Sunday, 27 February 2011

wooly dilemma

A couple of weeks ago I visited the British Wool Marketing Board, the home of the Campaign for Wool, who are conveniently based just on the other side of Bradford from me. I wanted some advice on wool felt made from British wool and I was hoping to come away with some contacts for suppliers. The European Business Manager, Richard Poole was really helpful and we had a useful couple of hours discussing various aspects of sourcing products sustainably. I also came away with a lovely bunch of literature about British wool.

However, I found that my intention to use industrial
felt made from British wool is just not realistic. I want to use a natural product, ideally one sourced as locally as possible. Industrial felt has the solidity I'm looking for in both my 3 dimensional experiments and for the basis of the wall based pieces that I'm intending to make as part of my final collection. It became clear within the first few minutes of talking to Richard that what I was after just doesn't exist.

British wool is coarser than wool produced in warmer and sparser climates, even if it is from the same species of sheep. We produce wool with fibres that are generally over 26 microns and often over 30 microns. Industrial felt, which is dense and gives a fairly smooth surface, is made from wool that is finer than this, usually merino, and this comes from Australia or New Zealand.

British wool, being generally fairly coarse, is ideal for carpets and for some fashion fabrics. It can be felted by hand and there are plenty of artists in the UK using British wool in this way. I don't have the time or the inclination to start felting my own wool for this project. I want a ready made product that is solid and firm and thus relates to the solidity of the buildings I'm using as part of my inspiration. British wool is used in various insulation products, some of which I was able to see at the BWMB, but these are very coarse structures which often have recycled plastics included and certainly don't have the structure, look or feel that I'm after.

So I came away faced with a dilemma:

Do I stick to my principles and acept that I can't use the type of product I had in mind?
source another fibre from the UK?
think again?
change the whole look and feel of what I want to produce in terms of finished pieces in order to use British wool?
compromise my vision?

Or do I accept that I can't use British wool for what I want to do and compromise on the sourcing locally idea - a 100% wool material is still a relatively sustainable product even if it has travelled round the globe?

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

sewing into the wall anyone?

The closest I've got so far to sewing into the wall is stitching through a piece of plasterboard with insulation attached...

This is a scaled up version of sewing through foam board.

I've also been stitching into the pages of my sketch book, a step on from the drawings I was making with marks like stitches.

Current listening: Damien Rice, 9

making techniques

The observant reader will have noticed a new link on the right through to another blog called Making Techniques. I've set this up to document the module at college of the same name and the blog will form part of my submission for assessment. This module is aimed at giving us skills in particular techniques for making our designs into 'products'. This semester we get to write our own brief so I'm using the module to investigate 3D structures with the aim of making some sort of textile sculpture.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


I've finally finished the little project I started a while ago, which was meant to be completed in time for Christmas but which happened a little more slowly than originally planned.

Three scarves,
one warp with three yarns randomly arranged across it,
the same three yarns used as weft, one on each scarf
three gifts for three special people

I'm especially pleased with how neat the edges came out.

I tried modelling and photographing at the same time with the aid of the bathroom mirror!

The previous Christmas I wove this scarf for another special person on my Granny's old rigid heddle loom. This is really simple technology and there were issues with the tension and with me not really knowing what I was doing and therefore making it up as I went along. It made a very loose weave on a scarf that wasn't really long enough or wide enough but I learnt a lot and I know it is very much loved by the wearer.

I'd learnt things in weaving this first one that I put into practice on the recent three, which were woven on Granny's floor loom. I still learnt alot this time round so I wonder what next Christmas will bring...

Sunday, 13 February 2011

wierd sounds

After yesterday's lecture (which was thankfully well-recieved despite a smaller than hoped for audience. The picture shows setting up - there weren't this many empty seats!) and very successful performance by Matt Robinson of 15 Images I could relax a little.

It was strange seeing my animated images so large - this is the biggest yet. It really made for a completely immersive experience in the dark lecture theatre with comfy seats that you could relax into.

It was lovely to have a little time to go back over the road to the Museum and Art Gallery and see the Taking Time exhibition completed. I re-aquainted myself with Sue Lawty's tiny stones, added a bit to the web of threads that invites additions, marvelled at Heidrun Schimmel's stitches and admired Matthew Harris's subtle textures. There will always be a textile bias for me I guess but there is so much else in this exhibition not mentioned specifically here that I really appreciate seeing for a second time.
There is an entry on the Craftspace Taking Time blog about the Plymouth exhibition by Craftspace's Emma Daker.

Now, I thought 15 Images was fairly experimental but some of the other performances in the Peninsular Arts Contemporary Music Festival so far have been wierd and wonderful to my inexperienced ears!

Current listening: deconstructed pianos, earworms, wine bottle blowing, radioactive particles and cloud chambers...

Friday, 11 February 2011

hanging fifteen images

I've spent most of today at

in Plymouth, seeing 15 Images installed as part of Taking Time

There was lots of very careful measuring, marking out, fixing (by Vicky and Emma, gallery staff)

yet more measuring...

until the 15 panels and the digital photo frame with interpretive presentation were beautifully installed

on the lovely georgian grey walls

Then there was just time to put the finishing touches to tomorrow's lecture, which will take place over the road from the gallery (in the Levinsky building, Plymouth University) at 11am

and then hot-foot it over to the festival launch.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

eva and anni

I've been reading about Eva Hesse and Anni Albers, seperately, but now together. I've had a whole pile of books on Eva Hesse out of the college library for months now and they've sat about my house and I've been trying to absorb them through osmosis and not actually doing much reading in them. I've moved them about occassionally and opened up one or two and read snippets, always meaning to read more and then return them to the library so as not to hog the whole library's stock of knowledge about this artist!

I was recommended to look at her work during a dissertation tutorial and was immediately transfixed by her strange and beautiful artwork, but also by her intriguing and at times troubled life.

Anyway, I'm finally getting round to some proper reading and this one is fascinating. It has a particular chapter which draws all sorts of parallels between the approaches that Eva and Anni took, connecting their material driven processes and exploration of materiality. There is even a little quote from Sheila Hicks in there too, another big inspiration.

This bit refers to Eva's use of 'drawing' and how her approach crosses over into textile processes, even though she was not seen as working in 'textiles':

"... expanded field of drawing - drawing in all its manifestations: as writing and sketching in journals, as tracing with pen and ink, as winding with wire and strips of cloth, as wrapping and binding, as tying knots, as forming webs suspended in space"

Current listening: the pitter-patter of the rain on my skylight in the gathering dusk.

Friday, 4 February 2011

making marks

This week I've really tried to cncentrate on drawing and mark making, although I started off with some embossing experiments in the printmaking department. These don't photograph well but they did work and I'm looking forward to doing some more playing with collagraphs. In fact I often find it difficult to photograph things well at college and sometimes at home, especially in this poor winter light. I have particular problems with very white things. I'm working very much in black and white at the moment or with just texture on white and cream and my camera just can't cope. Perhaps I just need to get to know the camera better...

I've worked on small scale stuff in my sketch book using pen and ink

and then on big sheets with a bamboo dipping pen thing that gives a lovely mark and black procion dye that fades to a lovely bluey grey as it runs out.

My marks are based on organic lines and texture on green/living walls but through the week I've relied less and less on actually looking at my images and have been drawing much more intuituvely and I've really enjoyed it.

Current listening: The Be Good Tanyas, Blue Horse.

"the littlest birds sing the prettiest songs...."

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


I'm working on my dissertation (the first draft is due in less than two weeks). We aren't required to write an abstract but writing one is something that I've found useful to clarify the form of the whole thing. Here it is:

Natural Creativity
An exploration of the garden as a creative outlet

Artists feel the urge to create, the need to express themselves. How might creativity be engaged with by different people? If a person is creative in one area of their life will they automatically find outlets for this in other, more mundane areas of their life such as tending a garden? The importance of ‘slowness’ and reflection in the creative process is recognised. Examples of artists who have an approach to their creative practice that resonates with the author’s own are identified and those who have a particular relationship with the natural world in their work. Definitions of the garden as art are explored, including how the debate over fine and applied art might be applied to gardens. Gardening tasks are compared to repetitive tasks in artistic or craft practice and their value as part of a creative life is considered. Different approaches by two contemporary artists who are also passionate gardeners are used to illustrate the value of gardening to artistic practice.