Author Archives: Chester's Friends

About Chester's Friends

I was Chester's Mum. I still am even though he took his trip over the rainbow bridge many years ago. He took with him a big chunk of m heart with him. He is the inspiration behind Chester's Friends. With your help, I make all the friends he wanted in his life. I look forward to introducing you beloved to the rest thank of Chester's Friends.

Part 5 Stage 3 Developing design ideas

I have sketched and pondered how to move forward with the samples I have produced. I have ideas of producing mourning jewellery from the distemper filled negatives, a mourning cape from the rust dyed fabric adding trims made from cine film. But they all seem hollow ideas. I came across a piece of paper on my work desk.. It was underneath a pile of my samples and i neither remember where I got the quote  upon it nor the author. But it came to me and settled something in my heart. I wanted to not make something abstract that had no obvious symbol of what had been haunting me since I started Exploring ideas and sought out my tribe. My family history. Whilst I want to explore a way of expressing myself that isn’t obvious, anecdotal. I wanted to show the discoveries and celebrate the life of my Great Grand Mother The quote reads:

‘Collections of work which evoke moments in our lives. Here are people and glimpses of stories making themes of our very existence. reminiscent works which reference mythology and storytelling, using the line of thread to connect relationships and define emotions such as suffering, hope and renewal.

These are punctuations which reveal the sense of self and identity, the making of connections between the touching and tactile quality of textile, and the expression of feelings’.

I copied the text and searched on-line for where I may have got it from. Fortunately I was successful in finding it as a quote on Alice kettles website.

I had been looking through my workbooks for all of Exploring ideas and there were certain approaches that when I looked they almost punched me in the stomach. The darning over faces was one set of samples that in my eye had a power to them. They resonated with me as I have had times in my life that I have wished I could erase myself from. The act of removing a face, and as I wrote, ‘Can we obliterate the past?’ We can remove our images from photographs, but we cannot remove those experiences from our history.

I undertook therapy a few years ago, where I explored my own history and I worked on events, relationships and how they had shaped my own view of myself. It was painful, hard work and most of the time I would have run away from doing it. What I had hoped for and what I got from it was the truth of who I am I was able to see a truth that had been obscured by other people’s word and actions to me that I had believed. They were wrong and I was able to be guided to the truth with the care of my therapist. She once told me ” We cannot rewrite our past, but we can learn to live with it in a different way.’

As I was working with my therapist, I started to work on a patchwork. It had items from my past within it. Quotes, thoughts, a glove from my first wedding and more. I was building a ‘wrapping cloth’. A cloth that I would have wished to present and gift  to myself when I was born. It would have words of encouragement and in painful lonely times I would have used it to wrap around myself to feel the warmth of the love that went into its production. As I read the quote from Alice kettle, I knew that I would like to make a similar quilt that would hold the many approaches i have worked on as I have progressed though Exploring Ideas. I feel It will allow me to produce something that has a story to tell. That a viewer would need, if they wished to take time to see all it contains. The hidden stories and textures that I have gathered.

The course notes ‘Design is as much about what you leave out as what you include and the ability to be succinct needs practice’. I feel that in the next stage of gathering together those approaches that are important to me, I will be able to  asses as I move forward. In my reintroduction to being materials led, I shall allow myself to judge each section of the quilt, as I go along.

These thoughts and realisations move me into Stage 4, Making a story board. In deed that is exactly where I am now. A board that tells not only the story of what samples and approaches I can take forward, but also of which aspects of my tribes story I reveal.


Kettle, A. (2016). Alice Kettle | Textile Artist Gallery. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 May 2016].



Part 5 Personal Project, Stage 2

I new as soon as I had completed Part 3 and received my tutors report that I wanted to take some of the materials I had gathered for part 3 and develop some of those samples further. I knew I had held back with some materials foolishly and, I needed to make sure I got a grip of letting materials take me to where they could go. I had been blocking their progress as ‘Something I wanted to tackle for Part 5’. I am so annoyed with myself for doing this as it was short-sighted and I was not pushing myself as I truly want to do so.

I had an idea that was stimulated by visiting Cornelia Parker’s exhibition at the Whitworth gallery, Manchester in April 2015, on a study day with the OCA. I was enamoured with her work and was particularly drawn to her ‘Pornographic’ drawings. In my blog dated June 2nd 2015 I had written:  ‘I wanted to see if she had included any of her ‘Pornographic drawings’ as I was referencing them in the Exploring ideas course. The first thing my eyes focussed on was indeed one of those images. Pornographic drawings are prints made using confiscated pornographic films given by H.M Customs, mixed with chemicals which melt the celluloid film into a substance Parker then make prints with. She used the method that produces images in the manner of Rorschach psychological ink blots.’

I wanted to do the same with the negatives I had and also the cine film. I have had both soaking in acetone for weeks and so far little has changed except that the negatives have warped slightly. I had been working on many ‘samples’ by working on using the raw materials I had gathered throughout the Exploring Ideas course. I was conscious when working on Part 3, especially so when my tutor had made this comment:



It stuck a chord as when I had been working on part 3 I had literally become frozen, and was unable to move forward. I noted that I had lost my ability to play and explore playfully with materials as I had a ‘end game’ in mind that I couldn’t shift. This disabled me from getting the most out of the materials I had used. I connected it with my year of working on the Introduction to printing that had me focussed on producing and end product -print- in mind and then  planning how to get there. I had struggled with this course and it had permeated into every pore and creative habit. One good thing that did arise from it was that because of that struggle with printing I had learned a lot about how I naturally prefer to work, think, problem solve and also how tenacious I can be in trying to solve a problem or master a technique.

I was at the stage of resigning myself to not being able to make the July assessment, which was a target of mine when I decided to review again the samples I had been working on for weeks. I had gathered the materials I had and started to break down some mental barriers I had about where I was going. I had bags of distemper, 4 reels of cine film numerous negatives of 35mm and medium format, old Polaroid film, a large piece of fabric that had been soaking for 9 months in vinegar and wrapped around an iron grate from the workhouse and slate roof tiles from the workhouse buildings.

The raw materials:

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Though I was working with materials I had gathered which related to my ancestry I wanted to look beyond any preconceived ideas I had about the end product, personal piece and allow myself to be led by those materials to a destination I knew not where or how. I needed to surrender to the process again. A lost skill. I soaked some in acetone as previously mentioned and then I set about looking at what I could do with the distemper as I had so much of it. The volume of distemper took away any nerves about using all I had to sample and nothing left to create a ‘finished piece’. it had been in my studio for nearly a year now and has dried out into small crusted blocks and dust. My first thought was how can I turn this into something I could work with? My tutor had commented that:


I felt I had validation that there was something in the distemper that I had to find and bring out. I knew I could only do this with experimenting. I decided to mix some with gesso and apply it to calico and also to a box canvas. I wanted to have some fabric I could manipulate after the mix had set in order to see what would be left if I crunched and broke up the dried paste.



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I felt I then had to look at ways of containing the dust and small crusts of the distemper. I ripped muslin and made a long tube from it, stitching the sides and I also sectioned it with stitching as I didn’t want it to all drop to the bottom and re-create the bag that it had been collected in.




I stitched together medium format negatives to form a pocket and filled them with distemper, as well as stitching medium format negatives to muslin and filling them with distemper.


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Some negatives I stitched on to acetate that would shrink in the oven and filled them with distemper. After they had been placed in the oven they came out looking as the images below.

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Some I stitched around all four edges and did not fill with distemper. I wanted to see how the negative would be able to mould and change whilst secured to the shrinking acetate.

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I tied medium format negatives onto the shrinking acetate to see how they would react together. I attached them at each corner to allow some flexibility and to see how they would interact together when heat was applied.

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I stitched a pocket of muslin onto the front of a Polaroid film and filled it with distemper too.



I stitched medium format negatives onto the stained fabric and created a pocket in which I filled with distemper.



I stitched a piece of the sinkable acetate to some of the stained fabric, stitching along each of the four sides. It came out of the oven beautifully manipulated.

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I then sandwiched the 35mm negatives that the acetone had distorted and not disintegrated between two pieces of muslin too.


I wrapped some of the acetone soaked negatives in calico to see if there could be a transfer of image.


I did the same with some Polaroid film I had soaked in acetone, but this time wrapped it in the rust stained fabric.


I soaked both in boiling water.I thought this would maximise the chances of transference of inks to the fabric.

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I stitched some of the distorted negatives onto strips of the stained fabric.

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Some of the negatives layers  had actually become slightly separated from each other. It looked as though I could actually coax them apart. I used a bamboo skewer to ease away the images from the stiff base layer of the film. I had done many Polaroid lifts before, where you can put the Polaroid photograph into hot water and the image comes away from the base of the photograph and becomes an almost fluid image that you can then apply to many things such as wood, porcelain etc. I did not know that negatives too could be manipulated in this way. I placed the image layer onto the shrinkable acetate to allow it to dry.

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The ghostly images took on a new persona due to the wrinkles and distortions.

I wondered if these would adhere to the fabric when dried. They didn’t and in fact curled and distorted to the point that they were unrecognisable as negatives. I wasn’t disappointed by this as I was also conscious that I needed to get away from being representational in my work. My tutor had noted:


This was another reason I wanted to revisit Part 3 in an attempt at getting me to work with and explore materials and where I had fallen short.

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I had taken apart some of the Polaroid cassettes and their unused contents as they had already begun to decompose from them being 20 years out of date. I discovered small packets of printing solution that hadn’t been disturbed so I decided to use the contents to see if I could get some print from them. I used calico in strips. I snipped off the ends of each sachet and squeezed the contents onto the calico. I then used a brayer to distribute the solution.  The results were similar to the ‘Pornographic drawings’ by Cornelia Parker.

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I was delighted with the results.

The more I have played with the materials I have gathered the more I removed myself for having any preconceived  idea of what I could produce from them. The had become simply found materials with no connection to my family or its history. I had in fact split my mind into two thoughts. One was that I will produce prints using the dissolved film to produce a final piece and two that I should just see what I could do with the materials I had. For some reason I had relegated my play to a heading of, ‘learn to play with materials’ and regain that skill lost in the Printing course. I had done this to the point where I had become blind to what had grown and developed for this playing.

My mind had been churning over reconciling myself to the fact I would have to wait until November assessment, that anything that would compromise my printing using the solution would not be completing this line of enquiry. Not pushing it to the farthest point. In deciding to out all these new samples out to review I realised that again, I had become blind to the opportunities and possibilities of the materials I had. I suddenly saw them in  a new light and realised my tunnel vision had taken me away from looking at the value of what had come out of my experimenting.

I took to my sketch book to work out some ideas of how I could combine my experiments in some way, to use at least two methods together as the OCA course had requested. I was excited at the prospect of following the materials to see where they would take me.





Part 5 Personal project Stage 1 Reviewing my work so far.

I sat and leafed through the workbooks and sketchbooks I had produced so far in Exploring ideas. I took photographs of work that ‘hit me’ in some way. I was looking for the twitch in my gut that didn’t necessarily tell me clearly why or what but something that was more instinctive.




















Two things struck me: firstly how I again returned to my ancestry project which was in Part one looking at cultures. I have unfinished business with this but I am not sure what? I am drawn to the hidden text, stitching to selectively show aspects of the text, darning to obliterate images or part of images.

Secondly, how in my sketchbooks I have used vivid colours and played with textures and ideas using collage,  ripping and using a variety of mediums, pastels, acrylics and machine and hand stitch.

Both are completely different as though two people have done the work. This puzzled me. It also showed me how when I began Exploring ideas I had got into the groove of working materials led, playing with ideas and also I had got a strong working process of beginning with research and then producing samples. I can remember being inspired and excited by both processes.

I knew I had lost these newly learnt skills through my working on the printing course, which is extremely well documented. I know from my tutors report for part 3 that I need to loosen up and get back into these grooves if my work was to develop to the standard I want and the course demands. I am fearful and anxious that I may not be able to, but that I know is my ego talking and in truth I want to progress and develop too much to be halted long by these fears. I decided to photograph part 4 and look for glimmers of these processes. (Drama Queen moment).









I took most images of the decaying fabric, distempered fabric and manipulated negatives and cine film. I have a voice in the back of my mind when producing any samples and it is of my tutor saying” Push them as far as you can, don’t stop short of what they can be”.  In this work I did stop too early and missed opportunities. In my mind I wanted to revisit these and take them further in my Part 5. I saw them as the seeds of inspiration that I could move with. A mistake in retrospect. I was not honouring my self as an artist who needs and strives to push herself and to see just what I can produce. I don’t want to just study a degree, I want to become the artist I dreamed of being when I was 14. I know through art I can express the soul that came on this earth to have a voice. I don’t wish the statement to be dramatic or pretentious. It is the truth that hides inside me. Given that truth, I now have looked at my work with a different narrative in my mind. What do the materials I choose to work with have to say? What voice do we together sound like?

I asked my tutor how I can move away from being representational and restrained. She advised me to just play and take the samples and exercises to the farthest point I could. Until I could do no more with them. I see clearly how I was doing this in part 1 and 2 but lost it in Part 3. I have printed out the photographs I took and have my mood board on the wall and also have workbooks and sketchbooks out covering one bedroom for me to sit amongst and to ponder over.


Part 4 Sketchbook work

I decided due to comments my tutor made about not taking samples further in part 3, to try and free myself up a little and work on some random sampling to try and shift my head into exploring textiles and working from a materials lead angle. I feel I failed miserably in my first re engagement to exploring Ideas. I was incredibly frustrated in my inability to just relax and surrender to the process. I knew I needed to work on something that I could be more playful and random. even though my materials are from the ancestors research from Part 1, I wasn’t looking to produce anything just to rip, stitch, burn and  be open to just going with what was to hand. I had the radio on loud and prepared to lose myself. It took time before I became instinctive and the radio helped to distract part of my brain that may have wanted to interfere with the process. I had large graphite pencils, acrylic paints, lots of photo copies, sewing machine, soldering iron and matches to hand. I cleared the decks and played.


One of my loosening up exercises was to take chunky, graphite pencils and scrawled text from a collage I had made (below). I then over painted with acrylic paint. The graphite was still visible as it repelled the paint.

collage on paper

collage on paper

Below I again collaged though this time I worked in a more conscious way. I ripped at the census forms, photographs of my ancestors and their marriage certificate, envisioning how they would feel about their lives being changed so drastically. I found I got quite emotional doing this. Even to the point of brimming with tears. I covered the whole page (A2) in pva, which gave the finished work a lossy appearance. I drew it, using large marker pens, simplifying the colour blocks. I then cut that into pieces and pasted them allowing my instincts to choose where things should lay.



I cut the original collage into strips and pasted them, again using my intuition to dictate the composition.




I threw nothing away as even the smallest piece had some shape, colour combination or texture that I could refer to. The photographs do not tell the whole story.


I enlarged areas via Photoshop and printed them out, again ripping and layering and adding lines picking out text and also just picking out shapes of letters to soften the composition.




I then stitched into some photocopies, ripping and layering. I then took a flame to it all. I do like the text appearing beneath. I chose the green colour as it is the same as the original paintwork on the workhouse doors and windows.






I found that in doing this I became more in touch with how I should be working with exploring ideas. My mind was becoming more open and curious. I hope I am learning to trust the process more. One question I do have is: if I allow the process to take over, do I lose the lateral thinking that would guide me towards a fine art approach rather than a crafter?

Part 3 Tutors report and my responses




I agree, I got ignited by looking at the result on the fabric of all those months stagnating in a bowl of rust and fungus. I do have it earmarked for experimenting with  to see what I can develop in Part 5.


I agree completely with my tutors comments about being constrained with expected outcomes. I really struggled with just playing with some aspects of this work. I had lost my confidence in rolling with the process. I found I was having problems relaxing into just playing with the materials. I knew why this was happening at the time and I was looking subconsciously for something familiar I could hook my mind onto. I returned to using the materials I wanted to develop from part 1, hoping that I would pick up some momentum. The residue from working on the Printing course has been that I have become constrained and focussed on the end result. I have been working hard to get out of this but I am still struggling from adopting those habits. I am hoping that I can relax into my personal project for Part 5.


Without my tutors comments I would not have seen the distemper and fabric in this light. I was then reminded of Cornelia Parker’s Exhaled Cocaine (Lima). Parker acquired some cocaine from Cardiff Customs and Excise, which they had burnt to cinders. I saw this at the exhibition in Manchester in 2015 and it is one of several ‘Exhaled’ works by Parker. Iwona Blaswick the curator of the Manchester exhibition suggests ‘that in her re-purposing of found materials in ways that reflect on an object’s former purpose and meaning, Parker’s work offers a new definition of abstraction, one that involves ‘the use of something that already exists in the world (not its representation) and the substitution of its original nature or function with another, contrasting and even absurd mode of being’ (Blazwick 2013, p.108).’ I was intrigued by this alchemy mode of thinking at the exhibition.

I also am drawn to use ‘site specific’ materials as my tutor says. I have a collection of roofing slates, grate covers and distemper from the workhouse site that I am hoping to further develop samples. I had hoped there would be brick-dust also as the buildings were scheduled for demolition last year, but are still standing.

I have begun experimenting as suggested by printing many pages of text onto paper and fabric and playing with them with no outcome in mind. I think it will help me become free in my experimenting.

Stage four  ‘Unable to construct ideas that take shape and move these forward.’ That is exactly what happened. I simply halted and could not see where I could go or even how to move forward. here it wasn’t because I didn’t want to work on it, I was simply lost. I can’t explain it any other way. My tutor reminds me what I was required to do, but whilst I was aware of this and was incredibly frustrated at my inability to do this, I can recall being sat and my mind being completely blank.


My tutor can read me extremely well, and her insight into me working with metaphors is enlightening. I don’t think I had realised this. Ii am now aware of how I could have progressed those early samples. I am hoping I can hold this in my mind moving forward, especially with the comments below, where suggestions are offered as to what I could have – and should have – done. I also need to discuss the use of ‘metaphors’ with my tutor to see if she can help me shift away from falling back into this mind-set. I don’t want it to limit my progress and development.


I had hoped that picking up the pianola sheet would shift my thinking at the time and it did lead me to using plastic and then the cine film and negatives. I agree I stopped short of taking this work further and I had in mind that they would be samples I could develop and use in Part 5. I now realise I should have concluded their experimenting here and then picked the end results up later if I so desired. Fool that I am and now frustrated with myself even more.

Again my tutor picks up on my subconscious behaviour ‘you rely on representation, the image, the metaphor…’. I admire Cornelia Parker and how her work poses questions and invites the viewer to look as deeply as they wish. I need to bring to mind what I enjoy or am challenged by with other people’s art. How do I move forward?


From the comments about being restrained by my sketchbook I have been working on A2 sheets of paper this past few weeks. I do prefer larger format work but realise I am scaling down in order for my work to fit into the postal folder. How utterly idiotic. I find that I am constantly frustrated and angry at myself over how I have moved back into working on Exploring Ideas. I have been limiting myself for stupid reasons, and many subconscious thoughts have clipped my scope of working. I normally submit several sketchbooks with each part of the courses but I have again lost my way with this.


I am encouraged by this section of the report. I am getting into the stride of working through my thoughts and gaining insight into my way processes and ways of working. Even if it is quite painful at times to see my many shortcomings.


I have this book on order from the library.


I have a copy of Cas Holmes book The Found Object in Textile Art, in it she has a series of ‘loosening up’ exercises that I am working on.  I am doing some simple mark making and using a variety of mediums before I do any ‘proper’ work in order to engage my brain and also creativity. I am enjoying doing this as it is not pressurised, result oriented and it allows me freedom within what I have become to perceive a tightly regimented process of the course. I know that this is the legacy from working on the printing course.  Whilst I hated very much the Printing course,how I struggled with it every step of the way and how it has affected my personal working style and thinking, I can also see that in doing it and it being on initial thoughts an error in choosing it, it has thrown up and uncovered a new level of awareness about myself. I am reminded of a quote: ‘Mistakes are not tattoos to wear for ever but bruises that will fade’. I am still very bruised by the printing course. I don’t see that as an excuse, just an awareness.

I love the passage highlighted by my tutor above: ‘Collections of work which evoke moments in our lives. Here are people and glimpses of stories marking themes of our very existence. Reminiscent works which reference mythology and storytelling, using the line of thread to connect relationships and define emotions such as suffering, hope and renewal.
These are the punctuations which reveal the sense of self and identity, the making of connections between the touching and tactile quality of textile, and the expression of feelings.’

I have this printed out and I am going to use it as a starting point for my work in Part 5.




Part 4 Review

Looking over the work I have completed for this section of the course, I am firstly proud of how I have achieved in each section. I enjoy researching normally but to have to then thing further and deeper has allowed me to begin to look at work and artists in a more studied way. I have started to look at my feelings and reactions, as well as what the artist may have been wanting to say and how they have approached the work with that in mind.

I found being theoretical actually allowed me to get in touch with the artist more. Reading about the research they made in preparation for producing a body of work allowed me to see the subtleties that I would have ordinarily missed. In analysing Perry’s tapestry I learnt about the political connotations that were in the narrative, but I had either not realised or I had forgotten from my visit to the gallery. I am sure I never really looked that deeply at it.

I never found it boring, challenging it definitely was. The sheer volume of research was quite daunting at first and, I found my confidence wavered throughout. I went through feeling like I was actually able to read and analyse work better to feeling like I was not academically up to the job.

I was familiar with all of the listed designers and artists at a surface level. I hadn’t really studied them in such detail, nor had I read so much about artists in such a short length of time. I found I was ‘hot housing’ as the more I worked, the more I had questions to answer. I also was able to acknowledge my history with them. What I knew or perceived I knew, which also meant I was analysing my assumed knowledge with my new found education. This highlighted my need to read more about artists to see their methods of research and also to see what actually motivates them. I can see how gaining in-depth knowledge of an artist actually informs me, not just of techniques but it helps me develop an artistic vocabulary that enables me to see how other artists convey thoughts, perceptions, passions and the basic reason why they produce art.

I initially struggled with the questions offered, as it was so new to me to question work and artists in this way. By the time I got to Project 2 I was beginning to get into a rhythm. I found that they were excellent prompts and guided me to get much more form my research. I have them mounted on card and posted on my wall now for future reference.

I definitely see that an awareness of context in which work is produced will influence how I approach work. I have begun to develop samples that needed developing from part 3 and am now going to go back over the work with a new eye. I have not only read with a view to completing this section of work, I have found work that has begun to inform how I move forward with Part 5, My Own Project. Whilst I have no idea what I shall finally produce, I need now to study what I have, where I am before I do any more preparation.

I definitely feel stimulated to do more research work of this nature. I can see how informative and inspiring it is. I also am realising that I am actually developing a deeper awareness of my own motivation and reasons for producing works.

Part 4 project 1 Stage 3 An Analytical Study

Zandra Rhodes 

Full-length evening dress, New York and ‘Indian Feathers’ design, Autumn/Winter 1970. (2016). Zandra Rhodes Digital Study Collection: DRESSES. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Mar. 2016].

Good Reads. (2016). The Female Eunuch Quotes. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Mar. 2016].

WEINRAUB, J. (1971). Germaine Greer — Opinions That May Shock the Faithful. The New York Journal. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Mar. 2016].

Alonso, R. and Eisner, L. (2002). STYLE; Rhodes Scholars. The New York Times. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Mar. 2016]. (2015). Biography. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Mar. 2016].

Buckley, J. (2015). Moss is such a copycat, says Dame Zandra: Designer accuses model of ripping off feather design for Topshop collection Read more: Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook. The Daily Mail. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Mar. 2016].