Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Collaborative project

Our meeting a few weeks ago saw the return of the Round Robin book project pages to their owners. We have been working on pages for each other since early 2009. Each person set a theme and provided A4-sized background fabric in landscape orientation. The idea was to make a double page spread that could be assembled into a book, but could also be used in other ways, if the owner preferred.
Beverley's pages
Beverley’s theme was leaves. Her folder went first to Carol, then Helen, Nola, Prue and Tricia. It’s interesting to see how we were influenced by the seasons during the project, as the book passed from hand to hand.

For her autumn leaf page, Carol appliquéd leaves onto the fabric and added touches of gold. She wrote an autumn Haiku to accompany them:
Round and round
The autumn winds swirl.
Another leaf falls.
Helen was also inspired by the autumn and swirling leaves. Her leaves were appliqued with narrow machine satin stitch. She also added text, a haiku by Kyoshi Takahama:
The winds that blow
Ask them, which leaf on the tree
Will be the next to go.
Nola – "I wanted mine to be a single huge leaf. I was inspired by a photo from a National Geographic magazine, which was an aerial shot of fields and roads, surrounded by forest, that looked like a leaf. I wanted to combine that shape with the colour patterns on a leaf in another photograph I have. I drew some sketches with that in mind but I got interested in the pattern and colour, my leaf became less and less like the photograph." Sketched in watercolour pencil and painted in Setacolor paints.
Prue made a complex layered page. She made a lace leaf, and added leaf prints on a folded page stitched onto the flat page. It's very delicate and absolutely gorgeous!
The front of the fold
The centre fold
The back fold
Tricia - “Leaves was a good theme to explore as I'm quite fond of trees. After getting carried away with some Shiva stick rubbings, I suddenly thought, "I wonder if you can Vlisofix over Shiva paint?" Answer - you can! What's more, as the fabric I used was silk organza, you can still make out the Shiva rubbings underneath. I then added some acorns using my fabric pencils.”
Carol's pages
Carol asked for paper dolls, in a book she had made. She gave each person their choice of background papers as she made the book. Her book went to Helen, Nola, Prue, Tricia then Beverley.

Helen made some gorgeous Japanese paper dolls, inspired by an actual little doll from Tokyo that she owns.  She added to the background pattern with silver pen.
Nola was intrigued by robot figures after seeing an image of a robot “family” of servants. “They looked far too block-like and utilitarian – surely any red-blooded engineer would design a lovely feminine robot, with curves in all the right places? She may be “on charge” in the utility room, but she still loves deciding what to wear at the start of the day.” The images were drawn in pencil and then painted in acrylic paints, with some detail added in pen and pencil.
Prue wanted to make some fairies in the garden. They are cleverly hidden among the real ferns and pressed flowers.
Tricia had the book during the hottest days of summer and her paper doll is lying on a beach, surrounded by admiring young men. “I originally thought that I would like to make a whole lot of paper-doll chains and arrange them on the pages in some sort of pattern. However, when I started producing the paper figures, another design appeared and so I worked to a sort of paper-doll beach theme. My beach lady has lots of admirers.”
Beverley made sumptuous paper dresses for her page.

Helen's pages
Helen’s theme was Faraway Places and she gave us a little book of “travel” poems for inspiration.

Her book went to Nola first, who was inspired by the poem by Oscar Wilde:
The almond groves of Samarkand
Bokhara, where red lilies blow
And Oxus, by whose yellow sands
The grave white turbaned merchants go.

And from there to Ispahan
The golden garden of the sun
When the lone dusty caravan
Brings cedar and vermilion.
She researched the exotic cities in the poem and became fascinated with “Ispahan”, modern Isfahan in Iran. “I found a quotation about Isfahan in a book, "under avenues of white tree trunks and canopies of shining twigs, past domes of turquoise and spring yellow, in a sky of liquid violet blue… across bridges of pale toffee brick, tier on tier of arches breaking into piled pavilions; overlooked by lilac mountains…" (Robert Byron). That’s just how it looks, and I wanted to incorporate these vivid colours into my page. The older buildings of the city are all spectacular, but in the end I simplified my page to just one building, inspired by the beautiful Shah mosque. The many bridges are beautiful things in Isfahan, but I used the shape of the gate of Chahar Bagh school as the arches of the bridge.” The shapes were sketched onto the fabric with watercolour pencils, and then painted with Setacolor fabric paints. The tile details were added with Prismacolor pencil.
Prue was inspired by the aurora borealis, shining on the ice. She said, “I know when we've been out of town late at night, the stars are just mind blowing, millions of them! We forget,  when we live in our cities…”
Tricia - “From Helen's list, I chose the poem, "Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I scanned in an Asian print and some of the words of the poem. I happened to have a piece of printed fabric decorated with a nice Chinese temple in the right colours, and a very nice stamp that I've been wanting to use. I also had a go at foiling but I think my glue's a bit old.”
Beverley chose the Australia poem Clancy of the Overflow by A.B. Paterson.
 I see the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.
She works in an abstract way, so she played with the Southern Cross image.
Carol was also inspired by the Australian landscape. She drew her image in black pen onto the background.
Nola's pages
 Nola’s book theme was “Travelling to Byzantium” and she supplied an excerpt of the Yeats poem of the same name. Her backgrounds were hand painted to look like palimpsest vellum, i.e. traces of previous writing in the alphabet of Byzantium could still be seen.

Beverley’s research found that the peacock was a common Byzantine symbol.
Carol’s page focused on Empress Theodora, using the beautiful Byzantine art in Ravenna as her inspiration. She included an amazing tatted cross that she made from gold thread. She also played with the palimpsest idea by adding more Greek text under the images.

Helen became fascinated by the sea battles of Lepanto, between the Venetian fleet and the Muslims, now based in Byzantium. “It was a part of the sometimes violent history of Byzantium.” Knowing Nola’s interest in maps, Helen printed one onto fabric as the underlay and then images of ships of the time and Ali Pasha, who died in the battle.
Prue also played with the idea of a document having multiple previous uses. She printed layers of images and text on her page, to reflect the complex images of Byzantine art. She was reminded of her visit to Greece, especially Agios Dimitrios. “Set several metres below current road level, it itself was built over Roman shops and a street (now in the crypt)… It demonstrated to us the layering of history.” She included a plan of Hagia Eirene, the 6th century Byzantine church commissioned by Constantine in honour of the emperor Justinian. Images of Byzantine mosaics and a sailing ship were “aged” on the computer. Prue commented, “I had forgotten how important Byzantium was – such a melting pot... Wonderful to see the texts decorated with strapping and plaiting and birds & beasties, then introduced to Ireland in the early 5th century.”
Tricia was inspired by a Coptic tapestry from the Byzantine period. Ancient textiles are so rare, since our medium is not known for longevity! “I scanned it, and to make life simpler, I blotted out the whole background of the original tapestry, including the red flowers so that I could print it onto the lovely background Nola had provided. I then made a stamp and put the flowers back on again. I've highlighted some of the red swirls and stitched in some lines for a little texture.”
Nola added, "I an totally blown away by my pages. I plan to make a final page myself and then assemble them into a book."
Prue's pages
Prue’s theme was Gardens, passionate garden-lover as she is. Her folder began with Tricia, then went to Beverley, Carol, Helen, and Nola.

Tricia  - "This is the first time I've machine embroidered anything. Prue's beautifully printed fabric practically screamed the design at me so I thought I'd give it a shot. The scene suggested a stream with overhanging branches and plants by the water's edge. I've finished the piece with some fabric paints and pencils."

Beverley – “I feel comfortable working in a non-representational way. I added layers of fabric and stitch until the page felt finished.”
Carol – “I went with the shapes on the background fabric, which suggested a pathway. Then it needed a wall. I went on adding elements by appliqué and stitch, first the shrub in the garden, then the flowers by the pathway, and then the cat strolled through the gate and sat in the sunshine.”
Helen - “My inspiration for Prue's flowers was a series of window boxes I
photographed in Switzerland.” Helen loves to embroider on rug canvas, and the riotous colour within the strong linear structure perfectly captures the window boxes.
Nola – “I found Prue’s page the most difficult, I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was because, as I was last, I had fewer choices in background. I chose a white damask fabric and painted in light green, mostly to take away the brightness. This made the surface elements stand out, so I took those as my starting place and painted brightly coloured flowers. There was enough variation in the background colour I painted to give the feeling of light and shadow.” Background painted in Setacolor transparent paints, flowers in Setacolor opaque paints.
Tricia's pages
Tricia’s plan was to use warm colours and the designs on her shibori-dyed cotton, in whatever way we liked. Her folder travelled to Beverley, then Carol, Helen, Nola and Prue.

Beverley’s background piece had a lot of variation. “I wanted to keep the background colour visible, so I stitched in a grid over the top, and embellished it very lightly.”
Carol - “I had some trouble with this piece. I added a lot of Sashiko stitching but it really didn’t look right, so I painstakingly took it all out again. I realised it needed only the simplest of designs, so I worked with the famous Chinese story of the butterfly lovers.”
Helen  - "The background and Tricia's request for warm colours but no yellow fed the idea for her page." She used a range of different machine stitches and threads to enhance the pattern on the cloth.
Nola - “My fabric has only small areas of blue dye on it and was mostly white. I found that quite difficult, but the pattern suggested a pathway, or road. I saw a friend’s photographs of autumn leaves in Toronto, Canada, and I was inspired to paint an autumn road.”
Prue – “My fabric piece had a rippled pattern all over, which immediately reminded me of water. I found it hard to add any warm colours, as Tricia had requested, so mine is basically blue and white.”
Tricia added, "My pieces of indigo dyed fabric have all come back to me as five completely different artworks. I have decided to put them into a quilt/wall hanging, using some of the remaining pieces of fabric."

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