Revisiting MMT

I have had several months to internalise Cari’s feedback at the end of MMT; returning to the work in order to prepare it for submission has been a rich and rewarding experience.

First and foremost, I was forced to consider the ‘Conceptual weight’ I placed on my ‘Final Piece’:


Cari said: “The final piece develops well from the practical exploration but there is a conceptual weight applied at this point which doesn’t appear in the earlier development work”. In retrospect, I wholeheartedly agree with this comment. I struggled throughout Part 5 with the question: ‘What gives art value?’ and I think I came very close to identifying my answer early on when I discussed Formalist Principles such as harmony, balance and rhythm. The problems I had concluding the project seem to have come from the fact I lacked conviction in my own beliefs. As Cari pointed out, I was swayed by my reading as I researched art vs craft and formalism vs conceptualism. She reminded me to ground my reading by considering it against my innate strengths and interests, advising that I focus:

‘more on the design context to explore where formalism, aesthetic and process have more perceived value’.

This comment opened a new world of possibility for me, it feels slightly ridiculous to admit but it felt like the permission I needed to make the art I that I want. My perception of the word ‘final’ and a failing to think outside the walls of a gallery led to me explaining the piece conceptually. I also think it was a way to explain the looser, more sketchy aesthetic that I was developing. I spent a long time during MMT in pursuit of imperfection as a way to counter the over controlled nature of some of my pieces, the Sloppy Craft Movement seemed like a good way to explain what was happening but also brought to the table the need for a conceptual explanation.

With a change of perspective, I was able to view the prints I had made in a design context. I have begun to familiarise myself with the world of Surface Pattern Design, changing the places I seek visual inspiration. Mounting the pieces onto boards helped me see the potential that the samples have, I see them much more as a collection of related pattern designs than as a ‘finished’ piece of work.

Without the distraction of the ‘conceptual weight’ I can really appreciate how important the process was in the creation of my collection. I found looking at the way Laura Slater develops her designs really useful as she uses a similarly experimental approach to create random abstract patterns. The most important discovery in terms of my future work was learning that her process begins with observation, drawing and mark-making; I believe that these are my strengths and that I have not fully utilised them yet, I now have a greater understanding of how these skills can be used in a looser and less controlled manner and intend to use them to my advantage.

My collection is held together through an intuitive use of strong colour in a restricted palette. In an effort to adopt a less controlled and over-worked result I tried to apply the colour quickly and playfully. In my final piece this has resulted in informal blocks and sections, with or without stripes. In order to keep a sense of myself in the work it seemed important to retain a sense of order, so the freedom of the colour application is counter balanced by the repetition and regularity of the underlying structure which can be seen to create more rhythms and movement in a layer below the print.

The structure of the base or substrate was created by joining together multiple units of the origami Bamboo Letter Fold. I first recognised the attraction of joining multiples in Part 2 in Karen Margolis’ Sonograms (2009-2014) where she constructed huge columns from tiny individually coiled wire components. When Cari first asked me what I consider the value of art to be I answered: ‘time investment’ which led to months of investigation into Sloppy Craft as I struggled to understand why pieces I had made quickly and loosely were more successful than those I laboured over, if I did indeed believe that time investment equalled ‘good’ art. What I have come to realise is that the ‘finish’ need not be polished and perfected to reflect time, what needs to be present for me is a sense of repetitious labouring. In Buszek’s Extra/Ordinary¹, Paula Owen discusses Kathleen Whitney’s view that certain process arts are characterised by: ‘a fetishism of effort’ using the phrase: ‘the art of the difficult’, this is what I was alluding to when I said ‘time’. I like to see work that has an almost obsessive quality, like for example: Hilary Ellis or Roanna Wells use of repeated marks, I find these works meditative and calming as I associate the time investment with the pleasant repetitious sensations of perform craft. I think craft for me is gentle pursuit, I am not against artists using its associations and connotations for historical, social or cultural comment, such as Sloppy Craft or Craftivism as this can be extremely evocative and powerful but at the moment this is not where my sensitivities lie.

¹BUSZEK, (2011) Extra/Ordinary. Craft and Contemporary Art. DUKE




3 thoughts on “Revisiting MMT”

  1. Such a treat to read this, Nicki. I am so thrilled about the clarity of thoughts on this somewhat tricky issue. When I say tricky, I just mean that to some extent your sensibilities might sometimes go against the grain of ‘the tradition’ at some art colleges. I have lately been thinking much if there is a difference design schools and art schools (such as OCA)?. I find myself much drawn to the design world at the moment, after having been through a somewhat similar ‘awakening’ with my MMT work). I think you strong aesthetics should definitely be allowed to take the floor. I believe you boards would sit SO comfortably in any design degree show (as I have seen them in the Nordic countries). But even better is the circumstance that you also have the other side too – the artistic conceptual side. So even if you for MMT went through a novel and exiting process that turned out to lead you here – than maybe next time it will lead you to other places? Valuing and listening to the material as you did here is such a core skill for both routes – I think at least. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. This post has been formulating for a while and although it was clear in my head, I wasn’t entirely sure I had communicated my thoughts clearly. I am absolutely thrilled that you understood! I have yet to find where I fit on the art-design continuum- I don’t know why, but I always feel immense pressure to be an artist using textiles rather than designing with and for them. Exactly the same thing happened first time round in my 20s I just didn’t quite fit my degree. I have decided to try to use my strengths rather than conform to what I perceive is wanted from now on and I think this is why my IAP work feels more confident.
      Thank you so much for the compliment that really means an awful lot. Just the google doc to fill in and I can move forwards x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Super clear thinking and such a strong post – I agree with Inger, these boards look very strong and creative and would hold their own against any designer’s work and your writing about them sounds like you’ve found your ‘thing’. Great reflection too – interesting reading this at the same time as Inger’s post on M. Odgaard, as you both seem to have had something of a revelation! (Still waiting for mine but getting closer!). I’ve always loved your sketchbook work, mark making and eye for colour so it’s great if you feel you can really base your work in what you love and what feels like ‘you’. Maybe as MMT recedes into the past this has given you some distance to see what you want to take from it – and what you don’t. The brief to keep researching ‘artists’ is a little misleading in the sense that this leads us rather towards a ‘fine art’ application of textiles (whatever that is) but sometimes these could be ‘designers’ or ‘makers’ instead which would lead in a different direction – finding this at the start of CC, much more design-led and it feels very different.

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