Tag Archives: cloth

Colours of the Landscape

It is an ancient practice for artists to use earth as a painting material. For centuries (almost forever in fact) earth has been dug out of the ground, processed and mixed with binders to make colour. Raw earth colours can range from yellow to red and brown and when burnt can darken the colour substantially. The main colouring material in these earths is iron.

P1010935

Chalk is another material that comes from the ground. It is a variety of limestone and was formed over millions of years from the skeletal remains of minute plankton called coccolithophores. It is, of course, pure white.

P1010927

Sea-coal is a coal that washes up on the beach from exposed deposits that exist on the sea bed. It is a dark, dark black and is shiny and remarkably ‘clean’.

P1010931

These three cloth vessels (I am calling them Ground Works) have been coloured with local yellow earth, chalk and sea-coal. The materials have been collected from beaches along the North Norfolk coast, ground and then mixed with water to a creamy consistency and rubbed into the cloth. A wax and linseed oil mixture has been applied when the paint was dry. I’m remarkably pleased with the pure colour that I have managed to achieve with these hand ground, local pigments.

P1010933

The ground pigments can also be mixed with a binder, in this case rabbit skin glue, to make paint. The paints I have made are rough and textured. I found the sand in the yellow earth difficult to grind down to a very fine texture and the sea-coal is also very hard and so difficult to grind finely. However, these local colours are remarkably intense and their texture is certainly interesting. It pleases me that the colours make a direct connection between the non-descriptive ambiguity of the vessels and the realism of the drawings.

P1010937

P1010938

P1010936

P1010939

I love the idea that a material dug up from beneath the surface, in this case the colour, is able to describe the landscape above and so connect the work to the environment both physically and visually.

 

Advertisements

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.

 

Experimenting

As an artist who uses cloth I am very interested in how it is used in the landscape that I am trying to evoke. I take great inspiration from sails and tarpaulins that can be found everywhere here on the coast and recently I have been researching traditional ways of preserving and waterproofing them.

P1010510

Nowadays, sails are made from highly technical synthetic materials that won’t shrink, rot or stretch out of shape when battered by the wind and weather. But before these fabrics were in common use, sails were made of canvas and linen – fabrics that will degenerate quickly if they are not treated with a preservative. I often use canvas and linen in my work and so it is appropriate to look at traditional ways of preserving these types of cloth.

P1010524

There are several traditional ways that sailors and fishermen would preserve sails, ropes and nets. Tanning or barking is a process of boiling sailcloth in a solution of cutch, an extract of the plant Acacia Catechu that is very high in natural tannins. This process turns the sail a reddish/brown and gives protection from the elements, but the sail remains absorbent and becomes heavy in wet weather.

P1010511

I find the process of ‘dressing’ sails with linseed oil, wax and ochre more intriguing. The mixture is spread on both sides of the sail and penetrates the cloth to create a barrier that protects it from the wet. Despite the fear that the linseed oil coated cloth would spontaneously combust (!), I have made some samples and hung them up in a well ventilated room to dry.

P1010513

Since using chalk that I had collected, hand ground and turned into distemper in a recent piece of work, I have been keen to use other natural materials collected from the environment. I thought that I could easily replace ochre in the dressing mixture with another material and for the past couple of weeks I have been looking for a substitute on my walks along the beach. Red clay from Cley beach and sea-coal from the East Hills in Wells have proved to be worthy alternatives.

P1010519

When I first made these samples I was disappointed. I thought they looked like dirty scraps of cloth with no aesthetic appeal. However, I looked at them again a couple of days ago and the drying process has greatly improved their appearance and touch and I think there could be some potential.

P1010527

Now the linseed oil is less sticky and smelly, the yellow/brown oil, wax, and coarsely ground red clay turns the cloth a wonderful, translucent terracotta and similarly coarse-ground sea-coal gives texture. I’ve also mixed some of my previously ground chalk with oil and wax and the mixture gives a dense, creamy coating that gently cracks when manipulated.

P1010517

These are my first experimental samples. They need a lot of refining and I should spend longer processing the clay and sea-coal and trying out different proportions of oil and wax.  But I have ideas …… I’ll keep you updated!

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.

The Sluice Creek Cloths

There is only a week to go before the Knitting & Stitching show! Nearly everything is packed up in copious amounts of bubblewrap and I am running around deciding on slightly strange things like how to transport 2 buckets of dry sand without it spilling out everywhere. Today I’ll give you a bit of information about the main part of the Moments of Being body of work – The Sluice Creek Cloths.

p1030104

Sluice Creek is a tidal inlet just off the main channel at Wells-next-the-Sea. It runs north/south and narrows to the north in a labyrinth of seemingly endless inlets and creeks. It is a quiet place but at the same time it teems with life and movement – there is always something new and interesting to see and experience.

Version 2

The Sluice Creek Cloths are inspired by the memory of encounters with physical processes that I have encountered whilst out walking or sailing: the sun moving over the marsh and creating shadows, the clink of halyards knocking against masts, the shape of a bend in the creek or the way saltwater marks my clothes.

dsc_2744

I have invested a huge amount of time and effort in these cloths and they have taken me about 18 months to make. There are seven cloths in the series. Each one is made from linen and hangs double over a shiny, varnished pole. The mark I have chosen to use as my personal notation for this body of work is the hole. It is a space – an immaterial emptiness that is surrounded by a physical material that describes its shape and allows us to see a nothing. The holes I have sewn into the linen of The Sluice Creek Cloths are edged with thread-bound iron wire. These evoke the small metal eyelets and fastenings that are in tarpaulins, boat covers and sails found in a coastal environment. Each cloth has been dipped in the sea several times to rust the eyelets and to mark the cloth.
p1000118
The information I have written over the past three posts has come from a book that I have designed and self-published to accompany the Moments of Being exhibition. It is a 20 x 20cms, soft-covered book with 60 pages. It includes text that describes my inspiration and way of working and has photographs that I have taken myself of the work and the environment that inspired it. It will be on sale at the show next week. It will also be on sale  after the show in my shop.
dsc_2414
Do come and say hello if you are there!

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 …..

 

Yellow cloth

Things are a bit frantic here at the moment what with exhibitions going up and being stewarded and two deadlines looming for future exhibitions. I am also continuing to make work for my gallery at the Knitting and Stitching show in the autumn ….. sometimes I feel as if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew!

1

The good weather we have been having recently has helped my time pressures enormously. I need to paint large pieces of cloth and it is so good to be able to go out into the garden on a warm day and spread out and drip in the open air. Everything dries so much quicker in a gentle warm breeze than in a cold, dark garage which is where I have to do wet stuff in the winter. Only a month ago it was taking 4 or 5 days to dry an equivalent cloth.

9

It is so much easier not to have to worry about covering the floor as outside the drips just soak away into the grass.

7

The shadows stand out on the vibrant yellow ochre ….

4

5

and as the cloth is a loose weave linen so you can see through it as well.

6

These marks were a very serendipitous and timely surprise!

8

Of course within half an hour the sun had gone in and it was raining which is good for the garden but it’s back into the garage to paint the next layer today!