At the end of Project 2 I am asked to reflect on it and ask individual questions – these alone have raised a few interesting questions for me and unexpected answers which are very different to what I would have said before starting the course.
To answer each I will pose each question as written in the course notes:
- Can you begin to see the relationship between stitching and drawing? this is perhaps the most straightforward to answer as I understood this before starting the course through learning about quilt design. The relationship though that I thought I knew has changed from something that was very obvious i.e. you draw a design, mark the design and then either cut the pieces out and stitch or stitch the quilting to something that is more emotional and free. To learn about emotional mark making as well as just ordinary mark making brings another aspect to sketching and then to develop this into stitches takes that relationship to a different level and understanding and one that no doubt will develop over time and experience.
- Were you able to choose stitches which expressed the marks and lines of your drawings? For the very last sample in this project I felt my confidence increased on choosing the stitches but I also had done this instinctively rather than drawing before as the sample was based on a small sketch from another sketchbook – consequently I felt freer to choose the textures and the corresponding stitches but also understand the need for planning and drawing in advance too as this sample felt very much experimental (and proved a useful exercise too). Through choosing the stitches as it developed came a choice of yarns for this sample and both seemed to be a decision to be made at the same time – I had also learnt from the other exercises the yarns would change the look and effect of the texture of the stitch so became a vital part of the decision process. As well as the drawing I was also led by the background fabric for choosing the colours as I wanted to express the tones and emotions and emphasize it rather than use it purely as a medium to stitch upon.
However a previous sample in this project I did feel able to choose the stitches to match my drawing marks:
The fabric choice was very deliberate with the hessian and this did affect the stitch choice too as I knew I could not use very fine and tiny stitches but rather had to become more expressive. The stitches ended up being more layered than I would have expected but this again reflects the marks on the sketch and I realised at this point that stitches could be done in a very different way to how I have done embroidery before and can be done to express emotions instead of just being marks on fabric.
- Did you choose the right source material to work from? Yes I feel I did on both of my samples I have posted here – one was a simple photograph that I sketched having seen it in an on-line newspaper but loved because of the variety of textures seen in the location and felt that it would translate wonderfully into stitch. The second is effectively a primary source as it is scraps of fabric I did simple coloured sketches from but enabled me to express different textures in stitch and change it from a flat cotton to a textile and textured piece that I could be free to use a variety of stitches and in different yarns and threads. I do feel though that I need to use more primary sources to sketch from or if I take photos then to note textures or make a small quick sketch in a small note book as think this would help now with a view to translating into stitch.
- Do you think your sample works well irrespective of the drawing? Or is your sample merely a good interpretation of your drawing? If I take these two samples above then I think both apply – in the first I think the sample works well as it is not merely an interpretation but a study of textures and colours and working with the back ground fabric but the second (the earlier sample) I initially though was merely an interpretation of the drawing but now feels it also works well irrespective of the drawing. My fiance without doubt loves the ‘pool picture’ because he doesn’t need to see the sketch to understand where my inspiration came from whereby the first he likes because it reminds him of different things likes corals or ying and yang pictures so it stands alone without the drawing. When I look at both I am surprised at how they have turned out in many ways because I expected to merely interpret a drawing at this stage but felt able to express more of myself and the emotions in the samples and hence why I feel they work irrespective of the drawings now. The question that arises for me is will I continue to literally interpret a drawing as I know I can be very literal (I have suspected Aspergers syndrome and have begun to recognise this trait and rather than work against my natural instincts want to work with them and use them as an advantage and help rather than a hindrance) or to interpret the drawings in my own way which again I have really enjoyed? I suppose it will depend on the drawing or source material.
- Which did you prefer – working with stitch to create textures or working with yarns to make textures? which worked best for you and why? This was the real revelation and the answer is both and it raises a question for me of will I continue to work this way? I expected to enjoy the stitching to make textures more but then I discovered raffia and string and fabric strips and combined with the aforesaid stitches I realised that I love that combining. It is very easy to stick to one yarn such as embroidery thread and make a variety of textures but when you add in new yarns and threads and different materials such as pearl threads, tapestry wools, the aforesaid raffia and fabric strips it feels like a whole new world opens up and I have no question as I increase my variety of stitches and variations of each then the textures I can produce and experiment with will expand beyond my expectations and this I find very very exciting. No longer will fabric I dislike be thrown away but no doubt it will now be dyed and cut or twisted into new yarns for textural work.
- Make some comments on individual techniques and sample pieces. The techniques that I really enjoyed were using the different yarns and experimenting with the string, raffia and fabric strips but here I feel a larger needle is needed to reduce wrist strain particularly if using cotton or finer fabric – this is something I need to bear in mind because bigger needles produce bigger holes and finer fabric or cotton (and similar) can very easily tear as a result. Hessian and looser weaves are suitable and therefore eliminates the problem of holes but in the last sample I did like the effect of the fabric strips on the cotton (and in fact used some similar dyed cotton for some of the satin stitch) and was able to do stem stitch in tapestry wool to outline and cover up the edges and any of the aforesaid holes. I experimented with couching and initially didn’t really ‘get it’ or feel I could use the technique effectively but then played with different yarns and also in the last sample couched using small cross stitches and realise how effective and useful it can be. I did really like using herringbone stitch and cretan stitch although the latter is not one I know well …. it is interesting to see how varying the width or length of these stitches can really change the look and also how effective they are in different yarns. I am aware that one of my favourite stitches is chain stitch as there are so many variations including whipped, open and magic chain stitch with alternating colours as well as being able to do rows or spirals close together or further apart and am inspired by the use of it in other cultures and styles such as Banjara. The surprise in some ways was just how useful a simple running stitch is and just how much you can vary the look by changing the length and how far apart rows are and more importantly for me is the variations and effects you can achieve by using different yarns. As for the samples it was useful to do some in the wheel format as I have a clear reference point for the future but would change this now I have found my tapestry frame and intend at some point getting a square frame I have seen this week which means that I will have a greater variety of sizes – this is a small point but for many samples would prefer not to squash the stitches through moving the embroidery hoop about too much. The samples that were particularly useful were the main ones in which I could and can see how the different stitches can build up to create very different looks and effects and in conjunction with different yarns they build a vast variation of textures – I am now happy I have done two quite different samples but part of me does wonder whether I kept too close to my sketches too or whether I could have concentrated more on the marks and produced more abstract samples.
- Did you experiment enough? For this I am not entirely sure but think so … I definitely found I increased in confidence throughout the stitched exercises and came up with more ideas for variations and know that this will only increase in time too but on the other hand feel I could have experimented more particularly in the first sample of the pool.
- Did you feel inhibited in any way? Yes but only by lack of confidence and knowledge – this has very much been a learning curve and understanding of what is needed. I felt more inhibited and less experimental on the actual drawn mark making and felt it was easier to express emotions in stitch and on fabric with yarns than I did on paper. For me fabric and and yarns is like a language in which I can ‘speak’ through colour, texture and stitches and find it easier than drawing or sketching – in much the same way as I can read music and understand the language of it easier to a point it is second nature to me and also understand at a deep level in contrast with the fact that I find learning another spoken language incredibly difficult.
- Fix them into your sketchbook if you want to or start a separate book of sample references. I have fixed some samples in my A3 sketchbook and now feel this is a temporary measure as after receiving them back after marking I would like to fix them in a scrap book or similar – both for safe keeping and also easy reference and will look into ideas and find out how other students do this to with a mind to looking ahead to assessment.
- Do you prefer to work from a drawing or by playing with materials and yarns to create effects? Which method produced the most interesting work? Again a slight surprise as I felt that I would prefer to work from the drawing mainly but in fact it is the opposite and loved playing with the materials and yarns to create effects and textures instead – the ‘pool scene’ was mainly working from the drawing and I loved that but the final sample the sketch was only, as I have said before, a very simple one and very flat with no textural marks at all and this enabled me to play and try different things with yarns and stitches and this I felt was more exciting to me as I wasn’t entirely sure how it would turn out – discovering that combined with the surrounding stitching the variegated thread and herringbone stitch gives depth to the piece as the background fabric can be seen and almost looks like it is behind much of the sample or that the voile works wonderfully in satin stitch as does strips of fabric but with a very different texture. However I still did like working from the drawing and sketch and trying to re-interpret the marks into a piece that is nice to touch and to see different layers in the piece and the stitched sample seems to bring the sketch to life.
- Are there any other techniques you would like to try? Are there any samples you would like to do in a different way? Happily I picked up a library book yesterday which has meant the delay in me doing this last section of the assignment has meant I could do some additional research as in that book there is ribbon work and different ways of doing the same stitches I have used. I would love to experiment more with stump work too to create another dimension and I am adding some notes on a personal trial of this technique in this blog (it is something I want to do extensively on a personal quilt project that will combine multiple quilting and stitch techniques). I would also like to combine English techniques such as Jacobean embroidery (would love to learn) with others such as sashiko which I have done a little of (again I will add notes on my experiments). In the same library ‘hit’ I also found a book on Japanese temari balls which fascinate me and I wonder how I could use them or whether I could take the stitch techniques and use them in a different way to add texture or a different dimension. Ribbon work really does fascinate me and I have touched on it on crazy quilting and adore the different affects and textures you can do and the way it really changes the look of stitches as opposed to how they are done in embroidery threads and different yarns. I think it is obvious that I feel like I have had this world of stitch opened up and pretty much want to try so many different techniques until I find what I really love.
- As for samples in a different way – maybe some of the samples I did in a wheel I would now do on a square frame but I have only had my round frames so wanted to work with the shape to try different stitches in a semi organised way and also by sticking within the parameters of the frame without moving the material I did not want to crush the fabric or the stitches at this stage. However I have now found my old small tapestry frame and this enable me to work on larger samples – it is one that the work can be wound around the frame (a rectangular style frame with dowels on two sides) so will avoid the frame edges affecting the stitches.
- Is there anything you would like to change in your work? If so, make notes for future reference. I think this comes back to the question of whether I followed the drawings too much even though the second sample was based on a very flat drawing with no particular textural marks. I wonder whether now I could have concentrated more on the lines and marks of my source drawings and as I state above whether I would then have produced a more abstract sample and I am thinking of in time, and with the benefit of further experience, about going back to the ‘pool’ sketch and trying that. I think the other thing I would change is to be prepared to use a wider variety of back ground materials – in one small sample I used black felt and would like to try different samples using felt or other similar fabrics and am keeping my eye out for scraps of velvet, satin, more linen etc as well as calico and more hessian. I think the biggest surprise was just how much I liked the hessian and what I would again change is how I use it or to use a greater variety of yarns but realise this may come with confidence and finding different yarns to produce other effects. The last thing I would now change is to be prepared to experiment with a greater variety of stitches – I have picked up a library book which has many different variations on the stitches already used as well as some different ones (and I have a superb crazy quilting book which is proving very useful on these factors) and as I mention above would like to incorporate ribbon work too but using a bigger variety of widths.
Overall this project and the whole of this first module has been a huge learning curve.
The first part, where I learnt about different marks, was perhaps the hardest part as I am not used to sketching expressively or trying to convey emotions and at times I really struggled with this – even now I have left some pages in my sketchbook so that I can go back to it and add further ideas over time.
I enjoyed most of the exercises and understood I think what was required although at times both got frustrated and sometimes had to laugh at my attempts to produce marks expressing sadness or happiness – some were slightly tongue in cheek when I started to think about using emotions Facebook ‘stickers’ or the first letters of words to try to express and am not sure if these really worked but they also made me think outside of the box too. I think the other aspect I enjoyed more was starting to introduce other papers or materials such as bubble wrap for textures and for the first time in my life enjoyed doing collage – I have never really understood its use in art before but now can see that collage is only like crazy quilting but on paper instead and can be used to convey colour, marks and textures in a format that can be subsequently translated very easy into stitch.
It was also a learning curve regarding general sketching as I was mark making in a very different way – trying to express the feeling or the texture a piece gives you brings another dimension to sketching and I think is starting to bring life to my ideas.
I admit to many frustrations as I mention above because some emotions or feelings are harder for me to express in marks but what I did realise is that some are easier to express in other media such as pastels or crayons or paint than with just sketching pencils and now I have done the second project understand that this is the case when translating marks into stitches – you can use different stitches and yarns to express differing emotions or feelings.
I can see now how these first two projects are very much the first foundation bricks to build on now and will be interesting to see how I translate these into my personal quilting projects too as well as how they get built on as I learn further techniques and develop ideas and projects – textiles is far more than I ever expected and my trip to the library this week whereby I was looking for 5 History of Art books and came out with those plus a further 6 textile based books (on top of the 7 I had already borrowed!). I now feel that a door is just opening on to a whole new language that I can express myself through and I am on the verge of having a new voice and it is immensely exciting.
Finally I decided to do as is suggested and have a think about how I have done against the various assessment criteria:
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
This includes ‘materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills’ and here I am reasonably happy for this stage as I am aware of much of a learning curve it has been. Materials wise I do feel I could use a wider range of fabrics and threads but also am aware of the constrictions of financial budget and the fact that I have only very recently discovered a local source that will enable me to keep within my budget but also provides sufficient variation. Using a wider range of materials is also something that I am aware comes with experiments and confidence as I get to know individual qualities and the effects they create. Observational and visual awareness skills are again something I aware will come with experience although I feel this is at this moment a weakness that I need to improve and work on. Design and compositional skills is something in this first assignment that seems to be a minor point but at the same time in two of my samples I had to really think about both and for this point think I am satisfied with what I have done but could also improve on – again this is the first assignment and a huge learning curve.
My major weakness I feel is my observational skills as I state above and I am trying to improve this by taking notes of textures – however in some ways I also feel the visual skills are there but it is more of a matter of getting down what I see in the appropriate marks and increasing the variety of marks I use to enable me to do so.
My strengths are grounded in my enthusiasm to learn about new materials and techniques and trying to learn about a wide variety of textiles.
Quality of Outcome
‘Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts. communication of ideas’
I am reasonably happy about the presentation of my work in this learning log at present but suspect that I will come back at a later stage as my experience grows and reconsider this and I am still learning about presentation of work in my sketchbooks and also with my samples – the latter of which I am trying to work out a suitable method. Regarding my content and application of knowledge again I refer to a huge learning curve and at points feel my content could be improved in my sketchbooks (including the A3 one that has all the exercises in from this assignment) but regarding the knowledge this is something I am ok with as I do understand what has been required and how it may be and is applied to stitch and feel that I have shown this at least satisfactorily.
I am not entirely sure what is meant by ‘conceptualisation of thoughts’ so would appreciate a short explanation but if it is regarding putting my thoughts into concepts and then communicating them into ideas and applying them through sketches and stitch then I think I have demonstrated this reasonably well – my samples turned out as I had hoped in the most part but what can be improved on is my sketches of these ideas and concepts and notes on what I intend to do but noting my penchant for flexibility if I do not feel it works as I am actually stitching and being able to change areas as required.
Demonstration of Creativity
‘Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of personal voice’
The first 3 words of this I feel that I am more than willing to use and am trying to demonstrate being able to do so – I love using my imagination and experimenting and hope this has come across through my samples including by using the fabric I thought I would hate and therefore forced myself to use i.e. the hessian. I have today discovered a similar fabric (a cotton version) that I am already intrigued to use and will be purchasing next week as think it will be wonderful to use with various yarns and threads – I would like to do a second version of the ‘pool’ sample and see how I can develop that in the differing fabric and perhaps with ribbons and some variations of yarns. I also demonstrated the experimentation through the final sample – I had a very ‘flat’ sketch which enabled me to use my imagination and experiment as I went along as I decided each stitch section with different yarns based on the adjoining or previous one which was a really good test.
As for the last ‘development of voice’ – unexpectedly I am seeing the beginnings of this and this for me is the most exciting part because I am partially deaf and want to communicate through my textiles and stitched work. I am starting to understand already what I like doing and where interests lie at this stage but also understand that this may change very significantly. I thought I knew what I liked in art but this assignment has opened up a whole new world already and opened my eyes and I can see influences that may inspire future ideas and work.
‘Reflection, research, critical thinking (learning log)’
Research is probably a weak point at the moment but I am currently having some training on programmes that will enable me to do easier note taking which will encourage more research. I do however really enjoy researching and reading about all the subjects as a recent library visit proved – as I have mentioned in an earlier post I went for 5 History of Art books and came out with an additional 6 textile based books (at least 2 of which I am looking now to buy).
Reflecting on my assignments and the exercises involved is a whole new experience as is the learning log and will no doubt improve as I learn what is expected of me and how I need to do these.
Throughout this first module I am discovering I need to do things my way in order to get the best out of myself – I think when I started this assignment I looked at other students work and compared what I was doing to what they did but the realisation is I need to find my own way of doing things and what feels comfortable will be the best way for me. An example of this is the way I am now organising my sketchbooks – I had no enthusiasm for sketchbook work as my first is a jumble of different sketches in an incoherent order but I have suspected Aspergers and like organisation so I have purchased new ones and divided into separate themes e.g. Floral, Sea, sand and beach, Textures in Nature etc … for me this works much much better and I am already enjoying this much more as the sketchbooks already seem clearer. Part of the sketchbook reorganisation has also been looking at other students sketchbooks and generally researching how they are done and getting an understanding of what they are about.
A lot of this first assignment has been about settling into the course and understanding how much is required and that aforesaid learning curve – I am not feeling overly confident that I have achieved all the exercises requirements (mark making in particularly with expressing marks emotionally or as textures) or the variations of stitches but at the same time I now find myself adding new marks to my sketchbooks and trying differing ways already of stitching so guess the understanding of what was required has become knowledge. I need to learn to recognise my weaknesses more clearly and likewise my strengths and the mediocre in between and just use this start now as the aforesaid foundation block.