1.1; Joining: More Straight Flush Edges

After so much exploration of hand stitch I was keen to get back to my sewing machine. Oddly the next artist’s work I looked at is worked by hand. I found Elisa D’Arrigo’s paper, cloth and thread sculptures appealed to my developing aesthetic taste, containing many of the elements I find attractive: quiet, modular and repetitive.

Working in my sketchbook I identified the link between deconstruction and reconstruction, likening D’Arrigo to other artists whose work I admire that follows these principles. I am struck that even Patchwork and Quilting (something I did before OCA even became a possibility) features this process- you take a perfectly good piece of fabric, cut it up and reassemble it into something else (Kintsugi at work again?) I am left wondering if years of creating quilts has impacted on my work making it rather flat?

Indeed when I attempted my own cloth/paper/thread ‘construction’ on the sewing machine, the result was just as two-dimensional as a quilt:


I had lost the undulation: the opportunity to bounce light and create shadow. Checking the dimensions of D’Arrigo, I find some are between 4-7″ deep. Is this where I am going wrong? (with tutor having identified “The three dimensional, spatial samples were the ones which excited me the most”)

What I do find promising, however, is that this sample is reversible. So although it is flat it is at least interesting from another angle:

dscf4244Actually, the colour of the reverse is perhaps more appealing than the front? It is softer since the colours are muted. This de-saturation has occurred because of the materials I used to construct the piece. In keeping with Viktor and Rolf’s repurposing of archive fabrics I selected some of the Gelli Plate Prints I made just after Christmas and recycled them.


  • Image Left: Printed onto calico. First pull. Consciously assembled for pattern. Thread colour which competes for attention.
  • Image Right: Printed onto paper. Ghost print. Serendipitous assembly. Neutral thread colour.

It was at this moment I received my Tutor Feedback. My initial response was to draw the sample directly into my sketchbook, not on paper to be stuck in.

dscf4299The drawings helped to solidify my understanding of what I had made and to make a connection once more to A L’Infini but also a fresh connection to work I had seen by Susan Stockwell. It seems a theme of mapping and arterial road ways seems to be developing.


In response to the making/drawing/remaking cycle, I made another sample. This one is still in its infancy:


The sample follows the path of the threads, removing the material to be joined entirely (thinking Meredith Woolnough again). I have two main issues with it:

  • Flatness: The sample was once more flat and lifeless, I tried to overcome this by crumpling it. This has resulted in some of the tissue papers coming apart: a deterioration which is actually really exciting.
  • Colour: I wasn’t happy with the colour to begin with and thought rubbing oil pastel over the surface would rectify this, I don’t think it helped:

Now I need to decide what to do. I would like to preserve the crumples to produce a more permanent sculptural form- but if I add more glue I think it will collapse on itself because of the ‘wetness’ . I also want to adjust the colour slightly – but adding paint will create the same problem.

dscf4307As I consider what to do, I am wondering whether to start again, with another sample? Not a repetition, I just want to ‘borrow’ the shape- to recreate in in different materials with a different system of joins (thinking Pippa Andrews).

As always the decision is clouded by time constraints: Do I do the above, following this line of thought? Or do I move onto Exercise 2? I am considering Rebecca Fairley’s recent post The Question of Development which struck a chord with me.  -I have decided that the development of the sample above would lead to a more cohesive body of work BUT it is at a stage where I could conceivably pick up where I left off, if I wanted to. Time to move on!

1.1; Joining: with Viktor and Rolf

Looking at the Fashion World was really helpful, the question on my mind was constantly WHY? The answer on the catwalk often seems to be WHY NOT?!

(NOTE TO CARI: The first half of this post is exactly what I was doing wrong in part one! I can see exactly what you mean about duplicating information from the sketchbook. Since I was already half way through and ‘going somewhere’ with it, I have changed the colour of the text to blue rather than delete it.  NOTE TO SELF: Stop making more work by doing things twice! Lesson Learned)

In 2008, Viktor and Rolf’s Autumn/Winter collection featured gold staples, lots of gold staples. I found this really interesting but had mixed feelings about them: On one hand, I like the way they draw attention to the seams and the construction of the extremely well fitting clothes, on the other it feels a bit like a primary school nativity costume repair!

There is a sense of truth in this- I bet it wasn’t the first (or last) time the models were hastily stapled into an outfit just before being pushed out into the spotlight. I admire the bare-faced cheek of V&R for this, in fact the whole collection seems to be poking fun at the industry (with the word ‘NO’ protruding in sculptural three dimensions from the front of a wool coat), little wonder it wasn’t particularly well received: Nicole Phelps, for Vogue wrote of the staples:

“Without them these clothes (the frilled organza blouses, the nipped-waist red sheath, the belted fox coat) would’ve landed squarely on the predictable side of French Chic. With them, and in such great numbers, the results felt gimmicky.” ¹

dscf4286My own stapling investigation left me feeling Phelps’ summary of “gimmicky” is just about right. I feel the same about cable ties. As for safely pins, I should think most remember Elizabeth Hurley in ‘that dress’… it’s been done, I want something newer…

Looking at Viktor and Rolf’s latest collection “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” (Spring 2017), I discovered that the recycling and repurposing of their archived fabrics has continued since Vagabond (A/W 2016). They have now incorporated the Japanese aesthetic of Kintsugi, traditionally a method of joining straight flush edges- how very appropriate!

My overall feeling was that the clothes are much less wearable than Vagabond. The philosophy of Kintsugi, that it: “usually results in something more beautiful than the original.” ² doesn’t seem to have worked out for V&R, yet I still really like it! It reminded me of my Victorian Crazy Quilt made from carrier bags for Part One, indeed the Victorian Ladies were responding to Kintsugi when they developed this method of quilting.


What I began to realise from looking at ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ is that the two sides of the straight flush join do not need to be the same material. I decided to produce another ‘Crazy Quilt’ using some of the stitches I described in the last post but this time rather than joining sterile watercolour paper,  I would use a variety of materials.

(CARI, this is where you come in. Highlighting the duplication has made it incredibly obvious now… I could have spent that half an hour drawing or making!)

dscf4232-2 This piece was constructed from materials chosen for their colour rather than their suitability to be joined. This means the stitching features much less than I had originally planned as I had to make tiny stitches to prevent damage. I could have embellished the rows of straight stitch (or even used staples) but I felt this would have been too distracting, the different surfaces I joined are interesting enough without.

In places I used a gold pipe cleaner to emulate the Kintsugi aesthetic adopted by Victor and Rolf for ‘Boulevard’. It worked well, both practically (stiffening the piece making it more solid) and visually (providing contrast and definition). Also in response to V&R, I added layers of tulle along the bottom edge:

dscf4301This addition transformed the sample. I had intended to produce another version of the Crazy Quilt- supposing it would be like a wall hanging; Suddenly I could see a very different future for it…

It was never my intention to create something wearable but the sample had other ideas! In order to formulate this idea and translate it into something more tangible I drew out the designs, first as a skirt- allowing the foil chocolate orange wrapper to form the centre line. Then as a corset- (inspired by research from Part One) the tulle becomes a peplum to seductively conceal modesty. I amused myself by covering the bust with sponge, in case help was needed in that area…

The inclusion of these drawings should not suggest that I think I’m a ‘fashion designer’, I simply have an interest in wearable art. In fact my motivation for learning dressmaking and pattern cutting in the past, was always part of a plan to investigate an alternative means of displaying my work.

I had to research how to draw the croquis above, I found the elongated proportions quite alarming- enough to give anyone a complex (or an eating disorder). I then drew some of my favourite details in a more familiar style, which helped me to focus on the surface patterns and the textures of the materials I had chosen.

Overall, I am happy with this sample, it feels suitably quirky for my taste. I also sense a freshness about it but I think that stems from the colour choice rather than the content. I can’t remember ever having worked on something so exclusively yellow before. Although the sample features orange/brown areas that are typical of my preferred palette, the predominant colour is yellow.

Yellow is an extremely powerful colour and not one enjoy. I find it rather sneaky, there it is pretending to be all happy and cheerful, then suddenly -wham- it has taken over, it’s inherent luminosity dominating all the other hues. White doesn’t do that, it allows the surrounding hues to be themselves, to breath their own air, to have their own life independent of it.

To illustrate my point above, think about a woodland at this time of year… it’s bare and damp- the rich earth tones of the bark and soil dominate. Suddenly, you notice snowdrops and feel pleasantly surprised, a sure sign spring is coming but also you had to look for them, you received payback for your observation. Now fast forward a couple of weeks- here come the daffodils- you can’t miss them! Their surroundings recede as in all their yellow glory they scream: “look at me!”

¹ PHELPS, N: http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/fall-2008-ready-to-wear/viktor-rolf

² JOBSON, C: http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/05/kintsugi-the-art-of-broken-pieces/

1.1; Joining: Straight Edges

Looking back to the beginning of the exercise I am struck by how pointless my early samples seem, yet without this exploration I would not have reached the conclusions I did. I used a series of hand embroidery stitches to join two pieces of watercolour paper:

I included all these samples in this post to illustrate my tendency to get too involved in an idea without ever moving forward. If I intend to use my tutors advice to stop duplicating information in my blog and sketchbook in order to save precious time, maybe I should also think about the quantity of samples I produce?

Having said that, however, sampling feels too important to cut short. Not every possibility can be explored but it was one of the above samples that sparked a series of Bourgeois’ inspired drawings. How did I know which sample was going to hold the potential? To unlock the next level, so to speak?

Whereas I enjoyed the work above, I felt quite disconnected from the next samples:

These feel contrived after the honesty of my drawings, like ‘ticking a box’ rather than something that actually interests me. I did notice how when held up to the window I could see how the washi tape was mimicking the passage of a stitch. This inspired me to join some translucent organza:

What I like about these samples is that the entirety of the thread can be seen, creating some really fluid curves and coils. I intend to use these shapes at a later stage, possibly to inform a Meredith Woolnough inspired join that bridges a gap between two materials. Again I am struck that without the samples that didn’t engage me, I might not have come up with this idea.

I had serious reservations about joining with staples, ( ….and cable ties and safety pins). It has been done before, in my opinion ‘over-done’ before but I felt happy to be proved wrong!

Stapling loosely provided a gap that allowed me to recreate one of the hand embroidery samples from the beginning of the exercise. It struck me that actually each staple is like a stitch and each one that follows is a perfect replica of it- funnily enough that appealed to me!

Now even I can see the potential of this but even still it begs the question: Why?

Why seemed like a question not far from my lips throughout the exercise. Why am I joining flush edges? Why am I disguising the join with stitch? Why can’t I overlap? Why can’t I create a proper seam? And unfortunately (considering this is a Mixed Media course) Why am I using these bizarre materials?!

Asking these questions of myself led me to the Fashion World…. where the rules exist only to be broken… I will discuss this in my next post.