Who would have thought a cane module of 6 weeks – our brief : ‘from the air’ – could be an emotional rollercoaster…perhaps sky diving is a better analogy!
It was the term up to Christmas so rammed with other commitments and learning a whole new set of skills, patterns and rules to implement was a challenge. Polly Pollock our tutor set the bar high and we tried our best to keep up.
Learning about rattan and the very intensive processes it undergoes before we get our inexperienced hands on centre cane is complex, it’s harvested by people using ancient skills from rainforests often in pretty dangerous conditions as they pull at the plants stretching metres up into the trees, then it is treated and processed to refine it for all sorts of use using the bark and the centre stripped out. We were using centre cane a round section in 3 gauges. there are a lot of numbers involved and it’s essential to think ahead…(not my strong point). Each gauge has a number and we have to separate out a batch of it then re wind it all. Then sort it into which gauge will be used for stakes, weavers and borders. Then we count and measure lengths, we do this a LOT!
Next we dyed it. This is messy fun and produces some amazing rainbows of colour shades just from using primary colour dyes. We did some colour theory alongside this to help us understand complimentary colours and how they look together.
So my response (being a monochrome kind of gal is one of just how black can we get this cane to go?) I had done some rain water drawing with ink blots. puddles, mud and winter and wanted to use this as a starting point for my platter. Translating a photograph or an idea into a circular disc with lines going broadly speaking in concentric circles was an interesting challenge. The only way to get this nailed was to do it and try it and see what happened. The circular disk of the platter was a form I could identify with strongly from my previous work with Revolution and Resonance
To get going with this strange new material I started with getting colours and a palette that I liked, which involved trying Indian drawing ink as a dye.
The cane platter project really highlighted the tension between an idea or intellectual concept which runs through my practice and the craft skills of rule bound ‘ making’ who’s origins usually now lie with design rather than a fine art premise. Some artists believe there is no difference between artists and crafts people (artisans?) Caroline Achaintre makes work as an artist but uses craft techniques to execute them, I rather think it’s all in the intention. If the piece is made purely for practical, functional use to a set pattern it is a beautiful piece of craft still to be admired but different to a piece made to express an idea or to develop an investigation from the basis of a question.
Frank Gehry’s loose drawings suggest to me this architect used creative ideas as a starting point for his designs (Bilbao, Gugenheim Art Museum) like Chermeyef (De La Warr Pavilion) they require you to use your imagination to fill in the gaps but convey an overall concept. Perhaps this is always the first stage even with an entirely functional object, hidden by need for speed and lack of value for this stage in the process. perhaps its how much we value this stage which determines whether we see ourselves as artists in an intellectual, emotional, responsive or intuitive sense.
Fishermen made baskets and nets to catch carry and weigh fish. End of. However these were highly skilled tasks and the baskets and nets they made could be said to be aesthetically appealing (especially now as fashion has begun to value their inherent qualities) old baskets now become artefact – valued for their story/narrative and social history and the fact they have endured, the materials have aged and mellowed their use has added to their character. But this does not necessarily make them art works.