Made 2019 at Morley Gallery

The current exhibition at Morley Gallery, Made 2019, features work by textiles and jewellery students at Morley College. The theme is based on cultural patterns and form inspired by Oceania.

Thanks to the basketry course I did last term with Stella Harding I was able to submit an entry to the exhibition. My piece, “Vision of Jawun”, was inspired by the bicornual baskets known as jawun made by the rainforest people in northeast Queensland in Australia.

Jawun were used to collect and carry food and also as sieves to leach out toxic substances. Typically made from lawyer cane, the baskets were sometimes painted when used for trading or as gifts.

random weave paper vessel dyed with eucalyptus
Image: Owen Llewellyn
random weave paper vessel dyed with eucalyptus
Image: Owen Llewellyn
random weave paper vessel dyed with eucalyptus
Image: Owen Llewellyn

My interpretation of a jawun is a random weave piece made with paper yarn; the lower part was dyed with eucalyptus, a plant indigenous to Australia.

The private view last Wednesday was absolutely heaving with people by the time I arrived, and it took me a while to locate my piece. To my surprise, rather than being on a plinth it was hung on a nail at around hip height. Because the gallery was so crowded I could see that the vessel was in danger of being damaged – within just a couple of minutes of my arrival one visitor had stepped back against it, while another one hit it with her bag as she squeezed past. 😦

I’m afraid at this stage I got a bit prima donna-ish and removed the piece from the wall. When I gave it to the gallery manager and explained why, she was very nice and understanding about it. And when I went back to the gallery today to look at the exhibition with more breathing space, it had been placed on a plinth, thank goodness.

There were a couple of pieces from other basketry students.

This random weave piece by Barbara Billings was a comment on pollution in the oceans and how rubbish floats on top of the mess hiding below the surface.

Alyson Burberry, A Green Bag of Rubbish

“A Green Bag of Rubbish” by Alyson Burberry was made with found objects, shower sponges and rope, and was also based on Aboriginal hunting bags.

Cherry Taylor, Ceremonial Objects

Deserved winner of the Sarah Campbell Prize was Cherry Taylor for her found objects wrapped with raffia dyed with procion dyes and inks.

Sarah McEvoy, Cailleach and Brighde

I liked Sarah McEvoy’s knitted figure embellished with seeds and crystal, inspired by dolls that Japanese farmers hang outside windows to bring good weather or prevent rain.

The Japanese influence was strong overall. This kimono-style jacket by Sarah Wilson was made using shibori, sashiko and boro techniques from material sourced in second-hand shops.

Line Le Fevre, Noren Inspired

Hung to resemble a traditional kimono, Line Le Fevre’s four hand-dyed panels were printed with discharge and dye paste.

Bukki Adeyemo, Up in Arms

Bukki Adeyemo’s “Up in Arms” used recycled materials stained with rust to represent the potential impact of rising sea levels on  many of the Pacific Islands due to climate change.

Sarah Sikorski, screen printed cotton

Sarah Sikorski’s screen printed cotton was inspired by tapa bark cloth from Tonga, which portrays historic or cultural events – in this case the overuse and irresponsible disposal of plastic objects.

Finally – look away now if you are easily offended. 😉 Karen Byrne’s piece was a response to the dilukai sculptures of young women with splayed legs carved over the doorways of chiefs’ houses in Micronesia.

Karen Byrne, Dilukai

Made 2019 runs at Morley Gallery until 26 March.

Several types of smocking

I’ve experimented with Canadian, or North American, smocking before, here and here. But last week I attended a couple of workshops with Eileen Wedderburn in the fashion department at Morley College.

All the other students were fairly experienced dressmakers and wanted to apply the smocking technique to clothes. By contrast, I was more interested in using smocking to create sculptural effects.

We started with traditional English smocking, where the fabric is marked with dots before gathering it into pleats using the dots as guides. The pleats are then held in place by embroidering on top before removing the gathering threads.

Some stitches allow more elasticity to the pleats than others. Here’s a sample showing several different stitches.

sample of traditional smocking

From top to bottom, the stitches are:

  • outline stitch
  • cable stitch
  • wave stitch
  • honeycomb stitch
  • vandyke stitch
  • surface honeycomb stitch (with some beading).

Some of these stitches look quite similar but are subtly different.

The two rows of honeycomb stitch didn’t work too well on the sample because the pleats were quite tight, and I think it’s seen to best effect when there are more rows.

So I tried an experiment with radial smocking, where I started with a piece of fabric shaped like a ring doughnut, with the smocking dots in concentric circles.

circular smocking

Because the distance between the pleats is greater closer to the edge, the honeycomb effect is more obvious. The elasticity of the stitch also allows the structure to be manipulated – I actually like the tubular structure on the reverse side!

circular smocking circular smocking

I also made a piece where the distance between the smocking circles was greater at the edge. This led to a flatter structure that was not so conical.

circular smocking

On the second workshop we did some North American smocking, where, rather than gathering, the stitch pattern (not necessarily in rows) is used to manipulate the fabric when it is pulled up.

The stitching is worked on a grid, so to save time by not having to mark out lots of grids, we used gingham fabric. 🙂

First we tried a lattice pattern.

Canadian lattice smocking

Again, I was very taken with the reverse side, which was like puffy diamonds and curled up nicely into a ball:

Canadian lattice smocking (reverse)

Then we stitched a flower pattern. This was interesting because, depending on where you started stitching, you ended up with black and white flowers (like me) or grey flowers, owing to the gingham pattern.

flower smock pattern

And the reverse pattern:

flower smock pattern (reverse)

I think this could be very effective stitched on thin prefelt and then felted.

Finally, I had a go at grid or Italian smocking. This differs in that, rather than creating a small stitch at every dot (or grid intersection), the stitches connect the dots (like running stitch).

The sample below was again stitched on a grid patterned fabric. I stitched two repeats vertically but only one horizontally, so the pattern is not very easy to see – it’s supposed to be chevrons. I should have started with a wider piece of fabric and stitched more horizontal repeats!

Italian smocking

Basketry at Morley with Stella Harding

For the past few weeks I’ve been back at Morley College on Tuesday evenings, attending a creative basketry course with Stella Harding. The focus of this course, though I didn’t know it when I signed up, was random weaving, so I’ve been able to build on the classes I did with Polly Pollock earlier this year.

Stella brought along lots of inspiring samples.

We started by making open and closed forms in cane without using moulds, which was new to me. We also had a go at dyeing cane.

Now we’ve been let loose on experimenting for ourselves, with different materials and forms – here are some of the pieces I’ve made.

This is a more complex form in cane. Apparently this style is known as a hen basket – I can just imagine a chicken sitting in there. 🙂

This was a random weave piece I made using dead fronds from some kind of palm in my back garden. I have no idea where it came from and have always thought it rather unattractive – but it’s great for basketry material!

And this is a piece that combines felt and paper yarn, inspired by a physalis (cape gooseberry).

Some of these samples are helping me work up ideas for a couple of exhibitions coming up next year – watch this space!

Metal and textiles taster

Last weekend ESP and I attended a workshop together for the first time. The workshop, held at Morley College’s Pelham Hall, was billed as a one-day “Textile Metal Taster”.

Pelham Hall is an amazing converted Victorian chapel equipped for clay modelling, wood and stone carving as well as metalwork (there’s even a forge). ESP has done stone carving courses there, but this was a first-time visit for me.

Pelham Hall

I was expecting to be working with wire, mesh and textiles, but this was very much an introduction to proper basic metalwork techniques. We started with cutting, using tin snips and air tools. I had a few problems with the air tools so stuck to cutting by hand with the snips, where I felt I had more control.

Then we did a bit of beating with hammers, hole punching and soldering. I cut a circle of steel, punched a circle in the centre and pierced some holes.

As you know, I hate waste, so I then used the spot welder to attach all the tiny metal circles produced by the hole puncher.

One of the tutors said the tiny bowl on the right reminded him of a dalek!

In the afternoon we had a go at heating metal so that it changed colour – you can get some lovely rainbow effects, like oil patches on the road after rain. Naturally, I spot welded some more circles onto mine!

I didn’t do any proper soldering, but played about with the solder to produce different textures instead.

While I produced various small samples, ESP combined lots of different techniques in one piece. This included bits of metal that were left over after I had cut out more spots!

He also played around with a piece of flattened copper tubing, heating it with flux and punching it.

I really enjoyed the workshop – the tutors were enthusiastic and encouraging, and it’s surprising what beginners can produce in a day. One of the students made a bird bath; another made some angel fish.

However, I did think that the textile content was fairly token. There was a pile of fabric scraps, and we were shown how to rivet and attach textiles to metal by soldering with a copper strip. Rather than treating metal simply as a way of holding up textiles I guess I was expecting the two media to be combined in a sculptural piece. I realise this is a lot to ask in a day, but a collaboration with Morley’s excellent textiles department could produce some interesting results.

There was a box of embroidery threads and ribbons there, so I did make an effort to introduce a textile element to one of my samples! 🙂

I’m also thinking about how to incorporate some of my samples into felt, so there may be more to come on this!

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.)

faux-chenille-1 faux-chenille-2

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.

 

 

 

Starting with Photoshop

A few months ago I mused about whether I should learn how to use Photoshop so that I could get some of my designs digitally printed rather than making everything by hand. This would enable me to make larger pieces at more acceptable prices.

This week I finally got round to doing a two-day class on Photoshop for beginners at Morley College. It was a very popular class, with most of the participants wanting to learn Photoshop to improve their photos or restore old prints. And it turned out that I already knew the tutor, Estelle Vincent, as we had been located next to each other at Lambeth Open at the Portico Gallery a few years ago. Small world! 🙂

We covered a lot in two days, but what was most useful for me was learning about layers, filters and flipping/rotating to produce repeat patterns. Here are some of the patterns I created.

The first was a section of an ecoprint of eucalyptus on silk.

Original ecoprint of eucalyptus on silk

After changing the colour with a filter and flipping and rotating:

Repeat pattern created with filter

A similar process starting with a section of sycamore ecoprint:

photoshop-sycamore-before photoshop-sycamore-blue-repeat

Then I experimented with some indigo shibori. I didn’t bother changing the colours with filters this time.

photoshop-swirls-beforephotoshop-shibori-swirls

photoshop-kuno-before photoshop-new-kuno

It’s fascinating to see how different the patterns look when repeated on a larger scale, which is something I could never achieve by hand. And using different filters to create different colourways adds even more potential.

Lots for me to think about here!

Textile Alchemy at the WAC Gallery — Modern Eccentrics

I went to the PV of Textile Alchemy on Wednesday, but Johnny’s photos are miles better than mine! So I’m just reblogging and saying that you can still catch the show tomorrow (didn’t realise it was only up for a few days) at Waterloo Action Centre, 14 Baylis Road, London SE1 7AA.

For once, I’m not going to write very much about this wonderful show, the end of year exhibition of the Advanced Textile Workshop at Morley College. This is because Zoë Burt, the tutor has summed things up so eloquently, and done my job for me. ‘Students have had exciting opportunities to creatively develop their professional textile […]

via Textile Alchemy at the WAC Gallery — Modern Eccentrics

More art shows

It’s tiring, this art lark. 🙂 Yesterday was certainly full-on, with two student shows during the day and then open studio visits in Camberwell in the evening.

I started with the Textiles Foundation exhibition at Morley College, as it was close to me and close to my heart. The first thing I saw was a window display of rust and indigo stitched scrim vessels – part of Gav Ross Belton’s Imperfect Beauty display. Please forgive the imperfect photo below, with its pesky reflections!

morley 2015-1

Inside was a whole array of his further experiments, using rust and indigo on materials such as paper, scrim, silk and muslin. Some had echoes of Alice Fox, another artist whose work I admire.

I also liked Alison Ripley’s structured felt and stitchwork, inspired by cellular structures.

There was more felt and stitching in Alexandra Anderson’s scarves resembling the texture of melon skin.

And Petra Mavsar’s printed wallpaper and fabric had pleasing symmetries that looked to be based on bird of paradise flowers.

morley 2015-8

Natasha Hanckel-Spice’s Code Knit played with the idea of binary code translated into machine knitting with wire and wool, in contrasting colours – another one that was tricky to photograph!

morley 2015-9

The Textiles Foundation exhibition runs at Morley Gallery until 2 July.

After lunch with Women of the Cloth it was off to the RCA Textiles show. As ever, the weaving section was especially strong. I particularly liked Wuthigrai Siriphon‘s samples made from recycled PET bottle yarns and polyester combined with silk, paper, cotton, mohair and wool.

rca 2015-1

The machine knitted garments using dip-dyed yarns by Jessica Leclere were very effective.

Jeehyun Kil used more unconventional plastic and metal tubes to create 3D geometric forms and nets that are flexible enough to drape and change shape.

rca 2015-4

In a similar vein, Yue Wei creates bags and other structures combining materials such as perspex, leather and resin.

rca 2015-5

Carly Mikkelsen, by contrast, used more conventional textile materials in unconventional ways- for example, by joining strips of thick layered felt.

rca 2015-6

Finally, I loved Amelia Gibbs‘ ethereal fabric collages combining pleated, stitched an shredded silk with feathers and crystals.

rca 2015-7

The RCA show runs until 5 July.

Then last night we did the rounds of some of the Camberwell open studios taking part in Camberwell Arts Festival. So much going on, too much to mention – you can see the full list here. But here are a few of my favourites.

Pauline Amphlett Prints

Gabriela Szulman Art

Tony Blackmore

Liz Charsley-Jory

Rafael Atencia Design

The Camberwell Arts Festival ends tomorrow.