For this project the task was to put design ideas into practice by painting and printing them but remembering thee fact that are other ways of expressing design too as has already been demonstrated by using stitch. This I felt was going to be a challenge but also very interesting.
STAGE 1: REVIEWING MY FABRIC COLLECTION
My collection is still building at present and consists of fabric I have collected or saved over a period of years including clothing. My movements recently have been restricted for a few weeks so was unable to look for other fabrics to use so I had to work with what I have at present.
Much of it involves cotton or poly-cotton (sheeting and clothing) which on the whole is smooth and relatively soft depending on age. I do have some coarse upholstery fabric too which I felt was not right for this project. In addition I have the usual polyester lining fabric (silky but hard to work with when using the sewing machine for me personally); I have some slub silk which is a deep green and wonderfully bumpy but with a lovely softness as you would expect from silk; there is a creamy silky fabric that I am not sure of the fibre but believe it maybe polyester (I have had it for years and it was originally a slip/underskirt or similar); there are waterproof swim shorts that again I do not know the fabric content as the label is long since lost – I used this in a previous printing exercise; a tablecloth of unknown material but think it could be a heavy cotton or cotton mix; a yellow brushed cotton (or mix); pongee silk; and also a rich blue jacket made of silk or a silk mix – the exact fibre is unknown as purchased in the USA and the label is long gone but will be taking it to a fabric shop to see if they can more closely identify it; finally I have some hessian and felt which both unexpectedly have become favourites to work with.
So overall I have a mix which I want to increase steadily as now think it is quite restrictive – as I do so I will come back to these exercises and try the printing and designing again to see what effects can be produced.
I chose some fabrics to work on although I did not have a dozen or so as was suggested – unfortunately a heel condition previously mentioned has restricted me being able to go out looking for new fabrics and financial matters prevented, until now, ordering on-line so I had to use what I had. This is why I state I will be coming back to these exercises as I acquire new fabrics in different textures and types.
I did try to stick to choosing neutral colours and so hence left the bright blue jacket and green slub silk to one side although I could not resist the yellow brushed cotton.
STAGE 2: SELECTING FROM YOUR DESIGN IDEAS
I chose 4 design ideas to work with for this stage: 1. the shell designed from the rose petal; 2. not so much a design but a sunset as I wanted to further experiment with fabric paints; 3. the street scene and 4. from out of my sketchbooks some work I did on a memorial from the National Memorial Arboretum. In addition I tried a silk painting based on some sketches of a tree and the second larger sample based on the eagle beak from Project 4, Stage 4.
I looked for design ideas that were well structured and tried using mirrors and combining different sketches as well as enlarging or reducing images and re-ordering the shapes and marks.
Eventually the street scene and the shell design I did not use very much and only used the tree and eagle beak drawings on for one sample each – they were useful but I did not feel I could develop them in the way that I wanted and in truth I have been hankering after using the Naval Memorial for some time so it was always going to be developed here.
STAGE 3: PRINTING AND PAINTING ON FABRIC
This is where I am not sure I have done exactly what is required because I felt the need to experiment more with printing initially but with a view to moving on to trying the ideas with my designs in mind.]
The first series of prints were done using a new ‘shell’ stencil based on the rose and also a stencil and stamp based on the aforesaid sketched work from the National Memorial Arboretum. I wanted to try out the different fabrics and also textures to see what could be produced and what worked. In addition there are prints taken from bubble wrap taped around a jar – worked really well and definitely one for noting.
The first set are done on silk and cotton and I do like both the stamp and the shell as they have worked well.
The hessian was a surprise but really loved the textural aspect but the one that ended up being used eventually was the yellow brushed cotton as it is as a direct result of the prints that resulted in it being used for the final large sample.
The last two photographs above were done on a gold polyester lining material (liked the shine but hate the fabric!) and again the cotton.
One last sample was just done with a simple cardboard shape and based on another drawing in my sketchbooks – this was purely to see how the waterproof swim-shorts fabric worked. The waterproofing had clearly worn off and I like the texture as it is very soft and silky and also took the paint well. I do want to take this to a haberdashery shop and see if they can help me identify the fabric content as I can see this being of use in the future – I am presuming it is a polyester mix of some nature as the fabric is over 15 years old.
As a series of experiments they are basic and should really go in the previous section with printing and experiments but on the other hand they were very useful in working out whether the stamp would be something I could work with or a stencil.
As these samples dried I continued to work on ideas and developments from the painting I did last year of the Naval Service Memorial which was designed by Graeme Mitcheson.
The panels are glass and arranged on the concrete plinth in such a way that as the sun sets they form the silhouette and the water is reflected on the grey stone. The red in the panels represents the blood of those lost and the sailor to one side is looking on at the ‘setting of the sun we remember them’ – it is a really moving memorial.
I have wanted to do something with this since last summer as it has become a real favourite – I was born in Plymouth to an army officer but with my late Mum working in the naval dockyards when I was very young and hence my earliest memories of are of the docks and the naval ships so this has a personal edge for me.
These are two of the developments done in my sketchbook and looking through them I realised that instead of stitch I could combine the shapes with the printing I have been experimenting with – hence the shapes and stencil work.
Taking these there are several pages of scrap drawings playing with shapes and also polystyrene shapes to form the basis of my final design.
The polystyrene block print shown in photographs above was cut based on the sketches to the left – I have kept it as although it is basic it is a good solid design and will try it at a later date in lino cutting.
I wasn’t happy with what I was producing so far in printing and stencilling and did not feel I could take the shell/rose anywhere in design on its own. Taking advice from the course material I decided to freely experiment with painting techniques and decided to try variations on a sunset on different fabrics – thinking of combining with a stencil based on the drawings above at this stage.
This sample is fabric crayons on a polyester/nylon type fabric (exact type is not known but believe this was an old slip/underskirt). Not entirely sure about this but do like the colours.
This sample was acrylic paint mixed with textile medium on silk pongee – never again is my immediate reaction as it stiffened the silk and changes the texture totally but on the other hand these changes could be of use too in the future so well worth bearing in mind.
Hessian does not work with fabric paints when used just as a background for a painting – great colours, great texture but just wrong for what I had in mind. An advantage of this is that I realised that hessian could be used for mark making when dipped in paint – this can be seen in blue in the top right hand photograph at the beginning of this post.
Going back to the acrylic paints mixed with textile medium I tried again on fabric but this time a black poly-cotton mix. I did not secure the fabric well enough and this produced some creasing but I like this. The paint was a proverbial nightmare and maybe I did not thin it enough and hence a very rough and textural look to this sample.
These samples were useful but still didn’t really fit with what was in my mind and what I wanted.
I did fully discover, as the course material indicates, that the texture and weight of the fabric does have a large bearing on how the fabric paint or crayon works – the differing effects produced on the samples directly above clearly demonstrated this to me as did the samples of stencilling I did initially.
As I wasn’t happy with what I had done so far I went back to the shell/rose petal stencil and tried some other ideas. The first photograph I tried stencil on some grey felt and really loved how this worked – the colours were crisp and well defined and it is easy to see how felt could be used for more detailed stencils too.
I then decided to take some work I had done previously and used a variation on a sketch I had translated into silk initially but this time trying on cotton. I firstly used masking tape to mask off the window areas before sponging in green, blue and red as a background. I went back to using my original shell stencil from Experiments with Printing and Painting and stencilled over the background but before removing the masking tape. This has possibilities
As a total change I went back to the yellow brushed cotton and tried again using the bubble wrap, hessian and fabric paints just to see what did not didn’t work. I also tried an initial stencil based on the Naval memorial – cut from some old clear files. I decided to try using differing printed marks in each section and found this worked really really well.
One of the drawings I had pinned up was of some sketches done from a recent photograph of a tree – I loved the shapes and did 3 sketches concentrating on colour, shapes and textures as before. From this I did a painting using masking fluid but with added lines in and changing the colours – it works as an abstract study but feel I over worked it and lost the balance of contrasts.
However I still liked the image so drew the original image onto some pongee silk.
Using the silver gutta I decided to try to balance the contrasts of colours against the black/grey of the branches and also contrast textured areas (done with rock salt) against areas of wet-on-wet colours. This does work for me particularly as I felt the addition of bubbles worked with the lines of the branches.
At this point I decided to try doing a larger sample based on the eagle beak shapes I played with in Project 4 – I liked the shapes and balance between curves and straight lines as well as the fact this was one single motif that repeated itself to form a larger motif. I also felt this was a kaleidoscope type design that I could have some fun with colours and hence used the same 3 colours of pink, turquoise and yellow silk paints on pongee silk with silver gutta.
The centres of the beak shapes I used rock salt and then left the outer shapes plain. The background was done using wet-on-wet technique and with the colours dripped into one another so the colours spread and blended. By keeping the colours the same for the background and the shapes I feel the balance has been lost and this would have worked better if the background was in a neutral colour such as greys or blacks to really make the brighter colours stand out.
Reviewing all I had done so far the work that appealed to me most was still the Naval Memorial designs and ideas and I felt this was the design I wanted to take further.
I first of all cut a basic stencil based directly on the memorial and used different marks for each shapes – the background fabric is hessian. I used cotton buds, a small square stamp and edges of a rubber as well as a sponge and a metal bobbin.
On looking at this my fiancé remarked that it has a very eastern influence reminiscent of Indian textiles with the colours.
I went back to my sketches and a previous stencil based on one single panel from the memorial. I tried two different versions of stencilling – one using different marks in each section and the other using just sponging in white paint.
I also tried, as the course material suggests, doing one sample in this section where colour was not important. So taking inspiration from the hessian sample above I used the stencil of the whole memorial but using different marks for each panel – these marks including the decoration from a Christmas cracker (used once before and very effective), cotton buds, metal bobbin, sponging, the end of a stamp, a paint tube lid, a brush and a small plastic marking tool for quilting. My background for this was felt so although I did not use the background to influence my choice of marks I find this sample works incredibly well – I was able to give the illusion of texture to what is a very soft fabric.
STAGE 4: A LARGER SAMPLE
I had already started to work on this sample with my previous ideas in the last 3 photographs of Stage 3. I felt the memorial was the design I liked best and wanted to work with a repeating pattern that could extend beyond the edge of my sample and although the unit looked like a single unit it created other patterns and marks and rhythms as it continued across the fabric.
To repeat a previous photograph the design I worked on and chose is the one seen top left. This is the one that created the stencil in my previous set of samples. I purposefully kept the illusion of other panels within a single panel to represent the rest of the memorial.
I tried doing this stencil on the yellow brushed cotton and spent some time discussing with my fiancé which we both felt was more effective – the white on black seen in the previous photographs or the yellow with black. Thinking about the fact that this memorial is best seen at the setting of the sun we decided the yellow fabric was a key feature in the design.
The difficulty then came in deciding what marks to use in each section and this I did during the first actual stencil on the fabric – ‘winging it’ a little but also decided very much with my previous samples nearby. I also decided I wanted the curved lines to be in red to represent the red lines on the original memorial. Each colour in the sample harks back to the actual memorial itself – the black paint represents that it is still a memorial, the red, as said, is the blood of those sailors and men lost and the yellow the setting of the sun. The fabric is 39 x 55 centimetres and is a yellow brushed cotton mix.
The piece is not perfect by any means as the repeats are not accurate but I am happy with it. I know where the original units are but even I can struggle to find them at times which means I feel I have achieved the fact that each unit is not complete until it is put next to another and so on. Like the brighter sample on hessian both my fiancé and myself feel there is an Indian textile influence coming through and there is no doubt I have a huge interest in eastern textiles generally so this is something I clearly need to bear in mind during my textile studies.
When I compare it to my original photographs and painting last summer I am pleasantly surprised and delighted by the changes and to see how a simple photograph and then painting can be used to produce a fabric sample so very different.
2 February 2016 … today visited the NMA again for the first time since completing this project. The atmosphere on a winters day is very very different to in mid summer and my fiance and myself were literally probably the only 2 people there this afternoon.
To visit the Naval Memorial having completed this project was to look at it with new eyes and wonder at the design process that went into such a stunning and deceptively simple memorial. Even on a cold winters afternoon the colours were bright and striking and blended together in muted shadows upon the hard stone and you stopped to wonder of the sailors who lost their lives in cold seas.
Today I also looked at some memorials with fresh eyes and the knowledge I am gaining through the History of Art module I am doing concurrently of the history of sculpture. I am starting to understand the positive effect studying History of Art is having upon how I approach my textiles course and the benefits of doing it.
The reason I put this postscript here however is down to the fact that even though I am reflective I am aware of what attracted me to this particular memorial – the colours and the opacity and transparency that are used to such magnificent effect.