Textiles 1: Ideas and Processes Nina O'Connor

Learning Log

Project 1 Initiating ideas Exercise 1.1 Identity & labels – a new piece that draws on two or more visual art disciplines


Thinking about the artists reviewed during this exercise so far, I have identified that Ernesto Neto’s installation, Bella May Leonard’s arch, Nick Cave’s suits and Harriet Popham’s chair have an interactive element in common which appeals to me.  The tactility and texture of different materials and an opportunity to explore them with my senses is compelling.   I would like the viewer to be able to engage with my sample, examine and explore it if they wish.


  • attracted to Harriet Popham’s colour palate teal, magenta and white.  A bright flat white balances stronger magenta/teal
  • Using stitch like Bella May Leonard transparent, translucent material, stitched, layered.
  • Explore materials that can be stitched?
  • some sort of book form could be handled, reasonably resilient materials, quality cartridge paper? waxed fabric? waxed paper?
  •  senses: sight smell hear taste touch
  • Ernesto Neto’s installations sometimes include bags of spices which release their aroma as visitors clamber through the pathways.  Herbs, spices, essential oils, perfume?
  • Beeswax? smells more appealing than other options.

Reminder from course manual:  ‘Sample piece, work quickly, think sketching or mark-making, it’s the thinking and experimentation that matters here’

To explore combining a book with layers and stitch would develop ideas from Mixed Media for Textiles final piece, a 3d book, pages printed from stitch.  Reading The Penland Book of Handmade Books, Master Classes in Bookmaking Techniques, I was struck by a quote from Hedi Kyle

I see each book as an environment that sets the stage, so to speak, for an intimate journey.  I want the viewer to enjoy a moment of playfulness and amusement, of bedazzlement and investigation” pp119

This is an exciting prospect.

Maybe a book with a book screw?

Papers were decorated in the chosen palette, with acrylic paint, oil pastels, wax crayons, biro, marker pen, using drawing, stitching and painting. Considering the transparent element, acetate sheets were also painted and stitched.

Quite excited by the decorated papers, the different effects were evaluated.

  • Stitching on acetate was promising but stitching the same stitch, keeping it simple was more effective.
  • The colour palette was working well.
  • White GellyRoll pen effective, showed up well through painted acetate but the shell like pattern, inspired from Harriet Popham’s design was amateurishly executed and less appealing in this context.
  • painted papers dipped in the wax pot and held up to drain & harden have a lovely, smooth, tactile finish, and the wax candle and oil pastel drawn stitch worked well with an acrylic wash and waxed finish
  • the colour of the hand dyed cloth darkened with the wax taking it out of the colour palette.
  • the rubbing of stitch with an inktense pencil onto the hand dyed cloth had potential but perhaps not in this piece.
  • absolultely delicious – dipping the pencil drawn cretan stitch in wax created a delightful translucency in the paper enabling it to be seen both sides.  Also creating good contrast with biro and mark pen drawn stitch on the reverse of the paper. The grey of the pencil would suit a more neutral or monochrome palette.
  • dipping a painted piece of watercolour paper, stitched with white linen into the wax had the effect of turning the thread cream, taking it out of the palette.
  • bottom right, the teal cretan stitch on the left of a scrap of white sheeting reacted well to the wax.

Combining some of the pieces in a book screw type book form was a little disappointing:

The papers were different weights and the lighter ones had cockled, the surface texture affected the smooth operation of the book.  Stitch would impede that further.  On the left the colour was too concentrated and would benefit from some white as shown on the right. The idea of layers wasn’t really working,  there needs to be some distance between the individual sheets and some daylight behind the transparent/translucent pieces.

The pleasure of the tags joined with the screw is the weight in the hand, the uniformity of the edges, the smoothness of fanning out the individual tags.


Perhaps a crown binding would work?

Inspired by Hedi Kyle’s ‘Blizzard Book’, cartridge paper was folded to create a binding. On the right, the folding created deep triangle’s which could hold individual pages.  On the left small triangles hold an accordian folded book.  This is a strong sculptural structure with lots of potential.   However the cartridge paper for the binding was 220g at least and a little heavy.  Referring to Ailsa Golden’s book, she comments that it took about three years for Hedi’s design to get “from the handsof Hedi Kyle in Philadelphia to the San Francisco Bay area” and her instructions suggest ‘text weight’ paper.   Standard copier paper worked very well, but might cockle if decorated with wet media.  130g cartridge paper was a reasonable compromise, but difficult to get sharp creases.


Various papers were sampled in the binding:

Initial attempts with the lighter weight paper were disappointing, the pages needed to be equally sturdy.  The addition of acetate was promising.  Combining full white paper pages with the acetate affected the transparent effect.  Further acetate pages were prepared.  Time was ebbing away as I inserted, re-arranged, reconsidered how to make this work.  Mindful of the instruction to work quickly, which I clearly wasn’t, a simple book was assembled, taking the most effective selection of papers and stitch..  A new binding from teal decorated paper was folded as it seemed to unify the piece and the white original had become scruffy in the process of experimentation.

Finished sample:

Analysis of finished sample

Initial preparation of papers was quick, with mark-making taking priority,  a mixture of materials were used.   Inspired by Bella May Leonard, alternative contexts for embroidery were considered and tried, painted papers, painted and waxed papers, waxed cloth, stitched waxed papers, waxed stitched papers, painted, folded and stitched acetate. Harriet Popham’s colour palette was adopted and the concept of layering from both artists explored.

The piece is sturdy, the crown binding effectively holding the pages apart enabling two or more layers of colour and stitch to be seen as one. The limited palette works well.  In particular the contrast of the bright white cotton thread against the strong teal and magenta.  The view from the pink stitch on the acetate through to the oil pastel drawn stitch is effective giving the impression of an offset pattern.


Choosing to limit the surface pattern to one stitch gives the piece continuity, as do the dry brush strokes used to decorate the various materials.  All the decorated papers chosen have some merit, but particularly effective is the white cotton against the dark teal with the dry brush stroke revealing the white of the watercolour paper.


The aim to make something which could be handled and interacted with has been achieved although  I think the ‘handle’ could be developed.  It is interesting to to flick through, but the experience could be improved with a little more weight and maybe the warmth and tactile nature of khadi, home made paper or a fabric cover.   The long edge of the binding is gaping on the front covers and could be bettered.

The use of line is considered with some brush marks at 90º to others, the lines of straight machine stitch complementing the brush marks and the zig-zag echoing the cretan stitch.

A variety of tones are achieved by breaking up the boldness of the colour with the transparency of the acetate or the background white. The waxed pieces have a slightly softer palette with a more matt finish than the acetate and a little more sheen than the paper.

The stitched and drawn marks complement each other, the stitch is similar in scale with more variation in the scale of the drawn marks.  The size of the piece makes it easy to hold in the palm of the hand and turn the pages.

The visual texture is very appealing and there is variety in the actual texture.

The placement and composition are considered with regard to contrasting the colours and marks and allowing the transparent layers to combine effectively.

Whilst I think the sample is successful as discussed above and its evolution through careful consideration of the creative process, it is the potential that is most exciting.   Many other combinations or ideas could be explored to develop the design such as more stitching into acetate, greater difference in the scale of stitch, creating windows to stitch and/or needle weave across, drawing into the acetate with a soldering iron, machine stitching the cretan stitch pattern, stitching/drawing onto transparent fabric, voile, net, mono, collatype or screen printing paper or cloth.

Golden A (2010) Making handmade books: 100 bindings, structures & forms, Lark New York


LaFerla J, Gunter VA (2004) The Penland Book of Handmade Books:Master Classes in Bookmaking Techniques, Lark Books

3 thoughts on “Project 1 Initiating ideas Exercise 1.1 Identity & labels – a new piece that draws on two or more visual art disciplines

  1. Great work, Nina. It’s interesting to see how you’ve used this brief to expand on your MMT work and the samples reflect your interest in this kind of form. I’m most admiring of the clarity with which you’ve tackled this assignment which could be quite overwhelming in its openness; defining it on your own terms works really well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Julie, I found it helpful to set myself some boundaries to focus. I hope you’re making it work for you and much appreciate your ability and willingness to leave articulate and useful comments! I’m working towards such clarity to enable me to return the favour. Thank you.


  3. I love the penland book and it is great to see what you have done with some of the exercises in there. I do love your palette and the combination of this with the chosen stiches. Look forward to reading where you go with this new course.

    Liked by 1 person

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