1.2; Joining: More Straight Edges with a Gap

What happened was interesting to me because it demonstrated that not everything can be achieved or realised by drawing and planning.

My last tutor feedback encouraged me to draw more, this was not a problem: I love drawing! In the last set of samples I used drawing before and after sampling to great effect. Drawing helps me to record my ideas, sampling helps to realise them, then more drawing refines the discoveries. I was happy to have found a rhythm of working:

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This thinking on paper, helped me to discover a way to make solid joins to link three dimensional stacks of paint chips:

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This developed and suddenly ‘The Scumption’ appeared:

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‘The Scumption’ is an oddity. It is a strange and curious object that came to life when instinct banished planning. I allowed the materials to become what they wanted to be, reacting  almost unconsciously to what was forming before me. This method of working is not unfamiliar to me, I would consider myself to be quite a process-led ‘artist’. I like to try a technique, then see how I can make it my own. I don’t always have a finished product in mind when I begin. Even still, I was surprised and excited by what I made.

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I began to consider what I had read about Judith Scott and other ‘Outsider Artists’. Personally, I don’t like this term and reject the constant classification the Art world seems to require. I could look at my new sample ‘Scumption’ and questioned: Is it textiles? Is it Sculpture? Applied Art? Which label fits best? -Am I an Outsider?

Like Judith Scott, I sat at my desk, totally engrossed in my work. I intuitively selected my materials from around me. I didn’t have a plan or any preconceptions. I worked until I was finished. I knew I was finished only because it felt done.

What had I made? (This is where the name came to being) What was it? I didn’t intend for it to be anything. When my husband looked at it, he said thoughtfully “It’s a Shaloppy” -neither of us having any idea what a ‘shaloppy’ is and that seemed to suit this little curiosity. The next morning when I woke up I couldn’t remember what he’d called it and my brain leapt to ‘Scumption’ as I understand it an equally nonsensical word.

This was where the similarity to Scott fell apart. I too had created an object, for the objects sake. BUT the ‘artist’ in me had given it a label, a name, some clue as to what it was or wasn’t. Judith Scott couldn’t do this but am I doing her a disservice suggesting she had no intention? We will never know.

What I do know is that I went from saying I rejected classification and labels, to naming my work and making assumptions about other people’s intentions. I am not an Outsider, my need to communicate and justify is too great. The question that constantly follows me is still: “How much do we need to know?”

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Judith Scott seems not to have referenced her previous work, dismissing it once finished. I however, looked and looked at this little oddity. Deciding the more I looked, the more I liked it. If it had a purpose, I supposed, it would be to demonstrate methods of joining and yet it is one object that doesn’t join to anything else! I needed to do another:

I decided to make several cork blocks and join them together, I planned in my sketchbook and decided to reference Jane Bowler by using a similar palette to her most recent collection. Things fell apart. I simply couldn’t recreate the ‘feel’ of that initial sample. I couldn’t make the materials do what I wanted, I felt clumsy like I was working with mittens on.

This felt quite dispiriting. I left the pieces alone, thinking I could return to them. I struggled with the belief that I had to fix this. Part of me says: “You can’t abandon this half done. You have to see it through” Eventually, I decided to walk away… the moment has passed. I don’t even want to develop this idea anymore.

What had happened is I over worked the idea. I over planned it at the drawing stage in my sketchbook. I lost the spontaneity. I stopped letting the materials lead me and tried to made them do what they didn’t want to. What I learned from this is not to become too dependant on any one way of working. Drawing is a valuable tool but not the only one in the box. I need to be open to using a variety of processes to develop my ideas.

This post and the ideas within, feel a lot less resolved and considered than I would like. I am trying to use my blog to work out what I think and feel. Previously, I would have perhaps written it on paper, reworked it and then added it here. I am trying to move away from that duplication. As a result this feels more ‘now’ but less ‘definite’.

1.2; Joining: Straight Edges with a Gap

I wanted to handle the joins that spanned a gap a little more loosely that I perhaps would have in the past. My first sample involved creating a rouleaux and joining it with straight, parallel stitches of equal length.

It would seem that the sample is fairly even and controlled but as I drew it, I noticed the threads do create a slight sense of movement. In the past this imperfection would have really bothered me, now however, I feel it adds a touch of character, a celebration of hand over machine. This difference maybe imperceivable to someone unfamiliar with my earlier work but it feels like a huge progression to me.

I looked closely at the freedom of Jane Bowler’s designs, where the inclusion of fringing really extenuates any movement. I felt her early collections from 2011/12, with their cascading strands of plastic, were particularly were reminiscent of textile thread installations. My organised brain was not ready to tackle anything quite so ambitious but the lightness and ‘swishy’ elegance certainly inspired the next samples I produced.

I reviewed an earlier attempt to join a flush edge with machine stitching and could clearly see why it didn’t work. It is unsympathetic, it doesn’t work either with or against the join, which might as well not be there. By creating a gap between the sides, I hoped to use a similar arrangement of stitching but in much a freer manner:

I sketched my ideas for traversing a gap between two pieces of felt. I realised that the first design was reminiscent of the Meredith Woolnough inspired stitching I did for Part 5 of ATV: a web of dense stitches that support one another after the temporary stabiliser is washed away. The second drawing made with ink on a very dry paint brush promised to be much looser and freer. Since I already knew what the first would look like it seemed unnecessary to spend hours stitching it. The process of sampling is to experiment and inform so decided to work on the latter.

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The resulting sample was useful because it was not a repetition of what I already knew. I really like the way machine stitching sits in the felt. The lines are wonderfully fine and slightly embed themselves into the deep pile of the felt which has a thick lumpy texture. In contrast to these smooth, delicate lines the threads that cross the gap are barbed and loopy. The shapes become more disorganised but remain recognisable.

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One area I was unhappy with is the loop photographed here. I had to alter the shape of the right hand curve mid-stitch to make it reach the edge (if not it would have collapsed). The additional density of stitching and uncertain path of the threads spoils the delicacy I was seeking.

Drawing the sample helped me to appreciate that the shape itself is also a distraction. I don’t like the area that looks like an ‘&’ sign or a pretzel, if I stitched this again I would keep the design more simple (back and forth loops, without a tangle). I made the second drawing on the right by scratching into oil pastel over black paper because I found it difficult to record the fine lines of stitching in pencil.

_copie-0_dscf4398The drawings made me consider the quality of the stitched lines also, this sparked an investigation into other methods of stitching across the gap. I found using different techniques created different effects. This discovery inspired the next sample:

I used yarns of different thickness to join two twigs looping them in reference to the Jane Bowler designs I looked at. It made a lot of sense to join three-dimensional objects rather than flat sheets but I struggled to understand why.

My final sample exploring these multiple parallel lines of stitching was made in plastic.

I used drawing to plan out how the strips would interact as they overlapped mid way across the gap. In this instance I found drawing as a planning tool incredibly useful, unfortunately this is not always the case which I will discuss in my next post.

The decision to simplify the strips was made because I had identified the distraction of the knot in the previous sample. This simplification has created a more dynamic composition that demonstrates the sense of movement I was looking for. I pinned the sample to the dummy because I felt I could see the influence of my earlier corsetry research, even though this was not actually my intention. I find it is often the case that previous themes and topics resurface when I’m not expecting them.