Textiles 1: Ideas and Processes Nina O'Connor

Learning Log

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Response to Tutor Feedback IAP1

My tutor feedback included some insightful comments for consideration and valuable pointers for moving forward.

I will continue to research ‘labels’ formally and informally to increase my understanding of the contemporary context, endeavour to work beyond my desk space, and be more playful in my choice of material, allowing the process to inform the outcome rather than allow book making to influence the result.  The suggestion to adopt a more staged analysis of music to help my response is constructive.

There is a definite truth that my conditioning to do things the perceived ‘right’ way inhibits playfulness and pushing of boundaries.  It was enlightening to realise that identifying my personal boundaries and pushing them would improve confidence and encourage bravery.  I have recently examined my ‘role’ in life and been surprised to realise I am emulating the role played by my mother and see there is much ‘conditioning’ in the way I present myself.  Neat and tidy presentation and crafting is also part of my conditioning, a requirement of school and having worked in an esteemed Private Bank. 50 years practising & practicing ‘neat & tidy’ is quite a habit to break and an unfamiliar concept in the context of work that has to be handed in, so a worthwhile challenge.   The suggestion to ’embrace chaos, mess, energy and passion (albeit slowly) is recognised, perhaps even desired, in my creative and personal development so the reference to Bruce Mau’s “An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth”  is timely.  I wasn’t familiar with the document, have found it both fascinating and relevant and will refer to it throughout this assignment to see how many of the points ‘would help me to be braver’.

The suggestion to consider the value and potential issues of emotion within the work is pertinent.   I have been questioning aspects of my personal life and feel that acknowledging more emotion and allowing it to feed into my work will make it stronger and more valid, but understand that it is important to remain professional within the learning log.




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Formative Feedback IAP1

On Thursday 22nd June,I had my formative feedback on IAP1 via video tutorial.  I find this more helpful than a written report as it removes the potential for misunderstanding.  I took notes during the tutorial and my tutor, Cari Morton quickly followed up with a written synopsis of our conversation.

Video feedback notes

Research, nature of craft.  I haven’t defined what craft is?  Continue to reflect on craft as a context.

Felted textiles are usually in a craft context.  Felt is generally associated with a craft shop. 

Neto has a fine art background with a textile sensibility.  Bella Leonard has a textile/craft association but it is the scale and material that make it.

Harriet Popham no context, did i just like it?

Interesting, good level of personal reflection.  Important to relate work and research/enquire art in a contemporary context.

I have said it isn’t useful to give work a label,  Cari suggests I force myself to label as it might make me look more closely.

It can be a visual context – when critiquing context – is it Art gallery, fashion, commission, commercial space etc?

Like first piece thought it would be nice photographed with light coming through.  It didn’t reflect the scale and spacial elements to Bella’s work.

Looking at my journey.  Feelings, senses were referred to.

How did my feelings manifest in my work?

Thinking of Richard Serra’s list, to hole, holes can be made aggressively, showing anger.

Don’t make learning log too personal although it is ok if within an academic response to work.

Journey was visual mist etc. but words ravaged, torn , ripped stood out?  try to harness the emotions.  How did the emotions/visual emotions feed into the work.

Restraint and control, crispness and cleanness is my work.

Looking at Words and Serra, when out of my comfort zone, I go for colour, texture and pattern to offer alternative interest rather than pushing how I might represent the word.

With ‘weave’ I changed colour and material but didn’t challenge what weave could be.

‘Fold and enclose’ were structurally more interesting. – is that a comfort zone because it is something I’m more familiar with?

Try to work past control and restraint.  Push boundaries, know what’s appropriate.  I am in a position to push boundaries.

It’s ok for early testing to be badly made.

There was a sloppy craft trend in galleries, where badly crafted items were produced on purpose.

Talked about sketchbook, how to contain this module, media can be tested in sketch/workbook and the full mental journey should be shown.

Some samples might not be permanent eg. Throwing gravel, cutting grass, could be transient.

Pushing Boundaries

Asked how?

Establish my current boundaries and push those.

What materials do I use, could I use different materials to push my boundaries.

I am an interesting, curious student.  Don’t be a one trick pony and consider all outcomes in book form as this constrains the outcome.  OCA are looking for different and multiple outcomes.

Whereas, interestingly, Matthew Harris had commented that it was good that I had found my constraint in books.

A refinement of ideas not a final outcome.

Synthesis – a refined body of work. 

What are my boundaries, neat and tidy, scale to fit my desk?

If using books, look for a more conceptual approach.  Look at Sarah Brown who stitched for 84 hours like a bookmaker in the 1700’s.

Think more broadly, who else is exploring books as ideas.

Look at sarahbrown.info.

Looking at Music exercise.

About balance, representations and sensory?

Analyse relevance of materials in response to what I was hearing. 

How far could it have been pushed?

Could the music be more dominant that the accuracy of the drawings?

I wondered if there was a conflict between what I want to do or feel I have to do or is the conflict actually true –  that my brain/thoughts are confused?

What do I need to do to make this work for me?

How can I dissect the sounds?

Cari has taught Foundation:   to encourage spontaneous creativity in response to music, a 10 second clip was played repeatedly, the sounds dissected and a dictionary of marks relating to the different instruments was built up in preparation to responding to the whole piece. (a bit like Mark Cazalet getting us to mix the colours before applying them to the drawing.)

She liked the energy in the marks, part of the process?  Restraint in drawing?  Liked the yellow and blue, good colour sense and the sharpie drawing.


Tutor Feedback:

Nina O’Connor 513049 IAP A1 Feedback (1)



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Assignment 1 – Self-assessment

This has been an interesting, sometimes challenging, occasionally frustrating assignment which has underpinning the creative process.  I have learnt a lot about myself.  Personal experience and place are key areas of inspiration; words, poetry, prose and lyrics are less so.  Creating a visual record of verbs is tricky but vastly improved with interesting papers; Music is definitely not inspiration to perform.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

The choice of materials was varied and appropriate to the source, reasonable visual stills were demonstrated, working with new ways and materials left room for improvement in technical skills.

Quality of outcome

Work presented in coherent manner with discernment.

Demonstration of creativity



Good reflection, Recording of context and research needs improvement.

Strengths:  Presentation of learning log and workbook, thorough investigation, identifying areas of weakness and trying to address them, reflection.

Weaknesses:  Drawing, risk taking, research and context in this assignment.

Areas worked on for improvement: Observational drawing skills have definitely improved although there is still room for development.  Helped enormously by attending two Adventurous Drawing Short Courses at West Dean College, Chichester tutored by Matthew Harris and Mark Cazalet.

Using drawing as a tool to record visual information is becoming more natural.

Braver in the use of materials, a little less predictable and a little more risk taking although still tentative and need to develop a much bolder and risk taking approach.

Areas for continued development:

  • Regular drawing
  • Integration of research and context
  • Reflection and critical thinking skills
  • Be bold and take risks.


Exercise 1.7 Place

This is more me, the peace and tranquility of the open countryside.  Returning to the subject of my journey in Exercise 1.2, I have chosen Hindhead Commons and The Devils Punch Bowl for this exercise.  ‘Its magic, its essence, its specialness’ envelop me in peace in all weathers and captivates me with its beauty.


Over the last few weeks, I have collected objects, colours, photographs, made drawings, taken rubbings and immersed myself in the location in sunshine and rain, early morning and dusk, getting to know the essence of the place.












The purpose of the exercise is “to take risks with working techniques whilst exploring a familiar landscape or location as source material”.  We are encouraged to “try new ways of working” with three different techniques.

The colours and texture have been the most striking during recent visits, together with tranquility, so these are the qualities I’m hoping to convey.  For the first sample, I chose to wet felt a bowl.  I imagined being able to convey the texture, colours and peace of the location in a tactile way with wool fibres.   I touched briefly on needle felting in MMT and have had a brief introduction to wet felting a small square so this is unfamiliar ground.   Following an online tutorial by Rosiepink, I embarked on my first adventure.  I enjoyed mixing the fibres and combining the colours to create an overall impression of the colours of the landscape and was looking forward with anticipation to the outcome.

There are various opportunities for improving the technique and design, but overall I am pleased with the result and would definitely explore 3D felting of vessels further.

Had I grasped that the first layer of felting would be the interior of the bowl and that my opening would become larger than anticipated I would have combined the greens and browns to form the inner visible layer, rather than put them on the base of the pot as above.  The greys are attractive but not a feature of the landscape.  The outer colours of the pot are reasonable and would have been more than acceptable had the inner been green.  It is a little disappointing that the greens on the base of the pot are not evident when it is being displayed.  I image an experienced felter would comment on the thinness of the layers and the roughness of the felt, but there is something appealing about the fragility of the rim and the slight unevenness of the pot.  For a first attempt, I am pleased and very much feel I have discovered a new technique which I would like to explore further.  I am keen to develop colour mixing, adding texture with cotton scrim and or stitch and different shapes.   As with books, I am drawn to hand-held, tactile objects which can be held and enjoyed.

Following on from the third paper weaving sample in exercise 1.5 Action, I was inspired to weave.  I have some experience from my first OCA Course, A Creative Approach.  Natural fibres in hand dyed colours help convey the texture and colours of the landscape, whilst the addition of paper strips and joining two small weaves with the weft added to the risk factor encouraging me to work with a traditional technique in an unfamiliar way.  With more time and planning, there is room for many variations on this theme, but overall, I am pleased with the combination of materials and the occasional links between the two warps.  Own hand dyed silk tussah was used as a warp, some pre-felt and slivers of two watercolour sketches, sisal string and some commercial hand dyed wool from añañuca, Chile made up the weft.


The third sample is definitely the least refined.   Considering texture, I had a go at making silk paper from both carded cocoon strippings and carrier rods for the first time, laminated a photo of pine to muslin and used silk and flax fibres with matt acrylic gel to create paper.  These lovely surfaces and graphite rubbings in muted colours and gentle textures seemed to reflect the landscape and complement each other.  I have made books before so to introduce an element of risk, I considered making a scroll.  The risk was increased by lack of time.  I had promised myself that the Assignment would be posted this week so I just dived in and hastily put together a scroll.   Here too I feel I have discovered something I would like to develop. I have admired aspects of Cas Holmes’ books and collages and Mandy Pattullo’s fabric collage but wanted to explore my own version.




There are a number of things I would do to improve the piece eg. prepare the linen edge better in advance, give more consideration to composition, find a way of stitching the tree without having to use tracing paper to stop catching the fibres of the silk & flax paper, test the strength of the home made papers, make different papers incorporating fragments of the location, fix a tie to the scroll, use drawings as well as rubbings.    That said, I am excited by the textures, soft palette, leaf rubbings on lightweight paper, the potential for creating grounds with fibres, exploring nuno felting and more.

Taking inspiration from a location has been a fruitful experience and suits me.  I have become more confident drawing and painting in the landscape.  Hindhead Common and the Devil’s Punchbowl offer a multitude of possibilities in the interpretation of texture and developing colour mixing providing a rich source of inspiration.



Holmes C (2015) Stitch Stories Batsford London



Pattullo M (2016) Textile Collage Batsford London

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Exercise 1.6 Music

I was looking forward to this exercise, firstly because I am gradually overcoming my fear of drawing and once I get started I enjoy it, I was happy to move away from ‘words’ as inspiration and thought a ‘performance’ piece would be fun. I was surprised to find that the music interfered with my head.  It shouldn’t have been a surprise as although I enjoy live music and listen to the radio in the car, I rarely combine it with another activity, and never choose to have it in the background.

The first three drawings are on A2 at an easel, with the jugs arranged on a white paper roll background, with no music.

Using oil pastels, my first attempt was a little hurried and not carefully observed, although the jug in the middle is a reasonable representation.


In between this drawing and the rest, I took a workshop at West Dean with Mark Cazalet which had a very positive effect on my confidence and consideration of colour and value.  I turned off the lights to maximise the shade and tone and drew the following with graphite.  Although I am still a little tentative and could be bolder, this was an enjoyable process and I was encouraged by the results.


I chose to use soft pastels and mixed media paper for the third drawing.


Unfamiliar with soft pastels, I found them a pleasure to use as they responded well to my tentative approach and light touch and worked alongside coloured pencils used occasionally to sharpen a line or add detail.

Choosing the graphite drawing to work from, using two golds, silver & bronze metallics, black and white oil pastels and Daler Rowney Ingres Brown A3, I played Mozart’s Don Giovanni.  As I don’t have a ‘music library’ or favour anything particular I chose the Mozart inspired by Rothko who loved Mozart Opera’s and particularly Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute.


The choice of metallic oil pastels was intended to put me in a party/performance mood, I was disappointed, I found it really difficult to ‘allow the music to influence my drawing’. It was a distraction, disturbing my concentration.  ‘Does the music have a colour?’, not to me.  The rhythm was varied, the faster music with a stronger beat sped up my hand, otherwise I was irritated or oblivious to it, it was pleasant on low, even relaxing, but played little part in the drawing and did not provoke a ‘performance’.  In fact, it was almost impossible to make it so, even when I turned up the volume.

For my second drawing, I used a range of blues, yellow and orange Sharpies on Canson Mi-Teintes pale orange A3 paper.   I chose The Overture from The Mikado.  It was part of my childhood, my Dad perfomed in Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta.  Familiar to me, with an uplifting, strong beat which usually makes me feel good, this should produce a more ‘performative’ piece.  But no, I found it hugely distracting, I wanted to join in and enjoy the music, but I couldn’t multi-task.  Singing and drawing didn’t mix! It was distracting, I couldn’t concentrate on the drawing, I haven’t used Sharpies to draw, they were alien to me and the faster the beat, the more I was scribbling, speeding up, unable to focus.


For the third drawing, I started with Bobby Ferrin, Don’t Worry be happy, an easy going mellow tune and watercolour pans and A3 mixed media paper.  The more familiar the tune the more distracting it was.  I abandoned the watercolours and A3 paper and started again with A2 and soft pastels and listened to George Ezra.  I was singing along but it was even harder to draw then, I just wanted to switch it off and draw to the sounds of the birds coming through the window.  The pastels are flowing, turning down the sound so the music was quietly in the back ground creating a ‘feel-good’ fun day out atmosphere, I was more relaxed and a little more playful, producing the most successful drawing, in my opinion.


This exercise was a revelation to me, it highlighted how distracting I find music in conjunction with other activities.   Although I was aware that background noise is distracting for me, this clearly illustrated how much it confuses my thoughts and why it is so difficult to concentrate.  I have always found it easier and quicker to do housework in an empty house, hugely distracted by television and children/teens/husbands in the background.

The exercise was ‘to build skills and take risks rather than create finished outcomes’.  It definitely improved my looking and seeing, the use of soft pastels and coloured pencils. I would also work from a personal sketch again in the future to develop drawing skills.

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Exercise 1.5 Action

Continuing to use words to inspire further creativity, I found Richard Serra’s Verb List Compilation.: Actions to Relate to Oneself, 1967-1968 interesting and thought provoking. However the black and white photograph on page 23 of the manual to accompany the exercise was uninspiring and a little off-putting to me.  Interpreting words by manipulating plain white paper, not very inviting.   I found myself ‘picking the obvious words’ and finding an ‘ambitious’ approach elusive.    Livening things up a little I decided to use painted papers from my ‘stash’ and found some enthusiasm.

To Weave:

Beginning with some papers created to mix greens, a warp was cut with a scalpel and strips of mottled green paper were used as a weft.  Although quite obvious choice of verb, I enjoyed the effect of colour.  Similarly coloured strips appeared quite different on the backgrounds, with the yellow having the effect of brightening the greens.


Considering the colour again to make the weave more interesting, magenta, a near complementary was added to liven up the greens and has resulted in an effective combination, with lots of dry brush texture and green tones:


Feeling I had played it safe, I sought some more interesting paper and combined paper yarn, ribbon and strips of painted paper for the following.  This was more rewarding for me, a combination of texture, both visual and actual and the different weights of paper adding interest.


I also like the uneven edges and would like to develop this further in future.

To Hole:

Warming up a little, I enjoyed selecting papers and tearing, cutting or piercing to ‘hole’ the surface.   Tearing the edges to produce more organic shapes and using the blue-greens and rust colours was particularly satisfying.


Also pleasing was the sample below, (ignoring the paper fasteners from the previous page).   The negative shapes created by the torn strips against the background, the combination of colours and marks on the decorated paper, layered to reveal glimpses of the the background through the holes are visually interesting.


To Scatter

Covering the page with PVA or matt medium, various paper snippets were scattered. The dried glue was evident on the surface and the results were a little dull.  Tearing the background paper and viewing the three samples as one was more acceptable, although still lacking in quality.


Of Layering

Torn painted papers and text were layered.  In my mind I was responding to ‘To layer’ for the first sample so the composition was adhered to a background paper first.   This is quite a lively combination, the slivers of white along the torn edges emphasising the interesting shapes, and the colour palette and variation in values adding to the energy.


In the second sample, found papers from a West Dean Short Course brochure were glued to compose a sheet ‘of layering’.  With the strips generally more horizontal and the palette a little softer, this is a calmer compilation, although I particularly like the yellow strip on the left against the vertical black, grey & rust dry brush piece below it.


To fold & to enclose

Here I was inspired by the thought that an envelope could enclose and folded a small (8cm) circle envelope from painted papers and enclosed a square of decorated, waxed paper.    An origami wallet (12cm square) was next enclosing various pieces of hand made & dyed paper.



This was a very satisfying little make, neat, visually appealing, highlighting the subtle contrasts of brush marks on the green papers and pleasing lines in the curved edges as they slot together to seal the envelope.

The origami wallet was folded from some brown parcel paper and creates two types of opening for enclosures.

This too was a pleasing exercise and although I touched on it in the Mixed Media for Textiles course, both pieces emphasised my delight in making small, tactile items that can be held in the palm of the hand and explored.  I would replace the brown paper used for the wallet as it didn’t have the weight or tactility of a hand made or heavier paper but overall the design has potential.

Choosing to use decorated papers for this exercise made it much more interesting and inviting and reminded me of the affinity and pleasure I feel working with these materials.



Golden Alisa (2010) Making Handmade Books 100+ Bindings Structures & Forms


Exercise 1.4 Poetry Prose Lyrics

The course notes are helpful in reading and understanding The Myth of Orpheus (1977) and the painting is a good example of the narrative being representing in a single picture plane without being too literal.

I feel stuck.  I know there are many choices for this exercise, but I only have one song in mind and I can’t seem to get away from it.

Black Tears (feat. Jeff Beck) – Imelda May

Black Tears

one will fall for every good year

rolling down my face

inside I’m dying outside I’m crying black tears

Your kiss

killed me on that night as your lips

left a bitter taste and

inside I’m dying  outside I’m crying black tears,

How did it all go wrong?

we seemed to have it all but its broken

and I’ll  run

and I’m scared

so I pray to god above

its a sin that we don’t love

its so quiet

can you hear me?

are you there?

Black tears

please be gone so I can see clear

keep calm and carry on

but inside I’m dying outside I’m crying black tears

Oh yeah

How did it all go wrong we seemed to have it all but now its broken and I’m running and I’m scared so scared so I pray to god above cos its a sin that we don’t love its so quiet can you hear me? are you there?

Black tears one will fall for every good year rolling down my face

inside I’m dying outside I’m crying, crying, crying black tears


I have some external pressures and I can’t think outside the box, this song is going around and around in my head, it doesn’t offer the complexities of Orpheus, says little, but I press on, forcing myself , my thinking is so literal, although I know I it would help if it were more lateral.

We are asked to make 10 rough drawings .  Again I look to unfamiliar materials in the hope that a playfulness will ensue, but no, far too literal, ‘black tears’:

The instruction is “Be experimental and have fun, Remember drawing in this instance is a loose term, study the writing carefully and use materials that add something to the subject and contribute to the meaning of your chose poem prose or lyric”.  Trying to loosen up, I use a pipette to apply ink and a large brush.

I think to add red, a colour of love or anger and use a combination of oil pastels, watersoluble graphite and scarlet acrylic ink, which, when diluted, is warm red rather than the blue red I was hoping for.

I’m still stuck and should probably have walked away or sought further inspiration. Irritated I press on, using a large paintbrush, black and scarlet acrylic ink from a dropper.  There is more feeling and spontaneity in this drawing, but I’m not sure if it came from the heart or frustration.


Using indian ink and dripping black tears onto damp paper or spraying wet ink with water, the marks were less contrived and more effective on the white than the red paper. I was quite excited by the effect of dispersing the ink with a spray which created atmosphere and a subtle mood change.

Developing the ink drips above, using Quink ink on A3 below, I find it aesthetically pleasing, There is a sadness and as the ink separates, the eye is drawn in to look at the detail which suggests more meaning to the tears.


I have found this frustrating, I love books which inform, recipes or techniques, the tactility of the object, I enjoy novels, but ‘poetry, prose and lyrics’ are less appealing.  Did my view on the subject affect my approach and difficulty to think laterally?  Is it that words are less inspiring to me?




May, Imelda (2017)  Black Tears (feat. Jeff Beck)