Category Archives: Exhibitions, books, blogs & films

Links suggested by my tutor in Part 2 feedback

25 February 2017


In her review of Assignment 2, my tutor made suggestions of artists and designers whose work was relevant to my interest in configurable artworks, constructed textiles and 3D structures.

I started by looking at the mobiles of Alexander Calder (Tate, n.d.) I could see the relationship with some of my samples joined with brass fasteners in particular Project 1, exercise 5, sample 10 (see below).


It’s not that the piece closely resembles Calder’s mobiles in shape, or colour, rather that it shares a feeling of precarious poise and balance. There is a feeling that the piece might be transient, and that it could be disturbed by the breeze.

Other links were also concerned with configurable surfaces (Strozyk, 2013-16), (Smith, 2014a). Of these, I was particularly taken with a video of Martin Smith’s Rainbow (Smith, 2014b). The piece consists of a series of seven stainless steel frames, each of which is motorised and orientates at varying angles. Each of the panels contains many small coloured aluminium squares which flutter in response to air currents and create natural rhythms of movement across their surface. Although bold rainbow-colours, the piece also seems to emulate leaves on a tree through it’s movement. Because the aluminium pieces are shiny, there is reflection too, depending at what angle the light catches them. It reminds me of the play of light over the surface of water. This is a gentle piece which has a lot in common with the natural world.

The examples of constructed textiles and 3D structure chosen for me to look at included dynamic woven/gathered textiles (Pleun, n.d.), 3D lattices (Gwillim, n.d.a.), raised surfaces (Gwillim, n.d.b.) and the varied deconstruction, disrupt, reverse, reinvent ethos of the Envisions group (Schuurman, n.d.).

Gwillim’s 3D lattices (“systems” series) very much reminded me of Project 1, exercise 3, sample 3 (below).


His work made me consider that I could develop my samples in a similar way, by stacking them together to make a 3D shape. I also liked the way that the final piece of his “flow” series incorporated cut-outs, or “windows”, so that the raised surfaces was only revealed selected areas (Gwillim, n.d.b.) 

The endearing feature which appeals to me about all of these pieces is geometry. Suggesting process and conformity, it provide structure and pattern, however, I also feel that there is scope for it to be explored as a contrast to less will controlled elements, such as a loosely scribbled pattern. I will be considering these ideas as I go forward in this course and my textile practice.



Gwillim, S. (n.d.a) Flow. At: (Accessed 2 March 2017)

Gwillim, S. (n.d.b.) Systems. At: (Accessed 2 March 2017)

Pleun, R. (n.d.) Structured textiles. At: (Accessed 2 March 2017)

Smith, M. (2014a) Rainbow (2014) At: (Accessed 2 March 2017)

Smith, M. (2014b) Rainbow. [user generated content] Creat. Martin Smith. At: 7 March 2017)

Schuurman, S. (n.d.) Envisions group. At: (Accessed 2 March 2017)

Strozyk, E. (2013-16) Wooden carpet (2010) At: (Accessed 2 March 2017)

Tate (n.d.) Art and artists: Alexander Calder, mobile c 1932. At: (Accessed 2 March 2017)


Book review – “Making and Drawing” by Kyra Cane

25 February 2017


I purchased “Making and drawing” by Kyra Cane (Cane, 2012) after it was discussed by Rebecca’s Fairley in an OCA blog post (Fairley, 2016). Before starting with the OCA, I didn’t understand the relationship between drawing and textile practice, and learning how it can be applied to my textile practice has been a gradual process of discovery.

I own several texts on the subject of drawing and mark-making in textile practice (Hedley, 2010), (Greenlees, 2005), (Parrott, 2013). However, the scope of Cane’s book is wider; it covers not just textile artists, but also ceramicists, jewellery-makers, costume designers and other forms of visual creative arts. The context of drawing and mark-making is discussed as a reference, in terms of planning and design, for describing a surface, as a form of making, as a tool for thinking and as it is used in conjunction with technology. This makes it perhaps more illuminating than Texts solely concerned with textiles.

I was particularly interested in how artist Celia Smith uses loose sketches of birds as reference for her metal and wire sculptures (Cane, 2012: 18-21). Her drawing style translates seamlessly into the medium of wire, and it is clear to see how her sketches inform her practice (Jobson, 2014). In contrast, the emphasis of Dali Behennah’s drawing is on planning and design (Cane, 2010: 51-53). As a geographer, her creations made in willow and metal, are inspired by physical features of the eath’s surface (Behennah, n.d.). Her sketches explore, proportion, pattern and tone. Mixed media artist, Hilary Bower, is listed in Cane’s book in the chapter 5: drawing as thinking (Cane, 2012: 158-160). Her drawing/sketching as mixed media work exist in parallel as dependant activities. She uses drawing to explore sensibilities, resolution and balance (Cane, 2012: 159). In her blog, Bower describes how she uses sketching as an everyday tool for clarification of thoughts and thinking (Bower, n.d.)

“Making and drawing” is a wonderful reference book, and is a resource which I will be able to consult whenever I need reminding just how personal sketchbooks can be, and how they can be used if so many different ways.



Behennah, D. (n.d.) Dail Behennah. At: (Accessed 5 Marchs 2017)

Bower, H. (n.d.) Hilary Bower: Concepts. At: (Accessed 5 March 2017)

Cane, K. (2012) Making and drawing. London. Bloomsbury.

Fairley, R. (2016) Book review: Making and drawing. At: (Accessed 5 March 2017)

Greenlees, K. (2005) Creating sketchbooks for embroiders and textile artists. London. Batsford.

Hedley, G. (2010) Drawn to stitch: Line, drawing and mark-making in textile art. London. Batsford.

Jobson, C. (2014) ‘Bird sculptures constructed from wire by Celia Smith look like detailed sketches’. In: This is colossal: Art. 2 June 2014 [online] At: (Accessed 5 Marchs 2017)

Parrott, H. (2013) Mark-making in textile art. London. Batsford

Book review – “In praise of shadows”

20 January 2017


This book was recommended by my tutor at the end of assignment 1, due to my interest in the Japanese aesthetic. Unusually, it is an essay. Written by Japanese novelist Tanizaki (b.1886, d.1965) in 1933, it describes in vivid visual imagery, the beauty of traditional Japanese architecture, homeware and clothing. 

In contrary to Western ideas of functionality and newness, Tanizaki celebrates the beauty of the ‘worn’ look; of dull pewter, of the soft worn surface of traditional Japanese lacquerware, and of wooden surfaces. He describes how, in the modern aesthetic of bright illumination and reflective, sterile surfaces, these items might appear dull and lack-lustre. However, in a traditional Japanese room, lit by lamp-light they take on a glow and softness which can only then be appreciated. Indeed, a traditional Japanese room has areas dedicated by design to darkness, and it is this contrast, the author argues, which is so very important; for without darkness, there are no shadows, no mystery, no beauty.

In relation to my practice, this book has helped me appreciate some of the sensibilities which underly the Japanese aesthetic and which influence Japanese culture. It has prompted me to think about corroded surfaces differently; to consider dullness as a legacy of use, and as a reflection of elapsed time rather than a patina which must be removed. An appearance of newness need not be desirable – it tells us nothing about the history or age of an object, nor the beauty of it’s transient decay. These are themes which could easily be explored and developed for a textile project.


Tanizaki, J. (2001) In praise of shadows. Translated by Harper, T. and Seidensticker, E. (1977) London. Vintage. 

“Penelope” by Tatiana Blass

28 October 2016

I came across an online magazine article about the work “Penelope” by Brazilian Tatiana Blass (Sierzputowski, 2016). It reminded me somewhat of sample 14, Project 5, exercise 1 (see below), albeit on a much larger scale!


“Penelope” is a site specific installation named after Odysseus’ wife in “Homer’s Odyssey”, a character who kept herself away from suitors whilst her husband was at war by weaving a burial shroud in the day and secretly taking pieces apart at night.

Inside the chapel is a 45m red carpet attached to a loom. The carpet is part woven and part threads, leaving the viewer to wonder whether it is in the process of being constructed or destructed. The threads extend outside via existing holes in the chapel walls. Outside, the threads fall to the floor and make a tangled mass of red almost covering the ground. There are threads looped from the trees too. 

The article includes a ‘before’ and ‘after’ 6 months photograph of the threads outside the chapel. I am not sure which photograph is which, and the article does not make this clear. It could be either that leaves are falling and have are covering progressively more threads over time. Alternatively, it could be that more threads have been unravelled from the loom and are forming an ever more dense covering over the ground. Perhaps this is all part of the mystery of the piece!

One of the work’s strong attractions for me is the colour. I find the red hue very striking, particularly against the green foliage and contrasting texture of the rough stone walls. Without knowing the story, it feels somehow like a metaphor for bleeding (or loss); because there is an impression that the colour is being extruded from the walls. 

“Penelope” is a great example of the power of a site specific work; the site being an integral component of the artwork. A piece on this scale is difficult to conceive in my practice (having to post my work to my tutor). It made me think about the work of Christo and Jean Claude and how they started wrapping on a small scale, wrapping tin cans and everyday objects, before moving to oil drum sculptures of several meters high, and finally very ambitious projects of wrapped buildings and coastline.



Sierzputowski, K. (2016) ‘A mass of tangled red yarn unravels from a loom to overtake a Brazilian chapel’ In: Colossal:Art 20.10.16 [online] At: (Accessed 28 October 2016)


The contemporary use of embroidery techniques

22 October 2016

Having just completed an exercise in mixed media stitching, I was especially interested to read Rebecca Fairley’s bog post on the contemporary use of traditional embroidery techniques (Fairley, 2016). Project 5, exercise 2 “stitching”, was my favourite exercise in the assignment, and a technical area which I would like to develop and explore further/make my own. My ideas at this time are to combine stitching with puncturing/drilling and/or printing. From a materials-led perspective, I am interested in exploration games the use of solid media such as wooden planks or stones and over-sized holes, and the contrast with delicate or finely textured threads. 

Rebecca’s blog post provides a wonderful resource of web-link and books from which I can explore the work of innovative contemporary embroiderers in my own time. Of the 5 artists which she briefly discussed, the work of Lithuanian Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene had the most appeal because of her use combination of embroidery of traditional cross stitch motifs onto metal objects (including car doors and household items). I found an interesting link to an interview on the artist’s website (Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene, 2016) which explained in greater detail the motivation behind her work and how it has evolved and developed. After many successful exhibitions, Severija became tired with stitching onto metal, and began to feel that there was too much focus on aesthetics rather than the meaning of the objects. In response, she held an “unravelling exhibition” in which she filmed herself deconstruction one of her stitched pieces. Recently she has developed new lines of enquiry, such as her “carpet series” in which she constructs rugs from recycled sweaters.



Fairley, R. (2016) Traditional textile techniques used in contemporary ways. At: (Accessed 22 October 2016)

Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene, S. (2016) Severija: News. At: (Accessed 27 October 2016)

Post script to British Art Show 8

21 October 2016


Although I was not able to attend the OCA study visit to the British Art Show 8, I did make a visit alone (which I have discussed in an earlier entry of this learning log) (Eastaugh, 2016). I was subsequently interested to read Rebecca Fairley’s blog on the subject and her thoughts on some of the textile exhibits (Fairley, 2016).

Like me, Rebecca chose to write about “Kentucky” (2010) by Brazilian-born artist Alexandra de Cunha. She highlighted that it had been made from utility items (mops) and picked up on the fact that printed tapes with the object’s weight and product code had been included in the piece (something which I hadn’t specifically noticed). I was also interested in the other textile artists which she had focused on, and why she had been attracted to their work.

Rebecca made the important point that students can develop their own practice in exciting and innovative ways by exploring a wide range of art and design disciplines, including fine art. I certainly paid as much attention to the non-textile as the textile exhibits at The British Art Show 8. Exhibits which are non-textile still raise the same questions about composition, texture and colour, and how the artist has achieved contrast, tension or harmony. I also find that looking at non-textile art-forms often helps me to see beyond the obvious, by suggesting new relationships, interpretations, or combinations of media or techniques.



Eastaugh, N. (2016) British Art Show 8. At: (Accessed 21 October 2016)

Fairley, R. (2016) Textiles at the British Art Show 8. At: (Accessed 21 October 2016)

Norwich Shawls: Past glory, present inspiration – 14 October 2016

14 October 2016



The exhibition of C19th Norwich shawls and contemporary work produced in response to them was curated by the Costume and Textile Associate, Norfolk, and held 1-15th October 2016 at the Norwich Cathedral hostry.

I was lucky to be able to visit with a fellow OCA student whom I met through our local support group “East Anglia Extreme”. I find it extremely helpful to be able to discuss the attributes and merits of exhibits with my peers; especially with students of different creative disciplines who bring fresh perspectives.

Photograph of the exhibits were not allowed, but I was able to take photographs of two of the “handling pieces” (fragments of original Norwich shawls).


These photographs give an indication of the complexity, craftsmanship and beauty of these textiles pieces. The fabric fragment on the left is from a Norwich shawl woven on a Jacquard loom in the 1860s. The photograph on the right is of a Hind’s silk “wrapper” (a long thin shawl similar to a modern day scarf) dating from the 1880s-1890s (design attributed to Obadiah Short).


In Elizabethan times, skilled foreign weavers were invited to Norwich to establish a textile industry, and from then onwards Norwich grew in it’s reputation to produce high quality, distinctive textiles (Priestley, 1995:1-9). When shawls became fashionable in the 1800’s, Norwich was ideally placed to satisfy demand for high quality products (Hoyte, 2016:23). Quality shawls were woven and printed for an elite clientele, confirming their wealth and status in society. Over years of catering for an exclusive market, Norwich shawls developed a distinctive character (patterning and colour) which became known as the “Norwich shawl” (Hoyte, 2016:35).


A discussion of some exhibits from the exhibition:

Zebra shawl:

One of the first shawls which caught my attention was exhibit no. 7, the “Zebra Shawl” (340x167cm). Jacquard woven silk, manufactured 1860’s by Clabburn Sons & Crisp, the shawl currently resides in the private collection of one of the members of the Costume and Textile Association.

I had previously shied away from such detailed patterns, finding them impossible to sketch. However, I took inspiration from the sketchbooks of Zandra Rhodes (Rhodes, 2005:20), who seems to be an expert when it comes to capturing the essence of complicated designs and translating these into glorious textile designs of her own. Below is an excerpt from my sketchbook showing an overview of the pattern layout and an area of the pattern in detail.

An exquisitely crafted item, the shawl incorporates both plain and patterned stripes known as “Clabburn Zebras” and was made for daily wear (Hoyte, 2016:9). It is typical of the design of Clabburn Sons & Crisp (Clabburn, 1995:94,95,98). 

The weave is extremely fine and the patterning unbelievably detailed, considering that each colour element/thread would have been drawn up on punched pattern cards to be fed into the loom to replicate the design. It can be seen from the fringes of these shawls that each thread is no thicker than a human hair.  It was the black, pink, mauve, aubergine and green colour scheme which initially appealed to me, but I also like the fact that there is space in the design (i.e. the plain black stripes). It perhaps appeals to my modern taste that the design feels less cluttered than some of the overall patterns. Looking at the design I can see elements of the pattern which I might pick out and adapt for use in my own practice. 

This shawl would have been made towards the end of the period when these garments were fashionable. The way shawls were worn evolved throughout the 1800’s and developed in line with the size of the crinolines which they laid over. By the mid-late 1800’s they were designed to be folded into a triangle, and draped so that the folded edge formed a type of collar, or drape around the neck. The exhibition showed examples of shawls hung around mannequins in this way, so that it was possible to see how the patterns were intended to be viewed when worn. It reminded me again very much of Zandra Rhodes who designs her garments to suit the patterning on her fabrics, often incorporating circular, or border motifs (Rhodes, 2005).


Scissors design shawl:

The scissors design shawl (exhibit no. 3) was manufactured by Clabburn Sons & Crisp in 1862. Designed by John Funnel, it is also a Jacquard woven silk. Measuring 347x 103cm, it resides in a private collection and was loaned to the exhibition (Hoyte, 2016:7). According to Hoyte, Funnel designed exclusively for Clabburn Sons & Crisp, and a shawl exactly like this was the manufacturer’s entry for the Paris Exposition of 1862, anticipating the coming Art Nouveau movement of the 1890’s (Hoyte, 2016:7). This shawl would have retailed for around £20 (equivalent of at least £1,600 in todays money), which indicates the exclusivity and status of owning such a fine garment (Hoyte, 2016:6). My sketch of part of the shawl pattern detail is shown below:

This shawl is predominantly beige and gold in colour with small areas of emerald green, sky blue and red. Black was used to emphasis the boarder between two areas of design, and to delimit some of the pattern edges. Interestingly, this shawl features a development of the “boteh” or “Paisley” design which originated for India and Persia in the C16th. In Norwich, the design was also known as the “Pine”. Variations in the development of the boteh can be used help to date textiles (Hoyte, 2016:36). Like the Zebra shawl, the Scissors design shawl was of exceptional quality (especially so, as it was designed to showcase the manufacturer’s product at an international exhibition). Considering my own practice, there are once again elements of the pattern and colour which I could consider using. 


Pattern study by Susan Rhodes:

I was interested in this piece because it is a contemporary textile work produced in direct response to the Scissor design shawl. I have only been able to include a sketch, however a photograph of the work can be viewed in the exhibition catalogue (Costume and Textile Association, 2016:26). The piece measures 59.4x42x3cm and is made from cotton fabric, cotton and silk threads, wadding and card.


The piece is mounted on an airforce blue background and consists of a large rectangle of loom pattern punchcards stitched in horizontal rows. I’m not sure whether these are original (probably not?). The material they are made from looks like a type of plasticised card and they are beige in colour. The holes are brown around the edges, showing signs of having been made by burning through the material. 

The rectangle boteh motif on the bottom right looks has if it has been taken directly from a scanned image of a photograph of part of the scissor shawl and digitally printed onto fabric before being cut out, appliquéd onto a dark background and enhanced with stitching to emphasis certain areas of the pattern. The colours appear washed out and pinkish purple and blue, rather than the vibrant gold, beige, red, blue and green of the original motif. Around the edge of the boteh, some text pertaining to the weaving industry has been printed digitally onto fabric, cut out and appliquéd onto the background.

I have to admit choosing to review this piece because I do not like it. The artist cites contrast as one of the inspirations (Hoyte, 2016:26). However, I find that there is too much contrast between the area with the punchcards (which is clumsy, plain and light-coloured) and the appliquéd section (which is dark and finely detailed). It leaves me feeling that the punchcard area swamps and overwhelms the rest of the work. It looks like two different textiles pieces stood next to each other, having nothing to unify them other than a common narrative. Perhaps the artist could have chosen to exploit the beige and gold colours of the original motif on her boteh design, which would have leant an element of harmony with the colour of the punchcards? Perhaps the size of the appliquéd area could have been made larger, so that it wasn’t completely overwhelmed by the scale of the punchcards? Perhaps the text could have been more subtle and integrated into the whole pice, like a thread of storytelling running across the textiles and so uniting the two rectangular areas? 

I thoughht I ought to ask myself at this point how I might have interpreted the Scissor shawl. It would depend on the extent to which I felt compelled to convey a narrative, and whether I was content to interpret elements of the design purely for their decorative merits. Although I don’t have a definitive answer at this time, I can say that I would seek a more balanced an harmonious visual outcome.


Madder by Cas Holmes:

For me, this was the stand out contemporary piece at the exhibition. “Madder” (Costume and Textile Association, 2016: 24) measures 151 x 56cm and is a wall hanging made using found rags and cloths from workshops in India. The piece tells the story of the Norwich red shawls (having been made as a cheaper alternative to the finely woven shawls of Kashmir). This piece incorporates pieces of Indian cloth many of which bear the traditional “Botch” (flower) design. The work which Holmes has put into making the piece serves as a reminder of the “unfair trade” in the clothing industry today, and how the tables have turned to make the Indian fabric the cheap alternative (Costume and Textile Association, 20016:24). Norwich shawls would have been traditionally dyed with the plant root madder to produce their vibrant red colour before the introduction of synthetic dyes, hence the title of this piece.

I hoped to be able to find a link to an image of “Madder” on the internet. I haven’t been able to, and I unfortunately didn’t make a sketch at the exhibition. Describing the piece is tricky, but I’ll have a go! The work consists of a pieced patchwork of ochre, pink, white and blue plain and patterned cloths, stitched together by machine and embroidered across the whole surface with a large plant motif worked in pink thread. Holes have been made in some parts of the hanging, and the sections of cloth vary from dense and opaque to fine and transparent, giving the piece a dynamic feel. Unity is achieved by the colour scheme and the machine embroidered plant/flowerhead which stretches from top to bottom of the hanging. The work is visually stunning and engaging.

I was so inspired by “Madder” that I decided to purchase Cas Holmes’ book “Stitch Stories” (Holmes, 2015), so that I might better understand how she convey narrative through her work. I have only just started to read the book, but I was interested to discover that Holmes was brought up in Norwich (hence her interest and connection with the Norwich textile industry). It was also interesting to read that she has a Romany grandmother who inspired her interest in collecting and re-using found objects (Holmes, 2015:6-7).



Priestley, U. (1995) ‘The Norwich Textile Industry 1750-1880’ In: Clabburn, P. (1995) The Norwich Shawl: It’s history and a catalogue of the collection at Strangers’ Hall museum, Norwich. London. HMSO. pp.1-9.

Clabburn, P. (1995) The Norwich Shawl: It’s history and a catalogue of the collection at Strangers’ Hall museum, NorwichLondon. HMSO.

Costume and Textile Association (2016) Norwich Shawls: Past glory, present inspiration. Norwich. The hostry, Norwich cathedral.

Holmes, C. (2015) Stitch stories, personal places, species and traces in textile art. London. Batsford.

Hoyte, H. (2016) The story of the Norwich Shawl. Norwich. Nick Williams.

Rhodes, Z. (2005) Zandra Rhodes: A lifelong love affair with textiles. Camberley. Zandra Rhodes Publications Ltd.