I have been thinking a huge amount about my theme book and have had 3 ideas – the first two include one based on the work of a photographer I hugely admire in Alaska and the other based on the idea of Wabi Sabi (beauty in decay based on decaying flowers). Wabi Sabi was looking like this was going to be my theme – I loved the Alaskan based one and it has a very special personal connection but the beauty of flowers as they go past their best is something to behold in wonder. However what I did not take into account was a trip to Dovedale in Derbyshire for the first time in several years – it had memories I had not been able to face despite being much loved and only 15 miles from where I live. Finally one day in April that trip happened and the memories are now enjoyed for the happy times they were plus new memories are being made so I felt this was the start of a new journey which should rightfully be celebrated as my theme.
Dovedale is an intensely special place for both myself and my fiance – he grew up in Uttoxeter and knows Dovedale well whilst I am a Plymouth and then Lincolnshire girl before settling in Derby 15 years ago. For a few years, once I discovered it, there were both happy times and times I would rather forget there but then a traumatic family event meant I could no longer face going back for over 8 years until that beautiful day when the sky was clear and crisp, the valley quiet but not empty of people and the time was right to go with my fiance for the first time – the colours, the atmosphere, the sounds (I remembered my hearing aids which is unusual in itself!), the textures and even the wildlife sung their own song of renewal and welcome back.
The first photograph I took that day was the one where I knew I had to document my journey just as I am documenting my journey in textiles through the learning log of this this degree. This photograph is as you walk up through the valley towards some very famous stepping stones and this particular part has very happy memories of playing with my young children all those years ago. The sky is not photo-shopped but really was that blue!
Over the course of a couple of happy hours I took over 200 photos – I had one spectacularly patient other half! My plan though was initially to work on just Dovedale but since then we have started to visit other areas including Ilam which is a village literally the other side of the hill and also Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire and I already know Elvaston Castle near Derby very well – Elvaston I already had a good selection of photographs of to work from and I added to that with new ones of Ilam and Kedleston in the past couple of weeks – so with this in mind I decided to make my theme Explorations of Dovedale and Derbyshire to include new places visited. With this in mind we joined the National Trust just this week which opens up Calke Abbey and Hardwick Hall as well as being able to re-visit Ilam Park and Kedleston – photographs will be added as I work from these in separate posts.
For now though this is the current work so far done – starting with that first small waterfall area which I really loved. The atmosphere was calming and peaceful and the colours with the variations of tones both in the water and the trees spoke to your senses along with the gentle rustling as a breeze came along the valley.
This first painting was done with watercolour on Not paper using various techniques.
A second sketch of the beautifully textured log using Inktense pencils and water on watercolour paper followed – the lines and form I am not sure I have captured as well as I would like but it does give me an impression to do further work from.
Another image, using Inktense pencils again with water, was done to try to capture the colours, textures and lines of the valley as we walked back through – the scree on the hillside is beautiful in its own right with the areas where there have been small landslips or tufts of grass coming up from small islands and trees that were bare of leaves so their branches reach out across the water.
Other sketches are included in a larger sketchbook too – ones done in pastels or trying different styles and these continue to be worked with.
I am experimenting with different media and different papers with each area to see what patterns and compositions work – looking at shapes and textures and also trying variations of colours (often consulting my colour wheel until this becomes second nature). I am starting to play with proportions more and try to vary them whilst also looking at contrasts to create balance and harmony.
One thing I am improving on confidence with is using acrylics and I have started to paint paper with left over paint to create new pages which can be cut up to form different images and more variations – collage style.
Using the acrylics enabled me to experiment with using them as a fabric paint on cotton – this was a first trial of a specific overall image and has given me an idea of how this can be further used – on this occasion I did not use a textile medium with the acrylics but know this is something I can do when the need arises.
From there a simple evolution with the help of a view frame and stronger hues in primary and secondary colours developed a strong overall composition – different proportions of shapes and lines combining with contrasting colours but due to their positions on the colour wheel are also, for me, harmonious although they create a feeling of life and vitality rather than the calm of the original image.
I wanted to further zoom in on one area and develop this further into an design that I was thinking of using water-soluble stabilizer and thread. I had never used the stabilizer before and this is different to the one I used in Part 3 of the course – annoying I have since put it away in a ‘safe place’ which I have not discovered since!
The thread worked reasonably well despite me not stitching some areas enough or joining them to others in places sufficiently. I also need to rinse much more thoroughly to get all the stabilizer out as this sample is a little stiffer than it should be but I am still happy with the overall effect and it was far more successful than I expected for a first attempt.
Other developments in design have not always worked – I like the idea of the image on the right but am not happy with the colours and I do think the shapes are not quite right as they are too similar in size for me so feel they need more contrast with changes in proportion.
One of the earlier sketches provided inspiration to try another form of colour blocking but with the emphasis on textures through mark making – an idea that I will be using again as this gives me an impression of stitches or fabrics that could potentially be used.
I took another photograph at this stage and used two different techniques – I decided no brushes allowed! The first image I marked off the yellow bushy area with masking fluid before dripping the paint using pipettes – first one area and then by turning the paper a second before removing the masking fluid and wetting that area carefully before carefully dripping the paint and allowing the colours to mingle.
Finally I took this one last stage further and used purely sponges to create a very textured colour study – this I like as it is getting more experimental and I changed the proportions in the version before so there was much more oranges and contrasts of dark against light which I tried to keep for this one too.
So far my theme book is starting to develop but now looking I can see I need to look back at my design lessons and work with them again from source images and develop ideas in different ways. I am not able to always sit and sketch whilst at the locations so am using photography the majority of the time but I am making colour notes and specific details I want to remember so that I can use these too as well as ensuring I have a small container to pick up anything that may be of use … the car is very useful for drying flowers out on the back parcel shelf as I have discovered when flowers are left their accidentally!
So what of yarns and fabrics? I have wound many threads onto small strips of card that are attacked to my sketchbook by ribbons so I can take these off and take them to shops if required to get either new yarns where the label is lost or ones that fit my planned colours and this is proving very useful.
The two photographs are of my embroidery and ribbon yarn collection that I have divided off for this theme – this is a wide selection of greens, greys, browns and with muted hues of purples, pinks and some oranges too for the colours of the flowers and different fauna seen on our explorations. I also have brighter more vibrant colours in reserve too for the colours of the summer if I decide to use them.
In addition I have collected very specifically wools and yarns for Part 4 of the course but in the colours of my theme book (with the odd brighter colour too for that part which I could not resist!). I am looking a the colours of the hillsides and the rivers and love the soft muted shades that are seen.
As for fabric – I have some greens in my collection in cottons but also adding in calico and hessian and have some of the tweeds I used in Part 3 which are now being added too and will be looking for some velvet or silk if I feel these will be needed.
These give an indication of where my ideas are going – I am initially planning on a bag and am looking a different era’s for ideas on shape as this is very important to my overall design. I want something that I can take a simple collection of art materials with me wherever I go and doubles up as an everyday handbag so must have internal pockets to hold make-up bag items (I carry just a brush, mirror and occasionally lip gloss and an inhaler so can be small), a pocket for my phone, a couple of braids with clips to hold my keys (I am paranoid about losing them) so thinking of these as kumihimo braids done to match the bag, and either a pocket for small sketchbook or elastic to hold it along with similar for some pens/pencils and a tin which holds a rubber and sharpener – oh and of course room for my purse! One thing I have to allow for is my camera – this will dictate the width ultimately so think I want something that is wider than it is tall and not too bulky. My question to myself is on the style – with or without flap and coming back to the question of shape. I also want something that is feminine but has an ‘artistic elegance’ – I design to be the first thing you notice. I have made many quilted bags and never buy bags – if I want a new one I make it but most have simple fastenings and I want this to be different and something that becomes my favourite and much used.
So techniques? surprisingly I am planning this around the weaving – something totally different to any done before and hence my choice of yarns for the weaving section of the course. Initial ideas, not yet on paper, are for a woven outer with quilted lining and pockets and possibly side gussets. I have realised I can make my loom with stretcher bars from Hobbycraft that are used for tapestry frames so very cheaply I can make one long enough or possibly so that the completed woven section can be wound around one end so I can continue working (I have looked at other looms to work out how this can potentially be done). I know my weakness is binding when the seams on a bag on are on the exterior so this is something I need to work out how to eliminate particularly if the side gussets are stitched or quilted – those sections may be a good place to do some stitch designs that complement the weaving. I am also not great with zips but this is something I am prepared to overcome if necessary as security of the bag is top of my priorities. The other idea I am thinking is either some kind of stump work that can be appliqued on to the front of the bag or three dimensional foliage/flowers that can be worked in fabrics that again can be added by stitch – I have done flowers both ways and will take photographs and add them in a separate post.
So initial ideas are there and sounding more complex than they actually are – I have a rough idea in my head I need to get down and also to do some more sketches on new photographs to see where this leads me and see what other ideas develop.