Spiral and Twistie with Pam de Groot

I realised at the weekend that I hadn’t written up the rest of the Pam de Groot online workshop on texture and dimensions.

For obvious reasons I’m not going to give details of how the Spiral and the Twistie were made. But I will say that I found both methods extremely innovative, and Pam is to be applauded for her ambition in trying to teach them through an online workshop.

Unlike face to face workshops, the tutor can’t advise during the making process that, for example, you need to lay out the fibre more finely. She can only judge from the finished piece, and Pam was very good at doing that.

Here’s my first Spiral, made using one colour. The curvaceous bottom led to it being named a Beyoncé spiral!

Then I had a go at a double ended version, with a colour change.

The final piece was the Twistie, and I had few problems with the structural support for this. I also probably laid out the fibre too thickly. Like the Spiral, it relies on a lot of shrinkage, so I might have another go at this on a smaller scale.

 

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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.

splash-final

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.

multilayer-splash-1

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!

multilayer-splash-2

Next up – the Spiral. 🙂

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

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.

faux-chenille-3

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.

puzzle-ball

*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.

puzzle-ball-3

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.

jellyfish

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.

faux-chenille-4

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

ross-collar

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.

 

 

 

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?

safflower-10

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

safflower-2safflower-3

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.

safflower-4 safflower-5

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.

Shibori workshop with Ana Lisa Hedstrom

One of the pre-symposium workshops I did last November at 10iss was a folding workshop with Ana Lisa Hedstrom. I signed up mainly because she was covering katano shibori, but I came away with many more ideas and inspiration.

Ana Lisa hedstrom

Katano shibori, named after Motohiko Katano, is a process of stitching through several layers of fabric and not pulling the thread up afterwards. Instead, the lines of stitching channel the dye, producing softer marks that look as if they are airbrushed. There is a more detailed explanation of the technique in Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing by Yoshiko Wada, along with some stunning examples. The World Shibori Network sells some sets of Katano postcards. Ana Lisa brought some lovely samples with her.

katano shibori katano shibori

I had a go at katano shibori a few months ago but it didn’t go very well and I wasn’t very happy with the result. Partly this was because I tried to pull all the threads up. I also found it very difficult to stitch through so many layers of fabric.

Here’s the piece I tried by myself, on cotton dyed with indigo:

katano shibori

And here’s the piece I did in the workshop, on silk noil dyed with cochineal and then overdyed with indigo:

katano shibori

All the dyes used in the workshop were natural – we ground our own cochineal, and the indigo vat was made using limestone and local fruit, so smelled lovely!

dyeing with cochineal

One of the other techniques we explored was machine stitch shibori. This was a bit challenging because we had only one sewing machine among 16 participants, but with patience and a rota we all managed a go. As with katano shibori, you stitch through several layers of fabric at the same time.

Ana Lisa had brought plenty of samples that inspired us, especially where more than one colour was used.

machine stitch shibori machine stitch shibori machine stitch shibori machine stitch shibori

This was my first attempt, dyed with cochineal. The stitch lines are not very obvious in real life, and are barely visible in the photo.

machine stitch shibori

This was a better attempt on a wool and silk scarf, dyed with cochineal and then indigo. Red cabbage anyone? 🙂

machine stitch shibori

We also used the sewing machine to stitch pleats in different directions before dyeing – this is the result of mine after dyeing in indigo and unpicking.

machine stitch shibori

Just as an experiment I tried stitching through similar folds by hand. The result on some fine habotai silk was very subtle – with more folds or a thicker fabric the marks might have been more obvious.

stitch shibori

And this was one of the main points of the workshop – know your fabric! Ana Lisa was very keen to emphasise the importance of learning how different fabrics behave and knowing which one to use for which technique.

We also did some traditional itajime, or clamping, shibori, but this was limited compared with the specialist itajime shibori workshop with Elsa Chartin going on next door. ESP, who also attended the symposium (having never done any shibori or dyeing before!) gamely attended this and produced some very impressive samples using vat dyes. He even dyed a T-shirt (which he hasn’t worn yet!). 😉

sekka shibori

Ana Lisa Hedstrom is a great teacher. If you can’t get to any of her workshops, she also sells DVDs on itajime, stitch and arashi shibori.