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)


Exercise 1.3 Single Words

Revisiting my journey, words collected include cold, silhouette, texture, gnarled, knobbly, ravaged, weather worn, torn, ripped, peace.

Three of those words that are particularly relevant or resonant – texture, silhouette and peace.

Draw the words in a larger scale and try to use a font that is sympathetic to the word. Here I find the instruction contradictory, ‘draw’ and ‘use a font’ don’t mean the same thing to me.

Using A3 or larger, we are asked to use the words as the dominant element for a drawing, remembering that the space between is also an important element.



texture, different textured papers combined. draw with oil/wax as resist, sponge, cling film, foil, unusual tools, embellisher?, spray, bubble wrap, collagraph print, monoprint,dry paintbrush strokes, collage type

silhouette monochromatic, black on white, gouache more matt, patterns, mosaic, space in between particularly relevant,  ink, marker pens, smooth paper, black paper cut collage?

peace, gentle colours, horizontal stripes, soft watercolour, pastels?

I felt unsure, should I be drawing the word or a sense of the word?   For inspiration, a few images gathered from Pinterest:

Still uncertain of what was required, the written word or a drawing capturing the essence of the word, some fonts relating to texture were found:


and a textured collage completed.


Hoping that would suffice, ‘silhouette’ was considered, a skinny word perhaps?, particularly as I had thought of it in relation to branches.

Struggling to be playful, charcoal, oil pastels, ink, stick and paper of different sizes were employed.  Drawing ‘silhouette’ with a stick was quite promising as was the dripped indian ink creating the branches drawing.


When it came to the word ‘peace’, my angst increased, the peaceful effect of the surroundings were such a profound and fundamental part of the journey and I didn’t feel equipped to put it to paper.  Distance learning felt so isolating at this point. Disappointed with my efforts which seem amateurish, I moved on to the next exercise.



Russell P (1988) Decorative Alphabets Throughout the Ages Bracken Books London

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Words & writing – Research point 1.1

We are asked to think about de Waal’s choice of words and how they add to the ‘picture’.  The way he uses metaphor is a reflection of his immersion in the subject and gives the viewer more information with which to build a picture and interpretation of his work both written and practical.  The phrase “the spaces between things” can be interpreted in many ways. Since reading the words at the beginning of the assignment, they have come to mind to describe spaces in composition to allow the drawing to speak louder; the ‘thinking’ space, the time needed to reflect and consider options; spaces to balance and contrast with more intense activity.  My conclusion, the interpretation of “the spaces between things” will depend on the mood of the speaker or recipient and the context in which it is used.

Looking at examples of artworks that make direct use of words to convey meaning:

Tracey Emin’s work Everyone I Have Ever Sept With 1963-1995. 

Viewed from a photograph, this piece did not particularly resonate with me but the recommended article Something’s wrong was thought provoking and the sketch Why I Never Became a Dancer 1995 referred to by Melanie McGrath so emotive that I was prompted to look at some of her other work.

Before beginning this course, in my naivety, my views on art were limited to whether I found things visually appealing or a desire to examine the processes, whereas now I am beginning to acknowledge the emotive effect of some pieces.  Tracy Emin’s ability to provoke an emotional reaction in me is powerful and I find her use of text in some cases strengthens my response.    The hand painted/printed text aspects of her drawings and paintings add to the desolation portrayed.

Martin Creed’s work Mothers

My response to Martin Creed’s work was less emotional and I had to resort to a YouTube video by him to help my understanding of the piece.

His words were interesting, particularly when commenting on how the size of text affects meaning.  I also found his thoughts on the importance of ‘mothers’ moving when expressed in person, but the revolving boom with lit letters spelling ‘MOTHERS’ did not represent the same sentiments to me.

Simon Patterson’s Great Bear (1992) 

My response here was interesting, I found the piece visually appealing as it is so familiar to me as the London tube map, but might have missed the detail had it not been pointed out that each line represents a particular group of people.

At this point, in this context, text as a visual addition or hand written expressing personal emotion seems more powerful to me than ‘typeface’.   Somehow typeface itself is quite uninteresting to me, so the actual words expressed need to resonant strongly to make themselves heard over the unexciting nature of the type.

The following Pinterest board includes examples of artwork that make direct use of words to convey meaning.

Having deduced above that typeface isn’t particularly exciting to me, it is interesting to note that this notion is reflected in my choice above.  The most appealing enjoy the character of handwritten words, or the visual texture of hanging thread and uneven, overlapping paper surfaces.  Although I was moved by Tracey Emin’s monoprints and handwritten comments, I am less enamoured of her quilting which predominantly include text in capital letters.

I found Louise Bourgeois’ pieces that include text deliver a strong message and sought the source of a quote someone had made on Pinterest. These quotes appear to come from a book “Louise Bourgeois” by Marie-Laure Bernadac, published by Flammarion in Paris mentioned in an article dated 3/6/2007 by  Suzanne Muchnic LA Times.
Louise Bourgeois

My work is a form of psychoanalysis. It is a way of coming to grips with my anxiety and fears. It is an attempt to be a better person.


There is a lot of ambivalence in the work. There are many hanging pieces, which signify a fragile state. There are pieces that oscillate and rock, which also convey fragility. We all have pink days and blue days. I am trying to seek a balance between the extremes that I feel. I want to be reasonable.

These quotes were thought provoking as although I can’t relate directly to her views, I am beginning to see that my work is helping me to understand myself better and reinforce what is important to me.

As an exception to my apparent preference for handwritten text, I was interested to come across Richard Long who walks in the landscape, creates installations and related textworks.  Here, in some cases, I was able to join his journey and his words raised a smile on understanding his descriptions but most notable was the “Long Circle of Words”.  I liked the aesthetic, the creation of an organic flower by the pattern of words and the combination of adjectives describing the journey.









Exercise 1.2 Personal Experience

We were asked to take a journey to gather inspiration, with a camera, sketchbook and a bag for items found.

On my return home, I’m not sure why, but started by editing my pictures to make a final selection and realised this was not a true story of my personal experience, but an edited version.  To ‘see’ everything, I need to be true to myself and my journey.  Beginning again, I printed out all of my pictures as instructed and surrounded myself with them and my notes.   I thought about how I might map my route, but realised I was rushing ahead again. The requirement before that is to write 300-500 words.  I needed to reflect honestly on the experience.

Having laid out my timeline, complete with sketches and notes it filled the surface of my desk, too unwieldy to photograph.  Recording it needed a rethink, so I had a photoshop lesson at home and arranged some of the photographs in order:


A reasonable first attempt, could have been improved on a coloured background and some of the overlapping could be reversed, but an evening well spent, learning a new skill.

Next using photoshop, a combination of the notes, sketches and photographs


Hindhead Common & Devil’s Punchbowl – 11.25-12.25 – Sunday 12th February, 2017

Had to clear a little snow from the windscreen, short drive. Cold, sense of anticipation, whistling as I walk away from the car. Remnants of snow, capturing the texture of footprints.  The view is misty but there’s a brighter white, a hint of a peachy glow, above the tree-line.   Branches silhouette against the sky, gnarled, knobbly. Yellow gorse flowers light up the hedgerow. The bright green of the moss against the snow is almost lime, there’s a crunch of icy snow underfoot . A pine tree, ravaged, weather worn, torn, ripped, draws me closer, I sketch it quickly. Some anger in the drawing? Some painful emotion just below the surface, I push it away, pick up some bark, look up at the mosaic of branches, pine cones and needles. Occasional voices intrude. I walk on, drawn to lichen covered branches, the path beckons. A bench, a flask of coffee, a small tree with root-like branches at the base alone in the red-brown heather. Coffee in hand, this is my peace, I need more of this in my life.

Texture dominates, tread marks, moss, bark, the white of the snow and flash of yellow gorse brighten the day, there’s promise. Branches, pine needles, inky black lines pattern the sky, another theme, browns, grey-greens contrast with white.

To what extent is it autobiographical? I choose to come here for peace occasionally. Its a hidden, ignored, quashed part of my being which needs to be acknowledged and acted upon.


Accept or admit the existence or truth of

Recognise the importance of quality of

Express gratitude for or appreciation of

Accept the validity or legitimacy of

What does is suggest about my feelings on the day?     That I gave them a voice.

Visually the journey could be re-arranged into branch & silhouette patterns, texture and peace.   The order in which the information was collected is not an important part of the collection.  The day was wet and cold, not conducive to collecting treasures, or maybe the calming effective of the surroundings was all encompassing and seeking items was forgotten.  As a result the groupings are not very experimental or playful.  Grouping the branches and shapes against the sky has strengthened the selection as the monochromatic effect is striking.  The texture and peace groupings highlight the green and brown palette.  The narrative has become three different stories and less of a journey.

Branches and shapes against the sky:



Then we were asked to draw a map of the journey ‘big enough to place each piece in the location it derived from’. Working on A1 paper and drawing with a combination of oil pastels, wax crayons and gouache to express the texture and colour of the landscape, I was slightly out of my comfort zone, with both the paint and A1.  I worked quite quickly, standing at an easel.  The oil pastel base was chosen to resist the paint creating some visual texture, which was added to with a sponge.  Although it looks a little garish in the photograph, I am quite encouraged with the outcome, the palette and marks have captured the essence of Hindhead Common.


Reflecting on the journey, to some extent, I think I was going through the motions.  So in need of some time on my own away from other  challenges, the peace enveloped me as I wandered and captured aspects that interested me. Looking at the map, the colour palette is familiar and accurate, the sky was grey but not dismal, and the bluey grey lifts the mood of the piece.   What stands out for me is the slightly aggressive way I sketched the ravaged, weather worn tree, although I chose to ignore it at the time.  It was 1º, icy and damp, the sketch was quick, standing with the notebook, but I recall a tear threatened to fall.


So to take this forward and “create a new mixed-media work entitled ‘My Journey’ to communicate the important elements and experiences’, I have been drawn to the tree.

Initial ideas included:

  • monochrome, black, greys, whites,
  • texture foot prints, moss, bark, branches
  • branch patterns, layer, print and collage
  • small samples joined in concertina book form
  • stitch on a large ground created from smaller pieces
  • explore mixed media grounds  “The wet-applique process”  using  methyl cellulose, “lightly holds layered fabrics and papers together into a loose collage of cloth”  as used by Cas Holmes, Stitch Stories pp47
  • layers, cotton organdie, stitched/printed collagraph?, lens tissue, T-bag paper, image transfer
  • Ann Somerset Miles (Stitch Stories pp59) used Daler-Rowney 45gsm layout paper to print  her designs onto and then pastes it onto cheesecloth or other fine fabric which when stitched has the appearance and feel of fabric.

Using a method of image transfer unfamiliar to me, a copy of the words written to accompany the journey was laminated to silk muslin using a method described in Paper & Metal Leaf Lamination a mixed media approach with cloth by Claire Benn, Jane Dunnewold & Leslie Morgan of Committed to Cloth and Art Studios.   Photographed below and held against the light, it is translucent, could be layered and quite soft which suggests it would be easy to stitch into.  I wonder if the paper could have been scrubbed away a little more, but it seemed delicate.  With the text broken up by scrubbing and less clear to read, it might be more attractive, but an effective process.


Using oil pastels and Zest solvent, I experimented with different effects to draw branches, mindful of a quote from Cas Holmes, Stitch Stories.

I often refer to the marks I make with my pen or pencil in a sketchbook as a means to inform the texture and form of my stitching.


Taking inspiration from Ann Somerset Miles’ process an ‘angry’ tree was sketched with graphite on 45g layout paper and laminated to muslin with Golden soft gel matte medium applied with a squeegee and allowed to dry overnight. The squeegee helped to produce a very smooth surface. Before stitching, the roughly drawn tree stuck to muslin was flat and uninteresting but the substrate was easy to stitch into.   Keeping to the ‘angry’ theme, black thread was used and the free-machining kept straight and angular.  The stitch has been quite successful in enhancing the original qualities of the sketched tree, making it more dynamic and the process has merit for use in the future.

A further tree was sketched with charcoal.  Here, the application of fix and then matt gel smudged the sketch. Application with a brush produced more texture and wrinkles and the effect of smudged charcoal is atmospheric.  The anger felt amidst the peace of the journey was tinged with sadness.  By chance, this sketch depicts ‘some sadness’.  To preserve that impression and to distinguish it from the tree above, it was stitched less, in a blue-grey thread, with softer lines.  I was trying to make each line of stitching count, and think that the effect is more melancholy than the angry tree, although the wishbone shape in the top left quarter is distracting and would have been better avoided.  However, whilst the stitch enhanced the angry tree, I’m not sure it added anything to the sad tree and perhaps even distracted from the soft, lines and delicate tones of the original drawing.


The next opportunity to continue developing the idea coincided with my local textile group meeting, where I was influenced by a lino cutting workshop delivered by Will Dyke.

We were given a quick explanation of which tools can be used for different cuts and made some experimental marks on a small piece of vinyl flooring followed by a test print.


I was quickly reminded of how much I enjoy block printing and the versatility of mark making for texture.  It would be useful to me to spend some time building a vocabulary of marks.  The second from the left produced by cutting repeatedly in different directions is something I’d like to explore.

Moving on we were encouraged to sketch our design, which I did quickly from memory.


The design was transferred to the lino using tracing paper and carbon paper and the excess cut away to leave the drawn marks.  A trial print was made.


I was very pleased with the branches but a bit cross with myself for hurriedly cutting the bark with a ‘u’ shaped tool as it detracted from the angular nature of the some of the other more considered marks.  I corrected the most obvious round ends with a fine ‘v’ shaped tool. The traces of cut away background add energy and texture but a clean sharp print with a little more ink would be effective too.

Referring back the one of the ideas to layer branches, a variety of lightweight fabrics and papers were printed with a view to layering them to give the impression of depth.


Substrates included cotton and linen scrim, silk noil, polyester voile, chappra tissue, kozo paper. Arranging and rearranging the prints was exciting and frustrating at the same time.  The interplay of diagonal lines criss-crossing when overlayed with a transparent fabric was encouraging but how to stitch them to best effect?

The day after printing the above, I was booked on an experimental machine embroidery class at the local sixth form college so, armed with the six or seven prints, I spent some time looking at the samples there and decided to combine the trees, stitch and cut away slivers to reveal the layers beneath.  This might work better with more prints.  As printing wasn’t practical, some rubbings were taken:

The resulting rubbings produced that exciting feeling I have been advised to acknowledge and act upon. The delicacy and translucency of graphite on 9g lens tissue was delightful, (and was used in the sample). The effect on muslin was similar, below:


To me, there is something beautiful and ethereal about the quality of the marks. However, I was at a machine embroidery workshop so decided take full advantage of the situation and try something new by continuing with the original idea of layering the fabrics and paper, free machining and cutting away.  Occasionally the photographs are better than the work, in this case, I think the actual piece is slightly better than the photograph, its a little more weathered and textural.


Reflection of the sample:

We are asked ‘have you captured the essence of your journey?’.  I haven’t captured the essence of my journey on that day, but of my underlying mood. It is unusual for me to acknowledge feelings in my work and quite an achievement to see the chaos of my thoughts and darker undercurrent.    The map has a more open feel which reflects the actual day.   I think the sample works well in aesthetic terms, it gives the effect of a dense wood and the suggestion of the gap between the two main trunks draws the eye in.  The top third is effective, on the right, the almost black print on chappra tissue benefits from the ‘spaces in between’ and the contrast of dark branches on cream.  The top left lines of stitch combined with the indistinct print on silk noil gives an impression of distance.  Half way down the left, the glimpses of cotton scrim peeping through, the fraying muslin, the different weights of brown, grey and black lines are an effective combination.  The papers and fabrics with ‘rubbed’ images are less effective.  The graphite and soft pastel needed fixing before use.  With repeated handling, the terracotta of the tree on the right smudged and rubbed away so the image has less definition than the rest of the sample.   There is a fine line between the softness of the grey graphite enhancing the whole by adding a different tone and the lack of definition created by the smudged chalk pastel.

The lino cut tree effectively captured the fractured aspects of the tree and the choice of different papers and fabrics created a variety of texture, within a limited palette.

Have I learnt anything new from this process?  Yes, definitely.  Being outside is important for me, and an effective way to collect information.  I continue to be attracted to texture and print, paper and stitch find their way into my work.   Having amassed different materials since starting the course, it was so enjoyable to combine surfaces and drawing media and motivating to have a choice at arm’s reach.

There is a continuing theme of exploring different substrates for stitch and combining layers, drawing is more automatic and relaxed.  I have taken inspiration from the work and processes of Cas Holmes, Anne Kelly and Leslie Morgan, Clare Benn & Jane Dunnewold.

I am conscious that I have put more time and effort into this exercise than was probably necessary.  My aim at the outset of this course was to focus more and not undertake extra work as, which, whilst enjoyable, will slow my progress towards a degree.  However, I am so interested and driven by the processes, exploring and determining the most effective for different applications that I get carried away.  The lino and free machine workshops are an important part of my development not least as they enable me to interact with my peers, but they too encouraged me to spend more time on the sample.

Benn, C Dunnewold, J & Morgan, L (2008)  Paper & Metal Leaf Lamination Committed to Cloth & Art Cloth Studios

Holmes C Kelly A (2013) Connected to Cloth Batsford London

Holmes C (2010) The Found Object in Textile Art Batsford London

Holmes C (2015) Stitch Stories Batsford London