Yesterday I pulled up the flax plants that I showed growing at the allotment in my last post. They will now dry and then be retted and processed. Last week I finally got round to processing the small amount of flax that I had grown last year in a couple of pots at home. Because they were grown in less than ideal circumstances the fibres turned out to be pretty poor quality. However, I managed to get a handful of processed fibre, which was then spun.
Despite this being a very small amount of fibre and a great deal of work to get it to that stage, it was a very satisfying thing to do. The right hand spool shown below is the spun fibre. The small ball and the left spool are spun from the ‘tow’, which is the rougher fibre separated out during the combing, or ‘hackling’, as part of the processing.
These were added to a series of cordage samples I have made using a variety of different materials from my allotment plot. This series includes lots of different plant material (leaf, bark, stem and bast) as well as plastics, cloth and paper: things either growing on the plot or found in the sheds.
These form part of my submission for the third module of my MA in Creative Practice. I’ve really enjoyed the process of getting to know the properties of each material that I’ve worked with. To a certain extent I’m starting from scratch with each new fibre, but there is also a cumulative effect of the experience of working the materials. I’ve also been surprised by some that I had low expectations of and which turned out to be much more pleasing to work with than I’d expected.
I don’t have any plans yet for what I might do next with the different cordages, that may come later. For now, the process of working with each material and getting to know its possibilities and limitations have been very rewarding. Furthermore, tied up within each bundle of ‘string’ is the experience of the place they were made: the birdsong that surrounded the making, the smell of each fibre as it passes through the fingers and the slow accumulation of local knowledge about the plot of land where they are from.
I’m really looking forward to taking part in Saltaire Arts Trail again this year on the early May bank holiday weekend: 5-7th May. The Butterfly Rooms, where my studio is, will have three studios open with ‘resident artists’ and we have a pop-up cafe this year especially for the event. I will have work on show from various recent projects, but most of importantly, this is my working studio.
We are venue 20 on the trail. There is always loads to see at this lovely annual event and Saltaire will be buzzing with art, activities and people for the three days. If you can’t make it then you can have a virtual peek at my studio here.
I collected Unknown Book from Newcastle Library last weekend, taking my piece off the shelves up on level 6, where it had shared the space with the local interest collection during the Love Big Books Exhibition.
Gary Chaplin, one of the participants in the Fifth-Sized Book Adventure has made a great little film using interviews with some of the artists explaining their contributions to the project. You can see the film here.
Next Sunday (26th November) I will be at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate, demonstrating in the Artists in Action studio all day. I will have part of Unknown Book with me, as well as lots of samples and examples of book structures, with which I will be playing and demonstrating. The show is also another chance to see Page 17, the Embroiderers’ Guild exhibition in which I have a piece connected to my Unknown Book project. If you’re at the show do come along to the ‘studio’ and say hello.
The experiments I’ve been doing recently in the studio are my way of exploring 3D structures and trying out different ways to form them. This shot from earlier in the week shows some of these experiments alongside some of the objects that live on my studio wall, which I described a couple of posts ago. I am not necessarily trying to re-create the forms of these objects but there are often similarities between the ones I’ve got pinned up there (for instance, the ones included here on their own or incorporated into a a new structure are either circular, have holes or form vessels) so they gently influence my making in different ways.
I am well and truly in a weave phase at the moment. My studio wall has a growing number of samples pinned up and I’m enjoying exploring a variety of (mostly) linen yarns and the surfaces and structures that they produce when held under tension on a warp. I am constantly delighted by the simplicity of plain weave and the simplicity of the technology that produces it. I’ve been working on my table loom, but even then I have tended to beat things hard so that the warp is covered, producing a surface almost like tapestry weave.
This warp is now off the loom and the samples separated. I did enjoy them as a strip though, and it was tempting not to separate them. The linen formed these lovely curved bridges between the weave.
Most of the samples will be dyed, dipped or stained in some way. I have also been weaving on a frame and this piece is growing a little each time I get to the studio.
This, too, won’t stay white all over. I have plans for it to meet some walnut ink. but more on that another time.
Last year I was commissioned to make a special record of a garden. This record was for the occupants of the garden (and its house) for over 20 years to take with them when they move on to pastures new. There is more information about the project here and there are some images of how things developed in an album here. The final set of prints were chosen over Christmas and are now with the framer. I’m looking forward to seeing how they look as a finished series. Meanwhile, I will be bringing the experiments and developments together in a special book to go with the framed prints.
I’ve been asked about the frame I’m using for my weave samples. Here is the full frame. The late-autumn light is not good for photographing things successfully at the moment and we’ve had some particularly grey days. My samples haven’t progressed as I’d have liked due to many other things happening but my frame and its narrow warps are slowly being populated by little investigations.
I’ve been using some of the string that bound previous rust bundles. These are variously dyed themselves so when they are woven they produce random stripes and mottles.
I am enjoying the discipline of weaving again. I have also put a first warp on the four shaft table loom I rescued earlier in the year so I’m switching between loom and frame. In both I feel that plain weave offers so much potential. I love the simplicity of it and the focus on the action, the repetitiveness, the discipline of achieving evenness and a straight edge. There is so much scope for exploring subtle texture and colour that I’m not sure I will ever tire of it. I admire complex weave patterns in others’ work but for now plain weave has enough to hold my attention.
I’ve started something new this week. So often I make resolutions about doing something creative every day, sketching more often etc. Somehow they always get interrupted before they become established so I’m trying to address that. With a period of planning this has become even more necessary.
This is my new little project. By making it online I hope that I will be more disciplined about keeping to it! Each entry is either the result of me making the time to spend a few minutes in my studio rather than at my computer desk or a snippet of something I’m working on anyway.
I follow various other people documenting similar daily projects; here and here for example.
I’m experimenting with the marks that can be achieved by laying items on to paper that have either been soaked in the remains of a dye bath, or rusty items that are laid onto wet paper (in this case wet with tea or with vinegar). It takes time, but as the moisture dries I am left with some exquisite marks that are a curious mixture of planning and randomness – something I feel underlies so much of my work.
This one isn’t strictly printing, more dyeing, as the paper had been submerged in a dye bath with clamps to resist. I love the randomness of the rust marks next to the straight line created by the clamp.