A question to ponder today… red catkins or black catkins will there be a difference?

With my new ‘toy’ settled firmly into one of my favourite things to do I have assimilated my new microscope as a tool for the task I have set myself through out the MA >to document down to the cellular, molecular level the activity at a given time within the smallholding engaging in a dialogue with the land the soil and nature itself from the art work through to products. The task over the next few days is to get into a rhythm, a pattern of journalling that works for me … to be slightly more methodical, scientific in my approach.

Walking down to let the chickens out seems a perfect opportunity to observe, collect and return with resources for further documenting. Salix graciliastyla melanostachys, being its latin name, whilst absolutely hopeless at languages I love the latin names! The common name – black pussy willow. This time of year it comes into its own with so so much interest moment by moment. Beautiful red/green stems, then these little beauties, carrying practically all of its treasures on that stem! What a gift to see.

Noticing the few red catkins in amongst the exquisite black ones, peppered with yellow, black and white I began to think of the excitement of getting back to my microscope. Answer the question…. now experience tells me the answer is yes, but I suppose the real question is more like how will it be different under the microscope.

Simplifying the view.

This post was written during my BA…Nov 2 2017 12:30AM

First impressions, start to create memories. Scanning the landscape is a bit like one of those QCR barcodes. The lines, marks, dots and slashes, quickly registering to guide you to more information. Focusing intently on this ‘barcode’ provides interesting outcomes. The juxtaposition of the softer flora set amongst hard geological elements, providing colour and form. Lines created by fissures in the cliffs, such as at Old Hunstanton, Norfolk. Those patterns set in several stratums of different textured ‘sediments’ or the manmade lines here in Wales, no more than 50 yards from home. The cultivation patterns in the distant forests, skirted by the straight shadows of the distinct uniform trunks. Like any meditation practice, this unique fingerprint of a place becomes clearer when the mind is focused on less. At this point, finding colour a distraction to exploring ‘form’, it helps to work in ‘black’ and white or as is often the case Paynes Grey or Prussian Blue. Why remove the colour, when it is so essential to cloth? When initially considering designs it helps to spend time focusing on form, to provide food for patterns and weave structures even as a way of preparing for digital consideration. Reducing the ‘noise’ and complexity by this simplification also helps to create that first impression however, fleeting the moment may be, capturing its essence for translation.

Materials matter.

Taken from a previous post written during my BA….Sep 3 2017 02:55PM

Considering the materials to use becomes vital when considering longevity of the cloth vs sustainability. The project, indeed a BA Textiles degree is always about cloth, yarns and construction of durable, fit for purpose cloth. Creating sustainable cloth, develops further considerations; to produce contemporary cloth that has a circular life.

Looking to the landscape for inspiration, answers some of these considerations. The identity of place is quite often bound up in the flora, fauna and foe of the landscape, adapted to survive in the identity of its landscape. 

Wool; in my opinion, one of both Wales and Scotlands undervalued commodities is an obvious choice. The ‘how’ to make it contemporary and exploit its qualities come from the processes. For me, spinning is a meditation.; feeling that fibre slip threw my fingers in rhythmic salute to the landscape it comes from. Creating texture by applying different combing, carding or plying techniques. Colouring with flora, fauna and foe to create a truly sustainable product to work with; unique to my style, interpretation and needs. I find this is one of way I can truly bring authenticity into my work.

Using fibres made from vegetable matter whilst traditional in the form of fibres such as flax (linen), cotton and nettle are now a growing market for contemporary design. With fibres such as bamboo, tencel and hemp finding their way way into more prominent design and use.

For a previous Haute couture module last semester I indulged my desire to work with metals, using a very fine 0.002mm wire woven together with natural dyed threads of the above. I would like to explore this further, especially within the art context both to standalone and accompany designs. 

The blending of fibres together to spin is also something I enjoy and wish to epxlore further, creating unique textures . Juxtaposing the qualities to reflect the contrast found within a landscape; as well as those both seen from afar and up close. Different effects are created, reflecting the diversity of its identity; the layers of depth, transparency and clarity.

To colour; natural dyes, pigments and inks created by myself, through the alchemy of the natural world is my choice. Taken from the land to be put back into it once the cloth wears, with an understanding of the power of the chemistry involved. For nature, is powerful, chemical and can be dangerous if not respected like the power of the elements.

Marks of the land. True identities. Whats it all about?

A copy of a post written during my BA Aug 2 2017 02:44PM

You can probably gather, my overwhelming love of nature and in particular plants. Throughout my degree it has become abundantly clear that the landscape as a whole is significant to me; inspiring me in so many ways. From colour, structure, patterns and form. Living here in Wales and travelling around in my Mitsibushi campervan with my fellow companion appropiately named ‘Indigo’, I seek out the wild and isolated landscapes. Driving every morning and night over a mountain top to and from college, through all the dramatic season changes we are so lucky to have in the UK, I witness their effect on our landscape. Those effects on the fire passes made by tractors on dry heath, the bloom of the plants that habitat that soil, to the soil eroded cliffs and rocks. The textures, colours and sights give those locations their identity.

As I have been working through my degree, I realise I have been shaping my identity too. What surprised me the most was how I have been carving a path to be an artist, something I never thought I was. I claim to be creative but an artist…no. I knew in my future after my degree that I would ‘make’, hoped I would learn to design but didnt anticipate the strong desire to create art. 

Bringing this together, broadly was easy! The contextual module on 21st Century Art that I had written last semester; which was seen from the perspective of identity, got me thinking how multi cultural we all are.; In a very ‘mobile’ world of travel, communications, faith, inter marriage and partnerships and so on. How do we classify or ‘mark’ our own unique identities now? No two people have truly the same cultural identity.

On a practical level, it has been extremely thought provoking trying to work out the ‘how’. How can I bring all these elements into a sustainable, weave and mixed media project for my finals?

I begun by breaking it down, there are strong elements that I need to consider and define ‘my identity’.

I am a person who believes very strongly in self sufficiency, circular lifestyles.

I am a gardener.

I love working on every process from field to product.

I am a natural dyer.

I love creating hand spun yarns from natural sources; working with textures.

I love creating cloth.

I love working with the resources from nature; creating yarns, pigments, dyes and inks.

I love making yarns, cloth, clothes and art.

Now I am sure you can, as I can start to see some potential probems here from a professional point of view. Yes.. absolutely I am too; screaming ….Time management! Economic viability! Idyllic notions that are unworkable, impractical. Not too mention that consideration of health constraints.

My dissertation is formulated.

Title: Creating a sustainable, circular and economically viable practice as a textile designer.

The theme for my practical finals will always have to be built around a sustainable, circular cloth. The aim to create ‘cloth’ and clothes. The birth of a future label; ‘Boddy and Cloth’. Both extending and complementing its sister company Natural Threads: a natural art and crafts supply company that also offers workshops, that started in 2013.

Research for patterns, colour and form will take place considering the marks made in the land by both nature and man, creating the identity of place. I love travelling; visiting many places in the UK as well as India. Last years trips to North Wales and Scotland formed the basis of a module in Mixed Media and has fed these plans for this coming years work in land marks. For this module I examined rock formations both manmade and by nature, with studies of slate mines.

I have now extended this interest to include ‘other’ marks made in the land. Exploring and comparing landscapes to get that real sense of identity. Already fascinated with the welsh coastlines and spending time in The highlands of Scotland I recently spent time , in complete contrast, along the Norfolk Coastline; from Hunstanton to Cromer.

Its getting exciting, with collections building of experiences, photography, sketches, materials and ideas.

Towards the end: The beginning

A copy of a post written Jul 30 2017 05:05PM reflecting on the work for my BA…

At this, the beginning of the journey for the final year of a BA Textiles degree in Knit, Weave and Mixed Media, there are many ‘threads’ to consider in setting a brief for myself and planning its execution.

With a passionate interest in nature from an early age, it was logical to consider creating a collection of natural fabrics following the processes from field to fabric. This was not something I fell into but more a lifestyle choice that I have been working towards since a small child.The child who rummaged around within the River Thames drift all those years ago. With life now nestled within 3 acres of field here in West Wales, ripe for dancing with the dream and the graduation date to be soon upon me, its time to bring it all together.

I am so determined and passionate about learning about, educating others and creating sustainable cloth, believing in the circular process necessary for protection of our planet, yet I have learnt through the journey of this degree that this can be obtained in so many ways. Many of them developing into innovative, exciting and contemporary ideas. Exploring old traditions in new ways to adapt the processes and outcomes; offering circular, sustainable and alternative approaches to fast fashion.

The Handspun Tale

Sitting by the log burner, busily spinning and trying to negotiate the pricing of the yarn I am producing, I realise this is not just about the financial gain. I could never realistically compete with the mechanisation of the spinning industry.

IMG_5881Just consider the processes that the fibres go through  from field to yarn. The shearing, scouring, drying, combing, carding before the spinning even takes place. Then the process of multiple ‘single’ threads being created to then be plied. Then there is the dyeing process. It quickly becomes apparent, that The Industrial revolution quite literally revolutionised yarn production. Why would anybody wish to sit for hours on end spinning one 25 gram skein when machines can produce an enormous quantity in a milli fraction of time. My own time and motion studies proved beyond a doubt that I could never earn the hours that the skeins take me to produce (and I am a relatively fast spinner!) Thoughts turned to my motivation. I realised the complexity of it and of why I wish to create slow cloth.

From the smallest of seeds……

CUexhibitonfinalsmallWell, what can I say, it has been a rollercoaster ride. I find myself at the end of my studies (for now?) Degree is drawing to a close with the final collection of handwoven, naturally dyed samples made, submitted and exhibited. I know, it is not wool! This is the very strange thing about a degree that I have found. It certainly takes on a life of its own. I found myself examining the properties of natural fibres, asking questions; ultimately shifting my own perspectives. I arrived at what if linen challenged our perspectives…..what if it could stretch.

StripeEndEditsmall

Finished cloth.

Woven on a 90cm AVL dobby loom in white high twist linen, initially, this piece, pictured above, had a unique character of its own, resembling lacy white curtains of a tuscan villa! The magic of energetically spinning a thread past a balance is in the interaction with water. Having been woven much more open, the fibres are allowed to move and do what comes naturally, wriggling, retracting seemingly shrinking to create a crepe, stretchy fabric. That 90 cms woven cloth becoming two thirds of its original size and stretchy. It is so exciting to create innovative cloth from changing the parameters of what we have come to expect.

 

20180412_105106

Still on the loom.

I loved each process watching it transform before my eyes. Using a particular element of Shibori; the art of stitch resist, challenged the perception of embroidery and embellished stitch. Knowing the stitches were to be removed, allowed me to reflect on the lack of permanence to fashion items, here was a very old traditional craft resilient guiding my hand. Fashion trends come and go, and often work on a loop system, Craft skills handed down generation to generation are invaluable in providing a way to express ourselves to reflect the current thoughts whilst preserving our heritage. The challenge is to keep these crafts alive by continually creating contemporary craft deeply grounded in them. Giving cloth, in this case a sense of history, heritage ….a narrative to be cherished and ultimately a value not to be discarded lightly or irresponsibly.

20180418_103728

All stitched and gathered waiting to go in the Indigo vat

Treading a natural path.

I was warned of the unpredictable nature that work for your final graduate collection can take. It assumes a life of its own, consuming your ideas; running in abstract paths. How might you ask do I get from  wool so carefully collected, scoured and prepared to a final collection working only with linen! The theme, marks of identity within the landscape, evolved to explore the properties of an unforgiving material, in extraordinary ways.

The desire to create garments that were sustainable, offering an alternative to fast fashion, led me to challenge perspectives in more ways than just visual interpretations of the marks that were in the landscape, into surface pattern or structural weaving. Thinking of materials – What if linen could stretch? Would that start to make you re evaluate its properties. its function in your wardrobe? What if you could grow, compost then regrow your clothes?

Being a horticulturalist, it is inevitable the growing process would feature heavily in my textile career. With that in mind, to define my core aesthetics, as a designer, has become part of the process too. Natural dyeing, intrinsic to the process, developed questions; how can I push this element to become an example of contemporary sustainable fashion, where celebrating the ‘bespoke’ one off shades, the fading and reinventing of the shades over time truly characterised a ‘living’ textile. Where natural dyeing became so much more than a hobby craft, but part of our wardrobes. There is a stigma attached to working with natural dyes that potentially could undermine the professional status of a garment. What does natural dyed cloth conjure up for you?

‘Shifting Perspectives’, the new title for the collection explores these questions. Challenging identity from all angles; professional, personal, materials, methods, processes, fashion and by theme. I am hoping visitors to the exhibition will each take away a unique perspective of the work, that challenges the way they think about an element individual to them.

Creating an experiment for the summer !

I find myself even further down the road in this exciting, totally consuming  journey. With that comes the thousand apologies I could possibly make as to the lack of entries here, however, it is not without interest, my absence that is. Read on if you will, I now find myself on a BA Textiles degree for Knit ,Weave and Mixed Media; with the second year drawing to a close. Absolutely …How did that happen?

Surrounded by equally passionate people. The wealth of stimulus is sometimes deafening ! Sometimes you just have to stand back…. where in the world am I going. What on earth am I trying to say. Sometimes you can have just have too much stimulus….perhaps.

With my finals approaching next year, I have a few of these type of questions to answer. Now as many of you know I am a natural dyer first and foremost. Natural colour is my trademark. I live, eat, breathe, teach and grow it! However, I love spinning but do not nearly spend enough time doing it. The BA specialism for me, is creating cloth through weave and natural mixed media; Combine these with my essential ‘being’ that of a gardener, both personally and professionally, Well of course, I want to combine them all together sustainably for my offering.

Tall order or ‘natural’ progression, excuse the pun !

I have requested via social media (locally) a variety of sheep fleeces from different breeds; to prepare and spin and dye them over the summer, ready to use within my finals next year. I was overwhelmed by the choice and condition of the fleeces offered; many donated.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A sharing of ones coat

The majority of ‘donators’ were smallholders or small scale farmers and young farmers with small flocks of their own. They all seem to have a limited number of each breed, where the animals were treated often as pets or part of the family. It was pure heaven to meet them at their ‘farms’ ; always arriving with my trusty companion, Indigo and often with a daughter or son in tow; curious and country lovers too.

The project is beginning already to be so much more than I anticipated. I want to give provenance to the cloth I will create next year; from field to finished samples. To pay tribute to the love and care the animals receive (and give) by honouring each process the fleece receives from me. IMG_5285

The fleeces have started to trickle in, although I am expecting to be over whelmed soon as the sheep are shorn, after this period of intense rain. I have tried to keep records to provide the detailed provence I want. Each fleece being logged, scoured and dried and a special hessian sack made to keep the precious fibre until the next process begins. The sack having its own printed and hand sewn label attached. You can just feel the chaos within this order develop can’t you when inundated with fleeces soon!

IMG_5280.JPGAs you can gather, this is not about speed. This is about creating cloth of heritage. Slow, living textiles. That leave their mark as naturally, as sustainably as possible; With regards to the environment with which we ALL come from. It is not aimed at the  ‘throwaway society’ in the sense of owning excessive ‘material’ objects but the cherishing of a few, lovingly, well made items with a history; a story to tell, who then, when they reach the end of their lives, are biodegradable; returned to recycle and begin again. Hopefully producing a beautiful ‘story’ for our fast paced times.

From the beginning….

Life never quite goes according to plan for me. Well for a start I was born in the city of London, whilst my heart seemed intrinsically attached to the countryside! I mean countryside , to a point where off grid and wild and windy Scotland crofts came into virtual grasp! Well, I didn’t make it that far. As i say, life has other plans. However, I do and have for 12 years lived in a remote ish dwelling, by my standards at least. Off grid no but it’s own water supply with plenty of stories to tell for a later post, hilarious now but at the time disastrous. It has its own sewage too. so no quite dry compost loos as of yet! Being on the end of a telephone and electricity lines bring their own challenges to a modern growing family but hey we survived, just about. Idyllic and blooming hard work.

Four children have grown with me into and for some of them out of the love with this magical forest dwelling. 2001 being 7, 4, 18 months on arriving and adding to the brood in 2003 made four. We are unfortunately coming to the end of our magical existence here and go forward with real experience of the unbelievable good fortune, experience and delight of being here and also the challenges faced of pursuing the ‘good life’. We have grown, harvested, kept various menageries of animals, facing all the ups and downs that mostly could not even be imagined as part of this existence. many, many times it felt a privilege and a few times perhaps more than i wished it to be; an enormous burden.

The city lives in me. My roots i cannot ignore. I adore the culture, the arts the diversity of it all. I lived amongst bohemian lifestyles, ghetto existences almost, high rise blocks and trade unions strikes, standpipes and sugar mountains. I collected driftwood by the boatrace bonanza of Putney Bridge and scraped diligently for clay pipes and roman remains of yesteryears in sites of new estates. I learnt to drive in the chaotic merry go rounds and rides of the Hogarth Roundabout and Chiswick Flyover. I leisurely flooded my moped in the parks of Richmond during a torrential summer storm because I was past caring how wet I could become. I was soaked through to the innermost garments of secrecy!

The natural elements have always played their part with and in my life. City or countryside I gravitated to nature.

So as I begin another chapter. Potting Shed Direct the Gardening business I began in 2008 has  now become my creative space. To dabble, ponder with nature creatively. Ever inquisitive and wondering. What if….. x