Soft Sculpture

I am desperate to build on my sewing and textile skills, I love working with fabric so a new project has given me this opportunity. Ellen Welsh has recently worked in Soft Sculpture and textiles, so I was reading her blog (which you should all check out! Just click the link above) and she recommended a book.  I received my copy in the post this morning and for anyone who is looking at working with soft sculpture it’s a really useful book!

A few things I picked out from the book to work with includes the chapter on construction and Ideas for inspiration, the parts about primitive influences in particular (p.25). In addition ‘The Cover’ by Mary Lou Higgins (p.36), which is a 44” high quilted satin wall hanging and ‘Ma Bell’ by Kay M. Aronson (p.61) a three dimensional textile wall piece. The book is also extremely useful in teaching you hand embroidery stitches.

Fabrice Monteiro

Researching into the history of slavery in Gees Bend I came across the horrific contraptions slaves were made to wear during this period.  Such as the heavy iron collars with spikes and bells attached. I felt I needed to look further into this and into the function of the spike and antler like pieces that appeared from out of the collar.  I discovered an artist who works on the border between photojournalism and fashion photography. He has a taste for the portrait, the looks and sensitivity it can covey, but mostly for his homeland, Africa.

He manages to convey so much emotion in a single image, it’s truly inspirational.

Check out his website and other works:

fabricemonteiro.viewbook.com

 

The absract textiles of Gees Bend

This summer I’ve been planning my dream trip to do the states. I have no idea when I will able to do it but when I have the funds and time I’m off! So I’ve been going through each individual state deciding on a few things I’d like to do in each one. When I got to researching Alabama one of the things that I came across and that stood out to me was the Gees Bend Quilts.

Gees Bend is an isolated area of land enclosed on three sides by the Alabama river.  The area took its name from Joseph Gee who moved there, bringing slaves, to establish a cotton plantation in the early 1800’s.  After slavery was abolished many became share croppers in the area. To this day a majority of people who live there are descendants from the cotton plantation workers. A Freedom Quilting Bee was formed in the 1960’s during the civil rights movement, and many of the Gees Bend women were members.  Their unique bold and jazzy artistic style combined with the use of a variety of materials has transformed how many people think about art. 

They almost look like abstract paintings and I love how they look nothing like those uniform, square alongside square, quilts.  Using these as my starting point for a project I wanted to look more into the history of slavery in Gees Bend and combine the two.

More Wearable Sculpture

Here’s my Miss Havisham, Great Expectations inspired wearable sculpture from A level.  Made from my Grandmas old wedding dress, I embroidered half and melted bin bags with a heat gun for the other side.  Barbed wire spirals the decaying side with burnt rose petals and pages from the book. Watches hang stopped at 8 hours 40 minutes. The flower shoulder piece of the wedding dress is made from love poems and hand painted perfume bottles hang from the back.
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A wire bodysuit from my first semesters electrical project. Made by weaving craft wire and copper wire.

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Adding a dab of colour…

After working on both black and white paper it was suggested to me to try a coloured background.  So I created a multi coloured back ground and a washed background.

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The multicoloured background with black figures painted on it had an element of primitivism to it, I really liked this.  Whereas the washed background didn’t feel like it worked as well.

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Making do.

I couldn’t get hold of a black sheet of A1 until tomorrow so I decided to use my time wisely and make do with my left over white sheet.  I decided to create an inverse of what I had previously painted on a black background, so here it is:

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I do feel that the two would need to be displayed side by side for the painting on the white background to look as good as it can, whereas the painting on the black background stands out well even if it was shown alone.

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I’ve decided I don’t like white.

When I looked at my collection of recent work altogether something just didn’t look right.  The white background I’d been using to paint people on didn’t seem to fit with my heavy biro drawings of streets, it was almost like they were two different peoples work.  A different coloured background was my first option and I chose black A1 paper.  For my first attempt I used white and grey oil pastel and I really liked the mix of colours, it kind of looked like lots of ghosts.

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I wanted to take it another step forward with the new background, so I decided to try it in acrylic paint.  I used white and two shades of grey and the result was so much better, the figures stood out a lot more.

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Here’s a close up of a section from it:

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Trying to solve order.

I found in my larger drawings I had begun to separate the figures and I’d been arranging them which was against what I had in mind. So I went back to A3 but I really needed to get back to the rushed way I was drawing in my sketch book and when I was picking out key characteristics I’d noticed and focusing on them. The way I went around this was to watch videos of people giving tours around their city streets, this way I not only had seconds to draw the people passing but I could also capture how quickly they were travelling and, in scale, the distance they were from the camera/me. This solved my arrangement problem as I didn’t get much of a chance to look at the paper so I drew them where they were on the screen, even if that meant many areas of crossover.

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A radical change in scale!

To develop my previous people watching sketches I felt I needed to get them out of the sketchbook and on a larger scale, so I chose to go from A5 to A1.  I began by sitting and taking pictures of people passing me and then going back to my studio and drawing them. This is the result:

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But by changing from life to photos my sketches became orderly and meticulous.  The different source had completely changed the style and I didn’t want that.   So I tried again but this time I looked out of my studio window to draw the people who walked past, this is the result:

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Half way through drawing this it started to rain, so everyone began to put their hoods up. I made the mistake of thinking about this and so I stopped and waited for the rain to finish, when in actual fact I should of carried on as I was recording human nature so shouldn’t have been thinking about the composition. This was another thing I needed to change so I decided to try again and this time I used the people walking past in the background of peoples Disney family photos, a kind of ‘Ghost’ you could call them.

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