Friday, 30 January 2015

Designing for Embroidery?

Most shocking quote of the day...(I nearly fainted),
'You might be doing MA ‘Embroidery’ but that doesn't mean you might not end up with just paintings for example, you may not do ANY embroidery.' WHAT?!!!!

I took a look at my sketchbook this weekend... and then today I talked about it, although I couldn't actually manage to carry it all the way to MMU - snowstorms not withstanding. I was worried that my concept wasn't coming through enough in a focused/obvious way. I know why, and generally it does. But I wanted to take my own advice and get initial ideas out of my head and down on paper (in order to let it later develop and hopefully get more fabulous almost accidentally) so that I could get on with trying to visually communicate (perhaps or maybe not [!] through embroidery), what it is that I am trying to. I may have mentioned it before but so I can practice rolling it off my tongue, it's about; 'the finding/uncovering of objects left behind in a derelict, desolate landscape, that which give a sense of place... it's about the presence of an absence'.
That, is my 'elevator pitch' attempting to get across the inspiration, (aims?) and meaning in as few words as possible. Now I shall attempt to learn it rote fashion and see if it will stick in my brain. (I have just made myself smile by mistyping 'stick in my Brian' - small things)

So...the sketchbookSome things didn't work and others were a lot more difficult to get absolutely looking right than I had expected but I do quite like the results. I have absolutely NO idea how any of it will finally be concluded, if at all.
Anyway it 'doesn't matter yet' said Alex. Good.

We had a group discussion about what our expectations were (before starting) and how we felt/feel about our MA, the course, structure, sessions everything. My mouth spilled forth my innermost, I have ruined the persona I thought I had constructed for myself as an intelligent, confident woman and trashed it. They were all a bit shocked. Except Debra who already knows.

Sunday, 18 January 2015


A little bit of problem solving left to do... how to make this hang correctly, after my accurate but useless measuring (I should have just done it by eye)... maybe I'll go with the earlier option of folding the piece and laying it atop a plinth... obscuring parts to invoke curiosity and interest, referring to the issue itself; the council brushing the seacoalers under the carpet so to speak, and making things difficult.

Excerpts from my conclusion/evaluation: 'When I started this personal project, stemming from the mapping group discourses, I identified a number of 'contested territories' in my local area; most of which were within a 3 mile radius in the Hartlepool, Seaton Carew and Port Clarence areas. My further, more focused research on seacoaling and the councils preventative measures of it, took me also to Seaham and Sunderland, a little further north and to (recorded) conversations with locals of some notoriety about their personal experience of seacoaling;
   'demonstrate (ing) that the more specific, local instance can often provide the most significant illumination of the human predicament' (Amber Productions, 2014)

Seacoaling was a hard, hard way of life for people trying to scrape an honest (?) living and get through times of poverty and, in all weathers; rain, sleet, snow, biting winds, and twice a day, often in the dark. Heavy manual labour carried out by both men and women, and often helped by their children. A longstanding tradition, it has now become essentially eradicated by local Borough Councils...though one must ask 'what harm does it do?'

Q: Why did Hartlepool Council landscape the Seaton Carew promenade? Pave the small access road (used for the lifeboat and diggers/sand movers/smoothers/emergency vehicles)? Why are there big black bollards? And signs saying, 'No this, no that'? 
A: To stop unwanted access by vehicles, and in terms of the seacoalers, noise pollution and unsightly views brought about by their trucks and to help make the beaches safe and clean for all the public to enjoy. 

Don't seacoalers help keep the beaches 'clean' by removing the black coal from the beaches?
Although this local issue may seem a small thing, one that may not matter to many in the grand scheme of things, this shoreline IS a site for contestation and could be said to be a microcosm of the bigger, wider issue it brings about questions and thoughts of injustice, unfairness, rights, ownership, what is truly public, freedom, barriers, borders, territories, memory, and so on.'

The exhibition blurb which is most likely to be refined and possibly rewritten to be less pretentious... 
A meandering, stitched line of washed up seacoal, paused just as it hits the edge of the water, inferring the shape of the coastline, that has been carried in on the waves glints just off centre within this piece, and is of course it’s focal point. The ‘coal’ becomes a hidden treasure (as it is to those who collected it) just under the surface when the fabric is folded or glimpsed now and again as the silk moves gently on a (sea) breeze when hung. A hand-painted and over-dyed ground of a digitally printed photograph portraying the measures put in place by the council to prevent beach access by the seacoalers, contests the embroidery; in colour, depth, permanence, richness and importance.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

In the library...

It was assessment day, not for me but I thought I would get a sneaky preview of the full time students work before it's my turn in May, no such luck - we were barred from the studio early doors so I accordingly attended my Contested Territories lecture on Contested Memory... and it was really good/thought provoking. It was all about interesting stuff including Holocaust Memory and the power/politics of what is chosen to be remembered and what is chosen to be forgotten, the eradication of collective memory and how artists/photographers etc. portray and/or 'aid' collective memory. 
Then my plan was to use the time of banishment to work on my CAD files for the Brother embroidery machine and come up with something amazingly beautiful, after a quick trip to the library.  So after a short and useful meeting over lunch (well a banana), I duly went to the library. I spent 3.5 HOURS writing a conclusion for my CT research... 1.500 words; I think the whole project should have been done in that many. Then I spent 35 extra minutes looking for books to support the mornings lecture, numbered and in a 'system', should have been easier - out of a list of 9 (available) I found 4 that were there, but minus one as it was too heavy.
So no amazing embroidery design but a DVD for the weekend:- 'Eichmann', the trial of a Nazi war criminal. Can't wait.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Contested Territories... THE Textile Piece!

So I've been busy.... sampling and trying to figure out my final exhibition piece. The pressure is on as this will be the first piece of work my MA peers will have ever seen of mine so obviously I want it to look good BUT the piece of work itself is not assessed so... a quandary. What IS being assessed is the 'writing' that goes with it, the collaboration that has taken place, the resulting group exhibition and the research (I guess).
As usual, it quickly became clear that the idea in my head was not going to look as amazing as I imagined, and that, almost as soon as I started sampling. I decided to work on 3 identical pieces of fabric - a medium weight linen which would support any embellishments and still hang nicely, I dyed them all the same sandy beige/taupe base colour (with coffee because it always works) in various densities. Then I etched my illustrator drawing of the Hartlepool, Seaton Carew, Teesside coastline - I wanted a clean crisp line and my thinking was that it would not only be a hypothetical border but also a barrier - to the indigo dye I intended to handpaint with... I hoped it would stop at the line, which it actually did in a few tests. It was rather successful (until I washed it and it frayed badly - but in a good way (image No. 5).
1. Etched Coastline
2. Cut Coastline
3. Etched then washed coastline
A little washed out, with neon pink Japanese braid pinpointing Seaton Carew and Hartlepool, I then went for the Irish Machine, NOT for quickness, really, but because I was aiming for the widest satin stitch and layers of stitching for a lumpy effect (re. coal). As I explained to my students who witnessed my swearing at the said Irish, when they asked what I was doing, this is a 'fine art' outcome not a 'decorative' one :-)
4. Colour or Black & White?
I managed to get a silk chiffon digital print rushed through (though there was no silk organza which is my preference). I had to try both colour and black & white, as I am trying to produce 3 finals so I can choose the best one. I do prefer the colour against the background. Notice I've laid some glass black beading along my coastline on the right. Loving it. It says coal so well and not that blatantly, mmm I might do a questionnaire about that - 'What do YOU think it means?' Well, not you. You know!
5. Etched, washed and stitched coastline
I don't usually do messy... but hey I might!
6. Handpainted, stitched and beaded silk organza
I would say this sample was my eureka moment, at the exact point that I folded it up. Now this IS organza, it dyes so beautifully, coffee and quink ink... then bleach - delicious and as transparent as you can get without being clear vinyl/shower curtain or tulle. I think the way the embroidered rivulet band of coal (!) and loose threads can still be seen through the layers and how they are partially obscured, to be very apt And then, depending on the way the light hits, you catch a glimmer, a sparkle of the beads - like hidden treasure just under the surface, which is exactly what sea coal was to those who collected it.
7. Organza Detail 
So I did have three linen pieces, two of which are now cut up as samples though one is still my back up plan. I also now have a clear idea of how I will produce THE final. Fingers crossed X

Friday, 2 January 2015

Contested Territories: Coastline

A post completely devoted to my Contested Territories module/project as that is what I have mainly been working on this 'holiday', and hopefully soon to be finalised...
I have been organising my research and putting my words into a ledger... I have completed 5 final photographs ( another one of these shown below) that (hopefully) illustrate my line of enquiry as well as working out a textile response. 

I spent a research day last week in County Durham in conversation with Barry, a local historian, and a bloke who used to go Sea-coaling, called Pokey. The photograph below shows what was outside the house. Anyway, I have therefore obtained a sound recording of our 'interview' (more like them talking and me butting in sometimes) which I think would be fabulous played through headphones, next to my exhibits to add a bit of flavour, background and human interest. It was a very interesting experience and I could have sat there for hours, listening to that accent and tales of 'yesterday', the working class man, hardship and survival in austere times. It was very informal with cup of coffees in hand, mobile phone interruptions and I have to say the amount of 'drop in' visitors Barry gets is unbelievable - his door is literally ALWAYS open... and locals do seem to take advantage of that. The recording is quite good considering the amount of people and dogs coming and going. At one point there was 7 people in that living room and 2 dogs.

A pheasant present left for Barry.
Hopefully my next post will be all about THE textile piece and my conclusion! Still a bit of work to do...