Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas

A festive interpretation of chapter 4.  Wishing all my fellow Distant Stitch students and staff and all my readers a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful new year (without too much rain).

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Module 6 Chapter 4 - More Pictures

The sun was shining today (hurrah!) so I took a couple more pictures of the stitched sample so you can see the detail.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Module 6 Chapter 4

This chapter is all about designing pattern from an ethnic source. My study so far in module 6 has been centred on the Chilkat blankets, but for this chapter, I have chosen a different source in view of the sensitivity of using those designs (see last post).  At the end of this post, I will be putting down my initial ideas for harnessing the influence of the style in future work without directly using it.

Photo 1 Shows the inspiration and my initial drawings of details.  These are two woven bags from Mexico that are in the National Museum of the American Indian which you can see here and here. (incidentally, I have collected images used for research on this Pinterest board; clicking on one takes you to the source site).


I chose these two because I liked the geometric designs and the way they play with positive/negative shapes (which colour is the background do you think?).  I have a confession – I didn’t even notice the bird motif on the bag on the right until after I had copied the dark shapes, then my eyes did a flip and it appeared. I was rather taken by him so he has taken over this chapter.  All the work below is on A4 sheets.

Photo 2

I cut a simple stencil and painted with brown acrylic and cinnamon, each mixed with egg yolk.


Photo 3
Same again but using the piece cut from the stencil to print with.

Photos 4 and 5
The ‘key’ design from the other bag.  On the left white pen, on the right acrylic and cinnamon.


My next step was to scan in these drawings and the surfaces made in chapter 3, and to play in Paint Shop Pro.  The first few images experimented with superimposing the bird motif onto the keys and changing the sizes.  As the bird drawing is white on black, this is very easy to do using layers and setting the blend mode to screen.

Photo 6

Photo 7 This time slightly reducing the opacity of the bird layer and changing the blend mode to exclusion gives a more interesting colour scheme (which ties in with the colours from the chapter 1 study).


Photo 8  It is surprising how different the motif looks with colours reversed – to do with the eye I think.


Photo 9 Alternative colour scheme.


Photo 10 Pen drawing of key design repeated and laid over scanned paper.


Photo 11 Combining repeated bird motif with a different scanned paper using layers as before.


Photo 12 Another variation.


Photo 13 Detail of initial drawing of negative space with colours inverted. 
The following three images are variations of this laid over one of the dyed backgrounds.

Photo 14
Mod 6Ch4Collage8

Photo 15 The motifs have been arranged on two layers and the blend modes and opacity adjusted to achieve the colour effect.


Photo 16 Another variation.


Photo 17 Including stitch – the photograph does not show all the detail very well.  The background is a crumpled and coloured magazine page placed on top of a brown envelope and sprayed with paint in several colours.  I laid more some of the scrumpled printed pages from chapter 2 on top and machine stitched lines of key patterns, then tore away most of the paper around the stitching and rubbed with a white Markal stick.  The bird motif was made in a similar way using one of the waxed and coloured papers.


Finally, some thoughts about using the influence of the art studied for chapter 1.  I have been trying to verbalise the essence of the style so that I can use the concepts and this is the list I have come up with to take forward and use with my theme.
  • Two dimensional flattened images.
  • Symmetry.
  • Grid layout.
  • Restricted palette.
  • Language of personally meaningful symbols which may carry hidden stories.
  • Use of a limited number of shapes bounded by solid lines to create an 'alphabet' which can then be manipulated.
  • Deconstructed images
  • Multiple viewpoints.

Module 6 Chapter 1–Additional Notes

As I accumulated a lot of notes about the formline style used in northwest coast (NWC) Indian art by the Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian  (which includes Chilkat blankets), I thought it would be helpful to summarise them here.  The full list of references can be found at the end of my previous post for chapter 1 and includes sites where you can see examples of contemporary art.

Design system
The formline design system can be thought of as a visual grammar, a formal language with its own rules which can be used to create variations and innovations.  Animals are shown laid flat by marking out body parts and details with formlines of various widths which join up into a grid, and the design is built up from ovoid shapes and U-forms.  Artist Robert Davidson describes these as parts of an alphabet that can be stretched, pulled, made positive or negative and manipulated.  The formlines are the skeleton of the composition; there is the space within a shape, space surrounding it and also the space/culture in which it was made and has meaning.  

Key characteristics
  • Bi-lateral symmetry.
  • Two–dimensional images, as if the subject were laid out flat.  Historically, when the style was used on three-dimensional objects (eg poles), it appeared as if a flat design had been mentally wrapped around the object.
  • Split representation of animals; they are viewed simultaneously from the front and in profile and are also shown as separate body parts (beak, fin, ears etc).
  • Different thicknesses of lines, usually the primary lines are black, secondary in red and tertiary in black. Blue/green may also be added.
  • Layers within the image, for example an eye may contain another head, one creature appears within another.
  • Use of symbolism.
In these cultures, there is no concept of ‘art’ as such.  Dr Max Carocci refers to these objects as being part of an expressive culture.  They may express the owner’s status and geneology, they carry the oral tradition, telling the stories associated with the animals represented.  These stories belong to families or clans, they can only be told by them and often belong to a particular time of year or day, and are not necessarily shared outside the family. In the same way, motifs such as a whale fin or a beak belong to families and may not be used by anyone else.

More generally, the designs incorporate symbols and themes from shamanism.  One is the repeated use of eyes, which may refer the ability to look through or into people (so images of human figures show a visible rib cage).  Another theme is transformation -  a shaman may change into an animal, so designs illustrate this with composite beings.  Knowledge and power are passed through the tongue, so animals may be shown with their tongue out representing a shamanic kiss.

Contemporary Interpretation
Because of the importance of the symbolism represented by particular motifs, rights are a very sensitive issue when looking at NWC art. Any use by non-Indians is controversial and native artists will only use those for which they have permission.  Contemporary artists push and bend the traditional rules for example by using asymmetry, changing proportions, using new materials, leaving gaps in the grid (which would usually be closed) while still maintaining the characteristic overall style.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Module 6 Chapter 3 (Raiding the Kitchen Cupboard)

Chapter 3 is all about adding colour to the materials gathered in chapter 2 and using available substances.
First, I dyed pieces of fabric and threads, including the old clothes. I did three batches using teabags, onion skins and potassium permanganate, boiling them up in big pans and feeling a bit like a character from Macbeth.  Photo 1 shows work in progress, on the right the onion dyed pieces and on the left soaked fabrics waiting to go in.
Mod 6 ch 3 (7)
Photo 1
Photo 2 Three batches completed and ironed.  From left to right onion, tea, potassium permanganate.  I was pleased with the range of browns/neutrals that came out.  I didn’t use a mordant with the onion which gave colours from brown to pale yellow (making the blue skirt green), tea with vinegar was pinker tones and potassium permanganate toffee to chesnut brown.   The darkest shades were achieved by dyeing first in tea and then overdyeing in potassium permanganate. The most vibrant colours are on the little skeins of wool and scraps of silk dupion.  The little squares on top of the piles are offcuts from a stitched sample used for making edges in an earlier module.
Mod 6 ch 3 (6)
Photo 2
Photo 3 A second batch of potassium permanganate, this time with fabrics folded and stitched to produce patterns similar to animal skins.  The two larger pieces are the bamboo cleaning cloths which took the dye beautifully and have a lovely sheen. I particularly like the rich dark brown on the left (this one was not tied as tightly as the one on the right so has picked up more colour). The surface seems to be quite delicate, however, and rubs into holes. The other pieces are calico and cottons, some already tea-dyed.  I also added some of the used wet wipes which you will see in a picture further down.
Mod 6 ch 3 (5)
Photo 3
Photo 4 Next I picked out some foodstuffs to try mixing with egg yolk for similar colours to paint on paper and fabric prepared with gesso.  The sample sheet is a page from the outdated microwave book, which seemed appropriate.  From the top nutmeg, cinnamon, curry powder, coffee essence.
Mod 6 ch 3 (2)
Photo 4
Photo 5 Using these on prepared fabric and textured wallpapers, 2p piece for scale.  Best results are from the coffee (which is a bit unfortunate as I can’t abide the smell of coffee but love the spices).
Mod 6 ch 3 (13)
Photo 5
Photo 6 Using the egg to mix  Brusho powders.  Clockwise from top left a) shows the colours I used and the effect of overlaying them so the colours combine.  The other samples combine the Brusho with the other ingredients b) mixing colours on textured wallpaper c) Printed paper with gesso, painted with Brusho and crumpled when dry to produce cracks, then brushed over with coffee/spices and finally acrylic wax.  This has a very leathery look and feel, and some of the text shows through d) One of the dyed pieces sprinkled with coffee then painted with Brusho for a textured surface.
Mod 6 ch 3 (12)
Photo 6
Photo 7 More leathery surfaces.  Top left – the  momigami brown envelope from chapter 2 sponged over with spices and acrylic wax for strength. Right – dyed calico with layers of colour; acrylic paint added with a dry brush, then egg tempera colours and wax.  Bottom left – using up the leftover colours on a crumpled brown envelope and topping with acrylic wax.
Mod 6 ch 3 (11)
Photo 7

Photo 8 Aiming for skin-like textures.  Clockwise from top left a) potassium permanganate dyed cotton discharged with lemon juice brushed across b) the dyed wet wipes sewn together c) brown envelope with monorpinted texture.  I sometimes use an old glass fridge shelf for printing so this time I used the rough side to roll out the paint d) dyed bamboo cloth discharged with lemon juice on a sponge.
Mod 6 ch 3 (10)
Photo 8
Photo 9 Monoprinted patterns on dyed fabrics, inspired by feathers/quills.
Mod 6 ch 3 (8)
Photo 9

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Module 6 Chapter 1

Research decorative textiles from another culture.  I decided to look at Native American Indian textiles.  Firstly, I looked at quillwork and decoration and construction of women’s robes.

Photo 1 and 2 notes on quillwork.  Photo 2 includes a small trial of quillwork using lines of stitching.  In the spirit of recycling/using what is to hand, I used drinking straws on a used envelope.



Photo 3 drawing of a design from a quillwork box.


Photo 4 Notes and images on methods of constructing robes from hides.


At this point, I was feeling a bit unfocussed; I seemed to have lots of snippets of information about a vast area of study.  I followed a friend’s advice and went into the Rainmaker Gallery in Bristol which specialises in Native American Indian art (website address in the list of references).  They currently have an exhibition of serigraphs in the North West Coast style, and the very helpful curator suggested I looked into Chilkat blankets which come from the same area.  I also went to a lecture at the RWA connected to the exhibition.  Although not directly related to the textiles, it was a really good insight into the meaning and use of the formline style that is characteristic of this area.  The following photos show my notes on the Chilkat blankets.  I haven’t yet typed up my notes on the general style, but I will add them later (otherwise I will never get onto chapter 2!).

Photos 5 and 6 Notes and images of Chilkat blankets.




Needlework in America, Virginia Churchill Bath, pub. Mills and Boon ISBN 0 263 06416 6

Identity by Design, Smithsonian Institution, pub. Collins ISBN 978 0 06 115369 3  Website for Rainmaker Gallery, Bristol.  Specialising in Native American Indian art and jewellery. Website for the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, USA. Website for the Mt Kearsarge Indian Museum, USA Website for the Sheldon Museum, article on Chilkat blankets. Website for the Textile Museum, Washington DC, USA British Museum – images of Chilkat blankets. McCord Museum, Montreal.  Article on NWC art. Work by Courtney Denise Lipson, including pictures of Chilkat blanket in progress.

“North West Coast Indian Arts: Exploring Traditions in the 21st Century” Lecture by Dr Max Carocci, RWA, Bristol, November 2012.

For more information on North West Coast Arts and Contemporary Artists Website of contemporary NWC artist Robert Davidson. Website of contemporary NWC artist Preston Singletary. Lesson on drawing a wolf head in NWC style. Fuller description of formline style used in NMW arts.

Module 6 Chapter 2

Gathering materials for chapter 2, I am aiming to re-use items already lurking in the dark corners of my house and at the back of drawers.

Photo 1 Papers – used envelopes, the user guide for my last-but-one microwave, instructions for assembling bicycle gears in half a dozen languages (but not English).

Mod 6 Ch 2 (2)

Photo 2 Fabric – old clothes that I kept in the scrap bag because I like the fabric or because they were used for kids’ dressing up.  Washed so many times they have faded and worn thin. One linen dress and the rest cotton. I will add offcuts of calico etc as needed.

Mod 6 Ch 2 (5)

Photo 3 Other bits and pieces – a pile of wet wipes that were used for cleaning up during monoprinting sessions; bamboo household clothes from the pound store; a calico bag that had nuts in; assorted used Tyvek envelopes.

Mod 6 Ch 2 (3)

Photo 4 Dead grass gathered from the garden and dried, temporarily supported on soluble fabric then machine stitched together.


Photo 5 momigami technique applied to magazine page,brown envelope, patterned paper bag and bike instructions, then coloured with Brusho (2p coin for scale).


Photo 6 Strips of crumpled papers sewn together – left in original colours as they blend well.


Photo 7 two samples with painted and heated Tyvek envelopes.  On the left, the Tyvek was pierced with a sewing machine before heating; on the right I crumpled before heating to see if this changed the way it distorted.  Heating from both sides gives a more interesting texture.


Busy collecting onion skins for colouring in chapter 3 – I feel a batch of onion soup coming on.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

End of Module 5–Admin

The final chapter for this module was the artist study, which has already been completed following my visit to Lost in Lace last year.

Costings for Module 5
Material Tools
Promarkers £4.49
A3 Coursebook (portfolio) £6.49
A3 black pad £7.59
silk organza about 1/2 m 4.00
clear PVC small piece 0.50
Devore paste 3.23
zeelon - scraps 0.20
silk screen £14.00
Devore fabrics - about 1/2 m total 9.00
Allowance for threads and odd pieces of fabric, beads 4.00
Glue, paper,card - small amounts of each 2.00
Totals £22.93 £32.57

Authenticity - a picture of me working on one of the resolved samples.

Mod5Ch10 (8)

Health and Safety – the new feature in this module was the use of devore paste.  Guidelines for using this are to work in a well-ventilated area, particularly when using a hot iron to activate the process, wear a dust mask, goggles and gloves, protect clothing from the paste.  Store out of reach of children.

Module 5 Chapter 10 Resolved Samples

3 resolved samples using silk paper, handmade paper and soluble methods.  For this chapter, I interpreted the cling film designs from chapter 9 and also added features from earlier work in this module, all relating back to the needlelace from the historical study.  I used the Meccano frames for dipping pieces of stitching in paper pulp, but in the end decided that as I wasn’t wrapping around the frames, I would cut the samples off and keep them as flat pieces, adding more layers.  My idea for 3d forms will keep for another day.  

Photo 1 size guide - the three samples on an A3 sheet.


Photo 2 and photo 3 (detail). This first sample is made from 3 layers.  The background is a very thin piece of silk paper that was crumpled while still wet.  Next, I dribbled glue from a hot gun into water to suggest a pattern of distorted buttonhole filling and rubbed on blue acrylic paint. There were several small pieces which I piled on top of each other.  Finally, it is held together with layers of loose hand stitching.  This is my favourite sample of the three, I find building up the uneven surface very satisfying and I like the combination and depth of  the shiny glue with the threads.

Mod5Ch10 (2)Mod 5ch10 (2)

Photo 4 Lines of buttonhole stitching stretched on a frame and dipped into paper pulp.  The motifs were machine stitched onto soluble fabric with loose threads scattered over it and applied to the background while still damp – there is enough glue left to adhere to the paper without further stitching. The orange and blue colours came from the chapter 9 images that had been altered in Paint Shop Pro.

Mod5Ch10 (5)

Photo 5 Another piece of buttonhole filling dipped in paper pulp, but this time it was embedded between silk fibres that were then made into silk paper.  I drew the motif outline onto pieces of soluble fabric and stitched french knots through it onto the silk paper, then carefully dissolved it without damaging the layers underneath.  The french knots refer back to the samples made with punched holes in an earlier chapter. I think this gives an interesting soft/faded effect in contrast to the strong lines of the second sample.
Mod5Ch10 (10)
Time taken for resolved samples 10 1/2 hours.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Module 5 Chapter 9

This chapter has a choice of sections to work from  - I chose section A, drawing on cling film and manipulating the image.

Photo 1 5 patterns on cling film, each approx A4 size, scanned in.  Apart from the wavy lines, the patterns are shapes taken from my research into needlelace designs.
Photo 1 Collage of original doodles
The following photos show a group of scans of the individual pieces of cling film folded to make new patterns. 

Photo 2 Using the heart shape
2-Chapter 91
Photo 3 Filled in triangles.  The blue pen turned out not to be very suitable for plastic and hadn’t fully dried – you can see on the right hand scan that it has left faint images when I unfolded it, giving another layer.
3-Chapter 92
Photo 4 The curved triangle – less interesting so I only made one folded scan.
4-Chapter 93
Photo 5 Drawing of  buttonhole filling – this gave really interesting effects, especially the way the lines hang out over the edges.
5-Chapter 95
Photo 6 Wavy lines – some more interesting patterns
6-Chapter 94
Photo 7 Two pieces folded together.
Now I had all these images scanned in, it was  time to play on the computer and add a bit of colour.

Photo 8 Layering up details from 3 of the scans in Paint Shop Pro and adjusting the opacity and blend modes.
Photo 9 As 8 but changing the blend mode to difference giving a negative image.
Photo 10 I took the unfolded buttonhole filling image and used the mesh brush to distort it, then added colour by copying as a transparent selection and placing over a coloured background.