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Making felt has never really appealed to me, it just looks like a lot of repetitive warm and wet work…. but the opportunity of recycling some old silk scarves and a much loved shirt that had beem ruined by a too-hot wash, overcame my reluctance. The technique for this fusion of felt and fabric is Nuno sometimes called laminated felt as the woollen fibres are felted into fabrics and is a comparitively new development of the age-old wet felt making.
I was shown a lovely colourful example of Nuno felted scarves, by Kirsten Hill-Nixon, that she had designed for a new workshop at Heart Space Studios and I could see endless possibilities for this technique. But with any new technique I have to experience it to develop and design for it. Teaching craft subjects via design-led software on a computer is not for hands-on makers….I want to feel the material, turn it in my hands and go through the whole basic process; get bored, frustrated and eventually assess how I feel about what I have made – and is it worth my while to do it again – differently or better?
Kirsten brought many and varied examples of her own Nuno felt and pieces that she has collected from her world travels to conferences and workshops.
The class members were really excited by these revelatory fabrics - it is so fascinating to see excellent examples of what you are about to begin to make. But first we had to choose the basic materials for a small sample to test whether our own fabrics would let themselves be felted.
I had selected a range of colours I knew would work together, even so it still took quite a while to decide which to actually work with.
and then which ones would actually submit to the felting technique? we made a small sample which we felted onto a strip of pre-felt.
I really wanted to felt the coloured lace as the colour is so vibrant and I imagined that it would produce unusual results. However…..
the lace just looked like purple scribble, the soft cotton refused to felt and the gingham organdie wasn’t adhering very well either. But the flowers on my ruined shirt looked really brilliant.
I laid out the workable fabics in large strips, about 2 metres in length and about half a metre wide. When I start any sampling process I usually work with stripes…I move on to checks and if things go well I do spots….stripes were sufficient for this exercise. However the 2 other students were much more adventurous.
Having carefully laid the pieces of silk onto the bubble wrap plastic sheet, overlapping the edges a tad to stop any gaps; we then had to get it very wet just spotting it by squeezing a sponge in drips and drops. Next we laid over rows of pulled wool fibre – in sheets as fine as possible, this takes a bit of practice, first one way….
then the other…
The colour of fibre will affect the finished fabric when seen from the silk side…Jane chose to put a multi coloured wool onto the back of her silk, Carole chose palest grey-blue
I chose stripes of course, first a coating of heather mixture all over for the first coat, then heather and mauve stripes – I feel that by experimenting with the coloured backgrounds in different patterns I could become fascinated by this technique.
Now to agitate the felt into shrinking and meshing the fibres into the fine silk woven fabrics. This we began by winding the lengths into large towels and simply rolling them backwards and forwards for about as long as I could stand it…. when the wool fibres had started to adhere to the silk, we took out the sheet of very delicate fabric and using warm water to heat it up, began to throw it at the table.
This took quite bit of courage on my behalf – but I was beginning to sense the real satisfaction to be got from this simple technique… the slooshing about with the wet soapy water over sheets of plastic (very sensuous) contrasted with the tedium of rolling that actually affords you enough time to think ‘how can I develop my ideas for the next time”? and last of all, the bashing – what’s not to like?
The result of this agitation process is remarkable; first the fabric has shrunk to about half its original size,
and now you have a whole piece of fabric in your hands - it is truly integrated, no longer just a patchwork of silk fabrics with a woolly backing but an complete length of fabric to do whatever you want to with – wear it, embroider it, cut it up?
Jane sent me this photograph of her scarf that she took home to dry – it looks like a jewelled snake with its large scale folds and creases…
So – Is it worth my while to do it all again? The jury is still out. I really really like the fabric I have made, it is rich and subtle in both colour and texture and as a scarf will tone with lots of my clothes – but that was the easy bit to get right, the textile designer bit. On the other hand, I don’t really like the feel of it, it is just too stolid. Maybe if it had been made in cashmere or a softer wool or maybe I need more free silk fabric with less felted areas?
But the one thing that may coax me back to doing this whole process again is the small sample of silver embroidery from an Indian cotton sari. It shines out of the soft background like a tiny jewel, very misshapen but luxurious and very precious…this may possibly become part of a metallic stitched piece of work that I have had on hold for some years now – waiting for an opportunity to redevelop my stitched metals, enamels and metallic leathers… maybe a patchwork of some description?????
PS i have had another finished scarf sent to me htis week
This vintage embroidered panel was brought to me by Caroline Doran who has requested a mentoring session recently at Heart Space Studios. Caroline was a member of our regular Knit and Stitch group who meet each week to talk, work and enjoy textiles together. The last time I had seen her she had brought a small hand embroidery she was working on, it was of her own neighbourhood with some enormous cranes from a local building site – she had asked me for some advice on windows . I remember discussing the work at length, which looked really very promising …then I didn’t see her for several months!
However she turned up again asking if I could review her work as she was a bit “stuck” : how well I know what that feels like…” is this piece worth going on with? What am I doing this work for? Why can’t I seem to keep going with the same momentum I started off with? Have I any other better ideas? We all experience this doubt when we make work that is slow going, you just have to keep stitching but it helps if you have some record of the why as well as the way the work came to be made – research – for want of a better word.
Before Caroline come to the tutorial I asked her to bring some inspirational objects or documents as well as evidence of her personal research - fabrics, photographs, books, drawings, scraps books, old work – whatever made her want to commit to actually making her ideas. She brought several telling things and as she unpacked them I started to make groups that showed how her own work connected to what she had brought along. Tilleke Schwarz ( on of my own great favourite embroiderers) had evidently been a real influence, in fact Caroline has attended on of Tilleke’s workshops in England. She had translated Tilleke’s acerbic but generally neutral stitched commentaries and slogans to make her own negative statements…
a sure reflection of how she was viewing her work ( and in complete contrast to my own rather more upbeat slogans)
She also brought in several books, by other embroiderers who use applique and patchwork, notably Janet Bolton, but also the catalogue from the London Foundling Hospital about the mementoes left by mothers with the children they had entrusted to the future to the care of the institution. There is a very strong set of images and ideas being laid out before me. I was very intrigued to see what other work she had brought in to show me. A few years ago Caroline had undertaken an arts foundation course and she also brought along some of the work that she thought was still relevant to her now.
I find that the great breadth of foundation courses are brilliant for introducing students to a wide range of ideas and media but after a few years ‘at home alone’ the personal and, let’s face it, the available will re-assert itself. This situation can lead people to feel that they are not being adventurous, or the work doesn’t count as it is made of such mundane materials. But I think that this is the real strength of textile practice, for the most part it can be made using materials that are readily available, and these materials are the stuff of everyone’s lives and so are have many and varied associations with which to connect – for both makers and viewers. One thing that good foundation courses do give students is a sure sense of self-critical analysis, and this Caroline had acquired, if anything she was too critical, getting things ” too perfect” had rendered much of her latest work a bit lifeless, and she knew this – but how to remedy this is part of why she has come to me for help.
This set of work looked very different from the first work that had been brought out – a mixture of different media about all connected to her very strong family affinity to Ireland and her grandmother’s home. I was struck by several “necklaces” and embroidered images that made me think of rosaries,
so wasn’t surprised when her grandmother’s real rosary turned up stitched onto a piece of work.
and her grandmother’s image was printed onto another fabric applique
I was beginning to see the connection between the vintage embroidered verse – almost a prayer – that had come as piece of inspiration, with this almost sacred treatment of her Irish heritage. I started to ask about this connection and heard how Caroline still felt deeply connected to her Irish roots, still retained a religious faith and was now concerned with working with evidence of her family background, maybe using photographs, maps and other found objects. The most arresting piece that she showed me from this set of work was literally found – on a land fill site where she had made a necklace from shards of broken glass, pottery and stones – again a sort of secular rosary ….regarding or touching the objects made the viewer consider other lives, other places, tiles, bottle caps, lichen, glass, bark…..
I was now considering how to help develop these disparate sets of materials and concerns into a more cohesive textile context, obviously some form of collage, applique or mixed media patchwork….when, as sometimes happens at the studios, we had 2 visitors from ‘Billie Jean’ which is a lively Bristol vintage clothes and fabric shop, they had been sent to us to show some things that we might be interested in seeing; and these were….. patchworks. Asking Caroline’s permission, I invited them in to see some absolutely lovely recycled tweed and knitted cashmere patch-worked blankets, that Billie Jean herself had made from their stash of old cashmere knitwear and woolen jackets, we were soon all chatting away about recycling, the beauty of old fabrics and how much we enjoyed the experience of just handling and making with textiles.
And as several of Caroline’s inspirational books had been about patchwork and applique, this seemed to be a good omen for the way to go…..as part of the mentoring session we now had to decide the way forward. I advise people how they might develop the next stage of their work, it is entirely up to them if they choose to take that advice. I see my mentoring role to be that of a person immersed in the same materials, techniques and often similar subjects as the people asking advice, and having been through similar making (or not making) experiences many times I have developed several strategies for looking at the work, getting some perspective on it – finding connections and as any tutor will do – suggesting new things to research to take the work forward.
We now had to look at what was in front of us, decide what was to be developed immediately, what could be parked for working on later when there had been more time for fresh research, and what could be safely consigned to a folder or file of past experience. I had grouped several half – worked embroideries and drawings together, they seemed to relate to a celebration of the city and street life, I liked their vivacity and thought that they could be somehow ganged up together to make a larger patchwork piece. This means they have to be somehow made to work together, more of the simple line drawings can be assimilated worked as appliques or linear stitching and as made into a textile map of Caroline’s geographical space.
We will wait to see if she brings anything back to me in the month ahead. I am considering developing mentoring as part of Heart Space Studios activities…so I do hope that she has gained some benefit from this initial session.
Needle -felting appears to be the most popular form of model making in textiles if the success of the 2 recent classes by Jenny Barnett for Heart Space Studios is anything to go by. Jenny gave her first workshop last month – foxes, and this month, hares……
I was amazed by the range of expressions and attitudes that the different people managed to make using the basic kit that Jenny brings along to get everyone started.
It comprises just a few simple things – wool tops in assorted colours, the special barbed needles for felting, a sponge to work on and some written instructions. Jenny also packed some love-heart sweets into the bags for her first visit to Heart Space Studios.
But most importantly to my mind, she also brings everyone an individual model to use as a personal reference – they look like sentinels or guardian angels watching over their allotted maker…the small perfectly formed creatures look on while the rolls and swatches of felt are poked and prodded into a brand new being.
Jenny makes the most realistic looking creatures of all the needle – felted wild life I have seen, her naturalistic animals come from real observation – she lives on a canal in Gloucestershire, but she also she brings a lot of different reference materials to the workshops
Needle felting is very different to wet felting, this is quick, really quick…the small scale animals take shape in rough form within an hour, the basic characters just seem to be conjured from each maker by alchemy. One minute you are looking at a table full of basic animal shapes, then the heads and ears are modelled separately ready to be applied
and with small adjustment of the angle when placing of the head, or an ear, the tiny being looks different – it has attitude……
and suddenly all the animals took on their own characters….
and after making one successful hare the class had a chance to make more – testing their new – found knowledge.
I was very amused though to find this group guarding the necessary packet of sticking plasters – needle felting is not for the inattentive maker.
looking on from a smart wicker basket were several other creatures
I had asked Jenny to bring them again as I remembered them from her first visit to us last year. I thought that now, having seen her work so successfully with the groups, she should conduct a 2 day Master Class for Heart Space – I had this idea when she brought out a simple winged horse that had broken a dream I have had recently…I wanted to try to make my dream creature ( more of this later, possibly - I often embroider my dreams)
I thought that it would be an opportunity to get different types of makers to develop their own characters. starting with the felted heads and bodies then dressing them in patch- worked clothes….so Jenny is developing a new Master Class for mid September at Heart Space.
But now it was time for all the new animals to go to good homes; they traveled in style – in the pretty bags that Jenny had provided each person’s kit in.
When I think of African cloth, block printed or woven strip cloth is what I imagine; bold colour in figurative prints or geometric woven designs…
So it was with real delight that I saw and met with Magie Relph the owner of the African Fabric Shop recently. Initially I met her at a quilt show last year and was introduced to her by a colleague, Liz Hewitt, who thought we should connect; then about a month ago she came and visited us at Heart Space Studios to talk about selling some of her magical fabrics and beads through the shop.
I remembered her stall at the show so clearly, lovely fabric prints of all descriptions,
as well as baskets and beads made from all types of recycled materials….
I really like sea glass – broken glass that has been dulled by time spent in the sea – nature’s perfect re-cycling system; the milky colours and softened shapes are really appealing and looking at this selection below I am wondering why I didn’t buy any if not all of them?
Then just after Magie’s visit, another piece of Africa found its way to Heart Space Studios; Marina Harvey, a South African designer and pattern cutter, came and talked to the Thursday Evening Knit and Stitch Club about her printed fabrics that she made several years ago on the ‘MA in Print’ course, at UWE, Bristol.
Marina has written a course for Heart Space Studios to make and decorate a skirt in a series of evening classes, using some of the techniques she developed on her MA, (this will run later in the year) but I asked her to take part in the ongoing programme of “Show and Tell’s” we hold occasionaly at the weekly Club sessions, as it is a chance for local makers to bring their work and talk about it to us.
Marina talked to us about the idea behind her MA collection: when she came to England to teach and study she was fascinated by the archetypal British fabrics notably woolen tweeds and in particular the cloths worn in traditional sporting pursuits, hunting, shooting and fishing but for dressage in particular …… we were all very surprised by this choice, but of course woollen tweeds in South Africa would be a novelty. Marina set about blending the differences between the cultures by using fabric as her medium, the Queen and her Majesty’s interests as her subjects!
Marina used African printing systems, block prints, batiks and discharge screen printing to pattern the tweeds, and she patterned them with tea cups and saucers, she was very generous in bringing all her research materials, work books and fabric samples for us to study closely.
Designing her textiles to make into clothes for her degree exhibition, she chose to work in the 3 colours only, indigo blue, red and dark brown, predominantly found in sishweshwe or shwe shwe – the traditional South African fabrics of the Zulu and Lesotho nations.
The combination of British imagery,’ Pheasants Flying for Cover’ which is printed in the traditional shwe shwe colours is a perfect combination very successfully in keeping with both cultural traditions.
the resulting fabrics are subtle blends of African colours and British icons, T.pots look like African flags are printed on traditional gamekeeper’s woollen drab,
and the ultimate indigo shwe shwe inspired print of miniature T.pots for elegant court shoes
The intricate hand made beads shown in the detail above are based on Coprolite - icthyosaur dung, or more simply – fossilised poo...Ilas Fatt has developed these beads as part of a collaboration with Lyme Regis Museum where artists have been asked to work from specimens from the museum’s collection to be shown in an exhibition in 2013 – so a sneak preview at Heart Space Studios
We have concentrated on bead work to advertise the next Master Class given by Ilsa – she describes it as being in ‘Freeform Sculptural Peyote Stitch’ I describe it as an absolutely amazing jewellry – making opportunity where using a variety of bead-work techniques a densely embellished bracelet will be formed – with integral fastening – my favourite aspect of Ilsa’s jewellry – she really has designed elegant and workable fastenings for her bead – work – for this alone, it would be worth taking the class.
Putting together this beading exhibition was fascinating, seeing how different designers had managed to make such contrasting pieces by using simple beadwork techniques. Ilsa Fatt uses Peyote stitch and Janis Taberner and Kristina Ferron use square stitch. When all the pieces different pieces were assembled they looked wonderful just draped and jumbled together over the tables – I was in favour or showing them draped on the wall, but when we saw the hangers for the Janis’ scarves we realised that formality would reign… but how to place all the disparate work together for a successful exhibition?
Sophie, Heart Space’s administrator and general genie, thought we should colour co-ordinate them – well I wasn’t going to deny that so we grouped everything together in ‘colour stories’. This made life much simpler and meant that at least the different types of work would hang together well
First we placed everything on the floor in the colour groups.
the long scarves made perfect borders for the boxes of necklaces. The rich colours of each designer’s work really enhanced each other.
Ilsa is offering students her own lamp- worked beads as part of her Master Class ensuring everyone makes a unique piece of work.
The Blue grouping was easy-peasy – we used small stands and simple boxes to show the work, the brilliant blues and turquoises of Kristina’s ethnic necklaces, Kristina explained that she really likes “Big Jewellry” – a woman after my own heart.
The next group along the wall is in brilliant colours with gold; 2 scarves and a necklace that is based on the tumbling blocks patchwork design – Janis’ background in embroidery shows in her wide range of textile inspiration for these works.
and the last group is a series of different items in gold and autumnal colours made by all three makers, including another collar this time in what appears to me to be a hounds-tooth check pattern.
plus a beautiful frilled pendant by Janis where she has also braided the cord and tassell using a Japanese technique.
and also this sumptuous and subtle necklace by Ilsa.
Heart Space Studios has gone totally beaded – an exhibition was preceded by introductory beading classes is being followed by a beading Master Class, held by Ilsa Fatt, where students will make a magnificent glass beaded bracelet incorporating Ilsa’a hand made beads.
The beading classes have been run by popular demand from Heart Space followers, because so many people wanted the opportunity to attempt this project but felt they needed a short introduction to basic beading.
Ilsa showed everyone how to make a small square using peyote stitch, a simple and stable backing
to enable you to start decorating it to your heart’s content
Ilsa then demonstrated 3 separate beaded drop formations and the students could experiment with many types of different shapes and sizes of beads.
The finished pieces can be made into brooches or pendants
So far so good, now the students can feel more confident about joining a master class as they will come prepared with the basics stitch with which to develop their own ideas from their personal practice by using beads – and they will really appreciate the accompanying exhibition at Heart Space Studios which is displayed on my next post….
Stitching 3 dimensional flowers is a strange mix of observational drawing, refined stitching and alchemy; the transition of the flat stitched petals freed from their background and applied to form a flower is slightly surreal. I developed this particular skill while making the Flora Embroideries, using the pansy to metamorphose into different forms to develop faces.
I had been asked by a regular Heart Space Studio student and volunteer, Libby Butler, to teach her to stitch a 3 dimensional pansy – her favourite flower, and knowing that she was a skilled embroiderer I agreed. What I did not know was if she could draw the flowers from life; this is the first essential stage as learning to select the colours and study the growth lines of the petals is most important to develop natural petal patterns – and looking really carefully to draw each petal really concentrates the mind for the stitching that follows.
Libby looked a little nervous when I handed her the jars of crayons after selecting her pansy – however after a nervous start she achieved a simple working drawing from which we could establish petal shapes and colourings, now to move to the fabrics….
Now to the fabrics – first a thin silk fabric was selected and the individual petals from the drawing were traced onto it in pencil, a light dye was then applied with a paintbrush to give a background colour.
When the dye was dry, a heat transfer fabric adhesive was ironed onto the back of the fabric and each petal was cut out and ironed onto a very fine silk gauze and placed in a small embroidery hoops ready for embroidery – the edge of the silk petal means that the stitches have very strong definition which will be needed later for cuttung out. The silks were matched to the drawing colours and using one strand only, the embroidery was started…
Libby worked one whole petal (see above) by the end of the first day of the 2 day workshop, she then had 1 week to complete the rest of the petals…..she took the drawing home to work from – the drawing is what she is following not the real flower – this is why the drawing needs to be really carefully observed
On her return I found that she needed to work a fine blending thread over the transition between the dark purple and light yellow of the pansy to make it look natural but this was quickly achieved – attention needs to be given for the direction of all the stitches so that they follow the lines of growth of the petal – but it is easy to see in bi-coloured pansies.
Once the embroidery was complete, the back of the fabrics was once again bonded with heat transfer adhesive and each petal cut out leaving a small area of surrounding silk. Each petal was then pressed from the back while being stretched around the its edge, this sets the stitches and gives a very life – like undulation to the petal edge – but the stitching needs to be very dense to allow this to happen…..then taking courage in both hands the extra fabric is VERY carefully cut away – the bonding keeps the threads in place.
Now the flower formation can begin. On a fresh and final background fabric the original drawing was traced using a water-soluble pen, then each petal is embroidered into position starting from the back, only the middle area needs to be attached – the petals must be left free from the ground
The actual assembly does not take very long but it must be carefully structured so that each petal overlaps the one below it, the original drawing is again of vital importance to this process.
Eventually each petal is placed and the inside edges of the of the petals are is built up and over-sewn and a single central stitch finishes it – Da Da!
Heart Space Studios attracts all sorts of different people, but sometimes we have to invite them in because one of us has spotted work that they feel is really exceptional and that we should try to exhibit or, even better, get the maker work to with us. Sophie, Heart Space’s administrator, has been raving about Jennie Barnett’s needle felted figures for months since she saw them at a Vintage Fabric fair, and finally we managed to lure her over last week and this is what we saw…..
First out of a very battered, old-fashioned and customised suitcase came 2 dolls, well miniature figures would be a better description, they had ceramic heads that were beautifully modelled with cloth bodies and dressed in some lovely old printed cotton clothes. Jenny was a model maker in the ceramics industry before she took up a life living on a canal barge and working in needle felting.
Now I have to admit that needle felting seems like purgatory to me, poking a ball of woollen fleece with barbed sticks until it surrenders itself into a fluffy something or other is not my idea of a good time …but when Jenny started to unpack her felted animals and other creatures, I could suddenly see why she had chosen this discipline, apart from the obvious constraints of firing up kilns on boats.
It was obvious that her sculpting sensibilities were fully expressed in this simple medium – and she could have some fun while recreating gestures and stances that have surely come from her own acute observation. It is easy to see why she has started to name some of the figures, above Felicity Flowerfield and Bethany Breadbake are delightful little characters.
These animals aren’t just cute though, they possess characters that are recognisable – I have seen these attitudes in my own dogs (fox terriers) particularly the look on the large brown hare in the centre of the image above – that sort of ‘ can I trust you?’ specially when they are unsure of my attitude towards some mischief as yet undiscovered. Jenny has many such creatures and her most popular selling animals,the sheep,the hares and the foxes she now produces as needle felting kits.
But back to the suitcase, out came another creature, a very foxy looking character, but she was grey and dressed in a sinister green translucent skirt from which her tail stuck out at the back. She was a wolf in Victorian clothing and her name gave the game away, Martha May Maulyou – you wouldn’t turn your back on her…..
Now I was intrigued and started to play with the animals – so easy to develop a story with them all – watch out girlies…
However to the rescue hopefully comes Harvey Hipslinger…he looks a proper gent.
But should we trust a gent who wears such flamboyant clothes?
I had intended this post to be about Jenny’s small animals (she has agreed to teach some half day workshops to make some of her popular Christmas Robins and Mermaids with us later in the year) but having realised that her creatures are perfect for inspiring stories I am really pleased that we persuaded her to sell some of her character animals in the Heart Space shop.
Dail Behennah recently conducted a fascinating 2 day master class developing 3D structures out of paper at Heart Space Studios. She brought with her prepared strips of black and white paper to get everyone started quickly so that they could move swiftly onto the really wonderful papers we had collected for the group to experiment with; however the group had different ideas!
I feel that these exquisite samples swayed most members of the group to stick with the simple black and white theme, but also they each confessed to not wanting to waste any precious time cutting up the experimental papers into strips.
Dail also gave everyone a set of miniature clothes pegs, they were all intrigued..
It transpired that these pegs are perfect for holding the paper strips in place once a corner has been turned from the flat woven base, and once a corner has been turned the 3 dimensional shape starts to develop.
Although Dail had said to everyone to feel free to plait the square base in any order, most people did a simple alternating black and white placement…it now became clear that the initial placement largely controlled the resulting pattern for the structure’s ‘walls’…..
the patterns of black and white started to be developed on the sides of the 4 cornered shapes…
another ‘wall’ pattern..
eventually fresh strips were added to interweave with the basic plait structure – red seemed to be the favoured colour.
However when these basic structures were viewed they revealed wonderful geometric patterns from this simple 4 cornered structure.
Next the class were given free reign to just start off again, now knowing how to build up from a simple solid foundation and turn a corner - where would they take this new knowledge?
And here we started to see the preferences of the different people in the class; their own practices stared to influence what they made; so Liz Hewitt, who amongst other things is a book binder and textile, plaited a concertina form that was reminiscent of pages of a book opening up…..
Shirley Paskes, who is a an enameller and felt maker made a small hat to wear, she also makes felt clothes. The only person to get away from the black and white range was weaver, Deborah Paul, who chose to remake a smaller version of the original shape in a new material - grass green plastic.
On the second day Dail introduced the group to another structure, Hexagonal Plaiting, this looked remarkably Japanese to me, although it was explained that these structures are universal and timeless – found on everything from fishing creels to engineered steel structures and it is the plait that is known also as Shaker Cheese Basket
So following Dail’s elegant diagrams everyone started to make another plait either in pure white paper…or dramatic black and white. Once the hexagonal base has been turned more strips are woven in to grow and strengthen the shape.
Eventually a firm rim is plaited in to finish the structure.
For the final session of this master class, everyone was given a choice to continue making these open-ended forms or to attempt Dail’s signature object, a plaited ball made of steel rope…
Several people wanted to try the steel rope ball, but others attempted the closed structure in alternative materials…and some with alternative plaiting patterns – let’s just call them free – form.
It appears to me that if you have not got a strongly developed left- brain grasp of spatial mathematical awareness, the convoluted plaiting is a really difficult thing to attempt – I say this as a totally right- brained maker. However, free – formed or perfectly symmetrical, the moment the pegs are released from the plaited structures is a moment of truth for everyone…
Interestingly a couple of people went back to their own practice and plaited the balls using knotting and stitching to secure the structures.
I think that these samples are starting to develop lace like structures and I suddenly saw a way that I could possibly stitch into these shapes with a needle and thread. The interlacing stitches cast intricate shadows from the final structure. This very delicate structure made by Debbie Paul is made in string and straw ribbon.
However the steel ball proved to be the ultimate challenge, and it was interesting to see how the were formed. I had thought they were made from a single length of stainless steel wire – but in fact the wires are all cut to size first, curiouser and curiouser.
the following images show the slow and strong construction in progress :-
I have a confession to make – I am a 2D person; I work best on flat surfaces, paper, fabric, copper plate. Basically I draw, stencil or stitch images onto stable sheets of material. Occasionally I take the images for walks round bodies or vessels, but although I studied, taught and worked in both fashion and textile design, my strength is in surface decoration, and the flatter the surface the better……so it is always perplexing but fascinating when I work with makers who are sculptural.
Dail Behennah, is a 3D maker at heart, although she does work in several divergent materials ranging from cane, through enamelled steel and copper, via stone and fabric. And for Heart Space Studios she is conducting the next Master Class using re-cycled paper for a 3D plaiting technique. “Plaiting is a way of weaving in three dimensions in which all the elements are active. (In most weaving techniques there is a passive set of warp threads and active weft threads weave between them). The thin-walled elegant forms which result may be viewed as vessels or sculpture.”
The technique is common throughout the world wherever flat, ribbon-like materials are available. These include palm leaves, grasses, rush, bark and split bamboo. It is used to make flat mats
and 3D structures
ranging in scale from tiny shoes
to huge dams…..
as well as baskets designed to fulfill a variety of functions.
The 2 day workshop will cover the basic techniques of bias and hexagonal plaiting and “corners may be turned wherever you wish. The aim is not to make a conventional basket but to push the technique as far as possible and see where it leads moving from 2 to 3 dimensions and back again…..
For dressmakers the process may be seen as similar to making your own fabric with integral darts. Each corner turned makes the material go off in a different direction, creating hollows and bumps.”
This idea has got me thinking about a plaited corset….imagine some of these cinched waist pieces in plaited ribbons or leathers….although Dail is using re-cycled papers as her main material it is expected that the participants will bring their own materials to experiment with as well.
The idea behind the Heart Space Studios Master Classes is for makers to expand their own practice by being introduced to a new technique or material by a tutor who is an acknowledged expert in their own practice – so sparking off new ideas and possibilities for other makers.
And to prove a point here is a 2D piece of work that has been inspired by this technique – 2 paper maps have been intersected by intricate stranded patterns for a water-coloured collage.