You have made a good start to the course, Julie. The samples of work, together with your sketchbook and log book show that you are beginning to develop a sound base of technical and visual skills from which to progress further. Your work is thoughtfully presented, with attention to detail. I would now like you to have the confidence to be a little more adventurous in your project work as I feel you would benefit from the valuable learning that this brings. Similarly, when documenting your work, allow yourself a little more time for reflection and commentary so that you can demonstrate how this is moving you thinking on. Reference to the work of contemporary art practitioners will also help you to contextualize your work further.
Assessment potential (after Assignment 1)
“Formal Assessment: You may want to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.”
Feedback on assignment
Project 1: Making Marks
• To help you to explore simple and expressive approaches to drawing
• To help you to build up confidence through using a wide range of drawing media.
You sent me a wide range of mark making samples to look at and it was good to see your confidence grow through working in this way as you progressed through the exercises. You experimented with a number of contrasting media which helped you to recognize their different characteristics and qualities. The sgraffito or scratched samples in particular provided you with a potentially rich source of mark making to take through into stitch. It would be useful to extend this work by say, trying out the same marks with different media, combining two, or three, working on a greater variety of surfaces, for example, textured paper, newsprint, brown paper as well as papers with different levels of absorbency.
Your sketchbook drawings and photographs provided you with several interesting starting points for further textural studies. Your observational drawings gave you an interesting focus for your subsequent work in both projects and gave you the opportunity to visually represent contrasting textural surfaces as in the snow trees and slate against ballast. With the latter, you could try further experiments with masking tape. Try overlapping strips and then colour washing with ink/paint or wax crayon. The edges absorb the colour and emphasize surface texture qualities very well. You might also like to give some thought to using collage as a way of exploring the relationship between line and shape. Your Cornish rock image would work well if treated in this way. I will send you an image and perhaps this is something you could try out in your sketchbook.
Project 2: Developing marks into stitch/making textures
• To help you to develop your awareness of how fabric, stitch and thread can be manipulated to explore line and texture
You are clearly very confident when working with free machine embroidery and the samples you produced showed a good understanding of the ways in which your mark making could be used as a basis for work with stitch and thread. The hand stitched samples provided a good contrast of surface and the opportunity for you to work with a greater range of yarns. I think that this is something that you could also extend in order to work with a greater variety of background fabrics, thicknesses of yarns and colour ranges. I think that you could also experiment with working on a greater variety of scales. For example, how would some of your samples change if the stitches were worked at three times the scale with a much heavier yarn?
Although presenting your work in a book format was an effective way of keeping all your samples together, it did provide limitations in terms of the size of your samples. I’m also unsure about your decision to use a black fabric as the background. This can have the effect of leeching colour from your work, especially when using subtle greys and blues. A more neutral colour may be a better choice.
I agree with this, in retrospect a lighter background would be better – perhaps white. If I get chance I will remount them
Your choice of image from your stage three sample was a good one, with a strong linear feel. You also achieved some good textural effects through your choice of stitches and thread. This is also a sample which might benefit from being worked at a larger scale. I also wondered whether you could consider using torn strips of fabric overlaid and stitched onto the background for you to work into. The fabrics would then do some of the textural work for you.
Your Cornish rocks were a good starting point for further explorations of stitch and texture. The photo is a great example of the potential of rich visual texture in an image and this is something to capitalize on when working with textile media. I can see why you chose machine embroidery to work this sample up , but you maybe need to think carefully about whether this is the most appropriate choice of technique to create the depth of texture in the photo. Maybe you could think about combining it with some hand stitching to create more surface variety in the sample. Again, enlarging the scale would help you here.
I think perhaps a different fabric would have been better too, I may try with a piled fabric and see throw that works.
I felt that you were moving nearer to a much freer approach with your final sample. There was evidence here of a growing ability to match technique, materials and choice of stitch to suit the interpretation of your image. This is something which will come with practice as you have shown. At this stage, the emphasis is very much on experimentation so don’t worry unduly about trying to create a very resolved final piece.
Learning Logs/Critical essays
Your learning log shows a thoughtful approach to your progress through this assignment. I also liked the way in which you placed your starting points alongside the textile samples. I think this is something you should consider in the future when presenting your work.
You mentioned your concern regarding research. This can take the form of gallery visits, looking at and evaluating the work of contemporary artists, designers and crafts persons. What do you like and why? What is the focus of their work? How might it influence your own working practices in the future?
You have already made a good start in terms of observational drawings. This has proved very useful to you as starting points for your textile work. Consider other things you might include in your sketchbook. It could be the place to note down any ideas you may have, quick sketches at exhibitions, annotated drawings etc. I will send you some further suggestions. You might also like to have a smaller A5 sketchbook for gallery visits etc.
David Hockney. Look at his Mulholland drive painting for use of expressive mark making.
Pauline Burbridge, Leslie Morgan. Mark making in textiles
Creating Sketchbooks for Embroiderers and Textile Artists: Exploring the Embroiderers’ Sketchbook by Kay Greenlees (30 Aug 2005)
Pointers for the next assignment
The next assignment gives you further opportunities to explore visual elements based on your own starting points and ideas. Try to extend your sketchbook work so that you have a greater choice of imagery. It is a large assignment, so be mindful of the amount of sampling you do to keep it manageable.