More writing about my work to date

Nik has sent me an email asking me to include how one work forwards the next and the references that apply to each work so far. To be honest I haven’t really been looking at enough other work and most of the works so far have come our of my own head. They are really a series of experiments, each one trying a different way to treat a photographic image on fabric and aren’t really following reference ideas. So I will try but the first to come out of a reference idea is really the current one I am working on and not these previous ones. So I guess I’ll more clearly spell out what I was trying to do and what I was experimenting with and add references if I can think of any that relate 🙂

I am OK started with my frustration with photographic images and the way I couldn’t get a clear one on fabric. Instead this is a photogram of thread that I found easy to manipulate on the fabric and this then gave a clear as easy path to stitch to give me a clear line drawing. No reference for this. I’ve never seen it done and wasn’t looking at anything. I was trying to do a Haiku for the text – although I’m just really talking about Haiku structure. Haikus aren’t meant to be about my subject matter usually. I guess I was looking at the Haiku book by Jane Reichhold – This is the annotated biblio I have already written for this.

Reichhold, J 2013, Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-on Guide, Kodansha USA, New York

This is a small book that discusses the various forms of Japanese poetry through history with a focus on Haiku. The author supplies detailed information around the structure and rules of writing Haiku and its cousins Tanka and Renga, but also gives us insights into her understanding of the function of these types of poetry in society and personal life. The author highlights the “interactive collaboration” (p 36) between writer and reader and the ability of Haiku to bring one into the moment or to relive a past moment. The words elicit imagery in the mind of the reader, creating a bond of common experience between writer and reader. In this way the principles of Haiku align with my desire to create connection between artist and viewer. Whilst I will not be adhering rigidly to the rules of Haiku or Tanka, this book has nonetheless contributed to my ability to present ideas in text that are accessible, simple, and evocative. Words that engage but retain ambiguity, allowing room for recognition of oneself in the works.

I wasn’t unhappy with the text part of the work. The varied font and repetition came out of the unclearness of the print rather than by design but I think the repetition works and I would use it again in the context of this little poem, as I think it resonates with the content.

Next I moved on to Almost.

Still working primarily on showing an image with some sort of meaning. Mostly trying to get it clear enough. Here I am trying to link it with traditional patchwork. The colours do gel but the tone of the photo is a bit faded compared to the commercial fabric. Again I didn’t get this idea from research other that the general idea of working with traditional quilt blocks and the quilt as my my medium, which started last year after looking at the quilt work of Thomas Knauer. I will be including an annotated biblio of his book Why we Quilt but I haven’t done that yet. I guess this highlights that I really need to be looking at more works to inform what I do rather than just frenetic experimentation. Here I have quilted in straight lines which is the takeaway that worked from this work. The text is hand embroidered but in this colour and position it is hard to read and doesn’t integrate well with the quilt. Still not overly happy with the clarity of the image here.

Dad came next

This time I have taken a pinhole image of Dad in hospital and stuck it down to interfacing and then cut around with the idea that it would make it clearer. That is also the purpose of the floral ‘head’ too. I’ve then collaged the text and other imagery over the top of this. Once again I wasn’t looking at anything outside of my own head and was still very focused on the technicalities of trying to get a recognisable photo on fabric. So surprise surprise no collage references informed this work. Cutting out the photo could have added clarity but didn’t. Coincidentally it suggested the form of a grand piano which luckily my Dad actually owns as he was a pianist. So it worked but that was just chance. The variety of text also worked but the aesthetics of collage don’t work for me. The hard edges don’t suit the mood of what I’m going for. However I was encouraged by Nik’s thought that this had a lot in it, and decided to continue on with this type of work after my crit. But in between I made a couple more experiments to bulk out the crit and see what other techniques worked or didnt.

Rough Terrain follows on from Almost really. I’m trying to return more to my quilting roots but at the same time retain the photograph and be able to see it without quilting obscuring it. I guess I could be thinking of the quilts of Sandra Sider here – she uses photograms done in cyanotype and combines these with commercial fabric. I’ve done an annotated biblio about her book about artistic voice but not about a specific quilt. I will do that as that is the closest reference I have for this work.

Past Present: Out of the blue by Sandra Sider 2018 Viewed 15 May 2021

This is quilt blocks with a photogram over the top. The blocks themselves have been stained to a varying degree with cyanotype which I haven’t done. I have kept the commercial and solarfast printed fabric separate. But is does show the combination of commercial and sun printed fabric. Might be able to find a better quilt of hers that combines unstained commercial fabric. I guess I was thinking of the type of quilt she does although to be honest, even as I was making it I had my doubts about the combination.

Anyway back to my quilt. I backed the photographic quilt blocks with flannel to try and stiffen them up a bit and then I quilted all around but not the actual blocks. The photographs are visible if you look carefully but the content in the photos isn’t clear enough still to give the quilt a mood. The quilted fabrics are brighter than the photos. Not really much in this to take on and run with. So a bit disappointed because I would like to make something that looks like a quilt and successfully uses commercial printed fabric and photographic imagery.

The main focus of no reply was another way of keeping the photos flat so you could see them. This time I made the whole background and quilted it before I simply raw edge appliqued the photos on. 1.30 in the morning before the crit I was getting pretty fed up so it was a bit of an unimaginative layout, and did not succeed in making the photos very clear. The photos are taken around the house and paired with photograms of the phone. Once again no reference. Wasn’t really looking at any artist for this. Very much focused on the construction technicalities again. No complexity to it but also not moody or cleanly simple. Take away was that raw edge applique on top of quilting does probably but make the image flatter but still boring and gives a very clunky simple quilt layout look.

Last Day does follow on from Dad. At this point I had decided that I would be working in collage and was planning to do small collages with photos and commercial fabric and then further collage them into a large work. I looked at a range of collage works and artists, but none really grabbed me. The way this has been put together is more like japanese boro – textiles roughly patched together to be reused in times of hardship. Amongst this work there is text – poems not really following haiku format and some that do. Most photographs remain unreadable to all but me. The text blends and the overarching theme gets confused in amongst the tangle of wrinkled material and thread. Whilst I could probably write about work like this it doesn’t do what I want. It doesn’t show the viewer things that could be readily applied to their own life and let them see something that they can also feel. The ragged edges look unsettling to me and move it further away from a traditional quilt. So the takeaway from this is that I won’t be doing collage I think. Piecing is my chosen aesthetic because it fits better with traditional quilting and there is an aesthetic pleasure for me in the neat smooth joins and juxtapositions of fabric without the confusion of raw edges interposing.

But I guess the bigger takeaway is that I need to learn something from each quilt that is not just a negative and try something else. And I need to be finding lots more work that I enjoy so I can review it and work out why. And I guess as I haven’t got many positives from own work yet, the problem might be that I am making it hard by trying to pick everything out of my own head. I think I need to find work I like and take away pointers from that. To some extent I’ve done that for the work I’m nearly finished now and I will review that next, hopefully tomorrow.

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