MMT1 Part 5, Sample 2

I was interested to see if my (few) experiments with stitching onto leaves during Parts 1 and 2, 9th March 2016 could be incorporated with my experiments in stitching into plaster.

ex 1 joining_10 leaves
Various ways of joining leaf material

I gathered some fresh material from a local footpath (thrown over a garden fence, always a good source of material!).  I think these are some kind of bamboo leaf, similar to the ones used before.  They were stitched together with variegated machine-sewing cotton (fine but strong).  A small tile was made using an plastic carton lid as a mold, and holes drilled into it with an emerging fern frond pattern.  Leaf and tile were stitched together with the same cotton.

plaster stitch leavesplaster stitch leaves2

I would like to do more of this but the little devil on my shoulder is saying, “well, it’s pretty and rustic, but what’s the point apart from that – you aren’t supposed to just do ‘pretty’, there has to be a concept involving Research and Reflection!”.   I don’t know how to reply to that, apart from believing the research and reflection elements come after you have made something, when you understand that your work has been influenced by various sources.

MMT1 Part 5. Sample 1.

There is no preparatory drawing or research for my first sample.  The sample is itself a drawing as well as a finished piece.  I had finished experimenting with drill-bits and glue, wondering whether my final piece should be based on painted calico or on a more daring piece of sewn plaster.  Then the news about events in Manchester (1) came through and I wanted to make some kind of response.. my thoughts about breaking and healing which had been around throughout the Course got more passionate.  I have written previously about wanting to make art with reference to current events and this piece is the first textile piece I have made which does this.

The twenty-two pieces of coiled thread clearly sit upon the cracks and stitch, and both elements are visible but necessary – one element without the other wouldn’t work.  In my Tutor Report for Part 3 of the Course my tutor wrote about the effectiveness of simplicity, of suggestion to convey emotional events, rather than full-on, well-drawn graphics.  I hope I have achieved this here, it’s a start anyway.

IMG_6234 (Edited)
A response to the attack at Manchester Arena, 22nd May, 2017.  9 cm x 33cm.  Plaster, thread, glue, twine, embroidery cotton


Two plaster tiles moulded in ice cream lids.  Dried out over four days, then broken .  Some concerns because I felt the strong line down the middle, where two tiles joined, was obvious, but I decided the coils would detract from an intrusive mid-line.

This is one tile, broken and prepared for attaching back together.   I wanted to use stitch only, but the small piece was too unstable (although strong enough to withstand drilling).  So superglue was added.  Strong linen knitting yarn was used to oversew the pieces.  Twenty-two pieces of cotton twine (to represent the twenty-two lives lost) were glued to the surface.  This was tricky.  The glue soaked itself around the coils and made small marks.  Several coils had to be removed and replaced.  There are still spots of glue visible.

Tails of thread are left hanging downwards, because I didn’t want the coils to just stop.  They float and intertwine with one another.  I’ve noticed many textile artists allow for hanging threads, for undefined boundaries.  In particular, the work of Karola Pezarro from the Netherlands whose Figures (Independent Work/Autonoom Werk section) are covered in both worked and unworked threads.  Also Lauren di Cioccio, Sewn News.  The tangled threads hanging down from her embroideries of photos in the New York Times give an ephermeral feel, a notion (for me) that you could pull the threads and the whole situation might just float away into another picture.

IMG_6220   IMG_0998(1)

(1) Reference

MMT1 Part 5. Hole drilling and superglue practice

Methods for Project 5 – first of all, will it physically work?

I plan to join up broken pieces of plaster with stitch and glue and to add small pieces of coiling to the plaster, (in contrast to the large pieces used June 18th, 2017).

Experimental hole-drilling and gluing samples.

The first challenge was finding a drill bit small enough to make discreet holes in the plaster.   A local hardware shop was able to supply some “engineering” drill bits.  The next challenge was fixing these tiny bits into my enormous screwdriver; it worked – amazing!  My screwdriver, incidentally, is the same one used for the wrapping exercises during Part 2 of the course, resulting in one of my favourite pieces, and it feels rather good to unwrap one piece of artwork and use it to make another piece of artwork..

drill 12

Yes, standard superglue works on Sculptamold ..

plaster glue experiment
Sculptamold tile, broken, glued back together with superglue.  Small coil added with more superglue.

Yes, it is possible to drill holes through a piece of Sculptamold using an ordinary drill-bit. The wrapped cocktail sticks I stuck through the holes made interesting shadows in the sunshine, also different effects according to how far they are pushed through.  Something to think about for the future.

plaster pierced w sticks

.. and yes, it is possible to drill tiny holes in Sculptamold using an engineering drill-bit in a large drill.  For this experiment I wrapped some plaster around a cardboard tube covered in clingfilm and string (to give textural interest on the inside).  Holes were drilled along the edges and thread sewn through.


Finally, I wondered what would happen if I piled some small pieces of wrapped twine into another piece of plaster and sewed them in, using three strong stitches along the base.  Yes, that worked too, but the three stitches showed on the base so maybe glue would be better.

plaster curved red coils

The next post describes my first piece of plaster sewing, gluing and coiling work.

Plaster, paint, coils and stitch; large sample

IMG_0994 (Edited)

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.

IMG_0996 (Edited)

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.

img_5649-edited                        img_5656-edited

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.