Two Workshop Sessions

Last week I didn’t write up my workshop session because I devoted this blog to describing time spent in Cumbria. So now it’s necessary to cover two workshop days,  which saw me produce two further swatches towards my target of eight. The first was very carefully planned; the second more improvisatory.

Cumbria Ferns

Cumbria Ferns

Swatch #3 explores the pattern of spores (sporangia) collected together into heart-shaped pods on a fern leaf known as sori . On the back side of the leaf these pods are placed in parallel rows and are often dark red in colour – maybe it’s time to find out a little about the extraordinary family of ferns and the terminology of their structure, look here for a friendly concise introduction. The prevailing idea of this swatch was to produce a weft-faced surface created from randomizing a ‘slice’ of an 8-bit computer-generated  binary sequence to make the shaft lifting pattern. With such a sequence the non-repetition of each pick pattern I reckoned would cause an unstable tension on the weft, enough to produce a curve or wave-like motion in the proposed parallel patterns of red threads.

Swatch #3

Swatch #3

With a little experiment this proved possible to execute and the result speaks for itself. I use 8-bit binary sequences to create rhythmic patterns in the music I compose. I have a library of 4, 8 and 16-bit patterns such as this example from a 4-bit pattern: 1000, 1100, 1111 etc. I then decide how many different patterns I want for a particular phrase or section and how many occurences. I can even build a template like this; a a a b  a b a b and the library system picks a sequence of binary patterns such as: 1000, 1000, 1000, 1101,1000, 1101, 1000. Listen to (and look at)  a piano piece called Toccata I made this way.

Swatch #3 - detail

I completed this swatch in a couple of hours partly because all the working out had been done previously at home. This left me time to complete my blue and white warp and weave a little. I’d chosen to explore rib patterns in this piece along with the effects of building up different sizes of rib. I felt this really suited the colour and nature of the warp I had created with a blue linen and a mixed wool and cotton white. This is a pattern I shall certainly develop further.

Blue linen / White cotton & wool mix

Blue linen / White cotton & wool mix

Swatch #4

Swatch #4

Swatch #4 is a response to the pleasure I had with rib weft and warp-faced weaves on my blue and white piece. The whole structure uses different forms of these weaves. the colour play is based on the dark green yarn present in the warp. This brown-flecked green wool yarn is wound onto the shuttle bobbin with a thin lemon-green cotton. This produces a variegated effect similar to that found when looking at a mass of fern leaves. Threaded between ribs of various sizes and densities a white cotton boucle thread is gradually introduced until it takes over the whole weft. A sequence of X patterns is created by using an inverse sequence of shaft lifting patterns 1-8, 2-7, 3-6 with 4-5 double rib then 3-6, 2-7, 18 returned. The swatch is completed with a mustard-coloured chenille yarn, again wound together with the lemon green cotton.

Before starting on the swatch I’d had my first tutorial with Andrea. For me this was a timely opportunity to survey the progress of the different elements that make up the course. In preparation I had added photos to some of the swatch design illustrations in my file. I made sure I could illustrate aspects of my research on abstraction with the study I had undertaken of Winifred Nicholson’s Variations on a Cyclamen and Primula, a goache sequence of 1935. I also gathered together my reading list to date and surveyed all those web links collected – many used in this blog of course. In the tutorial itself I found I had to make quite a vigorous case for including this blog and my on-line gallery of photos as part of my sketchbook / diary. Clearly this kind of approach is not altogether common practice. I do understand the reluctance to regard the digital image and typescript word as worthy companions to the drawing and handwritten comments of a sketch book, but I am determined to present both: the electronic part does provide a very necessary focus for reflection and record of process. With the macro lens of the digital camera it is possible to show a level of detail in a woven piece very difficult (and time-consuming) to replicate in a drawing or painting. With the blog, the opportunity for making links, referencing to images and texts to amplify what I’m learning and experiencing, seems just too valuable a medium to ignore. It’s also clear that (some) textile designers now use the web most creatively, and for their clients it certainly is often the first stop in considering the value of a designer’s work.  I was also anxious in the tutorial to argue for delivering only 6 swatches at the assignment conclusion: on the grounds that it was necessary for me to develop and practice skills of making a warp and dressing a loom in the European way taught in the workshop and expected in industry (a point made by a third year student I spoke to this week).

At the end of the second workshop day I spent a little while studying the work-in-progress of a number of 2nd year full-time students weaving on the workshop’s dobby looms. Here in the gallery is a selection: an intriguing mix of styles, techniques and materials.


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