I feel this week that I have begun to get the measure of what I have to do for Project 2 Hand Crafted Textiles. With just under a month to complete all the work required for this project I’ve returned several times to the four pages of the project brief for clarification. Slowly it’s sinking in! For me the challenge is choosing areas that enable me to ‘develop the ability to translate visual research and design development into original, exciting and innovative fabrics’. Visual Research seems the the key component of this process, and having chosen the world of 20C painter Winifred Nicholson as my subject I’m already on my way towards a portfolio of drawings and design development that is beginning to contribute to Fabric Realisation. Last week I began analysing a Nicholson abstract from the 1930s, using that picture to inform my choice of colours, yarns and hand-manipulation techniques. This week I’ve continued to focus on the same image, but taking two components of the image that I didn’t do justice to previously.
The first component is the series of black diagonal lines that cross the picture. This seemed a great opportunity for inlay. I had to make a pattern first on squared paper and then carefully follow it! The angle across the weft wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for, but it worked after a fashion. Using a black linen yarn there’s an interesting irregular width to the lines – that I like.
The second component is the square tilted on its side at 45 degrees. After much searching I found two yarns that colourwise I felt much happier with as reflecting Nicholson’s original colours in her picture. The background ‘cardboard brown’, just the colour of the cardboard bookmarks we use in the studio to do yarn wrappings, is pretty close, and in linen. The white, described as ‘natural szx’ is an Anais Final 12 80% acryl/polyacryl and 20% viscose, I’m using for the inlay. I decided to experiment on this swatch with what I understand to be overshot, a technique popular in the USA. Here is Ann Sutton’s description (from The Structure of Weaving): ‘Sometimes a thread will weave into the base fabric for a short distance, float on the reverse of the cloth, and also on the face of the cloth. When floats are in the weft this is the basis of the huge family of weaves long known to handweavers as overshot patterns’. And later . . . ‘In most overshot patterns, a plain weave ground pick (of the same yarn or thickness as the warp) must be inserted in between each pattern pick (1 and 3, 2 and 4, alternately in all cases). Both plain weaves can be inserted if neccessary to elongate the pattern’.
Well. my approach to this is a little unorthodox (don’t look too closely at the photo!), but I got the idea, and for me, with a four shaft loom, Overshot is a particularly good medium to explore. My first teacher introduced me to Overshot through Ann Sutton’s book (see above) and rummaging in her studio box of examples she’d woven as a fledgeling weaver produced the most beautifully executed table mat to a traditional design in Overshot (‘woven as a gift for my mother-in-law’ I remember her saying with a twinkle in her eye). These two swatches took most of my weaving time in the workshop and made up what I felt to be a useful day.
The afternoon previously I found a couple of hours to do some drawing. I decided to begin my Visual Realisation work proper by going to what I regard as the signature image of Winifred Nicholson: a still life in front of a window with a view. Throughout her long life she returned again and again to this subject, but her most well known piece, painted in Italy in the 1920s, I’ve long loved and admired. It’s in Kettles Yard, Cambridge where I had the privilege of being Kettles Yard Fellow in 1985 – wonderful to have your office in house with a ‘real’ Picasso in the loo! I went out and bought a little cyclamen and placed on it my table: it is such a fragile flower. Nicholson left her flowers in their white tissue wrappings, containing somehow the delicate flowers and strong green leaves within a cocoon of shapes both flowing and angular, perfectly complementing the mountain landscape in the distance. My landscape is a roofscape of Wakefield, looking out towards the Town Hall clock. I didn’t have another appropriate plant, so I chose a bowl of fruit. But first I drew the cyclamen on its own: two drawings, the second a small detail of the first. I photocopied the first drawing several times ready for my next experiment. Wonderful how a photocopy can sharpen up a drawing!
Next I found some red tissue paper and wrapped the cyclamen. My idea was to paint a transparent wash across the photocopied drawing, and do it several times and with several colours, each time moving the wrapped shape around the cyclamen so that the tissue shape in relation to the plant changed. Here’s an example of my efforts. This I like very much and I’m looking forward to exploring some way of representing this on a woven piece.
The next step was to take out the camera and photograph the wrapped cyclamen in situ on a window (with a view) and a bowl of fruit. At the end of this blog you can see one of my close up images (see the rest on my on-line gallery). These gave me some lively ideas about collage. Painted tissue paper seems high on my list of possibilities here. All in all I felt this was a promising start to my Visual Realisation and I’m looking forward to my next opportunity to spend time on this kind of work.
This brings me to Design Development. In some respects I’ve already begun this work alongside the experimental swatches I’ve been making that illustrate hand-manipulation techniques.I am assembling a palette of colours drawn from analysis of Nicholson’s work. This is fuelling already ideas about their potential for textile design. I’ve got to start this ‘conversation with myself’ (recommended in the project brief). What better place to do that than in this blog, which I intend to start next week.
As for Market Research and Mood Boards (part of the unit on Visual Communication) we are required to choose either fashion or interiors and focus on one or two brands / designers ‘which best fit the type of fabrics we will be producing. After some research I’ve decided to look at the work of two Welsh textile designer/makers: Laura Thomas and Cefyn Burgess. Next week I hope to begin my on-line discussion of their work. I’ve already received a more than generous letter from Laura allowing me to use images from her website. I should warn my college tutor that I am considering producing my ‘market research board’ and possibly the required ‘mood’ board as an on-line presentation.
Finally, I’d like to share a design from one of my colleagues on the Bradford course. During the December weekend we met up to show our work I ‘snapped’ this woven piece in a collection of woven examples not included in this student’s presentation. I was intrigued enough by it to write to her and ask for the pattern, which she has kindly sent. here it is: