Saturday, 23 June 2012

Degree Shows, Presentation Thoughts & Lots of Links

On Tuesday I visited Huddersfield University Textile Degree Show and today the Bradford School of Arts & Media Summer Show.  Going into Bradford, of course I had to stop by Texere Yarns, where I picked up various interesting bits and pieces that caught my eye, not all of which I can identify, let alone know what to do with.  I overspent on books again - one called Machine Embroidered Seascapes by Alison Holt. I couldn't resist the images that reminded me of being back in Spain.  It shows really clearly, step-by-step, how the projects were created.  The other books are relevant to the exercises I'll be doing over the next few months and I also bought the Jan Beaney & Jean Littlejohn DVD 'Double Trouble'.  I love their books and thought it might be nice to have the extra dimension of seeing them demonstrate their techniques.

Machine Embroidered Seascapes
Latest addition to my collection

Back to Tuesday and having never been to a graduate show before, I wasn't sure what to expect.  There was an electric atmosphere as I walked onto the busy Huddersfield campus as the students were collecting and opening their envelopes containing their end of year results. As the day went on, I overheard snippets of excited and emotional phone calls to mums, the bars began to fill up as the celebrations began and sorrows were drowned.  I felt a little envious thinking that was an experience that distance learners probably could not have to the same extent.

One of my main reasons for visiting the shows, following Assignment 1 feedback was to get some ideas on how to present my work for assessment. My first impression on entering the show was how professional the presentations appeared.  It looked like a coherent well organised exhibition, well lit and thoughtfully laid out.  Every student had a matching label with their name and which of the four textile degree courses they were studying.  They had business cards, glossy postcards, a personal statement and a concept statement for their final major project. 

Concept statements for the Textile Design & Surface Design degrees stated what the design was, who for, what age etc.  I was slightly disconcerted to realise that the work I was drawn to was generally designed for the 'Middle Market', albeit high end! I also noticed that I responded more to the work in Textile Design (particularly the printed and woven fabrics) and Textile Craft, where I felt students had a bit more freedom to follow their own passions, than Surface Design where you are designing for a client, and I was least interested in Fashion & Textile Buying. Below are a selection of the exhibits. (Frustratingly, my camera ran out of power part way through the exhibition so I had to take some photos with my phone which are not of great quality.)

Ruth Andrews' architecture inspired Digital Print Collection, 'Perspective'

Phoebe Munro's 'Oxidate' dress fabric collection, inspired by breakdown processes

Stacey Pollard's 'Rural Living' lambswool samples for winter fashion garments, inspired by coastal cottage decor

Woven sample from Victoria Louise Bird's Mediterranean inspired outdoor furnishing fabric collection for SS13

The stand out design collection for me was 'Life Under The Lens', Beth Roper's  bold fiery feature furnishing prints for SS14. Influenced by images of microscopic virus cells and solar colours with beautifully presented supporting material, I couldn't get enough of these explosive designs. (I think her above website may still be under construction.)

Sample book of wonderfully vibrant bold prints from Beth Roper's 'Life Under The Lens' Collection

The sketchbooks and development work that led up to the final samples were also on show, along with documents such as product development reports, fabric and colour trend forecasts, technical information and marketing material.  Textile Craft students had a catalogue of their work published, designed in collaboration with the graphic design course. Everything was clearly labelled and many documents appeared to be professionally printed and bound so it was enjoyable and easy to see the progress from the initial idea to final product. Sketchbooks covers were customised to reflect the themes, and development samples were nicely mounted with explanations.  The students I asked said they almost always stitch or pin their samples in place using invisible thread and use spray mount for paper.  They never rely on glue.

Every part of Victoria Bird's presentation conforms to the theme

Some of the Textile Craft students were holding some basic workshops.  For the first time I had a little go at transfer printing and weaving and learnt some of the basics.  I enjoyed having someone show me first hand without looking at a book or computer.  It made it easier to get a feel for the correct tension and there was someone there to tell me when I pulled a little too tight.  It was also a nice opportunity to speak to the students about the course, how it felt to finally have a degree and what hopes they had for the future.  More about the students and their work can be found on their blog Sample 12

Sadly, I became so engrossed by the incredibly beautiful weavings by Joby Lawlor, that I forgot to photograph any of her work.  They were the highlight of the show and you MUST check out her website. I will definitely be following her blog in future as I admire her ethos and am predicting great things! If you are in London, I would recommend that you go to see her work at the New Designers exhibition from 27th to 30th June 2012.

Another of the Textile Craft graduates, Leigh Bowser, created 'The Blood Bank Project' for her final work.  This is a community craft challenge that we can all be involved in.  Her 2 year old niece Chloe, suffers from a very rare blood condition and will need over 120 transfusions by the time she is 10.  Leigh's intention is to raise awareness of the importance of blood donation and raise money for blood disease charities.  She invites us to create a textile blood bag using a simple template that can be embellished however you like.  It's an ongoing project but the initial target is 100 bags by 31st August 2012.  See some of the bags created, find out where they will be exhibited, track the progress of the project and download a template by visiting the website, blog or Facebook page. 

Some of the bags sent in for the Blood Bank Project
Thoughtful Presentation: Leigh Bowser invites us to take a test tube containing project information from a clinical glass cabinet.

Today in Bradford, I met up with another OCA student, Sarah, who is just starting on Textiles. She had seen the graduate shows in Manchester and Huddersfield too and pointed out something interesting - that is how little applied stitching there seemed to be, wheareas on our course this seems to be so important. In Bradford there was just a handful of graduate work on display and less of the development work on show than at Huddersfield but there was also some year two work in progress and portfolios to flick through.  This meant we were able to have a good inspection of how samples had been mounted and discuss what worked and what didn't. Pins driven right through mount board, so only the heads were showing, bent over on the reverse and covered in masking tape seemed to work well as did self-adhesive Velcro pads. For collections of fabric, I liked them stitched onto cardboard headers similar to the swatch books you see in an upholsterers.

Alice Moore's method to display large samples was to stitch a cardboard header printed with her logo over the fabric.  This disguised the thin metal rod that could be pushed through a hole punched into a mountboard and bent flat at the back or attached to a hanger.

Alice's collection of high fashion digital silk prints, devore screen prints and knitted tube accessories were inspired by Parisian city lights. 

I found Alisha Simpson's work immaculately presented like an interiors shop window.  She told me it took three days to arrange her display of domestic designs. I think I would be hanging around for the duration of the show to make sure any viewers didn't dislodge anything! I found her tactile cloth very beautiful and was extremely interested to read how she was inspired by the architecture of the historic mills of West Yorkshire, and particularly the marks left behind by textile workers.  I think as I have spent so much time reading about the textile history of the region recently, I could really appreciate the success of her collection.  The Bradford students have to wait another month for their results and I wish Alisha and her fellow students the best of luck!

Alisha Simpson's wonderfully tactile fabrics

Overall I felt encouraged by the exhibitions.  The work looked impressive but not hopelessly out of reach with a good deal of hard work and commitment.  My main concerns are how to get professional standards without access to a huge budget and cutting edge equipment.  I feel rather envious of the students with their opportunities to experiment with laser cutters, looms, knitting machines and other technology.  Many had also pointed out how beneficial a year's work placement scheme had been on the Huddersfield course. I wondered whether my work will veer towards more traditional manual techniques because of necessity? 

New Books added to my Reading List
Beaney, Jan and Littlejohn, Jean (2005) Over the line: couching rediscovered. Book 16, Maidenhead: Double Trouble Enterprises
Beaney, Jan and Littlejohn, Jean (2006) Grids to stitch. Book 17, Maidenhead: Double Trouble Enterprises
Beaney, Jan and Littlejohn, Jean (2008) Seeing double: developing personal themes. Book 22, Maidenhead: Double Trouble Enterprises
Beaney, Jan and Littlejohn, Jean (2011) Stitch Rhythms & Patterns, Maidenhead: Double Trouble Enterprises
Hedley, Gwen (2000) Surfaces for Stitch, London: Batsford
Holt, Alison (2012) Machine Embroidered Seascapes. Tunbridge Wells: Search Press

Friday, 15 June 2012

(Almost) Taking a Complete Break but Finding Inspiration Everywhere

Last week was half term and our first holiday abroad as a family for three years. I decided I was leaving all coursework and sketchbooks behind. The week would primarily be spent plonked on a sun lounger with a book and an ice cream watching the kids splash in the pool. After the flight (during which I mastered double crochet for the first time but still not quite the granny square), we drove to the resort and the Spanish sun was shining in a cloudless sky. All was going to plan for the recharge as we changed and flip-flopped down to the pool.

Andalusian Blue Skies

Switching off my mind was not so straightforward. There were new and interesting patterns to be seen everywhere. The strong sun cast fabulous shadows and colours seemed so much more clear and vivid. Sunlight twinkled on the fountain and on the water in the marina, as shoals of the fish swirled round a crust of bread.

Then there was the beach with all the interesting little pieces of debris and shells to discover and the patterns of the pebbles and foamy waves. I could hardly wander past the series of ten Salvador Dali bronze sculptures we came across without a second glance and then there were the glorious sunsets and teasing little glimpses of life behind doorways.

Even my novel, Brixton Beach by Roma Tearne, was unexpectedly packed with inspiration. Chosen purely because it was a high-scoring read for my book club before I joined the group, I hadn't a clue what it was going to be about. Well I found it so much more meaningful than just a good yarn. Being in a sunny climate when I was reading helped I'm sure, but the wonderfully evocative descriptions of the landscape transported me straight to the beaches of Sri Lanka where the book is first set. The characters were complex and flawed and as I came to understand the reasons behind their behaviour, I was glad I had sunglasses on because this was, I think, the first time a book has made me cry!

Two of the main characters in the book are also artists, as is the author who has produced paintings, photographic, film and installation work. At the end of the book, there is a really interesting section about how Tearne's novels materialise from a visual image and how her use of sketchbooks has changed over the course of her life. She began with a collection of thin papers pulled from her mother's diary and enjoyed the torn curled edges and stitching holes. She describes people watching on Cornish beaches on her holidays, making quick sketches with whatever was at hand and writing short stories in the margins about her unsuspecting subjects. Pages were interspersed with found objects from the location. Together the drawings, text and objects evoked strong memories of the experience.

When the shop where she bought her usual cheap sketchbooks discontinued them, she was becoming busy with her writing and simply stopped using them. The books that she calls a 'warehouse of memory' were stowed in the loft for years. After her first novel was published she was given a small, black notebook. She describes how the thin paper brought back memories of the books she used to draw in, but then feeling (as I do with a virgin sketchbook) disturbed by the uniform, clean blank surfaces. Once she had ripped off the cover, it was ready to use!

Tearne also talks about how she has used her sketchbooks as a kind of diary, drawing something from the previous day from memory. Text, she says, has always found it's way into her sketchbooks. This week I met up with some OCA students and we had an interesting discussion on the meaningful use of words in sketchbooks. Again I found it invaluable spending a bit of face to face time with other distance learning students.

This time all of us took some of our own recent work so we could encourage each other, and discuss our concerns. I was so impressed with the talent on show. As we had met in one of the student's studios, we also had the opportunity to try making photograms. These were similar to the sun prints I recently did but gave a sharper image in black and white. We were let into the darkroom, given some of photographic paper and showed the technique. (Thanks Penny, it was very kind of you and brilliant fun!) One of my concerns was how to present work so a couple of us are meeting up again to see some of the degree shows that are on next week. Hopefully I'll come away with some good ideas.

Photogram Experiments

Reading List
Tearne, Roma (2009) Brixton Beach. London: HarperPress