Excavated dodecahedron – work in progress

I started thinking about other ways I could use the coiling and joining technique I used for my tortoise, and it occurred to me that the tortoise shell was essentially half an irregular stellated polyhedron.

A polyhedron is a 3D shape with flat faces, eg a pyramid. In a stellated polyhedron, the faces, rather than being flat, are extended to form new polyhedra – like a pointy star.

So I thought I would try to make a dodecahedron (12 faces – each face is a regular pentagon). The individual elements making up the tortoise shell were a mixture of hexagons and pentagons, so I already knew how to do this shape.

But instead of making a stellated dodecahedron, where the faces point outwards, I thought I would try a concave or excavated dodecahdron, where the faces dip inwards.

Whether it’s stellated or excavated, the individual units are made in exactly the same way – it’s just that the inside is the “right” side for an excavated dodecahedron, while the outside is the right side for a stellated dodecahedron.

I used the same yarn and pattern as for the tortoise shell, as I had quite a lot of yarn! But I had a brief moment of panic when I discovered that the retailer who supplied the copper wire I used for the core was no longer stocking it! However, I round an online supplier, so all was well.

The first sample units I made were quite deep, with steeply sloping sides. But when I joined two together, I concluded that they were probably too deep. To create a dodecahedron, the units have to fold back against each other , and if they are too deep they may not be able to do this.

dodecahedron sample

So I made the units shallower.

excavated dodecahedron 6 units

Then I joined five units together around a central unit.

excavated dodecahedron 6 units joined

Then I joined the sides to create half a dodecahedron.

half an excavated dodecahedron

Now I just need to make the other half and join them together!

 

Coiled Möbius strips

Do you remember making a Möbius strip at school? You take a strip of paper, half twist it once, and then glue the ends together.

paper mobius strip

The resulting loop has only one side and one edge – if you trace a route around the surface or the edge, you will end up back at your starting point.

I started thinking about how to create a Möbius strip by coiling. And I’m afraid I didn’t take any process shots, as I got carried away by the making!

I started by creating a coiled loop, using string and wire as the core and linen yarn for weaving. After joining the loop, I started coiling the next round above the first loop. But I then moved the coiling down across the loop so that I was coiling the next round below the first loop. This produced the equivalent of the half twist.

After that, I just continued coiling as normal. By turning the loop over or upside down, I could continue to coil in the normal orientation. The original single loop became the central loop, and each complete round of coiling produced a loop on either side of the central loop.

coiled mobius loop coiled mobius loop

I then got more ambitious and decided to try a larger loop with three twists. I used the same core but used knitting yarn for the coiling.

This started out as a bangle, but as I added more rounds the hole became smaller. So to make a bangle I need to start with a larger initial loop or coil fewer rounds. Lesson learned!

mobius loop with three twists mobius loop with three twists mobius loop with three twists

Tortoise bottom

After a break to recover from making the tortoise shell, I started thinking about the base (or “tortoise bottom” as ESP referred to it – oh how we laughed 🙄).

The first issue was how high should it be? My original idea was to have the sides of the base quite low, to represent the idea of the tortoise being close to the ground.

But when I made some cardboard moulds of different heights to see how it looked, I felt that the lid rather swamped the lower bases, so I decided to make a higher base of around 5cm.

I also wanted to make a tortoise design on the bottom of the base, which would be revealed only when the lid was removed. I found a fair few coiled turtle designs in African and Native American baskets, though most of these were round and mine had to be oval.

In the end I created a striped pattern to match the lid.

Base in progress

I kept testing the base with the lid as it grew, to check how the proportions were working.

I wanted the sides to be plain black so as not to distract from the lid, but there seemed to be an awful lot of black as the base grew higher. So in the end I added a small border of yellow triangles to match the border on the lid.

And here is the finished piece.

I will always think of this as my Covid piece, as it occupied most of my time during lockdown! And it struck me that it was rather appropriate in so many ways, evoking a tortoise’s ability to withdraw into itself, seeking shelter and protection.

Stay well!

Lockdown week 9

I wondered if I should call this post Semi-lockdown week 9, as the traffic in my part of London seems to have reverted to normal levels, and the fine weather has brought many more people out on the streets. But my situation remains the same, so I shall stick to lockdown for now.

After all the sampling for my coiled tortoise piece I’ve done in previous weeks, this week I’ve focused on actually making it. Having established that linen thread was my material of choice, I ordered some in colours closer to the radiated tortoise and set to, making 10 individual scutes.

Then I joined them all together.

That’s as far as I’ve got this week. Next I have to make the overall border and then start thinking about the base.

I realise that I forgot last week to post the link to the online Prism exhibition In Search of (Im)Possibilities. The exhibition has been divided into three themes – environment, materials, and place – and each day a post is published featuring four or five artists relevant to the theme. Here is a link to all the posts so far. My work is featured in Chapter 2, Day 1 – Materials. Click on an image to see the artist’s statement.

Finally, although I’ve stopped posting about the V&A kimono exhibition, you can now watch a series of five short films of the show with the curator Anna Jackson. Even better!

Stay well!

Lockdown week 6

Week 6 of lockdown and my creative mojo has gone walkabout. When I look back on the past five weeks I can see I’ve tried a lot of new ideas and materials. By comparison, this week has mostly been about collecting materials and honing familiar techniques.

The weather hasn’t helped. April in the UK has been the sunniest month on record, and the lockdown finally goaded me into getting my bike fixed (bike shops remain open). So I’ve been getting more of my daily exercise on two wheels, discovering the delight of relatively quiet roads in the city.

I’ve also been out gathering materials. The one new thing I did try this week was making cordage from dandelion stalks. Much to ESP’s horror, I failed to remove all the dandelion heads before hanging the stalks up to dry in the garden. So I may not have to go too far to gather dandelions next year! 🙂

dandelions drying

Once the stalks were dry, I sprayed them with water to rehydrate before twisting into cordage.

dandelion cordage

I’m fascinated by the dried dandelion heads left over – they remind me of miniature jellyfish.

dandelion headsdandelion heads

I’ve also been gathering dying daffodil leaves for more cordage and coiling. It made me reflect on how things have changed. Four years ago I was obsessed with collecting the dead flowers to dye with; now I’m more interested in the foliage!

I still do some dyeing, mostly with indigo, so I’ve been shibori stitching some recycled items ready to go into the next vat.

shibori stitching

I’m currently working on a fiddly coiling project for my City Lit course, which involves lots of sampling. I’m not ready to talk about that yet, but for relaxation I made another coiled bowl from sash cord and wool. Unlike the coiling for City Lit, it’s something I’m able to do while watching TV (another activity I’m doing rather a lot of!).

coiled bowl

Talking of shibori, this week’s kimono from the V&A exhibition is a modern garment made in 2019 by Yamaguchi Genbei, decorated with a dramatic depiction of Mount Fuji.

kimono by yamaguchi genbei

Made from machine-spun hemp, this summer kimono was part of the Majotae project, which aimed to produce hemp on a commercially viable scale for clothing, as it is particularly suited to the Japanese climate.

Stay well!

Lockdown week 5

My experiments with coiling continue, some based on previous work, like this coiled bowl made using a core of sash cord wrapped with knitting yarn.

I’ve also coiled a couple more pear trays.

For the borders I just used the thickest thread I had in my stash – together they remind me of those hot Indian colours.

I also had another go at making rhubarb cordage. This time I left the peelings to dry out, then sprayed them lightly before twisting them. It was much more successful, and smelled nice to boot! The colour was stronger too.

Another satisfactory olfactory experience was working with pine needles. There is a long history of making pine needle baskets in North America, where some pines have incredibly long needles. The longleaf pine, Pinus palustris, for example, has needles that can be up to 18 inches long!

I collected the needles I used from the ground beneath a tree in Kew Gardens a couple of months ago when such things were still possible. They were only around 5 inches long, but this was fine for making a small rustic basket. 🙂

As I mentioned previously, the straw vessels I’ve been making were for a Prism exhibition called “In Search of (Im)possibilities”, which was due to open in London in May but has been postponed, probably till next year. However, the group has decided to organise a virtual exhibition instead, starting on 13 May. This means that those of you who are not in the UK will also be able to see it – a silver lining!

This week’s garment from Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk at the V&A is an ensemble created by John Galliano for Christian Dior in 2007. According to the label, “The sweeping lines of the outer garment reference both uchikake (outer kimono) and the swing coat pioneered by Dior in the 1950s.”

The layers of colour at the neckline also evoke kasane, colour combinations found in the garments of aristocrats during the Heian period. The hat is by Stephen Jones.

The photo below shows some of the lavish embroidery with silk threads and hand painted lace appliqué.

Stay well!

Lockdown week 4

Cabin fever must be getting to me – I’ve started coiling household objects! I had a moulded cardboard tray used for holding pears, which I cut up into individual sections. This is the result of coiling the first one.

coiled cardboard coiled cardboard

I did consider stitching into the cardboard itself, but decided to go for the minimalist look, especially as the bottom is quite textured (it looks like an avocado).

Over on Instagram, I was inspired by Suzie Grieve’s amazing rhubarb baskets to try making some rhubarb cordage. I used fresh rhubarb peelings, which was a mistake. They were very wet and slippery to work with, and they shrank a lot when they dried.

rhubarb cordage wet
Wet rhubarb cordage
rhubarb cordage dry
Dry rhubarb cordage

I rather like the open helical structure of the dried cordage, but in this case it wasn’t what I was after. Another lesson learned!

The series of straw vessels for Prism continues. This one is a combination of cobbling and coiling (coibbling?). Cobbling, as I understand it, is bunching soft material together with random stitching.

cobbled straw vessel

Only a week after planting, my Japanese indigo seeds have germinated and are doing well.

japanese indigo april 2020

This week’s kimono from the V&A exhibition is a bit unusual. It’s a kimono for a young boy commemorating the first flight from Japan to the UK in 1937. Made from printed wool, it’s decorated with images of Mount Fuji, Tower Bridge and the route taken by the plane.

kimono commemorating first flight from tokyo to london

I’m not sure what the other flag is next to the union flag. It looks like the international maritime signal flag representing the letter T (tango), which usually means “keep clear”. Or maybe the T stands for Tokyo?

Stay well!