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.

From the smallest of seeds……

ideas germinate ….

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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All stitched and gathered waiting to go in the Indigo vat

Creating an experiment for the summer !

With my final year of a BA Textiles degree fast approaching, what is it I want to say?

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.

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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.