3.1; Playing with Plaster and Knits

Aims: to return to explorations with plaster, this time with particular focus on transferring the texture of a knitted surface.

Why did I select this material/process/approach? Experiments with Polydoh showed me how fibres from yarn can become trapped in the surface of the moulding material. This offers more than shape alone and reminded me of Rachel Whiteread’s work with books. The physicality of tearing the book from the mould leaving pages partially attached seemed to contrast with the very sedate work I had made so far. I was also interested in how she allowed dye from the page edges to influence the colour of the finished piece.

Sample properties: Look/Feel. Structure/texture/colour. SAMPLE 1:The combination of white cotton and white plaster revealed very little in the way of transferred fibres. Although the fibres are there, they do not contrast enough to make any visual impact. What is successful in this sample is the moulding of the stitches which are clear and crisp. Also the gentle dome effect created as the knit stretched with the weight of the plaster.

SAMPLE 2: A particularly hairy, string like yarn allowed more fibres to be captured in the surface of the plaster. The contrasting colour makes this feature much more prominent than in the previous sample. 2×2 rib has created deep furrows that run parallel across the surface, this regularity without measured perfection is pleasing. I also like the way more fibres seem to have been trapped in the recesses of the trenches, allowing the raised ridge to appear more distinguishable.

SAMPLE 3: I experimented with different types of yarn and stitch, as such this sample is more of a reference to what can be achieved than a success in its own right. I noticed sometimes fibres sat in the imprint of a stitch, enhancing the texture; Other times they actually concealed the imprint creating their own textural patterns.

SAMPLE 4: In a move away from my preferred palette, I experimented with this full spectrum novelty yarn. I was thrilled with the way the inclusions pulled away from the carrier yarn. The slight crimp in each tuft echoes the bumpy surface the knitted stitches left in the plaster. I was really pleased with the effect of this sample until my niece asked if I had “scalped a clown” – I don’t feel quite the same about it anymore!


How does this relate to my contextual research? Tearing the knitted swatches off the plaster casts was physical and suggested how Whiteread worked through some of her frustration at the constant delays of her Holocaust Memorial. In actual fact the samples I created more directly referenced the research I did into Rebecca Fairley.

Did I feel comfortable with the materials/techniques? Was there anything I particularly enjoyed? Having become more familiar with plaster because of earlier sampling I now had the confidence to really enjoy this set of samples. I was able to incorporate my love of knitting through the selection of yarns and process of creating swatches. I am aware I could have repurposed old knitwear or other types of fabric but I wanted to be fully immersed in the entire process.

Did I discover anything new or unexpected? I kept the gauge of the knitting fairly tight but still expected some plaster to seep through, which it didn’t.

How could I use this sample/technique/material/research in the future? I am quite keen to explore how a looser gauge or even a lacy knit effects the plaster. I would also like to experiment with the thickness of the yarn and cast some really chunky knits. I am not really sure how I would embellish or manipulate the samples further, maybe leave them as the are and develop them into a series of drawings? (see sketchbook).

Could I repeat this using a different material/techniques? It seems the possibilities are endless because of the range of stitches and types of yarn available to explore. Concrete could be substituted for plaster, however, I don’t want my investigation to follow Rebecca Fairley’s too closely, as it is instantly recognisable within OCA circles. I wonder if I could make the investigation more personal to me some how? I think the answer lies in moving onto Project 2, where the casting material is contained within a plastic bag. Although this means I will not be pulling up fibres, I will be able to explore more open weaves.

How does my learning relate to tutor feedback/personal development? The very presence of fibres trapped in the surface of one of my samples would previously have been incredibly upsetting to me. I used to seek perfection, craving a polished finish like that of Ferrand Scott now I am actively seeking imperfection. This was one of Cari’s pointers of this assignment.

What do I want/need to do next? I feel that I am almost ready to move onto Project 2, Casting the Internal Space of a Vessel. This set of samples could lead quite logically to this slight change of focus, however, the course-notes require that I develop 2/3 samples through embellishment or manipulation. I need time to review and reflect on all the samples I have made to far and decide how I am going to progress…


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