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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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