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! 

Treading a natural path.

The final collection makes its own 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.