Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Making a start for Stitches Coven Summer Exhibition

I've managed to take a leaf out of my own book to stop procrastinating and actually make a start on a new creative textiles project. I am a member of Stitches Coven, a local creative textiles group, and to help us all focus and keep moving forward with our design & technical skills, we set ourself a yearly challenge of making new work for a themed exhibition. This year's theme is Architecture, which is a great topic as it offers a huge range of interesting visual material to work from, and can be approached in many different ways. This can be a bit problematic for the chronically indecisive though as there are so many choices!

A recent jaunt to Birmingham solved my problem of what to focus on though, as when I saw the new Birmingham library I knew I'd found my subject! The whole building, both inside and out, was really impressive, but I found it's highly decorative exterior 'shell' to be completely fascinating, so I thought I'd use this as my design source. I started a Pinterest board on the library, and now I'm playing around with ideas on paper to help me come up with more of a plan, and yes I'm afraid that has involved the 'D' word! Just the mention of this word (drawing) can strike terror in the heart of many of us who consider ourselves as crafters rather than fine artists, and many like to play with the materials rather than take a pen or pencil to hand, but as I make my own creative journey to develop and grow in this area, I am finding that drawing plays an increasingly important and necessary part in how I go about my creative work. 

I used to have an abject terror of drawing, and certainly of anyone seeing my drawings which felt as cringe making  a prospect as having to show the contents of my knicker drawer!! But over the years and with perseverance I am becoming more comfortable with this (the drawing bit not the drawers of course!), and I would encourage any other crafting sketchophobes out there to embrace the D word too for a number of reasons:
  • It's the only way to get visual ideas out of your head so you can see them!
  • Most often ideas do not appear fully formed in your head (unless you are extremely lucky), so drawing can be a useful starting point and allows you to work on these ideas until you have something more resolved and tangible.
  • You may start with one idea, but by working on paper you may find new & better ideas develop
  • You can try out/rehearse/make design decisions about ideas on paper before committing to valuable materials and hours of work
  • No one needs to look at your drawings unless you want them to - they are a working tool to help you, not a piece of finished artwork for public presentation :-)

The good news too is that 'drawing' is not just about pencil & paper, nor need it be any more than a very rough & basic sketch, and it can involve numerous approaches any of which may suit some folks better than others. Some of these  may include:
  • Making a print block or a stencil 
  • Cutting out or tearing paper shapes
  • Making rubbings and/or using colour washes of watercolours or dyes
  • Making a collage with papers and/or other materials
  • Making small 'try out' samples with spare fabrics etc that are not precious
  • knitting a swatch!
  • Using the scanner and computer to try digitally out designs and pattern repeats etc
These are just a few, and I'm sure the list is endless but you get the idea, and if you are interested in this subject I would recommend this book by Kay Greenless. (Disclaimer: any book recommendations are made according to my own experience and personal opinion. All such recommendations are made in good faith and I do not receive any incentives, financial or otherwise in doing so.)

So I thought I'd share with you some of the drawing I've been doing for my Birmingham library inspired piece. I started with these rough drawings to try to see exactly what was going on with that decorative surface

printed using a foam stamp I made
Then I isolated a couple of shapes and chose one to make 2 print blocks out of (one positive and one negative) and have been noodling around with these for a while, but not particularly enamoured as it seemed to be giving results that were neat, ordered, static & flat - none of which really do it for me I'm afraid!

The final drawing was made after isolating an area that had been photographed at an angle -  and I think this gives it a bit more movement,  interest and depth so I think I'm starting to get somewhere..............I still don't have a final 'plan' with this and will just keep chipping away until it develops into something. My next task will be to consider what sort of materials and techniques are going to  help me achieve this, and move on to some 'try out' samples.

isolating a small area to work from
sketch with pencil

I hope you have found this useful - I think it's empowering to realise that design ideas don't arrive fully formed out of the blue like lightening for most of us mere mortals, but that you can see how chipping away can lead on to some interesting avenues. I'm always fascinated to hear about other peoples ways of working creatively - Where do you find your inspirations, and how do you 'get started'?

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