed the point of the investigation.
I regret the time I spent on this master study of Ehret, in hindsight it screams irrelevant! I could have spent that time experimenting with materials! I did learn from Ehret though…I noticed a subtle warmth from the inclusion of very soft colouring. This helped me appreciate that the subtraction of colour from Dein’s work (and possibly other castings) is responsible for the haunting stillness. This led to the Gelli Plate prints I included in my sketchbook:
Again, I am not really sure of their relevance to Part 3. However, if the prints are considered residual to the application of colour to the actual block this makes more sense. I did not make this clear in my sketchbook but have tried to rectify this by displaying the photographs alongside each other here.
Was I experimental/logical/controlled/expressive enough?
Since I found Rachel Dein’s tiles to be quite cold and repressed, I think I can be excused for responding in quite a controlled and logical manner. I did try to tweak the appearance of my own tiles by altering the composition. I felt by spreading the texture from edge to edge, I was alleviating some of the contrived nature of her designs.
I was methodical in approaching the actual practicalities of the process: experimenting with where I positioned the leaves- under/over the clay. How I pushed them in- fingers/rolling pin. How long to leave the leaves pressed into the surface, etc. For this reason I gained quite a good understanding of how the two clays differed and how plaster can be used in addition.
How could I have approached this differently?
I should have kept my contextual research focussed on the materials and the process.