Sources of Inspiration

I grew up near a tidal river estuary in Lancashire.  I spent lots of time walking there.  When I was about 8, we went on a school trip to Sunderland Point – a little hamlet- the road to which is often cut off by the high tides.  I remember learning the name of wading birds.  Ever since I have been really attracted to the openness of estuaries.  I love the long horizontal lines that make the view, the merging of colours in the distance and the feeling of wanting to walk forever across the mud.

After the caterpillar project, I wanted something  I really could connect with.  There is also a fab campsite just next to the coast where we went for a lovely weekend away in September.  Thus the scene is set for my next project.




This was in October.  It seems so long ago, I will only briefly mention it.  My tutor supported my decision to drop the PVC idea and the caterpillar inspiration (Inspiration is a bit of a strong word for it).  She made some noises about how, if I’d cut the strips narrower, it might have worked.  But we both acknowledged that the limiting colour from paddling pools was driving the project.  This isn’t the way we have been taught to work.  The inspiration is supposed to drive the project and determine the choice of materials.  Not let the materials drive the project.    Is this the way all designers work ??  I am reading the book about Ann Sutton (Sheehan and Tebby)

and her inspirational use of materials seems largely to drive her projects. This is a photo of her famous Love Seat – made by stuffing woollen tubes (made on a sock machine).  Surely this was a material-driven project ??

  A different way of working…. I need to think about this some more.  How does anyone else work ?  I’d be interested in hearing any views.

I presented my 3 samples that I had worked on using my Estuary theme, and got some very helpful advice (and time to try out) ideas on how to achieve texture in samples without resorting to novelty yarn.  Not that there is anything wrong with novelty yarn, but distorted weaving seems to have more energy.  More on my estuary work in next post.

I used garden wire as a warp – the green stuff, plastic coated.  It was quick to warp on  6 epi.  I wove in double weave to make a tube and used lots of different strips of plastic.  Green, transparent green, white, yellow.  It sort of matched some of my art work.  Of course it was flat and looked more like a squashed caterpillar but it would TRANSFORM magically once released from the loom (aka chryslis).

Well………  3 hours of work later…. it did not look at all caterpillar like.  I can hardly bear to post a photo of it.  Should I ? 

Even my husband was lost for words (and that doesn’t often happen).  I don’t think I have ever woven anything un inspiring before.

I didn’t give up. A lot of time and energy had gone into getting the PVC, I couldn’t just give up on it.  I tried warping up on my 8 shaft table loom.  I used polypropolene garden string as warp.  It comes in lots of different colPVC Weavingours and isn’t slipperly, knots well.  I chose yellow and blue and warped it in stripes. 

It wasn’t as bad a disaster.  It was colourful.  It was PVC.  It looked a bit like plastic deck chair covers.  I persevered for a while.  Honeycomb weave didn’t work particularly well – I think I would need more shafts to make it look 3D with PVC.  Basket weave looked OK. 

I looked at it critically.  Did I want to spend 4 more months trying to make something look OK, when it was only looking fairly mediocre at the moment (with rose-tinted glasses on).?  Did I want to be a PVC Recycling Hero ?  No.  Why not do something that straight away looks quite good and with some more work and inspiration could look fab.  Well, I tried…….. Do I get environmental brownie points for trying ?

But not to worry….. I have inspiration for a new project……..

Making pvc yarn from paddling pool

Making pvc yarn from paddling pool

A long time since I last blogged. I think (in hindsight) that this was because I wasn’t too happy with what I was working on, so wasn’t too keen to share. But Now I Have Ditched It (well I think i have – is this post a therapy session to come to terms with this, I ask myself?)

Lets start at the begining….. Our next project is supposed to be about recycling (or at least a nod in the direction of environmentalism). I tried weaving strips of plastic bags and thought they could be a useful garden-type textile. I have tried plastic bag weaving before and not been very enthrawled, so not sure why I grasped this idea. Anyway, I grasped at this straw very strongly and went off running with it. Plastic bags are in short supply at our house (being environmentally minded and having one child still in night-time nappies- OK not disposable) Perhaps using strips of toddlers paddling pools, PVC would be better.
I sourced several punctured paddling pools from all over sheffield – lots of colours. Feeling proud of myself, I was.
Now….. on with artwork. What would make good use of all these bright shiny colours.mmmm. Caterpillars… they are a bit comical, bright and colourful and garden-y.
Io_moth_caterpillarMAX00761More on caterpillar art in my next post.  I think I need to get all this out of my system before I can pick the subject for my next project and time is running out…!

Clints (limestone blocks) and Grykes (cracks in between)

Clints (limestone blocks) and Grykes (cracks in between)

We have been given the topic of Layers for our next project with Double Weave as the technique to explore.

I had been thinking about this for a while, as I was familiar with Double Weave.  I had thought of doing Limestone Pavements as a topic – being an ex-geography teacher, it would remind me of school field-trips.  I also admire what the Limestone Pavement Protection group are doing.  They are seeking to protect the limestone from being ripped up and sold at garden centres as water washed limestone, for rockery features.

Above Malham Cove there is an outstanding example of Limestone Pavement.  It’s about 2 hours north of Sheffield.  I’ve reluctantly decided that it’s too far to travel around other commitments.  Another project, another day.

So, I was after something 3 Dimensional for this project to best use Double Weave.    A pine cone …..yes…easy to draw at home,…..doesn’t move about (unlike last project subject matter)…doesn’t wilt and die (like flowers)..  So….Pine Cone…….like the effect of the light/dark.  Texture is very dry and rough.  Time to do a bit of drawing. painting and general pinecone research.

Well, I’m well into the first year of a 2 year course at Bradford College – THE weaving course, apparantly – there’s nothing much else like it round the country.  Distance learning with long weekends in college every couple of months.  Great people on the course.  Learning lots.  Spare time since I started it in Sept- Nil

We’re on project 4 now.  I may go back and do a few photos of previous projects but for now, I intend to stick to this current one.  My design thoughts (in varying degrees of practicality) come thick and fast.   Getting anything down on paper in time before the next urgent idea blasts through is a challenge in itself.  I hope blogging will help me keep track of all my ideas.  A bit like a notebook that I can’t lose.

Project 4 – is about Double Weave (or Double Cloth).  I’ve done some of this before and loved it.  Easy on 4 shafts.  Can make it look like layers of leaves

Double Weave - 2 layers 'stitched' down along centre


Double weave -2 layers with all layers stitched down in centre



Cabbage leaf

 This Spring Cabbage leaf was the inspiration
Or the layers can be stuffed….
Stuffed double weave sample

Stuffed double weave sample

 In this case, the naturally cotton (onion skins) was stuffed with indigo dyed sheeps fleece.

Large Totem Head
Large Totem Head

The inspiration for the stuffed double weave.  Courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park.