Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Assignment 3 - Stages 1, 2 & 3: Developing Ideas & Applied Fabric Techniques

I looked again at my fresh source material and decided to work further on the Roman glass artefacts I saw at Easter. Although they were created centuries apart, and originate from all corners of the Roman Empire, they work together to create an interesting collection of simple shapes and I like the handmade quality - the slight wonkiness.  The colours are nowhere near the clear, fresh, brights that normally attract me but I like the semi-opaque texture with hints of crustiness.

Matching fabric groupings
Oil pastels worked really nicely to create the chalky textures and to scratch into to get a hint of another colour underneath but the best results came from painting with acrylic onto the tracing paper.  Using it really wet made the paper wrinkle beautifully.  Then sponging a different colour more dryly on top, with a touch of metallic added, recreated the texture of the ancient glass really accurately, I felt. 

Acrylic paint on tracing paper

I also tried painting in this way onto a product called 'Repair Tissue' I'd been given. At 9gsm it felt really delicate, like painting Kleenex ,but it is supposed to be suitable for dyeing, painting, batik and most media and is described as durable, retaining strength when wet and having fibres that become softer and more fabric-like once dry.

Once I'd drawn the shapes, there was one that I kept looking back at - a pale green flagon from England dated 50-100AD, with a bulbous onion-like bottom and a decorative wiggle at the base of the handle, so I chose this to develop further.  During the printing experiments in Assignment 2, I'd enjoyed using printing blocks made from foam draught-proofing strips for doors, so I decided to try this again.  I copied the shape onto the back of a sketchbook then followed it round with the sticky back strips. I like how this technique forces me to simplify shapes.  Although the tape goes round curves nicely, the amount of detail is limited on this scale.

Printing block made from back of a sketchbook and sticky-back draught excluder tape
I tried out a few repeats, overlapping the prints to create new shapes.  I wasn't enamoured by the results and decided I preferred the shape just as it is.  However, I persevered and tried cutting out some of the shapes and layering over different backgrounds. It still wasn't working for me, until I turned the page and put a plain black background under the reverse.

Not working - too confusing and ugly colour combination
I preferred the cut out prints on the reverse, simplified with a plain contrasting background
I photographed and scanned the design above and had a play cropping, repeating and trying out some effects using Picasa Creative Kit, a basic free image editor.
Image editing in Picasa
I liked the bottom right image so decided to use this to try out applied fabric techniques.  I traced the design with a water soluble pen onto the painted repair tissue then placed it over some cotton fabric I'd dyed and sprayed from the collection above.  Using a hoop and the free machining foot I used metallic thread to zig-zag stitch around the design.  The stitches created perforations in the repair tissue so I didn't need to trim it. It easily pulled away in the areas I wanted to remove.  Unfortunately the areas revealed were pretty plain - all the interesting effects from where I'd sprayed the background fabric were still covered up!
9gsm Tissue Repair painted with acrylic applied over dyed, sprayed cotton.
Once I'd finished, I was totally unimpressed. The sample didn't have any of the impact of the original image.  In hindsight, I think it was the ocean blue shades that reminded me of an underwater scene that attracted me, rather than the shapes. I should have realised that this design needed a bold contrast in tone, just like the white cut out page came alive with the plain black background.
Rather than abandon the sample, I thought it could make a decent background so I selected some of the more interesting little pieces of Angelina and kunin felt that I've been experimenting with. As these don't fray, it was easy to cut out simple vessel shapes to stitch on. I overlaid a couple of the shapes with organza to tone down the brightness and played about with the positioning.
The uninspiring sample is now a background
I'm happier with the sample now it's been added to, though I wanted to try again with the cut out design on a contrasting background.  I ironed Bondaweb onto some of my fabric collection and peeled off the backing which I used to trace the design.  I ironed it back on and the pencil marks transferred onto the fabric (a technique I learnt recently from Claire Tinsley in the Bonded Impressions workshop.) I was then able to cut out the shapes. I haven't decided how I will stitch them yet but I won't use a zig zag this time because the sharp points were lost on the previous sample when I turned the corners, spoiling the lines of the design.  I'm not experienced enough with machine stitching to echo the lines well enough and I found it particularly hard to get the corners right. I'm also considering whether to enhance the sample with beads or stitching in a similar colour.  I like the idea of beads to bring the reference to glass back.
Fabric shapes applied with Bondaweb and ready to stitch. The plain, contrasting background is much better.
The simple flagon shape.  I ironed in creases and sprayed on fabric paint. The colours and spatter effects feel particularly appropriate for the subject.
Now the sun has finally come out and I thought that I'd fish out the light sensitive fabric I bought after making those paper sun prints.  I put the fabric under the cut out design, working quickly as it starts to expose as soon as it's out of its protective black bag, and took it outside to leave in the bright sunlight for 10 minutes. Perhaps I will use some of these for the folding and tucking exercises coming up?
Using the cut out design to create prints on light sensitive fabric.
While I've been working on this project, I went to an Embroiderer's Guild meeting where the Calder Quilters gave a talk.  I decided to have a go at foundation piecing which sounded reasonably simple as I didn't particularly want regular lines. It is also a really efficient way to use up little scraps of fabric.  From my fabric group I graduated the colour from dark to light on the background which I overlaid with black net, stitching it down along the lines of the join.  I felt the net made the background more cohesive and the flagon shape stood out better.  I also sandwiched some wadding between the background and a piece of backing fabric to give the raised quilted effect.
I used foundation piecing again for the flagon, but with narrower bands for contrast, then applied Bondaweb to the back (forgetting that ironing the Angelina again would completely change the colour and lose the iridescence!).  I left some edges raw and used metallic thread to machine a straight stitch around the shape and added a little extra stitch enhancement to give a quilted effect.  I'm pleased with the composition, the decision to leave the cut edges raw and the combination of textures in my choice of fabrics.  If I were to change anything, I would slightly change some of the tones in the central area where they are a little close to the background and I would emphasise the wiggle on the base of the handle. I may also add some sparkle back now that it's lost on the Angelina.  However I think overall, it is the most successful sample of the assignment so far. 

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