Assignment 2: Written Reflection and Review against assessment criteria

I began work on Part 1 18months ago and Part 2 last November so in the first instance I acknowledge that this assignment  has taken me a very long time to complete.

Here is what I have learned over the projects:

  • The importance of tutorials and having a dialogue about my process is of huge importance and heavily influences my work output.
  • I like to go into ideas and processes, exploring materials and techniques with more depth than I had given myself credit for.
  • It’s better to keep turning up and working on tasks, ignoring my inner critic and focussing on what I am doing rather than all the things I know I am not doing!
  • For Part 2, I particularly enjoyed the paper manipulation and sewing into the smaller samples. My interest waned when working on the more composed larger pieces. I think this is due to the pressure on myself that I had to create a focussed almost finished piece. On reflection it would have served me better to take the task less literally and work on however many more developed samples I wanted to. This would have probably kept my interest going. This is why I liked working on the paper manipulation library, the stitched smaller samples and the textile preparatory samples I made for Assignment 2.
  • Drawing and planning ideas out can be done in a variety of ways apart from literally sketching ideas. Using photos, layout and pinning up samples, selecting ones in particular to juxtapose together are also ways of drawing. I discovered taking photos of some of my inboards a good way to show my planning stages. These also influence my watercolour drawings where I make attempts to combine some of my selected images together.
  • I needed to break up the leap from paper to textile even further, spending a long time on playing with textile samples.
  • My understanding of drawing and recording has developed: I find that observing and looking at something, needs practice and for me sustained engagement. My drawings improved the more I got to know my subject (sounds obvious now!).
  • I do spend time thinking about my process and approach to my work and draw on my observations of this.
  • Folding and pleating fabric and making it go where you want it to go is so much harder than it looks!

My strengths are that I do have a strong aesthetic and can create samples and outcomes that show dynamism and delicacy. I do feel that there is energy behind the work I make and was very inspired and excited by the assignment. I recognise the importance of sampling and trying things out.

I certainly felt a frustration that I didn’t have the capacity to address all points, tasks hints and tips (that are in the course booklet) with the depth and focus I would ideally like to give. So much of my learning with this project is getting to know what my capacities are, how to make decisions and selections and where to prioritise my focus. I would like to spend more time further addressing the following:

  • Using a wider range of marks and tools in the same image/drawing sample
  • I also felt that I missed some of the point of the assignment and found myself not being very experimental with different forms of stitch? I think I might have stayed too ‘literal’ in interpreting the pieces as images rather than as textile samples.
  • Spend more time playing with layout and scale
  • Stop and look at what I am doing and ask questions half way, look at the back of the textile piece and be open to searching and experimenting with different stitch techniques – keep looking for different solutions to create textures with stitch
  • Annotating and articulating my reflections and thoughts through writing and the blog
  • Being open to drawing and designing ideas in different ways at the planning stages
  • Reading and looking at more artists, in more depth to gain a deeper understanding and to cultivate a better sense of enquiry and finding way to make links with my own work
  • Folding and pleating fabric and making it go where you want it to go is so much harder than it looks! This is an area I would like to explore and master more.

Review against Assessment Criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I did employ a variety of drawing techniques in Part 1 and drew on my printmaking knowledge. I was pleased with much of my observational work although recognise now that I could have extended my marks and worked with a wider range of them.  I had only used dissolvable film and discharge liquid once before as a quick experiment so was pleased in how much my technique improved with each use.

I do work naturally and intuitively with my materials and processes and feel like my formal art background helps with the basics of colour, texture, line, composition.

Quality of Outcome:

This is possibly the hardest to evaluate and critique since I feel that the assignment needs further work. However I am pleased with what I have achieved so far. My last very unfinished sample still excites me with where I could take it, and I am pleased that I have had the boldness to value it enough as I could have easily finished it ‘for the sake of finishing it’. I feel this way there is a better chance of creating something of high quality.

What I need to work heavily on is drawing connections and noting my observations as I go in a more obvious way. I do use the blog more that just to log each exercise so I hope that with time I use images of my work and words to connect my thoughts together further. I know this will help me to refine and formulate new ideas.

The way I work is partly due to time constraints and I would rather ‘keep on top of it’ by posting more regularly. The flip side to this is that my posts sometimes lack the depth. They don’t articulate my decisions clearly. The blog behaves more like an online journal of thoughts in which I don’t spend time editing and adding to a post in order to make it ‘readable’ or to make sense?

I would like pin more of my work up and take photos of these. I feel this would be a good way to solve the problem. Then I can show drawings and samples and images which I feel all connect next to each other.

Demonstration of Creativity:

I think I have been up and down with this. Most of my paper samples are nothing groundbreaking and remain relatively simple in concept. My use of base textiles is varied and I think I did explore different possibilities – reaching the conclusion that both velvet and organdie can create soft/gentle/delicate outcomes.

I feel like I could have pushed the materials further, and I think this is one of the reasons why I stalled on my last piece. Trying to find the edge, and to take more risks.

I think some of my personal voice does come through – there is a playful and energised attitude that is beginning to emerge.

Context:

This is still a weak area of mine. Partly to do with the pressure to verbalise, articulate my thoughts and critical thinking. I know I do it, but it’s all in my head and I have not yet found a process or the tools that would work best for me to create a habit of putting it on paper/blog. I have a strong sense that this is very much linked to what I have previously communicated about keeping up a dialogue of my work. Hearing myself speak out loud to someone makes more sense to me. It is then so much easier to put some of these findings into words.

I am also conscious that I am a critical thinker but this has in the past also inhibited me from actually getting any making done, and it is vital to me that I establish  strong art making practice.

 

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Consolidating a folio of drawings and a written reflection on Part 1

I chose nine drawings to send to my tutor for ongoing feedback. Five of them were from the work I did in Project 2, drawings of the blankets from the archive. I chose a mixture, ink, drypoint, collage and watercolour/pen ones:

I found drawing the blankets from the archive quite a challenge. Trying to record the textures, patterns on a cloth was hard and required a few different approaches. I learnt that I needed to be a lot more focussed and selective when drawing, as it’s almost impossible to process and respond to all the information I am taking in at once, I found it better to make decisions about my drawing. So some I focussed purely on the marks and patterns I could see. Others I found rearranging the fabric and not having it laid out straight was more interesting compositionally. Translating these marks into collage also required me to think differently. How to portray such fine textures and details? I had never thought of using collage in this way. I’ve only ever thought of in terms of shape and form. I have also turned to colour more, and investigated printmaking a bit.

I selected four from Project 3 looking at my flower studies.

Although I enjoyed collecting and arranging my own sources to record from. I don’t think I pushed myself as much in Project 3: Picking and Portraying. I had lots of initial ideas of really playing around with print, pushing the ideas of composition as suggested in the file, but due to being ‘on/off’ with my study time at present I found it hard to keep up the momentum. I think I played it safe/easy in terms of materials.

I really enjoyed looking at Blackadder and Askey in particular – but wondering how I could bring in some other elements. From the research points, I noticed how often I was drawn to and picked out the elements of composition as well as when artists made a bold visual response.

 

Research Point 1: Notes on Wabi Sabi

I have known of the Wabi Sabi concept previously, but was glad to be reminded of it.

Wabi: Freedom from attachment / Subtle / Profundity / Simple / Humble

Sabi: Austere / Sublimity / Asymmetry / Weathered

Wabi-Sabi: Simplicity / Tranquility / Naturalness / Grace

This quote,  “wabi-sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all,”

and from the same site:

Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet—that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of returning to dust. Nature’s cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodied in frayed edges, rust, liver spots. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace both the glory and the melancholy found in these marks of passing time.

Robyn Griggs-Lawrence, Wabi-Sabi: The Art of Imperfection

I find these notions life affirming, and helpful not only in creative making, but approaching living in general. It makes me think of not fighting against something. To live with surrender, it eases the need to assert/prove oneself. It is about accepting things, and realising that true beauty comes from the ability to recognise the beauty, the good everywhere.

Leonard Koren discusses the relationship between Wabi-Sabi and the notion of beauty, “the condition of coming to terms with what you consider ugly…that beauty is a dynamic event”.

This concept of ageing, that that beauty is not static and cannot be found in something not changing.

Sabi things carry the burden of their years with dignity and grace: the chilly mottled surface of an oxidized silver bowl, the yielding gray of weathered wood, the elegant withering of a bereft autumn bough. An old car left in a field to rust, as it transforms from an eyesore into a part of the landscape, could be considered America’s contribution to the evolution of sabi. An abandoned barn, as it collapses in on itself, holds this mystique.

http://nobleharbor.com/tea/chado/WhatIsWabi-Sabi.htm

On reading this, I immediately took my camera and ran out to my garden, and behind my own sheds there is a field, in which there is that type of abandoned barn, collapsing in on itself. I look at it everyday as I park my car near it, and am always drawn to it, never really knowing why. Apart from maybe, thinking, when is it going to fall? Or will it do so, so slowly that I won’t even notice? Photographing it today, I noticed how much more it has crumbled and fallen since i originally moved here. And yet I see it every day? So I didn’t notice.

Wabi-Sabi seems to be about the art of balance. Of noticing how far you can go, or how little you can have, or  how ruined, how old, how minimal, how unfinished, how incomplete. It seems to be about having a peaceful relationship with time. With anything that is dynamic actually. So, relationships and creating come into this too.

Sources:

http://www.utne.com/mind-and-body/wabi-sabi.aspx

http://nobleharbor.com/tea/chado/WhatIsWabi-Sabi.htm

http://www.touchingstone.com/Wabi_Sabi.html

1.4: Lines & Edges / 1.6: Detail & Definition

I found the archive items I had chosen much more conducive to being recorded and observed via these exercises.  I have grouped them together because at times I was using both the idea of line to look at the details, the damage, the close ups. This is probably due to the blankets being blankets, quite flat and 2 dimensional, but with plenty of texture and pattern to record.

 

I recorded the drape and patterns of the teal Lewis blanket using ink. I kept adding papers together as I went. I found this a liberating way to work, only committing to more space as and when I needed it.

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The details, especially the edges, the fraying that occurred in the Flintshire blanket was really interesting to me, as was the pattern from the Lewis blankets. I made many small pencil drawings of them when visiting the collection.

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I then found further ways to explore these marks, with pencil, ink and drypoint printmaking and watercolour washes.

 

I also use ink, pen on acrylic washes, mono print and dry points to capture the lines and details. I found that trying to record the whole item was so difficult, it was much easier to focus, go close-up or pick out key parts that I wanted to record.

 

 

Project 2: Recording & Capturing

I have been working through the exercises, as always in a very UN linear fashion. This is partly due to wanting to make the most of my time recording directly from the collections in situ, and following as many of the exercises as possible in this way. I did make sure to take a lot of photos. I visited three times in total, and found that recording straight from source was the best way for me to really understand the nature and qualities of the blankets.

I did print out my photos, and in some cases colour photocopied them and enlarged them so that I could get a better sense of the details and patterns.

1.3: Making Marks

I thought I would enjoy this exercise. I did enjoy exploring mark making and thinking about the qualities of the blankets. I did come up with some lists in my sketchbook:

Texture, weight, structure, damage, sturdiness, rough, practical, warm, heavy, old, pattern, itchy, thick, weighty, strong, repetition, old, bobbled, fraying, geometric, intense,  weave, handmade, worn, full, enveloping, functional, wrapping, useful, woollen, cotton, linear.

I used a number or tools: toothbrush, sandpaper, roller, scourer, credit card, palette knife, corrugated card, cling film, a bottle cork…

What I found challenging is to interpret the items with these marks. I did create one piece that I thought was successful in capturing some of the linear, strong and weighty qualities:

IMG_2782
Using cork, credit card, palette knife and acrylic

I also experimented with some printmaking techniques, for instance making collagraphs of inked up muslin to reflect the weave, heaviness, intense and full qualities that I had noted in my list, along with the woven elements to the fabric:

IMG_2794

Nostalgia

I find that these Welsh blankets carry a lot of nostalgia for me. It makes me think of people living in more humble situations. A more humble time. These blankets are functional. I associate them with people living in harsher winters, in cold stone and slate cottages with fires and the odd age. It creates an image of ‘home and hearth’.
Even visiting the collection, Jane Beck has recreated a tin shed, full of bakelite goods, using scraps of blankets and made them into cushions, hot water bottle covers, tea cosies…She even has Radio 4 playing in the shop. These evoke another time, a post war era of ‘make do and mend’, rationing, keeping warm, keeping together…cosy, safe, protected.
It is a heritage that isn’t my own, but living here in West Wales, a strong sense of these values remain. The rural life and culture here move at a slower pace then the one that I was brought up in London.
Nostalgia has definitely been making a comeback these past few years. There seems to be a return to bespoke/handmade/craft/ancient arts/vintage. In a world of speed, change, returning to something old can give us a sense of security.
These blankets are standing the test of time, and still serve their purpose.
Particularly the two made by Daniel Lewis all woven with a 4 heddle loom from his house in Barley Mow.