Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Lazy day!

Today was a lazy day. We were supposed to bring our own work to do, but somehow no-one was in the mood for working! Here we are browsing some books instead.

Carol and Helen were the only ones working. Carol was knitting a gorgeous blue scarf to sell at the EWES (Epping Weavers Embroiderers & Spinners) sale of work next weekend at the Epping Creative Centre, Dence Park, Epping (in Sydney).
Helen was working on an embroidered work that she brings out when she has nothing else to do.
Isn’t it lovely? She asks if you can see the missed stitch! Can you? She knows it’s there and was just about to fix it when I caught her with my camera!

Part of the laziness was probably due to post-Forum blues. Some of our members attended the Textile Fibre Forum at Orange last week and had brought back amazing class samples to share.
Tricia took a class with Hilary Petersen. The class was quite complex, but Tricia became interested in the eco-dyeing and focused on that. These cocoons and “stuff” were dyed in a bath of prunus leaves with alum as the mordant.
These are pieces of mulberry bark. The left side piece was dyed in a bath of bark and ferrous sulphate; the right was dyed in a red onion skin bath.

Don’t the red onion skins give an interesting rich colour? I wouldn’t have expected lime green! But it's quite different if the red onion skins are placed in the folds and the fabric is dyed in another bath. This one was dyed in a bath of brown onion skins, with the red onion skins in the folds.

This one was dyed in a bath of unknown eucalyptus leaves with cheap black yarn wrapped randomly. The mordant was copper sulphate. The black yarn has left delicate black patterning, rather like the bark of scribbly gums.

This one was dyed with bark and ferrous sulphate, and sticks were individually tied inside it, giving the witchetty grub effect.

The bark and ferrous sulphate bath used for the mulberry bark above was used to dye these ones. The first had cinerea leaves inside; the second, red onion skins.

This one was dyed in the same bath of young eucalyptus leaves and copper sulphate, wrapped around a bamboo mat.

(I hope I have these samples right!) This is just a glimpse of the samples she made. It’s astonishing to see how much colour variation there is in dye baths made with natural products you’d find in your garden.

Maz took a workshop with Kerr Grabowski, the queen of deconstructed screen printing. Her samples were just amazing. In this technique, you create a unique screen with dye and alginate, using any of several methods to put pattern on the screen. You can paint directly on the screen, but you can also use leaves, cut-outs, contact paper, fibres, anything you can imagine, to put the initial pattern in the dye on the screen by pulling a print over them. Then, once it is dry, this colour is released by printing with just the alginate. Each screen produces multiple prints as the dye is slowly released, and no two are exactly the same. The damp fabrics are then batched in plastic bags in the sun, to set the dye.

This screen was prepared using leaves and drawn elements.

This one used contact paper, strands from a mop, play coins and cut-out paper.
This time she used the same method but the coloured alginate in the well of the screen was taken out after the first pull, and colour and more alginate added for the next print.
This one uses the same method again but the blue was painted on afterwards.
Here, Maz used cut-out stencils as a base. The two colours were mixed with the alginate and spooned onto the screen, mixing on the screen when the initial print was taken.
It’s a fascinating process, since it takes away the primary characteristic of screen printing, the repetition of the same image exactly the same each time, and allows the possibility of serendipitous effects. The result is a series of prints that are clearly related but not identical.

Maz also brought along her finished toran. Some ATASDA members have been participating in a round robin activity, as part of the run-up to the Palm House exhibition, Voyages of the Imagination, to be held in August 2010 at the Sydney Botanic Gardens. The round robin theme was Passages of Intrigue, and the structure was a hanging to go over a doorway, like the torans found in some Asian countries. Here’s the front:
And here’s the back:
Maz printed the elephants along the top. Aren’t they gorgeous? Hopefully, more ATASDA members' torans will be available to enjoy on their website soon.
So we may have been lazy this week, but hard work has been done! Perhaps we were just due for a rest?

Monday, 5 April 2010

Abstracting from photos

Our second March meeting was a small one. I think perhaps the topic scared some people away! We did some drawing exercises, working from photos to create abstract images. Only three of us did the exercises and one is too embarrassed by her work to share it. I think we all know how that feels.

Nola drew up an activity sheet, with some thoughts about abstraction and some drawing tasks. The tasks were pretty easy ones, since drawing is so scary for many people. There was no central organisation: people just worked on whichever exercises interested them.

Here’s one way of thinking about Abstract vs Non-Objective shapes:
Abstract shapes share a relationship with a realistic object. A shape can be various levels of abstractions, from almost representational through to barely representational at all. Non-objective shapes have no connection to a representative shape, though they may be inspired by a shape, colour or mood. We’re working with abstracting – i.e. we began with a photo of something specific.

Before you start drawing, you could consider some basic design elements.
• Decide whether you are working in portrait or landscape. You don’t have to use the same orientation as your photo or even the same orientation each time.
• Choose a focal point for your design. High on the page, low on the page; central or offset.
• What movement might you want in your drawing? Horizontal movement is calm and restful, vertical movement suggests growth and change.
• How will balance feature in your design? Balance has a strong influence on the mood of a composition. Designs with symmetrical balance or repeated similar shapes, colours, tones, lines are stable, calm, even rigid, and can organise many busy elements. Informal or asymmetrical balanced designs have dissimilar shapes, with unequal visual weight, which can feel casual or natural, or even unsettled. Circular or radial balance from the centre of a composition feels stable, while the same kind of balance from an offset point feels informal or unsettling. “Crystallographic” balance uses all-over pattern without a focal point, with equal emphasis over the whole composition, and a balance between positive and negative space.

Shape exercises:
1. Draw or trace outlines of shapes from your photo, without any interior details.
• Isolate one shape and doodle it into something else, by adding more exterior lines
• Isolate one shape and repeat it in a pattern. Make your pattern dense. Draw it again with a less dense layout.
• Mirror your shape.(If you don’t have confidence in your drawing skills and you don’t want to fold your paper, you can do this by holding the paper up to the window and tracing it onto the back of your sheet, tracing this copy onto another sheet and then tracing from that one onto the front side of your paper.)
• Rotate the shape
• Draw the shape as a circular repeat
2. Look at where the light falls on the main shapes in your photo. Draw contour lines to show the brightest areas and the darkest areas. (Can’t see it? Try squinting – it often helps to see tonal values. It’s also easier to see on a black and white image.) Make sure your contours are whole shapes, not just lines. Erase any lines that are not shapes. Play with your contour shapes – pattern them, colour them, interlock them.
3. Look at the negative space in your photo. Draw or trace these shapes a couple of times
• Pattern the shapes with doodles.
• Colour the negative space. One colour? Adjacent colours on the colour wheel? Will your shapes have an outline (which brings back the object more)?
• Use the same shape, without a strong outline, and add outlines in successive colours or tones to make contours in the negative shapes. Try different shaped outlines – ones that mimic the shape, ones that accentuate it, ones that are unrelated to the shape.
4. Use the dominant lines in your photo to make geometric shapes
• Look at where the strongest lines are on your image. Draw these on a piece of paper.
• Turn the lines into geometric planes.
• Add colour to the planes
5. Silhouettes – use the shapes from an image as silhouettes against a different background. Doodle a patterned background or use one of your earlier pages. Make your silhouette dark to contrast with a lighter, more open background. Try a light silhouette against a denser, darker patterned background.
1. Focus on a small part of your image. Draw it in large scale, taking up the whole page. Don’t worry too much if your shape isn’t exact.
• Add pattern elements within the shapes.
• Experiment with different patterns – swirling and geometric, patterns that mimic the overall shape, patterns that contrast, small patterns and larger ones.
2. Use the shapes of your image and miniaturise them.
• Repeat the shapes in a regular pattern.
• Repeat the shapes in an irregular pattern.
• Experiment with closer and further apart spacing.
1. Using some of your earlier shapes, work with unexpected colours. Try to establish a specific mood – excited, sombre, spooky…
2. Try shading colours from one to another.
3. Use different tones of a hue to suggest depth, but in a different way to the shades in your photo.

Nola worked from this photo:
The obvious element was the flower shape.
First she drew the outline and doodled it into a butterfly.
“This was really a warm-up exercise, just to get my head into a drawing place.”
Then, with two L-shaped scraps of paper, she isolated a small part of the photo...
… and drew the main design lines. Then she extended the design lines beyond the original shape (marked with a rectangle) and added some internal lines and pattern.
This one took elements from this image and rotated them around a central point. It still looks very flower-like, though. Interesting twist happening...
This one was from the contoured activity, using the original base shape, but the image was quite small and it was too hard to work with.
"I can see this has possibilities,  drawn larger and with the original lines removed."
This one uses the negative shapes around the original flower shape.
"They all look like weird bats! But interesting shapes..."
“This one was colouring contour lines and it’s pretty uninteresting. None of my drawings will set the world on fire, but it was a fun exercise and gave me some interesting things to think about.” Maz's drawing to follow...
Show and tell:
Meanwhile our members have been abstracting in other ways.
Maz took a class in screen printing with Marie-Therese Wisniozski and she brought her class work to show us. Her first prints were made using a circle, which was torn apart and used as positive and negative screen stencils.
"These were really to get us used to the process of printing."
Each student had taken along a prepared stencil. Maz’s was based on a garbage bin design she had done previously. Isn't it fascinating how the most mundane things give really interesting patterns? She pulled repeat screens, putting two colours, blue and green, in the well and allowing them to mix as she pulled the print.
In this print, she printed the screen area in black several times, and allowed it to dry. Then she positioned a simple stencil on the screen over the top and pulled prints with several colours in the well, allowing them to blend.
This screen used torn pieces of masking tape as the stencil. The lower sample was printed several times with the same screen and different colours.
This sample used multiple layers of screens – first without a stencil, then with positive and negative versions of the same few stencils. Some printing inks were opaque, so they were unaffected by the colours underneath, while others were transparent and changed according to the colour previously printed.

Isn’t it wonderful? Maz really recommends Marie-Therese as a tutor! You can see how she built up the complexity of the tasks, until, by the end, the students were making really complex pieces of printed cloth.

Meanwhile, Beverley took a dyeing workshop - pictures please, Beverley? (Since our official photographer was too busy admiring them!) Tricia was working with pattern of a different kind with her beautiful crochet scarf.
Can you see the way the colour of the variegated yarn works perfectly with the design?
Our next meeting will be delayed by Fibre Forum at Orange. Expect to see the results of wonderful workshops here, after April 19.