Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Just a few words say that I'm away from the 11th to the 18th in sunny Wales, walking, sketching, catching up with reading (all those textile books bought at Stroud) and generally lazing about. Please do not send any work to me to arrive during this time. If you are on half term at the moment, either looking after children or taking a break, enjoy the time as much as you can too.
 Bark 1- Trisha Goodwin

Those of you who eventually do all the Textiles courses,  may see a picture of one of my "napkin rings" as my dear husband calls them, in the new course that is being written at the moment. Actually they are textile art pieces, but he is not as enlightened as you or I. They are examples of  art using found materials and also artefacts “imbued with value” beyond the original, which aim to “transcend the prosaic identity of the original material”. Beyond the day to day design work that I do for others and so on, these are the pieces which are most personally me.

Two months before the final MA examination and exhibition, I lost two people extremely close to me and found it very hard to continue working.  I went to Scotland and walked and walked over the moors for miles (a lifetime habit, as is collecting found materials as I go). I noticed the way that the ground underneath objects (pinecones, sections of bark, etc) was changed completely, usually in colour and an indent forming under the material. Where the objects fell was completely accidental but the actual earth was changed; this became a poignant metaphor for me; we are all transient, and fragile, but leave a mark on the earth, even if unmourned, it is there. Back at UCE I worked quite compulsively with these bark pieces and pinecones. I wanted the found material to suggest the actual form of the work, so pulled fine silk through holes in the bark, etc and stitched it where it lay, a form of fabric manipulation which took on a life of its own.

Bark 2- Trisha Goodwin

 I was very encouraged to persue these ideas by Dr Colin Gale, the senior lecturer in Textiles and head of the Textiles Dept, as well as the visiting MA examiner. I am eternally grateful to the textile artist and visiting lecturer Claire Barber (her work was in Through the Surface and numerous other exhibitions) whose kindness I will never forget. She gave me a one to one tutorial and cleared up many doubts for me. It was a big step into the unknown at the time, even though I knew it was what I wanted and needed to do for myself.
 Bark 3- Trisha Goodwin

The pieces concentrate on texture alone, relieved only by the natural colours of the found birch bark. I struggled to find a way to preserve the bark, it started to fragment as soon as I worked on it too robustly. After trying lots of waxes, oils and varnishes, I found an organic boat varnish based on natural ingredients which seemed to preserve the integrity of the other materials - organically produced silk and silk thread - extremely well. I left the thread ends hanging to emphasise the nature of the textile processes used and as a contrast to the ridges created by light and shade in the stitched areas.

 Little Cairn - Clyde Oliver

Strangely, I didn't even know about the work of Andy Goldworthy at the time (Claire Barber put me onto him and other Land Artists). These were truely exciting discoveries for me, as was the work of Clyde Oliver, a textile artist who works in stone as well stitch. He had some fantastic pieces on show at Stroud, but look at his website if you were unable to visit - I was also drawn at Stroud to the work of Sue Hiley Harris, a weaver who makes wonderful structural pieces with beautiful form If you ever get a chance to see their work, do so, it may be your personal thing or not, but you have to admire the fine balance wonderful workmanship and sense of meaning they evoke.

 Indoor sculpture 4 - Sue Hiley Harris

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Piece of Your Own

For all students on Textiles level 1, here is a great example I'd like to show you of how one student approached Project 7: A Piece of Your Own, which is at the end of the fabric manipulation section of the third assignment. You can click on a photo to enlarge it, then go back by pressing the green back arrow on your screen. Some of the sketches are pencil drawn so you'll need to do this to see them clearly.

 A pencil sketch of the ice formed on top of water; it captures the salient points quite succintly in a simple way

Helen was very inspired, in fact quite captivated by the way ice had formed on the top of a container of water during last winter. She described it as an "ice sculpture" in her notes and was drawn to the "sharp, crisp shapes" and "the colours in the reflections" rather than what it actually was - which means a giant step forward in understanding - see things as abstract qualities in form, colour and texture.Thinking back to those first exercises in assignments one and two, she was here drawing out the qualities which impressed her in particular, thinking about them quite consciously and writing down her impressions and how she felt about them. She writes in her notes that she wants to construct a garment which emphasises those qualities, maybe making a waistcoat with "a crisp shaped outline" to reflect the "hard V of icicles" - that is the shapes they form.

An early sketch for a waistcoat idea, notice how the strong lines of the V shaped icicles are carried through in design ideas

This is a fabric collge done quite early on from the pencil sketch above, to capture the feeling of the ice

Note that from this point onwards Helen was actively refining her decision making all the way, step by step through the process, keeping her mind continually on the best way to achieve the effects she had already highlighted. She had already established that she liked printing and painting on fabric from the previous assignment, particularly on satin and crystal (white) organdy. Her lot of her fabric manipulation samples from the work just prior to this project heavily featured these fabrics. Initially she experimented with snow crystal shapes in blue and silver fabric paints because these suggested an icy feel. When these failed to give the feel she wanted, she quite wisely switched to other colour combinations in order get the effect she was after. I think this is a great lesson in going beyond the obvious, icy may suggest blue and silver but somehow it wasn't working, so Helen pressed on until she found a combination which did it for her.

The blue and silver marks were tried out first, but abandoned as they didn't actually give the intended feel

The grey and off white (creamy) marks give more of a frosty feel in practice - which proves the need to persevere and experiment. Some of the pointed edging for a section of the waistcoat was also tried out in a mock up at this stage. 

 Some skeched ideas relating to the triangular edging above; notice how construction details need thinking about and planning along with fabric decoration from quite an early stage

If you look at some of Helen's initial sketches (apologies for quality here as I am not a proffesional photographer by any means) you will see that they are not complicated, but nonetheless are good working drawings in that they carry her ideas and get the salient points down as clearly as possible. Her sampling by means of fabric printing, fabric manipulation and testing some of the construction processes are trials, back and forth between the drawings and the actual materials, trying out ideas, refining and selecting the best options all the way through.

 Some experiments in fabric manipulation - to suggest the feel and shape of the icicles - in white crystal nylon

Making a paper pattern just to see if everything fitted together correctly was a good step, as was placing all the actual motifs where they were going to end up, to see if it looked and felt right before the final making up. A Moodboard and a full working calico mock up could also included if you were going for gold, but to be honest, this was meant to be a small project and so not strictly necessary here. Helen was concerned that her finishing was not perhaps good enough, but to be honest it was very good. A lot of it was handsewn and left unpressed, which gave the fabric a puffy look (instead of carefully flattened seams) which to my mind added to the 3D, slightly snow driven, natualistic effect. See what you think?

 This is the front of the completed waistcoat, I like the way the puffiness suggests snow and ice, left unpressed

The back view, notice how the grey marks suggest ice more than the blue did, aided by the fabric manipulation, which again emphasises those triangluar shapes - repetition and contrast, two key elements of design are carried through here

I like the way you are left in no doubt what were the important aspects here - those big, sharp, triangular shapes to the bodice clearly emphasise those sharp, icy edges Helen was drawn to and excited by. The grey and off white printing adds to this icy feel, but they are not overdone - the minimum of motifs just keep that subtle balance and suggestion of frostiness. The fabric selection was well thought through and the project not over complicated, simple but very effective in carrying through the ideas. Also I have to say that what impressed me beyond the final piece, was the way Helen expressed her thoughts through every step of the way; doing her thinking through the medium of her sketchbooks, both in written notes and design work. To me the final piece has the feel of theatrical costume about it - I can see this is a production of the Ice Queen or a panto on ice - anyone else agree? Any comments or feedback to Helen would be most welcome.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Few Dates for Your Diary

Its coming around to that time of year again - when the textile events start happening around the country, so here are a few suggestions to start you off - ones I know about from personal experience.

Sewing for Pleasure/Fashion & Embroidery
  • 24 - 27 March 2011
  • Hall 12 
ICHF Ltd  - for information and booking online tickets link
Car Parking
Ticket Hotline
+44 (0)1425 277988
Opening Times:
09.30 - 17.30 (Sun 17.00)

Your ticket to Sewing for Pleasure/Fashion Embroidery & Stitch gives you free entrance to the Hobbycrafts show at the same time, at the same venue.
Above and Below the Waves knitting project measuring 9 x 6 metres - which visitors can walk through!
FREE Catwalk Shows hosted each day at 11.00, 13.00, 15.00. Programme of Workshops & Talks. Full details 2 weeks before the show at
Dressmakers Workshops, Media Hub, Customization Station, Pattern Bar & Junior Stitch Club
Summer in the Park – Display from the Quilters Guild of the British Isles.
The Undoing of the Corset – the history of women’s underwear.
Afghanistan Inspiration Embroidery Display
Guilds, Associations & College Displays

I went along to the very first one of these events during the 80s! This was long before Art School and I was very into patchwork and quilting at the time - also my mother in law lived within a bus ride of the NEC, so I took a couple of days off each year and stayed with her. She was not really into sewing crafts at all, but often came with me, bless her, because she loved to go for the fashion show! She worked in watercolours herself, so still appreciated all the colours, the textures and the design ideas. Although it is heavily orientated towards patchwork and working with kits (which I would not be snobbish about at all) there are lots of stalls selling materials that nowadays are hard to find elsewhere. Also the extra add-on exhibitions as indicated above are growing each year and worth a visit.

The great thing about this and the other shows at the NEC (the annual quilt show in Aug is fantastic) is that the railway station and show halls are all interconnected, so you can go from one to the other without going outside and braving the rain or wind! Also lots of refreshment places (rather like an airport) if rather pricey. Take your own sarnies if you're watching the pennies, there are places to eat these "picnic areas" within the hall.

International Textile Festival, Stroud, Gloucs

30 April – 22 May 2011 for information and tickets

Now in its sixth year, the International Textile Festival has established itself as the UK’s principal festival that celebrates textiles, from traditional through to contemporary textile art, linked to related applied arts. Presented by Stroud International Textiles who are based in the glorious Stroud Valleys in the Cotswolds, this festival highlights the truly global language of textiles.
The 2011 International Textile Festival promises an exciting and stimulating programme of exhibitions, talks, workshops, events, performance and opportunities for debate and discussion. This small market town is host to the UK’s only textile festival that broadens out to welcome performance art, theatre, and the applied arts with textiles at its heart.

The festival has a reputation for excellence and innovation while celebrating contemporary and traditional work from leading international artists and emerging artists, ensuring that it remains fresh and vibrant.
‘’The festival promises to showcase new work alongside well known international names. Always stimulating, innovative and diverse, the festival will bring world class speakers and artists to the Cotswolds. It is radical, inspiring and we hope fun’’   
Director Lizzi Walton

Among the many artists and speakers appearing are: Tilleke Schwarz, Debbie Smyth, Jessica Turrell. Sue Hiley Harris, Lizzie Farey, Lesley Millar, Simon Packard, Malcolm Martin & Gaynor Dowling, Corinne Gradis & Elodie Watanabe, Ptolemy Mann, Lauren Steeper, Matthew Harris.
Showing at New Brewery Arts will be work from selected artists who are exhibiting in the festival. This will include collaborative work from Alice Kettle and CJ O’Neill – ‘Pairings’  30 April – 15 May
Laura Thomas will chair the ‘Off the Loom’ a 1 day seminar exploring radical new woven textiles and creative practices. The day will be hosted by Laura Thomas and speakers are Ptolemy Mann, Melissa French, Kirsty McDougall, Ascha Peta Thompson.

I love this event, as it has a really lively mix and is a bit more off the wall than some of the larger, more commercial events. Its on for about 3 weeks each year during May, so you can just go for a weekend, or a couple of days/a day in the week and see quite a lot. The programme changes at the weekends, so if you want to book for a particular talk or workshop get the events booklet in advance or look online and book up asap, they book up fast. The main events, including talks, take place in the Museum within the Victorian park - a fantastic location in itself. The rest of the event is scattered throughout the town, lots of seperate exhibitions in the town hall, within small galleries, even within the day to day shops around Stroud. It is a bit of a walk, although very doable if you're OK on your legs, from the park to the town centre, but I believe bus's go between the two sites. Worth booking up a stay if you can run to it, either by yourself or with a friend, but book accomodation early. Try or other sites (I get no commission!) - there is a Primier Inn on the edge of the park which is where I've booked for this year, its not luxury accommodation but OK for the price and a very convenient location. The park is close to Stroud railway station and lots of b and b's in the area too.

Have a look at the website of Dionne Swift, if you don't know her work, she is often at textile events around the country (we often have a chat) and used to be an OCA tutor-

You can see some of her work, book up workshops (she is a devore expert) and buy supplies from her website, there is often useful information about dyes etc too.

Joanna Kinnersly-Taylor

Also worth mentioning - is the new website of fellow OCA tutor and artist Joanna Kinnersly-Taylor, which is at

She is a lovely lady, who I have "chatted" to online and on the phone, although strangely as with the OCA, never actually met in the flesh. She runs textile printing courses in Glasgow as well as producing one off pieces for architectural spaces.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Working Through the Final Assignment for Textiles 1

Apologies for not posting up for a while, due to pressure of work. Many OCA students submit work for the Spring assessment in mid Feb, which usually means a bit of a rush to get couses completed and that last tutor report back on time. Lots of you have worked so hard to produce exciting work, which makes me very proud of you all! With this in mind, I'm showing you a piece of work submitted by Linda Beadle who has just completed Textiles 1 and has decided to go for assessment. I'm showing her work because it illustrates some of the decisions required in working through this last assignment so well. Its also a lovely piece of work which I hope many of you will enjoy seeing. I have asked other completing students for photos where they illustrate something particularly well, so please don't feel put out because its not yours up yet, I'm still waiting for some of the other photos to be submitted!
This is part of Linda's Moodboard - her work for this final project was based on the Theme Book she made based on her own garden, which is clearly a place she loves, and is a bit of a work of art in itself. Her work has grown in strength throughout  the year, despite some health issues and difficult times. Linda has a unique drawing style, which I pointed out to her early on, is very light and delicate and gives her work its own character. I was just waiting for the moment when she would have the confidence to work a project from one of her own drawing, using the photos as back up material, rather than the other way around! I would say to all students - play to your strengths. No point in wishing you can produce work like someone else, rather, develop what is uniquely yours. Some of us are naturally drawn to working big and bold with coarse, heavy materials, some like the delicate and smooth and so on. Experiment by all means - this is what the experimenting in Textiles 1 is all about - finding that unique voice, or at least the start of it.

After Linda had decided initially what to make, she emailed me with a dilemma - and this is one that we all usually face at some point. She had decided to make a child's dress, but should it be a functional one, for a child to actually wear or an art piece to evoke comment and carry ideas? My reply asked her think about why she was making this piece; did she want it to say something or be a wearable garment. The design process for these two pathways are quite different in many ways. An art piece can be made of almost any materials, plastics, fraying fabrics, non washable paints, etc. By contrast a wearable piece, especially that made for a child, needs to be washable, fairly strong at the seams, have enough ease built in for movement, have the trims securely fastened down, probably be fire proofed in certain instances too. In the end Linda decided she wanted to say something about her garden in this piece.

Here you can see the front of the completed dress (which is still child scale) next to the Moodboard. Notice how all the ideas are brought together in one place for the Moodboard - fabric samples, drawings, supporting photos, even a few samples ahead of time to get the feel of how the work is to proceed. And notice how that Moodboard really captures a strong feeling of the ephemeral in the garden, almost a whistful feeling.
 I apologise here for the photo quality (down to me) as I rushed to get these photos taken before going out of the door to the post office to return the assignment! They really don't do Linda's work justice at all. Look at the way those leaves at the bottom of the Moodboard relate to the actual final 3D leaves on the dress bottom. The ideas from the Moodboard are just a beginning, giving a feel of the work and some initial ideas. Further drawing and then making of samples resulted in the leaves becoming larger and more refined at the same time.

This closer detail shows more of the fabric painting (developed from her original watercolour and pen and ink drawing) which forms the main part of the design for this, the front of the dress. The trellis on the bodice is also painted on - the fabric painting is further enhanced with stitching, both hand and machine. I particularly like those strong vertical stitches on the righthand side and the leaves, which contrast with the ephemeral feel of the other elements. The fabric itself is quite a strong and firm cotton, which again adds a note of contrast to that ephemaral feeling, suggesting in itself the actual strength which lies in a garden, nature keeps on going, despite the changes, the life and death of every individual leaf as it happens.
Here is the back of the dress, with some quotes on gadens from Gertrude Jekyll the famous garden designer. There was much experimenting with different types of printing on fabric, using specialist computer fabrics and papers as well as inks before a good solution was found. The criss-cross trellis lines on the bodice are words on the back, which echo the trellis form on the front.

 Another close-up, this time of the back. Notice how the embroidered grass motif on the left echos (on a different scale) the grass motifs elsewhere in the design. The larger quotes are set within forms which are suggestive of pathing stones in the garden (the technical term for this is a catouche).
I'm sure you'll join with me in admiring Linda's work here and wishing here every success in her assessment - as we all do for everyone of you going through that process too. Any positive feedback comments please can be added to the comments box here, which I'm sure Linda will welcome. It was a positive step in her confidence to allow me to show her work, which I thank her for emmensely.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Wishing you a Very Happy and Creative New Year!

A note to all students at this point, that I will be away on family business from this weekend 9/10th  to the 20th of January. Apologies for this, but you can mail any assignments as usual to my home address (there will be someone there) and I will deal with them on my return.

Whatever you plans are for 2011, I hope they include lots of creative work that you really enjoy. Maybe this is the year to try a new practical skill or keeping a new sketchbook? I would suggest being as concrete as possible, i.e.experimenting with fabric through the printer, rather than "trying new techniques". Then think about what supplies you might need and research the subject as fully as possible before beginning - via the Internet and any helpful books. I have signed a pledge not to buy any clothes this year, instead at the end of 2011 I will make a large donation to a breast cancer charity.

This is a book that I found in the second hand shop at Fellbrig Hall for £2.00, it's called Modern Needlework in 600 pictures, but as you see it was probably modern in the 1930s judging by the illustrations inside. Some of the dressmaking techniques described inside are wonderfully complex by todays standards and I would like to have a go at adapting some of them into creative/conceptual work in the future, as they are beautiful in their own right.

This page comes from the section on choosing what sort of dressmaking pattern to buy for your figure. There  is a figure type described as "stout", not a word we would use much today, unless describing Guinness perhaps? Owing to my pledge, I may be using the following section before long - how to mend. This covers everything including knickers, which I may need before the end of the year!

Soon the light will be changing and the tips of bulbs with their promise of new beginnings will begin to peek through the earth. In the meantime its pretty grey outside still, but can be equally beautiful if you look for it in the right places. Here are some photos taken recently in Norfolk, I was amazed by the beautiful patterns in the ice, the reflections of bare branches on the frozen water surface and he swirling effects of mist on trees in the distance.

 What struck me when I took this photo was how the debris- logs and twigs - sit on the ice like stitches might sit on the surface of a piece of white fabric. You can imagine how the other side of the "stitches" might sit under the frozen ice.

This is a cropped picture of a tree reflected in the surface of the frozen lake at Fellbrig Hall, Norfolk. Apart from the actual tree branches which are shown reflected on the ice, look at that wonderful crackled effect in the ice, all twisted white lines, which remind me of shibori dying patterns. To all OCA students, we come to some shibori dyeing in Textiles 2, so any images you collect now of things like this, will be useful when the time comes.

What I particularly like about this image is the way you see the branches as dark lines of "thread" twisting and unfurling against the ice. In effect, they must look like this all winter long, but the ice beneath has thrown more emphasis onto those lines as they stand out, dark against light so clearly.

This is one of my favourite images because of all the "cross lines" and interweaving layers of line and texture. Wonderful reflections in the ice of the branches hanging above, then debris on the ice surface add another element, the knots of "thread" in the branches and that solid, heavier mass of dark (a little island of a tree root) on the left hand side. Why not have a look around and see what effects are out there at the moment around where you live?

Monday, December 20, 2010

And the winner is...!

 At last I have had the chance to look through all 88 entries for the Givaway Event and after much deliberation have decided upon Becka in Minneapolis as the winner. I was very impressed with her comments about making a 60s style garment as a reminder of her visit to the Horrockses exhibition at the V and A in London this summer. The fabric and garment will be, as she says, be a lovely reminder of that visit - Auntie would approve as I remember her wearing some Horrockses dresses when I was very young.

For those not familiar with the name, (or old enough to remember it!) Horrockses Fashions was one of most respected ready-to-wear labels of the late 40s and 50s. Founded in 1946 the company concentrated on the production of quality womenswear, beach clothes, housecoats and children's attire. Although produced in considerable quantities, the firm maintained an air of exclusivity with an emphasis on good quality fabrics - especially cotton - with custom-designed patterns and couture styling. Horrockses' designs had a distinctive look, celebrated for their lively floral prints and full-skirted summer dresses. The label also collaborated with contemporary artists such as Eduardo Paolozzi, Alastair Morton and Graham Sutherland to create alluring designs for their fabrics. Drawing together a wide range of archival material, ranging from magazine spreads to interviews with former employees and consumers, "Horrockses: Off-the-Peg Fashion" told  the story of this iconic label and its role in the history of the British high street, while also exploring the connections between couture and ready-to-wear fashions in the post-war decades.

If you didn't get a chance to see the exhibition, or even if you did, the book which was produced to accompany it is still available from Amazon via the link attached. The photos alone make it worthwhile buying and its great for once to see a book about the sort of everyday fashions (not overly expensive) which everyone could wear at the time.Because there were so many wonderful entries I am thinking of posting off one or two other items in addition to the remnant above! I wish I could give you all something, but the postage alone would be a problem. However, watch out for tips and stuff from now on and maybe a pattern or two before long, which doesn't involve any postage either!

Have a wonderful Christmas all, wherever in the world you are, I hope you get where you want to be despite the snow if you have any.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Snowed in and snowed under!

A big thanks and a warm welcome to everyone who entered the Giveaway Day event, the time for entering has now closed! There were a surprisingly large number of entries and I will now take some time to consider each one carefully and award a winner. Look out for more details in a day or two. I will not be going anywhere for a few days anyway (even to post the item off as yet) as this part of Oxfordshire is snowed in this morning! All todays events for us have had to be cancelled as several inches of snow fell overnight and its still falling.

Some of the bag making supplies are still held up in the post somewhere after 10 days too. Thankfully I went shopping yesterday so we have plenty of food and the house is nice and warm. My cat Tabitha loves playing in the snow (she has a lovely thick warm coat on) but unfortunately she brought into the kitchen a poor dead yellow hammer this morning, a beautiful little bird, probably caught as it was desperately seaching for food in the snow. She has now given up terrorising the local wild life now and is sitting on my window sill as you can see! If you have snow wherever you are in the world at the moment, take care and keep warm and safe.