New work inspired by the coal mining around St Helens
After four really productive weeks of making small art I have had a disappointing week; struggling to get any level of momentum. I spent the week as I planned to – researching and creating cloth for the third string of work that I will exhibit next year. The inspiration comes from those industries, and those structures, that no longer exist – the coal mining industry around St Helens, Lancashire being a great example. I wasn’t working completely from scratch. I have learnt from a couple of failed attempts at printing cloth so I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to achieve and how. And I’d already found a great resource on line – the Sutton Beauty and Heritage site. But I didn’t know if it would all come together. I really needed to lock myself in the studio for a whole weekend to completely immerse myself in the process. Knowing that, at most, I could only work for 3 hours in an evening was enough of a limitation that it throw me. And then there was the start of major building work on our home – likely to be a massive distraction for the next couple of months. Here is what I achieved:
- Day 21 – at home all day because of builders I actually spent about 6 hours in the studio but only 1 hour on small art. Not sure what happened to the other 5 hours!
- Day 22 – 1.5 hours researching and making thermofax screens
- Day 23 – 2 hours – took a break from the new work and instead stitched Kilns 4.
- Day 24 – 2 hours printing and experimenting with discharge.
- Day 25 – a scant 1 hour washing and ironing fabrics
Only 7.5 hours in total. I don’t have the luxury of time with two exhibitions in the first half of next year so cannot afford weeks like this! So this weekend I focussed on getting my act together / pulling my finger out / got down off the fence and finally made some decisions on this series! The results are rather pale and ethereal. I have finished a piece and put it into a picture frame I had in the studio. It didn’t photograph very well and the mountboard is the wrong shade of white but it actually looks rather lovely. Certainly lovely enough to make more. Which is what I will be doing in the 6th week of my 100 (week) day challenge.
It is a good job that I have a Plan B as my experiments over the last week or so have failed to give me a ‘WOW’ moment. The results didn’t even fall into the ‘Ugly Duckling’ category of pieces that might fit in with what I’m trying to achieve with some additional process. The experiment has been educational but not in any way that is connected with what I think I’m trying to achieve.
I started with 8 pieces of cotton each ‘marked’ with a different medium. It turns out that my water resistant acrylic ink didn’t put up much of a fight and washed out when put in the soda bath to soak. The soda solution was a beautiful turquoise colour as I poured it down the drain. Luckily (sic) the colour washed out so sucessfully that I can reuse the piece of cloth. The remaining seven, soda soaked and dried pieces were pinned to the bench and a layer of colour added using an open silkscreen.
After batching them I washed and dried the pieces. The original marks were all clearly visible below the layer of colour. The lines I had made with dilute acrylic and with acrylic mixed with Golden Matt Medium looked a little faded and fuzzy but the rest appeared unchanged. I then stripped out the colour using two methods. One half of each piece of cloth was discharged using Formosol mixed with print paste and applied through a screen. The other half was discharged using the cheapest bleach I could find (40p for 2 litres – bargain!) and a fan brush.
The Formosol discharged to a fairly consistent colour irrespective of the original colour. The bleach gave a bit more variation and also some different colours. Neither method affected the original marks. Hmm … I had been hoping for some really interesting chemistry to happen that maybe striped back or somehow changed the first layer of marks. Instead discharging added colours to the fabric pieces that created a palette that reminded me of street lights glowing in the dark. Which has got me thinking about something else … maybe the beginning of something else? So the pieces will be hung on a small design wall to contemplate whilst I move on to Plan B!
I have a confession to make – I have let ‘being kind to myself’ because I started a new day job 5 weeks ago slide into procrastination. Now I don’t mind ‘value added’ procrastination such as deep cleaning the studio before starting a new project. But I have been guilty of non-value added procrastination …. did I really, really need to finish watching all those Walking Dead boxed sets? Hmm – probably not!
Mixing a new colour family
So how am I going to get back into a good studio habit? I’m going to do one of those things that I love most of all. I am going to develop new colour families. I have had a BIG IDEA brewing for a while and have decided that now is the time to start working on it. Inevitably (as with the colour family I mixed this week) I will waste quite a lot of dye and cloth before I get something that replicates the colours in my head. However I always keep good records of everything I mix so, in one sense, nothing is wasted. And yes I always uses scales to make sure my colour families are reproducible.
Colour family made with a 60/40 Dark Brown/Black blend and Rust. Each colour was also discharged using Formosol.