Texture and dimensions with Pam de Groot

Like buses, workshops seem to come along in groups. No sooner had I signed up to the course with Caroline Bartlett at Morley College than I heard that Australian felt artist Pam de Groot was running her first online workshop on textures and dimension.

I’ve long admired Pam’s sculptural felt, so I signed up immediately – and lucky I did, because it sold out within 24 hours.

The course runs over six weeks, with a new module every week containing written instructions, videos and downloadable PDFs. There’s also a discussion board where you can post photos of work in progress as well as finished pieces, ask questions and get feedback, and learn from other students too!

The first two modules featured the Splash,  representing the movement of water when something is dropped into it.

Image: Pam de Groot
Image: Pam de Groot

This was a great exercise in creating form through varying the thickness of the fibre, the direction of layout and the direction of rolling, and it was great to see the variety of colours and shapes that everyone produced. Here’s mine.

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As I finished this early in the second week, I decided to experiment with making a multi-layered Splash to resemble a flower.

I only had three felt balls left from the first one and didn’t want to make any more (I hate making felt balls!) so I used them to create three “stamens” in the centre of the flower.

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Without the stamens it reminds me a bit of a protea flower. I’m already wondering if I can produce an artichoke, pine cone, chrysanthemum or thistle by varying the length and shape of the “petals” – very exciting!

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Next up – the Spiral. 🙂

Pam’s next online workshop is in April – more information on her website.

Contemporary Textiles Fair 2 for 1 ticket

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I’m excited to be taking part in the Contemporary Textiles Fair at the Landmark Arts Centre, Teddington, on 17-19 March.

The venue is a converted church, so it feels very spacious, even with 75 exhibitors showing a range of wearable and hangable art.

There will also be a talk by Anthea Godfrey, who is the Artistic Director of the Embroiders’ Guild and recently project manager of the Hardhome Embroidery, a large-scale Game of Thrones inspired artwork. And the Royal School of Needlework is offering two taster workshops on the Saturday.

The private view is on Friday 17 March, 6-8.30pm, with a bar. On Saturday and Sunday the fair is open 10am-5pm; a cafe is available.

The normal entry price is £4 but as a follower of this blog, you can use the flyer above to get free entry to the private view on Friday or to get two tickets for the price of one on Saturday and Sunday. Either download it, print it off and bring it with you or show it on your device at the entrance desk.

Hope to see you there!

Faux chenille and more tulle (or net!)

I’m sad that the five-week course on fabric manipulation with Caroline Bartlett at Morley College that I wrote about last time is over.

I  like the way Caroline teaches. She brings lots of inspiring examples, shows you the basic technique, then encourages you to play and experiment and find things out for yourself. She also discusses the work of other artists to show how the techniques have been adapted and expanded. Debby Brown, my first tutor at Morley, has a similar approach, which is one of the reasons I got started on this whole textiles lark. 😉

Faux chenille

In the fourth week we were introduced to faux chenille, where we stitched through several  layers of fabric, cut through some of the layers and then roughed it up a bit to encourage fraying. (There are lots of tutorials online if you google faux chenille.)

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Caroline brought along some great samples to get us going. Sadly, my attempts were not half as successful, even after putting them through the washing machine.

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I probably need to explore this further using different fabrics and colour combinations. 🙂

Working with net

In the last week we were encouraged to work with a technique we’d particularly enjoyed, scaling it up or developing it further.

I’d originally planned to experiment more with modular origami balls, with the idea of making a “puzzle ball”, with different sized balls nested inside each other. However, when I’d tried this at home, the tulle* wasn’t really stiff enough.

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*Tulle digression: What I’ve been referring to as tulle isn’t actually tulle. I was sniffily informed when I went to MacCulloch & Wallis that tulle is the soft netting used for bridal veils; the stiffer stuff is dress net. While I was there someone else was told the same thing, so it’s clearly a common misunderstanding. Now you know. 🙂

And thanks to Juliet, one of the other students on Caroline’s course, I found out that there are also different weights of dress net. Juliet brought in samples from Heathcoat Fabrics, which sells dress net in weights of 18, 27 and 50gsm. And 50gsm only comes in black, white and cream. This would have saved me trawling round the shops of Goldhawk Road looking for stiff net in different colours! /digression ends

While I was in MacCulloch & Wallis I bought some even stiffer netting with a larger mesh that is used in millinery. This might work for the outer balls with holes in them, but the solid inner ball loses the delicate translucency of the net.

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So in the class I experimented instead with pieces of arashi shibori dress net, curving them over themselves and joining bits together to create shell and jellyfish-like forms.

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As usual, it was fascinating to see the great variety of work from the other students. It included this wonderful faux chenille by Frances Kiernan.

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And this superb circular pleated piece from rust and indigo dyed fabrics by Ross Belton.

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If all this has inspired you, Caroline is doing another course at Morley College next term focusing on shibori, print and heat setting, so do book if you are interested, as it’s filling up fast. Unfortunately I won’t be able to make this one.

Discount on basketry course at Morley

I won’t be able to make this one either, sadly, but Morley College is offering 20% discount on the Creative Basketry course with Stella Harding. It runs on Tuesday evenings, 6-9pm, starting on 28 February for six weeks.  See here for more info on Stella.

The full price is £155, reduced to £124 with the discount.

To take advantage of this offer, email Ruth.abban@morleycollege.ac.uk and copy in gemma.bergomi@morleycollege.ac.uk. They will notify Enrolment Services of your name and discount. You can then enrol by phone on 020 7450 1889 or in person but NOT online.

 

 

 

Tulle origami

What goes around comes around. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know I’ve experimented with felt kaleidocycles, felt smocking, and origami moulds for fabric.

Now I’m back at Morley College on a course about fabric manipulation with Caroline Bartlett, whose work I greatly admired at Cloth and Memory {2} at Saltaire. Participants come from varying backgrounds, including handmade paper, print, fashion and textiles, so it’s an interesting mix.

We started by using paper to explore how folding, slicing and cutting can be used to create repeat patterns and then how to translate these into fabric by using darts, pleats and cuts.

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Depending on the fabric properties (transparent / opaque, fraying, thickness), you can create quite different effects.

We’ve also used pleating machines to create heavily pleated pieces, which can later be dyed or discharged as in the sample below.

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Last time I made origami moulds I used fabric stiffened with PVA or floppy synthetics. This time I used stiff tulle, and was delighted with the result. Here are a couple of pieces that I’ve stitched on.

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This inspired me to use tulle for origami in other ways.

First I tried making a hyperbolic parabaloid in tulle, but it was too floppy to work properly.

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Then I moved on to a ball-like construction. I had tried this with other fabric previously – the picture below shows the paper version at the front and two fabric versions behind.

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The African wax print fabric was stiffened with interfacing, so it had the same body as paper. The white version on the right was calico which I had tried to stiffen with machine stitching. The stitched surfaces were a bit firmer, but the overall structure lacks the body of the paper version, being curvy rather than angular.

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The tulle version, however, was stiff enough to hold its shape – and because it’s transparent there are intriguing views of the other side of the structure (which make it a bit tricky to photograph!).

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Another origami technique that was new to me is crumpling, a technique pioneered by Paul Jackson.

The qualities of tissue paper that make it ideal for crumpling are difficult to reproduce with fabric. I tried it with a slightly less stiff tulle, but it’s much too floppy (tulle on left, tissue paper on right). I’m not sure tulle will work for this – I may need to rethink the fabric.

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I’ve also just started experimenting with tulle shaped using arashi shibori techniques – could be interesting!

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As I mentioned at the beginning, the class contains students from many different backgrounds. One of them, Frances Kiernan, brought in an amazing flag book that she had made from some of her prints.

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I’d never heard of a flag book before this but I think it would be a wonderful way to display samples!

Safflower dyeing with Kazuki Yamakazi

Safflower is an interesting dye because it contains both red and yellow dyes so, depending on the fabric and pH, it produces different colours. Apparently it takes 400 square metres of safflower plants to produce 1kg of petals.

There’s a section on safflower dyeing in Jenny Dean’s book Wild Color, which explains the methodology. ESP and I tried this out last year, using a pack of dried safflower we bought in Malaysia, but it wasn’t very successful.

So ESP was dispatched to this workshop at 10iss to find out how it should be done!

Dr Yamazaki of Kusaki-Kobo Dye Studio is descended from three generations of natural dyers and researchers in Japan. He started teaching and creating artwork with natural dyes in 1985 and has since been active in research and education of natural dyes in Japan and abroad.

Here’s a sample of the master dyers’ range of colours, including safflower, on very fine Japanese silk – how gorgeous are they?

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First the safflower petals are soaked overnight, squeezed, strained and removed. This dye turns alum-mordanted fabric yellow (better on silk than on cotton).

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The petals are washed to remove the yellow and soaked in an alkaline solution for two hours to extract the red dye. After straining and before adding the fabric, citric acid is added to neutralise the dye bath. Distinctive small bubbles form at this stage.

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If too much acid is added the red dye will start to precipitate out – sometimes this is done deliberately to extract the dye to use in cosmetics.

Silk added to this dye turns orange, while cotton turns red or dark pink.

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The difference in colour is because the red dye also contains a second yellow dye, which is absorbed by silk but not cotton. You can see in the photo below that the silk (top row) is more orange than the red cotton below.

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To get pink silk, you need to use cotton as a “dye bank” to absorb just the red dye and then extract it. At around pH4 the dye is locked into the cotton. If you then put the cotton into a bath of pH6-7 the dye is released from the cotton. Squeeze out the cotton and remove it from the dye bath before adding more citric acid. Then add the silk – you get bright pink!

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Japanese dyers might repeat the entire process six times to get intense colours into the dye bank.

The process doesn’t work well with wool, despite the fact that it is a protein fibre like silk. This is because wool needs to be heated to more than 30C to open the scales, but the pigment begins to break down at 30C, so you just get a pale pink.