Monday, 11 June 2012

Conclusions about my Study Abroad year

I have been back in the UK for a week.  Time sufficient to re-acclimatise and consider my year abroad. 

I had a wonderful year.  I received an excellent education, if very different to what I am used to in the UK.  The education at Curtin was a "taught degree" whereas in the UK, we do self-directed learning.  So at Curtin, it was very clearly specified what we would learn, feedback on your work for your practical modules was received in every class and assessment was both mid-semester and at end of semester.  This suited me.  In the UK, we have set projects that are wide open to interpretation, and if you want to learn new skills, you need to find out about them yourself.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both styles.  The taught style suited me for my 2nd full time year, but I would not want to continue with this style into my 3rd year.  I have learned a lot and am now ready to spread my wings.  For my textile work, I want to work much more with overlaid colour in print, and to continue with my hand-drawn illustrative style.

The year abroad was expensive.  Partly because the exchange rate was not good, but also Western Australia is a very expensive place to live because mining (coal, minerals, uranium, precious metals) drives the economy and salaries are very high.  This means prices are ok if you are working in the local economy, but as I was living on savings, it was mega-expensive.  I think I spent about £20,000, but this does not take into account Jim's expenditure, and he paid for food (more expensive than in the UK) and our road trip to Cairns. 

Was it worth it?  DEFINITELY YES.  It pushed my boundaries beyond my previous experience.  I had never lived in another country, even if I deliberately selected an English speaking nation.  I had never been away from home for a year before.  It made me appreciate my home country and so many things I took for granted.  I value the extent and diversity of our history and culture in London and the UK.  I appreciate the comparative ease with which I can source textile base materials.  I am aware of how much choice there is to access part-time and full-time textile classes, and the skills of tutors (University of Herts, City Lit, Missenden Abbey etc).  I am thankful that my university runs a shop where students can access quality controlled materials at virtually cost price, rather than ordering unknown materials online, and not being able to see materials prior to purchase, without knowing the quality first.

Lots of people have been surprised that we returned to the UK.  I do not want to be Australian - I am English, and I like what the UK is.  Australia is great if you are part of the working economy.  I do not want to work any more.  Australia would only have me and Jim if we had skills that they need.  Jim is retired and I don't have skills that are in short supply, so neither of us would be wanted by Australia.  Also, I don't want to live in a country where the weather is 26C in winter, and 43C in summer.  It is just too hot.  I liked coming home to the UK, and finding I had a green lush garden, without irrigation!

I had to go away to appreciate what I have here.  I have had a wonderful year, and I learned more than I would have done in the UK.  And I am very glad to be home.

Would I recommend an exchange year to other students?  Yes.  But make sure you have plenty of funds, and expect to have a few wobbles of confidence.  And you will come home, ready to take on the world with a greater breadth of experience, and depth of knowledge, than if you had stayed at home.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

3rd June 2012 - Going home day!

Going home day has arrived.  I am so happy to be going home, although I have enjoyed my time here, and probably got more value from a year here, than a year in the UK.  But I'm ready to go home, to my husband and our bungalow, and our garden.

From the weather forecasts, it sounds like the summer temperature in the UK is much the same as the winter temperature here - except here people complain that it is so cold in the winter!  I wonder if I will have unconsciously acclimatised to the heat here, and also complain about how cold it is in the UK.

Anyway time for breakfast, and then the last cleaning session before I go to the airport.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

A meal out with my landlords

Last night Tangea and Richard took me out for a curry.  This was to celebrate my completion of  my exchange year.  Their son Mal, and his fiancee Marcie were also present.  It was a lovely meal, and they gave me some little leaving presents - 6 Australian coasters (Jim and I use these all the time at home), a koala key ring, and best of all a fridge magnet with a thermometer.  This was the best of all - because it is shaped like Australia - and the thermometer does not go below zero!!  Of course out here, why would it?  They never get a frost!  Unlike the UK where last year we reached -17!  This thermometer goes between 0-50 degrees.  In the UK we rarely get over 36 degrees and this is deemed exceptional.  So this epitomises my experience in Aus!  I found the hot weather such a struggle, being fair skinned, blue eyed and red haired. What a brilliant and appropriate gift!  Definitely a gift to be kept indoors on the fridge door.

Thank you Tangea, Richard, Mal and Marcie.

Friday, 1 June 2012

A meal out with the students

Lauren organised a meal out to mark the end of semester and my return to the UK.  It was a lovely evening, if more eventful at the beginning than anticipated. 

Cassie picked me up in her car, and we set off to Fremantle, to meet the rest of the group.  We clipped a kerb as we approached Manning Road.  We turned on to the main road, and instantly Cassie said the car was handling differently and pulled over into a side street.  We leapt out, and I saw immediately that the rear nearside tyre was completely flat.  It was getting dark and starting to rain.  Cass took advice from her Dad on the phone, then set about changing the tyre, the way he had taught her to when she acquired the car. (No way could I have done this, so I was very, very impressed with her calm skill level).  She knew she (and I) were not strong enough to lift the spare tyre from the boot - she is small and slight (I am not!).  So Cass rang her flatmate, who came out to assist (without batting an eyelid)!  By the time Ben arrived, Cass had got the tools from the boot, and jacked up the car!  My role was limited to holding the umbrella over her, so she did not get totally soaked.  Ben helped by jumping on the lever to release the nuts on the flat tyre.  We inspected it, and there was a minor ding on the hubcap and a slit in the tyre.  We wondered whether the tyre pressure was low (the car has recently been transported by train across Australia) and this meant when we clipped the kerb, it pinched the tyre wall. 

Cass also rang Lauren to come to pick us up.  So once Lauren arrived, we had completed changing the tyre, but decided to leave the car at the side of the road, under a street light, and go for dinner.  Then we would come back and collect the car afterwards, so as not to drive far on the spare tyre.  I was ever so impressed with Cass's skill level.  No way could I have done this.

Cassie jacking up the car

Ben - strong enough to lift the spare tyre and release wheel nuts!
So Lauren, Cassie and I were a bit late arriving at the meal.  It was lovely to see them all, and we had a delightful meal together. 

Hannah and Sam

Cassie, Karen, and me

Steph and Lauren
Ellie and Cassie
Ellie and Violet
Ellie brought her daughter Violet with her.  Violet was a delight all evening.  She was sweet natured and well behaved throughout, and once she discovered the water dispenser, played the role of the perfect hostess, bringing glasses of water to everyone who wanted it.  She also provided water for all the plants in the vicinity too!

I was thoroughly spoilt, as my dinner and drinks were paid for by the group.  It was a lovely evening.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Final assessment for the year - Textile review

Today was the last assessment of my year in Perth. I have to admit being a bit apprehensive because I found the mid-semester review quite demoralising.   But Mollie, Ellie, Victoria and Lauren had considerably boosted my confidence, at least to the level where I felt I could put in a lot of effort and give it my best shot.  As it turned out, all my worrying was a complete waste of time, and the review was a lot kinder and more gentle than the last one!

I had taken on board feedback at mid semester review and worked up two sets of work.  The "simpler" patterns from my original idea; and patterns that used my natural organic style from my sketchbook work.

The devore fabric was printed with a border design, and a 6 spot random motif. Lucas said it was much better than in the mid-semester review, but actually it is the same border, with a smaller spot motif. I have now read the notes of my review, taken by my friends. Feedback was that the velvet, was sexy, sophisticated, interesting and lush. I had mastered simplicity by knowing what to remove. (I'm not sure that I've mastered it, but I managed to get it right this time.) Herringbone and discharge samples were succesful, with subtle colouring. Great body of work. Fantastic folio; really pushed yourself. Smaller samples relate well to chosen concept. Dimension and depth to series of work. Responded well to original printed layer with additional layers. Relates to aboriginal work.
Having done so much angst in the last few weeks, it was a massive relief to receive such positive feedback on my work.  And as I was third to go, I was able to contribute positively to other people's review, as I was no longer worrying about my own.
Devore velvet, acid dyed
Lauren with her print representing decaying wallpaper
Ellie with her water prints
Mollie with her installation about blood transfusions for plants
Cassie with her rose prints.

Hannah and Sam with their Running Man installation,
which leads to the evacuation sign.

These are a good bunch of people.  May their respective careers all be successful!
Trying to make my display "simpler"
Banksia embroidered using herringbone stitch
on random dyed cotton, printed with discharge paste
As above but worked in self colour, on linen

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Final History of Art tutorial

I went to my final History of Art tutorial on Friday.  One of my friends, Joanna, gave me a leaving present, which was completely unexpected.  It was a hand knitted ruffled scarf that she had made.  It was fantastic.  I was wearing my turquoise cardican that day, and the scarf matched perfectly.  It was particularly pertinent too, because I had just had my hair cut, and asked the hairdressed to cut off all the chlorine damaged hair on the back of my neck, so the scarf was just what I needed that day.

Thank you for the scarf, Joanna.

Yesterday I had great plans to do my weekly shopping in Perth, hurry back and stash the food, then leap on the bike and go to uni, to get on with my textile portfolio.  As I came into Perth on the bus, we went past the exhibition centre, where the Perth Craft & Quilt show was on.   So I got off the bus, and spent two and a half hours looking at everything.  I bought some expensive (but lovely) random dyed thread in the colours of my portfolio, then looked at the quilt show.  The quilts were fantastic.  Very, very high quality work.  Several featured australian plants.  Did not have camera with me unfortunately.  But even the official publicity material does not convey the fantastic-ness of seeing the quilts for real.  The format of the show was similar to the UK Quilt show at the NEC, in Birmingham.  But the Perth show was only one-tenth the size of the UK show - and much the better for it!  There is far too much to see in the UK show: it's too hot; far too busy; far too noisy; and totally exhausting with virtually no seating.  The Perth show was just right.  Enough people to make it an event, and adequate space to be able to see the quilts and show stands.

So by the time I got back to the flat with my shopping, it was 1pm and I was exhausted.  I had a little sleep and did some stitching at home.  I was quite pleased with my achievements but it was not as much as I had planned!  So, today, I must go to class and make up my portfolio.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Thank goodness for Mollie, Ellie and Victoria

I've had a tough few days working on my textile portfolio.  I have been trying to work in a different style to usual, making designs that are "simpler" than usual.  This is completely unnatural to me.  I was trying to make my work fit with the specification I had defined.  As a second year, I am trying to diversify my styles and I have found it incredibly difficult.  What I was trying to achieve did not fit with the feedback in mid-semester review that my organic sketchbook work was my best. 

I had made several different screens, and trialled different designs, and did not really like any of them.  I was trying not to layer several images, as this makes it more complicated, but layering was the advice I received several times.  I was getting very downhearted about it. I tried stitching into some samples, but felt it was all very pedestrian.  And when I struggle with my work, I just want to go home.  If I could have changed my flight and gone home this weekend, before final assessment, I would have done.

Yet, when we were in class, my group, Mollie, Ellie and Victoria, said my work was good and imaginative.  It was diverse and showed a lot of experimentation in the dozen or so samples I had cut for the textile portfolio.  Then when I got out some of the pieces I had sampled, but not cut, they said to use everything I had printed.  And had ideas for further stitched samples.  I now have a lot of stitching to do over the weekend!   I have a couple of pieces in the portfolio that are quite simply printed, that achieve what I intended - simple patterning - plus a 4m silk velvet devore piece for the length of cloth, that is also a simple pattern that fits the specification in my written proposal.  But I think everyone else preferred the (busier) prints that were on random dyed fabric. 

So, now I feel a lot less anxious about the review.  I still don't like the busier prints but I can now see the skills I have used to make them - a couple of different, and skilled, dyeing processes, drawing skills for the prints, stitch skills for the embroidery.  The portfolio will show a lot of diversity in skills, techniques, and experimentation.  Ellie also described how she would display the work, and this gave me a mental picture, which simplified the layout.  This was really helpful, as I find displaying work and privileging the most successful work to best effect to be incredibly difficult.

Mollie, Ellie and Victoria - Thank you.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Feeling quite light-hearted

I spent today working on my Indigenous Studies essay.  Up until yesterday, the draft was pretty ropey.  It did not flow or articulate concepts well.  But two days hard work have come together and I am quite pleased with the outcome.  And having completed the last piece of written work for the semester I feel quite light-hearted. 

I just have a History of Art test this Thursday, and the textile assessment the Wednesday after.  So it gives plenty of time to finalise work.    

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Things continue not to go my way!

It's been a tough couple of days. 

Having had the silk batiste fall apart, I decided to work on linen instead. I had done some lovely samples using discharge paste (bleach) on linen, which removed the colour from the linen beautifully.  So on Friday morning, I took myself on the bus and train to Potters to get 4m of linen for a long sample to hang at review.  I could not get the beige linen again, but bought a taupe version.

Then I went to class, to try a half meter sample to see what colour it became when discharged.  The first problem was that there was virtually no discharge paste left.  I used what was there, left it to dry and went to investigate reordering.  Discharge paste is a specialist product.  We order it from Kraftkolour - in Victoria.  It comes by road (4 day journey).  The shop is closed on Fridays.  So it can't be ordered until Monday, at the earliest.  I have my final feedback on Wednesday, and final assessment the Wednesday after.  The paste would not arrive until the Monday before assessment.  And I want to stitch into the work after printing.  There just is not enough time to do this.

I went to my History of Art tutorial.  I returned to the textile workshop, and heat pressed the discharge linen, and no reaction took place.  It must be dyed with different chemicals that do not discharge.  So I felt as if I had bought an expensive piece of fabric, that does not do what I want.  This is why discharge paste needs to be tested on every piece of fabric - not all dyes will discharge.  I could have sat and wept. 

But this morning, I reviewed the position.  If there is no discharge paste, I can't use it.  Therefore the fact that the linen does not discharge is irrelevant.  I can still print on the fabric.  I can still use the same print screen. I can print using dark binder, and stitch into the voided areas, using similar thread.  I can do the Indigenous Studies essay this weekend, final Indigenous studies class on Monday, print my 4m linen piece Tuesday, textile workshop Wednesday, History of Art final test Thursday and stitch into textile print Friday.  This gives me 4 days prior to final assessment to ensure all the textile requirements are complete and make up my portfolio of samples. 

This is no time to get my knickers in a twist.  I am too old and too long in the tooth for that!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Everything I touch falls apart!

Not a good day. Yesterday I did a devore sample using the silk batiste.  It was not a success.  When I used the devore paste, the fabric fell apart.  This means the warp thread is pure cotton, and the weft is silk cotton.  As the devore paste burns away cotton, all the warp thread is destroyed, leaving the fabric in shreds.  I needed fabric with a warp and weft that is spun with a combination of silk and cotton. 

This morning, I planned to spend the day working on my two essays.   I spent a couple of hours fiddling about with final details on my art essay.  I now have a thumping headache and pain in my left arm, which means I am starting to trap a nerve in my neck from too much sitting at the computer.  The time has come to stop academic work and stand on my hind legs to change the pressures on my spine.  I will go to university instead so the pain goes away.  I will take a roll of fabric to the workshop, and expose a screen, prior to my lecture at 3pm.   I still have a lot to do on the other essay, but at least the art essay will have been submitted and maybe my arm will stop aching.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

My silk batiste fabric has arrived from England!

Yippee!! The fabric that I ordered on 30 April from George Weil in the UK, has arrived. 

6m of silk cotton batiste only weighs 400g!  It is the most incredibly lightweight silk cotton. I bought it because the website said it was suitable for devore. The devore process eats away cellulose (in this case cotton) and leaves behind protein (in this case silk).  The fabric is very shiny, looking like pure habutai silk, but is actually 72% cotton, 28% silk.  This means once the devore paste has burned away the cotton, what is left will be gossamer thin.  Hmmm.  Have I got the skills to work this.

I've just got to take a brave pill and try it.  What's worrying me is what happened yesterday.  Yesterday I was working with discharge paste (a bleaching agent).  I printed some linen with discharge, lifted the screen and had managed a good print.  But as it dried, the linen threads sucked the discharge paste across the fabric until the design was completely obscured.  Which was rather unfortunate as it wrecked the cloth and linen is expensive.  Fortunately it was only $20 worth as it was an offcut from the sale.  And the silk batiste is even more expensive.  £80 ($120) for the fabric and £10 ($15) for postage.  Maybe I will try a small sample first.  I will take advice before I use it. 

Monday, 14 May 2012

Indigenous Sites tour of Perth

Today's class for Indigenous Studies was to tour around indigenous sites in Perth.  This was very interesting.  We went through various sites, hearing about the relevant stories, including going through Peppermint Grove and Mosman Park which is meant to be sacred women's ground, and along to Fremantle where we were told about the rainbow serpent making a cave and creating the river.  We also went to a site where there was a wedding ceremonial ground.

During our time in Kings Park we sampled various plants.  One of the gum trees was bleeding red gum so our tutor, Ken, harvested some as it is good for intestinal conditions.  We all sampled the fresh red gum - it was bitterly flavoured, yet tasted of wood, and had a long aftertaste.  We also sought out, and dug up a plant with a long bright orange root, that tasted of chilli.  We harvested a couple, but replanted the spare bits of root.  We all tried it - a strong chilli aftertaste, and if you chewed enough, your tongue went purple!  We also also found a specific type of banksia, where if you removed the growing tip, and chewed it, it was like chewing gum - called gummi!  It was a strong showery day, and as we left Kings Park, there was a rainbow. 

Eucalyptus bleeding red gum

Our guide, Barry, harvesting the gum for medicinal purposes

Barry showing us how to crop the orange chilli flavoured root

After we were set down, I went into the textile workshop to clean some screens, ready to re-emulse for tomorrow.  I looked at some of my discharge printed fabric.  The caramel piece has been printed on two separate occasions with discharge paste, and the prints have reacted differently.  I suspect that the relative dampness of the fabric affects the quality of the print.  The first prints are slightly indistinct, compared to the second prints.  I suspect the first print was done on freshly dyed and pressed fabric.  Then I have taken it home, rolled on a cardboard tube.  It has been left in a warm room for a week, then taken back to class, heat pressed at 130C, and immediately gummed down and printed again.  This would mean the fabric was totally dry for the second prints, and the consequence is that the prints are very sharp.  The only reason I can think of that might create a slight blurring with the first print, is that the fabric was very slightly damp, leading to bleeding.  But this is why we do samples.    At least I feel I have learned something.  In future I would be tempted to put fabric in the airing cupboard overnight, if at home, or in the baker, if at college in the UK.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

A weekend of homework

This weekend I have been a good student and kept my nose to the grindstone virtually the whole time.  I spent most of Saturday working on my essay, and on Sunday went for my early morning swim, followed by more essay homework and some successful drawing. 

It's only about 3 weeks before I return to the UK, but at this late stage, I needed to buy a new swimsuit.  I cycled to the pool, and discovered I had left my swimsuit behind.  It was getting a bit thin, so I splashed out on a new one (in the sale, so half price).  It has a rather interesting tiny grid pattern on it, and when I flex my stomach muscles, the pattern ripples! 

I've spent a couple of weeks trying to work out how to simplify my banksia pattern making, and have finally done it.  I've drawn them quickly and confidently with charcoal and indian ink.  I've used several sketches to make an all over print, and I think I've finally cracked it.  I knew it made no sense getting upset about it, and now I've relaxed a bit, it all came together.

But having worked so hard all weekend, I'm tired at 7.30pm so I'm going to veg out in front of the tv.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Today I was bad tempered in class

I went to college earlier today.  The History of Art lecture started and two students kept chatting in the back of the class.  I could not hear properly.  So I waited for a pause by the tutor, apologised to him, turned round and ticked them off.  I said I could not hear against a background of low level sound because of a hearing problem, and if they wanted to chat they could leave, and if not be quiet and pay attention.  I then apologised to the lecturer again and the lecture continued ... in silence from the class.  After the lecture he was quite ok with it, and I said sometimes if a mature student ticked them off vigorously, it was more effective than the tutor commenting. 

I also spent time in the textile workshop, gathering offcuts from my prints, for my sample file.  The Surface Design class were working there, on the table I spent 2 hours cleaning, and they were making a dreadful mess.  There was no technician present (long term sickness affecting staffing levels).  I'm going to check the tables tomorrow and if they have not been cleaned, I think I'm going to use the formal complaints procedure.  I have tried speaking to the class tutor, with no effect, and I'm going to take advice from the technician who works on Friday. I am absolutely sick of sloppy way this class works.  I may ask if I can speak to the class myself at the beginning of their next session, and explain the impact of their slovenliness and state that if they don't improve their standards, I will be making a formal complaint.  I don't mind them producing poor quality work of their own, but they are not wrecking my work.

Then Joanna, one of the students, offered to take me to Spotlight to get some threads after the lecture, as it was on her way home.  So I got the threads I'd been hankering after.  It was a bit more difficult to get home, but I got a bus into Perth by which time it was dark, and then the 31 bus home.  It took about an hour and a half to get home, but at least I have got my threads.   I had managed to go one way by car, so it was less time than it would otherwise have been.  Home at 7pm and pasta and mushrooms for tea.  Thank goodness for Joanna - a good end to an otherwise frustrating day.

Struggling with my Banksia project

I have been experiencing acute angst with the Banksia project.  I had been given feedback at review that I was not using my best work from my sketchbook, and that my pattern making was chaotic or very geometric.  I found this really difficult.  No-one seemed to get my point that I naturally work with busy design and I was trying to create designs that were "simpler", used "positive/negative" and "repetition".  I tried to take on board the feedback that my sketchbook work was better, but simply could not combine the irregular, random, organic nature of the sketchbook work with the key words above.  I tried making fabric that was random dyed, but could not see how to incorporate it into my work.  I was working very hard but getting very frustrated and upset.

I had a long discussion with Eva in class yesterday, and it took me ages to grasp some basic facts ... but I did get there in the end.

My proposal was good.  Stick with it and ignore the feedback.

Continue to work with "simpler", "positive/negative" and "repetition".

At the beginning of final review, state this project is about broadening my hand and my body of work, including that in the UK (which is unseen to the tutors and students here)

Look at more artists who work with simple pattern and Australian plants

Continue working with devore paste on silk velvet and silk cotton, and discharge paste on flat dyed fabric.

So I came home, and spent the afternoon creating more banksia designs.  I re-read my proposal and was quite impressed at how well I can write, and how well it hangs together! 

I know I'm going to find final review difficult.  I dislike one of the assessors, and find he bullets questions at you.  This puts me on the defensive.  Something I find particularly unpleasant is when he asks a question where I don't give the answer he wants, he re-asks the same question in an irritated tone and I re-answer the same answer.  A skilled assessor would use different words to ask the same question to enable the interviewee to come at the answer from a different perspective.  When he does this, I should say I think I've answered that, so obviously I don't understand what he is driving at.  I don't think quickly at the best of times, but when I'm on the defensive, it's even worse.  And when I feel homesick, I'm not up for the cut and thrust of argument, in front of the rest of the class.  All these feelings are aggravated by the fact that I don't go into review unprepared!  I spend time staging my work to the best of my ability, prepare a script about what I want to talk about, and refer to the guidelines to make sure I meet all the criteria.  And he still puts me on the back foot.  I have heard him criticise other classes for not contributing at review, but he talks constantly so it is difficult to interject.  I know reviews are time pressured for the assessors and they have to crack on, but I don't find creating a hostile environment to be helpful.

Any the upshot of it all is that I feel a lot happier about how to progress my work.  The thinking part of this work is the difficult part.  Doing the work is the easy part. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Trip to New Norcia

My landlord Tangea, was going on a trip to the opening of a new satellite tracking station further north in Western Australia and offered to drop me off for a day at New Norcia, a Benedictine monastery town in WA.  I jumped at the chance. 

We set off at 6 am, and Tangea set me down at 8am at New Norcia.  I spent an hour walking round a well spread out settlement, on either side of Route 1. There was a monastery, two boarding schools, two mission schools, and various outbuildings, including a shop and roadhouse. 

I spent the morning looking at the memorabilia in the museum of the monks 100 year occupation of the area.  They were Spanish monks who were called to convert the aboriginal peoples, and ended up running mission schools (not orphanages).  One of the monks was a Victorian photographer so there is a good visual history of the settlement.  There was a museum of artwork - lots of religious pictures, and portraits of the monks, but also modern artwork depicting modern interpretations of biblical texts.  And a botanist, C Gardner, had left his botanical drawings to the monastery, which was also an interesting display.  He was an early conservationist who advocated leaving large tracts of land unspoiled in order to preserve rare indigenous plants.

Before lunch, I joined the monks for prayers.  This was the first time I had participated in Catholic prayers and was most interesting.  I think it was plainsong.  Quite brief.  After lunch I went on a 2 hour tour of the settlement.  The Benedictines have a very loose structure and the monasteries are not really closely linked to one another.  There are 10 monks at New Norcia, ranging in age from about 38 to 76.  The settlement is completely run by the monastery.  There are quite a few support workers running a retreat, the museum, and other run the agriculture business which crops olives, oats and whatever else is deemed commercially productive.  They also have hives of bees which produce honey. 

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Turnitin plagiarisation checker

Turnitin is a commercial plagiarisation checker used by Curtin University.  I've used it for the first time today, and it was a very interesting experience. 

Our tutor, Elizabeth, arranged for our class to have student access for the essay we are preparing for our History of Art module.  I had worked very, very hard on my essay, but I find writing essays to be intensive work, and particularly find getting detail correct to be very difficult.  Elizabeth is very hot on us using our own words to paraphrase the research we have done, while correctly (!) referencing our sources.  I had written my essay, and in our most recent tutorial, Elizabeth stressed we needed to use single and double inverted commas correctly and not to confuse the two - for stress/inflection, and for quotation.

Elizabeth sent us the Turnitin access tonight, and I immediately submitted my essay for checking.  I had to create a second version of my essay, by taking out the Reference List, Bibliography, illustrations and any reference to authors of work I had used.  Then the remaining script is cut and pasted into the Turnitin website, press go, and wait for the system to process your work.  The outcome is a percentage score for how much of your script can be found in published work.  This is a massively powerful programme.  My essay scored 2% for plagiarisation. This is acceptable, if correctly credited. The system then highlights the plagiarised words, and colour codes them and links them to the documentation from which they have been sourced!!  How powerful is that!!  My highlighted words were for an attributed definition of Stereotype Threat Theory, which I felt I could not paraphrase more precisely or concisely. It identified the source I had used, and lots of student papers where the same phrase had been quoted. However, I had the double inverted commas slightly out of alignment.  So I moved them.  The other highlighted words were for a common equality phrase - equal pay for work of equal value - and I am not sure how to alter this, as I was not lifting words from the Financial Services Act (which was the document identified as source).  I will ask Elizabeth. 

However, for a first attempt at writing an essay where I did not plagiarise without correct crediting of originating author, I was very pleased.  I suspect Turnitin is a very expensive commercial computer package, which is mostly used by affluent universities.  I cannot imagine it is anything other than a very expensive package.  It was a very good learning experience. 

Grumbling about print tables

Today is Sunday, so I went for my swim as usual.  I did 1000m and was quite pleased with myself.  Then I jumped back on the bike, assessed the weather, and decided to take a chance on being caught in a shower and set off home. 

It got quite grey as I left Riverton, and rather than get wet once I had crossed the river, I went into Curtin University.  I had agreed with Mark, the technician, that rather than wait until end of semester to participate in cleaning day, I would get my contribution done early, as I am going home immediately after assessment.  On Friday, I started cleaning one of the print tables.  Today, I went in to the textile workshop intending to finish it.

The print table was in a shocking state.  It was covered in old print binder (print paste), threads from the edge of cut cloth, bits of masking tape, and snippings of plastic and lurex.  I find this quite worrying.  It is the Surface Design class who are making the mess, and they are not being instructed to clear up their mess.  I have spoken to their tutor about this. When you work on a table that has this amount of debris stuck to it, you cannot get a good print.  I really don't care if they wreck their own work, but some people in my class need to print for their Cloth & Habitable Space project.  I care a lot about my classmates' work being wrecked by other people's slovenliness.  Print tables are best cleaned immediately after use - wet binder comes off easily and the table can dry thoroughly so the next user is able to gum down their fabric without the washing water staining their fabric.

This morning I spent about an hour soaking, scrubbing and drying the print table.  I cleaned about half of it, and had to stop, only because the scourer wore out.  I am quite concerned about the impact of the Surface Design class on my work.  I have ordered 6m of silk/cotton batiste, which is likely to arrive shortly before assessment.  This fabric is easily stained and shows imperfections in print easily.  I will be working to a time deadline.  I do not need to arrive at the workshop and find the tables covered in wet or dry binder, with thread trimmings giving an uneven surface.  Neither do I need to spend an hour cleaning a table, then spend another hour waiting for it to dry, when I am under time pressure.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Ups and Downs of being a Student

My day was full of ups and downs. 

Yesterday, I had done a lot of preparation for my presentation for Indigenous Studies, and had saved it at uni, but could not access it from home.  I got quite frustrated about this, as I had wanted to get the presentation written this morning, at home here in the dry, rather than getting wet on the way to class.  Fortunately the rain stopped so I went to class, and discovered the i-drive at uni can only be accessed at uni.  I found the document, saved it to memory stick and then went to the textile studio. 

Random dyed caramel fabric from yesterday's work looked good, so I printed onto it with discharge paste (bleach).  This was ok, but I discovered the commercial discharge paste tends to pick up the emulsion from the screen, and starts to dye the fabric blue!  Not what I want when discharging!  Then I random dyed a large piece of fabric in 3 colours - aubergine, caramel and burnt orange - colours of landscape.  This looked very bold when pegged out to dry.  I was not sure about the success of this one. But I reserved judgement - random dyed fabrics look very different when wet, dry and subsequently printed.  Then I heat pressed the caramel piece, and discovered the deeper colours worked best with the discharge paste, rather than the lighter areas.  So maybe the dark areas of the multi-colour piece will work well.

Dischage paste applied, waiting for it to dry before heat pressing to activate

3 colour random dyeing in process

Then went to History of Art tutorial and discovered I have got the referencing wrong on my essay.  I get so sick of this.  Different universities, and different disciplines (art -v- science) require different referencing styles, and it keeps changing.  I really cannot see that it makes any difference to what the essay is about.  It is just pointless mindless detail.  But I need to get on with it.  At least I have the opportunity to improve it before it gets marked.

I was lucky with the rain.  It rained a bit while I was waiting at the bus stop, but I only became mildly damp.  It rained on and off all day, but I never was caught between classes (it's about a mile from the textile studio to History of Art tutorial), and it was very grey on the way back to the flat, but did not rain. 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Study Abroad Fair at Curtin

Kate Snowdon and I ran the Herts University study abroad stand at the international fair today.  We had a fair amount of interest from students wanting to go to the UK, and the main appeal seemed to be the good exchange rate from Australian dollar to Pound Sterling (don't we know it!) and the proximity of Herts to the facilities of London, without central London prices.

Kate Snowdon, journalism student and
Tanya Talati, International Student Exchange Co-ordinator

This afternoon I plucked up my courage and dyed a 4m length of devore silk velvet.  The fabric alone costs about $100, without the devore and dye processes, so if it went wrong I would have ruined some very expensive material.  The sample I did the other day, dyed well in a lovely sandy beige colour, and this time I wanted to make a rich plummy brown.  The silk background grabs the colour strongly, and the viscose pile takes the dye in a much more subtle way.  It took ages to bring a 20 litre pan of dye to the right temperature, but I followed the instructions very carefully, and did not hurry the process.  It is difficult to get an even colouring but I was very pleased with the result.  The photos show the fabric pegged up after rinsing, so the colours will change again after it is dry.  The devored background was exactly the colour I wanted, but I was surprised at how pale the viscose pile is. 

Silk viscose devore velvet pegged up to dry
It captures the colours we saw in eucalyptus tree trunks on our roadtrip in December.  Quite a successful dyeing experiment.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

My hero goes home

Tomorrow Jim sets off home to the UK.  He is going home a few weeks before me, because he set off a few weeks before me, in order for him to cycle across the USA on his way to Australia.  This means his round the world air ticket needs to be used before it expires. Because I have a lot of gear to take home, Jim will use his full weight allowance to take home some of my art materials.  He had to buy an (expensive) airline ticket to take his oversize bike box, so to get full value for money, this box has been packed to meet the 23kg weight limit.   We had great fun weighing it on a set of bathroom scales! So tomorrow morning he gets a taxi to take him and his bike box to Perth airport. 

I will miss him a lot, but realistically I have a lot of work to get on with, so my mind will be on other, creative, things.  I have an essay and presentation for Aboriginal Studies, a test for History of Art and final assessment for my textile module.  Like I said, plenty to keep me busy.

A week or so ago, a friend sent us a photo of our front garden at home.  It might look like a fairly ordinary garden to many people, but to me it was a wonderful shot of home.  Spring in England is lovely - you can see the red of the Ribes (flowering currant), and the yellow of the forsythia.  You can also the purple of the tulips against the acid green of the euphorbia, which I planted so that we could see them from our bedroom, which looks out to the front garden.  The apple tree is just breaking into leaf.  I've not seen any of these plant in Aus, probably because the climates are totally different.  I've liked it here, but I like the English climate, the English plants and my own home.

Photo to follow.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Dyeing and Devore

Over the last week, I've been doing a little light textile work.  I decided to dye the devore velvet sample that I made.  I reviewed my visual diary from our road trip, and considered some of the colours I saw when we were up in Queensland.  We drove through a lot of landscape that had dried grass and I wanted to achieve that bleached, dead grass colour. 

I decided to use acid milling dyes to colour the cloth, and used a bright yellow with a tiny amount of purple to knock back the intensity.  Acid milling is notorious for producing very bright colours, and lots of people don't like it for this reason.  I decided to blend colours in the one dye vat.  After I had started the process, I read the last part of the instructions that stated colours should not be blended, but overdyed.  Too late!  The velvet was wetted, added to the pot of water, and brought slowly to simmer. If you bring it up to temperature too fast, the silk goes dull.  I removed the fabric, added the fixing solutions, and dye, stirred well and returned the hot fabric to the water, very carefully.  I pressed out all the bubbles and simmered very gently for 20 minutes.  It looked very pale, and I was a bit disappointed.  But I reserved judgement, rinsed it (looked even paler) and pegged it up to dry. 

Instructions and health & safety kit.

Bringing the silk velvet up to simmering point

The following day, I inspected it, and was absolutely delighted.  The velvet was a beige colour (the pile is cotton so takes less dye) and the devored background was a richer darker brown (silk grabs colour really well).  Both technicians and other students liked it.  It is very difficult to get an even colouring because the fabric gets all scrunched up in the pot, but pressing out all the bubbles helps.  My 30cm x 45cm piece of fabric had very even colouring.

Acid dyed silk velvet. 
The lines through the middle are on the table underneath, not in the fabric.

So on this basis, I used my $90 credit (from swapping opaque and puff binder when class supplies ran out) for 4m of silk velvet.   Yesterday, I made a decision on which patterns to print and printed the 4m length with an angular banksia border print, and a 6 spot irregular pattern.  While it was drying, I went to my History of Art tutorial, and then came back and heat treated and rinsed the velvet.  I think the devored length of cloth looks pretty good.  Next week I will dye it, aiming to get a rich plummy brown, which is another of the colours we saw on our road trip, on the bark of certain trees.  I wonder whether I can get the colours as even? 

In the History of Art tutorial, we were shown how the TurnItIn software works.  TurnItIn is a commercial software package that identifies plagiarism.  It must be very powerful software.  Our tutor, Elizabeth, showed us an example where a student had submitted an essay, the software had analysed it, and the results highlighted all the plagiarised words, colour coded them, and listed all the books that had been copied!  Quite scary!  It makes the point that you need to be very disciplined in paraphrasing to give your own understanding of other writers, or quote and credit authors correctly.  Elizabeth said she had found several 3rd year students last year had extensively plagiarised, and I think she is checking first and second years this year, to improve standards prior to final dissertations.  She is  a very good tutor. 

Elizabeth came out with a well observed true-ism in class. She said the assessment marking ranges from 0-100.  Not 50-100.  Just turning up to class, handing in an essay or giving a presentation, does not mean students will pass. I found this most refreshing.  I have been in too many workplaces and classes where people seem to think that just turning up is enough.  Once in class, students need to think, participate and contribute. Probably because I am a mature student, I'm always prepared to contribute, particularly when the rest of the class is silent.  I remember one particular lecture in the UK, by a visiting MA student, who was showing her work and was very, very nervous about the talk, who thanked me afterwards for contributing, and getting some interaction started.  I do believe students need to work with the tutors.  Elizabeth makes the standards quite clear and provides lots of advice and guidance to ensure we have the understanding and reasoning to meet expectations.

Oh, and Elizabeth gave us our results from our History of Art test last week.  I got 9/10, so was very pleased.  I thought I had managed 7, so I think I was lucky that a couple of my guesses were right!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Happy Anzac Day

Today has been a very productive day.  In Australia, this is a bank holiday to commemorate the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps sacrifices, although it now represents all the services.  I spent nearly all day finessing my essay, and it is now finished, ready to hand in on 17 May (or earlier if I have my way). 

I made a cake, and while it cooled Jim and I went for a short walk along the river.

Jim on the drive from our flat. 
Note the tide marks on the thighs from his cycleshorts,
 and the sweatshirt worn as a concession to the cooling temperatures of autumn!

Me enjoying the afternoon sun on the Canning River
(Where I used to work, there was a place called Canning Town,
on the River Thames, in the east end of London. 
The Perth Canning River is as different as can be from that.)

When we got back, there was a fruit pavlova left on the doorstep by our landlords Tangea and Richard.  Yumm!  Then, when I said we had to eat our salad dinner before the pavlova and Victoria Sandwich cake, someone pouted like a child!  Someone wanted a piece of cake while I prepared the salad.  Someone got his way!  And then ate his salad, followed by double pavlova and another piece of cake!  And when he gets home to the UK, will complain that he's putting on weight, and has no idea why!


Someone thinks this is a balanced diet -
Pavlova in both hands!
And he's still my superhero!

Monday, 23 April 2012

On target with the workload and then a good result

I've spent Saturday and Sunday indoors, all day.  I worked diligently on my essay for History of Art and on Monday got the initial draft complete. Now it is just down to polishing and finessing - making sure every paragraph makes a salient point in relation to the thesis statement; getting the referencing correct (oh dear!) and making it all look good.  The work is not due for another 4 weeks but getting it completed this week staggers my workload nicely (presentation due in 3 weeks and another essay in 5 weeks time) and makes me feel calm. 

Then today I went to Indigenous Studies and received my Aboriginal Art essay mark.  32/35 so I was very pleased.  I still think the marking here is somewhat overstated - my essay was good, but I'm not sure it was that good.  But I had done a lot of research (and got the referencing right!).  So all in all, I'm a happy bunny!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

I may have had a direct influence on Curtin Parking Fee policy

Yesterday I discovered the Curtin Parking Fee Policy will change next semester.  Although car parking does not affect me, it has been a thorny issue for many students and staff.  Basically parking is totally inadequate, and from this year, Curtin decided to make the parking fee an annual flat rate, entitling staff and students to unlimited parking at Curtin. 

During summer school in February, I had a discussion with a part time tutor, who was resignedly stating that his parking at Curtin was mega expensive.  He only required parking 2 days a week, but was paying for a 5 day entitlement, as there was no part-time parking fee option.  Curtin university had stated it was "too difficult" to organise a part-time pro-rata rate.  I was appalled at this and said it was indirect sex discrimination, as more part-time students and staff were female (due to care responsibilities) and anything that treated women less favourably on the ground of gender, was illegal.  The fact that arranging pro-rata parking fees was "too difficult" would not be deemed an adequate defence in law!  He was dubious whether Curtin would take any notice, but I sent him an e-mail, giving the full legal case, which he forwarded to the Curtin authorities. 

Yesterday, I discovered that "pay as you go" parking commences next semester.  I wonder whether my e-mail had anything to do with it?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Feeling better and back on track

I have had a think about my mid-semester review yesterday and have got my thoughts in order.  Unfortunately I don't think quickly and can't provide the snappy answers and clarity of thinking when under pressure.  I wish I could manage this at the review!

I'm going to carry on with my simpler prints of an Australian Banksia leaf.  I am going to print what I want, not what other people prefer.  This is because I want to broaden my printed body of work.  In the UK, my work was busy and colourful, in non-repeating pattern.  Last semester my work was busy, multi-layered and more muted in colour, and I mastered one basic pattern repeat.  This semester I am going to work on simplifying my pattern making and understanding more diverse pattern repeats. This semester I have clarified my rationale for working with natural fabrics.  I already know I can work with complex multi-layered patterns.  If I do more of this, my body of work will have a very clear "MacTaggart" hand.  I want to develop the ability to create a diversity of styles.  At present I'm not sure whether I can manage successful simple work, but I need to give it my best effort (rather than running away, which is how I felt yesterday).  If the tutor does not like my work and I end up with a low mark, then so be it.  I do not want my work to be predictable, and trying different styles, whether successful or not, is part of the learning environment.

I'm still going to take a week off printing, and write my History of Art essay on "How effective is the BBC's intention, to reflect its diverse audiences' reality and experience, in portraying women as positively as men, when using competition as a key factor in a programme?"  I'm going to use the BBC Mastercrafts programme as a case study.  This should give me plenty to get my teeth into!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Mid semester review - Not a good day

Today was not a good day.

Screen prints to right of display

Pattern making from left side.

The photo of the central area was out of focus, but showed border patterns as print samples

I had spent all of Tuesday morning at the print table, then stood all afternoon, mounting my display.  My legs were tired, and my back ached with all the standing.

When it came to my review today, I explained how homesickness was influencing my use of traditional English print techniques, and incorporation of stitch, with an admiration of indigeneous Australian plants, to celebrate my opportunity of studying here.  I explained how I decided to use natural fabrics because of the importance of degradability, and its impact on habitable space for people in the domestic form, and worms and bacteria as it degrades.  I explained how I was trying to make my work less busy - so my key words were "simpler", "positive/negative" and "repetition", and applying these to patterns with spots, stripes and borders.

The feedback I received was that:

- rather than doing 3 versions of the patterns, I should do 10 and pick the best ones, before I create silkscreens.  (So the tutor does not like the patterns I have created so far, although he did not state why.  I had 5 versions of the spot, 2 stripes and 2 borders on display and others in my folio, not on display).

- I've done better work in my sketchbook  (I find this type of generalisation difficult.  To be able to utilise this information, I need to be told which pieces were better and why.  The work in my sketchbook was all very busy.  I am working with simplifying my pattern making.  I want to contrast this "simpler" project with the rest of the body of work that I have done so far in my degree. Creating one colour prints in very simple repeats is a contrast with the rest of my work)

- The work on display is chaotic.  (All displayed together, it was certainly busy.  The busiest patterns on display were not the ones I had chosen to make up as silkscreens).

I find it frustrating that we are allowed to work extensively to the specification that we have defined, then are told "you are not using your best work; you've picked the wrong pattern", without explaining why.

I am really struggling with homesickness at present.  I just want to go home.  I am particularly sick of the petty frustrations of not living in my own home, and not having my usual access to textile materials.  I know I came here to experience difference, but at the moment, I am sick of working with the limited resources.  It makes me appreciate how much we have in the UK - access to materials, and extensive art history, both within comparatively small areas. At home, I have 30 years of textile paraphernalia that I can access easily.  I can source base fabrics easily.  Here, we pay $120 materials fee, which gives a few half metre fabric samples, print binders and dye, screen emulsion, and devore paste.  We are not allowed to buy extra materials from the university store - you have to source these yourself.  University supplies are limited and often run out, at which point we are told "you can always buy your own".  It makes me really anxious to be planning work, and not to know whether the materials will be in stock.  Last semester we ran out of all print binders, and dye, and this year we've already run out of screen emulsion which ended up being collected by two students so we did not have to wait a week for the post to deliver it.  To create my textile portfolio and length of cloth, I need to source the fabrics myself.  None of the fabric shops are in the centre of Perth.  All are at least 2 bus rides away, each in a different location.  The favoured shop, Potters, supplies the quality fabrics I like, but is a wholesalers, and stock varies.  I cannot guarantee that a sample bought one day will still be available a week later.  I can't find anywhere local that stocks any embroidery thread, not even stranded thread.

These material frustrations really make me appreciate the textile store at University of Herts, where you can buy quality controlled materials, at virtually cost price, only pay for what you need, and it is always fully stocked.  The only limitation is that it is only open for one hour, morning and afternoon, and you have to plan your day's requirements.

And where I'm working with the (limited) materials that I can access easily and with which I am familiar, I am then told the basic designs are naff.  I should use the designs from my sketchbook.  I have the skills but not the material familiarity in Australia to make these up in fabric.  The design I have in mind, would require low water immersion dyeing, plus colour print plus discharge print.  I've not used the dyes here (complicated process where I would want to use brands I've used in the UK and they are different here), and you need to test the discharge print on both the dye and fabric to get a good result.  All far too difficult.  And it does not meet the specification of my project.

So all in all, I had a really naff day.

I think I will leave the textile project for a week, and focus on History of Art where I have an essay to prepare.

Friday, 13 April 2012

A worthy day of printing

Today is Friday 13th, and it has been my most productive day of the week.  Jim and I went to the pool for a swim and did 1000m, then he went for an 18 mile bike ride, while I went to uni. 

I tried out my new print screens.  The border print looked lovely on the screen, but you never know how successful the design is until you print it, then put it into repeat.  I created about single prints on 7 different fabrics - polycotton, fine and coarse linen, felt, silk velvet, silk organza and cotton.  They looked lovely, lined up in a row.  Just creating this made me feel calmer - now at least I have something to show as samples in my mid semester review next week.

Print artist hard at work
A selection of samples on different fabrics

Then I tried putting it into a repeat.  There is a fault.  Unfortunately there is a white area, where it is meant to be black.  This is because I failed to fully dovetail the pattern.  But this is why you do trial samples.  So it's back to the drawing board to draw the pattern correctly.  I still like the pattern which is why I'm prepared to prepare it manually again.

 Border with  random spot print.
And me looking in disbelief at the white area in the middle of the border.

The diligent artist washing her screen.

Jim came along to class about midday, to bring my phone, which had been left in the swimming bag.  He sagely observed that I had very few photos of me on the blog, so used my camera to get some shots of me, working like a good student!  My hero.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

A better day

I went to class today, full of angst about my lack of progress.  I had a good day.  I did not create much work, but what I did, was fruitful preparation.

I found a bag of fabric leftovers from last year's project, so I have some reasonable fabric on which to print.  I took this to class, feeling quite relieved to have some materials with which to work.

I started by printing the spot repeat, on paper.  The 3 images below show the amazing difference of using the same spot pattern, in the same 6 grid spot repeat, but varying the scale of the grid upon which they are worked - 6", 5" and 4".

6" grid

5" grid

4" grid.
I felt quite happy having actually printed something, and this motivated me to get back on the bus to go to Officeworks, to have the artwork reprinted, that yesterday was printed back-to-front.  The assistant recognised me (I think it is the straw hat that makes people remember me) and when she realised it was a faulty copy that had made me return, she did not charge me for the correct versions.  This was unexpected, and most welcome.  It was not her fault the first copy was reversed, because each side looked very similar. I returned to class in good humour due to the good quality copies.  I also had a bus turn up, both ways, as soon as I arrived at the stop, so the round trip only took 40 minutes.

Then I used one of the large photocopies to expose a large screen, and that process went perfectly.  So thankfully I have a good quality screen to use - third time lucky.  Next I worked on darkening the positive and negative versions of a simple stripe design, and this also was successful.  I don't have a screen available on which to expose the designs, but it's all ready to roll.

Two long narrow designs - in fact two stripe patterns

The black motifs will reproduce well on a screen.  The black background version will need to be dovetailed carefully to achieve quality print, but I'm quite confident I can print some interesting repeat patterns with these two complementary designs.

So not much actual work, but lots of successful preparation was the tone of today. Not before time.  Hopefully lots of printing tomorrow.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

A frustrating day, despite hard work

Today has been really hard work.  I have achieved very little.  I am tired and frustrated.

I worked at class for about 7 hours on my Banksia project and achieved virtually nothing.  We have a mid semester assessment next Wednesday and I need to get a lot of sampling done.  In order to do this, I need designs, exposed screens, and fabric.  The designs are coming along well, but they are non-standard sizes, and the border prints are longer than A3.  I think they will look lovely when printed, and because I have created the border separately from the body of the print, I can add a variety of patterns to the border, making lots of different options.  The border repeat is 22" long, which fits nicely on the hand silkscreen, and is long enough for the repeat not to be too obvious.  This is longer than A3 paper and is creating lots of problems.  The design has to be very black, otherwise the exposing light shines through the paper and spoils the clarity of the design.  I can't use two pieces of paper as they need to butt up exactly (overlaps wreck the exposure) and the design must carry precisely across the join.  If you butt up the paper, and sellotape it, the tape shows when the exposure takes place.  Additionally, we have to oil the paper of the design, so that the white paper goes translucent and the exposing light penetratres it, and the oil means the tape will come apart. 

So, I was advised to take my assorted designs to Officeworks to get them photocopied onto the oversize paper.  (The university copyshop only goes to A3 size).  So this is a trip on the bus, where I discover the copier won't take designs that are freeform - they need to be mounted on A size paper.  So I sellotaped my carefully cut designs onto carrier sheets. Non standard designs need the experienced operator.  Then the operator goes on an hour's lunch break!  I have to wait an hour and a half!  So I go back to class, expose my small silkscreen, and return to the copyshop.  All done, and back to uni.  Getting half a dozen photocopies takes about 3 hours in total.

I look closer at my favourite border print, amongst all the others I have had done.  It's been copied back to front!  In order to make it really black, I had photocopied it, joined it with tape, then carefully coloured in the back with black pen, using a lightbox.  This made the black, absolutely black, when viewed on a lightbox.  But the photocopy side was evenly black, whereas the back showed pen marks.  And they have copied the wrong side, thereby reversing the design (so it won't fit the screen I am creating with the matching details) and giving a naff copy.  I could have sat and cried.

When I put other photocopies on the lightbox, they were not as black as I wanted, so I spent a couple of hours, inking the reverse with permanent marker.  This took me a couple of hours, but I think they will expose well.  Not that I have a spare emulsed screen to put them on!

Then I discovered the silk/cotton and silk velvet fabric I wanted to use from the fabric store, has all been used!  No news on when it will be replaced.  And it is difficult for me to source my own, because non of the suppliers are within one bus ride. 

So my outputs for 7 hours work are one small exposed screen, and a subsequent repeat trip to the copyshop tomorrow, thereby losing an hour's work again.  I am very tired and frustrated.  Reluctantly I conclude that my designs need to be A3 max in future.  I cannot afford to keep losing time like this.

I read the requirements for the assessment next week, and made myself feel quite anxious.  I am starting to get fed up of jumping through hoops.  I understand we need a mid term assessment to make sure people are making progress.  But as third years, the expectation is for a high standard of presentation.  And this is where I struggle.  I want to spend my time doing extensive testing: I don't have time to waste on presenting my samples beautifully, carefully mounted on card, with uniform sizes, and all colour co-ordinated.  As usual it comes down to my dislike of fiddling about with silly little details to get a good mark, only to take it down and most of it never to be seen again.  Part of my experimentation requires different sizes, but non-uniform displays look shoddy. Next week we will lose one day because we will be displaying our work in the corridor, bringing in all our research (carefully categorised and beautifully organised), sketchbooks, concept boards, and arranging them on the wall, and privileging the best pieces.  Then we lose another day, being assessed and listening to each other's feedback.

The way things are going, I'm going to end up with lots of designs (spot, stripe, border) to display, rather than samples.  Oh dear!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

It's Easter Sunday, and I'm off to a good start!

Today is Easter Sunday.  It's about 10am.  I've already cycled 30 minutes to the pool, swum 1200m, and cycled back.  I'm starting to get ideas for my History of Art essay about how art has represented feminism, and post-feminism and whether narcissism has influenced the feminist movement.  Lots of reading and thought required before I start writing!  I'm also full of ideas about my textile project.

While swimming up and down the pool, I was thinking about all the different design projects I could do when I get back to the UK.  I have so much inspiration from my time here, that I could create a whole series of Australian inspired designs, for fabrics for different uses.  I have been thinking about projects to design fabric for swimwear, casual clothing, garden furniture, and interior furnishings, and how to create a series of fabrics for each function.  There is so much potential, but I need to save these ideas for my return to the UK.  I have enough to be getting on with here.

I've also been thinking about the environmental aspects of textile design - largely because I have spoilt two attempts to emulse and expose my most recent silkscreen - which is wasteful of expensive, and unenvironmentally friendly materials.  I can't live in a totally environmentally friendly way, but I can limit my impact.  So if I want to experiment with different spot designs, and print 8m lengths, it would be wasteful to prepare a large silkscreen (c8 feet by 5 feet) for each different spot design.  Particularly if I decide to only create one 8m length.  So I've been thinking about creating a single spot motif and use it in a variety of ways.  This means I need to work out how to mark the repeat on cloth, without the marking system being permanent, so that I can create several different fabrics, with minimal use of emulsion for the silkscreen and electricity for the exposure light.

Repeating spot designs, where the direction of the motif changes.
3 spot, 4 spot and 5 spot designs.

I think that a good way of creating temporary markings along a 8m fabric length, would be to use coloured sticky dots.  I don't want to use chalk - does not remove easily enough; or stitch - too laborious.  If I create a paper matrix, based on the layout shown above, I can punch a hole at each corner of the space for each motif to be printed.  Then if I place it on the fabric, and put a sticky dot at each hole, and repeat it down the cloth, I will be able to see where to place the prints.  Then I will only need enough emulsing fluid to coat a 12" screen, and will be able to work up spot prints for 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 spot designs, without needing to create huge silkscreens for each variation.

So today's task is to create a single motif ready to expose on my small silkscreen.