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.
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.