2.1: Frustration and Fire

I simply couldn’t make the yarns perform together in my last sample. I wanted to form a thick chunky rope that I could coil around the spoon but it was too heavy and floppy. Having already found a different solution: inspired by Sonia Gomes, I should have left this idea alone and moved on to the next exercise. Determination, boredom and frustration, however, prevented me from moving forward.

I read that Gomes uses a wire armature to wrap her bundles of fabric around. I wondered if I could stabilise my ‘rope’ with wire. I scrunched tissue paper into loose lengths and roughly bound it with wire to stop it unravelling:

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I was really disappointed with this result, it was ugly and clumsy; once more challenging the silhouette of a spoon had created a chicken drumstick. Or a torch? Rolling with this idea, I took the sample into the garden and set fire to it…

 

I guess this was a cathartic experience and luckily the sample looks much better now that layers beneath have been revealed. The twists in the wire are now partially visible against some lovely soft browns and the black and white, monochromatic ash.

When I began this Project, I was extremely worried about wrapping and then unwrapping. I imagined that putting effort into each sample and then removing the threads, to begin again, would feel much more painful than it did. I even considered bulk buying spoons so I could keep every single effort! Obviously, there were some exceptions (I kept 3 samples) but generally I was able to comfortably undo my work. The destruction or ‘deconstruction’ of this sample, by fire, epitomises my changing attitude.

Something that really helped guide me through this process of ‘destroying’ my work was a piece of work at Entangled by Ximena Garrido-Lecca, ‘A Gross of Chullos’. At first glance it appears to be a jumble of multi-coloured yarns, tangled by kittens and dumped on the floor. However, it is so much more than that! It is actually a really clever comment on globalisation and commercialism. She has taken hats, symbolic to her culture, and unknitted them, quite shocking until you realise that mass production of the Chullo for the tourist trade has already diluted their symbolism.

Drawings of the Chullos before their deconstruction (made digitally but hand coloured) help explain her story and also illustrated to me the importance of drawing in my own practice. Another thing that lent power and understanding to this thought-provoking work was that it was displayed opposite a new piece by Aiko Tezuka. ‘Loosening Fabric’ #6 also celebrates construction through a process of deconstruction.

I found the work of the above artists to be quite a joyful, if not painstaking, investigation of construction via deconstruction, but I had no emotional ties to the objects to begin with. I began thinking about the recent fire at the stables where my horse used to live.

The buildings have been vacant and falling into a state of disrepair for possibly more than ten years now but seeing the construction of the barn savagely displayed to the skies by Arson is still horrible. My happy memories have been violated, ripped open, for the world to see. Somehow my burnt spoon didn’t seem so appealing anymore.

I think many artists see decay as an attractive thing to focus on in their work. I certainly find the ramshackle roof with its missing tiles more comforting than the bleak monochromatic skeleton beams and the gapping hole directly above where my horse slept.

Although it was painful to think about, I tried to consider which is preferable: the long drawn out, natural decomposition of a place I loved or the violent damage that now means a demolition will have to take place.

Which is better? A sad, sorry daily reminder? Or an empty space filled with residual memory? Like when you take down the Christmas decorations and you are thrilled with the space but still remember how nice it was at the time?

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2.1; Considering Colour for Wrapping

I had some ribbon yarn which was hopeless for knitting but proved great for wrapping. It no longer seemed such an issue that the yarn insisted on twirling and coiling back on itself, in fact this made a really lovely texture around the spoon.

In a previous post, I talked about my experience working more intuitively, with my hands not my brain. I decided to apply this principle to drawing, the result feels fresh and energetic:

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The scrunchy texture of the wrap reminded me of pot purri, not something I have ever desired, but none the less many people obviously do since a web search brought up innumerable images! It was really hard to find an image that contained the same colours as my sample. I found this a useful exercise since I was able to observe how different quantities of colour interact rather than just focussing on blocks of solid colour like in a paint chart.

I continued this colour research by using Adobe Colour Capture to pull palettes from photographs of my sample:

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palette 1

I wasn’t particularly inspired by either palette, although the first combination felt fresh, it was a bit saccharin sweet for me. The second, I decided, was too girly and rather unsophisticated. My son brought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers for Mother’s Day and even after they past their best the colours and shapes were quite extraordinary:

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palette 2

The palette I took from the dried out bouquet was much more to my taste. I think it is bolder that the previous selections because it is based on the complimentary pairing of red/green rather than being analogous. Since the flowers had aged, the colours have a desaturated, muted quality that reminds me of Autumn only in a different colourway. Some of the photographs I took featured my patio table and chairs, the concentric circles and divisions radiating from a central point reminded me of work done in Project One. I wondered how to combine, my ribbon wrapped spoon, the bouquet and the circles?

I added to the existing wrap, hoping to represent some of the colours and shapes I had identified in the bouquet. I think this was particular successful and I enjoyed making it. I was nice to be using stitch to secure areas of texture, adding a little at a time until I felt that I was done. Embroidering a 3-Dimensional object was rather a novelty but it felt good. I liked that I didn’t feel constrained by the boundary of an edge, I could navigate around the object; this allows the sample to be viewed from multiple angles.

I had a go at drawing the sample on the sewing machine. This was difficult, I think I was over ambitious with the size of the piece. I also failed to prepare the fabric effectively in advance, leading to much cockling. The biggest problem was not get the drawing right- I realised how much my hand and eye work independently of one another when I draw. I couldn’t replicate this and watch my fingers under the needle (yes, I did have a free motion foot on, but I am still incredibly clumsy!)

Given the number of difficulties I had, I am reasonably pleased with the marks I achieved and the colours are rather lovely.

Totally absorbed in colour I began compiling yarn wraps. What I wanted to do was produce a really thick rope, made up of different colours and textures and use this to wrap a spoon. This was inspired by a book¹ I read about Angus MacPhee, a solider whose injuries sustained during WW1, left him institutionalised for the rest of his life. As an ‘Outsider Artist’ he worked prolifically, plaiting and weaving marram grass, a traditional, all but forgotten technique from his native Uist. I was really moved by his story, amazed by his need to create and the way the finished object held no purpose or meaning for him (they were either composted or burned). There are fascinating parallels between his story and Judith Scott’s.

Frustratingly I just couldn’t bring this idea into fruition. The ‘ropes’ I made were just too heavy and floppy. None did any justice to either Angus or the spoon!

I changed my inspiration. I decided if I couldn’t use the yarns altogether as one large thick rope I would emulate the way Sonia Gomes treats different areas of her sculpture with a different fabric.

I’m sure Gomes is an artist that many other students have turned to in their research of wrapping. I think her work is important to Textiles. At a time where clothing is mass produced, cheaply but at great cost to the environment, Gomes draws on her upbringing in the heart of the Brazilian textile industry, using found or gifted materials in her sculptures. Whilst I appreciate her comment on sustainability, I also like the eventual shapes and form she uses these repurposed materials to create.

I had a second version of ‘Washing Machine Spoon’ and I used this as an armature to support my wrapping. Where as Gomes bundles cloth, I used gifted yarns from my own collection. Something got lost in translation. I think the problem is partly due to the neat straight wrapping (which was done intentionally to echo the grooves in the original pipe) and partly because the colours just don’t work together. I find the red and white yarns next to each other at the heart of the sample extremely distracting because they just scream Pokémon!

¹ HUTCHINSON, R. (2011) The Silent Weaver. The Extraordinary Life and Work of Angus MacPhee. BIRLINN

 

2.1; Exploring Scale

This is one of my favourite samples, it was created because my feedback from ATV suggested that, although I consider scale through expansive drawing I could also ‘test the parameters of scale in sampling and final outcomes’. The Entangled Exhibition also opened my eyes to the possibilities of working on a more commanding scale. This said, I do still have reservations about large pieces because of the restrictions of postage and of working in a domestic setting.

Another factor in the creation of this sample was the injection of a little bit of humour. I wonder if any other students have experienced blank looks from people when describing what they were working on for this exercise?  “Well… I spent the day wrapping a spoon… in strimmer line!” Hmm… ‘Art’ can be a bit bonkers sometimes!

So I wrapped my spoon in the pipe from my old washing machine…

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Ok, so it was ‘tongue-in-cheek’ but actually, the more I looked at it, the more I liked it. This really surprises me. I suppose I have the belief that ‘real Art’ should be something more… meticulous? It should reflect care and devotion by the artist, to quote Geta Bratescu¹:

“Art is something very serious. An artist must be responsible… He must play but with responsibility.”

Yet on the other hand, Erwin Wurm’s irreverent One Minute Sculptures completely negate this. Am I confusing Art with Craft?

 

My ‘Washing Machine Spoon’, seemed so out of character for me that I wondered what it was that made it so appealing. An article in Selvedge Magazine #75, P74², “Flexing the Traditional’ helped me to understand. As I looked at photographs (sketched below) of contemporary Basket Making, I thought about the very hands on approach and how the weaver has to work both with and against the materials to create form. This was how I wrapped that pipe around the spoon- with respect for what it could and couldn’t do and with only an intuitive idea of the shape being created. This is an idea I find familiar. I also felt the fluidity and cyclical nature, particularly of Christine Joy’s work, reflected my own sensibilities.

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Like many others I enjoyed BBC Two’s Great Pottery Showdown, the Crafts Council recently provided an opportunity for people to try working with clay for themselves. I was lucky enough to find a ‘Hey Clay’ workshop near me. Although the seashell I hand built looks more like a Taco, I really enjoyed the experience.

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There is something very freeing about working in clay and I would equate that feeling to how I felt when I made ‘Washing Machine Spoon’. Such a simple, possibly silly sample, designed to explore scale actually ended up teaching me so much about letting go and relinquishing control, I gave it a post all to itself!

 

¹ BRATESCU G, quoted from Exhibition Notes, Entangled, Turner Contemporary, 2017

²BUTCHER M.SELVEDGE MAGAZINE #75

2.1; Straight Wrapping with Threads

My initial thoughts about wrapping were that the process would involve concealing the object within; very quickly I learned this doesn’t have to be the case.

Almost as soon as I started to record the wrappings by drawing, I realised that this technique is really useful for revealing information about an object’s form. When I draw, I am constantly considering which angle line best describes the shape of an object, once the object has been wrapped with a linear material, like a yarn, some of that decision making as already been made for me. I found this made drawing a more straight forward process.

At first, I wrapped very closely and carefully to the outline of the object, which served to soften the edges but still maintained the original silhouette. I felt this was a similar approach to that used by Joana Vasconcelos in her crochet skin series. Here she wraps (imprisons or protects) faience created by a renowned male artist in a web of femininity and domesticity. Although she changes the appearance of the objects she is not seeking to alter the shape or form, it is left to the viewer to determine whether the lacy covering is concealing or revealing the slightly threatening animals within.

I next decided to alter the silhouette of the object through wrapping, drawing the conclusion that this could be done in two ways: by changing the way I wrapped or by changing the material I wrapped with.

The above samples show how I tried to control the areas that built up in an orderly way, typically interested in the patterns I could create. I think it would have been interesting to develop this by adding another smooth layer on top of this, perhaps of paper mache, modroc or stretchy elastic material like tights?

Since I had been thinking about the way Vasconcelos challenges beliefs about femininity and domesticity in her work I thought I would try to imprison the spoon (an object that I would say has definite connotations of women in the home). I’m not sure the message I was trying to get across in this sample comes through, in actuality it speaks to me more about the way Corsetry has been used to reveal and conceal the female form over the years. I keep returning to the V&A Undressed Exhibition, this is something that interests me very much.

I then moved on to a more haphazard style of wrapping:

I preferred working on the more organised wrapping (no surprise there!) but the haphazard looping and tangling produced better textures and shapes to draw.

I used different ‘yarns’ to straight wrap the spoon to investigate how the thickness and texture could mask the shape. A really thick chunky yarn made little difference, although I noticed the ply of the yarn and its slightly fuzzy aura became more of a focus for me as I drew. Other experiments with a soft, silky eyelash yarn, a scratchy plastic yarn with a double snarl and plastic strimmer line had more definite effect.

 

I have recently become interested in weaving, I was in awe of the woven diptych by November Hoibo at the Entangled Exhibition because of the way she mixes textures within a single piece (combining wool with plastic, tulle and cut fabrics) something I long to be able to do. I have begun some experiments of my own and quickly observed that weaving seems to be a short hand for knitting. I have always knitted but now find I can only do it for very short periods of time because it is so labour intensive and hurts! If it is true that weaving is a faster way to knit then I propose that wrapping is even quicker! I think this makes it easier to pull the yarn of the spoon every time a sample is completed and to begin again.