Marbling on paper and silk

About four years ago I did an evening workshop on marbling paper. It was fun but the results were not fantastic. So I thought I’d give it another go on a three-day workshop at City Lit with Royston Haward.

marbled paper

We started by learning about the history of marbling and saw examples of different patterns.

Then we started to get our hands dirty with suminagashi, a marbling technique used in Japan. This uses sumi calligraphy ink or other permanent inks, just floating on water, no size. These are some of the small samples I did.

suminagashi samples

We also tried it on rice paper.

suminagashi on rice paper

And I’d read that it works on silk too, so I took some unmordanted fine habotai silk in to try – it worked beautifully.

suminagashi on silk suminagashi on silk suminagashi on silk

Then we moved on to Western marbling. Unlike suminagashi, this mixes carrageen moss (a kind of seaweed) with the water to thicken it and support the colour. Patterns are created with toothpicks, combs or spatulas – sometimes a combination.

We tried with acrylics and gouache – most people seemed to get better results with gouache. The colour of the paper also affected the final result. Below are some combed patterns.

Below left is another combed pattern; on the right is a freeform pattern.

Below left is an antique straight pattern; right is a freeform pattern.

Below left is Spanish Moire pattern, made by rocking the paper as you place it on the size – close up it looks like folds of fabric. On the right is Italian pattern (nearly! – I should have added more wetting agent).

Below left is ghost marbling – one pattern marbled on top of another. On the right is a combed pattern.

I did have a go at marbling silk with gouache, but this came out very faint. It may have been better if I’d mordanted the silk first. (Paper for marbling requires mordanting with alum, unlike suminagashi.)

We also learnt how to make our own brushes and combs, as well as about polishing the paper afterwards, so it was a busy three days!

I have since washed the suminagashi silk and the pattern remains very clear. Could be another new product line? 😉

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RHS Plant and Art Fair and hapazome workshop

I was hard at work last week replenishing my stock of ecoprinted scarves for the RHS Plant and Art Fair this week.

With botanical art and photography competitions, talks and demonstrations on ikebana and Japanese garden design and of course some wonderful plants, this should be a great show.

And with this heatwave we’ve been having, I’m getting some great prints.

The RHS Plant and Art Fair is at RHS Lawrence Hall, London SW1P 2QD. There’s a late event tomorrow evening 5-9pm, then it’s open on Wednesday 11am-8pm and Thursday 11am-6pm.

Then on Sunday I’m running a hapazome workshop at Brixton Windmill’s Art in the Park. Hapazome is the technique of leaf (and flower) pounding, where you pound vegetation on fabric or paper to leave an imprint.

Here are some samples I’ve made for the workshop.

Let’s hope that people aren’t too busy watching the World Cup final and/or the Wimbledon men’s final to turn out!

Goodbye flaming June, hello flaming July

June has passed in a flash, as I have been preoccupied with running a four-week crowdfunding campaign for the Friends of Windmill Gardens – another of the hats I wear (which is much needed in this weather!). I’m relieved to say we exceeded our target.

Central Saint Martins textiles degree show

I did take some time off, though, to visit some of the degree shows. My favourite this year was the textiles degree show at Central St Martins, which always seems to be particularly strong in constructed textiles. AND they produce a decent handbook with photos and statements about the students’ work.

I was particularly impressed by Andrea Liu, who had tanned, dyed, woven and stitched smoked salmon skin that she collected from a local warehouse. Perhaps not surprisingly, she won the Mills Sustainability Prize.

csm andrea liu

I also liked Zoe Atkinson‘s rhythmic 3D knitted fabrics that incorporated solid materials like leather, calling to mind organic and manmade armour.

As a felter, Henrietta Johns doesn’t really fit into any of CSM’s categories of print, knit or weave, but naturally her experiments with felting through stencils and using natural dyes made her work of interest to me.

thread 2018

Last Saturday I got up at 5.30am to pack up the car and drive to Farnham Maltings to set up my stall at its flagship textiles show, thread 2018. This is the third year I’ve done it and I always enjoy the quirky venue, the interesting range of exhibitors and the great organisation.

Despite the heat, the morning was extremely busy – it was some time before I could get a photo of my stand without lots of people in front of it. 🙂

 

Then in the afternoon I gave a talk about my upcycling work. It was both flattering and terrifying to see the number of people who turned up for it – some were even sitting on the floor because there weren’t enough chairs! No pressure at all…

Thankfully everyone seemed to enjoy it, judging by the questions and enthusiastic comments at the end. And it was lovely to see some familiar faces, like Ginny Farquhar of Alice and Ginny, who I met at thread last year and who is also interested in natural dyeing (as well as much else) and is also growing Japanese indigo this year – we were able to compare notes!

And many thanks to my friend Magdalen Rubalcava, who got up early to come with me and hold the fort on the stall while I was giving the talk.

SLWA exhibition Silence is Over

After packing up and driving back to London after the show, it was straight off to the private view of Silence is Over, the exhibition by South London Women Artists.

I was pretty late so missed the speeches and poetry, but it was fantastic to see how the collective billboards turned out – very strong, thought provoking and provocative.

After that it was off to bed, exhausted! Hopefully July will be a little more relaxed. 🙂

 

 

 

Felting workshop with Charlotte Sehmisch

Around five years ago I first came across the work of felter Charlotte Sehmisch, who makes amazing “cellular” felt structures.  But it wasn’t until last month that I managed to attend a workshop with Charlotte herself in Belgium, organised by Vrouw Wolle.

charlotte sehmisch

I wasn’t sure about the wool I had taken with me, as the materials list, which I received very late, specified “500g of merino or mountain sheep (both fleece)”. “Fleece” in this context means batting, but I didn’t have 500g of merino batting to hand, so I took some rather coarse mystery batts that I’d picked up at a stash sale. I did find time to do a quick sample square and found that it felted quite quickly, but that was all I knew about it!

charlotte sehmisch samples

Charlotte had brought both 2D and 3D samples with her – we started on the 3D pieces. You can probably guess that the layout involves multiple resists. Because I was using coarser wool, I made my resists larger than everyone else’s, so my piece was by far the largest in the room.

After laying out and felting comes the tricky cutting part – where, how far and in what direction! There were some rather nerve wracking moments, as I’d miscalculated the width of some of the “ribs”. But after firming up, shaping, and hardening with gelatine, I was quite pleased with the final result.

charlotte sehmisch workshop piece charlotte sehmisch workshop piece

This was another excellent workshop organised by Vrouw Wolle, although the weather was unseasonally hot and humid so not ideal for felting. And although I’ve previously experimented a bit by myself with cellular felting (you can read about it here and here), I learnt a lot from Charlotte.

The workshop was part of a veritable felt jamboree over the whole weekend, with several other renowned tutors including Judit Pócs, Andrea Noeske Parada and Leiko Uchiyama running other workshops. There was also an inspiring exhibition of work by students from the Felt Academy, along with an excellent textile market.

Annemie Tibos
Henny van Tussenbroek
Keetje van de Koogh
Ann Mariën
Marleen Piron
Textile market

Last week I finally had a go at making a sample starfish using the technique I learnt with Charlotte. At least, it was going to be a starfish, but I decided to make it with just three legs to test out the principle, in case it didn’t work. And then during the fulling it seemed to be more interested in developing into some kind of alien creature!

charlotte sehmisch sample piece

As you can see, there is lots of potential for experimenting with this technique! 🙂

 

Silence is Over: SLWA exhibition

South London Women Artists’ latest exhibition, entitled “Silence is Over”, opens at the Portico Gallery in West Norwood, London, next Friday.

Participating artists (including me) were each given an identical blank canvas to interpret the theme of coercive control and sexual abuse. The canvases are going to be assembled in a series of billboards, reclaiming a space traditionally used for advertising and often objectifying women.

I decided to highlight the excruciating and disabling practice of foot binding that effectively disabled many Chinese women in the past. So I made a pair of lotus shoes and then shredded one of them, showing bloodstained bandages spilling out of it.

“Lotus shoe” sounds like an object of beauty, but it conceals the agony behind the process of foot binding. The four smaller toes of young girls were curled under, pressed until they broke, and then bound tightly against the sole of the foot, breaking the arch so that it was artificially raised. Infection, paralysis, rotting toes and lost toenails were common problems.

The “ideal” foot size for an adult woman was 3-4 inches long. Why? Some say that men found the tiny steps and swaying walk of women with bound feet erotic. Others say that it was a way of controlling women, confining them to home and repetitive but economically important tasks such as weaving, spinning and other handwork.

The practice was officially outlawed in China in 1911, but the last factory making lotus shoes did not close until 1999.

“Silence is Over” runs at the Portico Gallery, 23A Knights Hill, West Norwood, London SE27 0HS, from 29 June to 3 July. The private view is on Saturday 30 June, 6-10pm – all welcome.

 

Basketry puzzle ball

I’ve always been intrigued by puzzle balls. There used to be one on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, but I think it’s currently in storage. These days the use of ivory is quite rightly frowned on, but I still have to admire the skill required to carve one ball inside another.

I’ve previously tried making puzzle balls out of net, but it wasn’t really firm enough. So on the random weave basketry course with Polly Pollock, I had the idea to make one out of paper yarn.

I started with the innermost ball, and then put that inside another mould and wove another ball around that.

Then I repeated the process, so I had three balls in total.

Some of the ivory puzzle balls had as many as 20 balls, but as I wasn’t sure how this would work I thought that three would do to start with. 😉

Removing the moulds from the outer layers was reasonably straightforward, but it was tricky getting – and keeping – the holes in the balls lined up to get the mould out of the innermost ball. However, with a bit of persistence and a pair of needle nose pliers I finally managed it.

I was really pleased that the principle worked! However, there were a few problems, which I will work on next time.

  • On the middle layer I used a red Sharpie pen to mark where the holes should be. But the red rubbed off on the paper yarn, as you can see in some of the pictures. So on the outermost layer I just used masking tape to mark the position of the holes. But this wasn’t very exact, and some of the holes were too large and the size was inconsistent. I think I shall use some sticky labels cut to shape next time.
  • The outer balls are too large – I need to make the outer moulds smaller so that the balls nest inside each other more snugly.

Onward and upward!

Loewe Craft Prize 2018

The exhibition by 30 artists shortlisted for the Loewe Craft Prize 2018 includes some great textile pieces. Some of the work I have seen before at the Craft Council’s Collect shows in the past couple of years, but it’s no hardship seeing them again.

My favourite is Simone Pheulpin’s ‘Croissance XL’ (XL Growth), which looks from the distance like a cracked geological sample.

Up close you can see that it’s actually made up of densely pleated strips of cotton – quite amazing.

In a similar vein, Scalaria Bifurca by Mercedes Vicente is a coiled shell-like structure made of canvas spirals.

And on a smaller scale, Rita Soto’s banded horsehair brooches twist sinuously, like distorted snails.

Richard McVetis’s 60 stitched felt cubes represent the passing of time, as he stitched one cube every hour.

Yeonsoon Chang’s  three panels of indigo-dyed abaca fabric (dipped more than 30 times) doesn’t look much in the photograph, but gazing on the fabric is quite a meditative Zen-like experience.

ARKO, a self-described “straw artist”, weaves and stitches rice straw into beautiful undulating forms, bringing together traditional techniques and contemporary life.

I also liked the shingled room divider, made from three different types of wood by Wycliffe Stutchbury – light on one side and dark on the other.

Ashley YK Yeo’s hand cut paper cube is delicately exquisite, beautifully lit to enhance the shadows.

And Sam Tho Duong’s jewellery, made from gold-plated silver and freshwater pearls, seems to glow from within.

Finally, a special mention to Steffen Dam, whose cabinet of glass curiosities call to mind the glass sea creatures made by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka.

The Loewe Craft Prize exhibition runs at the Design Museum in London until 17 June 2018.

More on random weaving basketry

Sadly, the short course on random weaving basketry with Polly Pollock that I started four weeks ago at City Lit has come to an end. I loved every minute and think I’ve found a new obsession.

After the first basket made with cane, we moved on to working with paper yarn. Here are some samples made by Polly to inspire us.

First we dyed some of the yarn using Rit liquid dyes, which were new to me but are pretty simple to use – just add to water and vinegar, put in the yarn and leave until you’re happy with the colour, rinse and dry.

As before, we made a mould with rice, clingfilm and sticky tape, and created a base layer with some thicker paper yarn. Then we used the thinner dyed yarn to weave into the base layer, using soumak stitch – essentially looping it round a base strand – going in random directions.

You can build this up in the same or different colours. Here’s my piece in progress.

And here’s the finished piece. I didn’t leave the yarn in the Rit dye long enough to get a really dark blue, so I dyed some in indigo. 🙂

indigo paper vessel

I also started on a more ambitious piece but didn’t manage to finish it. Here’s a sneak preview of the beginning – watch this space for a progress report!

At the end of the class we had a display of all the work created over the four weeks – there were some really lovely pieces in paper, cane and wire, as well as some wrapped glass.