Final Assignment: Three Stitched Line Pieces

Initially, I intended to do more meticulous material manipulations to create interesting base fabrics. I started making several samples based on several of the ideas I jotted down on a sketchbook (a new one I started for this assignment). The sketchbook is intended to be used beyond this course as well, so I left ample space to jot down future notes.

However, the sample experiments did not go well. They either took too much time to shape up, too fragile / unstable / unravel easily, or just overall too tedious. They can be stunning, yes, but they would end up overshadowing the stitched lines.

So I ended up going with transparent base fabrics I already owned. True to objectives outlined during the preparation phase, I went back and chose several layers of chiffon polyester, nylon tulle, sturdier polyester blend fabrics, and cotton.

Working with sketchbook
I’d like to note several things about using sketchbook during this process. Perhaps it’s because of time constraint, but methodical testing of many variations on the sketchbook as suggested on the coursework binder gradually dampened my creative spirit.

I thought about why this was the case, and I believe these are the reasons why it’s not the most effective approach for working on this particular assignment:

  • I have prior experience working with familiar fabrics, so I can go back to how my sewing machine or I can handle them effectively.
  • I only had 1.5 weeks to create three stitched line pieces, so meticulous testing was going to eat up my time to create the actual pieces and I would end up compromising things depending on how much time I had.
  • I find it the most exciting when I try out a few ideas and immediately do the rest of the exploration on an actual textile piece, including on-demand problem solving.
  • I might not have enough fabric scraps or notions to test things out in a smaller scale first. After all, the amount of remnants are limited and I’d like to have an assurance that I have enough materials to work with.
  • Part of the creative joy of making something is the unknown; how we deal with challenges along the way to create “magic” in our pieces. Trying out everything beforehand takes out the necessary excitement to deal with unknown tensions I would surely encounter.
  • I view notebooks – and sketchbooks as an extension – as an effective tool for note taking and documenting. It’s more “left-brain” methodical than creativity inducing. Things like planning, organizing, counting, journaling, making to-do lists are great, but not necessarily creative inspiring.

I found it helpful to list my dilemma about sketchbooks. Not because I despise them, but because I haven’t found a harmonious way to work with them. As I will experiment more with mark makings and sketching in the future, I believe I will be able to view sketchbook maintaining as an effective way to hone my personal creative voice.

That said, for this assignment, eventually I went on with a few minimal testings here and there and do on-demand problem solving to create the three stitched line pieces. The progress and used paper materials are documented and kept in the sketchbook*.

*There are no pictures of the sketchbook in this blog post. They are shown to the tutor via video recording only.

Stitched Line Piece #1: Layered Sandals Handkerchief

This work is an extension of my left sandal drawing using my (non-dominant) left hand back in Part 1. I got re-inspired by the continuous line drawing and resolved to use the original drawing as source material.

My left sandal
My (non-dominant) left hand sketches of the left sandal

Inspiration:
Out of the three continuous line drawings of a left sandal, I am most attracted to the leftmost version since it’s the first one I made with my left hand. It’s the purest representation of my left hand drawing of this particular object: raw, bold, yet imperfect. I want to see if I can celebrate this quality in a more refined way without losing some lightness.

I like the quality of hand stitch / embroidery on a transparent, fragile fabric, so I decided to do running stitch and backstitch hand embroidery technique on the sandal outlines.

I chose a square handkerchief shape because it can be elegant yet casually playful. I was driven to create some depth of shapes that can vary one’s perception based on available light source, surface, or which side one chooses to observe.

So I decided it will have three layers, each layer would have a pair of sandal outlines in varying scales. When they’re assembled together, some sandals will be easier to see than the others, depending on light source, surface, or the stitched line piece’s side.

Materials:
So I chose several diaphanous fabrics as base fabrics. The first one is a relatively sturdy yet thin ivory polyester / linen blend. It has beautiful subtle textures and I want to showcase it as the top layer. It’s also perfectly sized at 18″ x 18″ with unfinished edges, so it could be easily trimmed to 17″ x 17″ when finished.

I also cut two layers of pale blue / gray chiffon polyester that I cut into 18″ x 18″ size. They are used as the middle and bottom layers.

The other materials I use are blue embroidery flosses, hand embroidery needles, and embroidery hoop. The sandal drawings are copied into three different scales, mirrored, and printed onto Sulky stabilizer that were then sticked onto the diaphanous fabrics.

Design Process:
After choosing the base fabrics, the initial making process can be summarized as follows:

  1. Copy left sandal drawing in multiple scales from 100% to 45%. After some composition tests, I decided to go with 95%, 70%, and 45% scales.
  2. The three chosen copies are then mirrored to create the right sandal outline on the other side of the paper. Now there are 6 sandal outlines: 3 pairs of left and right sandals in 95%, 70%, and 45% scale.
  3. All six copies are copied onto Sulky materials, and cut to size.
  4. The sandals are then arranged into a final composition.
Final composition test

Once I was satisfied with the final composition, I sticked a pair of Sulky stabilizers onto each layer of fabric. The left and right sandal for each layer shouldn’t be of the same scale. Here’s what I ended up doing:

Top layer: 95% scale for left sandal, 70% for right sandal.
Middle: 45% L, 95% R.
Bottom: 70% L, 45% R.

From here on, long process of hand embroidering with navy blue floss began. I used two strands at a time, starting with the bottom layer. Bottom and middle layers’ outlines are made with running stitches only.

Bottom layer of sandal handkerchief

Only the top layer has more stitch varieties:

  • front-facing backstitch for right sandal outline
  • back-facing backstitch for left sandal outline
  • running stitch for complementary lines (heel pad or supporting curves near the front of sandal)
  • satin stitch for mineral rock cut-out accents on the heels
Working on back-facing backstitch on the top layer

Hand embroidery took time, but the end result was very clean. To finish it neatly, I added navy blue double-fold bias tape around the stacked piece. The fraying edges are covered with clean mitered corners.

Finishing with bias tape

Result:
Looking at the finished piece, I believe I achieved what I wanted to convey at the beginning – elegance and lightness. It’s also clean and neatly done, with some minor spots of charming imperfections.

The layers make it an interesting piece that can be seen multiple ways – from the front or the back, on a surface or against a light source – the holder’s chosen method will dictate what they see, and that contributes to personal experience in relation to this piece. My favorite way is to hold it up against a window on a daylight; the textures of the background, multiple embroidery stitches, and the depth of the piece feels very refreshing and calming.

Sandals handkerchief – viewed on top of a flat surface
Sandals handkerchief – viewed against a window with natural light
Sandals handkerchief – backside viewing against a window with natural light

The only thing that didn’t work so well was my time management. I overestimated myself – I thought I could finish the whole piece in three days. I ended up spending 4.5 days, some with late night work due to my relatively slow hand embroidery pace. That said, the result is so good that it’s all worth it!

Next steps:
If I have a chance to expand on this project in the future, I’d like to use thicker lines of stitches on the inner layers and use thinner on outer ones. That way, the piece will look more delicate yet flatter.

Or if I want to focus on creating more depth, it will be fun to create an outdoor (or indoor) installation of layers of diaphanous fabrics hung with a set space from one another, with varying levels of sizes, preferably in gradual ascent or descent. The embroidered stitched lines can either be a shape of objects or an extension of the gradual ascent or descent of fabric sizes. If it’s the latter, the piece will mimic layers of rock sediments found in nature – at least that’s how I pictured it in my mind.

Stitched Line Piece #2: Vintage Purse – Inspired Textile

If sandals handkerchief is all about hand embroidery, this textile piece is made with a combination between hand stitching and machine sewing, more heavily on the latter. The textile piece is more stacked and durable with some surface textures and intricate stitch line details.

My vintage purse
Right hand drawing of the vintage purse

Inspiration:
Like the sandals handkerchief, the main inspiration comes directly from the drawing I made in Part 1 exercise. This time, I wanted to preserve its original scale as much as possible. Moreover, I’d like to isolate a section of the drawing and treat it as a repeat pattern piece that can be used as a template to create framing accents around more intricate stitching details.

In a way, I view this project as a combination of both stitched lines and fabric collage, since the framing accent is made with a jacquard fabric stitched on top of a stack of fabrics. The idea is to explore both sturdier stacking / layering with more intricate details.

Materials:
The white cotton fabric I chose as a base was a home decor remnant, and I was able to contain and finish the edges to A3 size. On top of this cotton, I stacked two layers of white polyester chiffons with raw edges.

The framings stitched on top of the stack is made with pieced jacquard fabric, whereas the fanning out shapes are made with zig-zagging fringe cut-out remnants from Part 4.3 exercise.

The rest of the materials are sequin circles cut out from a rescued sequin trim, as well as polyester threads in gold, pale gray, white, and navy blue. Supporting fabric transfer tools like carbon paper and temporary fabric marker were also used.

Design Process:
The first thing to do was to decide on drawing scale. After a few copying tests, I settled with 90%. Then, I made 6 copies of the 90% copy using tracing papers.

Once I had all six of them, I treat them as repeat pattern and arrange them to cover the whole A3 size. This way, I had my pattern template for the “frames.”

The so-called “frames” are made with a jacquard fabric remnant. I didn’t have one piece long enough to cover the whole A3 size, so first I pieced them together from two remnants, matching their pattern.

Once I had this piece, I traced the “frames” of the template with carbon transfer paper. Then I cut out the jacquard fabric following the tracing lines with an Xacto knife.

Forming the “frames”
When all “frames” are cut out

Once the framing cut-outs are done, I sew this jacquard fabric onto the cotton and chiffon base stack.

Next step was all about precision work. I carbon transferred one of the fanning outlines onto the fabric, and made one as a “test run” before continuing the rest of them.

A test run for one fan detail

From this test, I realized I had to made a few changes. It would look neater and less hectic with 9 long fanning lines (instead of the original 11), and the sequin details needed to be two tiered instead of one.

This was done to create a visual balance of the existing elements. The jacquard framing is a strong accent, and jamming 11 fan out lines for each inner design felt like an overkill. Having two tiers of sequins can achieve the overall balance that can be pleasing to the eye. Moreover, the art-deco like color scheme of black, white, navy, and gold felt very rich and bold, a whole different set of qualities from the actual vintage purse.

Once the fan out detail elements are decided, it’s all about precision work. The gold fringe remnants were attached one by one with a narrow zig-zag stitch.

Attaching these fringe remnants were quite tedious.
Some of them were fixed later on.

There were several fixes and redos to create the right curving lines, but it was a generally smooth process.

Next was creating the navy blue “vase” detail, also done with narrow zig-zag stitch in gradually decreasing width. There are five columns in each complete vase detail.

It was a much faster process than sewing the fringe remnants. Next was the light gray running stitch, done by hand. It’s quite a straightforward process albeit a little bit slower.

The textile piece is coming along nicely!
WIP – view from the back

Once all the lines were done, it’s time to attach the sequin tiers. This process was also done by hand.

WIP – attaching sequins
A closer look of the sequin tiers and overall design details

Once everything was done, I added a decorative border on the textile piece’s edges to prevent excessive fraying. I couldn’t take a good picture of the decorative border due to lighting issues, but it’s mentioned on the video submission to my tutor.

Result:
Once everything was done, I couldn’t help smiling proudly. It’s a new achievement of what I could do when I pushed myself!

Vintage purse – inspired textile (front view)
Vintage purse – inspired textile (back view)
Close-up of the finished design details

I think it’s a successful exploration and implementation of stacked and layered contrasted with fragile and transparent qualities, along with subtle bulbous feel for more surface touch.

The intricate fan out motifs and frames are translated from my “imperfect memory” of the vintage purse representation via drawing, and that feels special. The rich motifs, combined with fraying edges of the frames and the textile edges feel like a harmonious collaboration between two opposite principles – refined design and unrefined fraying, machine sewn and hand stitched.

This is the one piece where I felt making on-demand tests and decisions on the go was the right way to go. Everything seemed controlled and balanced.

Next steps:
Honestly, I’m not sure how I can develop this further into new projects. This textile piece is set to be reused as a small pillowcase, and I’m looking forward to showcase it to visiting guests.

Maybe I can make a larger scale of this same project to create curtains / draperies, as well as making tassels to accompany them? I’m not sure if it’s the right interior design choice, but it’s empowering to know that it’s definitely possible and very doable.

Stitched Line Piece #3: Doctor’s Bag Stitched Blind Sketch

By this time, I was running out of time and slightly panicking. That said, I had a stack of transparent fabric remnants in various purple / dark blue color palette. I vowed that if I’m to embark on creating this third piece, it had to be done in one day.

My doctor’s bag

Inspiration:
I wanted to create a new drawing for this final piece. I couldn’t think of a better way to do that than making a new doctor’s bag blind drawing using my non-dominant (left) hand. The coursework binder also inspired me to try out irregular stitch length by removing a presser foot when sewing.

Materials:
I grabbed my prepared stack of purple multi transparent fabrics – knife pleated polyester / linen blend, printed nylon tulles, lavender nylon tulles, decorative silk petals, as well as bright violet polyester and lilac sewing threads.

Design Process:
I barely took in-progress photos because I was focused on finishing this piece on time. The first thing I did was flattened out the pleats of the polyester / linen blend base fabric with irregular lockstitch. It’s quite fascinating to see the jagged lines along the neatly flattened pleat lines. I purposely didn’t sew all the way to the edges to create a more relaxed, open feeling.

The final size of the base fabric post-flattened pleats is 10 in. x 17 in. Slightly smaller than an A3 size, but I didn’t worry about it at all.

Next step was to make a blind sketch of a doctor’s bag on a tracing paper. It was done in several minutes, and I pinned it on top of transparent fabrics that I stacked on the base fabric.

The blind sketch drawing before it got torn apart later on.

I sew the whole stack using the same irregular lockstitch setting I used earlier, patiently following the lines I drew on the paper. Once it’s done, I tore the paper apart to reveal the stacked fabrics. Then I also cut out all of the stacked fabrics outside of the doctor’s bag outlines.

Once the shape is more revealed, I added more emphasis on the bag silhouette using narrow zig-zag stitch (this time with a presser foot attached). Last but not least, I secured the nylon tulle and silk petal remnants to the base fabric.

Results:

Finished doctor’s bag stitched blind sketch (front view)
Finished doctor’s bag stitched blind sketch (back view)
A closer look of the final piece’s stitches

I felt accomplished (and astonished) that I was able to finish this piece in a few hours time. Prioritizing the time to create and not worry about photo documentation worked for me in this particular case, and this project was a victory for personal time management.

Aside from the prepared materials, the project was done quite impulsively compared to the other two pieces. That’s the magic of this one, and looking at it more closely fills my head with more critical thoughts:

  • Is it a beautiful abstract piece? Or does it look like a decaying object?
  • Do you see the tulle and silk petals as flowers / butterflies? Or do they look like flies?
  • Using purple / violet color scheme – do you see them as rich, fashionably elegant? Or do you see them as villainous?
  • What do you see – luxurious colors or misshapen body? Or what’s wrong with seeing both?

Next steps:
The use of irregular stitches and the return of blind sketching create this somewhat unfamiliar feeling that I wholeheartedly welcome. It was the right decision to create this more abstract piece, and it’s something I want to explore more in the future.

I’d like to set a time limit to create a textile piece and then impulsively create something within that time limit. It should be something that takes me out of my comfort zone of painstaking building and layering.

When I have enough pieces like this, I should then combine them together in an interesting way – I don’t know how yet, I’ll figure it out when the time comes!

Final Remarks

I realized my written evaluation of this final assignment far exceeds the 400 – 500 words outlined in the coursework binder. That said, it doesn’t feel excessive since I’m not able to send my works to my tutor physically due to time constraint. Moreover, it feels more proper and respectful to the whole learning process that I do it this way.

All in all, I feel tremendous creative and personal growth from doing this course. Doing projects in this final assignment is a great celebration of implementing all the exercises encompassed in this course, and I am so very grateful. I’m looking forward to hone my creativity even more!

Thanks for reading,
Mira

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Final Assignment: Preparations

The coursework binder encourages us to reflect on our strengths, first by reviewing our works so far. So I took the time to display all of my works (from exercises of warm-up mark makings to sketchbooks) on the floor. I began to look for patterns that represent my design thinking the best, and see if I can amplify them effectively in Assignment 5 works.

Layering

Throughout my works, the tendency to layer materials (or paint) is always present. I enjoy layering in to create various effects:

  • stacking to build a thicker, sturdier surface (most straightforward approach)
  • layering and then revealing what’s underneath and create subtle raised v. embossed surfaces (arguably my favorite and most natural approach)

  • encasing a shape inside another shape
  • experimental combination of materials with 2+ different qualities and add textures by stitch, print, embellish, paint, etc.

  • mirroring effect with somewhat intricate motif details (making these details can be tedious, but the results are always satisfying!)

These various qualities of layering process are fascinating. Whether they end up transforming the materials or not, discovering how they evolve as the pieces are coming together is always part of the (usually) delightful surprise.

I realize layering is not just my preferred way of wearing clothes, but more importantly, it’s part of my creative DNA and I have come to fully embrace it throughout this course.

Sketching

Coming into this course at the very beginning, I was very skeptical and skittish about my sketching ability. The warm-up exercises of mark making was a true revelation; it’s so much fun to discover latent talents that are expressed via curiosity-driven experiments.

Currently, my favorite way of sketching with traditional tools is with my non-dominant left hand. Each instance is a discovery, a splendid surprise of more abstract expression, free of years of prejudice and so-called training and rich with greetings from my personal voice.

That said, my right hand drawing can be much more precise in capturing details as long as I observe the objects carefully enough. It’s a complete 180 from what my left hand drawing is, and I have learned to respect both qualities. Beyond this course, I should explore ways of effective collaboration between left and right hand sketching.

Color story

My tutor has been very encouraging about my use of colors, calling it one of my strong points. That comes as a surprise to me, and I responded to the feedback by examining my use of colors more closely as well as more thoughtfully observing color combinations that catch my eye.

For the final assignment, I want to focus on bolder color combinations as they reflect my personal voice more clearly than pastel ones.

Next Step for Assignment 5

From all four options for Assignment 5, I choose to do the first one: stitched line pieces. I think it’s going to be a great celebration of all the discoveries I made throughout this course, as well as a returning point to my preferred creative style of working with fabrics.

I plan to do three pieces, extending the works I did for Line Drawings. The objects I chose (a vintage purse, a bag, a left sandal) will each be represented in one piece. I’m thinking of exploring the “layering / revealing what’s underneath” style, as well as mirroring and creating intricate details with both hand stitching and machine sewing.

Hopefully each piece is backed up with clear reasoning to convey imperfect yet effective visual story telling. For now, I jot down several objectives for making these pieces:

  • The stitched line pieces are made with the mindset of potentially using them to decorate the house – either to be framed and hung, or repurposed to become a pillowcase, or other decorative pieces. This mindset is important to see what the piece can be used beyond the boundary of the course as a final assignment submission.
  • Continually inspired by Suzumi Noda, I’d like to focus and limit the number of stitch types to do. Let’s showcase the fabric choices and stitches to create harmonious color story and textures.
  • I aim to work with color combinations that have good contrast on camera. No thoroughly pastel palette, use of ivory/white has to be thoughtful.
  • As a sustainable creative maker, I aim to use only remnants and rescued fabrics and sewing notions I already have in my disposal. No new materials will be purchased or acquired for making these pieces.

I’m feeling good about doing this assignment, however I have a dilemma about the use of sketchbook as outlined in the coursework binder. I have a feeling that rather than methodical testing process, I will dive into each piece rather quickly and figure things out as I go.

That said, I will try making several tests and documenting them on the sketchbook first. There are several initial ideas I can think of and they are all worthy to be documented and tested on. Let’s see if that will spark creative joy or do the opposite. Either way, I’m looking forward to work on these stitched line pieces!

Thanks for reading,
Mira

Reflection: Assignment 4 Feedback

When I got my Assignment 4 feedback, I had been working non-stop on my Assignment 5 pieces due to time constraint. I also sent my tutor videos of my sketchbook works instead of sending them by mail to save time on logistics. Working on this class took longer than previously thought, and I was bullish on finishing the course before the two-year period was up.

So while I had been productive, receiving the feedback when I was about to finish my final pieces felt off, like I was skipping a step to move on. It’s a reminder how “trained” I am in doing things in order. That said, I kept my nervousness in check and just focused working hard on Assignment 5.

Thank goodness for that mental discipline, because my feedback was really positive and encouraging. The videos (shared privately via Google Photos) were received warmly, and apparently my narratives enriched the context of my works for each Sketchbook exercise.

Generally, my tutor’s feedback can be summarized into this quoted paragraph:

You have made significant progress from the last assignment both in terms of your research and in particular your making. Last time I commented that you are a good researcher but what we see this time is a more physical response to this research and therefore a deeper level of experimentation and discovery through making.

Neil Musson (Assignment 4 feedback excerpt)

And yes, I realized how much I enjoyed researching by trying out ideas physically and find things that resonate more deeply, rather than doing mind simulations. This is a complete 180 of what I usually do in non-creative space, and I wonder if that’s a major reason why I get disenchanted very easily once I settled into a rhythm.

Concertina books

The strongest elements of this exercise were abstract elements of the concertina sketchbook of my London trip. I wasn’t too fond of it, but I was encouraged to see it as a representation of how I feel about the objects and not how the objects are graphically represented.

The second concertina of my visit to a bonsai garden was more about how I saw the objects and made decisions of how to graphically represent them in my chosen medium. One of the bonsai trees I sketched was done beyond the fold of the concertina pages, and I am encouraged to experiment more that way as a next step to learn textiles and patterns.

Customized sketchbook

The way I approached this exercise was sensitive due the vintage book’s delicate pages, and my tutor discussed the dynamic of my bold colors in contrast to the book’s fragility. What stands out from the feedback is my strength in “refined sense” of color mixing and that I should explore them more fully. He said,

Begin to consider how the bold colour contrasts you are making create different moods and how these moods can relate to pattern.

Neil Musson (Assignment 4 feedback excerpt)

Some of my compositions were predictable, however my tendency to layer colors and the memory of layers underneath them can be a great potential. In fact, that’s what I’ve been naturally thinking about approaching Assignment 5 works – the idea of building layers and reveal what’s hidden underneath. So having this piece of feedback feels empowering to me.

On the other hand, I am not a natural in working with ink colors (be it gauche or acrylic, let alone oil). Threads are much more preferred as I like working with fabrics a great deal more. That said, I am encouraged to at least start building a habit of experimenting with colors more physically (with ink and brush) on my journals, bravely go ‘beyond the page’ as I see fit, and see where this goes!

Textile artist-inspired sketchbook

I treated this exercise more as a curation and documentations of works rather than making a more traditional sketchbook. Indeed, all of the works are done outside of the boundary of book pages and that’s why collating them in an oversize file binder feels more natural.

My tutor noted that some of my works in the textile artist-inspired collated sketchbook “lacks the personal touch / refinement that you achieved in the drawings, however this book is more about material and process research; It will be the next stage where you choose which of these experiments to develop that reveals your character more fully.”

I agree with those statements wholeheartedly. As I’m finishing my Assignment 5 works when I received this feedback, the sketchbook I made for this final assignment holds the same purpose. Rather than a place for meticulous discoveries, the sketchbook for Assignment 5 is more of a place of documentations and notations from which I developed and explore ideas more fully outside of the book.

What’s Next

When I look back to the way I write for the earlier exercises and compare it to how I did it for Part 4 exercises, there’s a marked departure of diary style towards more critical thoughtfulness. As my tutor noted in the feedback, it is what’s going to be expected for OCA assessments – “balancing the reasons and thought behind your work with reflections on the outcomes.”

I really enjoy moving from one sample to the next based on delightful discoveries, allowing my process to be more spontaneously guided by my works rather than careful planning from start to finish. All these are warmly noted, and I felt more confident to go forward with this personal approach of working.

As I’m nearing the day when I finish my Assignment 5 pieces, I hope more of my personal style came through via the works I choose to do and submit for the final assignment. There are definitely clear patterns I see throughout my class works so far and I believe I have done my best to express them. So I hope the next submission can be a celebration of what I have preciously learned from this wonderful course. What a journey!

Thanks for reading,
Mira

Collating a Sketchbook: Inspired by Suzumi Noda’s Works

Researching Suzumi Noda’s works, I become especially inspired by her method of combining items of perceived high and low values, controlled take on colors, and the way she’s able to create harmonious relationship with the environment of her hanging installations. Therefore to some degree, I’d like to emulate her approaches in this exercise.

I gathered many tea-related papers, from used tea bag papers, its packaging papers, its used content, labels and ties, as well as brown packaging paper mesh. On the other hand, I limited the quantity of fabrics I worked with because I am very comfortable working with them and I’d like to challenge myself more. The fabrics I worked with are remnants of fringe trims, silk print, polyester organza, nylon tulle, as well as cotton scraps I naturally dyed with camellia flowers from the backyard.

Knitting Experiments

First stop is trying my hands on knitting. As previously mentioned, I didn’t have an affinity to knitting and prefer weaving. However, Noda’s approach to knitting is very modern – for example, she uses plastic threads – so that unconventional approach relaxes me.

After watching a YouTube video about hand knitting a blanket, I tried doing it with a red raffia rope. Made out of plastic, this raffia rope is usually only used for packing boxes.

The first sample piece looked fine, so I made another one with gradual widening distance from the first to fifth row, and then reverse it from the sixth to tenth row. To tie it back with the tea time theme and the Part 3 Materials explorations, I made knots on the fifth and sixth rows using rolled used tea bag papers. The knots – a reference to rolled fortune papers that are usually knotted at Shinto temples in Japan – are made on both sides, making the finished piece more textured and layered.

Top: first knitting sample with raffia
Bottom: raffia knit with knotted tea bag paper rolls

Raffia is considered a low-value item, so how about knitting something that has a perceived higher value? So I chose a gold colored fringe trims (that I saved from a retired seamstress a short while ago), combine it with the red raffia, and hand knit them together. This time, I made a square piece with uniform distance throughout. It was challenging to pass through all the fringe, but it’s done alright at the end of the day.

The raffia peeks through once in a while, but the gold fringe trims overwhelm the look overall. So I trimmed the excess fringe length because they started to look a bit scary and distracting for the square shape. Moreover, I tied some tea bag labels on one side of the square.

As I stepped back and observed it, all I saw was a rather fancy…instant noodles. The kind where you just take out from its packaging. Is that a good or bad thing?

Fringe trim and raffia “instant noodles”
The sketchbook page containing the “instant noodles” and its related notes

Unable to answer that question objectively, I moved on to the next knitting experiment. Still using fringe trims, but this time hand knit a longer piece so I don’t need to cut the trims. Moreover, I wrapped an opened tea bag package around each nine long strands in the middle of the piece.

However, as I finished gluing the last tea bag package paper wrap, I realized how challenging it is to elevate an item with a perceived high value with a low value one. That said, it’s probably more of the choice of low value item and how one manipulates it that can change that perception. Moreover, I think this piece can be a nice, bold home decor when done in a bigger scale.

Long fringe trims knit piece with tea bag packaging wraps

Printing Experiments

After knitting, I moved on to printing to bring back the shapes of tea time objects into view. The first one I made is a transition piece that combines both knitting and printing methods, inspired by Suzumi Noda’s hanging installation during her Juxtaposition exhibition.

The top part is a small rectangular piece knitted with raffia. Then I attached three tiers of unused tea bags, their label papers act as the necessary hooks between the knit purls. Each tier of tea bags are linked by glue, mimicking irregular knife pleats.

Then using the tea cup cut-out film template used during Part 4.2 exercise, I printed the image using gouache paint and sponge. Each tier gets a part of the tea cup image, so the complete image can only be seen when all tiers are in perfect alignment.

The challenge was creating a clean tea cup image on the layers of tea bags that still have content on them. The non-flat, somewhat undulating surface gave way to a rather fuzzy print.

Tea cup image hanging on a knitted raffia

Feeling encouraged by the previous result, I wanted to make a cleaner printing result while addressing my affinity of tea. After all, I drink tea pretty much every day. This would be a good topic to express!

So I made a quick sketch of a tea cup, transferred the image to a Soft-Kut block, and cut the shape before I attached its wrong side to a piece of scrap wood.

Then I took a bunch of used tea bag papers and did a couple of block printing trials with a black gouache paint. Quite satisfied with the result, I made 9 prints.

After all nine prints are done, I stitched together the papers using french seam method. I chose this method because it’s one of the important indications of finer garment constructions.

Tea cup block prints on stitched tea bag papers

As a variation, I made another set. This time I started with a complete tea cup image on a paper, and gradually added a line across the image with the next paper until I got six images total. The line(s) are a result of wrapping a leftover chain stitched thread (from the golden fringe trims) I still used french seam methods to bring them all together, but with a slightly increased seam allowance to bring the images closer together. It’s to show my growing dependence / bind to tea, which I drink at least 6 days in a week.

Bound to Tea

Handmade Embellishment Experiments

Working with french seams made me want to experiment with more garment making techniques. And one of the things I associate with high value garments is handmade embellishments. Haute couture garments are painstakingly decorated with carefully handmade surface embellishments that take months to finish, and I’d like to explore that in a smaller scale with fabric scraps that I have in my possession. What I wanted to experiment on is hand cut and hand stitched flower petals onto a base fabric, but with tea time object shapes instead of flowers.

Fortunately, my friend in NY sent me a some scraps of nylon tulle, silk prints, polyester/silk organza to experiment on. For perceived low value variety, I also added my own scraps of cotton weave – naturally dyed with camellia flowers from the backyard -as well as brown paper packaging mesh.

I cut four small pieces as base fabric: green silk print, multi-colored magenta nylon tulle, rose pink cotton, and brown paper packaging mesh. Then I made two types of tea cup (one Western style with a handle ear, one Oriental style) petals with the rest of the scraps. Then I folded and hand stitched them in several configurations onto the base fabrics.

Handmade Embellishments – silk print and nylon tulle base
Handmade Embellishments – cotton and brown paper mesh base

What I realized is how strong my value perception influence what I deem looks good or not. When I tried to stitch tea cup petals made out of brown paper mesh onto the “finer” fabrics (silk print or nylon tulle), I couldn’t stand them. They “cheapen” the base fabric so much so that I had to take them out. As a result, I stuck with the petals made out of the finer scraps – silk print, poly organza, nylon tulle – for the first two bases.

For the later two bases, I felt more creatively open to mix and match the scraps to its respective fabric base. As previously mentioned, my current perspective is that it’s easier to elevate low value items with high value ones, and its limitation as a mind block is confirmed during this particular experiment.

Layering / Stacking Experiments

There’s a piece by Suzumi Noda (featured as the top image on Fiberspace) that I found no information of. It’s a transparent hanging fabric, accordion folded and bind resist dyed with indigo dye to create square shapes. Noda hung two layers of them, creating a 3D illusion of seeing connected cubes when they’re aligned properly.

Seeing this piece, I wanted to experiment more with the brown paper mesh to create layers and hopefully created some 3D illusion with some mark making tools and/or gouache paint. The tea time object I chose is a Japanese matcha tea bowl.

I started with making a large box pleat on a piece of brown paper mesh scrap. Then I made a couple of circular cut outs – the outermost one larger than the one on the innermost layer – close to one edge. I repeated the same process on the other edge. I made some outlining strokes using a graphite stick and a permanent marker for definition.

The paper lays flat for easy storage, but it allows air to pass through between layers that it starts to give way to a side facing bowl shape….maybe?

If you have a hard time imagining a bowl, so do I. So I moved on to another experiment. Same idea, but focused to one bowl with more layers and more textures courtesy of used tea bag content and white gouache paint.

It’s a little bit more successful, although it creates a different 3D illusion than the one I intended.

When I laid the piece on the floor, the brown paper color matches well enough with the floor that it almost looks like there’s a plugged drain of some kind.

So while the second experiment is marginally more successful, there needs to be more depth of layers as well as paper thickness to create the illusion I’m looking for. Unfortunately, I don’t have either of them. Perhaps it’s an experiment to embark on another day.

However, I still had a small piece of brown paper mesh left, so I made simple knife pleats, inserted tea bag packages onto them in a loose check pattern, and sewn vertical lines along the tea bags’ long edge.

It’s the simplest layering / stacking experiment, and yet there’s something to celebrate the calm expected harmony of clean check pattern and controlled complementary color accents.


Knife pleated brown paper mesh with stitched tea bag containers

The last layering/stacking experiment was the most robust in process and an expansion of the last one.

Using used tea bag packagings, its used contains, and tracing papers, I went with the concept of creating a tea bag assembly line. After dividing tea bag packagings into thirds, I lined them up and stitched them onto tracing papers to create upward and downward facing lanes. The directions were implied from the printed (using used tea bag, yellow gouache paint, and sponge) and outlined tea bag shapes.

The tea bag contains were attached with spray adhesive, and each of the tea bag silhouettes were completed with a hole made with a hole puncher.

When placed on a window, the light came through the transparent paper, highlighting the tea bag shapes while the rest of the piece made the overall vibe more bold and dynamic.

Reflection on Part 4: Sketchbook

Creative Curation
Throughout all the exercises, I realize that it’s not about containing my creative explorations in a bound form. It’s about finding several options to actively create, compile, and possibly curate my trials and errors while expanding creative horizons by researching works by other artists.

While it’s still a work in progress to find the most effective and efficient way to organize my creative works, I found the loose leaf binders option I did for Part 4.3 experiments the most natural. It remains to be seen whether it will remain the case, but I welcome its evolution as I embark in more creative studies.

Power of Self Perceptions
One thing I confirmed throughout Part 4.3 exercises is how strong my own sense of perception acts as an influence in creating. The handmade surface embellishment experiments proved how my accumulated perceptions towards garment making materials dictate my sense of high and low value of items. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” feels very appropriate.

That said, creative explorations provide endless paths to challenge and change my perceptions. Working more with unconventional materials as well as broadening my horizon with more garment making fabrics will help bridge the gap that’s still missing from my knowledge base. This will hopefully open new ways to create pieces that offer deeper critical thinking, and potentially successfully overcome the challenge of elevating high value items with low value ones.

Miscellaneous Observations

  • Knitting is not something I enjoy doing. However, I respectfully realize its humble but powerful potentials in creating various shapes out of different kinds of ropes / yarns. No wonder it’s such a popular craft type for all skill levels.
  • Drawing efficiently from memory (from Part 4.1 exercise) is not my forte. Realizing this, I want to do more exercises of blind drawing – observing something for a set period of time, then sketch – to hone my perceptions.
  • Up to this point, I become more aware that researching artists’ works does not necessarily mean I will end up copying them. Inspirations can manifests themselves into new creative works according to my own perceptions, skills, and concepts. Now I don’t need to shy away from researching other people’s works.
  • On the other hand, I will be more careful in selecting old book to customize. The vintage copy I chose for Part 4.2 is admittedly very fragile. To this day, I still feel apologetic for ruining a fine book. On the other hand, it will be a waste to leave a half-ruined book as is. I might as well experiment more on it, creating more works on its pages with more variety of mark making tools.

Thank you for reading,
Mira

Sketchbook: Researching Suzumi Noda

From all the textile artists mentioned in the coursework binder, I chose Suzumi Noda. According to Fiberspace, Noda is a professor at the Kyoto University of Art and Design, as well as the Director of the Kawashima Textile School in Kyoto. Unfortunately, her website suzuminoda.com is down so I couldn’t get her most up-to-date information.

Suzumi Noda inspires me the most, particularly with her philosophy and preferred use of junk materials. Her approach with unwanted materials feel very relevant, creative, and modern for me, who likes to do garment refashions and DIY fashion items. I am continuously getting fabric samples and remnants, as well as rescuing materials from local neighbors to create one of a kind creations.

Her usual medium is knit, which may be a challenge. I’ve been avoiding knitting (but I love weaving), I have yet to appreciate this form of handiwork. This is my chance to explore the unknown and gain more perspective of its potentials.

That said, her methodology is very open-minded and not constrained in any way by knitting. Two of her well-documented exhibitions are her so-called “Label Dresses” (2005) and “Juxtaposition” (2001).

This exhibition questions commercial values imposed to human beings in the forms of labels – be it price tags, use by / best before date labels, and more. These dresses are made with paper labels, price tags, plastic threads, and other materials like metal hangers, buttons, and cotton cloths. Her construction methods include hand knitting, stitching, and printing.

Label Dresses / Closed Dresses

Her overarching question of ‘how do I decide the value of myself as a human being? ‘ is represented successfully on her knitted dresses – visually striking with bright colors of labels and printed with chemical terms of DNA.

Source: Knit Japan
Source: Knit Japan
Source: Daily Art Muse
Source: Trend Hunter
Source: Trend Hunter

On another website, I found more examples of her so-called couture statement of the same theme. However, the focus somewhat shifted from questioning value to entering your own self via wearing constricting clothes.  These “doll binding clothes” are said to represent the meaninglessness of labels; it is the person wearing the clothes who makes them fashionable.

Source: Trend Hunter
Source: Trend Hunter

I’m not sure whether this is another presentation of the same work or additional works as an extension of her initial idea. In any case, the clothes seemed to be made with the same core perspective in mind. Her works are both intricate, beautiful, and encourage critical thinking about the relationship of human being and society values. And somehow in the process, her creations become fashionable, modern, and avant-garde.

Source: Teoriya

One more note about Noda’s use of colors: it’s always very harmonious. Nothing too bold or too subtle. Whether she focuses on one color and uses another complementary color for accent, or uses a set of analogous colors, they are always visually both pleasing and easily digestible. This disciplined use of colors make her works that much more efficient and impactful.

Juxtaposition

Almost a complete departure from her use of colors in Label Dresses, this piece consists of one dominant color: black. It’s showcasing a juxtaposition of using both junk materials with highly valued, exclusive ones. The discarded fabric pattern cards (that are usually fed into automatic weaving machines in fabric-making factories) with punched holes that are normally linked horizontally are separated and rethreaded vertically with expensive lacquer threads.

Source: Lost in Lace

The result is a beautiful lace-like piece that functions as “light shelves” to allow light coming through the holes.

Source: Transition and Influence Projects
Source: Fiberspace

Although the shape of her artistic expression is in the form of a piece installation rather than garments, the visual impact of her work is undeniable. Natural lights plays an active role in bringing this piece to life, and I can imagine the vertical boards shift gently to the wind, making a lifelike lacework.

Other notable pieces

While there’s a lack of information of the following two pieces (seen at Transition and Influence Projects and Fiberspace, respectively), these two are eye candies to me:

  1. Words possess value as commodities
    Materials: Cotton, wool, polyurethane, printing, knitting
    Date: 1988

    In line with her Label Dresses / Closed Clothes pieces, the chair is upholstered with densely textured knit fabric decorated with labels.


  2. (unknown)

    While there’s no information about this on Fiberspace, the bind-resist dyed curtain cloth is a natural extension of Juxtaposition exhibition. The layers create 3D cubical shapes instead of 2D squares.

Closing Notes
There are so many methods to try out for this next exercise. From knitting, printing, stitching, and more, I’m very excited to see how they can all transform my fabric remnants and papers using the tea time theme. Better yet, it will be nice if the works have an overarching question to answer to, no matter how simple they can be!

Thanks for reading,
Mira

Sketchbook: Sketching on an Old Book

Among the list of painters mentioned on the coursework binder, I chose Patrick Heron. I find his “non-figurative” approach to vibrant colors and abstract design appealing to explore. The two paintings I chose are Four in Deep Cadmium, 1964 and Winchester Four II, 1967. The former is an oil to canvas painting, while the latter is a result of screen printing.

Although they’re done with different methods, the feeling of both are quite similar. On both paintings, Heron used abstract, roughly geometric shapes and bold primary colors for visual impact. They seemed to be done by layering colors, so I’d like to explore that feeling with the customized sketchbook.

I also decided to refer back to Tea Time objects from Part 2 – Collage. The circular, curving shapes of tea cups and pots will lend themselves nicely to Heron’s style of abstract painting. Moreover, rather than bringing additional objects, I’d like to focus on emulating Heron’s screenprinting qualities – flat, even, abstract objects – with existing tools I have.

For the customized sketchbook, I picked up this old book from a local library – a bunch of books were discarded and this is one of them. It’s a copy of Somerset Maugham’s short stories translated to Japanese, purchased by its first owner in 1955. Until now, I have mixed feelings for “ruining” this vintage item. It has beautiful papers that later proved to be quite fragile.

Rather than following the natural state of the book’s reading order (from right to left), I went with the western way of reading order from left to right. So I started customizing this as a sketchbook from its back pages towards the front.

Experiments

As the coursework binder suggested, I experimented with color consistency and application methods right away. Notations were done on a post-it notes that I later sticked on the book’s pages. This is an antique book afterall, and I’m reluctant to freely sketch on it.

A. Cyan and magenta
It’s my first time working with gouache paints, so it’s a welcome trial to experiment with color applications. Sticking with a flat paint brush, I started applying cyan and magenta colors on a spread after mixing each of them with a little bit of water.

From this initial test, I noted the following:

  • Gouache paint becomes more creamy with minimal water addition.
  • With this application method, the paint dries relatively fast (15 – 30 minutes) and layering can be done effectively.
  • Using paint brush for applying paint is only effective on first brush stroke; subsequent strokes deliver more separated, dotted colors.
  • Cyan and magenta mixed in 1:1 can produce lovely plum color.
  • Both cyan and magenta are relatively opaque and almost completely cover the Japanese kanji text underneath.

B. Primary colors and white
Next, I focused on mixing primary colors with white to see how their consistencies and opaqueness change. This time, while I still used the same flat brush, I added very minimum amount of water – only to wet the brush initially.

By itself, the white color can be very creamy, milky. That said, it has a slight tendency to “bleed” to the other page when the book is closed, even when I thought it’s done drying in the first place.

Cyan has an opaque, creamy sky blue color by itself. When mixed with little dots of white, it can generate subtle gradations.
Yellow seems very transparent throughout with no distinctive gradations. Applying yellow as-is is best.
Magenta has the best opaque, creamy coverage among all primary colors. It’s also the easiest to achieve color gradations.

I’m not sure if all gouache paints are like this, but it’s certainly the case in my experience working with this particular stock of Lefranc & Bourgeois Linel Artists’ Gouache Set.

C. Further explorations
By this time, I used the remaining gouache paints on the palette to play around with some cotton buds. Using already mixed colors, I layered vertical lines on a new page.

Like paint brushes, cotton buds can be effective to produce creamy coverage on first stroke only. Moreover, the vertical lines dried up quickly and the second layer of lines could be applied almost immediately after.

There were still leftover paints, so I mixed them randomly and created circular shapes with a paint brush. One thing stood out: it’s hard to create a flat, even texture using a paint brush.

D. Gel pressing
So as an effort to create a flatter and even texture, I went to the next step and experiment with gel press tools I got from a past crafting conference.

I mixed magenta and white on a gel pad with a roller, and then pressed the gel pad on a page spread. There’s also some paint left on the roller, so I rolled it on the left side of the spread. The resulting light pink background color has a definitely more flat coverage, but it seemed the paint didn’t spread evenly and created some random sparse spots both on the gel pad and the roller.

To introduce a tea time shape, I used the master paper cut out I made during one of Part 2: Collage exercises as a pressing template.

Master cut-out paper template and the layered cut-out transparent films done for Part 2: Collage

I spread magenta color again on the gel pad and then put the master cut-out paper on top of the gel. Then I pressed the spread on top of the paper.

The tea pot print is somewhat faded in places. That’s probably due to the paper thickness playing a part on determining how much paint got transferred to the book spread. Plus, the gouache paint already started to dry when the pressing took place.

So I took out the cut-out paper from the gel pad. The cut-out paper took out almost all the paint from the gel, except whatever’s left out on the cut-outs. Then I open a new spread and press the gel pad on. The resulting print is more even and detailed, albeit a bit messy.

After the last press, I noticed the the subtle imprint of the tea pot lid shape on the gel pad. So I applied some magenta and yellow paint on the unclean gel pad and mixed them with a roller. Then I press the gel pad as is to a new page spread. It’s faint, but the outlines of tea pot lid came through.

In my quest to get cleaner print, I opened a new spread and applied a yellow background using a gel pad and a roller. Then I cleaned the gel pad and roller.

This time, I put the cut-out paper on top of the spread. Then I added dots of cyan pain directly on the cut-out gaps and rolled them. I repeated the same for the lid handle cut-outs with a black paint.

The result has more depth and boldness yet imprecise, moving the overall feel away from my interpretation of Heron’s style.

So on a new spread, I gel pressed yellow paint on the left side, repeated the same on the right, and rolled the rest of the leftover paint on the bottom. I also made a new cut-out template with a transparent film, this time a hand sculpted clay tea cup.

I started with the right side of the spread. With a clean gel pad and roller, I applied cyan paint on the gel pad and rolled them. Then I put cut-out film on top of the gel before pressing it to the spread. The result is quite similar to the magenta tea pot lid print on a light pink background, but this time with more bark-like quality.

So I put the other side of the cut-out film on top of the left side of the spread. This time, I got some sponge and applied cyan paint onto the cut outs. The result is the most even, flat print! That’s wonderful, but I came into an important realization: I couldn’t do too many blottings as the book pages started to peel away. The antique papers started to show its fragility. I have to proceed cautiously.

Encouraged with this latest discovery, I wanted to see how I can combine the roller and sponge applications. So I flip over the unclean film cut-out on its first side again (it still had leftover cyan paint traces around the cut-outs) and pressed it on a new right page. I dotted black paint onto the paper through the cut-outs – same method as the cyan tea pot lid on a yellow background – and spread them around with a roller. As expected, they bled and distorted the tea cup shape, but the resulting texture is nice and even. To add a bit more texture, I added yellow paint with sponge blottings, picking up some black paint in the process.

On the left side, I mixed up leftover cyan paint on gel pad and rolled them with the roller that still had black paint on. I pressed the gel pad on the left side of the spread. Then after putting the cut-out film on top of the book page, I blot remaining leftover paint on the spread, creating a lavender colored print. Lastly, I added a dot of magenta and rolled it over. The “bleeding” hot pink accent was quite dynamic!

While the gel pressing results have been encouraging, at the end I had to acknowledge the antique book’s fragility. Cut-outs can be used to create clean prints, however pressing and rolling on these pages are risky. Moreover, I found out that the post-it notes I sticked on the pages would peel away the paper if I tried to take them out.

Interpreting Heron’s works

As previously mentioned, Patrick Heron’s works I chose are Four in Deep Cadmium, 1964 and Winchester Four II, 1967. Due to color matching error, the print-outs of the works’ details came out like these:

Print-out of Four in Deep Cadmium
Print-out of Winchester Four II

While these are not the exact colors of his artworks, I decided to go with them. It’s a painter-inspired translation anyway, and apparently my printer took part in the translation process.

Before proceeding, I did a few tests for gouache paint applications using a paint brush. Yes, I went back to use a paint brush due to its relatively safer connection with the antique book papers.

The test was mainly about adding a darker stroke of paint for accent, and I documented all three methods I tried.

1st Painter-inspired Translation: Four in Deep Cadmium

For this one, I kept these things in mind:

  • “easy to peel away” antique book papers when rolled over several times
  • textures when paint brush is used to apply paint
  • previous results of sponge blotting in making prints

I decided to make an interpretation of this artwork using tea time objects when viewed from above. Composition-wise, I went from the lightest color to the darkest.

I started with rolling light pink background on a page spread. This was the lightest color. I made three block silhouette shapes using a transparent film: a tea cup, a square-ish rectangle, and a tea pot. I used them to cover certain locations and build shapes on the paper by layering the area(s) with color, going darker each time. The tea cups on the top right and bottom left are done with a flat brush, accented with black along the edges.

The edges of the rectangular shape surrounding the tea cup on the middle left was done by covering the area with a cut out and blot sponge around it. To emphasize the shape of a tea pot on the bottom right, I used both sponge blotting and brush strokes.

The state of the workspace when I made this Four in Deep Cadmium-inspired composition

The result was not as even or neat, but the overall idea is there. For some reason, I wasn’t able to roll magenta color as evenly as I did before, leaving splotches and uneven textures especially on the left page. Moreover, I had to glue together some pages because they curl easily after paint application.

There was one accident that ended up evolving the look of this spread. I applied glue on the adjacent pages after I believed the paints were dry. I closed the book and left it alone for 30 minutes to make sure the pages were laid flat at the end.

However, the spread ended up sticking to each other and some parts peeled away when I successfully opened the spread again. I didn’t have leftover paints to fix the peeled off areas, so I left it as is lest I ruin it further. That said, somehow the result became more “authentic” with the rustic peeling away effects both on the background and foreground.

Final result of Four in Deep Cadmium interpretation

2nd Painter-inspired Translation: Winchester Four II

For this composition, once again I made tea time themed block silhouette cut-outs for this composition: sugar cube container, sitting bear shape, te cups, and tea containers. Learning from my previous mistake, I made sure to not clean the palette right away afterwards in case of any peeling away mistakes.

Like the previous work, I started from the lightest color to the darkest. I used the cut-out films to neatly create shapes around the spread, but all the applications were done with paint brushes. The result is expectedly more faithful to the original work’s feel.

Once again, I had to glue together the adjacent pages to keep the spread flat. Then, I put a leftover transparent film in between the two pages before shutting the book. When I opened it sometime later, there was still some peeling offs, but very minimal on the edges. This time, I was able to use the leftover paints to fix it. Moreover, it took away some white paint, revealing the Japanese text underneath.

I think it’s quite a successful result! Considering the book attributes, tools, and the painter inspiration, I believe this last one is done on a high note!

Final result of Winchester Four II interpretation

Post-work Notes
I’m looking forward to move forward with the next step. I didn’t consider this antique book’s fragility from the beginning, and it proved to be challenging. From easily peeling off to longer dry time when glued, they were unforeseen surprises.

Moreover, I’m also not used to gouache paint, so I have yet able to draw any conclusion whether it’s going to result differently if I use acrylic or watercolor paints, or even pastels! So perhaps it’s going to be interesting to continue this customized sketchbook experiment using those variations. It will be interesting; at least by now I understand more about what this antique book’s limit.

I was excited to adapt gel pressing process to create screenprinting like qualities, however the results were not as good as I expected. In the end, using cut-out films in combination with brush applications have been the most effective in creating the flat and even quality. Sponge blotting is also a good method, as long as they are done carefully and in minimal frequency.

Thank you for reading,
Mira

Sketchbook Concertinas

Sketchbooks: Concertina Style

For this exercise, the coursework helpfully provided step-by-step visual tutorial on how to make a concertina-style sketchbook. Making two two of them was quite straightforward, and I like how portable they are. Next time I go traveling, I can make a sketchbook like this and not being bound to the traditional book format.

Drawing from memory

For this stage, I chose to go with some traditional tools: permanent marker, graphite pencils, graphite and charcoal sticks, India ink pen, as well as non-conventional tools like old toothbrush.

The theme is my recent journey to London. It was my first time visiting the city and the opportunity came up quite suddenly, so it’s very easy to recall happy memories. They feel like a big blur; I was really enjoying myself going from one place to another in excitement rather than really observing things. 

For example, it’s challenging to really recall the exact shape of a telephone booth and how many glass sections there are on each side. There were several Fashion and Textile exhibitions I went to (from Orla Kiely at Fashion & Textile Museum to Azzadine Alaïa at Design Museum), but I remember more about silhouettes and specific simple patterns rather than details. Tube transportation sign, elevator perspective, and the stations I emerge from feel like unfolding a life size presents, each one unique and full of potentials for explorations. The buildings around Oxford Circus station is one of my favorites – the curve of the buildings are so poetic yet dynamic. 

One hour is not a long time. Other subjects I scrambled to sketch are memories of afternoon tea time, tea containers at Harrods, Kew Garden visit, and walk along Thames River.

Underground sign, building curves outside of Oxford Circus Station
Kew Gardens memories – pagoda, tall trees, Palm House; Tower Bridge
Orla Kiely stem patterns, telephone booths, the Hive structure seen at Kew Gardens
Upward elevator perspective from inside tube station, Mannequin silhouettes
Shelves (memory from roaming around during Design Week), hot air balloon in Design Museum, Azzedine Alaïa exhibition
Harrods biscuit containers, afternoon tea time, crown patch silhouette, tea cups

General Observations:

Overall, I focus on shapes, especially with less than one hour time limit and the need to fill both sides of the concertina sketchbook. The results were alright – I was able express different line qualities: thick or thin, darker or lighter shade of gray. Towards the end, I was running out of time and just proceed to draw whatever comes to mind rather than establish a good visual story line.

As the next step, I’d like to get back to drawing from memory exercise to get into the habit of efficiently remembering / expressing more details than simple silhouettes. That’d be a good memory practice combined with sketching skill development!

Drawing from life

For this one, I went to a Japanese bonsai garden in Oakland, California. There are many beautiful bonsai plants to choose from, and I could take a little bit more time drawing them. Although not too long since the weather was unexpectedly chilly and I wasn’t dressed properly for withstand the cold.

While there were some objects that can be sketched relatively quicker (e.g.: stone pagoda, garden rock, Japanese torii garden gate), more intricate details to sketch were abundant. Most notably, the layers of wood of curling trees and layers of branches and leaves.

I found myself alternating between right hand (dominant) and left hand sketching due to awkwardness of holding my sketchbook and absence of surface to rest it on. The resulting drawings were relatively untidy, at least until I found a garden bench to sit on and put the sketchbook on my lap.

(left to right) Profile view of a California Juniper – 4B graphite pencil, with right (dominant) hand. Stone pagoda, a rock – permanent marker, with left hand. Three types of bonsai – permanent marker, with right hand.
Side A and side B of an unidentified bonsai tree’s curving trunk
Side A (including branches and leaves) – India ink pen, with left hand. Side B – 2B, 4B graphite pencils, with right hand.
Closer look of side A
(left) Cork-bark Japanese black pine – acrylic paint, my index finger, old toothbrush, with right hand. (middle) Cork-bark Japanese black pine – acrylic paint, chopstick, old toothbrush, with left hand. (right) Scale-leaf juniper – acrylic paint, flat brush, with right hand.
Closer look of scale-leaf juniper sketch
(left to right) AirBeeNBee structure – acrylic paint, flat brush, with right hand. Japanese red maple branches – acrylic paint, flat brush, with right hand. California juniper – acrylic paint, flat brush applied in continuous lines for trunk part, with right hand.
(left to right) Torii gate – acrylic paint, flat brush, with left hand. Sierra juniper – acrylic paint, flat brush, with left hand. Mugho pine – 4B graphite pencil, with right hand.

General Observations:

Attempting to depict the complexities of textures of this bonsai garden, I use more diverse tools than those of the previous sketchbook. Flat brushes, chopstick and toothbrush, as well as alternating between right and left hand seem right to effectively show their textural qualities. However, alternating between different tools can be really awkward during traveling. I have yet to have a good sketching tools case / carrier. That’s going to go on my to-do sewing list.

Conclusions:

  1. Comparing the two approaches, the first sketchbook is more simplistic and spontaneous, while the second one is more rich and textural in details. Process-wise, the first one is more enjoyable because it’s less fussy and freer. However, result-wise, the second one is much more enjoyable to browse.
  2. I believe the first sketchbook can look better in result when I use the Blind drawing / draw from memory exercise outlined in Part 1.
  3. The second sketchbook is quite time-consuming, but the variety of tools used make better results. That said, carrying that many tools require certain degree of portability. I need to make a customized art tools case or bag, and that’s certainly a much welcomed sewing project to do in the future!

Thanks for reading,
Mira