Crit with PAC Home
Having completed the courses in natural dyes for textile and digital textile printing, I’ve been exploring how the processes complement other ideas that I am working with. I felt that there were a lot of different elements going on and so to help me make sense of it all, I arranged to have a crit at PAC Home, a network for artists, curators and writers based at Plymouth Arts Centre.
Since I completed my MA last year, PAC Home has been really important both socially and by offering practical support and opportunities. I’ve only been in Plymouth for 3 years and have found PAC Home to be an inclusive and engaged way to help me embed myself into the arts community in Plymouth. As part of the membership, PAC Home can facilitate events like crits or presentations on request. I wanted to talk about my A-N Professional Development Bursary and felt that a crit format would be most beneficial to the stage I was at in the work. The following are some thoughts that came up during the crit.
One of my aims of this bursary activity was to develop work and imagery around my research on the landscape as experienced by walking. The relationship between body, breath and place are central to all the work I make. Having worked with certain processes of making photographic images for a while, I wasn’t feeling excited about them.
I have been working on variations of these images for a couple of years. They are created using extended exposure times whilst walking through landscapes. The landscape itself becomes abstracted due the the time and movement, showing the movement of my body through the landscape. I find that when I work on certain pieces in isolation for too long, I have a habit of not necessarily losing interest, but more of a sense of losing confidence in it. Being able to show a couple of these images to a new audience helped me appreciate the work more and has given me a renewed purpose to continue working in this way.
I still want to do some further development in printing these images on textiles. I have produced some small scale samples and and looking for funding to scale this up. For me, printing on fine silks works on multiple levels: it allows the images to be affected by bodies as the move through the space, the fabric also has a translucency that allows light, bodies and other images to be seen through the printed image on the fabric.
Working with natural materials to dye fabrics has been a very different process yet like the images, has a strong relationship with time. In this case a longer period reflecting cyclic, natural processes.
Interesting points were also made on the scanned images of the dyed textiles. (See images in July post). The scans enhance the detail of the fabric weave, the vibrancy of the colours and the creases in the fabric.
Dyeing fabrics and digitally prints to go are very different processes that I was unsure if they fit together. It was useful to talk this through. Increasingly I have been thinking about this work as an installation rather than a series of pieces which is the way I am historically used the working. In working with these new techniques and materials, the idea of creating an environment that can respond to people (or breeze/air) is something I feel strongly drawn to explore. The group suggested continuing working on the individual elements and when further developed, approach the installation format more intuitively. I’m really excited to see where this can go.
The ritualistic and tactile process of dying fabrics also intertwines with other ideas I have been researching on pilgrimages and sacred sites. I’m going to keep developing the work using this research of pilgrimage and places considered as sacred as a framework. In other further developed works, I am working with gold leaf. I’m excited by the ideas of merging more materials together.
So I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who came to the crit. It was such a great help to clarify some ideas and untangle and separate others. Also another thank you for all the pointers of artists to look at, books to read and funding sources.
Working from home for the past few months has been limiting at times and so I am exceedingly excited to be moving into a studio at KARST on the 1st November. I’m going to use this new phase to begin a new blog to keep track of the work as it continues to develop beyond the bursary activity.
So this will be my penultimate post on this blog. I want the final post to be forward looking in how the bursary activity will continue within my practice. Before that, I want to share an evaluation
So September came and went in a bit of a rush which got me thinking about how things have changed in my wider practice during the period of this bursary activity.
2017 has been a really positive year for my practice in a way that I could not have anticipated when I first heard I would be receiving the A-N Professional Development Bursary back in March. At the time I thought this along with another ongoing personal project would be my focus for the year…I am glad that in my proposal, I was clear abut this being an opportunity to find openings for further works rather than to resolve a piece within the time. Having this intention from the outset has prevented me from putting pressure on myself and allowed the work to develop fluidly, if slower than anticipated.
So what were these interruptions?
During May, I was putting together my first ACE G4A application for Sound Observations, a collaboration with my good friend and fellow artist Lee Jackson. We found out our application was successful in mid-July and so from then until September, most of our time was taken up in the project. (Saying that, it made the week in London in August to attend the Digital Textile Printing course feel like a luxurious treat!) We used the grant to produce a site-specific activity guide book for the Plymouth Art Weekender. the book contained creative meditation techniques and accompanying audio tracks to change participants perceptions of the city.
I have also had some positive feedback from open call exhibitions. I had two pieces included in the Plymouth Contemporary over the summer, one piece selected for the Jerwood Drawing Prize and another piece is in the RWA 165 Open in Bristol.
So whilst all these opportunities have maybe taken some of my focus away from the bursary activity, they have also been important to my learning process in selecting opportunities and negotiating my time and energies. One of my proposed aims was to create a textile piece to show during the Plymouth Art Weekender. Over the summer I decided that the work still felt too far from being resolved enough to make public. I am really excited about the new processes I am working with but having a piece completed for September would have felt too rushed. So although I didn’t achieve that particular aim, I am happy that I took that decision to give myself more time.
Another of my proposed aims was to maintain a bi-monthly peer mentoring group with a select few artist friends. We attempted to get this going but in the end, found it too difficult to set a regular schedule as everyone had very different working patterns. I did have a crit through the PAC Home network on the 10th October which I’ll discuss in the next post. This was a really great way to round up the bursary activity and the ideas that have evolved.
I completed an 8-month residency at Ocean Studios at the end of June. I wasn’t able to find a suitable studio space. At the time, other projects I was working on were on a fairly small scale and so I took the decision to work from home for a while. It worked for a while but I only have a small flat and over time, the merging of my living, sleeping and studio space has become challenging. Over the past month in particular, I have been thinking about the physical presence of the work. I have wanted to start scaling up the textile work but my space has been too restricted. I am very excited to be moving into a new studio space from 1st November and think that this could be a real turning point in the development of the work.
Another frustration I have come across is the cost of materials. Having worked with photography for many years, I’m used to high printing costs to get the right quality. I’m not surprised by the high cost of printing onto textiles but it has been a hinderance in being able to fully test out ideas. This is not necessarily all a negative point though. It has made me more considerate of the imagery I am working with. I have felt something is missing in the imagery I have been working with and so by not going ahead and getting prints made, I have taken a step back to the rethink the decisions I am making as to the place I am photographing…I have made some progress on this but will save that for the next post. I am seeking different funding opportunities to help me develop the work further and am feeling more positive about being able to grow the work ambitiously.
I have really enjoyed the blogging process but sometimes fail to give myself time to keep it updated. I guess I always get round to it when I feel the time is right. I have also received positive feedback when sharing the blog on social media…I haven’t been using Twitter or Instagram so much over the last month. Partly I think I was feeling a little burnt out after having so many projects going on during August and September.
I went to London for a week to attend a Digital Textile Printing short course at the London College of Fashion.
After an introduction and discussion about textiles, pattern, fashion and interiors, we were given a couple of tasks to work on for the remainder of the day. The first task was to create a mood board and then use this to create a colour palette of 8 colours.
For my mood board I took inspiration from a project proposal written recently that was built around a Japanese term ‘ten-chi-jin’, meaning ‘heaven-earth-human’. I used a combination of my own images from a project where I have been working with black and white photographic prints and gold leaf, and images of exhibitions I have been to recently and a few images found online. I felt really inspired by the Dreamers Awake exhibition of female artists with surrealist influences that I visited at the Whitechapel Bermondsey a couple of days prior to starting the course.
From the mood board, I decided to select just 3 main colours to represent the heaven, earth and human elements. I then used lighter tones of these three colours to create a palette of 8 colours in total. For heaven I selected the colour i felt closest to gold (as it can not be metallic), inspired by my recent work with gold leaf. It was also close in colour to some of the naturally dyed silks I had made. For the earth I want to refer to natural drawing materials of charcoal and graphite. For the human element I selected red with the lighter tones suggesting a fleshiness. Red relates to blood and is also the colour associated with the root chakra which is a grounding force. The red and paler tones felt bodily and feminine.
This exercise was a really great way to condense my ideas into a visual format. I was very surprised by the colours I ended up choosing. Recently, the majority of my work has been monochrome. Red is not a colour I would normally be drawn to aesthetically, in my work or in more general terms. It was really interesting to see how approaching this mini project in a different way, resulted in making choices that I don’t believe that I would have arrived at otherwise.
Before the course, I had scanned some sketches and prints to use, along with a selection of photographs I wanted to work with. During the week of the course I was staying in Holland Park which has a lovely Japanese style garden. I made several visits to the Japanese garden to sit, watch, sketch and make photographs to use during the course. A few years back, I spent 18 months living in Japan and often refer to Japanese aesthetics and philosophy within my work.
Over the next couple of days we were taught various techniques in Photoshop to create repeat print patterns. I worked out that I had been using Photoshop for over 15 years(!) so it was really refreshing to discover some new techniques. Here are some of the patterns I created:
Our final task of the week was to create a design for a 69x69cm scarf which would be printed on Crepe de Chine silk. I used a combination of the photographs, sketches and repeat patterns that I had made. Here is my final design alongside a detail of the repeat pattern I created using a simple line sketch of my hand:
On the final day, we met at the printers to learn about the printing and finishing process. It was really interesting to get a clear understanding of the full process and to see the the printing in action. Along with the scarf I also got some extra photographs printed onto silk so that I could play with the materials more back in the studio.
I felt that it was a really good move to undertake a course structured for fashion. One the the greatest benefits was that the approach was so different to my normal working process. Undertaking a new strategy enable me to work outside of my comfort zone, particularly visible in the use of colour. I have been working in predominantly monochromatic for the past couple of years. Recently I have been thinking about colour experience more due to undertaking yoga training, working on the chakras and auras, yet this course was a real push to go ahead and work more with colours I would normally not think to use. It was interesting that even when starting with a fashion-based brief, I still came out with a piece that sits in with my work conceptually and doesn’t feel removed from my practice. It will definitely impact the way I approach ideas in the future.
Here are the results of my first set on bundled silks. Each silk was dyed using natural materials gathered at different locations including seaweed from the coastline (top left hand corner), dirt, weeds and rusted metal found in the car park outside my studio (top 2nd from right), wildflowers from the small green space pockets in the city (bottom 2nd from left). By folding the fabric in on itself repeatedly, I seem to have managed to avoid any obvious patterns forming within the print. I really like the subtleness in the colour tones and the way that, (particularly in the top 2nd from left and the bottom left) there are traces of mould that grew on the plants as they fermented inside the warm jars.
I also forgot to mention in my last post that I invited a group of MA students to my studio in June to talk about transitioning from University to professional practice. It was really great to be able to share my experiences with the group and I had a good time to talk about my experience of this bursary activity so far. Although I wasn’t able to show the finished silks, I was able to share the new processes that I had learnt and how this feeds into my existing practice. I also gave them some advice on the application process – how to select opportunities and weight up the benefits and costs. I also made a clear point that however exciting the studio can appear in terms of having space and freedom to create, the reality is that a hefty amount of admin work is required to make it possible. They were a really great bunch of students so I’m looking forward to seeing their final show in September.
I took some walks locally, collecting natural materials along the way from specific locations; plants growing within the walls by the seafront, wildflowers in the city centre, weeds and rusted metal from outside the studio. I wanted to test different fabrics so prepared a range of different silks and muslin ready for bundle dyeing. In creating the bundles, I used a different folding technique, folding the fabric in on itself until it was no longer possible to fold in the edges. I then placed them into jars to leave on the window sill. This should create a solar oven to allow the dyes to embed into the fabric. The bundles in the solar ovens were left for 30 days. After this, they were unwrapped, the excess materials brushed off. On opening the jars, each bundle had its own earthy yet sickly sweet heady smell that changed as the bundled was untied and unfolded. During this process, my hands became stained grey and took on another metallic scent. The fabrics were then left to dry before placing in a dark warm cupboard where they will rest for another 30 days.