A blog about making art and other things using cloth, paper, paint, colour, stitch, and all sorts of exciting techniques, some of which I'm sure I still have to discover! I hope that the joy all this gives me is visible in what you can see here.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Human Marks, Day 4 and 5.

Day four we looked at more examples of Boro, and Dorothy showed us a small collection of vintage clothes that had been mended and repaired over and over. Some of the history and stories attached to these pieces were very poignant. 

Our next exercise was to play around with different papers and cloth samples, burning with  joss sticks, and smoking the surfaces over a candle. It was quite surprising how many different marks could be achieved this way, and we did have fun. On a safety note, all of this was done outside, with a couple of buckets of water close by!! Some of my examples can be seen above.

Remember the large sheet of paper I painted at the beginning of the week with a brush on a long pole? Well on day 4 we had the choice of either making a folded book with it, or another book made up of stitched signatures. I decided on the latter, and you can see the front cover above, and a small selection of the inside pages below. Because both sides of the paper had been painted, one side with heavy energetic movements, and the reverse with slower, lighter gestural movements, it was interesting to see how they went together when placed opposite each other on some of the double pages.

This took us to the end of the fourth day, and I ended up finishing my large book at home that evening.

Day five was a bringing together of all the elements we had made during the week, but we also watched another slide show of some examples of work by other textile artists. Dorothy introduced us to many names, most of whom I hadn't heard of, and need to explore further. However, one in particular stuck in my mind, as her work on Journals really fascinated me. Sandra Brownlee is someone who I'm definitely going to enjoy investigating!

The smaller book that I showed yesterday is now complete, with a wrap made from a piece of the batik I made. The following photos show the little book open, in different ways, because it's almost like a small sculpture! I added some beads from my ancient box of memories onto the waxed threads that stitched the individual signatures together.

Onto the third and last book, made up from the small sheets that we 'marked' onto with a variety of pens, the nail patterns, our fingers, the burning and smoking, and some personal papers and cloth that we brought with us. The small piece of Kantha that we stitched is for the cover of this small book, and as you can see below, mine still isn't finished. It will be though, because I'm getting quite fond of it!

I've added some hand stitch to this page of finger prints.

Above right, I covered some newspaper with gesso, and then printed with a knitted bootee made by my mother for my first baby, and worn by all three of my children! I have also treated the surface with thin washes of paint before rubbing over with some Markal sticks.

Smoked and burnt papers. I couldn't resist making a small choir with my finger prints into the smoked surface on the left!

I placed these two pages together, because the left page reminded me of braille, and the right side is my stitching made whilst being blindfolded.

Finally, a page with a piece of paper lamination that I particularly liked, especially with this sudden splash of colour! The prickly pear seems to relate with the spikiness of the nail holes on the right.

These posts can only give a very small flavour of what the Human Marks workshop with Dorothy was all about. I can honestly say that it was one of the most enjoyable weeks I've spent in a workshop, or similar setting, and it has given me so much to ponder on and think about. Dorothy Caldwell is a truly inspirational and very generous teacher. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity for such an experience.

Human Marks, Day 3

My posts are a few days behind, but for good reason! Last week was just such an incredible experience, and I wanted to make the most of every second. Consequently, I didn't get home on a couple of occasions until gone eight, and too tired to even switch on my computer!

Anyway, here I am now, and I will do my best to finish off all the weeks posts by Sunday evening.
The first photo above shows five french knots down the left side of a small piece of black fabric, with six threaded needles at the side. Dorothy then surprised us by telling us that another length of cotton fabric we had brought with us was  to be used as a blindfold, which we now had to tie over our eyes. The knots were made so that we could feel where to start each of five lines of stitch, made in response to five individual words.

Starting from the top, the five words were, gesture, shape, dialogue, organic, intuition. Make of my stitching lines what you will, but it was a lot of fun, and quite a thought provoking experience. More than one of us found our needles becoming unthreaded, which required asking Dorothy to re-thread for us. I was aware that I had pulled my thread too tight in a couple of places, and was desperate to try and straighten it out. All this by feel alone, and made me realise how we take our eyesight so much for granted.

The piece above, has been made up of some similar work by a group in Australia. After the exercise, the stitchers decided to decorate their surfaces with simple running stitches in red, and then to join them into this really charming quilt. I think it definitely has the flavour of aboriginal art.

We spent a few very happy hours with the soya wax, a printing block which we each made, (mine is above) and a variety of other tools for the batik work. This is something I haven't done before, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this new technique. We discharged with bleach, neutralising in antichlor, and finally washing out the wax by machine. I wasn't entirely happy with my results, but hey, it's something I can play around with in my own time now.

So much was achieved each day, and I can't possibly put everything into each post, but believe me, Dorothy certainly kept us on our toes, in a way that felt like we were having the best time ever, (which we were!!) so if any of you get the opportunity to take part in one of Dorothy's workshops, I can absolutely recommend it.

We looked at ways in which stitch and thread is used for repair, darning, patching, knitting, weaving, and in other traditions such as Japanese Boro and Sashiko. 

The large sheet of paper we had been working on top of to catch the ink drips, and to scribble or doodle ideas on, was now torn up into equal sized pieces, and folded in half ready to become our 'signatures' for our first small book.

We stitched each signature along the fold with a waxed linen thread, and then stacked them all together before weaving the signatures across the spine. Below is my stack of signatures with the first two rows of weaving.

A photograph below of some Japanese Boro, made mainly from scraps of indigo dyed cotton.

And by day three, my small piece of Kantha was looking like this. Still a long way to go to finishing it though!

The rest of the week I will hopefully manage to post tomorrow, but if you've kept up with me to this point, I thank you for your patience, and hope you have enjoyed up until now.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Human Marks, second day.

Kantha embroideries made by a womens' co-operative in Bahir India.

Today, we spent some time finding out about these wonderful embroideries, and the women who make them. Kantha means 'rags' and these quilts were originally made by sewing rags together, before decorating them in images that tell a story about the lives these women and their families lead. Making a 'whole' cloth from smaller saved pieces, also represents 'making whole' a situation, or an aspect of their lives.These beautiful textiles are now also beginning to earn the women who make them a wage of their own, giving them some much needed financial independence.

Our next exercise, was to make a small embroidery, using the simple hand stitching technique used in Kantha. We were encouraged to find a simple image to use in our piece, and as you can see from above, I decided on a tree. 

To give us a break from the hand stitch, we spent an hour or so on another mark making exercise, which certainly woke us all up! After covering a piece of tracing paper with a thick coating of graphite, and inserting it into a length of white paper, we then proceeded to bang a nail all over the surface in a pattern of our choice. Needless to say, it was very noisy, but lots of fun, and we achieved some interesting result. Mine are above and below.

We finished off the day by continuing with our Kantha embroidery, and on leaving to drive home, I had completed what you see below! So much more to do, so I have homework tonight!!!

Tomorrow is batik day, something else that is new to me, so I hope to have some more interesting photos to post! I suppose I'd better get on with the stitching now, but this is homework I love, something I never said as a schoolgirl!!!

Thanks for looking in again.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Human Marks Retreat, first day!

Today was the first day of the Human Marks Retreat at Potters Barn Betchworth, home of Committed to Cloth, and tutored by Dorothy Caldwell. I arrived at 8-30am, having driven through a very foggy morning, but was warmly welcomed and found my desk space all ready and waiting with all the materials we would be needing for the day neatly placed, and ready to go!

Today was all about mark making on paper with a range of equipment, and a variety of gestural movements. My first piece, above, was made using a soft brush, black ink, and just one movement of the hand. As you can see, I had so much ink on my brush that the ink ran in rivers, giving an interesting result!

The next exercise was quite messy, but so much fun! Using our fingers/hands, we were encouraged to make marks on a long strip of paper, both sides. I've shown some close-ups of the different marks below.

The above sample was made using a fine liner pen, and the idea was to have a practise making as many marks as possible, again using different gestural movements with the pen, and then filling this sheet with one of them. Mine resembled a field of dandelion clocks!

From working small, we were next taken outside, where either a sponge or a brush, tied to a long pole and dipped in ink, was used to make wide sweeping body movements onto a very large sheet of paper. Above is our practise sheet,   where we all contributed some marks, and below are my two examples. So much fun, and something I've not done before.

Our final exercise of the day, was again made onto a small sheet, but this time with a black brush pen. Once we had decided on our mark, we cut out a simple stencil, and then proceeded to make our mark over the entire surface, including where our stencil shape had been removed. All these pieces will be made into a book as the week progresses, and I have to say that I haven't had as much fun as this for a very long time. Such a wonderful day, and we were blessed with a beautiful sunset as the afternoon drew to a close. Roll on tomorrow!