Plaster, paint, coils and stitch; large sample

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Sample, about 3ft long.  Creases caused by not pressing before adding more paint; I am really annoyed about them, but it’s good information for the future and this piece is about discovering how materials and techniques work together.   Baseball stitch joins the edges of two pieces of fabric.

The fabric colour looked a little dingy, I wanted something more vibrant so added some thick layers of ultramarine, cerulean blue, white and violet acrylic paint.  It should have been pressed first, the paint has created permanent creases in the fabric; useful if planned, irritating if not.  Several plaster tiles were removed to reduce some of the crinkling caused by un-careful stitching together, which left behind some interesting tiny holes.  I might use this as a deliberate technique in future, and recall seeing work by an artist who makes entire pieces by ‘drilling’ patterns into a surface using an empty-needle sewing machine.  I am so tempted to sew on some seashells, maybe a crab shell (the orange would make an interesting complementary splash against all the blue).


Tiles: The left tile is taken from a discarded watercolour which I had stitched and painted into (see post dated January 25th, 2016.).  The right tile is made from Sculptamold, which was molded over a small ball to create a curved shape.  The flat shape was easier to sew and made less rucking in the fabric.  Both had holes applied using a drill.

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Close-up of tiles, stitch and coils: The coils were first wrapped with thin wire, to make them stand up, before wrapping with muslin and threads.  Two of the coils were painted over to make them blend in, and stiffen them further.  It was possible to apply one coil by stitching it right on the tip, making it stand on end.  I brushed paint lightly over the baseball stitch and tiles to make them blend in.

Reflection: Following on from my last post dated dated April 24th, I have worked more on my three foot long sample of plaster, coils and stitch on painted calico.  It is an experimental piece where I discovered how different materials and techniques work together.  So, although it is based on the various beach walk drawings I have made (sketchbook and previous post) it does not relate to specific research and reflection.  I am pleased with myself, however, for developing the coiling techniques I submitted for my first Textiles Course where I made a series of pots depicting the life cycle of a drystone wall.  I was fascinated with books written by Jean Draper (1) and Ruth Lee (2) and learned a lot from these.  However, perhaps I didn’t develop the ideas I read about in these books to try and explore my own style by incorporating lots of paint and different techniques together, and maybe that is how you develop a personal voice.

Here, nearly two years later,  I have taken my coils and used them in a different way, as an element in a mixed media experimental sample.   I have added wire to the core yarn in order to add a three-dimensional element that isn’t constrained by regular shapes.  I have also added an extra dimension of paint, which sounds daft considering I’ve obscured the threads beneath it.  However, if future, less experimental, pieces are made, this can be considered beforehand and a coil with appropriate texturing can be made to receive the paint.  I have used acrylic paints rather than fabric paints because I feel the nature of the paint helps strengthen the coil.  However, this is something to work on in the future.

  1.  Draper, Jean: Stitch and Structure.  Design and Technique in two- and three-dimensional textiles.  Batsford.   2013
  2. Lee, Ruth: Three-dimensional textiles with coils, loops, knots and nets.  Batsford, 2010





Part 5.  Sampling and experimenting

I’ve been very quiet recently, but there is loads going on and my log is in creative chaos.  It would take too many precious hours to write it all down now, so here is a photo of my train of thought.  Artists who work in nature are particularly influential.   For example  Andrew Goldsworthy, whose sculptures are shown in beautiful photographs, but they actually transform over time and become part of the landscape.  Marks made on the beach last summer, alongside an iPad drawing made the following day. A plaster infused print on calico cotton made during Part 4 inspires me, the background of the final piece could be printed and covered in a plaster wash, similar to this sample.


I want to imply a moment in time, a simultaneous pulling apart and joining together, re-creation.  I have returned to the wrapped string technique I used in a previous course (inspired by the work  of Jean Draper but, this time, in a more creative way).  I am going to experiment with wire within the cords to make a slightly more three dimensional image.  There is also space  for added plaster.  Here are my visual thoughts, in one piece, about three feet long.  The baseball stitch, which I have used throughout the Course, to join edges, is still important.  The threads are supposed to undulate and cross over in places.  The cords, once made, will be anchored somehow.  Small tiles of rough plaster may be sewn, nestled, into the central curved line, but perhaps they would be superfluous.  I need to think and draw in my sketchbook.

Part 5 Preparation. More thoughts about favourite images and techniques made and worked during the Course.

This is an update.  My tutor report for Assignment 4 has arrived and encouraged me very much.  I was delighted that my diversion into uninhibited collage went down very well, and the plaster infused blouse panel was also approved.  My tutor made the point that I’ve previously learned from painting and life drawing classes, that it is useful to stand back, look from a distance (metaphorical as well as actual, I suspect).  The collage shouts for attention (my words) whereas the blouse panel is rather vague and you find yourself sticking your nose right up to it in order to find a focus (my words).  There is detail but no coherence.  I think I’m so used to making small pieces where details seem perfect and now realise that large samples need more planning and consideration of the viewer.  It’s rather like drawing; you can get away with a lot in a small drawing!   So I think I need to make a final sample which is large, has interest both from a distance and close-up, and has directness.  I was surprised and pleased at a comment from my tutor (about the collage) that I wasn’t “precious” about the piece, that I wasn’t afraid to cut it up, re-work it.  I don’t want to be dainty, would much rather approach the sample with some passion.

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I think Parts 1 (trying out different techniques) and 3 (working with plaster) will be most relevant to the final piece.  Specifically, from Part 3, it is using a plaster mixture almost as a painting medium on fabric, to add surface texture.  From Part 1 I would like to consider the “Detritus Book”, an old paperback of Wordsworth’s poetry which I filled with odds and ends I picked up during the course of my days.  Train ticket, wrappers, receipts, bits of melted plastic.

My tutor saw these as individual ideas rather than a single sample and I understand what he means, but I really would like to somehow incorporate bits and pieces from daily life into a plastered blouse/collage.  Perhaps the eye-catching part of the design could consist of an added panel of fused plastic which contrasts in texture with the fused plaster.  A very significant sample is the tiny piece of stitched and fused fabric which reminds me of Jane Russell’s corset.  Perhaps it is possible to make a large version of this.


I am keen to include some of the baseball stitching which has been a theme throughout the course for me; in particular for expressing the lines I saw on the beach at Marazion last year (My tutor asks me to look again at my beach drawings – I think that’s a big hint ..).


I like to think the fabric, which is loosely joined with stitching, may either be ripping apart or be joined together; the viewer doesn’t know – it’s uncertain.  As is life.  (and now I probably am being precious!).

Part 5 Preparation.  First thoughts.  Selection of favourite images from the course. Part 1.

Visit to the University of Oxford Museum of Natural History, Spring 2016 Website .  I haven’t written about this before, although some sketching was done.  Bones and stones.  But the pinned insects caught my eye.  I practiced mounting butterflies like this, when I was around 12; it would be a shameful thing to do now, but some memories underpin the metaphors we evolve to describe our lives.


I need to research several artworks I remember from several exhibitions, where items of clothing are presented as objects, but you are aware of an invisible living form within.   This is something I think I would like to explore for my Final Project, an item of clothing (or part of one) presented, like the insects beloved of collectors years ago, pinned to a surface.  I also think back to the crumbling and damaged buildings studied during Part 3 , in particular.  A connection between the buildings which we need to protect us, and clothing which protects in other ways, may seem fanciful but is not impossible to describe in Textile.   The joining exercises I’ve  done using baseball stitch will be useful, the sinuous shapes are lovely, and samples are easy to make.  I have ambitions to stitch in the open air, just as we were encouraged to sketch outdoors in Drawing 1.

Part 4, Stage 3 and Stage 4. Recording Outcomes. Reflections.

As Part 4 finishes, we are asked to review the work we have done.  I am not sure how this differs from the instruction in Stage 4 to reflect on our work as a whole (and then mark ourselves according to the Assessment Criteria). So I am going to combine this task.

The main thing I began to experience during Part 4 was frustration because – apart from stencilling – I couldn’t see what was being applied onto the print surface, in particular while making actual images rather than random marks (eg Project 1, Ex. 2).  It’s not just about control and knowledge of materials and equipment, I would like to watch the paint/ink going onto a surface – I wanted to just paint the images on!     Consider this sample from Part 3, a  ‘drawing’ of one of my plaster molds.drawing-based-on-casting-fm-embroid

Derwent Inktense drawn onto polycotton and then painted, to blend.  It works very well for me.      Presumably a print would also have worked well, but why place printing plates  upside down and out of sight when you can watch and control how the image is applied by painting directly!  To be honest I am surprised I feel like this, so these printing exercises have been very useful.  I have learned something about how I like to work.

I do need to do more, especially with the collotyping.  I feel I haven’t explored this technique enough, but feel the printing process itself would be disappointing.  I can’t make more than vague patterns, which are useful as a base for further work but that’s all.  Further explorations could include using natural objects and some of the clay impressions made at the end of Part 3.  I am also thinking about using embroidery itself as a printing tool, especially stitches made with materials such as string into acetate, pelmet vilene or a similar tough material.  I have explored baseball stitching in various ways, but not like this.  My tutor noted that perhaps I hadn’t used research material from other artists as much as I could have done, and I still haven’t … this is something I’ve really got to get down to in my Final Project.  Alexander McQueen and Anselm Kiefer are two major artists to help explore my ideas about images of clothing, but also various Pinterest artists I’ve noted but not paid deep attention to.  Most certainly I would find printing a useful sketchbook tool, to help explore ideas – the randomness of print sparks the imagination.

So, specific answers to the Questions in Stage 3 of our Coursebook (which I noted in my sketchbook about two thirds of the way through, but these are my final thoughts):

  • Unfortunately the artists I research, for example Laurie Rudling, impressed me but did not actually influence the direction I took.  For example, instead of using collatypes for printing, I have found them far more intriguing as objects in their own right.  I feel this is a very good discovery, but perhaps not very much to do with textiles.
  • How did printmaking go for me?  It was more of a challenge than I expected.  I suspect others might say I am being too fussy, not free enough with the process ….
  • Ideas for the future:  I definitely try out printing from embroidery, possibility for interesting marks.
  • Any ideas for using these printing methods in combination with other sample-making exercises in this course?  The monoprints make good backgrounds for stitch, and also blend well with infused plaster (the blouse front, for example).  They are excellent for collage but, I suspect, the collage I have handed in for the Assignment has been painted over so much that the original monoprints are almost invisible  (red collage).
  • Would I consider using printing as mark-making exercises to develop ideas in my sketchbook.  Yes, certainly.

Assessment Criteria:  As usual, it is almost impossible for me to mark myself, as requested in the Coursebook.  My feeling, since the last Assessment, that I have such little insight into my own Textiles work (compared to Drawing 1) makes me realise that a Textiles Degree is not the path for me, I am drawn more and more to mixed media work which includes a textiles component.  However, I shall have a go.

  • Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skill:  well, I have had good ideas about materials (e.g. embroidery) but not always used them.  My techniques haven’t been skillful – below average.  Design and compositional skill – a good average.
  • Quality of outcome – I’ve labelled every page in my sketchbook and tried to keep things in chronological order – so presentation in a coherent manner is improving.  I hope my large red collage has communicated ideas/conceptualizes thoughts but I am not sure it is specifically relevant to Part 4 work – so I would lose marks for that.  I think the blouse front is also quite good at doing the above and is also relevant to Part 4 work, even though it combines techniques from other Parts of the Course (but this demonstrates application of knowledge).  I would give myself a good average mark here, but not convinced an Assessor would.  (Not that the Assessor is “wrong”, but it shows I am not suited to a Textiles course).
  • Demonstration of creativity:  experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.  Yes – I have confidence in these abilities.  My personal voice is developing.  I experiment and I invent.  If something doesn’t work one way, I will try to make it work another way (e.g.collatypes make their own artwork, even if they don’t print successfully.  Incorporating prints into a large collage – I was able to put my imagination into practice).
  • Context: reflection, research, critical thinking.  I could have done more research.  I am learning to reflect.







Part 4 and idea for Part 5. Plaster infused blouse front with monoprint and embroidery. Notes and thoughts.

A little note to start with:  Once again I have gone a little astray from the Coursebook instructions and made a large sample using monoprint (rather than the four/five collatypes we have been asked to – Part 2, Project 2 Exercise 3).  I was thinking back to my last trip to Cornwall, and the drawings I made of patterns in the sand, made by the sea.  The monoprint is so much more effective than a collatype.

During the Textiles 1 Course, A Creative Approach, I made a sample bodice, by stitching many darts into a piece of stripey cotton.  I would like to develop this idea for Part 5, and possibly use it for my Final Piece.  I would like my tutor’s comments on this proposal.

The project is first discussed during Part 1, Monoprinting Post dated January 8th 2017.  Sculptamold was sandwiched between two layers of nonoprinted muslin blouse front (size 14 free pattern from a magazine).

Ripples of water created by scrunching effect of the plaster.  The texture of sand resembles the texture of the broken plaster trapped between fabric

My photos and drawings:



Blouse front sample




Parts of top layer ripped and filled with French knots in various cream-coloured wools.  Tumours breaking through or new life emerging?   Soft wool against plaster and fabric – contrast in texture.  Darts creating a twisted body …  or is it dancing?

A 3″ x 3″ sample made during Part 1 of this course, fused and stitched plastic bag, which reminds me of a Jane Russell corset.


I’ve been considering buildings collapsing and re-created.  Homes.  Post February 14th and Caddis fly sketchbook March 26th 2016

Right at the start of this course I was captivated by Wilcox, Claire, Alexander McQueen, V&A Exhibition Book  which accompanied the Exhibition,  Savage Beauty , a retrospective exhibition on the work of Alexander McQueen.  An exhibition I deeply regret missing.  Clothes are the houses we live in.  Reflect our bodies and personalities, lifestyle, hopes, history.  We wear our personal sculptures.  We walk around within a physical and emotional carapace.

Also exploring the work of Anselm Kiefer

For fun – I used the close-up image of my sewing blended with a photo of carp in the pond at Glastonbury Abbey to produce this … another idea perhaps…


I’m going to finish here – need to get on with the Reflections part of Part 4 and then post this to my Tutor.

Part 4. A large collage which combines some printing samples.

As I worked through Part 4 I gathered many pieces of print material that could be used in some way, rather than pasted into a sketchbook or hidden in the cupboard.  I was also feeling rather disappointed with my printing efforts and wanted to do something of my own, properly creative, something to be proud of.  First of all, wondering what to do and how to start, I painted about two metres of calico cotton in various colours.


This was a tiring afternoon!   One of these was to be developed into a collage, and it took a while to choose.  I have tried some stamping onto the yellow, and adding some fabrics to the bronze; the blue and green pieces implied something fairly pastoral .  My mood was red, the fabric was painted with Cadmium Red and Paynes Grey.  I thought back to my attempts to describe some of the awful things we have seen on the media this past year. (in blog posts Art from Elsewhere and Sketchbook Work and Ideas for Development)   At the same time I have been aching to do some painting – I miss it so much.

Various pieces of not-so-effective print samples were laid out for consideration in a collage.  I reflected back to a Workshop I attended in The Hugenot Museum, Rochester, run  by Textile Artist Cas Holmes during late 2015.  That day was devoted to collage and, in particular, using the Hugenot colours of red and black.  We had been invited to bring scraps to use, including pieces of vintage embroidery, the kind that sits in drawers, hidden away.  This Workshop gave me permission to get over that!  So, for this piece, a childlike image of collapsing buildings was in my head; one of my scraps of vintage crochet was perfect because it is such a strong contrast, in its perfection, to the imperfections of my printing.  Having chosen that particular piece, I thought about some of the baseball stitching I have made on muslin, in particular a monoprinted piece which I tore apart and sewed back together with cotton threads that matched the print colours.  Afterwards, out of curiosity, I soaked the piece in a watery plaster solution to see what happened – and felt a little disappointed.  However it, too, was ideal to add to my collage.

Tiny pieces from my experiments with acrylic felt, organza and a small soldering iron followed (blog post on Soldering Iron Experiments, 17/4/16).


I took a deep breath and began places pieces onto my red background, and wish I could say this was influenced by a well-known Textile Artist, or even a Fine Artist.  I would like to say I researched contemporary artists, reflected carefully upon my findings, and extrapolated my ideas based on the results – as we have been required to do.  Items were placed in a way that seemed balanced and interesting.  Running through my head while I did this was the Leonard Cohen song, Who By Fire ..?.   Fabric glue was used to stick items down, rather than sewing them on.  I think stitches would best be left until the very last minute, because they need to be placed carefully; even a few misplaced running stitches could distract from the overall arrangement.

My daughter visited and I asked her to hold the piece up, outside in daylight, so I could consider my next moves.

Collage red_1.jpg

I posted this on the OCA Student Critique site and had no replies after two days, despite over twenty views, so clearly something was wrong and no-one wanted to say so!  My husband didn’t like the fabric overlapping the top left edge.  These edge overlaps were deliberate, I wanted to indicate shapes falling off the mainframe, as it were.  However, I saw his point, it was distracting, so I cut them off.  I considered some more.  The topmost shape was meant to represent a bird flying to freedom … perhaps a bit preachy, so it was removed, together with the red soldered felt/organza sample below it.  Now there was too much red space at the top, so I cut four inches off.  There was far too much white, and the lower right hand side needed to be darker, in my opinion.  Some stencilling was applied to the left side, in the form of spatters.  The stencil worked better for me than actually spattering with a stiff brush, because although the marks look random, they are actually very precise.  Finally a tube of Artist quality Liquitex cadmium red was purchased and applied with a soft paint roller, together with the same paint in Paynes Grey across the lower edge.  This brought it all together.

The piece was shown on the Facebook OCA Textiles Group for an opinion.  I haven’t really posted anything for a year now, but I was very pleased to get some good advice about blending the colours even more, and supportive remarks about the atmosphere and texture.  I posted once again on the OCA Students Critique Forum and this time received some very positive comments.  In particular some design elements were brought to my attention that I hadn’t really been aware of; for example, by accident, the darkest elements are central on the image, like a bulls-eye – but the movement of elements around the image make this less obvious…  I need to practise some design skills, my plonking-everything-down-method has worked, but more by serendipity than anything planned.

These comments – FB and OCA Forum – will be printed out and put in my sketchbook.  I feel much better about my work now, because it’s helpful to have feedback and also to make something that comes from my heart.  However it has rather taken the place of time I should have spent making five collograph prints as required in our Coursebook, and I will have to get on with these, but I feel happier about making these now.

This is the more or less finished piece.  It may benefit from some stitching, but there is no time for that now.  However, this has been wonderful preparation for a potential final piece in Part 5.  nb. The lower edges are slightly frayed and wispy – not clear in this photo.img_5656-edited