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.