Soft fabric sculpture, child’s shoes. Stuffed with shredded documents. Created by drawing doll-like shapes, scaled up by hand, with no measuring, plotting or checking proportion. The result is a character with its own life, albeit not apparently a very happy one.
Our textiles project for yesterday involved layering up fabrics, stitching into them, and then cutting through layers to expose layers underneath. For this piece, I used a moleskin-type fabric base layer and then added beautiful jewel velvets, and several layers of organza. I switched the machine to free-embroidery and sewed the layers pretty much at random. I then clipped through the organza layers with scissors – making the cuts at random. I love the result, although I have no idea how to get a decent photo of it. You just can’t see how the light plays on the organza layers, or the richness of the velvet underneath.
Casey asked me how the presentation of my fabric book went at college, which prompted me to reflect on the comments that I got from the group. It is too easy to let these opportunities slip past without capturing the helpful comments that people make.
It was interesting that although I don’t value my needlework skills, I had a number of comments from people admiring my needlework. This surprised me until I realised I was comparing myself to some extremely accomplished needlewomen in my family.
The use of the thin gauze to partly obscure images was commented on, and I think people liked that effect and could relate it to the fuzziness of memories.
One gentleman was reminded of an actual childhood memory of his own involving dolls (and head-shaving of said doll, but we won’t go into that gruesome tale!)
Another gentleman sat me down afterwards to explain how someone once told him that each time we remember a memory, we change it slightly. So the ‘purest’ memories are those that we don’t remember for years, and then suddenly it comes back. But even in that first remembering, we start to alter it. I found this idea very intriguing indeed.
There was also some interest in the idea of drawing with needle and thread.
My textiles tutor suggested that there may be scope to make these books for people – memory books, celebration books, etc. for recording important events or remembering important people. I might also be interested in running workshops for people to make their own memory books.
That’s about as much as I can remember for now! But thank you, Casey, for the prompt to get it down in writing.
I’m calling this ‘done’ for now. I’m taking it into college tomorrow. Day 2 of my Fine Art HND, and we are doing presentations of our work already!
Most of the artwork I’m doing at the moment is work in progress. The fabric book is coming together slowly. I’ve paired up the page spreads and embellished them so that they look like they belong together. I’ve then sewed and trimmed the pages, and am now in the process of edging them using blanket stitch. Hopefully I’ll have something to post by the end of the summer hoilday.
Meanwhile, I’ve also been playing in my sketchbook. This page started with glued bits of newspaper, tissue paper and strips of torn fabric (I don’t throw anything away any more!) I then gessoed over the top, allowing some of the newsprint to show through. When all that was dry, I selected three colours of acrylic paint, and scraped them on randomly using a credit card. I won’t leave it there, but I’m not sure yet what I will do next. It’s quite an adventure!
I had a useful session with a fellow coach at my Association for Coaching meeting last week. She helped me to get my thoughts straight on the artwork that I’m doing. I wanted to work out what this ‘childhood’ project is about – and the theme that kept being repeated was ‘memory’. I’ve written up my thoughts on this, and in the process have got loads more ideas. Here is my ‘work in progress’ artist’s statement:-
In my work, I’m exploring the way that we build and rebuild our personal memories, particularly of childhood. I’m interested in the way that memory both influences, and is influenced by, our present.
Memory is ephemeral, intangible, and impossible to grasp clearly, especially our earliest memories which may be incomplete or out of focus. We may be unsure what exactly it is that comprises a particular memory. Do we remember our actual physical sensory experience, or is our memory comprised of visual images we constructed from stories told by others, or from photographs that we have seen? Yet despite the untrustworthiness of memories, they can have a significant influence on how we view ourselves – on who we think we are, where we think we’ve come from, the type of person that we view ourselves as, and the way we relate to other people.
Our childhood is often referred to as a ‘formative’ period, but what does this mean? By revisiting, re-questioning and rebuilding our memories, can we re-form if we choose to? And can we construct or reconstruct our present in the same way as we construct our memories of the past?
In this project, I aim to reconstruct memories from my own early childhood. This is a time that I have little or no sensory memory of. It is also a time of frequent displacement, as we moved frequently with my Dad’s RAF job. I aim to use childhood photographs, stories, and actual artefacts (such as my childhood dolls and early drawings) to visually reconstruct my early memories.
I am also interested in the places that I spent my early childhood – places that I don’t remember at all, but that I can see in early photographs. How does focusing on tangible sensory detail of things and places influence memory? How does place influence our sense of who we are? By focusing on the people who shared my early years, and on my physical surroundings, I aim to put those early memories into a wider context and explore how this influences my view of the past.
I aim to explore visual ways of representing memory – fragments, colours, forming and reforming, shaping and reshaping. I hope to communicate the multi-faceted, sensory and fragmented nature of our earliest memories. I am also experimenting with the use of textiles to symbolise the construction process. This is symbolic for me, as many of my toys and clothes (visible in the photos) were handmade by my Mum. Also, the physical process of working with threads and fabrics brings back memories in itself, as I learned needlework from my Mum, Gran, Nanna and Great Aunt, and spent much of my childhood performing needlework crafts alongside them.
Other artists that I’m researching who seem to deal with memory, childhood, and identity construction include Tracey Emin, Helen Chadwick, Paula Rego, Ilya Kabakov, Emma Kay, Veronica Ryan, and Louise Bourgeois.
I’ve been doing some more work on the fabric book, but it’s not really worth posting. There’s nothing particularly gripping about tacking around edges, or ironing on interfacing is there?
I have also been making more paper. It works really well with chopped up bits of silk thread, sent to me by a friend who has recently disappeared into thin air. I miss her, actually.
These are a few embryonic pages from a fabric book that I am making. It is strangely satisfying working with fabric, needle and thread. I’ve never attempted anything like this before, and I don’t know how it will turn out. I’m making it up as I go along rather than planning anything beforehand.
I started by cutting up an old sheet into squares, then tacked around where the page edge will be.
For the above page, I used one of those plastic mesh bags that onions come in. Using bulldog clips, I stretched the mesh across the fabric, using a piece of cardboard as backing to keep it all taut. I then used a torn bit of cheap bath sponge dipped in craft acrylic paint and dabbed it on top of the mesh. The result looks a bit like snakeskin, I think.
The image is a photo of one of my earlier paintings, taken when strong sunlight was casting the shadow of my artists’ mannekin across the picture. I printed it out onto inkjet transparency; coated a piece of fabric with acrylic gel medium; laid the transparency image face down onto the gel coated fabric and rubbed hard with the back of a spoon to transfer the image. I’ve been doing a lot of these, and it takes a lot of rubbing and a lot of practice. I don’t think I’ve perfected the technique yet, but the ‘mistakes’ are quite interesting in themselves!
For this next page, I started by wetting the fabric and then sponging paint on so that the colours run together. While it was still damp, I over stamped it with a sponge that I had cut with a craft knife into the shape of a hand. I’ve then stitched on a photo transfer of a paintshop altered photo of one of the dolls.
For this page, I’ve played with tea dying. The background is dyed in ordinary brown tea, and the pink square is dyed with fruit tea. I just made strong tea and soaked the fabric in it for at least 20 minutes, then briefly ran it under cold water and dried with a hair dryer (you are supposed to tumble dry it, but I don’t have a dryer). The only problem is … it smells of fruit tea! The image is a sepia tinted photo, and is one of my less successful transfers, but I quite like the distressed look.
I’m enjoying the process of making these up as I go along, and have no idea what will happen next!
Well actually … it’s the spare bedroom. And we have a guest coming this weekend. Help!
I don’t know how to do one of those Flickr things with pop up labels on, so what you can see here are some fabric journal pages in progress, some prints onto handmade paper, and my papermaking kit waiting for me to make some more.
I’ve been playing with my dip pen and ink. I love the boldness of the lines that you get with this type of pen. The lines have a completely different quality to those produced from my micron art pen (with a fine-line felt-type nib).
I’m now off to paint some fabric. I’ve got one sheet drying off that’s been soaking in brown tea, and another currently soaking in fruit tea. I never thought I’d get this interested in textile based art!