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. 


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