Sound Sketch Development


I had a look through my work from previous assignments, particularly colour and mark making to ge ideas on how I could inject some vibrancy into my work. I was particularly pleased with some pieces I had made before by combing inks. Having done this I made a couple of sketches of waves that worked well.


During this time I also attended the Knit and Stitch Show at Alexandra Palace. There I had lots of inspiration on yarns I could use, such as these spun sari silks and viscose gimp samples. I worked a new felt sample shown in the photo below, which indeed have more vibrancy and maintained the feeling of sound as the source inspiration.


From here I had a look again at structure. I have been thinking about some African tribal beaded jewellery, with long almost floor length strings of beads hanging centrally down the front like a fragmented panel.


The next suggested step in this assignment was to make larger scale drawings based upon pieces in my sketchbook. I took a section from my waved ink sketch and came up with this design.


In the course of researching this project, I happened across the work of Martin Klimas, a photographer who has photographed drops of paint on acetate placed over a speaker playing loud music, The drops dance in the air creating a visual expression of the sounds. I made a couple of large painted sketches based on these photos.


I then spent a day monoprinting with acrylic paint, drawing waveforms and adding splashes of colour, trying to marry these two main sketch ideas.



The final piece I came up with is below. I liked the way the waves were unfurling, tighter in the top left corner, becoming looser towards bottom right.


Looking back over my work after a break from it, I am truly undecided whether to pursue this piece or give up on it entirely and start again. Every step has seemed forced and a struggle, and I fear that by pushing myself too hard, I will end up with a final piece that I am not completely pleased with. I am keeping a number of themed sketchbooks that have developed in a more organic way, without me even thinking of them in terms of theme books. Would I be better following up with one of these and execute something cleanly that might be a bit more boring?

I am going to contact my tutor for advice at this point, and put forward alternative theme ideas. I think I know the answer though…


Sound samples

Having looked at materials, structures and colour ideas, I moved my sketch work forward by working some small felt samples.  To approach this I first sketched out some smocking ideas.


There were a number of problems with smocking as combined with the stitch detail, the ideas all ended up looking very busy or so technically fussy as to detract from the overall effect. A lot of the detail would also be lost in folds, and the undulating design could easily be lost and disjointed.  I didn’t like the gradually narrowing smocked diamonds, as alternate rows were asymmetrical and I found it unsettling. When I was playing with a piece of felt, the most visually pleasing effects were acheived with a very simple waveform as sketched below.


I made a sample of felt by dry felting commercially dyed wool tops into a mechanically manufactured felt base. I then selected a few tonal metallic and cotton threads to embellish with machine stitched wavy lines.



I then wanted to see how the felt could be stiffened to hold a solid shape, and made a small sample with pelmet thickness vilene sandwiched in felt.


At this point I sent my sketchbook to my tutor, who felt that I had settled on an idea too soon and that the samples needed to vibrate with colour. I completely agree but have to admit that I am still struggling.

Sound sketchbook cont.



Whilst researching soundscapes and visual representations of sound, I came across this project, whereby various ambient recordings were made and used to create a 8 or 16 channel soundscape composition despicting an imagined enviroment. The website features a spectogram analysis of a section of the piece, which I have reinterpreted in applque and stitch in this small sample.


Having spent time thinking a lot about shape and form, I wanted to explore colour inspirations for my piece. As a doctor, my first thought was related to neurosciences and how we perceive sound. In a disorder known as synaesthesia, the brain interprets input from one sense as another. The most common example of this is being able to ‘see’ sound. During my recent hospitalisation I had my own experience of synaesthesia, where loud noises caused my central vision to distort like a large drop causing a circular ripples to the periphery (rather similar to my last sketch)  followed by intense tingling on the tip of my tongue. I research sound/vision synaesthesia and found a few artists who experience music as colours. I have scrapbooked a page based on this. Kandinsky was also thought to be synaesthesic, and in some of his colour composition, his stated aim was for people to be able to ‘hear’ his paintings. A frequent description was of bass notes appearing in deep purple, and electric guitar sounds in a buttery yellow. I thought that these would be a good combination in my piece as opposites on the colour wheel.


This was my sketch inspired by this reading. I had also had a look through all of my work so far from previous assignments and liked the energy in my gouache experiments with knife painting. Here I mixed the purple hue directly on the paper with the palette knife, and the resulting flecks of red and blue worked quite nicely.


Sound sketchbook

I got going on my theme book by making a cover. I decided the vinyl single format was a nice size to work with, and made a mock up of a Parlophone record. It was a light way to get inspired and worked quite well!


I then started my research by looking at the work of Anne Kyyro Quinn, as suggested to me by my tutor. She is a textile artist and interior designer who specialises in felt soundproofing installations. I made a couple of sketches based on her work, and looked at the properties of soundproofing more generally. I really admired the aesthetic of her work, and like the uniformity of the pieces in colour, texture and form. I can see that pleasing design is generally pared back and not too fussy, and I have a tendency to want to do too much in a single piece.



At this point, I was quite fixed on the idea of using smocking or something akin to smocking in manipulating felt for my final piece. I wanted to explore the idea of having pattern visible within or through the main structure, hence the drawing on the right which was laminated with holes within the regular pattern.  The main principles that I want to take forward from this research is the thickness and porous nature of the base fabric, and the idea of optimal geometry in the three dimensional surface design.

I went on to do some sketches of what I would immediately visualise when I thought about sound. Waveforms was an obvious starting point, and one problem I saw in representing sound in a sketch is the lack of physical movement. I thought about the large scale drawings we had seen recently at the Jenny Saville exhibition in Oxford, and thought I could use the idea of drawing waveforms on top of each other to represent time lapse and movement.



Having drawn the line drawings, I realised I had essentially drawn a Joy Division album cover, albeit subconsciously!  The traced sketch incorporated the idea of a musical notation and the end of staves on music paper, and also looked a bit like piano keys.

My next tack was to look at other textile artists work, and see if any pieces made me think of sound. I had recently bought Drusilla Cole’s ‘Textiles Now’, and felt inspired by a number of pieces. I was particularly drawn to ikat woven pieces by Ptolemy Mann, some of which have a pulsing, vibrating quality, and also have parallels with graphics equalizer displays. Jessica Preston is interesting for the purposes of this project, as she uses intricately and elaborately folded felt to create origami-style three dimensional forms. I was drawn to these not only due to the parallels with my reading on soundproofing, but also because I felt the shapes as shown in my sketch have a vibrating quality, and some of her pieces look rather like speakers to me.


From here, I had another go at sketching sound and came up with this.


At this stage I think that I fell into the trap of being too focussed on an end product when approaching the sketchbook. On the positive side, I am finding this process of review useful and quite liberating. I feel less anxious about changing direction and discovering new ideas for development.

Getting Back

Followers of my learning log may have noticed a rather large hiatus since my last post. This is partly as I have been struggling somewhat with my themed sketchbook and development, and I have been working in a more direct dialogue with the sketchbook making notes as I go, rather than reflecting here. I have also had the misfortune of an unexpected stay in hospital. A very frightening experience involving being unable to move from flat on my back for hours on end. I am happy to say that after almost a fortnight in hospital I have been discharged home, but tiredness and motivation problems have resulted in a slow return to the project in hand.

I had started a theme book on ‘Tea’, but my tutor was right that I had settled on an idea that I felt was within my grasp rather than challenging myself. In my third assignment I had explored the idea of creating a soundscape in textile manipulation, but hadn’t quite found a resolution. She felt that this was a much more exciting proposition, and I tended to agree. The problem with chosing this topic is that I have had to put a lot of work into finding sketch ideas for a non-visual, somewhat abstract topic. My approach has been quite methodical and formal, and I feel a little stilted and forced. In the next posts I will document what I have done thus far, and hope that this process will in itself help me find a distance from it and re-engage in a new direction.

Themed Sketchbook “Time for Tea”

As part of assignment 3, we are required to make a start on a themed sketchbook that will form the basis for a final piece at the end of the course. I have had lots of ideas with potential, but few said a lot about what I really enjoy and get excited about. I asked my husband to look through my ideas and pick something that he felt said most about my preferences, and we decided tea was the stand out choice.  Once I started thinking about how tea could be explored in this context, it was clear this would be a really interesting path to follow.

My initial thoughts have been:

– researching costume, hats and baskets used by tea pickers

– painting flowering teas

– looking a shapes and designs on teacups/saucers/pots and other paraphernalia such as a decorative strainer

– making fabric from teabags

– dyeing and staining fabric and paper with tea

– encorporating dried tea leaves and flowers as inclusions in stitched fabric

– exploring accidental drips and ‘coffee rings’ left by cups

– using teabag threads and tags to finish the book

– tieing tea with psychological states – ‘Mad-hatters tea party’, ‘tea and sympathy’, sweet tea for a shock, calming chamomile, etc

Here is a sample of my work so far. I have tea-stained the pages before using them




I have been working on how to make a fabric from tea leaves, and for this I pressed the damp leaves in a flower press before sandwiching them between two sheets of bondaweb. The result is a solid wafer like material that is very fragile. I think it will be possible to stabilise with stitch but is has no flexibility at all.