3.1; Playing with Latex (1)

Aims: To explore the properties of latex, through a range of experiments to determine the effects I could achieve.

Why did I select this approach? I made a conscious decision to play. This was partly in response to my tutor feedback but was also inspired by the dictatorial nature of the instructions and tutorials I read online. I felt I was constantly being told what I could and could not do, for once the rebel artist in me rose up and decided to make my own discoveries. This inevitably led to a spate of ‘unsuccessful’ outcomes, however each of these ‘failures’ taught me something new.

Sample properties: Look/Feel. Structure/texture/colour

SAMPLE 1: Applying liquid latex to metal bicycle produced strings of discoloured latex:


This tangle of discoloured latex has a pleasing combination of thin strands and thicker, build up lumps. the edges are very ragged; it reminds me of seaweed. It has linear qualities that suggest it could be used as a ‘yarn’.

SAMPLE 2: This sample was intended to be a flat, round disc capturing a texture contained within a pot (more of these to follow). I did not anticipate how much the latex would adhere to itself as I removed it from the mould. It was destined to be categorised as another failure but as I applied Bruce Mau’s principle: “Break it, Stretch it, Bend it, Crush it, Crack it, Fold it.” I achieved this coil:

Although the sample has failed to capture the texture I intended, another linear form has been created. A thick band of latex coils, imitating a Mobius loop (although it actually isn’t). It has a slightly waxy look and I really like the way light plays with the different thicknesses, making some areas translucent.

Part of my attraction to the coils might be that it reminds me of the shape of Washing Machine Spoon from Part 2! They seem to share a similar energy in their swooping form.

SAMPLE 3: I wondered if vulcanising the coil from Sample 2 would change it’s appearance?

The shape and stretchy qualities were not effected but there has been a subtle colour change. The surface now appears bleached, like chewed gum. (My husband has already made all the references to prophylactics I need to hear!)

SAMPLE 4: Latex seeped through the holes in the plastic canvas, encapsulating it.


As usual my initial thoughts were that I had failed but actually this sample does have merits, especially since the holes are now filled and it could be used in conjunction with another liquid casting material.

SAMPLE 5: Yarn with knots, dipped in latex:


Another encapsulation. The latex dipped yarn was a really exciting material to work with as it can be shaped and moulded. It then retains its shape but is still flexible enough for further manipulation.

How could I use this sample/technique/material/ in the future? I would definitely like to use what I learned from Sample 5. Since fabric can be used between layers of latex to add strength to a mould I think this is a viable alternative to latex alone. I have considered how I could use the yarn, for example to knit with:


This was actually really pleasing because the yarn shared the same stored energy I have experienced when stitching with linen thread. The loops hold their shape, latex can be added like an adhesive if permanence is required. An alternative would be to dip the yarn after knitting with it, that way the texture I am capturing would be that formed by the stitches.

I like the way the knit can be stretched out and the open gauge preserved. The inclusion of latex makes the swatch harder (although it is still flexible). There is a lot more that could be done with this sample, particularly in regard to using it alongside other materials.

I also considered how I could use this method to capture form:


I like the circular shape enhanced by the coiling yarn. The soft peachy colour that pools and deepens between the strands. The combination of translucency and opacity. The flat texture on the inside created by the smooth top it was formed around, which is complimented by a undulating outer. I think it has loads of potential for development

Am I capturing the texture of another material or am I creating a new one? The texture of the yarn has been disguised by a layer of latex, a new spiralling texture (similar to the thread of a screw) has been created but that is not what we have been asked to do. This is a close call, I can’t decide whether it is a creative solution or a tangential response? Am I just being pedantic? Any thoughts, dear course-mates? 

Was I experimental/logical/controlled/expressive enough? I think for once I can say that I was more experimental than logical as I used the materials.

How does my learning relate to tutor feedback/personal development? I really used the advise Cari gave me to inform this set of explorations. The samples are certainly less refined and more experimental. I did not have an finished objective in mind; I was much more playful and curious.

What do I want/need to do next?

  • to revisit the idea behind sample 2: capturing discs of texture within a pot
  • to explore the more traditional usage of thin layers of latex build up over a texture
  • to continue to experiment with casting knitted swatches in other materials

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