The Blackberry Invader or Humble Bramble?

Along the narrow path, brambles had completely networked, crisscrossing in every direction, successfully blocking any entry through the path. The path barely identifiable. The first task was to open up this network and negotiate a compromise. Entering into a conversation, the boundaries between myself and their persistent invasion, became a much more civilised affair. Tackled with a pair of secateurs, (not a noisy, smelly, petrol strimmer, as indiscriminately tried and miserably failed in the past)and a resolution to not try to eradicate but to utilise the resource. What could I create from it?

Years previously I had made a successful yarn from the inner core of nettles by a process of drying, crushing stripping and so on. Alice Fox, whilst documenting her plot 105, has successfully been making cordage from bramble so this will be a possible experiment but first was to explore whether it yielded a dye successfully.

Natural bramble dye, from the leaves, stems and flowers no berries…yet, gave a lovely surprise…. Responding to different mordants and pH. Black ’berries’ as such offer a fugitive dye they are not lightfast, a stain more than offering a pigment. However, make interesting dyes and inks when you create a dialogue with the environment and something I am experimenting with in alternative processes for journalling this research. Tests will need to be done to assume whether this dyebath is lightfast but it is looking promising to use the resource within the colour scheme and definitely for this second module: sampling and testing. Trying not to repeat subjects, like Natural dyeing that can be readily obtained now through this World wide Web/digital library, I have wondered which way my practice is to go with regards to teaching. How to make a blackberry dyebath seems so easily learnt compared to when I started out over 15 years ago. The thoughtful musings of other journal writers such as Sarah Swett pondered the same it seems and came to a compromise that worked for them.

In order to make the switch from wide fashion cloth to narrow braids that can be interwoven and left outside to continue the narrative with the environment, the thickness of my yarns do need to be considered.

This year the aim of The Textile Farm, me, is to be self sufficient with the resources I use in my ’making’. With the exception of the art paper, a khadi rag paper, that has happened. Although I have made paper before,I think I succumbed to time limitations. Incidentally bramble and nettles and lots of resources I do use lend themselves so well to paper making.

Natural Dialogues.

Entering an unfamiliar place and striking up a conversation is always a challenge, but what if it’s a place you feel you know and a conversation you would love to have. I have suddenly gone shy!

My conversation with the top of the land has always been how can I maintain the narrow pathway, keeping it open for personal use, honouring my fond historical memories of the owner of the farm, who I purchased the land from, driving their animals from the farm, situated by this piece of land, to the fields at the other end. Mother Nature quickly assumes the rights of this pathway should I not keep up this conversation.

Harvesting, rather than removing, pushing back the boundary of the overgrown path. Gently and lightly re establishing the footsteps. The copious amounts of vegetative material collected, with resources, tested, sampled and analysed.

A week later and only halfway along this top boundary, I began to realise a process of creative dialogue has been established.

Walking the boundaries

With the first module of my MA in….I have begun to give structure to my investigations and these reflections will form part of that process. The areas of the land that quite literarily ‘draw’ me to them are the wooded areas. Whilst very narrow areas they are situated on the periphery of the land…. The boundaries. This got me thinking about boundaries. What are they made up of? How many are there seen and unseen, visible or hidden?


I have set my own clear boundaries within the use of this land. To only farm using organic principles, to keep low stocked animals, grow crops resourcefully and to be mindful of structures I create being temporary and biodegradable. Being an artist, I continued working creating boundaries; with the materials and processes I use. Resourceful materials grown such as flax, plants for colour, foraged on the land like acorns, nettles and achillea or with animals I keep to provide fibres like mohair from my 3 beautiful angora goats. This led me onto to consider my own personal boundaries….not always so boundaried.

We create boundaries to mark ‘our’ land. This piece of land has a fence around it. Supposedly separating this piece from ‘other’ pieces. Yet within the land itself, boundaries are created, microcosms separated. How are they separated? Who or what separated them? Many boundaries are created by different criteria. Strayer et al(2003), Cadenesso et al (2003) and Kolasso (2014) suggest defining that criteria is necessary to consider an ‘investigation’ of the boundaries. Cadenesso stresses the importance of specifying the ‘boundary’ that is under investigation by considering three areas: the boundary itself but also the ‘patch’ that lies beyond and the ‘flow’ between them. This does make sense as it isn’t always clear where the demarcation is, it’s not always clear, there are, as we know, grey or in this case ‘green’ areas. How does one affect the other? Cadenesso also suggests that there is a hierarchal structure within these areas. The type of flow between the two is affected by the materials, the energy, organisms and the information transferred for example. Both the boundary and the patch have there own unique architecture and composition. What makes them different?

Nature creates boundaries of her own.

Passionate about nature and the impact as humans we have on the environment: What boundaries should be in place to safeguard this relationship? How does nature create her own boundaries?

There’s a lot to think about.

References.

Cadenesso M.L et al. (2003) A framework for the theory of ecological boundaries

A dialogue with nature: along the lines of DNA.

23rd Feb 2021

As I have said before I wasn’t ‘quite’ prepared for the depth of soul searching that this course has led me to undertake, although I shouldn’t have been to surprised, as I did anticipate the search for my own ‘identity’ as an artist. However, when presented with the task of 50 images/50 words, I thought I had it covered. I thought I knew what truly ‘floated my boat’,  ignited that spark. The investigations into specifics revealed some fascinating revelations and some images became no longer appealing as they were filled by those specifics.

Quite early on, I found one extremely and  valuable conclusion I had come to was that the slave to fashion I had become was not really ‘IT’ for me. I realised that it was not the fashion itself at all. I had already begun to find the production of metres of cloth, unappealing and monotonous, in fact uninspired to do it. I LOVE the design process, the interaction with the materials and the dialogue I undertake with nature. Incidentally, I found that the fashion element is the love of traditional craft processes, the relationship and interactions it forms with others, historically , in the present and by contemporary translations. I love the infinite detail of the historical costumes and garments, obsessed with pins, tuck, buttons, embroidery and want to try and emulate this into my weave constructions, another reason for using narrow braids rather than vast widths and double cloth where I can explore tucks, pockets and trims.

A person wearing a dress

Description automatically generated with medium confidence A person wearing a dress

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceAuodai Spring Collection 2016.

The passion is that dialogue. In my BA I wanted and did continue that dialogue with nature to the finished product. Returning the cloth to the landscape for it to interact …a short film was made and shown to accompany my graduation.

I love the experiments within my work that show evidence of this dialogue, back and forth. Rust reacting with acids, natural dyes, the spinning and weaving processes where the natural fibres are manipulated using scientific processes like over spinning. For me I LOVE the science. As is expected from the course, I  began to ask myself the question why.

This took me back to an image I remembered I had of myself as a toddler, taken by my grandfather, I believe , where I am obviously delighted and truly engaged with soil (It is now on my board!). Trowel in hand there are a series of images taken, I am oblivious to the photographer. The soil has always been my passion, its welfare, understanding it and believing it to be the soul and essence of everything it produces and indeed provides. The sustainable element, which I thought drove me, hand in hand with this but so much more. Having re trained and worked as a landscape gardener, that should have been obvious, it wasn’t. Although I did make associations with other members of my family as to where my love of the gardening came from.

Within my artwork, I am always drawn to the organic, mark making , often using the chemical reactions of plants to provoke ‘drawn’ responses and final outcomes within the woven cloth. I love the molecular structures of the cells, the patterns they provide to stimulate design outcomes. The dissection of a rose hip within my BA very early on in my studies provided inspiring digital outcomes.

Research helped with this revelation or more a consolidation and clarification of it. The series of videos we were given, I have finally got around to watching the Yunko Mori one in full, half way through and hooked. I am fascinated with her love of microscopic images and share her passion, I can see so much potential for design just like her albeit in a different discipline. I need a microscope….and to watch the other half of the beautiful film.

Research further and the Land art Collective, provided the words ‘soil chromatology’ and ‘anthotype’ within workshops on how to further capture the essence of plants., being already familiar with cyanotype prints. This reminded me of those rust studies, within the Alice Fox workshop and how I had used and reused the artwork in so many ways, creating a real buzz. I want more of this buzz.

My weekend foray into ink making, all started with a frozen gift I remembered from a friend of lots of elderberries. I knew them to be fugitive as a dye so didn’t hold much hope, most berries do tend to be but I didn’t want to waste them. What a shame…. Or is it. I exploited this, another thing I love to do. I shifted the pH to see what colours I could obtain. What design potential for artwork, colours for spun yarns and woven cloth on its own. The plan is to do some ink drawings and apply those modifiers to the page, a chemical reaction that will change the colour balance in an unpredictable organic way. Creating authentic, unique outcomes to work with further.

There we have it, the absolute thing that does indeed float my boat…. Spark my fire, the science of it all. The chemistry, biology and the physics of it all. There is so much to explore and I can’t wait to get in to the depths of it, realising I have only just scratched the  surface of something I knew I loved but just didn’t realise how much it fundamentally underpinned my work, until I looked into those images in more depth. I also hadn’t explored the potential. The artists I am drawn to are the ones, like debbie Lyddon who uses the natural reactions to create her artwork, the salt pots, amongst many others.

Debbie Lyddon 2021

Its’ all in the DNA. 

Looking back at the board I glimpse, coincidence or is it. Quite a few of the images including an image of Jennie Parry’s work reveal that strand of molecular looking DNA! 

Down into Alice in Wonderlands multi burrowed rabbit holes.

9th Feb 2021

Revolving Doors or lots of burrows to visit revealing so many ideas, I am finding it hard to keep track, essentially feeling like Alice; that I am being led, scooped up and hurried along. This hurried along feeling is my usual pace to be fair, but diagnosed with Polymyalgia in August 2020 and now Temporal Arteritis in Jan 2021, illness has made me acutely aware of my limitations to keep up and I will confess that I have experienced frustration at not being able to fully take advantage of every lead. Although I am pleased with what I have achieved.

Isn’t this rather missing the point, I ask myself. Am I not encouraged to be more discerning and take advantage of the opposite, time…. To reflect analyse and be critical of my choices. The why I make my choices. Well, one thing is obvious I am guided by my heart, intuition and my interaction with the world around me including those serendipitous moments, those coincidental leads.

Perhaps because more than ever I am aware of just how exploring craft and art through the world and medium of nature, self-sufficiency and sustainability is and has been therapy. It is much more than an environmental issue all though that has been an incredibly important part of me all my life and  I considered it to be my driving force. 

To be self-sufficient and sustainable is a statement and a giver of confidence. 

This confidence has allowed me to accept the elements that the initial research has presented as ideas and concepts to explore how ever difficult they may be for me personally. The how and in what context perhaps the focus of  the MA.

Beginning Approaches

21 January 2021

The overwhelming feeling of insecurity, lack of confidence in your identity as an artist maker consumes me. Whilst innately, intuitively knowing ‘to make’ is breath and to breathe, the reality is hard to put into practice with financial stability and other commitments that make up who us as humans we have to be. The acceptance for me is the challenge, in this imperfect world that through inevitable curve balls, to hold dear that, that is essentially the ‘you’, your identity. Or a part of it, ‘The artistic/designer/craftsperson identity’. In my case to life self-sufficiently, sustainably and ultimately create or make is a huge part.

Whilst embracing the challenge, embarking on the next part of the journey to undertake the MA and being 110% committed. The floodgates open, no preparation can prepare you for the overwhelming influx of stimuli! Where to begin, the doubts of keeping pace…..extracting the opportunities full potential, that leaving no stone unturned is daunting, so exciting and ultimately exhausting at times before any concrete work can begin. The thoughts flood in and out and expand , the starting point comes within and out of reach, to do justice to the task.

Do I start from the past, the journey that brought me to this juncture? Or The future as I saw it before starting the course? Or Perhaps the ever changing goalposts that are coming day by day now as I engage, through zoom calls, interactions literature, life or thoughts and I welcome them, always knowing they will inevitability present themselves. The purpose of my journey.

Is the danger NOT to start, to start too soon, too late and miss the valuable essence of reflection, to go with what you know and miss the openness that reflection provides or get swallowed up with it. There is the point too that it cannot be forced, the task often happens when its ready, but that isn’t always to the deadlines set and causes anxiety. 

Whilst the Covid presents its own challenges in this very bizarre year, with the early health issues clashing with the beginning of the course, the delivery of the course moving online has helped enormously in the anxiety. Hearing today fellow colleagues expressing and indeed being in a similar position with their insecurities,  lack of concrete tasks achieved and not knowing just where to start… reassured. 

I have begun this task at least.

Next steps/questions it poses….         

Is it the whole or part of the image that excites or interests

Is it the pattern, texture or something else

It is as much about finding a method to work with as well. Creativity comes in many guises!