Monthly Archives: December 2016

Assignment 2 – Reflective commentary

6 December 2016

Measurement against assessment criteria

My thoughts were much more focused after completing this assignment, and I didn’t feel the needed to pose myself any additional questions. My analyses during stages 2, 3 and 4 have felt more transparent and have guided me in this discussion and review.

I have taken a slightly different approach to this reflective commentary. As someone who struggles with self-confidence, I have tended to concentrate on the positive aspects of my work in the past, rather than highlighting shortcomings. I have been a lot more open in this critique because I feel less inhibited, probably as a result of engaging in peer review.


Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I have learnt several new techniques for this assignment, including insertion stitches, hairpin crochet and knotting. Where I have used existing technical skills, I have tried to push myself to use them in new and exciting ways; for example being loose (in the creative sense) and textural in stitching as opposed to neat and technically precise.

I am pleased that I have been able to create samples in the style of Christo and Jean Claude, Judith Scott and Machiko Agano, as well as a series related to traditional Japanese packaging. Being able to emulate different styles demonstrates observational skills and visual awareness. The next stage for me is to incorporate these ideas in ways which reflect of my own creative voice. An example might be using an element from these influences in one of my pieces, or perhaps applying a style in conjunction with one of the colour palettes which is starting to define my creative voice. I feel that I am already beginning to achieve this with my wrappings in the style of Judith Scott, which I will discuss later.



I have continued to follow the approach of being very clear about the parameters I will be investigating in each exercise, as this helps focus my attention.

I sometimes wonder if my samples are a little too basic, and whether I don’t give myself enough time to explore more complex ideas. However, my view is that if I set off with with the aim of achieving a really good outcome, then I would be setting myself up for failure. This is because I would try and introduce too much complexity at once, and if the sample wasn’t successful I wouldn’t understand why. I like to make basic samples, then introduce complexity in steps (for example different materials, colour, transparency). Hopefully, as I become increasingly experienced and confident, I will be able to make more sophisticated samples from the outset.

I apply the same approach to my sample making as my sketching. I concentrate on the task; on being creative, innovating and risk-taking. I try not to get bogged down by being over-concerned with the outcome. This approach has proven fruitful. It prevents me from being overcritical, or feeling despondent half way through because a sample ‘doesn’t look promising’. I just observe, refine, step through, and I always make sure I finish. I have found this approach produces plenty of samples which excite me, and which suggest further development.

Samples involving backlighting or shadows have been particularly successful in assignment 2, as have three-dimensional structures. As I neared the end of project 1, however, I felt mentally and creatively drained. It was difficult to motivate myself to start exercise 5. I had been very disappointed with some of my outcomes in exercise 4, and I was irritated and frustrated. At this stage I took a break and started exercise 1 of project 2, which helped to free my mind. I have to be careful not to overstretch and exhaust myself, because I am aware that this can have a negative effect on my motivation and creativity.


Demonstration of creativity

In sample 11 of project 1, exercise 2, I had to invent my own way of working to hold the threads in tension whilst I secured them across an uneven gap. This new process itself suggested the additional development of leaving tissue strips behind the threads.

Although I have produced some outcomes which I am very pleased with, I feel that perhaps I have not exploited joining methods to their greatest potential. In most of the samples which I consider successful, my joins are visually unobtrusive, so do not contributed to the aesthetics. In this respect, maybe I have missed the point of the project 1? An alternative view might be that decorative joining simply isn’t a topic which inspires me. In general, I would say that I feel much more engaged with wrapped samples, 3-D geometric shapes and patterns.

Being critical, I am aware that I could probably have been more adventurous with materials, particularly in combining dissimilar materials. I have explained the reason why I have not done as much of this as perhaps I should in the previous section, and I am hoping that more complex samples will follow naturally, as I gain in experience and confidence.

I am continuing to find it difficult to incorporate found objects in my sampling, despite being aware that not doing so could limit my practice. I am not sure how to tackle this other than to keep educating myself to see everyday objects through an artists eye and experiment with them whenever I get an opportunity.

One of the criteria for assessment in this section is development of a personal creative voice. I can see that my style of work favours larger samples, and in particular 3-D geometric structures and samples which rely on lighting or shadows for their visual appeal. I can also see my personal voice in my choice of colours, threads and fabrics for my wrapping samples in the style of Judith Scott (project 2, exercise 1, sample 7 and project 2, exercise 3, sample 5). This is emphasised by the use of art yarn which I spun myself from a hand-combed batt.


In general, I am finding the sorting stage much easier. This is because I am clearer about what makes a sample successful and the potential ways in which they can be developed. I am sure this is as a direct result of my exposure to the work of other artists through research. I have a good library of books at home and I actively seek out artists or designers whose practice relates specifically to my sampling. This is in addition to researching 5-8 artists in depth. I must admit that diligent research is hard work and time consuming, but at the same time extremely rewarding.

I had been accustomed to working my sketchbook in a very uninhibited way, using any range of visual techniques which I felt were appropriate. However, my formative feedback for assignment 1 suggested that I should be focusing on the techniques within the assignment. By the time I received it, I had already completed half of my sketchbook, which was based mainly on loose mark-making and printing, with little to relate it to joining or wrapping. The emphasis needed to change. I took up my tutor’s suggestion and I started again, incorporating both my drawings of samples, and some development work relating to the proposal and testing of ideas. Because time was limited, I confined my investigations mainly to project 1, in particular relating to samples I had completed for exercises 1-4 which I was thinking of developing in the second half of exercise 5. 

I am in no doubt the new sketchbook approach has helped me to think differently and to problem solve ideas for sample development. I feel it is also encouraging me to be more experimental. However, there is a discord between the sketches of my samples (which are very personal and considered), and the rest of the sketchbook (which feels a bit like an instruction booklet). I need to integrate my sample drawings within the rest of the sketchbook and this is something I shall work on in the next assignment. 

My former style of creating sketchbooks was very spontaneous and free, and I feel I have lost some of that energy in the new format. The old format was A3 sized which allowed me the freedom to make double spread A2 sized displays within the pages. The A4 format feels constraining and inhibitive. I shall revert to A3 for my next assignment.

For the first time I have put one of my samples on the OCA discussion forum for a critique (link here). I have been surprised by the level of response and delighted by the insights which fellow students have given me. I have also stepped up my peer interaction by following other OCA students’ progress more closely through their blogs and Facebook entries. Where appropriate, I have discussed their work in relation to my own practice (which is referenced in my blog). This is another facet which is enriching my work. 


General comments

Most important for me is that I feel that I am learning and improving. Thinking back 2 years ago, I know that I would not have been able to make the variety of samples that I have today. I did not have the understanding and sensitivity of form and colour or texture, nor the confidence to take risks and be creative. In my last module, I found the sorting stage extremely difficult, but this too is becoming easier. 


Part 2, Projects 1&2, Stage 4 – Sorting

5 December 2016

Projects 1 & 2, Stage 4 – Storting

Before writing up, I reviewed my samples from all of the exercises and selected the following:

  1. Stand-out favourites
  2. Samples with potential for development
My favourites samples were easy to identify: 5 from project 1, and 2 from project 2. These were samples which worked visually as stand-alone objects.
Samples with potential are always more difficult to correctly identify, however, I have chosen some individuals and groups of samples to discuss. I will explain why I have chosen them, and how I envisage they might be developed.
Stand-out favourites

I noticed that my stand-out favourites have one thing in common – they are all three dimensional. I am drawn to geometry and pattern, and in particular, I tend to find samples which can be viewed from different orientations more visually exciting. I have also noticed that most of the samples I have selected from project 1, have a joining method which is visually unobtrusive, and does not directly contribute to the aesthetics of the piece.
Project 1, exercise 1, sample 6

The shapes and shadows created by the knots are fascinating. However, this is quite a basic sample, and would need more development to make it worthy of becoming a finished piece. One option would be to join several pieces in this way, so as to construct a more complicated 3-D shape. I could also consider introducing colour and texture. One element I would not change is the string, because that’s what gives the sample it’s distinctive character.

Project 1, exercise 3, sample 4

Usually, I choose contrasting rather than harmonious colours, but in this instance the colour scheme is perfect, as it does not dominate. The simplicity of the circle elements allows the more complex shadows to be appreciated. 
This is a sample which can be configured into different structures, or potentially joined with other elements into a larger sculpture. Although the choice of material and colour works very well, it might also be worth investigating using semi-translucent plastic instead of cardboard (perhaps with a print suggestive of texture?) However, care would have to be taken not to upset the balance between simplicity of the sample, and complexity of the shadows.
Project 1, exercise 4, sample 18

The sample is very simply formed from joined semi-circles of cardboard. It is the three-dimensional shapes and tonal variation across the material and within the shadows which provides visual interest. Again, this sample has the appeal of being able to be configured into different structures. 
An obvious development would be to introduce colour. I am inclined to think that a single hue would work best, because different colours would add complexity, and the subtlety of tone and geometry could be lost. As an alternative, the sample could be placed against a patterned or coloured surface, or box. Experimentation would be needed to establish whether this enhanced the sample or detracted from it aesthetically.
Project 1, exercise 5, sample 8
This sample was derived directly from my sketchbook work (pages 33-34). The appeal is in the 3-D shapes, tonal variation across the surfaces and tonal variation and mirroring of shapes in shadows. I can imagine it being scaled up as a gallery installation (I’m thinking at least 1m diameter circles). Surface texture could be introduced (for example an ‘orange peel’ effect, or ‘hammer finish’ of some enamel-type paints). I can imagine it working well with “perfect” finishes (I’m thinking of the “finish fetish” style of Judy Chicago’s early work). Another idea is to use contrasting textures on the different surfaces – maybe a very shiny reflective surface like a mirror or enamel paint, contrasting with a soft matt, long-pile velvet.
In my sample, I have joined three shapes, but I think that the structure would probably be more impressive with five. I wouldn’t want to include any more, because I think it would be important for the viewer to be able to walk around it and see all the surfaces. The card sample is rather unstable and tends to “collapse”, however I’m sure this could be rectified by using thicker material and by gluing the joints.
Project 1, exercise 5, sample 9
This sample, using Möbius strips, was a development of project 1, exercise 4, sample 14 (see below).
Sample 14 from exercise 4 was basic, but I felt very strongly about it’s potential. I therefore decided to do some sketchbook work (pages 35-38) to guide me in preparation for making another sample. The idea of duplication and making a surface proved effective. There are many more possibilities for exploring alternative materials, shapes and arrangements. I can imagine it being suitable for translating into a large textured wall panel.
Project 2, exercise 1, sample 7
This sample was supposed to be part of a simple exercise in straight wrapping, but it’s success came from the fact that I got totally absorbed in the process and overstepped the brief. I included weaving and tying which added depth and interest. The colour scheme is exciting and the textures are fun and playful. Together, they suggest a variety of emotional responses and analogies (as I found when I asked for a critique on the OCA discussion forum). I am also very happy with the balance and composition of the sample. The use of different texture, colour and colour accents make it dynamic yet harmonious. I think it works as a sculpture in it’s own right.
Project 2, exercise 3, sample 5
I used a similar technique and style to the sample above, but I actually prefer this one because it’s larger size allowed a wider range of textures to be used. The use of complementaries also contributes to it’s success. There are repeating elements (for example the pipe cleaners), clusters of colour (e.g. tangled patches of polyester and embroidery threads), elements which add continuity (e.g. the bobble fringe wrapped around the whole piece), and colour accents. It took a lot of effort ,but I am pleased with the depth and textural interest in the piece. I see this as a stand alone item which it works well as a textile scuplture. It is my favourite sample from this assignment.
Samples with potential for development
Project 1, exercises 1 & 2 (straight flush joining, and joining with a gap)
I purposely allowed my sampling to be very basic in the first two exercises. I wanted to use them for fact-finding, so that I could learn about the materials and how they behaved. As a result, it has not been particularly easy to see potential for development. 
From exercise 1 and 2, I was surprised by the visual interest which came from joining methods which used hard items (such as staples, pins and safety pins – see below from left to right; sample 1 from exercise 1, sample 5 from exercise 1 and sample 1 from exercise 2).
A blog post by fellow OCA student Nina O’Connor (O’Connor, 2016), made me realise that great results can be achieved with these simple ‘hard’ joining techniques. Her use of subtly patterned pieces or card, different shapes, and complementary colours helped to elevate her work from sample, to an item of real visual beauty. I would plan to develop my samples along these lines taking inspiration from her work.
Project 1, exercise 3 (joining curved surfaces)
Sample 5 (made from offcuts of sample 4 of the same exercise), is muddled and complex. At present, I don’t like it quite a much as sample 4, although it is still very engaging. However, I can imagine this sample working very well as a sculpture made from plastic. It has connotations of industrial waste, and recycling, which I like. I think this theme could be developed, maybe exploring other shaped offcuts too, perhaps fabricated from metal, foam or rubber?
Sample 6 (above) was made using the offcuts from samples 1 and 2 of the same exercise. I think it would work very well as a print design for fabric. It is a versatile pattern which could be used for clothing, homeware or accessories.
Project 1, exercise 4 (overlapping)
Sample 8 (see above) is made from sewn together paper tissue and organza strips, and is exciting because of it’s transparency and suggestion of movement. It would need to be used as part of a textile concept; for example, as a constituent in a piece of clothing or textiles sculpture. At the moment I do not have a clear idea of what that might be, but the sample is sufficiently engaging that it is worth bearing in mind.
Sample 16 (above) is fused from pieces of plastic. As a technique it has many possibilities. It can be used alone, or to be used in conjunction with paper or fabric in layering techniques. It can be used or make a mosaic. It can be distressed through the application of heat. It may be sewn onto (either decoratively, or as a joining method). Holes or flaps may be cut into it for added textural interest. The only problem I can envisage is that most plastic bags are biodegradable, so there could be an issue with longevity of the artwork.
Sample 17 (above) is an idea that I developed from the work of Machiko Agano. It is a very effective approach to revealing and concealing parts of an image. It is an idea which could be expended and developed with other imagery and in conjunction with semi-transparents.
Project 2, exercise 1
In addition to the multi-thread wrapping, I also loved the simple textures created by wrapping wooden spoons in a single thread type.
I was so taken with them that I sketched every single one before unwrapping. In my sketchbook (pages 40-41), I have examined a possible use for one of these drawings, which relates to sample 17 of project 1, exercise 4. I would like to develop my sketched imagery further with other ideas – maybe printing parts of the sketch onto fabric, contrasting textures and joining these together in a journal or concertina book.
Project 2, exercise 2
Through my exploration of the Japanese aesthetic (samples 5-8), I feel I have learned both techniques and sensibilities associated with the culture, which I hope to incorporate within my future practice. I have always had affinity natural materials, so I feel that elements of Japanese traditional packaging could form a useful strand of my artistic development.
Choice of samples to send to my tutor
I chose to send a selection of samples from each exercise, including those which I found most interesting, and samples which explain a progression of the development of ideas.
O’Connor, N. (2016) Adding drawings to MMT 2. At: (Accessed 4 December 2016)

Part 2, Stages 2&3, Project 2, Exercise 3 – Uneven wrapping

30 November 2016

Project 2, Exercise 3 – Uneven wrapping

The brief for this exercise was to use a variety of ways to bind an object (or objects), responding to the shape of the object in a way which seems appropriate. In particular, it was suggested that reference be made to Judith Scott’s work; wrapping in an experimental and playful way.

In some ways, I had done this already by going beyond the brief in sample 7, of project 2, exercise 1 (see below):


I got so absorbed in the making process that I didn’t just wrap, but also looped, tied and wove!

In preparation for this exercise I had purchased some second hand dolls.

 I like the idea of wrapping an anthropomorphic shape, because it offers so many possibilities.


SAMPLE 1: Bandage-wrapped doll

One of the suggestions in the course notes was to control the profile or shape of an object by introducing padding, or wrapping multiple items together. The doll seemed like a perfect opportunity to use this technique to alter body shape. 

Before wrapping, I added a piece of polyester wadding to the tummy to suggest pregnancy. I then wrapped the doll from head to foot in crepe bandage. The whole body (except the eyes) were covered, and the was doll rendered immobile. The symbolism was to convey the sense of anonymity and constraint associated with becoming a mum. Perhaps a bit controversial, but I feel that the analogy portrays the concept well (see below).

In my analysis, the bandage represents the “uniform” of social conformity. In this instance I don’t see the bandage as a suggestion of healing, rather as a technique of ‘preservation’ of physical form (as in the wrapping of mummies).


SAMPLE 2: Doll ‘clothed’ in cellophane then wrapped in threads

After sample 1, I was intending to wrap subsequent dolls in visually pleasing (decorative) threads, and to use the body as simply a ‘hook’ for wrapping. However, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was “clothing” the doll’s body. When I held cellophane around the doll, it resembled a dress – a sexy dress. The doll had become a proxy for the language of clothing. It made me think about what clothing means in relation to social acceptance and behaviour; about dress codes and the subtleties which make us view certain ways of dressing as risqué, eccentric or dowdy.

Having dressed the doll, I decided to wrap it in threads to represent the social constraints imposed. My aim was to challenge how society responds to clothing, and to suggest that assumptions can be deleterious to the individual.


I chose to wrap in pink merino yarn because it is a feminine colour. I also used the mohair because of the contradiction of it being soft and fluffy and yet being used as a restraint. The limbs were bound to restrict movement (analogous, for example, to a restriction on places where it might be socially acceptable to visit when dressed in a certain way). The wrapping extends over the whole body. Although I liked the symbolism of wrapping and covering the mouth, I found that the expression of femininity of the doll was then lost, so I decided against it.

For my message to get across, the wrapping had to be sparse, so that the doll and clothing were visible underneath. Because I feel strongly about this subject, it is difficult for me to know whether other people might interpret the sample in the same way (and if not, whether they might derive enjoyment by interpreting it differently). This makes it difficult to judge the “success” of this sample. Thinking purely from aesthetics, I don’t find the wrapping is particularly engaging. Perhaps this is an area which could be developed?


SAMPLE 3: Doll ‘clothed’ in a cardboard tube then wrapped in threads

This sample is supposed to show that by ‘dressing down’, the response of society can be equally as negative and constraining. I initially covered the doll in a cardboard kitchen towel tube, then wrapped burlap, black paper string and jute around it, to hold the tube in place, and constrain the doll’s body. I left the mouth uncovered, so that the femininity of the doll would be evident. The single pink piece of merino around the torso similarly makes reference to the feminine.

Visually, I don’t find this doll is as engaging as sample 2. It has a “Cinderella” feel, which is maybe too much of a cliché. I also think that the message is not as strongly conveyed.


SAMPLE 4: Doll wrapped to represent the two sides of depression/grief

For this sample, I drew again on the use of colour to depict mood (Tinsdale, 2016). I used blue cellophane over the head and face to represent internal sadness and loss. In contrast, the persona which is presented to the public is the wrapped body; the sparkly-dressed dancer full of zest for life.

The wrapping is pretty, but I wonder whether the symbolism is clear? The choice of fabric for the dress and leg coverings tends to suggest a sari, and the blue face shroud a religious head covering.


SAMPLE 5: Wrapped saucepan

For this sample I returned to the influence of Judith Scott. Although the course notes suggest wrapping small bric-a-brac (20cm max), I tend to prefer working in a larger scale, so chose a small frying pan which I hoped wouldn’t be too heavy and large to send to my tutor.

I started with one of my handspun ‘art yarns’ and chose conventionally hand spun yarns to complement it (see below):

The lime green colour in the hand spun yarn allowed me to incorporate one of my favourite colours – fluorescent yellow (a commercially spun yarn). I started by wrapping a base layer of purple yarn around the saucepan:

Next, I wrapped the art yarn:

At this stage the sample looks very uniform and lacks depth and excitement. I then started to add accent colours (although I went on to remove the mustard yellow tassels in the photo below because they didn’t fit with the feel of the piece).

At this stage I incorporated two sections of egg box, one each side of the pan, which helped break up the silhouette and gave hooks which I could use to wrap around and change direction.

At the next stage I added finer threads such as polyester dressmakers’ cotton, Coton a Broder, mohair, embroidery thread and ribbon. I made loops and tangles to impart depth and texture. I added accents of shocking pink jumbo pipe-cleaner, fluorescent yellow lace, yellow organza ribbon, heat-creased synthetic fabric and bobble fringe. These were woven and pushed into the piece. The final result is shown below:

This sample is my favourite of project 2. It is visually interesting with depth and a suggestion of movement. The colour balance works extremely well, especially with the complementary violet, lime green, purple and yellow. It has an organic feel; the pink pipe cleaners and fabric scraps seem to be emerging or erupting from the body of the sample. I love the complexity of the surface. Each time I look, I see new subtleties of colour and new areas of textural interest. It has confirmed my preference of working with larger samples.

Post script on the work of Judith Scott 9/12/16

Looking back at the work of Judith Scott, I can see that her style differs quite markedly from mine. Her work involves mainly threads in tension, looped under each other to provide a ‘framework’, whereas my style used mostly wrapping, and features many loose threads and tangles. Scott’s work also makes use of many more found objects (for example, her wrapped chair incorporates a large wheel). Her wrapping materials are often reclaimed; washing machine hose, old tights, for example. This gives a huge amount of depth and texture to her pieces. I would like to experiment by incorporating found objects in my wrapping and using them for wrapping materials.


SAMPLE 6: Wrapped pine cone 

Because sample 5 was large, I wanted to see if I could scale down my wrapping and make an equally engaging small piece. I chose a pine cone which I initially wrapped in fine beige crochet cotton, working in a circle between the protrusions. The aim was to fill the gaps, but not to cover the cone completely.

I also selected lustrous machine embroidery threads and red and blue Angelina fibre, being suitably fine and worked these over the crochet cotton. The finished sample is shown below:

I tool photographs in both natural and artificial light but I couldn’t get a proper representation. This was the best picture that I managed to take. The graduation of colour from pink/red at the tip to blue/red at the base and underneath, and the lustre of the threads don’t show up to best effect. 

I was conscious that this sample should not look like a Christmas decoration, and I feel pleased that it doesn’t. It has a ‘messy’ look due to the halo of Angelina around the outside, which I like. It is also a point of interest that some threads are wrapped in around the pine cone, whilst others move vertically between the ledges. Although the outcome is interesting, I do not feel that it is as successful as sample 5 because it lacks depth and textural variation. Perhaps it is also less exciting because the colours are not strongly contrasting or complementary.



Tinsdale, J. (2016) “Do they look evil enough?”. At: (Accessed 1 December 2016)

Part 2, Stages 2&3, Project 2, Exercise 2 – Wrapping with materials and threads

28 November 2016

Project 2, exercise 2 – Wrapping with materials and threads

The exercise stipulated that I use the work of Christo and Jean-Claude as a starting point. I was particular inspired by Christo’s portrait of Jean Claude (Christo, 1963), a painted portrait wrapped in polythene and string. By using the tightness of the string to form creases in the polythene surface, Christo achieved a sense of distance and mystery between viewer and subject. A similar technique was used in Christo’s “Wrapped Magazine” (1963) (Koddenberg, 2009:82), in which a recognisable image of the face of Marilyn Munroe appears captured and restrained in semi-opaque red polythene and rope.

Thinking about alternative materials, I remembered how Lucozade bottles (Mitchell, n.d.) used to be wrapped in orange-yellow cellophane film. I bought a selection of different colours to use in sampling.


SAMPLE 1: Childs’ mug wrapped in red cellophane and tapestry warp thread

I liked the idea of wrapping the Rupert Bear mug because it had a scene from the cartoon pictured on the front. I hoped that by using cellophane, I might partially obscure the image, and in doing so, say something about the wrapping in relation to the object.

The photo above shows the mug with the coloured cellophane. I had blue, green, purple, orange clear or red to choose from. I didn’t have a fixed idea initially about which to use, but when I held them up against the mug I felt that blue, green and purple all had sinister overtones. Blue in particular, was very cold, and didn’t really fit with the “fun”, “playtime” theme of the image. I recalled the emotive use of a blue filter applied to the photograph accompanying the Telegraph’s “Judges Verses the People” headline of 3 November (Tinsdale, 2016). Having ruled out These colours and clear, that left orange and red. Orange had strong associations with Lucozade, so I decided on red. I used tapestry warp thread to tie the cellophane, chosen because of it’s contrast, smoothness, and resemblance to parcel string. The result is shown below:

I used a book on knots to help guide me with the parcel-tie technique (Budworth, 2005: 147). Rather than cutting the thread between each of the tie points, I used the method for binding a sewn buttonhole loop (Ysolda, n.d.) to take the thread along the next point that I wanted to work from.

I was slightly disappointed with the properties of the cellophane, because it turned out to be a very flat wrapping material which strongly conformed to the shape of the mug. However, I did manage to position the pleats so that the areas of double thickness left some of the image was visible, and I managed to achieve some tightness and pulling around the handle, suggesting tension. 

I don’t feel that the colour works particularly well – red makes me think of danger, perhaps a poison bottle. Brown would probably have worked better.

The bulk of cellophane which is tied at the top of the sample reminds me of gift-wrapping and is at odds with the “parcelling up” and restraint of the string tie. It also makes the sample appear unbalanced. There is too much discontinuity in this sample for my liking, and no strong narrative.


SAMPLE 2: Childs’ mug wrapped in waxed paper and cotton string

A chose to wrap a “Thomas the Tank Engine” mug for my next sample (see below)

It had a bold, strong image which I hoped would show through the wrapping. Ideally I wanted a brown wrapping and considered baking parchment, however when I held it against the mug I felt that it would obliterate the image, so I decided on waxed paper instead as it was more transparent. The waxed paper was easy to mould around the cup and I was able to tuck the loose edges underneath, thus hiding the excess material. 

I chose commercially manufactured red paper string, this time I used less of the sewn buttonhole loop method used in sample 1, which I felt was rather too bulky.  I prefer this approach which makes the tying seem more uniform across the object.

This view from the side shows that I succeeded in retaining the visibility of the image. I am pleased with the distribution of string and knots, which is attractive and engaging. The choice of red string brings interest to what would otherwise be a rather bland sample, and it picks up the red colour in the imagery printed on the cup.

The photo below is the view from above, looking inside the cup. Unfortunately, I had an accident when tying and pushed a hole through the paper with my thumb.

I like the off-centre positioning of the knots and how they divide the circle shape. The knots are also decorative in themselves and add texture to the piece. 

The only aspect of this sample which does not work for me is the stark white colour of the waxed paper. If it were off-white then I would find it more visually appealing.

I’m not sure how I feel emotionally about this piece. When selecting the childrens’ mugs for wrapping, I was imagining that the outcome might make me think of protecting precious childhood memories, but somehow it feels more sinister. It’s as if childhood is being hidden or denied; being seen as somehow undesirable.


SAMPLE 3: A book wrapped in cellophane and string

This sample was inspired by Christo’s wrapped portrait of Jean-Claude (Christo, 1963). I chose a book of Bob Dylan songs. The front of the book featured a title and a photograph portrait, the back cover a list of songs included in the book. I first found a thick, clear plastic carrier bag, which I covered in orange cellophane to make a double-layer wrapping. I hoped that this would make my wrapping more bulky to enable me to achieve ripples and tucks.

There were several different grades of string which I could have used, ranging from rough jute garden twine to thick piping cord which resembled rope:


I considered the thickness of the thread in relation to the size of the sample and how it might crumple the cellophane and plastic. I chose thick cotton string (back row left).

I purposely left a bulk of material at the bottom of the book, so that when folded and tied it, I would get double layers and interesting creases without completely obscuring the photograph of Dylan’s face (see below):

I am pleased with the behaviour of the wrapping material, and the degree of obscurity of the image is exactly as I had hoped. On this occasion I don’t mind the reflection of light from the cellophane.

Compositionally, I felt that I ought to avoid placing string over the face, however this has resulted in divisions which are rather more regular than I would have liked. I much prefer the composition of string on back cover, because of the triangular elements (see below):

So how do I feel about this sample? 

I am glad that this sample does not resemble a wrapped gift; the utilitarian string puts pay to that. As Dylan’s songs are famous for chronicling social unrest and civil rights, I was hoping to make the generic suggestion of a suppressed political voice, just visible but struggling to make itself heard (or seen in my analogy). By using the coloured cellophane I am suggesting that in how messages are viewed (be they songs, newspaper articles, speeches) there is an element of what we choose to see and how close we care to look.

Whilst this is a successful sample, I feel that it is very much a “study after Christo”, and I’m not sure how I might take it forward and make it my own.


SAMPLE 4: Coffee tin wrapped in artists’ canvass and thick piping cord

This sample was inspired by the wrapped tin cans of Christo. “Wrapped can” (1958) (Koddenberg, 2009:34), is an example, but there are many similar pieces using the same techniques. Before starting this series, Christo had worked to develop textured surfaces by creasing fabric or paper and applying sand and lacquer to achieve a characteristic surface finish. I find Christo’s abstract surfaces fascinating in their own right, but by extending the idea to wrapped cans, he was able to relate the surface to the object he was wrapping. Where and how the creases fall, and the tightness of the rope give the viewer information about both the object underneath and the wrapping material. 

I particularly like the impression of “stiffness” of the material Christo wrapped his tin cans with, and I wanted to create a sample with similar characteristics. I started with an empty coffee tin, and some artists’ canvas, which I had partially painted with black acrylic paint (see below).

The canvass had been intended for another project, but I had decided not to use it. I liked the way it was divided into painted and unpainted areas and the qualities of the weave of the fabric. This was particularly visible at the edges of the painted areas where the paint was sparse and only covered the top threads, making a diffuse edge (see below):

I wanted to use a rope-like thread, so I chose thick piping cord. I used a similar approach to tying as for samples 1-3. The result is shown below:

Overall there are some very good attributes to this sample. The knotting is well defined and forms a visually appealing feature. I am pleased with the 3-D composition (i.e. the way the colours divide the piece and the way the rope divides the piece). There are thick folds which provide a visual description of the physical properties of the canvas. 

I can’t help but feel that the surface of the fabric would be enhanced by acrylic wax or varnish to “set” the creases (making them look more as if they had been carved from a solid rather than fashioned from a fabric). Christo used lacquer, which helped to shrink the fabric onto the object underneath and made the tying thread (rope) appear to be embedded within the fabric. In my sample the rope sits above the fabric and I like that effect. However, I feel that the fabric would benefit from a further surface treatment to add interest.


The Japanese aesthetic

This next series of samples were inspired by Japanese aesthetic, in particular as a result of studying the book “How to wrap five eggs” (Oka, 2008). This was an enlightening text. I hadn’t realised that traditional Japanese packaging was considered an art form and a profession. It was interesting to read of it being the result of generations of use and experimentation to solve storage and transport problems. At the same time it is a handicraft applied to items whether they be large or small, valuable or of no monetary worth; the notion being that everything can, and should be made beautiful. Natural materials are favoured because they reflect the Japanese respect for harmony with nature. The Japanese psychology views packaging as a form ritual purification, so there are strong cultural associations with the activity (Oka, 2008:7-11).

I am strongly attracted to the use of natural materials and the symmetry of Japanese packaging. I thought back to my research and the “Bundles” series by Diane Cooper (Cooper, n.d.) with the contemporary interpretation she has placed on the Japanese aesthetic. I was really keen to explore these aspects for myself and I hope I am not deviating too far from the brief by working my own examples.


SAMPLE 5: Origami box and thread packaging

I first made the origami box from kimono-print origami paper. A common theme in Japanese traditional packaging seemed to be to make the packaging fit tightly around the items, so that seem a perfect fit; almost at one with the container. Once such example is sweet boxes (Oka, 2008:103).

I found that two toilet rolls were exactly the right width to fit my container. To disguise them and to infer a feeling of preciousness, I painted them with gold. They are secured in position with a gold parcel thread.

In contrast to my other samples, I wanted this one to be decorative. I purposely suggested valuable contents and allowed them to be visible by securing it without a lid. Nonetheless, the box contents are securely packed and cannot fall out, even if it is placed on it’s side or upside down.

I purposely tied the string tightly so that the edges of the box were pulled in. This further suggests security, cosiness and preciousness. I also purposely left the knots uppermost because I feel that they add to the feel of decoration and decadence.


SAMPLE 6: Marbles wrapped in leaves

This sample is inspired by Japanese wrapped confections or “chimaki”, which are commonly wrapped in leaves and tied with cords of sedge or rush (Oko, 2008:33). For my interpretation, I decided to use red-purple raffia cord. Despite being late November, I was lucky enough to find some crocosmia leaves in the garden, which were suitable to use.

In my choice of objects to wrap I wanted to suggest the idea or “morsels” or “tasty treats”. I chose medium sized marbles because they were the right size.

I started by wrapping a single marble (see below)

I then went on to wrap two more and join them with a plait, and a loop for hanging/storage (again in keeping with Japanese traditional packaging)

I wanted to pick up on the idea of utility and practicality (assuming they were food items, one could be unpackaged at a time leaving the other two sealed and protected).

I am pleased that I managed to make neat parcels. There is also beauty in the colour contrasts between the raffia and leaves.


SAMPLE 7: Lid of an egg box sandwiched between wooden sheets and tied with crochet cotton

This sample builds on the Japanese packaging technique in which a food item (such as a rice cake) is simply placed between two leaves as packaging (Oko, 2008:28). The choice of an egg box lid was somewhat arbitrary (I was looking for a lightweight object with a “thickness”). I used balsa wood sheets, because of the wood grain and the reference to the Japanese use of natural materials. I only had very thin (0.8mm) sheet and balsa wood is extremely soft and easily marked. Ideally, a harder wood or thicker sheet would have been preferable, as it provides better protection.

I noticed that several examples of Japanese packaging use very fine delicate thread, so I chose fine crochet cotton in a natural beige. I tied the package in the compositionally pleasing division of thirds, then down the centre which divides the surfaces into six roughly equal sections and which suggests that there are 6 items contained between.

The sample is shown below:


I am pleased with the way that this sample reflects the Japanese aesthetic. It’s plainness makes it seem calming and suggests that contains a delicate object. The threads are tantalisingly fragile, yet they keep the three elements together. As well as being a very practical way of protecting the upper and lower surfaces of an object there are strong emotional associations with this sample.


SAMPLE 8: Tied sticks

I wanted to extend the idea of traditional Japanese packaging to a group of poles or sticks. I started by harvesting some attractive dogwood and bamboo stems from the garden. For my thread, I considered both commercially produced paper string and raffia string (see below).

I have a good range of colours, and many provided a strong contrast with the bright red and green dogwood and bamboo stems. However, the synthetic colours seemed too harsh, so I narrowed my choice down to black paper string and pale brown raffia.

I decided to make a pair of samples; the red dogwood paired with the raffia and the bamboo with the soft charcoal black paper string.

I had to learn some knotting skills for this sample, so I started by testing out the knots on a wooden dowel.

Working from right to left, I first secured the thread using a rolling hitch (Budworth, 2005:49). I then worked along the dowel in half-hitches (Budworth, 2005:75) before tying off with a simple overhand knot.

Having mastered the techniques, I then worked my samples (see below).

I am very pleased with the results of this wrapping. The samples are visually very appealing (especially when viewed together as a pair). I like the way the string travels along the stems and the way it is purposefully secured at intervals. Although there are gaps visible between the stems, the join is very stable and secure, because I was able to position the half-hitches just before leaf bud joints. This also made the knotting feel very much in harmony with the object being wrapped.



Budworth, G. (2005) The complete book of knots. London. Bounty Books.

Christo (1963) Wrapped portrait of Jeanne-Claude. [Oil n canvas portrait by Christo Javacheff wrapped with polythene and rope by Christo and mounted on a black wood board] At: (Accessed 11 November 2016)

Cooper, D. (n.d.) Bundles Varie’ 2. [canvas, felt, silk, cord]. At: (Accessed 10 November 2016)

Koddenberg, M. (2009) Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Early works 1958-64. Bonn. Kettler Verlag.

Mitchell, S. (n.d.) Vintage Lucozade bottle. [Pinterest pin, n.d.] Available at: (Accessed 28 November 2016)

Oka, H. (2008) How to wrap five more eggs: Traditional Japanese packaging. London. Weatherhill.

Tinsdale, J. (2016) “Do they look evil enough?”. At: (Accessed 1 December 2016)

Ysolda (n.d.) Blog: Sewn buttonhole loop. At: (Accessed 29 November 2016)