A few months ago I was invited by Kathleen to be part of a group project involving some vintage shirt collars. The brief and some of the developments can be found on the project blog here. So this is what arrived back in the summer and has been pinned to my studio board while I considered what to do with it.
Last week I finally got round to playing with this item that is sort of a ‘found object’ except it is someone else’s find. I studied it as if it were some sort of specimen, investigating its make-up, structure and features. I drew it, photographed it, took prints from it and slowly took it apart, documenting the process. At each stage I took a print, initially blind embossing (putting it through the press with damp paper and no ink). The marks it made became slowly more ragged and dis-shevelled as the edges were un-done.
It was so pristine and white that I daren’t mark it with ink initially, knowing that once I did there would be no going back. Eventually I plucked up the courage to do so and now the collar lies in its dissected state, flattened and black with printing ink. The prints it made have wonderful detail where the loose threads caught the ink.
I like it as an object. It has a history and a story that I can never know. I don’t know yet what I’ll do to it next but I’m looking forward to finding out…
This is a section of my studio wall at the moment. I’m really enjoying the routine of working in the studio and at home. My diary is relatively sensible at the moment so I’m making the most of it. I’m working on a number of small projects, although they are all linked in some way (perhaps the link is me!) and some may grow to be much bigger: one thing really does lead on to the next idea. I enjoy the experimenting stage of any project, probably more than making the final work, which can be daunting for various reasons. Sometimes I can’t keep up with the ideas and all the things I want to try – the sketchbook becomes incredibly precious as a repository for thoughts and ideas. These are some of the things going on at the moment:
Fabric of the Building gets another airing from this Saturday. It is showing at The Beetroot Tree, Draycott, Derbyshire as part of Industrial Abstract. I’m really please to be showing this work again. It was my final degree project and most of it has been tucked away at home since I graduated. It includes works on thick industrial felt, paper and digital projection. There are elements of print, embossing, manipulation, natural dye, and hand stitch. I’m looking forward to installing it in a different space and getting those animated stitches covering a wall in the gallery.
The exhibition is on from 20th April to 8th June and there will be a ‘meet the artist’ event at the gallery on Saturday 4th May.
I’ve been stitching into some of the prints I made earlier in the week. This one has a tea and rust print and then a collagraph print over. There are embossed and printed marks from stitches on the collagraph plate and my little seeding stitches play about amongst those marks. I’m really pleased with the effect and some late afternoon sunshine (it rained most of today) enabled some good photographs.
> I’ve moved the contents of my studio space at college to my home studio. I know it will all have to go back again but for a while I’ll need to work at home and the end of term seemed as good a time as any to shift it all.
Last week I did some experiments with a devore process into my thick felt. The usual devore technique uses an alkaline paste that eats into cellulose fibres, cutting them away. This wouldn’t work on wool and the equivalent process that does work on wool uses an acid paste to do the same job. The technician said no one had ever done this before at college. He didn’t say I couldn’t though… I later found out that it hasn’t been allowed before due to health and safety reasons! The process uses caustic soda, which is pretty nasty stuff. Needless to say I was very careful. And it worked, really well in fact.
The trouble is though, it doesn’t sit very well with the sustainability issues that I’m exploring in this project. I don’t feel at all comfortable with it as a process. I won’t be taking it any further.
So, now to find a way of creating that embossed effect in my thick felt that doesn’t involve harmful chemicals… I tried burning into the felt with a soldering iron. It worked but not brilliantly. I tried using a drill to ‘draw’ into the felt. This didn’t really work at all: the drill got all caught up in the fibres. Then I tried threading wire through holes drilled into a piece of wood and clamping this onto the felt before steaming.
This is still drying off after steaming, as are the next few samples which were wrapped round thick cardboard tubes and steamed or dyed with onion skins. I’ll leave them all for a few days before undoing the various bundles to see how they worked.
This last one looked like a roast joint cooking away!
> With the bright sunshine we had yesterday I finally managed to get some decent photos of some of my embossing experiments using stitch. What I love about them is the fact that the impression isn’t just of the stitch that was on the printing surface of the collagraph (in this case fabric with stitch and, shown below, cardboard that had been stitched into) but also of the thread that was on the back, so there is this multi-layered impression of a continuous thread.
I’ve been stitching into and printing onto my felt.
I’ve tried out a variety of stitches, partly to explore what stitches might best interpret my mark making experiments from earlier in the project but also to get to know the felt. It is an absolute joy to stitch into! I love its solidity but also the subtle ridges you can get with this kind of repetitive stitching so that when you run your fingers over it there is a change in contour. A combination of the pushed in, embossed element and the raised up is what I’m trying to play with here: things going in and things coming out.
It’s always worth a look at the back as sometimes it’s more interesting than the front!
> This week I’ve really tried to cncentrate on drawing and mark making, although I started off with some embossing experiments in the printmaking department. These don’t photograph well but they did work and I’m looking forward to doing some more playing with collagraphs. In fact I often find it difficult to photograph things well at college and sometimes at home, especially in this poor winter light. I have particular problems with very white things. I’m working very much in black and white at the moment or with just texture on white and cream and my camera just can’t cope. Perhaps I just need to get to know the camera better…
I’ve worked on small scale stuff in my sketch book using pen and ink
and then on big sheets with a bamboo dipping pen thing that gives a lovely mark and black procion dye that fades to a lovely bluey grey as it runs out.
My marks are based on organic lines and texture on green/living walls but through the week I’ve relied less and less on actually looking at my images and have been drawing much more intuituvely and I’ve really enjoyed it.
Current listening: The Be Good Tanyas, Blue Horse.