31 October 2016
Project 1, Exercise 1 – Joining straight flush edges
I started this exercise by thinking about very basic joins, working a series of samples with white cartridge paper before moving on to more diverse material. I considered the following qualities of the join:
- Is the join flexible?
- Is the join stable?
- Aesthetics of the join
- Tactile/textural qualities of the join.
SAMPLE 1: Cartridge paper, staples
I started by butting the straight edges of two pieces of cartridge paper together and stapling them across the join. I varied the position and spacing of the staples relative to the paper edge (see below):
I couldn’t reach the middle of the paper because I didn’t have a long arm stapler.
The join was very stable and I was surprised as how pleasing it was aesthetically. The reverse of the sample was interesting because of the raised back of the staples and the texture they provided (see below):
There was no flexibility across the join itself.
SAMPLE 2: Cartridge paper, masking tape.
The masking tape provided a subtle join, which was stable yet flexible (see below)
On the reverse side it appeared invisible. Because the masking tape was rougher than the cartridge paper, I supposed that it would give a different effect when used with media such as oil pastels, or watercolour paint. This might be desirable if the intention was to emphasise the joining material.
SAMPLE 3: Cartridge paper, straight stitch
To ensure the paper edges stayed butted up against each other, I had to use some masking tape to temporarily position them as I worked the stitching. This ensured that the lengths of threads were the right tension and that there was no overlapping of the paper or gap (see below). I worked the sample in two strands of embroidery cotton using straight stitch.
The finished sample reminds me of a continuous suture (see below):
However, you can probably see from the photo that the sample was highly unstable. The sample was also extremely flexible. When folded along the join with the reverse side uppermost, a gap formed (see below):
However, when folded the other way, with the stitches in tension, the sample became very stable (see below):
This might be useful when considering the context in which to use the join.
SAMPLE 4: Cartridge paper, herringbone stitch
I used a very similar method to sample 3, butting the edges of the paper together temporarily before stitching, to maintain the correct stitch length and tension. I punctured the holes first using a crewel needle and worked the stitches using two strands of polyester cotton dressmakers’ thread (see below):
This is a highly decorative join with the same qualities as sample 3; i.e. generally highly unstable and flexible, except if folded along the join with the stitches in tension (see below):
SAMPLE 5: Cartridge paper, pins
I used dressmakers’ pins to make a very stable and secure join (see below):
The join was ridged. I really like the aesthetics; the pins cause lines of ridges and hollows in the paper where they puncture it, and the pin heads give an interesting point of focus. I chose to insert the pins in the same direction and only vary the spacing, although I could have inserted them irregularly and from different sides of the paper for added interest, depending what effect I wanted to achieve.
SAMPLE 6: Cartridge paper, knots
I chose to work this sample in a coarse thick cotton string, using an knitters’ sewing-up needle to puncture the paper as I went along. As for previous stitched samples, I used masking tape to temporary butt the paper edges against each other during stitching. The stitches were similar to non-continuous sutures. I secured each stitch with a reef knot (see below):
This is my favourite sample aesthetically. I love the texture and irregularity of the knots and their loose ends. The sample is reasonably stable (probably due to the stitches and stiffness of the thread?). The reverse of the sample, is rather plain, looking similar to the right side of sample 3 (see below):
The join remained flexible, and I particularly liked the way that the stitch ends stuck out away from the plane of the paper and cast shadows.
The way in which every knot is similar, yet subtlety different reminds me once again of the work of Magdalena Abakanowicz, which I very much admire.
I decided to orientate the sample in a different way (see below):
The beauty of the knotted ends of string and their shadows are what I like most about this sample. I decided to make a sketch in 2H and 4B graphite pencil:
The angle of view is slightly different to the camera angle which I used to take the photo. What I learnt from this sketch was that there is a lot of complexity from the crossing ends of string. Their irregularity is what makes this sample visually interesting.
SAMPLE 7: Machine stitching across black card
I used some reasonably thick black card and butted the ends of two strips together before sewing the joint with machine stitched zig-zag (see below)
I varied the width and length of the stitches to give a different effect. The join was very strong and stable, and also flexible, enabling it to be folded in either direction (see below)
The width of the stitching is only 5mm across at it’s widest setting, so it does not appear particularly intrusive, even thought it is worked in a strongly contrasting colour.
SAMPLE 8: 0.8mm balsa wood sheet, antique faggot hem with straight stitches
Having completed several samples in paper and card, I wanted to move on to explore different materials. I decided on balsa wood because it is soft yet easily punctured, and thick enough to have edges which can be butted up to obtain a clean join. I used a sharp crewel needle and 6 strand embroidery cotton to work the sample (see below). I had never sewn faggoting before, so referenced Good Housekeeping Sewing Crafts (Brittain, 1974: 42) for technical instruction.
In the image shown, I worked from right to left, progressively increasing the gap between the stitches. It might be possible to just make out from the photograph that I had an issue with the wood splitting due to puncturing it multiple times along the same grain-line. This was more pronounced where the stitches were worked close together, although it was a problem for the whole sample. I was very lucky that the wood didn’t split right across, and for that reason I wouldn’t choose to work with the material in this way. It may have been better if I’d cut my wood differently and joined the cut ends of the grain.
The sample is stable, highly decorative and flexible in the same way as sample 8. Aesthetically, it would be interesting to see what textural effects could be generated by making the stitches more irregular by varying their length as well as spacing. This would help with the issue of splitting because the needle punctures wouldn’t all be following the same grain line.
SAMPLE 9: 0.8mm balsa wood sheet, antique faggot hem with diagonal stitches
Similar to sample 8, this stitch is a variation on the antique faggot with straight stitches which I also found in Good Housekeeping Sewing Crafts (Brittain, 1974:42). The materials and method of working were identical.
As I had already cut the wood for both samples, this piece is also worked in line with the grain. Although the stitches are supposed to be even and equally spaced, they unintentionally turned out to be irregular in spacing and length. This fact, couple with the stitches being further apart than in sample 8, meant there was no issue with splitting of the wood.
The stability, robustness, flexibility and aesthetics of this sample are similar to sample 8.
SAMPLE 10: 4mm cowhide, interlocking join
I wanted to come up with novel ways of joining and get away from glue, thread, staples and pins. By cutting a material such that the two halves interlock, a sturdy, strong join can be made without the need for any other material (i.e. as in jigsaw puzzles). I decided to use cowhide, being thick, somewhat flexible and easily cut (see below).
The cut was quite a complicated shape and was difficult to make it accurately and neatly with a scalpel (although I’m sure this could be improved upon with practice and maybe a different tool).
I was delighted with the strength and stability of this join (although when the material was flexed the join came apart). Any interlocking shape could have been used, although I like my wriggly line because it reminds me of the joins in skull plates. I think that part of the success of this sample must be attributed to the thickness and stiffness of the cowhide. If a softer or thinner material had been used, I wouldn’t expect the join to have been as strong or stable.
I decided to sketch this sample because I was fascinated by the join and the surface qualities of the cut (see below)
It was interesting to draw because the join is nothing more than two cut edges pushed up together. In some areas there is a slight gap and shadow, which is where the line appears darkest. In other places the join is barely visible.
SAMPLE 11: Joining to explore edge textures
Until now, I had been joining edges to make a plane surface. I wanted to change this and look at a method of joining such that the edges of the material was visible. I also wanted to explore the joining of dissimilar materials; again something which I had not yet explored in this exercise.
I looked for materials with interesting textured edges and varying thicknesses. I tried several different materials combinations and arrangements before I came up with one which I liked. I ‘joined’ my sample temporarily using an elastic band whilst I tried out the combinations. To arrive at my finished sample, I stitched two knotted lengths of raffia though the materials. I could have chosen to stick with rubber bands (had I considered them sufficiently decorative or aesthetically pleasing). In this case I felt that they detracted from the edge surfaces.
My first arrangement is shown on the left: I used corrugated card, faux shearling fabric, leather, heat-creased synthetic, balsa wood, hessian, and pieces of grass. I felt that the shearling was out of place compared with the delicacy of the rest of the sample and that the bright orange fabric detracted from the textural qualities of the neutrals. The photograph on the right is my second arrangement; I have removed the shearling and heat-creased synthetic and replaced it with silver birch bark. I liked the improved visibility of the edges, but felt the sample was now a little bland.
The image on the left shows my third attempt; I added some pieces of natural sponge which I had purchased with the intention of using them for watercolour painting effects. As it is the sponge is very different in texture and thickness from the other components, it tends to stand out too much. By including more pieces in a larger sample, a feeling of inclusivity and rhythm might be achieved.
My finished sample is shown on above right in the configuration in which is was intended to be viewed. I have removed the sponge pieces and added more layers of bark. Visually, I find this sample very pleasing (although possibly lacking excitement). It is very stable and strong and flexible enough to be twisted (see below):
In the twisted configuration, I suddenly found the sample much more engaging. It made me think of Louise Bourgeois’s Personage series (1945-55). Vertically orientated, this series of 80 free-standing sculptures consist of held together pieces of wood (often found or salvaged materials) which have been worked and shaped. Their assembly has been likened of an act of rescue, due to the use of salvage of the materials (Dick, 2009). It has also been stated that each of the sculptures resembled or recalled a person known to artist (The Art Story Contributors, 2016).
Similar to “Femme Volage” (1951)
(The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2016), my sample also incorporates stacked found materials and a spiral form. I like the suggestion that although somewhat abstract, Bourgeois’s Personages are also semi-anthropomorphic. In this respect the vertical column (common to each) reminds me of spinal vertebrae. This is an exciting idea which could be developed further in my own practice by extending the ideas from this sample.
Brittain, J. (1974) Good Housekeeping: Sewing crafts. London, Ebury press.