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.

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!