Category Archives: stitching

Just a quick catch-up

I just wanted to say hello! I’ve had my head down recently getting on with stuff and there haven’t really been any new developments to tell you about.

I’m presently working on 3 large cloths for an exhibition next year. They are going to be coloured with hand-collected and hand-ground pigments: probably chalk, sea-coal and yellow clay. After that they will be waterproofed and dressed with a wax and linseed oil concoction that will change their nature completely so that they become glossy and stiff.

At the moment I am preparing the cloths prior to the colouring and waxing process. The one shown here has been dipped in the sea to rust the eyelets and it is presently hanging in my studio so that I can get to know it. I like to live with things for a while to see if they need changes. I’ll put it away presently and then look at it again in a week to two to see if my view has changed ….. it often does when you turn your back.

The balance I am trying to get in the work is tricky. It is between having enough interest in the way the cloth is put together: the utilitarian seams, reinforcements and eyelets, without detracting from the the pigments and wax which are the main reason for the work. I want the pigments and wax to speak for themselves.

I feel that I may have been a bit fussy with this first cloth, so the one I am working on at the moment will be much plainer – almost a blank canvas with just one row of eyelets.

 

Advertisements

Burnt Cloth

Some of you may be wondering whether I did decide to burn the last of the ‘Flags’ in my Signalman body of work. I was undecided when I last wrote about it.

fullsizeoutput_770

Well, after much hum-ing and haa-ing I took the plunge and did it. This wasn’t a scientific, controlled process but more of a ‘go into the garden with a box of matches, some stout boots and a garden hose, type  of procedure’.

fullsizeoutput_76e

It was surprisingly difficult to make the cloth catch fire and even more difficult to make it catch fire in an artistic way! Anyhow I’m pleased with the result and even more pleased with the patch that I had to put on it where it burnt through too much.

fullsizeoutput_76d

You can see this flag and the other two in the series at The Archive Project@The Cello Factory from 4-12 May 2017.

Simple starting points

I’ve started making a new piece of work. I’m at the beginning of the process and although I’m beyond the first sampling and trying out stage, I’m still in, ‘not quite sure exactly how this will turn out’ mode. I thought I’d write a little about some of its origins and a few ideas I am pondering at the moment.

IMG_2147

The form of this work comes from Minimalist music that originated in America in the mid-sixties. This type of music broke away from the classical tradition to be more chaotic and you could say, less musical.

fullsizeoutput_56f

Some of the features of Minimalist music are:

  • Layers of repeated rhythmic, melodic or harmonic patterns that are repeated many times (the proper word is ostinato).
  • Repeated patterns that gradually change over time.
  • Layered textures

fullsizeoutput_567

Composers included Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass.

I remember taking part in a performance of Terry Riley’s In C, when I was at music college and being completely amazed by the way a seemingly simple score could create such complex sounds.

fullsizeoutput_566

In C consists of 53 separate bars of music in the key of C, each with a different melodic and rhythmic pattern.  Players repeat each bar as many times as they wish before moving onto the next. The result is an ever-changing web of sound where complicated patterns and unpredictable combinations of the set bars occur.

The idea that one simple form, when repeated over and over again, can produce complex and multifarious patterns is very beguiling and is also very relevant to visual art. The work I am making at the moment is made up of a simple, repeated form. When assembled these forms will create an altogether new and more complex work. I think that this work is the simplest interpretation of the idea…..

fullsizeoutput_569

….but already my mind is moving on to how I could make an even more complex work from the simplest of ideas: very, very, simple repeated, rhythmic layers that slip in and out of sync with each other to make a complex work.

However, for now, it’s on with the sewing – there’s a lot to do.  More on this project later as I progress!

 

 

Hurray!

DSC_2744

I have finished sewing the last Sluice Creek Cloth for my gallery at the Knitting and Stitching Shows in the autumn ….. phew! This last cloth is a twin to the very first cloth I made in the series this time last year. Both these cloths are based on the regular and rhythmic sound of halyards knocking against the masts of boats in the wind and they focus on the way the sound of the chattering ropes shifts slowly in and out of unison.

DSC_2745

I took the cloth down to the beach in the evening to give it its first dip in the sea. At the moment this cloth is clean and unmarked and the unpainted part of the linen and the stitched rings are pristine white. It won’t be like this for long! I intend to dip this cloth into the sea and dry it around five times so that the rings rust and mark the cleanness of the cloth. I want the look of a utilitarian tarpaulin or work cloth that has been used, is dirty and has had a life.

DSC_2759

This Masts and Halyards cloth has been quite a task. There are about 250 rings sewn into it. I average about 5 rings an hour …. you can work it out!

DSC_2748

It was a beautiful evening for sea dipping at the beach.

Looking one way ….

DSC_2773

and the other.

DSC_2778

I will write more on all of the Sluice Creek Cloths in due course …..

 

Collecting/Documenting

I’ve recently started a new project that responds to the collection at Haslemere Educational Museum. This is a traditional museum – dare I say, rather old-fashioned. It was founded in 1888 by Sir Jonathan Hutchinson as a centre for learning. All the artefacts were at that time on open display as Hutchinson ‘believed that people could learn as much through their hands as their eyes’.

P1030321

I am of course a great believer in understanding things using all the senses and not just the eyes, so this idea appeals to me. Unfortunately the artefacts in the three permanent Geology, Natural History and Human History galleries are now all behind glass. However, the work I am making for the exhibition responds to the idea of open display and will be highly textured and tactile – it will encourage exploration with more than just the visual sense.

P1030329

You will not be surprised to hear that I was drawn to the Natural History galleries and the collections of insects, bones, marine life and shells. Most of the artefacts  were collected by naturalists and collectors at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. These collections show an obsession for exploring, learning and understanding new and mysterious things. Many of the collections are neatly labelled with the artefact’s scientific name, date of collection and locality.

P1030324

I am a collector. I can’t help myself. It is as Rachel Whiteread says, a type of ‘absent-minded browsing, like doodling in a sketchbook’. I wander along the beach, eyes down, mind whirring as I bend down and pocket stuff. I take it all home and put it in containers – often the bottom of milk cartons (which now I look at them are interesting in themselves as they are dated and the supermarket they come from gives me a clue to where the ‘stuff’ was collected). This, up to now, has been the limit of my rather crude form of documentation.

P1030333

The plan for this project is not to use my collection but to take inspiration from it. In the spirit of the Victorian collector I will  gather and place together mysterious objects to be wondered at. I will make a collection of imaginary marine debris that will consist of things that could have been found and collected along the beach strand-line – objects that could have floated ashore on the waves and deposited as the tide retreats.

P1030337

P1030336

So far I have made one set of objects. I will make more sets over the next few weeks and I intend to make drawings as well …. I’ll keep you posted.

The Sewing Machine Project (Part 2)

Last time I told you a bit about The Sewing Machine Project  – an exhibition that Studio 21 are showing in October/November at South Hill Park Arts Centre.  I thought I’d give you a bit of insight into the two pieces of work that I have made for the exhibition.

A sewing machine repeats its actions over and over again in a replicated sequence of rhythmical movement. These highly rhythmic repetitions mark the passing of time.

(From my entry in The Sewing Machine Project booklet)

P1230030

I have used the fold and the seam, the most basic construction methods, to explore two themes.

For the first part of the project the group thought about the sensory effects of the sewing machine: its sound and its feel, and what the machine means to their practice. We each chose three words to describe our response. Mine were Repetition – Duration – Succession.

My first piece, Fold, is a response to these words and considers the relentless mechanical movements of the sewing machine: the way the needle punctures the fabric as it moves up and down, the action of the feed dogs and the of stop/start action of the machine user. I stitched, folded, pierced with wire and rolled eleven, 12 metre strips of cloth to represent the fundamental processes of the machine.

P1230028

P1230023

My second piece originated with a piece of historical research and looks at the domestic relief and benefits brought to women by the invention of the sewing machine.

It started with finding this interesting piece of information in Godey’s Lady’s Book. (Godey’s Lady’s Book was a magazine intended to entertain, inform and educate the women of America. The Lady’s book was produced in Philadelphia and included works of fiction, latest fashion, recipes for cleaning andeducational activities for children.)

‘In 1860 Godey’s Lady’s Book reported that the sewing machine was the ‘Queen of inventions’ and that a gentleman’s shirt required 20,620 stitches which at the rate of 35 stitches per minute took about fourteen hours and twenty six minutes to finish by hand. Operating a sewing machine at 3,000 stitches a minute, a seamstress could assemble a shirt in one hour sixteen minutes by machine’.

P1230031

I thought I would try this out and see how long it would take to sew that many stitches by hand as opposed to by machine. I rounded the number of stitches down to 20,000 (I like round numbers) and got stitching. The result were two pieces of work. Seam I: 20,000 stitches (sewn by hand) and Seam II: 36 metres (sewn by machine).

I chose to do back stitch as I thought using running stitch a shirt would quickly fall to pieces! Well …. I can’t sew 35 stitches a minute! I only managed 10-15 stitches a minute (mostly nearer 10 than 15 minutes). 20,000 stitches final took me 30 hours and 38 minutes to complete and the seam was 36 metres long.

P1230032

You can see how tiny the stitches are. I counted every stitch and inserted a little red marker thread every 50 stitches  – I timed each session.

Seam II: 36 metres compares how long a 36m seam takes to sew by machine as opposed to by hand. And the answer is….

P1230041

…32 minutes.

It’s definitely quicker to use a machine!

I’ve put all the research into a little hand-bound book that will be at the exhibition for you to look at.