Exploring Ideas – Project 1 – Interpreting Cultural Sources – Stage 3, Creating a portfolio

Its been a while since I managed to sit down and add anything to my learning blog; unfortunately my (now) husband has been in and out of hospital since my last post so frequent trips to and from various hospitals were required through July & August! He is doing well now and was signed off from his treatment just 4 days before our wedding in September (another reason for my slow progress through this part of the course). Still I think I am back on track (for now at least). I guess it is all part and parcel of distance learning and being a mature student. Life frequently gets in the way and never goes to plan. I find myself pulled in so many directions all the time that it makes taking time for me and my studies very hard.

I have made some progress however, my research book is pretty much complete now and I have started to develop some ideas further using various media and techniques. This has led onto a range of very individual samples:

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I really loved the simplicity and lightweight almost ethereal texture of the ‘masi vulavula’ shown in Roger Neich and Mick Pendegast’s book ‘Traditional Tapa’ (above) and have been looking at recreating this in modern materials like Lutradur. Incorporating some of the traditional marks using modern machine stitch and heat methods.

2014-11-02 21.48.14 2014-11-02 21.47.132014-11-02 21.47.31   2014-11-09 21.29.49

I have been struck by the similarity of the process of making Tapa and the felting process used for animal fibres throughout my research. This led to some interesting experiments and samples using an embellishing machine and other felting processes to create bold designs that could be further developed in the future.

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I was also struck by how similar the traditional marks found on a lot of tapa reminded me of stitches. I decided to play around with some stitch combinations and lino printing to explore this further. I feel these samples were very effective and could easily be developed in the future.

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During my research I found reference to the Fiji Times being printed on barkcloth for special souvenir issues. The tradition continued until an automatic printing press was installed in 1958. I liked the idea of printing on to ‘masi’ and decided to develop this idea further, combining it with the developments using Lutradur.

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Filani Macassey is an artist who frequently uses masi (Fijian barkcloth) in her work. She is described by the Fiji times on their media release of 2009:


‘Filani Macassey

With maternal links to Solodamu, Kadavu, Filani Macassey was born in Suva in 1964, but grew up in Kaikohe in the Far North, New Zealand. Filani holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland and is currently pursuing a postgraduate diploma of adult learning at Massey University.’

She uses her art to explore ‘Ideas of belonging, tradition, story telling, journeying, histories and religion …… juxtaposed against a background of being kailoma.’ (https://fijitimes.wordpress.com/filani-macassey/)

One of her pieces: Lesu Mai III is made using digitally printed masi, thus linking the modern with the traditional. She used the words ‘Lesu Mai’ (be back, come back) repeated again and again across the piece.  I looked to see if I could find any other Fijian phrases that I could use to create an homage to this piece. I settled on the words ‘ni sa bula vinaka’ and just ‘bula!’ which are apparently a traditional greeting in Fijian.

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This artists work plus the lost tradition of the Fijian Times being printed on barkcloth has really struck a chord with me. The decline of traditions and their fragmented / delicate survival is almost symbolised within them. I want to develop this idea further in stage 4.


About Julie Hooker

Having recently returned to my roots in Surrey, I am currently studying a BA Hons degree with the OCA. My work is often inspired by the local countryside in the beautiful Surrey Hills area and the wild rugged nature of the North Cornish coast. Steam engines and abandoned industrial history are also recent themes. A free machine embroiderer and felt maker; I like to explore the use of natural, found materials to create my art, whether that be as raw materials to stitch or weave with or as a material with which to produce dye or print with. Previously, I completed City and Guilds parts 1 & 2 Creative Embroidery at the East Berkshire College in Windsor in 2007. I was also awarded first place in the wearable art section of the National Quilt Championships 2008 and 2009 held annually at Sandown Park.
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