The Second Year Approaches

In seven days time I will start the second year of the HNC course in Woven Textile Design at Bradford College, the course I began in September 2008. The Autumn School as it is known will be 6 days in all: lectures, tutorials, seminars, but all practical workshops I gather have now been completed. I passed the first year of the course successfully, not brilliantly, but nothing to be ashamed of ! As for the second year, well, it is made up predominantly of a Project 5 titled Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, units in Professional Practice and Development, a Critical Study of 3,500 words and a Final Project: the realisation and production of a final collection.

My sample created in the July workshop with recycled materials

One of two samples created in the July workshop with recycled materials

As I’ve already suggested in my blog at the end of the Farfield Residency I have negotiated with my tutor that my second year be devoted to a study of tapestry weaving. I now have a tapestry loom, a developing association with an international name in tapestry art, a second workshop with tapestry artist Sue Lawty under my belt, and lots of enthusiasm to make the very most out of this wonderful opportunity.

Negotiating my textile work around my musical projects in the period between the HNC July Weekend and the Autumn School hasn’t been easy. It has taken me some time to organise the initial preparation for Project 5, a project to be submitted in mid January, but that will have an interim assessment opportunity in just under a fortnight’s time.

I know there are  former HNC graduates who read this blog (I heard from a member of the 2004 cohort just this week), so I must point out that for this final (final) year of the course there is an important change. Project 5 gobbles up Project 6 and becomes a longer and preparatory project for the Final Project. From my position this is most advantageous because it  means I can really prepare technically and artistically for the move from handweaving to tapestry. Project 5 asks for one small / manageable final product and the writing of a proposal for the Final Project.

For next week’s Autumn School the requirement is to present , for  what I understand to be, an interim assessment: a completed sketchbook for Visual Realisation (containing at least 8 drawings, 3 pieces of collage and evidence of work with colour and texture), some evidence of initial Design Development, a mood board, a market research board with an accompanying research file, at least 8 samples showing evidence of experimental work with sustainable fibres and yarns, and the first part of a Professional Studies file focusing on legislation and environmental issues.

For me this is quite a task because late July and August were almost completely taken up with preparations for my Farfield residency and a very necessary holiday in Wales. In September I was due to go off to Portland, Oregan for three weeks, but a family crisis prevented this and I found myself instead struggling to complete a large-scale music theatre work for its first rehearsal early in October. I made a list the other day of all that’s gone on in September – and it was alarming! All that said, I’m now on the way to achieving a state of readiness for the Autumn School.

A Parterre in Thornes Park

A section of the parterre in Thornes Park

One of the problems I have found with this course is choosing a subject focus and keeping in mind the technical theme and a market research outcome. For Project 5 this has seemed even more difficult than previously. I have, however, finally arrived at a plan of attack. My subject inspiration is Natural Boundaries, a title that I hope will embrace what I need to produce that small / manageable final item / product. This item will be a piece of textile art (probably based on the parterre in the rose garden of Thornes Park). I will focus on textile art, one of the four routes we can choose from given in the project brief as an ‘end use’ in market research. This final aspect is fortuitous because it enables me to bring together a study of the work of tapestry artist Jilly Edwards (with whom I am collaborating as a composer during the next 6 months) and my emerging interest in the techniques of tapestry weaving.

Six tiny (3cm x 11cm) tapestries by Jilly Edwards

Six tiny (3cm x 11cm) tapestries by Jilly Edwards

This last week I’ve been able to collect together many of the materials and research sources I need to meet the Autumn School target. There’s been a lot of thinking to do to get this right, and I was so fortunate last week to be able to discuss the detail of my proposed approach to Project 5 with the textile artist I’ve been working with during the summer. I mercilessly raided her studio for journal articles and images, and have been kindly allowed the use of a rich collection of natural yarns and fibres to explore and experience the project subject: Reduce, Re-use, Re-cycle. The most important aspect of this opportunity was having a friendly ear to listen to my formative ideas and to be in receipt of so many sensible suggestions, strategies and observations.

Yarns, fibres and journals

Yarns, fibres and journals

The first stage in my progress towards experimenting and handling sustainable and natural fibres and yarns has been to abandon my loom and concentrate on my small weaving frame. You may remember I started using this frame to great effect for the Design Development of Project 4. Having recently seen how two professional tapestry weavers use the small frame loom I became convinced that this should be the medium through which my experimental samples should be created. From attending workshops with Fiona Abercrombie and Sue Lawty I have learnt just enough to set up a warp on such a frame loom and get weaving and experimenting. Here below is illustrated a first experiment just to get the feel of the medium, some off the yarns and fibres, and the weaving techniques.

sample 2

An experimental sample

The fibres and yarns include a green linen layer, white unbleached bamboo (from Habu no less), a layer of rich blue silk, a weft pick of light blue wool, some raffia and finally a little hemp. The piece is woven in plain weave with a base of end knots and a single line of soumak in the hemp section. I’ve tied up the frame on my loom so I can sit comfortably whilst weaving and have open space under the weaving frame.

A Frame within a Loom

A Frame within a Loom

Although I did more thinking than weaving for Project 5 during September I did complete my own ‘re-use and re-cycle’ of the double warp I created for Project 4. From this I have made a sequence of 4 panels, which today I finally ‘finished’ (warm press) and installed above my desk in my studio. This is the double weave opened out at one end to create a single woven piece twice the width of the original warp. I regard this as my first complete art piece at the floor loom. It significantly extends the design and colour palette of my set of double weave sample for Project 4 based on visual realisation of the sea and sky surrounding my cottage in North Wales. I’ve particularly focused attention on the coloured stripe and creating a play of colours through a sustained sequence of striped panels. Producing this has certainly taken up time that might have been put towards Project 5, but completing this work has been a valuable and important design challenge and helped me experience just what it requires in concentration and technical confidence to weave a substantial piece.

Four Panels (above my studio desk)

Four Panels (above my studio desk)

For the Reduce, Re-use, Re-cycle aspect of Project 5 I’m focusing my attention on a local rug maker – Area of Dewsbury in West Yorkshire. This company makes bespoke rugs and carpets. They have an impressive collection that includes work by the designer Carrie Scott-Huby. This painter and textile artist has her own a label called PinkMoonInspires. This label demonstrates a strong commitment to using recycled materials and Carrie’s current collection of rug designs for Area certainly reflects this. I was surprised and delighted to see  Carrie’s work in this new context because for several years she occupied the next door studio to mine!

Back in July Andrew Warburton, Managing Director of Area, visited my studio during an Open Studios evening at Westgate Studios. When he saw  my loom he generously asked if I would be interested in visiting the Area workshop and offered me access to any yarn remnants left offer from many of his ambitious rug projects. As I now have two looms capable of weaving rugs it seems sensible to begin exploring this aspect of woven textile design. It is very much a world of its own, though not really a part of the HNC course. I’m hoping to arrange a visit soon to Area and look into collecting, re-using and then recycling possible remnants within part of my Project 5 piece for January.

Carrie Scott-Huby's design 'I thought I knew you' for Area - rugs and carpets of Dewsbury

Carrie Scott-Huby's design 'I thought I knew you' for Area - rugs and carpets of Dewsbury

Throughout this busy time of finishing off one project and preparing and planning the next project has been a particularly glorious autumn backdrop. I’ve made several  short trips through autumn colours to Cumbria and most recently to the Devon / Cornwall border, but back here at home in it’s been pretty good too. The park across the road (where I walk or cycle every morning) seems to get more and more wonderful in its autumnal shades. The sun keeps shining and there’s been so little wind and rain to take the leaves from the trees. I even was inspired to write a short and very autumnal piece of music commissioned recently for the launch of a new Chamber Music Project. It was beautifully performed within 10 days of its completion by cellist Tim Lowe and pianist Stephen Gutman. My friendly editor described it as Nigel Morgan meets Gabriel Faure!

The avenue I cycle down every morning

The avenue I cycle down every morning

Afterword and image: I’ve started to experiment with a watercolour medium Koh-I-Nor. This enables some rich and illuminated colours that I think will proved invaluable for some of the preparatory work for Project 5. Here’s an autumnal sample.

Autumn images

Autumn images


A painting with Koh-I-Nor waterbased dyes

A painting with Koh-I-Nor waterbased dyes




2 Responses to “The Second Year Approaches”

  1. Graham Preston Says:

    Hi Nigel thank you for your kind words, I will keep upto date with your progress via your blog, and hopefully see you at the end of year show, and I wish you all the best for the future.

  2. Cheryl Says:

    Dear Nigel,
    I found a link to your site this morning.
    It is so beautiful.
    I bought a 20 inch table loom at a thriftshop and need
    furhter help to learn how to use it.
    In any case, I am inspired by your work and your blog.
    Thank you,

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