Thursday 31 January 2019

Workshop works in progress 2 - Rusty & Gnarly

I'm one of those people who need deadlines; I can make anything stretch out forever unless I have an end in sight. When I wrote the previous blog post, tying up loose ends from 2018, I set myself an arbitrary deadline of the end of January for Part 2. It is creeping up on me now (it's today!) and so I will set to it and tell you about the workshop I did last year with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden, called 'Rusty and Gnarly'.

After a quick chat, meeting up with old friends and new, there was a brief introduction from Alysn, explaining her way of tutoring, which is very much about encouraging us to play with the techniques and skills she gives us and seeing where it takes us, based loosely on our inspiration for the workshop.

Some of my rusty inspiration images, taken in St Ives when I went to see the Patrick Heron exhibition (see previous blog here).

Setting up the rusting process:

We layered a wide variety of fabrics and papers with a myriad of rusty objects, dampening the layers and spraying liberally with vinegar as we went along. Some suitable objects were also wrapped and tied tightly, sometimes with extra inclusions. Finally, weighed down to ensure good contact with the 'rusty stuff', they were placed in a separate room and left until the next day. I did spot Alysn spraying everything again a few times to make sure they stayed damp, while we were working. Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of this.

We moved on to looking at our inspiration and the images we had brought with us, thinking about why we chose them and the specific things about them that we wanted to focus on - descriptive words and feelings.

Along with the above St Ives rust images, I also took this photo of an amazing tractor wheel - a lucky find on the slipway at Stein last Summer. Several people have said that I should have brought it home with me as it was obviously abandoned but no room unfortunately (and very heavy!).

We then spent the rest of the day exploring our choice of many different ways of making marks on a variety of dry and wet surfaces, fabrics and papers, printing, painting, playing with colour, dripping and dabbing, remembering our earlier discussions about the key elements of our inspirational images, before Alysn told us to put them away and not look at them again.

These photos of my mark-making, peeling paint explorations show them after they have been painted over with dilute procion dye or acrylic inks, which I actually did the following day but unfortunately  I have no  photos of them before I did that.

I used a drop cloth underneath while I was painting over them, as I often love them just as much as the work!

The following morning began with the great unwrapping of our rust dyeing. I must admit to an element of disappointment with some of my results. Although I had some interesting marks, there were other examples being revealed around the room which were definitely more spectacular. I think maybe my 'rusty stuff' wasn't rusty enough or I didn't use enough of it.

I was hoping for more of the turquoise from this wrapped copper but the small safety pins produced some interesting marks ...

and again on this wrap, which was slightly more successful.

Some interesting marks here ...

The fabrics were neutralised to prevent them from rusting any further, which can cause them to disintegrate over time. I couldn't help thinking that a bit more rusting might not be a bad idea for some of mine!

We spent the rest of the day in various activities - over painting with procion dye, acrylic ink, adding more colour if necessary. Many of the group worked on metal heat patination and embossing to make small metal samples to include in their work. I had brought some patinated metal pieces from previous workshops with me so I concentrated on getting more colour into my fabric and paper samples.

I had some success and by the end of the day my table looked like this!

The final day was a 'bringing it together' day and I had rather a lot to choose from! We went back to our focus words and feelings and began to play around with placing different fabrics together, tearing and layering as we went. This part of any work is always an incredibly slow process for me. I've worked with Alysn many times - she knows me well and just leaves me to it, with just a helpful word here and there. I sometimes wonder if I'm over-thinking things but I've tried different ways and still end up placing and re-placing the different elements of a piece many times over until it feels right.

These are some of my trial compositions, layering up my papers and fabrics and I like some more than others.

The one on the left above looks a bit too symmetrical but the other has possibilities. I actually started stitching the following composition ...

... but now I'm not so sure about the cruciform arrangement so I'll probably unpick that and change it. I remember reading somewhere that Julia Caprara, whose work I absolutely love, believed that you should never unpick any stitches - just add more! I wonder if I'll ever be able to be like that.

I would like to find a way to get more texture into them - they feel a bit flat to me at the moment. I think this will be one I will take further as it is not quite so flat. The paper plate will be cut into several smaller circles.

I'm not sure when that will happen, though as there are other deadlines looming, the most important being our first exhibition of 2019, which will be 'Revealed' at The Quilt and Stitch Village at Uttoxeter in April. Co-incidentally, I've just re-worked and finished a reverse applique copper and fabric piece for that exhibition - here's a sneak peek.

Remembering what I said about needing deadlines - that was also started on a workshop with Alysn and was the first time I'd ever stitched into metal ... six years ago!