I should warn that this post is going to be long – it’s the tale of my final assignment for OCA Textiles 1, “A Design Project”. I’ve posted the package, I’ve written the evaluation, I just need to record the process and – I’m done. Three years including my deferment and my extension – and I’m still working right up to the deadline (today). A sensible woman might have written several shorter posts as she went along… Actually, I think I will write several shorter posts, just all on the same day…
This is where I had got to by 24th May:
I have probably enough ideas now for a whole series but have finally settled on a set of felted placemats with a blue and white colour range. Blue and white is used in two iconic types of china: willow pattern and Cornishware; in textiles indigo resists immediately spring to mind. I am currently looking at uses of indigo and blue dyeing in various cultures, shibori of course, but also adire, and work from India, Java and Hungary and will be starting to make samples shortly. I want the mats to make a united set but each one will be different, expressing the idea of welcoming a diversity of people around a table.
I serendipitously came across a recently published book by Jennifer Kavanagh called The O of Home, and think her ideas about embracing circles and broken circles feed into my concept. I was already playing with circles when looking at plates and bowls, and they are a recurring theme in my work as well. I see each mat with a blue and white circle or radial on a white/cream background (from undyed fleece). I have a number of ideas for the circles and will sample to find out which ones work best or if something different emerges…
I was also struck by a sentence in Christine Pohl’s Making Room about hospitality offering people ‘a journey towards visibility’. I am thinking about each mat having words free machine embroidered round the edge in white/cream, merging into the background – maybe quotes from the women at Yarl’s Wood or other people who have needed refuge and sanctuary. However, I think I probably need permission to use other people’s words in my work so it might not be possible to obtain that from the people involved, some of who may now have been deported. Another option I am considering is religious quotations about hospitality. Either way I would want these to be very subtle so that from a distance they are just an embroidered border and only emerge as text on a closer look. Sampling will tell me if I can pull that off.
Based on this I started to play with design ideas in my theme book. Because I planned to use nuno felt techniques I had a dyeing day to lay in a good stock of sheer blue fabrics; and I gathered together all the blue and white fabric/yarn/fibre and paper I could find.
I then made some felt samples. I began by making a couple of plain mats using different fibres – Shetland, Blue-faced Leicester, and one that was a mix of those two with some Merino. I decided to go with the BFL, which has a lovely textured surface when felted.
I also bought some sample packs of African, Javanese and Indian fabrics online (from The African Fabric Shop, Textile Techniques, and the lovely Glitz and Pieces on Etsy). I looked at some beautiful indigo textiles from Japan and Hungary as well, but they only came in big pieces, way beyond my budget.
These are the ideas for circles on felt that I recorded in my theme book. I was thinking that they should all be open in some way, circles without edges, to symbolise that within this enclosing shape, no one is shut out.
Meanwhile, I wrote to the Yarl’s Wood Befrienders who kindly gave permission for me to use the words of detainees from their web site.