Part 5, Stage 5 – Sorting

In this stage I am to return to my samples made at stage 3 and make decisions about which techniques and materials to take forward into making my final prototype/maquette.

The course notes state that ‘This sorting stage is for you to make some final decisions about your preferred works or samples from the latest sample-making stage. You are looking for a sample or samples that, with a small amount of development you could make into your final prototype.’

For stage 6 the brief is to make a final piece or group so whilst writing this post I will be trying to narrow things down to come to a final decision on where to go with the project.

Skeleton leaf samples:

Although I really enjoyed making the bowls and I will no doubt return to them at some point; I am not sure that they are what I am looking for as a final piece. I really want to try and make something unique rather than basing it too closely on the work of others. These samples did however lead my to try other structures made using the same materials and techniques which produced far more interesting forms, I am particularly interested in the ‘framework’ produced by the veins of the leaves, the interplay between them and he sheerness of the rest of the leaf:

I love this little structure it is very appealing as a piece. The viewers eye is drawn to examine it in detail. The fact that there is another structure within adds to the fascination.Stitching simply with plain thread and running stitch combined with the natural colour of the piece concentrates all the attention on the delicate intricate structure made up by the pattern of leaf veins I also like the fact that these leaves are uncoloured, they add a simplicity and purity to the piece. I am not sure that using other colours would  work as it may detract from this:

The small vessel made using the same method and materials as the ball is also very effective. Without the structure within and the closed form it s not anywhere near as intriguing but does have a use. However for this project I don’t necessarily wish to find a use for the pieces in fact I would rather try to steer clear of my normal urge to make things that have a use.

The most interesting sample by far from this set of samples was the ‘seed pod’. Again I feel it is the inclusion of other objects within the structure that makes it so interesting to look at. Again it is the structure and simplicity that intrigues me. Using the darker seeds in the middle draws the eye past the external structure. Keeping the leaves uncoloured enables the eye to see what is within. I can only imagine what this would look like on a huge scale! I do wonder what several of these pods together would look like as a group. Would the structures become more enigmatic or less? Would it work as a group of identical samples or would it detract from the original singular piece?

Bark and leaf structure samples

Again I may well return to this idea at a future time. I really enjoyed using the materials that I had gathered whilst our walking and groups of wrapped bark vessels would be visually appealing. The texture and colours work well together and a well crafted piece could easily be developed from the samples. However, I have to restrict myself to developing a sample / samples into one final piece / group. This just isn’t my favourite technique so it is for that reason alone that I am leaving this for now.

This little sculpture is a favourite of mine and it sits so nicely amongst the other samples that I feel it needs noting for possible further development. I can see a series of structures being able to be developed from this simple first idea. It could be enlarged using larger twigs to create a large sculpture and joined with others to create more 3D structures. It is one I really want to return to and take into a woodland setting perhaps creating hanging installations that live in the woodland.

I really loved sampling with the grasses however I am not choosing to carry on at this point. This is mainly due to the time of year. The time for harvesting good quality grasses for this technique has unfortunately passed for this year. All the grasses are beginning to die back and are not flexible enough to use. More research and practice into preserving the grasses would also need to be carried out before I would feel confident creating a well crafted piece. This I do not have enough time for at this point in the course.

Whilst I have been going through the process of writing this post it has become clear to me that I have really enjoyed this section of the course very much and I am really having a lot of trouble deciding which samples to carry on further. I think this is due to the project being materials rather than design led and entirely of my own choice.  All these samples were first sketches of ideas and would be interesting to develop into finished pieces as far as I am concerned but I cannot choose everything at this time. The brief is to create a single piece or multiple not a whole exhibition!

I have decided that I really want to develop the ‘seed pods’ above all else. They intrigue me as an idea and I really would like to concentrate on trying to create a group of them, and making them really well. I have never made multiples of anything and  I do wonder what several of these pods together would look like as a group. I also want to explore keeping things simple. I tend to overcomplicate everything (my own non degree work is generally very intricate machine stitching with lots of colour and layers) so switching to this ‘slower’ simple hand stitched approach is something I really want to try.

There are also lots of questions regarding this sample in my head: Could adding another ‘skeleton’ such as the fine twigs or woven grasses make them more interesting still? Would the structures become more enigmatic or less? Would it work as a group of identical samples or would it detract from the original singular piece? I will need to spend some time investigating how a group would be best displayed and fine tune the making of the pods – which stitches to use to construct them, what colour thread and what size to make them. I have a range of sizes of leaves and some other colours of leaves as well. Much as my first instinct is to stick with the light uncoloured leaves others may work as well.

My next step is to try out some of these ideas and make some more ‘part’ samples to trial the adjustments before making the final pieces. I am also going to do some more research to look for examples of ways small groups of objects can be displayed in art to try to decide the best way for me to hang or display them as I feel that this will be intrinsic in the success of the piece.

Advertisements
Posted in Mixed Media For Textiles, MM part5 | Leave a comment

Research trip – Alice Fox’s ‘Findings’ at the knit and stitch show, Alexandra Palace 6th October 2016

I wasn’t going to visit the knitting and stitching show this year, I have visited pretty much every year since the show started and with everything that has been going on lately I felt that I couldn’t really be bothered. That was until I saw the list of exhibitors. One stood out to be immediately: Alice Fox. Those who know me well know that I have long been a fan of hers. In fact she has inspired me a lot for this latest project. The idea of using objects found on walks, keeping it simple and elegant using nature’s produce as it were. Once I saw that she was exhibiting her ‘findings’ collection I had to go. Even if it was just to see that.

I am so glad that I did. One of the main points for me to look at was the way that she displays her work. Such small items need precise placement. I was particularly interested to see how she would display her acorns. They are so small and I presumed they would be a little lost in such a huge arena but they worked really well encased en mass and in small groups in perspex boxes.

Darned acorns

Acorns with needle woven cups

I really like the way Alice works and have followed her for some time now. I especially enjoy the playful nature of her work. It is neat, well thought out and precise which is the way I like to work. It is unusual to see natural materials and found objects, worked in this way. Quite often artists use these types of materials in a far looser spontaneous way. 

I also admire the way she mends the items most of the findings are based around the idea of the mending or darning of the items.

Darned conker shells

Leaf cubes

I was very interested to see these close up. They are so precious. The range of colours is so subtle and adds interest  I wondered how she preserves the colours and wether she chooses the leaves depending on  which colour she requires.

Handmade balls of string

The handmade balls of string that Alice has made using found materials inspired me to have a go myself when I got home  it was very tricky to do but I did manage to produce a small ball using her instructions. I am quite proud of it and have added it to my collection of samples.

Posted in Mixed Media For Textiles, MM part5, MM research | Leave a comment

Part 5, Stages 3 & 4 – Further Sample making

I am now ready to start making some more samples to take my investigations further. I still need to answer the questions I asked myself before:

  • Can I weave or join grasses or leaves to a high enough standard to make vessels and would I be able to make them interesting enough?
  • Could they be made strong enough or stiff enough to be usable. what could be used to stiffen them?
  • Could other natural materials be used in conjunction with leaves? i.e. Grasses for stitching, bark for structure, seeds for decoration?
  • Can leaves or bark be embroidered into successfully? Can leaves be stitched together or embellished with machine stitch?
  • Is there a way to make my own skeleton leaves to add more choice of shape?
  • Could I wrap objects in such a way  as to convey a feeling successfully?
  • Could I make my own cocoon like structures either from natural materials or other materials in more of a conceptual piece / collection and do I have enough time to do this successfully to my satisfaction?

A few, I am now able to answer:

  • Can leaves or bark be embroidered into successfully? Can leaves be stitched together or embellished with machine stitch?

Yes they can although great care needs to be taken. Machine stitch needs the addition of a water-soluble product to protect the leaf from the thread ripping through it. This can be used to deconstruct the leaves too if desired.

  • Is there a way to make my own skeleton leaves to add more choice of shape?

Yes I can do this although using native local leaves limits the stability of finish achieved, therefore continuing with purchased skeleton leaves may be a better way forward especially considering the time restraints I have. I need to keep developing the technique quite a bit before I feel it is successful enough to use for a finished piece.

  • Could I make my own cocoon like structures either from natural materials or other materials in more of a conceptual piece / collection and do I have enough time to do this successfully to my satisfaction?

Yes I managed to make some very exciting small structures from the skeleton leaves.  a couple were particularly successful; the leaf ball, tiny vessel made from only four leaves and the seed pod containing seeds are really exciting and although very delicate and tricky to make could be developed in the time frame to a high standard.

As for the others I need to plan some samples to reach the answers.

I am going to try to use some long grass to construct vessels this may include knitting or weaving the grasses to create the structure. This poses another question: Can you knit with grass?

I am also going to see what I can achieve with bark. I have been for my walk in the woods and found some great pieces of bark which I stripped from fallen twigs and branches. A lot of them still have moss and lichen attached which will add to the overall natural appeal.I propose to make a couple of vessels using the found bark for structure. It would be interesting to see if I can combine it with some of the leaves.

I am also going to try wrapping both grass and other materials to create cocoons. It will be interesting to combine thread with natural grasses etc. and see what happens when the grasses dry.

Samples

20161018_095513_1476796544304

I have decided to start with the bark that I collected: I found two pieces that interlocked together. To form a vessel I decided to line the structure with a preserved leaf. I then decided to mount it on a small leaf to give it a base. Although very plain I decided not to embellish it further as I like its natural look. It is perfectly sturdy and could be embellished at a later date if required but for now it proves that the materials work together as an idea.

20161018_095522_1476796544454

For my second little sample in this set (above) I used the same materials but decided to try to hold the structure together by wrapping and tying it thus bringing in the wrapping technique that I so enjoyed earlier on in the course. It also introduced some extra colour and texture. I ideally want to keep to the natural colours found in the materials themselves during this exploration but I feel that a little outside influence won’t hurt. I had a good look through my bag of yarns and threads and came across some recycled sari yarn. So although not natural colours it is at least  recycled. I have used this yarn before with all natural materials most notably in some weaving I did during my first course. I also found some old ‘eyelash’ type yarn that was left over from a previous project. I thought that the fluffy nature of the eyelash yarn would contrast well with the other textures and I was right. It almost reminds me of wool caught on a gate post and blends in with its natural background well. The softer wrappings almost seem to be protecting the bark and softer inner layer of leaf in the centre. Holding them altogether and cushioning them.

20161018_095331

My third sample is a larger version of the above.A small progression; I wanted to try a change of scale and get an idea how they would look if grouped. I’m not sure that this one works as well as the first. The proportions do not seem to work as well and it looks a little stumpy compared to the first too being wider and only a little taller. Repeating this with longer pieces of bark would lead to it being better proportioned

Following on from these samples I decided to try wrapping leaves and half cylinders of bark with the aim of creating a more cocoon like structure which would be softer and horizontal rather than vertical and which served no purpose whatsoever. I have a very strong tendency to want a use for everything which sometimes hinders expression.

This was an interesting exercise even though I don’t think that the ‘parcels’ worked so well as the first three bark samples.Their lack of structure appears to be part of their failure. I much prefer the standing versions as they do have structure and form. I also varied the colours slightly which did not add to their success they ceased to blend together with the natural colours of the bark and leaves.

Recording my sample by making drawings and digital pictures of samples in my large sketchbook. My drawing skills still need developing but I am beginning to enjoy recording my samples in this way. I need to practice more and perhaps try some more ‘note like’ sketches rather than concentrating on producing good drawings.

For my next set of samples I wanted to try to use grasses to create vessels or structures:

My first idea was to try knitting with the grass. I selected some reasonably flexible long grasses from the garden. This time of year they are not a flexible as they once were and when trying to knit they continuously broke making them useless as yarn for knitting. So I put this idea to one side.

following this slight disappointment, I thought I would return to the wrapping, trying to form very natural cocoon like structures from grasses wrapped and woven together. I decided to use a very small amount of thread to both secure them and add a little colour that would remain if the grasses lost their colour with time I chose threads that closely matched with the grasses to remind myself of their original colour in the future.I also tied to wind one using a horsetail. I really like this small group of wrappings but they are not yet complete. I am looking forward to them ageing and changing over time only then will they be finished.

My next idea was to weave the grasses together to create a form. Again the grasses were too dry so I went for another walk.

This time I went to a part of the woods which is more boggy than the rest and looked to see if there were any reed type grasses growing there. Luckily for me I found a few patches. These were much more supple than the grasses and I found that I could weave with them relatively easily. I have never tried any form of basketry so it was a bit of trial and error. I decided to try to weave a small section then gather the long lengths up to make an elongated form which would hopefully have an elegant look, similar to the reeds themselves. This worked really well and I really like the elegant form.

The weaving requires some further practice but I feel it is a good start. I need to work on the stability of the design too as it will not stand on its own due to it being very top-heavy. I will need to engineer some form of weighted flat base if I am to develop this sample further.

Following on from the grass vessel I wondered if I would strengthen the lengths using stitch and also use stitch to form the grasses into a different type of vessel.So This time I laid the grasses into a loose grid and used a zigzag stitch over the stems. These were then gathered around an old vase using rubber bands, soaked in a solution of PVA and water and left to dry overnight. Once the rubber bands and vase were removed I tied the ends together. All in all quite successful. As with the previous sample I Like the way that the stems flow out of the top of the vessel. They both look very elegant but sadly require work to stand alone. Overall I refer the woven structure more than the stitched one. I find the stitching takes over a little and reduces the natural appeal created when using wholly natural materials.

I recorded these in my sketch book (above) and moved onto my final sample.

20161018_095634

My last sample uses twigs collected from the silver birch tree at the bottom of the garden and some of the reed type grasses. I wondered if I could weave the reed through the twigs to form a seed pod shape similar to the one I made with the skeleton leaves. It did work but was very tricky as the  twigs were prone to snapping. A further development of this idea would be to join three of these together to form a pod or indeed to use a larger twig to make a vessel of some kind. The skeletal form works well as do the colours and textures of the chosen materials. It looks delicate yet remains strong in form so fits in very well with the other samples.

Conclusion

Overall I am really rather pleased with the samples so far. I think there are some really strong ideas between them. The trouble I have now is deciding which ones to take forward into development.

I am particularly taken with the simple yet stunning forms created using the skeleton leaves. They have such elegance about them. Although obviously created by hand they would not be out of place in nature themselves.I would need to investigate how to display a few of them together and decide whether to make several the same or make each one unique but similar.

I also like the grass vessels I think they are very unusual and again have an ethereal elegance about them. They are crying out to be developed further and would look stunning in a group. There are a few intrinsic problems with  them regarding stability and the unknown factor of how they would survive once dried; but with research and development they could work really well

And back to the questions?

  • Can I weave or join grasses or leaves to a high enough standard to make vessels and would I be able to make them interesting enough?

Yes with practice I feel I could. Weaving them together would be the best way as stitching is too obtrusive.

  • Could they be made strong enough or stiff enough to be usable. what could be used to stiffen them?

Yes they are strong enough although further investigation is needed into a weighted bottom to aid stability.

  • Could other natural materials be used in conjunction with leaves? i.e. Grasses for stitching, bark for structure, seeds for decoration?

Yes the only limitation is imagination!

  • Can leaves or bark be embroidered into successfully? Can leaves be stitched together or embellished with machine stitch?

Yes they can although great care needs to be taken. Machine stitch needs the addition of a water-soluble product to protect the leaf from the thread ripping through it. This can be used to deconstruct the leaves too if desired.

  • Is there a way to make my own skeleton leaves to add more choice of shape?

Yes I can do this although using native local leaves limits the stability of finish achieved, therefore continuing with purchased skeleton leaves may be a better way forward especially considering the time restraints I have. I need to keep developing the technique quite a bit before I feel it is successful enough to use for a finished piece.

  • Could I wrap objects in such a way as to convey a feeling successfully?

Yes this could be done using colour and texture. It is not something I wish to pursue at the moment 

  • Could I make my own cocoon like structures either from natural materials or other materials in more of a conceptual piece / collection and do I have enough time to do this successfully to my satisfaction?

Yes I managed to make some very exciting small structures from the skeleton leaves. a couple were particularly successful; the leaf ball, tiny vessel made from only four leaves and the seed pod containing seeds are really exciting and although very delicate and tricky to make could be developed in the time frame to a high standard.

 

 

 

Posted in Mixed Media For Textiles, MM part5 | Leave a comment

Part 5, Stage 3 – Planning further sample making

I have received an email back from my tutor in answer to my suggested direction for part 5. I had suggested two lines of enquiry:

The first was for a set of experimental vessels / sculptural forms constructed using natural found objects such as bark, leaves and grasses. I had really enjoyed my experiments with leaves that I did for part 2 and wanted to develop that further.
The second was a collection of cocoon / pod like forms using wrapping techniques. Each containing a secret within it. They could be coloured / wrapped in a way that conveys an idea of what is within for example a dark secret could be dark and spiky whereas a secret hope or dream would be lighter and luminous.
I personally preferred the first idea wanted some advice on where to go next. Pros and cons etc. I had listed the things I thought I needed to investigate in the sample stage on the blog.
Rebecca replied with the following suggestions:
She stated that whilst both ideas were interesting the second one was made weaker by the inclusion of messages and meanings. 
She suggested that she didn’t think there is a need to separate my two ideas at this stage and to explore making vessels/cocoons/pods (these are all sculptural) from the materials that I find stimulating and to be open minded in the techniques I use.
She also suggested that I aim to be playful and innovative and using reflections to make decisions on what I think is working well and how to develop my idea further.
Armed with these suggestions and advice I feel that I am on the right track developing samples using natural materials to make structures whether they be pods cocoons or vessels. I am going to try and be led by the materials themselves. I am off for a walk in the woodlands around the school in a short while to see what I can find to use with some of the preserved leaves I now have.
Posted in Mixed Media For Textiles, MM part5 | Leave a comment

Part 5, Stage 2 – Further research trials: making my own skeleton leaves and preserving leaves

During my original experiments with leaves I decided that at some point I would need to research preservation techniques for leaves. Whilst I await an email before proceeding with my sample making I thought I would take some time to do this.

There seems to be many suggestions available online. I decided to try the following: Pressing the leaves using a flower press, preserving the leaves with glycerine, microwaving the leaves and trying to make my own skeleton leaves.

Using a flower press

I had actually forgotten how lovely this is to do. the eaves kept their colour well but obviously lost their flexibility and handle. Predictably they became a little like tissue which is not suitable for stitching into as they become far too delicate and fragile. Still, a lovely exercise to do and very useful if I were to be using paper making techniques to create the structures.

20161017_123615

Preserving the leaves in glycerine

This method involves making a solution with glycerine (available from chemists in larger bottles than in the cake making isle). Then submerging the leaves into the solution for a few days until the leaves absorb the glycerine into their veins replacing the water already in them. There was some loss of colour but actually they survived better than I thought (See picture above). They certainly had a better handle and kept their suppleness. Therefore being much more suitable for stitching. Bark added to the solution also stayed usable and supple making it slightly easier to stitch through if necessary.

Microwaving the leaves

Microwaving the leaves proved to be highly tricky to master. It was so easy to over do the leaves and rather than drying them I kept burning them, much to the disgust of my two canine companions who seemed more than a little upset with the fumes that accompanied their dinner! The leaves also ended to to fragile to use for my type of project so all in all a little disappointing.

Trying to make my own skeleton leaves

From research carried out on the internet and speaking to others I got the distinct impression that this was not going to be an easy task. Nevertheless I thought I would give it a go. The most reliable method appeared to be simmering the newly fallen leaves in a solution of washing soda and water. Some advise a small amount of detergent as well. The head of science at the school I work at also suggested that washing up detergent is useful in breaking down cell walls so I tried adding a little of that as well.

I chose a selection of leaves as you can see from the pictures above. Once the leaves has gone sufficiently ‘mushy’ rather like soft well boiled cabbage, I removed them from the pot and rubbed them gently with a paint brush. This removes the pulp but leaves the veins intact (hopefully). Some leaves were better than others. Some completely disintegrated whilst others held up remarkably well. Chestnut and oak leaves worked particularly well whereas the silver birch leaves I collected fell apart too easily.

The leaves once processed still had a lot of colouration left which needed to be removed. Following some more research I bleached the leaves in a mix of thick bleach and water. This worked very well (see pictures below). The main problem I have is that again, once dried the leaves are very delicate compared to the ones that I purchased to use for the samples so for the time being I feel that I will continue to use them until I can find another method that keeps the leaves soft enough to use.

20161017_123140  20161019_095813

Bleaching Leaves

I had an idea that I would try bleaching some fresh leaves to see what would happen. I left the leaves in a solution of bleach and water for around 24 hours. The results were very interesting. The leaves took on a very ethereal translucence and dried to be very ghost like. They again ended up quite tissue like but had a little more body than the ‘homemade’ skeleton leaves. I soaked them in glycerine afterwards to preserve them. I’m not sure I like the effect as the detail of the veins are lost in the process. They are visible when they are held up to the light, I took a picture whist they were in the bleach bath when they were around halfway through the process of bleaching. I prefer the markings produced at this stage much more than the finished effect. If the process could be stopped halfway it would produce wonderful marked translucent leaves for using as materials for vessels.

20161018_103832_147686977071720161019_103327_147686977041820161019_103356_1476869769855

This section of research took quite a long time to complete but was well worth the effort. The glycerine method was by far the best way that I tried to preserve the leaves to keep some strength in them, all the others led to leaves that were too fragile. Pressing worked well if the leaves didn’t require stitching and bleaching could be used as an alternative method. It is not a technique I had come across and I am glad I tried it on a whim. I may try some more; removing them at a part bleached stage.

I may also try using larger horse chestnut leaves to skeletonize as these worked the best of the leaves I experimented with. Larger structures could then be made with these. I may try soaking them in glycerine this time to see if that makes any difference to their strength and handle. Preserving leaves in wax is another option to try in the future.

The trouble I am having at the moment is knowing where to stop. I think this project may well run and run but I cannot afford to tally too long experimenting with techniques. I need to press on and start to narrow things down as well as trying some other ideas out to try and make a collection of experimental samples from which to select a couple to proceed with. I have emailed my tutor with some lines of enquiry I would like to follow. I am hoping to start on some more samples as soon as I hear back.

 

 

Posted in Mixed Media For Textiles, MM part5, MM research | Leave a comment

Part 5, Stage 3 & 4 – Sample making

I was particularly interested in the skeleton leaf bowls by artist Kay Sekimachi during my research and decided to see if I could produce a similar sample. I started by using a decoupage technique with watered down PVA glue to try to create a small bowl using a glass as a mold. Unfortunately it didn’t work well. I didn’t think about releasing it from the mold and the PVA stuck hard making it impossible to remove it also pooled and created very shiny areas which I did not want. Learning from this for my second sample I wrapped the glass in clingfilm I then used a very small amount of PVA to hold the leaves together they were then stitched together using a decorative metallic thread and I then used a few coats of spray varnish to strengthen the leaves. The spray varnish,  I discovered stabilised the leaf very well. Even a light coat meant that the leaf could be bent and folded without damage (this may come in useful when I come to try my idea of embroidering skeleton leaves in a while). It did not make the structure as hard as I would like as a finish as it is still bendy but it is stable and useable.

I really like the way that the leaves capture the light. They almost glow as the sunlight passes through them the metallic stitching works well with this providing a nice contrast in colour and texture.

For my next sample I decided to try machine stitching to join the leaves by following the veins in the leaves. I used a light gold thread to symbolise the preciousness of nature. I wouldn’t say that it was a complete success as the pull of the thread tore at the structure of the leaf degrading it severely.

Curiously it almost adds to the delicate nature of the bowl. I gently tore away the excess leaves leaving a ragged edge to highlight this. The bowl has taken on a very lace like appearance a totally different effect from the previous sample.

For my third sample I tried layering up multiple leaves and hand stitching them together in the same way as the first sample. It was molded over a larger, more shallow bowl. It sits well enough but could do with a slight adjustment as it is a little too shallow for my taste. It is also a little bit floppy. If I were to remake it I would find something to make it more rigid so it could be useable. I do have some resin and ‘decoform’ in stock and also some ‘pavapol’ so I may do some explorative sampling to explore the effects of these on the leaves. It does have a lovely translucency which I wouldn’t want to lose.

I tried to go for a simplified form for my fourth sample. I limited myself to only four leaves and tried to see if they could be joined simply with a running stitch to form a vessel. By stitching very closely around the edges then folding in one end a very simple but very pleasing small vessel with a lovely sheer appearance. Again I would like to find a way to stiffen it to make it more stable and protect it. I really like the simplicity of its form, its delicate look and the lines created by the veins.

My next step was to take the same number and size of leaves and technique for joining but this time folded in both ends. For a bit of fun I also added a pleated leaf inside the ‘ball’ to add more interest when looking closely. This little ball also has an added bit of fun – my daughter and I ended up with the giggles trying to throw it to each other; it is so light it will not travel through the air and just floats to the ground! So much fun.

My last sample is a development if the previous two samples. This time I limited myself to only three leaves and stitched them in the same way. Instead of folding in the ends I wrapped them carefully to form a point. This created a pod similar to some in my sketchbook. To add to this effect I added a string of hollyhock seeds from my garden to add interest when viewed up close. This is by far my favourite sample of this set. I feel really satisfied by the simplicity of the form, the intricate lines created by the veins and the beautiful sheer, ethereal feel to it and could make them all day long. It would be great to try them in different sizes or with different types and shapes of leaves.

My final task for this post was to record the samples in my large A3 sketchbook. For this I chose to draw some myself and also to photograph the samples and use digital filters to see if I could learn more by examining the samples in a different way. For example; by sharpening an image, zooming in or looking at it in the negative one can often see different details emerge. Also new colour scheme ideas emerge. Skeleton leaves could be dyed different colours for different effects for instance.

Posted in Mixed Media For Textiles, MM part5 | Leave a comment

Part 5, stage 2 – further research

In this stage I will be looking back at some of the research I have already conducted and develop my design ideas with further research. Stimulated by stage 1 (reviewing) I will need to conduct some further research into relevent artists and add to it by gathering some more inspirational material from artists I have not come across before. I will also need to add to my knowledge of some techniques and explore some new materials to get to a point at which I can start working on some samples based on my ideas.

My first step will be to do some further in-depth research into artists that create pods / cocoons / vessels and similar 3D sculptures; starting with Susan Benarcik and Judith Scott and to see if I can discover some other artists that work in a similar way using wrapping or woven structures or similar. I also want to take a quick look at (particularly) embroiderers who use and stitch into unusual materials like leaves and clay / stone. I do not want to get bogged down at this stage – it is more of a brain storming exercise really.

Cocoons / Pods / Similar vessels / 3D Structures

I seem to be being drawn to the cocoon / pod and vessel idea more and more so I am going to start there. I want to take a closer look at a couple of things thrown up during my original research. I am trying really hard to keep an open mind at this stage but I feel that it is between two ideas at the moment: Dream or secret cocoons and leaf / grass / clay set of natural inspired vessels.

Susan Benarcik

Described in our course notes as a printmaker and sculptor who takes elemental forms of the natural & manmade world by stacking, stringing, layering, knotting and weaving into 3 dimensional sculpture. Themes in her work are varied but include birth, growth survival and death. Her works tend to have a naturalistic basis and most are large-scale.

image

Susan’s website (susanbenarcik.com) describes the piece shown above as: ‘Mental Notes is a sculptural installation and metaphor for layers of information collecting in our minds. Layered stories, imagery, notations, knowledge tucked away for future use. Thirty forms ranging in length, weight, and color, are made of discarded books, collected by friends and strangers, stacked on copper wires, they sway ever so slightly in each space.’ I can really relate to this piece. I am a frenetic note and list writer. I find sometimes it is helpful but mostly unhelpful and possibly unhealthy as I am sure it places too much stress on me. I wish I had somewhere to store all my mental notes, ideas and to do’s but these stack really do remind me of my brain at times! I really like the way the elements are hung enabling the viewer to walk amongst them. The hanging / placement of my final piece will be an important consideration.

What I find most interesting about Susan Benarcik’s work is her use of shadows and open construction techniques to connect the sculptures to the environment they are placed in for example, the shadows cast by the  installations are an intrinsic part of the piece; they reach out to the space beyond and create new views of the piece against any backdrop. The internal and negative spaces within and surrounding  the grouped objects is also an important part of the overall piece when viewed.I also like the way that some of these structures protect or wrap things inside such as ‘Heliophilous’ below the structure is delicate but protective. It reminds me strongly of insect cocoons which sometimes have a net like structure around them for protection..

In an article I found online by Stacey Donovan, Benarcik is described as a “Manhattan based eco-artist whose work is deeply rooted in horticulture and design.” Her choice of materials are described as follows: “Benarcik uses such elements as string, wire, and grapevine and joins them with “upcycled” or recycled natural materials that result in distinctive and idiomatic sculptures.” (http://www.donovanedits.com/decoratiPDFs/benarcik.pdf)

IMG_2688 (1)Heliophilous (attracted to sunlight) I like the use of the spiral and floating layer of wire around the inner ‘seed pod’ the shadows cast on the behind the piece are amazing. The piece really works well with the light.

IMG_2699

Residence Pods. Again the shadows cast by these pieces seem integral to the piece.This group of pods would work really well in a natural environment just as they do in the modern clinical setting of the gallery. Again the ‘protective’ shell although delicate and sheer is very strong.

Her new work which includes the ‘residency pods’ above as well as another favourite piece of mine ‘Helliophilous’ (above and below) was produced for a new exhibition at The Mezzanine Gallery in Delaware. Of the this exhibition she writes on her website “The parameters that the gallery space provided were unique. I was limited to making smaller sculpture and as you know that concept is rather foreign to me. In addition, none of my suspended sculpture would fit the bill as nothing could be hung from the ceiling in the Mezzanine gallery. In the end, I’m happy to have been challenged by these constraints, and look forward to making more intimate sculptural work – of course I don’t think it’s possible to stop making the larger work, so no worries fans!”

Heliophilus_det3

I like the way that this piece reaches into the space surrounding it. I did a similar thing with the wire wrapped dinosaur sample.

I decided to take a look and try to find more cocoon like structures and vessels starting on google. Wow what a lot of examples there are! After hours of looking at photographs online most of it wasted as I could not get back to an original artist website to go with the pictures I managed to choose a couple of artists to take a closer look at for specific reasons:

Anita Van Houttum

  

Anita Van Houttum is a ceramics artist from the Netherlands her inspiration is mostly taken from different shapes and structures found in nature, art and architecture. Her ceramic cocoons are made from paper clay which enables them to be strong and lightweight. I like the natural texture she creates with the clay making the cocoons quite realistic. I also like the varied shapes of the cocoons themselves and the use of broken or opened cocoons as a collection. I think paper clay would be a good material for other vessels too. I wonder if it can be embroidered into successfully?

1.jpg

Jane Wafer

Whilst looking for more ‘cocoon artists’ I came across Jane Wafer’s work she is an artist based in Oxford working in sculpture. She has a doctorate in biology so unsurprisingly her inspiration comes from an interest in natural sciences.  She uses both natural and man made materials to create sculptures based on the ‘connection between mathematics, aesthetics and natural forms.’

NOT-DOINGS

The Not-Doings (above) are made from recycled materials, suspended to form a group. They are large-scale and are very intriguing. According to the write-up on her website they are ‘part of an investigation into rites of passage and takes its title from The Eagle’s Gift, one of a controversial series of books by Carlos Castaneda popular in the 1960s and 70s, in which the author tells of being suspended from a tree all night in a “Not-Doing”, a rite of passage on his path to becoming a shaman.’(http://www.janewafer.com/#/notdoings/)

Inspired by the lives of insects, in particular wasps nests made of natural paper mâché and chrysalises ‘Their ambiguity and human scale introduce a sense of the uncanny. They are waiting to emerge, hovering on the threshold of becoming something else. They have been exhibited in various locations in London and Oxford, including the Royal Festival Hall where they were shown as part of Pestival, a science-art collaboration on the theme of insects.’ (http://www.janewafer.com/#/notdoings/)

1.jpg

Alumosomes, also by Jane Wafer are hanging knitted wire forms made using the mathematical Fibonacci sequence. Again I like the hanging rather ethereal feel to this installation. They blend so well with the environment whilst being totally alien to it.

Judith Scott

judy_hugging_sculpture

‘Within the core of each piece might be hidden a special talisman of a significance known to Judith alone.’

The above quote from Judith Scott’s website says it all for me. The mystery of why, and what was wrapped in the middle of some of those sculptures really gets my imagination going. I really like the idea of hiding or protecting something precious or perhaps something you don’t want to see / think about in a structure.

Ideas for dream / secret cocoons:

Each one could contain  hiden secret / dream?

Could they be coloured / wrapped / lit to suggest what lies within

A couple open – hopes realised? Dark secrets let go of / leaked out

Hanging? How?

I have ordered a couple of books about Judith Scott: Entwined: Sisters and Secrets in the Silent World of Artist Judith Scott (28 Jun 2016 by Joyce Scott) and Judith Scott: Bound and Unbound (24 Oct 2014 by Catherine Morris and Matthew Higgs) as a gift to myself for my birthday which I hope will add to my research that I carried out previously. I will add anything that I find out at a later date once I have read the books.

gold-and-pearl-cocoon

I found this interesting fact whilst browsing for information on artists creating cocoons on https://www.thepearlgirls.com/category/all-about-pearls-our-blog-posts/science-pearls/page/2/:

‘This is the work of a caddisfly larvae. These young caddisfly build a cocoon in lakes, rivers and streams. They product silk and together with rocks and twigs, they build a cocoon. The silk acts like a glue holding their little cocoon together. They then enter a pupa stage for a few weeks or month. As water temperatures cool, they emerge and swim to the surface where they fly off into adult life. As adults, caddis flies resemble moths.’

French naturalist and artist Hubert Duprat wanted to find out if the flies would use any provided materials to create cocoons. He gave them gold flakes, pearls and opals. The flies obligingly used the materials to make the most wondrous creations show below. They now make beautiful art together. Isn’t nature amazing?

I would love to try getting animals to create. It would be very difficult to train an animal to do such a thing although my tutor has mentioned a friend who leaves thread out for birds to build their nests with. This could be an interesting idea to investigate but you would have to know where the nest was being built to be able to retrieve it.

I like the idea of being similar to the cadis fly making things from objects I find. I have always made things with recycled ‘rubbish’ and am now interested in using natural ‘found’ or inspired objects. It would be interesting to see think about what objects could be used. Obviously they would not be as jewel like as these cocoons but something similar could be achieved with stones and shells perhaps?

pearl-gold-and-opal-cocoon

stones and pearl cocoon

gold and pearls cocoon

Woven structures / leaves & grasses

Aly De Groot

6

‘too hard basket’ Plant fibres, plant dyes, found objects, 30x25x50cm Aly De Groot.

Aly De Groot’s waving pushes basketry and weaving to its limits. She also produces great eco dyed textiles using leaves to add colour to wearable art and reclaimed fabrics. I really enjoy looking at the texture and colours that she produces. the natural look end experimental nature of her work using ‘quirky’ materials really appeals to me and fits in well with the way my own work is going at the moment. Perhaps I could learn to weave found leaves etc. into such pots.

 

Kay Sekimachi

leaf-1

leaf-5

leaf-6

Whilst perusing the internet for examples of vessels made from leaves I found many examples. None more awe inspiring to me than the delicate bowls made by Kay Sekimachi. Her bowls are just beautiful, so delicate they really speak volumes about the beauty, fragility yet strength of nature. ‘The pieces are held together with the help of Kozo paper and special coatings of both watercolor and Krylon.’ (http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2015/05/skeletal-maple-leaf-bowl-sculptures-by-kay-sekimachi/) I was not sure what Krylon and Kozo paper were so had to look them up, but they are basically spray lacquer and a fine Japanese paper. This method could work well with my idea for vessels made from grasses and leaves.

‘While attending school at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, artist Kay Sekimachi was struck by a quote from her teacher Trude Guermon-prez: “Try to make something with the simplest of means.” Over the span of her sixty-year art career Sekimachi took the words to heart as she rose to the forefront of contemporary fiber art in the 60s and 70s by creating challenging artworks with extremely limited means. Leaves, hornet’s nest paper, grass, shells, and linen constitute many of the materials in Sekimachi’s repertoire.’ Via the Smithsonian: http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2015/05/skeletal-maple-leaf-bowl-sculptures-by-kay-sekimachi/

I love the delicacy yet strength of these bowls and wonder if they could influence other forms of  vessel. Honesty seed pods immediately when thinking about translucent, delicate materials that protect. I really want to find out if I can re-produce something similar and what it could lead on to.

Jane Bevan

Jane Bevan is an English artist based in Derbyshire. She makes forms and vessels using found natural objects generally collected in her local woodlands. She makes excellent use of bark, twigs and thorns to create modern pieces with a lovely simplicity about them. I am particularly struck by the idea of using bark. It is not something I had thought of thus far and is something I would really like to investigate.

A large vessel made of bark with very simple stitched detail. I like the way she has chosen to use a contrasting coloured thread to make the stitching stand out in a similar way that I tried with my stitched leaves.

Basket made of woven twigs. I really like the idea of weaving sticks and twigs together to create structures. This may well be worth investigating.

Tiny vessels made using bark and leaf stems. I like the change in scale between these smaller items and the larger bark vessel above. A range of sizes would be worth exploring.

Ideas inspired by nature’s structures:

Bowls / vessels / sculptural forms made with leaves, grasses, twigs or bark

Shapes / forms taken from nature: seed heads, cacti, pods, cocoons, insect nests, bird nests.

Conclusion

I am coming to a point at which I have some great ideas floating around in my head that need to be tried as samples in the next stage, hopefully this will help narrow down the options:

  • Can I weave or join grasses or leaves to a high enough standard to make vessels and would I be able to make them interesting enough?
  • Could they be made strong enough or stiff enough to be usable. what could be used to stiffen them?
  • Could other natural materials be used in conjunction with leaves? i.e. Grasses for stitching, bark for structure, seeds for decoration?
  • Can leaves or bark be embroidered into successfully? Can leaves be stitched together or embellished with machine stitch?
  • Is there a way to make my own skeleton leaves to add more choice of shape?
  • Could I wrap objects in such a away as to convey a feeling successfully?
  • Could I make my own cocoon like structures either from natural materials or other materials in more of a conceptual piece / collection and do I have enough time to do this successfully to my satisfaction?

My next step I feel, is to try and answer some of these questions by sampling some ideas.

Sources & further reading:

Susan Benarcik

http://www.donovanedits.com/decoratiPDFs/benarcik.pdf

http://susanbenarcik.com/

http://www.saatchiart.com/susanbenarcik

https://susanbenarcik.wordpress.com/

https://www.behance.net/susanbenarcik

https://inhabitat.com/susan-benarcik-eco-paper-sculptures/

Anita Van Houttum

http://anitavanhouttum.nl/over/cocons.html

Jane Wafer

http://www.janewafer.com/about/

http://www.janewafer.com/#/notdoings/

http://www.janewafer.com/#/alumosomes/

Judith Scott

Entwined: Sisters and Secrets in the Silent World of Artist Judith Scott (28 Jun 2016)
by Joyce Scott

Judith Scott: Bound and Unbound (24 Oct 2014) by Catherine Morris and Matthew Higgs

Caddis Flies

https://www.thepearlgirls.com/category/all-about-pearls-our-blog-posts/science-pearls/page/2/:

Artist Hubert Duprat Collaborates with Caddisfly Larvae as They Build Aquatic Cocoons from Gold and Pearls

The Ornate Protective Cases of Caddisfly Larvae

The Ornate Protective Cases of Caddisfly Larvae

Aly De Groot

http://www.alydegroot.com.au/

https://www.facebook.com/AlydeGrootArt/

http://alydegroot.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.darwin.nt.gov.au/intertwined

Kay Sekimachi

Skeletal Leaf Bowl Sculptures by Kay Sekimachi

http://www.flysfo.com/museum/exhibitions/5263/detail?num=5

http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artist/?id=4363

Jane Bevan

http://www.janebevan.co.uk

http://inhabitat.com/wood-and-woad-show-off-great-and-green-british-designs-at-london-design-festival/

Posted in Mixed Media For Textiles, MM part5, MM research | Leave a comment