1.3; Joining: Curved Edges. Margolis

Since I first saw Karen Margolis’ wire sculptures created by joining together the curves of hundreds of circles, I knew this exercise was going to appeal to me:

Joining Curves: Karen Margolis

I love the way her ‘columns’ are neatly constructed from multiple circles of wire, each individually coiled, painted and attached to its neighbour. Creating the components alone must have been a lengthy, painstaking process. This type of making really resonates with me, it represents commitment and dedication. As I look at the structures I feel a sense of calm, I think to myself how much I would enjoy making something like that and how soothing the repetitious nature of the task must have been.

It is fortunate that Margolis salvaged the transparent paper on which the units dried as the residual prints have formed beautiful, informal patterns of colour which when displayed hanging alongside the constructions compliment them beautifully. Again, this struck a chord with me, I often save the ‘clean up pieces’ and the table protection from my own work. I feel the unpredictable and random combinations of marks and colour accidently produced by a project are really valuable. They are much more painterly and dynamic than my controlling nature can create first hand. I believe they add an exciting element to my work, it was great to see Margolis identify this also and find a way to incorporate this part of the making process into her final installation.

Curves that Touch and Leave Gaps:

In this exercise I tried to ensure that I drew each sample as I made it. I have found drawing provides an opportunity to pause and really look at what has been created. Maybe this method provides ‘thinking space’ allowing previous research and new making to percolate and feed through into the next sample?

For example: after making this sample I could see that it appears lighter and more experimental than what I have produced before, although it still contains repetition and grid-like elements. It was only as I drew it I began to appreciate the sense of fluidity and movement that I suspect came from earlier research into Louise Bourgeois.

The next sample was somewhat disappointing. The weight of the metal rings made the units heavy, the fine crochet cotton seemed inappropriate when stitched at this scale: more suited to a delicate application. The joins I made to link the rings together were uninspiring and the arrangement made it look like the plastic that holds a pack of four beer cans! I forgot to photograph the finished sample before I used it on the Gelli Plate which is no great problem because it was so boring! I managed to produce a few interesting prints from it so all was not lost, I particularly like the one photographed below where the block of four rings has been repeated. The simple use of circles on rectangles, curves next straight lines and the slightly haphazard way the grid falls apart at the edge once more remind me to invite imperfection into my work.

Bare metal was used in the first sample, providing a very united effect. I wanted to combine different textures so decided once again to wrap the hoops individually before joining.  I didn’t like the combination of a fine crochet cotton and heavy ring, so chose to I decided bind the hoops with strips of torn calico. Initially, I thought this would provide soft a base in which to stitch the circles together but thinking about the tearing exercise from Part One and my efforts to achieve a different finish on the edges and surface I sought a different join. I eventually selected strips of thin copper, intending to use the patina as a dye.

In my drawing I tried to capture the weight that this sample has, the broad strips of copper suit the solidity of the piece although they are loose enough that some movement is still possible. This is important because the slight shifting of the circles distorts the alignment of the grid, adding character.

I soaked a small piece of copper/calico in white vinegar and waited and waited and waited for something to happen! I knew I should get a greenish-blue but absolutely nothing happened! Eventually the solution evaporated enough to allow air to reach the copper and- boom! the patina developed. I should have researched this method in more detail first; I knew I needed vinegar to create a greenish-blue tinge but I submersed the sample as I would when dyeing with rust. Apparently one should soak the object in vinegar and salt for a short period and then remove it to a humid area, allowing oxygen to do its bit. Who knew?! (I bet you did Inger!)

I like the texture and colour of the distressed copper and sure enough the fabric has absorbed more colour along the edges. I now need to soak the sample above and see what happens (I am only slightly hesitant – I don’t want my entire submission to smell of vinegar!


I then used smaller rings, wrapping them with DK yarn before joining them with strips of leather secured with a stitch of linen thread. The leather strips are simpler in proportion to the copper joins above but now the hoops are a smaller scale they look rather clumsy. I really enjoyed making the sample. What excites me most is that I did not adhere to either square or hexagonal stacking formation, I used a combination of both. Some rings have more joins attaching them than others, this has created an uneven surface that reminds me of Margolis structures more than my other samples. I probably would have made this larger, it felt like it had the potential to grow and spread but the miscalculation of the thickness of the leather deterred me- any more than four joins on one ring and the colour and texture of the yarn wrapping would be hidden.


1.3; Joining: Curved Edges

The trouble with blogging:

This is a second attempt to record what happened in Exercise 3, the trouble is my ideas didn’t form in a particularly linear way. I started off thinking about Karen Margolis and how to join circles at their boundaries but then redirected myself to consider how concentric circles fit together. As I shifted the physical shapes around my desk, I became increasingly distracted by overlapping them to create the pages of a book. This is a really natural way of working, it is perfectly usual to have several ideas and projects on the go at the same time. What it does mean is that explaining how my research and investigations informed my samples and then evaluating the outcomes has become messy. I’m still not sure I am blogging effectively. I prefer to blog at the end of each exercise so that I have a linear chronological record of what I have done. I should maybe blog as I go but even after 20 months with the OCA, I still find this an intrusion to my practise. Switching from physical ‘work’ to staring at a computer screen, disrupts my output. I very much admire my contemporaries who blog more frequently.

I wonder since I have had to adjust the way I use my sketchbook (on advice of tutor: less narrative, more drawing) if my use of the online blog also needs revamping?

Anyway, this is what I learned, not really in the order I wished to discuss it but hopefully it will still make sense.

Joining Curves: Bridget Riley

I spent some time looking at Bridget Riley’s work, thinking about how her curves fit, like they belong together. In particular I studied Reve, admiring the gentle rhythmic pattern that the interlocking shapes create. I could lose myself in this painting as my eyes follow the undulations, it reminds me of looking at a stream. The curves are like ripples in the water, as it negotiates its way past sticks and stones along the river bed the shapes twist and contort. The colour palette assists this restful suggestion, I can almost hear the tinkling of flowing water! It is almost a shame that Riley is so well known for her black and white OpArt compositions because her colour use is extraordinarily sensitive and gentle.

I wondered how I could join the smooth curving shapes without disrupting the flow. I felt slightly at odds with the purpose of the exercise and my desire to create traditional seams like in a patchwork quilt.

I felt that the course required me to do more than this, to make a feature of the join, to draw attention to it, to make it decorative – I understood how this would benefit the aesthetics of some pieces (Margolis being an obvious example-the wires that hold the circles together and the tails of loose thread are part of the energy) But I couldn’t see how I would make this work for Riley.

I thought about how concentric circles fit inside one another, which seemed to be a perfect way to make curved edges fit together neatly, without a gap.

Once I started leaving a slight gap between the rings, I felt the composition was more exciting. It also offered space for me to create some decorative joins. It seemed I would have to put my idea of Riley style curves to one side for now.

There are elements of the sample above that appeal to me but on the whole I feel it is rather formulaic and lacks excitement. I think it is best viewed as a technical experiment into what would be physically achievable. Some of the more complex joins that combine wire, sequins and beads are particularly suited the plain pearlescent card because their circular shape echoes the round composition. I am also interested in the piece of transparent plastic tube turned on its side as this feels a little more unexpected.

I used a combination of sketching and making to investigate possibilities that I felt were slightly less obvious ways to join curves. This meant not everything I made was successful and at times I wondered if I was actually fulfilling the brief  but each piece seemed to spawn another idea that might be useful in the future. For example, the way this sample was constructed could probably be considered joining flush surfaces rather than a curved edge but I discovered it was a useful techniques since it made a lightweight, stretchy tube with interesting negative spaces.

I particularly enjoyed the exploration of physical materials which is a slightly different method to how I would usually investigate. I think I probably tend to plan in my head or with a pencil. I am really thrilled with the samples below, although they look probably look rather dull, I think I can see enormous potential for development into a book to display my free-motion embroideries. I have been searching for a vehicle to display these for a very long time and would never have found this solution without this lateral thinking/doing.

I could have happily stopped chasing this degree at this point. I had found something I desperately wanted to pursue but had to continue sampling. Now having actually moved on and completed this and the following exercise that seems rather dramatic! There are always going to be new ideas, I can’t follow them all. I am in this for the long haul so what seems like a ‘must-do’ now, will probably lose its fascination over time.

I comforted myself by doing a few more samples to explore ‘pages’ for my ‘book’. I have included some photographs because I think the earlier research into Bridget Riley now finally becomes apparent:

The pearlescent card definitely isn’t the material I would use if I developed this further, I would like to use rings of felt or possibly a close weave fabric like a batik. Maybe, one day?