Power of Making, V&A exhibition

We spent the day at the V&A, predominantly to visit this exhibition sponsered by the crafts council. The uniting theme of  the exhibition was novel techniques and materials in manufacturing and craft. There was a lot that could be classed as textile work, and my favourite piece was a backlit patchwork made from 16mm film strips which had been bleached and dyed before being machine sewn together. The pallette was quite narrow rose pinks and leafy greens, and the images on the film created a pattern with the close repetition of images. Other noteable pieces were a coated steel wire fence strung in a lace pattern rather than straightforward squares (although this was frustratingly displayed behind other exhibits and difficult to fully appreciate), a machine embroidered medical graft used for reconstructing shoulder muscles, and sculptural knitting and crochet pieces. There was a dress woven from recycled audiotape that had been spun 50:50 with nylon. During performance pieces the dress is ‘played’ to create distorted sounds.

I  could see why some have found the exhibition to be rather random with seemingly unrelated objects displayed together, but I got lots of ideas for techniques and use of unusual materials.

I used the rest of the museum visit to practice sketching and collect some textures. I am very interested in ‘textural’ images created by light and the way it behaves through different shapes, and took lots of photos of the railings and stairs in the glass gallery. I was quite pleased with a sketch of a vase I chose because I wanted to try to portray contour and shape of the piece whilst trying to capture the marbled appearance of the inclusions within the glass. Throughout my weekend I have been a bit surprised by how difficult I find it to draw in monochrome and felt quite limited. I think I need a bigger pencil case! I also learnt than putty rubber is good as a drawing medium to lift out lines but not very useful as an eraser…


Grayson Perry: The Tomb of The Unknown Craftsman

We visited this exhibition at the British Museum, curated by Grayson Perry who had explored themes by grouping examples of his work with items from the BM’s permanent collection. I had heard and seen so much about the exhibition beforehand that I felt quite familiar with it, but despite this I was struck by how different his curating style was compared to past exhibitions. In places it was difficult to tell which pieces were new, and themes such as sexuality and gender were expressed far earlier in the collection than you would think.

I used the visit to practice some sketching, and found it quite an odd experience. It is difficult not to feel conspicuous and in the way, and sketching stood up was more of a challenge than I had thought. I was drawn to a piece made in 2009 for the Tate Modern gift shop as it illustrated some of the points on our reverence for original art pieces made in John Bergers “Ways of Seeing” that I had been reading on the train. It was an amulet/personal shrine encasing a fragment of original pottery by Grayson. He juxtaposed this piece with an ancient Tibetan personal shrine. The similarities in the pieces were striking, but Grayson had apparently never seen the piece before making his version. Phillipa Perry talks more about this in the BM’s blog.

Throughout the exhibition, I found the use of text within the pots and textiles interesting and was taken by how much can be conveyed in careful selection of key words. The use of colour in a large scale tapestry “Map of Truth and Beliefs” was striking as were the varying perspectives used within the piece. The composition was based on the Buddhist Wheel of Life, centred by a colour wheel.

During the visit to the rest of the museum, I spent some time collecting sketches and photos of patterns on a Greek pot and various Egyptian mummy casings.

First Steps

My education pack has arrived and I have spent the last couple of days preparing to start work on the first exercises. At this point, having read the introductory literature through and read Gwen Hedley ‘Drawn to Stitch’  and Kay Greenlees ‘Creating Sketchbooks for Embroiderers and Textile Artists’, I am brimming with ideas but also feeling a bit apprehensive about getting started. Having come from a medical background, I need to get into the spirit of experimentation and out of my tendency to want everything to go perfectly first time.

Up to this point, I have had no shortage of inspiration, and am naturally drawn to recording interesting colours and textures. I have dabbled in painting and photography, but found the results to be rather naive, and have really enjoyed teaching myself to knit and crochet. From this course I am hoping to gain confidence in developing those initial inspirations and observations into designs; and to improve my basic skills, particularly in drawing, painting and embroidery. I feel most confident with knitting and crochet, but it would be nice to take this further by incorporating spinning and dyeing as well as designing my own pieces. The initial exercises in drawing and painting are therefore daunting as they are my perceived weakest area, but I am excited by the challenge. Where this course takes me in the long term, who knows! The dream is to be able to make a viable career as a designer/maker, but we’ll see how realistic that is in time.

To get prepared I have started by sorting all of my art and craft equipment and materials to get some measure of things I need to buy or collect. This has been enormously useful as I have collected rather a lot over the years and didn’t realise quite how much I already had! We are fortunate to have an excellent art supply shop practically backing onto our house, and a good  library a short walk away.

In terms of sketchbooks and logbooks, I have a small notebook as I have always had for jotting down ideas. I have also got an 8″ leather bound sketchbook which will serve as my main sketchbook, an A5 gummed pad of cartridge paper, and an A3 size spiral-bound pad as my main logbook to supplement this blog. I already had a similar A5 pad with black paper and may borrow some pages from that.


Textiles 1 : A Creative Approach

I have done it. I’ve taken the plunge and enrolled on my first course with the OCA. This blog will serve as my learning log. I have another blog at http://www.knitknotnorris.blogspot.com where I have documented my crafting and creative meanderings to this point, and have yet to decide if I will keep adding to it. We’ll see what happens. At the moment I am wide-eyed with curiosity and anticipation of what lies ahead.

Wish me luck!