Friday, 28 March 2014

Unit X Post 2

Sketches of my arranged scenes

First carving
During the long time it takes to carve a block, I can only imagine what it will look like when finally printed.  Sometimes they are better that I expect, and others I am not completely happy with immediately.  I am instinctively drawn to making my designs quite busy and crowded, and I usually need to remind myself to leave enough space around the objects.  I try to find a good balance between printed image and blank space.  Below are images of my first carving.

First carving in progress
Carving is hard work at first and progress is slow until the image takes shape and then it is enjoyable.  Whilst carving there is plenty of time to think, and I try to image how it will be when the course is over, I will need to be commercially aware to develop my practice into a business. 

Having problems with the wood

My plan was to do one carving a week, and I was not anticipating a hold-up such as the one I have had this week.  I made an eager start on my next carving, tracing it onto the wood as usual, but as soon as I started carving I realised there was a problem with the wood.  The mistake I made was to carry on when I should have stopped straight away and tried to locate more wood.  I am not sure of the exact reason why, but it seems to be extremely soft in places and it was extremely difficult to carve a straight line.  My original source of lime wood did not have the size of wood I needed so I had to go back to Oxford and buy this expensive piece of wood and get it planed at yet another place.  However all this was a waste of time, I will re do the carving over Easter.  Locating the correct wood has been really difficult; especially wood that has been dried long enough.  This has been a tough week, but a valuable lesson, in future I must remember to test the wood before I start work on it.  

Friday, 14 March 2014

Unit X Post 1

Starting Unit X
I spent a long time deliberating over what would be the subject for my new carvings.  I began in a similar way as I started the last unit by deciding what I didn’t want to do, I didn’t want a repeat flowery pattern or anything that was just a pattern on its own.  I spent several days in the library looking through photography, graphic design, illustration etc. and anything else that wasn’t related to textiles or interior design.  I was happy with the last project and the inspiration I took from Ernst Haeckel with its organic shapes of sea urchins and other unusual micro-organisms, however I had a feeling that I wanted to use something that was more personal, something I could actually draw from and something I could be more inventive with.

For this project I will be taking the inspiration for my woodcuts from the idea of collecting and arranging possessions.  I will set up still life scenes using the considerable amount of curious objects that have gradually been accumulating in our family home.  These objects feel quite close and personal to me as I have grown up with them all around me.  I will carefully select items that I am fond of and that interest me and I will use these to arrange still life scenes from which I will draw directly.  

My photographs of collected objects

I had some different ideas for displaying the objects such as having them hanging from branches, in a bowl, clustered in a glass jar, balancing on the steps of a step ladder, or in a nest as if they were gathered by a magpie.  The way I have arranged the objects has derived from my fascination with the early cabinets of curiosities - an eclectic assortment of items all jostling for space on one shelf.

I have enjoyed using collected objects for work in previous years, images below show the collection I gathered from my dad’s overcrowded shed; it was a real obstacle course to climb over the clutter to find these items.  For the final piece I produced, all the objects were brought together for a city landscape.

System Board City - embroidered piece for first year unit x at Hotspur House

Waste Not Want Not

I visited a really interesting exhibition in 2012 at the Barbican by artist Song Dong.  It was an installation of over 10,000 possessions collected by his mother over five decades.  After his father died his mother became very depressed, she had always hoarded and collected and this only became worse, she used the objects to fill the emptiness.  The rest of the family had to store what she couldn’t fit in her house; Song Dong had the idea to include her in his work as an artist, so her possessions became his art.  The family gets together for every exhibition to lay out the items and rekindle memories.  Organising her possessions made her happy and when all laid out they told the story of her life.  None of the items were particularly worth anything apart from sentimental value.  I like the Chinese value of ‘waste not, want not’ but I don’t think I could take it this far.  
My photos from the exhibition - empty toothpaste tubes, folded plastic bags..

Whilst researching, I came across a book called ‘A passion for Collecting – The art of Displaying Objects from the Exotic to The Everyday’ it is a fascinating insight into other people’s collections of possessions.  When I was growing up I was often intrigued by the minimalist d├ęcor of my friends’ homes; they felt so different compared to my own.  Below are some images I found in the book.

I wanted to make a block that was 21 inches wide, which is the size of the wallpaper I have been using; however I know I can be more flexible with smaller blocks as I can arrange them and combine them in different ways. I have increased the scale of my blocks since the last project as I know how long it takes to cover a large area using the Columbian press.  I have been quite mathematical with the sizes this time, as I did not take this into consideration in the last project, I did not think about how the blocks would fit into the 21 inches, in fact the stripes I was using fitted three and a half times across the width and I had to put newspaper down the side when printing, which was not ideal.  This time I have been more careful with how the blocks fit into the 21 inches, whilst still leaving room for experimentation when I come to print them.