Red squiggley lines keeps telling me that “aposematic” isn’t a real word, but it absolutely is; I Googled it just to make sure.
- (of coloration or markings) Serving to warn or repel predators.
- (of an animal) Having such coloration or markings.
This is what I decided to name the collection of textile designs that I produced for the Society of Dyers and Colourists’s live project brief entitled “fashion for the future”. The brief was very open, but we had to work within two constraints: we had to work to a trend forecast from one of the big textile design journals, and we had to strongly consider sustainability or a sense of eco-friendliness in our designs.
The summer 2013 trend “alien paradise” in issue 96 of Textile View really jumped out at me (I’d originally chosen an Art Deco theme, but to be honest I really wasn’t finding it too interesting), saying “This chapter is inspired by the wonderful world of primeval forests and jungles, augmented and enchanted by new technologies. Leaf patterns and the shiny skins of rainforest frogs inspire fabrics and patterns.”
I originally visited Dundee’s botanic gardens to hang around in the hot house and photograph their tropical and carnivorous plants, but found that February isn’t really the ideal time of year for such things. I quickly moved on to looking at rainforest frogs, which I have absolutely fallen in love with. There are so many beautiful pattern and colour variations, and most of the frogs are absolutely tiny and adorable (and poisonous). This area of research obviously lends itself well to the sustainability factor of the brief, so I researched the Amazon rainforest and conservation charities.
I placed my designs into the context of interiors accessories (I do love a good cushion), more specifically kids’ bedroom accessories. I feel that the bright colours and graphic marks I have used would really sit well in a kid’s room, and the subject matter of the prints would help to get the young ‘uns interested in conservation, nature, animals, and travel. I also feel that the handmade element would really add value to my final pieces, and really creates an appreciation in the customer and a bond between them and the finished product, giving a very non-disposable feel to my work.
I hand-printed designs on habotai silk with acid dyes that I mixed myself. I ordered digitally printed silk with my own hand-drawn and Photoshop-coloured-in illustrations of frogs, and my grand plans were to hand print on top with my chosen colours and foil effects, but my prints took over a week to arrive and I received them about three hours before my printing workshop access was stopped, so that’s rather disappointing and I feel as though some of my prints are simply unfinished. However, I am pleased with what I produced in such a short time. I didn’t really know what context I was aiming for when I began printing and chose silk because I felt the delicate, airy, shiny feeling of the fabric was appropriate for my project, and silk really shows colour well; with my context now being kids’ interiors, I wish I had worked with a more durable cotton base fabric.
Here are a few pictures from my sketchbook; there are more (and larger versions) over on Flickr.
And here are my three final presentation boards (A2 in size):
You can’t really tell from the photo, but in between the frogs on the digitally printed fabric I’ve hand-printed lines of gold foil. Also the colours in the photos are a bit off (especially for the context board), but I think it gives a good idea of my project and final designs.
This is it. Semester 2 of my first year at DJCAD is nearly over. I almost can’t believe it.
The first half of this Border Crossings project asked us to pick an aspect of our identities and use it as inspiration. I had a bit of trouble with this, but eventually settled on traditional crafts, mainly knitting and origami. These are things that I find very therapeutic – I like the repetitive nature of these crafts and I really enjoy that you can follow a set of instructions and come away with one defined outcome. The second part of the project asked us to research an aspect of Slovenian culture to take inspiration from. Živa, a Slovenian student I was grouped with, pointed me in the direction of Idrija lace, which is native to the Idrija region of Slovenia and dates back to the 16th century. The lace is really beautiful, and often full of traditional motifs.
I have found this project very challenging, but nevertheless here’s a wee look at my final presentation boards.
Project 1 and 2:
Feel free to click the images to see them bigger, and please let me know what you think!
…or “I don’t like slide shows so I hope your scrollin’ hand isn’t tired.”
I’ve had a bit of a difficult time with this new module. It’s based around the concept of identity – personal identity, cultural identity, our identities as designers within our specialisms. This is a lot to think about!
I struggled to think of things relating to my identity that I could actually draw. I mind-mapped things like my family relationships and my personality traits, but those things aren’t exactly drawable. Now, I love me some traditional crafts – knitting, crochet, origami, sewing, bookbinding (not something I do a lot, but I took a 6 week class at the DCA once – very recommended!). I find these things quite therapeutic – the repetition and the thought of following steps to reach a desired outcome is very reassuring to me, somehow. So I decided to focus on that.
Also, in relation to my cultural identity, I’m Dundonian through and through, so I looked initially at maps of Dundee and the surrounding area, our railway bridge history (oh hay William McGonagall), and our textile heritage (jute everywhere!). I’d also like to bring more aspects of “Scottishness” into my sketchbook, although I have found myself falling into the trap of Scotland being all tartan all the time.
It’s print week! I’ve been really looking forward to print week, because I’ve always been fascinated by screen printing and for a long time I’ve wanted to learn how to do it. What we’re doing it quite far removed from what I used to think when I thought of screen printing – there are no pretty pictures printed onto cushion covers here! We’ve had to pick a texture from our sketchbooks to transfer to a screen; brush marks, splash marks, swishy lines – anything that’s come up in our sketchbooks from drawing, mark-making, collage, whatever! I made a screen covered in hand-drawn lines/stripes, based on the same sketchbook page I used as the basis for my mixed media work last week. Making screens is really exciting – you get to use the massive UV light exposure unit, and the pressure hose, and there’s a wee bit of apprehension as to whether it’ll actually turn out properly, or whether it’ll actually make nice prints. As it stands, though, I’m quite happy with my screen!
Our prints, along with teaching us about printing techniques, are an exercise in layering and masking. At first, I was trying to be very considered with my colours and the placements of my screen and paper stencils, but really I think I was just a bit intimidated to try anything “outrageous”. As my confidence has grown a bit with the printing process, I’ve begun to use a lot more, brighter colours, and do a bit more interesting (hopefully!) layering. I’ve decided that, well, what can really go wrong? Print some yellow, red, blue, see what happens. If it really looks awful, either put more on top, or tomorrow we’re learning about using discharge paste to remove the dye from the fabric. And if it’s really, really horrible and unfixable, well it’s only a little piece of silk – you can buy more!
This morning I mixed up a couple of dye pastes, so I’m looking forward to using those tomorrow, and seeing if my calculating and measuring skills are really as reliable as I assumed they were at the time.
Also, this week, I’ve spent over £5 on masking tape. Scandal! Must learn to use the stuff more economically.
This week begins our block of ‘process into practice’, where the whole class is split into three groups, and over three weeks each group alternates a week of knitting, a week of printing, and a week of mixed media. I’ve been knitting. It’s great! It’s frustrating at times, and I kind of feel permanently cross-eyed from concentrating so hard on all those little needles, but it’s fun discovering what the knitting machines can do. From doing a fair bit of hand knitting in my time (my house is packed full of half-knitted things – a shawl, a scarf, mittens, and an octopus, to name a few!) I have a good idea of how the stitches work and things, so I feel like I’ve picked things up relatively easily. Of course, after things went so well the first day I got all cocky, and then on day 2 I dropped approximately a million stitches. So that was good.
From being a hand knitter and crocheter, I’ve been used to measuring yarns in terms of double knit, Aran, lace weight, or wraps-per-inch (where, funnily enough, you measure your yarn based on how many strands fit into an inch) and have never really understood the “2/16” way of labelling yarn. Having spent some time nosing around the yarn store I think I have a better understanding of it, but it still hurts my brain, so here’s a handy blog post I found that explains it. I also have some difficulty in translating my hand knitting know-how into machine knitting, like if I wanted to increase or decrease my number of stitches. Since these are only single-bed machines, we can’t do ribs or anything, just plain stocking stitch, so I’d like to learn about how to use a double-bed machine. I am also very excited to learn about punch cards for making patterns, and I hope we get to experiment with these this year.
Casting on is the easiest thing in the world. After you’ve figured out how to thread up (yarn up?) your machine, stringing the yarn up from the cone through a few wire loops (reminiscent of a bugs’ antennae), you pull forward the needles you want to knit on, and wrap your yarn in a little ‘e’ around each needle. This is called, as you would imagine, the e-wrap technique. Once you’ve done all the needles, you fix the yarn into the knitting machine’s carriage, which is the part you pull across the machine bed, and is the part that does all the hard work.
The knitting part is also pretty easy, actually. You just pull the carriage across the machine bed, and it knits! Magic! The exciting, difficult, frustrating part is when you start manipulating the knitting. You can do pretty much anything you want to, which is bad for me, because I want to try absolutely everything. I know I’m supposed to be sampling to supplement what’s in my sketchbook, but I just want to see what the machine can do. I’ve made eyelets, ladders, tucks, double hems (where you make ‘tunnels’ in your fabric), and added in extra short rows of contrasting colours. It’s been very exciting so far, and hopefully on tomorrow I can concentrate on making one or two finished, well-made, relevant samples for my sketchbook. Hopefully I can also wash and block all my samples, so they stop curling up.
I think I need to learn to calm down a bit – rather than flitting from one technique to another, and getting excited about learning how to use punch cards and double-bed machines and everything I possibly can, I should really just concentrate on properly translating my sketchbook into my samples. It’s fun though.
Unfortunately, it’s dark by the time I get home these days, so I haven’t been able to take any decent daylight-y photos of the samples I’ve done so far. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to lay them out nicely in the knit room and snap a few good shots.
I can tell from some of the pixels and from seeing quite a few shops in my time.
This week us 2nd year Craft and Design students are being inducted into the world of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. I’d used Photoshop a bit before, as part of my Textiles HND at Dundee College, and also at home, but it’s good to pick up some new tips and tricks for image editing and manipulation. It can be difficult to keep up when trying to follow the instructions of someone who really knows what they’re doing, though.
Yesterday I scanned several sketchbook pages, which is quite a feat if you think about the size of an A2 sketchbook compared to the size of an A4 scanner! I spent a while both yesterday and today clicking about, playing with layers and filters and all sorts of technical wizardry, and eventually came up with a couple of pages that I didn’t think were completely awful. I tried to stay away from making too much repeated pattern, as I feel that my sketchbooks are full of that kind of thing, and I wanted to produce something a bit different, and a bit more abstract.
I know I’m probably going to be lynched for saying this, but after two days of working on a Mac, I kind of can’t wait to go home to my trusty Windows machine.