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.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Tired students make silly mistakes

Yesterday I had a day of ups and downs.  I had a screen ready to expose, and a class to attend.  It all looked very easy.  But when I exposed the design on the screen, it was a murky exposure and when I washed the unexposed residue from the screen, I had to use high pressure water, which damaged the rest of it.  Designs need to be really black to make a good exposure, and this one was not black enough when held up to the light (it had looked ok when on the table).  So back to the drawing board - clean the screen, and leave to dry, so I can come in on Good Friday, to re-emulse the screen.  What a waste of time!.  Just shows that I need to keep practising, because otherwise I forget little bits of technique that give good results first time! 

Then I had a really interesting History of Art class about the male gaze in film making which gave me a lot to think about, that had not occurred to me before.  (I am not a film fan, so I had not seen any of the films discussed).  I rushed home from class, thinking about my History of Art essay, where I need to decide on my subject, and start the background reading.  The rushing was a mistake.  When I got home, I realised I had left my glasses behind.  At the last class before Easter break!  If I could not get them back, I could not read over Easter.  Big problem.  And if they are really lost, new glasses would cost a fortune.  And realising just how little script I can see, without my glasses, made me feel really old!  Old and grumpy. Not a good way to start Easter! 

So this morning, Good Friday, I jumped on the bike (no buses to Curtin on bank holidays), and pedalled up there, like a thing possessed.  My student card allows auto-entry to my textile block, but not to the lecture theatre.  Fortunately a very helpful man in Security came down with a key, and opened the door, and there were my glasses, waiting for me.  I was so appreciative to the Security man  for being at work on the Bank Holiday and for opening the room for me! 

While I was at class, I re-emulsed my silkscreen, very, very carefully.  I got a lovely thin, even coating, and left it in the dark room to dry.  I went home and redrew the design, this time working on a good dark photocopy, and also blacked in the design on the reverse, so that when held to a light window, it looked evenly black all over.  This time the design should expose perfectly.  Once I've exposed the screen again, I'll let you know how it went.  I always work better when I'm not in a rush.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Thoughts from the Swimming Pool

I have just had a very good swim - 1200m - where my stamina is markedly improving.  500 front crawl, 100 back crawl, twice.  I'm now managing 500m in 9.45 minutes, which is a fraction under a minute per 50m length.  Now I am averaging 2-3 swims per week I'm getting stronger in the water.

During my swim, I was thinking about my textile class from yesterday. My tutor, Eva, is happy with progress on the banksia theme and development to date.  But I was expressing concern that my vision is for traditional furnishing fabrics, and not some modern innovative 3D application of cloth to alter a "habitable space".  We then went on to discuss my reasoning of being environmentally friendly, leading to me working with natural fibres, because of the way they break down naturally when spent.  We were having a bit of a laugh and joke about how I've put various spent craft fibres (Jacob fleece cardings from feltmaking) on the compost heap, and I've also put spent curtains on there as well.  (My Great-Aunt May was the person who started me on that idea!).  Then I suggested making time-expired curtains into a compost cosy, to keep the compost heap warm enough to look after my worms, and keep the compost rotting during the English winter.  Eva thought this was a great idea, that I could work up in Semester 2, for a final piece.  I explained that I go home to England at the beginning of June, as my student exchange will be complete.

But this thought exercised my mind, while I exercised my body in the pool.  I've been thinking about Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - an English environmentalist phrase.  I want to work with natural fabrics, to reduce use of man-made fibres, which are often cheap and nasty imports. Animal and plant fibres break down naturally and this is means replacement is driven by the life of the fabric, and thereby making fashion a secondary, rather than primary driver.  If I were to re-use curtains as a compost cosy, it would be a minimally labour intensive application for them.  No-one wants to put a lot of time and energy into spent objects, do they? I could see the curtain tape tightly gathered, so that it formed a wigwam like shape over the top of our conical compost bin.  And when the fabric got really tatty, it could be used as a lining for the compost heap, so that it started to break down with the garden waste, thereby recycling the cotton/silk/wool fibres into compost.    I can see the avant-garde theorists getting really excited about an artist creation having one function for the original curtains, used by people; another form to make an habitable space for worms as a compost cosy; and a final formation to make a habitable space for bacteria and plants once incorporated into the soil!  I think there is an argument to make, that my course could lead to students getting the reputation for being eccentric! Not that this has ever bothered me!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Refining my thoughts about my textile project

I've had a successful morning working on my Aboriginal Art homework, and now have time to reflect on the Banksia project for my textile module.

I'm glad I've made the decision to focus on print and stitch.  I'm looking forward to working hand stitch into the prints.  I can visualise different types of stitch worked into banksia motifs.  Themes to experiment with are how to place the stitched motifs - into a voided area, or across several prints.  What scale to stitch - same size or larger.  Also I wondered about whether to work the stitching after an object had been made up.  I would not want to cut across hand stitched areas so if the fabric were to be used for curtaining or clothing, it would be best to stitch after construction to enable optimum placement of time consuming hand stitch. 

Also it might be worth experimenting with some manual machine embroidery.  With the advent of fully computerised machine embroidery, I am not sure how to explain concisely that I am competent at machine embroidery, done by my own fair hand.  This could also be done within the printed motifs, or layered across several. 

Perhaps if I am focussing on my work being "simpler" it might be worth restricting myself to stitching within a motif at first, before making it more complex.  Even within one motif, I can work with different colour and density.  And there is plenty of scope for experimention with a variety of fabrics and print media.  Just from basic workshop stores, I have sourced silk organza, cotton muslin, felt, calico, linen, cotton/silk and silk velvet.  I can work into these with translucent binder, and devore on the last two.  I will also buy some simple polycotton and use devore on this too.

I am working up several different patterns to explore presence/absence to work out how to move the focal point.  If I have 6 different fabrics, and 6 different patterns, with a variety of colours and print techniques, it will make a considerable print portfolio.  If I then add in different ways of embellishing with stitch I could end up with 100 samples! Then I will choose the best to make a 6-8m repeat print.  Really in my heart of hearts, I'd like to do a long repeat print using devore silk velvet, but I'd need to be really confident of the pattern to put the resources into the fabric and print paste.  But if you don't have a vision, you don't aim for the stars.

I've also formed the view that I want to work mostly with natural fibres.  I am moderately green in my environmental stance and want to make a low impact carbon footprint.  If I use man-made fabrics, they do not degrade.  If I use natural fibres for household objects, they naturally degrade, and when spent, can be put on the compost heap to rot, then be incorporated into the earth.  Dyestuffs are not carbon free but unless I want to work with uncoloured materials, need to be used in limited quantities.  I definitely challenge the western materialistic culture, although I like nice things.  I think I focus on having fewer beautiful things that I really value, rather than lots of cheap, replaceable, high carbon footprint, tatt.  And I want to incorporate this philosophy in my work.  I'm going back to the slow art principle.